Embassy Headlines, Issue 102

NSW Premier Mike Baird has ‘grave concerns’ about the supply of Cannabis to terminally ill patients.

Mike also knows that NSW Police have spent millions of tax payer dollars over thirty years trying to eradicate the very same plant.

Let judgement begin in the house of parliament.

The Embassy Headlines are a selection of recent articles from news services and media sources primarily concerning Cannabis issues, the consequences of prohibition and the challenges for law reform.

Here are the selected headlines for this week.

 Embassy-Headlines-102

NSW Premier Mike Baird open to supporting bill to decriminalise medical marijuana [Sydney Morning Herald]

Premier Mike Baird has left open the possibility he may support a private member’s bill to decriminalise the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, promising that the government would give it ”careful consideration”. The Nationals MP for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, will draft a bill that would allow the terminally ill to use cannabis. The move follows publicity around the case of one of Mr Anderson’s constituents, 24-year-old Dan Haslam, who has been using cannabis to relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy to treat his terminal cancer. Greens MP John Kaye welcomed the Premier’s support and said he was willing to delay his own proposed bill to give Mr Anderson time to develop his legislation. ”Although we are not there yet, it is a big step forward from where we were a month ago,” he said. Mr Haslam’s mother, Lucy, told the Northern Daily Leader the proposed bill was a ”significant breakthrough”. ”It gives us great hope that our politicians are sensing the changing attitudes of the Australian people,” she said. Last year, an upper house inquiry chaired by Nationals MP Sarah Mitchell recommended that a ”complete defence” against arrest and prosecution be introduced for the ”authorised medical use of cannabis by patients with terminal illness and those who have moved from HIV infection to AIDS”. However, the recommendation was rejected by Health Minister Jillian Skinner in the government’s response. Mr Anderson said the upper house inquiry did not address the supply issue and that he would work with Ms Mitchell and Nationals MP Trevor Khan ”to find those solutions”.


Support the Greens bill to legalise medicinal cannabis [John Kaye]

Premier Mike Baird has given the green light for Tamworth Nationals MP Kevin Anderson to work on a private members bill to respond to the overwhelming community support for the compassionate use of medicinal cannabis. The Greens will delay moving our bill to allow Mr Anderson time to develop and proceed with his legislation. We do not care who moves this bill as long as it takes away the dreadful choice between breaking the law and suffering faced by too many cancer patients. John has also offered to work with Mr Anderson on possible models to resolve the complex issues of supply and dispensing the medicinal cannabis.


Notwithstanding a media release that notes, among other things, that “the tide is turning on medical cannabis” and “more than a dozen countries and 20 states in the USA have legalised medicinal cannabis”, the Greens have introduced what can only be described as the most limp-wristed, watered down medical marijuana bill possible into the NSW Parliament. Introducing a bill that would see medical cannabis only legalised for those suffering from a terminal illness, and then only if approved by the government with a note from their doctor, and then only for possession of a quantity of less than 15 grams, Greens MP John Kaye, apparently with a straight face, said: “It is time for policy driven by compassion and science, not hysteria and prejudice.” If you suffer from a condition that leaves you in constant pain but won’t kill you, the Greens say you should simply deal with it. If you have a young child with epilepsy whose seizures are reduced from 60 per day to fewer than half a dozen by using a (currently illegal) non-psychoactive tincture of cannabis, the Greens’ version of “compassion and science” would have your toddler put in danger of further neurological damage. “The Greens are locked in an ongoing internal struggle to reconcile their inherent moralistic puritanism with a desire to appear hip and edgy enough to appeal to the inner-city urban elites that make up the bulk of their voting bloc,” said Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats. “While they would like to give the impression they are the party of “compassion and science, not hysteria and prejudice”, their actions belie their true intentions. Despite ample evidence from around the world that medical cannabis can have remarkable benefits to the quality of life of many patients, not simply those suffering from a terminal illness, the Greens simply can’t get past the idea that somewhere out there, someone might take the opportunity to acquire cannabis legally and have a little fun with it – or worse (from the Greens point of view) make money with it. 


Magistrate warns drivers of cannabis effects [EchoNet Daily]

A Lismore magistrate today warned drivers that cannabis could stay in their system for up to 20 days after smoking it. Magistrate Jeff Linden issued the caution after dealing with three drivers caught driving with an illicit drug in their system.


