Embassy Headlines, Issue 125


Denver, Colorado would have a been a more relaxed place to hold a G20 Economic Summit. The economy in Colorado shows what happens when Cannabis becomes a legal commodity. Employment opportunities exist in the Cannabis Industry for bud tenders and tourist guides.

The billions of dollars that could be redirected from illegal trade to local business should put Cannabis law reform on top of the G20 agenda, but there are still plenty of jobs in prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco and law enforcement industries.

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.

Vic headed towards medical marijuana  [Yahoo 7 News]

No matter who wins the state election, Victoria is heading into what was until recently a political no-go zone – legal access to medical marijuana. No longer left to fringe parties or the Greens, the issue now has a form of bipartisan support from the major parties. It was the stories of Victorian families turning to cannabis oil and seeing improved quality of life for their seriously ill children that brought the issue into the political mainstream. Liberal, Labor and even the Australian Sex Party are now in rough alignment on the issue. Fiona Patten, an Australian Sex Party candidate in the Victorian election, said the major parties were adjusting to a shift in community attitudes in recent years. “The climate is now completely different and, I think, what we’re seeing is a vast majority of people believe that medical marijuana should be available,” Ms Patten told AAP. “The debate now is looking at the model of how to do this.” Ms Patten points to Canada where access is controlled by a patient’s doctor, growers are licensed, and the product is medical-grade “not grown in someone’s backyard”.

Tamworth’s first cannabis symposium [702 ABC Sydney]

It was March this year; a most unlikely family started a most unlikely campaign. In the court yard of a coffee shop in Tamworth, I sat opposite local Mum Lucy Haslam and she told me about her son 24 year old Dan who was dying of cancer. She explained how he had recently found that cannabis offered him some relief to the nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite caused by his chemotherapy. Since then Lucy, Dan and their family have been on an incredible journey, calling on the NSW Government to adopt the findings of its own upper house parliamentary inquiry and decriminalise cannabis for the critically and terminally ill. Seven months later I caught up with Lucy in the courtyard of her cafe again. In that time there has been significant change, the NSW government is now onboard with a trial of the drug for the sick and dying and Lucy is organising an Australian first symposium on medicinal cannabis.

Here’s What It Will Take For The Marlboro Of Marijuana To Emerge [Business Insider Australia]

The legal cannabis industry is run by minnows. As liberalisation spreads, that may not last.  “FRESH and fruity, right?” says a bright-eyed young man behind the counter, wafting an open jar of something called “AK-47″ under Schumpeter’s nose. “Whereas with this one”, – unscrewing another jar, fanning the scent up to his nostrils and closing his eyes in concentration – “I’m getting notes of dill.” Drug dealers aren’t what they used to be. In Colorado, which in January became the first place in the world fully to legalise cannabis, buying a joint feels more like visiting a trendy craft-brewery than a drug den. Dispensaries along Denver’s “green mile” are packed with young, bearded men earnestly discussing the merits of strains with names like “Bio-Jesus” and “Death Star”. Some varieties claim to be inspirational, while others say they promote relaxation, or “couch-lock”, as the tokers call it. Colorado’s pot industry expects to rack up sales of $US1 billion this year. Across America the market is reckoned to be worth about 40 times that much. Most of it is still illegal, of course. But slowly, entrepreneurs are prising it out of the hands of crime gangs. Nearly half the 50 states permit the sale of marijuana to medical patients, which in practice may include anyone willing to fake a back problem. This week Oregon and Alaska joined Colorado and Washington in legalising it for recreational purposes, too. If other countries legalise, as Uruguay already has, it could open up a global cannabis market worth perhaps $US100 billion a year (by the best guesses, which are stabs in the dark). Who will corner that market? In Colorado a gold rush of excitement has seen hundreds of tiny firms sprout up.

Marijuana Legalization May Be Souring Attitudes Toward The Drug, Says Gallup Poll [Inquisitr]

Even though marijuana users around the country began to gleefully rejoice when marijuana legalization not only began to make headway for its medical properties but also for the freedom to consume it recreationally, new Gallup poll numbers show the war for marijuana acceptance is not nearly yet won. While Americans now favor legalization in the majority, it is only by a small factor — 51 percent say that you should be able to buy and sell pot legally. That figure, however, is stunningly low in contrast to last year’s rocket to 58 percent following recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado.

