Embassy Headlines, Issue 141


Licence to Care [CCC]

Carers across Australia will make the trek to Nimbin on May 2 & 3 for the annual Cannabis Carers Convention and their chance to be in the running to win a ‘Licence to Care’ and so avoid prosecution for the cultivation, possession and supply of Cannabis.

The CCC includes the ‘medican carer of the year award’ and a special prize for the most practical method of making home made medicine. MardiGrass

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 Seminars in Nimbin and Sydney [HEMP Embassy]

Due to the popularity of the Medical Cannabis Seminars the Nimbin HEMP Embassy is holding a third gathering on Saturday March 14 in the Nimbin Town Hall from 11am.President Michael Balderstone says enquiries are ever increasing now the cat is out of the bag. “We are hoping Tony Bower from Mullaways Medical Cannabis will be speaking and sharing his experiences this time. But we also have Andrew Kavasilas, Kilgour Trout, Radic Al and others coming again. This will be the last gathering before MardiGrass on May 2 and 3. In other exciting news another MC Seminar is organised for Rooty Hill RSL in Sydney for the following Saturday March 21 with two of North America’s foremost Cannabis experts speaking on the changes in their country and what impact it is having. Dr Andrew Katelaris, David Stevens and Dr John Kaye from the NSW Greens will also be speaking there and I invited Mike Baird and Luke Foley in the hope they might think it’s important enough.”

US Cannabis Activists Visit Nimbin March 30 [HEMP Embassy]

Two leading American Cannabis law reform activists are visiting Nimbin and will give a talk at the Nimbin Bush Theatre. Chris Conrad is a court-qualified expert witness on Cannabis who has testified more than 250 times in state, military and federal courts. Chris is an internationally recognized expert on industrial hemp, commercial activity, cultivation and religious, personal and medical Cannabis use. A curator of both the Hash-Marijuana-Hemp Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, as well as the Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum in Oakland CA, he grew and processed Cannabis legally in Europe and worked at the famous Cannabis Castle. Chris is author of Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, Shattered Lives: Portraits From America’s Drug War, and other books. His ground breaking book on medical marijuana,Hemp for Health, has been translated into six languages. Chris Conrad and his wife Mikki Norris were volunteer coordinators for California’sProposition 215 voter initiative that legalized medical marijuana in 1996. He has worked with legal medical marijuana patients, caregivers and support groups; consults regularly with doctors, attorneys and legislators; and directs Safe Access Now www.safeaccessnow.net.

Medical cannabis and hemp on the agenda [EchoNet Daily]

Nimbin is planning another medical cannabis workshop at the Nimbin Town Hall and one in Sydney with two of America’s leading experts on the subject. And the NSW Greens are set to announce their policy tomorrow to legalise hemp foods and related products. ‘The Greens policy is for the legalisation of hemp seed food products in line with the rest of the world and with recommendations by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) in 2002 and again in 2012 which have been rejected by current and previous state and federal governments, Mr Buckingham said. Frank Boyle, a local rice farmer, will discuss the opportunities that growing hemp present for his farm and the region. Hemp Foods Australia chief executive Paul Benhaim, who is based in Bangalow, said Greens’ young farmers policy was aimed at encouraging and assisting young people to get into farming through the provision of low-interest loans. Low-interest loans would also be made available for farmers undertaking on-farm environmental works.’

