Embassy Headlines, Issue 110

Terminally ill patients, and those who believe Cannabis is their best option for therapy, will have to continue obtaining their medication from illegal sources if or when possession is decriminalised.

Street prices for the identical ‘recreational’ marijuana won’t change much until the supply for medical purposes is cheaper, easier to buy, a better product and legal to produce in Australia.

Cannabis medicines will be the natural selection for millions of Australians from Hobart to Darwin when prohibition is repealed.

The Embassy Headlines are a collection 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.


ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has released a discussion paper and draft legislation on medical cannabis:discussion paper and draft legislation. Community consultation is open for eight weeks and feedback should be sent to rattenbury@act.gov.au. Headlines also suggests CC’ing your local parliamentarian and health minister if you have a response.

Headlines has just heard about a senate public inquiry on some sweeping changes to federal law regarding psychoactive drugs. Open for submissions until Monday 4 August  

See http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Psychoactive_Substances_Bill

Fundraiser: Help decriminalise medicinal cannabis [Chuffed.org]

Help convince NSW politicians to decriminalise medicinal cannabis use when they vote on the issue in the coming weeks.

Charge against medicinal cannabis advocate adjourned [Echo]

A charge against medicinal cannabis advocate Tony Bower of Kempsey was adjourned until August 14 in the Port Macquarie District Court today. Mr Bower faces going back to jail for growing plants to make cannabis tincture for patients across the northern rivers and Australia. He supplies about 150 people with his tincture, from children suffering epilepsy to cancer patients dealing with nausea from chemotherapy. He does not charge for the medicine. Despite registering his company, Mullaways Medical Cannabis, and applying for a licence to operate from the NSW government, his application has been mired in bureaucracy and political indecision for more than five years.

Medicinal marijuana: Nationals MP Kevin Anderson reveals proposal to ‘license’ patients and carers [ABC]

Cannabis permit cards similar to drivers’ licences could be issued to terminally ill patients in New South Wales to allow them to carry medicinal marijuana. State Nationals MP Kevin Anderson is planning to distribute draft legislation for the decriminalisation of medicinal marijuana to his parliamentary colleagues in the coming days. The member for Tamworth announced his intention to draft the private member’s bill in May, but Premier Mike Baird said his support would depend on how well it addressed supply and regulation issues. Mr Anderson said the bill would propose a licensing system and a medicinal cannabis register that listed terminally ill patients and authorised carers who could legally possess up to 15 grams of the drug. “If the police do come across someone [possessing marijuana] then they will be able to show their card,” Mr Anderson said.

Medicinal cannabis not ruled out, Treasurer Peter Gutwein tells Tasmanian councillors [ABC]

The Tasmanian Government would be prepared to support the findings of an Upper House inquiry into medicinal cannabis, Treasurer Peter Gutwein has indicated. Mr Gutwein made the suggestion at the annual Local Government Association conference, where several mayors took the opportunity to express their willingness to establish medical cannabis crops in their regions. Early this month, the government rejected a medicinal cannabis trial after meeting the proponents, saying it was concerned about safety and security. There had been agroundswell of council support for medical cannabis production in Tasmania, and some mayors were upset they were not consulted before the government dismissed the proposal. “What really annoyed us … [is] they haven’t come and spoken to local government about, and I think that they should do,” said Circular Head Mayor Darryl Quilliam. But it appeared the Government had softened its hardline stance against the crop.

Push to legalise medical cannabis [7 News]

Politicians are under growing pressure to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, Christie Cooper reports.

‘Cannabis saved my son’: mother’s story of toddler’s transformation [WA Today]

A Perth mother has told of her toddler son’s amazing transformation after taking cannabis to alleviate life-threatening seizures and how it also led to her being investigated by child welfare services. Speaking to Paul Murray on Radio 6PR on Thursday afternoon, Kim said her son, who suffers from Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome, went from being almost incapacitated to walking and talking after being administered cannabis. “We started that in August of last year and he went from being a little boy who stumbled around everywhere and had to wear a helmet to being able to, within days, start walking very solidly and not bumping into things, to within a week running for the first time and it was just crazy. We were like standing back thinking this was unbelievable. Our little boy doesn’t just have a two-second seizure or a five-minute seizure, his seizures go for 20, 25 minutes plus and they are full body seizures which can be horrific. Some of these kids are having 200 times a day and that’s limiting their ability to have a great life as well.”

