Embassy Headlines, Issue 136


The answer is in billions of dollars each year.

Calculate the profits for Big Pharma plus the expense of enforcing prohibition plus the social cost of crime plus the price of Cannabis on the black market and then compare the total loss to the potential gain for the economy when Cannabis is a tradable commodity as seed, bio-mass and medicine.

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.


Some of my favourite people are standing for mercy.  You can stand with us too. Please join us this Thursday January 29 for a Candlelight Vigil to be held in Martin Place Sydney. Hosted by David Wenham, MUSIC FOR MERCY will be a peaceful show of compassion for Myuran and Andrew and their families. Both boys made terrible and stupid mistakes ten years ago but I can assure you they are now rehabilitated and remorseful young men deserving of a second chance. 


This is an alcohol-free, family-friendly event.  Please bring a candle and stand with us for mercy. Please share this invitation with your friends. Thank you for your outpouring of support. Please continue to sign the petitionhttp://mercycampaign.org/ and keep using #KeepHopeAlive and #Istandformercy in your social feeds. Myu and Andrew, we are walking this path with you. Ben Quilty

Bali Nine: hypocrisy, politics and courts play out in death row lottery [The Conversation]

One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is that its administration is fundamentally unfair. Too often, the question of who receives a death sentence and whether and when it is actually carried out becomes more a matter of politics than of facts and law. This ambivalence over how the death penalty sits with recognition of human rights is reflected in the “bob each way” decision the Indonesian Constitutional Court made in 2007. It held that execution is not inconsistent with the guarantee of right to life in its liberal post-Soeharto constitution. However, the court also recommended that prisoners who have been on death row for ten years and have shown reform and rehabilitation should have their sentences commuted to imprisonment. Jimly Asshiddiqie, the Constitutional Court Chief Justice at the time, has recently complained that the government has completely ignored this part of the judgment. He has also indicated discomfort with his court’s decision to uphold the death penalty, suggesting the time may be right to abolish it.

Sucked Into US Drug War [HEMP Party]

Letter to the Editor, Jakarta Post.
It’s hard for me to comprehend how beautiful ancient Asian cultures who have lived harmoniously with the Earth for centuries, got sucked into this shameful and unholy American led “war on drugs”.

It’s actually a war on any drugs not owned by Big Pharma and of course that includes natures best pain relieving plants….. the Opium Poppy, the Cannabis and Coca plants. Now look at the illegal trade in heroin, pot and coke?

Ask any doctor, opium is the best painkiller on Earth. But Big Pharma wants control of pain relief because that’s the most profitable business around. People spend their life savings trying to get rid of pain.

This war on drugs, started by the USA less than a hundred years ago is rooted in greed and corruption and lies. It was always about monopolies and profit and its use by date is up. Time we reviewed our whole attitude towards drug use which is truly a health issue and nothing to do with being a criminal.

Humans always have and always will take drugs to try and feel good, or God if you prefer. Hardly a crime.

Michael Balderstone, President – Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party
Nimbin HEMP Embassy, Nimbin 2480 NSW Australia.

Hemp takes spotlight in legal arena [Northern Daily Leader]

A Tamworth medical marijuana champion has turned her sights to legalising hemp as food in Australia, claiming governments are advocating a “breathtaking double standard” by blacklisting it. Australia remains one of the last nations on earth to outlaw human consumption of hemp seed, despite Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) finding it was a health food and did not contain enough of the psychoactive ingredient to make consumers high. Tamworth mum Lucy Haslam, who along with son Dan has helped inspire widespread national support for medical marijuana, said it was farcical a product regarded as a “super food” by experts was being blocked by politicians. “In every other country around the world, hemp seed is seen as a ‘super food’ but in Australia and New Zealand, it is banned from human consumption,” Mrs Haslam said. “We are apparently existing in a backwater that excludes the research from all around advanced countries of the planet. “I buy hemp seed for Dan and he drinks it in smoothies and puts in on his meals because it is such a rich source of protein and omega 3. “It turns out we are criminals for doing that too.”

