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Jail for Selling Email Lists to Spammers 172

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the losing-the-key dept.
amigoro writes "UK will start jailing the people who trade in email addresses, or any other personal data. The current Data Protection Act only fines people who do that, but the money one can make from trading in personal information was far higher than the measly GBP 5000 one had to pay if caught. The new regulations will result in a two year prison sentence for violating the Act."
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Jail for Selling Email Lists to Spammers

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  • US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodgster (671476) <rodgsterNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @01:46PM (#17923096) Journal
    We need an equivalent law here in the US.
    • Do I hear $5 for rodgster@yahoo.c o m?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by x_MeRLiN_x (935994) *
      "Will result in" or "can result in"? A maximum sentence isn't always passed - and is in fact probably the exception rather than the norm.
      • by mpe (36238)
        "Will result in" or "can result in"? A maximum sentence isn't always passed - and is in fact probably the exception rather than the norm.

        Especially given that the existing law allows for a fine "per incident". Which could mean that selling 2,000 emails would equate to up to one million pounds of fine. There can't be many email addresses which will sell in the several thousand pounds range.
        Doubt the title "UK to jail privacy violators" means that Blair and co will be heading to jail soon over their crackpo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobSutan (467781)
      It will never happen so long as the FBI and other government agencies are the buyers of such information. See, since these organizations can't legally snoop in a lot of cases they just buy the info they need from companies that are allowed to do such snooping. Only in America!
  • by Pakaran2 (138209) <windrunner.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @01:49PM (#17923136)
    Fine: GBP 5000
    Legal bills: GBP 2000
    Your cellmate Bubba finding out that you're the one behind him getting all those Nigerian emails: Priceless
  • Why don't you go to the UK and file your bogus lawsuit against Spamhaus now?
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Why don't you go to the UK and file your bogus lawsuit against Spamhaus now?

      This raises an interesting point .... how loudly would the American government be screaming if a US citizen was arrested in Britain for doing something which was perfectly legal in the US but which affected UK citizens and was against their laws???

      I bet people would scream bloody murder about jurisdiction and how wrong it is to detain American citizens.

      I would like to see a test case like that.

      Cheers

      • Perhaps the sentence would be reduced. Remember what happened to that kid that was caught "tagging" cars in Singapore? He was sentenced to be caned, public outcry got President Clinton involved, the brat still got what was coming to him. His sentence was reduced from six cane strokes to four, probably as a PR favor to Clinton more than anything else. http://www.corpun.com/awfay9405.htm [corpun.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kadin2048 (468275)
        This raises an interesting point .... how loudly would the American government be screaming if a US citizen was arrested in Britain for doing something which was perfectly legal in the US but which affected UK citizens and was against their laws???

        I don't know ... if they were sending out spam, I'd prefer that they be quickly extradited to whatever third-world country still practices breaking-at-the-wheel.

  • Jail Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Normal Dan (1053064) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @01:53PM (#17923204)
    It seems everyone these days are too eager to throw people in jail. Two years in jail for a non-violent crime? Two years of your life is a very long time. It's longer than you may think, and spending it in jail doesn't help society very much. Yes, I know it's suppose to be a deterrent, but I think a better deterrent would be a much larger fine, probation, and maybe your email address along with your crime made publicly known. Regardless, I still think we are too quick to just throw people in jail and forget about them.
    • It seems to be the only solution people can come up with.

      I like the idea of the fine being inline with the crime. Instead of a fixed fine where the amount becomes a cost of doing business, why do they not move to a sliding scale. For example, each person who's e-mail they sold would receive the amount paid for the list. So if the list is 100 e-mails and the person caught was selling the list for 1$ then the fine would be equal to 1$ x 100 and that $ would be sent to the people who's names are on the list.

      W
      • Removing the financial incentive is the only effective way to stop spam. Unfortunately, nobody knows how to do that.