Going to pot: legalised cannabis edges nearer in west after US states end ban [The Guardian]

Legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world, many experts believe, following the end of prohibition in two US states. In Amsterdam, long famous for its coffee shops, identifiable by pictures of marijuana outside and fumes wafting through the door, international experts gathering to discuss cannabis regulation said the international conventions, once so heavily policed by the US, would now be increasingly flouted. Already many countries, most notably the Netherlands and Spain, have bypassed the rules. “The key is always the US in drug policy,” said Professor Robin Room of the charity Turning Point and Melbourne University in Australia. “It would be acting differently if it did not have Colorado and Washington on its conscience. “The dynamic in the United States looks unstoppable. Even if a Republican were elected to replace Obama, they would think twice before cracking down on it all. What would they gain from it? The Republicans realise they are in a box, appealing only to elderly white men. “It is an ocean liner that is exceedingly difficult to turn around but there will probably be a state or two in 2014 and another couple in 2016 voting for legalisation. That poses a big conundrum to the world: the most important nation in drugs policy is in defiance of the treaty it was responsible for.”


EDITORIAL: Legalizing recreational pot is good policy [Las Vegas Review]

Nevada voters have an opportunity to reset America’s costly drug war. This week, petitioners began collecting signatures for an initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana within the state. If the petitioners collect 101,667 valid signatures from registered Nevada voters by Nov. 11, the measure would go before the 2015 Legislature for consideration. And if lawmakers ignore or reject it, the petition would appear on the November 2016 ballot. We’re guessing the petition, put forward by the Nevada Canabis Industry Association with help from the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, won’t have a problem collecting signatures from less than 10 percent of Nevada’s electorate. Polling consistently shows a majority of voters now support decriminalizing the drug. All the way back in 2006, when voters were far less open to the idea of legalizing the purchase, possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, 44 percent of Nevada voters backed a ballot question to do just that. It’s an important step forward in fixing a failed policy. Taxpayers finally seem to understand that spending vast sums of money at the local, state and federal levels on police, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and jails to lock up nonviolent offenders and enable the enrichment of gangs and thugs has done nothing to diminish demand for marijuana. The banned substance remains everywhere — at schools and streetcorners, in public housing and affluent suburbs.


Colorado’s director of pot enforcement thinks legalization is going great[Vox]

Ron Kammerzell is at the center of Colorado’s experiment with marijuana legalization. As the director of enforcement at the Colorado Department of Revenue, Kammerzell has overseen the implementation of regulations on legalized marijuana sales following Colorado voters’ approval of Amendment 64, which legalized pot in the state, in 2012. Given all the attention surrounding Colorado’s growing marijuana industry, I reached out to Kammerzell to discuss how he sees Colorado’s experience going so far.  

Ron Kammerzell: We’re pretty pleased thus far with the rollout of Amendment 64. We started issuing licenses in January. That process went very well.We’re currently rolling out testing programs for retail marijuana, and that’s going pretty well. That will continue rolling out through July. The first part of that was potency testing for edibles in May, and then potency testing for the flower and concentrate products in June, and then contaminate testing will occur from July to October.


Medical marijuana’s first product, jobs [CT Post]

Months before any cannabis-based products will reach patients, Connecticut’s new medical-marijuana industry has already created hundreds of jobs — in construction. Former factories are being reconfigured into secure pharmaceutical facilities for the growing, harvesting, curing and preparation of various strains of marijuana that should be delivered to the state’s dispensaries by early fall. Since the state awarded four marijuana producer licenses in January, an estimated $20 million has been committed to the West Haven, Watertown, Portland and Simsbury buildings that in a few weeks will begin growing thousands of pounds of pot. “As far as we know, folks are busy building out facilities, getting ready to produce product,” Department of Consumer Protection CommissionerWilliam M. Rubenstein said in a recent interview. “They have six months to become operational.”


