EMBASSY Headlines Issue 218

By Published On: September 23, 2016Categories: Cannabis

Student union to hand out drug-testing kits at University of Melbourne campus [The Age]

University students will soon be able to check the potency and content of their party drugs, with pill-testing kits being distributed on campus. In what is believed to be an Australian first, the University of Melbourne Student Union will hand out kits that include advice on safer drug use and reagent tests to help students understand what their pills contain.

Richard Branson throws support behind Matt Noffs’ plans to create Australia’s first ice safe room [Daily Telegraph]

Business magnate, investor and philanthropist Richard Branson has thrown his support behind Matt Noffs’ plan to create Australia’s first ice safe room. “Following calls by Matt Noffs, Alex Wodak, Former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer and Jacqui Lambie — I also urge both state governments and the Australian government to look into the establishment of safe rooms throughout the country,” he said. Mr Noffs, chief executive of the Ted Noffs Foundation, tweeted Mr Branson’s support on Tuesday. “There are now close to 100 of these types of facilities around the world with strong evidence showing how they reduce crime and help people into treatment earlier,” Mr Branson goes on to say.

Needle exchange program rejected for Canberra’s jail [ABC]

It appears unlikely that a needle and syringe program will be implemented in Canberra’s jail, after staff rejected the proposal in a ballot held on Friday. Only four corrections officers at the Alexander Maconochie Centre voted for the proposal, while 151 voted against it. David Price from the Justice and Community Safety Directorate said the proposed model was for a supervised injecting room for illicit drugs. The ACT Government has been trying to introduce a needle exchange program to the facility for many years after widespread cases of hepatitis C were reported in the jail.

Cannabis most popular choice for Northern Territory drug users [The Courier Mail]

Cannabis is the drug of choice for Territory drug users, with ecstasy not far behind. The latest report of the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, which monitors the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of ecstasy and other stimulants, shows Territory drug users were the most likely to “binge” on the drugs. More than half of NT drug users surveyed reported using stimulants continuously for 48 hours without sleep. Nationally, 37 per cent of respondents admitted to a binge. Cannabis was nominated by 33 per cent of Territory respondents as their favourite drug, the highest proportion of all Australian states and territories.

Four men have now been charged with drug offences [The Northern Star]

Four men arrested yesterday after search warrants were executed across the Northern Rivers region yesterday, have been charged with drug offences. Strike Force Cloak was established by officers attached to Richmond Local Area Command Drug Unit to investigate the alleged supply of prohibited drugs in the Ballina area. Police said they will allege the syndicate was involved in the distribution and sale of commercial quantities of methylamphetamine (‘ice’) and other illicit drugs.

Man ‘tried to dump 100kg of cannabis’ at recycling centre, court hears [ABC]

A Sydney man charged after allegedly trying to dump 100 kilograms of cannabis stalks and leaves at a Canberra recycling centre last month has been refused bail in the ACT Magistrates Court. Dac Ho, 55, was caught by police after a tip-off from the public, and was initially charged with possession of a prohibited substance. Today his lawyer has indicated he would plead not guilty to all charges, including three new charges of being involved in trafficking and cultivating cannabis as well as trying to destroy evidence. Police said they were investigating around 20 large bags of cannabis that were left at the Mitchell centre in August, when Ho returned with a second load.

Marijuana Effects on Driving Performance Almost Zero, Reveals Study [We are Anonymous]

According to the DEA, marijuana has high abuse potential; no medical use; severe safety concerns; and that there is no available scientific research to prove otherwise. In this article, we are looking at the so-called severe safety concerns the DEA has associated with marijuana. Police officials in charge of road traffic regulation in the United States, have been made to believe that drivers who use marijuana, drive dangerously. They assume out of ignorance that since marijuana is psychoactive, severely impairing the performance of users while driving under its influence. Many of the country’s marijuana users have suffered from harassments and brutalities from the police, simply because they had taken marijuana while operating a vehicle. However, there is a new study proving that marijuana has almost no impairment on the performance of users who drive under its influence. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute of Drug Abuse, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy sponsored the study.

