EMBASSY Headlines Issue 221
EMBASSY Headlines Issue 221

EMBASSY Headlines Issue 221

Queensland GPs will soon be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients under new laws passed by State Parliament on Wednesday night. The State Government said the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 provided a legitimate pathway for Queensland patients of any age and with a range of conditions to access legal medicinal cannabis products. The laws give certain specialists such as oncologists, paediatric neurologists and palliative care specialists the right to prescribe medicinal cannabis from March next year. Other doctors, including GPs, would be able to apply to Queensland Health for permission to prescribe the drug for patients with certain conditions. The bill was passed unanimously with Opposition and crossbench support.

Tasmanian Police Minister to consider medicinal cannabis register for patients [ABC]

Tasmanian Police Minister Rene Hidding has promised to investigate having a register for people accessing medicinal cannabis to quarantine them from prosecution. The pledge followed last night’s defeat of Greens MP Andrea Dawkins’ private member’s motion, calling for a register of Tasmanians currently using cannabis to treat medical issues. From next year, specialist doctors in Tasmania will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for people with chronic illnesses. But Ms Dawkins told Parliament the law currently does not protect people using cannabis medicinally.

Momentum growing for legalising medicinal cannabis, advocate says
[NZ Herald]

The mother of the first person to get approval to use medicinal cannabis in New Zealand has made an emotional plea to Parliament to make it easier for others to get access to the drug legally. Rose Renton, from Nelson, presented a 17,000-signature petition to Labour MP Damien O’Connor on Parliament’s front steps this morning. The petition asks for GPs or specialists to be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis without needing sign-off from Government.

What The Philippines’ War On Drugs Can Teach Australia
[Huffington Post]

Often when atrocities occur, such as that which is happening now in the Philippines, there is a need to reflect on our own backyard. Historically, Australia’s policies have been measured, considered and balanced within a framework of health, human rights and harm minimization. We have enjoyed success, especially in preventing an HIV epidemic.  However, when you peel away the layers and look more closely at the results over recent years, the outcomes are less flattering. In fact, on several levels we are failing badly. We have fallen behind the rest of the world in adopting many evidence-based initiatives. We have experienced an evidence-based policy-free zone for far too long. Programs such as supervised injecting rooms, pill testing, needle exchanges in prisons and heroin prescribing are badly needed to reduce the toll from illicit drugs. Another concern with the local drug trade is increased levels of violence, especially the growing gun culture. The use of firearms linked to the drug market is escalating, crimes involving guns has doubled in the past five years in Victoria. Make no mistake, those that are seeking to protect their investment in the illicit drug market will stop at nothing. History dictates that an uncontrolled and unregulated drug market is a constant battlefield and the whole community is at risk. Governments are reluctant to think outside a conservative policy ‘formula’ for illicit drugs; that is, demonize drug users, heavily resource police and increase penalties. None of these approaches offer success; instead it punishes people for their rest of lives in a bid to claim some moral high ground victory. It’s time to start a ‘new conversation’ about illicit drugs. A new policy narrative is needed. Let’s not fall into the trap of continuing to believe that we can create a ‘drug free’ world. Drug use is, and always will be, a significant part of many people’s lives and we need policy approaches that reflect this and are based on evidence.
From the 10th to 16th October a global campaign to raise awareness of the current situation in the Philippines will commence. The Global Week of Action will include peaceful demonstrations at Philippine Embassies around the world. More details can be found here.

Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds
[The New York Times]

Arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana exceeded those for all violent crimes last year, a new study has found, even as social attitudes toward the drug have changed and a number of cities and states have legalized its use or decriminalized small quantities. And a disproportionate number of those arrested are African-Americans, who smoke marijuana at rates similar to whites but are arrested and prosecuted far more often for having small amounts for personal use, according to the study. The arrests can overwhelm court systems.

INCARCERATING US [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition]

“INCARCERATING US” is a feature-length documentary that exposes America’s prison problem and explores ways to unshackle the Land of the Free through vital criminal justice reforms. With 2.3 million people behind bars, the U.S. has the largest prison population in the history of the world.

