Embassy Headlines, Issue 122

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Cannabis Prohibition is still under trial and it’s costing Australia a fortune.

Money is placed in the hands of dealers and money is spent in trying to enforce the law while more money is made by industries that couldn’t compete with Cannabis as a legal commodity. Who will judge those guilty of exploiting the situation in the Cannabis Trial?

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-122 

It’s doctor’s orders: Haslam slams AMA as fears mount of medical marijuana delay[Northern Daily Leader]

A Tamworth medical marijuana crusader has launched a scathing broadside at the Australian Medical Association (AMA) amid fears cannabis medicine legalisation could be “many years away”. The NSW government this month announced it would conduct clinical trials into marijuana’s effectiveness in treating a range of conditions, a move some are viewing as a delaying tactic to legalisation due to pressure from the powerful doctors’ lobby group. Just 10 weeks out from its trial report deadline, the government is yet to even publicly announce who is on its working party. The AMA is staunchly against legalising – or even trialling – the raw plant or any of its oils for medical use, instead backing only cannabis-based pharmaceuticals. In New Zealand, where cannabis pharmaceuticals are already available, an average prescription costs patients about $1000 a month. Tamworth mum and medical marijuana advocate Lucy Haslam said she suspected the AMA was doing the bidding of large pharmaceutical companies. “I am extremely concerned by the AMA and I believe they are being unhealthily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry,” Mrs Haslam said.


Medical marijuana versus the alternatives … let’s apply logic [Brisbane Times]

Locally, the WA AMA is arguing publicly that we need more research and that medical marijuana is dangerous. To support their case they say, correctly, that there is no evidence for its use in glaucoma and asthma. They make little mention of the two biggest uses for medical marijuana, which are pain and nausea. For many people it is effective in treating this. One argument against its use is that we can treat these problems by other means. And therein lies the rub. Use of prescription opiate painkillers has led to major problems with addiction and there are far more deaths associated with these than with illicit substances. Nausea treatment is not always effective so another option would be useful. Critics, including the AMA, are silent on this. And here is a critical point. It is almost impossible to overdose and kill yourself with marijuana. The other problem with opiate painkillers is that people develop tolerance and then the dose needs to be increased – contributing to overdose and deaths. So the legal option may be less effective and is certainly more dangerous than the illegal alternative.


Marijuana crusaders light up en-masse in Melbourne park [9 News]

A pro-cannabis rally in a Melbourne CBD park has seen people breaking the law, with many in the crowd smoking the drug while pushing for decriminalisation. About 200 campaigners gathered around a tree in Flagstaff Gardens, calling the the drug to be made as legal as tobacco or alcohol. “I think in an ideal world it should be seen the same as any crop, tomatoes or anything,” rally organiser Matt Riley said. In Victoria it is currently illegal to posses marijuana in any way, shape or form. Some believe it should be allowed for personal use. But Victorian Premier Denis Napthine disagrees. “We have no intention whatsoever of decriminalising marijuana or cannabis in the drug smoking form,” he said. Despite knowing about the planned event, uniformed Victoria Police officers were not seen at the rally.


No one’s smoking anything [ABC RN]

It’s estimated thousands of Australians are risking arrest by using cannabis for medical reasons. A national clinical trial has been announced but legalisation could be many years away, and then for expensive pharmaceutical drugs only. Di Martin investigates the science and the politics of medical cannabis.


Wayne Hall: Smoking out facts [MJA InSight]

The media simplify the cannabis policy debate to a choice of two options — either cannabis is harmless and so we should legalise it, or cannabis harms users so we should continue to prohibit its use. This framing, which prevents us getting a clearer view of the adverse health effects of cannabis, has been exemplified by recent UK media coverage of my article published inAddiction. My paper reviewed research conducted in developed countries over the past 20 years on the adverse health effects of cannabis use, particularly use starting in adolescence and continuing through young adulthood, and the psychosocial outcomes of users in their late 20s and early 30s.


