Embassy Headlines, Issue 133


Why wait until Cannabis for medical purposes becomes legal in Australia?

Make your own medicine at home and bypass the middle man. Know what is in it and make your own decision on how much you need because your doctor is not trained to understand the endocannabinoid system.

The choice between good health and criminal charges is easy for those who have successfully tried Cannabis for their medical condition.

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.

Cannabis Medicine Making Workshop [Nimbin HEMP Embassy]

Now that the government has made it easier, legally speaking, for terminal patients to use / continue to use cannabis as their chosen treatment, people can find the answers to those questions at a Cannabis Medicine Making Workshop that has been organised for Saturday 10th January in Nimbin Town Hall to facilitate the SAFE extraction of oils and tinctures by carers and patients.  The aim of the workshop is to assist and educate “any person” who has a terminal diagnosis or who finds themselves with a new terminal diagnosis, or their carers – according to the broad legal definition in the NSW scheme outline.  The workshop will cover all aspects of treatments from nutrition and lifestyle changes necessary; to “secrets of extraction” demonstrations with plenty of time for Q&As.  It will also endeavour to shed some light on the new rules operating in NSW, and how and why to make application to be on the TICS (Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme!) register.

Illegal drugs: time for Victoria to abandon failed policies [The Age]

Drug prohibition isn’t working, and the new state government could do worse than look to Portugal for some fresh ideas. The dramatic rise in Victoria’s drug trade over the past five years has occurred because the government has pursued failed prohibition policies. According to figures published in The Age on Monday, demand for “illegal narcotics such as ice is growing at breakneck speed. Use and possession offences for all drugs have skyrocketed 68 per cent in the five-year period, while cultivation, trafficking and manufacturing offences have jumped 25 per cent. “Almost 18,000 drug use-possession offences were recorded past financial year, while offences relating to the production of illicit substances reached almost 6000,” The Age reported. This is despite Victoria spending billions over this period charging hundreds of thousands of Victorians with drug offences. Last year the London School of Economics released a report signed by, among others, five Nobel Prize-winning economists – Kenneth Arrow, Christopher Pissarides, Thomas Schelling, Vernon Smith and Oliver Williamson – who summed up why it is that a criminal justice and law enforcement approach to drugs is such a failure. “The strategy has failed based on its own terms,” they said. “Evidence shows that drug prices have been declining while purity has been increasing. This has been despite drastic increases in global enforcement spending. Continuing to spend vast resources on punitive enforcement-led policies, generally at the expense of proven public health policies, can no longer be justified.”

Many people use drugs – but here’s why most don’t become addicts [UnHarm]

“A powerful cultural narrative focusing on the power of illegal drugs to disrupt otherwise stable, happy lives dominates our media and political discourse, and shapes policy responses… In reality the likelihood of individuals without pre-existing vulnerabilities succumbing to long-term addiction is slim.” Paul Hayes, Hon. Professor Drug Policy at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Medical marijuana: let the doctors, not politicians, sort it out [The Guardian]

Most Australians, and many politicians, agree medical marijuana is a no-brainer. But there remain important unanswered questions about its use. In 2014, Australia seemed to decide in the affirmative to the “whether” question for medicinal cannabis. In 2015, it will be time to think about for “whom” and “how”. Two out of every three Australians support medicinal cannabis. Politicians supporting medicinal cannabis include Tony Abbott, NSW premier Mike Baird and Victorian premier Daniel Andrews. Retired politicians supporting medicinal cannabis include John Howard and Bob Carr. “Why would sick people be allowed cannabis but not well people?” is a common question. There are good reasons for thinking separately about medicinal and recreational drugs. There are a number of drugs that doctors in Australia can prescribe for medicinal purposes even though their recreational use is prohibited, including morphine, amphetamine, cocaine and ketamine.

