EMBASSY Headlines Issue 213

By Published On: August 19, 2016Categories: Cannabis

More Victorian families set to get access to medicinal cannabis [The Age]

Victoria’s medicinal cannabis is a step closer to being dispensed to children with severe epilepsy, Premier Daniel Andrews has declared after visiting the state’s clandestine marijuana crop. Less than an hour after pictures were released of Mr Andrews inspecting the crop, the Premier announced the appointment of an independent medical committee to work out which patient cohort will be next to access medicinal cannabis. The first group, children with severe epilepsy, should receive the treatment from next year. Some families are already using medicinal cannabis illegally, something the government was aware of, which the Premier said was why his government was changing the law.  “These changes are long overdue, and we are making them as fast as we can,” Mr Andrews said. “Right now we have parents making the heart-breaking decision between breaking the law and watching their child suffer – and we are changing that forever. We are leading the nation.”

Cannabis study aims to learn from parents risking prosecution to treat children with epilepsy [The Age]

It’s the agonising decision: watch your child’s tiny body writhe under the strain of an endless procession of severe seizures, or risk prosecution under Australian drug laws in the hope that cannabis could relieve the contortions. The parents of children with epilepsy who choose the latter inhabit a twilight world of anxious uncertainty, University of Sydney researchers say. A University of Sydney study hopes to coax these parents out of the shadows to learn from their experiences and investigate the benefits and potential adverse effects of cannabis-based extracts used to treat children with epilepsy. “Having a child is stressful enough, but having to then source an illegal drug to treat them is a new and difficult dimension, a twilight world,” said Professor of Pyschopharmacology Iain McGregor at the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative. Launched on Thursday, the PELICAN Study is recruiting families who are using cannabinoids to treat their children’s epilepsy, are considering using substances, or have used them in the past.

Drug chief Sam Biondo: ‘Australia likes to find a scapegoat’ [The Age]

Pharmaceuticals are by far the biggest drug-related killer in Australia. A whopping 70 per cent of deaths caused by overdoses are in part the result of prescription drugs, mainly benzodiazepines such as valium. That’s almost twice the number of those caused by illicit drugs and alcohol. The issue is complex and difficult and, it seems, not a priority issue for governments. Sam Biondo, chief executive of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA), is on a mission to change that. As an advocate for those providing frontline care, rehab and education for drug users around the state, VAADA members range from the drug specific, such as Turning Point, through to community centres and hospitals.  “The government is risk adverse, they’re scared they’re going to lose votes or that The Herald-Sun will campaign against them. We do the things that won’t work, which are popular, but we don’t do the things that will make a difference.” A common theme in our conversation is the difficulty of getting sophisticated responses to complex issues. “It’s not a bad society but it could be better,” he says. “We like to punish people. Maybe Australia was born on the back of punishment and it still likes to find a scapegoat: Aboriginal Australia, refugees, migrant communities, religious groups…”

Inmates Caught Growing Weed After Taking Part In Prison’s Horticulture Program [The Huffington Post]

Prisoners in a Victorian jail may no longer be living the high life after a crop of 28 cannabis plants was discovered in the prison vegetable patch. It appears some of the prisoners at Fulham Correctional Centre — a medium security prison outside of Melbourne — became extremely enthusiastic about the prison horticulture program, planting the cannabis crops in between the regular plants grown in the program. Victoria Police seized the plants — some half a metre high — following a security check on Wednesday. An investigation has been launched into the illegal gardening.

Wide support for decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use, poll suggests [NZ Herald]

Prime Minister John Key says decriminalising cannabis would send the wrong message to young people – and he isn’t keen on holding a referendum on the issue. A new poll shows almost 65 per cent of New Zealanders want personal possession of cannabis decriminalised or made legal. There is even stronger support to let people use cannabis for pain relief – only 16 per cent of New Zealanders want that to be criminal.

