Embassy Headlines, Issue 92

A bumper crop of headlines this week as the HEMP Campaign heads west for the WA Senate Election. Cannabis law reform voters come in many political colours and they support legalisation for many different reasons.

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.


Spliff split: Why the HEMP Party and the Greens have fallen out [Sydney Morning Herald]

There is a common misconception that the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party wants to lay to rest. It does not just want to see the cannabis plant used for industrial and medicinal purposes. It want adults to be free to smoke it too. “Some people seem to think the HEMP Party is only about industrial hemp or medical marijuana,” the party’s website states. “Those people are incorrect. We are also about re-legalising recreational cannabis. We would like to see an end to the demonisation of cannabis in every way. And for very good reasons; food, fuel, fibre, medicine and recreation.” For much of its first decade, HEMP’s main impact was as a preference feeder for the Greens, helping Greens senator Kerry Nettle get elected in 2001. But HEMP’s relationship with the Greens has steadily soured. HEMP’s lead WA candidate Jim Moylan blasted the Greens for walking “both sides of the fence” on cannabis law reform. “The Greens take votes away from us because people just assume they are for cannabis law reform,” he told Fairfax Media.

Senate poll in WA: Scott Ludlam’s hopes may go up in smoke [Sydney Morning Herald]

Scott Ludlam’s ”welcome to Western Australia” speech against Prime Minister Tony Abbott lit up social media and made him an instant hero of Gen Y. But the Greens senator’s campaign for re-election in WA has been hit by claims he is actually a social conservative on one important issue to many young people: the legalisation of marijuana and other drugs. The legalisation debate is shaping as critical in WA because preference experts have identified the Help End Marijuana Prohibition, a micro party with 6000 members, as the best chance of success among the minor party alliance.

Legalisation of cannabis could be key issue in Western Australia Senate election [Sydney Morning Herald]

The legalisation of marijuana is shaping as a key issue in the re-run Senate election in Western Australia because voting preference experts have identified Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), a micro party with 6000 members, as having the best chance of success among the minor party alliance. It is also causing headaches for the WA Greens Party as HEMP has abandoned preference deals with it and has preferenced Labor – a reversal of its position at the September election. The party says the Greens backed out of a promise to host a drug summit in Canberra in return for HEMP’s preferences.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie pushes for opening up of hemp food products [ABC PM]

There’s a new push in the long-running effort to legalise hemp for use in food products in Australia. Last month the United States lifted a ban on growing industrial hemp for human consumption and Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie says Australia should do the same. Supporters of hemp products are always quick to point out how versatile the plant can be. You can use it for medicine; you can use it for skin moisturisers; you can eat it, it is a food. You can use it for growing buildings. Current regulations allow the cultivation of low THC cannabis varieties in most states and territories under strict licensing conditions. But it’s still illegal to use hemp in food products, but the push to make it legal appears to have found a higher-profile supporter. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie says industrial hemp could help Tasmania.

Nth NSW cops party in hotel room unaware they are being filmed [CQ News]

Footage from a motel party at the centre of a major undercover sting targeting drug use in Northern NSW Police ranks has been played in a Sydney courtroom. Former Tweed/Byron Inspector Shane Diehm is facing a two-day hearing over allegations he lied to the NSW Police Integrity Commission about events which took place on the night of a retirement party for former Detective Superintendent John Alt. He is one of several senior police officers – both former and current –  charged with giving false evidence during a string of private hearings in 2011 which related to Operation Ischia, an internal investigation into the use and supply of drugs amongst NSW police officers. 

The Downing Local Court heard that during the course of the investigation, the NSW PIC suspected drugs were being obtained for the party and arranged for the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission to put video surveillance in two Gold Coast hotel rooms. Phone taps allegedly revealed one of the rooms had been paid for by Diehm and attendees would include Alt, former Hunter Valley Inspector Matthew Dennis, police officer turned Federal police air marshal Darren Kolosque and serving Mullumbimby Sergeant Roderick Morris. His defence team acknowledged Diem was at the party but denied it was him who could be heard during an alleged discussion about drugs, saying the words … “it takes three f***ing months to get out of your system”. The hearing continues.

