Embassy Headlines, Issue 17

Scientific evidence and common sense are still the biggest casualties in the ongoing ‘War On Drugs’.

However, the virtual battlefield continues to provide the theatre for rational debate and live social commentary from embedded online verbal mercenaries.

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.

Victoria: Why is a sensible debate on drugs beyond our politicians?

Despite the clear success of the Kings Cross facility (and other similar centres around the world), Victoria’s politicians have avoided the issue ever since the Bracks Labor government rejected a proposal for a supervised injecting room in Melbourne. Baillieu and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews may genuinely believe that such a facility would send the wrong signal in Victoria. They may argue it would lead to an increase in drug use. They may argue it would act as a ”one-stop shop” for drug dealers. They may simply see it as morally wrong. But in making such arguments, they would be ignoring years of evidence about the potential benefits. There is also, of course, the possibility that the government and Labor are simply keen to avoid engaging in meaningful discussion on this issue because it might be seen as grating against the tough-on-crime agenda that both sides seem so keen on.

Queensland: Magic mushroom fun guys unite online to swap hostspots

People hunting “magic” mushrooms are using the internet to share intelligence about where to find the hallucinogenic fungi and to help identify their hauls. Web forums such as Bluelight.ru, www.Shroomery.org and www.Mycotopia.net are havens for Queenslanders who have been posting advice over the past few weeks that include tips on hotspots, weather conditions and methods for consumption and avoiding detection. Foragers also upload pictures of their finds to the sites where they can be identified by their peers to help differentiate between psychedelic or poisonous mushrooms before they are consumed.

New singers, old songs: alcohol bans in Aboriginal communities

The newly elected conservative governments in Queensland and the Northern Territory have opened the way to relaxing laws restricting access to alcohol in Aboriginal communities. In Queensland, a number of observers including Aboriginal leaders Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton and Warren Mundine, have expressed their dismay and argued the case against plans to dismantle the restrictions, pointing to the high levels of alcohol-related violence and social dysfunction prevalent prior to the restrictions being introduced from 2002 onwards, and to evidence of improvements in areas such as assaults and school attendance.

Victoria:  Trolls hit cannabis campaign

A Victorian state-funded youth cannabis awareness campaign has been hijacked by internet trolls who have posted links to pro-cannabis websites. The $300,000 Don’t Let Your Dreams Go Up in Smoke campaign was launched by Victorian Health Minister Mary Wooldridge last Friday. But late yesterday the page had attracted little more than 100 “likes” and a flood of negative comments from young people labelling it “out of touch” and providing links to sites such as the pro-marijuana 420 Smokers Club. “I find it interesting that MOST of the posts from young people here think your page is crap,” said one. Other comments included “this page is full of lies” and “smoke weed every day”.

Australia: Call for drug cheats to be jailed

DOPE cheats should be thrown in prison, says Australia’s cycling chief, Klaus Mueller, who called for doping in all sports to be criminalised, allowing police to assist sports bodies in exposing cheats.

New Zealand: Legal highs regime costs and penalties announced

Legal high manufacturers will face estimated $180,000 application fees plus $1 million to $2 million in testing costs for each product they want to sell, and up to eight years in prison for selling banned substances, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today in announcing details of the permanent psychoactive substances regime. “I have said all along that this regime will be fundamentally based on reversing the onus of proof so those who profit from these products will have to prove they are as safe as is possible for psychoactive substances.

UK: A Fresh Approach to Drugs: the final report of the UK Drug Policy Commission

UK: Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study

A six-year study of Britain’s drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation. The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use. The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme. They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

USA: Oakland sues feds over pot dispensary

The city of Oakland took the unusual step Wednesday of filing a suit in an attempt to stop the federal government from seizing and closing down one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Attorneys for Harborside Health Center said the suit against the federal government appears to be the first such action by a municipality on behalf of a marijuana dispensary. he city states that federal attempts to seize the property, which began in July, contradicted promises by officials with the Obamaadministration who have said that dispensaries complying with state laws would not be targeted by federal agencies.

