Embassy Headlines, Issue 137


Just Say Grow

While politicians, medical professionals and bureaucrats argue about the pros and cons of Cannabis for medical purposes, there are some courageous super heroes who just get on with supplying the demand.

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.

Second Medical Cannabis Seminar set to go in Nimbin [HEMP Embassy]

The Nimbin HEMP Embassy has responded to overwhelming interest in the use of Cannabis for medical purposes by announcing a second Medical Cannabis Seminar to be held next Saturday the 7th February at the Nimbin Town Hall from 11.am.

HEMP Party spokesperson Michael Balderstone said, “Momentum is building with most state Governments having this issue on their agenda. The immediate problems with supply are yet to be addressed, while the Federal Government seems content to see how the NSW endeavours progress.” Founder of the Medical Cannabis Users Association of Australia (MCUA) Ms Gail Hester agrees. Her “collective” came into being 8 months ago when the Dan Haslam story broke. It now boasts over 4600 members who lobby governments with the aim of being heard about the truth and benefits of the legalisation of Cannabis issue.” Guest speakers include Dr Andrew Katelaris, the fearless and inspiring advocate for the use of Cannabis in all its forms: Dr Graham Irvine who completed a PhD on the “Legalisation of Medicinal Cannabis in NSW” and was the first Australian to import Sativex; Bruce Cox long term medicine maker, Ash on raw Cannabis and prevention is better than cure, local healer Radic Al, balm maker Lyn Dufty, Kilgore Trout and several others.  Nimbin’s famous Ganja Faeries are catering, raising money for their Mardi Gras float in Sydney next month. Speakers begin at 11 am (10 am Qld time) and we expect will continue through til 4:20.

Health of Mernda preschooler Cooper Wallace on the line after medicinal cannabis supply problems[Herald Sun]

The health of preschooler Cooper Wallace is delicately poised due to a break in supply of the medicinal cannabis that is keeping him seizure-free. The four-year-old’s parents Cassie Batten and Rhett Wallace ​are rationing their remaining batch of cannabis oil in the hope it will last until their preferred supplier’s latest marijuana crop matures in about three weeks. The Mernda couple said the situation highlighted why the legalisation of the substance was a critical issue.

Medical Expert: There’s no need to wait for clinical trials of cannabis in NSW [Business Insider Australia]

The use of cannabis as a medical treatment should be decided between doctor and patient rather than the results of upcoming clinical trials in New South Wales, says the author of a perspective published in the Medical Journal of Australia. Professor Emeritus David Penington — a medical researcher, an advocate to legalise cannabis and a Victorian of the Year — says the clinical trials have confused the debate about the medical use of cannabis in Australia. In September, Premier Mike Baird announced NSW would hold clinical trials on the use of medical cannabis for children with epilepsy, chemotherapy patients and adults with terminal illness. However, Professor Penington says the clinical trial presumes that cannabis would then be approved and regulated as a pharmaceutical substance. “Cannabis can never be a pharmaceutical agent in the usual sense for medical prescription, as it contains a variety of components of variable potency and actions, depending on its origin, preparation and route of administration,” he says. “Consequently, cannabis has variable effects in individuals. It will not be possible to determine universally safe dosage of cannabis for individuals based on a clinical trial.” Professor Penington says the debate has been characterised by extreme views on both sides, both in conflict with existing evidence about cannabis’ harms and benefits.

Medical cannabis: time for clear thinking [Medical Journal of Australia]

Australia is behind the times on the medical use of cannabis. The debate about the medical use of cannabis in Australia has become confused with the proposal for a formal clinical trial instead of proceeding to legislation in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. Debates about prohibition of cannabis have a long history,1 as has the proposal for medical cannabis in Australia.2 Politicians are nervous about being “soft on drugs”, especially before an election. The clinical trial proposed, if successful, presumes that cannabis would then be approved and regulated as a pharmaceutical substance. We need to be across the facts and options. Cannabis can never be a pharmaceutical agent in the usual sense for medical prescription, as it contains a variety of components of variable potency and actions, depending on its origin, preparation and route of administration. Consequently, cannabis has variable effects in individuals. It will not be possible to determine universally safe dosage of cannabis for individuals based on a clinical trial. Extreme views in the debate about any form of cannabis decriminalisation are advanced with almost religious fervour. On the one hand, some assert that cannabis is a dangerous, highly addictive drug which causes schizophrenia, and that any move to relax prohibition would be a disaster. This view defies published evidence. On the other hand are those who have used cannabis for years, swearing it causes no trouble. They see prohibition as a totally inappropriate curb on individual freedom.

