Put aside politics to tackle the problem of illicit drugs [Sydney Morning Herald]
It would have been better if the Premier had called it – and called it sooner, but at last NSW is to have another drug summit. The NSW MPs from across the political spectrum who have banded together to organise next month’s Harm Minimisation Summit are to be congratulated for reaching out to each other to encourage rational discussion of an issue that is all too often hijacked by emotion, prejudice and politics. Harm minimisation measures, such as pill testing and smoking rooms for ice users, need careful, evidence-based consideration, which is why this newspaper has been calling for a drug summit for 18 months to bring users, health workers, researchers and politicians together to share information and work towards multi-faceted solutions. Now there is an opportunity for this to happen, which is why we encourage all MPs to put aside adversarial politics, both between and within parties, attend the summit and give this issue the serious attention it deserves.
NSW secures medical marijuana licence in Australian first [Sydney Morning Herald]
You now have permission to grow marijuana in NSW – if you are the state government. NSW is the first state to have been given approval to grow cannabis under licence from the federal government as part of research into the best way to cultivate the plant. That step will lay the foundations for private growers to supply medical marijuana, the state government said. “This underpins the potential pharmaceutical supply of cannabis-based medicines made in Australia,” said the NSW Primary Industries Minister, Niall Blair. “We are the first state to be authorised by the Commonwealth to conduct cultivation research.”
Queensland children with severe drug-resistant epilepsy eligible for medical marijuana trial [International Business Times]
Medicinal cannabis trial, announced in 2015, will now be available to Queensland children who have severe drug-resistant epilepsy. They can take part in the medical marijuana clinical trial after a deal signed with a British drug company. The State Government signed a memorandum of understanding with GW Pharmaceuticals to access Epidiolex, a liquid form of pure cannabidiol. Now the State Government is calling on parents who have children suffering from persistent seizures if they want to be part of the medical marijuana trial, revealed Health Minister Cameron Dick. The trials will be developed by the research team from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. The trials are expected to begin before the end of the year and will be part of a $6 million State Government spend. It will also include establishing a specialist research centre. The trials would be run as part of the compassionate access scheme.
Early VLAD charges successfully challenged in Supreme Court [Brisbane Times]
Their arrest was lauded as a major milestone for Taskforce Maxima but now five people convicted under controversial Newman government association laws have successfully challenged the charges in court. The five applicants petitioned the court for a ruling that were they were not “vicious lawless associates” under the Queensland government’s controversial anti-association laws. In March 2014, police executed search warrants on two properties in Willow Vale where they found two underground bunkers housing a huge haul of cannabis. “This is the first time in Queensland the new Vicious Lawless Associate legislation has been used against a criminal gang other than an already declared Criminal Organisation (Criminal Motorcycle Gang),” Taskforce Maxima commander Detective Superintendent Michael Niland said. But on Tuesday, Justice Peter Lyons found the group were not “vicious lawless associates” under the terms of the legislation. “The interest or purpose of Mr Ben Hannan was to make a profit from the production and sale of cannabis,” Justice Lyons said. “The interest or purpose of Sarah Hannan appears to have been to support Ben Hannan in that enterprise. While the other three applicants each had the purpose of earning money by assisting in the production and sale of cannabis, that was an individual purpose for each of them; and not a common interest or purpose.”
“Australia Post does not have, for example, sniffer dogs, X-ray machines or explosive trace detectors. Australia Post lacks legal authority to open mail… In a statement to the ABC, Australia Post said funding was not the reason behind the lack of technology to detect illegal goods and that it was not in a position to change any laws. Australia Post does not seek this legal authority which, in Australia Post’s view, properly sits with law enforcement agencies,” the statement said. In a separate freedom of information request, it was revealed 12,844 packages of illegal drugs were posted to Australia last year. A majority of those drugs were cannabis, as well as almost 3,000 parcels of ecstasy seized — the equivalent of more than 300,000 pills.
