Germany: Muslim Biker Gang Vows to “Protect” Fellow Muslims.



Police warn of spiraling vigilantism, parallel Islamic legal system

  • Muslim vigilantes enforcing Islamic justice have become increasingly common in Germany. The government’s inability or unwillingness to stop them has led to the rise of anti-Muslim counter-vigilantes. Germany’s BfV intelligence agency, in its latest annual report, warned that an escalating action-reaction cycle could result in open warfare on German streets.
  • The self-appointed “Sharia Police” urged both Muslim and non-Muslim passersby to attend mosques and to refrain from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, music, pornography and prostitution. In November 2016, the Wuppertal District Court ruled that the Islamists did not break German law and were simply exercising their right to free speech. The ruling, which effectively legitimized Sharia law in Germany, was one of a growing number of instances in which German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.
  • “Even if we still refuse to believe it: Parts of Germany are ruled by Islamic law! Polygamy, child marriages, Sharia judges — for far too long the German rule of law has not been enforced. Many politicians dreamed of multiculturalism…. This is not a question of folklore or foreign customs and traditions. It is a question of law and order. If the rule of law fails to establish its authority and demand respect for itself, then it can immediately declare its bankruptcy.” — Franz Solms-Laubach, parliamentary correspondent, Bild.

German Muslims have established a self-styled biker gang — modelled on the Hells Angels — aimed at protecting fellow Muslims from the “ever-growing hatred of Islam,” according to Die Welt.

The emergence of the group, which aspires to open chapters in cities and towns across Germany, has alarmed German authorities, who have warned against the growing threat of vigilantism in the country.

Muslim vigilantes enforcing Islamic justice have become increasingly common in Germany. The government’s inability or unwillingness to stop them has led to the rise of anti-Muslim counter-vigilantes. Germany’s BfV intelligence agency, in its latest annual report, warned that an escalating action-reaction cycle could result in open warfare on German streets.

The gang, which calls itself “Germanys Muslims” (the possessive apostrophe is not used in German), is based in Mönchengladbach and now has offshoots in Münster and Stuttgart. It was founded by Marcel Kunst, a German convert to Islam who also uses the name Mahmud Salam.

The gang’s uniform consists of a black leather jacket with a logo depicting a one-fingered salute, the “Finger of Tawheed,” which represents belief in the oneness of Allah. The logo also includes the number 1438, which represents the current year in the Muslim calendar, as well as the number 713, which stands for GM (Germanys Muslims), the seventh and thirteenth letters of the alphabet.

Police say they do not know how many people belong to the gang, which was established in May. The group’s Facebook page, which has more than a thousand followers, describes itself as a “citizens’ initiative” which advocates for the “peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany.” A mission statement dated June 15 reads:

“Our organization has been founded for only one purpose: To protect and support our brothers and sisters from the ever-growing hatred of Islam!!! To all non-Muslims who read this post, pay attention. The following could change your perception of us!!! We respect every religion and, as dictated by the Quran, do not force our faith on anyone!!! We do not sympathize with the Islamic State and are against compulsion in faith and in marriage!!! ISLAM DOES NOT RECOGNIZE HONOR KILLINGS AS IS OFTEN SUPPOSED!!! The raised finger in our logo is not from the so-called Islamic State. In our faith it symbolizes that there is only one God!!! We have summarized 40 commandments from the Quran for you….IMPORTANT. Whoever gets into a fight on the road or elsewhere (except for self-defense) will be expelled from our group without further discussion!!!”

Although “Germanys Muslims” claims to disavow violence, police say that several of its senior members are known to be Salafists, whose aim is to replace liberal democracy in Germany with Sharia law. One of its members, for instance, was detained as a security precaution during the Tour de France, which passed through Mönchengladbach on July 2.

German police describe the group’s founder, Kunst, as an “Islamist who moves in Salafist circles.” In a video that is no longer available, Kunst called on the group’s members to protect mosques and Muslim women.

In a July 27 interview with Die Welt, Isabella Hannen, spokeswoman for the Mönchengladbach Police Department, revealed that police met with Kunst on July 5 and warned him that “vigilantism will not be tolerated.” They also stressed that the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force (Gewaltmonopol) is the exclusive domain of the state. On July 28, “Germanys Muslims” issued a statement saying that the group respects the authority of the state. “So far, we have no evidence that they are a danger, but we are keeping our eyes on them,” Hannen said.


In its annual report released on July 4, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), said that Salafism is the “fastest-growing Islamic movement in Germany.” The report revealed that the number of Salafists in Germany jumped to 9,700 in 2016, up from 8,350 in 2015; 7,000 in 2014; 5,500 in 2013; 4,500 in 2012; and 3,800 in 2011. According to the BfV:

“Salafists are seeking to impose a theocracy based on their interpretation of the Sharia and in which the liberal democratic order no longer applies. Political and jihadist Salafists share the same basic ideology. They differ primarily in the means by which they wish to achieve their objectives…. Nevertheless, it should be noted that political Salafism has an ambivalent relationship to violence… it does not always prohibit religiously-sanctioned violence.”

A previous BfV report stated:

“The absolutist nature of Salafism contradicts significant parts of the German constitutional order. Specifically, Salafism rejects the democratic principles of separation of state and religion, popular sovereignty, religious and sexual self-determination, gender equality and the fundamental right to physical integrity.”

The BfV also warned of the danger of civil unrest:

“The potential threat posed by Salafist violence remains dangerously high. Salafist violence could create an additional dynamic through interactions with extremist groups from other ‘hostile’ ideological camps, as already occurred in individual cases in the past.”

The BfV was referring to an alliance between hooligans from rival football clubs who temporarily set aside their mutual hatred for each other in order to unite against a common enemy: radical Salafists. At one point, the grouping, known as Hooligans versus Salafists (HoGeSa), had more than 40,000 followers on its Facebook page before it was shut down by Facebook censors.

According to some commentators, the rise of HoGeSa was fueled in part by a growing sense of frustration that the German government is not doing enough to curb the spread of Islam in the country. Others said the group was incited by the Salafists’ increasingly provocative support for replacing Germany’s democratic order with Islamic law.

