Embassy Headlines, Issue 134


Ask your Mum about Bex, Vincents and all the other little helpers or compound analgesics that were used to reduce stress and relieve tension.

A cup of tea and a good lie down is another form of self-medication or therapy. Understanding your own health does help to prevent disease.

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.

Medical cannabis growers tell govt to ‘catch up’ [EchoNet]

A ‘huge group’ of cannabis growers is vowing to push ahead with making medicinal cannabis products and opening dispensaries while urging governments to ‘catch up’. The growers say the trials proposed by the NSW government are a waste of time as successful trials had already been conducted in countries such as the United States, Canada and Israel. Echonetdaily spoke with a number of growers at a medicinal cannabis workshop held in Nimbin at the weekend, which packed out the town hall. A medical cannabis workshop packed out the Nimbin Town Hall at the weekend. A Nimbin businessman, who goes by the moniker Goddess of the Holy Smoke, said the workshop was proof that there was a growing demand for medicinal cannabis products to treat various illnesses.

Growing push for medicinal cannabis to be legalised [Prime 7]

Medicinal cannabis is being labelled a matter of political urgency. According to both the Greens and now Labor – who are slamming the Government’s clinical trials as a waste of time.

Tasmanian Government condemned over silence on prosecutions for medical cannabis use[ABC]

Tasmanians involved in the use of medicinal cannabis for those with a serious illness say they are still seeking clarification as to whether they could face prosecution. The State Government has said police would not seek to prosecute terminally ill users of medicinal cannabis, or those who comment on its benefits. Police have also indicated they will not pursue terminally ill cannabis users, but say they want the discretion to assess each case.  Launceston woman Lyn Cleaver turned herself in to police on Christmas Eve,alerting them to a home-grown cannabis crop used to treat her son Jeremy’s epileptic seizures. “We had no response from the local police in Launceston. We emailed, again, the Premier…and no response from [him] either,” she said.

Kyneton Christian group launches medical cannabis petition [Bendigo Advertiser]

A Kyneton-based Christian group has launched a petition calling for the state government to carry out a full clinical trial into medical cannabis. The Macedon Ranges branch of the Christian Business Men Connection says a more compassionate approach is needed into the issue, having seen the improvement in condition of a Mia Mia girl using cannabis treatment. The group needs 4500 signatures to be able to submit the petition to the Victorian Legislative Council in support of the trial. Group chairman Bob Evans said momentum was needed to keep the issue on the agenda for the government. “Unless you keep the pressure on them, these things might not happen,” he said. “What we want to see is a thorough clinical trial. It hasn’t been conducted yet.” legislation, it leaves it in doubt that it will ever come to fruition.” The Christian Business Men Connection in Kyneton includes representatives from the Anglican, Catholic, Baptist and Uniting churches in the town.

Epilepsy advocates hoping to seize the power of medical marijuana [ABC]

An epilepsy support group has endorsed Keira MP Ryan Park’s calls for access to medical marijuana to be made available quickly, saying the drug can stop seizures in patients who suffer as many as 400 seizures a day. Epilepsy Action Australia CEO Carol Ireland says she’s delighted at the $9m trial for medicinal cannabis, but has stopped short of endorsing NSW Labor’s calls for immediate changes to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act. “There’s a good argument for continuing with trials, and while there’s pretty conclusive evidence that cannabidiol can stop seizures and have a huge impact on quality of life, long term effects haven’t been investigated yet and most trials have been overseas,” she says. But she wants the trials to be done quickly, because the early evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis in treating especially aggressive forms of epilepsy paints it as a miracle drug.

