Embassy Headlines, Issue 128


Not only dirty hippie dole-bludgers are extolling the virtues of marijuana. Nowadays we see new age Cannabis Evangelists taking the same neighbourhood path as other spiritual therapy dealers. 

The social implications of prohibition have an effect on everyone. Salvation from the war on weed could be coming to your door today.

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.

Government open to legalising medical marijuana: Liberal MP [SBS]

The federal government is open to legalising the medicinal use of marijuana, two prominent Liberals say. Senator Ian Macdonald and MP Warren Entsch are supporting a private cross-party bill due to be tabled in parliament later on Thursday. Mr Entsch says Prime Minister Tony Abbott and others in the government support medicinal marijuana while Senator Macdonald doesn’t expect the issue will need to go to a conscience vote. “I’ve actually spoken to the prime minister on this… and he confirmed to me that he certainly supports medicinal cannabis,” Mr Entsch told reporters in Canberra. In August Mr Abbott threw his support behind medicinal marijuana in a letter to radio talk-back host Alan Jones. “I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis, just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates,” he wrote. State governments in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia have expressed interest in being part of an opt-in-opt-out system. Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale says a regulatory body would determine for what conditions marijuana products could be prescribed. But a doctor’s discretion would still play a big part. “Some doctors may decide they don’t want to be involved in it,” Senator Di Natale said. “The great majority will recognise the immense therapeutic benefit.” The bill also creates a tightly-controlled farming regime for marijuana, similar to medicinal opiates in Tasmania.

Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 

[The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia]

Dawson MP George Christensen backs medical cannabis bill [ABC]

A north Queensland federal MP has thrown his support behind the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The Member for Dawson, George Christensen, said he was co-sponsoring a private member’s bill which would see medical marijuana legalised on a federal level. The bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament next week. “It will be legalising usage of medicinal marijuana for medicinal purposes, there may be some state jurisdictions that need to follow suit but certainly from a federal point of view there will be nothing restricting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes,” he said. Mr Christensen said the move could also benefit the local agricultural industry. “I foresee the potential just like we do with poppy growers down in Tasmania who produce opium for the medical industry,” he said. “There may be a chance that growers in [our] neck of the woods, throughout the tropical north, might actually [become] licensed growers of medical marijuana.”

Pot stock gets green light to list from ASIC [Australian Financial Review]

The corporate regulator has cleared Australia’s first medical marijuana company to list on the stock exchange before Christmas, as clinical trials pave the way for law reform in Australia. Perth-based PhytoTech Medical manufactures vaporisers to provide smokeless delivery systems for medical marijuana. PhytoTech initially plans to export to Israel, Europe, US and Canada but also has plans to grow its own cannabis crops in Uruguay to supply medical marijuana strains to global pharmaceutical companies. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has approved the company’s prospectus to raise $5 million via the issue of 25 million shares at 20¢ each. “We were worried the cannabis leaf we use as our logo might raise some eyebrows with the regulator,” the company’s colourful chief executive, Ross Smith, joked. The float, scheduled for December 22, will be fully underwritten by stockbrokers BBY. Broker Adam Blumenthal said the offer was already oversubscribed, with investors committing $15 million. The Australian Medical Association’s NSW president, Dr Saxon Smith, said increasing momentum to allow the use of the controversial medical treatment would inevitably give rise to new companies. NSW and Victoria have launched clinical trails for medical marijuana and other states including ACT, South Australia and Tasmania are looking to join the cross-jurisdictional trial.

Police in doghouse over strip searches [South Coast Register]

Invasive strip searches by police have increased by almost a third in NSW over the past five years, with thousands of people stripped naked on the basis of sniffer dogs incorrectly indicating they are carrying drugs. Distressed patrons from music festivals and other events report being forced to take all their clothes off and squat down so police could check that they were not concealing drugs anywhere on, or in, their body, despite drug dog identifications being wrong the majority of the time. On Sunday Fairfax Media revealed data obtained by the NSW Greens shows each year about 10,000 innocent people are subjected to general police searches for drugs after sniffer dogs incorrectly indicate they are carrying drugs, with searches turning up no drugs in about 64 per cent of cases.

