Embassy Headlines, Issue 109

Decriminalisation is milder form of prohibition. Decriminalisation fails to address supply issues for the terminally ill or the intermittently high.

Decriminalisation will retain the black market prices obtained for medical or personal Cannabis that will remain unregulated and untaxed. Decriminalisation is a very small step towards legalisation.

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.


Heading to ‘Splendour in the Grass’ at Byron Bay?

Just reminder that NSW has a 15 gram Cannabis cautioning amount, so be smart and keep it to half an ounce or less if you are going to carry weed!

MPs call for compassion in case of mother who used cannabis oil to help sick son [The Age]

A group of federal MPs have written to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine urging compassion in the case of a Victorian woman who faces possible charges for using cannabis oil to treat her son’s severe epilepsy.

Police response to public pressure over Batten medical cannabis raid [Victoria Police Facebook]

Victoria Police fully understands the community concerns around our investigations into Cassie Batten and her partner, Rhett Wallace. This is of course an enormously unfortunate situation for all involved and we understand the extremely challenging circumstances this couple have faced. I would like to assure the community that whilst we are obliged under law to investigate this matter, it is not done without compassion or the best interests of all involved at heart. I am absolutely clear that this matter should be investigated in a timely and appropriate fashion, that takes into account the difficult choices Cassie and Rhett have had to make. Victoria Police fully recognises that there is a legitimate debate that needs to be had on the use of cannabis in medical circumstances. But this is a matter for parliaments to resolve for the good of the communities they represent.

Greens unveil push to legalise marijuana [Canberra Times]

Terminally and chronically ill Canberrans would be allowed to grow marijuana and use the drug to alleviate their pain and symptoms, under a proposal by the ACT Greens to legalise medical cannabis. Greens minister Shane Rattenbury will on Monday release new draft laws and a discussion paper for community feedback on the proposal. Mr Rattenbury believed the time was right to consider the benefits of medical marijuana. “A growing number of countries around the world have legislated to legalise its use and public surveys conducted by the Commonwealth Health Department show nearly 70 per cent of Australians support legalising cannabis for medical purposes,” he said.  Calvary Hospital emergency medicine specialist Dr David Caldicott said he supported legalising medical marijuana. “I think the issue regarding medical marijuana is one of compassion. What we’re talking about is providing an alternative tier of symptom relief for people who are largely dependent on a far more dangerous drug which is morphine. To provide an alternative to that is always good,” he said.  He said a supervised, mandated system would also open the door to more medical research into medical marijuana. 

Marshall backs plan for medical cannabis use [Inverell Times]

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has announced his support for the campaign to legalise the use of cannabis for medical purposes in limited circumstances. Speaking for the first time publicly about the issue, Mr Marshall said he hoped to see the unanimous recommendations of last year’s cross-party Legislative Council inquiry implemented. “The inquiry considered copious evidence from medical professionals and experts about the medical uses of cannabis and recommended a cautious, limited and sensible approach,” he said.  “This would allow people with a terminal illness to apply, on the certification of their treating doctor to the NSW Department of Health, for a card that would exempt them and their carers from prosecution for possession of small quantities of cannabis products.

Nikolic backs medical use of cannabis [Tasmanian Examiner]

Support for an industrial hemp industry is growing, with a Northern politician also backing cannabis use to relieve medical symptoms. Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic said yesterday the cannabis issue was multifaceted. “On the issue of decriminalisation of personal use of cannabis where there are clear compassionate circumstances, this is an option that state and territory governments could pursue should they wish,” he said. “I would have no personal objection to any state wishing to go down this path.” Mr Nikolic also backed a Dorset Council move to grow industrial hemp.

