Swiss Hemp Activist Freed After International Outcry 2/1/02

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DRCNet reported two weeks ago on the case of Bernard Rappaz, a Swiss cannabis activist and grower who had been on hunger strike since his arrest in November (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/220.html#rappaz). Rappaz, the owner of the Valchanze cannabis company, was arrested November 14 for possession of 51 metric tons of cannabis and 110 pounds of hashish, but his supporters told DRCNet he was arrested because of his activism surrounding the medical use of cannabis.

Switzerland currently tolerates the open sale of cannabis products, including the smokeable flowers, under the pretense that people are buying bags of buds as "potpourri." Pretense is scheduled to melt away later this year when, in a move already approved by the Swiss government, parliament is set to legalize use and possession and allow for its sale under limited conditions (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/177.html#swissdecrim).

A judge in Sion ordered Rappaz released on January 25, as the grower and cannabis exponent entered the seventy-third day of his hunger strike in the prison wing of Geneva hospital, where he was transferred on January 3. His lawyer told the Associated Press last week that he was on the verge on death.

The Swiss court insisted that Rappaz' hunger strike and deteriorating condition had nothing to do with his release, instead saying that he was freed because he no longer posed a danger of interfering in a money laundering investigation of his well-known, well-established business. Rappaz' bank accounts have been seized and his company, which employed at least 20 growers, has been bankrupted. A hunger strike "is not a reason for releasing anybody," the court noted.

But maybe international pressure is. As DRCNet reported, Rappaz's supporters organized rotating solidarity fasts in Australia, Switzerland, France, and Belgium, and organized a global web-based petition demanding his release. DRCNet is aware of at least one call to the Swiss embassy in Washington, as well. (We made it.)

The Swiss Federation of Cannabis Consumers has a complete account of la affaire Valchanvre (in French), including photos of a gaunt, bedridden but determined Rappaz, at http://www.multimania.com/fdcc/homepage.htm online.

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Issue #222, 2/1/02 Editorial: On Freedom, Rights and Duties | At the Statehouse I: Former Delaware Governor Heads Effort to End Mandatory Minimums, Stop Prison Expansion | At the Statehouse II: Kentucky Legislator Offers Bill Allowing Police Access to Oxycontin Prescription Records | At the Statehouse III: Marijuana Decrim Bill Dead in New Mexico, Other Drug Reform Measures Still Breathing | At the Statehouse IV: Washington State Legislation Would Reduce Drug Penalties, Recognize Social Dealing | Radical Party Putting Manchester Police in a Pickle over Pot Cafe, Cops Unappreciative | Violent Dope Fiends a Myth: Another Study Finds Alcohol Most Linked to Violence | Bolivia Crisis Sharpens as Parliament Expels Cocalero Leader Evo Morales and US Funded Anti-Drug Forces Kill Again | Norwegian Commission Set to Call for Decriminalization of Drug Use, Possession | Swiss Hemp Activist Freed After International Outcry | White House Drug Office Pays $3.20 Million for Super Bowl Anti-Drug Ads Linking Drugs and Terrorism | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | Baltimore Job Opportunity with Injection Drug Use Study | The Reformer's Calendar
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