Medical marijuana finds crossbench backers in Australian parliament [The Guardian]

Campaign to legalise marijuana for medical purposes gathers strength with push to get issue on top of agenda in new parliamentary year.The campaign to legalise marijuana for medical purposes is gathering strength with a group of crossbench senators and MPs pushing for the issue to be top of the agenda in the new parliamentary year. A private members’ bill has been introduced to the Senate that would see the formation of a regulator to oversee the growing and distribution of cannabis for people with, for example, terminal illnesses or patients undergoing chemotherapy. The bill is sponsored by Richard di Natale from the Greens, and is co-sponsored by Labor’s Melissa Parke and government backbencher Sharman Stone. “This is a reform whose time has come,” di Natale told Guardian Australia. “We need national laws on the issue. I’m confident that federally we’ll get some movement on it.”

NSW: green light for cannabis for terminally ill [Financial Review]

The terminally ill will be protected from prosecution for using medicinal cannabis under landmark NSW drug laws but they will have to grow their own. In what is being hailed as the start of a nationwide trend, NSW Premier Mike Baird late last month announced a more compassionate approach to medicinal cannabis, including a register of terminally ill patients who police will not charge for taking cannabis. But the measure has been criticised because supplying cannabis is still criminal and the terminally ill will have to grow their own drugs. A certificate from a doctor will be lodged with the Department of Justice and will in theory protect terminally ill patients and up to three of their carers from prosecution. Catherine Cusack, a Liberal state MP who has co-ordinated the policy changes, said the register of terminally ill would bring relief to people immediately and would probably have greater practical effect than three clinical trials of medicinal cannabis also announced last week which have attracted more media attention. “The terminally ill no longer have to be afraid of going to jail,” Ms Cusack said.

Doctors in clear after prescribing medical marijuana to patients  [Herald Sun]

Five doctors who prescribed their patients medical marijuana can continue to practise medicine, after health authorities ruled they were not putting the community in danger by recommending the controversial medication. It comes as the Victorian Government has promised marijuana will soon be legal for use by people who are terminally ill or who suffer life-threatening illnesses. But the Herald Sun can reveal that state child protection workers continue to threaten Melbourne parents who have been treating their sick children with the drug. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency has not taken any action against practitioners officially reported to it over claims they were using medical marijuana, despite treatment with the drug being illegal in Australia. Details of investigations into the doctors are being kept secret, however the Herald Sun understands they include a recent complaint made by a major Victorian hospital into the actions of one of its ­doctors. All of the other cases have occurred in the past four years.

Father arrested for daughter’s cannabis ‘cure’ [News]

The father of a toddler undergoing cancer treatment in a Brisbane hospital has been arrested for trying to treat his daughter with medical cannabis.  The Cairns man was arrested on Friday, charged with supplying dangerous drugs to a minor, who is receiving medical treatment at Lady Cliento Children’s Hospital. His two-year-old daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was formally diagnosed with advanced neuroblastoma in December. She started her first bout of chemotherapy last week.

Busy students turning to prescription drugs [Sydney Morning Herald]

The drug habits of Australian students will be the focus of new research to determine whether prescription medications are being misused in a bid to enhance academic performance. A survey, commissioned by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, will seek information from students across four Australian universities. The findings, due to be released in 2016, will build on the first big study of prescription stimulant misuse at Australian universities, published last year, which found 8 per cent of undergraduate participants had used the drugs in a manner not specified in the approved packaging label.  This research, led by University of NSW performance psychologist Jason Mazanov, polled more than 1700 students at four large south-eastern universities about their use of cognitive enhancers, illicit drugs, caffeine and natural diet supplements. Of the 164 students that reported using prescription amphetamines, about two-thirds said they took them to improve their concentration and ability to focus. One-third said that they took them to “get high” or “enjoy the feeling”.

Immigration officials face booze, drug tests [Canberra Times]

More than 8000 public servants at the Immigration Department face being breathalysed and drug tested in their offices under a tough new workplace regime. There will also be a crackdown on second jobs, social media use and sloppy appearances among the department’s public servants as the Customs agency hierarchy tightens its grip on Immigration. Immigration’s 8500 public servants were told just before the Christmas break that they will be subject to the same “integrity framework” as their new colleagues in Customs as the two departments merge to form the “Australian Border Force”. Among the 18 major new workplace policies sent out for consultation were drug and alcohol rules allowing managers to carry out either random or targeted tests for alcohol or narcotics on Immigration bureaucrats as they work.