Should Google Allow Medical Marijuana Advertisements [Strength Heal]
Google’s advertising policy prohibits the promotion of mind altering substances, but what if the the product is used for strictly medical purposes then shouldn’t advertisements be ok? Vireo Health of New York is battling Google over its policies blocking digital advertising for marijuana-based drugs. Vireo sent a letter this week to Google urging the Internet search company to accept its medical-marijuana advertisements, according to a copy of the letter signed by Chief Executive Officer Ari Hoffnung. “To date, Google AdWords has rejected seven advertisements from Vireo citing Google’s advertising policy that prohibits the ‘promotion of substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation,’” Hoffnung wrote in the letter Tuesday. “We are confident that our advertisements comply with Google’s policy, as our products are sold strictly and exclusively for medicinal purposes and in conformance with New York law,” Hoffnung wrote, “Our products are not ever (and legally cannot be) sold or used for recreational purposes.”
The 66-year-old Virgin Group founder mixed in some unorthodox parenting advice for entrepreneurs about raising their children along with his more conventional business bromides. “If they’re going to have a joint, do it with them,” the father of two told conventioneers from the stage. “Don’t let them sneak off and do it on their own.” After a smattering of awkward laughter, Branson felt compelled to add that “I’m on the global drug commission” and that he has been working hard to reinforce the idea that drugs are “a health problem and not a criminal problem,” a message which got a warmer response from his audience. Though it seemed to catch many in the audience unaware, Branson has made no secret of his occasional marijuana use and has been an advocate for decriminalizing marijuana. Stephen Kelly, the CEO of conference organizers Sage, had prompted the off-script remarks from Branson during an onstage Q&A by asking him how he made sure his children learned their values.
I have long admired cannabis activists in Texas. Texas is not a friendly place to be when it comes to cannabis, and so fighting for reform there is not easy. To make matters worse, Texas does not have a citizen initiative process, which is how many states have achieved reform over the years. The only way to achieve reform in Texas is via the Texas Legislature. That’s not exactly an easy task. Two Texas State Representatives, Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs and Joe Moody, D-El Paso, plan to push for decriminalization in the next legislative session. Isaac told the Austin-American Statesman that he would also like to see expungement of past convictions to be included. The Texas Association of Businesses would also like to see prior convictions expunged, and to see cannabis treated as an infraction as opposed to a crime. Business owners and industry leaders have expressed concern about how hard it is to hire a strong workforce because so many people are unable to be hired due to prior minor, non-violent cannabis offenses.
Laboratory tests conducted over the weekend showed that there was no THC – marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient – in the water supply in the town of Hugo, Colorado, after field tests at municipal wells earlier in the week came back positive for the chemical. While attention focused on the drama of the investigation into the town’s water, the incident highlights a legal gray area for employers and workers in states where marijuana use is allowed. The THC was first found in a vial of tap water meant to show an absolute negative result for drugs after a local company reported inconsistencies in drug tests on its employees. While pot may be legal in Colorado, companies can still fire employees for using the drug when off the job, even when they have a prescription for medical marijuana.
Four doctors have been suspended by the Colorado Medical Board for recommending that their medicinal cannabis patients cultivate an amount of plants far larger than the permitted limit. The doctors in question are under fire for recommending their patients grow or possess at least 75 cannabis plants for personal medicinal use. Colorado state law limits the amount of plants one can possess to six. A total of around 1,500 patients received said recommendations from the four doctors who are now awaiting disciplinary proceedings. It appears that, in Colorado, some doctors are making more lenient allowances, based upon personal opinions regarding medicinal cannabis. In this instance, they have run up against state regulatory bodies who have opted for a more stringent approach.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado was associated with both increased hospital visits and cases at a regional poison center because of unintentional exposure to the drug by children, suggesting effective preventive measures are needed as more states consider legalizing the drug, according to a new article.
