Nimbin’s 24th MardiGrass

Nimbin’s 24th MardiGrass, our annual cannabis law reform protest and gathering, finally has something to celebrate this year. Seems the hippies aren’t so stupid after all. Again! So we’re looking for some seriously good vibes at this protestival with a good harvest behind us and finally, after about eighty years, our elected rulers saying our favourite herb is good medicine.  Prohibition always was just about money, power and profit and nothing has changed. The pharmaceutical industry makes most of its profit at the end of your life. The average person uses 50% of their lifetime legal pill intake in the last 6 months before they die. Keeping your heart pumping with expensive pills shouldn’t be counted as living perhaps. And cannabis is fantastic for old people with aches and pains and poor sleep. Sure, pharmaceuticals can do it, but so can this plant that anyone can easily grow in their backyard or on a balcony in the sun. A herb our ancestors loved and no one has ever died from. How dare big business hold us to ransom on our health and our ability to enjoy our lives, which is the purpose after all.

Medicinal cannabis: Families have to wait until 2017 to access drug [The Age]

Families will have to wait until early 2017 for medicinal cannabis, despite new Victorian laws being passed to legalise the treatment. And those that cannot afford newly legal medicinal cannabis will be given nearly $12 million in taxpayer-funded assistance to buy the drug, Premier Daniel Andrews says. Secret government-run drug labs have started growing medicinal cannabis in Victoria to provide new treatment for nearly 500 children. Last week the government passed laws for medicinal cannabis but people seeking the treatment – it will require a prescription – will have to wait until next year when the government-controlled product becomes available. The government warned that people getting treatments from other sources was illegal and would be a matter for the police. Medicinal cannabis will initially only be available to an estimated 470 children suffering various conditions, including severe epilepsy.  Mr Andrews on Tuesday announced that next Wednesday’s state budget would include $28.5 million to set up the office of Medicinal Cannabis and an independent medical advisory committee.

Plan to increase cannabis penalties to match harder drugs under attack [The Guardian]

Plans by the Queensland government to increase penalties for cannabis possession and trafficking to match those for “harder” drugs has been described by drug policy experts as a “retrograde” and “uninformed” step. The Queensland attorney general, Yvette D’Ath, is expected to introduce the proposed reform to the state’s anti-drug laws by the middle of the year, as part of reforms recommended in a report on the Organised Crime Commission of Inquiry. If passed, the reforms will be introduced as Queensland prepares to hold clinical trials on the use of medical marijuana, after announcing it would join New South Wales and Victoria in potentially allowing the legal use of the drug.

Medicinal cannabis: Roll up, roll up, green acres sought for joint venture [The Age]

Farmers are watching developments on the medicinal cannabis front with interest, but have not rushed the government asking to grow the drug. President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Peter Tuohey, said some farmers were interested but didn’t know whether it would be grown in hothouses, in open paddocks, or both. “There will be farmers in different parts of the state that will be interested in trying it. As long as the cost of securing [a licence] is not going to be too difficult,” he said. “You will need a good reliable irrigation system most likely. You’ll need fertile soils and probably good weed management and disease management, which is probably not unlike any other highly productive crop.” He said if it is to be grown in paddocks, the biggest issue would be security and “stopping the wrong people getting in, digging it up and carting it away”.

Barnaby Joyce launches what could be Australia’s first medicinal cannabis farm in NSW [ABC]

In an Australian first, a farm which has been earmarked for use to grow medicinal cannabis has officially been opened at an undisclosed location near Tamworth in northern New South Wales. Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce launched the 47-hectare property which has been named in honour of Dan Haslam, whose battle with cancer contributed to the push to legalise medicinal cannabis in Australia.  It comes just over a year after he died, and ahead of legislation yet to be passed, which will make the cultivation possible. The Acting Prime Minister congratulated the Haslam’s on their efforts in bringing the project this far. “Amongst your grief, which you will carry for a long time, you have managed to use that energy to do something in a positive way,” Mr Joyce said. “When you can find a use for any part of a plant that can assist people when they are ill, when they are in pain, you should do it.”

