Embassy Headlines, Issue 117

What you know, what you think you know and what is fact can be all very different.

PM Tony Abbott was under the impression that personal use of medical Cannabis was no longer an offence in New South Wales. Where did this impression come from and who gave it to Tony?

And another confession… “The regulation of medicines is a thicket of complexity, bureaucracy and corporate and institutional self-interest”.

Knowledge is power Tony, and corporate self-interest wants a monopoly on it with your consent. Ignorantly blissful or blissfully ignorant? 

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.


 20 September – Call off the dogs at Defqon 1 [Unharm]

On Sunday September 20 the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith will host Defqon1 2014. Drug harm reduction advocacy organization Unharm has called for no drug dog operation at the event. This call comes in advance of the anniversary of the death of a 23 year old man at Defqon1 2013. He reportedly took three ecstasy pills at once when he saw that there was a drug dog operation at the entrance, and died that night.Unharm have engaged in a dialogue with acting commander of Penrith Local Area Command, Detective Inspector Grant Healey. In recognition of the NSW Police Force’s commitment to public safety, Unharm offered to convene a group of expert advisors to help police to find better ways to address drug-related harms at Defqon1. Unharm proposed that a better approach could involve harm reduction programs like the Red Cross’ Save a Mate and promoting care and responsibility among attendees.Detective Inspector Healey responded that ‘the police will be conducting operations as we assess as necessary to reduce the risk of harm to patrons of the event’. In recognition of a shared commitment to harm reduction, Unharm has now called on Detective Inspector Healey to share any evidence that general drug detection operations using dogs have reduced the risk of harm to patrons of similar events in the past.

A Facebook event set up in the wake of this call has been the site of vigorous debate for and against having drug dogs at music festivals. Please help us by joining this event, inviting all your mates and maybe this is the way we can get a huge response. 

A robust study with over 2000 participants in 2012 concluded that ‘the low proportion of reported positive notifications from the dogs by the participants who had drugs on them at the time of sighting questions the accuracy and effectiveness of this procedure. Despite the increased visibility of police drug detection dogs, regular ecstasy users continue to use and be in possession of illicit drugs in public, suggesting a limited deterrence effect. The hasty consumption of drugs upon sighting the dogs also raises health concerns.

In 2006 the NSW Ombudsman reviewed the program and concluded there was ‘little or no evidence to support claims that drug detection dog operations deter drug use, reduce drug-related crime, or increase perceptions of public safety.’

Will Tregoning (will@unharm.org0402 409 753): “Drug use can be harmful to people and it’s important that we reduce those harms. Drug dog operations don’t contribute to harm reduction. Panic-based fatal overdoses are the most tragic outcome of this policing activity. The problem of drug-related harm is too urgent to waste time and money on programs that don’t work.”

Police Raided Australia’s Cannabis Capital [Vice]

At a time when the Uruguayan government and several US states are legalizing marijuana, Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) Police Force is cracking down on marijuana possession in the small township of Nimbin. Situated in northern NSW, Nimbin has been renowned as a hub alternative lifestyles and recreational marijuana use for more than three decades (VICE filmed a documentary there a few years back and got really, really stoned). Last Thursday, September 11, 70 police officers descended upon the town, carrying out raids on the well-known Oasis Café and Perceptio Bookshop, as well as random street searches, resulting in the arrest of eight people and the seizure of two kilograms of cannabis. This is not an isolated incident but part of an ongoing drug war between the police and the locals. 

Outrage as police conduct mass drug tests in Nimbin and raid local businesses[Daily Telegraph]

Nimbin, in far northern NSW, was today subjected to a town-wide drug raid as police officers and sniffer dogs searched locals and tourists for marijuana. A forensics van was present to perform on-the-spot drug tests and a number of businesses were raided. Still reeling from a devastating fire that destroyed four of Nimbin’s most iconic buildings last month, locals reacted with outrage at the huge police presence. “Some people are absolutely disgusted, some people think it’s a joke, some people think it’s an intrusion,” said Mac McMahon from the Nimbin Hemp Embassy. “They’re an unwelcome presence in the small community. It’s over the top. There’s a gaping hole in the middle of town (from the fire) and the community is quite bruised from all this. We don’t need police making a nuisance of themselves.”