Queensland election 2015: Majority of Queenslanders support medical marijuana, Vote Compass finds [ABC]

Queenslanders appear to be keen on joining their southern counterparts in legalising medicinal marijuana, according to results from the Vote Compass survey. The largest poll of the voting public on the subject returned an emphatic verdict – three-quarters of the 69,196 respondents agreed with the idea of making marijuana legal for medicinal purposes. There was a majority in favour among supporters of all the significant parties contestingSaturday’s election. There was also majority support within all age groups, religious groups and in both regional Queensland and the south-east corner.

Queensland Election 2015: Campbell Newman and Annastacia Palaszczuk agree on medicinal marijuana [Brisbane Times]

The Queensland government and Labor have found another issue to agree on – medicinal use of marijuana. Previously, Premier Campbell Newman has said he was “sympathetic” to the issue, but wanted to wait on the outcome of the NSW trial. On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said Labor had the same position. “I understand there is a trial happening at the moment in New South Wales, I think we should have a look at how that trial eventuates and I am happy to give that due consideration once we have seen the outcomes of the views of that trial,” she said. “I think it is the process at the moment, so let’s see the outcomes of that trial and if we need to … my focus here is to see the outcome of the NSW trial in the first instance.”

Queensland Election: Liquor industry supports LNP [Brisbane Times]

The Newman Government has pandered to one of its most generous donor industries in developing its plan to crack down on alcohol-fuelled violence, according to a not-for-profit group. The Foundation for Alcohol Research has crunched the numbers on three years of Queensland political donations made by the alcohol industry and found that 92 per cent were made to the LNP. The sector donated nearly $375,000 to the party in that time, according to the advocacy group. FARE chief executive Michael Thorn attacked the government for favouring its donors over proven alcohol harm minimisation stategies when developing its policy to crack down on alcohol-fuelled violence in known entertainment precinct trouble spots. The government opted for the tough-on-crime approach of more police and higher penalties to curb anti-social behaviour over restricting licensed venue trading hours, the latter being an approach that was shown to be hugely successful when trialled in Newcastle. “The alcohol industry has paid over $374,000 to the LNP in the last three years and we need to be asking, what exactly is that money buying and what does industry expect for its largesse?” Mr Thorn said.

Phytotech and the Keyser Söze strategy [Financial Review]

New Zealand-born Smith, 51, remembers his “epiphany” to start the company during his annual three-day hunting and fishing trip in his homeland’s mountains. Eating fresh trout and smoking cannabis each night with an old school friend, he didn’t need his anti-inflammatory drugs for a back injury suffered on a WA gold mine. “I started researching, went to America, Amsterdam and quickly worked out Israel had the best growing and most progressive laws in the world.” Back home, the company still had more than a few regulatory hurdles to pass. Wall had approached James Rowe, head of the ASX in Perth, last year to flag the IPO and identify potential problems. “Whenever you are the first company to do something you want to make sure the regulators don’t take issue with it,” Wall says. Phytotech wanted to raise $5 million through 25 million shares at 20¢ each, but the group went into crisis meetings after ASIC commissioner John Price distanced the regulator. “The fact that a prospectus is lodged with ASIC does not mean that ASIC ‘approves’ or ‘endorses’ the nature of a particular company’s business plan or investment scheme in any way,” Mr Price wrote, after an AFR story on the stock in November.  Smith agreed to keep quiet, or go “Keyser Söze” as he calls it (the mythical character in the Hollywood movie The Usual Suspects), until after the IPO – initially slated for November but now being delayed until the new year. The Keyser Söze strategy worked and the offer was more than three times oversubscribed, with the company extending the float to $5.9 million.

Study finds one in six chronic pain sufferers use medicinal cannabis [ABC]

Up to one in six Australian chronic pain sufferers is technically breaking the law, a landmark national study has found. The figure is from a survey involving 1,500 chronic pain sufferers conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Professor Michael Farrell, the director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, headed the study and said there was a high rate of medicinal cannabis use in Australia. “This is the first time we have had figures like this, so it gives us an indication of the scale, and it gives us something to think about,” he said. Cannabis consumption is banned in most states and territories, although a clinical trial of its medicinal use will start soon in NSW.

