EMBASSY HEADLINES Issue 205
Hemp candidate confronts Joyce [SBS]
The president of the Hemp party has gate crashed an event being attended by Malcolm Turnbull and his deputy Barnaby Joyce. A Senate candidate has been removed from a campaign event before he could offer the prime minister or his deputy an inflatable joint. Michael Balderstone, president of the Hemp Party, gate-crashed the Friday visit to a macadamia processing facility in Alphadale on the NSW north coast. He claimed to have an innovative idea for Malcolm Turnbull – legalising medicinal cannabis – that would create 100,000 jobs. “We are legislating for medicinal cannabis,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told him. But nothing was happening yet, Mr Balderstone replied, complaining about the slow progress of a NSW trial. He asked whether he could apply for a licence. Mr Joyce asked him whether he wanted the drug for medicinal reasons or for recreation. Mr Balderstone said he needed the medicinal herb for post-traumatic stress from attending boarding school. “We’ve given you a good run mate,” Mr Joyce said before the candidate was removed by federal police officers as Mr Turnbull’s convoy arrived.
Gold Coast couple unapologetic about giving 13 year boy cannabis [7 News]
Two Gold Coast parents have publicly admitted to feeding their 13-year-old son cannabis to treat his severe epilepsy. They have spoken out at a pro-marijuana event, fearing their son would be dead if they waited for laws to change in Queensland. A pro-pot-picnic is not an event this family would normally attend. They don’t smoke, they don’t even drink alcohol but everyday 13 year old Joseph takes cannabis. And every day his parents break the law to keep him alive. “We’re at our wit’s end. We don’t know which way to go anymore,” Joseph’s mother Ingrid said. For most of his life Joseph has suffered seizures so severe he’s broken his arms and legs around 10 times. The only drug that has worked is cannabis oil. “Joseph has now been 20 months seizure free.” Clinical trials are underway in Queensland but Joseph’s doctors can’t prescribe it so his parents source it illegally.
Weeded Warrior group to lobby for medicinal cannabis [EchoNet Daily]
They fought for their country. Now they are fighting for the right to use medicinal cannabis and other alternative therapies. In an Australian first, a group of Australian Defence Force veterans gathered in Nimbin on Saturday for the first monthly meeting of the ‘Weeded Warrior’ support group. The grass-roots collective created by the veterans aims to educate ex-service personnel and the Australian public about the medicinal benefits of cannabis in treating stress, traumatic brain injuries and chronic pain conditions.
Presidential HEMP: Interviewing Michael Balderstone [Twelve High Chicks]
Michael Balderstone, president of Australia’s HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) Party, has been involved in the hemp movement since the 1980s. He invited me down to MardiGrass in Nimbin, NSW again this year. Just after the 24th annual MardiGrass finished we sat down in the back of the Hemp Embassy and chatted.
Redfern police crackdown on drug dealers with public housing blacklist [Daily Telegraph]
Drug dealers will no longer enjoy the privilege of taxpayer funded accommodation as part of a housing blacklist initiative created to protect the vulnerable communities of south Sydney. As part of a partnership between Redfern police and Family and Community Services (FACS), people charged with supplying drugs while living in Waterloo or Redfern are prevented from accessing public housing.
What’s Worse Than Pot Staying Illegal? Pot as an FDA-Regulated Drug [Inc]
The end of marijuana prohibition is coming. But how the federal policies will change could have a dramatic effect on the nation’s burgeoning legal marijuana businesses, which could fall victim to the same scourge that has hampered so many other nascent industries: regulations. At the end of this month, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration will announce their decision whether or not to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. The agencies did not give a hint as to which way they are leaning, but there are a number of moves they could take–the plant could be de-scheduled completely like alcohol or tobacco; it could remain as a Schedule I drug (it’s current classification) or some of the plant’s active chemicals could be rescheduled while the whole plant could remain illegal. The real concern among those in the industry is what happens if the FDA and DEA reschedule marijuana as a Schedule II drug. FDA regulation experts say if pot is placed in the same category as legal pharmaceutical formulations of opioids like oxycodone and stimulants like amphetamine the burden of keeping up with regulatory compliance might be too costly for many of today’s small marijuana companies. “Schedule II would be a nightmare for the cannabis industry,” says Andrew Ittleman, a lawyer and partner at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph in Miami. His firm helps companies navigate FDA’s laws and regulations.