New South Wales opposition declares support for medicinal cannabis law change [The Guardian]

Legislation should be amended as soon as possible after the March state election the new NSW opposition leader, Luke Foley, says.The law should be changed as soon as possible to make it legal for people suffering terminal illness to be treated with medicinal cannabis, the New South Wales opposition leader, Luke Foley, says. Speaking on Sunday, Foley called for a “more ambitious” legal approach than the state government’s plan to give police the discretion not to charge terminally-ill cannabis users. “The law should disappear from the statute books,” Foley said. “I’d like to see us cross party lines here and change the law so that the terminally ill and their loved ones need never fear prosecution. “I want to … give people experiencing terrible pain and suffering some hope.” Foley said he wanted the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act changed “as a matter of urgency” in the first siting week of parliament after the March state election.

Legal-cannabis debate must continue [Sydney Morning Herald]

With enthusiastic endorsement from the new NSW Labor leader Luke Foley, the idea of medically prescribed cannabis is now popular across much of the political spectrum. Although 23 states in the US, Canada and some nations in Europe have now approved the use of medical cannabis, the Australian Medical Association agrees with the NSW government in saying the evidence in favour of medical cannabis is patchy and more trials are needed. Mr Foley, for his part, says the government should press ahead more quickly to enable medical cannabis to be accessed by ailing patients who need it, without waiting for the trials to be completed and the results to be assessed. He raises the spectre of patients in pain being denied a drug that could provide them with some relief. However, the NSW government has issued guidelines to ensure that police officers have the discretion to turn a blind eye to patients, and their carers, who are caught using or purchasing cannabis to alleviate pain and discomfort. By late 2014, the number of NSW citizens arrested for possessing drugs had doubled during six years. Drug arrest data analysis suggested NSW was in the vanguard of a national trend of increased law enforcement directed at individual drug-users and a large proportion of the increase in arrests had been for cannabis. Mr Foley, for one, has endorsed the notion of striking the laws that criminalise the possession of marijuana from the statute books. 

Synthetic cannabis deaths show case for controlled sale of marijuana, expert says [The Guardian]

Researchers say the substances in synthetic cannabis are difficult to identify and constantly changing, making both treatment and law enforcement difficult. The deaths of two men in central Queensland after they smoked synthetic cannabis highlight the need to regulate marijuana and allow its controlled sale, the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation says. Dr Alex Wodak said it was extremely difficult to determine the substances in synthetic cannabis, making its effects unpredictable and treatment for unwanted reactions difficult. The men died after smoking a product called Full Moon, sold in sex shops as herbal tea. One of the men collapsed after taking just one draw of smoke and never regained consciousness, Queensland police told reporters on Thursday. Wodak, an addiction specialist, said people were drawn to synthetic drugs because they could be easier to obtain and because of the misguided perception they were legal and safe.  “This is for me a strong argument for accepting the futility of current approaches to tackling drugs and trying to do something that will be effective,” Wodak said. “That means undermining the black market by having a regulated approach to cannabis that includes taxing it.”

Drug tests at Immigration a waste of time and money, says expert [Canberra Times]

The Immigration Department is wasting its time and taxpayers’ money on forced drug tests for thousands of public servants, according to a leading workplace drug and alcohol expert. The tests will be no deterrent, enormously expensive and might even make matters worse by forcing drug users in the department on to harder substances, according to AOD workplace testing’s Dr Donna Bull. But the department says that it is no ordinary workplace and that illicit drug use by government officials represents an unacceptable corruption risk to the nation’s border protection system. Dr Bull, an independent consultant, says up to 5000 public servants would have to be tested each year to give the department a realistic chance of catching bureaucrats who turn up to work high.

MLC Slams Music Festival Drug Busts [Australian Sex Party]

Ms Fiona Patten, the newly elected member of the Victorian Legislative Council has said she will introduce a private members’ Bill to legalise recreational marijuana in Victoria over the next 12 months. New member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Fiona Patten, has called on the Premier to abandon the use of sniffer dogs at music festivals and to ignore small amounts of marijuana carried by patrons. She said the arrest of 40 people last night at the Above and Beyond music festival was not in the public interest and would do nothing to stop unsafe drug use in Victoria. “It is gratifying to see that the police have referred the large majority of these cases to drug diversion programs but unless someone was being assaulted or self-harming as a result of taking these drugs, these people should have been left alone to enjoy their music and their culture in the same way that patrons might enjoy a few scotches while watching a cabaret show at Crown Casino”, she said. “There is no benefit to the public in treating them any differently”.

