Embassy Headlines, Issue 93

Thanks to all the other small political parties who chose to place HEMP high on their list of preferences to give each other a better chance of winning a Senate seat in the Western Australia election re-run this Saturday.

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.


WA Senate: HEMP Party candidate James Moylan could win seat, Liberals say [ABC]

The West Australian division of the Liberal Party says there is a real chance a Queenslander campaigning on cannabis law reform could end up representing WA in the Senate. The Palmer United Party (PUP) has preferenced the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party lead candidate James Moylan 14th, ahead of the Liberals and all other WA-based candidates of major parties. The comments come just 10 days out from the WA senate re-run after last September’s result was declared void by the Court of Disputed Returns.

WA candidate wants cannabis tax [Sky News]

A candidate in Western Australia’s reprised senate election says Premier Colin Barnett should top up the state’s education funding by legalising and taxing marijuana. Fiona Patten, the Sex Party candidate in the April 5 poll, said the Barnett government should consider following the example of Colorado in the United States by regulating marijuana to fund public schools. The suggestion comes ahead of a state-wide teacher’s strike on April 1, which is set to close almost 100 schools. ‘Under the new law in Colorado, which only recently came into effect, the first $US40 million earned through the excise tax goes directly towards building new schools,’ Ms Patten said. ‘A tax which didn’t exist last year is now being projected to raise over $US100 million with all of it being directed to education.’ Ironically, one of the Sex Party’s main micro-party rivals – the Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party – is considered a potential outside chance to win a senate seat after making some canny preference deals. But lead party candidate James Moylan, who lives in Queensland, was dealt a public relations blow earlier this week when he struggled to recall the name of the WA Premier, referring to him as ‘Barrett’. He has also admitted he had no desire to become a politician.

Australia has no reason to disallow medical cannabis use [The Conversation]

International acceptance of medicinal cannabis is growing because it can provide relief for people who can’t be sufficiently helped with current pharmaceutical drugs. But despite growing evidence of its usefulness in certain situations, medical use of cannabis remains illegal in Australia. In the last week, the US state of Utah has made the medical use of cannabis legal and Alabama is awaiting gubernatorial approval to do the same. This means more than 20 states in the US now permit the medical use of cannabis, but such benign use remains not only unattainable but illegal in Australia. Earlier this month, for instance, a 59-year-old South Australian man with leukaemia was sentenced to two years in jail for cultivating cannabis. He’d previously been caught growing the plant to help his wife endure the side effects of chemotherapy for her lymphoma.

Still Inhaling: Older cannabis consumers [Of Substance]

[p.14] Although Farrell doesn’t think that rising levels of ageing cannabis consumers are cause for panic, he is concerned about cognitive decline in heavier users and argues that forward planning of services needs to incorporate cannabis use among older people. He compares the potential problems to drinking. ‘People as they age drink less, for a whole host of reasons. But there is a sub-population of people who drink in a way that affects their health. And some of these people when they have problems, even though their numbers are quite small, can make disproportionate demands on older adult services, including aged-care accommodation.’

Silk Road closure fails to dampen illegal drug sales online, experts say [ABC]

The online illegal drug business is booming, researchers say, with several new websites popping up despite the closure of the infamous website Silk Road last year. Silk Road was known for selling everything illegal from drugs and guns to hired killings. It was finally shut down in October after years of investigation by the FBI, who arrested the website’s administrator and confiscated his small fortune of bitcoins. At the time it was lauded as a huge success for law enforcement. But the effect was only temporary. Despite the high-profile arrests, illegal drug sellers and buyers were able to find plenty of alternative market places within a month of Silk Road’s demise. Sellers use online black markets to trade their goods worldwide, accepting payment via digital currencies like bitcoin and then using postal services to deliver the drugs.

NORML’s Position on ‘legal highs’ and the Psychoactive Substances Act [NORML NZ]

The Psychoactive Substances Act is an admission by the Government and politicians of all parties that banning drugs does not really work.  New Zealand has banned cannabis since 1927 and its more popular than ever before! NORML is calling for cannabis to be compared with substances regulated under the new Psychoactive Substances Act, which was passed with the support of almost every member of Parliament from all political parties.  We think that cannabis would pass the “low risk” test and it would prove that cannabis should be regulated as it now is in Colorado and Washington State (in the USA).

