EMBASSY Headlines Issue 222
EMBASSY Headlines Issue 222

EMBASSY Headlines Issue 222

Health Warnings On Drugs Shouldn’t Be Provided By Police [Huffington Post]

We have seen police in Australia and in the UK send out warnings about dangerous batches of drugs on the streets. Does it strike you as odd that these health warnings are provided by police? The reason this occurs in Australia is because there is no early warning system on drugs in place. An early warning system is one where information on drugs is shared in real time between health workers and officials and then to the public. It doesn’t exist here because, in part, that would involve pill testing and providing information to people using those drugs. And we are told this sends the wrong message and therefore can’t be considered. Better to fail our kids than compromise our views. And better to let police talk to media and then hope the people using these drugs are watching the mainstream news services. The best option is to inform health networks that include peer networks and websites used by actual users of drugs so they find out quickly what risks exist. The upshot of what we get now are scared parents and minimal impact on the drug market.  In contrast, we know that well informed markets result in better and safer products and keeping consumers informed is quite simply one of the best ways we have to make the drugs safer.

Growing use of drugs pose threat to resources sector: report [Australian Mining]

The increased use of drugs in Australia has posed increased challenges for employers in the mining and oil and gas sectors, according to a recent survey. The AMMA 2016 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey gathered quantitative and qualitative responses from 53 Australian resources employers, finding only 40 per cent of respondents test for synthetic cannabis. This is amid concerns over the ability of testing to keep up with rapidly changing substances.

Medical marijuana company Creso Pharma surges on market debut [The Australian]

Medical marijuana company Creso Pharma has jumped as much as 40 per cent on debut after raising $5 million through an initial public offering. The company is looking to tap into a growing market that could soon expand to Australia, with Creso developing products for both humans and pets. Creso chairman and co-founder Boaz Wachtel is a familiar name in the space, having been a co-founder of the first medical marijuana company to list on the local exchange — MMJ Phytotech. Since then others have joined the local bourse, including Medlab Clinical and MGC Pharmaceuticals. The Creso IPO was first reported in The Australian in July, with the company noting it was looking to differentiate itself from the increasingly crowded medical marijuana field by incorporating pharmaceutical expertise into its products pipeline. “Our core difference is the level of methodological rigour we will bring to the sector that will complement traditional plant-derived cannabis treatments already on the market,” chief executive Miri Halperin Wernli, who has previously worked with pharma giants Merck and Roche, said.

Medicinal cannabis costs set to tumble after cheaper product gets green light [NZ Herald]

The cost of medicinal cannabis is set to tumble after Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne approved a Canadian pain relief product. It is estimated the marijuana-based tincture called Tilray will cost at least 50 per cent less than the existing legal product Sativex, a UK mouth spray made by GW Pharma. Multiple sclerosis sufferer, Dr Huhana Hickey, who applied to use Tilray, said: “I’m so relieved. It’s going to save me $700 a month.” The AUT academic says she has spent $9000 on prescriptions since she started taking medicinal cannabis in February. Hickey says the results have been remarkable. “I’m living my life again. I’m back to work, I am fully-functioning” She started using the spray to replace pain killers such as morphine, codeine, tramadol and other opiates which she had been prescribed for years.

W.H.O. Cannabis Report [Drug Science]

The scheduling under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs assumes a scientific justification. However, cannabis and cannabis resin have never been evaluated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since it was mandated the review of psychoactive substances in 1948. The last evaluation for the international substance control conventions were therefore when the League of Nations evaluated them in 1924 and 1935. In 80 years since that decision, both the social context of cannabis use and the science of drug dependence have dramatically changed. Yet, because there has never been a formal review, both herbal cannabis and cannabis resin continue to remain under the strictest drug control regime possible. As a result, in the absence of a recent scientific assessment, the continued prohibition of cannabis is completely illegitimate even though it may be legal.