A drug-free world is an impossible dream [Sydney Morning Herald]

In 1998, a special session of the United Nations General Assembly agreed to set a 10-year deadline to make the world “drug free”. After an embarrassing failure to achieve this goal, the deadline was extended a further 10 years, setting the world up for another inevitable failure in 2019. In the intervening years, the use, availability and variety of illicit drugs have escalated exponentially. It is estimated by the UK charity Transform Foundation that 300 million people worldwide used illegal drugs in 2012, contributing to a global market with a turnover of $US330 billion a year. The vision of a drug-free world has faded. We are instead presented with a nightmare scenario, where a multi-billion dollar black market funds organised crime and terrorist organisations.

Shane Warne bongs created by Australian designer in honour of 420 day [The Guardian]

Former Australian cricket hero Shane Warne is the face that launched countless advertising campaigns, but it’s probably safe to say that nobody saw Warne-themed bongs coming. But that is the niche now filled by Byron Bay designer Tom Mason, who has created a range of handmade earthenware devices in honour of the likes of Warne, Donald Trump, Britney Spears and Australian pop star Shannon Noll.

Editorial: Cannabis law ought to take wide view [NZ Herald]

An international conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York this week is expected to agree that the UN’s “war on drugs” is over, and it has failed. In its place, delegates will probably agree, certain drugs should be decriminalised and treated as a health problem. Most people will probably agree, particularly where cannabis is concerned. Smoking the leaf of a plant that is fairly easily cultivated has proved impossible to stamp out, and a charge of possession of cannabis has long ranked as one of the most common and least serious of criminal offences in countries such as ours.

Too many hurdles hinder access to medicinal cannabis, say families of recipients [NZ Herald]

Seventy-five people have been granted permission to use medicinal cannabis in recent years but relieved recipients say many more would benefit if the cost was not so high. Ministry of Health figures show it received 79 applications to use medicinal cannabis between the beginning of 2013 and March this year and authorised 75. Families who have struggled through the bureaucratic red tape to gain permission to have the medication say the costs remain too high a hurdle for too many. In one case, a family has gained district health board support, another has turned to public charity.

Over 1,000 Leaders Worldwide Slam Failed Prohibitionist Drug Policies, Call for Systemic Reform [Drug Policy Alliance]

On the eve of the first United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drug policy since 1998, world leaders and activists have signed a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking for “enlightened leadership” in global drug control policy reform. Over 1,000 key leaders spanning government, civil rights, entertainment, and business worldwide have taken a stand.

Cannabis Regulation and the UN Drug Treaties: Strategies for Reform [Transform UK]

As jurisdictions enact reforms creating legal access to cannabis for purposes other than exclusively “medical and scientific,” tensions surrounding the existing UN drug treaties and evolving law and practice in Member States continue to grow. How might governments and the UN system address these growing tensions in ways that acknowledge the policy shifts underway and help to modernize the drug treaty regime itself, and thereby reinforce the UN pillars of human rights, development, peace and security, and the rule of law?

UN meeting on drug policy is marked by an unofficial holiday: 4/20 [The Guardian]

As diplomats from around the world ready to discuss global drug policy at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in New York, stoners in the US will prepare for the nation’s unofficial pot smoking holiday, on 20 April. Though the overlapping dates are “most likely coincidental”, according to the deputy director of the American National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml), Paul Armentano, the date still deserves reflection. “It is an indication of the unique cultural and social acceptance enjoyed by cannabis that this date now garners such wide-stream awareness and attention from the mainstream media,” Armentano said. “It is meaningful that world leaders are finally engaging in substantive discussions with regard to cannabis policy and possible law reform.”

