Embassy Headlines, Issue 138

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Most people are safer drivers while under the influence of Cannabis.

The fear of being arrested for possession does have a positive effect on caution and concentration. Driving home from your dealer/healer with a big bag of medicine is very good for controlling your road rage.

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.


Medicinal cannabis trial too slow, rebel doctor tells crowd [Northern Star]

A maverick Sydney doctor who sacrificed his career to treat epileptic kids with cannabis oil has warned the NSW Government’s trial of medicinal cannabis will progress too slowly to save hundreds of sick children.  Andrew Katelaris was deregistered in 2005 for refusing to stop supplying cannabis oil to the families who had turned to cannabis in a last hope to treat their children.  He spoke to a packed Nimbin Town Hall at Saturday’s medicinal cannabis workshop – the second event in as many months.  Dr Katelaris said the lives of dozens of children had been transformed through medicinal cannabis.  One of his patients was eight-year-old Deisha Magic-Stevens, from Coffs Harbour, whose chronic seizures were being treated unsuccessfully by a cocktail of eight different pharmaceuticals until her father David tried cannabis oil a year ago.  “She’s been seizure-free for over 10 months now,” Mr Stevens said.  “Before this she couldn’t read, she couldn’t write, she couldn’t function … she can now read, write, she’s enjoying life; she’s doing things a normal eight-year-old should be doing.”


MEDICAL CANNABIS SEMINAR PACKED OUT IN NIMBIN [NBN News]

Advocates of medical cannabis say there’s been a flood of public interest, since the state government agreed to trial the alternate medicine. On Saturday 7 February, a seminar on medical cannabis was delivered to a packed audience in Nimbin.


Fiona Patten declares the War on Drugs over in her inaugural speech to parliament [Parliament of Victoria Hansard]

“I am also here to officially declare that the war on drugs has been lost in Victoria, and I intend to write a peace plan over the next year and submit it to Parliament. Hundreds of thousands of Victorian adults occasionally use marijuana as a social tonic in the same way that some of us in this chamber use beer and wine. Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, so why are we, as a Parliament, still sending people to jail for it? It is hypocritical and it is out of touch. Banning drugs has not reduced their use. It has not reduced the harm caused by drug abuse. It has made a lot of criminals very, very rich. We must take a new approach.”


Indonesia uses faulty stats on ‘drug crisis’ to justify death penalty [The Conversation]

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s claim of a national drug “emergency” that necessitates the death penalty for drug crimes is based on questionable statistics. Jokowi, as he is popularly known in Indonesia, recently cited some astonishing figures: 4.5 million Indonesians need to be rehabilitated due to their illicit or illegal drug use, and 40 to 50 young people die each day due to the same cause. Jokowi argues that applying a no-compromise, punitive approach is necessary to combat the state of emergency represented by these numbers. He ordered the killing of six drug traffickers on death row by firing squad last month, and vowed to reject clemency requests from more than 60 people on death row for drug-related charges. Jokowi ignores protests from human rights groups and pleas from the Australian government, whose citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the Bali Nine drug ring, are facing imminent execution. But the Jokowi administration’s attempt to present the death penalty for drug offenders as a policy based on evidence falls flat on one necessary ground: the evidence. The figures quoted by the president and parroted by national officials and media outlets are based on studies with questionable methods and vague measures. Government advisers cherry-picked the figures to lend credibility to a “national emergency” and ultimately justify an ineffective but politically convenient policy.


Synthetic cannabis black market [Radio NZ]

The Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act came into effect in May 2014. Now, to legally sell synthetic cannabis, a product has to pass a testing regime and be sold with a licence. No companies have so far received a licence. The Drug Foundation and other social service agencies had warned that removing all of the products would push them to the black market. The foundation’s director, Ross Bell, said the news that at least five houses in Tauranga were selling the banned products came as no surprise. He said the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act, which stopped the products being tested on animals, made it almost impossible for the products to be tested to make sure they were safe. He said no one wanted to see testing on animals but, until an alternative came, the synthetic cannabis industry would probably stay underground. Mr Bell said other countries were watching New Zealand to see if the new laws would work – but they hadn’t. “It’s wonderful to be a world leader and have this great law sitting on your books but it’s kind of embarrassing that the law isn’t going to work.”