To legalise or not to legalise? How Australians feel about marijuana [Roy Morgan Research]

Judging by recent media reports, the use of marijuana for medical purposes could become legal in Australia in the foreseeable future. Politicians such as the Prime Minister, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews have expressed their support for the idea, and a clinical trial is due to start soon. But how do Australians feel about the legalisation of marijuana? Roy Morgan Research has been asking Australians 14+ the question, ‘In your opinion should the smoking of marijuana be made legal – or remain illegal?’ for many years. Over the last decade, the proportion of the population who believe it should be made legal has grown from 26.8% (2004) to 31.8% (2014). In this time, the 65+ age bracket has seen the largest proportional increase in favour of legalisation, rising from 16.9% to 25.5% (a 50% growth rate). However, this is still well behind young Australians aged 18-24 (35.7%), the age group with the most support for making smoking marijuana legal.

Pain sufferers and cannabis researchers agree medicinal marijuana should be legalised in Queensland[ABC]

A Toowoomba woman who suffered from chronic pain for two decades says she shouldn’t have had to break the law to seek relief. “It’s not about getting stoned,” Ellie stressed as soon as we start recording. The 39-year-old sits in a well furnished lounge room in a middle class suburb of the garden city. “Initially I felt like I was a criminal when I smoked, doing something against the law,” she explained.  “But the way it helps ease the pain outweighs that feeling. When you suffer from pain you do what you have to do.” Ellie has suffered from a pancreatic disorder for more than half her life. “Vomiting and diarrhoea were a daily thing for me,” she said.

Australia a new growth market for medicinal cannabis [Sydney Morning Herald]

A company that has listed on the Australian Securities Exchange hopes to capitalise on a growing worldwide demand for medicinal cannabis. PhytoTech, which will source its materials from California and Uruguay and make products in Israel, hopes to supply Israel, Europe, the United States and Canada, but not yet Australia, where medicinal cannabis is still illegal.  Meanwhile, AusCann, which started out as Tasman Health Cannabinoids, is lobbying for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia, with the hope of supplying the drug in the first state to allow it. Adam Blumenthal, the director of corporate finance at BBY, the brokerage firm that oversaw the float of PhytoTech, said the initial uptake confirmed his belief that there was a future for medicinal cannabis in Australia. PhytoTech’s stock, which was floated at 20¢ a share 10 days ago, more than quadrupled to 92¢ in volatile trading before closing at 47.5¢ on Friday. “I would say in 10 years it could be a billion-dollar industry,” Mr Blumenthal said. “The global cannabis market is estimated to be worth $US100 billion ($128 billion) and is growing. In Australia we’re only scratching the surface. A lot of the interest has come with this float. It is the first ASX vehicle to offer Australian investors exposure to this sector.” The company aims to supply cannabis products and delivery systems in countries where it is legal.  The increasing support for medicinal cannabis, coupled with NSW Premier Mike Baird’s announcement of medical trials, means Australia has been flagged as a growth market. Troy Langman, the director of AusCann, said support for medicinal cannabis was accelerating. “Things are just moving so quickly. Once people find out this provides relief for loved ones, they are going to stop at nothing to get it.”

The boss of medical marijuana company Phytotech whose shares soared on debut has suddenly quit[Business Insider Australia]

The CEO of PhytoTech Medical, the first ASX listed medical marijuana company, has resigned.  Ross Smith’s departure comes less than two weeks since the company made its ASX debut, after which the share price soared.  However the share price has fallen back since. Phytotech shares were trading down 8.42% to $0.435 today. His departure comes after a series of other company appointments, but also following some posts to his Facebook page.The Australian reports that some threatening posts had shown up on his Facebook page in an escalating series of exchanges. According to the West Australian, Smith has said that his “FB account got hacked by what is looking like a very good personal smear campaign.” Phytotech chairman Peter Wall, in a statement to the ASX, said Smith’s resignation was be effective immediately.  “Ross has been instrumental in bringing together an outstanding team to manage the business moving forward. The company would not be where it is today without Ross’ hard work and perseverance,” Wall said.