High risk: drug war fought with dollars [The Age]

But we’ve been pursuing this prohibition approach for years, spending a fortune on policing, the courts and the high proportion of drug offenders in our jails. With all this has gone a fair bit of police corruption. And yet illegal drug use remains widespread, with still too many drug overdoses and drug deaths. The seizures, arrests and prison sentences roll on, seemingly to little effect. People may be using less heroin, but its place has been taken by ice which, if anything, seems worse. If prohibition so clearly isn’t working, shouldn’t we try a different approach? Last week the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research published research that seems to provide powerful support for the contention that the conventional approach is broken.

The economics of drug prohibition [UnHarm]

Ross Gittins has told us that the War on Drugs has more to do with economics than we might think. There is much more to it than his own analysis would suggest. The prohibition of some drugs is, for Gittins, a ‘qualified success’. He asks us to consider the counterfactual – what would the world be like if these drugs weren’t outlawed? Without the inflated prices that come with prohibition, ‘far more’ people would use drugs and the harms would be ‘almost infinitely greater’. The assertion that ‘far more’ people would use drugs under regulation has not been borne out in reality. Cannabis stores opened in the US state of Colorado on January 1 this year. Colorado’s regulatory model is not perfect and could be more strict but nevertheless the huge increase in use and harms that Gittins predicts has not eventuated.

Taboo Tuesday – medical marijuana [ABC]

“Arthur” produces medical marijuana in the form of cannabis oil – often used for pain relief. It’s illegal and he is risking a prison sentence if caught. David met up with him:.

Sydney scientists hope for pot boom [The Age]

Many ill people hope that NSW’s moves toward a medical marijuana trial will eventually bring them relief. But some of Sydney’s leading medical researchers hope it signals an opening of attitudes – and funding – that brings Australia into an age of medical discovery and industry via the cannabis plant. “In coming decades our understanding is there will be widespread applications for a range of chronic conditions, everything from diabetes to asthma to obesity to PTSD,” said Dr David Allsop, a research fellow in psychopharmacology and addiction medicine at Sydney University.

Australian Silk Road accused Peter Nash faces life in jail [Sydney Morning Herald]

Former Queensland prison employee Peter Nash is locked up in a New York jail accused of conspiring to sell large quantities of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine through the black-market internet bazaar, Silk Road. Nash, 41, was extradited from Australia to the US last week and faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in the American jail system if convicted. He is being held in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center ahead of an expected appearance in a Manhattan federal court this week. “Silk Road was used by several thousand drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to well over a 100,000 buyers,” the indictment against Nash and two co-accused read.

Regulated legal drugs needed to fight problem: lawyers [Logan Reporter]

Regulation should replace prohibition in the fight to limit the harm caused by illicit drugs, according to the Criminal Law Committee of the NSW Bar Association.  A discussion paper released this week argued the current criminal system had failed and reform was needed.  Committee chairman Stephen Odgers said prohibition had been ineffective at lowering the availability and use of illegal drugs.  “Given the harm to individuals and society that results from prohibition, the time has come to give serious consideration to alternatives,” he said.  “As lawyers we have a responsibility to speak out if we conclude that the law needs reform. That point has been reached.  “The Criminal Law Committee has concluded that the goals of drug policy should be to reduce levels of drug-related harm, treat drug addiction as a public health issue, increase the number of drug-dependent users seeking treatment and implement effective demand-reduction strategies.

Bob Carr joins calls for drug summit  [Sydney Morning Herald]

Fifteen years after he convened a historic parliamentary drug summit, former NSW premier Bob Carr has called for a new summit to tackle the state’s emerging ice crisis. It is Mr Carr whose reforms, most notably the Kings Cross medically supervised injecting room, were credited with saving Sydney from the grip of a full-scale heroin epidemic. “I’m normally opposed to summits by way of making policy but this one, in 1999, was a spectacular success,” he told The Sun-Herald last week. “It saved lives, it got people off their addictions and it better managed them while they were still drug dependent.”