What do we know about marijuana’s medical benefits? Two experts explain the evidence [The Conversation]

Currently 25 states and the District of Columbia have medical cannabis programs. On Nov. 8, Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota will vote on medical cannabis ballot initiatives, while Montana will vote on repealing limitations in its existing law. We have no political position on cannabis legalization. We study the cannabis plant, also known as marijuana, and its related chemical compounds. Despite claims that cannabis or its extracts relieve all sorts of maladies, the research has been sparse and the results mixed. At the moment, we just don’t know enough about cannabis or its elements to judge how effective it is as a medicine. What does the available research suggest about medical cannabis, and why do we know so little about it?

Here’s what America would be like with legal pot [The Washington Post]

Carl Sagan was famous for intoning about “billions and billions” when describing how many stars, galaxies and planets existed in the cosmos. That mantra should be chanted by anyone trying to understand marijuana use and policy in the United States. In the aggregate, Americans report smoking pot about 4 billion days a year (totaling up all the days each individual reported pot use for that year). But under the assumptions that some people understate their marijuana use on government surveys and that some users smoke more than once a day, the true annual total of use episodes could easily exceed 10 billion. These almost inconceivably large numbers lead us to three important realities about pot use.
Reality No. 1: The risks of being arrested for smoking pot are extremely low.
Reality No. 2: Marijuana use almost never contributes to suicide or homicide.
Reality No. 3: A key impact of pot legalization will be an increase in how much time Americans spend stoned.

Support for marijuana legalization continues to rise [Pew Research Centre]

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

Massachusetts Marijuana Vote Could Mean Legalization Across New England [Hartford Courant]

Massachusetts is one of five states where measures to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana will be on the ballot. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada will also vote on the issue. An affirmative vote in Maine or Massachusetts would bring legal recreational marijuana to the region for the first time, putting new pressure on those in the state that oppose expanded marijuana use. Jill Spineti, president and CEO of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, said her group wasn’t yet willing to shift the dialogue from opposing recreational marijuana use to figuring out the best way to regulate it. At the same time she acknowledged how legal cannabis across the border would complicate that fight.

Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots [The New York Times]

People in nine states, including California, Florida and Massachusetts, will vote Nov. 8 on ballot proposals permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana. These initiatives could give a big push to legalization, prompting the next president and Congress to overhaul the country’s failed drug laws. This is a big moment for what was a fringe movement a few years ago. A Gallup poll released on Wednesday showed 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1969. The drive to end prohibition comes after decades in which marijuana laws led to millions of people being arrested and tens of thousands sent to prison, a vast majority of whom never committed any violent crimes. These policies have had a particularly devastating effect on minority communities. Federal and state governments have spent untold billions of dollars on enforcement, money that could have been much better spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment.

New documents reveal why the FDA says marijuana isn’t medicine [Vice]

Removing marijuana from Schedule I would require an act of Congress; federal regulators have repeatedly stymied efforts to downgrade weed to a less restrictive classification — and now we know why. VICE News obtained 118 pages of documents (viewable in full below) that show why the feds  believe marijuana is not medicine, despite the fact that 25 states and Washington, D.C., now have medical marijuana laws on the books.

No uptick in marijuana use by adolescents after states pass medical marijuana laws [Medical Xpress]

Adults over the age of 25 increased their use of marijuana after their home states made changes to medical marijuana laws, according to new research by scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. However, there was no difference in the prevalence of marijuana use reported for 12 to 17 or 18 to 25 year-olds after the laws passed. The findings are published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

‘Commercialization won out’: will legal marijuana be the next big tobacco? [The Guardian]

Opinion polls suggest support for legalization has held up in Colorado where combined sales of recreational and medical cannabis are up by more than 40%, to nearly $1bn over the past two years. That has forced opponents to focus on a different target: the corporate interests making millions from cannabis. Anti-marijuana groups are painting them as little better than cigarette companies in their pursuit of profit over health, in the hope that will play better with liberal voters.

