EMBASSY HEADLINES Issue 195
Medicinal cannabis supporters say landmark case a message to legislators [ABC]
A man who pleaded guilty to giving his cancer-stricken daughter medicinal cannabis has escaped conviction. It’s a potentially big shift in legal attitudes, especially in the wake of the laws Federal Parliament recently passed to allow growing cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Queensland father who gave cancer-stricken daughter cannabis oil avoids jail [ABC]
[Commentary from person in court] Fascinating to see what matters the court considered, and also how compassionate they strove to be. And fascinating to see how Prohibition distorts most reasoning about cases like this. Most people really do feel that Cannabis is an extremely risky therapy. I can only assume that prejudice stems from its legal status.
I was surprised that the judge and learned counsels agreed that a general deterrent wasn’t needed “because this case is so unusual”. As if to demolish this, one of the women sitting behind me said as she was leaving (and smugly, I have to say; and too loudly, given the court’s deliberations), “There’ll be many more cases like this”.
Judge and counsels were also gentle on the need for a personal deterrent because this whole case had already gone so badly for the dad — he’s already lost his blue card and therefore his job at a school. The judge specifically didn’t record a conviction so that he’d have more chance of regaining his blue card.
Hilariously, when one learned counsel suggested imposing community service rather than “just a good behaviour bond, which most people view as getting off free”, the judge retorted that his many glowing character references made it clear that the defendant is already extremely community minded, so what’s the point of making him do community service? But more seriously, Judge Flanagan was concerned that imposing community service might make it difficult for the dad to keep seeing his daughter, who seemed to benefit from his company.
Sentencing was also complicated by concurrent acrimonious Family Court hearings. This case only came to the police’s attention because when the mother, already estranged from the father, found out that he had mixed cannabis oil into their daughter’s food, she freaked out and called the cops. She says she mostly worried that Cannabis might interfere with the aggressive treatment the doctors had started, particularly chemotherapy.
The Judge was also concerned that the dad based his decision on “Internet research and talking to people” rather than on or with medical authority. Again, the judge seemed to be mostly concerned about the risk that Cannabis might interfere with chemotherapy.
The judge noted that the doctors reported that the Cannabis had “made no difference to the girl’s condition or behaviour”, so had neither caused her harm nor benefits. But at another stage in the proceedings, one of the learned counsels read text messages that the dad had sent two hours after giving his daughter Cannabis oil, in which he reported that she’d said “tummy doesn’t hurt” and had become very hungry. No one remarked that these text messages contradicted the doctors’ assessment. I don’t know whether the doctors only meant that the Cannabis hadn’t cured the cancer nor interfered with the chemotherapy. It certainly seems to have alleviated the side effects of the chemotherapy, which is its least controversial therapeutic effect.
Ironically, the dad’s texts also revealed that having regained her appetite, he fed his daughter fish and chips on one occasion and “lots and lots of meat balls” on the other. No one seemed concerned about the effect of this diet on her stomach cancer!
Self-treating with cannabis oil ‘fraught with risk’ [The Age]
The country’s peak medical body has warned self-treating with cannabis oil is “fraught with danger”, in the wake of a Queensland man escaping conviction in a landmark Supreme Court Case. The 32-year-old, who can’t be named for legal reasons, walked away on Wednesday with nothing but a two-year good behaviour bond hanging over his head. Justice Peter Flanagan had taken into account the man’s good intentions in feeding cannabis oil to his cancer-stricken daughter before she started chemotherapy. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced in October children with severe epilepsy and multiple sclerosis would have access to medicinal cannabis from 2016 in a $3 million trial. In late February, the federal Senate passed laws to create a national licensing scheme for growers.
Recreational Marijuana Considered In Senate Committee Hearing
The transcripts for this are available now: https://tinyurl.com/heo53vf
Drug Driving in the Spotlight [Road Ahead]
The NRMA have lobbied hard for the current drug tests for cannabis. This story provides some data too.
Parliamentary Drug Summit 2016 [Drug Policy Reform]
Sign, support and have your say on the Camberra Declaration on Illicit Drugs! On 2 March, the Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy and Law Reform held the Parliamentary Drug Summit in Canberra. This Summit comprised International and Australian representatives with expertise in health, NGO, justice, personal addiction and academia, and will provide an opportunity to share experiences and recommendations around harm minimisation and drug law reform. The Parliamentary Group sees this Summit as a valuable platform from which to influence Australian public policy in advance of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem scheduled for April 2016.
Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Colorado’s Marijuana Laws [New York Times]
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an unusual lawsuit challenging Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. In the marijuana case, two states sought to use a rare procedure to attack the Colorado law, asking the justices to allow them to file a lawsuit directly in the Supreme Court. The Constitution gives the court such “original jurisdiction” to hear disputes between states, but the court uses it sparingly, most often to adjudicate boundary disputes or water rights. “The State of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” two neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, told the court. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”
A Wise Move on Marijuana by the Supreme Court [New York Times]
The Supreme Court has sensibly decided not to take a case brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma challenging the way in which Colorado legalized marijuana. The plaintiff states had a weak case backed up with little in the way of evidence. The court was right to reject the case because Nebraska and Oklahoma could not establish that Colorado had directly harmed them, as solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, Jr., argued in a brief on behalf of the Obama administration. Colorado cannot be held responsible for the actions of individuals who decide to take marijuana into other states. The state does take reasonable steps to prevent trafficking and thwart the black market by, for example, limiting purchases of the substance to one ounce at a time.
The Art of Marketing Marijuana [The Atlantic]
Pot businesses are, above all, businesses, and they’re responding as businesses do: with marketing aimed at convincing longtime pot users that their brand is better than the others—and, just as important, at increasing demand by encouraging curious nonusers to try their product first. In other words, marijuana companies would like to sell a lot of pot to a lot of people. “Now that marijuana has been legalized, we have the opportunity to market it to a mainstream audience,” Olivia Mannix, a co-founder of a marketing agency called Cannabrand, told me. But making good on that opportunity has required changing the way people think about the drug. In this regard, the early associations between pot and medicine—and hence harmlessness, even wellness—were helpful. Since then, the tactics have gotten more sophisticated.
Thirteen Years for Two Joints [Vice]
More than half of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal in the United States, according to a Gallup poll from October 2015. With 58 percent in favor, legalization is enjoying the highest support ever reported (up from 34 percent in 2001). Still, draconian sentencing laws surrounding marijuana have led to the imprisonment of millions of American citizens, many of whom are still serving time for possessing small amounts of weed for personal use. One of those citizens is Bernard Noble, a father and aspiring restaurateur from New Orleans who was stopped by police and nabbed for possession of two joints in 2010. In keeping with Louisiana’s habitual offenders law, Noble, who had two prior cocaine possession charges and a prior marijuana possession charge (he admits that he was a coke addict in the 90s), was sentenced to a staggering 13 and 1/3 years in prison for simple marijuana possession, a nonviolent offense.
Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs [Harper’s]
Nixon’s invention of the war on drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the drug war is now impossible to ignore . . . As the once-unimaginable step of ending the war on drugs shimmers into view, it’s time to shift the conversation from why to how. To realize benefits from ending drug prohibition will take more than simply declaring that drugs are legal.
Commentary on Statement by Commission for Narcotic Drugs for UNGASS 2016
When examining the draft statement prepared by the Commission for Narcotic Drugs for UNGASS 2016, it appears that 10 years of critical analysis of the costs of drug control had never happened. Not a word on prison overcrowding, the rise of organised crime, rampant corruption in law enforcement and judiciary the world over. Human rights concerns are deftly appropriated with a verbal commitment to equality of access to treatment. As for the prohibition created risks to users, like needle sharing owing to paraphernalia restriction, or the shift from soft to hard substances, binge use, lack of consumer information, well, it would appear as if drug user protection was not really a major concern.
What the drafters do care about, however, is to continue meeting themselves, and for the outcomes of future meetings to be recognised. in other words states are encouraged to adopt and adhere to various international conventions on drugs, organised crime, corruption etc. They are also urged to devote more resources to (i) law enforcement and (ii) treatment. Little head is taken of arguments that the first is counter productive and the latter ineffective. unsurprising as industry members are advising the drafting committee.
