Azadirachtin, Hyperemesis and Herxing?


Image result for neemPeople have used Cannabis sativa L., (Cannabis) for thousands of years (2900 BCE in China) without a single sign of the purported ‘Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome’ (CHS) symptoms. Modern day organic insecticides have a lot to answer for, but nobody seems to be blaming them, when they should! At the beginning of the century, the evergreen Neem tree was highly esteemed by Indian migrants who took it to where they settled, introduced to Australia, Africa, south-east Asia and South America. Today, the Neem tree is well established in at least 30 countries across Asia, Africa, Central and South America with small scale plantations in Europe and the United States. 

Azadirachtin (C35H44O16) is the key insecticidal ingredient found in the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica), commonly called Indian (or Persian) Lilac or White Cedar. Neem trees were first introduced to Australia between 1940 and 1944 in the Northern Territory and Queensland. In the 1960’s, Neem trees were planted at Darwin Airport as part of a government–RAAF initiative. In Western Australia, governments promoted Neem as an amenity tree in the 1970’s (trees introduced into local landscapes with a deemed value to the community, i.e., for shade and mosquito deterrence) and in the late 1980’s, Comalco began trials of a new variety. The first Australian Neem workshop at the University of Queensland (1988) triggered a surge in interest. Landholders, scientists and companies started enthusiastically planting Neem trees and while heavily promoted, a viable industry did not develop and many plantations were abandoned. Neem has been sold as a nursery plant and at weekend markets for at least 20 years in Queensland.

Image result for neem oil on fruit and vegNeem has a range of uses but most interest lies in it’s pest control properties for which it is grown commercially. Azadirachtin is extracted from the seeds and leaves of the Neem tree and is promoted as an insecticide more ‘environmentally friendly’ than synthetics. However, in Australia in 1988, an economic assessment concluded, “Neem has little current demand with no local production and only small volumes of imports”. More than a decade later, in 2002, a report, ‘Pesticide use in Australia’, by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, noted; The growth of the organic farming industry has created increasing interest in the possible use of naturally occurring products such as Neem … increasingly sought by growers for use in both agriculture and animal husbandry. Neem-based products are not currently registered as pesticides in the marketplace. Registration requires rigorous scientific assessment in terms of safety. Since such products are not currently registered, they cannot legally be used as pesticides”.

Image result for neem oil australiaIn May 2002, the Complementary Medicines Evaluation Committee (CMEC) noted an application to the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee (NDPSC) had been made regarding Neem oil. The application had been evaluated by the Chemical Product Assessment Section (CPAS) of the TGA. The NDPSC discussed the toxicological profile of some types of Neem extracts which resulted in significant toxic effects in animals after oral administration, including testicular atrophy, impaired fertility and causing abortion (abortifacient) effects. There were case reports of lethal ingestion in children of doses as low as 5 ml and the NDPSC considered including Neem in Schedule 7 (Dangerous Poison) of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons (SUSDP) with a Schedule 5 (Caution) entry for agricultural products. CMEC were advised the NDPSC foreshadowed inclusion in Appendix C of the SUSDP of Azadirachta indica (Neem) in preparations for human use. CMEC Members noted Appendix C lists substances, other than those included in Schedule 9, of such danger to health as to warrant prohibition of sale, supply and use. Members noted the foreshadowed action would directly affect the CMEC recommendation to permit listing of Neem seed oil and would prevent use of all Neem products in therapeutic goods, cosmetics or toiletries.

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Therapeutic Goods (Listing) Notice 2003 (No. 2)

Published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. GN 32, 13 August 2003
Therapeutic Goods Act 1989
I, TERRY SLATER, National Manager, Therapeutic Goods Administration, delegate of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, under subsection 17 (5) of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, require the following therapeutic goods to be included in the part of the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for listed goods:

  1. preparations, referred to in item 3 of Schedule 4, Part 1 of the Therapeutic Goods Regulations (the Regulations) that contain, as an ingredient, cold-pressed Neem (Azadirachta indica) seed oil for topical application at concentrations up to 1%, and at concentrations greater than 1% when in a container fitted with a child resistant closure and labelled with the statements:
    • Not to be taken;
    • Keep out of reach of children; and
    • Do not use if pregnant or likely to become pregnant

Dated 4 August 2003. National Manager, Therapeutic Goods AdministrationDelegate of the Parliamentary Secretary

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Australian Federal Poisons Standard (2017) entry for Neem, Schedule 5;

AZADIRACHTA INDICA EXTRACTS (Neem extracts), extracted from Neem seed kernels using water, methanol or ethanol, in preparations containing 5% or less of total limonoids, for agricultural use. 

