Embassy Headlines, Issue 105

There are no physical withdrawal symptoms when you take a break from weed.

Cannabis use is more beneficial than harmful if you consume it wisely. Cannabis stimulates the reward system of your brain similar to shopping for a bargain, gambling at the races or the pleasure of sex.

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.


Educated, wealthy, and using drugs: Is it time to change Australia’s drug laws? [SBS]

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 40 per cent of Aussies have tried illegal drugs. Yet, you’d be hard pressed to find a politican, professional or any high profile person who would admit to it. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures say that last year Australians spent $7 Billion on illegal drugs with drug dealers making a tidy $6 billion profit. The Australian Government spent $1.7 Billion fighting the war on drugs in 2013 alone. Will Tregoning is a researcher and a co-founder of Unharm – a not for profit organisation that aims to reduce drug harm and demand by challenging current drug policies. He says the typical drug user in Australia doesn’t fit our current ideology. “People have this stereotype that the people who take drugs are heroin addicts who live on the street or dole bludgers at home punching bongs on the couch,” says Will. “The reality is that you’re more likely to have taken drugs if you’re employed, you’re more likely to have taken drugs if you’ve got a tertiary education.” “A lot of wealthy people take illegal drugs.” According to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 9 million Australians have used illegal drugs in their lifetime. That’s 40 per cent of the population. So with so many Australian’s now taking illegal drugs – is it time for drug laws to be reformed?

Support for medicinal cannabis [Southern Highland News]

A green leaf has been the hot topic this week. Stories aired across national media on the weekend sparked debate about the legalisation of marijuana in Australia for medical purposes The story followed 24-year-old Dan Haslam who suffers from terminal cancer. For Mr Haslam, using cannabis is the only way to ease the pain of chemotherapy. A recent poll published by the Southern Highland News asked who was in support of the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Results showed that 87.3 per cent of respondents supported the use of medicinal marijuana while 8.9 per cent were unsupportive and 3.8 per cent undecided on the matter. Debate was sparked on the Southern Highland News Facebook page with references made to the medical benefits cannabis could have. It was raised that 60 grams of cannabis oil was recommended for those suffering from serious diseases including cancer. In support of this statement, people agreed that if the drug could help people in need, it should be made legal.

Medical cannabis supporters to lobby federal MPs for changes to law [Herald Sun]

Proponents of medicinal cannabis will on Thursday lobby Federal MPs in Canberra for law changes to allow sick people legal access to the drug. In what some MPs hope will be the first step towards law reform, drug expert Alex Wodak and Lucy Halam — who is forced to illegally source marijuana for her terminally ill son Dan Halam — will meet MPs of all political persuasions in a push for the right for doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana. Hosted by a Greens, Liberal and Labor MP, the Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy and Law Reform hopes to take evidence gathered to Health Minister Peter Dutton to argue for easier access for the sick. Co-convener Greens Senator Richard DiNatale said he and his colleagues wanted evidence on the relief cannabis could provide and hoped discussion would influence all parties to embrace law reform. “This is one of those areas where public opinion is well ahead of where politicians are,” he said. “It helps sick and dying people and politicians, because they’re fearful of raising a controversial issue, refuse to change the law.”

Former nurse and cop make cannabis plea [Sydney Morning Herald]

A retired nurse and a former drugs squad police boss will make an emotional plea for politicians to legalise medical cannabis, telling them how they watched in “joyous disbelief” as it gave their terminally ill son renewed strength. Daniel Haslam, 24, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2010 after doctors found a seven-centimetre tumour in his large intestine. Following chemotherapy, he relapsed in September 2011 and despite battling bravely ever since, doctors believe the disease will kill him. Daniel began taking cannabis to “relieve” his symptoms and his retired nurse mum Lucy and father Lou – former head of the drugs squad in northwest NSW – are now asking federal politicians to legalise the controversial drug. The Haslam family, from Tamworth, northern NSW, has launched a change.org online petition calling for medicinal cannabis to be available for terminally ill patients. It’s gained more than 135,000 supporters. On Thursday, Lucy Haslam will address the Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy and Law Reform in Canberra.

Cannabis oil improves April’s life [The Tasmanian Advocate]

Two-year-old April Tognoni lives with myoclonic epilepsy, an incurable illness. Ulverstone mother Jessica Rush said her daughter had about 1000 seizures a day. That was until her child was given cannabis oil. Taken daily, every three to four hours orally through a syringe, the seizures have since reduced to anywhere between six to 100 a day. The toddler is now trying to walk and can interact with her mother, before these simple tasks were near impossible. Miss Rush says the product is legal, as the THCA element has been extracted to virtually zero. However, growing the plant cannabis is illegal. Miss Rush is sent the product from a person in New South Wales for no charge. Miss Rush wants the plant to be legalised, only to be supplied for medicinal purposes.