Anti-Pot Republicans Forsake Federalism In Medical Marijuana Vote [Forbes]

On 30 May, by a vote of 219 to 189, the US House of Representatives approved an amendment aimed at stopping federal interference with state laws that “authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” If it is included in the appropriations bill passed by the Senate and signed by the president, the amendment would prohibit the Justice Department, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from spending taxpayers’ money on dispensary raids or other attempts to stop medical use of marijuana in the 22 states that allow it. Similar measures have failed in the House six times since 2003. This year the amendment attracted record support from Republicans, 49 of whom voted yes, compared to 28 last time around. “This measure passed because it received more support from Republicans than ever before,” says Dan Riffle of the Marijuana PolicyProject. “It is refreshing to see conservatives in Congress sticking to their conservative principles when it comes to marijuana policy. Republicans increasingly recognize that marijuana prohibition is a failed Big Government program that infringes on states’ rights.” Yet Republicans still overwhelmingly opposed the amendment, by a ratio of more than 3 to 1, while Democrats overwhelmingly supported it, by a ratio of 10 to 1. Given the GOP’s frequent lip service to federalism, the party’s lack of enthusiasm for letting states set their own policies in this area requires some explanation. So does the need for this amendment under a Democratic administration that has repeatedly said it is not inclined to use Justice Department resources against medical marijuana users and providers who comply with state law. It is hard to say who is being more inconsistent: a president who promised tolerance but delivered a crackdown or members of Congress who portray themselves as defenders of the 10th Amendment but forsake federalism because they are offended by a plant. 


New York state Assembly passes medical marijuana legislation [Syracuse]

The Democratic-led state Assembly on Tuesday passed legislation that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, increasing pressure on the Senate to pass it before the session concludes at the end of June. The bill, dubbed the Compassionate Care Act, passed 91-34. The Assembly had previously passed medical marijuana legislation, and in April Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver said if the Senate were to take up the legislation the Assembly would pass it again. Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said particular strains of marijuana can help children with a rare form of epilepsy and patients undergoing chemotherapy. “Lives could be made more tolerable and longer by enacting this legislation,” Gottfried said.


One Meme Sums Up What Happened to Denver’s Murder Rate After Marijuana Legalization [Policy Mic]

According to government data released this week, the city- and countywide murder rate has dropped 52.9% since recreational marijuana use was legalized in January. This is compared to the same period last year, a time frame encompassing Jan. 1 through April 30. The shift accompanies a dip in violent crime overall, as sexual assault fell 13.6% and robbery and aggravated assault fell 4.8% and 3.7%, respectively. The data pool’s size is important to note, as eight murders compared to 17 in the same time frame last year may seem a blip on the radar. On the other hand, a full quarter of the year has passed. It may be too soon to definitively attribute these changes to marijuana legalization, but the possibility of a correlative pattern is certainly worth keeping an eye on.


New developments in Europe’s cannabis market [EMCDDA]

Europe has long been one of the world’s largest consumer markets for cannabis, particularly resin imported mainly from Morocco. In this analysis, we report how Europe’s consumer market for cannabis is increasingly dominated by herbal products, with domestic herbal production supplying national markets. It also describes how imported cannabis resin appears to be getting stronger.


“There Was No Reason EVER For Cannabis To be Illegal”, Dr David Nutt (UK)[LiveLeak]

The cannabis debate: Currently 49 cannabis clubs across the UK.


“Just say no” is not an “alternative approach” to the drug problem. It’s been tried – and it doesn’t work [Transform]

Dr Hans-Christian Raabe, who was removed from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after one month, this week wrote two rather provocative articles on the Conservative Woman website. Aside from claiming that the British Medical Journal is, in effect, corrupt for running an in-depth article about the public health impacts of various emerging models of legal cannabis regulation around the world, which my Transform colleague, Steve Rolles, was asked to provide some fact-checking support on, Raabe’s main argument is that a better, “alternative approach to the drug problem” would be to create a “drug-free society”. As the headline of the article says, “Our drugs dilemma is all in the mind. We just need the will to say No.” It’s not a very innovative solution, though. After all, punitive, zero-tolerance, abstinence-based approaches have been the dominant drug policy model in most parts of the world for over half a century now – and they haven’t worked. They’ve caused a great deal of harm and haven’t really stopped people taking drugs. D.A.R.E., the archetypal “just say no” drug prevention programme in the US, has been studied extensively, and researchers have concluded (pdf) children who participate in it “are just as likely to use drugs as are children who do not participate in the program.”


