Would it be a waste of money to send all Aussie politicians on fact finding missions to countries with humane Cannabis legislation? Do our pollies deserve a ‘working’ holiday in Colorado?
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.
Researchers say chronic pain in Australia is reaching epidemic proportions. Advocacy group Chronic Pain Australia says it affects at least one in five people, and costs the economy more than $34 billion every year. As National Pain Week begins, there are renewed calls from chronic pain sufferers to legalise cannabis for medical use.
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale is calling for bipartisan support to overhaul Australia’s drug policy so it is in line with Portugal’s, where drug use is treated as a health, not criminal, issue. The Victorian senator is on a self-funded, fact-finding mission, meeting policymakers and program developers in the European country. Since 2001, drug users in Portugal are no longer put through the criminal justice system. The funds saved from enforcement have been used to increase access to drug treatment and prevention, including rehabilitation services, in the country. “Individuals [in Australia] who get into trouble with their drug use wouldn’t be subject to criminal penalties,” Dr Di Natale said. “Instead they would front a health panel which gets them into treatment and helps them with other things like housing and employment support.” Dr Di Natale said there had been no increase in drug use in Portugal since the reforms were introduced. “Instead what we’ve seen is a huge decline in all the things associated with harmful drug use,” he said. “We’ve also seen more people in treatment, fewer drug overdoses, fewer cases of HIV and a decrease in crime.” Dr Di Natale made it clear Portugal had not legalised drugs, with law enforcement still targeting drug dealers. The Greens leader is co-convenor of the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Law Reform, a cross party group of about 100 state and commonwealth MPs. Liberal member for Murray Sharman Stone, another co-convenor of the group, said Australia’s current drug policy was not working. “We need to look very carefully at what other countries are doing, where they have focused on taking what we’d call illicit substances, where they look at them as a health problem,” Ms Stone said. “We’d put the criminals out of business in relation to those drugs.”
A Nelson mother who secretly administered medicinal cannabis to her teenage son who was locked in an induced coma says it was about freedom of choice. Alex Renton, 19, died on July 1 at Wellington Hospital after suffering an acute prolonged seizure in April. The Nelson teen’s family campaigned for him to be given medical cannabis and in June he was prescribed cannabis oil. But just days before the approval, his mother Rose Renton secretly gave him doses of cannabis oil medication Elixinol after it was sent to her by another New Zealand mother.
Sales of legalized marijuana have put over $65 million into Washington state’s tax coffers over the past year, officials said. They are now lowering excise taxes and regulating medical cannabis to help the fledgling industry. Residents of the northwestern US state voted in 2012 to legalize the possession and sale of limited amounts of marijuana. The law went into effect last July, allowing residents 21 and older to possess up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. They can also purchase up to 16 ounces (454 grams) of marijuana-infused products in solid form, or up to 72 ounces (2 kg) in liquid form. The state currently has about 160 shops open, with sales topping $1.4 million per day, according to figures released by the state’s Liquor Control Board, soon to be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board. So far, the revenue from marijuana sales has exceeded $260 million, with close to $70 million from excise, state and local taxes going into the state government’s coffers – nearly double the original forecast of $36 million.
Washington’s voters legalized recreational marijuana the same day that Colorado’s did, but so far that state has been far behind Colorado in creating the infrastructure for the new industry. Far behind in most ways, that is: Last week the Colorado Board of Health again rejected adding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed, but Washington will be approving PTSD on July 24. In making its decision, the Colorado board cited a lack of sufficient scientific evidence proving the plant’s effective treatment of PTSD — but Sue Sisley begs to differ. She’s the Arizona physician who’s been researching the effect of marijuana on veterans suffering from PTSD, and had been awarded a $2 million grant from Colorado for a study that’s gained the approval of the FDA — but that study continues to be on hold, since the fed-approved facility has not been able to produce the requested strains of cannabis.
