Prohibition is great for the economy.
There is almost as much money in enforcing the law as there is in illegal trade. Prohibition is another form of quantitative easing that keeps the cash flowing.
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.
Medical cannabis company sells its first marijuana pills [The Independent]
A company has sold its first marijuana pills legally, and they are available to buy over the internet in Europe. The company sells CBD, or Cannabidiol, capsules. They are made from a strain of marijuana that helps keep the CBD but not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which causes the intoxicating and psychological effects of marijuana. The company says that CBD can help with chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, diabetes, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD, sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, and various neurological ailments. The company, MMJ PhytoTech, is based in Australia, where medical marijuana is still mostly illegal. But the capsules are made in Switzerland and registered in Germany, and can be bought in Europe through the company’s online store.
Senator Di Natale on the Regulator of Medical Cannabis Bill [4ZZZ Brisbane]
Over the past decades medical cannabis users have advocated to change a system which sees sick and dying people and their carers criminalised for getting relief for serious and life-threatening medical conditions. Cancer sufferers and their families and those living with epilepsy, HIV, chronic pain and muscle spasms have all reported how cannabis reduces nausea, restores appetites and prevents or eases seizures. For medical cannabis users the hope for legal cannabis medicine lies with a bill called the Regulator of Medical Cannabis Bill, which has been drawn up by the Greens leader Richard Di Natale and a cross-party group of Senators with the aim that Medicinal cannabis should be treated like any other medicine. The aim is that Australians will have a legitimate Medicinal Cannabis Regulatory body so that treatment, research and expertise can be shared between patients and doctors in a safe environment. Senator DI NATALE spoke to 4zzz’s JOHN JIGGENS.
Police have seized a plane laden with drugs and arrested 11 people in a huge cross-border operation targeting bikie-linked criminals. The pilot of a light aircraft carrying 45kg of cannabis and other drugs was arrested when it landed in the NSW town of Deniliquin, close to the Victorian border on Wednesday afternoon, police say. Police allege affiliates of the Descendants and Hells Angels bikie gangs in South Australia have been smuggling commercial quantities of drugs and firearms into NSW, and the plane was part of that operation. Search warrants were executed simultaneously in Hay, 120km north of Deniliquin, nine properties in Adelaide, and a number of properties on Queensland’s Gold Coast and in Brisbane.
Changes to the state’s drug laws that will result in lower-level ice dealers facing a possible sentence of life in prison have been criticised by experts in the legal and drug rehabilitation sectors as an outdated response to NSW’s ice problem. Previously, people found in possession of a quantity of ice between 250 grams but below one kilogram – classified under legislation as a “commercial quantity” – could be charged with offences carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years. But on Monday the NSW government announced the halving of the threshold for the more serious charges of supplying or manufacturing “large commercial quantities” of ice, which attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, from one kilogram to 500 grams. The change takes effect from Tuesday. Criminal law expert Stephen Odgers, SC, said the changes would increase the burden on the state’s already overcrowded prisons without having any deterrent effect. “This will not result in any reduction in ice consumption or ice supply or ice manufacture and nobody could realistically think otherwise,” he said. “There have been many, many empirical studies which show that increases in the severity of penalties with increasing lengths of imprisonment do not have any real effect on the crime rate.”
Is there an ice epidemic? Interview with Dr David Caldicott [4ZZZ Brisbane]
Tony Abbott has called ice “the worst drug scourge Australia has ever faced”, claiming it is “far more addictive and dangerous than any other illegal drug.” Justice Minister Michael Keenan has called ice a “mind-eating drug” and our “nation’s addiction”, while the media frequently claim the nation is facing an “ice epidemic”. An expensive and sensational advertising campaign, “Ice destroys lives’, has been launched by the government to deal with the problem. Yet many experts worry politicians are overplaying the problem and allowing hysteria to hijack the issue. Dr DAVID CALDICOTT is an Emergency Consultant at the Emergency Department of the Calvary Hospital in Canberra, who serves on the front line of Australia’s drug problems. A prominent critic of prohibitionist drug policies, he spoke to 4ZZZ’s JOHN JIGGENS about the politics and the reality of Australia’s so-called “ice epidemic”.