Unlicensed marijuana lounge operating on Main Street [CTV News Canada]

An unlicensed marijuana smoking lounge has been operating in the 1400 block of Main Street in Winnipeg for more than two weeks. Former Winnipeg police officer Bill VanderGraff is one of three directors of Vapes on Main, a business he calls a medical marijuana social club. He acknowledges that patrons are not asked to produce a medical marijuana prescription or license. The business does not offer anything for sale and users are expected to provide their own marijuana. VanderGraaf said the lounge has not had any dealings with either city police or City of Winnipeg officials but he invites them to look into the business, saying he is confident it complies with the law.


Does Anyone Care That One Direction Was Caught Smoking Weed? [Vice]

This week, One Direction—the North and South of the Ask.FM generation—discovered that not even the most time-tested display of rebellion can wind people up anymore. New footage has emerged of Zayn and Louis smoking a “cannabis cigarette” in a car, in Peru. It’s an age-old trope, a rite of passage. These are young guys, in a band, bored, in South America. Let’s face it—it could have been a lot worse. But it’s still made the news and inspired reactions that range from the indignant to the preachy to the staggeringly unfunny.  The vid itself is a strange one, and after watching it several times I can’t quite work out the true intentions that lay behind not only filming it but the seemingly all-too-easy leaking of it. It’s hard to say, really. On one hand the act doesn’t seem forced or faked. But then again, why are they filming it so brazenly? After all, nothing really happens in it—it’s a shitty video. And how did it leak when they’re only really surrounded by their own people? Something fishy is afoot, and I think the motivations lay somewhere between scandal and accident. It seems like they want to get caught, like they’re willfully creating negative publicity. Getting caught with weed is not just a long-established trope of British popular culture but a rite of passage for boy bands. In fact, it’s practically a cliché. It started with the Stones and the Beatles, who were caught unawares and probably regarded to be quite subversive at the time, then actually got in trouble with the law.


‘Medical marijuana bill prohibits pot sessions’ [ABS-CBN News Philippines]

Pot sessions will not be allowed under the bill that seeks to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano lll, who authored the measure, said yesterday. He said the bill contains strict provisions that would regulate the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. He said only patients with debilitating medical conditions who are screened by competent doctors would be allowed to use it.


Why Reports of Uruguay’s ‘Tax Free’ Marijuana are Misleading [In Sight Crime]

Fear of the black market undercutting Uruguay’s legal marijuana have swirled around the legalization, with Paraguay’s anti-drugs chief last year suggesting it would drive production in his own country — the largest marijuana producer in South America. And it is true that marijuana will avoid the non-essential goods taxes that drive up the price of alcohol and cigarettes. It will also be considered a raw agricultural product and, as a result, be exempt from agricultural tax (pdf). However, according to terms of the legislation published by the President’s Office on May 12, the up to six commercial growers that will be authorized to produce marijuana will be expected to pay income tax. They will also have to pay both a fixed and variable fee to obtain a growing license. Like much of the legislation, the exact details of the variable fee remain undefined, though the press release states it is intended to provide “the most flexible taxation regime possible” in order to guarantee competitiveness with the illegal product. In other words, not classifying these fees as a “tax” is semantics. According to El Observador, commercial growers will also have to foot the bill for mandatory security provided by the country’s military, though sources close to InSight Crime have suggested the employment of private security is a more likely final scenario. So while the government may be pursuing a favorable tax regime to encourage the development of the legal marijuana economy, the idea that the entire trade will escape any financial contribution to the state is simply not accurate.


Bean stands by cannabis claims [Royal Gazette Bermuda]

Opposition Leader Marc Bean “absolutely” stands by his backing of cannabis tea as a medicine, including using it to treat his own daughter’s asthma. Asked about the risk of administering psychoactive substances to children, Mr Bean told The Royal Gazette that the drug didn’t carry that risk when consumed in tea. “THC is not dissolvable in water,” he said. “Its consumption in terms of smoking the psychoactive component — that’s to be used by a mature mind.” He added: “Young people should not be consuming marijuana in that fashion — of course not.” His daughter, Shaehlay Saltus, said she stood by her father’s decision. The Progressive Labour Party head, who spoke during Friday’s session of the House of Assembly as MPs debated the findings of the Cannabis Reform Collective, said he made no bones about his own personal experience with the drug. “I was a Rastaman, full fledged — I lit the chalice,” Mr Bean said.