Public Health Association backs medicinal cannabis [Canberra Times]

Doctors should manage a tightly regulated, compassionate regime for the use of medicinal cannabis in Australia, a leading public health organisation has told an ACT inquiry.  The Public Health Association has labelled state and territory governments, including the ACT, “out of step with the attitudes and behaviour of much of the general public and professional opinion” on the use of cannabis to treat some illness.  A position statement incorporated into the organisation’s submission to the Legislative Assembly inquiry considering the use of cannabis for medical purposes says the fact the drug is already widely used illegally means a regulated system is unlikely to lead to more illicit drug taking in the community.  It calls for the ACT and New South Wales to offer terminally ill people access to cannabis “where their doctors and the state or territory health department agree that cannabis may provide palliation benefits to the patient”.  Public Health Association chief executive Michael Moore said much of the existing opposition to the medicinal use of cannabis in Australia was based in political and ideological views, and did not consider compassionate medical practice.  “I don’t think the ACT is in isolation at all. Victoria has already announced that it is going to be legislating for allowing medicinal cannabis under some certain circumstances and other jurisdictions are looking at it as well.”  The position statement said many Australians self-medicate with cannabis, or medicate family members, including some with “tacit or over support of their doctors”. These people are breaking the law by possessing, cultivating, supplying and even importing cannabis.  It notes widespread government regulation allowing for medicinal cannabis in Europe and North America as well as New Zealand and the United Kingdom. 

Cancer fighter’s dying wish to legalise medicinal cannabis one step closer [Daily Telegraph]

The State’s first medicinal cannabis trial will begin next year, with the state government revealing dozens of ­organisations have expressed interest in running it. In the week which key campaigner Dan Haslam passed away, Premier Mike Baird said an expert panel would meet in two weeks to decide which group would run the clinical trials, with the successful ­applicants named in June.

Petition – Ditch the Dogs [Unharm!]

Drug detection dog operations at events increase risk by giving people an incentive to take all their drugs before entering the venue. Sometimes this is preplanned but for some people it’s a panicked reaction when they see the dogs. This is a known cause of overdose.Other risks come from replacing cannabis with more harmful but less detectable drugs, and from the increasingly common practice of hiding drugs in body cavities.

Bitcoin’s use by Australian ‘mums and dads’ to buy drugs hinders police investigations, senate inquiry hears [The Age]

It’s not only outlawed motorcycle gangs and other hardened criminals using virtual cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin for illicit purposes. “Mums and dads” are also using them to buy illicit narcotics and synthetic drugs, the Australian Crime Commission has told a senate inquiry examining virtual currencies. “…You are seeing large volumes of mums and dads purchasing illicit commodities over the internet and we’re seeing organised crime groups such as [outlaw motorcycle gangs] in recent media reporting using bitcoin as a standard way to move value,” Dr John Moss, national manager of intelligence at the Australian Crime Commission, told the senate inquiry on Wednesday. Appearing surprised at the revelation, Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan asked Dr Moss to confirm that “mums and dads” were in fact purchasing illicit commodities using digital cryptocurrencies and the types of goods and services they were acquiring. “The primary detection is around narcotic importation [and] new synthetic drugs,” Dr Moss said. Responding to a Fairfax Media request for further evidence, Dr Moss said he was talking about “everyday” Australians using bitcoin for illicit purposes. “Clear evidence of this can be seen by the nature of illicit drug purchases from illicit marketplaces on the dark-net,” Dr Moss told Fairfax Media. “For example, small scale purchases, low in volume, sent to Australian residential properties or PO Box addresses.”

Victoria police estimate ‘hydro’ a $1.5 billion drug industry [The Age]

Any financial guru will tell you the best strategy is to mix high-risk – high-return investments with some blue-chip stock. And it’s no different in the drug world where syndicates no longer specialise in one product, preferring the finger in many pies approach. Police say the blue-chip stock of choice for drug rings these days is actually green – hydroponically grown cannabis. According to the head of the Drug Task Force, Detective Inspector Phil Harrison, “Cannabis crops funds other arms of organised crime. (The crops) are more widespread than first thought and we are rethinking our approach at the highest level.” The rethink is out of necessity. Police are confronting an ice epidemic of unprecedented proportions, an apparently insatiable cocaine market and a resurgence in heroin. “Most of our resources are used in ice investigations because of the harm it does to the community,” says Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Steve Fontana. Police could raid a crop house a day and only bruise a market that is supplying the most popular illicit product in Australia. The usual police practice is to find a grow house and try to follow the trail to the organisers. This is time-consuming and not always successful. And so police are trialling a disruption method. In just eight weeks police raided 35 properties and using immediate destruction provisions had the crop houses declared safe by electricians, the plants certified as cannabis by botanists and then destroyed on the spot (preserving evidence samples).