Ground-breaking medicinal cannabis trial gets national support [NSW Government]

NSW will lead a collaborative trial, with the support of the Commonwealth and other states and territories, to explore further how cannabis can offer relief to patients suffering from a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses. NSW Premier Mike Baird today welcomed the support of other jurisdictions for the establishment of a ground-breaking clinical trial on medicinal cannabis. “NSW wants to better understand if and how medicinal cannabis can help improve quality of life for seriously ill patients,” Mr Baird said.


Medical cannabis trial a win for all Australians [NZ Doctor]

The President of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) Professor Nicholas Talley today welcomed the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) support of a national clinical trial for medicinal cannabis. “This is great news for patients, the community and the medical community. “We have been urging Australian governments at all levels to invest in research and support further clinical trials as a matter of urgency. Without this evidence it is impossible to weigh the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis, or be able to prescribe its use for patients. “To improve outcomes for patients and their families, we need to strengthen the evidence base regarding the effectiveness and safety of marijuana or other cannabinoids to treat medical conditions and related symptoms.” Professor Talley said.


Liberal ‘no’ to medical cannabis [Examiner Tasmania]

The Tasmanian government will not support a move for legislated protection for people already using medicinal cannabis. The Greens have introduced legislation to create temporary legal defence for users, and parents and carers supplying sick children with medical cannabis. The laws would give legal cover to a person charged with using, possessing or supplying a controlled plant, but would expire after 12 months. Premier Will Hodgman said he was satisfied with comments from police that they had no intention of prosecuting medicinal cannabis users.


Australian Newspaper Instructs How To Make Cannabis Oil [Global Freedom Movement]

It seems that cannabis oil has not always been demonised on the Australian continent. On the 15th November 1845, the following article, directing the Australian reader how to make cannabis oil, was published in The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal. Instructions are given both for making a resinous extract and a tincture from the cannabis indica (Indian Hemp) plant.


Use of synthetic cannabis drops [NDARC, UNSW]

Use of synthetic cannabis has halved among a group of regular stimulant drug users and use of other synthetic drugs appears to have stabilised, a national drugs trends conference will hear today. According to the 2014 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS), which interviewed 800 regular psychostimulant users across Australia to determine trends in drug use, only seven per cent reported using synthetic cannabis in 2014 compared with 16 per cent in 2013. Only three per cent of users reported using the most popular brand Kronic compared with eight per cent in 2013.


Real problem, random response [Unharm!]

Over the last few years, Australian states have begun testing motorists for illicit drugs as well. Driving while impaired by illicit drugs is no less irresponsible than driving under the influence of alcohol. The problem is that there isn’t a test, like breath testing for alcohol, that can measure impairment for other drugs. Given that the tests identify the presence of drug, rather than impairment, then drivers who test positive but are not impaired will unjustly suffer legal consequences, even though they have not acted irresponsibly towards other road users.


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. “The President is confident we can get marijuana legalized pretty easily, given our current political climate,” says one White House senior aide. “This is a topic that Americans really care about. So the idea is to legalize it next summer, when the 2016 election cycle is just getting started. Republicans will have to support President Obama on this, because it’ll kill them in their reelection campaigns or in the presidential race if they try to go after him. They’ll sound like that `Reefer Madness’ movie if they do. It would be a huge turnoff for voters, and that’s how you win this fight.”


State Department’s Top Drug Warrior Says Legalization Must Be Tolerated [Reason]

In remarks to reporters at the United Nations last week, William Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, called for flexibility in interpreting anti-drug treaties, saying signatories must learn to “tolerate different national drug policies,” which means “accept[ing] the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches,” while “other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.” It was a pretty striking departure from the U.S. government’s traditional role as enforcer of prohibitionist orthodoxy. “I would have to take that position,” Brownfield explained. “How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”


Holder “cautiously optimistic” on legal pot [CNN]

The outgoing U.S. attorney general said he is “cautiously optimistic” when it comes to Washington and Colorado’s experiment with marijuana legalization. Eric Holder, who announced last month his plans to retire, is one of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving Cabinet members and has faced the delicate task of defining federal policy after a wave of marijuana legalization at the state level across the country. “We don’t want to put into the federal system, low level people who are simply there for possessory offenses,” Holder said Monday in an interview with CNN’s Evan Perez.


