EMBASSY Headlines Issue 214

By Published On: August 26, 2016Categories: Cannabis

Sick NSW children begin medicinal cannabis treatment [9 News]

Children with severe epilepsy have begun taking an experimental cannabis-based drug under the supervision of the NSW government. A group of 40 children who have exhausted conventional treatment options have been receiving doses of Epidiolex at the Sydney and Westmead children’s hospitals. Epidiolex is a liquid form of pure cannabidiol – one at least 113 active cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant – developed by GW Pharmaceuticals. The research is part of the NSW Government’s $21 million commitment to explore the therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis.

Smokers Down Under filling government coffers with taxes [International Business Times]

Aussie smokers are helping the government to fill up tax coffers. Cigarettes in Australia already cost a bomb and they are set to become more expensive. Currently, a cigarette contributes 53.7 cents to the Federal Government. In another five years, this figure will go up to 80 cents per cigarette, thanks to a series of planned tax increases. Tobacco tax revenues from smokers considerably exceed the healthcare costs associated with smoking, which is borne by the government. Government may increase prices of cigarettes to deter smokers from quitting but at the same time the already-strained Federal Budget gains a lot from smokers. Thus, every time one buys a cigarette pack, he/she is actually contributing to government coffers at the cost of his/her own health.

Sydney – Breaking the ice event with Matt Noffs [Unharm]

Join the conversation as author Matt Noffs wades into the moral panic over meth, the risks of pushing drugs underground and the growing possibility of a better future. Hosted by Will Tregoning from Unharm, this is a public forum with plenty of opportunity for audience participation. Matt will be joined on the panel by Nic Holas (The Institute of Many) and drug educator Annie Bleeker. Tickets are free, thanks to the Noffs Foundation. Grab one now to guarantee entry: http://bit.ly/2bBHBHA

WHEN Wednesday, 7 September 2016 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM

WHERE The Beauchamp Hotel – 265 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2021

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/breaking-the-ice-tickets-27207896551

For too long we’ve been frozen in fear when it comes to illegal drugs. History is repeating in NSW: moral panic combined with heavy-handed policing of drug use and nightlife. At the national level we’ve got shock ads and ‘dob in a dealer.’ It’s the same spiral of failure that we’ve seen so many times before. Into this charged context, Matt Noffs has just dropped a ground-breaking book, Breaking the Ice.  To quote Richard Branson, the book casts aside hysteria and misinformation to take a fresh look at drug use, informed by years of experience on the frontlines, working with people who use drugs, their families and the medical community. Breaking the Ice takes an honest look at the history of amphetamine production and use, the successes and the lies in government responses, and a new and hopeful vision for the future. Thanks to the support of the Noffs Foundation, this is a free event. Please register to ensure entry as there is limited capacity. Register now to guarantee entry

Editorial: Time for serious debate on cannabis reform [The Dominion Post]

It is reasonable to ask how supportive the community will be if cannabis supply increases in their neighbourhoods. And there really are some health concerns linked to cannabis, especially for young people. It seems likely that loosening the law will increase such use – and such harms. That is the single biggest argument for continued prohibition. Nevertheless, the current system is clearly failing too. It still sees thousands of people arrested annually – and unevenly (evidence suggests that Maori, in particular, are heavily targeted). It still funnels millions of dollars to gangs. It still penalises a practice that nearly half of New Zealanders admit to trying. It might mean modest fines for possession of small quantities of cannabis. It might mean allowing tightly regulated sale, with substantial taxes, strict age limits and location restrictions, and quality and strength controls. (Among the losers from the latter approach would certainly be New Zealand’s gangs).

Prohibition – it should be banned [NZ Herald]

Like most prohibitions, banning drugs just doesn’t work, and this week it was announced that 64 per cent of New Zealanders surveyed want to see the possession of a small amount of cannabis either decriminalised or legalised. It’s not difficult to see why they feel that way. While our justice system spends millions of taxpayer dollars every year prosecuting and incarcerating people for low-level drug offences, our levels of cannabis usage remain largely consistent. The burden on our police force is immense. In the six years prior to 2013, approximately half of all drug charges laid by police were for possession of small amounts of cannabis or smoking utensils (such as pipes), and more than 2800 people were imprisoned for minor drug offences. Between 2007 and 2011, we spent $59 million incarcerating people for low-level drug offences.

Cannabis reform is not a mission to Mars [Public Address]

If New Zealand’s Drug Foundation’s investment in polling on the matter of cannabis law reform was intended to start a conversation, then it has certainly achieved its aim. If not all the talk has been of high quality, well, that’s not unexpected. Three daily newspapers have run broadly sympathetic editorials since the poll results were published. The Press suggested that we might not find reform – or, at least decriminalisation – quite as big a deal as we thought. There’s actually no good evidence that decriminalisation “makes the problem worse” (especially given that prohibition has procured New Zealand one of the highest per-capita use rates in the world) – and some to suggest the reverse. And there is a difference between “promoting” a product that carries public health risks and not criminalising people who may be at risk of health problems that only an oaf would need explained.

