Embassy Headlines, Issue 150


Defective Detection

The shift in drug use trends from Cannabis to fast acting undetectable drugs, especially ice, should be viewed as a direct consequence of Australian Police use of sniffer dogs, and saliva testing.

Police have conceded that most driver impairing drugs are not detected, including prescription sedatives, methadone, tranquilisers, depressants, benzodiazapines, synthetic and opiate pain drugs. With increased availability and sales of online party drugs, it’s difficult for Australian authorities to even keep track.

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.

MardiGrass a success despite anger over drug testing [EchoNet Daily]

Nimbin MardiGrass organisers have hailed this year’s event a success despite heavy policing on the roads in and out of the village. As weary festival-goers prepare to leave this morning, police have once again set up drug-testing stations on the outskirts of the village. Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said many people in the village were angry and felt they were being picked on as an easy target by police. ‘There’s been a million warnings but still people think they’ll be okay,’ he said. Mr Balderstone said people were angry because the new drug testing equipment being used by police was extremely sensitive and detected cannabis traces days after use, regardless of whether the driver was impaired or not. The testing devices do not detect opiates or pharmaceutical medications, which are known to impair driving. He said medical cannabis and new technology for roadside drug testing were the two big issues debated at the cannabis law-reform event.

Police can’t determine which drugs caused positive tests [Northern Star]

Police are unable to provide a breakdown of alleged positive drug tests during Mardigrass to determine how many people of the 114 detected were under the influence of cannabis or ice.  The MardiGrass drug testing results sparked outrage from cannabis advocates, as people who had smoked pot several days before being tested can still register a positive reading, despite displaying no impairment.  Oral fluid samples from alleged positive tests have to be analysed before to results can be made public, a police media spokesman said.  “The breakdown of illicit drugs will be determined once the Oral Fluid Samples have undergone forensic examination by the Forensic and Analytical Science Services,” the spokesman said.  Police Drug Testing Unit Inspector Steve Blair said while the Drager DrugTest 5000 was capable of detecting seven types of drugs, NSW police only tested for three illicit drugs.  “We test for cannabis, methamphetamine and ecstasy (MDMA),” he said.

Interest in medical marijuana draws big MardiGrass crowd [Northern Star]

Medical cannabis was “unquestionably” the big issue at this year’s MardiGrass festival.  Festival organiser Michael Balderstone said the issue helped attract large numbers to the event despite the terrible weather.  “Our online ticket sales were up a lot, about a third up,” he said. “Quite a few people didn’t come (on Friday) because the roads got blocked. But it was lovely to wake up to the sun on Saturday and all the roads opened and people started turning up.”  Mr Balderstone said the focus of this year’s festival was largely on medical cannabis with an impressive line-up of international speakers.

Peace and happiness at MardiGrass, where everyone gets abong [Northern Star]

Only in Nimbin could a protest rally be celebrated with a parade full of hemp-themed floats, bong-throwing contests and a flock of green, prancing Ganja fairies down the main street. This weekend was the 2015 Nimbin MardiGrass cannabis law reform rally, a tradition that began as a small, peaceful protest outside the Nimbin police station in May, 1993. This year, heavy rain and wild winds threatened to wreak havoc on the popular “protestival”.  Several roads were closed on Friday due to moderate flooding but come Saturday, the skies had cleared and the crowds were trickling in.

MardiGrass 2015 [EchoNet Daily]

The wet weather made it difficult for many would-be revellers to reach the Nimbin MardiGrass on the weekend but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who did. The parade was as colourful as ever and the mood was optimistic thanks to good news from the US regarding changing legislation there.

Morgan Freeman calls for marijuana to be ‘legalised across the board’ [The Independent]

Morgan Freeman has called for cannabis to be legalised “across the board”, claiming it helps him with pain management and has many other “useful uses”.  Freeman, 77, enthused about marijuana in an interview with The Daily Beast, where he praised more recent calls for it to be legalised for focusing on its medicinal value. “This movement is really a long time coming, and it’s getting legs—longer legs,” he said. “Now, the thrust is understanding that alcohol has no real medicinal use. Maybe if you have one drink it’ll quiet you down, but two or three and you’re f***ed.” The actor says his relationship with cannabis began “many years ago”. Asked how he would consume it, he replied: “However it comes! I’ll eat it, drink it, smoke it, snort it!”