Legalize Marijuana, Then Just Say No [Economics 21]

Yes on 71,” or “Two [mind-altering substances]. Is. Enough. D.C.” These two slogans are used to rally support or build opposition to Washington, D.C.’s ballot initiative 71, which would legalize recreational marijuana. While the slogans are simple, the outcomes of the vote are complex. However, when the two arguments are weighed legalization is the better choice—in terms of economics, safety, and fairness. If passed on November 4, the initiative would end criminal and civil penalties for personal possession, private use, and cultivation of marijuana, within limits (two ounces for possession, no use in public places, and six plants). 


Wagonload of Dreams Seized 1914 [Reform CA]

One hundred years ago this week, the first “marahuana bust” was made in Los Angeles’ Sonoratown neighborhood. The L.A. Times covered the raid, claiming that cannabis led to “murder, suicide and disaster.” One hundred years later, prohibition is still in effect in California but just about nobody believes the propaganda prohibition on display in this article and the movement to end prohibition is stronger than ever.


Oregon marijuana legalization opponent admits he was wrong about children deaths[Oregon Live]

Dr. Ron Schwerzler, who caused an uproar at a Tuesday night debate on marijuana legalization when he claimed that five Colorado children died after consuming the drug, on Wednesday retracted his statement and acknowledged he was wrong. “I really need to retract that statement because I can’t back it up,” said Schwerzler, the medical director at an addictions treatment center in Eugene.  He said he might have been misunderstanding accounts of children who have been hospitalized in Colorado after accidentally eating marijuana-laced candies or other edibles.


Weed express: Marijuana app offers on-demand home delivery [RT]

A new San Francisco smartphone app promises to promptly deliver cannabis right to your door. It’s the latest in a new crop of apps aimed at making access to pot easier.


Made in Glasgow: Cannabis sunglasses from Caledonian University graduate duo receive hefty public backing [Daily Record UK]

Caledonian University graduates went green when they designed a pair of sunglasses made from cannabis. The sunglasses, part of the Hempeyewear brand, are a joint business venture of Sam Whitten and Bradley Smith. Brand designer Smith said: “Part of the inspiration was that hemp is such a versatile material that was used commonly for centuries, yet few people are aware of its properties. “Using industrial hemp to make sunglasses as opposed to say, plastic, has environmental benefits, as it uses the offcuts of a plant that is already chopped down. We just really like the way the material looks and feels, and it has a nice smell to it.” The pair were able to produce the glasses after securing £37,367 through an online crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.


Do the media talk down to teenagers over drugs? [Channel 4 UK]

According to the report, people who use the drug regularly by the age of 15 in particular are putting themselves at risk. But the same study also suggests no link between occasional use and academic achievement. The study, published by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, also warns that it is difficult to distinguish between the impact of cannabis and that of other factors, such as alcohol. And, according to one of its authors, the reporting of studies around drugs such as this can leave young people more confused because the issues are often oversimplified and subject to spin. University College London professor Val Curran said that newspaper reports on the issue were often “as clear as mud”.


The Difference Between Hemp Oil and High-CBD Strains [HighTimes]

Over the course of the past year, cannabidiol, or CBD oil, has quickly become the rock star of the medical marijuana industry because of its ability to treat a variety of conditions — including epilepsy — without exposing patients to intoxicating effects. 

However, the cannabinoid is still illegal in most of the United States, which has provided an opportunity for some hemp businesses to market a variation of knockoff CBD treatments that they claim have the same healing power as popular strains such as Charlotte’s Web. However, after patients began submitting complaints about some of these products, including “Real Scientific Hemp Oil,” claiming they were making them sick, a research firm dedicated to cannabidiol education – called Project CBD – launched a full-blown investigation into the matter. After six months, the organization emerged with a 30-page report entitled “Hemp Oil Hustlers: A Project CBD Special Report on Medical Marijuana Inc., HempMeds and Kannaway,” which began as a curious look into an umbrella penny stock company, but transformed into a dissection of the hemp oil industry and its sometimes shady business practices.


