EMBASSY Headlines Issue 219

By Published On: September 30, 2016Categories: Cannabis

Fewer police sniffer dog searches but most still don’t find drugs [The Sydney Morning Herald]

The number of people subjected to sniffer dog searches by NSW police has fallen to a five-year low, new figures reveal, but the proportion where no drugs are found remains stubbornly high. Last year the number of searches conducted after police dogs indicated the presence of drugs fell to 12,893 – the lowest annual figure since 2010 when 14,836 were carried out. Drugs were found in only 4019 cases, meaning that none were discovered in 68 per cent of the searches. However, this is an improvement on 2014 where no drugs were found in more than 73 per cent of 14,541 searches conducted. The figures, obtained by the NSW Greens under access to government information laws, also reveal that last year 3275 sniffer dog searches were conducted by the police public transport command, but no drugs were found in 73 per cent of cases.

Campaign throws costly sniffer-dog searches off the scent [Echo Net Daily]

A campaign spearheaded by the NSW Greens against the invasive use of police drug dog searches has highlighted the ineffectiveness of the operations and reduced them. Tweed/Byron consistently has among the highest number of searches in the state, and is the only Local Area Command outside of Sydney to make the top 10. In 2014 Tweed Byron had the third most searches in the state, despite having only the 24th lowest false positive rate. In 2015, Tweed/Byron again had the third most searches in the state but dropped to 27th lowest false positive rate. The false positive rate over both years was between 64-67 per cent meaning 1,221 people were subjected to intrusive personal searches despite not carrying drugs. Mr Shoebridge said the figures show that parts of the state are targeted for drug dog operations ‘despite extraordinarily low rates of drugs being found as a result of searches’.

Addiction doctor slams cannabis trials on children as unsafe [The Advertiser]

An addiction doctor has slammed the rush to legalise medical marijuana for sick children, warning there’s no evidence it is safe for young brains. “It shouldn’t be used at all on children or adolescents,” said Dr Philip Crowley, an addiction medicine specialist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital who will present his views at a medical conference on Friday. “We now know cannabis is toxic to the developing brain in kids and adolescents. It leads to long-term damage to structures that are vital for memory, learning and thinking.” His comments come as states begin opening up medical cannabis to children with severe epilepsy.

Professor Uri Kramer, a paediatric neurologist who has been running cannabis trials on children in Israel, said the damage the drug could do was “peanuts” compared to the harm caused by severe epilepsy. About 80 per cent of the 160 children involved in the Israeli trials are clinically retarded, he said.  “We’re not talking about normal children that I’m giving CBD (cannabidiol), we’re talking about children with severe disease. If I’m not controlling the seizures they will be more retarded.” The recent findings from the Israeli study, which involves three hospitals, showed nearly 20 per cent of patients experienced a more than 75 per cent reduction in seizures, while 34 per cent reported at least a 50 per cent reduction.

Medicinal cannabis trial to enrol first patients soon [University of New South Wales]

A ‘world first’ clinical trial to assess whether medicinal cannabis can enhance the quality of life for patients with advanced cancer will begin enrolling its first patients in the coming months. The trial, announced by NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward last year, will be conducted by a research team led by UNSW Conjoint Associate Professor Meera Agar, from the South Western Sydney Clinical School. Associate Professor Agar told a media briefing yesterday the trial is a ‘world first’, with few other trials having explored the effectiveness and safety of vaporised botanical cannabis. “Previous clinical trials using vaporised botanical cannabis were very small and only studied the effect in chronic pain patients,” said Associate Professor Agar, who is also Clinical Trials Director with the Liverpool-based Ingham Institute. “In our trial, patients will be using a vaporiser, which aims to maximise the delivery of therapeutic levels of THC before patients consume a meal, and to minimise the side effects in the intervening period between meals.”