Newman has open mind on medical marijuana [7 News]

The Queensland premier says he has an open mind about legalising marijuana for medical purposes but will rely on the advice of national health experts. Medical cannabis could soon be legalised in NSW with senior politicians indicating support, as long as concerns about how it would be regulated are dealt with. Mr Newman says any change in Queensland should be made on the basis of advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), not NSW. “I have an open mind on these things,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

The Haslam’s meet the Premier to press their case to decriminalise medicinal cannabis [ABC]

“He said if it was his wife or his child he would do exactly the same and that is really the most compassionate response we have had from any of senior politicians so far” – Lucy Haslam. Tamworth’s Lucy Haslam says the Premier Mike Baird offered her the most compassionate response so far to her family’s campaign to decriminalise cannabis for medical purposes. For the last couple of months her family has been leading a push; calling on the NSW Government to adopt the recommendations of an Upper House Inquiry that recommended the use of cannabis by the terminally ill be decriminalised.

Majority of Australians support medical marijuana [Brisbane Times]

Almost two-thirds of Australians support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, according to a new poll which coincides with a renewed push to relax the laws. A ReachTel survey of more than 3400 Australians shows that the majority back medicinal marijuana, with support highest among 51 to 65-year-olds. It comes as NSW Premier Mike Baird indicated on Wednesday that he supported the use of medical marijuana, despite having concerns about its supply and regulation. Earlier this month Cassie Batten, a pregnant mother from Mernda, was questioned by police after admitting to using cannabis oil to treat her disabled three-year-old, who has epilepsy and suffers from profound seizures. But it is unlikely that there will be any legislative change in Victorian in the near future, with both the Napthine government and Opposition saying they have no plans to legalise the drug.

YOUR SAY: Medical marijuana on its way to NSW? [9 News]

Medical marijuana could be coming to NSW with leaders across the political spectrum backing its use. Premier Mike Baird and Opposition Leader John Robertson have both said they would support the introduction of legalised cannabis for terminally ill patients, providing concerns over supply and regulation are addressed. A northern NSW MP, Kevin Anderson, will in August try to push his private member’s bill to legalise limited cannabis possession for terminally ill patients and their carers. What do you think? Vote: Should medical marijuana be legalised? 

Industrial hemp case undermined by cannabis claims [ABC]

The Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania says the business case for the industry’s growth is being undermined by the debate around medicinal cannabis production. President, Phil Reader says it’s taken years for farmers to establish their bona fides to grow the non-drug, low THC varieties for industrial oil or fibre. He says growers are still thwarted by federal laws that prevent non-drug hemp varieties being grown for human consumption.

Politics of Pot [Landline]

Australia’s fledgling hemp industry has been trying to join the rest of the developed world and produce oil and food for human consumption. A prohibition on growing industrial hemp in Australia was lifted in the late 1990s, but farmers here are restricted to growing fibre and construction materials and politics has prevented them from gaining access to booming hemp food markets, as Sean Murphy reports.

Hemp laws need unlocking [Farm Weekly]

One of the most compelling reasons for fewer laws is that there are also fewer unintended consequences. Almost every law causes problems that were never anticipated. A good example is the impact on the cultivation of industrial hemp due to the prohibition of marijuana. An opportunity for farmers to profit from a crop with a significant potential market is unavailable because of a misguided policy of zero tolerance towards drugs. Although industrial varieties ofcannabis sativa do not contain sufficient THC to be used as a drug, they are regulated with almost the same level of stringency as the ones that do. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association recently complained that there are more rules around growing industrial hemp than for growing opium poppies.

Interview with Fiona Nash [Of Substance]

In a wide-ranging interview, Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, speaks to Of Substance about AOD sector funding, alcohol taxation, halving the adult smoking rate and medicinal cannabis.

Court deals with drug charges from Nimbin MardiGrass [Northern Star]

A parade of 66 people of all ages charged with consuming cannabis over the Nimbin Mardigrass weekend appeared at Lismore Local Court yesterday. Penalties handed down by Magistrate David Heilpern for the charges of driving with an illicit drug present in blood ranged from a six-month good behaviour bond, to six months licence disqualification and a $600 fine. Nathaniel Griffith, 25, of Lismore, entered a guilty plea, admitting he was very surprised to be detected considering he had consumed cannabis 48 hours before he was stopped at a road block on Nimbin Rd. “The fact is that the tests that are done is not to detect an amount of cannabis in your system that will affect your driving,” Mr Heilpern said. “This is a test about having cannabis in your system.”