        I like the idea of making restitution to the victims, but I don't think your plan would work. You can't send money by email, so you'd have to somehow find out the names and addresses of the owners. And how do you do that? By sending out mass emails telling people that they can get a check for $1.00 if they provide their name and address? How many responses do you think you'd get? And keep in m
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by green1 (322787)
          >> Removing the financial incentive is the only effective way to stop spam

          actually, it's worse than that, you have to not only remove the financial incentive, you also have to remove the PERCEIVED financial incentive. the former is actually not that hard, and in some cases is already accomplished. the big problem is that even if people aren't able to make a penny off of spam you will still have people who THINK they can make money off it, and that will continue to cause people to try.

          what is needed mo
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iminplaya (723125)
      Regardless, I still think we are too quick to just throw people in jail and forget about them.

      The creeps making tons of money from the prison industry believe we should feed them even faster. This isn't about punishment, much less rehabilitation. Profit motive is driving it. And the taste of revenge is sweet indeed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jfengel (409917)
      Fines are problematic as a punishment, because not everybody can pay them. Some of the money has already been spent by the time you get to them, and some has been hidden. You can take everything they have, which is usually less than they made off the crime. There are usually ways to legally hide money even from fines; they're reluctant to take your house, for example (though I gather that the US government has ways around that.)

      Jail time is something that people can't miss.

      I agree that two years should be a
    • by qwijibo (101731)
      When it comes to spammers, I can think of many other places where I'd prefer they get thrown and forgotten. Active volcanoes spring to mind.

      Fines don't work if the benefit of breaking the law exceeds the possible fine. Probation is the threat of being thrown in jail for getting caught again, which is slightly more legally binding than "don't do it again or I'll tell you not to do it again in a more stern voice". I get the impression that the kind of people that sell email adresses would consider the publ
    • Two years in jail for a non-violent crime?

      Am I the only one sick and tired of this method of trivializing crimes? "Oh, it's non-violent, I guess it's not so bad." You really think all violent crimes are worse than all non-violent crimes? Then tell ya what: slapping me in the face is a violent crime. I would gladly be slapped in the face in return for just 10% of the costs a spammer imposes on the rest of us.
    • Re:Jail Time (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @02:21PM (#17923612)
      Two years in jail for a non-violent crime? Two years of your life is a very long time.

      And how many years can it take to recover from having your credit history trashed, from losing your sensitive job because you appear to be financially wreckless or in debt, or from having to rebuild your reputation when someone sends around child pr0n links/content or stock-pumping scams that appear to be coming from you?

      If you performed a "violent crime" that resulted in more or less the same consequences (wrecking someone's house or career), that's somehow worse, for you, than some other action that results in the same thing, long-term? How about when the person doing it is doing it to thousands of people at the same time?

      spending it in jail doesn't help society very much

      Other than the whole "he can't do any more of it while he's in prison" aspect, right?

      maybe your email address along with your crime made publicly known

      Oh no! Not public disclosure of your e-mail address! That's really some pretty serious stuff you're talking, there. No one who steals information, spreads around fraudulant messages, and is willing to take YOUR money or credibility for their own use would ever... just change e-mail addresses. These people are beyond shame. Naming them publicly does nothing, but jail time completely prevents them from any of these activities while they're locked up.

      Regardless, I still think we are too quick to just throw people in jail and forget about them.

      Forget about them? We have to feed them, provide medical and legal care, and 24 months later (in the example cited), administer their release. I can't imagine that you're thinking someone doing a 24-month stint is somehow going to wind up there for years longer because someone forgot that their sentence was up. Please.

      It sounds more like what you're really lobbying for is harsher sentences for violent criminals. Because you can't truly be thinking that life-wrecking scam artists that cost the world's economy untold billions in (choose your currency) and irretrievably lost time are the same as someone didn't renew their dog license, or was caught distilling their own grappa in the basement.
      • by Qzukk (229616)
        Other than the whole "he can't do any more of it while he's in prison" aspect, right?

        Except for the fact that if he's set up some kind of corporation or even just left an automated email harvester and credit card charge system running in some closet somewhere, he most certainly can.
        • by ScentCone (795499)
          Except for the fact that if he's set up some kind of corporation or even just left an automated email harvester and credit card charge system running in some closet somewhere, he most certainly can.