The preamble of the 1961 convention justifies itself as working toward the good of mankind. The UNGASS 2016 has more modest ambitions. It works toward the good of the professional groups sponsoring the next chapter in international drug control: policy makers, law enforcement and drug treatment. We are left to pay the taxes and pick up the pieces. How very disappointing.
Corporate Cannabis Set to Boom in Canada [Volteface]
Sources estimate that medical cannabis could become a $7 billion industry under Trudeau. As Justin Trudeau became prime minister in October, Forbes reported that medical cannabis could potentially develop into a billion dollar industry in Canada. Should Trudeau fully legalise cannabis within the next two years, as promised, then recreational cannabis could cause the overall industry value to skyrocket. If the estimates prove accurate, then ‘corporate cannabis’ could become a valuable source of employment and tax revenue for the Canadian economy en masse. Recent figures reported in the Guardian show encouraging signs, as a swell of interest in shares for the nation’s medical cannabis companies bodes well for future developments.
David Cameron Is A ‘Hypocrite’ For Smoking Cannabis At Eton But Opposing Legalisation [Huffington Post]
UK PM, David Cameron, is a hypocrite for opposing the legalisation of cannabis having smoked the drug himself, a Lib Dem MP has said. Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Norman Lamb said it was unfair that while some people ended up with criminal records for smoking cannabis, other “usually more privileged” people are able to “build more successfully careers”. “How many members of this government have smoked cannabis whilst maintaining their support for the conviction of their fellow citizens?” he asked. “The prime minister was a reformer, it was also reported that he and others were caught smoking cannabis at Eton. He has gone on to do quite well.” Lamb, who was introducing a Bill that would legalise the drug, said there was “a real hypocrisy here”. “Why continue to allow our fellow citizens to be put at risk with possibility for criminal conviction for doing exactly what he did?”
Hotel with three floors of marijuana raided by Spanish police [The Guardian]
Spanish police have uncovered hundreds of marijuana plants in a disused hotel on the Mediterranean coast and arrested four people as part of the operation. Officers raided the hotel in the town of Pineda de Mar, about 40 miles (60km) north of Barcelona, on Wednesday and found marijuana plants in various stages of growth covering three of its five floors, police said. “The group was preparing other rooms on other floors to increase the area of cultivation,” said a statement.
Vaping cannabis may be good for the skin [Telegraph UK]
In today’s weird beauty news, it seems cannabis could be good for the skin – when consumed the ‘correct’ way. It has long been known that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component in cannabis, would be useful in the maintenance of healthy skin, were it not for the fact smoking in all its forms is very much the opposite. Smoking THC would be a bit like eating a battered and fried avocado, then claiming the health benefits of the raw vegetable. Instead, vaporisers could be the answer. Smokeless, meaning the collagen-sapping combustion process is skipped (as the essential oils in whatever herb it is you’re choosing to smoke are boiled instead), those beneficial properties of THC can be inhaled, minus the bad ones.
APPG Inquiry into Cannabis as a Medicine – UK [All Party Parliamentary Group]
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy reform is Co-Chaired by Baroness Meacher and Caroline Lucas MP and is made up of about 100 Lords, Baronesses and MPs: http://www.drugpolicyreform.net/p/people.html United Patients Alliance are a support community for 1000s of medical cannabis patients in the UK suffering from a range of conditions all of whom find that various types and strengths of cannabis consumed in a variety of ways is a more effective medicine than their prescribed alternatives in treating their symptoms whilst reducing unwanted side-effects. https://www.facebook.com/unitedpatientsalliance/?fref=ts This questionnaire is intended to look at the extent and range of use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in the UK. The aggregated results of the questionnaire will be fed into the inquiry currently being undertaken by the APPG into the current scheduling of cannabis for medical purposes.
Mr X and the Search for Medicinal Cannabis [Volteface]
I sit in a brightly lit doctors surgery in central Amsterdam. It’s clean, modern and pristine. A team of receptionists see to patients sitting waiting to my left. Sitting to my right is a UK pain patient who, for the sake of anonymity, we’re going to call Mr X. Mr X uses cannabis for his pain caused by spinal damage due to injury. He’s a UK citizen and he’s here to get a prescription he can’t get from his doctor at home in London. Mr X is young, talkative and passionate about what he’s doing. He’s not just in it for himself either. He’s already completed a series of arduous tasks to get here: requesting letters from his UK GP, getting them stamped by the Home Office, he now must jump through a few international loopholes, unravel the webs of red tape and hopefully get through UK customs unheeded. The goal? To bring his much needed medication from Holland (where it is legally available on prescription) back to the UK where the government still deem that cannabis has ‘no medicinal value‘. Not a small task for someone in a great deal of pain.
