Embassy Headlines, Issue 127

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The old saying goes; “Don’t let the fox guard the hen-house” and that sure sums up the current proposed legislation on Cannabis for medical purposes.

The so called “Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Act 2014” is designed to retain prohibition and give control of supply to the Government. A step in the right direction for exploiting those already suffering and keeping a ‘healthy’ black market.

Criminal charges for possession are not acceptable.

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.

Petition – Ditch the Dogs [UnHarm]

Drug dog operations in public places increase the risks of harm and do little or nothing to stop the supply of drugs. It’s time to ditch the dogs.


Medical marijuana bill before Senate [Sydney Morning Herald]

Senators from across the political divide have endorsed a bill to set up a regulator to oversee the farming and production of marijuana for medical use. Legislation was introduced to the Senate on Thursday to establish a Regulator for Medical Cannabis and create a tightly controlled farming regime for marijuana. The system is not dissimilar to poppy cultivation in Tasmania for medical opiates. The bill has broad support and was co-sponsored by Liberal senator Ian Macdonald, Labor senator Anne Urquhart, Australian Greens senator Richard di Natale and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm. Senator di Natale read the names of those sponsoring the bill twice to stress the rare cross-party endorsement. “For the benefit of Hansard, that’s not a mistake,” he joked, prompting chuckles in the chamber. The regulator would determine what conditions under which marijuana products could be prescribed to a patient. But a doctor’s discretion would still play a big part and medical practitioners could choose not to prescribe such products.


Medical marijuana legalisation ‘closer’ [Brisbane Times]

The legalisation of medical marijuana is creeping closer – albeit “cautiously”. Queensland Coalition Senator Ian Macdonald said he would co-sponsor the Regulator of Medical Cannabis Bill when it is introduced to the federal Senate on Thursday, but indicated he would not automatically support every part of the bill. Produced by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy and Law Reform, the bill seeks to introduce medical cannabis trials. Senator Macdonald said he believed attitudes were changing and the time was right to debate the issue.


NSW ‘can lead world’ in medicinal cannabis  [Yahoo 7 News]

There is no reason why NSW can’t lead the world in developing a system for supplying medicinal cannabis, Premier Mike Baird says. At a symposium in Tamworth on Friday, Mr Baird flagged three clinical trials of medicinal cannabis, saying they wouldn’t be confined to the terminally ill. The announcement follows the decision by his government last month to decriminalise the usage of cannabis by terminally ill patients.


Mike Baird ‘open’ to government-grown marijuana [Sydney Morning Herald]

The NSW Premier says his government is considering growing its own marijuana, as part of a clinical trial that the government’s medical advisers have advocated be extended to child patients. Announcing a clinical trial and the possible future decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis, Mike Baird initially spoke in terms of its benefits for the terminally ill. But at a medical marijuana symposium in Tamworth on Friday morning, Mr Baird confirmed trials would be for a wider range of conditions. “We’re going to outline three trials, not just to the terminally ill,” he said. A spokeswoman for Mr Baird would not elaborate on the conditions of those trials.  But Fairfax Media can reveal the working group appointed to develop guidelines for the trial has endorsed the inclusion of children with pediatric epilepsy, an option once thought to be off the table.


Drug surveillance operations an abject failure [The Age]

It’s time to look critically at how we deal with illicit drugs. If we continue to exaggerate the impact of superficially tough and expensive responses, it will only ensure continued failure, write Nicholas Cowdery and Alex Wodak.


Medical marijuana: effects on epilepsy need to be tested, expert tells Brisbane symposium [Yahoo 7 News]

Testing marijuana’s effectiveness as an epilepsy treatment will be no easy accomplishment, a Brisbane symposium has heard. But Griffith University neurologist and researcher Professor Roy Beran told the Queensland Epilepsy Symposium on Thursday tests were essential because there was no other effective treatment for some epileptic syndromes. Anecdotal feedback from epilepsy sufferers and their families suggested marijuana could alleviate symptoms in some cases.