Food ministers reject advice on hemp in food [The Age]

The nation’s food ministers have rejected advice from Australia’s food standards agency that hemp be allowed to be used in food. Hemp is a species of cannabis, but unlike marijuana contains no or very low levels of the mind-altering chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is used in Australia in clothing and building products, but cannot be used in food. In 2012, Food Standards Australia New Zealand approved an application to permit the inclusion of hemp in food. Food Ministers asked the agency to review its decision, which the agency reaffirmed, noting that foods derived from hemp seeds did not present any safety concerns. But at a meeting in Auckland on Friday, food ministers resolved to reject the decision, meaning that the sale of foods containing hemp remains banned. According to the communique of the meeting, ministers were concerned about how foods containing hemp would affect roadside drug testing, and also that “the marketing of hemp in food may send a confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of cannabis”. Ministers agreed to undertake further work to consider these issues. Hemp is used in other countries, including in Europe, Canada and the United States, in a range of foods including health bars, salad oils, non-soy tofu and non-dairy cheeses. In New Zealand, hemp seed oil can be sold as a food under certain conditions. Food Standards Australia New Zealand says hemp seeds are a source of protein, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. 

Industrial hemp industry vows to fight Australian hemp food ban [ABC Rural]

Tasmania’s emerging industrial hemp industry says it is thwarted by Australia’s continuing hemp food ban. Australian and New Zealand food ministers blocked a bid to allow low-THC hemp in foods. It is the third time the forum decided against allowing human consumption of hemp seeds. The Tasmanian Government media office said the matter was unlikely to be on the agenda again for another 12 to 18 months, although they would like it to be sooner. Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania president Phil Reader said his members would now focus on any legislative avenues to open up sales of hemp for food. “We’ll be looking to work on special purpose legislation to get hemp foods introduced,” Mr Reader said. “We’re getting a lot of inquiry for hemp seed coming from the mainland now. There appears to be an increase in demand for hemp products. It’s growing anyway.”

The end of the war on drugs [Late Night Live, ABC]

Journalist Johann Hari spent three years travelling the world to look at the war against drugs from every possible angle. Harry Anslinger was head of the Department of Prohibition in America when he dedicated himself to the eradication of drug use. In spite of the US Supreme Court decision to allow doctors to prescribe heroin, Anslinger’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics charged up to 20,000 doctors with prescribing opiates. Hari argues that what we’ve been told about drugs and the dangers they pose is far from comprehensive.  Hari shows that people the world over are starting to see that “drugs are not what we think they are, addiction is not what we think it is, and the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.”

A Crucial Fact About The Economics Of The Drug Trade [Business Insider Australia]

In early January,Rolling Stonepublished a fascinating feature about the evolving drug trade at the Texas border. “Every time you cross a barrier, the drugs increase in value,” Ildefonso Ortiz, a local reporter, told the publication. That single quote distills the essence of the business — that having to transport drugs in secrecy increases the overhead cost. If drugs were legal, dealers could simply ship them using conventional tactics, as public policy professors Mark A.R. KleimanJonathan P. Caulkins, and Angela Hawken note in their book, “Drugs and Drug Policy: What You Need To Know.” For example, shipping one kilogram of cocaine using FedEx would cost between $US55 and $US115, depending on the location “zone.” Smugglers obviously can’t use FedEx to move drugs though, and to avoid getting caught, dealers and smugglers will pay the high price for secure, secretive transport. As a result, the price of a kilogram of cocaine inflates from $US1,500 to $US2,000 in Colombia to $US15,000 to $US20,000 in the US, they write in their book.

