EMBASSY HEADLINES Issue 201
Push for amnesty for medicinal cannabis users fails [The Age]
The ACT government has rejected a push to create an effective amnesty for medicinal cannabis users by directing police not to charge them with drug offences. Canberrans who rely on medicinal cannabis to treat serious illness or chronic pain are currently forced to break the law to seek relief, and a number, including campaigner Laura Bryant, have spoken publicly of their constant fear of arrest. But the government, which is broadly supportive of a national medicinal cannabis scheme, rebuffed the Greens proposal, saying the ministerial police directions were not the right way to create such an amnesty, and that it would have little practical effect, because police already knew to focus their efforts on suppliers, not individual users. Mr Rattenbury said he was disappointed that the government had rebuffed the proposal. “This is actually about providing peace of mind to people who are in a very vulnerable place,” Mr Rattenbury said.
Australia’s cannabis legalisation: Drought-stricken farmers look to cultivate cannabis crops for greener pastures [International Business Times]
Cannabis cultivation may soon turn out to be a major industry for drought-stricken farmers in South-west Queensland. The Federal Government’s decision to legalise medical marijuana use has been hailed by public and companies alike. Various communities around the country have come forward to support the right to grow the crop. Now, drought-stricken farmers have raised their voice too. Earlier this week, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and representatives from Queensland Health met potential growers in Atherton Tablelands. Farmers there want to be the first to grow medicinal cannabis, right after licenses are offered by the government. More than 80 farmers attended the meeting.
RDT opponents could ‘change election outcome’ [EchoNetDaily]
The group, called nth coast RDT locations has garnered more than 5000 members since it launched mid last year. One of the group’s members, who identified himself as Richard Stark, says he plans write to the federal candidates in the seats of Richmond and Page asking whether they support RDT. ‘Page has less than 100,000 voters and needs a swing of less five per cent to unseat Kevin Hogan (Nationals), so thousands of people in his electorate who are sufficiently pissed off to joint this FB page represent a sizeable minority,’ Mr Stark told Echonetdaily.
Everyone at Sydney’s First Hemp Expo Loved Weed, Just Don’t Mention Getting Stoned [Vice]
Like it or not weed has gone mainstream in Australia. Last weekend’s inaugural Hemp Expo held at Sydney’s Rosehill racecourse was glaring proof. All things hemp were on display, from beauty products to surfboard wax and even didgeridoos. But this was no 420 event. The event was opened by NSW premier Mike Baird and many of the industry types were from middle Australia. The event was coupled with the second United in Compassion symposium, which saw health professionals from around the globe stress the importance for patients to be able to access whole plant products as the nation moves towards a legal and regulated medicinal cannabis market. However, as this burgeoning industry slowly becomes legitimate, the people involved face a multitude of barriers. They are dealing with a substance many still perceive as immoral and, in a lot of cases, remains illicit. So is the legalisation of recreational weed even high on their agenda?
Customs officials allegedly involved in drug and tobacco smuggling [The Age]
A network of Australian border security officials is allegedly working for organised criminals, including drug and tobacco smugglers, in the most serious corruption scandal to ever hit the nation’s border agencies. A Fairfax Media investigation has uncovered multiple cases of alleged corruption involving staff from the Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture, along with maritime industry employees with government clearances. The border security scandal comes three years after the Sydney airport customs corruption scandal, in which a network of corrupt customs officers led by customs officer Adrian Lamella were trafficking drugs using couriers on international flights. The reforms implemented by the federal government after the Sydney airport scandal appear to have failed to stop significant corruption in the agency. One senior government source said the Australian Border Force was “incapable” of eradicating corruption in its ranks and sometimes dealt with internal integrity issues with departmental sanctions, such as demotion or sacking, rather than by conducting intensive probes that could expose corrupt networks.
