Embassy Headlines, Issue 144


Vote Whatever [NSW Election]

Voting for whom you detest the least, is the modern day attitude for many voters.

Sparkling eyes can make up for a long list of bad policies. Winning by default is still victory, hollow or not. Is it possible that we get what we deserve from politicians? The reason they win seems to be due to a low level of interest in the political process.

The HEMP 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.

NSW Election Disappointing and Inadequate [HEMP Party of Australia]

“I think Labor and LiberalNational members are bound by unsustainable party lines, to me it appears the Greens are the only party who can convey commonsense on this and many other drug issues. The big parties are still ramping up their drug war because of ice now with no acknowledgment or understanding it seems that prohibition is creating the nightmares. Our attitude to drug use needs to change urgently. We need the police out of health issues,” added Mr Balderstone.

The Mike Baird story: how a Liberal princeling became Australia’s most popular politician [The Guardian]

Baird plans no truce in the war on drugs. “I find it remarkable and surprising,” he says, “that local school fundraisers become opportunities for recreational drug use amongst my peer group”. That drugs are everywhere he interprets not as evidence that the war has failed but the need to throw yet more resources into the fight. More cash will be available for education and rehabilitation and there is the prospect, perhaps, of medical marijuana one day. But there will be no new injecting rooms, continued use of sniffer dogs and a tripling of roadside drug testing.

Nimbin the focus of marketing campaign [EchoNet Daily]

Nimbin will be the focus of a new marketing campaign to help the village recover from the fire, which ripped through its heart last year. The $120,000 marketing campaign is designed to increase tourist numbers in the wake of the fire that destroyed the Nimbin Museum, Rainbow Café, and retail outlets including Bringabong. Lismore City Council, North Coast Destination Network, and Destination NSW are making the funds available. Lismore council’s tourism and events manager Mitch Lowe said the campaign aimed to highlight to visitors that Nimbin was “open for business”. ‘Unfortunately, after natural disasters, perceptions can be that destinations are still affected – we want to dispel that and welcome people to experience all that Nimbin has to offer,’ Mr Lowe said. ‘While the fire was tragic, the atmosphere and colour of the village remains largely unchanged. Nimbin is such an iconic destination, with over 150,000 visitors each year.

Victorian legal commission issues report on medical marijuana [The Guardian]

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has released its issues paper to help guide its recommendations for how the state government might legislate to legalise cannabis use in exceptional medical circumstances. The government has not asked the commission to report on whether such legislation is desirable – that is a matter for the government itself to decide. Rather, the commission has asked for public submissions to help it consider two questions central to its review: “Who should be eligible to use cannabis for medicinal purposes” and “How extensive should any Victorian medicinal cannabis scheme be?”

Australia’s first medical marijuana company will kick off its ‘farm to pharma’ strategy by releasing a dope pill [Business Insider Australia]

Australian-owned medical marijuana company Phytotech has merged with MMJ Bioscience in an effort to expand from cultivating cannabis to developing and distributing it in pill form. Phytotech will acquire 100% of the issued capital of Canadian company MMJ Bioscience Inc with the aim of bringing marijuana-based pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products to a global market.

New CEO of cannabis group Michael Sautman wants Australia to legalise it [Sydney Morning Herald]

Prominent North American legal marijuana industry lobbyist Michael Sautman will be in Sydney early next month to start making his case to regulators after being appointed chief executive of a yet-to-be-named cannabis group that is poised to float on the Australian sharemarket. Mr Sautman is hopeful that in the future Australians will be able to legally tuck into pot-flavoured cereal for breakfast, eat a hemp-based faux steak for dinner, and smoke a joint in the evening. And he wants to be able to sell them all of those products and more through a suite of cannabis businesses being assembled in a reverse takeover of failing ASX-listed mining hopeful Capital Mining.

Support for mum’s fight to legalise medical cannabis [The Chronicle]

A Toowoomba family’s campaign to reform medical cannabis law in Queensland has been overwhelmingly supported. Rhonda Miles wants medical cannabis legalised for her son Lachlan, who suffers from uncontrolled epileptic seizures. On The Chronicles’ Facebook page there was resounding support for the campaign.

