From Reefer Madness to the Last Resort
Law enforcement continues as we are told there will soon be legal relief for the chosen few, via people who don’t know what they’re dealing with, when somebody else makes a decision that was already defined in previous inquiries. Doctors prescribing Cannabis will need to know something about the endocannabinoid system and how it reacts to phytocannabinoids in the treatment of medical conditions before dealing bags of weed to patients.
Cannabis is the first choice for treatment and could replace many current patented drugs because it is more effective, less toxic and cheaper to produce. Supplying Cannabis as a last resort, when all else fails, to a restricted list of medical conditions is not going to help the majority of people who already use Cannabis for medical purposes.
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.
Victoria is set to become the first state in Australia to legalise marijuana cultivation to treat serious medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain. But the push – underpinned by a landmark report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission – hinges on the agreement of the Turnbull government, which is a signatory to international rules covering the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis. As revealed in The Age last month, a landmark study by the commission recommends a strictly controlled licensing scheme to produce medicinal cannabis, similar to the system for growing poppies. Under the report’s 42 recommendations – almost all of which will be adopted in full by the Andrews government – licensed cultivators and manufacturers will be able to produce a range of cannabis products, including oils, tinctures, capsules, sprays and vaporisable liquids. These products will be sold at pharmacies, but only when authorised by a specialist doctor in a manner similar to the methadone program. But the report stressed medical marijuana will not be legally available in a smokable form. The commission’s chairman, Philip Cummins, said the recommendations had been driven by compassion for those dealing with debilitating conditions who have no effective medical relief. The government will begin a cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility. An independent medical advisory committee will also be set up to provide advice about expanding eligibility to further patient groups.
Medicinal cannabis will be grown and supplied to patients in Victoria as early as 2017. Children suffering severe epilepsy will be among the first to be treated using a range of non-smokable marijuana products including oils, sprays and vaporisers. Legislation will be introduced by the end of the year establishing the Office of Medicinal Cannabis which will oversee research, development and the dispensing of marijuana products. The move comes after the Victorian Law Reform handed down 42 recommendations on August 31, including how to dispense the drug through pharmacies to patients who have been prescribed treatment by a medical specialist. The report recommends strictly forbidding people to grow their own cannabis and instead calls for licensed manufacturers similar to the opium poppy industry. Premier Daniel Andrews said the “landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer”. Patients must suffer severe epileptic seizures, muscle spasms resulting from multiple sclerosis, severe pain and nausea arising from cancer or HIV/AIDS or chronic pain approved by two specialists. Patients with other medical conditions may be considered in exceptional circumstances but must be approved by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
It’s happened. On Tuesday the office of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the state will implement a legal framework around legal medicinal cannabis. “I’ve seen first-hand how medicinal cannabis can change people’s lives,” said Premier Andrews. “This landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.” Statewide sales are set to commence by 2017, with children suffering severe epilepsy granted priority access. Of course 2017 is a while away but state legislation is still yet to be written, and permission is yet to be granted by the Federal Government.
100,000 NSW residents to be targeted in ‘wasteful, unfair’ roadside drug testing [Sydney Morning Herald]
Nearly 100,000 NSW residents each year will be subjected to roadside drug testing that police admit does not look for drugs that are still active in a person’s system and critics say is about mass punishment of drug users, not road safety. Documents obtained by the NSW Greens under freedom of information laws show there is no lower limit of drugs that are detectable in the saliva of people subjected to the roadside oral drug tests, and no proof the tests are effective in preventing crashes. The offence of driving “with the presence of cannabis, speed/ice or MDMA/ecstasy in oral fluid” is separate to the charge of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and police operating procedures reveal the tests do not imply a person is impaired by their drug use. “We are talking about inevitably thousands of people who will be losing their licence for up to 12 months and having to pay significant fines when there was no evidence they were a danger to other road users,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Pro-cannabis protestors have voiced their opposition to roadside impairment testing outside Lismore courthouse on Monday. They argue the tests are inaccurate and are costing too many locals their licenses and livelihoods.
‘Polite’ protest drug driving laws at Lismore court [Northern Star]
A protest against roadside drug testing drew a throng of support as 51 locals faced Lismore Local Court charged with driving with an illicit drug present in their bodies. Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said the NSW Government was justifying an expansion in roadside drug testing as their main weapon in the war against ice. Mr Balderstone said on Monday September 14, 69 locals faced Lismore Local Court on drug driving charges. “Long term cannabis users who have been driving safely for years are staying at home for fear of losing their licence,” he said. Being fat soluble, Mr Balderstone said cannabis should be treated differently to other illegal drugs. “Cannabis is uniquely fat soluble, unlike all other drugs, and stays in your system for weeks if not months,” he said. “Cannabis is also unique in that it’s an unprocessed dried herb, unlike all other refined or synthetic powders and pills, which are much harder to detect and easier to hide. Sniffer dogs and saliva testing drivers is like shooting fish in a barrel for police and it’s actually doing the opposite to what was intended, in that it’s encouraging people to use other drugs than cannabis, like ice, which is out of your system overnight.”
