Embassy Headlines, Issue 130


War torn regions of the world all need some recreational therapy.

Ironically the US Department of Veteran Affairs still forbids prescribing medical marijuana to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder even in states where supply is regulated. Cannabis is a cure for war.

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.

Daniel Andrews aims to make Victoria the first Australian state to legalise medicinal cannabis [9 News]

Newly-elected Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is leading the charge on medicinal cannabis, hoping to legalise the drug for patients in need by the end of 2015. Products such as cannabis oil are used to treat conditions including epilepsy and provide relief from suffering for some cancer patients. However, the plant remains illegal throughout Australia, and Mr Andrews said on the TODAY Show he was determined to see that change.

The Australian Sex Party wins its first seat [ABC]

Fiona Patten, who established the Australian Sex Party four years ago, said she would go into Parliament “honoured and a little bit nervous”.  Ms Patten said Victorians should not be fearful of a dysfunctional Upper House at the hands of the minor parties. “I don’t think anyone is going in with that intention. I hope that many of us have learned from what we’ve seen at that federal level,” Ms Patten said. “However, I was elected on a platform of progressive policies that I will be pushing to achieve,” she said. Ms Patten said her top priority over the next four years would be to legalise voluntary euthanasia in Victoria.  She said she would push the Government to go further on medical marijuana and law reform.

First lesson for new inquiry into ice: we’ve lost the war on drugs [The Guardian]

Like almost every country in the world, for more than half a century Australia has relied heavily on law enforcement to control drugs. In that time, the drug market has continued to grow and has become, if anything, more dangerous. World street prices of heroin and cocaine fell more than 80% in the last quarter century. Nor did a “war on drugs” approach keep our young people safe. The rate of heroin overdose deaths increased 55 times in Australia between 1964 and 1997. Property and violent crime became much more common than it had been half a century earlier. A significant part of that increase must be attributed to drug prohibition. Surely the 38 “Underbelly” murders of methamphetamine traffickers in Melbourne between 1998 and 2010 had more to do with the drug distribution system than the drugs themselves. It’s important that we try to find better ways of responding to ice and methamphetamine. It’s also important that we ask ourselves why we ended up with ice in the first place.  In unregulated drug markets, more dangerous drugs tend to drive out less dangerous drugs. More dangerous drugs are often easier to transport undetected and are also more lucrative to sell – so decades of drug prohibition gave the world crack cocaine and ice.  For this and many other reasons, global drug prohibition is now reaching its use-by date. In the last four years, four US states have voted to tax and regulate cannabis, Uruguay’s parliament passed legislation to legalise cannabis and New Zealand (temporarily) began regulating selected new psychoactive substances. The most senior US government official permitted to discuss US drug policy, assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, recently called for more flexible interpretation of the three international drug treaties that underpin global drug prohibition. The times they are a changin’.

Cannabis use in Australia [NCPIC]

Cannabis-related statistics from the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report.

Police officer in Roberto Curti’s fatal arrest escapes conviction for assault [The Guardian]

Senior Constable Damian John Ralph placed on a good behaviour bond after he was the only one of three NSW officers to be found guilty of the Brazilian student’s assault, which led to his death. A police officer who assaulted Brazilian student Roberto Curti during his fatal arrest in Sydney’s CBD has escaped a conviction. Curti died in the early hours of 18 March 2012 after a chase and violent struggle with police in which he was shot with a stun gun, handcuffed, hit with pepper spray and knelt on. Following an inquest into his death and a lengthy local court hearing into the matter, Senior Constable Damian John Ralph was the only one of three police officers to be found guilty of his assault on Tuesday.

Chinese nationals to be deported over role in cannabis grow house [ABC]

Two illegal Chinese immigrants will be deported after being sentenced for growing a secret drug crop in a Canberra home. The ACT Supreme Court heard 45-year-old Zhezhu Quan and 51-year-old Aifeng Zhang were recruited in Sydney by a criminal group to run a cannabis grow house in the Canberra suburb of Flynn. When police raided the property in April, they found a sliding door in the back of a wardrobe, which revealed secret rooms set up to grow almost 400 plants.