First-ever cannabis commercial to air on American TV [Market Watch]
ABC’s Denver affiliate, KMGH, will become the first television station to air an advertisement for a legal marijuana company on Mondaynight, marketing agency Cannabrand confirmed. The spot, which will be an advertisement for cannabis-extract company Neos, will run at10:35 p.m., before “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Neos is a client of Cannabrand. Olivia Mannix, co-founder of Cannabrand, said the commercial follows state cannabis advertising regulations, which specifically prohibit images of marijuana and marketing to minors. The Colorado Department of Revenue prohibits cannabis advertising that has a “high likelihood of reaching minors,” thus television advertisements cannot run during programs where there is “reliable evidence” that more than 30% of the audience is under 21. Mannix said Cannabrand analyzed Nielsen data to determine that 90% of the audience during that time slot is over 21. She described the 15-second advertisement as “whimsical,” displaying clips of Colorado scenery. The ad makes no mention of cannabis verbally or visually.
Advert for marijuana product pulled from US TV over legal concerns [The Independent]
America’s first ever advert for a marijuana product has been pulled because of concerns about its legality. The 15-second commercial for Neos, a company which makes “vape pens” infused with cannabis oil had planned to run the advert on the Denver based TV channel KMGH, in Colorado. KMGH’s parent company Srcipps, pulled the slot as they investigate the legality of airing a ‘federally illegal’ substance on federal airwaves.”
With Justice and Dignity: A Caravan for Peace [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition]
A powerful documentary produced by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) featuring the Caravan For Peace, a 30-day excursion around the U.S. which LEAP members took in 2012 with mothers and relatives of Mexican victims of the War on Drugs. With Justice and Dignity: A Caravan for Peace, highlights the excruciating consequences of our nation’s disastrous drug policies. Between August 12 and September 12, 2012, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials who, after seeing firsthand the harms of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end, accompanied Javier Sicilia’s Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity from the Mexican border, through 27 U.S. cities, to Washington D.C. Representing the 70,000 murdered and tens of thousands disappeared in Mexico since 2006, LEAP and 110 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and other survivors, all victims of the war on drugs, undertook this mission to create a dialogue with the American public, with whom they shared their stories of suffering and pain throughout their journey. LEAP backed the victims’ testimony with law enforcement voices bearing personal witness to the harms and wasteful futility of the War on Drugs here in the United States. This moving story of law enforcement coming together with drug war survivors reveals the truth about the value of ending the violence generated by drug prohibition.
In front of thousands of NAACP convention attendees in Philadelphia, President Obama called for sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system. Obama’s speech to the NAACP on Tuesday was important. But politics depends on mass engagement. “For mass incarceration’s price, we could send everyone to college free; we could double teacher salaries”
Hawaii to start licensing medical marijuana dispensaries [Los Angeles Times]
Fifteen years after Hawaii legalized medical marijuana, the state plans to begin licensing pot dispensaries. Until now, Hawaii’s 13,000 qualified patients had to grow their own marijuana or buy it on the black market. Gov. David Ige signed the measure Tuesday, along with an accompanying bill that bans discrimination against medical marijuana patients. Both laws went into effect Wednesday, but it will take months for the state to draft rules to implement the licensing law. “The bill sets a timeline,” Ige in a statement. “We will make a good-faith effort to create a fair process that will help the people most in need.” The state’s Department of Health will develop administrative rules, including licensing application criteria and regulations, for a medical marijuana dispensary system. Applications will be accepted beginning early next year. Hawaii will license eight dispensaries, which can begin selling medical marijuana to registered patients by November 2016, according to the Department of Health. Those who apply for licenses must have lived in Hawaii for at least five years and have at least $1 million under their control, according to the law. Paul Armentan, deputy director of the NORML Foundation, an advocacy group working to legalize marijuana, said the financial qualifications were part of a larger trend that effectively limits licenses to those with access to venture capital.
