Embassy Headlines, Issue 42

Misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of colour. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial and ethnic lines, blacks and Latinos are far more likely to be criminalized for drug law violations than whites in the USA.

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.

Embassy Headlines 42

Caught on tape: facebooking makes MPs look like dopes

Two New South Wales MPs on a committee investigating whether cannabis should be approved for medical use have been caught out whiling away their time on Facebook during public hearings. Crikey has obtained footage showing upper house Labor MPs Adam Searle and Amanda Fazio using their smartphones to message friends, look at memes and jokes and join Facebook groups during a March 11 public hearing of the use of cannabis for medical purposes inquiry. The footage was taken by filmmaker Richard Baron, who is filming a feature-length documentary, Marijuana Australiana, on cannabis use in Australia. The NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the medical use of marijuana will table its final report on May 17.

Behind closed doors in Australia’s media, marketing & entertainment industry

The idea that young creative types sit around smoking pot all day and snort lines of cocaine from their desks is the stuff of bad novels and media hyperbole, a hangover from the decadent days of the 1980s, industry professionals say. It’s a stereotype perpetuated by outsiders who’ve watched too much Mad Men, and insiders who make out that this business is more rock ‘n’ roll than it really is.

USA: ‘Big government not a friend to African Americans’

The firebrand conservative senator Rand Paul evoked the reported youthful drug use of George W Bush and Barack Obama in a pitch to young black students on Wednesday. In part of a speech delivered at Howard University, a predominantly black college near Washington DC, Paul argued for a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, arguing that being jailed for some non-violent drug crimes ruined lives. In order to make his point, he teed up a story about two young American men – one of them white, rich and privileged and one of them mixed-race and from a single parent household. “Both of them were said to have used illegal drugs,” he said.

NZ Psychoactive Substances Bill

MP Peter Dunne’s speech to NZ Parliament introducing the Psychoactive Substances Bill this week.

Superstar-Studded Coalition to President Obama: Let’s Tackle Mass Incarceration and Drug Policy Reform Together

Today, a coalition of over 175 artists, actors, athletes, elected officials and advocates, brought together by hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and Dr. Boyce Watkins, presented an open letter to President Obama, urging him to double down on his efforts to change the United States’ criminal justice policy from that of a punitive, suppression-based model to one that favors evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation… “… Time is of the essence, for with each passing year that we allow injustice to prevail, our nation loses another piece of its soul.  We must carefully examine the impact of the War on Drugs and the millions of living, breathing Americans who’ve been affected.  It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.”

Uruguay Begins Public Consultation Over Marijuana Legalization

Uruguay’s government has launched a public awareness campaign to sway public opinion in favor of an initiative to legalize marijuana, in what it says is an attempt to reduce drug-related violence. The plan was first proposed last year by President Jose Mujica, and has since evolved from its original form, which called for a state monopoly on the sale and production of the plant.

The sloppy journalism which misrepresents cannabis use

Public knowledge of the effects of drugs and drug policy is often ill-served by the the more reactionary voices in the media, but Friday April 5th 2013 was a particularly dark day. The following headlines splashed across the Mail : “The price of going soft on cannabis: Labour’s experiment ‘pushed up hard drug use and crime“, and the Telegraph: “Cannabis use soared by a quarter after Class C downgrade, study finds“, and “‘Softly softly’ cannabis scheme drove up hospital admissions for hard drugs, study“. Yet if you scratch below the surface of these articles – and make the effort to read the research being reported – it quickly becomes clear that the debate is being dramatically distorted  by a perfect storm of shaky or incomplete research, and sensationalist reporting.

Results from Toronto marijuana study in 1972 still not public

In the winter of 1972, 20 young women took part in one of the weirdest scientific experiments in this country’s history. For 98 days in a downtown Toronto hospital, their brains, hearts, kidneys, livers, blood and urine were rigorously tested and analyzed. A team of nurses kept around-the-clock records of their behaviour, which was logged at half-hour intervals. Were they sullen? Arguing? Laughing? Playing table tennis? Just how was marijuana affecting the 10 who had to smoke it every day? 

The War on Drugs Is Far More Immoral Than Most Drug Use

But rather than focus on mistaken arguments common to drug prohibitionists, I want to address a relatively novel claim: “Many people cite the ‘costs’ of and ‘socioeconomic factors’ behind drug use; rarely do people say that drug use is wrong because it is morally problematic, because of what it can do to mind and soul,” Wehner writes. “In some liberal and libertarian circles, the ‘language of morality’ is ridiculed. It is considered unenlightened, benighted and simplistic. The role of the state is to maximize individual liberty and be indifferent to human character.”

Medical Marijuana Now On Sale in Czech Pharmacies

Medical marijuana became legal Monday in the Czech Republic and is now available for sale in pharmacies. Monday was part of the Easter holiday there, so it didn’t actually go on sale until Tuesday. Medical marijuana is available by prescription only and has been okayed for people suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.

Dutch city wants to cultivate own cannabis

The southern Dutch city of Eindhoven has come up with a proposal it believes will curb the illegal supply of cannabis to the city’s so-called coffee shops: they suggest growing it themselves. “The Eindhoven municipality has come out in favour of a pilot project regarding the controlled cultivation of cannabis,” Eindhoven’s mayor Rob van Gijzel said in a letter, a copy of which was handed to AFP on Wednesday.

Human trafficking victims tell of drug factory ordeal

In her cramped bedsit in a northern English town, Min talks about the man who brought her here from China. She says that her family were being harassed by the police because they were members of the banned spiritual group Falun Gong. So her grandmother put her into the hands of someone who said he would help her start a new life in Britain. Their final destination was a cannabis factory in England, where she was again held prisoner. “I had to water the plants. I slept on a small bed and never went outside.” One day her ordeal in the house came to a sudden end. “The police knocked on the door, burst in and two of them grabbed me.”

Nimbin MardiGrass

The annual Australian Cannabis law reform rally and gathering on the first weekend in May.


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