          If the corporation he's running is the vehicle through which he's committing his crimes, that wouldn't still be operating anyway. If you mean that he might have accomplices that weren't caught, that's another matter - though it's usually pretty easy to follow the trail.

          As for card harvesting, etc... he can'
          • by compro01 (777531)
            every related bank account and transactional mechanism shut down or siezed.

            three words : off-shore accounts
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        And how many years can it take to recover from having your credit history trashed, from losing your sensitive job because you appear to be financially wreckless or in debt, or from having to rebuild your reputation when someone sends around child pr0n links/content or stock-pumping scams that appear to be coming from you?

        WTF are you talking about? Because *we're* talking about sending people to jail for selling e-mail addresses. In no way does that financially wreck someone's life or prop up any of your o
        • by ScentCone (795499)
          selling e-mail addresses

          Who do you suppose is buying them? The wider spam-using "industry" is responsible for spreading around malware of every sort, links to sites that carry all sorts of toxic payloads, and encouragement to land on phishing sites set up expressly to steal sensitive personal information from people who will find their bank accounts drained or $10,000 in consumer electronics bought in their name.

          When someone illegally raids a private database and sells that information to people who a
          • by StikyPad (445176)
            Who do you suppose is buying them?

            So fine the end users. You know -- the people actually doing that stuff? "Enabling" is a half-assed argument, because not all of the people sending SPAM are the same people setting up phishing sites or nigerian e-mail scams, and throwing them all into the same group is either ignorant, lazy, or both -- neither of which are characteristics a criminal justice system should have.

            Feeling sorry for the people that seek out ways to support and do business with them through the
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Two years of your life is a very long time. It's longer than you may think, and spending it in jail doesn't help society very much.

      On the contrary. Two years is actually a very light sentence for something that impacts society as severly as this, and society benefits greatly during that two year period, because imprisoning a spammer brings huge benefits to society. It's a cheap and effective way to improve the lives of millions of people.

      There really aren't that many spammers in the world. It may not seem

      • Re:Jail Time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @03:43PM (#17924754) Homepage
        While I don't think jailing people who illegally trade in personal data (it's not just the spammers themselves affected by this law remember) is too much, your idea that jailing a spammer is more worthy than jailing a rapist or a violent criminal because of the number of lives involved is obscenely stupid. For all the millions of lives impacted by spam, that impact on each is still nothing more than inconvenience. The very concept that a million people's inconvenience is worse than "less than a hundred" people's lives, whether literally ended or "just" destroyed by rape or violent abuse is ridiculous.

        Sure, waking up in the morning and finding 70 emails, of which 65 are spam is pretty damn annoying, but it's nothing in the bigger picture. You need to seriously take a step back from the computer and get some fucking perspective.
        • Depends on how you measure it. Your phrasing makes it seem obvious (hence you 5). But what if I say that spam costs the US 10's billions in lost time every year, and oh let me ad that for 50 dollars a year you can save someone starving in bangladesh (or wherever you like to be frank). Reducing the size of the global or national economic pie _does_ kill people, just not as directly. Remember, the only reason our life expectancies are so high here are because we have the money to pay for crap like antibio
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Somehow I knew the saving money is saving lives thing would come up. Even if spam really does cost the US 10 billion dollars per year* the fact is that money lost in this manner can never be directly correlated to a cost in lives or emotional damage. Otherwise where would we be? Would someone caught stealing $100 be charged with an equivalent sentence of a double murder? Ridiculous right? How about $1000, $10k, $100k, $1M? At what point is theft equivalent to taking a life, raping someone, or some other vio
            • by KKlaus (1012919)
              Right but my point was that at some point monetary loss _is_ physical damage (I think damage fits better here than abuse). Does it really matter how you die? Cancer is just as final as a clip of bullets, and frequently as painful. It just doesn't have the emotional pull.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fractalus (322043)
        While I understand and agree with the general sentiment of your post, I would suggest that there is no X sufficiently large that "receiving X spam emails is about as bad as being raped." To suggest that even a billion emails, enough to leave your personally-owned and lovingly-maintained mail server a smoldering slag heap in the co-lo rack, compares to the very personal, real, and in many ways unfixable feeling of violation that comes with rape is just a bit extreme.

