Embassy Headlines, Issue 151


Ask your dealer/healer about the difference between recreational and medicinal Cannabis.

There are some variations in the potency, cannabinoid profile and price but it will be difficult to spot the difference.

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.

Medicinal cannabis an option: minister [9 News]

The federal health minister says allowing medicinal cannabis use is a definite option for the future. But Sussan Ley says anybody considering it should “proceed with caution”. “It has to be tested, trialled, to be proven safe,” she told reporters in Geelong on Wednesday. The Victorian government is set to join New South Wales in a medical marijuana trials. “If all the boxes are ticked … then certainly it’s an option for the future,” Ms Ley said. “We have to make sure substances are clinically effective.”

Australia’s Norfolk Island to export high-grade medicinal cannabis to Canada [The Guardian]

An Australian company is about to start growing and exporting medicinal cannabis from the self-governing Australian territory of Norfolk Island. AusCann Group Holdings has struck a landmark deal with the Norfolk Island government to grow a high-grade medicinal strain of cannabis from November. It intends to export its entire first crop to Canada by the middle of next year. An initial one tonne of cannabis will be grown from a protected two-hectare site with production forecast to increase to 10 tonnes by 2018. It will supply the sativa and sativa-dominant strains, which are unsuitable for growing in Canada’s indoor facilities. “This Australian-first project has the full support of the Norfolk Island community and is expected to generate much-needed revenues via an export fee and employment,” the managing director of AusCann, Elaine Darby, said on Wednesday.

Sniffer dogs to be used to detect illicit drugs in Victorian mental health facility in Australian first [ABC]

Victoria’s largest mental health provider will become the first in Australia to start using drug detector dogs to try to stop illicit drugs from being smuggled into in-patient units. NorthWestern Mental Health, which is covers Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs, will start using the privately-contracted sniffer dogs at its acute in-patient facilities immediately. Chairman Robert Doyle said it was a “dramatic step” but “drugs and mental health patients simply do not mix”.

Dark Mofo artist Leon Ewing suggests high school students use drugs to expand creativity[ABC]

High school students should be given drugs to fuel their creativity, an artist appearing at Hobart’s Dark Mofo festival says. Leon Ewing, a multimedia artist and education lecturer at Western Australia’s Murdoch University, is taking part in the festival’s Hothouse project in early June, a 72-hour talkfest aimed at generating ideas about how to improve educational attainment and retention in Tasmania. “Basically what I’m proposing is the idea of using performance enhancing drugs in education,” Mr Ewing said. “We already prescribe amphetamine-like medication for focus and docility. What if we medicated for creativity?” His suggestions include giving secondary school-aged students drugs like marijuana or even LSD to “open the mind to greater creativity and lateral thought”. [Among] young Australians aged between 14 and 24, around 15 per cent have already used cannabis in their life,” he said. “It’s not unprecedented. I mean young people are already using consciousness-changing chemicals.”

Illicit drug arrests and seizures at record high: Australian Crime Commission [Sydney Morning Herald]

A record number of Australians were arrested for illicit drug offences last financial year, according to the Australian Crime Commission. The commission’s annual illicit drug data report, released on Friday, said that there was a record 112,000 illicit drug arrests in Australia in 2013-14, a 10 per cent increase on the previous year. The number of arrests for amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, steroids and hallucinogens were all the highest on record. In a bumper year for drug detections at the Australian border, there were record numbers of seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (excluding ecstasy), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), benzodiazepine and opioids. The weight of amphetamines (excluding ecstasy) detected at the border was the second highest on record, while the weight of cannabis seized at the border was the highest in a decade.

Don’t panic: the ‘ice pandemic’ is a myth [The Age]

Despite what we might hear, the latest report from the Australian Crime Commission doesn’t tell us that the problem with ice is getting worse. It simply tells us how police are doing their job. So why are the crime commission and our Justice Minister spruiking this misguided idea that there is an “ice pandemic” in Australia? Amphetamine use is stable and use across the population has actually gone down since 1998. The proportion of Australians who have used ice in the past 12 months is around 2 per cent. Yes, police are making more arrests for amphetamines, but we must remember that the weight of the total drugs seized is less than in previous years. Which means more busts, but less product. Clandestine drug lab detection has also dropped. This signals a change to policing: more drug users and fewer drug suppliers.

