AUSTRALIA & NZ
So this year, VICE is launching High Season—our series dedicated to breaking down all the ways Australia’s drug policy is broken. We’ll look at sniffer dogs, drugs in prison, treatment centres, pill testing, and education. We’ll talk to people facing decades in jail over a few psilocybin mushrooms. We’ll talk to Melbournians moving to the Northern Territory because they are so desperate to get a rehab bed. And we’ll take you to the front lines of the war on Australia’s war on drugs.
An Australian GP has criticised access to medicinal cannabis in Australia as “unworkable”. Caroline*, a doctor from Adelaide, said the oppressive bureaucracy surrounding medicinal cannabis sits in contrast to the way pharmaceutical opioids are dispensed to patients. Medicinal cannabis was legalised in November 2016, but nine.com.au has been contacted by a number of people who claim to have been forced onto the black market because of the bureaucratic quagmire they encounter through official channels. Caroline told nine.com.au at least one patient a week is visiting her GP practice and asking about medicinal cannabis, frequently in regards chronic pain. She said it was “too hard” for doctors to navigate the Special Access Scheme (SAS) laid out by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The increased spotlight on medicinal cannabis in Australia has also led to more awareness of epilepsy, according to the CEO of Epilepsy Action Australia (EAA), Carol Ireland.
Doctors have been warned against rushing to prescribe medical cannabis despite Australians’ acceptance of its use. To date, the evidence on the effectiveness of medical cannabis remains “limited”, write Jennifer Martin and Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo in an editorial for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP). Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, they say the usual regulatory processes designed to protect patients from potential serious harms caused by medicinal cannabinoids must be adhered to.
For the vast majority of Australian patients, medicinal cannabis is little more than a pipe dream and part of the problem lies with the all-too-conservative approach that relies on specialist doctors. Those seeking medicinal cannabis in Australia must navigate a cumbersome application process, which requires going to a specialist physician not a GP. The result is that patients either go without or continue to use illicitly sourced products of unknown composition and safety.
A new “perspective piece” by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, published in the current issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, is unlikely to improve this situation. Rather than providing a coherent and balanced account of the current state of play, the “perspective” reads like a patronising and scaremongering diatribe, misrepresenting the literature to frighten off would-be prescribers.
Australian Experts Are Clashing Over A “Scaremongering” Medical Cannabis “Perspective Piece” [BuzzFeed]
Experts on both sides of the medicinal cannabis debate are arguing over an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) that has been labeled “scaremongering” and “patronising”. The niche corner of social media devoted to medicinal cannabis was ablaze on Monday after the MJA published a story from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) – which represents over 25,000 medical specialists and trainee specialists – that warned about the effects of the drug. The paper was reported on by multiple mainstream outlets, including the Australian, the Guardian, SBS, and the Australian Journal of Pharmacy.
10 Weed Enthusiast-Approved Travel Destinations for 2018 [Inverse Culture]
9. Head Down Under to Celebrate MardiGrass in Australia
Since 1993, stoners in the tiny town of Nimbin, in northern New South Wales, Australia, have been gathering on the first weekend of May to protest drug laws (only medical marijuana is currently legal) and to celebrate all things green. The weekend consists of smoking contests, something called the “Weed Olympics,” a ganja parade, and educational seminars to spread knowledge on all the benefits of reefer. They call this three day party MardiGrass. This year’s event will take place on May 4 to May 6. Nimbinmardigrass.com
‘I’m a pot evangelist’: meet America’s dope queens [The Guardian]
As more US states legalise marijuana, more women are stepping up to meet the need for weed. Meet the entrepreneurs cutting through the stigma.
Legalisation of cannabis provides opportunities to regulate overuse of toxic chemicals on farms, but experts express concern that state lacks capacity to sufficiently regulate burgeoning industry.
Virgil Grant is riding the high on California’s cannabis legalization, with a burgeoning empire that already comprises three dispensaries, two plantations and a line of apparel. His success has come as some compensation for the six years lost inside the federal prison system for dealing a drug which was outlawed for non-medical use before January 1.
According to local Wisconsin news sources, Representative David Bowen, a Democrat from Milwaukee, introduced the bill. His proposal would prohibit employers from requiring job applicants and employees to take drug tests that screen for THC. For Bowen, the root of the problem lies in how long THC stays in a person’s system. Unlike a lot of other substances, cannabinoids tend to remain in your body for a relatively long time.
UK & EUROPE
Polish father who grew cannabis to ‘fund daughter’s cancer treatment’ jailed and facing deportation [International Business Times]
Mazurek was reportedly “shocked” at the amount of drugs he was able to grow after learning how to make the set-up via the internet. Following his arrest last December, Mazurek told police he had grown the plants out of “desperation” in order to pay for his daughter’s treatment for bone cancer back in Poland, reports the Stoke Sentinel.