Medical marijuana users ask Liberals to cut costs, update status [The Globe and Mail]

Medical cannabis patients are urging the federal government to make marijuana more affordable by encouraging insurers to cover it and dropping the sales tax once it is legalized. Earlier this week, 15 patients from across Canada spoke with four members of the government’s legalization task force. They told the panel that the cost of medical marijuana often causes financial hardship, according to event facilitator Hilary Black, founder of Vancouver’s oldest dispensary and current director of patient services at the licensed commercial grower Bedrocan. The event was sponsored by the Arthritis Society, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana and the Canadian AIDS Society, and attended by patients from different backgrounds, including a police officer, a veteran, and a woman whose epileptic son uses cannabis, said Ms. Black.

Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp. Begins Shipping Live Cannabis Plants [Cannabis Life Network]

Licensed medical cannabis producer Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp. announced earlier today that they have become the first government sanctioned cultivator allowed to sell and ship live cannabis to patients. Earlier this year, Health Canada announced that their new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations would permit medical cannabis patients to grow their own medicine and established new rules for licensed producers that allowed them to sell seeds and plants in addition to dried cannabis and oils.

The Misplaced Demonisation of People who Deal Drugs [Talking Drugs]

Framing people who deal drugs as predatory individuals who care not for their clients’ wellbeing rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the drug trade works and risks pushing aggressive law enforcement efforts further onto low-level actors in the trade. The idea that people who deal drugs are unscrupulous, even evil people has consistently been pushed by policymakers and the media, feeding into government aims to ultimately deter people from using drugs. People who deal will do anything to maximise their profits, we are told, including cutting substances with harmful adulterants such as brick dust, glass and rat poison. The above messaging is sadly not always confined to those who wish to maintain the status quo of a punitive approach to drug use. In certain drug policy reform efforts, there is a tendency to implicitly demonise people who deal in order to advocate the protection and wellbeing of people who use drugs. The evidence suggests, however, that contrary to the narrative of the “dangerous drug dealer,” people who engage in this activity, believe it or not, care about the health of their customers. In fact, those who deal – particularly at the street level – face strong incentives to keep their buyers not only alive, but reasonably satisfied with their product. To do otherwise would cause a swift erosion of their customer base.

MHRA Confirms Meeting With CBD Industry Representatives [Cannabis Law Reform]

Today, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has arranged a meeting with representatives from the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) to discuss its designation of cannabidiol (CBD) as a medicine. A request for a meeting was was first made in writing on 20th September 2016, when the possibility of the MHRA’s action was still little more than a rumour.  Nearly six weeks later, after repeated requests, complaints and lobbying from many companies, individuals and MPs, the meeting has been fixed for 3rd November 2016. The main aim of the meeting will be to discuss interim arrangements for people currently using CBD as a food supplement. Clearly, we will also address concerns over the impact of this decision on many small businesses and the people they employ.

Green Party call for decriminalising drug use and legalising medical use of cannabis [Green Party Ireland]

The Green Party have called for the decriminalisation of drug use and the legalisation of cannabis for medical use among their recommendations to the Government’s new National Drugs Strategy. The public consultation on the new strategy closed yesterday.

Richard Branson’s advice for marijuana entrepreneurs: ‘Screw it, just do it’ [Business Insider]

Richard Branson is one of the most exuberant and successful entrepreneurs of our time. Now, the UK’s eighth richest person is throwing his support behind the marijuana industry. Branson gave the keynote address at the New West Summit in San Francisco over the weekend, where thousands of medicinal marijuana patients, investors, and “potrepreneurs” converged to debate the future of weed. The 66-year-old Virgin Group founder, who called in via Skype, did not mince words. When asked what advice he would give to the industry’s pioneers who are leading the fight for legalization, Branson said, “My main motto in life is, ‘screw it, just do it.'”