Community concerns aired at Lismore ice forum [ABC]

A research fellow at Lismore’s University Centre for Rural Health told the forum there was no evidence to suggest the Northern Rivers was in the grip of an ice epidemic. Doctor Jennifer Johnston said more work needs to be done on drug-use patterns in regional areas. “There is research that’s being done in metropolitan centres of Australia, which shows that what’s actually happening is that there’s not more people using [amphetamines] but they’re using [ice] instead of speed,” she said. “The methamphetamine is more pure and that is why we’re seeing more harms. So we’re not seeing greater numbers of users, although we are seeing potentially greater harms.”

Say hello to the UK’s first cannabis pharmacy [Metro]

The UK’s first ever cannabis pharmacy is set to open its doors this week. Don’t be too quick to delete your dealer’s number however – the pharmacy sells health and beauty products, none of which can get you high. Carun UK, which will be based in Twickenham, London, aims to ‘harness the healing super-powers of hemp’ which is claims is the ‘ultimate skin saviour and well-being booster’. Michal Takac, Carun’s UK Managing Director said they use compounds grown on a specially cultivated species of Cannabis sativa called Carmagnola.

Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana’s Secrets [National Geographic]

As the once-vilified drug becomes more accepted, researchers around the world are trying to understand how it works and how it might fight disease. As more and more people are turning to the drug to treat ailments, the science of cannabis is experiencing a rebirth. We’re finding surprises, and possibly miracles, concealed inside this once forbidden plant. Although marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, recently expressed interest in what science will learn about marijuana, noting that preliminary data show that “for certain medical conditions and symptoms” it can be “helpful.”

Smoking cannabis linked to respiratory problems [Medical Xpress]

People who smoke cannabis as little as once a week are more likely to suffer respiratory symptoms such as morning cough, bringing up phlegm, and wheezing, according to University of Otago research. However, the researchers’ study into the long-term respiratory effects ofsmoking cannabis found that after reducing or quitting cannabis smoking, these symptoms reduced to levels similar to those found in non-users. In New Zealand, cannabis use is almost as widespread as tobacco with about half of young adults admitting to have used it in the previous year. Associate Professor Bob Hancox, who led the study, says “Even people who only used cannabis once per week were likely to have a cough, bring up phlegm from the chest, and get wheezy. The good news is that if they stop smoking cannabis, these symptoms usually improve, although there was evidence that cough and wheeze may persist in those who have been long-term heavy users.”

Substance abuse risk not greater in those using medical marijuana with prescribed opioids[EurekAlert]

Among people who use medical cannabis for chronic pain, those who also take prescription pain medications are not at increased risk for serious alcohol and other drug involvement, according to a study in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.  Although medical cannabis is being used increasingly often as an alternative to opioids for chronic pain, in many patients it is being used in conjunction with opioids. This use has raised concerns that the combination could increase the risk of patients using substances such as alcohol and other drugs as well.  In this study, researchers looked at data from 273 patients at a medical cannabis clinic in Michigan. More than 60 percent of the participants reported also using prescription pain medication within the past month. There were no significant differences in the rate of co-occurring substance use between those who used prescription pain medication and those who did not.  This intersection of medical cannabis and prescription pain medication has not been widely studied, but the results still surprised the researchers, says lead study author Brian Perron, Ph.D., of the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.  “We expected that persons receiving both cannabis and prescription opioids would have greater levels of involvement with alcohol and other drugs,” Perron said. “However, that wasn’t the case–although persons who were receiving both medical cannabis and prescription opioids reported higher levels of pain, they showed very few differences in their use of alcohol and other drugs compared to those receiving medical cannabis only.”

Want to know where to get high? There’s an app for that [Reuters]

Cannabis users looking for someone to share a joint with have a new app that lets them find like-minded smokers around the world. The creator of the “Who is Happy” app, a Brazilian epilepsy sufferer who wants the drug decriminalized, says his software is a kind of “Foursquare for stoners”, comparing it to the app that allows users to rate restaurants and other places they visit. “The app is the first global platform of its kind allowing cannabis consumers to connect and unite to promote happiness while de-stigmatizing and hopefully decriminalizing cannabis use around the world,” Paulo Costa said. Users who anonymously log their location will see a green cloud appear on the app’s map, covering a 1-km (half mile) radius. They can then check to see if others are partaking anywhere nearby, or elsewhere in the world. A greater number of users increases a location’s “happiness” quotient.  Having been one of the top-30 downloaded apps in Brazil, the app ranks the home nation as the biggest user and therefore the happiest country. Cannabis has been decriminalized for recreational and medical use in some U.S. states but is illegal in Brazil.