Alfie Dingley, who has severe epilepsy, is suffering pointlessly. What will it take to make our government see sense?
Prohibition Has Failed – We Need A Radical New Drug Policy [Huffington Post]
Our approach to drugs is broken. Not only does it not work, it directly causes suffering that could otherwise be avoided. These draconian drug laws have also been put to the test in my constituency of Lichfield recently. Vicky Clarke, a constituent of mine with advanced MS, has had to endure excruciating pain as a result of her condition. Her husband Andy has found that the only drug that alleviates this pain is cannabis, ground up in small quantities and mixed into a smoothie, yet twice he has been investigated by the police, simply for helping his wife to cope with the crippling pain. Fortunately, the police took a grown up attitude to this felony and did not proceed with a prosecution. But the fault does not lie with the police, rather it is the law which they are duty-bound to enforce. As a society, we need to recognise when a law is doing more harm than good, and take action to rectify it.
Unlike in parts of the U.S. – where a handful of states have legalized cannabis – no EU country has. And in Amsterdam, it’s simply just “tolerated.” But what if cannabis was more than just simply decriminalized there?
Mother slams minister’s letter following plea to legalise cannabis oil for sick son [Independent Ireland]
A mother has called a response from Minister for Health Simon Harris to her request to legalise cannabis oil as a medical treatment for her son Michael as “a fob off”. Noreen O’Neill recently wrote an open letter to Minister Harris imploring him to pass legislation to make cannabidiol (CBD) oil available as a medicine in Ireland. It is not illegal in Ireland as it is not psychoactive, but it is also not authorised for medical use. The response from the Minister to Noreen, seen by Independent.ie, says that CBD oil is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation before adding it was not authorised as a medicinal product.
Antigua and Barbuda Set to Decriminalise Cannabis, as PM Says It is “Part of the Culture of the Country” [Talking Drugs]
Legislators in Antigua and Barbuda’s lower house have voted to decriminalise cannabis possession, allow Rastafarians to use cannabis ritually, and expunge prior possession convictions.
For Israel’s aspiring corporate cannabis growers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision last week to freeze exports was a setback – but not an irreversible one. The ban on exports of medical marijuana is temporary, until Prof. Avi Simhon, the prime minister’s chief economic adviser, has completed a study of the matter. The growers are convinced that Simhon and Netanyahu will eventually be persuaded that cannabis is a real business that can earn billions of shekels in tax revenues.
HEALTH & SCIENCE
Comfortably numb – why some older people turn to cannabis for pain relief [The Conversation]
When most people think of cannabis users, they probably think mainly of the younger generations. But it’s actually the 45 to 64 age group who show the highest proportion of household spending on cannabis.
New Study Suggests Today’s Marijuana Is Too Strong [Fresh Toast]
More recently, a dramatic rise in potency was reported within two years of legal sales in Washington State, where extremely high-potency extracts (70 percent THC) now comprise around 20 percent of purchases. The Post posits that both government can and should place limits on marijuana’s strength “just as it does other addictive products, thereby protecting public health as well as saving the taxpayer the future costs of treatment and other needed health-care services.” The study echoes that sentiment, concluding that in “a rapidly changing cannabis climate, it is essential that policy makers consider the effects of new legislation on cannabis potency and the incidence of cannabis-related harms.”
Marijuana analyzer company raises $2.25 million [Marijuana Business Daily]
An Israeli company that has been working on a commercial-scale cannabis analyzer has completed a $2.25 million Series A-1 round of funding. GemmaCert, based in Tel Aviv, will launch its cannabis potency analyzer by the same name this week in San Diego at the Emerald Conference, a gathering focused on science and cannabis.
First of its Kind Study Finds Virtually No Driving Impairment Under the Influence of Marijuana [Health Guide]
The first study to analyze the effects of cannabis on driving performance found that it caused almost no impairment. The impairment that it did cause was similar to that observed under the influence of a legal alcohol limit. Researchers at the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator carried out the study, sponsored by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute of Drug Abuse, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Marijuana Chewing Gum to Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain [Healthy Life Box]
This gum provides faster effects than smoking, as it bypasses the liver. As soon as CBD reacts with the saliva, it quickly reaches the bloodstream and does not get processed by any other internal organ.
Strategies to Help Young Adults Limit Negative Consequences of Marijuana Use [Rand Corporation]
My colleagues and I at RAND and other research institutions have developed a Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale for Marijuana that helps identify some practices young adults can use to help limit their use of marijuana and avoid negative consequences.