Ask Fuzzy: Beliefs trump evidence in medicinal marijuana debate [Sydney Morning Herald]

A spokeswoman for the National Institute of Drug Abuse, an arm of the US government, said, “We don’t fund studies that might make cannabis look good, only studies that might make it look bad.” US government attitudes strongly influence other countries, including Australia.


Medical marijuana: Tasmania rejects call for immediate decriminalisation  [The Guardian]

An interim parliamentary report calls for immediate decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis, but government says no. The Tasmanian government has rejected the recommendation of an interim parliamentary report calling for the immediate decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis. A joint upper house committee report tabledon Thursday said state laws should be changed on compassionate grounds so users with a legitimate medical need were not prosecuted. The health minister, Michael Ferguson, said Tasmania would continue to work with other states to explore the potential use of cannabis-derived products for medicinal purposes, but that legislation will not be changed in the meantime. “Advice from Tasmania police is it’s not necessary and could potentially create a new set of problems, including opening up the risk that people would self-medicate, with no licensing or limit to quantity,” he said in a statement.


Interim Report on Legalised Medicinal Cannabis [Parliament of Tasmania]

Interim Report – Parliament of Tasmania Inquiry into Medical Cannabis


Proving Cannabis – A History of Nineteenth Century Medical Marijuana [Points]

“During the month of September, 1862, I took Cannabis on various occasions,” confessed Dr. W. A. D. Pierce in the pages of American Journal of Homoeopathic Materia Medica and Record of Medical Science nearly a decade later. He did so “with the purpose of gaining, through the intoxicating influence of the drug, an insight into the phenomena of Somnambulism, Delirium and Mania, in connection with my researches in Psychology.” Pierce was not alone. Following the formal introduction of cannabis to American medicine in 1840, medical journals were filled with pages and articles recounting the self-administration and experimentation of physicians and their patients. Indeed, while autobiographical accounts of drug use like De Qunicy’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater or Fitz Hugh Ludlow’sThe Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean often garner the most attention on the matter, medical doctors were often experimenters themselves – especially when it came to cannabis.


Victoria election: Call to tax and regulate recreational marijuana [The Age]

I’m probably the only leader of a registered political party in Victoria who admits to occasionally smoking marijuana. Statistically, more than one-third of candidates running for election on Saturday have used marijuana at one time or another. The same would be true for current members in the Victorian Parliament. In this respect I’m no different from the other 450,000 Victorians who regularly enjoy a smoke or a vape. So why are we still living like pariahs, under threat of heavy fines and even jail sentences, for indulging in such a relatively harmless and widespread practice? In 2010-11, Victoria gave 5570 of its citizens a criminal record, simply for possessing marijuana for their own use. We gave another 1574 a more severe criminal record for selling marijuana to the nearly half a million Victorian smokers who want it. It’s a disgrace. Just ask the parents of these kids if they deserved a criminal record for getting stoned. Victoria has the highest arrest rate for possession of cannabis of any state in Australia. We pursue dope smokers far more vigorously than we chase cocaine users. 


Strong support for medical cannabis trial in ACT: survey [ABC]

About 80 per cent of Canberrans support the idea of a clinical trial for medical marijuana use, a survey has found. The data showed support for medical cannabis trials was higher in the ACT than in any other state or territory, outstripping the national average of 74.7 per cent. It also found 74.4 per cent of ACT people said they supported a change in legislation permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, compared with a national average of 69.1 per cent. The figures are detailed in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)’s national drug survey of 24,000 people across Australia in 2013.


Medical marijuana, euthanasia, prostitution, same-sex marriage — survey finds strong support for social change [The Australian]

Every time Charlotte Elliott has an epileptic seizure, her dad, like any parent, wishes he could heal her.  He has spoken to countless experts, contacted other parents, read studies and reports in his quest to find something that could help her — and his research has led him to medical marijuana. Mark Elliott, 44, has become an outspoken campaigner for the cause. His daughter Charlotte, 8, has febrile infection-related epileptic syndrome (FIRES) and at her worst can suffer up to 40 seizures a week. He said cannabidiol — the medical-form of marijuana which has been distilled from the plant and has no psychoactive properties — had been shown to reduce seizures where other medicines had proven ineffective.