US drug agency declines to change marijuana’s strict drug designation [The Guardian]

The Drug Enforcement Agency will not remove marijuana from the Schedule I drugs list, its head Chuck Rosenberg has announced, despite a bipartisan group of state legislators calling for it. Rosenberg’s decision was relied heavily on a report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and is subject to abuse – the standard for Schedule I drugs as defined by the US Controlled Substances Act. The move came with one caveat: the DEA will allow universities to apply to grow marijuana for research purposes. Currently, only the University of Mississippi is licensed to do so, which scientists say limits their ability to research the medical uses of marijuana. The FDA and DEA claimed that the lack of scientific data on medical marijuana motivated their decision not to change marijuana’s Schedule I classification.

DEA Refuses to Reschedule Marijuana [Drug Policy Alliance]

Today, the DEA announced that it was not rescheduling marijuana, in effect refusing to recognize marijuana’s medicinal benefits. But in what is viewed as a victory for the marijuana reform movement, the DEA said that it was ending its monopoly on marijuana research. Keeping marijuana in Schedule I shows that the DEA continues to ignore research, science, and growing public and political opinion. Marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies. Ending the DEA-enforced monopoly is a positive step forward that will eliminate obstacles to enable more research. For decades, the DEA has promoted an unjustified monopoly on research-grade marijuana for use in federally-approved studies – making it impossible for scientists to put marijuana through clinical trials to demonstrate it meets FDA standards for medical safety and efficacy. And the DEA only permitted one facility to supply marijuana to scientists which is operated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – which also has a long track record of obstructing medical marijuana research.

Bernie Sanders Calls The DEA Decision on Marijuana ‘Absurd’ [Green Rush Daily]

Senator Sanders and other Democrats have criticized the DEA’s recent marijuana decision. Earlier this year, the DEA said in a letter that they would decide whether or not to reschedule marijuana. The decision is in, and it looks like we won’t be seeing marijuana moved from schedule I, leaving it ranked amongst the most harmful substances in America. The DEA claims the reason marijuana will remain on the schedule I list is because there is “no currently accepted medical use in the United States.” Senator Bernie Sanders and many Americans see this as a flat out lie. This blatant disregard for the needs and the wants of the people is leading Democrats to speak out against the DEA. It comes as no surprise that Senator Sanders is unhappy with the DEA’s decision. Senator Sanders was the first major party presidential candidate ever to be in favor of re-scheduling marijuana, bringing major attention to the issue. On social media, after the DEA announcement Sanders tweeted that “keeping marijuana in the same category as heroin is absurd. The time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana.”

The Largest Federal Appeals Court Tells DOJ To Back Off State-Legal Medical Marijuana [The Huffington Post]

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers for violating federal cannabis law as long as those individuals are in full compliance with state laws legalizing medical marijuana. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held unanimously that a 2014 budget measure “prohibits DOJ from spending funds” to go after such people. That’s bad news for the Justice Department’s increasingly controversial war on marijuana. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical purposes.

Big Pharma Quivers At The Threat Of Medical Cannabis [volteface]

Presently, it is no secret that Big Pharma is lobbying against the increasingly confident cannabis wave since the conditions that cannabis may be used to treat are highly prevalent, and thus currently very lucrative for Big Pharma. The US drug market is the largest in the world in terms of profitability, which is greatly aided by the high cost of prescription drugs – on average between 3 to 5 times higher than in the EU. Big Pharma have spent years reaping the rewards from their high price pharmaceuticals until a public firestorm initiated from Martin Shkreli’s 5,000% price hike on toxoplasmosis treatment Daraprim put Big Pharma’s prices right in the spotlight. This is significant, as public awareness of high drug prices fuels enthusiasm for a cheaper, effective option such as cannabis.