Mayor and councillors exempt from Gold Coast City Council’s mandatory random drug testing [Gold Coast Bulletin]

Plans to exempt the mayor and councillors from mandatory random drug tests for council staff have been slammed as unfair by a group representing the workers. Australian Workers’ Union Gold Coast organiser Jason Shepherd said the union represented most of the 3000 council workers and did not see why the leaders should be exempt. “The fact that the supreme decision-making body of the City Of Gold Coast is exempt from this policy is concerning in the extreme,” he said. “Impairment is relevant, whether you are laying a road or balancing a $1.327 billion budget.” Earlier this month the council released a tender which revealed plans for random drug and alcohol testing of all staff. Between $200,000 and $1 million will be spent each year to test council workers and funding was set aside in the 2016-17 council budget to set up the program.

The town that started national anti-ice drug campaign reports mixed results one year on [ABC]

A country community in New South Wales is uniting to fight the myths and stigma surrounding the drug ice, one year after it began a national campaign to dob in dealers. Police said they were making inroads in tackling a methamphetamine problem in the central-west town of Wellington. But the community responsible for starting what is now a national anti-drug campaign is battling the stigma of being linked to the so-called ice, or crystalline methamphetamine, epidemic. “The issue is no worse in Wellington than in any other regional town,” said Alison Conn, manager of Wellington Information and Neighbourhood Services, the town’s multi-service centre. “It’s just that the community has stepped up and decided to do something about it.”

Cop: Time to loosen laws around cannabis [NZ Herald]

People using cannabis are “jovial” and punishing them won’t stop them using the drug, says a New Zealand police officer arguing for law reform. A front line police officer has shared his views on decriminalising marijuana in a column in the September edition of the Police Association’s Magazine, Police News. Published last week, the I Am Keen column is a monthly fixture of the magazine for staff to anonymously their views on police operations. This month, the column is used to discuss cannabis. “People who are stoned are generally quite jovial and the last thing they want to do is
fight me,” said the officer. “That is a very simple reason for me to not treat cannabis possession with the same enforcement enthusiasm I once did.” As a new officer, the author thought punitive action was best. But now, thinks differently.

‘Loser stoners’ hit back against conservative cannabis lobby group [NZ Herald]

Cannabis reform group Normlhas hit back at claims that it’s getting in the way of marijuana for medical use. A new conservative faction of the movement – Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ – has emerged over the weekend with plans to push for cut-price pharmaceutical grade cannabis. The Herald has learned that MCANZ is about to lodge applications with Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne for two cheaper cannabis products from Canada. The charity also criticised established groups such asNormlfor using the cause of medical cannabis to push for universal legalisation – giving patients a bad name. It follows nationwide protests where demonstrators openly smoked marijuana outside police stations. “There are a whole lot of people who have played up to the worst possible images as far as conservative New Zealand is concerned,” says spokesman Shane Le Brun, a former soldier from Nelson. Some patients from MCANZ believe the Government is being painted into a corner by the more radical parts of the movement.

If legalizing pot, consider health, not profits, analysis says [Medical Xpress]

A new analysis of marijuana legislation offers a framework for states that are considering legalizing the drug and want to protect public health, rather than corporate profits. The policy analysis by researchers at UC San Francisco is intended as a roadmap to help prevent a legalized marijuana industry from becoming a new version of the tobacco or alcohol industries, replete with aggressive marketing and political strategies to protect their economic interests.

Marijuana holidays in the US: The rise and rise of ‘canna-tourism’ [Independent]

Once upon a time, Amsterdam was the undisputed king of cannabis tourism, and a trip to its “coffee shops” was a rite of passage for any self-respecting grass-head. But since four US states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington –  legalised both the medical and recreational use of marijuana, the “green traveller”s map has started to shift. And with five more states set to vote on full legalisation in November – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – new pot-friendly tourist initiatives like the “bud and breakfast” phenomenon look set to spread even further. So, as the US prepares to overtake Amsterdam as the reefer-lover’s go-to holiday hotspot, we take a look at some of the latest offerings from these new peddlers of particularly “dope” getaways.

