TPM World News

MONTREAL (AP) — Cam Battley is a top executive at one of Canada’s biggest marijuana companies, but he isn’t sticking around to savor the country’s historic pot legalization.

He’s off to Germany on Friday and Australia next week — a sign of what a leader Canada has become in the global pot industry, and of the reverberations its decision to legalize could have internationally.

“It’s a special moment, not just for Canada, but for the world because my strong conviction is that the rest of the world will follow suit,” said Battley, chief corporate officer at Aurora Cannabis. “We’re not known as wild and crazy. We’re known for good public policy and I think they will follow our lead.”

Battley will attend an investor conference in Germany and then head to Australia, which legalized medical marijuana in 2016. He’ll meet with a corporate business partner and talk with policymakers in Sydney and Melbourne.

Battley’s itinerary is indicative of the internationalization of the marijuana industry. And with national legalization taking effect Wednesday, Canada has emerged as the world leader. It’s the second nation — and by far the largest — with countrywide legalization of so-called recreational pot.

Its deliberate approach, which took more than two years of planning, allows provinces to shape their own laws within a federal framework, including setting the minimum age and deciding whether to distribute through state-run or private retail outlets. That offers other countries a model somewhere between the more strictly regulated system in Uruguay, the only other country with legal sales, and the more commercial version in some of the nine U.S. states that have approved recreational marijuana.

Canada’s federal approval has given its industry a huge advantage over its American counterpart, including unfettered access to banking and billions of dollars in investment. Canadians can even order marijuana online and have weed delivered by mail to their door.

That’s all made for some envy among American cannabis entrepreneurs, including Derek Peterson, the chief executive of California-based marijuana producer Terra Tech. Peterson took out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal this week urging President Donald Trump to help ease prohibition and eliminate hurdles for the U.S. pot industry before Canada leaves it even farther behind.

Some in the U.S. Congress have also taken notice, pressing for the federal government to get out of the way of states that want to legalize, but it remains unclear what weight Canada’s legalization might carry south of the border.

It might have a more immediate effect in countries like New Zealand, where the government has promised a legalization referendum by 2020, said John Walsh, of the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America. Mexico, the Netherlands and Italy are among other nations that have been mulling legalization. To the surprise of many familiar with Amsterdam’s marijuana cafes, Holland has only very limited legalization.

“This is the genie out of the bottle,” Walsh said. “Because of Canada’s reputation for being fairly careful, for being a good global citizen, and because of the scale of their market, it’s a more likely example for other countries.”

Battley said he expects the global recreational market to develop much as the medical market has done. Canada legalized medical marijuana nationally in 2001.

“Once you see Grandma and Uncle Ted using medical cannabis to manage their arthritis pain, suddenly the substance is not so scary and not so stigmatized,” he said. “That opens up the space for countries to move forward with consumer legalization as well. I think Canada is at the forefront of a global mega trend.”

Many customers celebrating Wednesday certainly thought so. Festivities erupted throughout the nation of 37 million.

Ian Power was first in line at a store in St. John’s, Newfoundland, but didn’t plan to smoke the 1 gram he bought right after legalization arrived at midnight.
“I am going to frame it and hang it on my wall,” said Power, 46. “I’m going to save it forever.”

Montreal’s downtown marijuana retail outlet has a sterile look, like a modern clinic, with a security desk to check identification. The products are displayed in plastic or cardboard packages behind counters. Buyers can’t touch or smell before they buy. A small team of employees answers questions but don’t make recommendations.

“It’s a candy store, I like the experience,” said Vincent Desjardins, a 20-year-old-student who plans to apply for a job.

In Alberta, lines snaked around some of the 17 legal shops that opened Wednesday, including an Edmonton branch of Fire and Flower, a company that hopes to open as many as 200 marijuana outlets across the country in the next two years. Fire and Flower Chief Executive Trevor Fencott brought his wife and three children — ages 16, 13 and 6 — for the opening, even though the kids were too young to go inside.

“They can’t come in the store, but they can see the line, see this important moment in Canadian history,” Fencott said. “Legalization is about daylighting a lot of stuff that used to be in the shadows. Our kids are going to inherit this system, for better or worse, and I thought it was important for them to see this sea change in Canadian society.”

