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Serbian Cannabis Leader Arrested Ahead of Public Hearing

January 4, 2017
View of Belgrade city from Danube river
Life in Serbia, the largest and most populous country to emerge after the breakup of communist Yugoslavia in 1991, can still be a challenge for some. The nation’s drug laws are strict, as made clear recently when a leading cannabis advocate, scheduled to give public testimony on the plant’s therapeutic powers, was jailed before he could make his legalization plea.

Patient and activist Dragan Alargić, known by many as the “Balkan cannabis hero,” has been fighting for legalization for several years. When arrested, he was gearing up for what appeared to be a big step forward in Serbian perceptions of medical cannabis.

Alargić is a founding member of the Initiative for Change of Cannabis Laws (IRKA), a nonprofit organization founded in 2013, and one of the most visible patient advocates in southeast Europe. He helped organize the first seminars in Serbia attended by world-renowned cannabis researchers and health professionals, such as Canadians Rick Simpson and Paul Hornby, American molecular biologist Robert Melamede, and Czech chemist Lumír Hanuš, who discovered the so-called bliss molecule in cannabis, anandamide.

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Alargić himself has a serious heart illness and kidney cancer and takes cannabis oil on a daily basis—which is what landed him in hot water with authorities. On Dec. 13, 2016, police broke into Alargić’s apartment, finding an alleged three ounces (100 grams) of dried cannabis buds. They promptly arrested him.

“Although police knew all about his activities, Dragan had been arrested just a few days before the beginning of a new public hearing about a new cannabis law—where he was supposed to testify,” said Milos Simic, who co-founded IRKA with Alargić. “He’s been in custody for nearly a month now as if he were some dangerous criminal. And he is facing three years in prison.”

“If this draft becomes law, thousands of Serbians would continue to suffer.”
Gradimir Veljkovic, IRKA

The public hearing was a step toward the country’s drafting of a new cannabis bill. It began Dec. 26 and has already drawn heavy criticism from activists.

First, IRKA and other NGOs were refused the right to participate in the debate. Then it emerged that the preliminary draft bill is actually more repressive than the current law, which recognizes THC—although not the cannabis plant as a whole—as a “psychoactive medicine.” As such, allows medicinal use of pharmaceuticals Marinol and Sativex, although both are so expensive that few have interest in importing them.

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“The new draft actually prohibits any kind of cannabis—even the use of the word itself—as well as the production of hemp,” said another IRKA member, Gradimir Veljkovic. “If this draft becomes law, thousands of Serbians would continue to suffer and engage in ‘criminal’ activities.”

To counter this trend, IRKA has been organizing meetings, workshops, and panel discussions, as well as participating in regional and international conferences. “We have also filmed over a hundred patient testimonies of successful cannabis treatments, more than any other NGO in Europe,” Simic said. Serbian media, however, don’t pay much attention to such efforts, and most in the country still fear cannabis because of its classification as an illegal drug.

Lukas Hurt's Bio Image

Lukas Hurt

Lukas Hurt is Leafly’s central and eastern Europe correspondent. Originally from a small town outside Prague, he studied history and English at university. After a stint as a bartender in Ireland, he returned to his home country in 2010, where he now works as a translator, journalist, and editor focusing on cannabis issues. He has advocated for patients and recreational consumers, publishing articles and translating books and scientific studies. He is one of the main contributors to the highly popular Czech cannabis magazine Legalizace.

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  • SeoKungFu

    Goddamn all homosapienses who are fighting the herb !

  • malcolmkyle

    Only evil forces would do this to a person fighting cancer.

    Jesus specifically told his disciples to “anoint” people. That anointing took place using a specific formula made from a recipe found in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

    That recipe (Exodus 30:23) includes about 6 pounds of “kaneh-bosen”.

    According to many biblical scholars, “kaneh-bosen” was/is Cannabis (Marijuana).
    Most of the diseases mentioned as being healed miraculously after anointing are, curiously, the same ones that cannabis can heal today. Things like epilepsy, leprosy, and “crooked limbs” (an obvious reference to multiple sclerosis).

    Exodus 30:
    23 Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even 250 shekels, and of qaneh-bosm [cannabis] 250 shekels, 24 And of cassia 500 shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy anointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. 26 And thous shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, 27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, 28 And the altar of burnt offerings with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. 29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

    Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University: “There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion.”

    Basílica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova di Monreale, Sicily (12th century) Jesus heals two blind men on the road to Jericho:

    https://01varvara.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/01-anonymous-christ-heals-the-two-blind-men-on-the-road-to-jericho-duomo-di-monreale-monreale-sicily-it.jpg?w=1024

  • Wow! This is truly a tragic turn of events. We can only hope intelligent decision happens moving forward.

  • Thomas Lee DuDash

    Hello Serbian law enforcement, all of the propaganda from America from the last several decades about the evils of Cannabis has been a lie, sorry about that, carry on…