I read with interest Nolan Finley’s Editor’s Note, “Get pot legalization right,” and his prediction that marijuana would be legal for adults in Michigan by the end of 2016. To that end, I have been working on legislation to decriminalize and regulate the trade in marijuana. Getting it right and learning from the experience in Colorado is critical if Michigan is to maximize the public safety and financial gains of ending prohibition. What we’ve learned from Colorado is that encouraging compliance is the linchpin of a successful policy. Since marijuana has been illegal for so long, illegal paths of commerce are well established. If the barriers to get into the legal marijuana business are too onerous or the taxes too high, buyers and sellers won’t switch to the legal and regulated market. That’s why we need to set a tax rate and licensing rules that encourage residents to legitimize their activity and comply with the law. Regulations should be drafted narrowly to protect consumers and maintain safe facilities. But regulations should not cater to Reefer Madness hysteria, smothering legal players with rules and thereby advantaging illegal sales. Put simply, we should make participation in the legal market the most rational choice for buyers and sellers.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom releases report on guidelines for marijuana legalization [Los Angeles Times]
A panel chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes to guide the debate on the legalization of marijuana in California with an emphasis on limiting children’s access to cannabis, reducing illegal activity and tightly regulating the drug’s growth and sales. In a report released Wednesday, the group lays out 58 recommendations and goals for implementing general legalization — an issue expected to go before voters next year. The document offers broad principles –“protecting California’s youth” — as well as nitty-gritty suggestions for collecting data and limiting advertising. Newsom said in an interview that he hopes the report offers guidance to proponents of a legalization initiative aimed at the November 2016 ballot, as well as to help lawmakers and officials who would have to implement it if it passed. The report does not explicity endorse or oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, although Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, has been outspoken in support of legalization and is the highest-ranking California official to take that position. However, Newsom said, the drafting of the report “tempered…significantly” his enthusiasm for unfettered legalization. “I’m more cautious as a parent, more cautious as a policymaker,” Newsom said. “…We don’t want this to be the next Gold Rush.” The report calls for strong regulation of the marijuana market from the outset. It suggests establishing licensing and training standards, and designating a central entity to oversee legalization.
U.S. sees profound cultural shift on marijuana legalization [Los Angeles Times]
Marijuana is no longer whispered about, nor hidden in back rooms and basements. It has come into the open in American life despite decades of prohibition and laws treating the drug as more dangerous than meth and cocaine. When the New York Times’ editorial board called this weekend for the U.S. government to end its ban on weed — and let states decide how to regulate it — the newspaper reflected what a majority of Americans have told pollsters: Marijuana should be legal. The status quo, according to advocates and even the president, has resulted in the disproportionate arrests of minorities and the poor. “The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast,” the editorial said. “There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to FBI figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.” These are not new arguments. But this time they come from the New York Times, not High Times. Support for marijuana legalization has grown so rapidly within the last decade, and especially within the last two years, that some advocates and pollsters have compared it with the sudden collapse of opposition to same-sex marriage as a culture-redefining event. Gallup has found more popular support for legalizing marijuana than for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Willie Nelson, the outlaw country singer and Texas legend, predicts marijuana will be legal in all 50 states by the end of the decade. Speaking to KSAT 12 reporter Paul Venema, Nelson cited the opportunity to make big bucks as the primary reason that the drug will be legalized. Laws that legalize the recreational use of marijuana have been passed in Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and the District of Columbia, according to Governing. “The bottom line is money, and once those old guys see how much money is being made in Colorado and Washington, all the places that it is legal, they’ll say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We may want to think about it,'” Nelson told KSAT. Nelson isexpected to launch his own marijuana company in Colorado this fall.
Budding marijuana plants found in Swift Current planters [CBC News Canada]
Swift Current police found a different and unusual kind vegetation in one of the city’s planters. Officers were called to the 200 and 300 block of Central Avenue North on Monday. They found several marijuana plants growing amongst other flowers, turning the plant holders into pot holders. “Somebody … dropped some seeds; that would be the most logical reason,” said Staff Sergeant Gary Hodges. “We have no idea of who was responsible for it.”
