Thanks to SBS Incite who managed to fan the flames under the Cannabis law reform cauldron again this week.
One staggering insight was the 85% #YEStopot score on the ‘Should marijuana be legalised’ online poll. Cannabinoid enriched activists nationwide made a collective sigh of hope on the results.
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.
Nimbin Action Group – High Noon Smoke In
Saturday 11 October. The community of Nimbin will be holding a protest against the continual police harassment and raids on our town. We will be calling upon both Federal and State Governments to implement cannabis law reform and stop the overkill of police laying siege on our small village. Shopkeepers, locals and tourists alike are united in their outrage at the frequency of these aggressive raids and the resulting financial impact on Nimbin shops and services. Protesters will gather in Cullen Street, Nimbin at 12 noon Saturday 11 October followed by a stroll to the Nimbin Police Station for a protest smoke-in. Shops in Nimbin will be asked to close at midday for 10 minutes as a show of solidarity.
Cannabis medicine man Tony Bower escapes jail [EchoNet Daily]
Medicinal cannabis advocate Tony Bower has escaped a 12-month jail term for growing cannabis plants for medicine. Instead he has been placed on a six-month good behaviour bond, and has vowed to continue making his tinctures by legal means. Mr Bower appeared in the Port Macquarie District Court yesterday to appeal the severity of the 12-month jail term, handed down on August 28 by retiring magistrate Thomas Hodgson. Mr Bower, whose company Mullaways Medical Cannabis supplies tincture to more than 150 people, many of them children, was arrested this year for cultivating plants while still on a good behaviour bond from the District Court for a previous cultivation offence.
The HEMP party said it’s had a fruitful meeting with the Palmer United Party over support for industrial and medicinal cannabis. HEMP spokesman Andrew Kavasilas travelled from the north coast to meet with PUP Senator Dio Wang in Canberra on Wednesday. Mr Kavasilas said the meeting was part of a preference deal done between the two parties at the last election. He said Senator Wang promised support to push for a Federal inquiry into cannabis as a medicine and food. “We got a strong position from them to support an inquiry into the use of medical cannabis and more specifically the scheduling of cannabis at a Federal level to allow for any kind of meaningful research for medical or scientific purposes,” Mr Kavasilas said. “What the State Governments are talking about now and the Greens are all quite hollow and nothing can happen unless the Federal Government steps in on this,” he said.
Norfolk Island backs push for medical cannabis [ABC Radio]
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale is set to introduce a bill to parliament next month. Norfolk’s government issued a license to a Tasmanian company to grow a trial medicinal cannabis crop in August, which the island’s administrator then vetoed. The island’s Health Minister, Robyn Adams, has welcomed the bill and told Alex Blucher the industry would help the island’s struggling economy.
Let’s hand over the regulation of medicinal cannabis to medical experts so that people who are suffering can get access to an effective treatment. The campaign to change the federal laws prohibiting medicinal cannabis is underpinned by evidence. But it’s after meeting someone who is experiencing tremendous pain and suffering and can’t get relief from conventional therapy that you feel compelled to act. The legislation that my colleagues and I will introduce into the Federal Parliament is intended to establish an independent expert regulator that will create a framework for the cultivation, processing and supply of medicinal cannabis for conditions where there is proven therapeutic benefit. A number of clinical trials and major reviews of the evidence have found that medicinal cannabis is an effective therapy with limited side effects. For specific conditions it is an effective means of relieving nausea, nerve related pain and muscle spasms.
Proponents argue the good oil of cannabis use for medical conditions [Sydney Morning Herald]
Small “cannabis clubs” are popping up across NSW as more people seek to use the drugs for medical purposes and pressure builds across the country to allow its legal use. But doctors and advocates warn that patients are essentially operating in a Wild West environment without the medical support and information they need. NSW has set up a committee to establish a trial of cannabis for terminally ill patients, while Victoria introduced a bill last week to make it easier to conduct such trials. But community groups are already experimenting with different strains of the drug to treat a range of conditions, connecting growers, often via social media, with people suffering from problems such as severe forms of childhood epilepsy and cancer-related nausea. However, the lack of medical research has led to confusion about what conditions the drug can and cannot treat – with many proponents arguing it should be used to stave off all illnesses including cancer and infections.
