Change Agents: Alex Wodak and Lucy Haslam on the push to legalise medicinal cannabis [The Conversation]

In 2016 three Australian states and the Commonwealth passed laws to legalise the growing of medicinal cannabis. It was an extraordinary result for a campaign that struggled for decades to gain traction. Suddenly the push had taken off in the public imagination, prompting state and then federal politicians to agree to the cultivation and prescription of cannabis for people suffering from a wide range of conditions. In this episode of Change Agents, Andrew Dodd speaks to Lucy Haslam, who launched the grassroots campaign in New South Wales after her son Dan was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Alex Wodak, the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation. Together they convinced the public and politicians the time for change had come.

Sydney Cancer patients now have the chance to join a world-first medicinal cannabis trial [Daily Telegraph]

Cancer patients at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown now have the chance to join a world-first medicinal cannabis trial. The clinical trial will involve 80 patients and, if successful, will expand to 250 patients in the next year. The trial aims to ease side effects like nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. It will see patients take a daily tablet for six days after they receive chemotherapy treatment and will last for three rounds of treatment.

Petition: Allow Australian adults to grow their own cannabis 18+ [change.org]

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!

Legalise It: An interview with Australian Hemp Party President Michael Balderstone [Sydney Criminal Lawyers]

Michael Balderstone is the president of the Nimbin HEMP Embassy. He’s been campaigning for the legalisation of the plant for the last 30 years. Balderstone is also the president of the Australian HEMP party. He ran as the Western Australian candidate for the party in the federal election last July. The party’s aim is to “re-legalise and regulate personal, medical and industrial use” of cannabis. Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke with Mr Balderstone about this year’s cannabis developments and why the plant should be legalised.

Economists argue for legalisation of recreational cannabis use in Queensland [Brisbane Times]

The recreational use of cannabis should be legalised in Queensland and such a move could reap millions for the state’s coffers, a Brisbane-based economics firm has argued in a new report. The report, released this month by Bluegreen Economics, argues for the legalisation of recreational cannabis use, which it says would add tens of millions of dollars to the Queensland economy.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Police Caught Using and Supplying Drugs [Sydney Drug Lawyers]

Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog tabled a report before state parliament on Tuesday, finding that a number of Victorian police officers have been taking illegal drugs and, in some instances, even selling them. The officers were found to have been regularly partying on cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and ice. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) report sets out the findings of three investigations.

South Australia expands testing of wastewater to detect drug use in strategy to reduce ‘risky’ use [ABC]

South Australia will bring wastewater drug testing to country areas under a strategy to tackle tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.

Medicinal Cannabis—harms or benefits? Who decides? [MedicalXpress]

Wellington researchers are calling for doctors to be more involved in the debate around cannabis as a medicine. In a recent article in the New Zealand Medical Journal, Dr Giles Newton-Howes, from the University of Otago, Wellington, and Dr Sam McBride, from the Capital & Coast District Health Board, say that although cannabis has a long history of medicinal use, the current evidence is mixed and relatively weak.

NSW Police slammed for seizing drug testing kits which are perfectly legal to possess [News]

NSW Police has been labelled as “ludicrous” and having “lost touch with basic moral principles” for seizing legal equipment that campaigners say could save people’s lives. An advocate for drug law reform has told news.com.au that NSW Police appears to be undertaking a “PR campaign” that will lead to young people harming themselves as a strategy to deter others from taking illegal drugs. Mr Tregoning who has set up the Tests, Not Arrests initiative to lobby for testing at festivals, said the seizure seemed to be as much about public relations than prevention. He said he understood police intended to “disrupt” any attempt to distribute pill-testing kits at festivals. “This operation was made for media and social media. It’s about police being seen to be ‘tough’ on drugs,” he said.

Outspoken MP George Christensen praises Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs [ABC]

On Facebook, Mr Christensen said he supported the hardline approach to drugs and doubted whether Mr Duterte had personally killed people. “A leader who personally sees off drug dealers? And the problem is?” the Queensland MP said. Mr Christensen dismissed reports extra-judicial killings [in the Philippines] as nonsense, claiming there was little proof. Mr Christensen suggested he would support forced rehabilitation for drug addicts in Australia. “Well, it isn’t a human right to partake in substances which destroy your brain and turn you violent against others, especially loved ones and family.”