On 4/20, exhibit highlights drug policy issues near UN meeting on drugs [The Guardian]

While world leaders discussed global drug policy at a United Nations special session on drugs, a few blocks away was a notably more fashionable crowd of activists, artists and celebrities supporting the opening of the pop-up Museum on Drug Policy.  Held on the cavernous first floor of a midtown Manhattan high-rise, the museum is what its name implies: an exhibition space meant to highlight how drug policy impacts everything from availability of clean syringes for injection drug users to global incarceration. The three-day exhibit is part of activism taking place across New York City, while the UN holds a special session on global drug policy for the first time in 18 years. “The drugs are put into our community, the opportunities are taken out,” said Michael K Williams, an actor most famous for his role as Omar, a drug dealer in the HBO series The Wire, as he smoked a Parliament outside the space. “It’s like you put a piece of cheese in front of a mouse, and then you penalize him for eating the cheese. It’s backwards.”

At San Francisco’s 4/20 marijuana party, public health warnings go up in smoke [The Guardian]

The 4/20 marijuana holiday, which drew thousands to a smoke-filled public party in San Francisco, ignited in California as pot advocates ramp up a major legalization campaign amid a renewed debate on the mental health risks of heavy cannabis use. The unofficial National Weed Day lit up Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park with raucous and colorful pot-themed festivities on Wednesday in what is likely the final 4/20 event before recreational cannabis becomes a reality in California. The celebration, technically a mass violation of the law and a major headache for local law enforcement, comes on the heels of scientists in the UK, US, Europe and Australia calling for a global public health campaign for marijuana, citing the serious risks of frequent cannabis use. Although most people who smoke pot do not develop psychotic disorders, international drug experts have recently argued that there was enough evidence of potential harm that governments should issue clear warnings, which have generally been lacking since the drug remains outlawed in most countries. The call from experts came in advance of this week’s United Nations special assembly on global drug policy, the first in 18 years. Many San Francisco pot smokers celebrating the 20 April holiday – named after the “420” code for cannabis, which reportedly originated with a group of northern California teens who would meet at 4.20pm – said they weren’t concerned about the warnings and health risks and were eager to support full legalization in November.

The Science behind the DEA’s Long War on Marijuana [Scientific American]

Experts say listing cannabis among the world’s deadliest drugs ignores decades of scientific and medical data. But attempts to delist it have met with decades of bureaucratic inertia and political distortion. Speculation is growing about the possibility that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will review by summer its “Schedule I” designation of marijuana as equal to heroin among the world’s most dangerous drugs. Very few Americans know of or understand the DEA’s drug-ranking process, and a review of cannabis’s history as a Schedule I drug shows that the label is highly controversial and dubious.

Colorado marijuana law: uptick in adults lighting up, but not minors [The Guardian]

Anonymous surveys given to about 40,000 students before and after legalization showed ‘no significant change’ in usage by children under 18. Colorado children are not smoking more pot since the drug became legal – but their older siblings and parents certainly are, according to a long-awaited report giving the most comprehensive data yet on the effects of the state’s 2012 recreational marijuana law. The state released a report on Monday detailing changes in everything from pot arrests to tax collections to calls to Poison Control. Surveys given to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers indicate that youth marijuana use did not rise significantly in the years after the 2012 vote. Anonymous surveys given to about 40,000 Colorado students before and after legalization showed “no significant change” in marijuana use by children under 18 in the preceding 30 days. Among high school students, use went from about 23% in 2005 to about 20% in 2014. Similarly, there was no significant change in use by children younger than 13 in recent years.

Teen cannabis use ‘rises’ with liberalised laws [Irish Examiner]

Usage of cannabis among adolescents is higher in countries that have liberalised drug laws, according to a study. The research asserts to be the first of its type. It found the effect is strongest for those countries that have liberalised cannabis laws for more than five years. The study has been criticised by decriminalisation campaigners, who said the results were “skewed” and said prohibition wasted “scarce resources arresting teenagers”. The report used data from the ‘WHO Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children’ survey in 38 European and North American countries.

Drug advocate Charlo Greene says Hillary Clinton should ‘beg for forgiveness’ from black community [Independent]

A marijuana advocate who quit her previous job as television reporter live on air, has said Hillary Clinton should “beg for forgiveness” from black people after supporting drug laws that discriminated against the African-American community. As the United Nations holds a special session that will examine the failings of the so-called war on drugs, Charlo Greene said the Democratic frontrunner had never apologised for her role in supporting laws in the 1990s that sent tens of thousands of African Americans to jail. Ms Clinton has admitted there was some negative aspects of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed by her husband’s administration and which she supported.