The Kiwi comedown has lessons for all [New Scientist]

Hailed as a better way than prohibition, there is much to learn from New Zealand’s stalled attempt to legalise new highs. Just 18 months ago, New Zealand was the talk of the world’s drug law reformers. It had set up a system to allow new recreational drugs to gain official approval and be sold legally. Moreover, it had won sweeping parliamentary support for this – the Psychoactive Substances Act was passed with a solitary vote against. It seemed that a government had finally taken the bold step towards ending prohibition. And yet now it is far from clear that the law will ever be used to approve a drug. A panicky government amendment may have made it unworkable. What happened has lessons for others seeking a better way than the failed “war” on drugs to minimise the problems related to psychoactive substances. The act was meant to establish a process for new psychoactive substances to be tested and, if posing only “a low risk of harm”, approved for sale. Regulations would cover testing, importation, manufacture and sale. Politicians seemed to understand that “low risk” did not mean “no risk”. The lessons? The interim period may have caused more problems than it solved. The delay in introducing a proper regulatory infrastructure was harmful. But more than that, New Zealand’s experience has shown the perils of attempting to regulate new psychoactive substances without reviewing drug law as a whole.

Epileptic Girl Fights For Right To use Medical Cannabis [KCEN TV]

Texas is home to some of the most notorious marijuana laws in the country. This year, advocates hope to change those. A bill recently drafted by the Marijuana Policy Project aims to make medical marijuana accessible in Texas to people with PTSD, cancer, and a variety of other ailments. If a bill is not passed by state legislators during the upcoming legislative session, many people say they will be forced to move out of state, including the family of 9-year-old Alexis Bortell.

Cancer Patient Dies After Medical Marijuana Conviction [Huffington Post]

A cancer patient from Iowa whose conviction for growing medical marijuana made national headlines died from the disease on Monday. Benton Mackenzie, 49, was sentenced to probation in September following his conviction, but his health had rapidly deteriorated during his trial. Mackenzie stood trial in July for growing medical marijuana to make an oil that he used as treatment of his tumors. He and his wife were convicted in Iowa district court for marijuana manufacturing and conspiracy. Their son, Cody, was convicted of drug possession. In a surprise ruling, the family was sentenced to probation, rather than prison. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed a law last year legalizing the use of marijuana-derived CBD oil to treat epilepsy. The law focuses narrowly on “intractable epilepsy” and didn’t apply to Mackenzie. After his conviction, Mackenzie began traveling to Oregon, where medical marijuana is legal, for treatment.

Shocking Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Opioid Deaths [High Times]

A study of internal medicine by UPenn researchers has found a startlingly clear correlation between states with medical marijuana laws and the lowering of opioid death rates. In simple terms, states with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate than states without medical marijuana laws. The sad part? “Approximately 60 percent of all deaths resulting from opioid analgesic overdoses occur in patients who have legitimate prescriptions,” Dr. Marcus A. Bachhuber explained. 

One Video Will Change How Medical Marijuana Is Viewed [High Times]

Some people will never believe the medicinal value of marijuana because of ignorant biases based on misinformation. For others, all it takes is a little proof — and one group of parents has set out to present their proof to the non-believers. In a post to YouTube simply titled #stoptheseizures, the impassioned parents and caregivers offer an emotional, yet totally logical argument for why the ban on medical marijuana is very clearly wrong. Watch the video and share it if you support their message. Whether it simply serves to strengthen your resolve in the community or changes someone’s mind completely, it is worth viewing.

