Embassy Headlines, Issue 118

Similar jurisdictions overseas have already blazed a trail for legal Cannabis.

The road map to the future for all forms of Australian Cannabis can be easily copied and pasted with only minor deviations. Saving time, money and resources on implementation will be some compensation for the victims of prohibition.

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

Embassy-Headlines-118 

Support Tony Bower [GoFundMe]

Tony Bower has helped hundreds and hundreds of people with his cannabinoid tinctures and oils. He has worked tirelessly for others and is currently facing a gaol term for doing so. Please, if you support medicinal cannabis, please donate a few bucks for Tony’s legal costs, so he can be released and back where he belongs – helping others. Right now, it’s our turn to help him.


What’s the Way Forward for Medicinal Cannabis in Australia? [Vice]

Jim Moylan, lawyer and national campaign director of the HEMP party, explains that medicine and policing are state concerns in Australia. So he sees Abbott’s statement as directed not towards the public, but towards the Liberal state premiers throughout the country, providing them with a green light in policy making in regards to medicinal cannabis. He said the most favourable proposal was that of Rattenbury in the ACT because it allows for personal cannabis growing licences, which addresses the issue of supply. Moylan believes that the road to the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia will see the country repeating many mistakes that have already made in similar jurisdictions overseas. “We’re presented with a golden opportunity in Australia to learn from this, but we’re not going to. We’ll career along an eight year path of legislation and re-legislation, blindly ignoring 25 years of experience throughout America.”   


The politics of cannabis and compassion: why Tony Abbott is leading the chorus[Canberra Times]

Dan Haslam has become the poster boy for the legalisation of medical cannabis in a campaign that has won the support of politicians of every hue, all the way to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. This crusade is not new. While medical cannabis is allowed in more than 20 other countries and 20 US states – for treatment of pain, terminal illnesses, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, seizures and many more conditions – it has met brick walls in Australia. Former premier Bob Carr attempted in 2003 to establish a four-year medical trial, moved by the suffering of HIV-positive Paul O’Grady, then a state MP. Carr’s government conceded defeat the next year, unable to negotiate a minefield of state and federal laws and unwilling to legalise backyard cultivation, even if only for the terminally ill. The hardest question has always been the supply of the drug.


ACT Government should supply medical cannabis: Rattenbury [Canberra Times]

The ACT Government would supply medical cannabis to users under Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury’s vision of how legalised marijuana use would work in the territory. Mr Rattenbury wants to legalise cannabis for medical purposes in Canberra, allowing terminally and chronically ill Canberrans to grow marijuana and use the drug to alleviate their pain and symptoms. Mr Rattenbury, speaking at a public forum on Tuesday night about the potential legalisation of the drug in the ACT, said doctors should be involved in reform and said he wanted to ensure a transparent doctor-patient relationship without the burden of illegality. He hoped the government would one day regulate the supply of prescribed amounts of cannabis. However, Mr Rattenbury said his exposure draft of the legislation – which will go before the Assembly’s standing committee on health, ageing, community and social services – was an important and flexible first step and had a greater chance of being approved by his Assembly colleagues

His current proposal would permit approved patients or a nominated person to grow cannabis for their own personal use. “My personal preference is ACT Health would be a supplier,” he said. His comments were in response to a number of residents who were concerned about how patients and carers, particularly the elderly or very ill, would source, cultivate and consume cannabis if it was permitted in the territory. One resident was worried some suppliers might take advantage of more vulnerable buyers without a regulated regime.


Forum to investigate options for medical cannabis in the ACT [The Age]

Australia does not need any more trials into medicinal marijuana and there is a risk more research would slow the country down five or 10 years, according to a drug law reform advocate. 

With a Legislative Assembly committee due to consider proposed laws to legalise marijuana for medical purposes in the ACT, experts in Canberra will host a public forum on the issue on Tuesday. In July, ACT Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury introduced a bill into the Legislative Assembly that would allow terminally and chronically ill people in Canberra to grow marijuana and use the drug to alleviate pain and symptoms, if they had approval from the ACT Chief Health Officer. The bill will be considered by an Assembly committee, due to report by June next year. Tuesday’s forum will feature a number of experts discussing evidence about the effectiveness and safety of medicinal cannabis, its history and various supply and regulatory options. 