In Wuppertal, for example, seven self-appointed “Sharia Police” sparked public outrage when they distributed yellow leaflets which established a “Sharia-controlled zone” in the Elberfeld district of the city. The vigilantes urged both Muslim and non-Muslim passersby to attend mosques and to refrain from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, music, pornography and prostitution.

In November 2016, however, the Wuppertal District Court ruled that the Islamists did not break German law and were simply exercising their right to free speech. The ruling, which effectively legitimized Sharia law in Germany, was one of a growing number of instances in which German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.

In Berlin, a hundred Islamists are now openly enforcing Sharia law on city streets, according to local police who are investigating a recent string of violent assaults in the German capital. The self-appointed morality police involve Salafists from Chechnya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim region in Russia. The vigilantes are using threats of violence to discourage Chechen migrants from integrating into German society; they are also promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in Germany. German authorities appear unable to stop them.

Bild, the largest-circulation newspaper in Germany, recently warned that the country was “capitulating to Islamic law.” In a special “Sharia Report” it stated:

“The 2013 coalition agreement between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats promised: ‘We want to strengthen the state’s legal monopoly. We will not tolerate illegal parallel justice.’ But nothing has been done.”

In a commentary, Franz Solms-Laubach, Bild’s parliamentary correspondent, wrote:

“Even if we still refuse to believe it: Parts of Germany are ruled by Islamic law! Polygamy, child marriages, Sharia judges — for far too long the German rule of law has not been enforced. Many politicians dreamed of multiculturalism…. This is not a question of folklore or foreign customs and traditions. It is a question of law and order. If the rule of law fails to establish its authority and demand respect for itself, then it can immediately declare its bankruptcy.”

Meanwhile, German authorities have been fighting an uphill battle against an extremely violent “rocker” gang, the “Osmanen Germania” — “Ottoman Germania” — which consists mostly of Turkish Germans and, like the “Germanys Muslims” gang, is modeled on the Hells Angels.

The “Ottoman Germania” group, which claims to be a boxing club concerned about the welfare of young people, was founded after Hells Angels decided to allow non-Turkish migrants to join. Police say “Ottoman Germania” is an effort by former Turkish German members of the Hells Angels to protect their market share of organized crime.

The “Ottoman Germania” group is one of the fastest-growing gangs in Germany. Within months of its founding in April 2015, the group had established dozens of chapters across the country. Today the group, which profits from prostitution, extortion and the trafficking of weapons and drugs, operates across Europe, despite repeated police raids.

German authorities believe the “Ottoman Germania” is close to the Turkish government, which uses the group to fight Turkey’s internal political struggles in Germany. Police say the gang also cooperates with Germany’s Salafists.

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.

*Image courtesy of


Brutal Mexican cartel forms pact to flood UK with drugs.

One of Mexico’s most infamous cartels has formed an alliance with Romanian gangsters to bring cocaine into the UK, The Times can reveal.

July 24 2017, 12:01am, The Times


A European syndicate of the sadistic Sinaloa cartel, notorious for mass decapitations and brutal torture, is working with a Romanian gang running heavy goods vehicles in an effort to seize a share of Britain’s lucrative cocaine market.

The Romanian gang, supplied by the cartel, has the capacity to bring large amounts of cocaine to the UK on a weekly basis using HGVs, the National Crime Agency warned.

Longstanding links between British gangs and Central American cartels have focused on Liverpool and its docks, where container ships bring in vast quantities of cocaine, principally from Venezuela and Ecuador. Ferries bringing in freight vehicles from the Irish mainland as well as entry points including the Channel tunnel, Dover, Felixstowe, Folkestone and Harwich ports have also been used.

The Times can reveal that despite Europol warning four years ago that Mexican cartels had stepped up their presence in Europe, no member state has yet asked the agency for help in tackling the problem.

The previously unreported involvement of the brutal Sinaloa cartel will raise concerns about the impact the group will have on the increasingly violent British drugs trade, which has driven a rise in gun crime and involved children as young as 12 being used as mules to deliver drugs from the cities to rural areas.

The group’s leader, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera — known simply as El Chapo (or Shorty, due to his height), has twice escaped from maximum security prisons in Mexico.

El Chapo has presided over a series of massacres including the slaughter of 35 innocent men and women whose bodies were left strewn along a motorway in Boca del Rio, on the east coast just south of Mexico City in 2011. His gang has also dismembered and decapitated scores of rival gang members.

The gang’s new alliance with the unnamed Romanian gang will raise concerns about border security at the Channel tunnel and ferry routes on to the British mainland, where freight lorries pour into the country.

A spokeswoman for the NCA’s drug threat team said: “In collaboration with international partners [we] identified a Romanian OCG [organised crime group] with the capability to import large amounts of cocaine into the UK on a weekly basis using HGV transport.

“Intelligence indicates that the Romanian OCG are still being supplied by a Mexican OCG linked to the Sinaloa cartel. It is assessed that this network of OCGs will continue to supply large volumes of class A drugs into the UK.

“Previous significant interdictions of their supply has not deterred the group from continuing their criminal activity aimed at the UK market.”

As much as 100 tonnes of cocaine is shipped to the UK each year but the majority is intercepted by law enforcement agencies. The NCA has seized nearly 70 tonnes in a single year.

The NCA, known as Britain’s FBI, added that the Sinaloa cartel was often described as the largest and most powerful cartel in the western hemisphere and said that there was a dearth of available intelligence on Mexican cartels moving cocaine into the UK market. The agency believes, however, that “they have proactively sought a position due to the high prices for cocaine in the UK and an opportunity to maximise profits”.

Previous investigations into links between UK-based gangs and their Mexican counterparts showed that British criminals either travelled to or based themselves in Mexico to oversee the supply and transportation of the drugs.

Couriers have been tracked to European airports such as Frankfurt and Brussels before travelling on to the UK, the NCA said. A number of these couriers have been intercepted at European airports with an average 4-5kg of cocaine in their possession with a street value of at least £250,000.