Smoke clearing over cannabis laws [Sydney Morning Herald]

The United States has probably overtaken Australia in two controversial areas of law reform: the recognition of unions between same-sex couples, and the progressive decriminalisation of cannabis. In both countries, however, the problem is bedevilled by issues of federalism, and different views in various states, compared with the view in the national capital. In both Australia and the US, federal governments are adamantly opposed to liberalisation of the law. It’s treated as a moral issue, as some treat same-sex marriage. America has a self-appointed lead role in the so-called international War Against Drugs, and its activism about maintaining a vigorous and busy anti-drug industry, and with a tendency to treat all illegal drugs as equally bad, is perhaps the primary factor in maintaining the profits of the illegal drug trade.

‘We need to be smarter, not harder in the way we deal with drugs’  [In The Mix]

In light of the tragic death at Harbourlife this past weekend, Will Tregoning – spokesperson from activist group Unharm – explores how our drug laws have failed us, and how we can work together to help prevent such tragedies in the future. Unharm works towards drug harm reduction through targeted campaigns such as lobbying police to trial different tactics to sniffer dogs at music festivals to reduce panic overdoses, and to shift drug law focus from prosecution towards education and harm reduction.

The Life of a Pot Critic: Clean, With Citrus Notes [NY Times]

Jake Browne was seated in a yellow suede chair, carefully rotating a marijuana bud between his fingers. “I’m looking for bugs, mildew, things I wouldn’t want to ingest,” he said, leaning forward to hold the nickel-size flower up to the light. He paused, then took a sip of water from a cup with a Miley Cyrus hologram down its side. “This looks clean,” he concluded. Mr. Browne, 31, held the bud up to his nose and inhaled. Then he opened his computer. “Faint lemony sweetness,” he typed, before loading the pot into a small glass pipe. “I usually will take one, maybe two hits,” he said as he fired up the bowl. “I’m looking for how it burns, the taste, if it’s flushed well — meaning you don’t want to taste the fertilizers or chemicals.” He exhaled, waited and then turned to his computer again. “Head high. No initial body effect,” he wrote. This is Mr. Browne’s job (or, at least, one of his jobs). The longtime resident of Colorado — where marijuana has been legal since January — is a comedian, a producer and a founder (with his fiancée) of a mail-order subscription box for hemp products.

Winning the battle, losing the war [The Economist]

Online forums were abuzz on November 6th with the news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had seized and closed down Silk Road 2.0. The site was one of the largest dark-net marketplaces—online bazaars, accessible only through anonymising software called TOR—where drugs and other illegal items can be purchased. The FBI also announced that they had arrested the person they believe to be “Defcon”, the site’s administrator. In what looks to have been a co-ordinated sting operation, several smaller dark-net markets were also reported to have been busted, including Cloud9 and Hydra.

Surprise: the drug war isn’t about drugs [EchoNet Daily]

If drug criminalisation is a public safety issue — about fighting violent crime and gangs, or preventing overdoses and poisoning — shutting down Silk Road is one of the dumbest things the feds can do. Silk Road was a secure, anonymous marketplace in which buyers and sellers could do business without the risk of violence associated with street trade. And the seller reputational system meant that drugs sold on Silk Road were far purer and safer than their street counterparts. This is true of all the other selling points for the Drug War. Hillary Clinton, in possibly one of the stupidest remarks ever uttered by a human being, says legalising narcotics is a bad idea ‘because there’s too much money in it’ — referring, presumably, to the lucrative drug trade and the cartels fighting over it.

Online drug markets step up security  [Yahoo 7 News]

Online drugs markets are ramping up security amid threats from hackers and law enforcement agencies, new research suggests. US authorities last year shut down Silk Road, an eBay-style “dark market” website which allowed users to buy and sell illegal drugs, firearms and forged documents using the Bitcoin digital currency. A successor website, Silk Road 2.0, was seized by authorities last week along with more than 400 web services operating on the privacy-protecting Tor network. But researchers from the University of NSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) say more than 20 new drug markets have emerged over the past 12 months. The centre monitors retailer and listing figures on dark web markets, which provide shipping to Australia, while observing discussion forums to track new markets.

There’s Already A Silk Road 3.0 [Business Insider UK]

Hours after the FBI seized the Silk Road 2.0, the deep web’s infamous illegal drug marketplace, there’s already another version of the site on the internet.  Blake Benthall, 26, was arrested in San Francisco on Wednesday, and is accused of running the Silk Road 2.0. Prosecutors claim that minutes after his arrest, he admitted to running the Silk Road 2.0 marketplace. That was the second version of the site, which came online weeks after the original Silk Road was shut down on Oct. 2, 2013. But hours after the latest version of the Silk Road was seized by police, another version went online, claiming to be the third incarnation of the site. Of course, with the Silk Road’s track record, it doesn’t look likely that this one is here to stay.