What is Malia Obama smoking? President’s daughter suspected of cannabis use at festival [The Telegraph]

Malia Obama, the 18-year-old daughter of President Barack Obama has been spotted smoking what some suspected was a cannabis joint. Miss Obama, who set to attend Harvard next year, was at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, Illinois where a video captured her appearing to inhale. In the nine-second video, published by Radar Online, a young woman in the foreground danced and stuck her tongue out while Miss Obama could be seen in the background. The website claimed an eyewitness had smelled cannabis in the air. Cannabis is decriminalised in the state of Illinois and people are allowed to possess up to 10 grams of the drug.

Marijuana Is Not A ‘Gateway’ Drug: New Charts Show Drug Use And Abuse In America [Medical Daily]

The Brian C. Bennett Drug Charts provide a more accurate and illuminating picture of the use and abuse of drugs in America. The visual data components break down people’s habits consuming alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, crack cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, methamphetamines, nonmedical prescription pills, nonmedical prescription pain relievers, oxycontin, PCP, sedatives, stimulants and tranquilizers. The charts show that alcohol causes significantly more personal and social damage than any other substance, and marijuana’s reputation as a “gateway” drug is not supported. Interestingly, traumatic childhood experience, mental illness and economic insecurity are more telling predictors of substance abuse than availability of the drugs. Additionally, the Bennett charts show that problematic drug use has been stable in the U.S. for decades — questioning the success of the war on drugs.

Canada lets medical patients grow cannabis [news.com.au]

Medical marijuana patients in Canada will be allowed to grow a limited amount of cannabis for their own use or designate someone to grow it for them, the government says. The government had been given six months to comply with a federal court ruling that struck down the previous administration’s ban on medical patients’ growing cannabis. Health Canada said medical marijuana patients would also continue to have the option of buying cannabis from one of 34 producers licensed by the federal government. But it reiterated that storefronts selling marijuana, commonly known as dispensaries or compassion clubs, are not authorised to sell cannabis for medical or any other purposes. “These operations are illegally supplied, and provide products that are unregulated and may be unsafe. Illegal storefront distribution and sale of cannabis in Canada are subject to law enforcement action,” Health Canada said in a statement. Canada’s former Conservative government overhauled the country’s medical marijuana program in 2013, requiring patients buy cannabis from licensed producers through a mail order system. A federal court judge in Vancouver ruled in February that the restrictions imposed by the Marijuana for Medical Purposes law were arbitrary.

Medical marijuana cost is huge issue, even as access improves, Canadian patients say [CBC News]

Another medical marijuana clinic will be opening its doors in Calgary next week — but as access to this type of treatment becomes easier, some say the high cost of medication is a major problem. “Currently it’s on a case-by-case basis that certain patients may be covered,” says Pradyum Sekar, one of the founders of the new medical marijuana clinic, the Lift Resource Centre. Calgary resident Shelley Thiemann turned to pot in desperation last year to deal with epileptic seizures. But the relief comes at a cost of $900 per month — more than half her disability income of $1,600. Thiemann notes that while her traditional epilepsy drugs were covered by her employer’s health insurance plan, her medical marijuana is not, because it doesn’t have a Health Canada-assigned drug identification number (DIN).

UK’s NHS are testing a cannabis product for the first time [Independent]

The makers of the MediPen vaporiser are confident that by setting a precedent for testing cannabis products with this reputable body, it will have a huge impact on the public’s perception of cannabis. A cannabidiol (CBD) vaporiser that has helped thousands of people suffering from a variety of conditions is being tested by an NHS unit, an unprecedented step that could increase scrutiny on cannabis’ medical benefits and have a huge impact on the UK’s legislation on it. The MediPen, a legal way to consume CBD, which, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is non-psychoactive, has been on sale for a year now and drew very positive reviews, relieving the pain of people with everything from depression and anxiety to arthritis and fibromyalgia. The company told The Independent it has been consulting with a group of production and regulatory support pharmacists from the NHS for the past few months, who have been testing their proprietary cannabis oil formulation. A detailed public report outlining the testing process and extraction methodology will follow, and though it is only about confirming purity and cannabinoid profile at this stage, this is a big first step for the medical cannabis industry in the UK.