E-cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes under new Queensland law [Brisbane Times]

Electronic cigarettes and their tobacco counterparts are now considered equal in the eyes of the Queensland government, which has changed laws to ensure if you can’t smoke there, you also can’t vape.  Vaping has become such a popular alternative to tobacco cigarettes, the term “vape” was crowned the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries earlier this week. They have been touted as a healthier alternative to heritage smokes, because instead of using tobacco leaf and the associated ingredients found in cigarettes, e-cigarettes heat liquor nicotine which the user inhales as a vapour. Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said while he believed there was still uncertainty over the device’s health risks and effectiveness as a quit-aid, the government wasn’t looking to ban them outright. Instead, they will now be treated the same as other tobacco products. “The intent is to capture all devices that create a vapour that is inhaled into the lungs, regardless of how they operate an whether or not they contain nicotine. Medical devices, such as asthma inhalers, will remain exempt.  Bongs, hookah and ice-pipes are not included in the new laws because they are dealt with under different legislation.


The twilight state of the NZ Psychoactive Substances Act [Public Address]

Even as it was making its way to the statutes,
 New Zealand’s Psychoactive Substances Bill was the talk
 of the drug reform world. It was seen as a bold, visionary bid to deal with the proliferation of new drugs that fell outside existing laws 
and address the harms of an unregulated market. It was all the more remarkable that the reform was being championed by a former drug warrior in Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne. When our Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Act last year with but a single vote against, it seemed New Zealand had taken a remarkable initiative. And then, only months into the new world, the government rushed through an amendment that cut off a protracted interim licensing phase, halted the legal sale of all psychoactive substances and made any future approval much more challenging. It happened so quickly that one journalist landed here with a story commission from a major American magazine, knowing reform had been cut short after she’d booked her flights. It is reasonable to ask now whether the new law even has a viable future, given the turn in the political mood. The answer to that question depends on how you ask it.


Global Drug Survey 2015: pros and cons of internet drug trade [Sydney Morning Herald]

A person claiming to be the administrator of another marketplace, Middle Earth, told a darknet blog that vendors had rushed to his site after the shutdown of Silk Road 2.0. Listings on his site doubled to 400 within 48 hours. “After the busts, new users count went through the roof and to my delight, the big vendors started knocking at my door,” said the administrator, who identified as “the Hobbit”.


Big illicit drug seizures don’t lead to less crime or drug use, study finds [Sydney Morning Herald]

Large-scale seizures of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines by police do not reduce the number of overdoses or arrests for possession and use of the drugs, according to the largest Australian study ever conducted into the area. The study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) also found that the frequency and quantity of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines being seized by authorities had no effect on theft, robbery and assault figures. However, the authors warn against concluding that this means the pursuit of large scale drug busts is a waste of time and money as the risks associated with being caught continue to keep prices high and a lid on the amount consumed. “It shows it’s probably better to spread fear and loathing among drug traffickers than focusing on increasing the amount of drugs that are seized,” said BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn. The study, to be published on Thursday, examined all significant seizures of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines in Australia between July 2001 and June 2011. This data was tracked against emergency room admissions for drug overdose and arrests for drug use and possession over the same period.


Veterans May Gain Easier Access To Medical Marijuana [Huffington Post]

A bill introduced in Congress would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana for their patients. The Veterans Equal Access Act. Introduced Thursday by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) with 10 bipartisan cosponsors, would lift a ban on VA doctors giving opinions or recommendations about medical marijuana to veterans who live in states where medical marijuana is permitted.  “Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” Blumenauer said. “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.” Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD and depression, according to a 2012 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some scientists have suggested that marijuana may help PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. In a recent study, patients who smoked cannabis saw an average 75 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms.