Medicinal cannabis: Perth couple call for treatment to be legalised to ease daughter’s chronic pain[ABC]
A Perth couple is calling on medicinal cannabis to be legalised so their daughter can stop using opiates to manage her chronic pain. Lyndon and Nicole Poulter’s nine-year-old daughter, Lily, suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which causes her joints to regularly pop out of place and also from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The Poulters have lent their support to Opposition Leader Mark McGowan’s push to legalise medicinal cannabis in spray or tablet form for terminally or chronically ill people. Ms Poulter said every pain management drug her daughter takes is opiate-based and she is concerned at the damage it could be doing.
April’s first steps defy doctor’s expectations [Advocate Tasmania]
The Advocate has followed the progress of two-year-old April Tognoni, who lives with myoclonic epilepsy – an incurable illness. Doctors said April would never walk, talk or even live past the age of five. In the June the toddler’s 1000 seizures a day were reduced to six. Months later April spoke her first words, and just recently she’s taken her first steps. It’s thanks to a daily dose of cannabis oil, says Ulverstone mother Jessica Rush. She’s seen her daughter defy the general prognosis that her life would be lived short and uncomfortably. “Her life expectancy was once five,” Miss Rush said. “Now if she stays this way and continues on the cannabis oil she will most likely live into adulthood and have some kind of a life.”
Australian drug law reform head says most people support the right of parents to do whatever they can to help a sick child. Federal, state and territory governments have lost the “consent of the governed” on the issue of medical marijuana, the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation says. Dr Alex Wodak’s comments follow a clash between the parents of a three-year-old boy and a Melbourne hospital after doctors stopped administering cannabis oil to the child because of concerns about legal ramifications. Rhett Wallace and Cassie Batten were told by doctors at the Northern Hospital the treatment was withdrawn due to uncertainty about potential criminal charges, the ABC reported.
When Alice Cowles was born eight years ago, doctors declared her a perfectly healthy baby. But just weeks later she was suffering several life-threatening fits a day and just recently her daughter almost died. Doctors told the devastated mother there wasn’t much more that could do. Pushed to desperation, the Tasmanian mum decided it was either try medical marijuana or watch her child die. Ms Cowles began giving Alice cannabis oil to help control her life-threatening seizures back in February. The youngster, who suffers a rare genetic disorder called CDKL-5, which includes epilepsy, has since suffered just one seizure since, is able to walk, and go to school full-time.
Staggering 85% of Australians believe marijuana SHOULD be legalised as top psychologist warns 14-year-olds are more likely to smoke cannabis than tobacco [Daily Mail]
More than 85 per cent of the 50,000 Australians surveyed in a recent poll, believe that marijuana should be legalised across the country. Conducted by SBS’s Insight team, the poll reflects the current ongoing public debate which has seen federal politicians consider a medical trial. As public opinion tips in favour of legalising the drug, a variety of voices have come forward to have their say on the positives of cannabis use, from mothers and former policemen to psychologists.
1. Australian use of cannabis is three times the global average.
2. According to a small survey undertaken in Australia in 2005, the top three conditions that people use medical cannabis for are depression, chronic pain, and arthritis.
3. The first recorded written use of marijuana as a medicinal drug is in 2737 B.C.
4. There are over 500 chemical compounds in the cannabis sativa plant.
5. In US state of Colorado, where marijuana is legal, The Denver Post newspaper has their own pot critic.
6. One in two Australians who grow their own cannabis for medicinal reasons do it without speaking to their doctor.
7. The US Department of Health has a patent on cannabinoids (chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant).
