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Our View: Death by tea bag – police confused over what defines a ‘lethal weapon’

A hemp harvest in Cyprus. Industrial cannabis is used in a wide variety of products - PLEASE DONT USE THIS PHOTO FOR STORIES CONCERNING CONVICTIONS - THE CURLY MAN IN THE PHOTO CALLED AND COMPLAINED THAT PEOPLE THINK IT WAS HIM THAT WAS SENTENCED
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POLICE in Cyprus seem to be obsessed with drugs to the point where they went around a number of kiosks in Ayia Napa and Paralimni last weekend seizing small packets of hemp tea.

The importers and distributors of the tea are now suing the government after their product – all licensed and certified, they insist – were seized illegally. The company has also written to the Attorney-general, asking him to instruct police to stop harassing sellers of the tea.

Hemp tea falls within the boundaries of recently amended laws which permit the cultivation and trade in substances containing less than 0.2 per cent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element in cannabis.

The company imports the hemp tea and re-packages it with oversight from the public health services before distributing to kiosks and mini markets.

This problem of confusing a perfectly legal product with an illegal one is down to conflicting legislation that has seen a hemp farmer jailed this year. On the criminal statutes, THC is a banned substance in any quantity.

Even the anti-drugs council pointed this out on Friday, and while one might think they might be opposed to anything cannabis-related, in fact they clearly indicated police were in the wrong.

Hemp tea will not make you high, and even if a person was to smoke industrial hemp, the joint would have to be the size of a telephone pole to have any effect, according to conventional wisdom.

That’s one aspect. The other is the apparent lengths the officers went to in order to confiscate the tea. They told one kiosk owner that he needed a permit from the relevant ministry in order to sell the product. In another, they told the kiosk operator that the supplier lacked a distribution permit. And another was told police were acting on a tip-off concerning the sale of cannabis.

Meanwhile, a Sunday Mail survey around Ayia Napa last week following the murder of a Briton the weekend before, found a number of people working in the tourist industry would welcome a more visible police presence, more extensive CCTV coverage – and a ban on souvenir shops selling “lethal weapons” such as combat knives, knuckle-dusters and even machetes. Given that the latter have been used in a number of terrorism attacks around Europe this year, police might be more concerned with seizing them from a crowded holiday resort instead of teabags.

One of the main complaints from a business owner in Ayia Napa was that police seemed to focus on relatively minor infractions such as handing out fines to moped drivers, loud establishments and touts, and busting sellers of laughing gas.

Maybe the new parliament that begins work next week might take it upon themselves to sort out both these legislative issues, amending the criminal law to reflect the law on industrial hemp so that farmers are not jailed, and banning the open sale of lethal weapons when we all live in such dangerous times.

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