EMBASSY HEADLINES Issue 200
Medicinal cannabis users risk prosecution by telling their stories [ABC]
Medicinal cannabis users risked prosecution by publicly telling their stories at the 2016 Mardi Grass Hemposium. The Hemposium included speakers who have been using medicinal cannabis, which remains illegal in Australia, to treat illnesses including epilepsy, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Why millionaire Barry Lambert invested $34 million in medicinal cannabis [Australian Financial Review]
Barry Lambert is gazing out the picture window of his Sydney home at a multimillion-dollar beach view. Around him his grandchildren fiddle on their phones while his wife Joy sips tea. Lambert drinks a cappuccino he’s just bought at the local café. It’s a charming family scene – except for one thing. At the table beside him, his son Michael is committing a crime that carries a sentence of up to two years’ jail. Michael, 44, takes out a tube that says “Hemp Oil 20 per cent CBD”, squeezes it and smears the brown paste onto a corn chip which he then gives to his daughter Katelyn, who is draped sleepily on her mother Saowalak’s lap. Katelyn, Lambert’s four-year-old granddaughter, wakes briefly and chews on the chip.
45 drivers nabbed for drugs at MardiGrass [EchoNetDaily]
David Shoebridge’s presentation on NSW’s roadside drug testing was an eye-opener. NSW Police Force won’t say what level of THC they’re testing for, and it looks like they made their tests more sensitive a couple of years ago, when the rate testing positive jumped from 2% to 16%. But that’s in line with the legislation, which makes the mere presence of THC illegal, rather than any particular level of THC shown to be correlated with driving impairment. It effectively makes driving laws a tool to enforce zero tolerance prohibition, because we can detect the mere presence of THC more than a week after ingestion. Of course this will totally clash with any future medical Cannabis rights. The UK’s Wolff report sets out what other countries do and why.
Nimbin cannabis to feature in latest Alien film [EchoNetDaily]
Cannabis plants from the Nimbin area are set to be featured in the latest Alien film being directed by Ridley Scott. The plants, which have been delivered to Fox Studios in Sydney, are to be used as props in Alien 4: The Covenant. The film is a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus, and will take place roughly ten years later.
NSW Government applies for medicinal cannabis cultivation licence [ABC]
The New South Wales Government has applied for a licence to grow cannabis for medical research trials. Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said the state’s cultivation licence application was lodged with the Federal Government last week. Earlier this year, the Federal Parliament passed legislation to make the cultivation of medicinal cannabis legal — with a licence. The NSW Government is running clinical trials for severe childhood epilepsy, terminal illnesses and chemotherapy-induced nausea. It has been required to import the cannabis-based drugs from Canadian and British pharmaceutical companies, but Mr Blair said there may be a need to grow cannabis locally. “We might even have to start the cultivation ourselves, as a Government, on DPI [Department of Primary Industries] sites, so that we can progress this as quickly as we can.”
Medicinal cannabis to be treatment option in Queensland ‘within weeks’ [ABC]
Cameron Dick said he would change state regulations to ensure some Queensland specialists could prescribe cannabis as soon as it is approved by the TGA.
Daniel Andrews Previews His Medical Cannabis Crop [The Huffington Post]
The Victorian Government’s plan to give medical cannabis to severely sick people is in full bloom, with Premier Daniel Andrews proudly showing off the first images of his state’s marijuana crop. Back in April, Victoria became the first Australian state to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes. The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 will give Victorian patients — and their families — legal, safe and secure access to the drug in “exceptional circumstances”. The government has said children with severe epilepsy “where other forms have treatment have not worked” will be the first group eligible to access the treatment. On Friday, Andrews shared images of the budding crop of marijuana plants on Facebook.
Qld open to smoking phase-out, but not yet [Sky News]
Queensland’s health minister says he’s open to the idea of a generational smoking phase-out, but wants to see the effect of the state’s new anti-smoking laws first. Cancer Council Queensland has suggested a complete ban on smoking for all children born after 2001 to gradually stop smoking altogether. Health Minister Cameron Dick says he wants to see how the state’s current raft of new laws works first, referring to an increased crackdown on smoking in public places.