        Now, can we get back to lynching spammers?
        • While I understand and agree with the general sentiment of your post, I would suggest that there is no X sufficiently large that "receiving X spam emails is about as bad as being raped."
          OK, then it's probably more accurate to say that being spammed is like being raped just a little.
        • by bill_kress (99356)
          I think the grandparent poster was assuming that pain was additive. This means that if getting spammed had a value of 5 and getting raped had a value of 5,000,000, then 1,000,000 spam would = 1 rape.

          The thing that needs to be pointed out to the poster is that they are not additive like that. For instance, how many slaps equates to getting your hands chopped off? For some people, there may actually be a number, but for most of us, epically programmers, there just isn't.

          The grandparent may not realize that
    • which does seem mild compared to the potential property damages that can be caused by this, depending on the number of addresses being sold.

      What is the maximum penalty for breaking into a computer, stealing information, and in the process leave the computer unusable? ...

      And I strongly disagree with the sentiment often heard here on /. that jail time should be reserved to violent (blue collar) crimes, and economic (white collar) crimes should only get fines. The economic crimes are often much more damaging,
    • by Kopretinka (97408)
      For most people who've never been in jail, jailtime will be a big deterrent. As opposed to a fine that's less than the profits, and even public humiliation - in today's society, we don't only forget the heroes, we also forget the villains fast, giving everybody their 15 mins of fame, maybe, and that's it.
    • The British jails are full. They're letting rapists, paedophiles and murderers out because they've nowhere to put them. You think a spammer is going to get any time?

       
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Two years is the maximum, which will be for the most serious cases - mainly repeat offenders. I expect a typical sentence will be about 2 or 3 months, which I think is a reasonable deterrent. Clearly fines are just treated as a business expense, and so people break the law with impunity.

      If you read any british newspapers at the moment, you will see our prisons are overflowing, so people are not getting anything like maximum sentences at the moment.
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        More likely they'll get an enforcement order preventing them from using personal data in any way (the current law allows this, in fact).

        This is death to any company with more than a handful of customers.

        For a stock listed company this won't only kill it it'll result in the CEO being sued by the shareholders as well.

        Who needs jailtime?
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      These guys are leeching billions of dollars out of the economy each year. They're doing it in increased bandwith requirements to deal with all that spam, the defrauding of the gullible people who respond to them (Because face it, no legitimate product is currently being advertised through spam) and in the time it takes the end user to process through their crap to get to the mail they want. We should be just as offended by their crimes as we were by the last round of CEOs who thought that the corporations t
    • by suitti (447395)
      OK. How about a fine? Let's see. It costs what, a billion dollars (a year) to cope with spam, right? Triple damages would be $3,000,000,000. Oh, and add interest. Until the fine is paid in full, the spammer and family must live in poverty equivelent to the worse poverty on Earth.

      Bill Gates could afford it. But for most of us, jail starts to look pretty good.

      I just hope the UK has equally tough spammer laws.

      This [blogspot.com] is what i think of jail and poverty.

    • by drsquare (530038)

      It's longer than you may think, and spending it in jail doesn't help society very much.
      He can't do any spamming when he's in prison can he? That's the point of prison as far as I'm concerned.

      I don't care how non-violent a crime is, if you're a menace to society then you should be removed from society.
    • Yes, I know it's suppose to be a deterrent, but I think a better deterrent would be a much larger fine, probation, and maybe your email address along with your crime made publicly known.

      You're right. Why not just shoot them, instead?

      ...laura

    • by mpe (36238)
      It seems everyone these days are too eager to throw people in jail. Two years in jail for a non-violent crime? Two years of your life is a very long time. It's longer than you may think, and spending it in jail doesn't help society very much.

      That's probably more of a reason for reviewing exactly who is jailed in general.