NFL Needs To Stop Testing For Marijuana [CBS Pittsburgh]
In the wake of Le’Veon Bell reportedly being slapped with a four-game suspension for failing and/or missing multiple drug tests due to marijuana usage, the CBS Sports NFL insider made an impassioned plea to stop the madness. “I’ve dropped my specimen cup and I’m waving the white flag,” La Canfora wrote in a column. “Spare us all…get the heck out of these guys’ living rooms, or dens, or hermitically-sealed smoke rooms.” La Canfora doesn’t see who this benefits. “Is there anyone who thinks this is good for football?” La Canfora said. “I mean, aside from a short-sighted fan, whose team plays the Steelers, say, in Week 3, and who is hoping that week Bell is still suspended. What are we really accomplishing? I understand the need for players to follow the rules, but shouldn’t the punishments fit the crimes,” he added. “What if we just admit this is a personal choice a good many of these athletes are going to make as a counter-punch to all of the blows to the head they are contractually obligated to take?”
Americans spending as much on legal cannabis as on alcohol [Drinks Business]
A new report has found that Americans are now spending as much on legal cannabis as they are on alcohol. And according to Time Money, it’s men who are predominantly reaching for the rolling papers, with $647 annually on marijuana products, while female consumers drop about $634 each year on weed. That is in comparison with an average of $645 spent a year on alcohol and $1,000 a year on coffee (via Headset).
For the first time in YouGov’s polling, more Republicans support marijuana legalization than oppose it. Analyzing the results from a survey earlier this month, Peter Moore wrote: “YouGov’s latest research shows that most Americans still support legalization of marijuana, and that support for legalization has increased slightly, from 52 percent in December 2015 to 55 percent today. Most of this change is a result of changing attitudes among Republicans. In fact, for the first time, Republicans narrowly tend to support legalization, 45 percent to 42 percent.” Still, Democrats and independents vastly outweigh Republicans in their support for legalization: Democrats back legalization 63-25, Independents 55-33, and Republicans 45-42, according to the survey of nearly 1,000 US adults.
Study Finds Drop In Prescription Drugs In Medical Marijuana States [Huffington Post]
US States looking for a way to reduce Medicare spending and prescription drug use may want to turn to legalizing medical marijuana, a new study suggests. The District of Columbia and the 17 states that had medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs in 2013 saved an estimated total of $165.2 million in Medicare program and enrollee spending that year, researchers at the University of Georgia reported in the journal Health Affairs this month. “The results suggest that if all states had implemented medical marijuana the overall savings to Medicare would have been around $468 million,” a press release on the findings stated.
In a first, Oregon State Fair to feature marijuana plants [The Oregonian]
The Oregon State Fair celebrates oddities like the “curviest vegetable” and the “most misshapen fruit.” Fairgoers can marvel over award-winning onions and pumpkins and snap photos of the top pig and llama. This year, the state fair is adding a new attraction: prize-winning marijuana plants. For the first time, Oregon’s marijuana crop will be on display at the annual event, which runs Aug. 26 through Sept. 5. Don Morse, chairman of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, the sponsor of the marijuana exhibit, said nine plants will be displayed in a greenhouse that will have its own entrance and exit. The area will be monitored by a security guard. Only people 21 and older will be allowed in. Fair officials said the inclusion of cannabis plants is a nod to the newly legal status of the crop. “This is really a reflection of where Oregon is now as a state,” said Dan Cox, spokesman for the fair.
First medical pot shop opens in Florida [Associated Press]
The first shop that can legally sell medical marijuana in Florida opened at a strip mall in Tallahassee on Tuesday and Dallas Nagy became its first customer, buying cannabis capsules that he hopes will ease his chronic muscle spasms and seizures. Dennis Deckerhoff, who pushed for legalization of medical marijuana because of his son who suffers from intractable epilepsy, called it a “Field of Dreams” moment. “Now that it is here, open and has medicine, more doctors are going to come on board now,” he said.