Mapping marijuana’s genome could lead to medical discoveries [Willamette Week]

The history of marijuana is being mapped in Portland, Ore. For 10,000 years, humans have carried this plant everywhere, but we still know astonishingly little about it. For the first time, its genetic lineage is being mapped; this means not only helping develop cures for disease, but also determining the tenor of your high with scientific certainty. Mowgli Holmes, chief scientific officer at Phylos Bioscience, leads a team that is tackling a maze of crossbreeding and landraces, strains that were isolated in specific regions and adapted accordingly. Samples are culled and drawn from every available source. “We’re testing everything we possibly can,” says Holmes, a molecular geneticist who has a doctorate in microbiology from Columbia University. “We’re testing samples from jars pulled directly off the shelf from a shop in Ohio, in 1937, after prohibition went into effect. The pharmacist stashed them away in his attic.” So far, the Phylos Bioscience team has sequenced more than 1,000 samples of modern cannabis hybrids, most of which are pulled from dispensaries around the world. Now, the oddities are rolling in. There is the Ohio collection, an assortment of bottles, pills and gooey concoctions pulled directly from shelves in the early 20th century. There are Thai landraces to study, sterilized seeds from collections and museums across Europe, Russia and China.

On the Shoulders of Giants: Why Advocacy Matters [MPP Blog]

The following guest post, contributed by MedMen, is part of a series providing insights into the legal marijuana industry.

As the “wall” of prohibition begins to crumble, businesspeople are lining up to cross over into the world of legal marijuana. They would be wise to remember that one of the only reasons they are able to even peek over that wall is because they are standing on the shoulders of giants: giants who invested blood, sweat, and tears into grassroots activism, lobbying, and ballot initiatives; giants who risked (and in some cases served) prison terms in pursuit of helping seriously ill patients; giants who helped bring down that wall despite having little to gain on the other side. Many of the entrepreneurs and investors coming into the industry have their sights set high and rightfully so. This is a unique moment in history, in which a widely demanded product is in the process of transitioning from an illegal marketplace to a legal one. There is nothing wrong with being business-minded, and it is this transition from basements to boardrooms that will make the dream of legal marijuana a reality (and become one in those states that have yet to end prohibition). The industry must remain compliant and sustainable if it is to ever get a federal green light. But they must keep in mind that it’s not all just about dollars and cents. It’s about laws that make sense, and passing them is not always easy. The industry outlook is favorable today only because of the advocates who came before. In order to keep that outlook positive and to improve on its current position, industry leaders must commit to supporting advocacy efforts. Just as quickly as states approved laws making marijuana legal for adult and/or medical use, they could repeal them. And just as quickly as federal directives opened the door to state programs, banking, and the like, those orders can be rescinded if the next administration sees fit.

Seattle gets its first Marijuana vending machine [Sunshine Coast Daily]

Grabbing cannabis in Seattle will be as easy as indulging in crisps, candy and cola next month, when a marijuana vending machine will open in the city.  From 3 February, customers can buy cannabis from the American Green ZaZZZ machine at the Seattle Caregivers medical dispensary.  The cabinet will be stocked with medicinal and recreational marijuana, as well as pot-infused edibles, CBS News reported.  As is the case with alcohol across the US, only adults over 21 can buy marijuana in Washington State, so the machine is fitted with a ID-scanner to verify the customer’s age.  In a statement, Stephen Shearin, president and chief operating officer of American Green, said it was an “exciting time in Seattle’s cannabis community”.  While the vender is a Washington State first, cannabis users in Colorado have been able to use a similar model at Herbal Elements medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle-Vail, Colorado, since last April.

Medical marijuana is coming to Illinois [Business Insider Australia]

Illinois will begin issuing licenses to grow and distribute medical marijuana 18 months after a law was signed legalising it, Governor Bruce Rauner’s general counsel said in a statement on Monday. Former Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who supported medical marijuana, left office in January without issuing licenses for growth and distribution, leaving it to Rauner, a Republican, who asked for a review of the selection process. Quinn’s administration had prepared lists of possible recipients based on scoring of applications. But Rauner’s team’s review concluded that some applicants had been disqualified without clear procedures, giving rise to legal liabilities. As a result, Rauner issued on Monday a list of growers and dispensary operators who will receive permits and licenses in many areas of the state, with some gaps that will be filled in after review of applications that had been disqualified on Quinn’s preliminary list of recipients. “Any applicant that was recommended for disqualification will be fully informed of the basis for that decision (and) given an opportunity to respond,” Rauner’s General Counsel Jason Barclay said in the statement. Marla Levi, 51, a multiple sclerosis patient of Buffalo Grove, Illinois who’s been waiting for legal medical marijuana, said she hopes the right candidates get licenses. “I hope they put patients first, and not money,” she said.