Medicinal cannabis gains support from experts [NZ Herald]
Medical experts are supporting of the Government’s approach to prescribing cannabis-based products. Feedback from specialists and the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), released today, was unanimously supportive of the existing guidelines and process. The feedback comes after the Ministry of Health undertook a targeted consultation with a range of medical specialists and the NZMA to determine whether the guidelines used to assess applications for prescribing cannabis-based products were still fit for purpose. Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said “The consistent feedback from experts in their field was that cannabis-based products should be treated no differently to other medicines — evidence-based principles should and will continue to be followed.” Mr Dunne said identifying the greatest therapeutic benefits and determining the most appropriate ratios, dosage and delivery mechanisms would only come through a robust, scientific approach.
MGC wins US nod for cannabis cosmetics [Yahoo Finance]
Medicinal cannabis and cosmetics firm MGC Pharmaceuticals has won approval from the US regulator to sell its cannabis-based anti-ageing cosmetics in America. MGC says approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) marks the company’s entry into the $US11 billion ($A15.32 billion) US skin care market. The firm said FDA approval for the first 16 of its products means its cannabis-based cosmetics can be imported and sold throughout the USA, even in states where medicinal cannabis is not yet legal. The European Commission recently granted MGC approval to sell its cannabis-based cosmetics throughout the European Union.
The chef cooking his way to a cannabis revolution: ‘I’m a scientist at heart’ [The Guardian]
As others find the perfect wine to match their meals, Christopher Sayegh, the Herbal Chef, pairs pot and cuisine as he subtly infuses meals with marijuana. His food, he says, doesn’t taste like weed the way standard edibles do. The ingredient doesn’t overpower the dishes, but accompanies them through careful curation and with an eye toward balance. He accomplishes this by cooking with a water-soluble THC solution that dissolves into the food during preparation. In his apartment, he has syringes filled with the stuff – a syrupy, rust-colored liquid – labelled so that he won’t confuse whatever magical substances are contained within them. Sayegh sees vast economic and social opportunities in legal marijuana consumption and has set up his business so that it can function in the currently complicated medicinal environment, but also so that it might flourish if California’s ballot measure passes. Not only is he a chef and marketer of frozen meals to medical users, he’s also a growmaster, overseeing the production of marijuana plants. On top of that, he fancies himself an ambassador for the burgeoning pot economy. Fear of legalization persists, even when two US states, Washington and Colorado, have lifted their prohibition of the drug. “Why was it illegal in the first place? Misinformation. The more information we have, the better off we’ll be. It’ll just take awhile,” he says as he jovially prepares his mint chutney. Sayegh is confident he’ll be able to share his unique experience with the masses sooner rather than later. “Love, compassion and community – those are the things that are going to set us apart from every other industry. It needs to happen. It’s time for it to happen,” he said.
Marijuana millionaires cashing in on cannabis legalisation [The Guardian]
Jeremy Moberg has gone from illegal grower to tax-paying multi-million dollar businessman in Washington state. The 41-year-old owns a marijuana farm with a multi-million dollar turnover in Washington state, USA, where the drug was legalised for recreational use in 2012. His expertise comes from two decades of growing illegally, deep in the woods, dodging the helicopter raids of drug-enforcement officers. Now Moberg runs a legitimate business, producing and processing 900kg of marijuana a year that he sells to pot shops springing up across the state. And it’s about to become a family affair. His mother, a retired teacher, and his brother, a lawyer, are going into production, too, each having taken leases on farms neighbouring Moberg’s.
Congress votes to allow military veterans access to medical marijuana [Independent]
US lawmakers have passed a measure to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where the drug is legal. The bill was introduced by Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and acts to strike down a restriction on these doctors which prevents them from recommending medical marijuana for treatment of pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and as a way to deal with growing numbers of opioid abuse and suicides. “I have been deeply troubled about our inability to adequately deal with our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mr Blumenauer said, as reported by The Huffington Post. “A lot of them are suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and these are all conditions that have been shown to respond to medical marijuana.”
