Cash is King [Making Hay]
The positive side of Cannabis prohibition is that the government has no control over the industry except via law enforcement.
Try to imagine a world where tax and regulations can compete with the ‘black market’. Organised crime and the attractive profits from Cannabis for medical purposes will continue long after changes to legislation or until money is removed from the equation.
The HEMP 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.
An Australian state is investing millions of dollars into testing the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana. The New South Wales (NSW) State Government has pledged 9million (£4.4million) Australian Dollars over four years to trials which will involve children with severe epilepsy and adults with terminal illnesses. Patients undergoing chemotherapy who are suffering with extreme nausea and vomiting will also take part, Australia’s 9 News has reported. Medical Research Minister Pru Goward told the website: “Medical research unlocks new treatment for disease, offers hope, delivers cures, keeps people well and out of hospital. At its best [it] profoundly improves lives.” The use, cultivation and possession of cannabis – including for medicinal purposes – are illegal across the country. However, NSW’s plans have rekindled interest in the drug’s medical use, with Victoria and Queensland announcing they’d be follow suit in April and staging their own trials. Politicians in Queensland and Victoria revealed the decision in April, after speaking with NSW leaders, The Guardian reported. Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said at the time that he had seen “first-hand” the relief medicinal cannabis could give children with life-threatening illnesses.
Cannabis research on the agenda at SCU [Prime 7]
More and more patients are preaching the health benefits of medicinal cannabis. The results are prompting leading researchers to better understand the drug – with Southern Cross University at the helm.
Amnesty call for growers as SCU begins cannabis research [EchoNetDaily]
North Coast growers involved in the production of medicinal cannabis should be granted an amnesty from prosecution given the widespread use and growing acceptance of the plant’s medicinal qualities, according to the Nimbin Hemp Embassy. Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone today welcomed an announcement that Southern Cross University in Lismore would be conducting research into medicinal cannabis, but said those at the coalface – growers, suppliers and users – continued to be persecuted. The university announced this week that it would be creating a high-security facility to conduct research into developing new cannabis cultivars suitable for use in preclinical research and clinical trials in NSW and elsewhere. The research would be headed by SCU’s Plant Science director Professor Graham King, who said researchers would use their plant genetics and chemistry expertise to improve crop production, resilience and shelf life of cannabis to complement research into safe, reliable and affordable cannabis-based medicines.
He said research into the medicinal applications of cannabis would be further boosted by a $33.7 million donation to the University of Sydney by Barry and Jo Lambert. Mr Balderstone said however that some were suspicious that the Lamberts had made the donation without realizing it could ultimately benefit large private corporations. He said their family member treated with medicinal cannabis had probably being using product supplied by someone like Tony Bower of Mullaways Medical Cannabis, yet Mr Bower had been continually persecuted. ‘Poor old Tony Bower … for all his work and knowledge after a lifetime of cloning, breeding and learning and yet he will be shut out of these trials.
Mr Balderstone said many growers already involved in supplying sick and dying people across Australia would be concerned that the research would be aimed at isolating particular properties of the plant so that large companies could patent and profit from particular cannabinoids. With the northern rivers recently named the ninth worst economic region in Australia, Mr Balderstone said the medicinal cannabis industry cold provide a massive economic boost to the struggling region. ‘It would be fantastic… a moment of acceptance and recognition,’ he said. ‘They underestimate the psychology damage of unjustly branding as criminals because we choose to use cannabis as our medicine. There are networks across Australia doing this but the north coast is an area of expertise. Instead, poor old Nimbin has nine permanent police scouring the place daily along with roadside saliva testing. In Colorado where half of the counties have legalized cannabis they have employed 20,000 people in a population the same as Sydney. There could be employment here for so many people in this industry. It’s huge. Instead they announce that we are getting a new 600-bed jail up this way.’
Surveys show nearly three quarters of the population wants the nation’s drug laws to change, and politicians across the political spectrum from the Prime Minister down are lining up to agree with them. So what’s stopping thousands of sick and dying Australians from getting legal access to cannabis medication?A civilised and compassionate country that supports evidence-based medicine and policy should acknowledge that medicinal cannabis is acceptably effective and safe, and probably also cost-effective.
Medical marijuana is illegal in Australia, yet supply networks are popping up around the nation along with calls from patients to legalise it. In one particularly remarkable case, a man who endured a world-first operation to remove a tumour the size of a football has won the support of his neurosurgeon and oncologist to use marijuana to treat his pain. Queensland and Victoria have now joined a New South Wales trial on medical cannabis which will run next year, but patients want the legal risk removed now.