In 2015 corrupt staff at Heathrow were jailed for their roles in a cocaine-smuggling racket that spanned several years and involved stashing the drugs in British Airways cargo consignments from Mexico City airport.

Europol warned that Mexican cartels had moved to Europe to secure lucrative trade routes as long ago as 2013.

The Mexican Sinaloa and Los Zetas cartels, which dominate cocaine smuggling from South America into Europe via ports in Venezuela, cut deals with Liverpudlian gangs for access and security for shipping containers arriving at the city’s port, Europol said. The Liverpool gangs then distributed the drugs across the country.

The three dominant Mexican cartels, with the addition of the Knights Templar, are also known to be active in Spain, whose gangs have close ties to UK drug supply.

In January two Romanian brothers were arrested smuggling 23kg of cocaine worth an estimated £1.4 million into the country hidden on a lorry. Gabriel Codita, 27, and Constantin Alin Codita, 28, were each sentenced to eight years in prison at Canterbury crown court in March.

In March 2016, a Romanian bus driver was jailed after he was caught with £18 million of cocaine in his luggage hold while bringing children on a school trip to the UK. Ioan Buciuta, 53, was caught at Dover. He was described as a “trusted courier” after he was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Behind the story
Everywhere the Sinaloa cartel and its Mexican rivals are mentioned, their reputation for death precedes them (John Simpson writes).

“They’ll kill anyone, these Mexicans . . . they’re f***ing mad,” Paul Taylor, head of a notorious Liverpool crime syndicate, was recorded telling a co-conspirator during a £4 billion cocaine deal in 2014.

Although its leader has been extradited to the US to stop his repeated escapes from maximum security prisons in Mexico, the Sinaloa cartel is still widely regarded as the most powerful drug-trafficking organisation in the western hemisphere.

The group hails from the city of Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa on the west coast. It was created in the 1960s but rose to notoriety in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it assumed control of moving a large proportion of Colombia’s cocaine, as Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel crumbled.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, now 60, went from selling oranges in the street to running the multibillion-pound operation and was known to carry a gold-plated AK47 assault rifle and a gold-plated .45mm handgun. Under his leadership scores of rivals have been decapitated or killed in car bombings, their mutilated bodies left strewn along motorways. In 2010 a rival gang member was kidnapped, chopped into seven pieces and his face reportedly stitched onto a football.

El Chapo’s war with the Los Zetas cartel has been responsible for the escalation in violence and as British street gangs adopt the use of acid attacks, and with knife and gun crime rising, law enforcement agencies will be alert to the threat of Mexico’s violence and weapons following its cocaine.

Read the original article here.

Thanks for reading.

Philip Smith-Lawrence


Tackling gang culture.

Six people wearing balaclavas began firing gunshots at each other on the streets of North West London. What should have been a quiet Thursday afternoon turned into something resembling a scene out of a Hollywood movie. And, more recently, 15-year-old Quamari Barnes was killed with a knife while waiting at the bus stop outside his school. He was allegedly killed by another 15-year old who has been charged with his murder.

It was a timely reminder that gangs still cast a dark shadow over our community. Award-winning professor David Wilson said: ‘Gangs are now very much embedded in the culture in our towns and cities.’

As chair of London Borough of Brent’s Gangs Taskgroup, I have become all too familiar of the impact gangs have on local communities; some of the people I grew up with are either in prison or no longer with us – guns and gangs did that.

One study for the Home Office found that up to 6% of 10-19-year-olds belonged to a gang in England and Wales and, according to the Metropolitan Police, gangs are responsible for 16% of the total drug supply, 26% of aggravated burglaries and 14% of all types of rapes. Half of all shootings in the capital are carried out by gangs leading to a sharp rise in crimes involving firearms which last year shot-up by 13% to 5,864 offences.

And lately, the huge rise in stabbings has penetrated virtually every part of the country with 35 of the 44 police forces recording a rise in offences involving knives. The ONS reports offences that involved a knife or sharp instrument increased by 14% to 32,448 offences during the period up to December 2016.

Adding to the toxic mix is international events with my ward’s Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) Sergeant remarking that young people arriving from conflicts in Syria and Libya, traumatised by their experiences of violence and death were joining gangs with some choosing to take a more disturbing route, as was the case with the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Ramadan Abedi who went from gangs to radicalisation.

Some places have begun to fight back. Based on Boston’s Operation Ceasefire, Glasgow’s highly acclaimed Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) directly engaged 500 gang members and brought together partners from justice, government, community safety services, housing, careers, education, social work, health and the community to tackle the long standing problem of gang violence. The £4.5m scheme achieved a 49% reduction in gang violence from CIRV participants.

In Brent, I’m working with both national and local employers to set-up an employment and work experience programme for those who are entry-level gang members or on the periphery of joining gangs. The young people will be offered fair-paid work as well as mentors and facilities to lead healthier and more active lifestyles through engaging in sports and exercise.

This is to provide not only diversionary activities or a wraparound service for youngsters, but also a credible alternative to the ‘bling bling’ lifestyle which has manifested from our ‘X-Factor’ fueled society and obsession with ‘get rich quick’ schemes, which in the case of gangs can have life-changing consequences.

The initiatives in Brent and Glasgow are undoubtedly joined by other good examples of work being done across the country which involves the voluntary sector, the youth offending service, the police, faith groups and local statutory bodies. The efforts of those working with some of the most hard to reach young people have not gone unnoticed – these are committed people genuinely trying to make a difference. But the truth is that many of the responses have at times been uncoordinated and fragmented. This is further exacerbated by the closure of youth facilities, youth unemployment and the erosion of ‘community spirit’.

Gangs are also leveraging in brand new Nike trainers and designer clothes for gang members who have more often than not experienced family breakdowns and live chaotic lifestyles. A lack of positive role models, poor educational attainment, mental health and lack of aspirations are just some of the factors that lure young people to this violent subterranean street culture. Young women are also at risk from gangs whether it’s sexual exploitation, violence or becoming involved in criminality.

Our solution to gang culture needs to move away from a one-dimensional approach, which works solely on increasing resources.

Although this is important, increased investment in young people will achieve nothing without paying attention to other factors such as improving housing, giving better education and vocational opportunities and focusing on family support.