Hemp Embassy slams ‘everyday’ roadside drug tests [EchoNet Daily]

The Nimbin Hemp Embassy has hit back at reports local police are being issued with mobile drug testing machines next year to use ‘everyday’ on local drivers. Richmond and Tweed Byron Highway Patrol cluster supervisor Senior Sergeant Chad George told APN media recently that the Drager DrugTest machine would be kept at Lismore police station from May 2015. The device detects the presence of cannabis, methamphetamine, amphetamines and cocaine in a driver’s oral fluid. Sgt George said local police could use the device everyday rather just at special events such as Nimbin Mardi Grass or local music festivals. But the Nimbin Hemp Embassy said the devices would lead to more ‘deluded harassment of cannabis users’. Embassy president Michael Balderstone said the device seemed destined for next year’s Mardi Grass, and would unfairly impact on people using cannabis as medicine. ‘Protecting your own health will become more difficult for medical marijuana users when police, with increased power for detecting medicine, intimidate more motorists with the fear of prosecution,’ Mr Balderstone said in a statement. ‘Choosing between suffering disease or driving a car will be easy for some people while others contemplate their level of freedom.’

Tony Abbott backs legalisation of medical cannabis [Sydney Morning Herald]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has thrown his support behind the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes. In a letter to talkback radio host Alan Jones, Mr Abbott went even further than NSW Premier Mike Baird – who has approved a clinical trial of the use of medical cannabis – by saying that no further testing should be needed on the drug if it is legal in similar jurisdictions. “I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis, just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates,” Mr Abbott wrote in a letter to Jones dated August 23. “I was under the impression that the personal use of cannabis was no longer an offence in NSW. If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose though and is being administered safely there should be no question of its legality. And if a drug that is proven to be safe abroad is needed here it should be available. I agree that the regulation of medicines is a thicket of complexity, bureaucracy and corporate and institutional self interest. My basic contention is that something that has been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn’t need to be tested again here.” Jones read out the letter from Mr Abbott – who has not commented publicly on the issue before – on his 2GB breakfast program on Wednesday. The influential presenter has been campaigning on behalf of 24-year-old Dan Haslam, who has been using cannabis to relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy to treat his terminal cancer.

NSW, Vic vie for lead on medical marijuana issue [ABC]

New South Wales and Victoria are both claiming to be taking a lead on the issue of medical marijuana, with moves in each states towards clinical trials of the cannabis products. It’s a welcome move for families who have felt like criminals for using the products to help their loved ones in pain.

Medical marijuana moves closer to becoming legal in NSW [Guardian]

Mike Baird says NSW police will be allowed to exercise discretion not to charge terminally ill adults who use cannabis. Terminally ill patients will soon be able to use cannabis without fear of being charged in NSW, as the Baird government moves closer to legalising the drug for medical use. On Tuesday the Victorian government introduced legislation removing barriers to clinical trials of medical cannabis. NSW premier Mike Baird, who made the announcement on Tuesday, said he was moved to act after meeting cancer patient Daniel Haslam, who has been using the drug illegally to relieve his suffering. Under the measures, NSW police will be allowed to exercise discretion not to charge terminally ill adults who use cannabis. Baird said the move formalised what police were already doing. His announcement came after NSW Labor said it would support a bill to legalise the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Bill to remove barriers for medical marijuana trials in Victoria [The Age]

A bill to make it easier to conduct clinical trials of medical marijuana will be introduced to parliament on Tuesday, Victorian Health Minister David Davis says. Mr Davis said the government will seek to remove a legislative barrier from the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act. “It will mean it will be easier to undertake those trials, thereby enabling people to access those trials but also for researchers to have the result from those trial processes,” Mr Davis said.

Rally calls for freedom of choice on medical marijuana [WA Today]

About 150 Perth residents threw their support behind the push for the legalisation of medical marijuana on Saturday at a rally at the Supreme Court Gardens. A heavy police presence did not deter the supporters, with many suburban families present calling for the medical legalisation of the drug. Run in conjunction with rallies in every capital city, Perth organiser Ursula Jaeger made it clear the protest was not for the blanket legalisation of marijuana, but rather for strictly medicinal use.