Bill to reduce penalties for marijuana possession advances in Texas House [Fox 29]

Texans who support the decriminalization of marijuana hope to see history made. The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved a bill on Monday that would reduce penalties for people caught with a small amount of pot. “We’re looking to really mobilize the grassroots because the citizens of Texas are ready for this. We just have to communicate that with our legislators and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Heather Fazio, Marijuana Policy Project Political Director, said. HB 507 would remove the threat of arrest, jail time and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil find of up to $250.

Regulate Rhode Island

Regulate Rhode Island is a statewide coalition of citizens and organizations working to replace the costly and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition with a system to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.

Pot Use by Baby Boomers Is on the Rise [High Times]

The most recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that pot smoking has greatly increased among baby boomers in the past decade and is expected to continue to rise. After polling 68,000 Americans, their report showed that baby boomer pot usage has doubled, and even quadrupled, in some age blocks of individuals above 50 years of age. The study, according to the Upstart Business Journal, showed the combined medical and recreational marijuana industry is one of the fastest growing in the United States, largely because of the Baby Boomers whose pot consumption is expected to grow faster than any other demographic of pot users. By the end of 2015, more than 110.9 million Americans over 50 are expected to be using marijuana, and that number could increase by seven percent in the following five years, according to a recent study done by global research firm IBISWorld.

Mock Ad For New DEA Chief Shows What It Takes To Be A ‘Real’ Drug Warrior [Huffington Post]

A leading drug policy reform group has created a satirical ad seeking a new Drug Enforcement Administration chief that skewers the DEA in the wake of scandals and the announcement that its current administrator plans to resign. The ad, which was produced by Drug Policy Alliance and is slated to appear in Wednesday’s edition of congressional newspaper Roll Call, lists the new DEA chief’s primary responsibilities — including mass incarceration, police state tactics, obstruction of science, subverting democracy and undermining human rights. The mock advertisement is part of a campaign to influence President Barack Obama’s selection for the next administrator, end the agency’s opposition to changing national and state marijuana laws and ultimately reform the agency or abolish it altogether, the DPA said. “The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is seeking a new chief to prolong the failed war on drugs,” the ad begins. “The ideal candidate should have at least 10 years’ experience turning a blind eye to scandal and corruption, be adept at undermining the Bill of Rights, and have a firm and unwavering commitment to the status quo. You must also be a self-starter, as this position comes with little congressional oversight.”

Bid to legalize marijuana in Arizona has some advocates seeing red [The Guardian]

A conservative strain has started to creep into the national debate on legalization, with a few unlikely allies saying the core issue is one of individual freedom Family propelled JP Holyoak into the weed business: his daughter, Reese, has a rare illness, and Holyoak believes in the power of medical marijuana. He believes in it so much that his company, Arizona Natural Selections, operates two medical marijuana dispensaries that have served about 9,000 patients since opening last year. Holyoak, a financial adviser, has a big cannabis nursery in a warehouse on an industrial estate near Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. And he believes that recreational marijuana should be legalised – not through any enthusiasm for stoner culture, but because it is sound conservative policy.Holyoak, a Republican, said he has “learned about the total futility of the war on drugs” and is convinced that the only two choices are “tax and regulate, or enrich criminals”. Because of this, he is backing a new ballot initiative asking Arizona voters to legalise recreational pot. He sees it as a wholly separate issue from medical marijuana, which was narrowly approved in the state in 2010 when “yes” won 50.13% of the vote.

Sanjay Gupta Says It’s Time For A Medical Marijuana ‘Revolution’ [Huffington Post]

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has issued his strongest statement on legal weed yet, calling for a full-scale “medical marijuana revolution. We should legalize medical marijuana,” he wrote in an op-ed published Thursday on CNN’s website. “We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now.” Gupta’s comments come ahead of “Weed 3,” the third installment of his documentary series that explores the plant’s medical effectiveness and evolving status in society.  The episode, premiering Sunday on CNN, will include high-resolution renderings of what happens to the brain when individuals use cannabis. It will also follow those engaging in the country’s first federally approved clinical study of marijuana on PTSD patients and feature interviews with President Barack Obama and other lawmakers, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). “I see a revolution that is burning white hot among young people, but also shows up among the parents and grandparents in my kids’ school,” Gupta’s op-ed continues. “A police officer I met in Michigan is part of the revolution, as are the editors of the medical journal, Neurosurgery. I see it in the faces of good parents, uprooting their lives to get medicine for their children.”

Puerto Rico governor signs order to legalize medical pot [The Big Story]

Puerto Rico’s governor on Sunday signed an executive order to authorize the use of medical marijuana in the U.S. territory in an unexpected move following a lengthy public debate. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the island’s health secretary has three months to issue a report detailing how the executive order will be implemented, the impact it will have and what future steps could be taken. The order went into immediate effect. “We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life,” Garcia said in a statement. “I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.” The order directs the health department to authorize the use of some or all controlled substances or derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use.