Man’s daily marijuana habit causes rare disease [The Age]
A man has been diagnosed with a rare disease caused by daily cannabis use after a wound on his big toe would not heal. The man, 26, went to Frankston Hospital after an ulcer on his big toe failed to heal. The man is believed to have used up to one gram of cannabis a day. Surgeon Dr David Soon said the man’s daily habit caused a build-up of plaque around an artery in his big toe. “Cannabis usage can cause the periphery blood vessel to tighten up and therefore increasing the resistance, and therefore increasing the amount of plaque depositing around the arteries, and therefore eventually narrowing the artery,” Dr Soon told 3AW. Dr Soon, of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, told the Annual Scientific Congress in Brisbane it was the first known case of cannabis arteritis diagnosed in Australia. Cannabis arteritis is a condition caused by long-term daily cannabis use that results in lesions growing on arteries.
New NSW law makes police ‘judge and jury’ [EchoNetDaily]
The Baird Government last night passed legislation that allows punishment to be imposed without charge, trial or conviction, the Greens have said. The laws, which passed the upper house last night, grant fresh discretionary powers to police make so-called ‘public safety orders’ that restrict people’s freedom. ‘In a busy night trashing civil liberties the parliament also created a new form of criminal sanction called ‘serious crime prevention orders’, which can be made on unreliable hearsay evidence in proceedings that use the lesser civil standard of proof,’ Greens MP and justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said. Using ‘public safety orders’ police will have the discretion to ban people from daily activities like using phones or computers for up to five years, and to ban them from attending an event or locations for 72 hours, currently a power reserved only for judges. The orders can also be issued by police to prohibit a person from attending their local PCYC, church or mosque on any given day for the duration of a person’s natural life and are not subject to any appeal. Both ‘public safety orders’ and ‘serious crime prevention orders’ can be issued against people with no criminal conviction and who are entirely innocent of any intention to be involved in criminal activity. They can be issued even if a person is not charged of any offence or has been acquitted of an offence. ‘These laws are a threat to basic rights and individual freedoms and remove key protections from our criminal justice system,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
US state laws for driving on marijuana are unscientific – AAA study [RT]
US laws governing driving under the influence of marijuana are unscientific, research reveals. Legal blood limits are not an adequate way of testing for impairment, and this technique may lead to the wrong drivers being prosecuted, the AAA says. The science has been clear on alcohol – the more of it in your bloodstream, the worse off you are. But marijuana is not metabolized the same way by our body, so studies need to be done to understand if it’s the quantity of THC that is truly causing impairment. It was found that drivers can have a low level of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in their blood, and still be unsafe behind the wheel, while others with high levels may not be as dangerous. This turns traditional assumptions upside down. Six states use blood-level tests to determine if the driver is impaired, but the study by the United States’ largest automobile club, commissioned by AAA’s safety foundation, found that you can’t test for impairment that way at all.
Scientific Basis for Laws on Marijuana, Driving Questioned [ABC News USA]
Motorists are being convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana based on arbitrary state standards that have no connection to whether the driver was actually impaired, says a study by the nation’s largest auto club. Currently, six states — Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington — have set specific limits for THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high, in drivers’ blood. Marijuana use is legal in those states for either recreational or medicinal purposes, with the exception of Ohio. The laws presume a driver whose THC level exceeds the threshold is impaired. But the study by AAA’s safety foundation says the limits have no scientific basis and can result in innocent drivers being convicted, and in guilty drivers being released. “There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner we do alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research.”
This new saliva test can detect cannabis and cocaine in as little as three minutes [Wales Online]
A new fast acting ‘DrugWipe’ device can detect illegal substances like cannabis and cocaine in as little as three minutes by testing saliva. Described as ‘one of the best drug tests in the world’ DrugWipe is a reduced time saliva drug test developed for roadside testing. It was developed by Securetec Detektions-Systeme AG, which develops leading edge technology to facilitate the detection of drugs and hazardous substances. Securetec provides testing kits for traffic safety, customs and drug enforcement authorities across the globe as well as clinics and private companies. As well as the DrugWipe, they also provide Sulfur Mustard, which tests the skin for substances and a Cholinesterase ChE check, which tests the blood.
