Embassy Headlines, Issue 121

To replace old ideas with new ideas, you need the biochemistry that allows for that to happen.

A capacity to re-evaluate your knowledge and reorganise your brain to incorporate new information. Receptors in your brain are ready to build new neural pathways.

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.


Inaugural Australian Medicinal Cannabis Symposium [Tamworth 21-22 November 2014]

Medicinal cannabis is being re-introduced rapidly around the globe. Australia now faces this challenge – when and how it will allow access to the medicinal use of this important medicine – to provide immediate relief to the pain and suffering to those in need. The purpose of the symposium is to bring together medicinal cannabis experts from around the globe to inform the Australian people, policy makers, medical professionals, patients carers, law enforcement et al – to the immediate need of allowing this treatment.

Tony Abbott: let’s see what we can do with medical marijuana [Guardian]

Tony Abbott has called for state governments to consider legislating for the use of medical marijuana. Abbott says he supports the NSW premier’s push to legalise medical marijuana, and while ‘no one will be tougher on drugs’ than he, Abbott said medical marijuana should be considered for medicinal purposes as various opiates have long been

The Abbott Government Has Signed Off On A National Agreement To Trial Medical Cannabis[Business Insider Australia]

Tony Abbott’s government has thrown its support behind a clinical trial of medical cannabis, with NSW Premier Mike Baird revealing overnight that a deal was struck at last Friday’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. NSW will lead the collaborative trial, with the support of the Commonwealth and other states and territories. The health ministers discussed the issue of medicinal cannabis at their meeting, but reinforced opposition to the recreational use of cannabis and links to mental illness. Premier Baird announced last month that the state government had formed a working group to set up the clinical trial, due to report back by the end of 2014. “A NSW working group is already driving this reform and we welcome the support of the Commonwealth and the states and territories for the conduct of the trial,” he said. “NSW is playing a leadership role but our historic agreement to work collaboratively on this significant issue means we have a far greater chance of success.”

NSW medical cannabis trial could expand interstate after COAG deal flags ‘nationwide approach’ [ABC]

A national deal on a New South Wales trial of medicinal marijuana could open the door to its expansion to other states and territories, with several premiers expressing support for a nationwide approach to the issue. The ACT Government said it would take part in the research, which was announced by the NSW Government last month with the formation of a working group to consider how the trial would be conducted. An agreement brokered at last Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting could also have implications for other states, such as Tasmania and Victoria, where medicinal marijuana has been the subject of recent public and political debate. The Victorian Government said the agreement paved the way for a nationwide approach to medicinal marijuana. It has appointed an expert advisory committee, chaired by Monash University Professor John McNeil, which will meet next week.

Tasmanian Greens propose temporary defence for use and supply of medicinal cannabis[ABC]

The Tasmanian Greens have tabled an amendment bill in State Parliament to provide temporary legal protection for people using medicinal cannabis. The bill also covers parents and carers who provide cannabis to their sick children for 12 months. Greens MP Cassy O’Connor told 936 ABC Hobart people currently faced significant penalties. “We don’t want to see the police go after and prosecute these people, but at the moment the law is really problematic,” she said.

Medicinal cannabis trial no substitute for meaningful reform [Greens]

Australian Greens health spokesperson and Co-convenor of the Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy and Law Reform, Dr Richard Di Natale, said today that a medicinal cannabis trial falls short of the reform we need. “I welcome the fact that every government in the country now recognises that we need to change our approach to medicinal cannabis but a trial alone is not enough,” said Senator Di Natale, a former GP. “Of course we should continue to trial the efficacy of medicinal cannabis for conditions where there is emerging anecdotal evidence but a trial shouldn’t stop people from accessing it where we already have sufficient evidence.

Grower Tony wins appeal against sentence [Macleay Argus]

Mullaways Medical Cannabis proprietor Tony Bower has successfully appealed against a 12-month jail sentence for breaching a good behaviour bond by cultivating cannabis plants. The vocal advocate for the legislation of medicinal cannabis was sentenced in August to 12 months jail for the cultivation of a commercial quantity of cannabis at his property near Crescent Head. On Wednesday, Port Macquarie District Court Judge Paul Conlon issued Mr Bower new penalties including a six-month good behaviour bond, but none of them was imprisonment. Mr Bower told The Macleay Argus he was relieved but he would keep working towards the legalisation of medicinal cannabis.