8. About 99% of cannabis border detections in Australia are seeds sent through the post.
9. In 2012, Australia authorities destroyed 17,668 of indoor cannabis plants.
10. In the last year almost 60% of illegal cannabis detected at the Australian border was identified as having come from the UK.
11. The estimated amount of taxes and fees that Colorado has collected from the marijuana industry since legalization is $34,800,000
Politicians from the Prime Minister on down are opening the door to the idea of trialling the medical use of marijuana. But while the signs may be encouraging for those seeking access to the drug, many aren’t willing to wait. And some experts worry what’s currently being supplied, often to children with severe and complicated medical conditions, may not be truly effective or even safe. Professor Paul Komesaroff is with the Centre for the Study of Ethics in Medicine and Society at Monash University. He told Peggy Giakoumelos the debate surrounding the medical use of marijuana is not a new one.
NSW is blowing off ACT for a clinical trial on medical marijuana [Canberra Times]
The New South Wales government won’t agree to allow the ACT to join an upcoming clinical trial of medical marijuana, despite calls from Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. A day after Ms Gallagher outlined her proposal for an cross-jurisdiction trial and ACT representative to join a working group advising the NSW government, a spokesman for Premier Mike Baird indicated a willingness only to consider future collaboration with other jurisdictions. It is understood the Liberal-National Coalition-led state will go it alone on the working group process, due to report back by the end of the year. “The NSW government’s reforms are about compassionate care and seek to explore the role that cannabis can play in providing relief for patients suffering from a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses,” the spokesman said. “The premier welcomes the ACT government’s interest in the medical cannabis clinical trial to be established by the NSW government. “The NSW government working group will explore opportunities to collaborate with other jurisdictions, including the ACT, as work progresses.” Mr Baird is expected to reply to Ms Gallagher’s September 17 letter in coming days.
Dogs sniff for prison contraband [West Australian]
The new task force targeting organised crime in the State’s jails was out in force last week conducting searches on visitors to Hakea Prison. About a dozen vehicles were subjected to extensive searches by the organised crime squad prison team, made up of officers from WA Police’s organised crime squad and the Department of Corrective Services integrity unit. Acting Det-Sen. Sgt Bernie McGuire said last Wednesday’s overt operation sent a clear message to prison visitors that drugs and contraband would not be tolerated.
Cannabis use, cultivation and possession are illegal all over Australia, but the penalties vary greatly from state to state. Both New South Wales andVictoria are moving toward clinical trials for medical use of cannabis. On the Federal level the Greens are pushing a private members bill to allow cannabis to be used to treat a range of ailments. But what do the current laws says about use and possession of marijuana? Here is a look at laws on cannabis use in each state and territory, followed by a glossary of related terms. Some states offer diversion programs despite cannabis being a criminal offence, but these programs are only available to non-violent offenders.
Number of Pot Arrests Still Too High, Group Says, But Police See Progress [DNA Info Chicago]
The percentage of people ticketed for marijuana possession has greatly increased over the last year, but an activist group is pressing the city on why more than 60 percent of pot possession busts still end with arrests. According to Charlene Carruthers, national coordinator for Black Youth Project 100, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy “has said over and over again we should be ticketing, not arresting, but it still happens.” Thursday at City Hall, Carruthers cited figures showing the city spends $80 million a year processing marijuana arrests, even as both McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have touted reforms intended to replace those arrests with revenue-producing ticket citations.
Eric Holder Was Great on Drugs [Politico]
Will his successor throw it all away? Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation represents a scary moment for Americans who care about ending both marijuana prohibition and the nation’s infatuation with mass incarceration. I wouldn’t have said that two years ago but I say it without reservation now. During their first term, both President Obama and the attorney general would privately respond to criticisms of their lackluster record on reforming drug and criminal justice policies by insisting that it needed to be a second-term priority, if they got the chance. For Holder in particular, this was, he told friends, a legacy issue, one he hoped would shape how his years in office were remembered. His sentiments were likely shared by Obama, for whom the hypocrisy of interrupting and derailing the lives of so many young people, especially black and brown, for doing what he too once did, was inescapable. As he told the New Yorker’s David Remnick, “We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.” In the weeks following his re-election, Obama added: “There are millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven’t fully thought through our [criminal justice] process.” The real leadership on broader sentencing reform, however, came from Eric Holder.