Drugs and youth: NSW government failing young people, says Ted Noffs Foundation head [Sydney Morning Herald]
Youth drugs expert Matt Noffs has used the launch of three new Queensland Street Universities, focused on helping young people affected by drugs and alcohol, to attack the NSW government for failing thousands of marginalised youngsters across the state. On Friday, The Ted Noffs Foundation launched the centres on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane, after the Queensland government channelled almost $4 million towards the projects. “At a time when every state is staring at shrinking welfare budgets, the Queensland government has stepped forward with strong investment in youth and early drug intervention services. Why is NSW dragging its heels on this?” Mr Noffs asked.
The experience of drug prohibition in Queensland, where police charge more users than anywhere else in Australia, shows the state “can’t arrest its way out of the problem”, says a leading social worker. The chief executive of the Ted Noffs Foundation, Matt Noffs, said he hoped to lobby local politicians about following interstate moves away from the “war on drugs” and reducing the burden on law enforcement. Drug arrests in Queensland have long dwarfed those elsewhere, reaching 32,391 of a national total of 92,882 in 2013-14, with NSW next on 25,738 despite its larger population. Most of the Queensland arrests were drug consumers (28,389), although police also arrested nearly as many dealers and producers (4,002) as in NSW (4,124). Noffs said senior police figures, including the head of the NSW drug squad, as well as the former federal police commissioner Mick Palmer, had come to the conclusion that prohibition was a failure and “decriminalisation is absolutely a sensible way forward”.
Killer drivers will be forced to give blood samples at crash scenes to check if they were driving on drugs, under new laws introduced to Parliament. At present, a legal loophole allows dangerous drivers to refuse blood tests if they do not require medical care at the scene of a crash. It comes after a fatal crash in Docklands last year, which killed IT designer Tien Le after Aaron Sandner ran a red light in his ute. Police found 50 grams of the drug ice in Mr Sandner’s car, but because he was uninjured Mr Sandner refused a blood test — within his rights — and police were unable to assess the quantity of drugs in his system.
Left wing micro parties consider split from Glenn Druery alliance [Sydney Morning Herald]
A potential split has emerged in the minor party alliance controlled by “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery, with a move by some left wing parties to form their own preference swap bloc. Nineteen micro parties, including Animal Justice, Australian Cyclists, Voluntary Euthanasia, Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) and the Pirate Party met last Thursday about forming a splinter bloc called the “alliance for progress”. They want to get more progressive politicians elected without having to adhere to what they call Mr Druery’s “values free” system of preferencing, credited with getting candidates such as Senator Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party elected on tiny primary votes. Before last year’s Senate election re-run in Western Australia, Fairfax Media became the first media organisation allowed into a meeting of the minor party alliance where Mr Druery told hopeful candidates that success depended on “the numbers, not philosophy”. For example, he said, the Australian Christians would not get elected because they would never consider entering a preference deal with the Sex Party – and vice versa. The progressive alliance is being spearheaded by the Future Party, which describes its members as “technophiles who believe the economy should be directed to maximise technological development” and the Australian Progressives, which supports greater investment in health, education and the environment.
Support. Don’t punish global day of action 2015 [International Drug Policy Consortium]
One of the main activities of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign is a Global Day of Action taking place on 26th June each year. 26th June 2015 will be the third Day of Action organised so far. On 26th June 2013, 41 cities from around the world took part in the first ever Global Day of Action. On 26th June 2014, 100 cities around the world held a huge variety of different actions. 26th June is the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking – a day that on which many governments celebrate their contributions to the global ‘war on drugs’. In the past, some governments have even commemorated this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders. By taking part in the Global Day of Action, you can help to “reclaim” the message on this important day. 26th June is also the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture – an ironic coincidence given the widespread torture and abuse suffered in the name of the war on drugs.
Delaware governor Jack Markell has signed into law a bill decriminalising possession and private use of small amounts of marijuana. The move follows the lead of nearly 20 states that have eased penalties for personal consumption, state media reported on Thursday. Individuals in Delware will be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and to use it privately without facing criminal sanctions. Police could still confiscate the drug, according to Delaware Online, the News Journal. The statute also will reduce the penalty for using marijuana in a public place to a $100 civil fine. Under previous Delaware law, simple marijuana possession was a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,150. The law will take effect in six months’ time. Markell, a Democrat, signed the measure almost immediately after the state senate, voting along party lines, gave it final legislative approval. According to the Journal, the Democratic-backed bill cleared the state legislature without a single Republican vote in either the house or senate. Not counting Delaware, 17 states have passed laws to decriminalise personal marijuana use and possession in small amounts, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a lobbying group.