Overlooked Colorado law opened door to pot credit union charter [Denver Post]

If not for a quirky bit of law passed by Colorado legislators 33 years ago, during the dawn of the savings and loan crisis, the world’s first credit union for the marijuana industry would not have been a possibility so soon. Discovered by organizers of the Fourth Corner Credit Union soon after a morale-dropping phone call with federal regulators, the law appears to allow a credit union to open for business — perhaps as soon as Jan. 1 — while awaiting approval of required federal insurance. That small distinction fundamentally changed how Colorado’s commissioner of financial services approached Fourth Corner’s application.


Pot sellers woo Christmas shoppers in Colorado [News]

The burgeoning marijuana industry in Colorado is scrambling to get a piece of the holiday shopping dollar.  Dispensaries in many states have been offering holiday specials for medical customers for years — but this first season of open-to-all-adults marijuana sales in some states means pot shops are using more of the tricks used by traditional retailers to attract holiday shoppers. Just as traditional retailers sell some items below cost to drive traffic and attract sales. Recreational marijuana retailers are doing the same. The Grass Station in Denver is selling an 1 ounce (28 gram) of marijuana for $US50 ($58) — about a fifth of the cost of the next-cheapest strain at the Colorado dispensary — to the first 16 customers in line FridaySaturday and Sunday.


Meet Sparc, The Apple Store Of Marijuana Shops [Business Insider Australia]

When you walk into Sparc, a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco, you may have to do a double take before you realise they’re selling weed. “If you walk into any other business, whether it’s a restaurant or food service business, they put a lot into the atmosphere and customer service,” Robert Jacob, Sparc’s executive director, tells CNBC. “Sparc wanted to do the same.” The clean, well-lit interior is lined with thick, modern pale wood shelving similar to an Apple retail location, or modern clothing store. And rather than being housed in mismatched boxes, the marijuana is organised uniformly in large, clear plastic cases. The small, clear circular containers are organised in precise rows with well designed labels.


Marijuana Edibles Billboard About Education, Not Legislature, Advocate Says [Denver Westword]

Earlier today, a new billboard encouraging responsible storage of marijuana edibles was introduced by the Marijuana Policy Project; see more images below. MPP spokesman Mason Tvert stresses that the display is part of an ongoing educational campaign and shouldn’t be interpreted as message to legislators, who’ll be making decisions about edibles packaging after a working groupessentially punted following many weeks of work on the issue.


Marley Natural: The Weed That Manages to Sell Out Both Bob Marley and Jamaica [Vice]

When an American private equity firm led by a team of white, Yale-educated go-getting fitness freaks – i.e. people who are probably as un-Rasta as it is possible to be – ​announced they had made Bob Marley the face of the world’s first cannabis brand this week, the reaction in the reggae superstar’s homeland was somewhat muted. The newspapers, internet and radio phone-ins were not abuzz with chatter, perhaps because people have long seen this piece of bad news coming. For many in Jamaica, a country desperate to revive its battered economy, the announcement that Privateer Holdings are aiming to make Marley the “Marlboro man of marijuana” was like watching their nation’s golden goose dust itself off, flap its wings and head off over the horizon to America – or, as Bob himself called it, the land of “pure devilry”. Marley Natural, a range of marijuana-related products including lotions and “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains”, tellingly has a logo designed by the people who did the Starbucks mermaid. If US anti-ganja laws continue to fall like dominos, as many think they will, it’s a product that could mean Marley leapfrogs Michael Jackson to become ​the richest dead man ever.


Vice Wars: Tobacco, Alcohol and the Rise of Big Marijuana [NBC News]

Drug reformers always dreamed of a world where users were safe and dealers were free. Then that world arrived, at least in the states where marijuana is legal. Now they see a new nightmare on the horizon: Big Pot.  The specter of corporate cannabis loomed large on Tuesday, when the family of Bob Marley appeared on NBC’s Today Show, announcing the creation of Marley Natural. The world’s first global brand of marijuana launched with the support of $50 million dollars in private equity and the same marketing machine that took Starbucks to the masses.  “We see the inevitability of large, well-run companies to sell cannabis,” said Brendan Kennedy, the CEO of Privateer Holding, the Seattle-based company that’s behind the Marley brand. “That train left the station a long time ago.”