The president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Dr Alex Wodak, is one of the panellists and said the community was now generally in favour of medicinal cannabis. “The questions now are how and when, rather than whether,” Dr Wodak said. 

“The three big questions are how is it going to be supplied, what sorts of regulatory approval will there be and how should people take medicinal cannabis.” Dr Wodak said he believed Australia did not need more clinical trials to decide whether the country should proceed with medicinal cannabis. 

“In order to allow any medicine, you want to know that it’s effective and safe and we know from current research, where there’s over 100 randomised control trials, we’ve got plenty of evidence that medicinal cannabis is effective and is safe,” he said. “There still are some unanswered questions but we don’t need more research just to decide whether or not we want to do it. Frankly the risk of proceeding with more research is that it might just slow us down another five or 10 years and there are a lot of people who feel they won’t be around in five or 10 years and I can’t blame them for wanting it now.” 


Public Health Association of Australia supports medical cannabis

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has thrown its support behind the legalisation of medical cannabis, launching its new organisational policy today.  “PHAA’s new Position Statement on Medicinal Cannabis in Australia recognises the need for a compassionate regime whereby seriously and terminally ill individuals who have been appropriately authorised may possess and use cannabis without penalty,” said Michael Moore, PHAA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).


Medicinal cannabis: Tasmania not able to go it alone in trialling treatment, inquiry told[ABC]

Tasmania alone could not conduct a meaningful medicinal cannabis trial, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. On its second day of hearings, the state’s parliamentary inquiry into medicinal cannabis heard from Royal Hobart Hospital oncologist Ray Lowenthal. Dr Lowenthal said the costs of trialling any drug could run into hundreds of millions of dollars and that such undertakings typically required the participation of hundreds of patients. With health and safety in mind, Dr Lowenthal said he could not see why cannabis should be treated differently to any other new drug. “If you’re going to test it, it has to be done thoroughly and according to recognised complex scientific methodology,” he said. “There’s no way in the world that, in my opinion, you could do a thorough, meaningful trial of a drug such as cannabis in Tasmania alone.” He suggested Tasmania could take part in a broader trial, for example cooperating with New South Wales if that state proceeds with a trial.


Cannabis inquiry: Man stopped from taking cannabis plant into Tas Parliament [ABC]

A man has attempted to take a cannabis plant into Parliament House in Hobart during an inquiry into medicinal cannabis. Tasmania’s Legislative Council is holding the final day of its inquiry, which was set up after the State Government rejected a bid for medicinal cannabis trials in the state. Rueben Reeves, from a group called Medical Cannabis Tasmania, took the plant through security at the front door. But committee chairwoman Ruth Forrest stopped him and another man, John Reeves, from taking it into the inquiry room and they were ordered to take it back to their car. The men said they believed they were allowed to use it, under parliamentary privilege, as part of their submission to the inquiry.


It’s time to forget social taboos and be bold over medicinal marijuana [Sydney Morning Herald]

Australia has a proud record of taking a sensible approach to public health issues. While other countries have let moral panic and demagoguery sway their response to HIV/AIDs, gun control and drink driving, to name a few, Australia has favoured pragmatism over anxiety, rational action over debilitating fear. Not so with medicinal cannabis. In Australia, mothers risk arrest, fathers do shady drug deals, and dying people are desperate to get their hands on a substance that is legally available for the sick in more than 20 states in the United States as well as Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Just this week Italy announced it would grow medicinal marijuana in a military laboratory and sell it in pharmacies. So Premier Mike Baird must be congratulated for taking a significant step this week towards a more rational and compassionate response to the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens. And Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s enlightened entry into the debate, via a letter to Alan Jones, offers hope that moves towards change in NSW will be supported federally. However, Premier Baird can’t be accused of being seized with reform fever on the issue. No doubt mindful of resistance from conservative voters and elements in the medical profession, his first move has been to establish a working group that will report back by the end of the year on the scope of a clinical trial into the medicinal use of cannabis for terminally ill adults. Let us hope the working group pays close attention to the words of the Prime Minister: “If a drug that is proven to be safe abroad is needed here, it should be available.”