Cannabis vending machine returned to owners [3 News NZ]

A cannabis vending machine seized by police has been returned to its owners after a court ruled the officer in charge acted unlawfully. The owners, who used to run a cannabis club called The Daktory, have now laid a complaint of perjury against the officer. “It was stolen in March 2012 from The Daktory by a sergeant who broke the law,” says Daktory owner Dakta Green. Sgt Lawes authorised the seizure of the empty machine plus $27,000 and 700gm of cannabis without a search warrant. “He destroyed a club that had huge benefit to the community… It was against the law,” says Mr Green.

Teen Marijuana Use (And Also Alcohol And Drug Use) Down Since States Started Legalizing [Inquistr]

Marijuana use among teenagers dropped this year, despite two states (Colorado and Washington) legalizing pot, CNN reports. Additionally, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use is also dropping among teens. Every year, the University of Michigan and the National Institutes on Drug Abuse release the Monitoring the Future study, which surveys 40,000 8th-graders, 10th-graders and 12th-graders, according to The Washington Post, about their drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. This year’s report found that marijuana use is down, along with use of just about every substance adults don’t want teens using.

Peter Thiel’s Fund Is Leading A $75 Million Round In Marijuana Startup Privateer At A Whopping $425 Million Valuation [Business Insider Australia]

Earlier this year, Peter Thiel caused a stir when he accused Twitter’s management of being high on pot. He later backed away from his comments, saying, ”You could smoke a lot of pot and still have a great company, if the business model is as robust as Twitter’s.” And Thiel would know, because, as it turns out, he’s investing in a marijuana startup. Thiel’s Founders Fund is leading a $US75 million Series B round in a cannabis startup, Privateer, at a $US425 million pre-money valuation, according to documents obtained by Business Insider.

Rx Drugs, “Bath Salts,” Fake Pot and Laundry Pods Lead Millions to Call Poison Centers [Health Canal]

National Poison Control Center data from 2012 show that poisonings from prescription drugs are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, and that poisonings from “bath salts,” synthetic marijuana and laundry detergent pods are emerging threats to public health.  The paper was published online Monday in Annals of Emergency Medicine (“Poisoning in the United States: 2012 Emergency Medicine Report of the National Poison Data System”) http://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(14)01477-2/fulltext.  “The poison center system can provide real-time advice and collect data regarding a variety of poisonings, including those that may be new or unfamiliar to emergency physicians,” said lead study author Richard Dart, MD, PhD, of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, Colo.  “Emergency physicians are continually challenged by the emergence of new types of poisonings, which lately include illicit street drugs as well as laundry detergent pods.  The National Poison Data System (NPDS) plays an integral role in helping EMS and emergency departments respond to these dangerous substances.”

MAPS Receives $2 Million Grant from Colorado for Study of Medical Marijuana for PTSD [MAPS]

On Wednesday, December 17, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment awarded a $2 million grant to the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for their planned study of marijuana for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 76 U.S. veterans.m Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council recommended that MAPS receive the grant on November 24. Yesterday’s decision followed the Council’s recommendation, giving MAPS the largest of eight grants awarded by CDPHE at Wednesday’s meeting. All of the other grantees are major research universities. “As the very first public funding that MAPS has ever received in our 28½ year history, the award clearly shows that attitudes are improving about research into the therapeutic benefits of Schedule I drugs,” said Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS Founder and Executive Director. “It’s a big step forward for cannabis science and medicine.”

Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana [Los Angeles Times]

Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy. The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana. Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.

Washington DC on collision course with Congress over marijuana legalisation [The Guardian]

Washington voters approved Initiative 71 to decriminalise the drug but Congress, which oversees the city’s affairs, has ruled it cannot spend to enact the measure. Proponents for legal marijuana in the District of Columbia say they will fight on even as Congress on Monday sent a bill to the president’s desk that could neuter the city’s decision to legalize marijuana. Although nearly 70% of Washington DC voters cast ballots in favor of legalizing marijuana in November, congressional Republicans included a provision in a mammoth and divisive spending bill last week that would seriously impede the city’s ability to do so. When President Obama signs the bill into law, the provision will forbid the city from spending taxpayer dollars to enact the initiative. Advocates of the legalization campaign, known by its ballot name Initiative 71, argue that Republicans acted too late and too carelessly. Legally, the initiative was enacted when voters approved it, according to Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign.