[Ed. the readers’ comments at the end are well worth a browse. When this story first appeared it showed a cannabis photo unrelated to the content, and it seems from the photo there now, that the paper did take notice of the reader criticisms.]

Man supplying cannabis to seriously ill toddler has house raided after writing to Chief Minister [ABC]

An ACT man who was providing liquid medical cannabis to the family of a seriously ill toddler has had his house raided by police, after writing to the Chief Minister to tell her the treatment was working. The marijuana was being supplied to family of a two-year-old girl named Abbey, who suffers from seizures that cause brain damage. Cannabis tincture controls the seizures and keeps her alive, but her supply has now been cut off. In February the ACT man, who had been giving the cannabis tincture to the child’s mother Cherie, wrote to Katy Gallagher explaining the child’s health was improving. He also asked whether she would consider legalising medical marijuana. Two months later the police raided the man’s house.

Giving medical marijuana the green light [SMH]

Nothing can really happen until the Commonwealth acts to license growers, as it has done with poppies in Tasmania, so that the purity and quality of medical cannabis is assured. Second, it needs to get the Therapeutic Goods Administration to fast-track the reclassification of cannabis from illegal to being highly controlled. Anyone who has listened to Fairfax radio talkback callers must recognise that the unauthorised use of cannabis as a medicine in Australia is extensive, suggesting substantial demand, but this use is neither supervised nor regulated. The hands of the Premiers are effectively tied, the ball is in the court of the federal Health Minister who needs to pay attention to the tsunami of common sense that seems to be sweeping the US and act.

We have to re-think medicinal cannabis [Northern Times]

Imagine your son or daughter, brother or sister is dying from an incurable terminal cancer and the only treatment offering pain relief and nausea control is medicinal cannabis. This is a rare situation, but that does not mean that we should refuse access to medicinal cannabis in such circumstances. We should allow it to be medically prescribed by specialists and regulated so that those few who need it can be given relief. Some other advanced countries, for example Israel, Canada, 20 states in the USA, and much of Northern Europe have long ago accepted the scientific evidence that medicinal cannabis has properties that make it a valuable last resort drug to give chronic pain and nausea relief where nothing else works for some cancer sufferers. It can also be of assistance with some aspects of MS for some sufferers and it can reduce the number and severity of fits that can further disable a child with a particular rare syndrome. 

Jetstar warns its high flyers before landing in Sydney: ‘Flush your drugs now’ [News.com.au]

[Ed: AKA Prohibition Gives Rise to Little Hitlers] A Jetstar crew member told a plane load of passengers there were sniffer dogs waiting at the airport and suggested they flush their drugs away ­before landing. “We have been told there are sniffer dogs and quarantine officers waiting in the domestic terminal,” he told passengers on a late Gold Coast to Sydney flight on Sunday night. “If you need to dispose of anything you shouldn’t have we suggest you flush it now.” The plane was full of weary festivalgoers returning from the Splendour in the Grass music festival. Jetstar confirmed the ­announcement had been made, attributing it to an overzealous, casually employed crew member who chose to ­deliver his own quarantine ­announcement rather than the pre-recorded one. “The crew member’s words were poorly chosen and are plainly at odds with the professional standards we’d ­expect from our team. We’re addressing the matter with the cabin crew member involved.”

Sniffer dogs [Triple J Hack]

Do sniffer dogs do more harm than good? One Australian musician thinks they’re causing people to overdose. 