The Poisons Standard June 2017 consists of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons No. 17 (the SUSMP 17). Schedule 10 (Appendix C) lists AZADIRACHTA INDICA (Neem) including its extracts and derivatives, in preparations for human internal use except ‘debitterised Neem seed oil’.

Image result for neem anthelminticNeem seeds comprise 40% oil. Azadirachtin, the major active ingredient’s content in the oil varies depending on extraction technology and quality of the crushed seeds. Neem seed oil as a traditional medical remedyin widespread use across the Indian subcontinent, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore, is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, insect repellent, treats skin diseases and acts as an anti-fertility agent. The bark, leaves and purified biochemicals are anti-cancer and anti-microbial and Neem leaf extract possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Neem seed oil comprises many triterpenoids, of which Azadirachtin is the most well-known, however, there is no antidote available for Neem seed oil poisoning. Azadirachtin is implicated in causing Neem seed oil poisoning, causing diarrhoea, nausea and general discomfort when the oil is given orally as an anti-helmintic (kills worm-like parasites – flukes, roundworms and tapeworms). 

Image result for no specific antidote available for Neem seed oil poisoning.In adults, it presents as vomiting, seizures, metabolic acidosis (excessively acid body fluids or tissues) and toxic encephalopathy (malfunction of the brain), sometimes accompanied by anoxia (deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues). Recovery is complete with symptomatic treatment (therapy that affects symptoms, not cause). Fatal poisoning cases due to Neem seed oil in India and Malaysia have been reported. Five to ten millilitres of oil given orally to children against minor ailments caused vomiting, drowsiness, tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing) with acidotic respiration (lungs can’t remove enough carbon dioxide [CO2]), polymorphonuclear leukocytosis (increased white blood cells) and encephalopathy developed within hours of ingestion followed by seizures, associated with coma (in some cases). Autopsy demonstrated pronounced fatty acid infiltration of the liver and kidneys, with mitochondrial damage and cerebral oedema, changes consistent with Reye syndrome (a rarely diagnosed disorder).

The original purported CHS was a serious misdiagnosis by two South Australian General Practitioners, initially featured by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) as, Pot heads can’t stop puking, in October 2004. The article quoted a study that stated chronic Cannabis use could lead to regular bouts of non-stop vomiting and an obsession with hot showers. Dr James Hugh Allen, then a GP in Mt Barker, South Australia, needed a study to complete his specialty (anaesthesiology) so he reported this ‘rare, new syndrome’ in the November 2004 issue of the journal, Gut. Allen said the first case presented in the late 1990’s. The patient had a severe bout of vomiting. “He would vomit continuously for two or three days. It was so bad he had to go to hospital and be put on a drip”. The patient was a heavy Cannabis user who started smoking at age 19, with the vomiting starting three years later. Whilst in hospital the patient would sit in a hot shower, which he said relieved his nausea and vomiting. “It became an obsession. He would have 10 to 15 showers a day”.

Image result for south australia cannabis lawsAllen set out to test the theory that chronic Cannabis use could be behind otherwise ‘unexplained’ cases of vomiting. He identified 19 chronic Cannabis users (South Australia had fairly liberal laws regarding possession of small quantities for personal use). Of the initial 19, nine cases, plus one from Sydney, demonstrated Allen’s purported link between chronic Cannabis use and vomiting. “They all had exactly the same ‘syndrome’Out of the 10 cases, seven abstained and all got better. Three took up smoking again and got sick again. Of these three, two gave up again and got better and one continued smoking and remained ill”. Allen said the illness was reasonably rare, affecting perhaps 1% of chronic users. “But some people are very sensitive to Cannabis”. He said further research was needed to test this. In January 2013, Dr Allen presented a Submission to the New South Wales’ Government ‘Inquiry Into Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes’, on behalf of the Mt Barker South Surgery. Drs Allen and Heddle wrote to remind government of their purported syndrome (having presented no further research on the subject).