Alcohol is far more deadly than cannabis, former minister Norman Baker says  [Independent UK]

Alcohol is a much greater threat to people’s health than cannabis, former Home Office minister Norman Baker has warned, saying its dangers are being underplayed. Pointing to figures that show there were only 13 deaths related to cannabis use last year compared with more than 7,000 caused by alcohol, the Lib Dem MP says there is “hysteria” over drug use in the UK. Mr Baker, who resigned from the Home Office after saying that the experience of working with Theresa May was like “walking through mud”, said he had been shocked to learn of the extent of Britain’s drinking culture during his year as Crime Prevention Minister. His battles included trying to shut down a JD Wetherspoon motorway pub on the M40, a move allegedly blocked by Number 10, and calling on shops to stop “irresponsible” alcoholic drinks promotions.


The Largest Hempseed Processing Plant In The World Now Under Construction  [Hemp for Future]

The largest hempseed processing plant in the world is under construction south of Winnipeg. Hemp Oil Canada, which produces hempseed oil, hemp protein and hemp flour, announced the construction of a $13.6 million plant in Ste. Agathe Sept. 26. President Shaun Crew said the new facility would triple Hemp Oil Canada’s existing production capacity of three million pounds a year. “This will boost us to well over nine million lb., once we enter the facility,” Crew said during a news conference. “Within the facility there is still room for more equipment, so growth is inevitable.”


Cannabis legalisation returns to Swiss agenda [Swiss Info]

Switzerland has always played a pioneering role in drug policy. In 1986, it was the first to open shelters for addicts and in 1994 it medically prescribed heroin. Today, its cities are looking at introducing cannabis social clubs – a controversial issue. Former interior minister Ruth Dreifuss, nicknamed “dealer of the nation” for introducing ground-breaking drug policies, is one of the figureheads of the country’s legalisation campaign. One of her suggestions is to set up cannabis clubs, a concept her native Geneva is spearheading in Switzerland. Larger cities like Geneva, Bern, Basel and Zurich have created an expert working group to map out the details for a potential pilot project.


Guatemala May Legalize Marijuana in 2015 [teleSUR TV]

The country’s President tells teleSUR that a decision on legalizing marijuana will be made in 2015, while also acknowledging that Guatemala faces a serious emigration problem. In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina said that his government would follow the example of Uruguay by taking a decision on legalizing marijuana in early 2015. ​Given his ties to Guatemala’s conservative sectors, his call for the legalization of drugs while President has stirred great controversy, while also highlighting that the issue has increasing appeal across the political spectrum in Latin America.


Vape named as Oxford English Dictionary’s 2014 word of the year [ABC]

The Oxford English Dictionary named “vape” – the word used for the act of drawing on an electronic cigarette instead of a burning stick of tobacco – as its 2014 word of the year. “You are 30 times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year,” Oxford staff editors said. The 2013 word of the year was selfie, describing the decidedly less controversial self-portrait usually taken with a smart phone. The apparent rise of e-cigarettes was cited as the reason for the skyrocketing use of the word, along with countless debates over the safety of using the devices long term.


No, “Bath Salts” Won’t Turn You Into a Cannibal [Smithsonian]

“…In this way, bath salts illustrate a larger all-too-common cycle in the war on drugs: Authorities pick up on a new designer drug and ban it, only to encounter a chemical analog circulating months later. “There are literally hundreds of new synthetic drugs that are appearing on the scene,” says Baumann. In Europe, 243 new designer drugs have popped up since 2009, and for the U.S., that number is likely higher.”


SAY Project 2014 entry – Drugs, Think Twice – Will Mattock [YouTube]

An anti-drug campaign by Western Australia Police saw students creating short videos to ‘show how they could make their community drug free and drug aware’. The lucky winner met with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who had this to say:
“Will’s video ‘Think Twice’ very effectively conveys the important message that there is no safe way to use illegal drugs and there is no such thing as recreational drugs.”

 


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