Cannabis use in the spotlight in Simon Bernhardt’s photo exhibition [SMH]

Jessica, who asked that her last name not be disclosed, is one of 16 long-term cannabis users whose portraits feature in an exhibition at a Sydney gallery next month. Simon Bernhardt’s Gateway features portraits of eight men and eight women, including a teacher, a computer programmer and the father of a young child, all of whom are photographed using cannabis except the latter, who smoked tobacco during the photo shoot. Their names are withheld and clouds of cannabis smoke obscure their faces but Bernhardt says the 16 illicit drug users in his Gateway exhibition have taken a risk in letting him photograph them. “They’ve really put themselves out there on the line,” he says. The exhibition, which opens at Black Eye Gallery in Darlinghurst next month, aims to explode stereotypes about cannabis users, while exploring whether the widely used drug is a gateway to other illegal drugs.

The drugs do work: top Australian musicians discuss their illicit drug use [The Guardian]

Although stories of drug abuse, overdose and addiction have been part of the popular musical lexicon for decades, while working on Talking Smack I found an important distinction to be made: that despite the noisy negatives often associated with drugs at all levels of society, many of my interviewees had positive experiences. This is a rarely-acknowledged truth for many Australians, regardless of whether or not they’re employed in the creative industries. Illicit drug use in Australia is often rendered as a black-and-white battleground: you’re either a drug user and thus looked down upon as a loser and a criminal, or you’re an anti-drugs totem of purity. My goal was to explore the shades of grey by talking to public figures who know what they’re talking about when it comes to a tricky topic, and where rational, expert voices are sorely lacking. Usually the discussion is dominated by politicians, police and sensationalist media outlets who stand together in condemnation of anyone who would dare consume a drug that isn’t alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or a prescribed medication.

Forty Six Thousand Drugs Prisoners Could Get Reduced Sentences [Cannabis Culture]

Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply an amendment approved earlier this year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking offenses. The vote could shorten sentences for tens of thousands of people who are already incarcerated and serving sentences for drug offenses by granting eligible individuals a hearing before a federal judge to evaluate whether their sentence can be reduced to match the reduced guidelines.

First Recreational Marijuana Legally Sold in Seattle Donated to Museum [Time]

The first marijuana sold for recreational purposes in Seattle is being donated to the city’s Museum of History and Industry, the Associated Press reports. Deb Greene, a 65-year old grandmother, purchased it at the store Cannabis City on July 8, when the state’s first legal, recreational marijuana stores opened. The retiree brought “a chair, sleeping bag, food, water and a 930-page book” so she could camp out overnight and be the first in line, the AP reported at the time. She purchased two bags of legal weed, one for personal use and another that was signed by Cannabis City owner, James Lathrop, so it could be “saved forever,” Greene told the Seattle Times. “You don’t use history.”

Vegas medical marijuana deadline draws crowd [Las Vegas Review Journal]

The deadline for land use and licensing applications for medical marijuana establishments in Las Vegas endedWednesday with a last-minute frenzy of late comers eager to beat the 3 p.m. deadline. The city of Las Vegas set up a map on its medical marijuana website. Using that map, you can click on a site and see the names of some applicants, although the limited liability company members are not listed by name.

Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Cannabis In The White House [Zip 420]

It was in an online show, called “GGN: The Double G News Network”, were Snoop Dogg talked about getting a little high in the White House’s bathroom.  He said that he was asked by the some of the officials there, about what he was going to do in the bathroom and that he said he had to go “number two”.  He also talks about how he always has to have a joint or something to smoke, while he is in the bathroom and that he really does not see what the harm is.   In the interview, he said that the White House officials told him he could light a napkin, to make the stench go away and he hilarious takes a drag of his blunt and starts puffing away live.   