How the World’s Foremost Psychedelic Researchers Finally Got Some Weed to Study [Motherboard]

A funny thing happened the other day. Minutes after we published a look into the 50-year-old agreement preventing marijuana from treating post-traumatic stress disorder, the US Public Health Service approved an application from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies to acquire research-grade cannabis to study the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. It’s a big win for Dr. Sue Sisley, the University of Arizona researcher we spoke with in the article; with help from MAPS, she’s now one step closer to starting her study, which will measure the effects of five distinct pot potencies, both in smoked and vaporized form, in alleviating PTSD symptoms in 50 veterans. Approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which would seal the deal, is pending. 

Feds Finally Approve Research on the Therapeutic Value of the Whole Marijuana Plant [AlterNet]

While stacks of  independent research have affirmed the extraordinary medicinal potentials of the cannabis plant, none received the official approval of the U.S. government. But, soon we could be looking at the first federally-sanctioned research to take place on marijuana in 40 years, outside of limited research by government organizations. Marking a historic shift in U.S. drug policy, the Public Health Service (PHS) just approved the protocols for a study of cannabis’ effects on 12 treatment-resistant combat veterans with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The study’s protocols were already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) three years ago. They were also approved by the University of Arizona Institutional Review Board (IRB), and the University of Arizona has agreed to play host with psychiatrist and MD Sue Sisley as principal investigator.

34 Medical Studies Proving Cannabis Cures Cancer [Higher Perspective]

There’s still a lot of confusion across the nation about whether or not marijuana is effective for cancer patients. Odds are you’ve heard something about it but weren’t sure whether the information was reliable or definitive. So, in order to help clear things up, here is a list of 34 studies showing that marijuana cures cancer, categorized by the type of cancers being cured in each study. As you sort through the articles, note that the consistent theme between them is that cannabis shrinks tumors and selectively targets cancer cells. As bills and voter initiatives to legalize medical marijuana spread from state to state, remember that we’re not just talking about mitigating the side effects of chemo (though this is another viable use), we’re talking about curing the cancer itself as well as preventing its spread. I’ve taken the liberty of only including articles from credible scientific journals, removing any biased or otherwise improperly cited studies. Enjoy!

Three-Year Scientific Study: Working Memory Unaffected In Heavy Marijuana Users [Toke Signal]

A three-year study of heavy cannabis users and controls suggests that “sustained moderate to heavy levels of cannabis” use do not affect working memory. The longitudinal neuro-imaging study, published in the March 2014 issue of Addiction Biology, was investigating the relationship between substance use (alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, and illegal psychotropic drugs) and working-memory network function over time in heavy cannabis users, and in controls.

No proof that high-dose cannabis is more addictive [NHS UK]

The study was carried out by researchers from the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht; the University of Amsterdam; and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven. It was funded by ZonMW, a Netherlands organisation for health research and development. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction. The Mail Online’s claim that smoking more potent cannabis makes you more likely to be addicted was not supported by this study. In fact, it found that participants’ dependency 18 months after the study began was not independently related to how much THC they were exposed to.

As a Parent of a Child Using Medical Cannabis, I Do Not Support CBD-only Legislation [Cannabis Now]

This community understands the benefits of THC. There is however, a small sect growing outside the medical cannabis community that does not tout the medical benefits of cannabis honestly; they only champion a single compound found in the plant material: CBD or Cannabidiol. The perception is that CBD is non-psychoactive, so therefore preferable to marijuana because it doesn’t get them “high”. CBD-only legislation is not all encompassing but rather discriminatory; not all people receive benefits from this compound alone. Many patients, children like my daughter, Brave Mykayla Comstock and pediatric cannabis patient Landon Riddle rely on THC rich medications to treat not only their conditions, but the side effects of the toxic pharmaceuticals they are required to take. Both children share a diagnosis of T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and both children use cannabis oil. THC rich preparations of cannabis not only relieve all of the side effects of chemotherapy, but also cause apoptosis of malignant cells, which effectively helps to cure cancer. The entire time these children are undergoing cannabinoid therapy, they experience the “high” delivered by THC and their quality of life is better because of it.Those who denounce the benefits of THC as a medicine because of a “high” must realize that they are then forced to take the same position against opiate based medications for children and adults.