Rhode Island Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana for PTSD; Gov. Expected to Sign [Medical Jane]
Lawmakers in Rhode Island gave final approval Thursday to a bill that will allow veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that affects about eight million Americans annually, including many military veterans returning from combat, as well as victims and witnesses of violent crimes.
Willie Nelson Wants You to Work for His New Marijuana Company [Wide Open Country]
If you’ve ever dreamt of saying the words, “I just applied for Willie Nelson’s weed company,” your dreams are about to become a reality. Willie Nelson is hiring new employees for Willie’s Reserve, his “premium cannabis lifestyle brand” that features his own special, hand-picked brand of pot. The official website says the purpose of the company is paying “tribute to a tradition of sharing, caring and toking.” In a recent interview with KSAT 12, Nelson shared that his brand of pot will be the best available in Colorado. The state of Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012. You can apply right here if you want to be a part of Willie’s Reserve. You better get on the ball, because we have a feeling the applications are rolling in like smoke.
Microsoft to help track legalised marijuana sales [BBC]
Microsoft has teamed up with California-based technology start-up Kind Financial, which helps businesses and government agencies track sales of legalised marijuana “from seed to sale”. It is the first-ever partnership of its kind for Microsoft. Kind Financial has been selling its marijuana tracking software to businesses and governments for some three years. The start-up will now be able work on Microsoft’s government cloud. Kind Financial’s software, which is called Agrisoft Seed to Sale, “closes the loop between marijuana-related businesses, regulatory agencies, and financial institutions,” a press release said.
Part 1 – Marijuana Legalization In Colorado: How Recreational Weed Is Attracting People, But Spiking The State’s Homeless Rate [International Business Times]
While much has been made of the tourists, entrepreneurs and investors lured to Colorado’s blossoming marijuana industry, very little attention has been paid to another population drawn to the state’s cannabis experiment: marijuana migrants moving to the state who wind up on the streets. Interviews with people at homeless shelters in Denver and other Colorado cities like Pueblo suggest that since Colorado launched its legalized cannabis system in 2014, the percentage of newcomers to the facilities who are there in part because of the lure of marijuana has swollen to 20 to 30 percent.
Part 2 – Marijuana Legalization: Pot Brings Poor People To Colorado, But What’s Being Done To Help Them? [International Business Times]
Butts is among the hundreds of destitute individuals and families that shelters report are coming to Colorado each month because of legalized marijuana. But if his experience is anything like that of many of these newcomers, while Butts might find impressive views in his new home, he likely won’t find conditions conducive to starting a new life. In Colorado, homeless programs are severely overextended, housing costs are skyrocketing and while marijuana might be legal, public consumption of it isn’t — which means those like Butts who don’t have private residences can still face harsh consequences for using it. It doesn’t help that marijuana jobs are difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by those struggling with homelessness. So while folks like Butts can spend money in Colorado’s new marijuana industry, they can’t easily profit from it.
Cannabis use high on NFL agenda [The Irish Times]
Rather than using presciption painkillers many are now advocating marijuana as an alternative. The Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo took place in New York City last week. In between workshops about capitalising on the forthcoming “Green Rush” and advice about selecting and protecting your brand, there was a panel featuring former NFL players. Their very presence one more illustration of how the drug has transitioned from the counter culture to the mainstream. While the likes of iconic Chicago Bear Jim McMahon ostensibly came to address the potential use of cannabinoids in treating and preventing symptoms associated with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and brain injury, the big takeaway was that many would also prefer the league to stop pushing highly addictive painkillers and to start prescribing weed instead. “Pharmaceutical drugs like Vicodin and Percocet made me angry and irritable, frustrated, didn’t get rid of any of the pain, made it difficult to sleep, increased my heart rate and made me feel crazy,” said former Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive tackle Eben Britton. “On the other side of that there’s cannabis that helped me sleep, put me into a healing state of being where I was relieved from stress and anxiety as well as feeling the pain relief.”