Confessions Of A Pot-Smoking Police Officer, Firefighter And Youth Pastor [Huffington Post]

Despite the increasing nationwide popularity of legalizing marijuana, admitting use for recreational or medical purposes, especially among certain professions, still has stigma attached. Anti-marijuana groups often point to studies that suggest long-term use could result in a lack of motivation, seemingly claiming that there is no such thing as a functional pot user. However, according to several studies on marijuana use in the U.S., at least 14 million Americans admit to smoking pot regularly — and they can’t all be couch potatoes. The reality, as the secret-sharing app Whisper suggests below, is that the marijuana users are much more diverse than the “stoner” stereotype. They’re doctors, teachers, preachers, computer programers, firefighters and even police officers.

Dear Media: This is What People Who Use Marijuana Look Like [Drug Policy Alliance]

Why do stereotypical images persist even though today’s marijuana consumer might look more like your Aunt Bettie or your accountant than The Dude – and now that vaporizers, edibles and topical creams have rendered the ubiquitous “joint” somewhat obsolete? One reason may be lack of existing images that show regular people using marijuana in an everyday context. After all, marijuana is still illegal in many places, and consumers may be reluctant to have their images plastered everywhere. That’s why the Drug Policy Alliance has endeavored to provide media outlets with ready-to-use stock photos of everyday people who use marijuana. These images, shot by San Francisco-based photographer Sonya Yruel, are examples of the type of photos that media could be using when doing a story about marijuana legalization – patients who use marijuana to relieve debilitating pain, or people losing their homes and their jobs because of a marijuana arrest.  We are making these photos open license and free to use for non-commercial editorial purposes, and we hope they will help make the jobs of editors easier and the content more relevant.

Big Pot rising: The marijuana industry’s first full-time lobbyist makes rounds on Capitol Hill [Washington Post]

It took Michael Correia more than a week after getting his new job to tell his parents he was a marijuana lobbyist. “I just got a job lobbying for a small-business trade association that focuses on taxes and banking issues,” he told them four months ago after being hired by the National Cannabis Industry Association.  He wasn’t lying, but for a guy who had been working for Republicans and conservative organizations for the better part of 16 years, telling his mom and dad about representing Big Pot wasn’t exactly high on his list. It wasn’t the first time he neglected to tell his parents about marijuana in his life. He smoked it about a dozen times as a teenager before deciding that all it did was make him hungry and tired. 

No, legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t lead to crime, according to actual crime stats [Washington Post]

Opponents of medical marijuana envision all kinds of insidious ways that legalizing the drug might lead to crime. Make marijuana more accessible, and more people will use it. If more people use it, more will tumble through the weed “gateway” to cocaine, or worse. Those people will then engage in crime to fund their hard-drug habits, or violence in the service of getting the stuff. Furthermore: Once word gets out about medical dispensaries, those locations will become hotspots for criminals who now know exactly where to find prey carrying cash and drugs. Same goes for grow houses, which just invite property crime. Pondering all of these dark possibilities, it’s no wonder anyone suspects mayhem in medical marijuana laws. Actual historic crime data, however, suggest there’s no evidence that legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes leads to an increase in crime. In fact, states that have legalized it appear to have seen some reductions in the rates of homicide and assault. These findings come from a nationwide study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One (which is notable for the fact that no one seems to have done this crucial analysis before). Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas looked at the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report data across the country between 1990 and 2006, a span during which 11 states legalized medical marijuana. Throughout this time period, crime was broadly falling throughout the United States. But a closer look at the differences between these states – and within the states that legalized the drug before and after the law’s passage – further shows no noticeable local uptick among a whole suite of crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.

