Embassy Headlines, Issue 43

The light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter every day for us at the moment and drug law reform is definitely back on the agenda. We may have to drag politicians into the conversation because you can be assured those who stand to lose from drug law reform will be lobbying them fiercely, terrified that their unholy profits are at risk.

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 43

NSW Drug squad chief calls for softened penalties

In a wide-ranging interview, Detective Superintendant Nick Bingham told triple j’s Hack program that police should move to a softer approach for policing personal drug use and possession offences. Det Supt Bingham said he would like to see cautions given for all “use-possession-type offences”. He said a cautioning program would move people away from the criminal justice system and into health programs, adding that being caught with a small amount of drugs has wide-ranging effects that impact on a person’s career.

VIETNAMESE crime gangs are bringing peasants from Asia to operate high tech cannabis “grow houses” in suburban Melbourne in a burgeoning drug racket. Victoria Police figures released to the Sunday Herald Sun reveal almost 50 per cent of people charged with growing marijuana on a commercial scale are Vietnamese. Organised criminals are using standover tactics to recruit poor Vietnamese illegal immigrants to act as “sitters” in suburban “grow houses”, paying them as little as $50 a week to watch the plants. Members of the Vietnamese community in Australia – many who have overstayed visas or incurred gambling debts – are also lured into tending plants.

NZ: Drug offences and prosecution

“Sadly in respect of criminal justice New Zealand is terribly punitive – with the 3 strike law adopted from the US, NZ has one of the worst incarceration rates in world, and the over representation of indigenous people in prison is shocking. New Zealand’s record on drugs is punitive too with: around 10% of incarcerations resulting from drug supply/possession; the government prohibited medical marihuana; recently a woman was criminalised for supplying cannabis to her child through her breast milk; new laws by the present government who want to regulate new legal highs, will force people of state benefit to be drug tested and have benefits stopped if they continue to test positive…” Julian Buchanan

Denver’s 4/20 pot parties a “coming out for cannabis”

Five months after Colorado voters legalized the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana, the man who puts together what is considered the largest marijuana celebration in the world is, on April 20, poised to host the biggest one yet. Lopez expects tens of thousands of people to attend Saturday’s “4/20” rally in Civic Center Park, creating perhaps the largest collectively produced cloud of marijuana smoke ever at 4:20 p.m. With planned rallies, concerts, exhibitions and a convention, Saturday in Denver will show what Colorado voters empowered by making the state one of the first two to legalize marijuana. But the day — and the rally, especially — will also demonstrate the division that exists between those who see marijuana legalization as a staid political campaign and those who see it as an expression of pot passion.

Marijuana Farmers’ Market Crops Up in Sonoma County

Today the new print quarterly Modern Farmer published a lengthy piece on the crop of marijuana farmers’ markets popping up in states where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational purposes.

The annual Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) conference, held in 2012 in San Antonio, Texas, USA, looks like any other industry gathering. The 600 or so attendees sip their complimentary Starbucks coffee, munch on small plates of muffins and fresh fruit, and backslap old acquaintances as they file into a sprawling Marriott hotel conference hall. They will hear a keynote address by Robert DuPont, who served as drug policy director under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Nothing odd about any of this until you consider that the main subject of the conference is urine.

Alaska Prepares for 2014 Ballot Initiative

On Tuesday, McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington Bureau reported marijuana policy reform activists in Alaska presented a drafted ballot initiative that calls for taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol along will 100 signatures to the state lieutenant governor’s office. It’s the first of many steps needed to put marijuana on the 2014 primary ballot. The measure, which would allow adults 21 and older to use and cultivate marijuana, will now undergo a 60-day review. If state officials allow the initiative to move forward, 30,169 more signatures will need to be acquired by mid-January in order to force a vote. A similar initiative in 2004 failed to pass; however, unlike the past measure, the new initiative would not include amnesty for past marijuana offenses.

Marijuana dispensaries may have to quality test in Mass.

Proposed state rules for the medical use of marijuana, which regulators will debate Wednesday, would make Massa­chusetts one of the few US states that require marijuana dispensaries to test their products for contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides, but specialists say it is easier to mandate testing than to do it reliably. Few credible labs will test marijuana products for potency or contaminants for fear of losing federal government contracts, because medical marijuana is not sanctioned by federal law, say researchers who study the medical marijuana industry. That means testing will probably be left up to the dispensaries, they said.

Are the Biggest Hydroponics Companies Endangering Marijuana Growers & Users?

How did I find out that the biggest hydroponics companies are putting our health at risk? It started with my love of popcorn, but not the buttery kind you get at movie theaters. I’m talking about popcorn kind buds. Hardened, chunky, sticky, gooey marijuana nugs packed with THC!

Colorado Legislative Committee Votes Against Pot Protectionism

This week the joint (heh heh) legislative committee working on implementation of Amendment 64, Colorado’s marijuana legalization initiative, struck a blow against pot protectionism by rejecting a requirement that retailers grow at least 70 percent of what they sell. That rule, supposedly aimed at preventing diversion of marijuana to illegal sales, currently applies to medical marijuana suppliers, some of which lobbied to keep it.

UK’s former top drug official: Coke-head bankers caused financial crisis

The former top drugs adviser to Britain’s parliament told UK newspaper The Telegraph on Sunday that risk-taking behaviors behind the financial crisis of 2008 were driven by excessive cocaine consumption by the world’s banking elite. “Bankers use cocaine and got us into this terrible mess,” Professor David Nutt said. “It is a ‘more’ drug.” He added that cocaine has the effect of making its users feel “overconfident,” encouraging risk-taking behaviors.

Wikipedia’s Suicide Mission Against Russian Censors

Smoking cannabis is dangerous business for people the world over. In Russia, just writing about it online is apparently enough to run afoul of federal anti-drug police, as that nation’s Wikipedians learned last Friday, April 5, 2013. It was then that state officials first informed Wikimedia Russia, the Wikimedia Foundation’s local chapter, that the government has placed its “Cannabis Smoking” article [ru] on its blacklist of illegal websites.

Aboriginal people in Canada will bear the brunt of Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Crimes

In early April, the BC Provincial Health Officer released a report that warns that recent changes to sentencing and other justice practices brought about by the enactment of the Safe Streets and Communities Act (SSCA) will have very negative effects on the health of Aboriginal people – changes brought about by the SSCA like mandatory minimum sentences will put more Aboriginal people in prison.


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