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    Hemp march to be banned in Moscow - security chief

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    MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - An application to hold a march to legalize marijuana in Moscow at the weekend will be refused, the Moscow security chief said Thursday.

    The Cannabis Legalize League, a public organization, has submitted an application to hold a 'hemp march' May 5 in Moscow, where even possession of cannabis for personal use is illegal, to the Moscow City administration, Nikolai Kulikov said.

    "After consideration, the event organizers received an official refusal as the march would represent the propaganda of narcotics and is in breach of Russian laws," Kulikov said.

    He pledged that if the rally is held unsanctioned, the police would disperse the march.

    Kulikov was echoed by the Federal Drug Control Service. "I cannot rule out that they [the organizers] will be called to account, and I don't think the organizers or participants in the march are law abiding people," said Vladimir Zubrin, a deputy head of the service.

    It is the fourth attempt to hold a rally to legalize marijuana in Moscow. Last year, the organizers applied for a 2,000-strong march. Despite a refusal by the authorities, they held an unsanctioned rally.

    The first march, also an unsanctioned one, was held in 2004 attended by some 200 people. The police arrested 65 participants.

    The cannabis-related event takes place on the first Saturday of May and is part of the Global Marijuana March, which has been held in over 400 cities in different parts of the world since 1999. It features rallies, raves, concerts, and festivals to promote cannabis culture as a personal lifestyle choice.

    The propaganda of narcotics is not the only excuse for Moscow authorities to prohibit rallies. Last year plans to hold a gay pride parade in Moscow crashed after a refusal by the city government and the mayor's personal condemnation of such events, referring to them as "Satanic". The Russian Orthodox Church also criticized the plans. All subsequent appeals against the decision were turned down.

    Despite the ban, about 200 people took to the streets May 27, 2006 in an unsanctioned demonstration to mark the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia.

    The attempt resulted in violent clashes between sexual minorities and their opponents - representatives of a number of political parties, religious and radical movements - and the detention of some 120 people from both sides, most of whom were later released.

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