POLICY & POLITICS
The evidence is in: you can’t link imprisonment to crime rates [Castan Centre for Human Rights Law]
Prison populations in Australia are increasing rapidly. This is usually said to be driven by increases in crime. Digging deeper though, in Australia and internationally, the link is far less clear. The extent of a country’s use of imprisonment seems in fact to be more a matter of policy choice than of necessity.
What Does Rescheduling Cannabis Mean? [volteface]
At the present time, cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This means that it is deemed “of no therapeutic value”. This is contrary to a significant volume of studies that demonstrate that various cannabis products do have a clear medicinal value, as has recently been illustrated in the report by Professor Michael Barnes and Dr Jennifer Barnes for the APPG on Drug Policy Reform. The issue has been debated by several sovereign states and cannabis is now recognised as having medicinal value and is legal or decriminalised for medical usage in 25 US states as well as 39 other countries.
In collaboration with drug experts in Norway and the UK, multi-criteria decision analysis has been applied to evaluating drug policies for the first time – read the paper here. We have previously applied this technique to investigate harms of common recreational drugs in 2010, and nicotine-containing products in 2014.
Dutch court stubs out smokers’ corners in cafes [MedicalXpress]
A Dutch court on Tuesday upheld an appeal by anti-cigarette campaigners and barred the use of public spaces in cafes and bars reserved for smokers.
Britain’s unlikely low alcohol beer revolution [The Telegraph]
AB InBev, the biggest of all the brewers, aims to make a fifth of its sales from low or no-alcohol beer by 2025, investing in new products such as Budweiser Prohibition, the alcohol-free version of the famous American brand.
Psychedelics and the essential importance of context [Journal of Psychopharmacology]
Psychedelic drugs are making waves as modern trials support their therapeutic potential and various media continue to pique public interest. In this opinion piece, we draw attention to a long-recognised component of the psychedelic treatment model, namely ‘set’ and ‘setting’ – subsumed here under the umbrella term ‘context’.
Clearing up some myths around e-cigarettes [Public Health Matters]
Despite the sometimes confused, and confusing, media reporting around the safety of e-cigarettes, there is growing consensus around the evidence. While not without some risk, when compared to smoking e-cigarettes are far less harmful. This view is supported by a number of key bodies, including Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and recently, a major US science body, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The billionaire family behind Donald Trump is donating to research examining the use of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.
Australians are using micro amounts of psychedelic drugs to treat chronic headaches, depression and PTSD. However, while overseas research suggests ‘microdosing’ is effective, Australian ethics committees are reluctant to fund local research.
New Zealand’s most notorious drug, methamphetamine, is on the verge of overtaking cannabis to become the number one offender in our court system. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show there were 6377 meth cases before the courts in the year to June 30, 2017 compared with 6899 cannabis cases.
Australian Industrial Hemp Conference [Industrial Hemp Association of Victoria]
Hosted by Industrial Hemp Association of Victoria. 28 February – 2 March, Geelong Victoria.
Medicinal Cannabis: Debunking the Myths – Coffs Harbour [NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association]
Last year the NSWNMA held a forum on medicinal cannabis in Sydney. It was fully subscribed and there has been great interest in holding similar forums in regional areas. The first of these is on Friday March 9th in Coffs Harbour. This is open to NSWNMA members and also to non-members. We had a great cross section at the previous forum – which made for very lively questions and discussions. There were community members, parents, people using MC, medical staff – as well as a very broad range of nurses from many disciplines, mental health, D&A, gerontology, Practice nurses, palliative care, Nurse Practitioners and others. Future forums are scheduled for later in the year: Wollongong: 20 June and Newcastle: 19 October
Australia’s First Medicinal Cannabis Leadership Program [Cann10 Australia]
10 March 2018, Western Sydney University Sydney, Level 4/255 Elizabeth St, Sydney: The program provides a comprehensive approach to cannabis education including historical, cultural, legal/regulatory, chemical, agricultural and commercial aspects. It is delivered by an array of world-class professionals and has been designed so that participants can have personal access to their expertise. The next program is running in Sydney across two weekends in March and further information can be found here.
20 April at 14:00–18:00 The River Torrens Rotunda South Australia: Far too many of our alternative healers are being persecuted and held back from doing what they do best. This year we show our support for them and their magnificent work for the community at large, and of course to show our authoritarians how displeased we are with their perpetuation of a harmful law.
Nimbin Medican Workshops on YouTube [Hemp Embassy]
Thanks to Disco Sista for documenting the many medican workshops that the Embassy has hosted in Nimbin over the past 3 years. If you’ve missed these amazing gatherings, then you can still watch the speakers online.