Parents pin hopes on medical cannabis trial for children with epilepsy [Sydney Morning Herald]

On a bad day, four-year-old Bethany Edwards sleeps for more than 18 hours, has trouble holding a fork and finds it hard to walk without falling over or bumping into things. Bethany was 18 months old when she was first diagnosed with epilepsy.  Now four, she suffers from night-time seizures and associated speech and learning difficulties. “It’s a constant struggle,” said Bethany’s mother, Karen Edwards.As protocols are being drawn up for the clinical trial of medical cannabis to treat children with severe epilepsy, Karen and Brian Edwards are anxiously waiting to see if Bethany will be included when the trial starts next year. 

Marijuana study: Suspending kids for pot smoking may encourage further use [Herald Sun]

Suspending children from school for drug use could actually encourage their classmates to smoke pot, rather than deter them. The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute researchers wanted to work out the long term impact of school polices on student pot use. They found students that go to schools that suspend students caught using drugs were found to be 1.6 times more likely to use marijuana in the next year compared with those who attended schools without punitive approaches. The findings applied not just to the suspended student, but the entire student body. Data from more than 3000 students from year 7-9 from Victoria and Washington State in the United States was analysed. They found that students who were at schools that were counselled and got abstinence messages about the drug were 50 per cent less likely to smoke pot. Dr Tracy Evans-Whipp said they were surprised by the findings. “It means that suspensions are certainly not having a deterrent effect — it’s just the opposite,” she said.

Man escapes conviction for driving under influence of drugs after eating hemp seeds [Canberra Times]

A Canberra magistrate has urged ACT lawmakers to test hemp seeds to see if they could trigger drug-driving screening tests used by police on the territory’s roads. Magistrate Bernadette Boss made the statement as she declined to convict a Hackett man who tested positive to driving with cannabis in his system. 

Nine refuses to publicly support star presenter Karl Stefanovic over drug comments [Courier Mail]

Channel Nine has refused to publicly support or defend their star presenter Karl Stefanovic over controversial comments he made about drug use.  The Today presenter was quoted in Sunday magazines nationally saying he had smoked marijuana in the past and thought occasional cannabis use was “just great fun”. “Look, I’ve never had a drama with people smoking marijuana. I’ve never seen a violent person on weed. Obviously the jury’s still out on the long-term medical effects of it, but a joint with friends, I’ve always thought, is just great fun. We do stupid things as adults, but I’ve never thought of that as one of them,” he said in an interview withThe Sunday Mail.

Call for reinstatement of mandatory drug, alcohol testing on building sites [ABC]

The Victorian Opposition and the union representing construction workers are calling for the immediate reinstatement of mandatory drug and alcohol testing on building sites. Blanket drug and alcohol testing was scrapped in Victoria in January by the new state Labor Government after an election pledge given to the CFMEU. The union had previously opposed mandatory testing, but the national construction secretary, Dave Noonan, said workers were increasingly raising concerns about the risks involved in working alongside colleagues who were impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Treat rugby league drug users like outlaw bikie gang: police union official [Brisbane Times]

While the government seeks to review the LNP’s bikie laws, a Queensland Police Union official has advocated for the legislation to be expanded to include those recently caught up in the NRL cocaine scandal. QPU representative Chris Proudlock used his monthly roundup in the union’s most recent journal to express his support for the Newman government’s VLAD laws, praising the intent, if not the application. Labor has committed to reviewing the laws, a move which the LNP intended to carry out in 2016, before deciding on their fate. It will introduce legislation on Friday which delay the aspect of the laws, which would have seen tradespeople lose their licence if they were found to have had an association with criminal motorcycle gangs and their members, until after the taskforce has completed its review.

‘Targeted policing’ sees cannabis busts in NW [The Advocate Tasmania]

Detective Sergeant Keiselis said a good use of police intelligence and public information was leading to more drug stings. “I think it’s today’s climate of social media and that drug use is talked about lot more frequently than it ever was,” he said. “If you compare it to the ’60s and ’70s we all knew the drugs existed then but it was all just behind closed doors.Targeted policing by our members have also yielded some good results.”

Prescription drugs involved in 82% of overdose deaths, Victoria coroner says [The Guardian]

Overdose deaths involving prescription drugs twice as common as those involving illegal ones and increasing rapidly, medical conference told.

