Tunisian rapper busted for marijuana revives debate on legalizationThe arrest and pre-trial detention of a well-known rapper in Tunisia for hashish possession revived the talk over the legalization of hashish use and calls to abolish one of many harshest legal guidelines penalizing customers. Reports Al Monitor

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Tunisian rapper A.L.A (Ala Ferchichi), generally known as “the spearhead of the Tunisian trap music scene,” should appear in court on Oct. 12. His arrest May 6 for possession of hashish with intent to provide hashish sparked an enormous on-line protest.


However, after two days of pre-trial detention, the rapper was sent home May Eight to await trial. A.L.A’s lawyer, Ghazi Mrabet, stated the artist would possibly profit from the 2017 drug legislation reform. “When it concerns a first offender, judges now can impose a fine or grant pardon after predetention instead of imprisonment,” Mrabet instructed Al-Monitor.

For the protesters, hashish arrests are intently linked to police brutality and repression of youth cultureHezb El Warka (Leaf Party), a motion in search of hashish legalization, seized the event to start out an online petition, calling on the federal government to legalize leisure hashish use. Today, six weeks after its launch, the initiative continues to develop. 

Up till 2017, the Tunisian drug invoice, generally generally known as Law 52, had the popularity of being one of many world’s harshest drug legal guidelines, with a compulsory minimal of 1 yr in jail plus a financial positive of 1,000 Tunisian dinars ($350) for individuals discovered responsible of possession of small quantities of medication or its use.

The legislation stood aside as the one invoice within the Tunisian Criminal Code that disadvantaged judges of their discretion; judges weren’t permitted to think about mitigating circumstances. Consequently, by December 2015, Human Right Watch reported that 7,451 folks prosecuted for drug-related offenses in Tunisia had been held in jail, of which 5,200 had been convicted of utilizing or possessing small quantities of hashish.

Former member of parliament Kwawla Ben-Aicha characterizes the 2017 modification as a hard-won deal between the previous parliament and Beji Caid Essebsi, former president and founding father of Nidaa Tounes. “Essebsi aimed to reduce prison overcrowding and made the repeal of Law 52 one of his key electoral promises, but sadly this has led nowhere. Even fellow party members voted against the draft law,” Ben-Aicha, then-member of parliament for the Machrouu celebration, a breakaway of Nidaa Tounes, instructed Al-Monitor.

As a approach to scale back jail overcrowding, the drug coverage reform has hardly been profitable. According to a research document revealed in 2019, 6,000 Tunisians — 25% of the jail inhabitants — had been nonetheless detained for having consumed, produced or offered hashish.

These figures present that the reforms do little to resolve the jail downside, pro-legalization teams argue. “The recidivism rate is about 100%, and in that case a jail sentence still follows,” Wahid Mkadmi, spokesman of the Collective for the Legalization of Cannabis (COLEC), instructed Al-Monitor.

As acknowledged by Mkadmi, Tunisia’s repressive method of hashish use will increase hurt. “By seeing it purely as a criminal justice issue, the state jeopardizes youth health and safety. After serving jail time your life is destroyed,” he added.

Instead, the Tunisian pro-cannabis foyer, predominantly embodied by COLEC and the Leaf Party, each established in 2019, advocate for the entire legalization of hashish —leisure and medicinal — and the institution of a government-controlled monopoly on hashish manufacturing. “In this way, we make sure that cannabis products meet quality and safety standards. Plus, legalizing cannabis will bring considerable economic benefits,” Mkadmi stated.

According to 2017 figures from the Tunisian Association of Toxicology, there are roughly 400,000 hashish customers in Tunisia. Mkadmi, against this, famous, “Tunisia counts 3 million cannabis users — 300,000 of whom use it on a daily basis.”

Mrabet attributes this enhance to the “forbidden fruit effect.” He famous, “Anything forbidden becomes attractive. Like any other country with severe anti-drugs laws, cannabis use continues to increase in Tunisia.”

Tunisian parliamentarians, nonetheless, stored the difficulty from the political agenda, because the hashish debate in 2017. “Parliamentarians avoided the topic so as to not lose any votes since Tunisians are generally conservative,” Mrabet added.

Yet, unexpectedly, hashish emerged as a popular campaign problem within the 2019 presidential race, when a majority of the 26 candidates, together with present Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh, and candidates of three of the 5 governing events, pleaded for depenalization.

Ben-Aicha instructed the presidential candidates needed to piggyback on the success of the pro-legalization motion. “Politicians began to get interested once they discovered how powerful the movement had become among the youth. Some immediately supported the cause, others were reluctant, only discreetly supporting it,” Ben-Aicha stated. So far, nonetheless, the federal government has proven little eagerness to ship on its marketing campaign promise.

Reason for Mongi Rahoui, a member of parliament and 2019 presidential candidate for the leftist Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party, to query the political dedication for hashish legalization. “It was pure political advertising. None of them had a clear program,” Rahoui, who received 0,8 % of the votes within the presidential elections and one seat within the parliamentary elections, instructed Al-Monitor. “At this time of economic crisis, the country could benefit enormously from a legalization strategy that includes the health and economic gains of cannabis.”

But Ben-Aicha doubts whether or not that is politically an opportune time to launch the subsequent step. “For this type of sensitive topic, deputies must be approached as independent individuals instead of representatives for their political party. Either way, the proposal is unlikely to pass in parliament,” she stated, including that she has been pushing for change since 2017. The political wind has modified, and as such “the nature of the 2019 elected parliament — which is not only fragmented but also predominantly conservative — suggests that every attempt is unlikely to succeed.”

According to civil society, extra optimism is justified. “In the previous parliamentary term, we saw that even the people of the conservative Muslim-democratic Ennahda movement — currently with 52 parliamentarian seats, i.e., Tunisia’s largest party — shifted their position on sensitive issues. Everybody can change,” Mkadmi stated.

Repeatedly documented police brutality towards its customers has made hashish a controversial matter within the nation.

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