Rand Paul Proposes Measure To Shield State Medical Marijuana Laws From Feds [Huffington Post]

US Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday filed an amendment in the Senate that would protect states that implement medical marijuana laws, as well as patients and physicians in those states, from federal prosecution. Paul’s Amendment 3630, filed Thursday morning to Sen. John Walsh’s (D-Mont.) jobs bill being heard on the Senate floor, allows states to “enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use” without fear of federal prosecution. There are 33 states that have enacted laws protecting some form medical marijuana. The amendment also prohibits prosecution of patients and physicians in those states for violating federal laws against the drug. “What we’re trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them,” Brian Darling, Paul’s communications director, told The Huffington Post.

University of Arizona Alumnus Starts Petition to Reinstate Sue Sisley [MPP Blog]

Ricardo Pereyda, a University of Arizona alumnus and veteran diagnosed with PTSD, has begun a petition for the university to reinstate Sue Sisley, one of the foremost experts in using medical marijuana to treat PTSD. As previously reported, Sue Sisley was dismissed from the University of Arizona after getting the green light to start a study on marijuana’s effectiveness in treating PTSD. Pereyda, who served in Iraq, says that marijuana has “helped [him] to live a more full and productive life” dealing with his PTSD. He hopes his petition will convince the university to reconsider its dismissal of Dr. Sisley so her research can continue. 

Medical Marijuana for PTSD Study May Move from UA [Arizona Public Media]

University of Arizona officials say they want to continue a study of medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, despite recently dismissing the lead researcher. But the nonprofit in charge of the research says it might move the study elsewhere. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has announced that if the UA doesn’t renew Sue Sisley as the head the research, it will take the study to either Northern Arizona University or Arizona State University. “We are not interested in working with other principal investigators that the university might propose to us, because they haven’t done the hard work for four years, like Sue has, to make the study happen,” said Rick Doblin, executive director and founder of MAPS. After not renewing Sisley’s contract earlier this month, the UA has said it wants to continue research on the effects medical marijuana has on PTSD. Chris Sigurdson, at the UA Relations Office, said the UA will present MAPS with a replacement for Sisley, and said he hopes MAPS will approve the recommendation and keep the study in Tucson. “We’ve selected a faculty member in the College of Medicine, who has an extensive clinical trial experience and a record of scientific publications, and he is also done clinical trials with controlled substances and with veterans who have PTSD,” Sigurdson said. But Doblin said Sisley is the right person to head the research not only because of her more than 15 years experience, but also the relationship she has with the Arizona veteran and PTSD patient communities.

States That Slashed Their Prison Populations Have Seen Disproportionate Drops In Crime, Too [Think Progress]

The United States still has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but those few states that managed to significantly reduce their prison population over the last decade saw benefits other than reduced lock-up costs. They also saw their crime rate go down at a higher rate than the national average, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project. The report bolsters the notion that locking up the wrong people doesn’t improve public safety. In fact, “smart on crime” policies not only minimize punishment toward non-violent offenders; they can also re-allocate resources toward violent crime. “The experiences of New York, New Jersey, and California demonstrate that it is possible to achieve substantial reductions in mass incarceration without compromising public safety,” wrote Marc Mauer and Nazgol Ghandnoosh of the Sentencing Project. Between 1999 and 2012, state prison populations in all 50 states increased 10 percent, as states continued their over-reliance on drug war policies and harsh sentencing. But New York and New Jersey simultaneously bucked that trend, each decreasing their prison populations by 26 percent during that same period. Nationwide, crime rates declined over this decade. But in those two states, the crime rates dropped even more, despite their reverse pattern of locking fewer and fewer people up. California, which saw a significant decrease of 23 percent, also saw its violent crime drop even more than national levels. Each of these states started out with tough-on-crime-era criminal policies that were reformed at a time when incarceration rates were at their height. New York reformed its Rockefeller drug law arrest policies and saw an immediate sharp decline in felony drug arrests. At the same time, New York City ratcheted up arrests for misdemeanor drug offenses, a trend that remains today. But these offenses nonetheless carry shorter prison terms on average, and during the same period many individuals were diverted out of prison and into rehabilitation programs. 

