Embassy Headlines, Issue 96

The resurrection of Cannabis in Colorado created a new vibe on April 20 this year while the rest of the world continued in contemptuous civil disobedience.

Previously stigmatised Stoners in Denver are now valuable clients in Big Weed’s new legal deal.

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-96

Marijuana laws don’t stop the pain [The Project]

Thousands of Australians are treating conditions including terminal illnesses, chronic pain, and untreatable epilepsy with illegal medical cannabis. Medicinal marijuana is now legal in many places around the world, including 22 US states. (For an overview, seehttp://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881.) In NSW, a cross-party Parliamentary Enquiry recently endorsed medical marijuana for specific medical situations but the advice was rejected by the Health Minister Jillian Skinner, who refused our repeated requests for an interview, but told The Project through a statement: “There are safe and effective medications currently available for the symptoms and conditions that medical cannabis is purported to be effective in training. “Based on current available information, the quality and safety of these products cannot be guaranteed.” It’s an argument that doesn’t wash with Andrew Katelaris, a doctor of 23 years standing, who gave up his career to produce medical marijuana, from plants which don’t contain enough THC to give the user a high. “Without exaggerating, it’s a matter of life and death for hundreds and probably thousands of children and adults in this country,” says Andrew.  “In matter of comfort and quality of life it would be in the many tens of thousands.”


Packaging for legal cannabis products: boring is good [Transform]

The debate around what constitutes appropriate packaging for legal drugs has attracted significant attention in recent years. Plain packaging for cigarettes was introduced in Australia in December 2012, and it was announced just last week that England is set tofollow suit in the near future. Packaging for newly legal cannabis products has also been on the agenda in the US, particularly in Colorado, whose legal recreational cannabis market came into effect earlier this year. In this extract from our recent major publication, ‘How to Regulate Cannabis: A Practical Guide’, we identify the challenges posed by cannabis packaging, which Colorado and other jurisdictions that have legalised the drug will have to confront, and provide recommendations for how to address them.


The (Unintentional) Amazon Guide to Dealing Drugs [Atlantic Monthly]

One day, some drug dealer bought a particular digital scale—the AWS-100— on the retail site, Amazon.com. And then another drug dealer bought the same scale. Then another. Then another. Amazon’s data-tracking software watched what else these people purchased, and now, if you buy the AWS-100 scale, Amazon serves up a quickstart kit for selling drugs. This is classic data mining at work. Even if each scale purchaser only made one other drug-related purchase, when you look at the clusters, the pattern becomes obvious. Amazon clearly did not set out to create such a field-tested kit for starting an illicit business. But looking at the list of items, it sure seems like they’ve created a group of products by looking at the purchasing habits of people who may not be recording all of their incomes on W-2s and 1099s. Not everyone who buys one of these scales is a drug dealer, but… it sure seems popular among a demographic in need of baggies. So, how long until police departments find an AWS-100 scale and request account information from Amazon?


Washington State Marijuana Retail Licenses Lottery Rolls Out This Week [MPP Blog]

The Washington State Marijuana Retail Licenses Lottery begins today with a total of 334 retail licenses to be awarded. Washington State University’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center will be conducting the lottery for the state’s liquor control board, which oversees the marijuana retailers once they become licensed. Approximately 1,500 applicants are in the lottery pool. With such a large applicant pool, the lottery process is expected to take all week with the board reviewing background checks on not only the applicants, but also their investors and financiers. The Washington State Liquor Control Board says, “The process will be extremely secure and will determine who gets a retail license to sell pot legally in Washington.”


Whoopi Goldberg: My vape pen and I, a love story (column) [The Cannabist]

My vape pen and I maintain a mostly private relationship. Sure, I’ll sometimes show my pen to a friend or share her with a close confidant. But mostly it’s just she and I working through my pain. And her ability to help me live comfortably with glaucoma makes her one of the more important figures in my day to day. When I show her to a friend, the reaction 99 percent of the time is: “Holy shit, where did you get this and how can I get me one?” They’re seriously that blown away by my vape pen. And they should be. She’s that amazing. As I write my debut column for The Cannabist, talking about this newly legal weed and admiring the states that have had the foresight to legalize medical marijuana, I’m most tempted to extol the virtues of the vape pen. I didn’t anticipate this first column to be such a love story, some sort of semi-romantic comedy. But it works, and it’s true, and so here we go.


Marijuana Has Come A Long Way Since Last 4/20 [Huffington Post]

What a difference a year makes. From 4/20, 2013, to 4/20, 2014, marijuana has taken big steps out of the shadows of the black market and into the light of the mainstream — from record high popular support and the first legal recreational sales, to an entire country legalizing marijuana.This article takes a look at the last 12 months of marijuana milestones.