Promises and Pitfalls of Cannabis Taxes [Rand Corporation]

In less than three months, Californians will vote on legalizing production, distribution and possession of recreational cannabis. Tax revenues are central to that debate, but the really important question is not so much what taxes would be best today but how those taxes should evolve over time. What many people don’t realize is that even if voters reject Proposition 64, state and local officials will still need to deal with cannabis taxes because California’s medical cannabis market is undergoing enormous reforms. The new regulatory regime is expected to start licensing for-profit firms to supply medical cannabis in 2018. There are ongoing debates about whether and how to tax medical cannabis. While some argue that medicine shouldn’t be taxed, others counter that much of the medical market product is not actually being consumed for medical purposes. Both inside and outside of California, decisions about cannabis taxes are being made that will affect the size of the black market, government revenue and consumption. Can I let you in on a little secret? No one knows the best way to tax either medical or recreational cannabis. Every option has trade-offs. What should the tax be based on? What should the rate be? Setting the cannabis tax should not be considered a one-time event. Smart jurisdictions will revise their decisions over time to incorporate new information about taxes, testing and the cannabis plant itself. Smarter jurisdictions will update taxes based on these data while not being influenced by those seeking to maximize profits.

All Solutions For Medical Cannabis Point To Congress [The Huffington Post]

In 2015, through a bipartisan effort, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S. 683, H.R. 1538) was introduced to resolve the state-federal conflict over medical cannabis.  The bills are currently stuck in their respective committees awaiting a vote. If Congress passes the CARERS Act, state programs would no longer be in conflict with federal law. Furthermore, federal agencies could better study and inform programs, such as the EPA creating safe pesticide lists or the National Institute of Health studying cannabis as a tool to fight the nation’s opiate crisis.

Why Marijuana Legalization Campaigns Could Fail in 2016 [Vice]

Tensions between the burgeoning cannabis industry and legalization advocates are not new. In 2015, for example, an industry-backed legalization measure in Ohio was defeated, after many political activists backed away from supporting it, arguing that the measure unfairly favored a few connected players at the expense of consumers. “I love psychoanalyzing the marijuana industry,”said Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project. “In one bucket you have people who say they are too poor to donate. In another bucket you have people who just hope someone is going to save them from themselves. But any business that budgets zero dollars for political change is being silly because marijuana is actually illegal.” Plus, Kampia pointed out, adding more states to the legalized marijuana column would likely benefit many of the current industry players, since it would vastly increase their customer base. And he worries that failures in 2016 would slow, and perhaps even halt, the momentum that the legalization movement has gained in recent years. “I like to joke that the worst thing we ever did was legalize marijuana in Colorado,” he said. “People say ‘inevitable.’I don’t like that. The reality is you’ve got to pay the bills somehow. Because of limited resources, we have let go a lot of states where we could win.” If a handful of measures go down to defeat this November, it could also embolden the federal government to end its hands-off approach to marijuana businesses in the four states that have legalized the drug. Since federal law trumps state law, any president at any time could shut down the farms, dispensaries and thousands of businesses that have cropped up in the wake of legalization.

From wine to weed: Keeping the marijuana farm small and local [The Conversation]

In November, voters in as many as 12 states will see a marijuana legalization initiative on their ballots. Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. Another 25 states have legalized medical marijuana. The era of marijuana prohibition is rapidly coming to a close. Unfortunately, lawmakers lack easy answers to tough questions facing the marijuana industry. Legalization presents challenges on a number of fronts, including distribution, taxation, consumption, security and public health. In a recent article, I argue that the agricultural sector of the marijuana industry also presents a number of challenges. One paramount question looms over the rest: Will marijuana agriculture become consolidated, with “Big Marijuana” companies producing vast quantities of indistinct marijuana? Or, will small-scale farmers thrive by producing unique and local marijuana strains? My research shows that Big Marijuana is not inevitable. On the contrary, a local, sustainable, small-scale farming future is entirely within reach.

The Complicated Connections Between Legal Hydroponics and the Marijuana Black Market [Vice]

Finn Selander, a former DEA special agent who helped organize the petition drive that placed recreational marijuana on the November ballot in Arizona, agrees there’s no question a fair number of hydroponics supply store customers are involved in the marijuana business. “The stores themselves operate in a legal element,” Selander told me. “They may get customers that just want to grow daisies, but the real money is from people buying supplies to start [marijuana] grows.”

President Obama’s Track Record on Drug Policy [Talking Drugs]

Although President Obama has made some significant changes to healthcare and treatment for people who use drugs, his approach to criminal justice reform has been insufficient. Despite commutations, he has – thus far – failed to introduce long-term reforms to the United States’ prohibitionist model of drug policy. With only a few months left of his presidency, the future of US drug policy will be up to his successor.

Trudeau Talks Tough on Cannabis Legalisation [volteface]

Justin Trudeau has boldly re-iterated that, when it comes to legalising cannabis, safety is a top priority for Canada. In an interview with CTV news earlier this week, the Canadian PM discussed the importance of legalising cannabis as a protective measure for public health.