How Marijuana Can Help Treat Anorexia [Academia]
Treating withdrawal symptoms could help cannabis users quit, study finds [EurekAlert]
Heavy users of cannabis who experience withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness and cravings when they quit are likely to use again sooner than their peers, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that 85 percent of people who met the criteria for a diagnosis of cannabis withdrawal during their intake assessment for treatment lapsed and used cannabis again within about 16 days, while other individuals stayed abstinent about 24 days before using again, said lead author Jordan P. Davis, a doctoral student in the School of Social Work.
Heavy, persistent pot use linked to economic and social problems at midlife [Medical Xpress]
A research study that followed children from birth up to age 38 has found that people who smoked cannabis four or more days of the week over many years ended up in a lower social class than their parents, with lower-paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs than those who were not regular cannabis smokers. These regular and persistent users also experienced more financial, work-related and relationship difficulties, which worsened as the number of years of regular cannabis use progressed. The study, conducted by an international team of researchers led by Magdalena Cerdá at the University of California, Davis, Health System, and Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt at Duke University, appears online in the journal Clinical Psychological Science March 23.
Medicinal Cannabis Facts [Australian Drug Foundation]
The Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) is a non-government, not-for-profit organisation based in Melbourne, Australia. The ADF’s work is inclusive of both legal and illegal drugs on a national level and focuses on primary and secondary prevention. The Foundation has a vision to “create Australian culture that supports people so they can live healthy, safe and satisfying lives, unaffected by drug problems“.
How many teenagers smoke cannabis? [Russell Webster]
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study provides information about the prevalence of cannabis use amongst school children in Europe based on a 2013/14 study). Cannabis is the most frequently used drug in Europe, with 14.6 million young adults using it in 2014. It was also the most commonly reported substance related to new admissions to drug treatment facilities across Europe in 2014 (37% cannabis, 28% heroin and 21% cocaine). Cannabis, regarded as a so-called gateway drug, is the illicit substance used most frequently by schoolchildren across Europe and North America, with a 12-month prevalence ranging from about 27% in Canada to around 3% in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Cannabis use leaves society searching for answers [Medical Xpress]
A University of Queensland researcher is a major contributor to a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the adverse health effects of nonmedical cannabis use. Professor Wayne Hall of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research has helped identify important gaps in knowledge about a substance used by an estimated 181.8 million people globally. “There is far less known about the long-term effects of nonmedical cannabis than about the use of alcohol and tobacco,” Professor Hall said. “There is increasing demand for treatment for cannabis-use disorders and associated health conditions in high- and middle-income countries.
The science behind what goes on in your brain when you get hungry after smoking marijuana [Business Insider UK]
Marijuana can have various effects on your body. But what is it about weed that makes you so hungry?
Public Health Malpractice? Nursing Journal Article Recommends Scolding Smokers Who Quit Using E-Cigarettes [Tobacco Analysis]
It would be one thing if the author merely recommended that e-cigarettes not be used as first-line therapy. But to actually counsel health practitioners not to commend patients who quit smoking – regardless of how they quit – reveals much about the state of the current tobacco control movement. It reveals that what is now most important is not saving the lives of smokers, but controlling them. The goal is apparently not to protect the health of smokers, but to make them comply with our ideology of no addiction to nicotine being allowed.
Legalized Cannabis and the Brain: NIDA Sounds the Alarm [Medscape]
Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) are sounding the alarm over a possible increase in unknown cognitive and behavioral harms that widespread cannabis use may unmask. A clinical review conducted by NIDA director Nora Volkow, MD, points out that as legalization of the drug for recreational and medical use spreads, vulnerable populations, especially adolescents, are exposed to toxic effects of the drug. “This is not a problem that is specific to marijuana,” Dr Volkow told Medscape Medical News. “Young brains and drugs shouldn’t mix. Period.” The study was published in the March issue of JAMA Psychiatry.