Denver’s 4/20 rally grows up, but dance over pot-smoking endures [Denver Post]

Sales of recreational marijuana may be legal, but organizers of next weekend’s 4/20 festival in Denver — billed as the largest in the world — have a fine line to walk. They nearly got the two-day event canceled after the organizers’ attorney asked the city to endorse public pot-smoking by attendees. Now, with a permit for Civic Center in hand as of Thursday, Miguel Lopez and other organizers will need to broadcast the illegality of public marijuana consumption — as a concession to city officials — while also protesting Colorado’s remaining strictures on cannabis use. They also plan to protest that alcohol is treated differently from pot on public property. In other words, when tens of thousands of the pot-passionate fill the park Saturday and Sunday — the same day as Easter — there will be plenty of winks and nods. And pot smoke in the air.


4/20 in Denver: The rise of a new entertainment holiday [Denver Post]

April 20 is now a full-on entertainment holiday in Colorado with promoters and entrepreneurs looking to capture a slice of the massive audiences in the same way they might on Halloween or New Year’s Eve — and music fans are the winners with a dizzying array of music throughout the city. “We’ve got the concert at the sculpture park, shows at Red Rocks and if you look at any of the band-oriented clubs and even the dance clubs they have a theme to their nights this weekend,” said Brian Kitts, spokesman for Denver Arts & Venues, the division of the city that manages venues like the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Red Rocks. “4/20 has become another way to market music.” Just how in-the-know is Denver’s 4/20 with national trends? The current High Times magazine cover features Mount Kushmore, a Mount Rushmore-styled photo of Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill frontman B-Real and Method Man & Redman — “the four godfathers of weed culture,” said the magazine’s editor-in-chief Chris Simunek. All four MCs are playing unrelated 4/20 shows in Colorado this year, and Snoop and Method & Red are each doubling up with two shows in one day. And it doesn’t stop there. In the past week, rappers Ice Cube and Too $hort, comedians Cheech & Chong and Andy Haynes and the actor who played McLovin in “Superbad” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) have played 4/20 shows in Denver.


7 Things That Could Totally Kill Weed Legalization’s Buzz [Huffington Post]

The popular press may have branded Mark Kleiman the “Pot Czar” of Washington state, but he says he favors another term. “I prefer ‘Hemperor,'” Kleiman facetiously told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “But you may address me as Your Highness.”  Kleiman is the renowned drug policy expert brought in by Washington state to provide advice as it navigates the road to legal marijuana markets. Unlike Colorado, where recreational marijuana shops have been operating since January, Washington dispensaries won’t open their doors until June or July. While he thinks the process is going “reasonably well” in Washington, Kleiman identified a number of major concerns he has with the trajectory of the legalization push in America. 


Clever Crook Uses Heat Vision Drone to Hunt Down Weed and Steal It [Gizmodo]

The police have long used thermal imaging cameras to detect marijuana growing operations. Now, thanks to drones, crooks are getting into the weed-finding game too. Except in their case, they’re trying to find the weed so they can steal it. The Halesowen Newsin the UK reports that at least one criminal has used an unmanned drone armed with heat-detecting cameras to find growhouses. For those of you unfamiliar with the business, in-door marijuana growing operations give off an enormous amount of heat because growers use powerful lighting arrays to grow very potent weed very fast. According to the delightful interview with the criminal drone operator, finding illegal growing operations is a piece of cake, but taking the weed is easy, too. Forget the strongarm drug house robberies on shows like The Wire.

The 33-year-old said: “Half the time we don’t even need to use violence to get the crop. Growing cannabis has gone mainstream and the people growing it are not gangsters, especially in places like Halesowen, Cradley Heath and Oldbury.


Why thousands of people are going to get high in Hyde Park [Guardian UK]

On Easter Sunday, thousands of cannabis smokers will descend on Hyde Park in London for a smoke in celebration of “420 Day”. Now held annually on 20 April, 420 Day began life as an American pro-cannabis movement, but in recent years has become a de facto “world pot-smoking day”. Last year, according to the event’s organisers, around 10,000 people congregated in the most famous of London’s royal parks to protest in favour of legalisation. With a bumper bank holiday weekend, a delightful spring and 420 Day chatter spreading like wildfire across social networks, they expect the attendance this year to be even higher. For the cannabis community, it is the highlight of the year, a day when Britain’s 60-plus cannabis social clubs encourage members, friends and the curious to stand up and be counted. Or at least to “sit around, have a few joints, a picnic and a discussion”, as Greg de Hoedt, president of UK Cannabis Social Clubs (UKCSC), describes the plan. Centred on Speaker’s Corner, 420 Day is an exercise in civil disobedience, rather than an authorised protest. It begins at noon, with live music and speakers, before the high point – in both senses – at 4.20pm, when thousands will light up simultaneously and send a plume of sickly sweet smoke wafting across Hyde Park and Park Lane. For many, it is an alternative day out. “I don’t smoke any more as I’m a dad,” says 43-year-old first-time attendee Johnnie, from Crystal Palace. “But I am pro-legalisation, so I’m going to show my support.”