Marijuana Use During Pregnancy [International Business Times]

Pregnant women should not use marijuana, but there is little conclusive research on the dangers of smoking pot during pregnancy. That is why the state of Colorado has stepped up warnings about marijuana use for women who are pregnant or nursing babies. A Colorado bill proposes that shops should be required to put up posts warning that marijuana use during pregnancy poses risks to unwanted children. Some pregnant women use marijuana to ease nausea, and marijuana industry groups fear that the warnings don’t acknowledge the limited research of marijuana use by pregnant women and nursing mothers. The bill has been called an attempt to discredit and ignore the popular public opinion of marijuana’s medicinal use. A health report in Colorado points out that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is passed to children through the placenta and breast milk. The doctors who compiled the survey of existing research also stated that the health consequences of THC exposure are not fully understood. There is insufficient evidence that marijuana use during pregnancy makes offspring more likely to use pot themselves as adolescents. There is also mixed evidence that the use of marijuana leads to birth defects or low birth weight. There is no known safe amount of marijuana use during pregnancy.

Colorado bill targets fears that food stamp money is used for marijuana [The Guardian]

Welfare money or food stamps for marijuana? It’s an urban legend that won’t go away in Colorado, and state lawmakers this year are poised to pass a law clarifying that public benefit cards can’t be used at dispensary ATMs. A bill facing its first hearing next week in the state senate would add marijuana businesses and strip clubs to the list of Colorado businesses where electronic benefits cards – called EBTs – can’t be used to withdraw cash. Liquor stores, casinos and gun shops already have such limitations. Republican senator Vicki Marble said marijuana dispensaries need to be added to avoid possible federal intervention if there is evidence of public benefits being spent on pot. “We stand to lose a lot if we don’t show we are trying to prevent tax money for pot”, Marble said.

Pot Is Making Colorado So Much Money They Literally Have To Give Some Back To Residents [High Times]

Colorado’s marijuana experiment was designed to raise revenue for the state and its schools, but a state law may put some of the tax money directly into residents’ pockets, causing quite a headache for lawmakers. The state constitution limits how much tax money the state can take in before it has to give some back. That means Coloradans may each get their own cut of the $50 million in recreational pot taxes collected in the first year of legal weed. It’s a situation so bizarre that it’s gotten Republicans and Democrats, for once, to agree on a tax issue. Even some pot shoppers are surprised Colorado may not keep the taxes that were promised to go toward school construction when voters legalized marijuana in 2012. “I have no problem paying taxes if they’re going to schools,” said Maddy Beaumier, 25, who was visiting a dispensary near the Capitol. But David Huff, a 50-year-old carpenter from Aurora, said taxes that add 30 percent or more to the price of pot, depending on the jurisdiction, are too steep.

Colorado Publishes Review Of Marijuana Health Research [CBS Denver]

Colorado released a sweeping report Monday about marijuana and health — everything from pot’s effect on drivers, asthma, cancer rates and birth defects. The 188-page report doesn’t include new research on marijuana. Instead, it’s a review of what its authors call limited existing studies. The report looks at studies showing that risk of a motor vehicle crash doubles among drivers with recent marijuana use, and that heavy use of marijuana is associated with impaired memory. Other highlights from the report:

— In adults, heavy use of marijuana is associated with impaired memory, persisting a week or more after quitting.

— Maternal use of marijuana during pregnancy is associated with negative effects on exposed offspring, including decreased academic ability, cognitive function and attention.

— Regular marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is strongly associated with developing psychotic symptoms and disorders such as schizophrenia in adulthood.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment review was ordered by state lawmakers. A panel of doctors met for several months to compile the survey, which was delivered to lawmakers last week.