What would Jesus Legalize? [Marijuana]
A group representing more than 600 Christian church congregations across six Northeastern states has called the war on drugs a failure and endorsed legalization. On Saturday, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church passed a resolution arguing that “the public policy of prohibition of certain narcotics and psychoactive substances, sometimes called the ‘War on Drugs,’ has failed to achieve the goal of eliminating, or even reducing, substance abuse.” The measure says that the group “supports seeking means other than prohibition to address the problem of substance abuse.” The resolution was championed by the drug policy reform organizations Christians Against Prohibition and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the latter of which represents police officers, judges and prosecutors who oppose the war on drugs after having waged it. “Jesus concerned himself with the plight of the poor and marginalized in his society,” Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of LEAP, said in a press release. “In our society, the story of the poor and marginalized is one of mass incarceration, racial injustice, and the breakdown of families caused by the War on Drugs.” Citing factors such as lives lost to overdoses due to the unregulated production of drugs in the illegal market, overcrowded prisons and clogged courts, the resolution says that “there have been a large number of unintentional negative consequences as a result of this failed public policy.” It also draws attention to the racially disproportionate enforcement of drug laws. “To people of color, the ‘War on Drugs’ has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery,” it reads. Advocates will now campaign to get the worldwide General Conference of the United Methodist Church to adopt the resolution at its 2016 meeting.
Protect Pot Doctors, AMA Tells Congress [US News]
The American Medical Association is hardly a pioneering advocate of more liberal marijuana laws, but this week the largest organization representing U.S. doctors asked Congress to grant immunity to physicians who participate in state medical marijuana programs. The association has not yet endorsed marijuana’s use as medicine, but it has urged research into the drug’s potential to treat a wide range of conditions and supported “unfettered” patient-doctor discussions that do not “subject either party to criminal sanctions.” The association’s new resolution calls for “legislation ensuring or providing immunity against federal prosecution for physicians who certify that a patient has an approved medical condition or recommend cannabis in accordance with their state’s laws.” Association spokeswoman Stephanie Johnson says the policy was approved by the AMA’s more than 500-member House of Delegates, which wrapped up its annual meeting in Chicago on Wednesday.
At Cannabis Trade Show, Vendors Tread a Careful Line [New York Times]
A question hung in the air at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on Thursday: How do you show off your wares in a place where actually using them would be illegal? The sales pitches were carefully honed. “These are for tobacco only,” Raj Tiwary, a vice president for the vaping accessory makerUltimate Vapor Source, said repeatedly, while demonstrating a line of pipes and pens. “Tobacco and dry herbs.” The mood was light, but for many in the room, the gathering was serious business. Marijuana is now legal in some form in more than 20 states, and next year, New York will join the list, with the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries scheduled to open in January. Entrepreneurs in a wide range of industries see a rare window of opportunity. About 2,000 attendees, many in suits and ties, came to the show to network and to check out new products. The goods ranged from the offbeat, like hemp chews for dogs, to pharmaceutical-grade equipment, drawing attention from those planning to invest millions in their marijuana ventures. A carbon-dioxide extraction system from Apeks Supercritical drew admiring looks from Andrei Bogolubov, the executive vice president for PalliaTech, a medical technology company that has applied for one of the five state dispensary licenses New York plans to grant.
Medical marijuana ‘edibles’ mostly mislabeled, study shows [Medical Xpress]
In a proof-of-concept study, a team led by a Johns Hopkins researcher reports that the vast majority of edible cannabis products sold in a small sample of medical marijuana dispensaries carried labels that overstated or understated the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Though the scope of the study was small, the researchers say, the results of the study suggest some medical cannabis patients could be unintentionally overdosing or are being cheated by mislabeled products. “If this study is representative of the medical cannabis market, we may have hundreds of thousands of patients buying cannabis products that are mislabeled,” says experimental psychologist Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of a report on the study published June 23 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Calling for better regulation and oversight of marijuana edibles, Vandrey and his team say patients who consume underlabeled products—meaning more THC is in the product than is stated on the label—could suffer from overdosing side effects, including extreme anxiety and psychotic reactions. Patients purchasing products that are overlabeled are not getting what they paid for, he adds.