Paypal founder Peter Thiel becomes marijuana’s first big investor [The Guardian]

Thiel’s Founders Fund is the first institutional investor to put money into the nascent cannabis industry, which is still illegal in half the US. Peter Thiel has never shied away from investing in companies so experimental that they’re too new to even be part of an industry. So it’s hardly surprising that Thiel’s Founders Fund has become the first institutional investor to make an investment in the nascent cannabis industry – a business that isn’t even legal in half of the states in the country.  This morning, Founders Fund confirmed the buzz that has been circulating for several weeks: partner Geoff Lewis is leading an effort to take a minority stake in Privateer Holdings, the Seattle-based company that owns Leafly.com. For those who haven’t heard of it, Leafly is like Yelp for pot and medical marijuana buyers looking for reviews and price information. Privateer also controls a Canadian medical marijuana growing operation, Tilray, and other cannabis ventures.

Pot pioneer: More states, Native American tribes mimic Colorado’s marijuana laws [PBS]

The movement to legalize marijuana is spreading rapidly as the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use begins its second year in Colorado. This past November, Oregon and Alaska voted to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana. Last month, the Department of Justice last month said it would allow Native American tribes to make their own decisions on the sale of pot.

Fatal Accidents Linked to Alcohol And Marijuana Use [International Business Times]

A new study enquires into the connection between the use of alcohol and marijuana, and the government’s policy on these substances. More than half the young drivers killed in car crashes in nine states in the U.S. tested positive for alcohol, marijuana or both. A new study, published in Springer’s Injury Epidemiology, and conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, examines 7,191 fatal accidents in which the drivers were between 16 and 25 years old from California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington State and West Virginia. These states regularly perform toxicology tests on drivers who die in car crashes. The study was meant to understand how changes in policy could affect substance use among young people. Of the 50.3 per cent fatalities among drivers who were under the influence of either alcohol, marijuana or both, 36.8 per cent were under the influence of alcohol, 5.9 were under the influence of marijuana and 7.6 per cent had used both. The team of researchers found that there was an increase in alcohol consumption among those aged 21 years or older when it is legal to consume alcohol in the United States, but that there was no corresponding increase in marijuana consumption. Among those who had used this drug alone there was a decrease in numbers above 21. After 21, use of both substances increased slightly. The study was conducted to determine how policy affects substance use among adults in the light of the recent and on-going legalization of marijuana in American states.

Drug Company Will Soon Hold Patent On THC, CBD As Cancer Cures [Your News Wire]

A UK pharmaceutical company, specializing in the research and development of cannabis based drugs, recently obtained early approval on a patent covering two specific cannabinoids used for treating brain cancer. MedicalMarijuan4all reports: GW Pharmaceuticals announced Wednesday that it has been issued a Notice of Allowance from the U.S. Patent Office for a patent application involving the use of THC and CBD, the two main chemicals in marijuana, for treating gliomas. Once a patent application is deemed a genuine invention, the Patent Office sends a Notice of Allowance that outlines the fees involved with final approval. Specifically, the company provides this description of the patent:

“The subject patent specifically covers a method for treating glioma in a human using a combination of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) wherein the cannabinoids are in a ratio of from 1:1 to 1:20 (THC:CBD) with the intent to reduce cell viability, inhibit cell growth or reduce tumor volume.”

Filed in 2009, GW’s patent application lists Otsuka Pharmaceutical as a collaborator and initially claimed the invention of the “use of a combination of cannabinoids in the manufacture of a medicament for use in the treatment of cancer.” However, it’s likely that the application was revised since then to be more specific in its claims, including the ratio of THC to CBD used and the type of cancer treated. Indeed, the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived chemicals to fight a wide range of cancers has long been suggested by pre-clinical research as well as anecdotal reports.

GW Pharma’s cannabis drug fails in cancer pain study, shares fall [Reuters]

An experimental cannabis drug failed to alleviate pain in cancer patients as hoped in a clinical study, sending shares in its British maker GW Pharmaceuticals as much as 21 percent lower on Thursday. GW, which is developing the drug Sativex for pain in collaboration with Japan’s Otsuka, said the first of three late-stage trials found no statistically significant difference between subjects using its product and those given a placebo. GW Chief Executive Justin Gover said the findings were both disappointing and surprising, given encouraging results in earlier tests, but the company’s scientists had not given up hope.  Results from two further Phase III trials are due later this year and, if positive, could still allow the drug to be submitted for treating pain in patients with advanced cancer, where it is designed to be given on top of opioids.

