Embassy Headlines, Issue 129


Prohibition creates fear and polarises opinion. Fear is a useful tool, even within the ranks of Cannabis law reform activists.

Rational debate and ethical principles have no place in a world of political deception. Do as you’re told or face legal action.

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.

Tax driving drug use [Wangaratta Chronicle]

The alcopops tax introduced by the former Labor Government has been blamed for the increase in illicit drug use in Wangaratta. Clubbers are sourcing ecstasy tablets rather than paying for pre-mixed spirits over the bar to avoid hefty costs. Publican Steve Wilson, who owns the Albion and Grand Central nightclubs says people would rather buy an ecstasy tablet for $20 than spend the same amount to buy two Jim Beam stubbies.

Jobs-for-girls appointment to leading government drug advisory body latest row to split Abbott Government [News]

A controversial jobs for the girls appointment to the premier government advisory body on drugs has deepened divisions within the Abbott Government.  Former National Party MP Kay Hull who champions an abstinence policy on drugs over harm minimisation is set to be the new head of the Australian National Council on Drugs. The contentious appointment is due to be made by Ms Hull’s National Party colleague, Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, and is being questioned by current and former government MPs. One has slammed it as “really a triumph of ideology over what works”.

Australia debates cannabis use on patients [YouTube]

A major international conference in Australia is discussing one of the world’s biggest killers, cancer. One controversial issue in treating cancer patients is whether to allow marijuana for medical use. One Australian state has gone ahead with clinical trials. Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas reports from Tamworth, Australia.

Case over huge drug raid collapses over police errors [Sydney Morning Herald]

The trial of a Sydney man charged with importing 400 kilograms of cocaine on a yacht in 2010 has been aborted after Australian Federal Police denied on oath the existence of certain video footage – only for it to be found on their own website. The video fiasco was just one of a series of embarrassing revelations for the AFP that came to light in the short-lived trial in the Queensland Supreme Court late last month. It was also revealed that when AFP officers searched a hire car in which the Sydney man, Simon Charles Golding, was a passenger, they allegedly found 20 kilograms of cocaine in an olive green bag in the boot – but they failed to look inside a second olive green bag clearly visible on the back seat. The hire car was subsequently parked for three days – unguarded – in the AFP’s Brisbane car park. It was only when the hire car company asked for the return of the vehicle that the second bag was opened and found to contain 25 kilograms of cocaine. Under cross-examination, by Saul Holt, SC, for Mr Golding, the AFP’s field commander for the operation, Paul Robert Watt, admitted it was “unprofessional”.

Investors flock for Australia’s ‘George Clooney of medicinal cannabis’ company [Sydney Morning Herald]

Australia’s first initial public offering in a medicinal marijuana company is three times oversubscribed, giving high hopes to its founder’s ambitions to become “the George Clooney of medicinal cannabis”. Perth-based Phytotech, due to list on the Australian Securities Exchange on December 22, is seeking to raise $5 million. Founder and executive director Ross Smith said investors – some from as far afield as Russia and the United States – have already asked for shares worth $15 million. “South of the equator there’s nothing available in the medicinal cannabis sphere,” Smith told Reuters by telephone. “We’re going to close it early because it’s so massively oversubscribed.”

Sniffer dogs extremely accurate: police  [Herald Sun]

The NSW Police Force has dismissed calls for sniffer dogs to be banned, despite claims people are being humiliated after being wrongly identified by the drug-detecting canines.  Government data obtained by the NSW Greens shows out of the 735 strip searches conducted in 2013 because of a police drug dog indication, no drugs were found in 61 per cent of cases. The Greens say up to 500 innocent people a year are being put through “appalling humiliation” on the basis of wrong drug indications from sniffer dogs. When drugs are found, it is normally only a small amount, Greens MP David Shoebridge says. “Where have we got to in this state when police are routinely stripping people down, getting them to squat naked over a mirror and then staring up their backsides, on the basis of a drug dog indication that is wrong two-thirds of the time?” he said in a statement. “No one should be subject to this level of humiliation and embarrassment on such a flimsy and obviously flawed basis.”

December meetup: If not dogs then what? [Unharm!]

