Experts Urge Responsible Cannabis Regulation: Blueprints For Reform Offered

Press Release September 4, 1998
Media Contact

Mike Goodman at (UK) 0171.729.9904 or Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

Prominent drug policy experts and public health officials today urged governments around the world to regulate cannabis responsibly and to ensure safe, reliable access to patients who need it. At the symposium, “Regulating Cannabis Options for Control in the 21st Century,” leading scholars and public officials assembled at Regent’s College in London to develop blueprints for the regulation of cannabis. The conference was being referred to by many as the “First International Cannabis Congress” because of its groundbreaking topic and worldwide policy implications.

“As decriminalisation becomes more of a reality in several countries, this conference has offered policy makers several feasible and responsible options for cannabis regulation,” said Mike Goodman, director of Release, a UK-based drug policy organisation which co-hosted the conference.

“Public opinion in favor of cannabis decriminalisation continues to grow worldwide,” said Ethan Nadelmann, director of The Lindesmith Center, a US-based drug policy research institute which is also co-hosting the conference. “As policy makers are forced to take up the challenge of cannabis regulation, they can evaluate the models of regulation discussed at this conference to determine the most responsible policies.”

Several recent events have prompted the need for the “Cannabis Congress.” Most recently, in order to allow patients access to therapeutic cannabis and to protect their suppliers from federal prosecution, the City Council of Oakland, California passed an ordinance designating cannabis buyer’s clubs “officers” of the city. Prior to the city of Oakland’s decision, the Canadian Government had said it will approve medicinal use of cannabis on a case-by-case basis. A summary of other happenings around the world is attached.

The cannabis conference is being hosted by Release, a UK drugs and legal advice charity, and The Lindesmith Center, a New York-based drug policy research institute. The day-long conference will be held at 915 a.m. on Saturday, 5 September at Regent’s College in London.

Founded in 1967, Release established the world’s first ever 24-hour drugs and legal advice helpline. The organisation’s range of innovative services, pioneering work with young people as well as its commitment to the civil rights of drug users has contributed to its unique credibility in the drugs and legal advice field.

Based in New York, the Lindesmith Center is a drug policy research institute that concentrates on broadening the drug policy debate. The Lindesmith Center is a project of the Open Society Institute. Founded by philanthropist George Soros, the Open Society Institute promotes the development of open societies around the world through projects relating to education, media, legal reform and human rights. The founder and director of The Lindesmith Center is Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D. , author of Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement (Penn State Press, 1993) as well as numerous articles on drug control policy in leading scholarly and popular journals.

World Cannabis Guide

Current Policies Around The Globe


In Australia, criminal laws and criminal penalties for drug offenses vary across the states. Before the 1970’s, penalties for cannabis cultivation, possession, and use were quite severe. Recently several states have lessened penalties for use and possession of small quantities of cannabis. The trend across some jurisdictions toward lower penalties for personal possession and use has been matched by harsher penalties for sale or supply of commercial quantities of cannabis.


Canada has largely retained its 1961 Federal Narcotic Control Act. Nonetheless, Canada, under its 1972 Criminal Law Amendment Act, has given judges discretion to place on probation or even absolutely discharge possession offenders. In Vancouver, B.C., the police have even announced that they will only press charges for simple possession in the event of aggravating factors. More recently, after several suits brought against the government by individuals seeking the right to legally use Cannabis for therapeutic purposes, Health Canada, the department in charge of regulating all drugs and medical devices in Canada, said it will approve medicinal use of cannabis on a case-by-case basis.


Germany’s narcotics law (Bet

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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