Use Marijuana Tax Revenues To Treat Related Public Health Issues [Huffington Post]
The Canadian Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation is up and running. And run it will in order to have a detailed set of recommendations for its November deadline. It has lots of issues to consider as indicated by its discussion paper and beyond. Protection of children in the shift from criminalization to regulation must be paramount. Taxation raises a lot of questions. There’s no doubt that marijuana, itself, and the industry and its employees, agents, etc. should be taxed. One of the main arguments for legalization and regulation is that it will impose levies on the cannabis industry, ending its illicit tax-free days. How much to tax is a critical issue: too low and the levies, even combined with other strategies, won’t have much impact dampening harmful consumption; too high and the illicit market can creep back in (we’ve seen this happen with cigarettes). At any rate, taxation produces revenue for governments. What should be done with the flow derived from marijuana? Monies from taxes on cannabis could simply be directed to the general revenue pool of government. However, for two compelling reasons, the task force should recommend that any legislation regulating marijuana should stipulate that funds should be earmarked for public health issues related to cannabis.
British Airways flight to Crete turns back to Gatwick after ‘cannabis smell’ fills cabin [Telegraph]
A British Airways flight carrying holidaymakers to Crete was forced to turn back when a “nasty smell” filled the cabin. Passengers complained of smelling a foul odour – reportedly compared to the smell of cannabis by some – on the flight to Heraklion after take-off from Gatwick on Thursday morning. A British Airways spokeswoman said no evidence of cannabis or anybody smoking cannabis was found on board. She added: “Our pilot returned the aircraft to Gatwick as a precaution following reports of an unidentified strong smell in the cabin.
The case for the defence rests largely on a widely circulated email sent by the Home Office in response to a query about the legal status of CBD chewing gum. In it, a Home Office spokesman confirmed that CBD is not covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. As such, the email explained, any product containing CBD alone is not illegal. But straight away there was a caveat – should the product contain any substance (such as another cannabinoid) that is controlled by the MoDA, it would at the very least require a license. This should perhaps have rung alarm bells in the heads of those selling CBD products in the UK, but judging by the continued growth of the industry, it did not. Since the publication of this email some 3 years ago the assumption has been that because CBD is not a scheduled drug, any CBD product is necessarily legal. But this is a dangerous assumption to make.
“Ireland is behind the times,” said the People Before Profits/Anti Austerity Alliance TD Gino Kenny when speaking about his Bill to legalise cannabis for medicinal use. This week, Bríd Smith tabled the Bill on behalf of her colleague in the Dáil, calling for the use of cannabis to be permitted for sufferers of illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis and cancer. It calls for the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority and for distributors to be licensed.
Italy could make it legal to grow your own weed [The Local]
Italy could legalise home-grown cannabis, if a law being debated on Monday gets the green light. Were the draft to pass into law, people would be allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants for personal use and keep up to 15 grams of marijuana at home and five grams on their person. It would still be illegal for people to buy or sell weed or smoke marijuana in public, but the Italian state could start issuing licenses allowing the drug to be grown and sold in a similar way to tobacco.
Italian army aims to produce ‘the best-quality’ medical marijuana after finding current batches deficient [Independent]
The Italian army is growing large crops of cannabis in order to force the price of the drug down to about €8 per gram, according to the colonel overseeing production. In September 2014, the country’s government announced the army would help increase the production of medical marijuana, with the first secure growing facility unveiled in Florence in April last year. It is hoped the sterile chamber will produce up to 100kg of cannabis every year, strictly for use by cancer patients, multiple sclerosis sufferers and those with other medical conditions which could be alleviated by the drug. Colonel Antonio Medica is in charge of the Florence military base, which currently houses around 135 cannabis plants in carefully maintained conditions. “My mission is to produce the best-quality cannabis on an industrial scale at a low price,” he told The Times. “We think we can get that down to €8 [per gram]”.