Iowa Medical Marijuana Advocates Urge Voters To Press Politicians For Law Reform [Toke Signals]

A group of Iowa medical cannabis advocates is urging state voters to pressure political candidates to support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. The group held a news conference Tuesday morning at the Iowa statehouse, reports O. Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa. Tom Duncan, a fifth-generation farmer in Greene County and a survivor of kidney cancer, was among those speaking. “Education has moved some of our elected officials, but we need more voices speaking to them and all the candidates, so please speak to these candidates and elected officials and tell them that you support whole plant medical cannabis access,” Duncan said. “We are asking voters to ask their candidate what they will do to help suffering Iowans who need access to this treatment option in Iowa, produced, tested, and dispensed by Iowans, for Iowans,” said Sally Gaer of West Des Moines, co-founder of Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis.

How Ancient West African Cannabis Culture Inspires Blacks In US Marijuana Business [AFK Insider]

Detroit’s Sons of Hemp is a diverse group of herbalists, caregivers, and medical patients in the hemp/cannabis industry. They work to unite, educate, create opportunities and support ownership in every facet of the hemp and cannabis industry, according to a recent press release. The organization gets its name from the Bena Riamba — or “Sons of Hemp” — who lived in equatorial West Africa in the 1800s. Their cannabis culture included using the plant for spiritual and medicinal purposes. The Bena Riamba were credited with changing the warlike Bashilange tribe to one of peace, Metro Times reported. South Africa and Ghana are becoming some of the world’s top marijuana and outdoor cannabis seeds producers, according to Topix. African experts say South African marijuana contains a deviant THC molecule that produces extreme hallucinogenic highs. Durban Poison is an example of this. Ghana is famous for its public marijuana cultivation.

The DEA is withdrawing a proposal to ban another plant after the Internet got really mad [The Washington Post]

The Drug Enforcement Administration is reversing a widely criticized decision that would have banned the use of kratom, a plant that researchers say could help mitigate the effects of the opioid epidemic. Citing the public outcry and a need to obtain more research, the DEA is withdrawing its notice of intent to ban the drug, according to a preliminary document that will be posted to the Federal Register Thursday. The DEA had announced in August that it planned to place kratom in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive regulatory category, as soon as Sept. 30. But since announcing their intent to ban kratom, the “DEA has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action,” acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote in the notice, “and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action.” Kratom is a plant from southeast Asia that’s related to coffee. It contains a number of chemical compounds that produce effects similar to opiates when ingested.

Marijuana prison venture is Damian Marley’s vision for economic growth [The Guardian]

Reggae superstar Bob Marley liked to say that “herb is the healing of the nation”. Now his youngest son, Damian Marley, is putting that claim to the test with a marijuana venture that promises to transform a decaying California prison into a huge medical marijuana manufacturing plant. It also promises to revitalize a depressed rural town that long depended on a prison economy, but is now turning to pot. “It’s a statement,” Marley told the Guardian, “to grow herb in a place that used to contain prisoners locked up for herb.”  The business venture signals a growing confidence in the cannabis industry, which has been rapidly spreading across the country as a result of state referendums that are legalizing medical or recreational marijuana. California, the first state in the US to approve medical marijuana in 1996, appears to be on the cusp of voting for full recreational legalization in a referendum in November.

Pets on Pot: The Newest Customer Base for Medical Marijuana
[The New York Times]

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis for pets, in part because there is little research showing its effectiveness. Veterinarians are not allowed to write prescriptions for the products and, in states where marijuana is illegal, are wary of discussing the idea. Last year, a proposed state law was defeated in Nevada that would have made it possible for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis to pets with chronic illnesses. Still, users swear by the products.

What It Looks Like to Grow Indoor Weed [Motherboard]

Marijuana is on the ballot in nine states this November. California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts are considering adult use weed legalization, while North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana and Florida looking at medical marijuana.  More than tens of millions of marijuana plants are grown in the USA already. But with new popularity and legislation, pot farms are poised to get much more common. This video by Learning Cannabis, a pot growing Youtube channel, takes us inside a cannabis farm. With a GoPro strapped to his head, the grower films a day of work cultivating weed.