SNP Vote in Favour of Medical Cannabis in Scotland [volteface]

Delegates at the SNP Party Conference last week voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising medical cannabis. They also expressed a desire to have this power devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The motion was put forward by Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and argued that having access to cannabis would help ease her pain. Brennan-Whitefield urged her fellow members to “be the party of compassion and common sense”. The main voice of opposition to the motion came from SNP councillor Audrey Doig, who was booed by the delegates for saying “I know that the MS card is being played here, but it’s not just MS that it be would be used for” and for suggesting that those with the chronic disease should try a “fitness regime” instead.

Turkey legalises controlled cannabis production in 19 provinces [Independent]

Turkey has legalised cannabis production in 19 provinces in order to crack down on illegal production, according to new regulations by The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock.  Published in the Official Gazette in late September, “Hemp Cultivation and Control of Regulations” will allow highly-controlled and ministry-sanctioned cannabis production in the selected provinces for medical and scientific purposes.  Under the regulations, growers must obtain permission from the government allowing them to grow the plant for a three-year-period, Turkish newspaper The Hurriyet reports.  Potential growers must produce a warrant proving they have not been involved in any illegal cannabis production activity or narcotic production or use in the past.

Italy’s New Medical Cannabis Bill Aims to Address Old Obstacles [Leafly]

A group of deputies from Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party have unveiled a new draft bill on medical cannabis. The measure will compete against a broader, adult-use legalization bill that Democratic Party leadership opposes. Medical cannabis has been legal in Italy since 2007, but only 12 regions have so far adopted local provisions. The new Democratic Party bill would regulate production, prescriptions, and distribution at the national level to ensure more uniform operation. The measure would also create a file maintained by the Italian control body for pharmaceutical products to compile data on the genetics of medical cannabis, cultivation areas, and medical cannabis product imports and exports.

Does weed help you sleep? Probably not [Science Daily]

Marijuana users may believe that frequent use helps them sleep, but that perception has been challenged by a new study. It found that daily marijuana users actually scored higher on the Insomnia Severity Index and on sleep-disturbance measures than those who did not use it daily.

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.

Free Cannabis Queensland 420 Picnic Brisbane, Oct 30th [Hemployment Australia]

Free Cannabis Queensland are hosting another 420 Picnic on Sunday, October 30th, from 12:30 – 5:00pm. The picnic will be a friendly gathering to provide a fun and safe event where anyone in the community can come together to show support for, or learn more about, ending the Cannabis prohibition in Australia. There will be music, comedians, games, informative talks, and great networking opportunities for anyone in the industry. We would love to have representations of all factions of our industry, from eco-friendly retailers, to Medicinal Cannabis patients, and artists, connoisseurs, media, or just plain enthusiasts for the cause. If you would like to contribute in any way to the event please just reply to this email, or contact FCQ at their events page on Facebook. If you don’t have the time to put anything together, no worries, if you’re in the area come down and say hello on the day – we’ll have a big sign and a marquee and we’d love to meet you!

Last chance to ‘Support the Conversation Around Psychedelics’ and claim some wonderful perks! [Entheogenesis Australis]

We’re currently counting down the final few days of the Entheogenesis Australis (EGA) crowdfunding campaign – ‘Support the Conversation Around Psychedelics’. The EGA team have all been working very hard and are now very close to the goal but not yet over the line. If you’ve been thinking about donating or intending to pick up one of the diverse perks generously provided by the EGA creative community – now is the time to act! There has been a number of new perks added throughout the campaign, including some just this week, so it’s worth visiting the campaign page and making sure you don’t miss out. We hope that the funds raised will provide a much needed kick start to assist us with our main objective of producing a world class psychedelics symposium in Australia in 2017. Any donations – big or small – will help immensely in this final stage. You can also assist by simply sharing the campaign link (www.chuffed.org/project/psychedelics) or this facebook post: www.facebook.com/EGA.plant.org/posts/650207611816864

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