Reconsidering Anslinger: Race, the Gateway Theory, and the Origins of Marijuana Prohibition [Points Blog]

Amidst the political debate over marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, State Representative Hank Naughton recently argued: “Marijuana is a gateway drug to the problems of the opioid crisis that we’re having today.” The Committee Chair on Public Safety and Homeland Security continued, “It’s not just a business and it’s not like a six pack of beer. There’s a lot more to it.” This stepping stone narrative– that marijuana is relatively benign but leads to something much worse– has served as the foundation of prohibition in America that treats young white users as victims and criminalizes the “invading pusher.” As historian Matt Lassiter points out; “the marijuana-as-gateway mystique…helped institutionalize two inter-linked but spatially distinct approaches: public health campaigns in white middle-class neighborhoods and militarized interdiction in urban minority areas.” Despite the changing rhetoric that drove anti-marijuana politics over the decades, the gateway theory connected these two principle motivations; one based on enforcement and the other on protection.

Chelsea Clinton Claims Marijuana Kills People [Your News Wire]

Chelsea Clinton has gone on the record and denounced marijuana as a potentially lethal drug that she says may be killing people who take it for medical purposes. Chelsea made a recent appearance at Youngstown State University campaigning for her mother, Hillary Clinton. She told the crowd of students that there are “public health concerns” associated with cannabis consumption due to recent deaths in Colorado. “We also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado where some of the people who were taking marijuana for those purposes, the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking,” she said. A recent article on InhaleMD indicates that while there can be some minor interactions when consuming cannabis in conjunction with other medications and food, there is no evidence to suggest that these types of concoctions can result in death. “Cannabis is not known to produce any lethal interactions with other substances, including foods and beverages,” the article reads. “In fact, as natural and synthetic drugs go, cannabis is exceptionally gentle, with negative effects typically limited to: anxiety, dry mouth, increased thirst, [and] sore throat.” The article, which was penned by Dr. Jordan Tishler, an expert in the field of cannabis medicine, goes on to explain that while marijuana “isn’t physically harmful,” when mixing it with alcohol, antidepressants, antihistamines and muscle relaxants, the stoned effects can be often amplified—giving the user the feeling of being more intoxicated or in a deeper state of relaxation. But it does not appear that anyone has died as a direct result of mixing marijuana with other drugs, as Clinton seems to have implied in her speech over the weekend.

Drug-impaired drivers to face tougher penalties in Ontario starting Oct. 2 [CBC Toronto]

The Ontario government announced Wednesday they are introducing tougher penalties for drivers under the influence of drugs — that match the fines already in place for drunk drivers. Toronto police announced last week that the number of drug-related impaired-driving offences this year has increased more than threefold compared to this time in 2015. Police say most of those charges are not marijuana-related; most cases are related to prescription drugs.

Paradise lost: does Copenhagen’s Christiania commune still have a future? [The Guardian]

For 45 years, Christiania has stood as a community-led utopia, its cannabis trade central to a liberal culture. But the shooting of a police officer has forced residents to take radical action. As the smoke clears, will it ever be the same again? Cannabis has long been sold and enjoyed in this unique neighbourhood, a famous utopian commune in the heart of Denmark’s capital. Historically a centre of freedom and resistance, it will celebrate on Monday the 45th anniversary of the day that squatters – known as slumstormerene – broke down the barricades of an abandoned military base, creatively activating disused spaces in a time when living conditions were poor. In 1973, the Social Democratic government gave Christiania the official temporary status of “social experiment” – a term that many criticised as its residents had not agreed to participate. Nonetheless, this ruling allowed Christiania to persist, and a majority vote in parliament in 1989 set the Christiania Law in stone, legalising the squat. Drug use was always a part of the community. In recent years, however, the cannabis trade has evolved. Once led by small-time dealers, it is now controlled by large, multinational organisations, including the Danish branch of the Hell’s Angels, who are neither residents nor employees of Christiania. “This transition has happened over many years,” says Risenga Manghezi, a community spokesperson who has lived in Christiania for seven years. “In the last 10 to 15 years, the police have been really hard on Pusher Street. This means the softer ‘mom-and-pop shops’ have disappeared, and it’s only the ones who are most willing to take risks and manipulate Christianites who have stayed.” Recent figures from the Copenhagen police estimate that between up to 1bn kroner (£115m) changes hands each year in Pusher Street.