To answer the question, let’s go back in time to the cannabis renaissance of the 1960s and ‘70s. Consumers in Europe at the time almost exclusively smoked hashish, often crumbling it into cigarettes, as hardly anyone was aware of the dangers of nicotine and smoking tobacco. The vast majority of cannabis consumers in the U.S., on the other hand, overwhelming had access only to dried flower, which could easily be used to roll pure joints. These differences influenced the size of what was being rolled in North America and Europe. In the U.S. and Canada, pure “mini-joints” became the standard, while on the continent a king-size joint is preferred. A European-sized joint that contains only cannabis might contain 1.5 grams to 2 grams of flower — far too much for most. An American joint, on the other hand, contains about as much herb — about 0.2 grams to 0.5 grams — as a European mixed joint (often called a spliff in the U.S.), but without the nicotine. Scientists have even pinpointed the average amount of cannabis in an American joint at 0.32 grams. In Germany, the Netherlands, or Denmark, that amount of cannabis is typically mixed with another gram or so of tobacco, depending on personal preference.
Most 3D printers use plastic, which usually isn’t the most environmentally friendly material available. Most forms of plastic are made from hydrocarbons like oil, and they don’t break down when you’re done with them. A North Dakota startup called 3DomFuel is looking to make 3D printing filament from other materials like coffee, beer, and even sticky icky hemp. If you just checked the calendar to see if it was April Fools, think again. 3DomFuel is actually doing this.
Chronic low back pain linked to higher rates of illicit drug use [Medical Xpress]
People living with chronic low back pain (cLBP) are more likely to use illicit drugs—including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine—compared to those without back pain, reports a study in Spine. In addition, cLBP patients with a history of illicit drug use are more likely to have a current prescription for opioid analgesic (pain-relieving) drugs, according to the new research by Dr. Anna Shmagel of University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues. While it’s not clear which direction the association runs, the patterns of illicit drug use may have implications for decisions about prescribing opioids for patients with back pain.
Decades on, old foes unite for new drug approach [Sydney Morning Herald]
Two old political foes will unite to kickstart the debate about expanding Sydney’s lone medically supervised drug consumption centre to new areas and new ways to help users of the drug ice. Nearly two decades since a summit inspired by a Sun-Herald story led to an overhaul of NSW drug policy, former premier Bob Carr and opposition leader John Brogden will address a second summit at State Parliament next month. The 1999 summit, held against the backdrop of a heroin epidemic, led to the highly controversial supervised medical injecting centre in Kings Cross. Next month’s summit, the initiative of a group of MPs from across political divides, will consider how a harm-minimisation approach could be extended to today’s major drug challenges, including the rising availability and use of ice. “My reflection 15 years later is that the world hasn’t ended,” Mr Brogden said of the injecting centre, which he famously broke with his party to vote for as Liberal leader. “This is the debate that needs to be had: whether or not the centres should follow the problem.” Many in the Liberal Party, including Premier Mike Baird, voted against the Kings Cross safe injecting room, which was only made permanent in 2010 after a “trial” that ran for a decade. A handful of senior cabinet ministers broke with party ranks to extend its tenure, including Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Jillian Skinner.
Calls for needle exchange programs in jail [Coffs Coast Advocate]
The spread of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C among Australia’s prison population has prompted a call for jails to establish needle exchange programs. There are currently no syringe programs active in any Australian prison despite infections becoming more frequent. Up to two-thirds of female inmates and one-third of males in prison are infected with hepatitis C, according to the Department of Health’s Fourth National Hepatitis C Strategy 2014-2017. Meanwhile 43% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian jails have contracted the potentially fatal virus. A 2013 Corrective Services NSW study found 37% of the state’s prison population said they had used drugs while behind bars. And despite calls from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Australia still does not have any needle exchange programs operating in prisons. UNSW National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Professor Kate Dolan wrote an online opinion piece calling for the state governments to revisit the issue.