Music festivals and dance parties have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. At the same time, we’re calling police to end the use of drug detection dogs. It’s an important moment to consider the question – if not dogs then what? Our guest speakers are Adelle Robinson from event promoter Fuzzy, Johnboy Davidson from Enlighten Harm Reduction and owner of pillreports.com, Joshua Butson from Red Cross’ Save a Mate program, Samar Haidar from ACON’s Rover program In a discussion hosted by Gideon Warhaft – Unharm director and harm reduction raconteur –  the panel will reflect on what’s already working to reduce risks of drug-related harm at music festivals and dance parties, where is there a need for change, and how can we get there. It’s at 414 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills (Level 3) from 6:30-8pm on Tuesday December 16. We’d love to see you there!

Changing marijuana laws could pay off for North Queensland cane farmers  [ABC Rural]

North Queensland cane farmers are well placed to grow marijuana if new laws are passed to allow its use for medicinal purposes. The Federal LNP Member for Dawson, George Christensen, co-sponsored a private member’s bill last week to legalise medicinal marijuana. The bill is now with the Senate and the MP is touting health benefits, including pain relief, as well as the opportunities it presents for agriculture, as reasons to change the legislation. Industrial hemp has been trialled in the region for more than a decade, and it responds well to the ideal growing conditions, according to one grower.  Cane farmer Joe Muscat has taken a particular interest in the crop and is researching its use for fibre as part of his Nuffield scholarship.

Inquiry into medicinal cannabis in the ACT [Shane Rattenbury, MLA]

My Greens Bill to allow people access to cannabis for medicinal purposes is currently before the ACT Legislative Assembly. An Assembly committee is now examining the draft bill and discussion paper, and has called for submissions from interested organisations and individuals to their inquiry. This is a great opportunity for you to have your say on the proposed ACT scheme, and to let your elected representatives know what you think about access to medicinal cannabis for the sick and dying. Two weeks ago I travelled to Tamworth to meet with politicians, policy makers, medical professionals, law enforcers, patients and carers to discuss a way forward for medicinal cannabis in Australia. At the United in Compassion conference I met world leading doctors who presented evidence about the real benefits that cannabis provides to their patients. I met law enforcers who understand the need to remove criminal sanctions against those who need access to treatment. And I met brave people like Lucy Haslam and her son Dan, who uses medicinal cannabis to relive pain and nausea caused by stage four bowel cancer and chemotherapy. In recent years and months we have seen community support for medicinal cannabis grow. As our ACT MLAs examine the evidence behind medicinal cannabis, and the different models for making this treatment accessible to the sick and dying, now is the time to make your views known. Written submissions should be lodged with theCommittee Secretary by Friday, 13 February. The Committee intends to hold public hearings in early 2015, when members of the community will l have the opportunity to put forward their views in person. I encourage you to contribute to the discussion on this important issue by making a submission to the inquiry. You can email submissions directly at committees@parliament.act.gov.au. For more information about the inquiry, and links to my bill and discussion paper go to http://www.parliament.act.gov.au.

Should We Legalise Drugs? [Quadrant]

Even those unswayed by classical liberal arguments on behalf of individual choice must accept that prohibition has not only failed, but failed miserably. Worse, attempts to control personal behaviour have served as a de facto price-maintenance scheme for organised crime.

Congress axes D.C. marijuana legalization in spending plan [Washington Times]

A plan to regulate and tax marijuana in the District fell victim on Tuesday to federal budget negotiators, who inserted an amendment into a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill that effectively overturns a voter-approved initiative legalizing recreational use of the drug in the District. But the measure appeared to go much further, also rolling back a law approved by the council this year eliminating criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The “rider,” which Republicans had indicated they would attach to the spending bill, prohibits federal and local funds from being used to “enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance.”

Cannabis-Oil Producers To Expand Operations [CBS Denver]

The Colorado producers of a cannabis oil prized by some for treating children with severe epilepsy have come up with dramatic expansion plans to meet demand. The Stanley brothers say they hope to eliminate their 12,000-person waitlist with a 2015 expansion. The Teller County brothers plan to expand from 40 acres to 200 acres growing the cannabis plant, which is considered hemp and not marijuana under Colorado regulations because it is low in marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC. The Stanleys say they will be dramatically increasing production of an oil they call Charlotte’s Web, The Gazette reported Thursday. The oil is rich in cannabidoil, or CBD, a substance believed to provide relief for medical conditions such as epilepsy. It has been used by 500 people in Colorado and California.

International Drug Policy Reform Conference [Reform Now!]