Cannabis eases chronic pain better than commonly prescribed opioids, study suggests[Independent UK]

Cannabis can ease chronic pain more effectively than conventional medicines, according to a new study likely to flame the debate on the medical use of marijuana. Researchers from the Australian National Drug and Alcohol centre found that patients with chronic pain who used the drug said it eased their symptoms better opioid medications, which are highly addictive and can cause accidental overdoses.  The study analysed 1,500 patients, aged in their late 40s and early 50s, who suffered from conditions including back pain, migraines and arthritis, and were being prescribed with heavy-duty opioid medications, such as morphine and oxycodone.  Professor Louisa Degenhardt, from the National Drug and Alcohol Centre and the University of Melbourne led the study. Her team discovered that nearly 13 per cent of the patients had used the illegal drug in the past year on top of their prescribed medication. In comparison, only 4.7 per cent of the rest of the population used cannabis, she wrote in the journal ‘Drug and Alcohol Dependence’.

US Pediatricians Release A Statement Condemning Legalized Pot [Business Insider Australia]

Despite moves by some states to allow recreational and medical use of marijuana, a large group of U.S. pediatricians says in a new statement that the substance should remain — for the most part — illegal. In an update to its 2004 position statement on the matter, the American Academy of Pediatrics also calls for decriminalization of marijuana to lessen the lasting effects of criminal charges brought against youths — especially minorities. While it doesn’t support legalization, the Academy says the penalties for being caught with the substance should be reduced because a criminal record can have a lasting impact on people’s lives, causing them to have trouble getting jobs, housing and loans for education. Decriminalization of marijuana “takes this whole issue out of the criminal justice system and puts it into the health system, where it really should be,” said Dr. Seth Ammerman, the statement’s lead author from Stanford University in California.

Holder limits seized-asset sharing process that split billions with local, state police [Washington Post]

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges. Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs. Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

Why Does Almost No One Get Caught With Pot At Denver’s Airport? [Forbes]

In the first half of 2014, around 300,000 outbound passengers traveled through DIA. But according to an airport spokeswoman quoted by theCBS CBS +0.04% station in Denver last July, only 16 people had been caught with marijuana. If we assume that 12 percent of travelers are cannabis consumers, as suggested by national survey data, that’s 36,000 people who might have bought marijuana in Colorado (perhaps more, since it’s plausible that people who visit one of two states where you can legally buy marijuana for recreational use are especially likely to be cannabis consumers). Let’s say 10 percent of marijuana buyers had leftovers that they took with them to the airport, inadvertently or otherwise. That would be 3,600 travelers carrying cannabis, of whom 16—less than 0.5 percent—were caught. Those are pretty good odds, especially since the worst consequence travelers are apt to suffer for failing to throw out their pot before they get to the airport is having to throw it out at the airport. If TSA agents happen to come across marijuana in someone’s luggage, they contact local authorities, who can fine violators up to $150 but as of July had not done so, responding instead by disposing of the contraband.

Legal Marijuana Is The Fastest Growing Industry In America, And It’s About To Get Bigger [Inquistr]

Legal marijuana is America’s fastest growing industry, with the market nearly doubling in the past year and poised for even more growth. Researchers from The ArcView Grow, an Oakland-based investment and research firm working exclusively with the cannabis industry, found the market for legal cannabis was $1.5 billion in 2013, and then grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion. “In the last year, the rise of the cannabis industry went from an interesting cocktail conversation to being taken seriously as the fastest growing industry in America,” Troy Dayton, CEO of The ArcView Group and publisher of the third edition of the State of Legal Marijuana Markets, said in the report. “At this point, it’s hard to imagine that any serious businessperson who is paying attention hasn’t spent some time thinking about the possibilities in this market.”

National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] to Change its Ways on Pot Testing [Huffington Post]

After two players for the championship-losing University of Oregon football team were suspended ahead of that game for allegedly turning up positive for marijuana, the NCAA announced recently that it will reexamine its drug testing policies. College isn’t a world apart from society. It’s a microcosm. And after realizing that athletes penalized for drug use end up dropping out of school, the NCAA has wisely followed the winds of change. Decriminalization efforts in the United States have been inspired by the unproductive outcomes of jailing young men, often minorities, for small-time drug crime. They often drop out of jobs and productive lives. Likewise colleges have found out that punishing student athletes, also often minorities, doesn’t do much good for anyone.