Drug crackdown at Pilbara mine sites continues [ABC]

A crackdown on drugs at mine sites in the Pilbara is continuing for a second day as police search workers at Fortescue Metals Group’s Cloudbreak mine. Police began Operation Redwater to crack down on drugs in the mining industry by screening up to 300 workers as they arrived at FMG’s Christmas Creek mine on Tuesday. It followed revelations by a senior company executive that drugs were a problem in the industry and among its workforce. The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) said the operation had failed to find anything significant and the operation was a stunt. “This is just a self-promotion exercise by FMG,” AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney said. “If you are getting police with sniffer dogs etcetera putting on a big performance at the airport for workers, one, it’s stress for workers and I don’t know if we need that stress on workers. Two, they’ve got enough checks and balances on the place to deal with drug and alcohol issues if there are any on-site. I just don’t think it’s a necessary thing.”

Ethan Nadelmann at TEDGlobal 2014: Drug War Has to End [HighTimes]

Perhaps one of the most compelling discussions on the drug war took place last month at TEDGlobal 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, where Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance unleashed a dose of unforgettable insight into the crooked spine of prohibition, calling the global war on drugs an “international projection of a domestic psychosis.” Throughout the lecture, Nadelmann touched on a number of interesting thoughts, one of which questioned the historical existence of a sober society. “There’s probably never been a drug-free society,” he said. “Virtually every society has ingested psychoactive substances to deal with pain, increase our energy, socialize, even commune with God. Our desire to alter our consciousness, maybe, is fundamental as our desires for food, companionship and sex,” he continued. “So, our true challenge is to learn how to live with drugs so they cause the least possible harm, and in some cases, the greatest possible benefit.”

Colorado: Health Officials Recommend $7.5 Million In Grant Funding For Clinical Cannabis Trials [Hawai’I News Daily]

State Public Health Department officials have recommended over $7 million dollars in grant funding to pay for a series of state-sponsored clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoids. The proposed studies include a pair of clinical trials to evaluate the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoid, for patients with pediatric epilepsy. Two additional trials will assess the use of cannabis for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress. Other studies will assess the efficacy of either cannabis or CBD in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, ulcerative colitis, and pain management. (More specific summaries of all eight proposed studies are available online here.) Grant funding for the proposed studies requires final approval by the state Board of Health in December. Following funding approval, researchers will still be required to gain additional federal approval in order to obtain access to research-grade cannabis or CBD.

MPP Launches New Billboards Urging Adults to Be Responsible With Marijuana Products [MPP Blog]

The Marijuana Policy Project  is launching billboards this week in Denver and Seattle that encourage parents to keep marijuana out of reach of children. The ads are part of a broader public education campaign urging adults to “consume responsibly” in states where marijuana is legal. – See more at: http://blog.mpp.org/general/mpp-launches-new-billboards-urging-adults-to-be-responsible-with-marijuana-products/11252014/

Colorado pot credit union could be open by Jan. 1 under state charter [The Cannabist]

The world’s first financial institution established specifically for the marijuana industry could be open in Colorado by Jan. 1. The Colorado Division of Financial Services late Wednesday issued Fourth Corner Credit Union an unconditional charter to operate, the first state credit-union charter issued in nearly a decade. The next hurdles will be obtaining insurance from the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulator of credit unions, and getting a master account from the Federal Reserve System. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office called the charter “the end of the line” for the state’s efforts to solve the marijuana industry’s nagging problem: obtaining banking services.

Cannabis Regulation: The World Is Moving Forward, What Is Stopping Us? [Melissa Boone]

This report compiles presentations from a variety of speakers including: Baroness Molly Meacher, Professor Val Curran, Sir Robin Murray, Dr Marta Di Forti, Peter Moyes, Peter Reynolds, John Churchhill, Pat Mungroo and myself discussing alternative ways to regulate cannabis at the House of Lords in July 2014.

Researchers are working on a new breathalyser for marijuana [Independent]

Researchers are working on a device that will be able to tell if someone is under the influence of marijuana.The breathalyser, being developed at Washington State University (WSU), would work in a similar way to the alcohol breath test used by police forces around the world.  One of the reasons the research is being led in the US state is because since it became legal for licensed shops to sell the drug earlier this year, “stoned” drivers have become a more regular occurrence. There is no current form of breathalyser for marijuana use and police officers must use blood tests to determine levels of THC – the active chemical in the drug. Herbert Hill, lead researcher at WSU, says that while the test will not initially be able to tell the exact level of THC in the blood it will be able to tell if there is any present or not. This should allow the police officer to know whether they can make an arrest or not.