Cannabis in the US: It is now legal to smoke weed in Washington DC [The Independent]

The US is getting greener by the day as Washington DC today became the latest place where the smoking and possession of cannabis is legal. The capital of the United States has allowed the recreational use of weed since midnight after the states of Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Oregon have already amended their laws. Residents and visitors can now have as much as two ounces (56 grams) of cannabis on their person and can even grow up to six plants at home – provided they are over the age of 21.

D.C.’s ‘Martha Stewart of Marijuana’ plants his first seeds [The Washington Post]

Eidinger, the chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign who spearheaded efforts to get marijuana legalization on November’s ballot, invited the media to his campaign headquarters Thursday to watch him plant marijuana seeds and smoke — two activities that are now legal in the District. Eidinger offered to share some of his stash with reporters, but everyone declined, opting merely to enjoy, or perhaps tolerate, the contact high from the smoke that filled the dining room of a Massachusetts Avenue NW rowhouse on Embassy Row. “It feels great, it feels like freedom,” Eidinger said as he legally inhaled and exhaled multiple times while photographers got their shots. Eidinger has been pushing for marijuana legalization ever since D.C. officials shut down his Capitol Hemp shops in 2012 because he sold weed-related paraphernalia. This was before decriminalization was in effect in D.C.; at the time, full-on legalization seemed like a quixotic cause. Now Initiative 71, the overwhelmingly voter-approved marijuana legalization law that went into effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m., allows residents to grow up to six marijuana plants — three mature ones at a time — at home and possess up to two ounces of the leafy drug. Eidinger plans to reopen his shop in Adams Morgan later this year. 

A D.C. Man Walks Into A Police Station And Asks For Marijuana… And Gets It [Wamu American University Radio]

According to D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), a resident walked into the Sixth District police station in Ward 7 on Monday and asked an officer on duty to return his marijuana to him, which had been confiscated during a prior arrest. Alexander says that while the officer on duty was initially confused, the man did eventually recover his marijuana. “They gave him his weed back!” she said. Under the marijuana legalization law that took effect last Thursday, residents over the age of 21 are allowed to possess up to two ounces of pot on their person, as well as use and grow marijuana within their private residence. While police are allowed to confiscate the marijuana if no proof of age is provided or if an arrest for another offense occurs, a Special Order distributed to all officers last week specifies that the individual whose marijuana is seized is legally allowed to go to a police station to request that it be returned to them. “A person whose marijuana or marijuana-infused edible goods was seized… may seek the return of their property by visiting the station in the District where the marijuana was seized no sooner than 24 hours after the seizure,” says the order. If the marijuana is not claimed within 30 days, it is destroyed as contraband.

Washington, DC, police chief on marijuana: “All those arrests do is make people hate us” [Vox]

Washington, DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier seems fairly enthusiastic about marijuana legalization in the District, even decrying the past system of prohibition and how it tarnished community relations with police. Lanier told the American News Women’s Club last Wednesday, according to the Daily Beast, “All those [marijuana] arrests do is make people hate us.” She added, “Marijuana smokers are not going to attack and kill a cop. They just want to get a bag of chips and relax. Alcohol is a much bigger problem.” The police chief clarified her comments to emphasize that she believes marijuana isn’t healthy. “But I’m not policing the city as a mom,” she said. “I’m policing it as the police chief — and 70 percent of the public supported this.”