If Brangelina broke up over marijuana, what could it mean for their divorce? [The Guardian]

The stoner dude who refuses to put down the pipe and pick up the Pampers is an archetype that Judd Apatow has made an entire career out of mining. Internet forums and advice columns teem with queries from spouses who feel widowed by their partner’s relationship with weed. So the announcement that Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt – and a report by TMZ that Jolie was “fed up” with Pitt’s marijuana and alcohol use – has set off a bevy of speculation that Pitt never fully left behind his 1993 role as a stoner room-mate in True Romance. Allegations of marijuana abuse have no direct bearing on a divorce filing, according to attorney Daniel Beck, who specializes in California medical marijuana law. That’s because California law allows for “no-fault” divorces, meaning a spouse does not have to sue his or her partner for any specific grievance, such as adultery or abandonment.  “What I take away from this so-called allegation has more to do with public relations than it does anything else,” Beck added.  However, marijuana use can be a factor in custody decisions, and Jolie is reportedly seeking physical custody of the couple’s six children. “Marijuana, like any other substance, can be abused,” Beck said. “The question is, what is the effect on the children? Even if someone has a medicinal [marijuana] card, if they imbibe with the children in the room, that could be looked at as something that is not in the children’s best interest.”

Opioid Epidemic Costs U.S. $78.5 Billion Annually [Health Day]

Abuse of powerful prescription painkillers called opioids costs the U.S. economy $78.5 billion a year, according to a new government study. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the financial toll of opioid abuse, including direct health care costs, lost productivity and costs to the criminal justice system. “More than 40 Americans die each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Families and communities continue to be devastated by the epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “The rising cost of the epidemic is also a tremendous burden for the health care system.”

Opioid industry spends big on political campaigns [USA Today]

As opioid overdose deaths climbed steadily during the past decade, a loose network of pharmaceutical companies and allied groups spent more than $880 million on campaign contributions and lobbying at the state and federal government levels. From 2006 through 2015, members of the little-known Pain Care Forum dwarfed even the powerful gun lobby in similar political spending. The forum’s members contributed to more than 8,500 candidates across the nation, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. Some of those public officials supported or killed key opioid legislation affecting patient prescriptions and the pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines.

Presidential Proclamation — Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, 2016 [The White House]

Each year, more Americans die from drug overdoses than in traffic accidents, and more than three out of five of these deaths involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl, has nearly quadrupled. Many people who die from an overdose struggle with an opioid use disorder or other substance use disorder, and unfortunately misconceptions surrounding these disorders have contributed to harmful stigmas that prevent individuals from seeking evidence-based treatment. During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.

Pain Patients Are Opting For Cannabis Over Pharmaceuticals, New Studies Show [volteface]

The Washington Post have reported on the findings of newly published research which reveals that, in U.S. states with access to medicinal cannabis, purchases of pharmaceutical painkillers have plummeted. Indeed, the long running assumption that cannabis has value as an effective analgesic, buoyed by an enormous backlog of anecdotal evidence, is beginning to find scientific grounding in the results of a recent study released in the journal Health Affairs.

Federal drug testing rules race to catch up to illegal prescription drugs [The Washington Post]

The federal drug-testing program had its beginnings one cloudy January afternoon when two men shared a joint. At the time, they were operating three 130-ton locomotives. A few minutes later, after blowing through a railroad signal light just north of Baltimore, they collided with an Amtrak train packed with passengers, many of them college students heading back to school after their winter break. Three Amtrak passenger cars were destroyed, 16 people died and 174 were injured. When the drug tests proved positive, federal officials started a program to regularly test railroad workers. Less than four years later, in 1991, Congress decreed that in addition to railroad crews, airline workers who flew, people with commercial driver’s licenses, transit employees and the U.S. Coast Guard also should be tested for five critical drugs. Twenty-five years later, the test remains the same, but illegal drug use has changed significantly. The 21st century has become the era of addiction to prescription painkillers — drugs with familiar brand names such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Fentanyl and Valium. The federal program doesn’t test for any of them, or for any of the other popular synthetic opioids. This is not a case, however, of federal officials missing the boat in updating their drug testing. Instead, it is a case study in the long and tedious process required to change a federal rule.