The US Surgeon General Admits Science Is Real, Says Weed Has Medical Benefits [Vice]

It’s a sad commentary on the federal government’s antiquated stance on drugs that even the most tepid administration statements in support of medical marijuana are hailed as bold new thinking. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy elicited such a response when he said on national television this week that—brace yourself—there is “some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful. We have to use that data to drive policy making,” he said, adding later, “I’m very interested to see where that takes us.”


6 States That may be Next to Legalize Marijuana [Inspire Amaze]

There are now 23 states, as well as D.C., which have legalized marijuana in some form. The only states to have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes are Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, while the rest have medical marijuana laws in place. And as many might suspect, we’ll soon be seeing some blockbuster years for marijuana legalization.  Echoed from past speeches, president Obama has once again signaled strongly that the Obama administration wouldn’t be wasting valuable resources in the fight against marijuana legalization. The Obama Administration has unofficially made it part of their policy to neither indict nor raid medical marijuana dispensaries and growers.

“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” the president said in response to a question from YouTube host Hank Green. “The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”

So what’s next? Legalization bills have been popping up in state legislatures around the country. Here is where we will likely see marijuana legalization appear next: California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont.


One year on, is America’s experiment with legal marijuana working? [The Nation]

When Colorado’s voters took the historic decision in 2012 to legalise marijuana for recreational use, prognosticators on both sides predicted it would transform the state. Supporters said it would fuel economic development by taxing millions in marijuana sales. Detractors said it would fuel youth consumption, traffic accidents and crime. But more than a year into what Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has called “one of the great social experiments of this century”, the state’s marijuana business feels like business as usual.”I haven’t noticed a difference in the culture,” says Ashley Kilroy, executive director of marijuana policy for the city of Denver. “I think for the people who live and work here … it’s not that big of a deal.” The smattering of data produced in the first year of legal sales of recreational marijuana is hard to parse. Crime was up slightly in Denver compared to 2013, but traffic fatalities were down. The main problems authorities faced were ones no one had predicted: overdoses of edible marijuana products and home explosions from cannabis extraction accidents. Kilroy says Denver’s fire department are now “world experts on cannabis extraction safety”. Through October 2014, the state took in more than $60 million (Bt1.9 billion) in taxes on recreational marijuana and fees related to business operations – just over half of the $100 million proponents had projected. Economists differ on where those numbers could go. What’s clear is, Colorado’s marijuana business is growing into the mainstream.


High There: dating app hailed as the ‘Tinder of weed’  [The Guardian]

There’s no shortage of specialist dating sites on offer, from PURRsonals for cat lovers to Uniform Dating for fans of those in uniforms. However, Monkey was surprised toread on Mashable that a marijuana user from Denver has created a smartphone app to help cannabis lovers to hook up with each other. It reports that Todd Mitchem created the High There app after his matches on dating sites were put off by the fact that he was a pot smoker. “We wanted to build a cool piece of technology that solved the problem of where do million and millions of cannabis consumers go to meet people, connect with people and build relationships,” Mitchem told Mashable. “A lot of people say we’re the Tinder of weed, but that’s only one facet of the whole thing. It’s so much bigger.”


Marijuana’s ‘genetic revolution’: Scientists are developing PERSONALISED cannabis to give users the best effect – and have even created an app to tell you the best strain [Daily Mail Australia]

The marijuana industry could be about to undergo a ‘genetic revolution’. Scientists are working alongside medical marijuana growers to map the plant’s genome and create personalised strains. They hope the drug can be tailored to an individual to help treat illnesses such as arthritis and epilepsy. As they work towards this, other companies are developing tools that can identify the best strain of marijuana for different people. For instance, the Budzster app – launching this month – aims to inform its anonymous user base of locally available strains best suited to their body type.