Dabbing: the ‘cannabis crack’ that makes skunk seem weak [The Guardian]
As soon as they find out what it is, the tabloids are going to freak out about dabbing. This new technique for getting stoned involves young people heating a pinhead’s worth of super-concentrated cannabis oil with a blowtorch, then inhaling it through a glass pipe. For detractors, it’s known as “cannabis crack”. “Imagine a joint is equivalent to a pint of lager,” says Sam (not his real name) from the London Cannabis Club. “Doing a dab is like downing a quarter pint of vodka.” Even seasoned smokers are surprised by the strength. Street cannabis has around a 15% concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient. A dab has up to 90%. Those scare stories about skunk are going to look dated very quickly.
‘Shatter’: Man found with 100g of potent form of cannabis which looks like broken glass [The Independent]
A potent cannabis product, which is reportedly six times stronger than average, has been found on a man in Canada. Police discovered approximately 100 grams of “shatter” after pulling the man over in his vehicle for driving while on a mobile phone in Nova Scotia. Shatter is given its name due to the look and feel of the product, which is similar to broken glass. It is amber in colour and resembles toffee or honey. It is made by extracting resin from cannabis marijuana and soaking it in solvents, and is then extracted a second time which removes any lipids of fats.
We Need to Get the Facts Right on Cannabis Addiction [Huffington Post]
In 2013, Professor Wayne Hall presented a paper at an International Cannabis Policy Symposium hosted by the New Zealand Drug Foundation in Auckland. It was a review into 20 years of existing research into cannabis titled “What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use?”. So far, so uncontroversial. But then the paper was published online in late 2014, and all of a sudden newspapers ran with alarmist headlines saying that cannabis “makes you stupid” and is“as addictive as heroin.” These headlines, though, are simply not supported by the scientific evidence. So what did the paper actually say? Among other things, it found that cannabis use may be harmful to health, and that the risk of developing dependence among those who have used cannabis across their lifetimes was slightly less than 10 per cent. The risk is lower among people who had used it for only one year and those who had used cannabis for ten years, with a two per cent and six per cent chance of developing dependence respectively.
The Real Dark Side Of Prohibition [Cannabis Law Reform]
There are many arguments against the current drugs policy – not just cannabis but all drugs. in particular we are well aware of what the prohibitionists euphemistically call the “unforeseen consequences” of prohibition; violence, destruction of communities, corruption of government and so on. What is never discussed is how these “unintended consequences” came about. In part of course it’s a simple issue of supply and demand, but that only goes a part of the way to explain what happens. Under prohibition, large sections of society live outside of the law and therein lies the key to understanding how these problems developed. In normal law abiding society was can rely on people to expose serious wrong doing because it’s in their interest to do so and they would have nothing to fear from the state as a consequence. When lifestyles are criminalised that situation changes. This is why laws which drive large numbers of people into underground cultures can be so dangerous.
Male teens who experiment with cannabis before age 16, and have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia, show a different brain development trajectory than low risk peers who use cannabis. The discovery, made from a combined analysis of over 1,500 youth, contributes to a growing body of evidence implicating cannabis use in adolescence and schizophrenia later in life.
Daily cannabis use among US university students highest since 1980, new study finds [The Independent]
The number of US university students who smoke cannabis on a near-daily basis is at its greatest for 35 years – and has even surpassed daily cigarette use, according to a recent study. As part of the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, a series of national surveys showed use of the drug has been growing slowly on the nation’s campuses since 2006, with 5.9 per cent saying they smoke it almost every day – the highest number since 1980. This figure is up considerably from 2007 when 3.5 per cent admitted to the same, meaning one in every 17 university students is now smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis.