Following Its Country Music, Nashville May Loosen Up on Marijuana [The New York Times]

Willie Nelson’s famous habit of smoking marijuana is not seen as a badge of outlaw courage here anymore, so much as the frivolous foible of an eccentric uncle. A popular FM station disgorging the Boomer rock hits of yesteryear calls itself Hippie Radio 94.5; one of its sponsors is a smoke shop that incessantly hawks glass pipes and detox kits. Even mainstream country acts mention smoking marijuana now and again among the litany of acceptable American pastimes. So perhaps it is not surprising as much as telling that this city, which residents often refer to as the Buckle of the Bible Belt, may be on the cusp of joining the long roster of American cities, including New York, that have decriminalized the stuff. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Council, the legislative body for the consolidated city-county government here, will vote on a proposed ordinance that would give the police an alternative to criminally charging people caught with a half-ounce of marijuana or less. Under the ordinance, officers will have the discretion to forgo a misdemeanor charge for marijuana possession, and instead issue a civil citation with a $50 fine. A judge could then suspend the civil penalty if the person cited agrees to perform up to 10 hours of community service. The goal here, as elsewhere, is to keep minor drug offenders from clogging the court system, and relieving them of the stigma of a record.

‘Cannabis tasting expert’ is a job title at this company [indy100]

Many fine diners will be familiar with the concept of a wine sommelier, who is there to help your tastebuds get the most out of a meal with some expertly selected wine. Now, the role of sommelier has infiltrated new realms of the dining experience: cannabis. Yes, that’s right, people are about to get snooty with their ‘essences’ and ‘undertones’ about weed. A cannabis tour and event company based in Colorado, United States, is offering a three-course meal with wine, food and cannabis.

Jay Z: ‘The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail’ [The New York Times]

This short film, narrated by Jay Z (Shawn Carter) and featuring the artwork of Molly Crabapple, is part history lesson about the war on drugs and part vision statement. As Ms. Crabapple’s haunting images flash by, the film takes us from the Nixon administration and the Rockefeller drug laws — the draconian 1973 statutes enacted in New York that exploded the state’s prison population and ushered in a period of similar sentencing schemes for other states — through the extraordinary growth in our nation’s prison population to the emerging aboveground marijuana market of today. We learn how African-Americans can make up around 13 percent of the United States population — yet 31 percent of those arrested for drug law violations, even though they use and sell drugs at the same rate as whites.

Since passing medical marijuana laws, states have seen lower numbers of fatal car crashes involving opioids [MedicalXpress]

A study conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that there were fewer drivers killed in car crashes who tested positive for opioids in states with medical marijuana laws than before the laws went into effect. The study is one of the first to assess the link between state medical marijuana laws and opioid use at the individual level. Findings will be published online in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers analyzed 1999-2013 Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 18 U.S. states that tested for alcohol and other drugs in at least 80 percent of drivers who died within one hour of crashing. They looked at opioid positivity among drivers ages 21 to 40 who crashed their cars in states with an operational medical marijuana law compared with drivers crashing in states before those laws went into effect. There was an overall reduction in opioid positivity for most states after implementation of an operational medical marijuana law.

Holy Smoke: Religious Freedom and Medical Marijuana in the 1990s [Points Blog]

During my visit to the NORML archives, I found a few interesting items on religious uses of marijuana during the 1990s. These were appealing because I remember coming of age during a time when you’d occasionally hear a story about people getting busted for drugs and “claiming religious freedom” to justify their dangerous criminal behavior. I decided to gather these sources expecting that I could work with them at some point.

