EMBASSY HEADLINES Issue 196
Medicinal cannabis processing proposal for Tamworth as council aims to make most of new industry [ABC]
A council in northern New South Wales wants to take advantage of the fledgling medicinal cannabis industry by encouraging the construction of a processing plant. Medicinal cannabis campaigner Lucy Haslam is already looking to set up a farm to grow cannabis in the Tamworth region, after legislation to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes passed the Federal Parliament last month. Mrs Haslam’s son Dan sought relief from cancer treatment through medicinal cannabis use. “The fight for medicinal cannabis really started here with the Haslams,” Tamworth acting mayor Russell Webb said. The council will vote on a Mayoral Minute on Tuesday night proposing to write a letter to Premier Mike Baird indicating strong support for the cultivation, processing and manufacturing of medicinal cannabis.
Medical cannabis activists protest outside Queensland Health and threaten court action Government [Courier Mail]
Logan mother Lanai Carter met with Queensland Health director general Michael Walsh and acting chief health officer Sonya Bennett this morning following a protest over medical cannabis approval. Mrs Carter protested outside Queensland Health in the Brisbane CBD where she threatened to take the State Government to the Supreme Court if medical cannabis was not made available to her ill son. Mrs Carter accused Queensland Health of “playing god with my son’s life’’ after her son, Lindsay, had his application to receive medical cannabis approved at a Federal Government level. She said Lindsay’s medicine was in Canada awaiting shipment but she was powerless to access it until Queensland Health gave the approval. “All we are waiting for is for Queensland Health to sign off so that the import licence can be finalised in Canberra and his medicine can be sent to the pharmacist,” she said.
Medical marijuana legalisation could be worth $100 million plus, research finds [Sydney Morning Herald]
Legalising medical cannabis would give rise overnight to an industry worth up to $150 million, a new study from the University of Sydney has found. The NSW government will this year commence clinical trials of cannabis-derived medicine for conditions such as chemotherapy-related nausea. The federal government has also passed laws creating a licensing system for future supply of medicinal cannabis. But a new white paper from the University of Sydney’s business school suggests it would have a major secondary effect: the creation of a multi-million dollar industry centring on the cannabis plant. “It’s about much more than just the medical benefits,” said Michael Katz, an author of the study and associate lecturer at the school. “We’re also going to see a range of employment and wealth creation opportunities”.
Rhys Cohen, the lead researcher on the paper, said tens of thousands of Australians might benefit from cannabis’ medical applications. The paper found up to 10,000 Australians currently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis might benefit from cannabis-based treatments in the future. Comparing Australia with countries such as Israel and Canada where medicinal cannabis is legal, researchers estimated demand for the product in Australia would amount to the equivalent of more than 8500 kilograms of plant matter each year.
MMJ Phytotech’s role in the changing medical cannabis industry [Finfeed]
Legalisation and acceptance of medical cannabis as a cure or therapy for certain clinical ailments is gaining global traction. As cities across the globe act to industrialise medical cannabis, several companies have begun to position themselves as first movers in product development and distribution. MMJ Phytotech (ASX:MMJ) is one such company establishing itself in this space. MMJ is developing quickly and has identified key priorities moving forward, one is to leverage its offshore operations in Australia by importing CBD capsules from Switzerland which are similar to those currently selling in Europe.
Govt won’t decriminalise cannabis [Newshub]
The Government is considering a softer approach to low-level drug offences, but says it’s not considering decriminalising cannabis. The shift in policy comes as a study is released showing the war on drugs has done more harm than good. It’s been almost 45 years since former US president Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, and now it’s been declared a failure. A new study by the John Hopkins University in the US concluded the international War on Drugs approach to drug offending hasn’t worked, and could even have made things worse. “I agree entirely,” says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne. “It has failed, and we’ve been saying that from New Zealand’s perspective for some time now.” Last year Mr Dunne said New Zealand would take a health, rather than a criminal, approach in its drug policy. “Treat drug addiction as primarily a health issue. There is a legal issue involved and we’re not running away from those, but the primary impact on the affected person is a health issue.”
Medical experts call for global drug decriminalisation [The Guardian]
An international commission of medical experts is calling for global drug decriminalisation, arguing that current policies lead to violence, deaths and the spread of disease, harming health and human rights. The commission, set up by the Lancet medical journal and Johns Hopkins University in the United States, finds that tough drugs laws have caused misery, failed to curb drug use, fuelled violent crime and spread the epidemics of HIV and hepatitis C through unsafe injecting. Publishing its report on the eve of a special session of the United Nations devoted to illegal narcotics, it urges a complete reversal of the repressive policies imposed by most governments. “The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” says Dr Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a member of the commission. “The global ‘war on drugs’ has harmed public health, human rights and development. It’s time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.” The commission calls on the UN to back decriminalisation of minor, non-violent drug offences involving the use, possession and sale of small quantities. Military force against drug networks should be phased out, it says, and policing should be better targeted on the most violent armed criminals.