Medical marijuana ‘obligatory’ [Australian Jewish News]

Legalised medical marijuana “is not only permissible but obligatory to use” if it has a medical benefit, according to one of Australia’s top rabbis. The comments from Rabbinical Council of NSW (RCNSW) president Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, come in the wake of a push for the legalisation of medical marijuana, which has been supported by politicians at all levels of government, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott in recent weeks. “If it’s administered by doctors for medical necessities and controlled, so it will not be used for other purposes it’s allowed by halachah,” Rabbi Ulman said. “I also want to add that if it could help medically it is not only permissible but obligatory to use.”

Underground marijuana industry raises concern over pharmaceutical companies supplying medical crops [ABC]

With several states expressing support for clinical trials of medical marijuana, debate has begun over who will supply the drug. Big pharmaceutical companies and local growers both claim they are best equipped to make the product in Australia. At last week’s COAG meeting, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT all expressed support for clinical trials. Troy Langman, chief executive of medical company Auscann, said his company started in Tasmania but he would move to any state which completed the trials first. “We are poised to go anywhere in the country and we have the financial backing to do so,” Mr Langman said. But NSW Hemp Party president BJ Futter said the underground cannabis oil industry had been supplying cancer patients with cannabis liquids for decades and did not want to be replaced by big pharmaceutical companies. “Our biggest battle isn’t necessarily to get the plant re-legalised, it is to keep the plant as our herb,” Mr Futter said. “This is a community herb. This should not be in the control of people who have a history of not giving people real medicine.”

The business of pot [ABC Lateline]

With four states agreeing to trials of medical marijuana it looks likely that the medical use of cannabis will soon be legalised and some companies are already gearing up to enter a lucrative new industry.

Nimbin rallies against heavy policing [EchoNet Daily]

It takes a lot to anger the peaceful folk of Nimbin, but when it happens, they come out smoking and dancing. In response to recent police raids on the village, the Nimbin Action Group organized a peaceful pot protest which saw about 100 people ‘storm’ the local police station on Saturday, brandishing musical instruments and joints. But without the back-up of the 70-odd officers who swept through the village following the recent fire which gutted iconic buildings, local police chose the path of least resistance by being conspicuously absent from the station.

Strip Searches are Now Routine in New South Wales [Vice]

While the use of drug detection dogs at NSW music festivals is well known, what’s not is that the police are strip searching people throughout the state on a regular basis. Will Tregoning, director of harm reduction organisation, Unharm, said the act states that the searches should be carried out when the “seriousness and urgency of the circumstances require the strip search,” and he questions whether this is the case with these drug searches. There are two main reasons to oppose the strip search operations, explains Tregoning: “The benefits of this program are so small that they don’t justify that level of invasion of privacy, but also… what we’re seeing… is that people who attend these events are very dismissive of police. Programs like this bring the police into disrepute.”

White House Strategizing National Marijuana Legalization in Summer of 2015 [National Report]

According to several sources inside the White House, President Obama instructed his staff over the weekend to begin plotting out a course for the nationwide legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, cleaning up federal statutes, demobilizing the DEA from going after marijuana offenders, and incentivizing states to legalize the popular controlled substance. Obama’s alleged goal is to have marijuana legalized, at least at the federal level, in the summer of 2015, and insiders say Obama is perfectly poised to get it done. 

Obama’s nominee for a top DOJ slot has said states should legalize marijuana. That’s a huge deal [Washington Post]

Obama intends to nominate Vanita Gupta, currently director of the ACLU’s Center for Justice, to lead the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Gupta also currently leads the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration. “The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color,” she wrote in 2011

Marijuana offenders could have records sealed after D.C. Council vote [Washington Post]

District residents who have been convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses could apply to have those criminal records sealed under a bill granted initial approval by the D.C. Council on Tuesday. The change is being considered amid a period of great upheaval for the city’s marijuana laws, which have gone from strict prohibition to the cusp of legalization within a span of months. In March, lawmakers voted to limit the penalties for minor cases of possession to a civil fine no more serious than a parking ticket. Next month, city voters will consider whether to legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use.

Maryland medical marijuana getting down to business [MyFoxDC]

The business of medical marijuana is the focus of a meeting in Bethesda. The Marijuana Policy Project and the National Cannabis Industry Association are sponsoring the seminar Wednesday to educate business people about Maryland’s new medical marijuana law. Speakers include Sharon Bloom who is executive director of the state commission that is developing regulations for implementing the law passed by this year’s General Assembly. The law will enable state residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The law authorizes 15 licensed marijuana growers in the state. The number of marijuana dispensaries hasn’t yet been determined.