WA Health Minister Kim Hames pushes to legalise medicinal marijuana [WA Today]

In a massive turnabout, Health Minister Kim Hames says he is supportive of a move to legalise medicinal marijuana. It comes after a rally on Sunday pushing for medicinal cannabis legislation and the Uniting Church on Monday calling on the Barnett government to introduce it for medicinal purposes.Dr Hames told Fairfax Media he had written to Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton in support of a trial initiated or supported by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Only two months ago, when WA Labor flagged introducing medicinal cannabis legislation, Dr Hames said legalising it would send the wrong message to the community. “Currently, differing state and territory positions on therapeutic goods laws and obligations to international conventions make this a complex issue,” Dr Hames said. “I’m very supportive of more research into these potential medicines but we need a national approach to move the barriers, and I have written to Federal Minister for Health Peter Dutton in support of a trial initiated or supported by the TGA.” Dr Hames admitted there was research supporting the effects of medicinal marijuana on certain conditions.

Medical Miracle: My 2-year-old can’t live without Cannabis [Woman’s Day]

As the NSW government moves towards legalising the use of meidcal marijuana, Jessica and Paul Tognoni hope Tasmania follows suit. Like most children her age, 2-year-old April Tognoni loves playing dress-ups and dreams of one day going to Disneyland. April was also a very sick little girl – her incurable condition known as Dravet syndrome, a severe form of myoclonic epilepsy, was causing more than 1000 seizures a day. But now, thanks to parents Jessica and Paul turning to cannabis oil in a last-ditch bid to manage her attacks, April has made a miraculous turnaround. “My little girl is smiling and for the first time she can look me in the eye,” says Jessica. “I challenge any parent who says they wouldn’t do this to save their child’s life. She couldn’t even crawl before taking the oil and now every day we see her improving.” After initially taking the oil every three to four hours orally through a syringe, April now only has the treatment in the morning and at night. As a result, she now has as few as six seizures a day.

Alan Jones – Medicinal marijuana [2GB]

Alan talks to Lucy Haslam and Premier Mike Baird. And about the reply from Abbott to Jones…

Thanks Alan. Let me look into this. I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates. I was under the impression that personal use of cannabis was no longer an offence in New South Wales, not that I would ever support the recreational use of these sorts of drugs. If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose, though, and is being administered safely, there should be no question of its legality. And if a drug that’s proven to be safe abroad is needed here, it should be available. I agree that the regulation of medicines is a thicket of complexity, bureaucracy and corporate and institutional self-interest. My basic contention is that something that’s been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn’t need to be tested here again. And clinical trials that have been done elsewhere shouldn’t have to be repeated here. I doubt the Haslams need a meeting, they need their problem addressed, so please let me see what’s possible. Cheers, Tony.

Former nurse applauds clinical trials of medical cannabis [Nursing Careers Allied Health]

It’s the announcement retired nurse Lucy Haslam and her family has been waiting to hear. The New South Wales’ government has announced plans to establish a clinical trial of medical cannabis for patients suffering from a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses. Premier Mike Baird announced the clinical trial in parliament and said police will be able to continue to use their discretion to not charge terminally ill adults using cannabis – which will be formalised in new guidelines. Lucy, who has waged a public campaign to legalise medical cannabis, labelled the announcement “exciting. It’s a very good outcome to have the government come on board and finally they are going to start treating this a bit seriously, getting behind it – it’s just been such a long time coming,” she said. “Mike Baird is such an amazingly unaffected politician, he’s a really decent human-being and now that he wants to drive it, I think it’s in good hands. I think they are going to take their time and get it right but not too much time, they’ve given themselves until the end of the year as the deadline to have things sorted out, so that’s pretty good. We have had lots of obstacles thrown up in our way and finally I feel like they’ve all settled down and I think Mike Baird is truly going to make this happen.”