Drug ice fuelling violent crime, funding international gangs, harming communities: Australian Crime Commission [ABC]

More hype from the ACC about Ice – it is a product of the war on drugs.  Legalise drugs and Ice would be a much smaller issue. [@BarnsGreg] 

Violent crime is on the rise, gangs are raking in profits and “untold” harm is being done to communities because of the increased use of the “mind-eating” drug ice, according to a national report. The Australian Crime Commission’s report is the first to paint a picture of the growing crystal methylamphetamine problem across the country. “Of all illicit drugs, the Australian Crime Commission report assessment is that methylamphetamine, and in particular the crystalised form, commonly known as ‘ice’, is the most dangerous and the highest risk to our nation,” ACC chief executive Chris Dawson said.

Can Washington’s Gift Economy in Marijuana Work? [New York Times]

It sounds like an idea a stoner might come up with. In Washington, D.C., it’s now legal to possess marijuana, to grow it, to smoke it and to give it away. But you’re not allowed to trade in it. You can give your neighbor up to an ounce, but if he gives you money or even bakes you a pie in exchange, that’s illegal. The District of Columbia has legalized marijuana — but is trying not to create a market in marijuana. It’s aiming for a gift economy, not unlike what you might experience at Burning Man, but permanently. Other legalizing jurisdictions are taking a more traditional approach. Colorado and Washington State have both established regulated markets in marijuana that look a lot like those many states have to regulate and tax alcohol. District of Columbia council members were expected to do the same until Congress passed a law barring them from spending money to regulate marijuana. That left the city with noncommercial legalization as its only option after voters repealed the law prohibiting marijuana in the district last November.

President Obama’s Dismissal of Drug Reform [Cato Institute]

Yesterday President Obama seemed to make light of the push for drug reform (again), arguing that young Americans should put it at the bottom of their priority list in favor of issues like climate change and war. As a member of that millennial generation, I’d like to ask: why? Setting aside the strange suggestion that environmental and peace activism are somehow mutually exclusive with opposing the drug war, I would suggest that Americans have much more influence over drug policy than we have over the global climate or the U.S. government’s penchant for war making.  Despite the President’s insinuations, the fight to end the drug war isn’t just a crusade by young stoners to get high without worry of arrest.  Prohibition doesn’t work.  It didn’t work in the 1920s when alcohol prohibition turned entire American cities over to organized crime, and it doesn’t work in 2015.

Legal marijuana in Colorado is three times stronger than it was 30 years ago [Business Insider Australia]

Marijuana has been legally for sale in Colorado for more than a year and researchers have for the first time taken the weed into the lab to take stock of the drug’s potency and contaminants. “As far as potency goes, it’s been surprising how strong a lot of the marijuana is,” researcher Andy LaFrate says. “We’ve seen potency values close to 30% THC, which is huge.” THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive compound in the plant. LaFrate is the president and director of research of Charas Scientific, one of eight labs certified by Colorado to do potency testing.

Colorado Marijuana Study Finds Legal Weed Contains Potent THC Levels [NBC News]

This is not your father’s weed. Colorado marijuana is nearly twice as potent as illegal pot of past decades, and some modern cannabis packs triple the punch of vintage ganja, lab tests reveal for the first time. In old-school dope, levels of THC — the psychoactive chemical that makes people high — were typically well below 10 percent. But in Colorado’s legal bud, the average THC level is 18.7 percent, and some retail pot contains 30 percent THC or more, according to research released Monday. “That was higher than expected,” said Andy LaFrate, president of Charas Scientific. His Denver lab is licensed by the state and paid by marijuana businesses to measure the THC strength in their products before they go to market. “It’s common to see samples in the high 20s.”

Prohibition and Marijuana Potency [Same Facts]

For drug producing industries, higher potency products are a good. They lower transport costs because the product has less mass and weight. Consumers like getting more bang for the buck. Finally, higher potency products are more addictive, and addicted customers are the best customers. I can’t stress strongly enough that all these advantages accrue to both legal and illegal drug sellers. There is nothing in the legalization of drug-producing industries that eliminates these financial incentives and because they can operate openly, such legal sellers actually may be better at achieving a saturation of lower cost, high-potency products in a market than are sellers constrained by prohibition. People who enjoy the occasional low potency marijuana cigarette tend to assume that sellers have a big economic interest in catering to them. But about 90% of the weed being sold in Colorado is used by people who smoke every day or almost every day. There just isn’t as much money in the “fine wine” set of occasional marijuana users as there is in daily, physically dependent users of high-strength pot. A legal market thus doesn’t inherently bring us low potency. Rather, it brings us a fight between regulators who generally want low potency products to dominate the market and sellers who generally want high potency products to dominate the market. Sometimes the regulators win, sometimes the industry does. When the industry wins, higher potency products are more available than they are under prohibition. When the regulators win, industries are forced against their economic interests to produce more of the lower potency products that Christopher and I agree pose less risk to consumers.