After decades spent operating in the shadows, the ever-growing legal marijuana industry has begun supporting federal campaigns and lobbying efforts in Washington DC. For an industry that remains illegal under federal law, taking action at the federal level — in the form of contributions from industry heavyweights, and the formation of the first and only political action committee for the industry — is a critical step in achieving legitimacy. It also signals that elected officials, who in the past were unwilling to accept money from anyone in the weed business, are responding to the interests of voters. “My impression is that political contributions are part of a broader pattern of the industry coming into its own,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, told VICE News. “Lobbying, advocacy, and participating in politics — they’re doing what virtually every other interest group has done in the past. It’s the maturing of the industry, the evolution of the industry.” Blumenhauer has long been a supporter of legalizing adult use of the drug, and readily accepts campaign contributions from the marijuana industry. “In the last five years the issue has just taken off,” Blumenauer said. “Twenty-three states have legalized medical marijuana, most were the result of voter action. It has a different feel to it because it’s driven by the public.”
Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures [New York Times]
Since Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia already allow medical marijuana, taking the next step makes good sense. There are some differences in their proposed initiatives, but they are all worthy of passage. Opponents of legalization warn that states are embarking on a risky experiment. But the sky over Colorado has not fallen, and prohibition has proved to be a complete failure. It’s time to bring the marijuana market out into the open and end the injustice of arrests and convictions that have devastated communities. Careful regulation of the drug could very well make it safer to consume, and proper taxation could bring in new revenue for states. This year, from January through June, Colorado collected about $18.9 million. Ideally, the federal government would repeal the ban on marijuana, so states could set their own policies without worrying about the possibility of a crackdown on citizens violating federal law. Even though a majority of Americans favor legalization, Congress shows no sign of budging. So it’s better for the states to take the lead than to wait for an epiphany on Capitol Hill that may never come.
Denver florist Bec Koop has launched a business called Buds and Blossoms, selling cannabis to her clients as part of bouquets. When Colorado legalised cannabis for recreational use in January, enterprising Denver florist Bec Koop launched a business called Buds and Blossoms, which incorporates cannabis into wedding floral displays. “I used to work at a medicinal cannabis dispensary, and I have a floral business, so I thought Buds and Blossoms would be a fun way to bring cannabis into the wedding scene. Guests could take the bud from their bouquet or boutonniere and enjoy their wedding weed on the wedding night.”
Colorado Governor Says Voters Were ‘Reckless’ to Legalize Marijuana [International Business Times]
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says his state’s voters were “reckless” for voting to become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Since the new law took effect in 2014, the state is on track to raise more than $40 million in new annual revenues for education and other priorities from marijuana-related taxes. There has been little evidence that crime rates or driving fatalities have increased since the law took effect. In fact, the opposite appears to be true: Violent crime rates in Denver were lower in the first half of 2014, and traffic fatalities in the state are near arecord low. Hickenlooper said he is concerned that teenagers using the drug may experience long-term-memory loss. The governor, who made his fortune as a beer brewer, did not express similar criticisms or concerns about alcohol, which many scientists consider far more toxic than marijuana.