Brazil discusses medical cannabis at international symposium [IDPC]

Professor Elisaldo Carlini from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP) has promoted medical marijuana since 1970. He is the head of all the four symposia about cannabis which recently happened in Brazil. The IV Symposium on Medicinal Cannabis took place on May, 15, 2014, and focused on patients who need treatment via medicinal cannabis and its components. However, today, these patients struggle with access to such treatment, mainly due to bureaucracy.

Germany allows seriously ill patients to grow their own cannabis [Yahoo News]

A German court ruled on Tuesday that some people suffering from chronic pain should be able to cultivate their own cannabis “for therapeutic purposes”. Five people suffering from chronic pain brought the complaint to a court in Cologne after Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) refused them permission to grow the plant at home. The court said the BfArM had to reconsider three of the requests that it had rejected. While the plaintiffs all had permits to buy and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes, they wanted to cultivate their own because they could not afford to purchase the drug and their health insurance did not cover it.

How Cannabis Causes Paranoia – Why This Study Is Deeply Flawed [Zamnesia]

A new study has just been published directly linking the use of cannabis to paranoia. Although significant, you should take these results with a healthy degree of skepticism, as there is a pretty big flaw. You may have come across articles in The Guardian and BBC reporting about the findings of a study in which scientists apparently have found a link between cannabis and paranoia. The study, published in Oxford Journals this month, outlines how they have proven that cannabis can cause paranoid thoughts, and media outlets were eager to jump on the „Cannabis doubles risk of paranoia“-bandwagon. However, those findings are based on a flawed study.

Cannabis Classroom: A Look Into Mental Health and Medical Marijuana[Medical Jane]

One of the common questions relevant to the debate on medical marijuana use and legalization is, “How does cannabis affect mental illness?” To understand this question fully, it is necessary to understand some basics about the field of research, to assess the available evidence surrounding this question, and to consider the possible application of marijuana in treating symptoms of mental health conditions.

Cannabis for Rheumatoid Arthritis [Heavens 2 Betsey]

In a recent ground breaking study published in the Rheumatology Journal online, a cannabis extract was used for the treatment of RA. Using a cannabis based medicine or CBM called Sativex (reportedly made directly from the plant itself, made using standardized medicinal manufacturing processes to create a concentration formula with an equal ratio of 1:1 THC and CBD cannabinoids to reduce psychoactivity while maintaining optimal effectiveness). Researchers compared the efficiency of the cannabis treatment by comparing results to the application of a placebo in a randomized, double-blind parallel group study. A total of 58 patients were observed and surveyed over a treatment period of 5 weeks.

Drugs and Alcohol Are (All?) In The Mind [Disinformation]

What if all drug and alcohol states are actually in the mind? A performance by a Hypnotist at Toronto’s Idea City suggests just that. It would make the trillions spend on alcohol and dangerous drugs seem ridiculous and unnecessary. Hypnotist Albert Nerenberg, stage name Neuron, elaborates on an old hypnotist parlour trick of hypnotizing someone into being drunk. Instead Nerenberg demonstrates that volunteers could be made very drunk, high on cocaine, experience ecstasy and even to hallucinate while hypnotized. The event was shot for Canadian Television.

World’s First TV Commercial for Recreational Marijuana [Daily Kos]

It’s not the best, nor the worst, ad you’ll ever see but it does have the distinction of being the world’s first tv commercial for marijuana. Made for Canadian company Crop King Seeds, its theme rests on the comparison between alcohol and marijuana in society and in the marketplace.

James Garner in 2011: ‘Marijuana Should Be Legal’ [CelebStoner]

Actor James Garner, who passed away yesterday in California at 86, was a big fan of marijuana. “I don’t know where I’d be without it,” he wrote in his 2011 memoirThe Garner Files. “It opened my mind to a lot of things, and now its active ingredient, THC, relaxes me and eases my arthritis pain.”

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