Date received: 28/01/2013
We felt it was appropriate to inform the Committee about our original description of the entity of cannabinoid hyperemesis, which is a form of cyclical vomiting often needing hospitalisation that occurs in regular consumers of Cannabis, typically patients self-medicating with relatively high doses. If the medical use of Cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids is legalised, our fear is that use might increase the frequency of this syndrome, which is a distressing illness. This syndrome appears to be unique to Cannabis and our observations have over the last eight years been confirmed by reputable groups internationally … culminated in publication … of 98 cases from the Mayo Clinic … Dr Hugh Allen, MB,BCh, BAO, FRACGP, Dr Richard Heddle MB,BS, MD, FRACP


Dr Kennon Heard, Colorado

Azadirachtin was first synthesised in the United States (US) over a decade ago (2007) and was given US Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certification for sale. In 2000, use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes commenced in Colorado, US. The number of licensed patients initially grew at a modest rate, but in 2009, Colorado’s Board of Health abandoned the caregiver-to-patient ratio rule and the medical Cannabis industry took off. Increasing numbers of users started coming down with purported CHS. Coincidence? Not according to Dr Kennon Heard, Emergency Room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. He published a study in 2015, ‘Cyclic Vomiting Presentations Following Marijuana Liberalization in Colorado’, and in 2016 told CBS News“They’ll often present to the emergency department three, four, five different times before we can sort this out”. The study shows since 2009, when medical Cannabis became more widely available, emergency room visit diagnoses for purported CHS in two Colorado hospitals nearly doubled. However, the study lacks scientific proof and according to experts, the symptoms are so rare it could simply be an allergy to certain terpenes, or an issue with unregulated flower. 

Image result for cannabis business allianceMark Malone, then Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, suggested the link between purported CHS symptoms and Cannabis use is far-reaching and unsupported. He called it an ‘alleged disease’ because real numbers are not presented and the study relies on information that patients “were more likely to endorse marijuana use” which proves nothing. While a few studies have generated interest in this topic, there have been no epidemiologic studies associating Cannabis use with the ‘alleged disease’. According to the same study, “this deficit is likely multifactorial due to the lack of formal diagnostic criteria for CHS, the relatively low prevalence of this syndrome and the social stigma regarding marijuana use that discourages self-reporting”. Malone is one of the many Cannabis experts who remain sceptical about the ‘alleged disease’. He said the study is unfounded and not well-researched.

Image result for cannabis industry coloradoThe study reveals no definitive link: “Patients presenting with cyclic vomiting after marijuana liberalization were more likely to have marijuana use documented in the ED record, although it is unclear whether this effect was secondary to increased use, more accurate self-reporting, or both”. Added Malone, “The industry in Colorado had not heard of this issue until this news story”. A third study from 2012 at the Mayo Clinic, used a relatively small sample of 98 patients, ten of which followed up with the researchers. Seven of the ten in the study stopped using Cannabis. Six of the seven went into remission. In the 2009 study the researchers note, “despite a high rate of marijuana use in our community, the absolute prevalence of cyclic vomiting remained low, underscoring that CHS is a relatively uncommon condition”

Image result for Azadirachtin is used to controlAzadirachtin is used to control white flies, aphids, thrips, fungus gnats, caterpillars, beetles, mushroom flies, mealy bugs, leaf miners, gypsy moths and other ‘bugs’ on food, greenhouse crops, ornamentals and turf. The labelling for food (fruits and vegetables) says you can use it up to the day of harvest and Cannabis growers have been doing just that. There’s a long history of safe use of organic Neem and Azadirachtin products with fruits and vegetables (<30 ml, one fluid ounce, of Neem seed oil has 200-2,500 ppm of Azadirachtin). This history says root drenches do not work, because the plants do not uptake the compound through their roots. Well, Cannabis does, which means the studies of them being safe products are wrong, when it comes to Cannabis. Many producers of Azadirachtin contaminated Cannabis are otherwise exceptionally clean, ‘organic’ growers and the only thing missing is their education on Cannabis being hyper-accumulatory with phyto-remediation capabilities and not the same as a fruit nor vegetable (Cannabis is a herb). Cannabis sativa L., grown for food, housing, oil etc., is known as ‘Industrial Hemp’ because it has the capability of hyper-accumulation of industrial waste. 


Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.)

Hyper-accumulatory nature of Cannabis sativa L. is shown by accumulation of various metals (mg/kg) in industrial areas (Heavy metal contamination and accumulation in soil and wild plant species from industrial area of Islamabad, Pakistan’ 2010)

Concentration of metal (mg/kg) Root Shoot
Lead 29 mg/kg 30 mg/kg
Copper 29 mg/kg 18.2 mg/kg
Zinc 27 mg/kg 43.9 kg/kg
Nickel 13.6 kg/mg 11.3 mg/kg
Cobalt 24.7 mg/kg 14.8 mg/kg
Chromium 29.7 mg/kg 14.5 mg/kg

Azadirachtin is implicated in causing Neem seed oil poisoning and anecdotally, symptoms of Azadirachtin poisoning from contaminated Cannabis include:

  • Persistent early morning nausea
  • Inability to eat (not eating doesn’t help, however)
  • Recurrent episodes of severe nausea and intractable vomiting, hyperemesis (severe or prolonged vomiting)
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Intense pain around the kidneys and lower back muscles along the spine
  • Severely increased muscle tension over entire body