Medicinal marijuana gamble pays off for WA Opposition leader Mark McGowan [Perth Now]

Sometimes you just need a bit of luck in politics. Labor leader Mark McGowan would say it was more to do with good political judgment and policy rather than luck, but it seems the political gods have smiled on the wannabe premier as he fights for the legalisation of medicinal marijuana for the terminally and chronically ill. McGowan took a huge gamble putting this controversial topic on the political agenda in WA – and so far, it has paid off. Even Prime Minister Tony Abbott agrees with his stance on legalising medicinal cannabis and members of the community have applauded the move. But it is worth noting that not long ago that the WA Labor Party was painted by the Liberals and sections of the community as the mob who were “soft on drugs” for introducing new cannabis laws which effectively allowed anyone caught with small quantities of the drug to escape police prosecution – and hence, a criminal record.


Kevin Anderson – the unlikely cannabis crusader [Sydney Morning Herald]

Family man and conservative politician Kevin Anderson is an unlikely crusader for medicinal cannabis. And the country music capital of Australia was an unlikely place for the grassroots movement to take hold. But the NSW Government’s first steps towards decriminalising cannabis for medicinal purposes had their beginnings in The Old Bell Tower cafe in Tamworth in May, when owners Lou and Lucy Haslem invited their local member for a cuppa. The story that the Haslems relayed to Anderson is now well known – their 23-year-old son, Daniel, was dying of cancer and cannabis was the only medication that eased the dreadful side effects of his chemotherapy.


Debate rages over implementation of medicinal marijuana in NSW [Alt Media]

Greens NSW MP John Kaye has announced he will be introducing his own legislation to parliament to challenge the government to take steps to broaden the availability of medicinal cannabis. Mr Kaye has expressed his belief that medicinal cannabis should be available to those with debilitating conditions as well as chronic and terminal illnesses. Mr Kaye has described the moves by the government last week as “small step” in the right direction towards legalising cannabis to help those suffering from cancer and HIV. NSW Premier Mike Baird this week announced plans to introduce a Working Group that would oversee a clinical trial for medicinal cannabis use. “We want the terminally ill to have greater peace of mind. We do not want carers having to watch their loved ones suffer when their distress could be alleviated,” Mr Baird said. HIV advocacy group ACON supports the government’s actions. “ACON believes that the use of cannabis may help people with terminal and chronic illnesses to alleviate some of the pain and other symptoms they experience,” said Acting ACON CEO Karen Price. “Research shows that cannabis can be effective in reducing pain and increasing appetite, and ACON supports the availability of cannabis for medical use. The forthcoming trial represents a practical and compassionate approach, and we congratulate the government for responding in this way.”


Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch to meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott to pitch medical marijuana taskforce [Cairns Post]

Leichhardt  MP Warren Entsch will be meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott next week to suggest setting up a taskforce for medical marijuana. Mr Entsch said he was “heartened” by admissions from Mr Abbott that he supported the medical use of the drug and believed it would speed up the process to make it happen. “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,” he said.


Queensland slow on medical marijuana take up [Brisbane Times]

Tony Abbott is on board. So is New South Wales Premier Mike Baird. And Victorian opposition leader Daniel Andrews has promised to make it happen. But Campbell Newman, while “sympathetic” has not shifted his views on the legalisation of medical cannabis. Mr Newman said, while his mind remained open on the issue, he still believed a decision should be based on information from the National Health and Medical Research Council.


Living with the Enemy Episode 5: Marijuana – 8.30pm Wednesday 1 October [SBS ONE]

For fifty years marijuana has been Australia’s most popular illegal drug; seven million of us have tried it, and more than two-and-a-half million smoke it every day. Michael is Australia’s biggest public advocate for smoking Marijuana. He is ambassador for life at Nimbin’s Hemp Embassy, co-creator of Australia’s annual celebration of all things cannabis, Mardi Grass, a foundation member of the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) political party, and a man who has smoked his own body weight in marijuana over the course of his lifetime. Kerryn is a former drug user who is now a passionate school drug and alcohol awareness educator and published author on the topic. Kerryn believes marijuana is the potential gateway to a lifetime of addiction and ruin. Michael introduces her to maverick marijuana growers, to people who smoke it recreationally, and epileptics who use it medicinally. Kerryn introduces him to doctors who have proved its negative effect on the brain and parents who have lost children and family members to the drug.