The UN’s Drug Meeting in Vienna: Russian Trolling, Jackie Chan, and Lots of Propaganda [Vice News]
The countries with the world’s deadliest drug laws have been on full display — literally — this week during the UN’s annual narcotics meeting in Vienna. Several nations that routinely execute drug offenders have set up stalls in a large, circular hall that delegates convening for the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs must pass through in order to attend the proceedings. The contents of the stalls range from photo installations that depict the burning of dope hauls to tables with portable speakers plastered with anti-drug themed messages. There’s also a giant tent in the middle of the room, where guests can sip coffee while they discuss the importance of killing drug traffickers. The installations, said Edward Fox, policy officer at the UK advocacy group Release, are “a sad indication of who some of the loudest voices are in the UN drug policy processes.”
Having assumed the mantle of international drug warrior, the Russians are now trolling the rest of the world and maintaining staunch opposition to what many countries consider inoffensive language. They have outright refused to allow the words “harm reduction” into the text, and, as of Tuesday evening, were blocking inclusion of reference to Naloxone, a drug that quickly counteracts opioid overdoses, and has been widely endorsed in the US. The much-lauded “spirit” of Vienna — its consensus process — means that Russia and just a few allies, while isolated, may very well get what they want.
Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’? [TNI]
Unfortunately, other areas of progress remain stilted. Russia, alongside several Asian and Middle Eastern countries, has played hardball in the negotiations, effectively putting the brakes on the shifting discourse. The negotiations are driven by consensus, making it unlikely that contested policies in the field of harm reduction, or reforms like decriminalisation, despite being widely accepted and propounded by all relevant UN agencies, will be explicitly recommended in the UNGASS outcome document. Likewise, a clear condemnation of the death penalty for drug offences is probably going to be blocked by a small group of countries. The prophecy that allowing the CND to take full control over the UNGASS preparations would undermine progress towards a more system-wide coherent UN drugs policy seems to be being borne out. Negotiations about the UNGASS outcomes have taken place mostly in ‘informal’ sessions in Vienna, dominated by a minority of member states and from which civil society is excluded from participating or even observing.
Q1 2016 Marijuana Industry Survey & Outlook [Zero Hedge]
Our latest quarterly report on the recreational marijuana business shows a vibrant and growing industry as more states legalize the drug.
We survey numerous stores in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon to track how a newly legalized market develops its cost structure and product mix. Our Colorado contacts reported steady pricing and customer traffic compared to three months ago, and brought in $576 million in retail marijuana sales last year – 84% more than in 2014.
Washington dispensaries, on the other hand, are where Colorado stores were a few quarters ago, facing falling prices partly due to new entrants. Demand remains strong, however, with about 150 to 300 customers still visiting stores each day.
Oregon marijuana stores are in an even earlier stage, with only medical dispensaries allowed to sell recreational marijuana in the form of flower until later this year. Even still, Washington dispensaries posted $486 million in total sales last year, not too far behind Colorado even with fewer months to mature. The state of Oregon also brought in $3.5 million in tax revenue during the first month cannabis sales were taxed in January. That’s more than Colorado or Washington earned during their first month runs. Read on for the details of each developing market.
Obama urges rethink on US drug policies as opiod overdoses kill more than traffic accidents [RT]
President Barack Obama is urging a major re-think of US drugs policy, saying treatment programs are “underfunded.” He also believes that for too long narcotics problems has been judged “through the lens of the criminal justice system.” Obama says he wants to find a new approach to those addicted to heroin and prescription drugs. He says that more attention needs to be paid to a problem that kills more people per year in the US than traffic accidents. However, perhaps most importantly, Obama says he wants to change the perception of how drug abuse is viewed as it is “costing lives and it’s devastating communities. For too long we have viewed the problem of drug abuse generally in our society through the lens of the criminal justice system,” he said, speaking at a drug abuse summit in Atlanta, as cited by Reuters. Facing the epidemic of overdose fatalities head on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged physicians to cut back on opioid prescriptions and, instead, prescribe physical therapy and non-opioid painkillers. In addition, they suggested that patients taking opioids be required to have periodic urine tests to ensure no abuse is taking place.
