Leave Your Stash

Leave Your Stash
Posted by CN Staff on May 18, 2002 at 07:14:18 PT
By Mark Stachiew, Southam Newspapers
Source: National Post 
Seeing the movie Midnight Express should make anyone think twice about launching a drug-smuggling career. It has been a couple of decades since the movie adaptation of Billy Hayes's frightening book about spending time in a Turkish jail for drug smuggling was released, but the story is as powerful now as it was then -- a reminder that foreign prisons make the domestic variety look like country clubs.More than 2,200 Canadians are in prison abroad, many of them for drug-related offences. If you are arrested in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and legal system.
What might be a misdemeanor here could be a serious crime somewhere else. Possessing marijuana in Thailand, for example, will get you five years in jail and importing it will get you 15. Smuggle in some heroin, and you would probably dodge the death penalty Thais face for the same crime, but you would still end up in jail for the rest of your life.Thailand is part of the Golden Triangle, and a lot of heroin comes out of that part of the world. I have been through Bangkok a few times and the authorities are very serious about arresting smugglers. Backpacks are always the last items of luggage to come off the carousel at the airport because they are thoroughly scrutinized. Small-time smugglers often get hustled for hefty bribes, and if they cannot pay, they go directly to jail.If you are arrested, you should tell the police you want to meet with a consular representative. Foreign authorities are obliged under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to grant you access to a national representative, but only if you request it.But even if you are lucky enough to be in a country that still has a Canadian embassy, the consular representatives will not be able to do much for you. They certainly cannot arrange for your release. They can provide you with a list of lawyers and help you get in touch with people back home, but for the most part you are on your own.Drugs are pretty common on the backpacker circuit. Marijuana is cultivated just about everywhere and is cheap and easy to find. Some people are so thrilled, they start over indulging to the point their travel budgets are blown and they look for ways to supplement their income. Some turn to stealing from other travellers. Others start doing a bit of freelance smuggling.A few years back I was in Goa and started hanging out with some backpackers who had been in India for more than a year. They had spent the entire time in Goa, mostly because of the cheap drugs. The local "chemists" are open around the clock and you can buy just about anything without a prescription. They all told me about how they were going to explore India, but ended up never leaving Goa. They knew they were wasting their time, but none had the will to leave.I knew it was time for me to leave when my new-found friends bought some medicine that had to be intravenously injected and were wondering how they could accomplish that task with their dinner forks.The Department of Foreign Affairs has some True Confessions on its Web site written by six people arrested for drug charges. For some grim reading, check -- if you are not a drug user, you might still be a target for traffickers. Be ultra-careful when approaching borders. Keep a close watch on your luggage and never take someone else's parcels or "gifts" across the border. Young people, especially women, are often unwitting dupes for smugglers. Women are the mules of choice, because they are less likely to be searched at customs.Ultimately, a lot of the young people languishing in foreign jails are there because of an error in judgment. If you really want to commit a good deed, you should consider visiting a fellow Canadian in a foreign jail. It is something that is encouraged by the Department of Foreign Affairs, although you should arrange such a visit through the department because some countries place restrictions on who can visit and when.Note: Travel warnings: More than 2,200 Canadians are in prisons abroad.Source: National Post (Canada)Author: Mark Stachiew, Southam NewspapersPublished: May 18, 2002Copyright: 2002 Southam Inc.Contact: letters nationalpost.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Canadian Links Fears Drug Spillover from Canada Marijuana Reform Concern to U.S. in on Border Pot Smugglers 
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Comment #1 posted by gloovins on May 19, 2002 at 07:31:32 PT
FYI Oliver Stone wrote this movie
& he got popped in 1999 for possesion of hashish.Damn think of all the celebs now esp, that have been busted from cannabis since prohibition. It could read: THESE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE WHO THE GOV'T THINKS SHOULD BE JAILED, FINED, PLACED ON PROBATION AND HAVE A RECORD FOR LIFE FOR POSSESION OF A PLANT THAT IS SAFER THAN ALCOHOL & TOBACCO.Lets see, 1st cpl of faces could be:Robert Mitchum, David Lee Roth, Whitney Houston (she slipped away though...u sly one Whitney mad props;), Dionne Warwick, Carlos Santana, Matthew Macaughney, & the faces could go on on & on....Just a though if someone fm NORML is checkin in..
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