‘Marijuana superstore’ wins legal battle over medical pot shops in California [The Guardian]
The largest licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the US, once dubbed the “marijuana superstore”, has won a four-year legal battle with federal prosecutors who tried to shutter its Oakland and San Jose pot shops. The government on Tuesday withdrew its forfeiture action intended to close down Harborside Health Center. The dismissal releases the dispensary from a tug of war between local and federal authorities over medical marijuana. Steve DeAngelo, Harborside’s executive director, hailed the move as a signal of “the beginning of the end of federal prohibition”. Opened in 2006, Harborside was the subject of the hit reality series Weed Wars. It serves more than 1,000 people a day in Oakland and in a sister San Jose dispensary and employs 150 people, DeAngelo said. It is 8,000 square feet, and the Oakland store last year took in $28m – enough to make it the second largest retail taxpayer in Oakland, a fact not lost on officials in a city that’s struggled to find money to staff its police department. Oakland officials said they preferred to regulate and tax the cannabis industry rather than drive it on to street corners, and the city sued the federal government to keep Harborside open.
Weed shall overcome: can California help wind down the War on Drugs? [The Independent]
It’s been an interesting few days for smokers in California. On one hand, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill raising the state’s smoking age from 18 to 21; the measure, which applies to any tobacco product including electronic cigarettes, goes into effect on 9 June. On the other hand, by the end of this year, California could be the world’s biggest legal marijuana market.
Expots: medical marijuana draws parents to US for their children’s treatments [The Guardian]
‘Marijuana refugees’ are uprooting their lives and moving to Colorado, California and Oregon to legally use cannabis to treat their children’s health conditions.
DEA approves PTSD marijuana study [Military Times]
The Drug Enforcement Administration has given its blessing to a study on the effect of medical marijuana on post-traumatic stress disorder, the first randomized, controlled research in the U.S. for PTSD that will use the actual plant instead of oils or synthesized cannabis. According to the research’s nonprofit sponsor, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, the DEA’s approval gives researchers the go-ahead to buy the marijuana for the study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Once the marijuana has been secured, the group will begin recruiting and enrolling participants, perhaps as early as June, MAPS spokesman Brad Burge said. “The contract with the state of Colorado was signed on April 20 — an unofficial national holiday in some circles — meaning the funds are en route to MAPS. We are now preparing to place the order for the marijuana for the study,” Burge said in an email to Military Times.
What a change in DEA’s pot rules might mean for medical research [MedicalXpress]
Most doctors approach medical marijuana with a great deal of uncertainty, because drug laws have hindered researchers’ ability to figure out what pot can and can’t do for sick patients. That could soon change. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is weighing whether to loosen its classification of marijuana, which would remove many restrictions on its use in medical research. If that occurs, doctors could start getting answers to the questions they regularly receive from patients regarding marijuana’s clinical benefits. “I am asked as a practicing doctor even in a rural area about medical marijuana use, and I want to make sure I can give patients advice that’s evidence-based,” said Dr. Robert Wergin, board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “We need those kinds of studies to help us give informed advice to our patients who ask about it now,” he explained. The DEA has said it will decide this summer whether marijuana should be lowered from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug, according to an April memo from the agency to Congress.
Marijuana arrests in Colorado fall for white teens but soar among black teens since legalisation [The Independent]
Black and Latino teens in Colorado are being arrested for marijuana offences at a disproportionate rate to their white counterparts, and the disparity has grown since recreational use of the drug was legalised. A report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety found that between 2012 and 2014 arrests of black adolescents between 10 and 17 years old increased by 58%, while among Latino adolescents arrests were up by 29%. Meanwhile, among white adolescents the number of arrests fell by 8% overall.