E-cigarettes in the spotlight as group of scientists urge World Health Organisation to resist crackdown [ABC]

Professor Gerry Stimson from Imperial College in London says he is concerned WHO may be dismissing the positive effects of the vapour cigarettes. “They want to include them [e-cigarettes] in this big international convention on tobacco products, so it’s kind of sending the message that e-cigarettes are like every other tobacco product and are therefore risky and dangerous,” he said. “We think that’s sending a wrong message, but also, we think that WHO should be looking at the potential for the positive health effects of e-cigarettes.” Professor Stimson has joined forces with more than 50 scientists and researchers from around the globe working in the field of tobacco control and public health policy to put forward their case to the director-general of WHO. “Many people are not really happy with nicotine patches and gums and at long last we have something which allows people to use nicotine, but not to die from the smoke,” he said. “That’s the problem, people smoke for the nicotine, but they die from the smoke.” Professor Stimson is calling on WHO to show “courageous leadership” when considering their stance on e-cigarettes. “There’s a big chance to do something really good, really powerful which will help to bring an end to smoking.”


Giving up the licence to kill [ABC]

Capsicum spray and Tasers were not part of police appointments when I resigned. When they came in I thought any alternative to deadly force had to be a good thing. I don’t know what paragraphs of police instructions have to be learnt off by heart in order to know when and how to use them. But I do know that I, like many, watched the death ofRoberto Laudisio Curti on a Sydney street and wept. Hallucinating on LSD, having the baddest of bad trips, he died in abject terror, surrounded by police using this alternative to deadly force. It brought back a 30-year-old memory from the start of my police career. My class had reassembled at the Police Academy after our year as probationary constables working in stations all over the state. There was all the typical big noting of young police with more adrenaline than experience, exchanging stories of car chases, exciting arrests – I can’t remember any of them. One story stuck. It wasn’t flashy or thrilling, but as I watched the chain of errors that led to the death of that terrified young student, that story came back to me, along with the way my friend had told it to me, low key and with a certain pride. He’d been working with a middle-aged sergeant in the city, on a weekend night shift, dealing with the usual round of drunks and bashings and agro. Then they’d been called to an incident involving a young man. When they went to arrest him he was behaving oddly. My friend recognised what was wrong. The guy was having a very bad trip. My friend told me how he’d soothed the man’s hallucinations, how he’d put his arms around him so he could whisper into his ear as they walked up the steps to the Sydney Police Centre. How he’d continued to murmur assurances, encouraging him to enjoy the trip, to go with it, not to fight it, not to waste it. As my friend explained to me with a cheeky grin, he knew what was going on, he knew what it was like, he’d been there, he’d done that, and he knew how to calm the man, how to deal with him safely, non-violently. Up until now, whenever I’d recalled that story I’d always thought of it as a wry example of my mate’s laconic style. Now I’ll always think of it as the kind of style that could have saved a life.


Alexander Shulgin obituary [The Guardian]

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who has died aged 88, was a pioneering and fearless scientist, but his chosen discipline – the design and synthesis of psychedelic drugs – was one of the most maligned and least understood. Shulgin invented hundreds of new psychedelic drugs, which he tested on himself, his wife, Ann, and friends, documenting their preparation and effects. But he wasn’t satisfied with mere discovery – he argued passionately for the rights of the individual to explore and map the limits of human consciousness without government interference. He was most famously responsible for the emergence of one of the world’s most enduringly popular recreational designer drugs, 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, also known as MDMA, or ecstasy. He did not invent it, since MDMA had been designed by the pharmaceutical firm Merck in 1912 in a bid to produce a blood-clotting agent. However, Shulgin was responsible for creating a new and easier synthesis of it. At the time he was researching a related chemical, MDA, and was tipped off in 1976 by a young colleague about the unusual activity of MDMA. He introduced the material to a psychiatrist friend, Leo Zeff, who was so astounded by the drug’s powers that he delayed his retirement and travelled the US administering the drug to thousands of patients. The drug found its way into Dallas nightclubs, including the Starck Club, and on to the Balearic island of Ibiza, fuelling the 1980s acid house dance-drug craze. It was not Shulgin’s intention to launch a global drug culture, nor to have that compound consumed with such abandon by millions of people. But it was his connection with this drug that made him a folk hero for the counterculture, known as the “godfather of ecstasy”, and a folk devil for many outside it.

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