Embassy Headlines, Issue 52

Cannabis is slowly shedding the image that was created by those who oppose it. In the US there’s plenty of entrepreneurs and investors with the intention to make marijuana use more socially acceptable and exploit the legal profit potential beyond prohibition.

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 52

The Murder Of Don Mackay [DrJiggens.com]

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the cannabis dealing scene in Australia was run by an amateur network of young people who were drug enthusiasts themselves and who were known as ‘the old hippie dealers’, a group described by David Hirst as “one of the remaining aspects of an otherwise disembowelled counterculture”. However, in the winter of 1976 a criminal gang launched a takeover of pot dealing in Australia. Reports of the attack on the old hippie dealing network were carried in the Australian underground press, and they were remarkably similar. Marijuana only dealers would be visited by ‘heavies’ who offered a simple choice: either deal heroin or get out of the business. Along with US style prohibition, US style organised crime came to Australia.

Solving the Mackay mystery more important than ever [SMH]

Mackay was a brave crusader whose refusal to look the other way helped lay the foundations for increased scrutiny of organised crime, police and political corruption. Mackay’s death spurred the creation of the Woodward royal commission, which found the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta – honoured society – ran a multimillion-dollar drug business based in Griffith. Woodward named six members of the ‘Ndrangheta as involved in Mackay’s murder. The Nagle inquiry in 1986 found a police officer from Sydney – later to rise to high ranks in NSW – had botched the inquiry into Mackay’s murder. The officer had withheld information needed to corroborate evidence crucial to any murder charges. He was only fined $1000. Three other police in Griffith were convicted of covering up the Riverina drugs operations in the mid-70s.

Decades on, the Riverina clans still running the crime shop [SMH]

On Thursday a Griffith man faced Wangaratta Magistrates Court charged with cultivating a large commercial quantity of cannabis, after police found 7000 plants on a 35-hectare property near Cheshunt, Victoria, in March. He was remanded in custody and will reappear on September 19. The $18 million crop he was allegedly cultivating was fed by low-lying irrigation. Wangaratta inspector David Ryan said the system featured specific techniques not seen since the Mafia heydays of the 1960s and 1970s.

Synthetic cannabis: even regular drug users don’t trust it [Conversation]

As popular as synthetic products are, one segment of the population has little trust towards the new phenomenon of synthetics that has exploded globally in recent years: that is, regular drug-using offenders.

How do we solve the synthetic drug problem? [Daily Life]

It’s interesting to note that the only sensible comments from a politician so far have from Greens MP Richard Di Natale – a former drug and alcohol clinician. He said simply banning drugs will lead to “a pharmacological arms race where bans are always one step behind. The status quo is unacceptable but we also need to take a measured approach that ensures we put the health of the community first,” he said. Sensible words in a sea of posturing. Barring the rest of the political world agreeing to listen to what Senator Di Natale has to say, our only hope may be the successful introduction of a harm-reduction scheme in New Zealand. Maybe once they have been brave enough to move in this direction Australian politicians will be able to inject more evidence into the national conversation around drugs. Only then will the high moral ground in this debate be able to shift back to the people who want to talk about the realities of drug use in Australia, rather than simply repeating the rhetoric of failed prohibition.

We need real responses to danger of synthetic drugs [Telegraph]

I think the first thing we have to accept is that, like it or not, people like these substances and have now developed a taste for them. Prohibition will not stop their use, especially when they are so easy to obtain online.

Federal Government to introduce short-term ban on synthetic drugs [ABC]

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury says 19 drugs have been banned for up to 120 days, under consumer law. But Mr Bradbury says New South Wales and the Northern Territory need to update laws to make the drugs illegal substances. He says if the national poisons schedule was adopted it would allow provide criminal sanctions to be imposed. “The most effective way is that these drugs be treated as illicit drugs and be subject to law enforcement by proper agencies,” he said. “Of course people involved in their sale and distribution should be the subject of the same criminal sanctions as involved in the sale of cannabis or cocaine.”

The problem with banning [Monica Barratt Blog]

The prohibition of cannabis largely drives people’s attraction to synthetic cannabis products.

Defamation of Happy Herbs by the media [Ray’s Rave]

span style=”font-family: verdana,geneva;”>We are being slandered by the media in relation to the tragic death of Sydney teenager Henry Kwan. He was supplied with “synthetic LSD” that was purchased over the internet, which police said sent him into a psychosis and led to him leaping to his death from a balcony. Happy Herbs does not, nor have we ever, sold the dangerous substance involved in his death – despite what recent media reports would have you believe. Our goal is harm minimisation through providing safe and legal alternatives to uncontrolled illegal drugs, along with a wide range of natural health products.

Not so) tough on drugs [SMH]

The treatment given to a celebrity caught with marijuana highlights a soft push on decriminalising drugs. But now there’s a move for harder drugs to be included.

The edifice of drugs prohibition is starting to crumble [Guardian]

We are seeing a dramatic shift in favour of drug decriminalisation and unlocking the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

The Pharmacratic Inquisition [Nature]

In the latest issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience, leading scientists argue that the UN conventions on drugs in the 1960s and 1970s, which outlawed drugs with psychoactive substances such as marijuana, is hindering research into potentially significant medicinal uses, estimating that research in key areas such as consciousness has been set back by decades. Report authors Professor David Nutt and Professor David Nichols contend that the illegal status of psychoactive drugs makes it almost impossible to examine their mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic uses.

Marijuana Product Placement, Branding On The Rise [Huffington Post]

Marijuana’s public image is coming in for a makeover worthy of daytime TV, with pot product placement already a reality on Hollywood sets. Cheryl Shuman, a Los Angeles-based marketing and public relations consultant who — not coincidentally — founded a medical marijuana collective, has embarked on a campaign to update the image of the stereotypical dope smoker. She wants to replace visions of dreadlocked surfer-types taking hits from tie-dyed bongs with snapshots of what she portrays as the modern-day marijuana enthusiast: middle-class soccer moms revving up their pocket vaporizers after the children are in bed and suit-clad professionals taking the edge off the day.

Nevada Governor Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensaries [MPP Blog]

Medical marijuana patients in Nevada will finally have legal access to their medicine. On Wednesday, 13 years after Nevada voters approved the medical use of marijuana, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed SB 374 into law. The bill establishes the regulatory framework for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, thereby putting an end to patients’ decade-long struggle to obtain their medicine safely. The bill will also allow patients to continue growing their own plants (and increases the number they may possess) until 2016. The law allows the state to license up to 66 dispensaries throughout the state, distributed according to population density.

CAMH study shows mental illness associated with heavy cannabis use [Science Codex]

People with mental illnesses are more than seven times more likely to use cannabis weekly compared to people without a mental illness, according to researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) who studied U.S. data.

Teen PopStar: I think alcohol is way more dangerous than marijuana [Rolling Stone]

“I did a song with Snoop Dogg called ‘Ashtrays and Heartbreaks,’ so people can put it together for themselves,” 20 year old singer Miley Cyrus says. “I think alcohol is way more dangerous than marijuana – people can be mad at me for saying that, but I don’t care. I’ve seen a lot of people spiral down with alcohol, but I’ve never seen that happen with weed.” Marijuana users tend to be more laid-back, Cyrus observes, noting, “As long as it isn’t illegal, there are far more dangerous things. And it’s legal in the state of California. So I’m happy to live in California, a place where you can be whoever you want to be.”


Evergreen is the definitive feature documentary film on the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington State, examining the inside story of I-502 and the groundbreaking impact of this controversial decision on American drug policy.


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