Medical marijuana has not been proven to work for many illnesses that state laws have approved it for, according to the first comprehensive analysis of research on its potential benefits. The strongest evidence is for chronic pain and for muscle stiffness in multiple sclerosis, according to the review, which evaluated 79 studies involving more than 6,000 patients. Evidence was weak for many other conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome and the authors recommend more research. The analysis is among several medical marijuana articles published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They include a small study suggesting that many brand labels for edible marijuana products list inaccurate amounts of active ingredients. More than half of brands tested had much lower amounts than labeled, meaning users might get no effect.
A new study conducted at the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator has found drivers who use alcohol and marijuana together weave more on a virtual roadway than drivers who use either substance independently. However, the cocktail of alcohol and marijuana does not double the effect of the impairment. “What we saw was an additive effect, not a synergistic effect, when we put them together,” said Tim Brown, associate research scientist at NADS and corresponding author of the study. “You get what you expect if you take alcohol and cannabis and merge them together.” The study, which appears June 23 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, also found participants who consumed only alcohol weaved more during a 35- to 45-minute simulated driving test than those who consumed only vaporized cannabis. The results are part of a larger study — the first of its kind to analyze the effects of inhaled cannabis on driving performance — sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute of Drug Abuse and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Teenagers are very familiar with the risks of smoking cigarettes, but are much less sure whether marijuana or e-cigarettes are harmful, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. While adolescents get clear messages from their families, teachers, peers and the media about the harms of smoking cigarettes, they receive conflicting or sparse information about the harms of marijuana and e-cigarettes, the study showed. The findings will be published online June 23 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. “Kids were really good at describing the harmful things that happen with cigarette smoking, but when we asked about other products, there was a lot of confusion,” said the study’s lead author, Maria Roditis, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in adolescent medicine. “We’re good at delivering messaging that cigarettes are harmful, but we need to do a better job with other products that teens may smoke,” added Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, professor of pediatrics in adolescent medicine and the study’s senior author. “We don’t want the message kids get to be ‘cigarettes are bad, so everything else might be OK.'”
Marijuana Is in the Air and on It, Too [New York Times]
Some people who prosper in life choose to spend their hard-earned millions on private planes. Some buy a vineyard in Napa to indulge a love of wine. Some collect showpiece cars, or fulfill a dream of hiking Mount Everest. Marc Paskin bought a radio station in Colorado and converted it to a marijuana-themed format. “I was going to retire, and then I said: Wait a minute, that’s boring,” said Mr. Paskin, 66, a millionaire who made his money in real estate and has never been known as boring. In Hawaii, where he lived for a long time, he starred in a reality television show called “Uncle Kokua” in which he drove around Oahu in a van and distributed money to people in need. After his wife died, he searched for a girlfriend using a San Diegobillboard. (It worked.) And in May, he moved to Denver, bought a radio station for $875,000 and christened it Smokin 94.1, declaring it the state’s only pot-themed FM station. Yes, the Grateful Dead get heavy airplay, as do the Rolling Stones and several reggae artists. In addition to classic rock and music to get stoned by, the station plays marijuana-laced comedy bits. It made its debut on June 1. “This is my million-dollar toy,” Mr. Paskin said.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s conviction of Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht may have been compromised by two corrupt investigators. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Carl Force will plead guilty to extorting more than $450,000 from the Silk Road online underground marketplace during his investigation of the site. Force, who was a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, is the second federal officer who has been charged with taking money from the marketplace. Last week, ex-Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges, who worked with Force on the same task force, reached a plea bargain with prosecutors, for funneling money from Silk Road during the course of the investigation. Force will plead guilty to extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to court papers filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Last month, Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement with Silk Road, which federal authorities estimated generated over 1.2 billion in drug sales between 2011 and 2013. Ulbricht’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, has stated at press conferences that the federal agents’ misconduct could possibly play a role in Ulbricht’s appeal, given how their actions may have damaged the integrity of the government’s case against Ulbricht. Both Force and Bridges were part of an undercover multi-agency task force investigating Silk Road prior to the operation’s bust in October 2013. During the course of his Silk Road investigation, Force had the DEA freeze an online, $297,000 account of one of the site’s users, the DOJ says in court documents. He transferred the money into his personal account, rather than to the DEA, according to the DOJ.