We need a more inclusive approach, which empowers the local community to develop youth-led initiatives. Local models can respond to local dynamics, and can be specific to the communities in which gangs operate. Local organisations can bring their own creativity and knowledge to help tackle gangs in their neighbourhoods. Many have the in-roads and sympathies of the local culture, which can help challenge the behaviour of local young people and to encourage lasting change in them. We should avoid wasting energies and empower them through mentoring, networking and promoting best-practice.

This should also be extended nationally where we encourage young people to use their skills positively. Perversely, gang members can possess an entrepreneurial drive namely, building up their ‘gang business through clever branding and slick You Tube music videos. We should develop innovative schemes to provide business ‘start-up’ funding for young people who could be at risk of joining gangs to help them achieve their real potential.

Moreover, we should have wider apprenticeship opportunities whereby those that display the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ are given opportunities to work in sectors such as banking and finance to make better use of their abilities. Britain is home to some of the largest international corporations. Our young people should be given the opportunities to be apprentices at some of the largest companies in the world. And with local authorities collecting over £100m from the community infrastructure levy from developers building new homes, maybe some that funding should go towards building the future of our young people.

We are at a tipping point, do we accept gangs and gang culture or do we together as a community say enough is enough.

Cllr. Zaffar Van Kalwala is chair of London Borough of Brent’s Gangs Taskgroup

This feature first appeared in Local Government News magazine.

Original article here.

Italian border town of Ventimiglia loses patience with migrants from Libya.

July 22 2017, 12:01am, The Times
“After two years of handing out blankets, we are tired,” Mr Amarella, 63, who runs the local residents’ association, said. “There’s too many of them, and this is no longer a welcome — their human rights are being trampled on.”

A low wall separates Ventimiglia’s working-class neighbourhood from the banks of the river Roia, where in summer the waters recede to a sluggish trickle, leaving a wide expanse of stony riverbed and bushes.

Sitting on the wall, Mario Amarella gazed out at the hundreds of African migrants spread out across the stones, sleeping, praying, washing and waiting for smugglers they hope will take them into France, three miles away.

“After two years of handing out blankets, we are tired,” Mr Amarella, 63, who runs the local residents’ association, said. “There’s too many of them, and this is no longer a welcome — their human rights are being trampled on.”

Hundreds of migrants arrive in Ventimiglia every week in an attempt to reach France after sailing from Libya, but of those who make it across the border, 25,000 have been sent back by French police since the start of last year after being turfed off trains or rounded up on mountain paths.

That has turned the town into Italy’s Calais and made it the focus of a growing reluctance up and down the country to look after the 200,000 migrants now packed into reception centres since the arrival of 181,000 last year and more than 90,000 this year.

At Mr Amarella’s neighbourhood church, fewer local residents are showing up since the priest followed the Pope’s advice to care for migrants and started feeding and sheltering African families, single women and small children. This week, as dozens of migrants sat in the church’s car park, three elderly Italians attended a service inside.

“I don’t see an alternative to the migrants being here,” Father Rito Julio Alvarez, who is Colombian, said. “Some of the women we put up have been trafficked and we are trying to free them from prostitution.”


The town’s mayor does not agree, and is trying to transfer the women into a Red Cross-run camp between a railway goods yard and a flyover on the edge of town. Already home to nearly 500 migrants, mostly Sudanese, the site offers camp-beds under the flyover for the overflow.

“Three years ago, when migrants arrived on the train, locals were turning out to give them food and clothes,” Enrico Ioculano, the centre-left mayor, said. “But now people are stressed out and the smallest spark could provoke a reaction, whether it’s someone dropping litter or crossing the road in the wrong place. I want to avoid violence.”

He added: “The church doesn’t always understand that if you break the relationship between the migrants and the community, it’s hard to repair it.”

At the other end of Italy, the mayor of the Sicilian village of Castell’Umberto took matters into his own hands this month, erecting a barricade to stop electricians providing power to a hotel just as 50 migrants were housed there after being rescued off the Libyan coast.

Sicily’s enduring acceptance of newcomers may be further tested this autumn if the Five Star Movement steps up its attacks on migration as it campaigns to win the election in November for governor of the island.

Antonio Decaro, mayor of Bari and the head of Italy’s association of mayors, said that the mood was shifting among mayors across the country who have agreed to host migrants, only to see that many others have refused.

“The government has told us they will send us three migrants for every 1,000 residents, which means Cona near Venice, a town of 3,000, should have received nine. Instead they got 1,400,” he said. “The protests are not about racism but overcrowding.”


Italy is running out of patience with its neighbours (Tom Kington writes). Annoyance starts with the deal it struck with the EU to allow Brussels’ Operation Triton patrol vessels to unload all the migrants they rescue off Libya in Italy.

The same privilege was given to naval ships in the EU anti-smuggling operation Sophia, as well as charity rescue boats. The use of their ports has become a touchy subject with Italian voters after 93,000 migrants arrived this year, up 11 per cent on last year.

A further irritation is that the Dublin rules insist migrants request asylum in the first European country they are identified in. If they are identified in Italy then head to France to ask for asylum, they can be turned back under the treaty. After Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia wrote to Italy demanding it shut its ports to migrants this week, Rome tartly replied yesterday: “We expect solidarity from the EU, and we don’t take lessons and will not accept threatening words.”

In 2015 Italy was promised that 160,000 migrants from Italy and Greece would be spread across Europe. Two years on, only 7,621 have left Italy.

Read the original article here.

How to legalise cannabis: Lessons from Canada, where they’re about to do it!


In July 2018 Canada will become the second country in the world to universally legalise cannabis (Uruguay took the plunge earlier this year). With one of the highest rates of youth cannabis use in the world, drug reform was a Justin Trudeau campaign promise in 2015. So after it was elected, the Liberal government appointed a panel to study how cannabis could legalised and regulated in Canada.

By Simon Day | Partnerships Editor – July 13, 2017 | 




Former Canadian deputy prime minister Anne McLellan was in New Zealand last week to present at the NZ Drug Foundation symposium about her role in guiding Canada’s drug reform. She spoke to Simon Day about the road to legalisation, growing Canada’s ‘worst pot ever’, and the potential Baby Boomer weed market.