Nasdaq Rejects Listing Application by Cannabis Social Network [Fortune]
Stock exchange operator Nasdaq has rejected a listing application by MassRoots on the grounds that it may aid in the use and dealing of an illegal substance, the cannabis social networking company said on Tuesday. The rejection, handed down on Monday, may insert roadblocks ahead of other cannabis-related companies seeking to list on a national stock exchange, MassRoots CEO Isaac Dietrich said in a statement. The Denver-based company, which connects cannabis users, activists, and business people through its mobile applications and web portal, said it planned to appeal the decision. The majority of public cannabis companies, including Denver-based MassRoots, are traded over-the-counter, where regulations are less restrictive and trading typically is done between two individuals instead of a centralized exchange like Nasdaq. At least one company focusing on a cannabis-related products, Insys Therapeutics, is listed on the Nasdaq. The pharmaceutical company is developing a cannabis-based drug.
Screw taxation without representation, what’s up with these weed laws? [Fusion]
It’s legal to grow it — six plants max, no more than three of which are mature. It’s legal to carry it — a whopping two ounces! — but it’s illegal to smoke it outside your house. And watch which side of the street you’re on when you’re holding, because 30 percent of the city is off-limits to legal pot. Fusion Chief Cannabis Correspondent Ryan Nerz traveled to Washington, D.C., to examine the tangle of rules, regulations, laws and liabilities involved in getting pot in our nation’s capital. The result is “District of Cannabis,” the latest hour long documentary in Fusion’s The Naked Truth series. Check out all six chapters above, on Fusion’s video player, or on YouTube.
Oregon tax revenue from marijuana sales $40 million higher than what economists predicted [NY Daily News]
Oregon’s tax revenue from marijuana sales is much higher than what economists originally expected. Smoking greens are expected to raise $43 million in spending greens for Oregon this year, already raising $10.5 million in tax revenue in the first three months. The profitable pot sales were originally estimated to bring $2 million to $3 million for 2016 in Oregon — a figure sales revenue smashed within the first month at $3.48 million from January’s deposits. Taxes for marijuana sales range from 17-25%, depending on where customers are buying it from. The majority of customers are paying for marijuana in cash, earning up to $90,000 in sales from individual dispensaries in a month, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue’s Committee on Marijuana Legalization report. Since legalization in October, Oregon has seen 337 businesses budding in as marijuana dispensaries.
San Francisco’s last gun shop will become ‘High Bridge’ medical marijuana dispensary [NY Daily News]
The new owner of San Francisco’s last surviving and now shuttered gun shop is beating swords into ploughshares. The shell of High Bridge Arms — which closed for good due to the Bay Area’s crippling gun regulations — will reopen as a medical marijuana dispensary later this year, according to Bay Area lifestyle magazine 7×7. He decided to call his new joint High Bridge, a blend of the old firearm emporium’s personality matched with a trend of naming pot shop with marijuana-themed puns. He began renovating the half-a-century-old store shortly after its previous tenant, Steve Alcairo, made headlines for closing up shop in October. He cited his decision to proposed policies requiring gun shop owners such as himself to video record purchases and supply weekly ammunition sales to authorities.
Illinois lawmakers pass marijuana decriminalization bill [Independent]
Illinois lawmakers have approved legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The Illinois House passed the bill with a 64-50 vote on Wednesday, that previously passed in the Senate. The legislation would impose fines between $100 and $200 with no jail time. “Illinois is long overdue for creating marijuana policies that treat our residents more fairly and free law enforcement up for more serious crime,” Representative Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat from Chicago, said in a statement. “We should not spend our resources arresting and jailing people just for the possession of a small amount of marijuana.” The bill marks a rare rapport between Democrats and the Republican Governor, the Chicago Tribune reports, as they work together to reduce the state’s prison population.