Drug-driving rally outside Lismore court house [EchoNet Daily]
A Lismore solicitor believes the local court system is being clogged up with drug driving cases which often lead to unfair results for people. Solicitor Steve Bolt said many people were losing their licences despite the drug testing regime showing no impairment. Mr Bolt spoke to Echonetdaily outside the court house as a group of protestors gathered to damn the road-side drug testing in the region. Member’s of Nimbin’s Polite Force were on hand to carry out ‘impairment tests’ in an effort to show there are better ways to weed out bad drivers. Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said in places like America there is no testing for impairment for cannabis users. ‘If you look like you are impaired you have to get out of the car and walk the line or stand on one foot,’ he said. ‘Yet a lot of people have lost their licences and a lot of daily cannabis users are not going out anymore because of this.’ Hemp farmer Andrew Kavasilas said the drug testing regime was holding back the lucrative hemp food industry in Australia.
What is NCPIC for? [Unharm!]
The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre’s conference is on right now in Melbourne. (Follow the action on #cannabisconference15) You might be wondering to yourself, how did NCPIC get started, and what is it actually for? In April 2008 Health Minister Nicola Roxon cut the ribbon on what was by then renamed ‘the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre’. It was established at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Two years on, the Department of Health and Ageing asked an organization called Urbis to evaluate the performance of NCPIC. ‘The Centre is considered to be highly efficient’ they said after three months research, but ‘it is not clear why the activities conducted will make a difference.’
US Justice Department set to free 6,000 prisoners, largest one-time release [The Washington Post]
The Justice Department is set to release about 6,000 inmates early from prison — the largest one-time release of federal prisoners — in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades, according to U.S. officials. The inmates from federal prisons nationwide will be set free by the department’s Bureau of Prisons between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. About two-thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release. About one-third are foreign citizens who will be quickly deported, officials said. The early release follows action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission — an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal crimes — that reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive.
U.S. to Release 6,000 Inmates From Prisons [The New York Times]
The Justice Department is preparing to release roughly 6,000 inmates from federal prisons starting at the end of this month as part of an effort to ease overcrowding and roll back the harsh penalties given to nonviolent drug dealers in the 1980s and ’90s, according to federal law enforcement officials. About a third of the inmates are undocumented immigrants who will be deported. The release will be one of the largest discharges of inmates from federal prisons in American history. It coincides with an intensifying bipartisan effort to ease the mass incarcerations that followed decades of tough sentencing for drug offenses — like dealing crack cocaine — which have taken a particularly harsh toll on minority communities. “Today’s announcement is nothing short of thrilling because it carries justice,” said Jesselyn McCurdy, a senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war. People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
Two Colorado marijuana users have sued a cannabis grower claiming a “patently dangerous” agricultural fungicide that becomes poisonous when ignited was applied without their knowledge to pot plants they later smoked, court documents showed on Monday. Brandan Flores and Brandie Larrabee allege that distributor and retailer LivWell has for years applied Eagle 20, a fungicide that contains the chemical myclobutanil, to its marijuana crop. The fungicide is approved for certain edible agricultural crops, but not for smokable products such as tobacco, according to the complaint filed in Denver District Court. “As such, persons who smoke cannabis that has been sprayed with Eagle 20 inhale … poisonous hydrogen cyanide,” the lawsuit said. Along with the District of Columbia, four states – Colorado Washington, Oregon and Alaska – allow the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Nearly two dozen states have medical marijuana laws on their books. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Steven Woodrow, said the complaint was the first product liability action filed against the legal marijuana industry that he is aware of, and he was seeking class-action status for the lawsuit.
At many horticultural trade shows in the US, stories are going around about the new ‘cash crop’ which growers, glasshouse builders, and investors are focusing on: cannabis sativa. For an average turnover of $4000 per square meter, are the Americans more than willing to turn their backs on tomatoes? In 2012, Washington, Colorado and Oregon were the first US states to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana. As a result of the progressive government of Obama, supported by the services of a battalion of persistent lobbyists, the legalized crop is spreading like wildfire across the nation.
