Newsbrief: Marco Cappato in Jail for British Marijuana Civil Disobedience 3/21/03

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Marco Cappato, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and coordinator of Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action, begins serving a seven-day sentence in Manchester, England, today after refusing to pay a $150 fine for possession of cannabis he presented to police officials in Manchester during a civil disobedience action in December 2001. That action came in support of fellow MEP Chris Davies, who had earlier been arrested on similar charges. Davies was in turn protesting the arrest of Stockport (suburban Manchester) cannabis coffee shop owner Colin Davies (no relation) by Manchester police after his flourishing business garnered a little too much media attention.

Cappato -- who coordinates a global pro-legalization resolution that has been endorsed by over 200 legislators worldwide (http://www.antiprohibitionist.org) -- has already paid approximately $3,000 in court costs so as "not to use the British judicial system at the expense of the taxpayer," but refuses to pay any fine, instead preferring to serve his time as a continuation of his protest. In a statement scheduled to be read in court today, Cappato's attorneys explained his motives: "On 15 December 2001, Mr. Cappato voluntarily decided to violate the 'Misuse of Drugs Act', denouncing himself to the Stockport police station for possession of a very small quantity of cannabis, spending one night in a police station," they said. "Mr. Cappato has been active on drug-related issues for the past ten years, in Italy as well as in other regions of the world, both as an anti-prohibitionist activist and as an elected official. On 13 December 2002, Mr. Cappato introduced a formal recommendation to the European Council of Ministers with the support of other 109 MEPs -- that is some 20% of the European Parliament -- that calls for a comprehensive reform of the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988.

"Mr. Cappato firmly believes that the criminalization of cannabis possession is in fact creating tremendous harm to society, with penalties that go beyond basic human rights principles. For this reason, he decided to support the action undertaken by his British colleague Mr. Chris Davies, MEP, on 15 December 2001, and to face a criminal charge. With his nonviolent action of civil disobedience, Mr. Cappato violated a law not in order to disrespect it, or this Court or the legal tradition of the United Kingdom, but in order to affirm the urgent need for anti-prohibitionist reforms and the adoption of new laws that could free this as well as other Courts from thousand of criminal cases, mostly involving very young people.

"Mr. Cappato wishes also to state that recently a debate on the rescheduling of cannabis derivatives began in the United Kingdom, a change that will legalise marihuana and other substances that today are illicit. Mr. Cappato hopes that the news of his arrest will help that debate urging decision-makers that are in charge of drug laws as well as those that will represent the United Kingdom at the UN Conference in Vienna next 16 and 17 April. EU Member States, as well as the international community as a whole, cannot afford to perpetrate the implementation of failing prohibitionist policies that have not been able to reduce the production, consumption or sale of the substances kept illegal by the three UN Conventions."

Will there be a Letter from the Manchester Jail?

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