UK’s Redcar cannabis festival sparks music licence inquiry [BBC News]

Organisers of a cannabis festival have been questioned by police – for not having the correct music licence. The weekend event at Redcar Rugby Club attracted about 700 visitors who enjoyed food, music and “a happy vibe”. Teesside Cannabis Club said alcohol was banned. Cleveland Police said there were no reports to police of cannabis being consumed but it was investigating potential licensing offences. John Holliday, club founder and festival organiser, said the club was told three days before the festival that the correct music licence might not be in place, and believed the issue to be the position of the stage.

Minutes from the Games, a world of guns and drug deals lets Rio 2016 pass by [Evening Standard]

Our escort carries an old assault rifle, smokes a huge spliff and drives very fast, loud Brazilian favela funk music playing, through streets where drugs are openly dealt and taken in what seems like an endless street party. This is life inside one of Rio’s most dangerous areas for police — places they don’t expect to enter without a gunfight. They are far away from the Olympic Games in wealth only. Minutes by road, but light years away in terms of opportunity and riches. A different kind of society exists in these favelas on the city’s outskirts. Our guide at the wheel, whose walkie-talkie crackles with news of where his fellow gang members are selling now, passes for a veteran here.  “I didn’t think I’d last till 20 because of our lifestyle,” he tells me. “Now I am 38. If God allows one day I’ll be  60. It is my dream to leave — to have a quieter life.” It is startling how young everyone in this hinterland is. Most are barely in their twenties. Teams of gunmen, some carrying weapons older than them, stand over large tables strewn with plastic bags of cocaine. It is mixed from raw in the neighbourhood’s laboratory and then sold openly, some down by a railway track.

WHY IT MATTERS: Opioid epidemic [Medical Xpress]

More Americans are dying from opioids than at any time in recent history, with overdose deaths hitting a peak of 28,000 in 2014. That amounts to 78 Americans dying from an opioid overdose every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC uses opioid as an umbrella term for synthetic painkillers and for drugs derived naturally from opium (known more specifically as opiates), such a heroin. It’s not just the use of illicit opiates like heroin that is on the rise—overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999, tracking a similar increase in the amount of these drugs being prescribed by doctors.

Give Australia a Voice at the Global Psychedelic Forum 2016 [Psychedelic Research in Science & Medicine PRISM]

In late September psychedelic advocates from around the world will gather in Prague, Czech Republic for the Global Psychedelic Forum – Beyond Psychedelics. Speakers will include MAPS founder Rick Doblin, Amanda Fielding from the Beckley Foundation, Dennis McKenna, Roland Griffiths, many other well known psychedelic pioneers…and hopefully us! PRISM’s Vice President, clinical psychologist Dr Stephen Bright has been invited to speak in Prague on the topic Beyond Harm Reduction: Acknowledging the Benefits of Drug Use. To his credit Stephen was approached by the event organisers after they discovered his work. As a non-profit charity that relies on donations we need your help to get him to Prague. All of our work at PRISM is aimed at legalising psychedelic medicines in Australia, through medical research and advocacy for drug law reform and harm reduction. To do the very best we can it’s important to participate in international events like this, to talk about Australia’s unique challenges and to listen to global speakers, exchange ideas and promote collaboration.

Help Provide Compassionate Care for Difficult Psychedelic Experiences [Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies MAPS]

The Zendo Project provides a safe space and professionally trained staff to care for individuals at festivals, concerts, and other events where psychedelic substance use may be present. Support the Zendo Project by making a donation—all gifts are currently being doubled!

Radical Mycology Convergence – Wingdale, NY, USA – 6-10 October 2016

The RMC is a weekend long event consisting of workshops, presentations, and various mycoremediation installations. Beyond the skills shared, the RMC also works to build a community among like-minded mycophiles (aka mushroom lovers) and community-based Earth healers to collaborate on remediation and restoration projects during and after the RMC.