Embassy Headlines, Issue 53

There would be no incentive to produce ‘synthetic’ herbs when the real thing is legally supplied. Prohibition fails to protect health. Prohibition raises the profit in illegal trade and law enforcement industries.

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 53 

Drug crime budgets leave spending on harm reduction way behind [SMH]

Australia is spending more than a billion dollars each year fighting the ”war on drugs” but has slashed funding for harm reduction, a landmark analysis has found. Two thirds of the $1.7 billion Australian state, territory and federal governments spent on drugs went on law enforcement, according to the Government Drug Policy Expenditure in Australia report to be released on Thursday. Drug experts say Australia’s spending simply does not match the evidence and have called for a drastic readjustment in favour of treatment and harm reduction.

Big profits driving drugs market [SMH]

Australians are spending more than $7 billion each year on illicit drugs, according to groundbreaking research from the Bureau of Statistics. Drug experts and campaigners say the data shows attempts to police the ”war on drugs” are completely dwarfed by the population’s demand for the products, with Australians spending about seven times more buying drugs in 2010 than governments spent enforcing drug laws. Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Alex Wodak said the data showed that the economic forces driving illicit drug consumption would always trump the forces of law enforcement. “The economic forces ensure that the only arrangements that are politically acceptable at the moment, i.e. drug prohibition, cannot work,” he said. “In the short term, political forces always triumph. In the long term, economic forces always win”.

Why our drug cops need the dealers [Canberra Times]

If you really must use illegal drugs but do not want to get into legal trouble, cocaine is probably the drug of choice. In part because it is the drug of choice, after alcohol at least, for the rich and well-connected, including politicians, judges and lawyers, police appear to have virtually decriminalised its use. The annual risk of going before the courts if you are a user is about one in 500. By contrast, about one in 20 heroin users are in trouble with the law each year, and about one in 60 users of amphetamines or ecstasy seem to get into trouble. One in every 32 of the estimated 1.9 million cannabis users gets into trouble.

NSW politicians face sobriety tests after Pearce scandal [ABC]

New South Wales Upper House MPs may be forced to take a sobriety test before entering the chamber. Greens MP John Kaye has successfully moved for a cross-party inquiry into the consumption of alcohol during sitting hours. Dr Kaye says the move would bring the Legislative Council into line with other workplaces that already have guidelines about the use of alcohol.

Artificial reasons to ban synthetic drugs [Newcastle Herald]

Most drug taking is not done to harm someone’s family, to make a fool of one’s self or to injure society. It’s a form of self-medication, like having a drink, and a way to escape the pressures of life and the ravages of a mind that just won’t stop. Everyone uses drugs. Whether it’s tea and coffee, beer and wine, marijuana and ecstasy, Panadol and Viagra or even prescribed benzodiazepines or morphine. The problem with the current debate on synthetics is that many people are saying: “My drug-taking is OK but yours is not”.

Leading the pack on recreational drugs [SMH]

New Zealand will soon become the first to regulate new recreational drugs based solely on their harms. From August all new psychoactive substances that contain approved ingredients meeting safety standards will be sold in a new, legal market. The rest will be banned. The response sits in stark contrast to the ever-increasing focus of many countries including Australia on law enforcement. Australians spend more than $7 billion annually on traditional illicit drugs, research suggests. And Tasmanian academics recently estimated that about four entirely new chemical substances, and 10 retail outlets selling them to Australians, are emerging each month.

NZ Researchers Find Cannabis Now Six Billion Times Stronger than Previous [Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party]

Analysis made of the public speeches given by police officers over the past 50 years have concluded that the THC content of cannabis is now close to six billion times higher than it was in 1963. The study, led by University of Canterbury psycholinguist Dr. Viktor Nilsson, searched over 20,000 police statements and documents for hard data about how much stronger cannabis was at time of writing when compared to a short number of years ago. “Cannabis growers, being filthy, lying, cheating, murderous enemies of humanity, do not keep accurate year-on-year records of chemical analyses of their product, so we need to use other methods to estimate the current strength of cannabis,” Dr. Nilsson explains.

US Mayors Approve Marijuana Resolution Telling Feds To Butt Out [Huffington Post]

The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution on Monday, June 24 criticizing the failure of marijuana prohibition and demanding that the federal government respect states’ and cities’ marijuana laws.