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Rob Gillies reported from Toronto. Tracey Lindeman reported from Montreal. Gene Johnson reported from Seattle. Johnson is a member of AP’s marijuana beat team. Follow him at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle . Find complete AP marijuana coverage at http://apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor issued a warning Wednesday that if Israel goes ahead and destroys a Palestinian Bedouin village on the West Bank that could constitute a war crime.

Israel’s Supreme Court recently rejected a final appeal against plans to demolish the village, Khan al-Ahmar.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a written statement that “evacuation by force now appears imminent.”

She added: “It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes” under the Rome Statute treaty that established the ICC.

Israel says Khan al-Ahmar was built illegally and has offered to resettle its residents a few miles (kilometers) away. Palestinians and other critics say the demolition aims to displace Palestinians in favor of Israeli settlement expansion.

The ICC has been conducting a preliminary inquiry since 2015 in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy and crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict. The investigation is also looking at Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilian population centers.

Israel is not a member of the court and does not accept its jurisdiction. However, Israeli forces could face charges if they are suspected of committing crimes on Palestinian territories as the court has accepted the “State of Palestine” as a member.

Bensouda’s written statement also said she is “alarmed by the continued violence, perpetrated by actors on both sides, at the Gaza border with Israel.” There have been weeks of escalating violence along the border.

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The top Russian official for Crimea says the attacker at a Crimean vocational college was a student at the school who has killed himself.

The comments by Sergei Aksyonov were the latest in a series of shifting explanations by Russian officials as to what killed 13 people and wounded 50 others Wednesday at the college in the Black Sea city of Kerch.

Aksyonov said on state television that the attacker was a fourth-year student at the vocational school who killed himself after the attack. He didn’t name the man, saying only that he was a local resident.

Russia’s top investigative agency says an explosive device rigged with metal fragments caused the carnage at the school. Yet Russian news media reported that at least some of the victims died in an attack by an unidentified gunman or gunmen.

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PARIS (AP) — The president of Interpol has been reported missing after traveling to his native China, a French judicial official said Friday.

Meng Hongwei’s wife reported Friday that she had not heard from her 64-year-old husband since the end of September, when he left Lyon, France, where Interpol is based, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of an ongoing investigation.

The official said Meng did arrive in China.

In a statement, Interpol said it was aware of reports about Meng’s disappearance and added “this is a matter for the relevant authorities in both France and China.” The statement specified that Interpol’s secretary general, and not its president, is responsible for the international police agency’s operations.

There was no further word on Meng’s schedule in China or what prompted his wife to wait until now to report his absence.

Meng was elected president of Interpol in November 2016. His term runs until 2020.

He has held a variety of positions within China’s security establishment, including as a vice minister of public security — the national police force — since 2004. In the meantime, he served as head and deputy head of branches of the coast guard, all while holding positions at Interpol.

News of the investigation into Meng’s disappearance came during a weeklong public holiday in China. In Beijing, the foreign and public security ministries did not immediately respond to calls and faxed requests for comment Friday.

Meng’s duties in China would have put him in close proximity to former leaders, some of whom had fallen afoul of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping crackdown on corruption. In particular, Meng likely dealt extensively with former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is now serving a life sentence for corruption.

Xi has also placed a premium on obtaining the return of officials and businesspeople accused of fraud and corruption from abroad, making Meng’s position all the more sensitive.

When Meng was elected in 2016 as Interpol president, rights groups expressed concern that he would pursue an agenda of politicized policing that targeted Xi’s opponents.

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Bodeen reported from Beijing.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have stopped, but its hacking operations to gather intelligence and raise funds for the sanction-strapped government in Pyongyang may be gathering steam.

U.S. security firm FireEye is raising the alarm over a North Korean group it says has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars by infiltrating the computer systems of banks around the world since 2014. It says the group is still operating and poses “an active global threat.”

That is part of a wider pattern of malicious state-backed cyber activity that has led the U.S. to identify North Korea as one of its main online threats.

Last month, the Justice Department charged a North Korean hacker said to have conspired in cyberattacks, including against Bangladesh’s central bank.

North Korea has denied involvement in cyberattacks.

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. president may deride it, but other countries are pinning hopes on the International Criminal Court to tackle one of today’s deepest crises: Six nations took the unprecedented move Wednesday of asking the U.N. court to investigate Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity.

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