We Need to Talk About Kevin Sabet [Substance]

The man you hear fantasizing about a return to the good old days of alcohol prohibition is Kevin Sabet. A former researcher and senior advisor at the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, he’s currently head honcho of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), an organization he co-founded with Patrick Kennedy two years back. He’s also director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, and the Great White Hope—or at least, the go-to talking head—of the anti-pot lobby. To people who wish to prolong the War on Drugs, he’s an articulate, combative guy, still only 35, who has given the ailing US anti-marijuana movement a kiss of life. Having jettisoned the “hang ‘em and flog ‘em” tone of prohibitionists past, Sabet’s schtick is a gentler, fluffier take on banning pot. He dubs this approach “the third way”: By pulling back on some of the more extreme drug warrior positions—but still opposing legalization or even decriminalization—Sabet hopes to stop the rest of America following ColoradoWashingtonOregon and Alaska. As Ethan Nadelmann of theDrug Policy Alliance put it, Sabet has ordered “a strategic retreat” to try to maintain the status quo.

Pro-marijuana ‘tweets’ are sky-high on Twitter [Health Canal]

Analyzing every marijuana-related Twitter message sent during a one-month period in early 2014, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the “Twitterverse” is a pot-friendly place. In that time, more than 7 million tweets referenced marijuana, with 15 times as many pro-pot tweets sent as anti-pot tweets.

The FBI Says It Can’t Find Hackers to Hire Because They All Smoke Pot [Motherboard]

It’s no secret that the federal government is having a hard time hiring cybersecurity experts, largely because many hackers can find more lucrative deals that don’t involve working for the feds. But there’s another wrinkle: the FBI now says that its drug-testing policies are keeping experts off the payroll.  According to the Wall Street Journal, FBI Director James Comey said that in order to pursue so-called cyber criminals, the government would pretty much have to let government hackers get stoned—because who’s going to quit the habit just to work for the FBI? “I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Comey said, clearly not pandering to stereotypes. The reason for the FBI’s unorthodox approach is that Congress has told the agency it needs to hire 2,000 more people this year, and many of those new recruits are going to fight computer-related crime. And as it turns out, those that know computer crime best aren’t often the Men’s Wearhouse set.  The agency’s current regs say that the lawmen won’t hire someone who has “smoked” marijuana in the last three years. (No word on dabs, edibles and other forms of marijuana consumption.)

Jamaica poised to relax cannabis laws [Guardian]

The Jamaican cabinet has approved a bill that would decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and pave the way for a legal medical marijuana industry, the justice minister has said. Mark Golding said he expected to introduce the legislation in the Senate this week. Debate could start this month in the country where the drug, known popularly as “ganja”, has long been culturally entrenched but illegal. The bill would establish a cannabis licensing authority to deal with the regulations needed to cultivate, sell and distribute the herb for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes. “We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry,” he said. It would make possession of 2 ounces (56g) or less an offence that would not result in a criminal record. Cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises would be permitted. Rastafarians, who use marijuana as a sacrament, could also legally use it for religious purposes for the first time in Jamaica, where the spiritual movement was founded in the 1930s.

World’s Biggest Cannabis Museum Opens in Barcelona [ArtNet News]

Unlike in the Netherlands, cannabis consumption hasn’t been legalized in Spain, but from Friday onwards Barcelona will boast the biggest museum in the world devoted to marijuana’s various uses and properties, El Periodico reports. The museum is the brain-child of Dutch entrepreneur Ben Dronkers, founder of Amsterdam’s Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum and the company HempFlax, dedicated to growing and processing industrial hemp. Dronker’s Barcelona outpost project began in 2002, when he found and purchased an impressive palace in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter which had fallen into severe disrepair. Dronkers spent the next ten years renovating the historical building and working towards realizing his dream of having the Barcelona-based Hash Marihuana Cáñamo & Hemp Museum. The institution will house more than 65,000 objects, including ethnographic artifacts, and pot-related visual material, sprawled across 900 sumptuous square meters.

The Medical Minute: A Joint a Day for 20 Years Shows No Impact on Lung Health [Leafly]

New research surveying 20 years of data reiterated a conclusion replicated by several other studies: smoking cannabis does not appear to damage the lungs, even with long-term use. You veteran smokers are probably thinking, “Yeah. Duh. My lungs are basically military-grade titanium sacs.” But we’ll welcome the official report from Emory University scientists, anyway. By measuring FEV1 (the capacity one is able to exhale) decline in U.S. adults, researchers discovered that marijuana use was not associated with worsened lung function. Whether the person was an 18-year-old cannabis newb or a champion joint smoker of 20 years, it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference according to the study results. While it’s good to know that cannabis smoking isn’t wreaking havoc in the lungs, many cannabis-only smokers still report some bronchitis symptoms with long-term use. Luckily in this glorious marijuana golden age, healthier vaporizer options are virtually endless.

