Embassy Headlines, Issue 8

The Nimbin HEMP Embassy is always trying to get the good news out there. Michael Balderstone provides his selection of news stories relating to the War on Drugs and Cannabis law reform issues, every week with the HEMP Embassy Headlines.


‘Dark net’ drug deals boom on cyber Silk Road

Underground online drug marketplace Silk Road is doing an estimated $22 million a year in sales but, in light of evidence of its growing popularity among Australians, police and customs officials are starting to crack down. National Drug Research Institute research fellow Monica Barratt told Fairfax Media recently that it highlighted the futility of trying to stamp out drugs through law enforcement. “Drug use and the demand for drug use isn’t changing, so if for some reason Silk Road is suppressed or removed, there will just be another supply channel pop up,” she said. Silk Road – started by “Dread Pirate Roberts” in February last year – functions like a black market version of eBay, complete with vendor feedback, dispute resolution and sales promotions. Cocaine and ecstasy sell for a quarter of Australian street prices, while other drugs such as cannabis and prescription medication are also shipped worldwide. US researcher, Nicolas Christin estimates there are up to 150,000 customers of Silk Road who bought 24,422 items between February 3 and July 24 this year. Cannabis is the most popular item on the site, and despite the anonymity underpinning the service and lack of legal recourse if you get ripped off, Christin found that for 96.5 per cent of items buyers left a five out of five feedback rating.

Friction and Addition: The Use of Illicit Drugs in Australian Research


Criminalisation of many drugs of abuse has done little to deter their use. Recent estimates tell us nearly one in 20 individuals aged between 15 and 64 are experimenting with illicit drug use worldwide. But contrary to the recent statements by Professor David Nutt in the UK, legislation regarding the use of illicit drugs for research purposes has had little impact on the ability of Australian neuroscientists to conduct research – and that research is yielding significant results.

NSW: Energy firm fails in bid to enforce urine drug testing


A STATE-OWNED energy company has lost its bid to be allowed to conduct urine tests for drugs on its employees, in a case unions hope will set a precedent across the country. The full bench of Fair Work Australia upheld an earlier court ruling denying Endeavour Energy, which is owned by the NSW government, its call to conduct urine tests on its employees as part of new health and safety provisions. The earlier decision found such tests were ”unjust and unreasonable” because they could detect drug use from days earlier, and instead ruled that oral swab testing, which generally only picks up drug taking in the preceding hours, was a better test of impairment. Debate over the best methods for drug testing is highly contested in a range of industries, with unions arguing urine testing unfairly monitors workers’ private lives.

Queensland: Concern over school’s decision to drug test students


Civil libertarians and health experts have raised concerns over an elite Queensland private school’s decision to randomly drug test its students. The Southport School (TSS) on the Gold Coast has written to parents advising them of the new policy, aimed at eliminating weekend drug use. There are roughly 880 secondary students at TSS and all of them have a unique identification number. At the beginning of each term, some of those numbers will be selected at random and the corresponding students will have to present to an on-site pathologist. They will be required to provide a urine and saliva sample for testing. The policy was hatched by the school’s headmaster, Greg Wain, who recently returned from a fact-finding tour of the United States.

Queensland: It’s the Constitution, it’s God: woman argues drug charges conflict with Bible


A Sunshine Coast woman who believes marijuana has been provided to humanity by God told a magistrate yesterday her drug charges were illegal, unconstitutional and in conflict with the words of the Bible. Pieta Michelle Morgan, 37, defied Maroochydore Magistrate Bernadette Callaghan by refusing to stand up as she was spoken to, declaring to the court that she was not subject to the widely accepted legal system. Ms Morgan was appearing on charges of drug possession and production, as well as possession of a utensil or pipe. “These charges are illegal. I will fight it all the way. I have a constitutional right to have marijuana because it is a plant according to Genesis 1:29,” she said in reference to the verse that deals with the provision by God of all seed-bearing plants for food for mankind.

