Medicinal cannabis available in NSW [News]

Doctors in NSW will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for their patients from Monday 1 August. Cannabis-based medicines have so far only been available to patients enrolled in clinical trials in NSW, but Premier Mike Baird said with regulatory changes the drugs could be prescribed for patients who have exhausted standard treatment options. “People who are seriously ill should be able to access these medicines if they are the most appropriate next step in their treatment,” Mr Baird said on Sunday.

Cannabis research: Law changes jeopardise program grandfather gave millions towards [Daily Telegraph]

Cannabis oil from the hemp plants grown in this Hunter Valley crop have been sent to Sydney University for the past year to study in search of a treatment for epilepsy and other conditions. Mr Lambert, a retired financial services billionaire made history last year by donating $33.7 million to Sydney University to set up The Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics. Now the legacy he hoped to put in place is under threat by law changes as the federal government attempts to control medicinal cannabis. Mr Lambert said the licensed supplier of the cannabis oil, Ecofibre, will no longer be allowed to supply the university after October 31 because it will then be classified as industrial hemp, not medicinal cannabis. Industrial hemp has low concentrations of THC, marijuana’s active psychotropic component. Cannabis grown for medicinal purposes will be required to be grown in glass houses. Mr Lambert said the resultant production costs will make an affordable drug expensive. “Imagine the cost of bread and resultant social unrest if we had to grow wheat in a glass house because someone might use it to make alcohol.” Mr Lambert, who is also an investor in Ecofibre, said Sydney University will have to source cannabinoids elsewhere.

Bob Carr calls for unity to push through music festival pill-testing trial [ABC]

Former New South Wales premier Bob Carr has told health experts they may be able to persuade Premier Mike Baird to consider trialling pill-testing machines at festivals if they pitch the idea properly. Mr Carr – who opened Australia’s first and only legal injecting room for heroin addicts at Kings Cross in 2001 – has joined MPs at a cross-party roundtable on drugs held at NSW Parliament. Mr Carr said the next challenges were extending the scope of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Kings Cross, and introducing pill-testing machines at music festivals.

Illicit drug seizures up 14% and drug-related arrests up 20%, says report [The Guardian]

A record 105,862 drug seizures were recorded in Australia in 2014-2015, an increase of 13.7% compared with the year before, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s Illicit Drug Data report shows. Launching the report in Adelaide on Thursday, the commission’s chief executive, Chris Dawson, said authorities were disrupting more criminals and seizing more illicit drugs than ever before. Cannabis once again accounted for the greatest proportion of illicit drug use in Australia, the report found. ƒ There were a record 59,271 national cannabis seizures last year and 75,105 cannabis arrests, an increase of almost 10% from the previous year.

Australia a major seller of dark web drugs [The New Daily]

Australia remains a major market for illicit drugs on the dark web despite the FBI’s aggressive move to shut down leading illegal online drug emporium Silk Road and the life jail sentence handed to its US mastermind. A new study by Rand Corp Europe compared the e-commerce platforms used by sellers and buyers of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and other drugs on the dark web to mainstream legal sites like Amazon.com. Australia has the third highest number of vendors selling drugs on the secretive cryptomarkets, just behind the US and the UK and ahead of Germany and the Netherlands.

Dark web drug sales triple in three years since Silk Road 1.0 closure [International Business Times]

Drug sales on the dark web have tripled since the closure of the high-profile Silk Road marketplace in 2013 and life imprisonment of its owner, Ross Ulbricht. Revenues have doubled in the same period, as the threat of FBI arrest and a lifetime in prison has done little to stop the sale of drugs like cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy online. Dark web marketplaces are hidden from search engines like Google and can only be visited through anonymising browsers like The Onion Router (Tor). A study, published by Rand Corporation Europe and conducted by Judith Aldridge from the University of Manchester and David Decary-Hetu from the University of Montreal, found all dark web marketplaces combined sell between $12m and $21.1m (£9m to £16m) of illegal drugs every month. This is double that earned in 2013, according to research which took place just weeks before the FBI shut down Silk Road and arrested Ulbricht in a San Francisco library.

WA Police target ‘magic mushroom’ harvesting in South West town Balingup [Perth Now]

Police have laid almost 30 charges this winter during a campaign to catch people harvesting magic mushrooms in Balingup, Australia’s unofficial hallucinogenic fungi capital. But they have denied suggestions outlaw bikie gangs are muscling in on the magic mushroom trade in WA’s South West, despite 11 people being charged with a total of 29 offences, including drug, firearm and weapon offences. Psilocybin mushrooms are found during winter in pine forests around Balingup, 230km south of Perth.