Canadian Task Force Vice Chair Gives Update On Legalisation Progress [volteface]

The Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation was announced June 30th of this year and since then the nine person team has been engaging the public and various stakeholders across Canada and even the US. They received 28,000 responses via online submissions, held meetings with people all across Canada in nearly 30 different round table discussions with experts, associations, and organizations, as well as provincial and territorial government officials. They have also visited Colorado and Washington State, and various Canadian producers and distributors.

How Medical Cannabis Changed My Life [Vice]

Ahead of a UK-focused episode of our cannabis TV show Weediquette appearing on VICELAND UK, we spoke to six self-medicating patients from around the UK to find out how cannabis has dramatically changed their lives.

Decriminalise use of medical marijuana and legalise small-scale cultivation [The Conversation]

Not all people who grow cannabis do so for medical reasons, as I also found in my research. Some are in it simply to make money. And legalising cannabis for medical use may provide cover for some non-medical users and profit-motivated dealers. But complete prohibition leaves too much of the market in the hands of organised crime (a lesson we should have learned from the US experiment in alcohol prohibition in the 1920s), and forces desperate or compassionate growers to break the law. Legalisation of small-scale cultivation would not only benefit those who suffer from a range of illnesses, it would also undermine the links between cannabis growing and other, more serious, types of crime.

Medical Molly [volteface]

Baroness Molly Meacher is not your stereotypical cannabis legalisation campaigner. Smartly dressed in a tailored turquoise jacket and matching necklace, the 76-year-old life peer explains to me that  she’s relatively uninterested in recreational uses of the drug. However, she became convinced of its therapeutic benefits during her previous career as a social worker.

Ex police chief in cannabis rethink call [BBC]

A former deputy chief constable has said it may be time to reconsider de-criminalising cannabis. Alan McQuillan told the BBC the current attitude to drugs was “creating a cash cow for organised crime, especially in relation to cannabis”. He said police needed to focus on paramilitaries as the source of the drugs problem in Northern Ireland.

Irish start-up secures €500k funding to explore medical benefits of cannabis [Independent IE]

Irish pharmaceutical start-up GreenLight Medicines has secured €500,000 in funding from a consortium of Irish investors to further its research into cannabis extracts. The phase-two funding comes after an initial €100,000 seed investment into the company that is looking to use the marijuana extracts to cure illnesses. GreenLight won’t actually be using cannabis to carry out the research but rather CBD hemp oil, which is legal here.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to extend drug war as ‘cannot kill them all’ [The Guardian]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked for a six-month extension for his war on drugs, saying there are too many people involved in the narcotics trade and he “cannot kill them all”. “Even if I wanted to I cannot kill them all because the last report would be this thick,” he said, referring to a new police list of people including top officials suspected of being involved in the drugs trade. Police say they have killed 1,105 drug suspects in the slightly more than two months since Duterte took office. Another 2,035 have been murdered by unknown assailants, with human rights monitors saying these could be vigilantes, emboldened by Duterte’s repeated calls for the public to help him kill criminals. The crackdown has drawn severe criticism from the United States, the European Union parliament and the United Nations over what they say are extrajudicial killings. Duterte has rejected the criticism, calling US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a “fool”, and vowing to continue his campaign – which is proving hugely popular domestically and boosting his poll ratings.