Colorado marijuana revenues hit a new high [Washington Post]

New figures from the Colorado Department of Revenue show that recreational marijuana sales continued to climb in August, the most recent month for which data are available. Recreational sales totaled approximately $34.1 million in August, up from $29.3 million the previous month.

8 Months Since Legalizing Marijuana, Here’s What’s Happening in Colorado [Mic]

If you had any doubts as to what would happen when Colorado legalized weed, the state is doing just fine. And making mint, as a matter of fact. Eight months since becoming the first U.S. state to legalize recreational pot, Colorado is seeing record-high sales: According to the latest figures from the Colorado Department of Revenue, recreational sales totaled around $34.1 million in August, up from $29.3 million in July. September also marked the first time that recreational marijuana sales exceeded those of medical marijuana, which advocates see as a sign that the state’s experiment is paying off, with the retail industry taking customers from the black market.

In Colorado, a Rebranding of Pot Inc. [New York Times]

Step into a Colorado pot dispensary at random, and you’ll long for the luxuries of the D.M.V. Metal bars cover windows. Vinyl signs are tacked to walls. Guys in hoodie sweatshirts greet you from behind the counter. Even the act of ordering the product itself is borderline absurd. What grown adult can respectfully walk into a store and ask for an eighth of Green Krack and a nub of Big Buddha Cheese, please? But that experience is changing, thanks to a new breed of entrepreneur in Colorado — young, ambitious and often female — that is trying to reach a more sophisticated clientele in everything from language to packaging to social events. “We’re weeding out the stoners,” said Olivia Mannix, the 25-year-old co-founder of a start-up called Cannabrand, an advertising agency devoted exclusively to marketing marijuana. “We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.”

New at the pot shop: Milder marijuana for novices [9 News]

DENVER – Recreational marijuana sellers are reaching out to novice cannabis users with a raft of edible products that impart a milder buzz and make it easy for inexperienced customers to find a dose they won’t regret taking. The marketing shift is the pot-industry equivalent of selling beer and wine alongside higher-alcohol options such as whiskey and vodka. There’s a new marijuana-infused soda that’s 15 times weaker than the company’s best-known soda. Also new at the pot shop is a light-dose “Rookie Cookie” for people who aren’t used to eating medical-grade pot. Marketing experts say the industry is trying to distance itself from reports of consumers sickened after eating pot. The industry is trying to appeal to new users who may be scared by potent edible marijuana.

Marijuana Legalization Taken To The Next Step [Inquisitr]

Millions of Americans are soon to vote on marijuana legalization in states such as Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. so that penalties may be dropped for marijuana use.

Marijuana Legalization is an Opportunity to Modernize International Drug Treaties [Brookings Institute]

Two U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana, and more may follow; the Obama administration has conditionally accepted these experiments. Such actions are in obvious tension with three international treaties that together commit the United States to punish and even criminalize activity related to recreational marijuana. In essence, the administration asserts that its policy complies with the treaties because they leave room for flexibility and prosecutorial discretion. That argument makes sense on a short-term, wait-and-see basis, but it will rapidly become implausible and unsustainable if legalization spreads and succeeds. To avoid a damaging collision between international law and changing domestic and international consensus on marijuana policy, the United States should seriously consider narrowly crafted treaty changes. It and other drug treaty partners should begin now to discuss options for substantive alterations that create space within international law for conditional legalization and for other policy experimentation that seeks to further the treaties’ ultimate aims of promoting human health and welfare.

Investing In Medical Pot Might Be Illegal [Business Insider]

U.S. investors in Canada’s medical marijuana industry are betting they won’t fall under the scrutiny of U.S. law enforcement officers – but it’s a risky bet. With marijuana still illegal on a federal level in the United States, American investors in Canadian medical marijuana can be seen as violating the Controlled Substances Act, according to some U.S experts. And the use of the banking system to transfer the proceeds of such investments could be seen as money laundering.

Medical Marijuana in the UK: As a doctor, should I be able to prescribe cannabis to my patients? [Independent]

Marijuana didn’t feature in my textbooks when I started Medical School nearly 20 years ago. Then again, I didn’t study the world’s oldest surviving medical text, the 2nd century BC Shen-nung Pen-tshao Ching. This championed the herb in its treatment of “rheumatism, female weakness, absent-mindedness, and malaria”. Meanwhile, the Chinese surgeon, Hua Tuo, (c. 140-208) was the first to use a popular mix of cannabis and wine as an anaesthetic. Had I been a doctor in 1870, vials of marijuana, opium, and alcohol would happily have sat in my briefcase. However, within a decade, hemp would fall out of favour – it was insoluble, unpredictable, and had a short shelf-life. Soon, it would be banned entirely. Now, turn to 2014. Could medical marijuana be making a come back?