The force said they would still prosecute operators of commercial cannabis farms or those who were being “blatant”. Cannabis users will be able to grow the substance for their own consumption after a police force relaxed their drugs policy. Durham Constabulary will no longer target individuals who have cannabis plants at home after they declared the illegal activity is not a priority. But the force said they would still prosecute operators of commercial cannabis farms or those who were being “blatant”. Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg outlined the plans and said he hopes the chance to avoid prosecution will stop the cycle of reoffending. Mr Hogg said: “We are not prioritising people who have a small number of cannabis plants for their own use. In low level cases we say it is better to work with them and put them in a position where they can recover. In these cases the most likely way of dealing with them would be with a caution and by taking the plants away and disposing of them. It is unlikely that a case like that would be brought before a court.”
Open Letter To The UK PM [Breaking Convention]
Dear Prime Minister, We the undersigned request that HM Government immediately reconsiders the proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill (2015). If enacted, the Psychoactive Substances Bill would be unlikely to reduce the market for new psychoactive substances (NPS), which are mostly sold “not for human consumption”. The law will place the market in the hands of unregulated criminal organisations; increasing the likelihood of violence between competitors over market control as well as driving market focus on products that are higher in price and potency. Unregulated illegal markets have no incentive to comply with quality assurance protocols and accurate labelling of products, resulting in increased health risks for users and a greater strain on the already overburdened National Health Service. Medical science will suffer from the proposed legislation, just as it continues to suffer from the over rigid regulation of other controlled psychoactive substances. Scheduling psychoactive agents in a blanket ban will impede the development of novel psychiatric medicines and prevent vulnerable members of society from potentially benefiting from new treatments. Furthermore, any legislation that prohibits the sale of all psychoactive compounds without proper consideration of their relative harms and benefits presents an unwarranted threat to the long-standing freedoms of UK citizens. It is not possible to legislate against all psychoactive agents without criminalising the sale of dozens of harmless, everyday products that produce changes in mood and behaviour, from fresh flowers and herbs to spices and incense. If the Government is genuinely serious about reducing drug-related harms, it should ensure that policy-makers focus their attention on public health campaigns, wide-ranging educational initiatives, effective drug treatment strategies, and the adequate funding of relevant medical and scientific research.
Two jailed for growing 570 cannabis plants at a Swedish school [The Independent]
Two men have been sentenced to prison for growing cannabis at a drug farm in a Swedish school. As reported by The Local, the men were found guilty of growing around 570 cannabis plants at a disused school in Lysekil, a small town in southern Sweden. One was given three years in prison, the other, two and a half years, at a trial at Gothenburg District Court. The plants were found by police in December last year, and according to regional newspaper reports from the time, they would have produced around 31 kilos of cannabis.
This series will take a step-by-step look at the process of completing a successful marijuana license application. When it comes to the competitive licensing process for medical marijuana across the United States, people often underestimate the scope and scale of the activities that go into a solid application effort. Some states allow any operators who meet certain licensing requirements to open businesses, but many states are only awarding a limited number of licenses to the best qualified applicants. In these competitive states, much more goes into the process than the public anticipates.
A new study found the unintended way legalized marijuana is likely preventing overdose deaths [Upworthy]
Weed might actually be saving lives! To understand how, let’s start by talking about prescription painkillers. Painkiller abuse has become a major problem in America. In 2011, the CDC reported that more people died from overdosing on painkillers than from cocaine and heroincombined. In fact, America’s prescription painkiller problem has become so dire the CDC considers it an epidemic. And that’s where legal weed comes in. New research has found that access to medical marijuana is likely saving lives by reducing overdose deaths caused by prescription painkillers. Many people who use medical marijuana do so to alleviate chronic pain associated with various ailments. So a few smart folks set out to find the answer to the logical question: Is legal marijuana acting as an alternative for people who might otherwise use and abuse painkillers? Those smart folks — better known as researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and the RAND Corporation — analyzed U.S. states that permit medical marijuana to see if they could find some answers. And answers they did find: “Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.”