Is Legalizing Marijuana Going to Make Americans Stupid? [Vice]

So what now? Should we be worried that legalizing marijuana is going to destroy American academics? Should we call the whole thing off? Not so fast, according to Randy Cohen, the former ethicist at the New York Times. “Even if that were true,” Cohen told VICE of the study’s findings, “it’s just one more factor to be considered in the legalization of marijuana.” Cohen added that lowering tuition rates or improving the quality of public schools could affect college test scores in a way that might negate any negative effects that emerge from allowing college students access to legal marijuana. Dr. Greg Eells, director of counseling and psychological Services at Cornell University, told VICE, “The US, from its inception, has not made education available to the full population. Any broader societal shift that would allow the greatest access to education would be huge.” He went on to point out that alcohol abuse is rampant on college campuses, and almost certainly has a negative effect on academic performance.

Historic US Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Momentum [Huffington Post]

A comprehensive bill introduced in the US House of Representatives Tuesday aims to deal a significant blow to the federal government’s long-running war on medical marijuana. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), is a House companion bill to identical Senate legislationfrom Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced earlier this month. Each bill seeks to drastically reduce the federal government’s ability to crack down on state-legal medical marijuana programs and aims to encourage more research into the plant. The historic Senate version of the bill has also gained traction with two new sponsors since its introduction: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). “The science has been in for a long time, and keeping marijuana on Schedule I — with heroin and LSD — is ludicrous,” Cohen said in a statement Tuesday. “I am pleased to join with Congressman Don Young in introducing this important bill to bring the federal government in line with the science and the American people, respect states’ rights, remove the threat of federal prosecution in states with medical marijuana, and help our citizens access the treatments they need.”

Marijuana media is buzzing as legal pot gains territory [Fortune]

Cannabis-focused media is on the rise as the spread of legalization creates a demand for cannabis industry news. Last month, a new local magazine premiered in San Francisco filled with stories about pot-friendly politicians and a comic book starring a joint-smoking dinosaur named Budzilla. The free publication, SF Evergreen, is a bet by the parent company of The San Francisco Examiner newspaper that people will be eager to read about marijuana. Nevermind that the print media industry is dying. The magazine’s leadership see only opportunity. After all, pot aficionados are legion and the industry they support is sprouting like, well, ganja. “We think it’s well past time for an industry of this size to have media dedicated to it,” said Chris Roberts, SF Evergreen’s editor. SF Evergreen is part of a marijuana media boom that comes as pot emerges from the black market into legal legitimacy. New pot publications —in print and online — are popping up with regularity while older outlets are beefing up staff.

Facing budget pressures, the DEA is pulling up less weed [Washington Post]

The number of marijuana plants seized and destroyed by the Drug Enforcement Administration fell slightly last year and remained sharply lower than the record numbers seen at the dawn of the Obama administration. According to the DEA’s records, 4.3 million marijuana plants were destroyed last year, down from 4.4 million the year before and 10.4 million in 2009. The plants were destroyed by law enforcement officers under the auspices of the DEA’s cannabis eradication program. This program allocates money from the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to 128 state and local law enforcement agencies. The agencies use this money to locate and destroy indoor and outdoor marijuana grow sites. 

Clearing the Haze [The Gazette]

The Gazette kicks off a four-day perspective series, “Clearing the Haze”, that examines health, social, regulatory and financial issues associated with the world’s boldest experiment with legal marijuana [in Colorado].

Alaska police raid former TV anchor Charlo Greene’s marijuana dispensary [The Guardian]

Police served search warrants at marijuana activist Charlo Greene’s cannabis club after receiving reports of illegal sales but she reopened the next day. “By opening back up bright and early, less than 24 hours after the local police department’s failed scare tactic, we, at the Alaska Cannabis Club, have made it clear that the will of the people is stronger than any force they have and we aren’t going anywhere,” she said in an email to the Associated Press. Greene said she was “incensed” the police executed a search warrant on her instead of focusing on a stabbing and shootings that happened nearby just a few hours before.