Obama says he ended the ‘War on Drugs.’ Don’t believe him [Washington Post]

The Obama administration says it wants to de-stigmatize drug addiction. But no matter how hard it tries, it’s virtually impossible to de-stigmatize behavior that is still a crime. And the administration is doing little to actually de-stigmatize drug use. Despite their supposed adherence to “evidence-based practices,” officials steadfastly refuse to consider legalization or decriminalization, even though the evidence unambiguously shows drug prohibition has been a disaster. Prohibition-related violence has killed thousands in this country and multiples of that number more in supplier nations like Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan. In the United States, incarceration rates have become so onerous (over 700 adults per 100,000) that research suggests they’re probably doing harm to society by pulling too many workers out of the economy, breaking up families and making offenders less employable upon release.

The New York Times Proposes The Illegal Legalisation Of Marijuana[Forbes]

I realise that this is going to sound as if I’ve been partaking a little too heavily myself but we find ourselves in the odd position today where the New York Times editorial board is suggesting something both eminently sensible and entirely illegal: the legalisation of marijuana by the Federal Government. That the editorial board is suggesting something sensible is hallucinatory enough but the idea that the Feds changing the law would be illegal is positively psychotropic. It is also however true. The NYT comes full out for full legalisation for cannabis for all 21 and over:

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

Hurrah! Next thing you know good sense will be breaking out all over.

Newsflash: Hemp Oil is NOT CBD Oil [Marijuana.com]

The recent explosion in popularity of Cannabidiol (CBD) for treatment of seizures and other ailments, especially in children, has allowed medical marijuana to make inroads in otherwise difficult states, like Florida. But CBD-only legislation has consequentially brought with it a tangential risk: confounding the industrial hemp movement. The problem? While hemp seed oil has been legally sold in America for years, recently ganjapreneurs have begun marketing high-CBD oil as ‘hemp’ oil to try and take advantage of the new legislative environment. Last month the Hemp Industries Association released its position on “CBD extracts misbranded and marketed as hemp oil.” The upsurge in advocacy for high-CBD oils is causing concern amongst the marijuani-gentsia whom fear that industrial hemp’s recent legislative accomplishments and growing acceptance could be threatened by confusion and conflation of hemp oil with high-CBD oil. “Hemp oil is the common term for hemp seed oil, obtained by pressing hemp seeds that contain low levels of CBD, typically less than 25 parts per million (ppm). In contrast, CBD extracts are produced either directly from cannabis flowers that are up to 15% CBD (150,000 ppm), or indirectly as a co-product of the flowers and leaves that are mixed in with the stalks during hemp stalk processing for fiber.”

Study: Cannabis Use Doesn’t Worsen Symptoms of Schizophrenia [Joint Blog]

A study published this month by the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin has found that cannabis use doesn’t negatively impact the symptoms of schizophrenia in those with the condition. Although this may come as no surprise to many, it helps to combat the prohibitionist argument that cannabis use is a detriment to those with schizophrenia.

The funding crisis for harm reduction [Harm Reduction International]

Harm Reduction International, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the International Drug Policy Consortium have launched a ground-breaking study highlighting the funding crisis in harm reduction. Funding for HIV-related harm reduction programmes globally is in crisis. There can be no ‘AIDS free generation’ without targeted efforts with and for people who inject drugs. Yet funding for harm reduction falls dangerously short of estimated need. While this has been the case for some time, the situation looks set to deteriorate with changing donor policies and national government neglect. This failure to invest will bring an exponential rise in HIV transmission which in turn will cause additional costs to government health sectors.

Tips and rumours [Crikey]

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …Not your average smoke. Madonna King’s biography of Joe Hockey continues to make waves, but this gem on pages 172-173 has been missed by most: “At their halfway point, at a little village called Efogi, the group dragged their feet into camp at about 5 pm one afternoon. Local villagers came out to see them and Joe, as always, was mucking around. One of them gave him a cigarette, which he quickly enjoyed. Inhaling deeply, Joe started to feel slightly better. David Koch looked over, realising immediately that Joe was enjoying a marijuana joint. ‘Do you know what you’re smoking?’ he asked. “‘I don’t know what it is,’ Joe quipped back, ‘but it’s pretty good.'”

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