Gary Johnson predicts Obama will reclassify marijuana on way out of office [Washington Times]
Former New Mexico Gov. and 2016 Libertarian White House hopeful Gary Johnson says he thinks President Obama is going to remove marijuana from the government’s “Schedule I” list of narcotics considered particularly harmful and addictive on his way out of office. “It’s going to be just like alcohol,” Mr. Johnson told The Washington Times Tuesday. “I’m going to predict that Obama, when he leaves office, is going to deschedule marijuana as a Class I narcotic. I wish he would have done that to this point, but I think he’s going to do that going out the door. That’s a positive.”
The Sisters of the Valley [THC Insider]
It should be said now, that even though they have a convent and call each other sister, these are not Christian nuns, The Sisters of the Valley don’t follow any mainstream religion. Instead, they follow aspects of different philosophies, incorporating the use of new-age mysticism while still adhering to the monastic titles from Christianity. Environmental issues and progressive politics are deeply woven into the sisters’ collective purpose, as well as medical marijuana advocacy.
Presenting The New Pot Paradigm [Volteface]
VICE correspondent Krishna Andavolu meets those whose lives hang in the balance of the new pot paradigm. Each episode of the mini-series Weediquette, which has evolved from his regular column of the same name on VICE, explores a different aspect of cannabis use in the USA from a unique perspective. Krishna provides an intelligent and critical appraisal of the myriad issues faced as the United States rapidly changes its attitudes towards this plant. The show succeeds in being thought-provoking, compelling and most noticeably compassionate throughout; the only drawback being that Krishna has somewhat incongruously weaved some gratuitous footage of himself getting high into the show.
Kansas marijuana activist says state violated rights when son was taken [The Guardian]
A western Kansas woman is suing the state and some of the agencies involved in questioning and removing her 11-year-old son from her home after he spoke up at school about her possessing and using marijuana. Shona Banda’s federal lawsuit, filed on Thursday, alleges the state of Kansas and its agencies deprived her of her civil rights to treat a debilitating condition that she says is Crohn’s disease, the Wichita Eagle reported. The Garden City woman, 38, also claims officials have infringed on her parenting, and that local police and school employees improperly questioned her son without her permission.
‘Like a block of cheese’: US authorities busted another huge drug-smuggling tunnel under US-Mexico border [Business Insider]
The smugglers built a house to hide the northern entrance to the 400-yard tunnel in Calexico, the US attorney’s office for Southern California said. The southern end of the tunnel came up in the El Sarape restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico, authorities said. It is the first smuggling tunnel found in more than 10 years in Calexico, a small city of about 40,000 people some 120 miles east of San Diego, but the 12th discovered along Mexico’s border with California since 2006. The rest of the tunnels were found in the San Diego area. “The Mexico-US border is like a block of cheese with holes in it, with tunnels across it,” author and journalist Ioan Grillo told Business Insider.
Uruguay’s legal marijuana policy en route to next phase of regulation [The Guardian]
The first country in the world to legalize marijuana sales was Uruguay, a tiny South American nation with a population of only 3.3 million wedged between Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay fully legalized the production and sale of marijuana in December 2013 after a decade-long grassroots movement headed by mostly middle-class consumers managed to convince the government it was safer to legally sell weed rather than to allow drug dealers to run the market. The system now in place grants licenses to private producers for large-scale cannabis farming and regulates its distribution at a controlled price of about one dollar a gram through pharmacies to registered consumers. Private individuals are also allowed up to six plants at home. Larger amounts can be grown at “cannabis clubs” where individuals band together to produce marijuana in greater quantities as long as it is not for sale. Legal sales through pharmacies are expected to begin in the second half of this year. Earlier this month the government opened the registry for pharmacists wishing to sell legal weed. These must install fingerprint recognition software to identify consumers as well as wall-mounted safety boxes to protect the maximum two kilos of marijuana each pharmacy will be allowed to maintain in stock.
Holi High: Exploring The History Of Bhang & India’s Enigmatic Love For It [Homegrown]
Made from the buds and leaves of the female cannabis plant, bhang offers a strange insight into a country which often takes a prudish view of ‘intoxicating vices’. Bhang has held a position of spiritual and religious significance since ancient times, with many accounts referring to it as ‘God’s Gift’. One account states that when nectar was being churned from the ocean, Lord Shiv supplied the bhang from his own body in order to purify the concoction. Another account states that some nectar fell on the ground resulting in the bhang plant. Bhang is regarded as an anxiety-reliever in the AtharvaVeda and is frequently associated with Lord Shiva, who is said to have discovered and avidly consumed it. While there are restrictions on cannabis resin and the flowering parts of the plant, Bhang is saved from the prohibition. Bhang is available in specially-licensed Bhang Shops as well as a few restaurants which cater to foreign tourists. The consumption skyrockets inarguable during Holi in the cities of Mathura and Varanasi in particular (and the rest of the country in general), adding to the revelries and festivities of the day.