Florida voters set to legalize medical marijuana: survey [MedicalXpress]

Voters in the US state of Florida appear overwhelmingly inclined to legalize medical marijuana in a referendum November 8, a new poll out Tuesday shows. Some 77 percent of likely voters in the southeastern state have said they will cast ballots in favor of Amendment 2—which would change the state’s constitution to legalize cannabis for medicinal use—according to the survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory (PORL) at the University of North Florida. “Not only are Democrats wildly supportive, but even Republicans are above the 60 percent threshold required for passage,” said the laboratory’s faculty director Michael Binder. He added that the strongest support was among likely voters age 34 and under, but many older than 65 also favor the amendment.

Cannabis-based products are medicine, says regulator [BBC]

Products that contain a cannabis-based ingredient called cannabidiol or CBD are medicines, UK regulatory body the MHRA has said. It has written to 18 companies letting them know they now have 28 days to get a licence to legally sell such products in the UK. Currently, there is only one licensed medicine available in the UK that contains CBD. It is a prescription-only drug called Sativex for patients with MS. Patients are given it to ease their symptoms of muscle spasms. Sativex contains CBD and another extract, THC, which are both derived from the cannabis plant. Cannabis itself, however, is not recognised under UK laws as having any therapeutic value, and anyone using it, even for medical reasons, could be charged with possession.

The UK Government Is In A Tangle Over Selling Cannabis As A Medicine [BuzzFeed]

Two government departments seem to disagree about whether cannabis products have a medicinal value. Vendors of a product called cannabidiol, or CBD, an oil derived from cannabis plants, have received letters from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a Department of Health-sponsored agency, saying that they have to stop selling it in the next 28 days, because it has been designated as a medicine. That means that they will probably have to undergo clinical trials, and demonstrate that they are safe and effective treatments for specific conditions, before they can be sold. However, the Home Office considers cannabis a “schedule 1” drug, under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. That means that they consider it to have no therapeutic or medicinal value. It is possible to carry out medical research using schedule 1 drugs, but researchers must apply for special dispensation to do so, making it significantly harder to do.

The Child Victims of the CBD Ban [volteface]

For those who can’t get onto a trial there has previously been a growing – mainly online – legal market for CBD products, but this is now under threat by a new ban on CBD sales issued last week by the UK’s Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. They now consider CBD to be a medicine and therefore a licence is required in order to sell it within the UK. Some consider this as a positive development as the medicinal values of CBD are finally being recognised, but in the short term the measure there are bound to be concerned parents who may be left with no choice but to resort to a newly created black market.

Nicola Sturgeon faces calls to back cannabis for medicinal use
[Herald Scotland]

New calls have gone out for a change in the law in Scotland to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Decisions over decriminalising drugs are currently reserved to Westminster. However this week’s SNP conference in Glasgow will debate the issue, with a motion lodged in support of reform. A motion from the SNP Ayr North branch to be debated on Saturday states that “cannabis should be decriminalised for medical use and available on prescription”. The Tory health spokesman at Holyrood is also backing decriminalisation.

A Decade of Failure in the War on Drugs [The New York Times]

In Mexico the war on drugs turned out to be a worse evil than the one it set out to fight. Ten years locked in a state of emergency and with an army insulated from any criminal investigation of its behavior have proven to be another failure. For things to really change, the government should gradually return antidrug programs to the civil authorities. After this decade of mourning, of killings with impunity, of government corruption, Mexico needs to devise a comprehensive drug policy that understands drug trafficking beyond a clash between heroes and villains. Caught between these extremes, society has been forced to adapt to a state of permanent violence. Decriminalizing drug use will not fix a deeply rooted problem in this country, but it will allow Mexicans to differentiate between drugs and the war on drugs, between drug users and drug traffickers. This is the first step in acknowledging that a different approach is possible.

What happens when you smoke weed every day for 5 years [indy100]

If you smoke weed for five years or more, on a daily basis, prepare to lose your eloquence. A study by a team of researchers from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, published earlier this year, found that people who smoked marijuana on a daily basis for a long period of time had poorer verbal memory in their middle age, than others.

The Man Who Invented the Drug Memoir [The New Yorker]

De Quincey was thirty-six when “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” his sensational memoir of addiction, was published, anonymously, in 1821. At the time, Wilson writes, England was “marinated in opium, which was taken for everything from upset stomachs to sore heads.” It was swallowed in the form of pills or dissolved in alcohol to make laudanum, the tincture preferred by De Quincey. The Turks, it was said, all suffered from opium dependence. But English doctors prescribed it with abandon. The drug was given to women for menstrual discomfort and to children for the hiccups. All the while, its glamour was growing: it was ancient, shamanic, a supernatural tether to otherworldly visions. You could find reference to it in Homer and Virgil, Chaucer and Shakespeare. In his essay “Coleridge and Opium-Eating,” De Quincey wrote that he had found it referenced, too, in John Milton’s great Biblical epic Paradise Lost.