8.30pm Wednesday, 1 October on SBS ONE. Join in the conversation using #LWTE


Police warn Mexican drug cartels behind kidnappings, beheadings and murders have set up in Australia [Herald Sun]

Members of a deadly Mexican drug cartel — responsible for kidnappings, beheadings and thousands of murders — have set up shop in Australia. Drug criminals from Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel, the Sinaloa Federation, are basing themselves in eastern states to distribute hundreds of kilograms of drugs, including ice, heroin and cocaine. Federal crime-fighting authorities are concerned that Sinaloa and other Mexican cartel members are increasingly coming here to profit from our lucrative drug market. Australian Crime Commission chief Chris Dawson said the nation’s peak policing groups were working with US Drug Enforcement Administration officers to combat the threat. “You only need to look to the violence on the streets in Mexico and the thousands of people who have died at the hands of Mexican drug cartels, to realise how dangerous these groups are,” Mr Dawson said.


Consume Responsibly Campaign [Marijuana Policy Project]

For far too long, marijuana education campaigns have been characterized by fear mongering, misinformation, and derision. That’s about to change. This week, MPP launched the Consume Responsibly campaign — the first-ever comprehensive public education effort urging adults to “consume responsibly” in states where marijuana is legal. The campaign kicked off in Denver witha billboard alluding to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s now-infamous marijuana edibles experience in a Denver hotel room. Rather than trying to scare adults away from using marijuana, it simply informs them about the need to “start low and go slow” when consuming edibles to ensure they don’t find themselves in an unpleasant situation similar to Dowd’s.


‘Fuck it, I quit’: Alaska TV reporter makes on-air exit to fight for pot legalisation [The Guardian]

There are many memorable ways to quit your job – just think of Marina Shifrin, who left Taiwanese animator Next Media Animation with an interpretive dance set to Kanye West’s Gone. But the award for bluntness must go to Charlo Greene, a reporter for Alaska’s KTVA, who resigned live on air on Sunday to fight for marijuana legalisation. After fronting a piece on a medical marijuana club, she told viewers: “I – the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club – will be dedicating all of my energy for fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalising marijuana here in Alaska. And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but … fuck it, I quit.” A stunned colleague then told viewers: “All right we apologise for that … we’ll, we’ll be right back.” The station later apologised to viewers on Twitter:


Is Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Use Beneficial To The Society? Colorado Crime Rate Statistics Surely Suggest So  [Inquisitir]

When Colorado cautiously legalized recreational marijuana, critics strongly warned it would lead to more crime throughout the state. But, in what could easily be considered a big slap-on-the-face to all marijuana haters, the overall crime rate actually plummeted. As reported by the state’s official website, crime data for Denver, the hub of legal pot sales in the state, shows that murders, assaults, rapes, burglaries, and other violent have crimes actually declined during the first three months of the year, compared with the same period for 2013. Though the overall reduction was only 10 percent, the impact is quite visible, claim proponents of marijuana consumption. According to the data obtained, homicides went down from 17 to 8, a massive 53 percent drop, automobile break-ins went down from 2,317 to 1,477 (36 percent), and sexual assaults from diminished to 95 from 110 (14 percent). Did legalization of marijuana positively affect the crime rate? It is impossible to confidently say whether legalizing recreational use of marijuana had anything to do with the falling crime rates. In fact, two types of property crime actually went up. There were 47 incidents of arson, as compared to 20 in 2013 (a jump of 135 percent), while those of larceny went up 7 percent.


How Should Our Society Deal With People Who Use Drugs? [Drug Policy Alliance]

The vast majority of Americans agree that the drug war is not working.  So how should our society deal with people who use drugs? I propose three simple solutions: 1) Offer treatment and compassion to people who want help for their drug problems; 2) leave people alone who don’t want or need treatment; and 3) continue to hold people responsible for crimes that harm others.


The US used to tax and regulate drugs — not ban them [Vox]

The most important period for the war on drugs may not have been the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon declared the war and Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, or even the early 20th century, when lawmakers approved new taxes and regulations that effectively prohibited the distribution of certain drugs (dubbed narcotics) for recreational use. Instead, historianKathleen Frydl argues the most important moments may have occurred from the 1940s to the 1970s — as lawmakers began transitioning the war on drugs from a tax-and-regulate model to a criminalization approach. In The Drug Wars in America, 1940-1973, Frydl argues policymakers of the period ramped up their anti-drug efforts as a means of building the government’s power — both to legitimize increased police authority at home and justify new international incursions abroad. 