Uruguay: Marijuana law gets boost in presidential vote [CNN]

Uruguay’s politicians who led the charge to legalize marijuana and same-sex marriage appeared to win another ringing endorsement from voters in the South American country Sunday. The country’s electoral court announced that Tabaré Vazquez of the left-wing Broad Front coalition won the presidential runoff with about 53% of the votes. Candidate Luis Lacalle Pou of the conservative National Party told supporters Sunday evening that he had conceded to Vazquez and wished him well, as exit polls predicted defeat. He garnered about 40% of the vote. Vazquez’s victory gives Uruguay a third consecutive five-year term with a leftist leader at the helm. President Jose “Pepe” Mujica — a former Marxist guerrilla who donates the majority of his salary, drives a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle and sells flowers with his wife at their home — leaves office next year.

Legalising medical cannabis: lessons from Canada’s policies  [The Conversation]

A bill to permit medical cannabis use in Australia is set for debate in Senate. If medical cannabis use is legalised, doctors could become gatekeepers between patients and a controversial drug. Lessons from Canada – one of the first countries in the world to allow medical cannabis – can help Australian doctors prepare for treating people who want to use cannabis.

Canadian mum flouts cannabis law for treatment [BBC]

The mother of a boy with severe epilepsy refuses to give her son his medical marijuana in the form the law dictates he should get it – through smoke or vapours. In June of this year, the day before Liam began using the oil (made from a particularly effective strain of marijuana). The problem is, Liam’s treatment is criminal. Using medical marijuana is legal in Canada, but only in the dried form that can be smoked or vaporised. That, says Mandy, is not realistic for such a young child. “Who’s going to expect a six-year-old to smoke weed?”

Chile: New TV channel ‘promotes cannabis culture’ [BBC]

A new TV channel has gone on air in Chile with the aim of winning support for the legalisation of cannabis. Cultiva TV will broadcast once a week, and wants to persuade viewers about the alleged “medicinal, cultural and spiritual” benefits of marijuana. It’s being run by a plant feed and cannabis equipment company called Pos240, the Santiago Times reports. Its first episode saw the Cultiva team visit Amsterdam and Barcelona to investigate European approaches to regulation. They also interviewed a Chilean sufferer of muscular spasms, who says medical marijuana treatment alleviates her symptoms to the extent that she now competes in indoor climbing championships – without any of the side effects of conventional treatment. Cannabis remains a Class A drug under Chilean law, although there is some leeway for individual consumption and the sale of seeds. Cultiva TV’s programme opens with a statement saying it doesn’t advocate illegal activities.

Mindblowing Microscopic Footage of Cancer Cells Being Eliminated by Cannabis Oil [Mind Unleashed]

Did you know that studies showed the effectiveness of cannabis at killing cancer cells as long ago as 1974? In 1974, a study from The Washington Post said that THC effectively “slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36%.” The information was suppressed and people were incarcerated for up to decades for using or selling the harmless, absolutely miraculous medicine from 1974 to 1998 (and further on, as you know). In 1998, another study came outfrom Madrid’s Complutense University that indicated THC can cause cancer cells to die, and unlike chemotherapy the THC kills nothing but the cancer cells, leaving the brain of course completely unharmed.

Marijuana Could Fight Alzheimer’s Disease, A New Study Claims [Inquisitr]

Marijuana and Alzheimer’s Disease have been linked in a new study, with the popular drug showing that it might be a good weapon in the fight against the deadly disease. The study was originally published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and the findings “strongly suggest that THC [the main active ingredient in marijuana] could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.” Alzheimer’s Disease is an affliction that more than five million people are currently living with, and the number is likely to go higher until an effective cure is discovered. But as SFGate notes, there is now a promising and (mostly) illegal weapon to rock the disease on its heels. “Chuanhai Cao and other researchers at the University of South Florida and Thomas Jefferson University wanted to investigate the ‘potential therapeutic qualities of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with respect to slowing or halting the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease,” writes David Downs with SFGate.

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