Eugene Monroe: ‘Will never stop pushing’ NFL ‘to accept medical cannabis’ [ESPN]
Eugene Monroe said in a statement Thursday that his release by the Baltimore Ravens won’t deter him from his campaign to get medical marijuana removed from the NFL’s banned substances list. “Despite the current uncertainties, one thing is for sure: whatever happens in terms of my professional football career, I will never stop pushing for the League to accept medical cannabis as a viable option for pain management,” he said. “I will do everything I can to ensure the generations of NFL players after me won’t have to resort to harmful and addictive opioids as their only option for pain management.”
Who’s funding the US cannabis industry? [BBC]
Finding funding is one of the biggest challenges for the industry, which still exists in a legal grey area. For most companies raising enough money to start a business is one of the biggest hurdles. Despite the $5bn (£3.5bn) in legal sales in 2015 and the millions of investments already made, funding can’t keep up with demand. Part of the reason for this is institutional investors such as pension funds are barred either by law or policy from investing in federally illegal industries. And big corporations have been waiting to see how local and state laws shake out. The lack of big players though leaves private funds and “mom and pop” investors – sometimes quite literally – to put up the funding to help grow these businesses.
Colorado teens smoke less marijuana since legalisation, survey finds [Independent]
Colorado was the first state to establish a legal marijuana retail market for people aged 21 and over, with the first recreational pot shops opening in 2014. Yet cannabis use among teenagers has actually dipped slightly in recent years. Some 22 per cent of Colorado high school students surveyed in 2011 said they had used marijuana in the previous 30 days. By 2015, that number was down to 21.2 per cent, compared to a national average rate of 21.7 per cent. One probable reason for the lack of an increase in teen weed use is that the drug was already widely available long before it was legalised for adult recreational purposes. “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalisation, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally,” the survey’s authors said. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking has dropped to an all-time low among Colorado teens, fewer than 10 per cent of whom smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. Alcohol is more widely used than weed, with 30 per cent of students saying they drank in the 30 days before being surveyed. Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the pro-legalisation Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement that the statistics “clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use.”
The Times calls for decriminalisation of all illegal drugs [The Guardian]
Newspaper breaks new ground by declaring itself in favour of treating drug use and possession as a health issue rather than a crime. The Times has boldly gone where few newspapers – and very, very few politicians – have ever dared to go before by declaring itself in favour of legalising drugs in Britain. In a leading article, “Breaking Good”, the paper has supported a call on the government by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) to decriminalise both the possession and use of all illegal drugs.
Mexico’s president may have been bluffing about his support for weed decriminalization [Vice]
The sudden derailing of much-anticipated reforms to legalize medical marijuana in Mexico, as well as raise the possession threshold, has raised doubts over whether President Enrique Peña Nieto’s initial promotion of the ideas was ever anything more than good public relations. “It looks like he never really wanted it,” said drug policy expert and activist Lisa Sánchez, noting that it is the president’s own Institutional Revolutionary Party that has blocked the reforms. “It’s either that, or the PRI now considers that Peña is a liability and his opinion is worth nothing from now until the next presidential elections in 2018.” Sánchez was trying to explain what happened to make the PRI recoil from a proposal that President Peña submitted to legislators in late April. This included both the legalization of marijuana-based medication, and raising the amount of marijuana individuals can carry without risking criminal prosecution from five to 28 grams, or one ounce. Late this Friday the senate postponed discussion of the bill until next September at the earliest. Some say the delay has ensured that the momentum has now been lost and the most likely outcome is that the liberalization effort is now heading for the shelf.
Thousands of Jamaicans see ganja records wiped clean [The Gleaner]
Almost 4,000 Jamaicans who had criminal records for minor ganja offenses have so far been issued with clean Police certificates under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act passed in 2015. During a presentation to Parliament yesterday, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said amendments to the Act saw 71 persons being qualified to have their offenses automatically erased. Chuck said thousands of other Jamaicans have had their criminal records wiped clean by the state.
Not mind-stretching enough [The Economist]
On paper, most European countries still have strict laws on drug-taking (see map). But over the past few decades most have relaxed their enforcement of those laws, fining or warning recreational drug users rather than sending them to jail. Three countries have led the way. In the Netherlands, although possession of drugs is technically illegal, cannabis has been officially tolerated since the 1970s, and is sold in around 600 “coffee shops” across the country. In the Czech Republic possession of small amounts of any illicit drug (one gram of cocaine, around ten grams of cannabis) was decriminalised in the 1990s. Portugal decriminalised the possession of all drugs for personal use in 2001. Yet over the past few years these countries’ reforms have lost momentum, or even slipped backwards. Most drug-policy experts consider this a shame. The reformist countries’ experiences not only show how well liberal drug policies work; they suggest they need to go further.