The War on Cannabis Is Winding Down: It’s Time to Build Bridges [Huffington Post]

Millions and millions of otherwise productive and law-abiding Americans — disproportionally minorities — have been arrested for violating cannabis laws since it was made illegal in 1937. Some of them are still in prison or on probation, but most have already served their criminal sentences. Individually, they all face additional forms of ongoing punishment that will last the rest of their lives: denial of housing, employment, business and professional licenses, loans, credit cards, travel documents, organ transplants, welfare and educational benefits, purchase and possession of firearms, child custody and adoption, and dozens of other rights and privileges enjoyed by every other citizen. As more and more states reform their cannabis laws, the population of Americans convicted for laws that have been repealed will climb into the tens of millions. If nothing is done to change their status, they will be turned into a permanent sub-class of semi-citizens — unable to access many rights and privileges available to other Americans. The exclusion of these millions of well-qualified people from employment, professional licensing and educational benefits will inevitably hurt society as a whole. And what is the moral basis to continue punishing people for violating a law that has been repealed?

Cannabidiol Oil Will Soon Be Legal [HEMP for Future]

Legislation is moving forward in the Conservative States of Alabama, Georgia and Utah that allows the use of Cannabidiol Oil, a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, in the treatment of seizures. Cannabidiol Oils or CBD’s are low in THC and have shown remarkable potential in the treatment of children who have not responded to other forms of therapy. We hope it is just a matter of time before Cannabidiol Oil will is legal across America. Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert signed HB 105 or “Charlee’s Law” on March 20th allowing CBD Oil trials for the treatment of epilepsy. Charlee’s Law is named after Charlee Nelson, a six year old girl diagnosed with Batten Disease who passed away last weekend. There are currently 50 children in Utah waiting for CBD: the miracle compound. Governor Herbert was pleased with the bill saying ”My concern has been that the products are produced properly and that we have the adequate protections in place. Ultimately, I am satisfied the bill provides for that and I decided to sign it. The bill has a sunset provision that will require lawmakers to re-evaluate it’s effectiveness in 2016. Stephanie Carr who is the mother of an 18 month old who suffers from seizures said “This will add quality years to her life. I’m just so blessed and so grateful that we’ve got it!”

Doctors criticise UN’s approach to global drugs control [The Lancet]

Growing numbers of doctors are calling for a health-based approach to be adopted as a cornerstone of global drugs policy as a high-level UN conference highlights what critics say are continued failings in international bodies’ strategies for dealing with global drug problems. The High-Level Review at the latest annual session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND)—the chief policy-making body for international drug control—in Vienna earlier this month assessed how the UN is meeting goals for dealing with the global drug problem ahead of a UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016. But a joint ministerial statement on that progress produced during the conference left civil society groups and doctors pushing for an overhaul of existing drugs policies bitterly disappointed. Failing to address issues such as the death penalty for drugs offences and with no inclusion of the term harm reduction—because it is unacceptable to countries like Russia which take a hard line approach to drugs—it did little but reaffirm past commitments. Chris Ford, founder and clinical director of the non-governmental organisation International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies (IDHDP), told The Lancet: “The statement was meant to be a new consensus [between UN member states] but sadly it was rubbish and showed that lots of work still needs to be done.” Civil society groups working with people who use drugs have for years argued that organisations like the CND and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are clinging to a traditional punitive criminal approach to global drug problems that scientific evidence shows to have failed.

Russell Brand delivers plea to the UN: Drugs ban leads to ‘death, suffering and crime’ [The Independent]

Russell Brand delivered a typically flamboyant plea to the United Nations to bring an end to the arrest and punishment of drug users, telling it that a ban will only lead to “death, suffering and crime”. The British comedian, who himself is a reformed drug addict, spoke to a press conference at the 57th Session Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on behalf of the Support, Don’t Punish campaign against criminalising drug use. “There is no reason to pursue this experiment of prohibition which has lasted a century,” he told the audience. “My personal experience is, I was using drugs because I was in a great deal of spiritual, emotional and physical pain and what I needed was a solution to those problems and what was provided to me to reach that solution was a context of compassion and tolerance. “What bigger context is there than the planet as a whole? If we can create a planetary context where drug addicts are treated as people with a health issue – not a judicial, criminal issue – that would create the perfect context for us to advance.”

