EMBASSY HEADLINES Issue 194
Recreational Marijuana Considered In Senate Committee Hearing [Huffington Post]
A senate committee has held a hearing in Sydney on the legalisation of marijuana for recreational purposes, as part of a series of hearings on personal choice and community impacts. The Senate Economics References Committee met at the Erskineville town hall on Friday, hearing submissions on the “sale and use of marijuana and associated products”. More than a dozen written submissions were received by the committee, with five individuals, the Department of Health and the National Rural Health Alliance giving evidence in person. Senators Sam Dastyari and David Leyonhjelm chaired the panel, which heard ideas from medical professionals and private citizens such as how recreational marijuana could potentially be packaged and sold, including health warnings at the point of sale, plain packaging, regulations around advertising and marketing of marijuana products, and taxation. Australia legislated the use of medical cannabis products last month. “There needs to be an acceptance that the approach to date has failed,” Dastyari said. Professor Wayne Hall, Director of the University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, has written and published extensively on the legalisation of cannabis products. He argued for a system that would make marijuana available, but under a heavily-regulated system like tobacco. In response to a question from Leyonhjelm about whether smoking marijuana, or being imprisoned for marijuana possession, was more detrimental to a rural community, NRHA policy advisor Fiona Brooke admitted the penalty was worse.
Another cannabis company set to list [Herald Sun]
Another so-called pot stock is set to join the Australian share market. Medicinal cannabis company AusCann has agreed to a takeover by ASX-listed TW Holdings, which had until now been managing wine operations. TW Holdings intends to change its name to AusCann Group and raise $3 million to support its growth strategy. TW Holdings made an annual loss of $302,000 in 2015, and indicated it was considering investment opportunities outside of the wine industry. Amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act in February have made it an opportune time for AusCann to expand its reach and access to capital markets, AusCann managing director Elaine Darby said.
Medical marijuana superfarm on Far North Queensland’s radar [The Cairns Post]
FAR North Queensland could become the medicinal cannabis capital of Australia under a multimillion-dollar medical-grade facility proposed for the Tablelands. Developers Shane Garozzo and Joe Trimarchi will today meet with the state Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson and Health Minister Cameron Dick’s chief adviser in Brisbane to pitch their Trimpex Medicinal Cannabis project and discuss state legislation. Mr Garozzo, a Mareeba rural development consultant, and third-generation Atherton cane farmer Mr Trimarchi believe the Tablelands’ “friable (easily crumbled) and notoriously bountiful” red soils are ideal for growing cannabis. Added to this are the area’s climate and low exposure to cyclones. They have partnered with two major Australian universities and will seek to apply for permits under historic legislation passed by the Federal Government last month to legalise the cultivation, production and prescription of medicinal cannabis. “This project will allow Trimpex to positively effect communities of North Queensland,” Mr Garozzo said.
Drug driving case highlights ‘nonsensical’ laws [The Northern Star]
Magistrate Heilpern used Ferguson’s case to again throw another barb at drug driving laws, which he reminded the court, “does not test driver impairment”. “It was never the intention of parliament that someone who smoked cannabis on the weekend should test positive five days later and lose their licence as a result,” he said.
Synthetic drugs as cannabis alternatives: NSW government bans 3 illicit substances, warns users not to be fooled [International Business Times]
The NSW government has taken a stern decision and banned three harmful synthetic drugs that are marketed as natural remedies. AB-PINACA, AB-CHMINACA and AB-FUBINACA have been added to the list of banned drugs, taking their place alongside illicit substances such as ice and heroin. The three substances are sold to users as cannabis alternatives and recreational teas. The move to impose the ban is simply to highlight the serious and sometimes fatal consequences of taking synthetic drugs. Taking synthetic drugs has resulted in a spate of hospitalisations and even deaths. After this ban, anyone caught selling the drugs can face a lifetime in prison.
Yes, it’s legal to film the police [Unharm!]
There are persistent reports of drug detection dog operations being run in ways that are concerning. Video footage is crucial to uncovering the truth about this and other police activities. If you see something that doesn’t look right, film it. Many police are already on side with our cause. They see that arresting drug users achieves nothing, and they see the detrimental effect of drug law enforcement on the relationship between police and communities. They are our allies. This initiative is about promoting good policing, not antagonizing the police. As WA Police have commented in the past “We see [filming] as more of a benefit than a hindrance as it helps ensure that all WA Police are ‘in the right place at the right time doing the right thing’.” Download a print-ready, A1 formatted version of this poster
WA Police to introduce new portable drug testing machines [WA Today]
WA Police have moved to purchase new drug testing kits after it was revealed that nearly a third of its roadside testing units had failed to return adequate results. The new kits will be compact and portable to allow the two-step salvia and oral screening process to be carried out from a patrol vehicle.