Barcelona’s First Female Mayor Grants Amnesty to Cannabis Clubs, but Will It Stick? [Leafly]
Barcelona’s first-ever female mayor has just accomplished another first: proposing to keep the city’s famous Cannabis Social Clubs in business by implementing workable official regulations. Last summer, Ada Colau became mayor in the historic Catalan capital. This week, she granted amnesty to existing clubs, allowing more than a hundred that were slated for permanent closure to remain open and continue shared cannabis cultivation and distribution. But it’s an open question as to whether Mayor Colau’s move will allow the city to keep the title of Europe’s New Amsterdam, as the rules seem to change with each new municipal government. The cannabis social clubs had their first golden years in the last decade. But lack of regulation led to bad operating procedures and conflicts with neighbors, and many locations were forced to shut down. Barcelona is traditionally cannabis-friendly and welcoming to small-scale grow ops, even as Spain’s criminal code strictly forbids cannabis cultivation, transportation, and public consumption. This means that, like Dutch coffeeshops, Barcelona’s clubs have had to break the law to operate. Whether politicians like it or not, Spain has become a new paradise for cannabis enthusiasts, including growers and patients, growshops and seedbanks, and clubs. Colau’s move may simply be recognition that if Catalonia is to promote economic growth and contain youth unemployment — which in Spain is over 40 percent and among the highest in Europe — accepting cannabis businesses may be inevitable.
Indonesian children working in tobacco fields being poisoned: Human Rights Watch [ABC]
Thousands of children working in Indonesia’s tobacco fields are being poisoned by handling the leaves of the toxic plant, an international investigation has found. The Human Rights Watch report said child labourers were not being properly protected when handling the leaves from the plant, and that the tobacco companies who bought the leaves were not ensuring that the product was safely produced. Indonesia has half a million tobacco farms in Indonesia, mostly on the fertile plains of Central and East Java. The plots are mostly family-owned, and children help their parents in the fields in what can be hazardous work. The report’s author, Margaret Wurth, said they found the children were being exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides and other dangers when working on tobacco farms.
Say Why To Drugs – the highs and lows of cannabis [The Guardian]
All the way through this article, I’ve referred to ‘cannabis’ as if it’s one substance, but this may be misleading. There are lots of different active substances in cannabis. THC is probably the best known and best understood. It’s this that has been shown to transiently induce psychotic experiences when intoxicated, for example. But there are other cannabinoids, which could have vastly different effects. One of these, cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown in pilot studies to perhaps be anti-psychotic. Ratios of THC and CBD have changed over the past few decades, and it looks like THC levels have risen as CBD levels have fallen. If it is the case that THC might induce psychosis but CBD is protective, it’s easy to see why these changes in relative levels could be problematic. Some have suggested this means all previous studies looking at cannabis and mental health are no longer applicable and might underestimate harm. Others think this is a problem regulation could solve – if you could ‘choose’ the strength of cannabis that you use, and the relative levels of these cannabinoids, maybe this could help minimize harm.
Cannabis & Cannabinoid Research now in collaboration w/ International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines [EurekAlert!]
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the peer-reviewed open access journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, announces a new collaborative partnership with the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. This new collaboration promotes the missions of the Journal and Association to further the science of clinical cannabis, cannabinoids, and the endocannabinoid system, for potential therapeutic and medical application.
As more states legalize marijuana, adolescents’ problems with pot decline [MedicalXpress]
A survey of more than 216,000 adolescents from all 50 states indicates the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining. Similarly, the rates of marijuana use by young people are falling despite the fact more U.S. states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examined data on drug use collected from young people, ages 12 to 17, over a 12-year span. They found that the number of adolescents who had problems related to marijuana—such as becoming dependent on the drug or having trouble in school and in relationships—declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013. Over the same period, kids, when asked whether they had used pot in the previous 12 months, reported fewer instances of marijuana use in 2013 than their peers had reported in 2002. In all, the rate fell by 10 percent.