Colorado school district will let its students use medical marijuana [The Independent]
A Colorado school district adopted a policy that will let students receive doses of medicinal marijuana during on school grounds. The District 49 Board of Education in Peyton, Colorado, unanimously voted on the policy, called “Jax’s Policy”, after 16-year-old, Jackson “Jax” Stormes. In May 2015, Stormes was suspended for carrying cannabis oil used to treat his Dravet Syndrome, a “rare and catastrophic” form of epilepsy, and Juvenile Parkinson’s. Students are limited to using “non-inhalable” cannabinoid products, such as edibles or lotions, that can be ingested quickly.
Colorado lawmakers just say “no” to organic label for marijuana [The Denver Post]
A Colorado proposal to certify organic marijuana has been rejected amid concerns the labels would imply pot is healthy. The bill rejected in a legislative committee Tuesday would have created a first-of its-kind label for marijuana that had been produced without pesticides. The proposal failed 4-3 in a Senate committee. Some lawmakers said the labels could wrongly imply that marijuana is harmless. “It will mislead people to thinking marijuana doesn’t have any health effects, that it’s OK,” said Sen. Rollie Health, D-Boulder. “It kind of puts a stamp of approval on it.” The sponsor of the measure scoffed at the suggestion. “Does that label mean there are no health effects? That’s it’s healthy, it’s wholesome?” asked Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. “I don’t think anyone is going to be under any false illusions.” Other lawmakers worried that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would penalize state agriculture regulators for labeling pot as organic. The bill called for state regulators to come up with the exact rules for getting organic labels.
The FDA Is Regulating E-Cigarettes. Here’s What You Need to Know [Mother Jones]
Yesterday, the US Food and Drug Administration announced sweeping federal regulations for the burgeoning $3.5 billion e-cigarette industry, setting off a storm of reaction from both sides of the vaping debate. The vaping industry, meanwhile, is panicking. “This regulation would destroy the vapor products industry and hand the market to Big Tobacco,” says Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.
Amid opioid epidemic, US NFL player risks career to push for medical marijuana [The Guardian]
In an industry plagued by controversy over concussions and injuries, Eugene Monroe is hoping to find a healthier way for players to deal with the pain. Monroe of the Baltimore Ravens became the first active player to openly call for the use of cannabinoids to treat chronic pain and sports injuries.
Alabama church members smoke pot, eat mushrooms and peyote: those are the sacraments [AL.com]
An Alabama church founded last year has a legal exemption for its members to smoke marijuana and ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote cactus, according to Christopher Rushing, who is listed as chief executive officer. The Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Warrior has been licensed as a federally registered branch of the Oklevueha Lakota Sioux Nation Native American Church, Rushing said. “We are the only federally registered people allowed to have these sacraments,” he said in interview with AL.com. The church has a religious exemption to use psylocibin mushrooms and peyote cactus, both of which have properties that augment traditional Native American spiritual beliefs and experiences, Rushing said. He calls their use in religious ceremonies a sacrament. He believes all natural plants should be legal for medicinal use, including marijuana, peyote cactus and psylocibin mushrooms. “These plants are in no way toxic or deadly,” Rushing said. “They have been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes, long before pharmaceutical companies began making synthetic versions of them.”
Will Canada become America’s cannabis capital? [The Guardian]
He may be the chief executive of Denver’s largest marijuana dispensary, ground zero for America’s fastest growing industry, but Andy Williams struggles with a lot of financial hurdles. The First Bank of Colorado closed the accounts of everyone in the family business, Medicine Man Technologies, including children who have no part in the industry. Williams can’t take on any investment and needs to fund expansion through personal loans from friends and family. Customers can only pay in cash; banks refuse to hold his money and everyone from employees to contractors need to accept cash payments. Employees, who can’t prove their income as a result, often struggle to get loans and mortgages. Furthermore, section 280E of the US tax code prohibits the deduction of expenses related to controlled substances for tax purposes, and Williams predicts that he gives the internal revenue service an additional $600,000 each year as a result of business expenses that can’t be written off.