Next Nimbin Medican Workshop October 22 [Nimbin Hemp Embassy]

Nimbin’s next medical cannabis workshop will be held on Saturday October 22 in the villages Town Hall, starting at 11 am. “The more our Premiers talk about medical cannabis the more our phone rings,” says Nimbin HEMP Embassy president Michael Balderstone. “These workshops have proven to be very popular for sharing knowledge and experience and we’ll continue doing them every few months. This time local solicitor Steve Bolt will open the workshop with some legal advice for all those who think the laws have changed. They haven’t, or not yet anyway. His talk will be followed by various healers, including Dr Andrew Katelaris, Tony Bower from Mullaways Medical Cannabis, Chris Harris, Paul Lawrence, Heather Gladman and Frances Hood, Ellen Jones, Radic Al and Andrew Kavasilas, secretary of the Australian HEMP Party.”

“Its encouraging that the Federal Government is forging ahead with plans to licence the production of medical cannabis but some people can’t wait. And if you have an epileptic child or inoperable cancer, who wants to wait? Meanwhile, news of the plants fantastic healing abilities in certain cases where other drugs have failed are filling the internet and not everyone can afford to fly to Colorado. The more information we can give interested people the better,” he says. “The HEMP Embassy in Nimbin is open every day and never been busier.”

Marijuana Australiana [Bryon Bay International Film Festival]

Marijuana Australiana screens on FRIDAY, October  21 at  7.30PM at the Byron Community Centre. Celebrating Nimbin and the gleefully defiant MardiGrass, and beyond,  into the bush, where connoisseur horticulturalists lovingly raise their crops. Among footage of the dancing Ganja Faeries, bong-throwing contests and advocates on both sides come the quiet testimonies from the parents of terribly sick children whose lives have been improved. Director Richard Baron will be in attendance.

Where is medicinal cannabis legal in Australia? [ABC]

Federal Government: Medicinal cannabis use is still illegal and only available through trials and limited special access schemes. But, earlier this year, the Federal Government passed legislation legalising the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Queensland: Queensland doctors will soon be able to prescribe it for their patients’ treatment. New laws will give certain specialists including oncologists, paediatric neurologists and palliative care specialists the right to prescribe medicinal cannabis from March 2017. Other doctors would be able to apply to Queensland Health for permission to prescribe the drug for patients with certain conditions.

Tasmania: The State Government announced in April specialist medical practitioners would be allowed to prescribe the drug to patients suffering serious and chronic illness from 2017.

NSW: In July, NSW Premier Mike Baird said 40 children in the state with the most severe cases of drug-resistant epilepsy would now have access to a cannabis-based treatment under a compassionate access scheme. NSW is conducting a trial for patients suffering vomiting and nausea as a result of chemotherapy.

Western Australia: The WA Government previously said it would not conduct medicinal cannabis trials until it received the results of testing in New South Wales.

Northern Territory: Not legal.

South Australia: In April, SA Health Minister Jack Snelling ruled out changing the law in South Australia at this stage.

Victoria: It’s legal here. It was the first state to pass legislation legalising the use of medicinal cannabis.

Will meth-checks become the new norm for prudent home buyers?

A growing number of prudent home buyers and landlords are going beyond traditional pre-purchase building, pest and asbestos inspections – they are also getting their homes drug-tested.  In homes that have gone undetected as meth labs or where there has been heavy use of the drug ice, chemical residue can seep into soft furnishing, carpets and even walls and ceilings, leaving unwitting new tenants or owners exposed to serious health risks.  “Pre-existing health conditions can be exacerbated,” Flinders University PhD researcher Jackie Wright said. “It can also cause breathing difficulty, asthma-type symptoms, behavioural changes, particularly in children, ADHD like behaviour, moodiness, trouble sleeping, vivid dreams and other chronic sleep issues, skin and eye irritation and more.”

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