Pennsylvania legalises medical marijuana on ‘great day’ for state [Independent]

Governor Tom Wolf has signed a bill to authorize up to 150 marijuana dispensaries in the state. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, tweeting to his followers that ‘this is a great day’. “All we are asking here is to have the ability to have that doctor make a decision in conjunction with his or her patient that will make that patient’s life better,” said Mr Wolf. Now patients with serious medical conditions like autism and chronic pain will be able to take marijuana – in the form of pills, creams and oils – by getting a prescription from their GP and purchase it at an approved dispensary. The program will take between 18 and 24 months to implement and authorize up to 150 dispensaries in the state, according to ABC News.

Altered State: tracing marijuana’s long, strange trip through California [The Guardian]

With the Golden State on the cusp of legalizing recreational pot, a new exhibition aims to spark conversation about the drug’s past, present and future. The exhibit opens Saturday and runs until 25 September, about six weeks before a roster of states is expected to vote on ballot measures legalizing recreational pot – not just California, but Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and Ohio, among others. “We wanted to become a forum for conversation before the election,” said curator Sarah Seiter, “and also do stuff that’s relevant to contemporary issues … In the ‘Politically Loaded’ section we talk about different models for legalization and how we can choose to be like Seattle, or Washington DC, or like Uruguay, which is a state-run model. Well, we probably couldn’t do that here.” There are actually many politically loaded sections, in particular the section called “Criminal Dope”, which explores how different law enforcement jurisdictions deal with marijuana – a schedule one drug that is illegal on the federal level but legal for recreational use in Washington state, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and the District of Columbia.

Canada to push for making sale marijuana legal [BBC News]

The Canadian government will introduce legislation next year that would make the sale of marijuana legal, its health minister has said. If enacted, the move would make Canada one of the largest Western countries to allow widespread use of the drug. Health Minister Jane Philpott pledged on Wednesday to keep marijuana “out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals”. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed for legalisation during his campaign. The announcement coincided with 20 April – an unofficial holiday among cannabis advocates. Hundreds of marijuana users demonstrated outside Parliament in Ottawa on Wednesday. Medical use of marijuana is already legal in Canada. Some have argued that legal marijuana would reduce stress on Canada’s criminal justice system. “We will work with law enforcement partners to encourage appropriate and proportionate criminal justice measures,” Ms Philpott said. “We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem.”

A global cannabis industry has been quietly created while governments bury their heads in the sand [Politics UK]

Last week, on the same day that Britain’s best loved drug smuggler died, I received an invitation to a cannabis ‘industry forum’ in Portland, Oregon. There’ll be sessions on “product industry trends”, “national regional market sizing” and “market growth projections”, all informed by “rigorous analytics” delivered by the leading “big data” provider in the industry. Cannabis is growing up. Howard Marks spent three decades as a fugitive, operating across three continents under dozens of aliases, to provide weed to millions of people. But in 2016, US investment companies set up in Park Lane hotels for three days, hosted dozens of meetings and left with millions of pounds to invest in a new legally regulated industry. In November, California will legalise cannabis in a long overdue state ballot, forty years after possession was first decriminalised. The state has seven times the population of Colorado, which legalised recreational cannabis two years ago. Last year operators there generated $1 billion in legal sales and $140 million in state tax revenues. Meanwhile in Canada, prime minister Trudeau is the process of implementing his manifesto commitment to create the world’s first nationally regulated cannabis market. Within months, Angela Merkel will announce that Germany will be launching the largest national medicinal cannabis programme in history. Italy and a centre-right government in Australia are on the same trajectory.