The Dark Web is a mysterious part of the internet hidden to most computer users, but if you dig down, it’s full of drug marketplaces selling everything imaginable and ready to ship at a moment’s notice. The arrest of the founder of the notorious Silk Road website was supposed to shut the trade down. But instead, dozens of opportunistic competitors have sprung up to fill the space. One researcher says there’s been at least a 30 per cent increase in the number of drug dealers and there are allegations that Australia Post is unwittingly becoming a drug courier.
Vancouver has approved new rules to license and regulate illegal marijuana stores, making it the first city in Canada to attempt to control the burgeoning market – and setting it on a collision course with the country’s federal government. After four days of public hearings, the city council approved regulations that will set zoning controls and hefty licence fees for Vancouver’s many pot shops: the city of 600,000 is thought to have more marijuana stores than its 109 Starbucks locations. Many Canadians – including the federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, local police departments and health authorities – have argued that the time has come to legalize, control and tax marijuana. The sticking point remains the federal government, who are the only authority with the power to legalize pot, and who remain fervently pro-prohibition. Under the new rules, dispensaries will be banned from operating within 300 metres of a school, community centre, or rival pot shop. They will also be obliged to pay a business license fee of $30,000, compared to a regular business license of just $250. Over the period of public consultation, more than 200 people put their views forward in person or by email to council. City manager Penny Ballem said that the most striking submissions came from people working so-called “compassion clubs”, where medical marijuana is provided for sufferers of cancer and other illnesses. Following those presentations, the proposed business license fee for that model was dropped to $1000.
All drugs should be decriminalised, say the Lib Dems [Independent UK]
All drugs should be decriminalised for personal use and cannabis should be fully legalised as a medical treatment, the Liberal Democrats have said. The party has tabled amendments to the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill which seeks to ban most legal drugs. Brian Paddick, the party’s Home Affairs spokesperson and a former police officer, said in a statement that the Conservative approach to drugs policy was “doomed to failure”. “These new psychoactive substances – or legal highs – only exist because our current approach to drugs is failing. Instead of tackling the danger of these new drugs, this Bill is likely to make things worse,” he said. “When I was a police officer, I realised that locking up drug users is simply not the answer. We have to learn the lessons of why our current approach is failing before we make the same mistakes with new psychoactive substances as we have done with other illegal drugs. “Decriminalising personal possession will free up vital police resources to go after drug dealers, ensure addicts get treatment and social users get the education they need to keep them safe.” Decriminalisation for personal use would not equate to full legalisation but would mean someone could not be punished criminally for possessing the drugs.
Japanese police said Wednesday they had raided Toyota’s headquarters in the hunt for evidence, after arresting its most senior female executive for suspected drug law violations. The announcement came as reports said American Julie Hamp, 55, told prosecutors she had the powerful painkiller shipped from the United States to ease problems with her knees. A police spokesman told AFP “it’s true that we raided” Toyota’s headquarters in Toyota city in central Japan, its main Tokyo offices and other offices on Tuesday. Hamp, who was recently appointed to head global public relations at the world’s biggest carmaker, was arrested last week for importing a controlled substance without permission. She was arrested at her Tokyo hotel after a package containing oxycodone was intercepted at Narita airport. The drug — an opioid used to relieve pain — is legal with a prescription, but importing it without permission from the authorities is illegal and could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
A police officer has been killed and two others seriously wounded during a shootout in an Albanian village known as a “cannabis kingdom” for its industrial-scale production of the drug. More than 400 policemen, supported by army helicopters, have surrounded the village of Lazarat in southern Albania where an armed group has entrenched itself and has yet to surrender, police said in a statement. “If the armed group opens fire, police [are] ordered to eliminate it,” the statement said. At least 21 members of the group are suspected to be holed up in the village, where machine-gun fire and anti-tank rockets ricocheted around police as they attempted to enter the area in the early hours of Wednesday. A year ago Albanian police clashed for five days with armed groups before taking control of Lazarat, which had once again become a safe haven for drug manufacturers and traffickers. According to an Italian police report, Lazarat produces about 900 tonnes of cannabis annually, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($6.53 billion) — equivalent to almost a third of Albania’s gross domestic product.
Petition: Cannabis Saves Lives [Change.org]
Spark the conversation today and let your family and friends know about the benefits. If you want the right to grow your own cannabis and to be able to obtain cannabis legally here in Australia then please SHARE. #BringBackCannabisMedicine The fact we have to break the law to care and give relief to our dying family and friends is just too much for some to handle. We want every Australian to have legal access to cannabis for medical and recreational use in Australia!