More than 65% of the marijuana-related messages posted by adolescents on Twitter indicate a positive attitude toward marijuana use, and of the teens’ original tweets evaluated as part of a recent study, nearly 43% suggest personal use of the drug. Sharing these positive perceptions and acceptance of marijuana use on social media contributes to normalization of the behavior, according to the article published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website until August 15, 2015.
No bones about it: Cannabis may be used to treat fractures [Medical Xpress]
Cannabis—marijuana, hashish—was used as a go-to medical remedy by societies around the world for centuries. But the therapeutic use of marijuana was banned in most countries in the 1930s and ’40s due to a growing awareness of the dangers of addiction. The significant medical benefits of marijuana in alleviating symptoms of such diseases as Parkinson’s, cancer, and multiple sclerosis have only recently been reinvestigated. A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research by Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University researchers explores another promising new medical application for marijuana. According to the research, the administration of the non-psychotropic component cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) significantly helps heal bone fractures. The study, conducted on rats with mid-femoral fractures, found that CBD—even when isolated from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive component of cannabis—markedly enhanced the healing process of the femora after just eight weeks.
Why hemp and marijuana are different [Science Daily]
Genetic differences between hemp and marijuana determine whether Cannabis plants have the potential for psychoactivity, a new study shows. The market for hemp seed and fiber in the U.S. surpassed $600 million last year alone. But despite the plant’s surging popularity as an ingredient in food, personal care products, clothing and even construction, commercial hemp cultivation is prohibited by the federal government. Currently, all hemp products are imported to the U.S.
Cannabis, marijuana, herb, dope, grass, weed, ganja, yadda, yadda, yadda: There are few things in the world with as many names, but when people who wear tailored suits or uniforms refer (not reefer) to this plant, they generally chose between cannabis and marijuana. What is it about these two words that sets them apart from countless others in the eyes of professionals, and what does a person’s choice of word tell us about their motivation? The word marijuana is generally used by two types of people: North American politicians (and their institutional subordinates bureaucrats, police, and mainstream media), and people who have never used ‘marijuana’. The word cannabis is used by politicians everywhere else, and people who are well informed and well read on the subject. My point here is that, when reading or listening to anything in the media about cannabis (yes, I fall into the later category, this website isn’t called ‘marilio.com’) one should pay close attention to the speaker’s choice of words. If you do this, you might notice things like: Marijuana people are always talking about a ‘lack of scientific evidence’, where cannabis people are always citing scientific evidence.
No smoke without fire – the link between smoking and mental health [The Conversation]
A recent study suggested a causal association between smoking tobacco and developing psychosis or schizophrenia, building on research about the relationship between the use of substances and the risk of psychosis. While cannabis is one of the usual suspects, a potential link with tobacco will have come as a surprise to many. The report was based on a review of 61 observational studies and began with the hypothesis that if tobacco smoking played a part in increasing psychosis risk, rather than being used to deal with symptoms that were already there, people would have higher rates of smoking at the start of their illness. It also posited that smokers have a higher risk of developing psychosis and an earlier onset of symptoms to non-smokers. They found that more than half of people with a first episode of schizophrenia were already smokers, three times higher than that of a control group. However, one of the limitations of the study, as the authors admit, is that many of the studies in their review did not control for the consumption of substances other than tobacco, such as cannabis. As many people combine tobacco with cannabis when they smoke a joint, the extent to which tobacco is the risk factor is still unclear. One clear message the research highlighted was the high level of smoking among those with mental health problems and that smoking is not necessarily simply something that alleviates symptoms – the so-called “self-medication hypothesis”.