Cannabis Cultivation in the Netherlands Could Be Legalised Soon [volteface]

The Netherlands’ contradictory laws on cannabis could finally be resolved as, for the first time, the majority of MPs look to back a bill that would legalise government-regulated cannabis cultivation. It would allow coffee shops to buy from licenced cannabis growers and would implement quality control. Currently, licenced coffee shops can sell small amounts of cannabis for personal use and police will turn a blind eye as long as they don’t advertise, sell hard drugs or sell cannabis to anyone under 18. However, it is still illegal to grow or sell large amounts of cannabis, creating a situation where coffee shop owners have to source the cannabis illegally to run their business, known as “the back door problem”. Legalising production would take this cannabis trade out of the hands of criminal gangs. The draft legislation was drawn up by MP Vera Bergkamp of the D66 political party, the Dutch equivalent of the Liberal Democrats, and has since been backed by GreonLinks, the Socialist and pro-animal PvdD, as well as Labour who have defied their coalition partner, the VVD, on the issue. Bergkamp told an NOS broadcaster: “You can buy weed but you can’t grow and transport it, and that is wrong.  If we regulate it, that will be good for health and to control criminality. A large percentage of the population and local councils support this measure as well.”

Hash and burn [The Economist]

It is peak season and dozens of sweat-drenched men are labouring in the fields near the Albanian town of Tragjas, harvesting a bumper crop of cannabis. Overseeing them are policemen with submachine-guns and face masks. Saimir Tahiri, Albania’s interior minister, swoops down in a helicopter to observe the destruction of the plantations. Piles of two-metre high bushes are set on fire. Mr Tahiri admits the choking fumes can be a problem for the policemen but adds that this is the least of their concerns. Europe’s drug war is being fought here, he says, and billions of euros are at stake. Albania is a major entrepot of the European drugs market. The country has long been a base from which criminal gangs smuggle everything from cigarettes to heroin, cocaine, cannabis resin and other illicit substances into the rest of Europe, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Europe’s drug agency. Increasingly, Albania has also become a big outdoor producer of the cannabis herb, which is distributed with the help of a complex network of Albanian organised-crime groups.

Drug suspect ‘rises from dead’ to declare support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs [The Sydney Morning Herald]

He was shot four times and left lying in a pool of blood in a dark street of the sprawling Philippine capital, a victim of President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly anti-drugs crackdown. But Francisco Maneja “played dead” for more than an hour before photojournalists arrived at the scene and saw him sit up and lift his hands in the air, screaming “help me” in a blaze of camera lights. Now crammed among prisoners in a stifling hot cell at Manila’s police headquarters, Maneja, a 27-year-old father of two and self-confessed user of shabu, a poor quality form of crystal methamphetamine, raised his bandaged hand and clasped his heart. “Sincerely, I support my president in what he is doing. I have risen from the dead. My lesson is learnt,” he declared.

Cannabis And Cancer [The Huffington Post]

With ever-increasing costs of conventional healthcare, and continuing issues with insurance coverage, alternative medicine is growing in popularity. Inasmuch as it is still officially denigrated, cannabis is about as “alternative” as it gets. This, despite no shortage of historic references to cannabis, or its extract marijuana (prepared from the dried and crushed flowers and leaves of the plant) as to its medicinal effects. Chinese Emperors Fu Hsi (2900 BC) and Shen Nung (2700 BC) are said to have touted its healing effects. Some authorities claim that the anointing oil in Exodus 30:22-25 contained cannabis, and that “cane” is a mistranslation from the original Hebrew (1450 BC). Getting more into modern times, marijuana was added to the US Pharmacopeia in 1850, and its use is indicated for an astonishingly diverse litany of illnesses.