A New Marijuana Plant Without The High? It Could Be Good Medicine [Hemp For Future]

What’s the point of weed that doesn’t get you high, you ask? The new product could potentially fight conditions ranging from schizophrenia to Alzheimer’s disease. The new marijuana isn’t just low-THC ditch weed or hemp by a different name. Tzahi Klein of the Israeli company Tikkun Olam and his colleagues have created a strain of pot that lacks THC but is abundant in cannabidiol (CBD), typically the second most common active compound in cannabis. “It has the same scent, shape and taste as the original plant — it’s all the same — but the numbing sensation that users are accustomed to has disappeared,” Klein told the Israeli paper Maariv. He said that many patients in his studies felt “tricked” because they thought they’d been given a placebo when they smoked it.


‘Marijuana Cures Ebola’ Claim Investigated: Cannabis Researchers Weigh In[International Business Times]

Global research has indicated that marijuana has significant medical potential but cannabis advocates are hampered by legalities regarding widespread use. Ebola studies have concluded that the virus kills by cytokine storm which fatally affects the human body’s immune system. Medical cannabis advocates believe the anti-inflammatory and antiretroviral properties of the substance can reduce the severity of cytokine storm. 


Colorado Thinks It’s Time To Ban Pot Brownies And Other Pot Edibles [Inquistr]

Health officials in Colorado are asking the state’s pot industry regulators to ban pot brownies, pot candies, and indeed most forms of pot edibles from pot retailers’ shelves. According to Yahoo News The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment believes that pot edibles are too attractive to children, and that requirements that prevent pot edibles from being marketed to children don’t do enough to keep the pot edibles out of children’s mouths. Edibles are hugely popular in Colorado’s retail marijuana industry, and can take the form of pot-infused baked goods (such as cookies, brownies, and other snacks), sodas, and even candies. It’s the candies that the Health Department has the biggest problem with.


Marijuana and Your Memory [Leaf Science]

It’s no secret that marijuana can affect a person’s memory. In today’s society, the stereotypical marijuana user is often perceived as someone who is forgetful and absent-minded. But what does science say, and is there any truth behind this popular belief?


Cannabis, Mind Enhancements, and Culture [Sensi Seeds]

After more than 80 years of an almost worldwide prohibition our outlook on marijuana and its mind-altering effects is mostly dominated by fear, ignorance, and disinformation. There are still dozens of myths circulating about the negative effects of marijuana, myths that have been created and spread on purpose for decades now. Many activists have tried to argue against these myths and are fighting to legalize the use of marijuana; but even those liberal minded activist are often ashamed to mention the positive potential of marijuana when it comes to its mind-enhancing effects. It is also a strategical decision. Political arguments are usually based along the lines of proving the incredible usefulness of cannabis as a medicine, or on arguing that the prohibition is detrimental to our whole society. I understand the strategy; both argument lines are true.


To reduce drug-related harm, it’s time to be honest about the pleasure [The Conversation]

Despite the language we use about drugs, many people don’t see themselves as “drug users” but as rational adults who aren’t on a mission to seek moral disintegration and cause themselves harm. People who use drugs are just people who happen to use drugs (they might also do yoga, go the cinema, get degrees, litter the streets or be into base-jumping) – normal people who care about their loved ones, their health and well-being and want to make the most of that wonderful thing that we all share: life.


6 Brave Researchers Busting the Myths Behind Everything We Think We Know About Drugs [AlterNet]

To get the public on board with the violent, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful war on drugs, the government has had to spin some pretty elaborate stories about drugs and their users. The goal has been to strike fear into people about the looming dangers in order to justify militarizing against them. However, thanks to the work of determined researchers who refused to accept these unfounded claims, most of the lies surrounding drugs have been debunked. In recent years the opinion of the American people has shifted to support a public health oriented outlook on drugs. The majority of Americans think cannabis should be regulated like alcohol, and most American medical doctors think medical marijuana should be legal. People everywhere are questioning the validity of sending people to jail for addictions that should be treated like health issues, and many world leaders and top economists now agree that the drug war has been a massive waste of resources and humanitarian disaster.  Behind these shifts in public opinion is the work of a few courageous researchers who study Schedule I, illegal drugs ranging from crack and meth to psychedelics and cannabis despite very real professional stigmas still associated with working with illegal drugs. They’ve exposed a variety of truths about these substances that have  been skewed and hidden for decades.


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