5 Differences Between Cannabis Concentrates and Flower [Leafly]
Cannabis concentrates are becoming an increasingly popular consumption method, but a lot of people new to concentrates feel intimidated by them. Their emotions aren’t completely unjustified when you consider the learning curve and tolerance adjustment for concentrates. Because concentrates are a lot more potent than flower and are often associated with complicated consumption technology, why bother switching to something intimidating and confusing when flower seems so much easier and familiar?
1. Concentrates Go by Many Names
2. Concentrates are More Potent
3. Concentrates Can Be Administered Differently
4. Plant Matter is Stripped from Concentrates
5. Flowers May Have More Flavor and Terpenes, But Not Always
Whoopi Goldberg Wants to Cure Your PMS—With Cannabis [Glamour]
Goldberg teamed up with Maya Elisabeth, the founder of an all-female grow collective and infused pot company called Om Edibles. Their new medical cannabis line, aptly called Whoopi & Maya, consists of four products: a rub for localized pain that’s small enough to fit in your purse, a nighttime tincture, an edible in the form of cocoa, and a relaxing bath soak. “This is a great introductory line to first-time cannabis users because two of the items are topicals, which don’t get you high,” says Elisabeth, who prides herself and her growers on having a well-balanced and chemical-free strand. “And one product, the cocoa, can be made only with CBD, which is a very subtle but powerful mood elevator that helps with anxiety and depression and is an anti-inflammatory.”
Kids use cannabis to come down off ‘high’ from energy drinks in schools, warns charity [Mirror UK]
Schoolkids are using energy drinks to counteract the sedentary effects of cannabis , teachers’ union NASUWT and drug charity Swanswell claim. The NASUWT – meeting this weekend in Birmingham – has called for the introduction of national guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children. They hope this would help tackle pupil behaviour problems in schools. And Swanswell, a national drug and alcohol recovery organisation, said it has evidence of young people experiencing a “cycle” effect. This sees them drinking high-sugar drinks to counter the sedentary state that the Class B drug can cause, enabling them to “function” in their everyday lives.
Genome-wide association study of cannabis [Medscape]
Cannabis dependence is a serious problem worldwide and it is of growing importance in the United States as marijuana becomes increasingly legal. A new study published online by JAMA Psychiatry examined what specific genetic variants might contribute to cannabis dependence. Joel Gelernter, M.D., of the Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn., and coauthors conducted a genome-wide association study for DSM-IV cannabis dependence criterion in three independent substance dependence study groups among African American and European American participants. The authors report cannabis dependence has a genetic risk component that may overlap with other psychiatric disorders.
Cannabis Use Linked to Better Social Skills in Psychosis [Medscape]
Psychosis patients who have used cannabis have greater social skills than patients with psychosis who have never used the drug, data from five European countries suggest. Laura Ferraro, a PhD student in psychiatry at the University of Palermo, in Italy, and colleagues found that lifetime cannabis use was associated with significantly increased improvements in premorbid social adjustment among psychosis patients. Moreover, the results, which were presented at the European Psychiatric Association (EPA) 24th Congress, indicate that the impact of cannabis on sociability was significantly greater among psychosis patients than among healthy individuals. Ferraro said that psychotic patients who consume cannabis are thought to represent a distinct subgroup with better cognitive and social skills, which “is necessary to engage in illegal drug consumption.” Moreover, a previous study by Ferraro and colleagues showed that among patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP), those who used cannabis had a higher IQ.
Cannabis vs. alcohol: economic and social impacts [Medical News Today]
A study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, uses data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study that followed 1,037 New Zealand children from birth until the age of 38. The results showed that both alcohol and cannabis abusers experienced similar declines in social class; they were both more likely to carry out antisocial behaviors in the workplace and to have relationship problems. However, the heavy cannabis users were more likely than the alcohol abusers to have severe financial difficulties; for instance, they more regularly reported difficulty finding enough money to enable them to eat. Moffitt, a psychologist at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, UK, sums up the findings: “Cannabis may be safer than alcohol for your health, but not for your finances.” The researchers are quick to remind readers that their research “does not support arguments for or against cannabis legalization,” their results simply show that “cannabis was not safe for the long-term users tracked” in their study. Although results from previous investigations have been contradictory, this study has paid particular attention to the detail and offers a deeper insight into the long-term social and financial implications of cannabis abuse.