Pennsylvania legislators moved one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana this week after a group of state House members unveiled recommendations to shape a bill that could be voted into law before the end of the year. The recommendations, prepared by 13 House members who had been discussing the issue since July, touched on subjects including how to license growers and sellers, and which medical conditions would qualify for a marijuana prescription. Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said the next step would be using the guidelines to draft a bill that can garner enough support in the House. “Hopefully, [it] passes by the end of the year,” Miskin said.
The open sale of recreational marijuana has come more swiftly to Portland than many expected. Legalisation was only approved in a ballot measure last November whereas Washington statetook 18 months to open its first shops. To speed up the process, Oregon has approved recreational sales through existing medical marijuana dispensaries, bypassing lengthy background checks which have slowed the roll-out across the state line. But it caught off-guard many of the dispensary owners who did not expect open sales to begin until the middle of next year. Mike Chappell, owner of Silver Stem Fine Cannabis in Portland, used to own a marijuana store in Colorado, which legalised sales last year. He said that whereas several dozen stores opened on Colorado’s first day of legalization, “in Portland we’re looking at 130, if not more, that are eligible to sell recreational marijuana,” he said. “We have no idea what’s going to happen, if we should expect a big line on the first day. It’s going to be the first time you can access it legally within a couple of blocks of your house. …We’re planning to see 200 customers a day if not a little more than that. But maybe nothing happens. We’re gearing up for the line but it’s unknown.”
Two Wisconsin tribes, the Menominee and the Ho-Chunk, look to follow South Dakota’s Flandreau Santee Sioux, seeing a potential revenue stream – but it could force them to cede some of their sovereignty to federal and local governments. ith 23 US states having legalized marijuana in some form – Oregon became the latest to permit the sale of marijuana for recreational on Thursday – some Native American nations are now also considering the possibility of legalizing the plant, in some cases because it could represent a revenue stream. Within the past few weeks, two Wisconsin nations, the Menominee and the Ho-Chunk, have registered popular support for such a move, one through a referendum and the other when tribal members voted to adopt a resolution supporting legalization. Marijuana is not legal in Wisconsin for any use. The relationship of Native American tribes to state and federal governments in the US is complex. Some tribes, such as the Ho-Chunk, are bound by state, federal and tribal law. Others, such as the Menominee, are bound only by federal and tribal law. A 2014 memorandum from the US Justice Departmentsuggested that US attorneys – the chief federal law enforcement officers for each jurisdiction – have the discretion to decide whether to enforce federal drug laws in Indian country. That document, however, leaves a great deal of room for interpretation, challenging Native governments to tread carefully as they move forward with any legalization processes. In order to create functional marijuana projects, tribal governments would have to negotiate agreements with state and local authorities, since marijuana is still illegal under federal law. “Tribes have to make some kind of deal with the devil,” said Gabe Galanda, a Seattle-based attorney focusing on Native American issues. “Tribal sovereignty means that state and local government have no say in the regulation of on-reservation affairs. Tribes that seek local and, in turn, federal support must either in letter or in spirit cede sovereignty to state and local government,” Galanda said.
Why Canada needs a new alcohol strategy [The Globe and Mail]
Marijuana continues to pop up during this (epically long) federal election campaign, with each party offering a different solution to keep the drug out of the hands of young people. It’s an important debate that essentially boils down to whether you think the current system – under which Canadian youth have become the top users of marijuana compared with their peers in the rest of the developed world – is working or if you believe, like a growing segment of the medical community, that change is needed. It’s ironic so many people are enraged over the public health consequences of marijuana policy, yet pay little attention to another harmful substance that poses a far greater threat to Canadians. It is alcohol – not marijuana, not prescription drugs, not even cigarettes – that attracts the largest number of young people. According to a 2012-13 Health Canada survey, 41 per cent of Grade 7 to Grade 12 students said they drank alcohol at least once in the previous year, compared with 19 per cent who had tried marijuana and 13 per cent who had smoked a cigarette. Of those who drank, 30 per cent binged – defined as five or more drinks at a single sitting – at least once. On average, Canadian young people have their first drink at the age of 13.
Experts refute Harper’s claim pot is more dangerous than tobacco [The Globe and Mail]
Is cannabis, as Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper claims, “infinitely worse” than tobacco, a substance that kills tens of thousands of Canadians each year? Definitely not, say medical researchers and addiction experts, who are refuting Mr. Harper’s provocative comparison between cigarettes and marijuana. The Canadian Cancer Society says smoking tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature deaths in the country, claiming about 37,000 lives each year. The non-profit organization says tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease in Canada. In contrast, no deaths have been directly attributed to cannabis use or overdose, says Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research. But it is likely a factor in “a few” fatal crashes and “a few” lung-cancer deaths each year, he said. “It’s not a harmless herb, but the mortality rate is dwarfed by that of tobacco,” Dr. Stockwell said.