Uruguay to test world’s first state-commissioned recreational cannabis [The Guardian]

Two firms are working legally to grow weed on behalf of the government to sell in pharmacies as the UN prepares to discuss failed ‘war on drugs’ this week. From July, the cannabis they produce is due to be trucked around the country to go on sale in pharmacies as the world’s first state-commissioned recreational marijuana. Any Uruguayan will be able to buy up to 40g a month for around $1 a gram (the exact price is still to be determined). To do this, they only need to join a government register and give a thumbprint to prove their identity. Under Uruguay’s law, anyone over 18 is allowed to grow cannabis at home or join a club to grow it for them. But the government hoped most people would go for the pharmacy option. It initially intended to select five companies to grow 2,000 kilograms a year each, enough for almost 21,000 people, or about 0.6% of the population.  However, after a lengthy tender process in which it tried to work out if any cartels were behind bids, it ended up only choosing two: Delmonte and another Uruguayan firm, Symbiosis. They are contracted to each produce 2,000kg this year.

800-yard-long drug tunnel found between Mexico and United States [The Telegraph UK]

A nearly half-mile-long tunnel leading from Mexico to San Diego was discovered and more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana was seized, the US attorney’s office said on Wednesday.  Six people were arrested after the discovery of the tunnel and drugs cache. The tunnel extends 300 yards from a house in Tijuana, Mexico, to the border and then 500 yards on the US side to a fenced lot in a San Diego industrial area. The tunnel was equipped with a rail system, ventilation, lights and a large elevator, officials said. The exit on the US side is about 3 feet wide and was covered by a waste bin. The six people arrested in San Diego on Friday were charged with crimes involving drugs and construction of the tunnel.

Regulate marijuana like antibiotics, Mexico urged [BBC News]

A UN meeting on worldwide drugs policy has opened in New York that is being billed as the most significant such conference in years. Mexico was among the countries that requested the session. Thousands have died in the war on drugs there, and some believe legalising marijuana would deprive criminals of funding.  But can Mexican voters be convinced?

Isis and Italy’s mafia ‘working together’ to smuggle cannabis through North Africa into Europe [Independent]

Italy’s anti-mafia chief believes decriminalising cannabis would be a ‘weapon’ against traffickers and terrorists. Isis and Italy’s mafia have been working together to smuggle cannabis from North Africa into Europe, Italy’s anti-terrorism chief has said. Franco Roberti, Italy’s national anti-mafia and anti-terrorism head said police had found evidence that Italian organised crime and “suspected terrorists” were trafficking hashish together, the compressed form of cannabis resin, according to ongoing investigations. Mr Roberti, 68, said the route for smuggling the hash runs from Casablanca and Morocco through Algeria, and Tunisia to Trobuck in eastern Libya. Speaking to Reuters, Mr Roberti said Isis controlled the trafficking route involving Libya, and also controlled the coast along the Gulf of Sirte, an area which holds a Mediterranean seaside city that is currently Isis’s strongest base outside of Syria and Iraq. Despite cannabis use being against Sharia Law, Isis reportedly makes million from the deal. A report by IHS published on Monday suggests that just under seven per cent of Isis’s overall funding comes from the narcotics trade. For the mafia, the illegal drugs trade earns more than €32bn a year, according to the United Nations Office on Narcotics and Crime.

420 Meaning: The Very Odd Beginnings Of Marijuana’s Global Holiday [International Business Times]

The numbers “420” have become synonymous with marijuana consumption. On Wednesday, all over the world, from the Canadian Yukon to South Africa, folks will light up in honor of 4/20, the unofficial cannabis holiday. Marijuana aficionados have a tendency to get high at 4:20 p.m., and, among the truly adventurous, at 4:20 a.m. People (wrongly) believe all the clocks are set to 4:20 in the film “Pulp Fiction” in honor of cannabis, and it is no coincidence that one of California’s major medical marijuana bills was named Senate Bill 420. So what’s with these three numbers? Why have they become intertwined with getting high? Some people say it’s because 420 is the police radio code in some jurisdictions for marijuana consumption, while others say it’s a Talmudic numerical extraction from the Bob Dylan song “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.” But these and many other theories are incorrect; the true 420 origin story is far stranger.