Oregon to host cannabis growers’ fair with guest speakers including ‘the Guru of Ganja’ [The Telegraph]

Pot cultivation in the US has taken another step towards respectability with Oregon announcing it is to hold what is believed to be America’s first ever cannabis growers’ fair. The event, which will take place at the Oregon state fairground in Salem, will bring together the elite of marijuana horticulture. More than 100 of Oregon’s premier pot growers will be attending, where they will be competing for awards and $10,000 in prize money. The nine finest plants will also be displayed at the Oregon state fair from August 26 to September 5. Ed Rosenthal, known as the “Guru of Ganja”, will be a guest judge at the show. In addition to competing for the award of best cannabis grower, attendees will be able to get information on security and the latest rules and regulations on cannabis cultivation.

With cannabis on the ballot, can Clinton and Trump cash in on the pot vote? [The Guardian]

A record number of legal marijuana measures is likely to increase the election turnout, but which candidate will it help the most? The answer is complex. At first glance, the traditional demographic of marijuana voters – white, young, male, Democratic – would presumably increase votes for Clinton. But with the Libertarian candidate (and known pot enthusiast), Gary Johnson, having the best chance since Nader to siphon votes away from a mainstream candidate, and the unpredictable loyalty of party-line voters this year, it’s not guaranteed that Clinton will be able to cash in on the momentum of marijuana. “Polls show that there’s a trend toward marijuana legalization, so the energy behind this issue seems to be on the legalization side,” said Geoffrey Skelley, media relations coordinator for the University of Virginia’s Center For Politics. So if there are citizens who turn out and vote because of this issue, it’s probably going to favor Democrats.”

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Drug Policy [Talking Drugs]

In this year’s US presidential election race, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have advocated differing approaches to the most significant drug policy issues in the country: cannabis law reform, opioid addiction, and trafficking across the Mexican border. Clinton and Trump have changed their views on drug policy considerably over the years. In 1990, Trump declared that all drugs should be legalised to “take the profit away from these drug czars”. However, he now opposes the legalisation of any illegal drug, including cannabis. Conversely, Clinton once stated that she opposed legalising illegal drugs because, illogically, “there is just too much money in it [for traffickers]”. She has since adopted a more progressive approach, at least in terms of cannabis, and supports a “federal relaxation of marijuana research”. Indeed, cannabis reform has become an increasingly important public issue, with Newsweek recently dubbing November’s vote the “Marijuana Election”, and a YouGov poll indicating cross-party support for legalisation among voters. Both candidates support the right to use medical cannabis. In 2014, Clinton told CNN of her support for medical cannabis “under appropriate circumstances”, while Trump maintains that “for medicinal purposes, it’s absolutely fine”. However, the candidates differ somewhat on the recreational use of cannabis. Trump supports states’ rights to introduce recreational cannabis, telling supporters at a rally that “if they vote for it, they vote for it”, but has also stated that regulating recreational cannabis would be “bad“. Clinton, however, offers a more progressive but cautious approach; she wants to “wait and see” how successful legalisation is in certain states, such as Colorado and Washington, that she has deemed “laboratories of democracy”.

Why Is The U.S. Silent On Massacre Of Drug Users In The Philippines? [The Huffington Post]

In the past few weeks, a spate of horrific killings have taken place across the Philippines. Murders of people who use drugs, people who sell drugs, and people who have simply been assumed to do either. No trials, no due process, these are state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings encouraged by the new President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. Upon assuming presidency, Duterte made a public call for police and citizens alike to execute people who use or sell drugs, promising medals for citizens who comply, and pardons for police if they are charged with human rights violations while carrying out the executions. Since making this harrowing call to action, over 700 people suspected to have been involved with drugs have been murdered. A further 114,000 people who use drugs have turned themselves in to authorities – undoubtedly out of fear for their lives – and who will now face time in overcrowded prisons and likely be subjected to inhumane and involuntary drug treatment programs.

Sign our petition to Secretary Kerry and tell him to condemn these horrific drug war killings and to cut off any security assistance to the Philippines while the murders continue [Drug Policy Alliance]

The U.S. has some terrible drug policies, but what’s happening in the Philippines right now is unprecedented. Newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte is encouraging law enforcement, and even civilians, to kill people suspected of selling or using drugs. More than 700 people have been killed in just the last few weeks. Yesterday, the U.S. State Department expressed concern. But recently Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Duterte, and instead of condemning the killings, he vowed to commit $32 million to support law enforcement training and efforts in the Philippines.

Please also sign the petition calling on Malcolm Turnbull to condemn the summary executions in the Philippines: Condemn Filipino President Duterte’s summary executions for alleged drug offences.

