Embassy Headlines, Issue 66

Knee-jerk new laws that ban ‘psychoactive substances’ in NSW will increase the price of failure for law enforcement.

People are quite inventive on how they defeat police and security methods, so it doesn’t really matter what the law says. There will always be a market for drugs.

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 66

NSW passes law to ban synthetic drugs . . . and more plants [The Herald Sun]

LEGISLATION outlawing synthetic psychoactive substances has passed through NSW parliament despite claims it was so badly drafted it could “criminalise the Botanic Gardens Trust”. Under the bill introduced to parliament last week, penalties for those nabbed manufacturing or supplying synthetic drugs include up to two years imprisonment and a fine of more than $2000. In announcing the bill, the government said that it would also outlaw drugs not yet developed by grouping substances into families, such as synthetic cannabinoids. This will prevent manufacturers simply tweaking compounds in an attempt to circumvent the ban, the government says. Another 40 substances will also be added to the prohibited drugs list – but products such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, foods and herbal items will be exempt.

Drugs sold as ‘food’ exempt under new laws [SMH]

A loophole will allow drugs sold as “food” to be exempted from laws pre-emptively banning all new synthetic drugs, the Greens say.

Speech on NSW Drugs and Poisons Legislation Amendment (New Psychoactive and Other Substances) Bill 2013 [JohnKaye.org.au]

“Once it is a food it is exempt from the penalty under proposed section 36ZF. All we have done by way of that exemption is to shift the game to anything that can be said to be a food. No doubt the Government will say, “What about proposed section 36ZE (2) which says, “A reference to a substance in subsection (1)”—that is the list of categories that are exempt—”does not include any substance that contains or has added to it any psychoactive substance that is not specified in subsection (1)”. That is a highly circuitous piece of drafting. The problem with it is that once a psychoactive substance can be classified as a food it is a psychoactive substance that is not specified in subsection (1) and therefore is not captured. So all one needs to do is to say that a substance is a food and thus it is mentioned in subsection (1). Once it is mentioned in subsection (1) as a food it is not captured by subsection (2) and is exempted.”

‘Cannabis is from God’ crusader freed from jail [Sunshine Coast Daily]

A woman refused bail in a Maroochydore court on Monday has been released after the magistrate recalled the matter in the interests of justice.

Music festivals ‘a snapshot’ of wider Australian drug culture [ABC]

A national youth support group believes music festivals are unfairly targeted as drug-taking events because most organisers take their duty of care seriously. 

Better to legalise drugs [SMH Letters to the Editor]

Discussing people’s continuing use of drugs over the weekend, Detective Inspector Grant Healey says, ”People are quite inventive on how they defeat police and security methods so it doesn’t really matter [what we do]” (”Cheap drugs suspected in raver’s party death”, September 16). If ever there was an admission of failure with regards to the policing of drug use this is it. The use of sniffer dogs increases risk. Punters are ”forced to down everything at once in order to avoid possible arrest”. This is the antithesis of harm minimisation. The recent banning of a whole new class of synthetic drugs will only push these and more traditional drug businesses further underground with increased potential for deaths such as occurred on the weekend. That there will always be a market for drugs is unquestionable. It is well past the time when government ought to have taken control of the market. Until then, drugs with impurities will remain available and deaths will continue. David Andrew Darlinghurst

In praise of Australia’s Liberal Democrats [The Spectator]

The only Liberal Democrat policy repeatedly referenced by the media — always out of context — was the party’s support of the right of citizens to own firearms for self-defence. This has long been dismissed by most Australian pundits as some loopy idea imported from the US by home-grown ‘gun nuts’. But when America’s Founding Fathers drafted the second amendment to the US constitution — unlike most of today’s commentariat — they were not operating in an historical nor an intellectual vacuum. The Founders were aware that the right to keep and bear arms was an ancient one, long established in British common law, and finally codified in England’s 1689 Bill of Rights. They had read Aristotle, Locke, Machiavelli and scores of other western thinkers who all understood that this right was indivisible from the absolute right of the individual to self-defence. Moreover, America had just won a war of independence, a conflict sparked by the British Empire’s attempt to disarm American colonists at Concord and Lexington. The Founders knew first hand that abdicating force to an overreaching government would spell the death of liberty.

Police Wrangling with General Mull [YouTube]

General Mull (of the Polite Force) talks about why you should never talk to a Police officer. These tips do not mean that your are not polite and courteous in your everyday dealings with the Police when they approach you. Rather these tips relate to situations when the Police approach you or you have been taken into custody.