In July 2018 Canada will become the second country in the world to universally legalise cannabis (Uruguay took the plunge earlier this year). With one of the highest rates of youth cannabis use in the world, drug reform was a Justin Trudeau campaign promise in 2015. So after it was elected, the Liberal government appointed a panel to study how cannabis could legalised and regulated in Canada.

At the head of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation was Anne McLellan, a former minister in the Liberal governments from 1997 to 2006, and Deputy Prime Minister from 2003. During this time McLellan was no friend of reform. As she acknowledges, she was part of a generation that was raised to be opposed to cannabis, distrustful of an illicit drug and its reputation. Even as minister of health she was wary of the lack of scientific evidence around its benefits. Ten years later, cannabis activists were alarmed when McLellan was appointed as chair of the Task Force.

“When I was minister of health I was very sceptical. All of that created that impression on these activists that I was not going to be particularly open minded to legalisation and regulation of cannabis,” she says.

When the Tasks Force’s report landed late last year, with nearly 100 recommendations, the activists were pleasantly surprised.

“Ten or 11 years on I am probably a lot more open minded about what needs to happen around cannabis. It’s not only a journey for Canadian society, or the Canadian government, but it’s been a journey for me personally.”

(Attn: New Zealand politicians who want to continue to “wait and see” what drug reform could look like here, it took just six months for the task force to research and return their recommendations on how to change the law and create a regulated market.)

Her journey has exposed her to the medical benefits of cannabis and the significant harms the current system’s management of the drug have caused. While the outcomes of Canada’s legalisation are are unknown and she recognises mistakes will be made, McLellan believes now is the time that Canada must try something different. The world is watching.

Why were you chosen to chair of the Task Force on Cannabis legalisation and regulation?

I think I ended up in this role because I was in federal politics at home in Canada. I was part of two governments, Prime Minister Chrétien’s and Prime Minister Martin’s. And at various times I was Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Minister of Health, and Minister of Safety, and Deputy Prime Minister under Mr Martin. And right now, those three ministries – Health, Justice and Public Safety – are responsible for the implementation of a new regulatory regime around cannabis.

In some respects I was the least likely. My previous involvement with cannabis portfolios, was more on the – let me say – on the prohibitory side of this (laughs) than the legalisation or regulation side.

But I think I’ve been out of politics now 10, 11 years – since January 06 – so a lot changes in life, in a decade. You learn a lot, one hopes you get smarter. You have time to reflect on some of the things you did while you were in government that didn’t work out the way you would have hoped.

In your previous life as an MP, you would have been opposed to legalisation of cannabis?

At the beginning when I was dealing with this as Minister of Health, we were very sceptical. We knew very little about the medical benefits of cannabis. What we had was experiential evidence, people who were saying – it helps me with a pain, it helps get me through my chemotherapy, the nausea, the lack of appetite. But as departments of health we’re used to clinical trials, we’re used to science based evidence. So you end up being sceptical of these experiential claims.

I probably wasn’t thinking about legalisation back then. Nobody was talking about – I shouldn’t say nobody, cannabis activists [have been calling for legalisation] not only been in our country but in other countries for a long time.

As Minister of Health my predecessor in the health portfolio began the process of medical marijuana. It was actually the courts, and people going to court, and saying; “Hey, you know what? I need this. This is the only thing that helps me with this condition or that.” And so when I became Minister of Health, it was at the very beginning of our medicinal marijuana regime.

We used to laugh about the fact that I had the only legal grow-op in the country as Minister of Health. We as the government decided that we would provide the product to those who had medical authorisation. So my predecessor made the decision that we would grow our cannabis in a deserted mine, outside Flin Flon, Manitoba, hundreds of metres underground.

We would laugh about the fact that anybody who used that product from that mine said: “Minister, you have the worst pot in this country. It is terrible.” I think they were probably right about that. I never used any of it myself but I can imagine probably how unimpressive the product was coming out of that mine.

How has your understanding of people’s experience of using cannabis changed?

One of the things that we talk about in the Task Force report is the fact that it is important to take in experiential evidence. For example, a mother was telling us her experience with her 5-year-old who has the most severe form of epilepsy and conventional-based interventions were not dealing with the number of seizures, sometimes up to a 100 a day. And turning her child into virtually a zombie from all the medication.

In desperation, so many parents who have children with this severe form of epilepsy turn to CBD (Cannabidiol)-high cannabis products. And her experience – there’s very little clinical evidence to explain this… after she and her husband went into the illegal market place – so they are breaking the law – to find this product for their five year old, that child can now go up to two weeks without a seizure. There’s no clinical trial that explains that yet. But you have to take on board that experience. You have to say – there’s something going on here, and we can’t ignore it.

It’s easy to think that people are making these claims because they just want to get high. That’s kind of how you’re brought up. And even doctors in Canada, and here [in NZ] too I saw one quoted in the paper, they’re very sceptical. Because this is not the kind of evidence they’re used to. And we still haven’t done all the clinical work that we need to. But it seems to me that at this point in my life, when I hear those kinds of experiences, from people like that mother and so many other patients that we heard from, there’s something that we have to take on board here. And we have to embrace the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis.

With legalisation it seems to be a war of narrative in many ways. It’s really interesting that you’ve managed to maneuver past your scepticism over those 10 years through hearing those stories of the people who have been affected.

There’s a lot of activists in Canada who were absolutely shocked. One, they were not happy when I was appointed chair because of some of this history. But two, I think they were even more surprised when the Task Force report came out and some of our major activists like Mark Emery were saying – “You know what? I thought I’d never say this, but I think I agree with Anne McLellan.”

Now we don’t agree with all the claims the activists make, but certainly in terms of trying to figure out a better way forward for our society we would agree that ongoing criminalisation, criminal records for young people, a lack of openness to research and science based knowledge [isn’t working].

Why legalisation now? What was happening in Canada that meant the government felt this was possible?