A move to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana emerged Wednesday as a major issue in the contentious race for Harris County District attorney with both candidates claiming ownership of the idea. At a news conference, Republican Devon Anderson, the incumbent, said that beginning Monday, non-violent first offenders carrying less than 2 ounces of marijuana will be able to escape prosecution by performing eight hours of community service or going through a drug awareness class. “We are targeting the people we believe are self-correcting and will be ‘scared straight’ by being handcuffed and transported,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.” The announcement, a month before Anderson faces Democrat Kim Ogg in November’s election for district attorney, brought harangues from the challenger who in August announced her idea for dealing with misdemeanor marijuana possession. “This is not a new plan,” Ogg said. “It’s a ‘me too’ program by a candidate who has shifted her position with the winds of political change.” If elected, Ogg has said, police officers will simply ticket misdemeanor marijuana suspects, even repeat offenders, and require them to spend two days picking up litter around Houston’s bayous.
More than 15 million Britons, nearly one in three of the adult population, have taken illegal drugs and the proportion of the nation who have ever taken drugs is increasing over time; when the Observer last conducted research into national drug usage and attitudes in 2008, 27% of the population had taken illegal drugs. That figure has now increased to 31%. Last time round we noted that, while men were more likely than women to take drugs, the gender gap appeared to be closing, based on a comparison between 2008 and 2002 data. That process is now complete, with both sexes equally likely to have taken drugs. Thirty-one per cent of those currently aged 16-24 have taken drugs but 35- 44-year-olds have been the biggest users of drugs with nearly half (47%) of this age group having taken them. Regionally, rates of drug taking peak in Scotland, where 35% have taken drugs.
Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg invites North-East cannabis campaigners to join national debate [Northern Echo UK]
Pro-cannabis campaigners say an invite to share their views with authorities at a major drugs symposium is a step forward in the journey to legalisation. The founder of the Teesside Cannabis Club (TCC) has welcomed an invite from Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, to participate in the upcoming Future of Drug Policy symposium. The event – taking place at Ramside Hall, near Durham on Thursday, November 27 – will see police, politicians, health experts and academics come together to debate drug policies and potential reform. TCC representatives will share their arguments for the decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis and suggest ways in which the authorities could work with users to save public funds and diminish the influence of drug dealers. Founder John Holiday said: “We’d like to share an open database of people who grow cannabis for personal use with the police, for example.
Norman Baker Says War On Drugs Unwinnable, Calls For ‘Logical And Compassionate’ Approach To Drugs [Huffington Post]
The war on drugs cannot be won, UK crime prevention minister Norman Baker warned today as he called for a “more logical and compassionate” approach to tackling the problem. Instead, he said he was interested in minimising the harm from drugs rather than continuing with a policy based on the “prejudices of yesterday”. The Liberal Democrat told delegates at the party’s conference in Glasgow: “Medicinal cannabis is a very sensible objective to take forward. “Why should people who are ill not have access to medicine which helps them when other medicine doesn’t? And more to the point they are made criminals when they access the cannabis themselves. I support any efforts to make this more logical and more compassionate. Let’s get some facts based compassionate rational evidence for the drugs policy rather the prejudices of yesterday which don’t work.”
Almost as many teenagers smoke cannabis as cigarettes, study finds [The Independent]
Almost as many teenagers and young adults smoke cannabis as cigarettes, a study of the drug’s effects on health has found. Whereas in the 1990s it was regular smokers who tended to start using cannabis, it is now often the other way round following changing attitudes to tobacco, with weed smokers moving on to regular cigarettes. Professor Wayne Hall, from the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London, said that its negative effects should not be underestimated after looking at two decades of data. “Over the past 20 years, we have seen a large increase in the number of people smoking cannabis,” he said. “What’s clear is that cannabis, especially when users smoke it regularly and from a young age, can have a detrimental impact on people’s mental health.” The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that cannabis is less addictive than nicotine, with approximately 9 per cent of users becoming addicted compared to 32 per cent.