Stoned drivers are a lot safer than drunk ones, official US data shows [Sydney Morning Herald]

Drivers who use marijuana are at a significantly lower risk of being in a crash than drivers who use alcohol, a new study from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows. And after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than those who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving, it found. For marijuana, and for a number of other legal and illegal drugs including antidepressants, painkillers, stimulants and the like, there is no statistically significant change in the risk of a crash associated with using that drug prior to driving. But overall alcohol use, measured at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold of .05 or above, increases your odds of a wreck nearly sevenfold. The study’s findings underscore an important point: that the measurable presence of THC (marijuana’s primary active ingredient) in a person’s system doesn’t correlate with impairment in the same way that blood-alcohol concentration does. The NHTSA doesn’t mince words: “At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment.”


Wait, did Bill Clinton just apologize to Mexico for the war on drugs? [Fusion]

Former President Bill Clinton wants Mexicans to know he’s sorry about the mess that the U.S. drug war has caused south of its border. In a recent speech to a roomful of Mexican students, entrepreneurs and other prominent Mexican opinion makers, Clinton apologized that the drug war has funneled cartel activity through Mexican territory. “I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it’s not really your fault,” Clinton said on Friday. “Basically we did too good of a job of taking the transportation out of the air and water, and so we ran it over land. I apologize for that.” Clinton added, “I wish you didn’t have any problems. Everybody’s got problems.” Mexican media interpreted Clinton’s words, which were delivered last Friday at the Youth and Productivity Summit, a conference on the future of education in Mexico, as an apology. The Clinton Foundation confirmed the former president’s words. “Clinton apologizes for anti-narco war applied in Mexico” reads the headline in Proceso magazine. “Clinton apologizes to Mexico for drug trafficking,” Mexican anchor Joaquín López-Dóriga posted on his website. Mexicans on social media also seemed to view this as a clear apology.


Tikun Olam Ltd [Israel]

Tikun Olam Ltd. is the first, largest and foremost supplier of medical Cannabis in Israel and is one of leading medical cannabis companies in the world. The company is the flag bearer and pioneer of the treatment of patients with medical cannabis in Israel. Tikun Olam is privately held and has been operating under license from the Israel Ministry of Health since 2007. 


Melting snow being used by police to find cannabis farms in the Netherlands [Independent UK]

Cannabis growers are being arrested by Dutch police in their droves after being caught by melting snow. The wintry weather is proving to be a surprising foil to drug lords in the Netherlands as the lack of snow on roofs can give them away. The warmth required for cannabis farms usually makes them hotter than surrounding properties, meaning the one house in the street with a bare roof may have more inside than bad loft insulation. “No snow on the neighbours’ roof? You can report suspected cannabis farms anonymously,” police in the city of Haarlem tweeted, urging people to be watchful.


Jamaica Passes Landmark Marijuana Law On The 70th Birthday Of Bob Marley [Inquistr]

On Friday, the Jamaica Senate finally passed a new marijuana law that will change the social landscape of the small Caribbean nation forever. Historic legislation that makes the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a non-arrestable, but ticketable offense was passed after a five-hour debate in parliament. Meanwhile, the small Caribbean nation celebrated what would have been the 70th birthday of a global icon. That global icon, Bob Marley, is easily recognizable by his long steely dreadlocks, bright smile, and, of course, music that has penetrated the four corners of the earth.  Of course, Bob Marley and Jamaica are widely known for their connections to marijuana. While Marley was a public advocate for the plant, Jamaica was not. It may come to the surprise of many, but marijuana, affectionately known as ganja by the locals, was never legal in Jamaica. Even more surprising, marijuana is just as taboo in Jamaica as it is in other western countries such as the U.S., Canada, and England.  In 2013, statistics compiled by the Criminal Records Office of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for the period January to July revealed that 4,367 persons were convicted for drug-related offences. Most of whom were arrested just for simple possession of marijuana. Just last year, the debate over the legality of marijuana once again made local headlines when 31-year-old Mario Deane was beaten to death in his jail cell following an arrest for possession of a small marijuana cigarette.  The new marijuana legislation would allow for a scheme of licences, permits, and other authorizations which enable the establishment of a lawful, regulated industry for marijuana for medical, therapeutic, and scientific purposes. It is set to be debated by members of the House of Representatives in the new Parliamentary year, which is set to start next week with discussion on the Budget.