One of the things that changed was the fact that Justin Trudeau was leader of the Liberal party. And he made the promise in the lead up to the 2015 election, that if elected they would legalise, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis. He wants to deal with the fact a great many young people were ending up in the criminal justice system for personal possession charges. And the impact of that on the court system, tens of thousands of charges a year for personal possession which would be on a young person’s record, which means that they may have trouble getting employment, or have a lot of trouble getting into the United States, or potentially other countries.

The illegal criminal organisations are making a lot of money, billions of dollars a year, by selling illegal products. Some of it, undoubtedly cut with other substances that are much more dangerous than the cannabis itself. No quality control in relation to what’s being sold on the streets.

For Mr Trudeau and the Liberal Party, they said – “you know what, we have the highest youth rates in the world of cannabis use. And prohibition hasn’t stopped that. So let’s try something else.” Let’s think about what other public policy responses, other than criminal prohibition might help us in terms of dealing with those high rates, helping young people understand the risks. Opening the door to a lot more research, more public education around cannabis.

You have the experience of states like Colorado and Washington in the United States. So even though the U.S continued prohibition at the national level, states were legalising, you could look at that experience. We as a Task Force visited both Colorado and Washington, we talked to people in Oregon, we talked to the people in Uruguay –  which is the only country that’s legalised at the national level.

I think if you put all of that together, it probably just seemed to be the right time to say: we have to be able to do better. We’re not doing a very good job of stopping young people using. We’re forcing them into a black market, which could be more dangerous for them than legalising and regulating.



When you frame the argument as legalisation in order to protect children, restrict the money making capacity of gangs, and to allow better research into the effects of cannabis, how has the Canadian public responded?

As we went through our work as a Task Force, and it was over five to six month period anywhere between 60-70% of Canadians, depending on the province, would say “yes, I’m in favour of either decriminalisation or legalisation”. About two thirds of the Canadian population were ready for a change from the policy we had. That they figured that the ongoing criminal prohibition regime was not the way to go.

The closer it comes to the reality of legalisation, you see the support numbers go down. Because people are starting to come to grips with what this means for them and their community. They’re starting to think about – do I want a retail outlet selling cannabis on my street? Are we going to see a spike in usage that is going to lead to more pressure on our mental health issues, our addiction services?

But the problems exist now. And we haven’t dealt with them very effectively, so let’s try something else and do better.

In New Zealand, the police has basically been given implicit permission to decriminalise cannabis because the government won’t change the law.

Well at home, the challenge is confusion about existing law, and the ability of enforcement. Because in a lot of major urban centres in Canada, the police have bigger things to deal with if they find somebody with a small amount of cannabis, they may confiscate it, but a lot of times they’re not going to bother charging. It’s a waste of their time.

Whereas in some smaller communities and in rural Canada, the police take a quite different approach to that and they may charge. And people end up going to court. One, it creates confusion around the law. But two, it also calls the law into disrepute, because there’s no clarity around how the law’s enforced.

And we have the same issues that other jurisdictions have, in terms of concerns around of indigenous people who end up being charged more frequently, and African Canadians who end up being charged more frequently. So all of this speaks to the fact that criminal law around personal possession of cannabis is a confused situation right now. And whether you get charged for simple possession may depend on where you live. Or even what part of the city you may live in, or what you look like. And that’s not a good thing for the criminal law, and its not a good thing for law enforcement to be put in that position either.

Are drug laws amplifying the social problems that indigenous communities already faced?

Absolutely. Or some of our African Canadians in major urban centres. The whole discussion of disparate race-based effects, or applications of the criminal law are topics that are uncomfortable for many people to discuss but are realities out there that people need to be honest about and address.

So what will legalisation look like in Canada?

Basically personal possession of a reasonable amount is no longer against the law. Anyone over the age of 18, can have on their person in public up to 30 grams. They can buy up to 30 grams in one sale. We are also authorising that in any one home you can grow up to four plants for personal use.

But we are also establishing a highly regulated legal market place. We are taking a product that has heretofore been prohibited, and we are creating a legal market around that product. The last time that happened was alcohol in the 1930s, after prohibition. That was the last time we’ve seen a product go from prohibition to a legal market and everything that goes with a regulated legal market.

If you go back and look at the transition period between prohibition and the establishment of legal markets for alcohol, there are lessons that can be learned. One of which is that it takes time.

As of July 2018, we’re not going to magically have the perfect legal market, we just won’t. Because it will take time to see that retail market develop. It will take time to work out the fluctuations of supply and demand. It will take time to figure out the licence producers. And what the price point should be to try and cut out the black market. And people shouldn’t be surprised by that. And I’d even go so far to say probably it will be a little messy initially.

But one of our cautions to government in the Task Force report is that governments should not overreact on underreact to that. That government need to be nimble and flexible and understand that this market will not be perfect on day one, and it will take some time to develop the market in legal cannabis. There will be some mistakes made, and we’ll have to correct the mistakes.

Are you going to be growing cannabis again in 2018?

The government’s not in the business of growing cannabis anymore. Remember where we started. So this is going to be private sector growers and they see the opportunity to have a very profitable business. All of a sudden, you’ve got this whole new product that wasn’t legal before and now there’s a demand for it. Quite honestly, there is money to be made on the part of those who are growing the product. And I think you see that reflected in the interest of people getting into this sector, the growth of this sector, companies being traded on the Canadian stock exchange. We have our first billion dollar cannabis company – Canopy.

Even though we as a Task Force and the government of Canada, we’re not promoting use, we’re not promoting commercialisation; our goals are public health and public safety. Once you create the market, there will be, just as with any market place, laws of supply and demand that will dictate who succeeds and who doesn’t.

In our report we talk about the importance of artisanal and craft growers. We have literally thousands of illegal growers in Canada who have been growing for years and selling perhaps in local farmers markets, and law enforcement kind of turned a blind eye to that. It’s not organised crime, it’s not the Hell’s Angels. It’s someone who’s growing their 300 – 500 plants and taking their product to the local market in the interior of British Columbia, or they sell to their regular customers. There’s this whole boutique industry out there, all of which is illegal.