Medical marijuana not such a dopey cure, say parents in our primary school survey[Herald Sun]

More than 80 per cent of mums and 67 per cent of dads who did the Herald Sun Primary School Parents’ Survey want the ban overturned. The issue has been hotly debated since the Herald Sun revealed in January the case of Tara O’Connell, 9, who had been given months to live but made a miraculous recovery from severe epilepsy after her mother started giving her liquid cannabis. The Herald Sun also revealed this month “Dr Dope” Andrew Katelaris is supplying cannabis oil and tincture to 12 children around Australia from a secret laboratory, despite the threat of legal action. He has been inundated with more requests since the revelations, but is only able to supply a limited number of patients. A Reservoir mum who completed the survey said: “It’s cruel to leave children in pain when a solution is known”.

WA Uniting Church backs medical cannabis [NT News]

The Uniting Church has urged the West Australian government to consider legalising cannabis for medicinal use. At its annual meeting at the weekend, the WA church’s synod voted in favour of changes to state law so doctors could prescribe medicinal cannabis, which would be administered under supervision. Medical cannabis has a high proportion of cannabidiol, which has a range of medical benefits and a low proportion of the intoxicating tetrahydrocannabinol. Uniting Church WA acting general secretary Rosemary Hudson Miller said some attendees to the meeting shared personal experiences, describing how loved ones with chronic or terminal illnesses had found morphine inadequate for managing pain and suffered side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Poppy push raises cannabis query [West Australian]

The State Government was yesterday under pressure to reconcile its support for the commercial cultivation of medicinal opiates while opposing medicinal cannabis in WA. It came as WA’s peak farm lobby group nominated the State’s South West as ideal for growing poppies, which the Abbott Government has approved for production outside Tasmania for the first time.The West Australian yesterday revealed Federal Cabinet had approved the cultivation of opium in other States and Territories subject to the relevant international safeguards against drug trafficking and misuse. The medicinal opiate trade is lucrative and Tasmania is a global heavyweight in the production of components of narcotics including morphine, codeine and OxyContin. Agriculture Minister Ken Baston has pledged the State’s support for WA opium crops provided it was “viable and profitable” for farmers. Shadow health minister Roger Cook said it was “hypocritical” for the WA Government to support the cultivation of one drug for medicinal purposes but not another.

Media Watch: Headline facts v fiction [ABC]

The so-called ice epidemic is all over the media. But do the headlines tell the true story? Most of the experts we spoke to told Media Watch that the primary drug spreading harm right across Australia is alcohol. And that is backed up by a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into ice, published on the same day as the Herald Sun’s ice plague story, which states:

… the most recent survey research shows that the use of methamphetamine, both in Victoria and nationally, is considerably lower than the harmful use of alcohol and much lower than tobacco and cannabis. It is also lower than the use of ecstasy and misuse of pharmaceutical drugs.

— Inquiry into the supply and use of methamphetamines, particularly ice, in Victoria, September, 2014

Nevertheless, it’s the so-called ice epidemic the media want to talk about.

E-cigarettes to be treated same as tobacco under new Queensland legislation[Brisbane Times]

Soon, no one will vapour here, any more. E-cigarettes will be treated the same as tobacco and other smoking products in Queensland, under new legislation to be introduced in parliament on Tuesday. E-cigarettes, some of which use liquid nicotine – a substance already banned in the state – produce a vapour instead of smoke, which has been marketed as a more attractive option to smokers attempting to quit. E-cigarettes have also been exempt from laws which applied to traditional smoking products. But Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said under the new legislation that would change. The products would not be banned, but if you could not smoke in a particular area, you would not be able to e-cigarette either. “These new laws will ensure that e-cigarettes are not sold to children, not smoked in smoke-free indoor and outdoor public places, and not advertised, promoted or displayed at retail outlets,” Mr Springborg said.

Little excitement, crowds at second marijuana job fair [Vox]

With 31 marijuana-related companies present for Tuesday’s job fair in Denver, CannaSearch looked to build on the success of its first job fair held in March. Instead, what seemed like a steep drop in attendance meant job seekers had ample opportunities to talk one-on-one with prospective employers. CannaSearch organizers had touted more than 500 available jobs in advance of the event, and they surely expected the turnout to rival the estimated 1,200 attendees at the inaugural job fair, which prompted a move to the Mile High Station space. While organizers say Tuesday’s fair drew more than 2,100 job seekers, attendance seemed thin on Tuesday. A majority of employers also advertised fewer than a handful of positions, so the trickle of guests we witnessed in the hours we spent there meant fewer lines — and potential new hires.