      Yes, I know it's suppose to be a deterrent, but I think a better deterrent would be a much larger fine, probation, and maybe your email address along with your crime made publicly known.
    • by rtechie (244489)
      First off, it's "up to" 2 years. It's entirely possible for a magistrate to sentence the offender to far less time or none at all. Extenuating circumstances (he was just a stupid kid) arguments can be made at sentencing and are ususally very effective in the UK.

      Second, compared to our American gulags most British prisons are practically country clubs. They're slowly getting worse in the UK, but they are still better.
  • I'm a firm believer in some sort of nightmare medieval punishment for spammers, preferably involving red hot iron applied to tender parts in proportion to the number of spam emails sent. This is not there yet but is a good start.
    • Instead of jail time or community service, sentance them to 1 hour per 100 e-mails in a federal automated PMITA machine?

      Ya know, it would have stocks and some sort of reciprocating er...machinery

      or....maybe not
  • by future assassin (639396) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @01:58PM (#17923260) Homepage
    just went up. Which ofcourse will create more email harvesting.
    • No, if it created more harvesting then the price would go down again, until it reached a new equilibrium which would probably be slightly more expensive than currently and involving slightly less harvesters. Now if more and more countries start taking this kind of thing seriously then the amount of places where it can go unpunished and the number of people willing to risk punishment will go down, leading to less email harvesting and higher prices for e-mail addresses - until eventually it's no longer financ
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @02:02PM (#17923322) Homepage Journal
    email addresses? Such as those who are infected with a harvester. I know that is how my gmail address got out. I didn't receive any spam until I received a mass email inviting all the 200 people who were accepted to the University of Minnesota graduate program in CS to an orientation. At least one of the people who got that must have been infected with spyware that harvests addresses(I know they should know better since they are going to be CS grad students and yet....) and spam started regularly coming into my inbox. It isn't as bad as the 100 or so spams I day I received at my old university address(which I was careless with, but that was before spam became as huge a problem as it is today).

    Should the offender be tracked and punished? After all, (s)he gave away my personal info without my consent. Not intentionally and didn't make any money, but its an interesting question nonetheless.
    • by Xugumad (39311)
      In the example given, at the college would be in the wrong for having sent out an e-mail with 199 other people's addresses visible (and when I say in the wrong, I mean I'm fairly certain they'd be breaking the Data Protection Act).

      The person with the harvester could be breaking the law by not taking sufficient precautions with the information, but that gets messier...
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      The university should certainly be punished for not putting the addresses in the bcc list. It would be much more difficult to track down which of the fellow recipients was responsible for passing the address on.
  • I get tonnes of junk mail through my door even though I always check/uncheck the don't pass my details on to someone else box.

    Next time I move house I'm going to register all my bills in different names so that I know exactly who's passing my details on.
    • by quixote9 (999874)

      I tried that, but I changed the middle initial, E. for the electricity company, X. for American Express, and so on. It was fascinating. Buy a pair of binoculars, find yourself getting life insurance offers. Leave your name with a chocolatier at a food show, and get catalogs from a company making high-end mountain bikes. There was no rhyme or reason to it, and with the vast majority I never would have guessed who'd sold the name without that tell-tale little breadcrumb. (And that junk came, of course, a

  • {Cut to Strong Bad and Bubs standing at the stick, facing away from each other. Strong Bad has a CD labeled "The Goods", Bubs has a bag of cash labeled "The Payoff".}

    STRONG BAD: {voiceover} Or if I'm strapped for cash, I'll sell the email addresses to Bubs for use in his free weekly spamvertisements.

    {Strong Bad drops the CD}

    STRONG BAD: Oops! Lookit that! I dropped a CD of five-thousand email addresses!

    {Bubs throws the bag of money on the ground}

    BUBS: Whoops! I dropped a quarter for each one!

    http://www

  • by DaedalusLogic (449896) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @02:28PM (#17923698)
    I hate spam, but traditional jail is excessive for anyone that sells e-mail or private information. I view jail as a place we should send people if the crime can actually cause physical harm to someone's life or limb. Then it makes sense for them to be physically seperated from society. If they commit a crime that's going to cost someone financially, drop a big punitive fine on their ass. Someone who sold private information so they could live the high life with a luxury car and a high rise penthouse should at worst face an entire life of paying back debts. They can live in a fleabag apartment and drive a pinto.