The Tim Hortons of cannabis: 63-year-old ‘king’ seeks franchisees to grow his marijuana empire [National Post Canada]

Vancouver has its own Prince of Pot, cannabis promoter Marc Emery. But he’s minor royalty next to Don Briere. Or Donald Joseph Briere, as he’s known inside the Canadian justice and penal systems. He was once this country’s most prolific marijuana producer and distributor, with 33 illegal growing operations hidden across B.C. In the late 1990s, before an informant ratted them out to police, Mr. Briere and his cohorts were growing and selling two tonnes of pot annually. “That’s a lot of weed,” he laughs. “We were outlaws. My share was $5-million a year.” He’s selling potent cannabis products from a chain of eight stores he has opened — and has managed to keep open, despite admitting he sells his product for “recreational” use — over the past 20 months in Vancouver. Weeds Glass and Gifts does a brisk business. He’s got six more shops on the way, including new outlets in Surrey, North Vancouver, Whistler and Sechelt, a vacation paradise just up the coast. Mr. Briere says he’s also looking at potential stores in Toronto and Montreal. These aren’t dimly lit backrooms where shifty-eyed dealers slip greasy dime bags into the pockets of nervous adolescents. Business is conducted openly, inside shops on busy streets. They have regular store hours. Mr. Briere compares his Weeds outlets to Tim Hortons Inc., the ubiquitous doughnut and coffee provider. The products are fresh and plentiful. The quality is consistent, and so, he hopes, is the customer experience.


Entrepreneurs are Crafting the Future of the Cannabis Market [Tech Cocktail]

The [cannabis] industry is beyond its ground floor days, and that means people are shrugging off the social stigma that’s been long associated with cannabis in general. And the people growing the industry tend to fall into two categories, according to Kochman: those who have been embedded in the industry historically and those who follow traditional routes to secure jobs in the industry. But therein lays a problem. The people who have been embedded for decades might know how to grow a superior product, or synthesize better oils, but they lack the knowledge of how to grow and scale a professional business. It begs the question of how you populate the middle space.


5 Diseases You Never Knew Marijuana Could Fight or Potentially Cure [Nasdaq]

There’s much more to the marijuana debate than whether or not it should be legalized for recreational use. Select drug developers around the world are examining the properties of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, as well as marijuana itself, to determine whether or not they could have a medically beneficial effect against certain diseases. Whether you realize it or not, these five diseases may be successfully fought with or cured by marijuana: brain cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, schizophrenia.


This Is What Your Brain Looks Like After You Smoke Weed [Vice]

Ana Iorga is a Romanian neuromarketing pioneer, who specialises in market research using EEG sensorsbiometric measures and implicit-association tests. Attending an advertising conference in Amsterdam last month, Ana staged an impromptu experiment to measure the effect that weed has on the brain using the EEG helmet she tends to carry around in her bag. “I noticed how quite a few of the attendees grabbed a joint between breaks, and I kept wondering what goes on in their brains during those moments. Because I don’t posses any mind-reading techniques, I thought about comparing their brain activity before and after smoking,” she told me when she got back.Two of her colleagues were kind enough to sacrifice themselves to the shrine of science; One evening, after dinner, one of them lit a spliff and the other got to munching on a space cookie.


How legal weed could change the future of sex [Fusion]

Weed’s got a dirty little secret: It holds the power to transform our sex lives. Our ancient ancestors believed it (hello, tantric sex rituals), researchers in the 70s and 80s tried to prove it, and today, savvy “potrepreneurs” are attempting to capitalize on it. Cannabis-laced lube is only the beginning. What can pot do in bed? With the right strain and dosage, it can slooow down time, making every touch feel more intense, every kiss more passionate. For some people with sexual dysfunctions, it can make the unreachable reachable. And as with medical marijuana, those who stand to benefit extend beyond, say, whoever’s signing up for that new dating app for pot lovers. As states move to legalize marijuana, the drug is poised to enter the bedroom in weird and wonderful ways—potentially changing the way we mate forever. We spoke with experts and advocates about the little-understood aphrodisiac’s potential between the sheets.


Time for a Wake-up Call: An historical and ethnographic approach to the Regulation of Plant-based Stimulants[Transnational Institute]

The chemically-based frame of reference adopted by the UN Single Convention is mistaken in the culturally loaded and falsely “scientific” manner in which it was applied to different plants.


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