Becoming a Marihuana User [Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society]
On April 25, 1953, Howard S. Becker, a graduate of the University of Chicago’s famed School of Sociology, presented a paper at the meeting of the Midwest Sociological Association to a room of about a dozen people. It was based on fifty interviews with marijuana smokers and his “irregular and unplanned observation” of their habits, all of this taking place in his “social laboratory” of Chicago. If the confused questions he received afterward were any indication, what Becker sought to explain was stunningly avant-garde: at the core of his paper was a new conception of how and why marijuana smokers got high. As he explains in the new preface to his 1953 book Becoming a Marihuana User, “I liked the idea of understanding the characteristic ‘getting high’ experience not as an unmediated pharmacologically induced event, but rather as the result of users’ interpretations of those effects.” This emphasis on ideas that few, if any, sociologists were discussing at the time – personal experience with drug use and individual users’ interpretations of its effects – meant that Becker was talking about things like peer influence and “set and setting” over a decade before Timothy Leary discussed the concept in reference to LSD.
A man sentenced to life in prison without parole on a marijuana-related charge was freed on Tuesday from a Missouri prison after being behind bars for two decades – a period in which the nation’s attitudes toward pot have steadily softened. Family, friends, supporters and reporters flocked to meet Jeff Mizanskey as he stepped out of the Jefferson City correctional center into a sunny morning, wearing a new pair of white tennis shoes and a shirt that read: “I’m Jeff & I’m free”. “I spent a third of my life in prison,” said Mizanskey, now 62, who was greeted by his infant great-granddaughter. “It’s a shame.” After a breakfast of steak and eggs with family, Mizanskey said, he planned to spend his post-prison life seeking a job and advocating for the legalization of marijuana. He criticized sentencing for some drug-related crimes as unfair and described his time behind bars as “hell”. His release followed years of lobbying by relatives, lawmakers and others who argued that the sentence was too stiff and that marijuana should not be forbidden.
As marijuana legalization progresses, we are seeing an increasing number of photos and videos of cultivation facilities. These images of marijuana grow rooms give us small windows into the origin of our marijuana. Unfortunately, the images we get are often of poorly controlled facilities that would not pass any food or pharmaceutical industry audit. This is particularly shocking because the images are not taken during unannounced audits. There should be plenty of time to clean the workspace, groom the area, and properly dress the workers. What these images show is simply careless hygienic practice.
Drug violence can be ended, if we make a better choice. How can I be so sure? I studied the evidence from the US: it only started once the trade was criminalized, and transferred to criminals. And – even more crucially – I went to the countries that have moved beyond the drug war. For example, I went to Switzerland, where heroin has been made legal for addicts, who get it from clinics. The most detailed academic study, by Professor Ambrose Uchtenhagen, found 55% fewer vehicle thefts and 80% fewer muggings and burglaries, and a fall in crime that was – as the study puts it – “almost immediate.” Do you know how many violent heroin dealers there are now in Switzerland? None. They don’t exist. There were no violent drug-dealers before the war on drugs; and there are no violent drug dealers after the war on drugs.
Four times as many men as women are diagnosed with cannabis psychosis [The Conversation]
The journey from first using cannabis through to developing mental health problems is very different for men and women. Men outnumber women at every point along the way. Despite these marked gender differences, little attention has been paid to such a basic demographic factor in cannabis psychosis and the underlying reasons for why men fare so poorly. The first clue might be found in who uses cannabis. The most comprehensive survey of drug use in the UK shows a consistent trend of twice as many men than women reporting that they have used cannabis. But no one really knows why there is a marked variation between the genders when it comes to using cannabis. Some have suggested that drug use carries more social stigma for women than men, and that younger men are also more likely than women to engage in risk-taking behaviour including illicit drug use. Others have said that men are more likely to use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, while women tend to cope with stress by using social support. Differences in the rates of psychosis unrelated to cannabis also mirror the gender differences evident in cannabis users, with males outnumbering females by a ratio of 2:1. Cannabis has been linked to psychosis for some time and although the debate continues as to the exact nature of the relationship, many people require health and social care for the problems they experience. However, it is interesting that despite the widespread attention that researchers have paid to cannabis psychosis there has yet to be a large scale analysis of the role gender in the condition. To date, seminal research on this issue has focused disproportionately on men or on small samples. We analysed admissions to hospital in England and found that men are four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with cannabis psychosis. These elevated rates were consistent over the 11 years of the study period.