Cops Testify That Marijuana Is “Excellent” Medicine [The Weed Blog]

Law enforcement officers say the marijuana butter they used gave “excellent” results and cannabis “gave me my life back” during testimony in a twisted case that has already driven one officer to take his own life. As chronicled in a series of articles published by the MLive Media Group, three corrections officers including Mike Frederick and Todd VanDoorne secured their medical marijuana physician’s certification from a pain management doctor. In 2011 or 2012 the officers began using butter infused with marijuana, which they purchased from licensed caregiver Timothy Scherzer, to alleviate pain. In July of 2013 the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that concentrated forms of marijuana, such as the butter the officers consumed, were no longer included within the protections of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). According to attorneys, the officers had no idea the interpretation of law had changed and simply continued their successful treatment program using the medicated brownies. The officers were found out, their homes were raided in March of 2014 and drug charges were filed against several people. The third officer, Timothy Bernhardt, plead guilty to maintaining a drug house and other charges. After facing the loss of his career and the potential of testifying against his fellow officers, Bernhardt committed suicide on November 16. Frederick and VanDoorne were in court for an evidentiary hearing Jan. 21 when the testimony about marijuana’s beneficial effects was given.

Marijuana Backed By More Studies Than Most FDA Approved Pharma Drugs [Global Research]

Marijuana and its use has been studied over the course of the last few decades more so than even many leading FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs, with researchers categorizing the effects of marijuana to a much greater degree than many of the pharmaceutical drugs you or your family may currently be taking. In a revelation that really demonstrates our scientific focus in the United States, where marijuana is still considered by federal law to be a dangerous and illegal substance placed in the same class as hard drugs like heroin, even mainstream media publications have begun calling out the strange doctrine of the medical community that pushes pharma drugs on the public at warp speed. This, all while scoffing at the use of ‘no high’ marijuana alternatives like the juicing of cannabis oil. A quick search within the PubMed National Library of Medicine database for ‘marijuana’ turns up a host of studies, highlighting every aspect imaginable regarding the plant in its many forms. Some advocacy websites have even compiled hundreds of studies in an easy-to-read format surrounding marijuana, which has led numerous journalists to ask the obvious question: “why are we spending so much time researching an illegal drug for its numerous benefits while stamping side-effect-riddled drugs with the FDA stamp of approval with far less research?” An analysis of 200 FDA-backed pharmaceutical drugs even found that almost 33% of approved drugs were granted the approval over a single piece of clinical study. And to be clear, the uses of the cannabis plant far extend beyond ‘getting high’ — to the degree that it was ultimately ruled to be illegal in all forms thanks to mega billion dollar corporations fearing its many uses that extend even into the realm of construction and agriculture. Because, as you are probably aware, industrial-grade hemp (a high-growing variety of cannabis) can be used in protein shakes, building materials, oils used for the prevention and treatment of disease, and actually does not get you high. In fact, it’s ultra rich in fiber and is all around an amazing superfood. Even sources like the Livestrong foundation agree that hemp packs a powerful fiber-based punch of protein and essential nutrients that can enhance your overall health.

Marijuana arrests plunge in NYC after policy change [silive]

New York City’s pledge to stop making many marijuana arrests is playing out on the streets, where arrests and summonses for small-time pot possession have plummeted since the policy change this fall. After a mid-November turn toward violations and summonses instead of misdemeanor arrests for carrying modest amounts of pot, such arrests plunged by 75 percent in December compared to last year, from about 1,820 to 460, according to state Division of Criminal Justice statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The November numbers fell 42 percent, from 2,200 to 1,280.

No Hoax! 2015 Legal Marijuana Ban By Facebook, Social Media Says New Report [Inquistr]

If you follow a legal marijuana Facebook group or like Snoop Dogg’s pictures of weed on Instagram, prepare to say good-bye. A report that was focused on how much money the legal marijuana industry made in 2014 slipped the news that social media plans to ban a lot of marijuana-related digital media in 2015. To many, their reasons for doing so will appear so acutely boring that it makes them sound shocking at this juncture in the legal marijuana debate. The past two years have been an experiment in seeing how much money legal marijuana can bring in. There have been plenty of reports about how profitable it is for tax collectors, but there is a new and unexpected twist to the legal marijuana saga that few saw coming. Inc was one of the first to report about the exciting news that nationwide legal marijuana profits for 2014 were 74 percent higher than in 2013. ArcView Market Researchpublished the report about the profits called the “State of Legal Marijuana Markets.” The document states that the total profits for legal marijuana sales for 2014 were estimated at $2.7 billion. The 2015 legal marijuana report also talks about how cool the Department of Justice was being by allowing banks to take cash from marijuana-related businesses. But a few paragraphs later — there was a huge red flag about how social media like Instagram, Facebook, BuzzFeed, and Apple were going to start treating legal marijuana like the plague. Quoted from the 2015 report released at the end of January, it states as follows.