Can Marijuana Ever Be Environmentally Friendly? [Climate Progress]

Another big issue that the burgeoning cannabis industry will have to confront as legalization becomes increasingly widespread is the industry’s massive environmental footprint. Cannabis is the country’s most energy-intensive crop, largely because around a third of cannabis cultivation in the United States currently takes place in indoor warehouses, a process that requires huge amounts of lighting, ventilation, cooling, and dehumidifying. According to a 2016 report released by New Frontier Financials, cannabis cultivation annually consumes one percent of the United States’ total electrical output, which for a single industry growing a single crop, is a lot — roughly the equivalent of the electricity used by 1.7 million homes. If energy consumption continues at current levels, the electricity used by indoor cannabis operations in the Northwest alone will double in the next 20 years.

Pot healed my post-surgery pain. Why is it still banned from pain relief research? [The Guardian]

As long as marijuana is a Schedule I drug, it’s nearly impossible to research its medicinal effects. In the throes of an opioid epidemic, that makes zero sense. The headache of filling out all the forms to be able to legally test weed has left it largely unresearched, except by novices like me or the plethora of cancer patients and epileptics who attest to its medical benefits. It’s time to put marijuana under the microscope to see if it’s a scientifically valid alternative to the narcotic regimes that have become harmful standard of care for treating pain.

How Getting High Made Me a Better Caregiver [New York Times]

For 20 years my wife, Anne, has struggled gallantly against the physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual depredations of Parkinson’s disease. For the first 15, I took care of her myself. Now I have lots of help. Either way, enjoying a hit or two on the pipe every couple of hours has granted me tens of thousands of sweet clemencies that keep me from burning out as a caregiver. Pot is my refresh button. It restores my innocence, makes the familiar look fascinating. Not all of the time, no. But enough of the time. I’m a sunnier companion when I’m high. I have more to say even when Anne can’t muster a reply.

Highly questionable: Teenagers’ reasons for using marijuana [Cambridge Health Alliance]

People use marijuana for a lot of different reasons. Marijuana might be a pathway to fun or a quick escape; a medication to relieve pain (either physical or emotional); a prop or symbol of membership in a social circle or group of friends; or something else entirely. But, do the reasons someone uses marijuana relate to their experiences with it? Claire Blevins and her colleagues recently surveyed a group of teenage marijuana users to look for links between reasons for using and negative consequences. Some reasons for using marijuana were associated with increased negative consequences. Specifically, (1) using to conform to others, (2) using to cope with problems or negative emotions, and (3) using out of boredom or lack of something to do were all associated with more negative consequences of marijuana use. Reasons that were not associated with increased negative consequences included using to celebrate and using to sleep better.

Heavy Cannabis Users Have Lower Dopamine Release in Brain [Columbia University Medical Centre]

In a recent study, researchers found evidence of a compromised dopamine system in heavy users of marijuana. Lower dopamine release was found in the striatum–a region of the brain that is involved in working memory, impulsive behavior, and attention. Previous studies have shown that addiction to other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin, have similar effects on dopamine release, but such evidence for cannabis was missing until now.

Dark Web Market Disappears, Users Migrate in Panic, Circle of Life Continues [Motherboard]

Like the changing of the seasons, a natural stage in the dark web marketplace life cycle has once again manifested. Nucleus market, which primarily sold illegal drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and cannabis, has disappeared: The site is unresponsive, and the market administrators have not made any announcements about planned downtime. This has forced vendors to migrate to other sites and panicked users to figure out where to go next, all amidst a whirlwind of rumours and speculation of where Nucleus—and its cash—has gone. “Nucleus is an awesome market. One of the best. Hope all the admins are ok and nothing serious happened,” someone identifying themselves as a vendor wrote in a comment on the news site Deep Dot Web. At the moment, it’s not totally clear why Nucleus’s website is unresponsive. It could be an exit scam—a scam where site administrators stop allowing users to withdraw their funds and then disappear with the stockpile of bitcoins. This is what happened with Evolution, one of the most successful marketplaces, in March 2015. Other examples include Sheep Marketplace, from 2013, and more recently BlackBank Market.  Perhaps the site was hacked by a third party. Indeed, Nucleus claimed to be the target of a financially motivated attack last year. Or maybe the administrators were arrested, or the site is just suffering some downtime.

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