Multidimensional family therapy lowers the rate of cannabis dependence in adolescents: A randomised controlled trial in Western European outpatient settings [Findings]

Multi-national European trial partially confirms US findings from research led by the programme’s developers that a family therapy which intervenes across a child’s social environment is more effective than alternatives for problem substance using teenagers.

Smoking cannabis ‘may stunt growth in boys’ [ITV News]

Smoking cannabis may stunt growth and trigger early puberty in boys, new research has revealed. Scientists studied hormones in the blood of 437 boys, including 217 who habitually smoked cannabis before reached puberty. They found that levels of puberty-related hormones such as testosterone were raised in the drug users, who also had reduced levels of growth hormones. By the age of 20, non-cannabis smokers were on average four kilograms (8.8lbs) heavier and 4.6 inches (11.6cm) taller than smokers. The researchers also found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol were significantly higher in saliva samples from boys taking cannabis. The scientists, led by Dr Syed Rizvi from the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, wrote in a study presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology’s annual meeting in Dublin: “Marijuana use may provoke stress responses resulting in stimulation of pubertal development and suppression of growth rate.”

How Catalonia Became Spain’s Laboratory for Smarter Drug Policies [Open Society Foundations]

Innovation Born of Necessity: Pioneering Drug Policy in Catalonia, a new report published by the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program, tells the story of how Catalonia implemented a community-driven, public health–centered approach to its heroin epidemic and created a new model for legal cannabis consumption. These unique approaches were driven by Catalonia’s fiercely independent spirit, strong sense of personal rights, and decades of experience organizing outside of the state structure.

Silk Road, Online Black Market, Reduced Users’ Risks, Defense Says [NY Times]

The already novel criminal case against Ross W. Ulbricht, the recently convicted founder of the website Silk Road, has taken yet another unusual turn. Mr. Ulbricht could face life in prison when he is sentenced on May 29 in Federal District Court in Manhattan for his role in running Silk Road, a once-thriving black market for the sale of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other drugs. And although prosecutors have not yet said what length of sentence they will seek for Mr. Ulbricht, 31, they have told Mr. Ulbricht’s lawyers that they intend to introduce evidence of six overdose deaths attributable to drugs bought from vendors on Silk Road, according to a recent defense filing. Now, in the latest twist in a case that has been flush with technological intrigue, Mr. Ulbricht’s lawyers are asking the judge to disregard the overdose deaths at his sentencing by raising an argument that has probably never been heard in a traditional drug case. Mr. Ulbricht’s lawyers contend in a filing on Friday that “in contrast to the government’s portrayal of the Silk Road website as a more dangerous version of a traditional drug marketplace,” the website “was in many respects the most responsible such marketplace in history.”

Finding the Tea Pad: The Social Spaces of Casual Marijuana Use [Points Blog]

In my previous posts, I began to ask questions about how to find user voices in the archives. In my last post, I moved to a more direct discussion of sources from actual users — jazz musicians– and their relevance to social history methods. But I haven’t yet raised the bigger question: how did everyday users contribute to the historical record on cannabis use during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? In another speculative exercise, using a combination of disparate source material, I will begin to lay out the foundation of an answer to this question. Further research in this area, connected to my dissertation project, will hopefully crystallize into a more workable hypothesis about casual marijuana use during this period. Until recently, scholars dismissed evidence of widespread marijuana use before 1930. For the most part, this was motivated by the much larger and more politically relevant focus on alcohol prohibition and opiate regulation during the same period. Perhaps the most influential work on marijuana was written by legal scholars Bonnie and Whitebread;in 1970, they revisited the so-called “Anslinger thesis,” the argument that Harry J. Anslinger played an influential role in building the anti-marijuana consensus during the 1930s. Other scholars problematized the familiar gender, racial and class stereotypes about marijuana users.

Psychedelics Do No Harm, May Do Good [Medscape]

Yet another study has failed to show a link between lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or other psychedelic drugs and depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors. In fact, investigators found a link between psychedelics and a decrease in inpatient psychiatric treatment. These findings are similar to those of other recent studies and add to a growing body of literature indicating that psychedelic drugs may not only be safe but actually therapeutic when it comes to mental health. “The research suggests that psychiatrists shouldn’t be prejudiced against psychedelic drugs and that if they have patients who use these drugs, it’s not necessarily bad for them,” study investigator Teri Suzanne Krebs, a PhD student and research fellow in the Department of Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim, told Medscape Medical News.  “Clinicians should know that it’s possible to prescribe psychedelic drugs right now, today, although there could be some paperwork involved,” she added. This, she added, is spelled out in the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The new study was published online March 5 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.


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