Google Grants US Cannabis Group $240,000 [Search Engine Watch]

According to Michigan Compassion, Google awarded the group $240,000 annually in AdWords advertising through Google Grants as well as the use of other Google products for nonprofits. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Grants, it’s the nonprofit version of AdWords launched in 2003, which allows participating nonprofits to spend up to $10,000 per month in grants on AdWords. The grant for Michigan Compassion advertising doesn’t seem to fit neatly within any of Google’s AdWords policies. According to its guidelines, there are certain restrictions on prescription drugs and even tobacco, but since Michigan Compassion is not a direct retailer for prescription marijuana, rather an organization dedicated to the awareness of the benefits of medical cannabis, the guidelines could be different.

76% of Doctors Would Prescribe Medical Marijuana if Necessary [Medical Daily]

When given the scenario of an older woman with an advanced stage of breast cancer, three-quarters of doctors said they would prescribe her medical marijuana to ease the symptoms, according to a survey published online in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results of the survey appeared on Thursday.

Ending the War on Drugs: Easier Said Than Done [Huffington Post]

In 2011, the last year for which data are available, more than 1.5 million people were arrested for a drug law violation in the U.S. — and more than 80 percent of those arrests were for low-level possession. On any given night, roughly 500,000 people go to sleep behind bars in the U.S. for nothing more than a drug law violation — that’s 10 times the number in 1980. Latinos and especially African-Americans are far more likely to be searched, arrested and incarcerated — even though they’re no more likely to use or sell drugs than other Americans. 

The Most Important Movie of the Season [Huffington Post]

The biggest movie of the summer isn’t Man of Steel, or The Lone Ranger, or Fast & Furious 6. It’s a new documentary called How to Make Money Selling Drugs, which will be released in theaters and on demand on June 26. Now, when I say “biggest,” I’m not talking about budget size or box office receipts — I’m talking impact and importance. Written and directed by Matthew Cooke, and produced by Bert Marcus and Adrian Grenier, How to Make Money Selling Drugs exposes the hypocrisy, insanity and destructiveness of America’s drug war. Of course, the problem with saying a movie is “important” is that it can leave the impression that it isn’t entertaining. That’s certainly not the case with this film. Indeed, Cooke’s goal is, as he put it, borrowing from Malcolm X, to bring about change “by the most entertaining means necessary.” Or, as Hamlet said, “The play is the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Or, in this case, the conscience of the public, which will in turn hopefully catch the conscience of the king — aka our leaders. 

Casual marijuana use becomes common on TV [Boston Globe]

Pot is everywhere on TV. Weed has become almost as common as romantic tensions on sitcoms. The cultural shift parallels a legal one. It comes as Massachusetts joins 17 other states (and Washington, D.C.) in legalizing medical marijuana, and just as Washington state and Colorado allow legalized recreational use. And the pot use on TVshows is mostly portrayed as casual, and in a nonjudgmental way. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, as the Reagan-era War on Drugs continued to escalate, pot on TV was yoked into the same category as cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs; now it’s more in league with adult alcohol use — relatively safe, if used responsibly.

9 Mind-Blowing Marijuana Gadgets That Will Revolutionize Weed Smoking [Huffington Post]

A flock of American businesses, seeking to take advantage of an investment rush into the marijuana industry, are behind a wave of new weed-smoking accessories designed to improve on such classic devices as the bong, the pipe and the one-hitter. The new so-called ganjapreneurs are hoping to capitalize on a speculative mania that cannabis industry insiders call a “green rush.”

Beyond Marijuana: Gearing Up For the Battle to Decriminalize All Drugs [Huffington Post]

On the cover of practically every magazine, and woven into films and tv shows in an increasingly sophisticated light, the marijuana reform movement has broken through as a legitimate political and cultural force. We’re at a tipping point where it’s starting to feel like marijuana legalization is no longer a question of if — but when. But what about the other drugs? My colleagues and I at the Drug Policy Alliance are committed to ensuring the decriminalization of all drug use becomes a political priority.

Everything Americans Think They Know About Drugs Is Wrong [Alternet]

Columbia University scientist Dr. Carl Hart combines research and anecdotes from his life to explain how false assumptions have created a disastrous drug policy.

Why the war on drugs has been made redundant [Guardian]

Currently, it is barely possible to detect new drugs at the rate they appear. It has long been clear that the drug war approach of criminalising possession rather than treating problem drug-users has been futile. The revolution in the recreational drug market is a stark reminder of this reality. The war on drugs has not been lost, it has been made obsolete.

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