NYPD commissioner blames legal marijuana in Colorado for increase in New York shootings [The Washington Post]

At a news conference Monday, New York Police Department commissioner Bill Bratton blamed a slight uptick in violence in the city (45 homicides at this point last year, versus 54 this year) on marijuana. “The seemingly innocent drug that’s been legalized around the country. In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with [in the] 80s and 90s with heroin and cocaine . . . In some instances, it’s a causal factor. But it’s an influence in almost everything that we do here.” Hyperbole at its finest. Even if this year’s uptick holds through December (and it’s worth noting that we’re only dealing with eight weeks of data, here), New York would end the year with 383 murders. The city saw 2,245 murders in 1990.

Marijuana may be legal, but it’s still taboo in Washington DC [The Guardian]

Sixty-five percent of DC residents voted for marijuana to be legalised. But will any of them admit to liking it, or using it, or growing it? No. What do young professionals in highly pressured jobs think about the legalisation of recreational marijuana in DC? “I don’t have a problem with it,” says the first woman I encounter, who gives her age as 22. Nor do two-thirds of people in Washington DC, according to the official ballot on legalisation, which was held in November. Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented the initiative at 12.01am on Thursday, meaning it is now legal for residents to smoke pot in their own homes, grow up to six plants in their own homes, possess two ounces of marijuana with impunity, and hand out, should they wish, an ounce at a time of marijuana. (As long as they don’t charge for it.) Given all that, will the 22-year-old woman be growing up to six marijuana plants in her home, and distributing up to one ounce to individuals, as long as she is not paid in return, I ask? “I’m not a big smoker. But I’m sure all my buddies will.”

Texas lawmaker files bill to legalize marijuana [Chron]

In Texas, a conservative lawmaker filed a bill to completely deregulate marijuana in the Lone Star State Monday, proposing to strike any mention of the psychoactive plant from state law. “Everything that God made is good, even marijuana” said state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who filed the bill. “The conservative thought is that government doesn’t need to fix something that God made good.” The 24-page bill begins: “The following provisions are repealed,” then lists dozens of Texas statutes related to marijuana. If the Legislature were to approve the bill, pot in Texas would be regulated like any common crop. In a press release, Simpson said he supported regulating marijuana like the state regulates “tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.”

Two headlines perfectly sum up everything wrong with American drug policy [The Washington Post]

Two stories published last week perfectly sum up the state of American drug policy. On Friday, Colorado released its first annual report on the state of the marijuana industry, which sold 17 tons of weed worth $700 million last year. That same day The Daily Beast reported on the case of Fate Vincent Winslow, a homeless man who in 2008 sold $20 worth of weed to an undercover cop and is currently serving a life sentence for it. In one state, selling millions of dollars of weed will earn you a seat at the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and the chance to hobnob with politicians and celebrities. But in another, possession or sale of the smallest quantities of pot can trigger the application ofmandatory sentencing laws, especially if you have previous convictions on your record. So far, Congress and the Justice Department have largely played a “wait and see” game when it comes to the application of federal laws to state drug policy. They’re not overtly acting against states that choose to legalize, but they’re also not working to resolve discrepancies between state and federal law either.

Ben & Jerry’s might start selling weed-infused ice cream [Business Insider Australia]

Someday, Ben & Jerry’s could come in a new flavour: cannabis. Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield told HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski that they were open to making marijuana-infused ice cream. “Combine your pleasures,” Cohen told Minkovski in a recent interview.

Cato Institute recommends Schedule II [MedMen]

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has released a report recommending that Congress reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug. The report, “Policy Priorities for the 114th Congress,” states “Congress should pass legislation requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act.” Currently, as a Schedule I drug, marijuana is grouped with heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, Quaaludes, and peyote. The DEA defines Schedule I drugs as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” While cocaine, OxyContin, Adderall, methamphetamine—yes, crystal meth—and more are listed as Schedule II drugs. The DEA considers marijuana more dangerous and more likely to be abused than crystal meth. It’s baffling, really.