Pasin supports medicinal marijuana [Barossa Herald]
Member for Barker Tony Pasin has backed new legislation that aims to give sufferers of chronic conditions access to marijuana that has been legally grown. And Mr Pasin has suggested that the Barker electorate could be the perfect place to grow the drug for medicinal use in future. The new legislation, passed late last month, was introduced in the form of amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act. According to the federal government, the changes will provide a pathway to legally-grown cannabis for the manufacture of medicinal products in Australia. Mr Pasin spoke in support of the bill prior to it being adopted, and hinted at a potential future in legal cannabis cropping in the Barker electorate. “I cannot think of a better place for growing medicinal cannabis than in my electorate, be it in the Riverland in the north or the irrigated areas of the South East, but that of course will be a matter for industry and government in full consultation,” he said. Mr Pasin emphasised the aim was not to legalise the use of cannabis in Australia. “Rather, it is a bill which delivers a strong, sustainable and safe supply of medicinal cannabis for the use of some in our society most in need when it comes to pain relief,” he said.
Cannabis loophole ‘unlikely to be used’ [NZ Herald]
A loophole that allows people to bring medicinal cannabis products into New Zealand is extremely unlikely to be used, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says. New Zealand law allows anyone who is prescribed a medicine overseas to bring one month’s supply into the country for their own use – including cannabis products. The Cannabis Party has today issued a press release saying the “massive” loophole could “open the floodgates” for raw cannabis to be brought to New Zealand from countries like the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, and Australia. Mr Dunne said it was possible for a person to bring in a prescribed medicine, but the number of conditions on that allowance meant it was unlikely cannabis would be brought in to New Zealand. Only a month’s supply was allowed, and it was not clear that medical cannabis could be legally taken out of the United States. It was possible somebody could bring a prescription from another country, but that was unlikely, Mr Dunne said.
New Zealand’s ‘cannabis crisis’: smokers confirm chronic shortage [The Guardian]
For once, there’s a bigger problem in New Zealand than its flag being confused with Australia’s: a chronic shortage of marijuana. The “catastrophic” situation was first reported on by Don Rowe, a staff writer at The Spinoff, who wrote that New Zealand’s most popular illegal substance was “almost unobtainable in any meaningful amount right now. Blame it on the police, the gangs, the weather or just the grow cycle of your average cannabis harvest; no matter which way you slice it, it’s dry out there.”
Marijuana economy expected to reach $44 billion by 2020 [The Independent]
The weed industry is expected to earn $44 billion by the year 2020, according to Marijuana Business Daily’s annual report. Every dollar spent on medical and recreational marijuana at the retail level leads to an extra $3 for the economy. In four years, the report estimates, that the industry’s annual economic impact will rise from $14 billion-$17 billion in 2016 to $24 billion-$44 billion. “Overall, for each dollar spent/earned by cannabis companies, an additional three dollars in economic benefit will be realized,” the report reads. “For example, a cannabis dispensary/store makes a sale for $100. The business then uses a portion of that money to pay an employee, who in turn uses a portion of that money to buy groceries at the local grocer, and so on – a process that creates a ripple of economic value, most of which remains in the community.” The publication’s managing editor Chris Walsh said that the US is witnessing “the emergence of a business” that will become a “massive economic force. These figures, which we deem conservative, show not only how important the industry already is to the US economy at large, but also how much more important it is about to become,” he writes.
The right way to do drugs [The Economist]
Yet the repeal of prohibition marks the start of complex arguments about how to regulate cannabis. What sound like details for bureaucrats—how to tax it, which varieties to allow, who should sell it and to whom—are questions that force policymakers to decide which of legalisation’s competing aims they value most. Trailblazers like Canada are writing rules that the rest of the world will copy; once laid down, they will be hard to uproot. Getting these decisions right will ultimately determine whether legalisation succeeds or fails.
Reeferegulatory challenge [The Economist]
Different places will legalise in different ways; some may never legalise at all; some will make mistakes they later think better of. But those that legalise early may prove to have a lasting influence well beyond their borders, establishing norms that last for a long while. It behoves them to think through what needs regulating, and what does not, with care. Over-regulation risks losing some of the main benefits of liberalisation. But as alcohol and tobacco show, tightening regimes at a later date can be very difficult indeed.
The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism? [TNI]
Drug policy expertise and impacted communities from around the world express serious concerns about the preparations and already-drafted outcomes for the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the “world drug problem”.