Behind the CBD Gold Rush [HighTimes]

CBD continues to excite the imaginations of scientists, patients, neo-prohibitionists and get-rich-quick schemers alike. The market is flooded with CBD-only elixirs and many who point to them as a rational compromise to legalization don’t seem to know or care where they come from, what’s in them, or whether they are actually the best medicine for the ailments they purport to target. This gold-rush mentality has left the door open for the political and financial exploitation of this “miracle molecule” that seems to mean all things to all people. Politicians who are afraid of legalizing marijuana, but who don’t want to appear to their constituents as withholding medicine from those in need, are sponsoring CBD-only bills, and companies that want to avoid the legal issues related to marijuana—still an illegal, schedule 1 narcotic in the eyes of the Federal government—are jumping on the CBD bandwagon, despite the fact that CBD is still, technically, as illegal as plain, old-fashioned marijuana. (Due to the supportive political climate behind medical marijuana, the Feds have not been targeting CBD-only medicine, but until the laws change, it is within their jurisdiction to do so.) There is quite a bit of confusion regarding CBD, even in the circles that support it. Project CBD, founded in 2010 by two journalists, Martin A. Lee and Fred Gardner, is an organization dedicated to helping people make sense of this misunderstood molecule, and to promoting the science behind medical marijuana.

Cautions scrapped in system revamp [Mail Online UK]

Cautions are set to be scrapped in England and Wales as part of an overhaul of out-of-court disposals. Ministers want to replace existing disposals available to police officers, which include cautions and cannabis warnings, with a new two-tier approach requiring offenders to take one or more actions. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the revamp, which at the bottom-end would see offenders writing an apology to victims or repairing damages but could see more serious offences being fined, removes the “soft option”.

Uruguay cannabis growers’ clubs: Registration begins [BBC News]

Uruguay has started registering cannabis growers’ clubs as part of the government’s plan to legalise the drug. Licensed clubs of up to 45 members will be allowed to grow a maximum of 99 plants each year. In August, growing up to six plants of cannabis at home became legal. Uruguay legalised the production and sale of cannabis last December and the government hopes to sell it from pharmacies in the new year.

Breaking: Ordinary People Use Recreational Drugs [Drug War Journalism]

It’s high time we were honest with ourselves about the kind of people who use drugs and why. Every time a teenager dies at the hands of our prohibitionist policies, newspapers rush to make excuses for their drug use, as though excuses needed to be made. They were peer-pressured, or misinformed, or in the case of Australia’s most recent high profile drug death, it was simply “out of character.” Apparently it is never the case that they are intelligent human beings who made an informed choice about how to live their lives. The popular understanding of drug use and drug users is a farce, and people like Georgina Bartter must be explained away to preserve it.

Our growing addiction to prescription painkillers [ABC Health & Wellbeing]

Prescription painkillers are some of the most commonly misused drugs in Australia. So why are doctors prescribing these medications in increasing numbers? And how can people with chronic pain safely use prescription opioids? When talking about the problems of illicit drug use in Australia, conversations will tend to focus on ice, heroin, ecstasy and similar drugs. But one class of drugs rarely gets a mention, despite the fact that it’s now overtaking heroin as the cause of calls to drug treatment services. Perhaps that’s because there’s a good chance you’ve tried it, and a very good chance that your doctor prescribed it to you. Prescription pain-relieving opioids, such as morphine and oxycodone, are fast becoming the top drugs of misuse in Australia. For example, one Victorian alcohol and drug counselling helpline now receives more than twice as many calls about prescription opioids as they do about heroin. At the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, more than three times as many visits each month are for the injection of crushed opioid tablets when compared to heroin. Prescription opioids are not only an issue in Australia. In the United States, prescription opioids have earned the nickname ‘hillbilly heroin’, and their public health impact is now being likened to that of diabetes.

Heavy marijuana use shrinks your brain but compensates by making more connections[Science Alert]

The first comprehensive investigation into the effects of long-term marijuana use has revealed that while the drug appears to shrink a certain part of the brain in heavy users, their brains will actively compensate for it by increasing connectivity – especially if they started using it young.

November: Medical Marijuana Research Month  [MAPS]

Medical Marijuana Research Month is a chance for customers at dispensaries nationwide to make a donation during the month of November to support the research of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). This is the inaugural year of an annual drive for cannabis research. Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit research into the therapeutic use of cannabis. MAPS is currently getting ready to start an FDA-approved study of cannabis to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Learn more about the research here. Deciding on November as Medical Marijuana Research Month was the idea of Tahoe Wellness Center, which in 2013 independently raised $4,000 for medical marijuana research. Do you manage or own a dispensary or retail establishment that would like to participate? Complete our Enrollment Form.

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