Utah hears of danger of dope-crazed rabbits if marijuana legalised [The Guardian]

Legalising medical marijuana in Utah could lead to absent-minded rabbits and other animals who don’t feel their natural instincts, a special agent for the DEA has warned the state. In testimony last week before the Utah state senate, and first spotted by the Washington Post, special agent Matt Fairbanks expressed “some severe concerns” about marijuana as a cash crop. “Now I deal in facts. I deal in science,” he said, citing his experience ranging Utah’s mountains as a member of the state’s “marijuana eradication” team to bolster his concerns. “Deforestation has left marijuana grows with even rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana,” Fairbanks declared, suggesting that hares were yet one more of an unknown number of species to have succumbed to a cannabis addiction. Leporine marijuana abuse was so severe, Fairbanks said, that “one of them refused to leave us, and we took all the marijuana around him, but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone.”

Girl’s fight to treat rare form of epilepsy may lead Idaho to approve marijuana oil [The Guardian]

Ten-year-old Alexis Carey has a rare but intractable form of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome. The genetic diseases causes severe and multiple seizures, which often leave parents guessing if the terror of watching their child seize up will pass or turn fatal. Carey’s family learned that oil extracted from marijuana had helped other children and wanted to see if it would help her too. “Parent to parent, when you’re in a small community and 10 people that you know are all having success, that’s no longer anecdotal,” Clare Carey, her mother, said. “That’s hope.” But Idaho’s stringent marijuana laws do not allow for medicinal use. The family began lobbying lawmakers to decriminalise the oil almost two years ago. Now, they have some legislative backers and an upcoming hearing, as Idaho joins a larger movement to loosen laws and allow the use of marijuana extract oil.

Why Regulation Matters [MPP Blog]

The marijuana policy reform movement is coalescing around the idea of regulating marijuana like alcohol. While most supporters of ending marijuana prohibition appear to stand behind this idea, others have expressed concerns about the prospect of a tightly regulated marijuana market. While some of them are valid — high barriers to entry, for example — there are three reasons why regulating marijuana like alcohol is the best path forward: safety, security, and consistent quality.

Pat Robertson: Smoking pot is ‘slavery to vegetables,’ but God can ‘set you free’ [Raw Story]

Televangelist Pat Robertson said on Monday that people who smoked marijuana, used cocaine or consumed alcohol had been enslaved by vegetables. “God gave you and me as human beings authority, he gave us dominion over everything on this Earth,” the TV preacher explained on Monday’s 700 Club. “Over all the animals, all the snakes, all the birds, all the plants, all the vegetables. Why would you become a slave to a vegetable? Why? Why would you do it?

Drugs Live: Cannabis on Trial – live blog [The Guardian UK] 

Join us for live action, discussion and debate during Channel 4’s TV experiment into the effects of cannabis, including hashish and skunk ingested in a controlled environment

UN drugs body warns US states and Uruguay over cannabis legalisation [The Guardian]

The United Nations has renewed its warnings to Uruguay and the US states of Colorado and Washington that their cannabis legalisation policies fail to comply with international drug treaties. The annual report from the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board, which is responsible for policing the drug treaties, said it would send a high-level mission to Uruguay, which became the first country to legalise the production, distribution, sale and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes. The UN drug experts said they would also continue their dialogue with the US government over the commercial sale and distribution of cannabis in Colorado and Washington state. The possession and cultivation of cannabis became legal on 26 February in Washington DC. Voters in Oregon and Alaska have also approved initiatives to legalise the commercial trade in cannabis for non-medicinal purposes. The INCB said it “continues to engage in a constructive dialogue” with the US government on cannabis developments and it is clear the UN is putting strong pressure on the US government to ensure that the drug remains illegal at a federal level.