The CBD-only Stampede [Pediatric Cannabis Therapy]

For every family that has uprooted and moved to Colorado, many more have chosen to stay home and lobby local officials in an effort to change state law so they might access an essential medicine. Their poignant pleas are having an impact. Politicians from both parties have been rushing to approve bills that would legalize marijuana for therapeutic purposes in such unlikely places as Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah. However, there’s a catch: The bills under consideration will only allow the use of CBD-rich oil extracts with hardly any THC. Apparently marijuana is still the evil weed to many lawmakers, but somehow certain parts of the plant are good — and now they’re claiming the good parts aren’t actually marijuana. According to this political pretzel logic, marijuana gets you high, but CBD-rich marijuana doesn’t get you high; therefore, CBD-rich marijuana is not marijuana.

Colorado is running out of weed and getting so rich doing it [The Rooster]

As the marijuana business booms in the square state, warehouse and grow facility space is becoming scarcer than hair on Justin Bieber’s chest. Right now, there’s an abnormally low industrial vacancy rate of 3.1 percent, the lowest in decades, meaning there is hardly any space for marijuana business to expand their grows. The space availability is so low, in fact, that experts worry that Colorado’s insatiable lust for the devil’s grass may drain the supply. Couple the increasingly rare marijuana grow space with the fact that many counties in Colorado don’t allow marijuana cultivation at all, and you get a situation in which marijuana businesses can’t expand their grow facilities to accommodate demand. Oh, and did we mention landlords are charging absurdly high rates for cultivation space? Industrial brokers report instances of warehouse space leasing for as much as four times the prices paid before medical marijuana sales began to boom in 2009. So even if businesses have the supply, they might not be able to afford to cultivate it. 

Coloradans Even Happier About Legal Weed After A Few Months Of Retail Sales [Huffington Post]

More than a year after Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use, and less than three months after the first retail sales began, legalization’s popularity appears to be growing in the state. That’s according to a survey released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling, which found that 57 percent of Colorado voters now approve of marijuana legalization while only 35 percent disapprove — a 22-point difference. Amendment 64 passed by only a 10-point margin. The PPP survey also asked what effect marijuana legalization has had on the state. Coloradans split three ways on that question, with 31 percent saying legalization has made Colorado “better,” 33 percent saying the state is “worse,” and 30 percent saying legalization hasn’t made much of a difference at all. Only 6 percent of phone respondents told PPP, a Democratic-affiliated polling firm, that they had used marijuana since it became legal, while 17 percent of Internet respondents admitted to post-legalization use.

California legalization is coming, but what path will it take? [The Leaf Online]

With four marijuana legalization initiatives vying for the California ballot, one thing is clear: All four sets of reforms are better than the state’s current prohibition. The initials and names are confusing, but the core question is, which one or ones will voters get to vote on. The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI) has been gathering signatures the longest. The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Regulation (MCLR) is the longest and took in the greatest amount of direct input from the public. A third version was drafted by a group of long-time reform activists, including remnants of the unsuccessful 2010 Prop 19 campaign. None of these has visible financial backing to make the ballot. The fourth and most likely candidate to emerge came out of left field with funding from the late philanthropist and cannabis reformer, Peter Lewis. As a farewell gift to California before he died last year, Lewis and theDrug Policy Alliance (DPA) had an initiative drawn up that protects medical marijuana laws, puts the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in charge of commercial licensing but not home grows, attempts to correct mistakes made in Washington State, addresses the recent federal policy outlined by the Obama administration and searches for middle ground between the reform community and the more mainstream voters who may not know much about cannabis but do hold the electoral balance in their hands. The Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act (CRTM) was filed December 18, 2013.

Indiana Lawmakers Vote To Reclassify Hemp As An Agricultural Commodity [The Weed Blog]

House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on legislation, Senate Bill 357, to reclassify and regulate industrial hemp. Members of the Senate had initially approved the legislation by a vote of 48 to zero. House members then voted 93 to 4 in favor of a slightly amended version of the measure. Lawmakers in both chambers agreed last week on a final version of the bill — sending it to Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who must either sign the measure into law or veto it. As passed, the measure reclassifies cannabis possessing less than 0.3 percent THC as an industrial crop. It also seeks to establish licensing requirements and regulations governing the production of and commerce in hemp, as well as for the scientific study of the crop. The proposal mandates state regulators to seek federal waivers by no later than January 1, 2015 so that officials can begin the process of licensing applicants to cultivate the crop.