Scotland Yard plans to monitor power surges to track cannabis farms [Evening Standard]
Scotland Yard is examining plans to monitor the electricity power supply network in an effort to identify the location of industrial cannabis farms. Police hope that spikes in electricity usage could lead them to addresses being used by organised crime gangs to run skunk farms. More than 650 cannabis farms – which use high powered growing lamps – are raided by police in England and Wales every month. Last month police in Kingston-upon-Thames found a cannabis “forest” larger than a football pitch that was hidden in suburban wasteland. The Met had hoped to put forward a scheme to monitor the electricity network last year but the project failed to get Home Office funding. Now an anti-theft database is being launched by energy suppliers which could also be used by police forces to gather information about electricity usage.
On 12th October, the petition to legalise cannabis will be debated by the UK Parliament. It presently stands at just under 220,000 signatures, the third biggest petition on the government’s website and demonstrates a revival of interest in this long running issue. Within the last few days, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform passed the milestone of 500,000 followers on social media. It is now one of the biggest pressure groups in the UK on any subject and one of the leading drug policy reform groups in the world, exceeding even generously-funded US groups. CLEAR is run entirely by volunteers. It exists on a shoestring budget, funded only by membership fees and donations. The momentum for cannabis law reform is growing all over the world. This week the US state of Oregon implemented its full legalisation programme. In Colorado where legalisation started in January 2014, this year will see well over $100 million collected in cannabis taxes, all of which is ringfenced for schools and hospitals.
It’s morning in America for potheads. More and more states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, studies are finding more and more medicinal uses for it, and the quality of herb is getting stronger by the season. As VICE weed correspondent T. Kid once wrote, “In place of the leafy, stem-filled weed that prevailed decades ago, we now have access to meticulously crafted cannabis flowers tinted white with THC crystals. These days, the weed is prettier, more fragrant, and gets you much, much higher than it ever did before.” This is all well and good, but I prefer shitty weed.
Exploring The Molecular Basis Of “Runner’s High” [Chemical & Engineering News]
After a nice long bout of aerobic exercise, some people experience what’s known as a “runner’s high”: a feeling of euphoria coupled with reduced anxiety and a lessened ability to feel pain. For decades, scientists have associated this phenomenon with an increased level in the blood of β-endorphins, opioid peptides thought to elevate mood. Now, German researchers have shown the brain’s endocannabinoid system—the same one affected by marijuana’s Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—may also play a role in producing runner’s high, at least in mice (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.USA 2015, DOI: 10.1072/pnas.1514996112). The researchers hit upon the endocannabinoid system as possibly being involved because they observed that endorphins can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier, says team member Johannes Fuss, who’s now at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. On the other hand, a lipid-soluble endocannabinoid called anandamide—also found at high levels in people’s blood after running—can travel from the blood into the brain, where it can trigger a high. “Yet no one had investigated the effects of endocannabinoids on behavior after running,” Fuss says.
Dr Katelaris vists SE Qld
Dr Andrew Katelaris, Australia’s foremost exponent of medical Cannabis, will speak about the emerging science of Cannabis, its use in childhood epilepsy, pain management, cancer, and many other illnesses, in his talk, Cannabis as Medicine: Fact of Fallacy??, at Kurilpa Hall in West End and at the Nerang Community Centre.
For decades, the scientific investigation of Cannabis was repressed by the Cannabis prohibition, and doctors who took Cannabis medicine seriously found themselves isolated and discredited by the medical establishment. But the recent discovery of the endocannabinoid system has provided a scientific understanding for the growing awareness of the benefits of medical Cannabis across a wide range of seemingly unrelated conditions.
While Cannabis becomes the medical wonder of the twenty-first century, Australia’s Cannabis laws remain firmly stuck in the twentieth century, with fatal consequences. Following his West End talk, join Dr Katelaris in a discussion with patients, lawyers and politicians on the need to urgently legalise medical Cannabis and how best to achieve this.
Speakers include John Ransley (Civil Liberties Council), Grace Sands (medical Cannabis petition), Lanai Carter (medical Cannabis mother), Dr Andrew Katerlaris, and a government representative (to be announced).
Dr Katelaris will speak at:
Kurilpa Hall, 174 Boundary St., West End,
Saturday, October 17, 12-4pm.
Nerang Community Centre, 833 Southport-Nerang Rd, Nerang,
Sunday, October 18, 10am – 2.30pm.