    However, I wouldn't be opposed to say a sentence that put them in jail every weekend for two years. They can still try to earn an honest buck, and get a solid reminder of what they did wrong.
    • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @03:10PM (#17924302) Homepage
      UK is a member of the EU, and as such is not allowed to restore the death penalty. Thus, death by torture as subject implies, is not an option, and jail time will have to do.

      I really hate the pervasive meme that a crime is less of an issue if the damage is spread out over many victims, rather than concentrated on a few individuals. The economic damage done by a single large scale spam attack is large enough to fund several life saving operations. Just because you can't name the person who died doesn't make the crime any less severe.

      And yes, the two years jail time is the upper limit, reserved to the worst cases. Most offenders will get far less than that, and first time offenders will most likely not even face jail time.
    • by Xugumad (39311)
      I don't think it's excessive, I think it's inappropriate. This isn't a violent offender, they don't need to be locked away for my safety, why should the taxpayer have to pay for them to rot in a cell somewhere? Give them a _lot_ of community service instead. Say, about two years worth....
  • Too many problems.

    Does this apply to recruiters and other people whose job it is to keep track of people? They pass people's contact information around all the time.

    How about social networking site operators, whose site leaks contact information to third parties?

    How about corporate officers of information broker firms like Acxiom? These companies never have permission directly from the people whose information they have.

    The information broker firms are also the reason why this sort of law would never even p
    • by Xugumad (39311)
      You know we've had laws like this for somewhere around 30 years now, right? I mean, not going to say you'll get this through in the US (but good luck, seriously!), but they're in place and they more or less do work, although there's a massive loophole in that once personal information is out of the UK, they can do what they like with it (but companies have to warn you if they're going to do that).
      • by kraut (2788)
        >although there's a massive loophole in that once personal information is out of the UK
        ^UK^EU

        Data protection laws are, AFAIK, reasonably uniform across the EU. And there are restrictions on what data you can transfer out, although there are plenty of loopholes in the transfer rules.
  • Just a thought; But would this apply to Credit Card Company's, Lending Institutions, or Credit Rating Company's? More identities have been "published" from these types of businesses than any other, to date. I know my credit rating may be affected by this posting.
  • This is nothing but GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE in the FREE MARKET! If the governement would just stay away, everything would work out for the BEST for the CUSTOMER!
  • IANAB (I am not a Brit), but wouldn't that be "gaoling" them?
  • by caveman (7893) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:41PM (#17925432)
    The UK government has recently instructed magistrates and judges not to jail non-violent offenders [bbc.co.uk] where possible, due to lack of space in the countries' already crowded prisons.

    While the threat of jail is still there, the chances of anyone actually getting a custodial sentence for such crimes is virtually non-existant, when even major crime gets punished with fines and community service.

    So, yet another UK law that looks good on paper, but will be as effective as the USA CAN-SPAM laws.
  • ...Our prisons are so crowded with potheads we're making room by releasing murderers and rapists early.

    Maybe the penalty should have been 10x the amount you earned selling the data... That way you discourage the behavior (forfeiture of all profits times 10) while not wasting prison space that needs to be saved to protect the rest of us from violent offenders.
    • by kraut (2788)
      Or, you could legalise weed, and make hard drugs available on prescription.

      That would
      a) get you tax revenue on the 2nd most popular intoxicant in the country
      b) cut off a huge part of the funding of organised crime
      c) lead to a dramatic reduction in burglaries and muggings, since addicts wouldn't have to commit crime to feed their habits

      and, most importantly, mean you have plenty of free jail space to detain spammers at Her Majesty's pleasure. Not sure if Liz has an email address, but if she does, I'm sure i
      • Or, you could legalise weed, and make hard drugs available on prescription.

        Totally agree... I just don't know how that will happen anytime soon. So many "Good Christians" in the "lock 'em all up" camp that you can't imagine it happening in too many states in the U.S. right now. Alaska has the closest thing with de facto legalization--you can have some for personal use, and can grow for personal use.

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