NFL lineman gives $10k to marijuana research, urges league to match donation [SFGate]
Current NFL star Eugene Monroe is leading the league in medical marijuana advocacy. The Baltimore Ravens lineman took to Twitter on Monday urging fellow players and commissioner Roger Goodell to match a $10,000 donation towards marijuana research, ESPN reports. In a series of over 30 tweets, the impassioned defensive player advocated for medical research on cannabinoids, the therapeutic medicinal compounds found in marijuana that have been clinically proven to be effective against extensive brain trauma. Earlier that day, an NFL official admitted for the first time that there is a link between playing football and the devastating brain disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Former Bulls guard Jay Williams says 80 percent of NBA players use marijuana [Fox Sports]
Jay Williams thinks the NBA needs to get with the times when it comes to marijuana, and allow players to use it without punishment. The former Chicago Bulls guard-turned NBA analyst told FOXBusiness.com that 75 to 80 percent of players use the drug, which he believes is much safer than the narcotic painkillers that many athletes are prescribed. “It’s easy for doctors to prescribe you Oxycontin and look I was addicted to it for five plus years so I know,” Williams said via FOXBusiness.com. “But when you say marijuana you get a reaction, ‘ahhh, it’s a gateway drug.’ “
United States Senator Calls for Marijuana Reclassification [Marijuana Investor News]
United States Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is calling for a federal reclassification of marijuana. According to WTNH, Murphy spoke with medical marijuana patients as he toured Prime Wellness of Connecticut, one of the state’s six medical marijuana dispensaries. “This drug is currently classified as a narcotic with absolutely no medical benefits. That means that research can’t be done at the federal level, that means that insurers can’t reimburse, that means that dispensaries can’t buy over state lines,” Murphy told reporters. Murphy went on to say that the government is standing in the way of health and science and announced intentions to sponsor legislation reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II substance. As a Schedule II substance, insurance companies could potentially cover medical marijuana under health insurance in states where the substance is legal.
Texas House Panel Approves Full Legalization Of Marijuana In ‘Unprecedented’ Move [Real Health Treatments]
A proposal which would make Texas the fifth state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use was approved in a bipartisan House panel vote – with the bill’s author citing his Christian values as cause for his support. Being hailed as a historic victory and a surprise to Lone Star state lawmakers, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. The panel’s three Democrats were joined by two Republicans to give House Bill 2165 a “decisive 5-2 victory.” The panel’s move in support of recreational marijuana legalization comes two days after their 4-2 vote in favor of a bill to decriminalize marijuana – the first such proposal to make it out of a Texas legislative committee.
How hard is it to get weed from Toronto’s new marijuana dispensaries? [Toronto Life]
The law says Canadians are allowed to buy their medical marijuana only by mail, from one of a small handful of officially licensed producers. Despite that, a new wave of weed entrepreneurs, not willing to wait around for Justin Trudeau’s promised legislative changes, are opening up mom-and-pop weed shops all over Toronto. There are now dozens of storefront dispensaries in the city, all of them operating outside the law. In the absence of any real rules, these dispensaries have had to make up their own. Some of the stricter places require customers to have prescriptions from doctors. Other weed stores, meanwhile, are almost laughably flexible.
New Village in Scotland Builds Houses With Hemp [My Science Academy]
A new sustainable housing project in the northwest of Scotland will feature industrial hemp as a main building material, reports Green Building Press. The eco-friendly material is the main component of a pre-fabricated wall system called Hempbuild – a mixture of the plant’s woody core and a lime-based binder. The system was supplied by Hemcrete Projects, an English housing company that specializes in hemp-based construction. So far, two prototype houses have been completed in the Achabeag township, both with very different designs.
Cannabis should be sold legally in shops, say Lib Dems [The Telegraph]
The Liberal Democrats have become the first mainstream political party to call for the legalisation of cannabis. In a landmark vote at the party’s spring conference, delegates voted in favour of licensing shops to sell cannabis in plain packaging and with health warnings to adults in Britain. Householders would also be allowed to legally cultivate marijuana and harvest the drug for personal consumption. On Thursday, a US investment fund, which has a 30-year deal to sell cannabis under the brand name of the reggae star Bob Marley, met with Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, to enlist his support in pushing for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK.