“Cannabis: the terrible truth,” is today’s Daily Mail front page splash story. The paper cites the risks posed by cannabis – including a doubling of the risk of schizophrenia – based on research the paper says has “demolished the argument that the drug is safe”. The “terrible truth” is we still don’t know enough about the safety and harms of cannabis because it’s legally and ethically a difficult area to research. However, we can be pretty certain you can’t take a fatal overdose from recreational cannabis use. The headlines in the Mail and several other papers were prompted by the publication of a narrative review of cannabis research by Professor Wayne Hall, an expert adviser on addiction to the World Health Organization. But as this review was not systematic, it is impossible to tell if all relevant studies have been included. And all these conclusions were based on the results of observational studies, which means we can’t tell if cannabis caused all the effects.
Marijuana use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries [Eureka Alert]
Surveying patients with traumatic brain injuries, a group of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) researchers reported today that they found those who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, were more likely to survive than those who tested negative for the illicit substance. The findings, published in the October edition of The American Surgeon, suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said. The study included 446 patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries and underwent a urine test for the presence of THC in their system. The researchers found 82 of the patients had THC in their system. Of those, only 2.4% died. Of the remaining patients who didn’t have THC in their system, 11.5% died.
Senator Lee Rhiannon will launch The man who knew too much at the Waratah Room, NSW Parliament, Tuesday, October 14, 6pm.
The CIA, the MSM and the politics of drugs, guns, money and the news [Online Opinion]
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the suicide of investigative journalist Gary Webb, author of Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, the seminal account of the proliferation in the U.S. of cocaine and its deadly derivative crack. It is timely then that we see the release of the much-anticipated film “Kill the Messenger,”the story of Webb’s brave attempt to blow the lid off the CIA’s complicity in drug smuggling and profiteering throughout the 1980s at the height of the Nicaraguan civil war between the Sandinista government and the U.S.-backed Contra rebels. The revelations of CIA involvement in the active, albeit covert, proliferation of drugs – marijuana, cocaine, heroin in particular – are well documented, albeit not so much on the Agency’s official website. And along with that aspect of its under-the-radar operational “brief” are the illegal arms dealing and money laundering that frequently – and by necessity – accompany such criminal enterprise. All this not to mention the odd murder or three along the way. Even in my country of Australia we were not immune from the CIA’s drug-smuggling, money laundering and gun-running enterprises, as anyone vaguely familiar with the Nugan-Hand Bank Scandal would be aware. The full story behind Nugan-Hand would arguably qualify as Australia’s most complex, and as yet unresolved, mysteries in our criminal and political narrative. But there is little doubt that Nugan-Hand throughout most of the 1970s was up to its dirty spook armpits both in Australia and elsewhere in the very enterprises at the heart of the Webb exposé.
AGAINST “LEGALIZATION” [Hakim Bey]
As a writer, I am distressed and depressed by the suspicion that “dissident media” has become a contradiction in terms – an impossibility. Not because of any triumph of censorship however, but the reverse. There is no real censorship in our society, as Chomsky points out. Suppression of dissent is instead paradoxically achieved by allowing media to absorb (or “co-opt”) all dissent as image. Once processed as commodity, all rebellion is reduced to the image of rebellion, first as spectacle, and last as simulation. (See Debord, Baudrillard, etc.) The more powerful the dissent as art (or “discourse”) the more powerless it becomes as commodity. In a world of Global Capital, where all media function collectively as the perfect mirror of Capital, we can recognize a global Image or universal imaginaire, universally mediated, lacking any outside or margin. All Image has undergone Enclosure, and as a result it seems that all art is rendered powerless in the sphere of the social. In fact, we can no longer even assume the existence of any “sphere of the social. All human relations can be—and are—expressed as commodity relations. In this situation, it would seem “reform” has also become an impossibility, since all partial ameliorizations of society will be transformed (by the same paradox that determines the global Image) into means of sustaining and enhancing the power of the commodity. For example, “reform” and “democracy” have now become code-words for the forcible imposition of commodity relations on the former Second and Third Worlds. “Freedom” means freedom of corporations, not of human societies. From this point of view, I have grave reservations about the reform program of the anti-Drug-Warriors and legalizationists. I would even go so far as to say that I am “against legalization.”