Growing support for medical cannabis [EchoNet Daily]

Laws allowing terminally ill patients to use cannabis could be passed in NSW within two months following support from senior cabinet ministers and the backing of Australia’s largest medical unions and the Cancer Council. Nationals MP Kevin Anderson will introduce a private members’ bill to the NSW Parliament in August, which if widely supported would allow dying patients across the state to legally access the drug. Mr Anderson has outlined his proposal to Premier Mike Baird, Attorney-General Brad Hazzard and Health Minister Jillian Skinner, who on Monday said she supported ongoing clinical trials of medical cannabis in NSW and Tasmania. ‘I’ve been encouraged by the support of my parliamentary colleagues,’ Mr Anderson told AAP on Monday. ‘Their support is predicated on the bill being for people with a terminal illness only.’ Mr Anderson said Mr Baird raised issues about the supply and manufacture of cannabis during the pair’s meeting. But the Tamworth MP said if his bill addressed those concerns he was confident of gaining Mr Baird and senior cabinet ministers’ firm support.

Should  Marijuana be Legalised? [Kyle & Jackie O]

Today on the Kyle and Jackie O Show, the highly contentious issue of whether Marijuana should be legalise for medical purposes caused quite a stir. What do you think?

Day of Action 26 June 2014 [Support Don’t Punish]

Thursday June 26th 2014 will be the second “Global Day of Action”. This is the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, but also the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The “Global Day of Action” will highlight how people who use drugs continue to be abused, stigmatised, tortured, beaten and even killed in the name of the ‘war on drugs’. The video below summarises what was achieved in 2013, and how you can get involved.

Racing Queensland conducts random drug tests at Eagle Farm [The Australian]

A drug raid at Eagle Farm has netted three victims as stewards up the ante in their fight against illicit drugs in racing. Stewards conducted 62 random tests on jockeys and trackwork riders during early morning trackwork, checking for a range of substances. It is understood three licensees, all trackwork riders, returned positive tests. The results need to go to another stage of testing before a positive is confirmed, but it is understood they included cannabis and methamphetamines. The Sunday Mail has learnt one of the licensees is facing a potential life ban, having had several previous positive tests. Penalties for first-time cannabis offences are usually in the range of three months.

Hillary Clinton Evolves on Another Issue [National Journal]

At a town hall hosted by CNN on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s book tour felt more like a presidential campaign than ever as she fielded questions on a wide range of issues, including some that were far afield from her new memoir about her time as secretary of State. One of the hottest issues in liberal politics these days has been reform to laws governing marijuana, but Clinton hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue since her 2008 presidential campaign, when she flatly opposed legalization. “I don’t think we should decriminalize it,” she said at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire in 2007. “But we ought to do research [into] what, if any, benefits it has.” On Tuesday, she was more amenable to change. On medical marijuana, Clinton called for more research into its benefits, without doubting they exist, but she stopped short of endorsing the widespread adoption of medical laws. “I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet,” she said.

Major Federal Health Official Admits That Prohibition Has Harmed Research Into Marijuana’s Benefits [AlterNet]

Those who work in marijuana policy reform have long been aware that federal regulations and agencies significantly impede investigators’ ability to conduct clinical studies of cannabis, in particular those protocols designed to evaluate the plant’s therapeutic potential. During recent testimony on Capitol Hill, Nora Volkow, the director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, admitted this fact publicly to members of Congress. (View the entire June 20 hearing, titled “Mixed Signals: the Administration’s Policy on Marijuana, Part Four,” here.) Though Volkow appeared Friday before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform ostensibly to speak about her recent review in the New England Journal of Medicine (a paper I previously critiqued for AlterNet here), she spent a significant portion of her time defending her agency’s virtual stranglehold on investigators’ ability to engage in cannabis-specific clinical research. 

30 Members Of Congress Demand Increased Access To Marijuana For Research Purposes[Huffington Post]

Thirty members of Congress, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday demanding an end to the federal monopoly on marijuana research so that more studies can be done by scientists around the nation. “We write to express our support for increasing scientific research on the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana,” the letter reads. “We ask that you take measures to ensure that any non-National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researcher who has acquired necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institutional Review Board (IRB), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and appropriate state and local authority approval be able to access marijuana for research at-cost without further review.” (Read the full text of the letter below.) The letter comes about two weeks after the House voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws, a measure that Rohrabacher sponsored. And just last week, a scathing joint report from the Drug Policy Alliance and and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies blasted the DEA, arguing that the agency has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana.