Lee Harris, the moral crusader turned cannabis activist vying to be London mayor [The Guardian]
If Lee Harris fails to pick up a single vote in the London mayoral election, he can be certain of winning the prize for best campaign launch party. The Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol party (Cista) candidate raved until the early morning to roots reggae and dub at the Mau Mau Bar on Portobello Road. He is 79. “Lee for mayor!” performers and crowds chanted throughout the night. Their exuberance contrasted with the softly spoken, unassuming character who has run Portobello’s Alchemy head shop for the past 45 years. Earlier that evening, over coffee in a nearby Italian restaurant, Harris sat flanked by two supporters, aged 72 and 19, leaning forward over the table as he outlined his mayoral campaign agenda. You can guess what comes top of the list. “The archaic laws that have gone on here, the last 70 years of drug prohibition, have caused more harm than good,” he said. “People should not be penalised or criminalised for possession of cannabis or growing a few plants. Young people in their hundreds of thousands have had job prospects, travel prospects ruined and they have a criminal record and I think it’s time that stopped.”
The First Legal Cannabis Plant Has Been Planted In Jamaica [WeedHomie]
The University of the West Indies has been authorized by the Jamaican government to cultivate marijuana for medical research, but more significantly to ‘set the pace the development of a legal cannabis industry’. The new development for Marijuana in the country comes across the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, which hopes to develop a medical marijuana industry in the country. And a similar license will also be granted to Jamaica’s University of Technology. Jamaica’s Science Minister Philip Paulwell said the trial could pave the way for the commercialization of Cannabis.
GW Pharmaceuticals doubles in value after cannabis drug success in epilepsy trial [The Guardian]
An experimental cannabis-based drug from GW Pharmaceuticals has successfully treated children with a rare form of epilepsy, sending the company’s shares soaring and more than doubling its stock market value. GW said a clinical trial showed its Epidiolex drug had significantly reduced seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome, a type of epilepsy for which there are currently no treatments approved in the US, compared to a placebo. In the trial of 120 patients, those taking Epidiolex saw a reduction of monthly convulsive seizures of 39% compared with 13% for a placebo, which GW said was highly statistically significant.
Marijuana Legalization Health Risks? Massachusetts Hospital Association Votes Against Cannabis Ballot Measure [International Business Times]
The Massachusetts Hospital Association has voted unanimously against a proposed ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, as debate over legalizing pot for people aged 21 and over continued to rage statewide. Massachusetts decriminalized cannabis in 2008 and made medical marijuana legal in 2012, and the state has begun seeing a push to legalize pot for recreational use in a November ballot measure, the Boston Globe reported. “Clinicians and healthcare leaders from around the state have a clear message — this ballot measure is the wrong prescription for Massachusetts,” Lynn Nicholas, chief executive of the hospital association, said. The board of trustees of the association, which represents 78 licensed member hospitals, voted against the ballot measure last week. Critics of the proposed measure have said the science and safety studies surrounding pot have not been widely performed enough to say for certain that the drug is safe. Supporters of the measure have pointed out how attempts to study the drug have been repeatedly blocked by the federal government, while noting that legalization could possibly take money away from a powerful pharmaceutical industry.
The 7 charts that show the countries with the highest number of teenage cannabis smokers [The Independent]
France has the highest number of teenagers who smoke cannabis, according to a global survey. In the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study from the World Health Organization, which examined the effect of gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health in 42 countries in Europe as well as Canada and Israel, 16 per cent of 15-year-old boys in France admitted that they had used cannabis in the last 30 days. Among the girls, the figure stood at 14 per cent. In England, nine per cent of boys and eight per cent of girls said they had used cannabis in the last month, according to data from 2013/14. In Wales, it was seven per cent of boys and eight per cent of girls.
Medicinal cannabis starting to seem inevitable for the Republic of Ireland [volteface]
With around 5 cases of Dravet Syndrome in Ireland and 8,000 MS patients, it is becoming more and more common for families to be forced to decide between their home and their health. Some follow similar paths to Tom Curran when he cared for his wife and investigate the possibility of growing cannabis, although illegal, and others have begun to decide to emigrate like Yvonne Cahalane. Then others, such as Vera, can not try either option and must wait for regulations around medical cannabis to allow for the treatment of epilepsy, as it currently already recognises MS. Even still, there is yet a single medical cannabis product available in Ireland while people desperately need it.