Why is it easier to study heroin than marijuana? [Aljazeera America]

Many can buy pot in any form or potency, but federal regulations make any research into the drug nearly impossible. An enormous number of people are using marijuana. Nearly 20 million people say they’ve used it in the prior month, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, making it America’s favorite illicit drug. In California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, half a million people have prescriptions. The nonprofit ProCon.org estimated that if every state legalized medical marijuana, there would be almost 2.5 million regular medical users alone. Yet, when state policymakers write new marijuana laws and medical clinics dole out marijuana prescriptions, the risks and benefits touted are largely anecdotal. Compared to other pharmaceuticals, and even other illegal drugs, studying marijuana in any formal sense is nearly impossible under federal regulations. Over the years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has repeatedly rejected petitions to reclassify marijuana, asserting, “no sound scientific studies support medical use of marijuana for treatment” and that “the clear weight of the evidence is that smoked marijuana is harmful.” So, marijuana remains in Schedule 1, along with ecstasy, heroin, and LSD. But unlike those drugs, or any other illegal drug, marijuana research is also subject to an open-ended public health review by the Public Health Service. This review is unique to marijuana. It’s easier to study the potential medical benefits and risks of heroin, which has seen the number of overdose deaths increase by 50 percent in just two years, than it is to study the same aspects of marijuana. And while other forms of permission for drug research have a built-in deadline of weeks or months, the public health review has no timetable. “In our case it took us 12 years to get approval from the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Brad Burge, director of communications for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which privately funds studies of marijuana and other drugs, and sought to study the potential therapeutic benefits of smoked marijuana.

Who is right and wrong on drugs? [Daily Mail]

Peter Hitchens believes British justice has gone soft, so read what happened in an email debate with author Johann Hari who argues ‘war on drugs’ makes problem worse.

The Future of Drugs [VICE]

When we are talking about the future of drugs, there are three certainties that cannot be ignored:

Certainty #1. Until the planet explodes, melts or drowns, humans will want to get intoxicated.

Certainty #2. People who supply these intoxicants, particularly banned ones, will trouser a load of cash.

Certainty #3. We will be blindsided by a new drug phenomenon, a bolt from the blue, that everyone will pretend they knew was coming.

In 2003, a group of 50 eminent scientists and professors were gathered by the government’s Foresight think tank in order to focus their collective brain power on the answer to one question: What will the drug world look like in 2025?  The answer was revealed two years later, in a series of 21 documents. The scientists’ huge crystal ball revealed a Britain in 2025 awash with smart, lifestyle drugs – drugs to help people learn, think, relax, sleep, or simply to forget, a bit like the creepy, hangoverless pleasure drug Soma in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. So far, this prediction is not looking like a bad one; there is already a huge grey market in drugs that enhance performance, image and mood, and it’s a market that is rapidly expanding.  But what is interesting about the Foresight project is not what it got right, but what it missed. It failed to predict the biggest phenomenon to hit the drugs world since ecstasy: The explosion, a mere four years after their report was published, of new psychoactive substances sold on the back of a fledgling online drug trade. It opened the gateway to hundreds of untried substances and crucially, it revolutionised the way illegal drugs were bought and sold.

Drugs Unlimited: The Web Revolution That’s Changing How the World Gets High [Book Depository]

The very first thing ever bought or sold on the Internet was marijuana, when Stanford and MIT students used ARPANET to cut a deal in the early ’70s. Today, you can order any conceivable pill or powder with the click of a mouse. In “Drugs Unlimited,” Mike Power tells the tale of drugs in the Internet Age, in which users have outmaneuvered law enforcement, breached international borders, and created a massive worldwide black market.


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