Radio New Zealand: Should Cannabis be Legal [Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party]

Radio New Zealand’s indepth science programme Our Changing World has investigated the debate around cannabis. Shanti Campbell, a science communication student at the University of Otago, investigates different sides of the debate around the legalisation of marijuana. She talks first with John Ashton, from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Otago about the health effects of cannabis use, and then catches up with Abe Gray, a Master of Science student at the University of Otago, who is also deputy leader of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

Pot growers cultivating in the shadows seek U.S. patent protection [Denver Post]

No one is stealing from Holmes, a self-taught scientist, engineer, farmer and cannabis seed geek who next month will take a rare step to apply for a patent on a laboriously created cannabis superstrain. If it is awarded, the U.S. patent on Holmes’ medical-grade Otto II strain will be the first to protect a cannabis plant and a first step in establishing plant-breeder rights for growers who only a few years ago were considered criminals. “This industry came up in stealth, born in basements and crawl spaces,” Holmes said. “But now, with companies forming and making larger investments, the desire to protect intellectual property is becoming paramount. Bleeding-edge stuff, right here.” Indeed. Gone are the days when pie-eyed longhairs haphazardly hurled pollen into jungles of pot plants, hoping to meld two strains. Today’s top breeders are geneticists, taking years to weed through carefully engineered generations of cannabis to elevate the most desired traits.

World’s strongest weed? Potency testing challenged [Seattle Times]

The state is tracking and testing Washington’s recreational marijuana, but growers, laboratories and the state agency in charge of the program have reservations about some of the data. State rules require a small sample tested from every lot of marijuana up to five pounds. But do consumers know what they’re getting? That’s murkier. As the state market develops, so does its testing program. The program is having success screening substances like yeast, mold and bacteria. About 10 percent of marijuana buds fail tests and can’t be sold in recreational pot stores, according to Liquor Control Board data.Potency testing, meanwhile, shows Washington’s recreational pot is all over the map. It averages about 16 percent THC, but ranges widely. About 2.5 percent of marijuana tests above 28 percent THC. Some samples climb into the 30s and 40s. For perspective, High Times reports the “heaviest-hitting strains” at conventions it hosted in 2013maxed out at 28 percent. In Colorado, scientists at CannLabs said they require a retest for results higher than 27 percent THC. Does that mean Washington is growing some of the world’s strongest weed?

Colorado Begins $5.7 Million ‘Good to Know’ Campaign for Marijuana Awareness [Time]

The campaign is aimed at educating the state’s citizens without alienating them. The state of Colorado is spending $5.7 million to educate its citizens about the responsible use of marijuana in a major public campaign beginning this month. The “Good to Know” initiative will utilize radio broadcasts, newspapers and the Internet,USA Today reports. The campaign apparently has a folksy and relatable tone to it, with one of the radio spots featuring a rhyming cowboy and banjo music. Colorado’s chief medical officer Dr. Larry Wolk says its goal is to educate without alienating.

Going to pot: A history of the effect of legal cannabis in the US [Independent UK]

While federal law says possession and sale is still illegal, you can now buy recreational marijuana in four states. Strip away all the peripheral details of legalisation – social, financial, digestive – and you are left with the simple fact that Colorado residents and visitors can now use marijuana in all its forms without fear of legal consequences. In a society that also permits people to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and drive cars, that only seems right.