For-profit firms not eligible for Colorado marijuana research grants [Denver Post]

For-profit companies will not be eligible to lead ground-breaking state-funded medical marijuana studies, under the terms of the grant program released Wednesday. In the official request for applications, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment specifies that institutions eligible to apply as primary recipients for the grants include only “not-for profit organizations, health care organizations, governmental entities and higher education institutions.” Applicants do not have to be based in Colorado to apply. For-profit firms will be allowed as subcontractors on grant proposals. The roughly $9 million in available grant money represents the largest-ever state-funded effort to study the medical benefits of marijuana. Health department officials hope researchers will be able, for the first time, to conduct clinical or observational trials using the kinds of cannabis products that are available in Colorado’s medical-marijuana system.

Why medical clinical trials are so wrong so often [Washington Post]

“Studies show” doesn’t mean what it used to. According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Tuesday, scientific studies aren’t as definitive as you might think. A team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that two scientists looking at the same clinical trial data (the information that determines what drugs get approved and recommended) may have contradictory interpretations of the results 35 percent of the time. The finding comes from a survey of 37 clinical trials that had been analyzed more than once in the past 64 years. In 13 cases, the re-dos came to entirely different conclusions than the original study.

Presidential Determination — Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2015 [The Whitehouse]

I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries:  Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. A country’s presence on the foregoing list is not a reflection of its government’s counternarcotics efforts or level of cooperation with the United States.  Consistent with the statutory definition of a major drug transit or drug producing country, the reason major drug transit or illicit drug producing countries are placed on the list is the combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced, even if a government has carried out the most assiduous narcotics control law enforcement measures. I hereby designate Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela as countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and take the measures.  I have also determined that support for programs to aid Burma and Venezuela are vital to the national interests of the United States.

The twisted financial incentives behind the war on drugs [Vox]

Another explanation for the racial disparities, however, is that the war on drugs can encourage cops to go after easy targets, such as minority communities with little financial and political clout. Neill Franklin, a retired major who served for 34 years in the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, witnessed many of these disparities during his everyday work. As a former police officer and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which opposes the war on drugs, Franklin is very familiar with the history of drug enforcement. I spoke with him on Wednesday about his experiences, and how being on the front lines of the war on drugs influenced his thinking about racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Britain secretly decriminalised cannabis – and it’s a disaster [Politics UK]

For some time now, England and Wales have had a semi-decriminalisation programme for cannabis. And it has ended up criminalising more cannabis users than ever before. But it doesn’t criminalise all cannabis users: it primarily targets people who are young, black or Asian. It is a story of muddle-headed government initiatives, skewed police incentives, racism, drug wars and the old, old habit of treating white people more leniently than everyone else. 

Drinkers can get new legal high after creation of beer made with cannabis [UK Daily Star]

The £3-a-pint bevvy, dubbed “ganja” or “Mary Jane” – Jamaican slang words for marijuana – is made from cannabis plants but is completely legal. It is the creation of landlord Giles Hawkins, of the Albert Inn in Totnes, Devon, who is brewing 54 gallons of the controversial ale. He will debut it at a West Country beer festival next month and hopes to roll it out nationally if it proves popular. He uses barley, hops, yeast and a kilo of cannabis leaves per batch, but dodges drug laws by using a lower strength variety. Giles, 45, said: “It has a light colour, a citrus taste on the palate and a dry finish. “It is 4% proof, so middle of the road, and it will cost £3 a pint. I will see how successful it is before deciding whether to brew some more.” Giles is also considering calling the ale “Hey Ho” because it is a combo of hemp and hops. The publican said there had been no objections from the police or local council.