The Cannabis Craze Has Come To Cocktails [Vinepair]
It was only a matter of time until the marijuana industry hit booze culture. Recently, cocktails infused with cannabis have been making their way onto menus. So if you like to get a little stony baloney during cocktail hour, this news is right up your alley.
Is cannabis big business? [AudioBoom]
Since the legalisation of marijuana in four of the US states, the cannabis industry in those areas is booming. In Colorado, one of the legal-cannabis states, the industry brought in over $73 million in tax revenue in the first seven months alone, and is only expected to grow. Mega-players seem to be getting into the game: Microsoft just teamed-up with tech start-up Kind financial that helps track sales of legalised marijuana “from seed to sale”. Matt Cox spoke to Harry Shapiro, Director of independent drug information resource DrugWise, who explained the American appetite for cannabis.
Cannabis Regulation & the UN Drug Treaties: Strategies for Reform [Swansea University 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?
The Cannabis World Congress is Held in New York [BBC]
Cannabis is a growing industry in America. The use, possession, sale, cultivation and transportation of cannabis is illegal under federal law. But individual states can pass a law to decriminalize cannabis for recreational or medical use as long as they’ve set up an approved regulatory system. As a result, 25 states – half the nation – have approved cannabis-based products for medicinal use – and four, so far, have legalized it for recreational use. We get an update from the Cannabis World Congress in New York from our correspondent Samira Hussain.
Dr Adam Winstock – Cannabis: The waft of change [YouTube]
‘Soapbar, skunk, annihilation… what’s happening with cannabinoids?’
Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow – 16th March 2016
Scottish Drugs Forum were pleased to host a conference on cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids with keynote speaker Dr Adam Winstock, Consultant Psychiatrist and founder and director of The Global Drugs Survey. In recent times there have been many changes to the quality and nature of cannabis, and a proliferation of synthetic cannabinoids sold as ‘legal highs’. These changes have brought a particular focus on cannabinoids and has raised concerns about harms associated with their use and our response to those harms. As a result of this, SDF organised this event, the first of our informative conference series in 2016, to hear from leading experts in the field. With the assistance of our speakers we looked at the latest research and evidence base and practical approaches to working with cannabinoid users.
Cannabis use during pregnancy may affect brain development in offspring [MedicalXpress]
Compared with unexposed children, those who were prenatally exposed to cannabis had a thicker prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in complex cognition, decision-making, and working memory. Author of the study Dr. Hanan El Marroun, of Erasmus University Medical Center in The Netherlands, said: “this study is important because cannabis use during pregnancy is relatively common and we know very little about the potential consequences of cannabis exposure during pregnancy and brain development later in life.” An estimated 2-13% of women worldwide use cannabis during pregnancy. Previous studies have identified short and long-term behavioral consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure, but effects on brain morphology were unknown.
Interim report: sale and use of marijuana and associated products [Parliament of Australia]
From Chapter 3:
3.23 The committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with the states and territories, undertake an objective assessment of prohibition, decriminalisation, limited deregulation and legalisation, including a full cost-benefit analysis, based on the outcomes of these options in other parts of the world.
Senator Sean Edwards – Liberal Party of Australia
1.1 Senator Edwards rejects the proposition outlined in recommendation 1 and notes the evidence presented by the Department of Health, the National Rural Health Alliance and the Victorian Drug & Alcohol Association that cannabis use brings significant medical and social harm to users and the broader community. These findings provide compelling reasons as to why the decriminalisation of cannabis should not be pursued and why actively doing so would be a waste of state and Commonwealth time and resources.
1.2 Alongside these findings, the committee heard examples of where the
cultivation and regulation of cannabis would be beneficial. In these instances the government has already acted appropriately.
1.3 In February 2016 the Turnbull Government introduced and passed legislation to enable the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific use through a licensing scheme to be established under the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967.
1.4 This legislation will open the way for Australian doctors and patients to access medicinal cannabis products safely, legally and reliably to manage some conditions and will satisfy the committee’s reported findings.
Senator Sean Edwards
Liberal Party of Australia