Colorado’s Cannabis Business Awards, Winners Class Up the Joint [Marijuana News]

There were no 10-foot bongs, dab bars, or hat pins at Colorado’s annual Cannabis Business Awards in Denver last night. In the place of traditional cannabis carnival fair there was a red carpet, bow ties, hot appetizers, and an industry bonding together to celebrate a historic year. Casselman’s, a local entertainment venue, was filled with the movers and shakers of Colorado’s cannbis industry who were mostly dressed to the 9’s in formal suits and dresses, many donning nug-boutineers. From the onset, the vibe in the room was overwhelmingly positive, as all the nominees and attendees were just stoked for the opportunity to congregate to crown Colorado’s first year of legalization. Colorado’s marijuana industry was not nearly as prominent as it has become today. Now, the industry has become an emblem of American freedom and example for other state’s to follow. And the attendees all couldn’t help but smile knowing we were exercising this freedom.

Obama and His Pot-Smoking ‘Choom Gang’ [ABC News US]

In his 1995 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” Obama writes about smoking pot almost like Dr. Seuss wrote about eating green eggs and ham. As a high school kid, Obama wrote, he would smoke “in a white classmate’s sparkling new van,” he would smoke “in the dorm room of some brother” and he would smoke “on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids.” He would smoke it here and there. He would smoke it anywhere. Now a soon-to-be published biography by David Maraniss entitled “Barack Obama: The Story” gives more detail on Obama’s pot-smoking days, complete with testimonials from young Barry Obama’s high school buddies, a group that went by the name “the Choom Gang.” Choom was slang for smoking marijuana. Maraniss portrays the teenage Obama as not just a pot smoker, but a pot-smoking innovator. “As a member of the Choom Gang,” Maraniss writes, “Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends.” The first Obama-inspired trend: “Total Absorption” or “TA”.

U.S. won’t stop Native Americans from growing, selling pot on their lands [Los Angeles Times]

Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice. The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues. It remains to be seen how many reservations will take advantage of the policy. Many tribes are opposed to legalizing pot on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.

New medical marijuana regime sees growth, but beset by complaints [CTV News Canada]

Simpson is among tens of thousands of Canadians who have used medical marijuana legally since 2001, and, like many of those patients, he was forced earlier this year to adjust to a massive overhaul of the system. The federal government implemented new rules prohibiting patients from growing their own pot and instead restricting production and sale to a new collection of licensed commercial operations. But the system has been beset by complaints of low supply and high prices. Some commercial producers have long waiting lists and are plagued by frequent sellouts, and approvals for new operations to fill the gap have been slow.

Court upholds injunction allowing medical marijuana patients to grow at home [Global News Canada]

The Conservative government has lost its latest attempt to prevent medical marijuana users from growing pot at home, with the Federal Court of Appeal upholding an injunction that exempted patients from a massive overhaul of the system. New rules were introduced earlier this year that prohibited home growing and instead shifted production to commercial operations, but a group of patients is challenging that regime in a case expected to be heard in the new year. A Federal Court judge issued an injunction in the spring that allowed patients who were authorized to grow and possess marijuana under the old system to continue to do so until their case is resolved. The government appealed, but the Appeal Court released a unanimous decision Monday upholding the injunction.

KanaVape: Cannabis e-cigarette to go on sale in the UK [The Independent]

The vaping trend seemingly knows no bounds as the first “cannabis” e-cigarette goes on sale in the UK tomorrow. The KanaVape, which contains hemp, has been legalised for use in France by people with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS) and other conditions requiring pain relief. Its creators toldThe Independent it will go on sale around the world tomorrow but the Home Office has cast doubt on whether that would be legal, saying the product must be tested for controlled substances. Antonin Cohen and Sebastien Beguerie said the KanaVape cannot be compared to a joint or spliff because it does not contain THC, the chemical credited with causing cannabis highs. A statement on its website said the product is made from certified hemp, which contains far less of the chemical than marijuana, and “does not have any psychoactive or euphoric effect”.

CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel: Third Delegation To Parliament [CLEAR UK]

Today, six members of the CLEAR Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel met with Dr Sarah Woolaston MP, chair of the Health Select Committee. This was our third delegation to Parliament this year and it demonstrates the great progress that we are making.  More and more MPs are beginning to understand that cannabis is a legitimate and valuable medicine that has been unjustly and cruelly denied for too long. In February, a CLEAR delegation met with Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and in July we were invited to a conference by Norman Baker MP, then drugs minister, where we able to deliver evidence and testimony to officials from the Home  Office and the Department of Health.  Just a few days later, in an astonishing move for a government minister, Norman Baker called for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Scottish trials for new cannabis drug to help children with severe epilepsy [Herald Scotland]

Children with severe epilepsy could be helped by a new treatment derived from the cannabis plant which is to be trialled in the UK. Doctors in the UK have been given the go-ahead to test the medicine, which does not contain the ingredient that produces the high associated with recreational cannabis use. The treatment – called Epidiolex – is based on one of the non-psychoactive components of the cannabis plant, called CBD. Early studies in the US have shown that treatment with CBD may reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in children with severe forms of epilepsy. The new trial marks the first time the treatment has been tested in the UK.

Uruguay opens its first marijuana fair [Sky News]

Uruguay’s first marijuana fair, dubbed ‘Expocannabis’ has opened in Montevideo, a year after the growing and sale of the drug was legalised in this conuntry. The legalisation was aimed for producers and users to exchange information about the medicinal, therapeutic and industrial possibilities of pot. Workshops, audiovisual projections, information stands, product sales and conferences with national and international experts are on the agenda of the fair. Over the next two days, participants hope they can demystify cannabis by informing the public of its beneficial and harmful effects.

Can Sweden break the taboo? [Virgin]

Part of the Swedish problem, it seems, is the ill-conceived notion that the right mix of social and policy and criminal enforcement can create a drug-free society. I think it’s time Swedes dismiss these utopian ideals and adopt evidence-based policies that recognize that drugs and drug use are a reality in just about any society on our planet. 

Lebanon should legalise Marijuana cultivation Druze leader says [Telegraph UK]

Lebanon’s controversial and outspoken Druze leader Walid Jumblatt called in a “joint statement” on Twitter Saturday for the cultivation of marijuana to be legalised.  “It’s time to allow hash to be grown and to overturn arrest warrants against people sought for doing so,” the veteran politician wrote in Arabic on his Twitter account.  The marijuana industry generated hundreds of millions of dollars during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.  Despite Lebanese law punishing drug trafficking with prison terms, villagers in the Bekaa valley in the east have little respect for the law and clans there grow marijuana openly and process it.

Indonesia’s mixed messages on fate of drug traffickers on death row [Sydney Morning Herald]

Some time soon, five men will be taken before dawn from their isolation cells to secret locations. White aprons will be hung carefully around their necks, with red targets positioned over their chests. They will be offered blindfolds, and asked if they would like to stand, sit or lie down.  Then their hearts will be riddled with judicially sanctioned bullets until they are dead. Indonesia’s method of execution has not changed since a decree signed by its first president in 1964. The enthusiasm with which it is applied has waxed and waned over the 50 years since, but from his early talk, the seventh President, Joko Widodo, seems likely to be one of the more bloodthirsty. 

Are You Outraged by the Drug War Yet? [Huffington Post]

This holiday season, if you are fortunate enough to sit down with your family, take a moment to reflect on all the families who aren’t so lucky this year. Think about all the families who will have an empty chair at their holiday dinner because our failed drug war policies have killed or imprisoned someone they love. Together, let’s recommit in 2015 to dismantle this failed and tragic war and to work together to heal the destruction it has wrought. Let’s turn outrage into action. That’s my hope for the holidays.

How the War on Drugs Advances Transnational Capitalism [AlterNet]

How US drug policy in the Americas is a pretext for extending militarization and global capitalism south of the border. Dawn Paley, a Canadian journalist, offers a transformative view of the US war on drugs in the Western Hemisphere (with the exclusion of Canada as a targeted nation because it is a neoliberal partner of the United States in exploitation). Her just-released book,  Drug War Capitalism, is a sweeping, exhaustively detailed analysis that reveals the insidious actual goals of the US-led and funded militarization south of the border in the name of destroying drug cartels. As Paley writes, “This war is about control over territory and society [and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits], much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.”

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