Emanuel pushes to reduce penalties for minor drug possession statewide [Chicago Tribune]

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today called on the General Assembly to decriminalize marijuana possession statewide and to reduce the penalty to a misdemeanor for those caught with 1 gram or less of any controlled substance. During 90 minutes of testimony before the House-Senate Joint Criminal Reform Committee in Chicago, Emanuel encouraged lawmakers to challenge the “assumptions that are embedded in the criminal justice system.” The mayor argued that reducing the penalties for minor drug possession would allow the city and state to focus their efforts on more violent crime. “It’s time, in my view, to free up our criminal justice system to address our real public safety challenges and build on the progress that has been made,” Emanuel said. The proposed changes, the mayor said, would “change, not just the criminal system, and the fact that we’ll save time and money, but it also will change people’s lives. Some who are walking around with a felony, their employment prospects, their job prospects, their lives are on a different trajectory than if they had a misdemeanor associated with them.”


Will the United States Lead or Follow on International Drug Reform? [Open Society Foundation]

More than three years ago, the Global Commission on Drug Policy urged the world to recognize that the war on drugs has failed and to consider policies that would reduce violence, decrease mass incarceration, and promote health. Since then, sitting presidents and premiers, mainly from Latin America, have called for a review of the entire drug control system and for drug-control reform to figure prominently in the international agenda. For example, the UN will debate the drug control regime in 2016, and the Organization of American States (OAS) will make drug policy a central theme of its meeting in mid-September. The OAS meeting could be a particularly important moment for the United States to meaningfully engage in the debate. It would come as the White House welcomes a new drug czar, Michael Botticelli, who may bring fresh thinking to the role. Botticelli has a background in public health, which is critical for the job. In addition, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which Botticelli is heading, now says it can support health-based approaches to drugs, moving away from the “war on drugs” terminology. The office has also spoken out in favor of common-sense interventions, like the distribution of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. But Botticelli needs to speak louder, engaging the American apparatus in big debates. On many fronts, those debates are proceeding without U.S. leadership.


Former Mexican President: ‘The Path Toward Legalizing Drugs Is Irreversible’[Business Insider Australia]

A Mexican state could approve medicinal use of marijuana by the end of this year, paving the way for further steps toward legalizing the drug, former Mexican President Vicente Fox said on Monday. Political pressure inside Mexico to liberalize its stance on marijuana has been rising since the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado legalized possession and sale of the drug for recreational use in 2012. In July, opposition lawmakers in the western state of Jalisco put forward a plan to change local drug laws, including permitting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. To win support for the plan, the lawmakers from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) organised an ongoing survey to gauge public opinion, which so far has shown a clear majority in favour of allowing medical marijuana.


Secure Italian military lab to grow medical marijuana [Reuters]

Italy said on Thursday it would grow medical marijuana at a secure military lab outside Florence and distribute it through pharmacies to slash costs and make it more easily available to the sick. The use of medical marijuana or cannabis derivatives to treat patients has been legal in Italy since 2007, but only a few dozen people took it through the national healthcare system in 2013 because of its prohibitive cost. The military lab produces so-called “orphan” drugs no longer made by large pharmaceutical companies that are needed to treat rare diseases, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said after signing an agreement with Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.

“The institute already produces some medicines,” Pinotti said, explaining the unusual case of tasking the military to grow pot. “And we can guarantee security conditions.” Lorenzin said she wanted to “debunk all the cultural or ideological myths” about using certain drugs in health care.


The Gold Mine of Marijuana: Swaziland [HighTimes]

Apparently Swaziland takes their national cannabis pretty darn seriously. Despite the nation’s small size, it boasts more land dedicated to growing weed than all of India. You ever heard of that dank sativa called Swazi Gold? Yup, that’s a Swaziland export as well. VICE sent a crew out to the country located between South Africa and Mozambique to test out some of the local strains, but once they got there the story became a whole lot more intense. For your required viewing today, check out thedocumentary.


Serbia: Minister of Health supports the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes[Focus]

Minister of Health of Serbia Zlatibor Lončar will open a public debate on the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, Serbian online edition Telegraf reported. “The ministry would not prevent the introduction in medicine of anything that gives results for treatment, including marijuana. There are results showing that cannabis gives good results in medicine. We do not want to make decisions for one day, though. We want to meet people with all the details,” Zlatibor Lončar said.


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