New York to Become 23rd Medical Marijuana State [MPP Blog]

Finally, the New York Legislature has adopted an effective medical marijuana law! Now that the legislature has passed the bill, it’s up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to sign it. He was obstructing the bill earlier in the session, but the legislature made several amendments in order to reach a compromise and the governor has indicated he will support it. Since 2003, MPP has been lobbying alongside allied organizations, patients, and other citizen activists to bring about this victory. Over the last 11 years, MPP has spent nearly $750,000 to pass a medical marijuana law in New York State. In the early days, we recruited a coalition of more than 1,100 physicians in New York State who endorsed MPP’s legislation. We announced this coalition in a full-page ad in the Albany Times, which made a big splash in the state capitol. And just a couple weeks ago, MPP produced and aired a pair of TV ads that urged Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R) and Gov. Cuomo to pass the measure this year.

The Fear of Pleasure: Why CBD-Only Legislation is Not a Real Solution [NORML]

This latest rush to approve CBD-only marijuana products demonstrates, more than anything else, is the degree to which our public policy can frequently be influenced by a strong strain of puritanism that remains alive among our elected officials. If it feels good, it must be bad! These many state legislators were willing to show some compassion by allowing the medical use of marijuana by these poor children suffering from multiple, disabling seizures, so long as the marijuana did not make them feel “high” (i.e., feel better!). These legislators are against pleasure, and if the use medical marijuana includes the feeling of pleasure, then it cannot be approved. Excuse me, but is that not the purpose of using medicine when one is ill – to feel better? Admittedly, for some of these puritans, the association of the word “high” with the use of marijuana may lie at the heart of the problem for them. Marijuana has long been demonized by conservatives, law enforcement, and many in the medical community, and that has spilled-over to the marijuana “high”. If they understood that the marijuana “high” makes the user feel better, and that seriously ill patients almost always want (and need) to feel better, perhaps they could overcome their fear of medical marijuana. But for now at least, it is clear that in their view the marijuana “high”, like marijuana itself, is something to be avoided by responsible Americans, even if that precludes the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients. It is time we moved beyond the notion that pleasure is bad, and stopped treating the marijuana “high” as something to be avoided, when it makes patient feel better. For them, feeling better and feeling

Rich People Are Officially Less Likely To Be Busted For Drugs [Vice]

Remember a while back when the police announced that they were going to crack down on middle-class drug use? Well, it turned out that was a pain in the arse, so at some point they went back to bullying the poor. A new unpublished report from the drugs policy charityRelease confirms that the London Met are more likely to arrest the poor on drugs charges. 

Unreleased figures obtained by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) reveal that those in the highest socio-economic class – people like bankers, doctors and lawyers – are three times more likely to be let off with a caution for drug offences than the unemployed. And of the near 200,000 people stopped and searched for drug possession by the Met last year, almost all of those punished – 93 percent – were from lower socio-economic groups. 

I spoke to Inspector Nick Glynn, Vice President of the National Black Police Association, about why the working class and unemployed were being unfairly targeted for drug shakedowns. “These statistics will be no surprise to those from lower social backgrounds,” he said. “If you aren’t well off – if you’re young, from an urban area, black or Asian – your chances of getting stopped by the police for drugs are much higher.”

Richard Branson: “The War On Drugs Has Failed, So Let’s Shut It Down” [Liberty Crier]

If I started a business and it was clearly failing, I would shut it down. The war on drugs has failed – why isn’t it being shut down? As acclaimed filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s latest video shows, the war on drugs has failed in every way possible. Trying to wage the war on drugs has costs the U.S. $1 trillion, with another $51 billion adding to the tally each year. This has resulted in 45 million drug related arrests, with the U.S. now jailing 2.3 million prisoners — more people than anyone else on the planet. What has all this accomplished? “Rates of addiction remain unchanged, overdose deaths are at an all-time high and drugs cost less than ever before.” While attitudes and opinions on drug reform are dramatically shifting in the U.S. and across the world, more needs to be done. I echo Eugene’s call for U.S.citizens to urge Congress to advance the Smarter Sentencing Act. This could help put an end to racial profiling, mass incarceration, shattered communities and failed policy. The Smarter Sentencing Act will save the U.S. billions of dollars, which could be spent on helping people overcome drug dependencies. It will also ease dangerous overcrowding in prisons by reducing sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Scheduling in the international drug control system [Drug Law Reform in Latin America]