Medical Marijuana, 2014 Year In Review [Florida Examiner]

The State of Florida voted on Amendment 2 which was on the ballot last November. It failed passing by a mere 2% but most feel it will pass in the presidential election of 2016. Orlando Attorney John Morgan was the driving force on securing Amendment 2 on the ballot and has already stated that he will fight for its passage in 2016. Amendment 2 had a couple of flaws in its wording that allowed its opponents to punch holes in the bill and this got the voters attention. Morgan has stated that any wording issues will not be a problem in 2016. Medical marijuana is not dead and buried but it is alive and well in 2015. There are many states who in 2016 will be fighting for its passage. Florida will be one of the new states where it will be legal and most in the state are seriously looking forward to it. Legalize this plant we call marijuana. For information on the status of the legalization of medical marijuana in the State of Florida please go to forthepeople.com

Colorado’s cannabis experiment puts it into a global spotlight [Denver Post]

Only one year in, Colorado’s unprecedented jump into marijuana legalization has become the stuff of legend. For opponents and supporters, the state comes up repeatedly in the evolving discussion about marijuana. It is perhaps the most underappreciated consequence of legalization. By becoming the first place in the world to actually legalize commercial sales of marijuana to anyone over 21, Colorado made the worldwide debate over pot more vibrant than it has ever been. Those in favor of legalization now think of Colorado — and, to a lesser extent, Washington state, which debuted a smaller marijuana market later in the year — as a kind of political homeland. The states’ campaigns and resulting industries were the inspiration for pro-pot successes in two more states this fall and are the blueprints for coming 2016 campaigns in as many as a half-dozen states. They helped foment never-before-seen congressional rebellion against federal enforcement of marijuana laws. “It would not have become a topic of national debate so immediately if Colorado’s laws hadn’t come online early in the year,” said Aaron Houston, a D.C. lobbyist for the company WeedMaps who has worked on pro-marijuana issues since 2003. “Colorado’s law was a game-changer because it shifted the debate at the federal level from if to when.”

Texas Is the Next Big Test for Legal Weed [Vice]

Just before Christmas, Democratic Texas State Representative Joe Moody introduced a bill that would reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana from an arrestable offense carrying up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine to a civil infraction with a much smaller fee of $100. The bill has enjoyed bipartisan support from both liberal and far-right organizations, and advocates behind HB 507 expect the bill to receive partisan support from Texas Democrats and a “liberty-minded” faction of Republicans. But to become law in the hyper-conservative state, reform must appeal to more conservative Republicans and, in particular, to their concerns with fiscal responsibility.

Drugscience’s New Year Newsletter! [ISCD]

Val Curran criticises media coverage of drugs that let down teenage readers. You can also watch her sum up some cannabis science here, with the Global Commission for Drug Policy, which works to end the War on Drugs.

There Really Is An LSD Shortage, And Here’s Why [io9]

Lysergic acid diethylamide used to be everywhere. LSD played a huge role in shaping pop culture in the 1960s, and in the 1980s everyone lived in fear of LSD-laced temporary tattoos and acid-popping Satanists. But nowadays, you rarely hear about it. What happened?

What America’s War on Drugs Looked Like in 1969 [Life]

For all of the myriad, often-brilliant ways that LIFE covered the world in the middle part of the 20th century, the magazine had a rather fraught relationship with at least one pivotal aspect of the age: namely, the counter-culture of the 1960s, in the U.S. and around the globe. That a publication of LIFE’s influence and reach only grudgingly paid attention to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Hendrix and other avatars of the pop-culture revolution might suggest that every aspect of the era’s tumult passed virtually unnoticed. In fact, though, while LIFE might not have covered the Sixties with as much unceasing, breathless fascination as some other periodicals, when it did turn its attention to, say, the explosion of recreational drug use among Americans, its coverage was often admirably even-handed, and something close to exhaustive.

Book: Xenolinguistics: Psychedelics, Language, and the Evolution of Consciousness[Amazon] 

Xenolinguistics documents the author’s eleven-year adventure of psychonautic exploration and scholarly research; her original intent was to understand a symbolic language system, Glide, she acquired in an altered state of consciousness. What began as a deeply personal search, led to the discovery of others, dubbed xenolinguists, with their own unique linguistic objects and ideas about language from the psychedelic sphere. The search expanded, sifting through fields of knowledge such as anthropology and neurophenomenology to build maps and models to contextualize these experiences. The book presents a collection of these linguistic artifacts, from glossolalia to alien scripts, washed ashore like messages in bottles, signals from Psyche and the alien Others who populate her hyperdimensional landscapes.

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