Underlying the debate over marijuana legalization has been an equally fierce battle between marijuana and another so-called vice industry: alcohol. As an increasing number of states look to join the four states and Washington DC in legalizing recreational marijuana, many in the alcohol industry have feared that legalized weed will cut into their existing profits. But a few years into Colorado legalization, alcohol sales are up in the state, and those in the alcohol business have embraced their fellow industry. In the 18 months since recreational sales were legalized in Colorado, “we’ve just seen phenomenal growth”, said Justin Martz, 32, who runs Mr B’s Wine & Spirits in downtown Denver. He noted that there was some concern initially about legalization, “but it’s really turned out to be a non-issue”. In fact, he said, “if anything it’s kind of helped us. A high tide lifts all boats.”
Some people say that the legalization of cannabis is going to take some time, but it seems that maybe that time is upon us or just around the corner. Over the next fourteen months, North Americans will have their best chances ever to legalize cannabis and outlaw its prohibition. OnOctober 18/15, a month or two from now, the citizens of Canada will be voting in their forty second general election. This will be our first federal election where the cannabis voter’s will have a choice of more than one party that supports its legalization.
Michigan rejects use of medical marijuana for autism [Detroit Free Press]
Gov. Rick Snyder’s top state regulator on Thursday rejected a state panel’s advice to allow medical marijuana as a treatment for autism. The decision followed three years of efforts by parents of autistic children, their lawyers and supporters to have Michigan become the first state to specify that marijuana could be used to treat autism.
[From the Vaults] Northern Star, NSW, Thursday 29 May 1913
MEXICAN PLANTS THAT BRING INSANITY
The revolution in Mexico brought about not only the ravages of war, but also the degradation of the social condition of soldiers and prisoners. One of the latest forms of dissipation in the ranks of the Federals and Rebels alike is the habit of smoking marihuana, a deadly native plant of Mexico. According to reports, many of the Mexican prisoners in the Belem prison in tho City of Mexico went off their heads as a result of smoking this weed.
The dry leaves of marihuana alone, or mixed with tobacco, make the smoker wilder than a wild beast. It is said that after the first three or four draughts of smoke the smoker feels a slight headache, then he sees everything moving, and finally loses all control of his mental faculties.
The next stage of the intoxication is full of terrors. Troops of ferocious wild animals march before the vision of the smoker. Lions, tigers, panthers, and other wild beasts occupy his vision. These wild animals are then attacked by host of devils and monsters of unheard of shapes. The smoker becomes brave and possessed of superhuman strength. It is at this stage of the debauch that murders are committed by smokers of the marihuana weed.
A few outsiders have experimented with the weed. A few years ago a well known citizen of San Antonio purchased a large coffee plantation in Southern Mexico. He was induced to try smoking marihuana; he became addicted to the habit, which rendered him insane and finally caused his death.
In another instance the superintendent of a mine in Mexico, who was an American, became the object of hatred of one of the men in his employ. The Mexican mixed marihuana, with the American’s tobacco. The latter became wildly insane from smoking the mixture, and made a vicious attack upon a party of miners, and was shot and killed in the affray.
Not long ago a Mexican of the lower class, living in the city of Mexico, who had smoked a marihuana cigarette, became insane, attacked and killed a policeman, and badly wounded three others.
Marihuana is one of the most dangerous drugs found in Mexico. The weed grows wild in many localities in the southern part of that country. Its wonderful powers as an intoxicant have long been known to the natives, and many are the wild orgies it has produced. So dangerous is this weed that in the City of Mexico and other Mexican cities the Government keeps special inspectors constantly employed to see that it is not sold in the markets.
A Hunter Valley grazier and well-known industrial hemp grower will address next week’s Byron Bioenergy Conference, to update northern rivers farmers on the fledgling hemp industry, describing hemp as ‘almost the perfect crop’.
But he says large-scale hemp-fibre processing is still some time off with a lack of large-scale processing plant.