Countries Questioning Indonesia’s Push to Execute Drug Offenders [The New York Times]

Declaring illegal drug use a “national emergency,” the Indonesian government has embarked on a campaign of executions of drug offenders, most of them foreigners convicted of smuggling. The executions have alienated the country’s allies and set off diplomatic disputes on three continents. Indonesia put six convicts to death in January, five of them foreigners; 64 others have exhausted their appeals, including 58 from abroad. Ten convicts, including nine foreigners, may be executed as soon as this weekend. Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors after the executions in January, and Australia has said it may do the same. France has lodged a diplomatic protest. After the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, pleaded for clemency for two citizens and said his country would “find ways to make our displeasure felt” if they were executed, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia lashed out at what he called foreign meddling.

An alternative to medical marijuana for pain? [Medical Press]

Dr. Andrea Hohmann and her colleagues at Indiana University tested this strategy and found that, unlike Δ9-THC, repeated dosing with the cannabinoid CB2 agonist AM1710 suppresses chemotherapy-induced pain in mice without producing tolerance, physical withdrawal, motor dysfunction, or hypothermia. Moreover, the therapeutic effects of AM1710 were preserved in mice lacking CB1 receptors but absent in mice lacking CB2 receptors. “We think our data suggests that CB2 receptors are an important target for suppressing chronic pain without unwanted side effects (e.g. psychoactivity, addiction).” “It is important to know whether the benefits of cannabis ingestion for pain could be attributed in large part to the stimulation of CB2 receptors,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “CB2 agonists, in theory, would present less risk regarding addiction and intoxication than the ingestion of cannabis or THC.”More work will be necessary before CB2 receptor agonists could be prescribed for use in humans, but for now, these data support the therapeutic potential of CB2 agonists for managing pain without the adverse effects associated with cannabis.

New study examines risk factors for use of synthetic marijuana among teens [Medical News]

A new study by researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), is now online ahead of print in Drug and Alcohol Dependenceand it is one of the first national studies to examine risk factors for use of synthetic marijuana among a large, nationally representative sample of teens. Frequency of lifetime marijuana use was the strongest correlate, with more frequent use further increasing odds of synthetic marijuana use. “Our main finding was that very few never-users of natural marijuana have ever tried synthetic marijuana,” said Dr. Palamar. “Only 0.5% of non-marijuana users reported use. Although we were unable to determine whether use of natural marijuana tended to occur before synthetic marijuana, results do suggest that it is mainly marijuana users who are at greatest risk for use.”

Australian National Drug Strategy Online Survey [Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy] 

Health Outcomes International (HOI) is conducting stakeholder consultations on behalf of the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs (IGCD). As part of the consultation processes, you are invited to participate in a survey to collect your views on:  The achievements of the existing Strategy (National Drug Strategy 2010-2015, http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/); The implementation of the existing strategy and any associated issues and opportunities for improvement; and the content of the revised National Drug Strategy. The survey is available online at http://HOI.NDS2021.sgizmo.com/s3/.  We expect the survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. The survey is open for a period of 4 weeks, closing on 27th March 2015. Should you have any queries relating to the completion of this survey, please do not hesitate to contact HOI consulting team: Darren Button ((08) 8363 3699; darren@hoi.com.au)

 The War on Many Plants – the Last Word from our Man in Mullum

 [March 2015] It’s official! The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures) Bill 2014 was passed by both houses 2 days ago and is now law. The amendments I proposed in the senate committee hearing were accepted exactly as I had requested them, which means plants and fungi are exempt from this draconian new legislation. i.e., whatever plants and fungi were previously legal are still legal as they are entirely exempt from the new legislation. This process has taken many months, but is now finally over. The plant community has now protected plants from such ridiculous legislation 3 times in the last 4 years. Twice at a federal level and once at the NSW state level. There are now templates in place for other states to follow, so hopefully those who were previously considering such moves will now incorporate the exemptions as present in the NSW and the federal drug laws. It is much easier to convince lawmakers of the merit of such exemptions if they have been put in place in other jurisdictions after being thoroughly considered. Stay alert and speak up – you can make a difference.


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