While often viewed as an obscure technical issue, the problem of scheduling lies at the core of the functioning of the international drug control system. Scheduling – the classification of a substance within a graded system of controls and restrictions, or ‘schedules’ – must take place in order for a substance to be included in the international control framework, and determines the type and intensity of controls to be applied. For this reason, the topic is of central importance.

application-pdfDownload the briefing (PDF)

Marijuana: Cubans Need to Talk About It [Huffington Post]

Livio went on a trip and left his friends in charge of the most precious thing in his life. It wasn’t a child, or a pet or even one of those home appliances so idolized in Cuba. The “apple of his eye” was a marijuana bush, grown, watered and ready to be made into the first cigarettes. Oblivious to the care such a plant requires, the astonished “babysitters” chose to put it behind the glass of a window, away from the eyes of neighbors and potential informers. It survived, but on returning from abroad its owner swore he would never again leave his precious crop in the hands of neophytes. This is not an isolated case. Marijuana — which we also call “María” — is a familiar presence in the life of any Cuban. Although the media does not talk about it, it doesn’t need advertising to be popular. It is smelled at parties, seen in the air at some public concerts and detected in the half-closed eyes of more than a few who appear on national television itself. It is a fact, it is here, and not only through the “bales” that come in along the coasts — according the official press bad things always come from outside — but also as a “made in Cuba” product, with the flavor of red earth grown among the palm trees or in the fields of marabou weed.

The Cannabis Health Revolution: Understanding and Utilizing the Latest Science and Research [Evolver Learning Lab]

Learn from some of the world’s leading medical experts how marijuana can be used for healing mind and body. Join award-winning author and activist Martin A. Lee and a line-up of expert guests for the groundbreaking Evolver webinar, “The Cannabis Health Revolution: Understanding and Utilizing the Latest Science and Research.” This 5-part live, interactive video course starts on July 23. Because it had been stigmatized and outlawed for much of the past century, research into the therapeutic use of marijuana was restricted, and knowledge of its medical utility was lost. But recently the tide has turned, with new discoveries taking place at a rapid pace. In recent years, the health benefits of cannabis have been at the center of some of the most exciting – and underreported – developments in science. Medical research on marijuana has led directly to a much deeper understanding of human biology, health and disease. At the same time, a renewed awareness of the healing properties of components of the marijuana plant, including THC and CBD, are opening new vistas for treating scores of illnesses.

Study: Habitual Marijuana Smoking Not Associated With Increased Risk Of Lung Cancer[NORML]

Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of contracting lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data published online ahead of print in the International Journal of Cancer. An international team of investigators from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States analyzed data from six case-control studies involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls) from around the world. Authors concluded, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers.” Investigators had previously presented their data at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research.

Pope Condemns Legalization of Recreational Drugs [NY Times]

“Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem,” he added.

Paracetamol, the most common household medicine is poisoning 150 Australians a week[Perth Now]

It’s the most common painkiller in every medicine cupboard but paracetamol is poisoning 8,000 Aussies a year. More than 150 patients a week are hospitalised as a result of paracetamol poisoning and experts say the problem is on the rise  A new study has found paracetamol is now responsible for one in five deliberate poisoning cases that present to hospital emergency departments around AustraliaMonash University. Emergency medicine expert Professor Andis Graudins is warning large packs of modified release paracetamol used to control arthritis are putting patients at greater risk of a larger overdose. The problem with modified release doses of the medicine used for arthritis is that initial blood tests may record non- toxic levels of paracetamol in the blood, Professor Graudins says. However, the concentration of paracetamol in the patient’s system may rise later as the modified release mechanism of the medicine kicks in. In a paper published in the journal Emergency Medicine Australiasia Professor Graudins says this is why it is essential doctors test patients again four hours after the first test to see if paracetamol concentration has increased. Another problem is that this and other types of paracetamol are available in very large pack sizes of between 96 and 100 pills.

When Will Medicinal ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Be Legalized? [Reset Me]

Psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is proving a prodigious treatment for anxiety, depression, addiction, and one study even found it may lead to neurogenesis, or the regrowth of brain cells.   So when will doctors finally be able to write prescriptions for psilocybin?  In this opinion piece Dr. David E. Nichols, psychedelic research expert and co-founder of The Heffter Research Institute, explains what steps it will take to get medicinal psilocybin legalized.

HEMP Party Demands Right to Life

The Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party acknowledges Australia’s embrace of the strongest possible anecdotal evidence of the benefits of Cannabis. It’s comforting for many supporters to see mainstream media and a handful of politicians reporting on the widespread use and community acceptance of Cannabis for medical purposes. The HEMP Party will continue to actively support and lobby on behalf of millions of Australian Cannabis consumers to lawfully use and grow Cannabis for nutrition, medicine and recreation.

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