Johann Hari: why gay people can see through the lies of the ‘War on Drugs’ [Gay Star News]

The first reason is related to what drug use is really like. I learned lots of facts about drugs on my journey that blew my mind – but there is one in particular I had to keep coming back to before I really understood it. If I asked you what proportion of illegal drug use is totally harmless – no damage, no overdose, no addiction – what would you say? People guess a really wide range. Some say 10%; some go as far as guessing that 50% of illegal drug use is harmless. The real answer is 90%. That figure doesn’t come from a legalization group – it comes from the main drug war body in the world, the United Nations Office of Drug Control. And there is another reason why I think gay people might react to the drug war a little differently. This one is totally positive. We know what it is like to live through a revolution. Lots of people agree with the case for reforming the drug laws, but sigh and assume it’s hopeless. They have been in place for 100 years – why would they change now? But gay people know from our own lives that seemingly impossible struggles – seemingly eternal prejudices – can be overturned in a generation. When I was a kid, homophobia was blasted at me from the front page of the Sun to primetime TV. For my nephews, a homophobic remark on TV seems not just shocking but downright weird. It happened in just a few decades – and it happened because huge numbers of brave gay people, and our straight friends, fought for it. I ended my long journey by going to the countries that have moved beyond the drug war – Uruguay, where cannabis has been legalized; Switzerland, where heroin has been legalized for addicts; and Portugal, where all drugs have been decriminalized. In every country, the results have been startlingly positive. I have seen the future, and it works. Just as I have lived through a revolution in how gay people are treated, I believe I will now live through a revolution in how drug users and drug addicts will be treated.

Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis – Did We Get It All Wrong? [Leaf Online]

Since the 1970s, cannabis has been divided into three sub-species (often confused as different species), C. indicaC. sativaC. ruderalis, with ruderalis largely being considered ‘wild cannabis,’ not fit for medicinal or recreational uses. A common lay-persons distinction is between marijuana, which is bred for high cannabinoid content, and hemp, which is bred for industrial uses like fiber. Any of the three subspecies can be bred as a hemp or marijuana plant. John McPartland, a researcher affiliated with GW Pharmaceuticals, presented a study at the 2014 meeting of the International Cannabis Research Society,  proposing a new nomenclature for cannabis. The original report on O’Shaughnessy’s contains more information than I can reproduce here, and has a wonderful chart; it is definitely worth your time to read. It seems Richard Evans Schultes, the man who created the original taxonomy for cannabis in the 1970s, misidentified a C. afghanica plant as a C. indica plant. That one mistake began 40 years of confusion which has only been dispelled by McPartland’s research this year. McPartland was the first researcher to look at the genetic markers on the three subspecies of cannabis using the plant’s genome to conclusively identify where it originated. He also proved conclusively that they are all the same species, just different subspecies. As it turns out, C. sativa should have been identified as C. indica, because it originated in India (hence indica). C. indica should have been identified as C. afghanica, because it actually originated in Afghanistan. Finally, it seems that C. ruderalis is actually what people mean when they refer to C. sativa.

The Viridis Genii Symposium – Plant Magic, Mysticism, and Medicine, July 31st — August 2nd 2015 [Oregon USA]

There are many herbal conferences around the world that mainly focus on the clinical, holistic and natural herbalist facets and idealisms of herbalism. Some of these conferences touch upon folk magic and herbal esotericism from time to time, but we feel there is a greater need for a symposium more focused on herbal magic. The genii of plants have spread their roots throughout all cultures in one-way or another. There is an increasing rise in both folklore and esoteric knowledge for working with plants. Our goal is to be the first to offer a holistic multidisciplinary and multicultural awareness and approach to the study of plants from the perspective of magick. Plant magick is the Axis Mundi that our symposium revolves around and is the focus thereof. Our deeply held intention with the manifestation of this symposium is to offer the opportunity for presenters and participants to look at and discuss the hidden world of herbalism from a more in depth exploration into the green mysteries.

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