Review of Drug Utensils Regulation: A discussion document [Ministry of Health, New Zealand]
The National Drug Policy identifies alcohol and other drug issues as health matters that need to be addressed proportionately, compassionately and innovatively. The goal of the policy is to minimise harm from alcohol and other drugs, and to promote and protect the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. One of the National Drug Policy’s priority areas is ‘Getting the Legal Balance Right’. This is to ensure our drug laws, and their enforcement, effectively balance the three strategic approaches: problem limitation, demand reduction and supply control. This means considering the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs, their family and peers, and the wider community. This discussion document seeks views on whether a revised approach to drug utensils might be more effective in achieving the goal of the National Drug Policy. In particular, the focus is on utensils that people use to take controlled drugs (eg, bongs to smoke cannabis).
New Zealand’s much heralded regulation of new psychoactive substances (NPS) appears be at a complete standstill after its introduction three years ago, raising the question: what went wrong? The 2013 Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA) sought to introduce a full regulatory system for NPS and take control of what was a burgeoning market in these drugs. The first of its kind in attempting to bring NPS into the licit market, the PSA places the onus on manufacturers to prove that their products pose a low risk of harm. Only once this is shown will a drug be licensed for sale. Nearly two years since the PSR finally came into force, though, there appears to have been little progress in moving the market above ground. There have yet to be any products granted approval; indeed, no applications have even been received. This failure to create a regulated market can be largely put down to a crucial flaw in the approval process – the ability to prove that a substance poses a low risk of harm. For this reason, the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority (PSRA), the body in charge of licences and ensuring that products meet adequate safety requirements, has stated: ‘‘it is unlikely that a product can be shown to pose no more than a low risk of harm without the use of animal testing.” In light of this comment, it seems the regulations are entirely self defeating.
I spent my weekend testing drugs at a festival – and I provided a service everyone should have access to [Independent UK]
“This Is A Serious Party.” That’s the motto of hedonistic Cambridgeshire festival Secret Garden Party. It’s also one that it can lay claim to like no other, after playing host to a remarkable first this weekend. For while plenty of festivals are comfortable providing the fun, they are coy about one of the most serious aspects of festival culture – drugs. Secret Garden Party has grasped the nettle by hosting a “front of house” drug testing service for festival goers – legally and confidentially – together with information to help keep drug users from harm. While fronting four days of glittery mayhem, the level-headed pragmatism of the festival organisers choosing to provide this service meant more revellers were informed about responsible drug use, and a significant number of potentially dangerous samples were handed over and disposed of. The knock-on effect was a significant reduction the workload of the festival’s medics, welfare team and duty police officers. A serious party indeed. I was lucky enough to be part of The Loop team, a group of analytical chemists and experienced drug workers, that provided the pioneering service this weekend.
Splendour is a great festival with awesome music and fun vibes. But the head in the sand approach taken by politicians and the police on the reality of drug use isn’t making the festival any safer, it’s making it more dangerous. Our hypocritical drug laws are hurting young people, threatening to ruin their lives and doing nothing to improve community safety.Police and law-makers are never going to stop young people smoking a joint or taking MDMA at a music festival. They can’t even explain why those drugs are illegal while consumption of alcohol, a drug that kills thousands every year, is incredibly prevalent. Instead of pretending they can change the way young people live their lives they need to ditch the war on drugs and embrace the reality of harm minimisation like the rest of the world.
The killings began before Mr Duterte had even been sworn into office, as if in anticipation. Two weeks after his inauguration, 200 drug dealers and users have been killed in shoot-outs in the withering crackdown where police have a licence to “shoot first, ask later”. About 60,000 addicts have handed themselves in for treatment at clinics around the country in recent weeks, fear now overriding hardcore addiction. The Philippines leader has vowed to risk everything to put an end to the drug problem, which he says is a major security and corruption issue. A former mayor of Davao, on Mindanao, he is credited with creating one of the safest cities in the country with his tough-on-crime approach, although critics have denounced his vigilante-style methods. Not only legal and human rights organisations, but ordinary Filipinos who voted for him are alarmed by what they see as a war on drugs, that is also a war on poor people. A taxi driver, Bobby, says he voted for Mr Duterte, but told me: “We have courts for a reason. You can’t let cops be judge, jury and executioner.”
Proves medicinal value contrary to Schedule 1 drug classification by DEA.