Charges dropped for Native American teen facing prison over gram of weed [The Guardian]

Prosecutors in Oregon have agreed to drop federal charges against a Native American teenager who faced up to a year in prison for possession of about one gram of marijuana, after the state’s US senators and a congressman sent a letter of concern. “I hope sincerely that other minors or even adults in our state – where marijuana is both recreationally and medically legal – don’t have to face this sort of persecution by the federal government for such a minor quantity of what’s now legal medicine.” The government’s decision to file charges against Thomas, which criminal justice experts say is a perplexing move that directly contradicts federal guidelines, has also raised questions about how the US Department of Justice enforces laws on Native American territories. “I can’t figure out why they are going after this youth. It literally makes no sense,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. “I find it really hard to believe this should merit the concern of the US attorney. It’s really heartbreaking.”

Doctors make easy money from medical marijuana. What happens when it’s legal? [The Guardian]

This November, California – along with three other states – will vote on whether to approve recreational use of the drug. The state’s measure – Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – would allow adults aged 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and buy the drug in stores – no doctor’s note required. If approved, Prop 64 could spell the end of a cottage industry that has attracted entrepreneurs and brought mockery on the notion of medical cannabis. Cannabis recommendations are often issued by places such as San Francisco Green Evaluations, a “clinic” in an upstairs office at Amoeba Music, a record store in the city’s tourist-friendly Haight-Ashbury district. There, Samuel Dismond III, a former primary care physician with nearly 30 years of experience, writes recommendations for as little as $45 – and “super fast”, as multiple Yelp reviewers put it.

Is cannabis really getting stronger? [The Conversation]

Cannabis continues to be the world’s favourite illicit drug with around 147m people using it annually. However, there are fears that the drug is becoming increasingly potent and that it could pose a public health risk. But how reliable is the evidence? And is it really getting stronger? The science underpinning the cannabis potency story is problematic. Cannabis users have to rely on their own knowledge when deciding on the dosage to achieve the desired high. A regulated market such as the one in Colorado could mean users are able to make better decisions and, in turn, reduce the rate of people needing treatment services where cannabis is the primary problem. The government should regulate cannabis products to make them safer, enabling consumers to make more informed choices. It should create opportunities for targeted education and harm reduction, and employ other evidence-based health interventions.

Canada’s real marijuana problem [Maclean’s]

Many arguments are made in favour of legalizing marijuana. But by far the most compelling is the potential impact on the criminal justice system. The sheer number of Canadians who are busted for possession, trafficking, production and distribution of the leafy green plant—more than 160 per every 100,000 people—dwarfs that for any other drug, including far more problematic substances like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the enforcement of marijuana laws has been responsible for the overwhelming majority of drug arrests, about 75 per cent of all reported drug crime,” says Neil Boyd, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Boyd adds that legalizing pot would immediately allow police to focus limited resources on more “worthwhile” endeavours. It could also lead to a reduction in other types of crime that are related to marijuana, including rip-offs of marijuana grow ops or potentially violent conflicts between buyers and sellers. “You can’t currently take a dishonest marijuana distributor to court or call the Better Business [Bureau] to complain,” Boyd says.

Weeds of peace [The Economist]

Colombia hopes to cash in on a new cannabis-based bonanza, set off by legalisation in parts of the United States and elsewhere. The government recently licensed three companies to process extracts, resins and oils for treating such ailments as cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Its ambition is to build medical marijuana into a business as big as cut flowers, which bring in more than $1 billion in export revenue. Colombia could be “the winner of this emerging global market”, said Alejandro Gaviria, the health minister. The three companies with permits to process cannabis—one Canadian and two Colombian—must wait until the government licenses the growing of the weed itself, probably next year. Also awaiting the go-ahead are Colombian growers, whose activities are unauthorised but tolerated. They hope to move up the value chain. A co-operative of 53 farmers in Cuaca province, where half of Colombia’s marijuana is grown, is seeking licences to cultivate it, produce cannabis-based remedies and research the weed’s medicinal properties. This shows that the cannabis industry “can change a problem into an opportunity”, said Mr Gaviria.

MS patient’s war for weed wins Croatia a legal high [Medical Xpress]

When Huanito Luksetic was arrested for growing marijuana to help him cope with multiple sclerosis, he could not have known his struggle would eventually pave the way for Croatia to legalise cannabis for medical use. His case raised intense media interest from the start and triggered the October 2015 decision to legalise the sale of cannabis-derived products for medical purposes, with the medicines finally appearing in pharmacies in July.