According to this PDQ Review from the National Cancer Institute, and referring to this illustration, cannabis may lessen the progression of cancer cells. It also alleviates pain, lowers inflammation and decreases anxiety. An oft-cited study from 1996 on mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids (any of various chemical constituents of cannabis) may have a protective effect against the development of hepatic adenoma tumors and hepatocellular carcinoma. The study also noted decreased incidences of benign tumors in other organs (mammary gland, uterus, pituitary, testis, and pancreas).

Exercise can increase levels of hunger-promoting endocannabinoids even if you are sleep-deprived [Medical Xpress]

A research group at Uppsala University has investigated how levels of endocannabinoids – which target the same receptors as cannabis – are affected by short sleep duration, and whether acute exercise can modulate this effect. The researchers found that the levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol – the most abundant endocannabinoid in the brain – was about 80 percent higher after the nights of short sleep compared with after the normal sleep session. When the participants exercised, the levels of 2AG still went up almost by half, regardless of whether participants had been allowed to sleep for three normal nights, or to only sleep four hours each night.

Shakespeare’s violent world was never drug-free [The Guardian]

The heading of your review of the Globe Theatre’s Imogen, “Sex, drugs and gang war erupt…” (26 September), could just as well be a strapline for a number of Shakespeare’s plays, and while Cymbeline may not be a about a “drug-driven world”, many of his plots hinge on the use of drugs, potions and poisons. From the “love-in-idleness” (Viola tricolor) love potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the “juice of cursed hebenon” (possibly henbane, active ingredient hyoscyamine) used to kill Hamlet’s father, to the aconite in the wolf’s bane with which Laertes tips his sword and the potassium cyanide administered to Claudius in his wine, to Friar Laurence’s catatonic potion (deadly nightshade or Atropa belladonna?) and the apothecary’s poison with which Romeo kills himself (potassium cyanide again?), to Cleopatra’s use of asp’s venom to induce respiratory failure to the weird sisters’ toxic brew of hemlock (Conium maculatum) compounded with slivers of Yew (Taxus baccata) capable of inducing cardiac arrest, while never drug-driven, Shakespeare’s violent world was never entirely drug-free.

What is Spice and why is the drug so dangerous? [The Conversation]

Synthetic cannabis, of which Spice is an example, is linked to serious health issues ranging from difficulties breathing to psychotic episodes. But, despite well-known issues, these drugs are still in demand and homeless people, particularly, are at risk of mental health issues from their use. So what exactly are these drugs made of and why do they cause such violent reactions. Spice is not a single drug, but a range of laboratory-made chemicals that mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis. Research suggests that Spice and other forms of synthetic cannabis is capable of producing much more intense and prolonged effects at much lower doses than natural cannabis. This is because, while the THC in natural cannabis only partially reacts with the body, synthetic cannabis reacts far more fully.

To understand the biology behind the intense reaction to Spice we need to look at the parts of the body’s central nervous system that react to cannabis – the cannabinoid receptors – and the chemical part of the drug that reacts with the body – the “agonist”. While THC is a “partial agonist” (it only partially reacts with cannabinoid receptors), synthetic cannabis is often a “full agonist”. In this way, the more adverse effects observed with synthetic cannabis use stem from its ability to completely saturate and activate all of the body’s cannabinoid receptors at a lower dose.

EGA 2017 Outdoors Psychedelic Symposium Fundraiser [EGA]

EGA wishes to send out a massive thank you to everyone that has donated to our current ‘Support the Conversation Around Psychedelics’ in Australia campaign. We have now achieved 55% of our total and feel it is worth highlighting this achievement. Big thanks also to the artists and pledge donors that have helped make this all possible and with less than a month till the campaign ends it is essential to make sure you participate now. It is very important that we achieve our goal and secure the venue for next years psychedelic symposium and that this dialogue can take place right here in Australia. Even the smaller donations really help support our goal. We have been adding some nice pledges as we go along; even just yesterday Mitch Schultz director of the DMT: The Spirit Molecule donated some DVDs so if you need a copy of this film then why not support EGA and head over to our campaign page and get a copy as its just one of the many amazing items on offer. To support the EGA fundraising campaign head over to the following link and remember share this campaign with your friends –  www.chuffed.org/project/psychedelics