Majority of young conservatives lean toward marijuana legalization [Daily Targum]

In light of the recent legalization of marijuana in Washington, D.C., members of the University are responding to a new study that shows young conservatives are favoring the drug’s legalization. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows 63 percent of republican millennials, or individuals born between 1981 and 1996, support the legalization of marijuana. This figure might be considered high when compared to only 47 percent of Generation X Republicans born between 1965 and1980, as well as 38 percent of Baby Boomer republicans born between 1946 and 1964. According to the poll, 77 percent of millennial democrats favored the drug’s legalization, creating a 14 percent gap between millennials in those specific political parties. Political parties are much less important to millennials than they used to be, said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. This younger generation is made up of libertarians that are both republicans and democrats, Redlawsk said. “The entire idea behind conservatism is to keep the government out of our daily lives,” he said. “If the idea is (for the government) to leave the people alone, they should legalize it.” The legalization of marijuana is simpler than people make it our to be, said Sergio Rojas, chairman of the Rutgers College Republicans. “I don’t even think it’s a Libertarian thing,” Rojas said. “For people our age, whether you use marijuana or not, it’s common sense (to legalize it).” 

Chemists in demand as cannabis industry experiences explosive growth [Chemistry World]

he US’s rapidly growing cannabis industry – medical and recreational – desperately needs chemists. That was the conclusion of a session at the American Chemical Society’s spring conference in Denver, Colorado, on 23 March. ‘We need chemists to tell us what we have,’ said Chloe Villano, founder of the Colorado-based cannabis business consulting company Clover Leaf.

Everybody Must Get Stoned: Medical Marijuana Recall In British Columbia [Inquisitr]

Three strains of medical marijuana cultivated by licensed producer Tilray, based out of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, have been voluntarily recalled due to higher levels of bacteria than is considered acceptable by Health Canada, the company announced in a press release on March 20. The strains being recalled — Hybrid House Blend, Indica House Blend, and Sativa House Blend — were sold between the dates of March 3 and March 18 to a limited number of medical marijuana patients, and thus far, the company has reported no adverse side effects or complaints related to the use of any of these products. Though all of Tilray’s products are put through extensive testing prior to their sale, the company says that the higher than normal bacteria content was caught during routine testing by Health Canada.

UN to fund Iran anti-drugs programme despite executions of offenders [The Guardian]

The UN anti-drug agency is finalising a multimillion-dollar funding package, including European money, for Iran’s counter-narcotics trafficking programmes, despite the country’s high execution rate of drug offenders. Iranian authorities have hanged at least two people a day this year for drug offences, according to the human rights group Reprieve, which works for the abolition of death penalty. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, also warned this week that the Islamic republic continues to execute more people per capita than any country. At least 753 people were hanged last year in Iran, of whom more than half were drug offenders. Reprieve and a number of other organisations have repeatedly urged the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to stop funding Iran’s anti-narcotics campaign until Tehran ends its use of capital punishment for drug-related offences. But despite their concerns, the UNODC is agreeing a new five-year deal with Iranian officials. Reprieve says its research shows that millions of dollars of support to Iran can be directly linked to the arrest and execution of thousands of people, including children. Iran has a notorious record of juvenile executions. 

Cannabis Oil is Gathering Unstoppable Momentum As A World Class Healer [Medical Marijuana 411]

Cannabis can have healing effects not just as cannabis oil; check out this video showing the power of raw cannabis leaves too. Truth be told, the healing power of cannabis has just barely been tapped. And, for those who don’t need to use cannabis medicinally, why not add it to your diet? The nutritional profile of hemp is unparalleled.

Only few studies demonstrate the effectiveness of marijuana [News Medical]

While many states have pushed for new laws to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons, there are few well-controlled studies that demonstrate its effectiveness. As such, most major state and national medical professional societies have not yet supported its use in patient care until further research is conducted to show it is a safe and effective medicine for use in a wide variety of settings. That’s the primary point a white paper titled “Is marijuana medicine?” makes after a thorough review of numerous studies and the position statements of national medical specialty organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Academic of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and several others. The white paper was written by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and presented at a joint hearing of the PA House Health and Judiciary Committees on March 24. “Across the country there’s a legalization movement, but little to push research,” said Karen Rizzo, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “From a clinical perspective, it’s like putting the cart before the horse. We have joined other national groups in calling for more research and making it easier for researchers to have access to marijuana for scientific purposes.”

Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, the book that changed the world [The Guardian]

Stewart Brand was at the heart of 60s counterculture and is now widely revered as the tech visionary whose book anticipated the web. We meet the man for whom big ideas are a way of life.


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