Legalise cannabis supporters march in Paris, other French cities [rfi]

Placards and banners with the message “Ganga for all!” could be seen in the streets of Paris on Saturday as hundreds marched in support of legalising cannabis. As part of the Global Marijuana March, the crowds were calling for a change in France’s drug policy.

Cannabis activist lights up in live TV interview on South Africa’s state broadcaster [The Telegraph]

A cannabis activist lit up a joint during a live debate about legalisation aired on South Africa’s state broadcaster, in front of the deputy chairman of the country’s Central Drug Authority. Andre Du Plessis reacted with outrage after the agency’s David Bayever blamed a delay in submitting a report on the legalisation issue on the country’s recent xenophobic attacks. Mr Du Plessis, who was participating in Monday’s SABC interview from a mobile studio in the port city of Durban, responded that Bayever was making an “excuse for being late and doing your job”, before putting a joint between his lips and lighting up. He took a couple of puffs as the spokesman continued to argue for further research, before muttering, when asked for further comment by the SABC presenter: “I think that’s all I’ve gotta say”. He then stood, removed his microphone and walked off set. Neither the presenter nor Mr Bayever displayed any reaction.

World first: Launch of Quebec registry for users of medical cannabis [EurekAlert]

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids (CCIC) have launched a registry for users of medical cannabis in Quebec that will allow physicians to better manage its use and monitor patient safety. This innovative project represents the world’s first research database on the use of cannabis for medical purposes and places the province at the forefront of research in the field of medical cannabis. The registry was launched in response to a call by the Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ) for guidelines on the use of medical cannabis in accordance with new government regulations. As of April 1, 2014, cannabis can only be prescribed “within a research framework,” as it is not a medically recognized treatment.

‘Extreme’ exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke causes mild intoxication [Science Daily]

Secondhand exposure to cannabis smoke under ‘extreme conditions,’ such as an unventilated room or enclosed vehicle, can cause nonsmokers to feel the effects of the drug, have minor problems with memory and coordination, and in some cases test positive for the drug in a urinalysis, a new study concludes.

What You Should Know About Medical Marijuana for Pets [Time]

“The cannabis plant has many compounds in it,” Matthew J. Cote, brand manager at Auntie Dolores, a San Francisco Bay Area-based edibles manufacturer, told ABC News. Auntie Dolores launched its pet line Treatibles last year. “Most people grow cannabis for the euphoric experience of THC. But they’ve been overlooking cannabidiol—commonly known as CBD—which is non-psychoactive,” he said. So, as Cote explained to ABC News, the theory is that since aging canines share a lot of the same health problems as humans, there must be a market for pot-laced dog “medicine.” Sold online ($22 per bag of 40 treats, treatibles.com), Treatibles contain 40 milligrams of CBD per treat and makers advise giving one per 20 pounds of your pet’s weight.

Keeping Legalized Marijuana Out of Hands of Kids [John Hopkins]

As the realities of legalized marijuana take hold in four states and the District of Columbia, legislators and regulators could learn a lot from the successes – and failures – of the tobacco and alcohol industries in keeping their harmful products out of the hands of children and adolescents. So say three Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers in a commentary published May 4 in the journal Pediatrics. “The early days of marijuana legalization present a unique window of opportunity to create a regulatory environment that minimizes youth access,” says study leader Brendan Saloner, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “States should heed lessons learned from tobacco and alcohol regulations, which have proven very difficult to change despite research linking weak monitoring and low prices to underage use. Our number one priority has to be to keep our children safe.”

This Couple Is Raising $1 Million to Fund Medical-Grade MDMA and Mushrooms [Motherboard]

In 2002, Pål-Ørjan Johansen, then a depressed psychology student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, ate magic mushrooms for the first time.  It was his first encounter with psychedelics, and according to him, it saved his life.  “It was an experience of biblical dimensions,” said Johansen, now a clinical psychologist based in Oslo, Norway. The shrooms—also known as psilocybin—helped him confront his painful past in a way that no other experience had, psychotherapy included, he said.  Today Johansen and his wife, neuroscientist Teri Krebs, are prominent psychedelics researchers and advocates. They believe drugs such as psychedelics and MDMA (ecstasy) have the potential to heal and transform people’s lives for the better. Now, they’re working to expand access to quality-controlled psilocybin and MDMA around the world.


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