Hilarious NZ drug driving ad gathers steam on the internet [news.com.au]

An ad from New Zealand which warns against driving on drugs has taken off online, presumably because it stars the three of the most hilarious children on the planet. The little bros sit in a car imitating the various driving styles of their “baked” dads in thick Kiwi accents.

Legal highs back on sale [NZ Herald]

More than 20 untested brands of synthetic cannabis are now legally on sale and likely to stay on the shelves well into next year. Drug users on online forums have described some of the products, which sell under brand names such as Anarchy, Voodoo and White Rhino, as “extremely potent” and warned users to be careful with the amount they take. The Ministry of Health has defended the temporary approval of the drugs, saying they appear to be relatively low risk and will have to pass stringent tests if they are to go on sale permanently. The drugs have become legal for now under the Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into force two months ago.

MPP’s Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users of 2013 [MPP Blog]

To create the list, we adopted the criteria used by Out Magazine to select their “Power 50” list of LGBT Americans. That means our choices are based on “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person’s media profile” – not just on popularity or support for marijuana policy reform. Fortunately, many of them have expressed support, but there are some “bad guys” on there, too.

Bill To Legalize, Tax Marijuana Introduced In Washington D.C. Council [Wamu]

A bill that would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as regulating its licensure and sale was formally introduced to the D.C. Council on Tuesday by Councilman David Grosso (I-At Large).

Is it time to get rid of the DEA? [The Seattle Times]

THIS year is the 40th anniversary of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Already plagued by scandals, the agency has recently been revealed to be collaborating with the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on unsuspecting Americans. More than 120 groups from across the political spectrum and around the globe have called on Congress to hold hearings on the DEA. There is no doubt the agency should be reformed. It is also worth asking if it should continue to exist. 

U.S. Orders More Steps to Curb Stiff Drug Sentences [NY Times]

The Obama administration on Thursday expanded its effort to curtail severe penalties for low-level federal drug offenses, ordering prosecutors to refile charges against defendants in pending cases and strip out any references to specific quantities of illicit substances that would trigger mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The move, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. at a speech before the annual conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, builds on a major policy change he unveiled last month to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing laws in future low-level cases.

Marijuana Legalization: The Republican Argument For Doing It [Policy Mic]

“Children are growing up with a total lack of respect for the Constitution and for the law,” Pauline Sabin, the first woman to sit on the Republican National Committee, said in regard to prohibition in 1932. “The young see the law broken at home and upon the street,” she added. “Can we expect them to be lawful?”

There Are Reasons To Doubt The Feds’ Newfound Respect For US State Marijuana Laws [Forbes]

There are eight “enforcement priorities” that Colorado, Washington, and the 18 states where marijuana is legal for medical but not recreational use will be expected to address. The three most significant probably are “preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors,” “preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states,” and “preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use.” But the list also includes “preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands,” “preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property,” “preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises,” “preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana,” and “preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs.”

Under 12s targeted by UK police stop-and-search teams [The Independent]

Almost 17,000 drug searches have been carried out by police on children under the age of 15 in London in just a year, figures have revealed. Data collected by the London School of Economics show that officers carried out nearly 280,000 drug stop-and-search operations in London in 2010 – half of which were on people aged 21 and under.

Cannabis cafes could set up shop in Berlin [DW]

Legally buying a few grams of marijuana might soon become reality in Berlin. Kreuzberg district’s new mayor, Monika Herrmann, has plans to open Germany’s first cannabis coffee shop. 

Caribbean countries start looking at marijuana legalization [Global Post]

The small economies of the Caribbean are beginning to examine the legalization, or at least the decriminalization, of the consumption and possession of marijuana, with Puerto Rico leading the pack now that next week the Senate will begin studying the issue.

NSW graffiti laws to also outlaw hopscotch squares [ABC]

Attorney-General Greg Smith has downplayed the impact of the new legislation, while apparently acknowledging that drawing in chalk will technically be an offense. He says police always have discretion about whether to lay charges, and he considers it unlikely they would charge children for chalking up hopscotch squares. 

Well, there’s police discretion. And there’s police indiscretion… Indian police reprimanded after arresting man for drinking tea in a ‘suspicious’ manner. “We were unaware that the law required anyone to give an explanation for having tea, whether in the morning, noon or night,” said Judges G.S. Patel and S.C. Dharmadhikari in the order. “One might take tea in a variety of ways, not all of them always elegant or delicate, some of them perhaps even noisy. But we know of no way to drink tea ‘suspiciously’.”


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