A lot of these growers have a lot of expertise. And here I’m not speaking for the government of Canada, but I’ve come to the conclusion that you want to get as many of these people into the legal market as possible. Just because you may have had a criminal conviction for simple possession in the past as a grower, in my opinion that should not automatically exclude you from being able to apply to be part of the legal market. And we probably need those people and their expertise.

I don’t imagine it will be the same as buying a block of cheese though? In New Zealand, for example, we have a highly regulated environment for the sale of tobacco.

And that’s exactly the same back home. In our Task Force report in fact, we recommend you take an approach that’s very similar to tobacco in terms of packaging, marketing, advertising and promotion. So we recommend no sponsorships, no celebrity endorsements, no billboards, no lifestyle advertising such as you see with alcohol, and you used to see with tobacco. It’s very close to a plain packaging regime that we are recommending.

In a retail establishment, where only people over the age of 18 are allowed, companies should be allowed to promote their product to a certain degree. They should be able to establish their brand to a certain degree. But in terms of the product itself, pretty much plain packaging, but it will have name of the company, the logo, the approx amount of THC or CBD. It will have a warning label on it.

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of the market and how it will work. How do you then make sure that the government’s health and protection outcomes are happening – how do those taxes then go back in into ensuring the least possible harm is coming of this new approach to cannabis?

There are no absolute guarantees but the Prime Minister has been very clear that revenues collected by the Federal Government should go into mental health programming, addictions programming, research, supportive clinical trials. And when we met with the provinces and territories, they all took the same approach.

A fair bit of upfront money is going to have to be spent before any revenue comes in the door in terms of public education programmes, that is one of the things that we talk a lot about in the Task Force report. If we are going to meet your public health and public safety objectives, you have to have good public health initiatives.

We learnt a lot from tobacco. When I was Minister of Health, I remember all the sessions we had and the focus groups around tobacco public education and what would reach young people and what wouldn’t. And there were a lot of mistakes made. I would like to think we are a lot better at understanding what public education reaches young people. And that takes money. It takes time. So revenues should be used for those purposes initially.

If you just take those revenues and divert them to government expenditures, there will be a price to pay down the road. As we have learned with alcohol and tobacco.

By removing some of the stigma, are you making services more easily available, are you using the legalisation of cannabis as a way of dealing with those problems, rather than criminalising those problems?

We are acknowledging the problems and trying to find better ways to deal with them. Maybe in a way it’s been a bit of a head in the sand in that we knew these problems were there, we’ve known that we weren’t effectively dealing with them, so now maybe it’s time in this bold new world to say – let’s try something else.

If these things are no longer criminalised, people will be willing to talk about them, more willing to acknowledge a problem, that they’re a user, and they need help. They can step out of the shadows and we can deal with all these issues in a more intelligent, holistic way than we’ve been able to. The criminal law is a blunt instrument, It doesn’t help people who have an addiction.

Are you concerned about the public response if things don’t go to plan?

One of my fears is that people will be quick to blame if there’s an accident in a workplace, that that’s because of cannabis legalisation. Or if there’s a terrible accident on the highway, that’s because of cannabis legalisation. Let’s blame this new public policy initiative for bad things that happen and that’s when governments get scared. Because that’s when politicians start to hear from their voters.

Part of what we wanted to do in the Task Force is make the point very clearly that there will be surprises, and we will make mistakes. This is a very complex public policy change. With cascading effects, from the government of Canada, to the provinces, to the street level and municipalities and communities all over Canada. And that we have to prepared for that, we have to be flexible and nimble.

How much has your opinion changed when a hypothetical example like your children using marijuana recreationally ten years ago, to that same use once it’s legal?

Well…. It would be my grandchildren!

But your children, or even yourself, will be in a position where you will be able to on a Saturday evening with friends have a glass of wine and a joint?

That is part of the transformation, the change that people have to wrap their minds around. And it will take time to move from being brought up in a regime where this was a prohibited substance to one where you can stop on the way home just like I pick up a bottle of wine and I think nothing of it. And now you can go to retailer selling cannabis, and pick up X number of grams, and have people over. And have people over, for a glass of wine, or for cannabis, in whatever form. Not that we would suggest smoking is a good idea. Smoking anything is not a good idea.)

I think you want to talk to your kids the way you would about alcohol, the way you would about tobacco, and say, there are risks, and it’s legal for mum and dad to have a drink, and it’s legal for mum and dad to use cannabis. It’s all part and parcel of bringing your kids up and helping them understand that you shouldn’t use until you’re a certain age and you should make intelligent decisions. And always feel free to talk to me as your mum or dad or grandmother or whatever. So it seems to me we have to get used to talking to our kids and grandkids about cannabis use.

What about you and your friends?

In terms of my generation, I’m a Boomer, as we age I think you’re going to see a growth in use. We’re used to having things our own way, we’re used to making our own decisions, having a choice. Thinking this through for myself, if one could use cannabis in whatever form to deal with chronic pain, or as we age more likely to get cancer, dealing with the aftermath of chemo or radiation, we will say that we want access to whatever it is that might help us live a quality life, and if that’s cannabis, we’ll use cannabis.

So I actually think you’ll see seniors be part of the growth industry. Because they will see it as a medicinal treatment, but they might also see it as something pleasurable. Something to do like a glass of wine. So it’s interesting, I hope I live long enough to see, 20 years, 30 years from now where is the growth.

I would like to see underage youth drop. But my guess is, at the higher end, at the senior end, you’re going to see a substantial growth in cannabis use.


Thanks for reading.

Philip Smith-Lawrence












Monsanto and Bayer are Maneuvering to Take Over the Cannabis Industry.


It has been rumored for years that Monsanto plans to take over the cannabis industry with genetic engineering just as they’ve taken over the corn and soy industries. Although they have always denied having any intentions to do so, at this point it is unlikely that anybody really believes them. In contrast, many in the cannabis sphere are prepared to resist any kind of GMO takeover of marijuana by Monsanto or any of their cohorts.

Evidence is mounting, though, which points strongly to the notion that Monsanto does indeed plan to take control of the cannabis plant, and it doesn’t look good for medical users, or anyone planning on getting into the industry.