Who cares about celebrity drug stories? [Telegraph UK]

Considering how commonplace drug use is in society generally, why does the media think any of us are bothered about celebrity drug ‘scandals’? A celebrity is caught taking drugs and – BOOM – we’re back in 1963. Even as countries like Portugal and Uruguay walk down the path of legalisation and Colorado starts boasting about the size of its dope economy, our tabloids and politicians are still whipping themselves into a self-righteous fervour about celebrity drug use. The Met’s recent eminently sensible decision not to heed the preposterous and sanctimonious calls for Nigella’s prosecution had pompous Tory MPs humbugging about it giving a green light to celebrity drug use. Why shouldn’t celebrities get a green light? Everyone else does. When you think about it a bit, though, you realise that the glare of celebrity does perform one useful function here: it illuminates the stupidity of our drugs laws.

Drug driving limits to be formally introduced [The Scotsman]

Proposed drug-driving limits for 16 recreational and prescription drugs were unveiled by the UK government yesterday ahead of their introduction south of the Border in the autumn. However, the Scottish Government said it would “monitor developments” before deciding whether to follow suit. A motoring group said Scotland should also adopt the new limits, which have been recommended by experts, so as not to be left behind the rest of the UK. The cocaine limit will be 10 micrograms per litre of blood. The cannabis limit will be 2mcg/L and LSD 1mcg/L. Ketamine will have a 20mcg/L limit, with MDMA, ecstasy and crystal meth having a 10mcg/L limit. Heroin will have a 5mcg/L limit. Limits have also been set for morphine, methadone, clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam and temazepam. The limits will be enforced by police using new “drugalyser” machines, similar to breathalysers.

Pot Smoking Not Linked To Breathing Problems [Toke Signals]

A report published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that — over a 20-year period — marijuana smokers generally did not experience a loss in lung function. In fact, many actually had enhanced lung capacity, which one researcher speculated might come from the practice of “deep-lunging” hits to maximize their intoxicating effects. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that the study showed the lung function of most marijuana smokers actually improved slightly over time.

Study: Marijuana use doesn’t affect working memory [Medical Marijuana Review]

A new study reveals marijuana users don’t exhibit any loss of working-memory function, which controls our behaviour. The study, carried out over three years, was recently published in Addiction Biology. It found “that sustained moderate to heavy levels of cannabis, nicotine, alcohol and illegal psychotropic substance use do not change working-memory network functionality.” Moreover, the study concluded “baseline network functionality did not predict cannabis use and related problems three years later.”

Pot-smoking students better at school than ‘marginalized’ tobacco-smoking peers [CTV News Canada]

Students who only smoke marijuana do better at school than classmates who smoke just tobacco, or who smoke both tobacco and pot, says a new study, which tracked substance use among teens over 30 years. Researchers from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health analyzed data from a survey administered to nearly 39,000 Ontario students between 1981 and 2011. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health asked students in Grades 7, 9 and 11 about their tobacco and marijuana use, and their academic performance. The study found that marijuana-only users did better at school than their counterparts who smoked only cigarettes or who smoked both cigarettes and marijuana. However, the findings reflect the fact that fewer students smoke tobacco today compared to 30 years ago, and those that do make up a very “marginalized, vulnerable” population, says lead study author Michael Chaiton, assistant professor in epidemiology and public health policy.

Canadian Day of Action for Medical Marijuana – Protect Patient’s Rights on April 1 [Cannabis Culture]

Activists from across Canada will gather in Ottawa to protest the federal government’s new medical marijuana regulations because they do not allow patients to grow their own cannabis at home. Join the protest in Ottawa or do your part from home by phone jamming government offices! On April 1, 2014, the new Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulationscome into full effect and the old Marihuana Medical Access Regulations become null, save a recent court injunction giving patients with a licence at least a temporary reprieve.

Marijuana & Spirituality: What Is The True Relationship? [Collective Evolution]

Cannabis has been used as a spiritual drug since 3/2000 BC, indigenous to ancient Central and South Asian cultures. The reason being was for its psychoactive properties, the ability to alter one’s state of consciousness. By altering one’s state of consciousness, we are able to view our reality from a different perspective, one that differs from the normal confines of the 3D reality. For thousands of years, Shamans held the knowledge that each plant contains a unique set of frequencies that could ultimately teach us a new way of thinking and being. Accordingly, cannabis can teach us about a number of things such as the path of least resistance, oneness, surrender, release, letting go, inhibition, the present moment, communion, allowing, the fear behind the insistent ego, and the effortlessness of being.

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