Small Data: The way drugs and prostitution boost the economy [BBC]

Later this year, the UK economy will get a £10bn boost from illegal drugs and prostitution. The Office for National Statistics, which has to calculate the figure, confirmed it at an economic forum last week and will publish more details next month. It will be £3bn from prostitution and £7bn from illegal drugs. The European Union has declared that illegal activities need to be included in national accounts so that comparisons can be made between countries. In the Netherlands, for example, some drugs are permitted that are illegal elsewhere in Europe, and there is legal prostitution. Given that the allocation of the EU budget is based on the size of a country’s economy measured by gross domestic product (GDP), the EU wants to be sure that all countries are measuring it in the same way.


Hear scientist’s views on drugs at Manx Museum talk [Isle of Man News]

A leading scientist who was famously sacked for his views on illegal drugs will speak at the Manx Museum later this month. Professor David Nutt will host a free talk entitled ‘The truth about drugs: a basis for a fair and rational policy?’ on Monday, April 28 from 7.30pm. In 2009 he was dismissed from his role as chair of the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after comparing the harms of ecstasy with those of horse riding, and for publicly criticising the government for ignoring scientific advice when they reclassified cannabis from class C to a class B drug. A question and answer session will follow the talk which is likely to include topics such as how harmful alcohol and tobacco are compared to illegal drugs, what should parents tell their children about drugs and at what age, and whether a criminal record can cause more harm to young people than smoking cannabis. Nutt is Professor of Neuropsychopharmacolgy at Imperial College, President of the British Neuroscience Association and founded the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs charity. His book Drugs Without the Hot Air received widespread acclaim.


Six health problems marijuana could treat better than traditional medicine [Vox]

Twenty states have so far legalized the medical use of marijuana, and researchers are starting to look at how, exactly, patients can put those laws to the best use. There’s a burgeoning field of research exploring what medical conditions marijuana is best suited to treat — and how, in certain cases, it might actually outperform traditional medicine. But the evidence remains quite limited, largely as a result of prohibition and strict federal oversight of medical research. “Millions of patients are using this plant, and we need to understand it,” says Sue Sisley, a doctor and researcher at the University of Arizona. “It is negligent for these 20 states to go selling cards to marijuana patients without actively conducting rigorous medical marijuana research that’s necessary.” Sisley wants to study marijuana as a treatment for military veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but it took until March — nearly four years after the study’s conception — for the study to get federal approval. First, she needed the Food and Drug Administration to sign off. Then, her team waited three years for approval from the Public Health Service to obtain legal marijuana supplies. (No other schedule 1 drug needs the extra round of approval, according to Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.)


Cannabis: the fabric of Japan [Japan Times]

Takayasu is one of Japan’s leading experts on cannabis and the curator of Taima Hakubutsukan — the nation’s only museum dedicated to the much-maligned weed. Opened in 2001 in the town of Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, approximately 160 km north of Tokyo, the museum’s mission is to teach people about the history of cannabis in Japan — a past that, Takayasu believes, has been denigrated and forgotten for far too long. “Most Japanese people see cannabis as a subculture of Japan but they’re wrong,” Takayasu says. “Cannabis has been at the very heart of Japanese culture for thousands of years.” According to Takayasu, the earliest evidence of cannabis in Japan dates back to the Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C.), with pottery relics recovered in Fukui Prefecture containing seeds and scraps of woven cannabis fibers. “Cannabis was the most important substance for prehistoric people in Japan,” he says. “They wore clothes made from its fibers and they used it for bow strings and fishing lines.”


Cannabis: the healing of the nation [Japan Times]

For a nation well-known for its strict drug laws, the plants are remarkably easy to find. In an average year, patrols discover between 1 million and 2 million of them — some sown by illicit smokers but the majority are the feral progeny of cannabis legally cultivated prior to its prohibition under the 1948 Cannabis Control Act. Regardless of the plants’ origins, they’re pulled out by their roots, loaded into vans and incinerated in bonfires upwind from inhabited areas. For a long time, few people questioned these annual eradication campaigns. Now, however, a vocal minority is challenging their efficacy — and Japan’s overall approach to cannabis. One of these critics is Hideo Nagayoshi, author of “Taima Nyumon” (“An Introduction to Cannabis”), which was published in 2009. In his book, Nagayoshi argues that the millions of cannabis plants destroyed each year ought to be better used as medicine, biomass energy and in the construction industries. Nagayoshi also highlights the senselessness of current laws, which impede domestic research into medicinal cannabis and drive scientists overseas to conduct their studies.


2014 Nimbin MardiGrass

Entitlement to enlightenment. Cannabis law reform rally and gathering 2014 MAY 3+4. Don’t delay! Get your Golden Bud Pass!

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