What Americans Spend on Illegal Drugs [Disinformation]

The RAND Corporation has prepared a facts and figures filled report for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) entitled “What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs: 2000-2010.” Make of it what you will (RAND and ONDCP aren’t exactly the most trusted institutions), but there’s plenty of interesting and thought-provoking information. You can find a PDF with the entire report here. From 2002 to 2010, the amount of marijuana consumed in the United States likely increased by about 40 percent while the amount of cocaine consumed in the United States decreased by about 50 percent. These figures are consistent with supply-side indicators, such as seizures and production estimates.

Study: Drug Dogs Most Likely To Err In Traffic Stop Scenarios [NORML]

Dogs trained to detect the presence of illegal drugs are most likely to provide false alerts in situations involving the search of a motor vehicle, according to the findings of a study published online in the journal Forensic Science International.

Growing Demands for UN Drug Policy Reform [Stop the Drug War]

The United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has wrapped up the High-Level Segment portion of its annual meeting in Vienna. The session revealed schisms among countries about future steps on global drug control even as the global drug bureaucrats gave signs of softening in some policy areas, especially around emphasizing public health as opposed to criminalization. Countries critical of the global drug policy status quo, particularly from Europe and Latin America, were joined by an ever-stronger civil society presence at the CND. The message of reform grows ever louder and presages an especially contentious next step, the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, set for 2016.

Swansea professor says legal regulation of the cannabis market has become irreversible [South Wales Evening Post]

A Swansea University professor and co-author of a new report into the rise and decline of cannabis prohibition claims the current trend towards legal regulation of the cannabis market has become irreversible. David Bewley-Taylor, who is the director of the Global Drug Policy Observatory, has also called for urgent dialogue by UN member states on the best models for protecting people’s health and safety in the light of revelations over its usage. The report suggests that the question facing the international community today is no longer whether there is a need to revise the UN drug control system, but rather when and how to do it.

War in Reverse: Drugs, Consensus and Killing [Huffington Post]

Today the fighting is as intense as it has ever been but it is right at this moment that the war on drugs may be coming to an end. What we are seeing now at the UN in Vienna, over half a century since the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was adopted, is the breakdown of the all-important consensus. More and more governments are stepping out of line. More and more are realising they can no longer abide by the international treaties they once thought were a good idea.

The world’s most valuable cannabis business is growing in a sleepy corner of England [Quartz]

GW Pharmaceuticals doesn’t sell weed, per se, but rather prescription cannabinoid medicines. The company, which has garnered some media attention, is listed on both the London Stock Exchange and on the Nasdaq. Its US listing has surged by 75% in 2014, and by 713% since last May, pushing its market value to above $1 billion. All this for a company that generated just $44 million in sales last year. This optimistic valuation is partly a function of the seemingly inexorable shift toward the legalization of cannabis in the United States. The drug has been approved for medicinal purposes in 20 states plus Washington DC, which together have a cumulative population of about 117 million people, or more than a third of all Americans. At least 14 other states, including Maryland and Florida, are considering laws that would approve marijuana for medical use this year, the New York Times reported. While this is delighting potheads and upsetting some drug advocacy groups, it is also creating a unique headache for the country’s pharmaceutical regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, which has never approved marijuana as a legitimate treatment. Part of the reason for the surge in GW Pharmaceuticals’ share price this year is the belief among some investors that the company could provide the FDA with an elegant way out of this predicament. 

Canadian Federal Court grants injunction to allow patients to grow medical pot [Winnipeg Free Press]

The Conservative government’s plan to move medical marijuana plants out of patients’ basements and into commercial facilities was dealt a significant setback Friday, after a Federal Court judge ruled anyone already licensed to grow the drug may continue to do so. Judge Michael Manson issued an injunction exempting patients who are licensed to possess or grow medical marijuana under the current rules, either for themselves or someone else, from new regulations that would have made the practice illegal. A group of patients behind a constitutional challenge asked for an injunction to preserve the status quo until their legal case goes to trial. The federal government announced its plans to overhaul the production of medical pot last year, arguing the current system had grown out of control and was rife with problems ranging from unsafe grow-ops to infiltration by criminals.