Mexico President Pena Nieto proposes relaxing marijuana laws [BBC News]
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has proposed legalising marijuana for medical purposes and easing limits for personal use of the drug. He said he would be sending a bill to the Congress to increase the amount users can legally carry from the current five grams to 28 (0.18-1oz). He had previously opposed efforts to liberalise Mexico’s tough drug laws. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in recent years. “We, Mexicans, know all too well the range and the defects of prohibitionist and punitive policies, and of the so-called war on drugs that has prevailed for 40 years,” President Pena Nieto said on Thursday. “Our country has suffered, as few have, the ill effects of organised crime tied to drug trafficking. Fortunately, a new consensus is gradually emerging worldwide in favour of reforming drug policies. A growing number of countries are strenuously combating criminals, but instead of criminalising consumers, they offer them alternatives and opportunities.”
Marijuana is kosher for Passover, leading rabbi rules [The Independent]
Consuming marijuana for medical reasons is kosher for Passover, a leading rabbi has ruled, after being presented with cannabis leaves and told that they have a ‘healing’ smell. Among Ashkenazi Jews, who are of usually of Central and Eastern European descent, the drug would be considered to be a member of the kitniyot – a group of legumes and grains which are forbidden during the festival of Passover, including rice, peas and lentils. But Belarusian rabbi Chaim Kanievsky has said that marijuana may be used by Jews from all backgrounds on Passover if it is used for medical purposes, The Times of Israel reports.
Germany is about to legalize marijuana [Business Insider UK]
Germany is to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes early next year, the health minister said on Tuesday. “Our goal is that seriously ill patients are treated in the best possible way,” said Hermann Groehe, who will present draft legislation to the German cabinet on Wednesday. The draft bill comes as many parts of the world are relaxing laws on cannabis use and medicinal marijuana is gaining popularity to ease suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Hepatitis C, Parkinson’s disease and other serious conditions.
Meet the Man Who Ran a Huge Cannabis Factory Next to a Police Helicopter HQ [Vice]
In 2016, the idea of corporations running large-scale weed-growing operations is a relatively mainstream one. With attitudes relaxing towards cannabis, the plant now being legal in a number of US states and the “green economy” clearly being a very viable way of making big money, it probably won’t be all that long until we start to see multinational conglomerates built on buds. However, in the early-2000s, weed was still a dirty word; the notion of a cannabis farm being able to operate like a legitimate, tax-paying business would have seemed absurd. So you can imagine their surprise when, in 2010, North Wales police discovered that such an enterprise had been running out of a factory in a Kinmel Bay industrial estate since the turn of the millennium, right next to their helicopter HQ. The business worked exactly like a regular company, conducting interviews with prospective employees and paying taxes under the guise of being a legal enterprise. Authorities claimed that the company, which was Wales’ biggest cannabis farm, generated profits of £1.4 million per year, and was described in court as “nothing short of a rolling production line”.
Cannabis Compound May Augment Antipsychotic Meds [Medscape]
A cannabis compound may help reduce psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia over and above the benefits derived from treatment with antipsychotic medications, new research suggests. Results from the first randomized trial of cannabidiol as an adjunctive therapy in schizophrenia showed that compared with placebo, the compound significantly improved positive symptoms and symptom severity. Cannabidiol, which was administered along with antipsychotic medication, was also associated with nonsignificant improvements in negative and overall symptoms, as well as functional and cognitive scores. Patients taking the drug were also nonsignificantly twice as likely to have a response as participants receiving placebo. The findings were presented here at the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) 2016 Biennial Meeting.
Interim report: sale and use of marijuana and associated products [Australian Parliament]
UNGASS Outcome: Missed Opportunity for UN, but Global Reform Movement Grows & Continues to Push for Better Drug Policies [Drug Policy Alliance]
In April 2016, world leaders gathered in New York for the most significant international drug policy meeting in almost two decades, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS). The last UNGASS took place in 1998 under the unrealistic slogan “A drug free world, we can do it!”.
Scientific research using psychedelic drugs is surging overseas – why not here? [The Age]
Over the past decade, such research has been ramping up all over the world at significant institutions from Switzerland to Canada and Tel Aviv to London. In the United States, schools including Johns Hopkins Medicine, NYU and UCLA have begun using psychedelics in randomised controlled trials to treat alcohol dependence, depression and anxiety.