New Zealand: Jail for man who took dope plants to cop station


A man who walked into Whangarei police station with a number of cannabis seedlings he had been cultivating is vowing to continue defying the country’s drug laws when he is released from prison. Brian Borland, 56, has been sentenced to six months’ jail after pleading guilty to one charge of cultivating cannabis and one of breaching special release conditions after he went into Whangarei Police Station with up to 39 cannabis seedlings on June 1. An unrepentant Borland told the Northern Advocate he would continue to defy the country’s marijuana laws when he is released. “When I experienced the joys of cannabis for the first time in 1973 it wasn’t illegal … it was banned the following year in 1974,” he said. “I could not see any reason why it should be banned, 38 years later I still feel the same way.” Borland said dope prohibition had only made many thousands of ordinary Kiwis criminals, and claimed there were up to 700,000 people in the country who smoked the drug regularly.

USA: Court case puts marijuana prohibition on the stand


This might be the big one for medical marijuana and marijuana legalization advocates. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has agreed to hear Americans for Safe Access vs. Drug Enforcement Administration, which challenges the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.  The Schedule I classification is one of the biggest arguments against medical marijuana nationwide because Schedule I drugs are defined as having no accepted medical use.

USA: Olympic ouster brings marijuana issue to the forefront


American wrestler Stephany Lee, who missed the Olympics because she tested positive for marijuana, was at home in Colorado Springs when she heard that judoka Nicholas Delpopolo had been thrown out of the London Games after failing a drug test he blamed on inadvertently eating food baked with marijuana. Delpopolo is 23, the same age Michael Phelps was when the swimmer was photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe in 2009. Phelps, who never failed a drug test, apologized, received a three-month suspension fromUSA Swimming and is celebrated as the most decorated Olympian in history. “That was evidence that he does do that,” Lee said of Phelps during an interview with USA TODAY Sports on Monday. “And you’re still going to be able to achieve your dreams regardless. Look at him. He’s awesome. He’s the best athlete ever in the Olympics. It’s a double standard. If you already make a name for yourself, then what happens afterward really doesn’t matter. … I’d rather have my situation (of not going) than getting kicked out of the Olympic Village” like Delpopolo. Lee said she and other Olympic athletes exhibit “camaraderie” in discussing with one another when best to stop marijuana use before expected testing. Lee estimated that at least “a good 50 Olympic athletes” use marijuana regularly before they stop in time for testing. “We all regulate our consumption,” Lee said. “It’s not like we have to do a competition and we are continuously on this; that’s not how it works. We know when the tests are going to be because they come to the biggest events. A month before this I am not going to do this anymore, just for the simple fact that you’ll have to clean your system.

Thailand: Three get death penalty for ‘war on drugs’ murder


Three police officers were sentenced to death yesterday for the 2004 murder of a 17-year-old during the Thaksin Shinawatra government’s war on drugs. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong, of Kalasin province, was arrested in July 2004 for alleged motorcycle theft, but he was found hanged from the ceiling of a hut in Roi Et’s Chang Han district days after being released from Muang Kalasin police station. His relatives suspected the teenager was a victim of extra-judicial killing, which was widespread during the war on drugs campaign between 2003 and 2005. Thaksin launched the controversial war on drugs in 2003 under his policy to rid the country of narcotics during his tenure as prime minister. The campaign, however, resulted in extra-judicial killings of more than 2,500 suspects. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), led by then-commissioner Wasant Panich, conducted an inquiry into Kiattisak’s death and reported its findings in 2006. One of the NHRC’s recommendations was for the government to provide some remedial measures to Kiattisak’s family as he had died at the hands of police officers.

10 of the Top Travel Destinations to Get High


Here are some travel spots where the drug culture is as fascinating as Italy’s cuisine: Amsterdam, Peru, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Morocco, the Golden Triangle, Indonesia, California, Portugal and Uruguay.

Book: Smoke Signals Poised to Heat Up the Marijuana Debate


Smoke Signals, a groundbreaking work by Martin A. Lee, is a panoramic, character-driven, social history that explains why marijuana affects so many aspects of American life. Although cannabis possession is illegal under federal law, half of all Americans have tried the herb and tens of millions use it regularly for therapeutic and recreational purposes. Published by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Smoke Signals tells the story of a grassroots movement that began in the 1960s and grew into a widespread populist revolt against prohibition. The great leap forward came in 1996, when California voters shocked the political and medical establishments by passing Proposition 215, which authorized doctors to approve marijuana use by patients. Similar laws have since been enacted in 16 other states and the District of Columbia. Smoke Signals describes the burgeoning of a multi-billion-dollar industry, and exposes collusion by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to undermine the will of the electorate.

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