Are We (Finally) About to Start Studying Marijuana as a Treatment for PTSD? [Vice]
In the newest episode of Viceland’s Weediquette series, host Krishna Andavolu follows a group of US combat veterans as they travel to Washington, DC, to advocate for research into medical marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specifically, they want the federal government to begin supplying cannabis to an FDA-approved phase II clinical trial headed by Dr. Sue Sisley, who says she was abruptly fired in 2014 from a faculty position at the University of Arizona—where she also earned her medical degree—when the study became a political hot button among local politicians. After losing her job, and the original home for her research, Sisley is now serving as one of two site principal investigators in a multi-site study sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and funded by a $2.1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The money for the study comes directly from taxes collected on Colorado’s thriving medical marijuana retail sales, but the state can only pony up the cash, not the cannabis. Only one facility in the country, on the campus of the University of Mississippi, can currently grow and process cannabis legally on the federal level, making it the sole source of “research material” for any FDA-approved study. And that sole supply can only be accessed with the express written consent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For years, Sisley and her allies at MAPS have been actively seeking to end this monopoly by suing the DEA to force the creation of additional federally licensed cultivation facilities, and calling for an end to a set of cumbersome review processes that make pot much harder to study than MDMA or LSD. In 2007, a DEA administrative law judge ruled that this marijuana monopoly was indeed harmful to the public interest and should end, but as a report called The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science chronicled in detail, the head of the DEA roundly rejected this ruling, maintaining the monopoly. At the moment, despite all these obstacles, Sisley believes she’s about to finally push through the last of the barriers and start signing up veterans for the study. She spoke with VICE on Monday, while attending a medical cannabis conference in Israel, to offer the latest word on her ongoing quest to prove whether or not cannabis works safely and effectively to treat PTSD.
Marijuana Legalization 2016: Cannabis Abuse On The Rise, But Few Seek Treatment [International Business Times]
Marijuana abuse is on the rise among adults, but only a small proportion of that population seeks out treatment, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Cannabis use more than doubled in the U.S. between 2002 and 2013, according to the study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the Columbia University Medical Center and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Meanwhile, marijuana abuse increased during the same period, with 6 million people, or 2.5 percent of adults, described as having marijuana use disorder in the past year, the scientists found. Those diagnosed with the disorder experienced at least two of the 11 symptoms associated with it, such as cravings, lack of control and withdrawal, as well as negative effects with respect to their personal and professional responsibilities. “An increasing number of American adults do not perceive marijuana use as harmful,” said Deborah Hasin, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology in Columbia University’s psychiatry department. “While some can use marijuana without harms, other users do experience negative consequences, which can include mental and physical problems, and impaired functioning. This paper helps provide information about some of those risks.” According to data collected in 2012 and 2013, three out of 10 pot users had marijuana use disorder, but only 7 percent of those diagnosed with it sought treatment for the disorder in the past year. About 14 percent of pot users diagnosed with it reported receiving treatment at some point in their lives.
Cannabis: what do we know and what do we need to know? [The Mental Elf]
It is clear from this review that what we know is less than what we need to learn about how cannabis interacts with humans. The scale of cannabis use across the world demands that we investigate its potential for harm. But we need to be smarter with our research on this topic. A good start would be to ensure research samples reflect the population in terms of gender. Greater detail about the specific type, frequency and quantity of cannabis use is also needed to ensure the findings can be applied to people beyond the research sample. So the evidence isn’t definitive but if you were a policy maker you wouldn’t have the luxury of waiting for conclusive evidence. We need to provide policy makers with evidence that is provided from a range of sources and disciplines, as problematic cannabis use has an impact on many aspects of an individuals life and society as a whole. As with practice, research evidence is at its best when it encompasses a range of expertise and views. We should draw on evidence not only from biology but sociology, criminology, psychology and all the other ologies to provide a more complete view of how problems with cannabis develop and critically what we can do to prevent them happening in the first place. Given the scale of the population experiment unfolding across the world, the need for collaboration is urgent.
New technique could more accurately measure cannabinoid dosage in marijuana munchies [Science Daily]
As more states decriminalize recreational use of marijuana and expand its medical applications, concern is growing about inaccurate dosage information listed on edible products. So, scientists have developed a technique that can more precisely measure cannabis compounds in gummy bears, chocolates and other foods made with marijuana. They say this new method could help ensure product safety. The researchers present their work today at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). “Producers of cannabis edibles complain that if they send off their product to three different labs for analysis, they get three different results,” says Melissa Wilcox, who is at Grace Discovery Sciences. “The point of our work is to create a solid method that will accurately and reliably measure the cannabis content in these products.”
Rocky Mountain high: a stay at Colorado’s token bud and breakfast – video [The Guardian]
Reporter Josiah Hesse spent the night at Bud+Breakfast in Silverthorne, Colorado, a bed and breakfast that caters exclusively to marijuana smokers. The inn has been flourishing since Colorado voters passed a landmark ballot measure that legalized recreational cannabis in 2012.