Monsanto And Miracle-Gro Have Intimate Business Ties

According to Big Buds Magazine, Monsanto and Scotts Miracle-Gro have a “deep business partnership” and plan on taking over the cannabis industry. Hawthorne, a front group for Scotts, has already purchased three of the major cannabis growing companies: General Hydroponics, Botanicare, and Gavita. Many other hydroponics companies have also reported attempted buyouts by Hawthorne.

“They want to bypass hydroponics retail stores…When we said we won’t get in bed with them they said, ‘Well, we could just buy your whole company like we did with Gavita and do whatever we want.’” – Hydroponics Lighting Representative
Jim Hagedorn, CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro, has even said that he plans to “invest, like, half a billion in [taking over] the pot business… It is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in lawn and garden.”


It is possible that Bayer and Monsanto could create a monopoly on marijuana seeds in the same way that they have created a monopoly on corn and soy. Through immense corporate power and the enforcement of international patent law, these corporations could place themselves in a position of total control over cannabis as a medicine as well as for recreational use by using the same model as they do with the food crops they control.






THE RULINGS ON online speech are coming down all over the world.


Most recently, on June 30, Germany passed a law that orders social media companies operating in the country to delete hate speech within 24 hours of it being posted, or face fines of up to $57 million per instance. That came two days after a Canada Supreme Court ruling that Google must scrub search results about pirated products. And in May a court in Austria ruled that Facebook must take down specific posts that were considered hateful toward the country’s Green party leader. Each of those rulings mandated that companies remove the content not just in the countries where it was posted, but globally. Currently, in France, the country’s privacy regulator is fighting Google in the courts to get the tech giant to apply Europe’s “right to be forgotten” laws worldwide. And, around the world, dozens of similar cases are pending.

The trend of courts applying country-specific social media laws worldwide could radically change what is allowed to be on the internet, setting a troubling precedent. What happens to the global internet when countries with different cultures have sharply diverging definitions of what is acceptable online speech? What happens when one country’s idea of acceptable speech clashes with another’s idea of hate speech? Experts worry the biggest risk is that the whole internet will be forced to comport with the strictest legal limitations.

“There’s a risk of a race to the bottom here,” says Vivek Krishnamurthy, assistant director of Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, who specializes in international internet governance. “Anything that’s mildly controversial is probably illegal in some authoritarian country. So we could end up with a really sanitized internet, where all that’s left is cute cat photos.”

When Global Reach Overreaches

Not that there’s anything wrong with an internet filled with cute cat photos—as long as there is space for healthy, vibrant, controversial discourse, too. If the national laws and mores of two different places are in direct opposition, the risk is that discourse in the less strict nation will be limited by the rules of the stricter place. In the worst case scenario, entire events could be wiped from the online record.

“For example, while Europeans might feel comfortable with having a right to be forgotten, Latin Americans—who are just now starting to read the worst pages of their recent history, trying to find out what really happened in their military dictatorships—don’t want to give dictators and their allies the right to delete what they did from the internet,” says Gus Rossi, global policy director at the public interest group Public Knowledge. “Different people might have different expectations about the same issue. It’s not ideal when one part decides for the other without taking that part’s views into account.”

Laws or court orders with a global reach could also unintentionally create a global standard. Krishnamurthy points to the Canadian court ruling, which cited the European Court of Justice’s rationale on its “right to be forgotten” laws. And another court case in Hong Kong cites the Canadian case. The way this spirals out of control is if companies end up adapting to the most restrictive regime when country after country continually one-ups each other.

This problem is made worse by the fact that individual court rulings are not designed to be tools for global internet governance in the first place. Court rulings are reactive by nature, not the result of a discussion of all relevant parties involved. “Ideally, countries, users, and companies could sit at the same table and agree on how to govern freedom of expression online,” says Rossi. “In absence of such mechanisms, it would be best if countries at least restrained from passing global reach legislation or court orders.”

The ‘Splinternet’

This is all fairly new. “For a long time, the preferred response when content was illegal in one place was simply to geoblock it,” Krishnamurthy explains, with the practice going all the way back to 2000 when France and Germany were asking Yahoo to take down content and materials that paid homage to Nazism. Eventually, the company came to the solution of banning content on a country to country basis, blocking content based on a user’s IP address.

But this ended up not being satisfactory for a couple of reasons. First, IP-based blocking is only about 95 percent effective, Krishnamurthy says, meaning there were still some people in those countries who were able to access the offending material. And there was also a universalizing claim that was put forward by the French in particular. “The claim was ‘hey, everyone enjoys the right to privacy,’” Krishnamurthy says, “and if someone in the US gets to see this material that we in France say violates the rights of a Frenchman, then that Frenchman isn’t getting to enjoy his full rights.” But while applying global execution to a local court ruling clearly isn’t the ideal, a splintering of the internet—where what you see depends on the cultural differences across national borders—would also be disagreeable, or downright dystopian.

Part of the problem is that only a handful of American tech companies control so much of what we see online, and there is still no centralized forum for internet governance. There are a few international groups, such as the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union or the Internet Governance Forum or the Freedom Online Coalition, but none of these have real power to establish a global standard recognized by all. “These issues are up to the companies and the governments themselves,” says Cynthia Wong, a senior internet researcher at the nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

At least for right now, the tenuous relationships between companies and governments, advertisers and users, are keeping free speech alive. “The genie is staying in the bottle in part because these players face multiple kinds of pressures,” says Krishnamurthy. Advertisers now balk at the idea of inadvertently funding hate speech. Users can leave a platform if its policies get too pernicious. These recent court rulings act as mere patches while the bigger question of what the global internet should look like is worked out by its stakeholders.

“The way the trend is going, there is a lot of pressure directed at breaking the internet, this global network, into a national network with interconnections,” says Krishnamurthy. “It could change what the internet looks like in five or ten years.” If internet users, tech companies, governments, and advertisers want to keep that from happening, now’s the time to come together and conceive a plan.

  • 07.07.17
  • 07:00 AM

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Cheers and thanks for reading, and remember – don’t believe everything you read on the internet!

Philip Smith-Lawrence