Italian Cannabis Legalisation Vote Delayed But Reform Potential Remains [Talking Drugs]

The Italian government has postponed a vote on cannabis legalisation to September after a right-wing parliamentary group purposefully derailed it, but public support for reform remains high. On Monday July 25, a bill was introduced in the Italian Chamber of Deputies to legalise and regulate the cannabis trade. Currently, the cultivation or sale of cannabis may result in a prison sentence, while possession is likely to garner a fine. The bill, put forward by the Inter-gruppo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale (IPCL), a cross-party group of parliamentarians, was postponed after opposing politicians introduced hundreds of amendments. Over three-quarters of the amendments – around 1,300 of 1,700 – were introduced by the Alleanza Popolare (Popular Alliance), a right-wing splinter group of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.

The Real History of France’s First Anti-Drug Law [Points]

Myth: Napoleon Bonaparte created the first anti-marijuana law in modern history during his military campaign to Egypt around 1800. When Jacques-François “Abdallah” Menou, the divisional commander of Rosetta, passed the hashish ban in Egypt in early October of 1800, Napoleon was nearly 3200 kilometers away in Paris fending off the famous “dagger plot” and preoccupied with a growing war in Europe against Austria and the Second Coalition. And a close reading of official correspondence between Paris and Alexandria throughout 1800 reveals that Napoleon had no involvement in or even knowledge of the hashish ban in Egypt passed by Menou in October. Menou, a converted Muslim who married the daughter of a prominent Egyptian Sunni bathhouse owner from Rosetta in 1799, viewed intoxication of any kind as an offense against Islamic law and a threat to the colony’s Franco-Arab unity. “The intoxicated man is nothing but a frantic, who succumbs to all impulses, and who can commit the most horrible crimes.” The hashish ban appears as yet another attempt by the general in chief to align the colony’s moral and legal codes with those of Egypt’s Muslim community and particularly its Sunni elite, who for centuries viewed hashish consumption as a sin against Islam and a threat to social order.

Uruguay Carries Out Its First Ever Drug Testing Initiative at Festival [Talking Drugs]

Harm reduction in Uruguay has taken a major step forward with the on-site testing of drugs at a festival in the capital Montevideo. On July 3 the electronic music festival La Terraza hosted a mobile laboratory where festival-goers could take their drugs to be tested. The Uruguayan human rights organisation ProDerechos teamed up with the Spanish harm reduction group Energy Control to provide the service. A total of 135 tests were carried out on ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and cocaine. Five of these tests revealed substances containing potentially dangerous adulterants, three of which were pills found to contain MDMA mixed with caffeine, MCPP (a new ecstasy-like substance which can seriously affect the digestive system), and other unknown substances. A sample of LSD contained NBOM and a sample of cocaine had been cut with the dangerous anti-parasitic Levamisol. ProDerechos declared the pill testing initiative to be “an historic day against hypocrisy.”

Humans have been dealing cannabis for ‘thousands of years’, study discovers [Independent]

Could the end of the Stone Age really have been the Stoned Age? According to new research, the dealing and distribution of Cannabis as a commodity was started around this time, several millennia ago. A new study, published in the journal of Vegetation History and Archeobotany, has linked the increased use of cannabis in East Asia with the rise of transcontinental trade between Europe and the East between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, at the start of the Bronze Age. They found that, counter to the general assumption that cannabis was first used in China or Central Asia, the plant was found to have been used in Japan and Eastern Europe at nearly the same point in time, between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago, the New Scientist reports.

What is…A synthetic cannabinoid? [Society for the Study of Addicition]

Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs), commonly known as ‘spice’ or ‘black mamba’, are a diverse group of psychoactive drugs, designed to mimic the effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psycho-active components in cannabis). Initially created as laboratory research tools in the 1980’s, they are now illicitly manufactured and distributed as compounds which are either sprayed onto plant materials to be smoked, or, sold as liquids to be inhaled using electronic vaporisers.  There are many different types of SCs, and, before 26 May 2016, when the UK’s Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect, some were illegal and some weren’t, now all SC’s are illegal to produce, supply or import. Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same parts of the brain as THC, and users typically report pleasant effects similar to cannabis, such as elated mood, altered perception and relaxation. Despite a similar toxicity profile, SC effects are often unpredictable and more severe than natural cannabis. This is due to the wide variety of available compounds of different strengths, and users being inexperienced with the drug, particularly young or new users.

Some good news on opioid epidemic: Treatment options are expanding [The Conversation]

In the past two decades, the devastation associated with opioid addiction has escaped the relative confines of the inner city and extended to suburban and rural America. Due in large part to the proliferation of prescription pain relievers, rates of opioid abuse, addiction, overdose and related deaths have increased dramatically. This has affected families and communities that once felt immune to this crisis.