USA: Marijuana legalization on ballot in 3 states, but Justice Department remains silent

Voters are set to cast their ballots in three Western states next month on whether to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use, initiatives that would directly violate federal law but that have drawn only silence from the Justice Department. Despite the urging of drug enforcement experts, officials in Washington have not said how the federal government would deal with possible state laws in Colorado, Washington and Oregon that would conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. Federal law prohibits the production, possession and sale of marijuana and classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.

USA: Ron Paul Legalize Marijuana Bill – 8 Reasons Why It Makes Sense

It is time Congress acted to decriminalize the use of marijuana and this article provides eight reasons why.

Class War: Why Poor Parents Are More Likely to Get Busted for Pot

Recently, the New York Times published an op-ed by an art dealer and father from San Francisco titled “Pot for Parents.” It was just the latest of a growing number of pieces (Jezebel.com, NY Post , Huffingtonpost.com and Phillymag.com) published recently espousing the benefits of marijuana use for parents. These pro-pot missives share a carefree and cavalier tone, portraying marijuana use as an upscale diversion that ameliorates stress and leads to more patient and creative parenting. The “best part” of marijuana use, the “Pot for Parents” author writes, “is an amazing off-label benefit I call Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome” — the ability to perform obligatory parental duties with genuine enthusiasm after using marijuana. Whatever benefits marijuana use may or may not have for parenting, to those of us who represent parents in New York City’s Family Courts, these articles only highlight a daily reality: that when it comes to drug use, there are very different rules for poor parents, and particularly poor parents of color. The disproportionate and devastating impact of the drug war on poor communities of color, in terms of criminal arrests and prosecutions, has been well documented. What has largely gone unreported is the extent to which countless low-income parents in New York City and across the country live with the fear – a fear clearly not shared by the well-heeled author of “Pot for Parents” – that they could lose their children to the foster care system if they were as brazen about their own pot smoking.  

Mexico’s drug cartels target journalists in brutal killing spree

Scores of journalists have died in a country gripped by violence that has claimed an estimated 60,000 lives since 2006.

Guinea-Bissau: How Cocaine Transformed a Tiny African Nation

Seven years ago, almost no one in Guinea-Bissau could imagine that just 1 g of a bland-looking white powder could be worth more than their average monthly salary. But in 2004 and ’05 the Latin American cartels, realizing they had all but saturated the North American market, began looking for growth in Europe, and today the U.S. estimates 30 tons of cocaine passes through this African country every year en route across the Atlantic. In Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the smallest, with a population of just 1.6 million, the drug now permeates the entire nation, from the military and political elites, who facilitate its passage, to the poorest and most vulnerable, who are developing a rising addiction.

Russia wrestles with a deadly crisis

The President, Vladimir Putin, wants to curb smoking and alcohol consumption to stem the country’s population decline. Thirty-nine per cent of the 143 million people in Russia, the world’s largest tobacco market behind China, are habitual smokers, the World Health Organisation says. That compares with 28 per cent in China and 27 per cent in the US. The government is due to submit the bill to MPs by November 1, outlawing all cigarette advertising and sponsorship immediately, with the bans on kiosk sales and smoking in public places taking effect on January 1, 2015.

A Chart That Says the War on Drugs Isn’t Working

The controversial war on drugs not only costs a lot, it has done almost nothing to curb the drug addiction rate since 1970, according to a stunning chart by documentary filmmaker Matt Groff comparing the cost of drug control to the drug addiction rate. Groff used the rate of addiction to illicit drugs from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pairing it with federal drug control budget spending numbers from the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy.  Groff, who made the chart for his new documentary on the drug war The 1315 Project, says that it shows the costly war on drugs simply isn’t working.

HEMP Party Picnics

Melbourne and Adelaide are both having a HEMP Party Picnic in the park this Sunday, October 21st from 1.30pm for all members, activists and supporters to get together to discuss Cannabis law reform, the election campaign and enjoy the day. All are welcome.  

HEMP Party Victoria Picnic: Treasury Gardens.

HEMP Party S.A. Picnic: Botanic Park.



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