Mark your calendars! We’re one year out from the 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, the largest gathering of the reform community in the world. The Reform Conference is a profound and galvanizing event for more than 1,200 activists, organizers, service providers, supporters, students and educators. And with the game-changing drug policy reform victories in the mid-term elections in Oregon, Alaska, California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., our movement is resonating like never before. We’re eager to build on that momentum as we convene reformers from around the world working to replace the failed war on drugs with an approach grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. The 2015 conference is a gathering you won’t want to miss! With the recent overwhelming victory of marijuana legalization by the voters of Washington, D.C. (Initiative 71), we can’t think of a better location to host the 2015 Reform Conference than the D.C. metro area. Relive some of the magic of the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference by clicking here.

Marijuana, gun background checks qualify for Nevada votes [Washington Post]

Nevada voters are likely to have the chance to decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and whether to require stricter background checks on gun purchases after petitioners turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures last month. Supporters of the measure to legalize marijuana turned in 138,453 valid signatures, according to Secretary of State Ross Miller’s (D) office, far above the approximately 100,000 valid signatures necessary to qualify an initiative. That measure, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project and its local affiliate, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, will allow consumers over 21 years of age to purchase and possess up to one ounce of the drug, and up to 12 marijuana plants. Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be dedicated to public education and enforcement under the proposal, which is modeled closely on ballot measures that passed this year in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.

What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization? [Huffington Post]

In the wake of the big election victories on November 4, many people are asking, “What’s next for the push to legalize marijuana in the United States?” It generally falls into four buckets:

  1. Legalizing Marijuana for Adults in 11 More States and D.C.
  2. Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Two or Three More States
  3. Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession in Five More States
  4. Continue Making Progress in Congress

Legalization of Marijuana: What Are We Saying to the Kids? [AlterNet]

The increase of marijuana legalization marks a good opportunity to rethink how we talk to our kids about marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs. While none of the new laws allow sales to minors, parents like me are understandably concerned about the potential impact of these reforms on teenagers. Many worry that legalization might “send the wrong message,” leading to an escalation in teenage use. As a federally funded researcher, I regularly check survey data and am reassured by the annual Monitoring the Future survey of high school students’ drug use, which found recently that a majority of teens say that even if marijuana was legal, they would not try it. Preliminary data from the post-legalization 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that high school marijuana use in Colorado had actually decreased.

The weird world of gourmet marijuana dining  [News]

Acclaimed chef Chris Lanter is taking a crowd of eager foodies through a demo on cooking with marijuana. As he prepares steak au poivre, he describes how to deglaze the pan with pot-infused brandy.  How do you actually pair marijuana with fine foods? How do you make marijuana’s skunky tang work for a dish, not ruin it. One catch — there’s no actual weed at his demonstration. Marijuana aficionados paid $250 for a weekend-long celebration of marijuana and food, yet state and city regulations prohibit any “open and public” use of the drug, even at licenced businesses holding private events. It’s a strange dichotomy. The nascent marijuana industry in Colorado is moving well beyond just pot brownies. Dispensaries are doing a booming trade in cookbooks, savory pot foods and frozen takeout dishes that incorporate the drug. But for now, halting attempts at creating a marijuana dining scene have had mixed results. Colorado may have legalised marijuana, but it still prohibits “on-site consumption,” a caveat aimed at preventing Amsterdam-style coffee shops where pot can be purchased and consumed in the same place. Recreational or medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and Washington, DC. — though each state prohibits on-site consumption and pot sales in bars or restaurants.

Cannabis breathalyser to be tested in US to detect drug driving [International Business Times]

Researchers have invented a breathalyser capable of instantly detecting whether a driver is under the influence of cannabis.  The team from Washington State University is not the first to develop such a device but it hopes to be the first to officially test it, the Seattle Times reports. Current methods used for detecting high drivers involve either a lengthy blood test that can take up to 24 hours, or a less scientific ‘field impairment test’ on the roadside. The handheld breathalyser uses ‘ion-mobility technology’ to detect the presence of THC, the chemical found in cannabis that causes psychological effects in the brain. It is the same technology used by airport security to detect bombs and drugs and could be rolled out across Washington State Patrol to help fight the problem of drug driving.