The Olympian Who Lost His Gold Medal After Testing Positive For Cannabis [volteface]

There have been reports that Olympians are allowed, sort of, to consume cannabis.  It’s still a grey area, but the interpretation is that as long as an athlete doesn’t consume directly before competing, it’s likely that they will escape any reprisal. As a young man, Canadian Ross Rebagliati was the first ever Olympic snowboarding gold medallist, but he hit the headlines in Nagano’s 1998 Olympics for very different reasons to that of his monumental achievement. 18 years later, and the world is a very different place for athletes that may have THC in their bodies…Canada is now in the early phases of instituting a fully legalised cannabis market. Not only is Ross Rebagliati now in the process of starting his own medical cannabis programme in his home country under the symbolical banner of ‘Ross’ Gold’, but he has also become the go-to guy in media circles when cannabis and athletics become intertwined. Mild furore inevitably follows when an athlete is found with cannabis in their system, but times are certainly changing. The NFL are now in the process of early discussions; not only to turn a blind eye to THC in their football players’ systems, but they are further theorising as to whether to implement a medical cannabis programme for their athletes in efforts to curtail prescription drug dependency and promote harm reduction. The use of cannabis in sports has been contentious in the past, but now seems to be on a platform of legitimacy. Many athletes such as Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have admitted cannabis use.

The Law Needs to Catch Up, But Look: Weed Is Effectively Legal in the UK [Vice]

Arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales have fallen by 46 percent since 2010. Cautions have dropped by 48 percent and charges by 33 percent.  In July of 2015, Durham’s police chief said cannabis growers will only be targeted if they’re growing commercially, and that users wouldn’t be targeted unless they smoke it in a “blatant” way. That same month, Sara Thornton, Leader of the National Police Chiefs Council, said policing weed has “never been a top priority”, adding that police forces are more likely to simply “record” reports of small-scale cannabis farms, rather than investigating them.  Four more police chiefs across the country followed Durham’s lead soon after, making similar announcements. One even acknowledged that cannabis can have medicinal benefits – a direct contradiction to British law, which says there are no medical uses for the drug.

Council tricked into watering cannabis plants in public flowerpots for 20 years [Independent]

A man who runs a hemp shop in Glastonbury has been surreptitiously dropping cannabis seeds into public flower displays for two decades, thereby getting the council to water the plants. His activities were discovered when a cannabis plant that had grown in a public display outside his shop for almost 20 years was ripped up by the council after someone complained to police. Business owner and campaigner Free Cannabis, who changed his name from Rob by deed poll in 1997, said the removal of the plant from the display outside his shop, Hemp in Avalon, was “sad and shocking”. The plant had become an unofficial part of the display outside the shop for 18 years, the business owner told SomersetLive. He said: “I and others come along and drop the seeds into the tubs, they get watered by nature – and the council. “I am amazed that people get so excited about this, it’s a sad reflection of society’s hemp-phobia.”

UK’s newest cannabis club lands itself in hot water after copying police logos [The Northern Echo]

A new cannabis club has been raising eyebrows after using police and council logos to attract attention. Stickers bearing the name Durham City Cannabis Club (DCCC) – but featuring the logos of Durham Police and Durham County Council – have been plastered on lampposts and parking meters around the city. The club, which was founded around two months ago, is campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis and is trying to recruit new members. One of the organisers, who uses the alias Winston Smith, said: “We’ve been giving out stickers to everyone we can. We used them (the logos) for the first 100 stickers we produced to try and play on people’s minds.

Whistleblowing on the ‘war on drugs’ [Virgin]

What’s it like to be on the front line of the ‘war on drugs’? To be the one who enforces the punitive policies? What must it be like to later realise that you’re whole career did not help win the war on drugs, but actively added to the compounded mess that lays heavy on communities? As a police officer for 23 years, Neil Woods spent 14 of those deep undercover, posing as someone with addiction problems. He now dedicates all of his time to raise awareness to the colossal failures of our global drugs laws and advocates that we treat those with dependency problems with care, respect, and with health-based interventions over punishment.  Neil Woods has released his memoir, Good Cop, Bad War, and hopes to start a conversation on the need for drug law reform from an undercover police officer’s perspective.

Researchers find lab rats on marijuana just can’t be bothered [The Guardian]

The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana makes lab rats lazy, according to University of British Columbia researchers. The new research, published on Tuesday in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, looked at the effects of both THC – the drug’s main active ingredient – and the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol, or CBD, on the male lab rats’ willingness to exert cognitive effort. The THC did not make the rats less intelligent – just lazier, said the study’s lead author, Mason Silveira, a PhD candidate in psychology at the University of British Columbia. “When rats were given THC – the active ingredient in cannabis or marijuana – we found that they were less likely to exert the mental energy needed to do more difficult tasks,” he said. “There’s this distinction between THC’s ability to affect your cognition versus your willingness to actually use your cognitive abilities.”