Desperate for medical cannabis, cancer patient is told ‘no’ by her own doctors [The Daily Telegraph]

A NSW woman dying of cancer has been denied access to medicinal cannabis because her specialist doctors refuse to sign off on the government’s own framework. The framework was set up to help the terminally ill access the pain-relieving drug legally. Katherine Lorraine, 51, has only a week or two to live, yet her quest to obtain medicinal cannabis over the past six months has been repeatedly blocked by her own specialists at The Mater Hospital, Newcastle.

States legalizing marijuana warned over kids mistaking drug for candy [The Guardian]

States preparing to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2017 have been warned to impose strong regulations on edible products, in order to help prevent children mistaking the drug for candy. John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado, which pioneered legal cannabis for recreational use in 2014, said other states should learn from his state’s example. “We didn’t regulate edibles strongly enough at first,” he said this week, at a gathering of the Western Governors’ Association.

Casual cannabis use: Is there a link to depression? [Medical News Today]

In 2014, recreational cannabis use was legalized in Colorado, and seven other states have since followed suit. With an ever-expanding part of the population using marijuana to cure a number of ailments, researchers at Colorado State University have investigated its effects on mood. The researchers – led by Lucy Troup, assistant professor in the university’s Department of Psychology – publish their findings in the journal PeerJ. They note that the “relationship between cannabis use and symptomatology of mood and anxiety disorders is complex,” adding that although “a great deal of research exists and continues to grow, the evidence remains contradictory.”

The stunning rise of deaths from the pain drug fentanyl, in one chart [Vox]

Deaths in the USA from the synthetic opioid fentanyl more than doubled in the past year, new federal data shows.

Traffic fatalities decline in states with medical marijuana laws [EurekAlert!]

States that enacted medical marijuana laws, on average, experienced reductions in traffic fatalities, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Overall, states that passed medical marijuana laws saw an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities, on average, after enacting the laws, and had 26 percent lower rates of traffic fatalities compared with states without the laws. The findings are published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Recreational Marijuana Law Takes Effect in Massachusetts [health cure 4u]

The voter-approved measure took effect on Thursday, making it legal for adults to possess, grow and use limited amounts of pot.

2016: Historic Victories And Devastating Setbacks In Fight Against Failed Drug War [The Huffington Post]

The Good

  • Marijuana Legalization Wins Big on Election Night
  • President Obama Goes Big with Clemencies and Pardons for Nonviolent Drug Offenders
  • Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Hit the Mainstream

The Bad and Ugly

  • The Looming Nightmare of Donald Trump and His Administration
  • Drug Users in The Philippines Are Being “Slaughtered Like Animals”
  • More Americans Are Now Dying from Overdose Than From Car Crashes or Guns

Trump Won’t Stop the Drug-Legalization Movement [Mises Institute]

Many drug law reformers are frightful over who President-elect Donald Trump will appoint to his cabinet to oversee the war on drugs. Might there be a crackdown and reversal of marijuana law reform? While a president’s cabinet choices are always a concern, a big picture analysis shows that efforts to legalize and decriminalize drugs are spreading and going global. The war on drugs is shrinking, not expanding.

Thursday marks Massachusetts’ first day of marijuana legalization [7 News Boston]

Recreational marijuana is now officially legal to smoke and grow for Massachusetts residents 21 and older, though there are a number of restrictions that could land users in trouble. The ballot question approved by voters Nov. 8 is scheduled to go into effect Thursday, allowing adults to have limited quantities of marijuana for recreational purposes and grow pot plants in their homes. The catch: It’s still illegal to sell marijuana in Massachusetts — except to registered medical marijuana patients — and will remain so for at least a year until the first pot shops are licensed and regulated.

After legalization, teen marijuana use drops sharply in Colorado [The Washington Post]

Teen marijuana use fell sharply in Colorado in the years 2014 and 2015, after the opening of that state’s recreational marijuana market, new federal survey data show. The state-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 18.35 percent of Coloradans ages 12 to 17 had used marijuana in the past year in 2014 or 2015, down sharply from 20.81 percent in 2013/2014. (In this survey, years are paired for state-level data to provide larger sample sizes). That works out to roughly a 12 percent drop in marijuana use, year-over-year.

This scientist has made the ‘world’s biggest’ weed DNA database so the quality of cannabis will become more consistent [BT]

Mowgli Holmes, a former HIV researcher, believes we’re just getting started. “When we understand this plant better we’re going to be able to help breeders make absolutely crazy, wild weed,” Holmes told Vocativ. “There’s going to be cannabis around that would be unthinkable today.” The scientist co-founded Phylos Bioscience two years ago and is on a mission with his colleagues to sequence the DNA of every weed strain in the world.