Marijuana Legalization: ‘Enforcing Laws Is Waste Of Time,’ Houston Police Chief Says  [Inquisitr]

Marijuana legalization advocates just got a surprising new ally in the fight to “legalize it.” Their unofficial spokesperson? Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland. In a recent radio interview, McClelland took one of the boldest stands in the efforts to decriminalize casual use of pot that the country has seen, at least from the law enforcement community. “We cannot criminalize such a large population of society that engage in casual marijuana use,” he admitted. McClelland believes that enforcing marijuana laws is a waste of time “and other valuable resources,” notesClick2Houston. “Taxpayers can’t afford to build jails and prisons to lock up everyone that commits a crime,” he added. “We must put more money into crime prevention, treatment, education, job training.” The chief also stated that the war on drugs has been a negative for the law enforcement community, and society as a whole, particularly where it involves minorities.

Congress Poised to Pass Historic Medical Marijuana Amendment [MPP Blog]

After 11 years of MPP lobbying and attending receptions on Capitol Hill, the US Congress is finally poised to pass an amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws. The U.S. House rejected the amendment in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Finally, in May of this year, the House passed the amendment, which was introduced by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA). Last night, the amendment was included in the annual spending bill that Congress is expected to pass today or tomorrow. It will then be the law through September 30, at which time it would need to be renewed each fall.

Wall Street Analyst Argues Big Tobacco Will Soon Have To Answer Questions About Pot [Business Insider Australia]

Wall Street’s top-tier research departments have largely avoided the marijuana-legalization conversation because it hasn’t really affected the stocks they cover. The big tobacco companies have also been tight-lipped about the issue. But RBC Capital Markets’ US tobacco-research team thinks that the current progress toward legalized weed means that Big Tobacco could soon have to start answering questions about this. Here’s an excerpt from a research note that was just circulated: “With this quickly changing view of marijuana across the US, we believe it is only a matter of time until investors start asking questions about how it will fit into the bigger picture. And while every tobacco company management we have spoken to on this topic has been unwilling to discuss it, we believe full federal legalization of marijuana in the US would likely lead tobacco companies to reconsider this space.”

American high school student gave teacher pot brownie [NT News]

A 17-YEAR-old American high school student gave his teacher a marijuana-laced brownie. The student, who attends Broadneck High School in Maryland, panicked when his teacher asked for a piece of the brownie he was eating, WBALVTV reported. After the teacher consumed the brownie, she started to feel ill and became disoriented so was taken to the school nurse. She was later taken to hospital. The boy also gave his 16-year-old girlfriend a brownie. She was spotted acting lethargic.

Medicinal cannabis call rejected by States [BBC Jersey]

States members have voted down three requests from chronically ill islanders to have cannabis-related products for medicinal use. They were named in separate propositions requesting permits for Sativex, Bedrocan BV and cannabis. UK Health minister Andrew Green said Sativex was already available on private prescription. He said his power to grant such permits was not intended for medicinal cannabis use.  Jersey’s drugs laws allow the health minister to issue licences for the possession of cannabis for “special purposes”.

Ed Miliband: I haven’t taken drugs but have ‘read about it’ [Telegraph UK]

Ed Miliband has revealed he hasn’t taken drugs but has “read about it” as he outlined his opposition to decriminalisation during a grilling from young voters on live TV.  The UK Labour leader said he had not experimented with cannabis while young but cited research into the area to justify his belief that there are “mental health effects” that could damage teenagers.  Mr Miliband announced that if Labour wins power next May it will expand the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds in time for the 2016 London mayoral elections.  He also revealed during an hour-long debate with 16- to 24-year-olds that he wants more devolution for England, lower tuition fees and reform of “ridiculous” Prime Minister’s Questions.  It came as Mr Miliband became the latest party leader to take part in Bite the Ballot in conjunction with ITV, a program designed to re-engage young voters with politics streamed live online.

Bangor University: Lung disease fear for cannabis users [BBC North West Wales]

Regular use of cannabis mixed with tobacco is leaving young adults with “lungs of 80-year-olds”, warn experts. Researchers believe the use of modern cannabis, which is much stronger than in the past, could lead to a rise in severe lung disease. A Bangor University study found some hospital patients in Gwynedd who had an accelerated form of emphysema were in their 30s. They had smoked five cannabis joints a day or more for at least a decade. Emphysema, a debilitating condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are damaged and enlarged, is mainly caused by tobacco use and has historically affected people later in life.


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