“On the tech front, many marijuana businesses have been prevented from establishing a strong online presence because of interference from large tech providers. Apple, for one, disallows most marijuana-related apps in its App Store, and Facebook decided in 2015 to close accounts that primarily post marijuana-related content on its main site or its photo-sharing app, Instagram. This trend dramatically increases the relevance of dedicated cannabis social media and information providers. The biggest drawback for the industry is that cannabis remains illegal under federal law.”

Last year, there was a hint that this could happen to legal marijuana when the SF Gate reported that Facebook was forced to shut down the Cannabis Oil Success Stories group. Benzinga investigated the claim that social media would be banning legal marijuana-related content in 2015, and spoke with a lawyer associated with Facebook, Kaiser Wahab. Wahab said, “Facebook is doing it because they don’t know where the moral and legislative compass is.”

The drugs that are far more deadly than cannabis [Independent UK]

The drugs that kill the most people in England and Wales also happen to be legal, according to the latest data available. This chart from Statista – taking inspiration from a similar chart by Vox in the US – shows tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs were responsible for far more deaths than any illegal drugs.  Two caveats: the figures here show overall deaths and do not take into account the rate – i.e. number of deaths in proportion to the number of users of certain drugs. Equally the figures are not from the same year – all are from 2013 except alcohol which is from 2012. Nevertheless, while the NHS is under increasing pressure from people dying of lung cancer, heart problems and liver disease, and so few deaths from cannabis, calls for its legalisation look set to continue. You can see sources for the data on each drug by following the relevant link: tobaccoalcoholprescription painkillersheroincocainecannabis.

Israeli medical marijuana creates buzz but no high— will it go global? [Washington Post]

In a greenhouse in the mountains of the Galilee, a technician in a lab coat is coddling a marijuana seedling that is coveted for life-saving medical benefits for epileptic children, doctors say — without the high. Named “Rafael,” for a healing angel called upon by Moses, this varietal of cannabis is for people who don’t want to be under the influence, and it is available in oral doses in Israel. Israel has become a world leader in science on the medical uses of marijuana, and its producers could become major exporters of medical cannabis, experts say. But so far, the government has allowed them to export only their knowledge — not the actual product. Michael Dor, the senior medical adviser in the Israeli Health Ministry’s cannabis unit, said that inongoing government talks, agricultural officials support the export of Israeli medical cannabis, but top officials in the police force, army and executive branch oppose it. Exports face stringent international legal requirements, Dor said, adding that those officials “don’t want Israel to be seen all over the world as a country that exports weapons and cannabis.”

US official cautions Jamaica on ganja legalisation [Jamaica Observer]

The United States Government has signalled some discomfort with Jamaica’s move to decriminalise marijuana for specific uses. According to assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), William R Brownfield, there is a possibility that the move could increase inflows of marijuana from Jamaica that now accounts for 80 per cent of ganja illegally smuggled into that country. Brownfield said that, while the US must be tolerant of national policies to combat the illicit trade of ganja, Jamaica must be mindful of international drug treaties to which it is a signatory. Brownfield was responding to a question concerning last Friday’s tabling of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015 in the Jamaican Senate, which seeks to, among other things, decriminalise ganja for medicinal, religious, and personal uses. With the amendments, the possession of small quantities of ganja, amounting to two ounces or less, will become a non-arrestable offence. The Bill also seeks to reform the monetary penalties laid down by the Act. “…With or without the legalisation of ganja, the decriminalisation of ganja… the importation of ganja into the US remains against the law and the issue then is how much impact will legalisation or decriminalisation have on that. And, I can assure you that, from the US side, we will continue to pursue maximum efforts to prevent any import in the United States and we will request and expect complete co-operation from law enforcement authorities of the Government of Jamaica in eliminating this sort of trafficking,” Brownfield told journalists Tuesday. Jamaica has largely been viewed by the US as a hub for the cultivation of ganja and a popular transit route for drugs originating in South America — a point that was emphasised strongly by Brownfield during a meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC.

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