Italy Poised to Release 10,000 Cannabis Inmates [Weedist]

Italy is poised to release about ten thousand inmates due to a shift in sentencing laws that eases punishment for cannabis use, growth and possession. The change comes as a result of the striking down of a law that previously tripled cannabis related sentences. The estimate is that about 40% of Italian inmates were convicted of drug related crimes. In reality, this “new” law is not new at all. The Italian judicial system is rather reverting back to the previous law (prior to the ludicrous mandatory tripling of sentence law). After this takes effect, hard drugs like cocaine and heroin will result in much longer sentences than cannabis infractions. For some it means they would be released on time served, for others it’s a reduction in sentencing from 6-20 years down to 2-6 years. Franco Corleone, member of the human rights group Society of Reason stated, “…the so-called drug war as conceived in North America has been lost and it’s time to return to rational rules that distinguish between substances.”

Cocaine found in Vatican City diplomatic car [Telegraph UK]

Police in France find cocaine and marijuana in a vehicle with Holy See diplomatic plates belonging to Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia. Pope Francis may have often spoken out against the “evil” of drug use, but the Vatican was facing embarrassment on Tuesday after 9lb of cocaine was found in a car bearing diplomatic plates associated with the Holy See. The car, which was stopped and searched in France, belonged to Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, who had entrusted it to two Italian men. Aged 91, the cardinal retired in 2003 and holds the title of emeritus librarian at the Holy See. The two men, aged 30 and 41, had reportedly been told by his private secretary to take the car for a routine service. Instead they promptly drove to Spain, where they allegedly bought the cocaine and from there drove into France. They reportedly believed that the car’s diplomatic status would place them above suspicion. But on Sunday they were stopped at a toll station near Chambery in the French Alps, en route back to Italy, where police found the cocaine hidden in suitcases and bags, along with seven ounces of cannabis. They were arrested and will appear in front of a French magistrate on charges of drug trafficking. The Vatican confirmed the report, but said that as both men were Italian rather than citizens of the Vatican City State, it had nothing to do with the Holy See. “Cardinal Mejia is not well and obviously has nothing to do with this,” said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

Uruguay Slowly Rolling Out its Marijuana Law [Talking Drugs]

On August 28, the day after the Uruguayan government began receiving the first applications to legally grow up to six cannabis plants per household, officials provided an important update on the status of marijuana regulation in the country. While the law is slowly coming into effect, it looks almost certain that it won’t be in full swing until sometime in early 2015. As Uruguayan AP correspondent Leonardo Haberkorn reports, the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) announced on August 28 that after two days, a total of 54 had signed up. Of these, 21 were based in the capital city of Montevideo, and 33 live throughout the country’s interior. The IRCCA has said it will review all applications and issue the first legal home-cultivation licenses within a period of 30 days. The creation of the home-growers’ registry comes after the launch of the first “marijuana membership clubs,” which under the law can have a maximum of 45 members and grow up to 99 plants. While the clubs have not yet been licensed to grow by the IRCCA, at least four have taken the first step of registering as civil associations with the Ministry of Culture.

Pakistan: Cannabis Discovered in Prehistoric Tomb [World News Daily Report]

Archaeologists excavating at a prehistoric site in the Hindu Kush mountains, have discovered what could be the most ancient proof of intentional use of a psychoactive substance by humans. While searching the site of a Paleolithic settlement estimated to be 120 000 years old, scientists discovered seeds, resin and ashes, associated to the indica subspecies of the cannabis sativa plant. Discovered on the shores of the Kunar river in December 2013, in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the site is one of the oldest ever found in South Asia. According to Professor Muzaffar Kambarzahi of the National Institute of Historical & Cultural Research (NIHCR) of the Quaid-i-Azam University, in charge of the team of scientists excavating the site, the various caves composing the settlement would have been inhabited for more than 2500 years during neolithic period. The historian has already elaborated a theory to explain the presence of cannabis on the site:

“According to the location and context in which the cannabis was found, leads us to believe it was used for ritual purposes. It seems that the occupants of the site threw large quantities of leaves, buds and resin in the fireplace situated on the far end of the cave, filling the entire site with psychotropic smoke.”

A chemical analysis executed on a small pottery jar found in the tomb of what seems to be a local chieftain or shaman, revealed that the vessel contained cannabis resin, also known as hashish, suggesting the plant was also associated with burial ceremonies and possibly other sacred rituals.

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