This garden can kill: meet the residents of England’s infamous Poison Garden [Science Alert]

This English garden harbours 100 species of toxic plants, including one that acts as an amazing aphrodisiac… right before it knocks you dead. 

New Colombia creates joint venture to produce cannabis and hemp based medicinal products[News Medical]

New Colombia Resources, Inc., a U.S. company with coal and other resource assets in Colombia, is pleased to announce they have formed a joint venture to produce cannabis and hemp based medicinal products in Colombia in association with an indigenous community in Colombia. All of the products are produced on the indigenous reservation and commercialized under the favorable sentence C-176 of 1994 and C-882 of 2011 of the constitutional court. Constitutional Court Resolution 010 of 2013 gives territorial entities, such as indigenous reservations, the right to “govern themselves by proper authority”. Cannabis and hemp based products have been produced and sold by indigenous people in all parts of Colombia for many years. New Colombia’s partner in this venture has been producing these products on indigenous reservations with miraculous results. They have many testimonials from patients who are using these products. They have topical products that treat, cancer, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. The partnership will focus strongly on producing an exceptional strain for Dravet Syndrome, much like Charlotte’s Web. In addition to treating paying patients, New Colombia and its partners will form a foundation to treat underprivileged children with Dravet Syndrome and others.

Morocco, top hash provider, mulls legislation to break marijuana taboo and legalize growing[Globe & Mail]

Morocco’s marijuana farmers live in a strange limbo in which the brilliant green fields are left alone, while the growers themselves face constant police harassment. A new draft law may bring some reprieve: It aims to legalize marijuana growing for medical and industrial uses, a radical idea for a Muslim nation. It could alleviate poverty and social unrest, but the proposal faces stiff opposition in this conservative country, as well as the suspicions of farmers themselves, who think politicians can do nothing help them. Morocco is joining many other countries in the world, as well as some U.S. states, in re-examining drug policies and looking to some degree of legalization. Morocco’s situation is unusual, however, in that Islamic traditions create deep taboos against drugs, despite the centuries-old tradition of growing marijuana in the north. There are some 80,000 families in the northern Rif mountains of Morocco who make their living from growing pot, according to U.N. estimates; the region supplies nearly all of Europe’s hashish and is the world’s top supplier along with Afghanistan. The World Customs Authority reported that in 2013, 65 per cent of hashish seized at customs worldwide came from Morocco. Estimates vary wildly for how much the business is worth but legalization would certainly provide a substantial boost to farmers and to Morocco’s anemic economy, which is forecast to grow by just 2.5 per cent this year.

Lebanon cannabis trade thrives in shadow of Isis war [Guardian]

With war raging against Islamic State (Isis) in Syria and Iraq, illegal marijuana plantations are thriving in neighbouring Lebanon. In the past, the Lebanese government has routinely destroyed the crops, found in the east of the country, but it is now busy battling militants. Farmers say the government’s lack of economic investment in the region has forced people to cultivate the drug.

For the record: “Cannabis can be as addictive as heroin or alcohol” [Sense about Science]

Articles in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegrah on 7th October claimed “cannabis can be as addictive as heroin or alcohol.” In fact, the study on which the articles are based shows that cannabis is less addictive than heroin or alcohol. Dr Wayne Hall, Director and Inaugural Chair, Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland, and author of the study explained: “I found that daily cannabis use over years and decades increases the risk of developing dependence on cannabis in the sense of losing control over cannabis use and users experiencing difficulty stopping despite knowing that their use is harming them. The risks of developing dependence were around 1 in 10 for anyone who used cannabis compared to 1 in 3 for tobacco smokers, 1 in 4 for heroin users and 1 in 6 for alcohol users. “I did say that there are more people in Australia seeking help to quit cannabis than heroin. This is for the simple reason that a lot more Australians have used cannabis than have used heroin.”

World’s First Precision Medical Marijuana Inhaler Hopes To Remove Stigma Of Smoking The Green Stuff [No Camels]

If you ask Syqe Medical – creator of the world’s first 3D-printed hand-held cannabis inhaler – doctors prescribing joints for medical marijuana patients is old news. Until now patients had to make do with smoking or ingesting the sticky green stuff, which often leads to inaccurate dosage and negative stigma, but Syqe, which vaporizes tiny granules of cannabis in doses as small as 1 milligram,  is aiming to give doctors and patients more control over treatment.

36 Famous and Funny Quotes About Drugs [HighTimes]

“If God dropped acid, would he see people?” – Steven Wright


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