Colombia’s clandestine cannabis growers keen to come out of the shadows [The Guardian]

Half of all Colombia’s cannabis production is concentrated in the northern part of Cauca province, and 50% of that is grown in Corinto alone. Police estimate 100 hectares of land in the municipality are dedicated to growing weed; local farmers reckon the real number could be twice that. So when Colombia recently legalised marijuana for medical and scientific purposes, farmers in Corinto figured they had a corner on the cultivation market.  A group of farmers came together in July to create Caucannabis, a cooperative that aims to be a prime supplier to companies hoping to cash in on Colombia’s new legal marijuana business. “In this region we have been deeply affected by illegal drugs and terrorism. This is an opportunity for us to make a change,” says cooperative leader Héctor Fabio Sánchez, one of 52 members of the cooperative, most of whom have or have had marijuana crops. Betania Rodríguez, a cooperative member who asked that her real name not be used, says that marijuana and coca – the raw material for cocaine – are just about the only options for farmers to make a living in this isolated area. Her husband tends the bushes next to their home made of thick bamboo and wooden planks, while she works as a day labourer for other growers trimming the buds to prepare them for sale.

Germany imports four strains of medicinal cannabis from Canada [Sensi Seeds]

Cannabis Patients For a number of years now, German cannabis patients have been allowed to purchase cannabis flowers from the Netherlands via German pharmacies using a special permit. From the end of August, they will also be able to buy four strains from Canada.

What if cannabinoids were so important that life couldn’t start without them? [World Cannabis]

What would do you think your high school sex-ed teacher or drug counsellor would have to say, if they knew what we know today about the endocannabinoid system? Each day we discover more about why the cannabis plant seems to share such a useful predisposition to our natural physiology. Even the mysterious act of the creation of life itself seems to be intertwined with cannabinoids. Researchers have detected cannabinoids receptors in each tiny little spermatozoa. These receptors are necessary for the sperm to penetrate the female egg. A receptor is a protein coupled to the cell which receives chemical signals from the environment around the cell. The endocannabinoid system is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors which are already well-known, and found in the brain and nervous system. The research team from Bochum and Bonn were the first to prove endocannabinoid receptors exist in spermatozoa, which plays a key role in the fertilization process. This evidence shows that endocannabinoids are part of the process of the formation of new life.

Are You Experienced? [volteface]

After the hysteria of the 1971 global shut-down on scientific psychedelic experimentation, the doors are once again creeping open. Recent academic studies have found that responsible psychedelic treatment can help war veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, patients with advanced cancer diagnoses face death, and addicts overcome their drug, tobacco and alcohol dependencies in cases where years of conventional treatment have failed.

‘Chemsex’ Enthusiasts Can’t Do It Without Drugs [The Daily Beast]

The huge range of drugs on offer today—from unprecedented pharmaceutical pick-me-ups such as Viagra, turbo-charged stimulants like crystal meth, sensual aphrodisiacs such as GHB, and novel “designer drugs” that trickle out of the kitchens of underground chemists—has led to the explosion of a new phenomenon: “chemsex.”

Festival Culture and Psychedelic Harm Reduction Come Together at Burning Man [Zendo Project]

At Burning Man 2016, Zendo Project staff and 200 volunteers provided compassionate care from August 29-September 5 for approximately 430 people undergoing difficult psychedelic experiences, about four times more guests than last year, but still well under 1% of the 70,000 who attended the event. Managing a low risk competently…

EGA 2017 Outdoors Psychedelic Symposium Fundraiser [EGA]

We really need your help and support to continue to develop the conversation around psychedelics in Australia. This spring, EGA is looking for your support to sow the seeds for the next iteration of Australia’s premier psychedelic symposium, EGA 2017. We are hoping to bring together experts from Australia and around the world, with a diverse range of backgrounds and experience, to discuss something close to our hearts: entheogens and psychedelic plants. Rick Doblin from MAPS and Kathleen Harrison, Botanical Dimensions, to cite just two, are confirmed to be among our headliners – but we need the community behind us to make this all a reality. As you would be aware, the events are particularly expensive to run, and rely heavily on community support (people power!). You would also be aware of the huge task ahead for the team, so in order to lighten the load as we prep for EGA 2017, we are aiming to raise funds to go towards covering some preliminary organisational costs, ensuring the conference can take place in a format that is both professional and sustainable.