“Mad scientist vibe”: How a lab-made form of marijuana may soon become commonplace in Canada [Vice News Canada]

Marijuana’s most controversial and potent forms should be regulated and sold in Canada’s future recreational weed market, regardless of how strong they are, according to recommendations released this week in a report by the government’s special task force on legalizing pot. The recommendations, if adopted, would allow for the highly-potent THC extract known as “shatter” to be sold on the open market.

Pot stores open in Canada ahead of legalization [Medical Xpress]

Eight storefronts selling recreational marijuana opened in Montreal Thursday, flouting the law in a push to grab market share ahead of promised legalization in Canada that is still at least a year away. The new franchise stores supplied by activist Marc Emery, Canada’s self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot,” come after grand openings of stores in Vancouver, Toronto and a dozen other Canadian cities. With other chains and independent operators also setting up dispensaries, it is estimated there are now at least 200 operating in what has been termed a “gray area” of the law that has seen some prosecutors hesitant to lay charges for a criminal act that will soon be legal.

Montreal police raid illegal cannabis shops and arrest ‘Prince of Pot’ [The Guardian]

Montreal police launched raids on Friday against illegal cannabis stores that had been opened one day earlier by the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot”, Marc Emery, and his wife Jodie. Emery and his wife were among 10 people arrested in Friday’s raids. Police said that all but one person, who refused to sign release documents, were released on a promise to appear in court. Canada is moving to legalize marijuana, but it remains illegal.

We Need To Stop Infantilizing Young Adults Over Cannabis Access [Huffington Post]

Since the Task Force announced their recommendations for the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada last week, the focus has predominantly been on age restrictions, suggested in the report at 18 years old with provincial autonomy to mirror drinking ages. While the media frames this as “Trudeau OK with Canadians as young as 18 accessing cannabis”, I find myself questioning why we continue to speak about young adults who are 18 and 19 as if they are children. Young adults in Canada who are 18 and 19 make many choices around their health, well-being, and lives, and 18 has been the age when we typically expect young people to engage in these choices: they can vote, join the armed forces, purchase alcohol and tobacco, purchase firearms, get married, have children, and so much more. In fact, in Ontario, age 16 is when youth can legally decide to live alone without a legal guardian, but decisions around cannabis use are where we draw the line?

Will drugs work in space? Experts say Marijuana highs may be ruined by radiation [Daily Mail UK]

As legal marijuana increasingly gains traction here on Earth, the debate could soon shift to address its use on missions to distant worlds. But out in deep space, the influx of high-energy protons could be enough to kill your high. In a study investigating the effects of space-level irradiation on neurotransmission, researchers found that these ‘subatomic speedballs’ can alter signalling within the brain – specifically, messing with the endocannabinoid receptors.

Is cannabis really getting stronger? [Marijuana News Articles]

The science underpinning the cannabis potency story is problematic. With so many people using cannabis, it can’t be acceptable to continue with a system where basic information about this product’s strength and purity are obscure. It is time for a national survey of cannabis that not only provides information about the strength of cannabis but how exactly it is consumed, too.

Copenhagen makes fourth bid to legalise cannabis to help reduce gang warfare [Independent UK]

Copenhagen officials are trying to legalise cannabis – despite the Danish government rejecting a proposed trial three times previously. The city government, led by Mayor Frank Jensen, has made its fourth formal request that the capital is allowed to carry out a trial legalisation programme where sales are exclusively handled by public authorities. The coalition of the left-wing Red-Green Alliance and the libertarian-leaning Liberal Alliance (LA) said the trial is necessary to prevent the increasing number of shootings in the city which they believe are linked to rival gangs attempting to control the local market. The move came just months after a market selling cannabis in the “hippie” district was torn down following a shooting incident in September.

Study: Alcohol amplifies aggression but cannabis diminishes it [health cure 4u]

Alcohol intoxication amplifies feelings of aggression while cannabis intoxication diminishes feelings of aggression, according to research published in Psychopharmacology. The study of 61 participants found alcohol consumption increased aggressive responses during a computer-based experiment designed to measure aggression, while cannabis consumption reduced aggressive responses.

5 Common Myths About Ayahuasca Debunked [chacruna]

In this article, I am going to share with you some of the annoying myths that misinformed people peddle. Some of the myths are relatively innocent and partially true, others are completely misleading and dangerous.