Israel begins extensive medical marijuana study [Times of Israel]

The Health Ministry has commissioned a comprehensive study into the effects and effectiveness of medical marijuana. The study, which is being carried out by the Israeli National Institute for Health Policy Research, will track up to 2,000 patients using medical cannabis over a two-year period, Haaretz reported on Sunday. Medical marijuana treatment has become popular and accepted over the last few years in Israel, with about 15,000 registered users and 50 more approved each week by the Health Ministry. Yet there are large gaps in doctors’ understanding of what happens to patients after they begin using cannabis, which the survey will attempt to fill. There is great enthusiasm for medical marijuana and many find that their condition can be alleviated by its use, but “there are many things we do not know about it,” Pesach Schwartzman, a professor of medicine at Ben-Gurion University who is leading the study, told the paper.

Green Technology Spotlight: World’s First Biodegradable, Carbon Capturing Winery! [Sustainable Business]

Hemp is used in hundreds of products, but here’s a new one: a hemp wine cellar. Château Maris, a bio-dynamic and organic French winery, has created a net-zero energy building by using bricks made from organic hemp and lime. Topped by a green roof with solar panels, it produces as much energy as it consumes. The bricks create a 9,000-square-foot wine cellar that’s both energy self-sufficient and biodegradable. They not only maintain consistent temperature and humidity, they also absorb carbon from the surrounding environment. And there’s no need for systems that heat, cool or ventilate the structure. 

Tales from a Former Undercover Narc [Vice]

You give me a squad of narcs and drug dogs, and we’ll go to some affluent white community. I can walk down the streets sniffing cars, do some knock-and-talks, and I assure you we’ll come across some marijuana parties. I guarantee I can come out of there with some drug arrests. But after the first day, after the mayor’s phone rings off the hook—that’s the end of that operation.

These ‘Bitcoins For Marijuana’ Try To Solve Legal Weed’s Big Heist Problem [Huffington Post]

Bitcoin isn’t the only digital currency changing the way we pay for things. Two new cryptocurrencies aimed at allowing people to safely buy drugs — legal or illegal — may provide new payment alternatives to the largely cash-only industries. Their developers promise safety and security — and they just may change the course of the drug war in the process. PotCoin and DopeCoin won’t be the first digital currencies to follow the headline-grabbing, wildly fluctuating and unregulated Bitcoins that took the digital world by storm last year. But they’ll be the first dedicated solely to the drug marketplace, which has been largely shunned by traditional banks, even in its legal forms in some U.S. states. PotCoin is aimed at the state-legal marijuana market, be it medical or recreational. DopeCoin wants to establish itself as the currency for the multi-billion dollar drug market, legal or otherwise.

Top 10 Cannabis Apps [Issuu]

Compiled by Kandy Krush

Film Screening: Neurons to Nirvana – Melbourne

Fundraiser screening for Entheogenesis Australis (www.entheo.net) and PRISM (http://prism.org.au/), in association with The Australian Sex Party – 29 or30 April 2014, Melbourne VIC. Neurons to Nirvana is a mind-blowing documentary about the resurgence of psychedelics as medicines. Through interviews with the world’s foremost researchers, writers, psychologists and pioneers in psychedelic psychotherapy, Neurons to Nirvana explores the history of five powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) and their now established medicinal potential. Featuring leading experts Dennis McKenna, Rick Doblin, Charles Grob, Stanislav Grof, David Nutt, Julie Holland, David Nichols, Amanda Fielding, Ralph Metzner, Kathleen Harrison, Roland Griffiths, Wade Davis, and Chris Bennett. The exclusive screenings also include a personalised introduction by the filmmakers, director Oliver Hockenhull and producer Mikki Willis. An in depth discussion panel will follow the screening from relevant Australian specialists in the field of psychedelic science. Panellists to be announced soon. Doors open at 7pm, with the film starting at 7:30pm on 29 or 30 April 2014. Entry to the Conference Centre (Village Roadshow Theatrette) is via entry 3, which is located at 179 La Trobe Street. Strictly limited seating with only 180 tickets available each screening. Get tickets now – http://www.entheo.net/ega_shop See trailer here – http://vimeo.com/75152295

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