Processed food only exacerbates the symptoms of nausea and pain. Temporary relief of symptoms including the back, gut and muscle tension pain can be had by taking a hot bath or shower and cessation of symptoms will follow when the Azadirachtin toxicity reduces and eventually ceases. ‘Clean’ Cannabis (without Azadirachtin) helps alleviate the symptoms. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine), an antihistamine mainly used to treat allergies can be used for nausea and provides some relief (anecdotally). Following the antihistamine with activated charcoal can help remove the Azadirachtin more swiftly. Further suggestions for remediation include anti-nausea medication (Maxalon used in hospitals) or ginger and cayenne pepper in food along with probiotics, yoghurt and even Kombucha.

The acute inhalation toxicity study in rats exposed to technical Azadirachtin showed the LD50 (Lethal Dose) is >2.41 mg/L per animal, the highest dose tested. Although this figure is below the 5.0 mg/L limit test dose for an acute inhalation study, the reported concentration was the maximum dose possible under test conditions. 

Image result for neem fruits vegetablesCurrent and historical misinformation across mainstream western medicine says the ‘alleged disease’ happens with mass use or ‘abuse’ of Cannabis. Reality shows this syndrome happens with even low use of heavily contaminated Cannabis. When plants are treated in vegetative or early flower stages, low concentration applications can produce lightly contaminated Cannabis. Anecdotally it takes a week or so of constant use for the Azadirachtin to build up to toxic levels. Gastroenterologist’s in the US were under the impression it took significant amounts of Cannabis use to cause the ‘alleged disease’ and were quite surprised to find it can be caused by even small amounts, heavily contaminated with Azadirachtin. They were even more surprised to find use of large amounts of Cannabis was not an issue, as long as the Cannabis was not treated with Azadirachtin.

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Timeline of synthetic cannabinoids and Spice products.

In October 2012 a case was presented at the American College of Gastroenterology, entitled ‘Spicing up the Differential for Cyclical Vomiting: A Case of Synthetic-cannabinoid Induced Hyperemesis Syndrome’. This described the severe illness of a 22 year old man with aggressive disease induced by JWH-018 and JWH-073 synthetic cannabinoidsThere is an escalating number of compounds with cannabinoid receptor activity being referred to as Spice or K2 (Cannabicyclohexanol), so-called synthetic ‘Cannabis’, of which almost nothing is known in terms of pharmacology, toxicology and safety and which were never meant to be combined, combusted and inhaled! Many ingredients are listed on Spice packets, with combinations greatly varying in number and concentration, often depending on country of distribution. A packet of Spice called ‘Banana Cream Nuke’ bought in the US had the following ingredients listed: alfalfa, blue violet, nettle leaf, comfrey leaf, Gymnema sylvestre, passion flower leaf, horehound and Neem leaf.

Two other cases of the ‘alleged disease’ associated with ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ have been reported, both in 2013. Synthetic cannabinoids are created in a laboratory and despite purported similarities in action, differ enough from Cannabis metabolites that standard drug screens do not identify them as they are entirely unrelated to the actual plant. However, even reporting of the ‘alleged disease’ not being exclusive to propagated Cannabis, but occurring with ‘synthetic Cannabis’, does not add any weight to Dr Allen’s ‘alleged disease’, in fact, the opposite is true. The symptoms are those of Azadirachtin poisoning, which is what it is. In jurisdictions where Cannabis is legal, check the source and you’ll find an Azadirachtin product is being used. Nothing to do with the Cannabis, nor it’s use, as sporadic or even one-off use can replicate the symptoms. Cannabis is merely a carrier! It is everything to do with Neem, however.

Image result for cannabis plants azadirachtin

Cessation of Cannabis treated with Azadirachtin or increasing use of untreated Cannabis are both effective treatments for the toxic effects of the otherwise seemingly harmless Neem. Thus, the ‘alleged disease’, the purported Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is a complete misdiagnosis and a total misnomer as it has nothing to do with Cannabis!

Dr Allen stated in his original study; “The triad of chronic Cannabis, cyclical vomiting and compulsive bathing is indicative of a new syndrome with Cannabis ‘toxicity’ as a cause”. Cannabis is entirely non-toxic. Hence, Cannabis ‘toxicity’, like the Unicorn, does not exist.

Finally, further to having nothing to do with Cannabis, the ‘alleged disease’ exhibits such similar symptoms to ‘herxing’, the nth degree of getting worse before you get better, it’s not funny nor is it a coincidence! You might never have heard the term ‘Jarisch-Herxheimer Effect’ but generally speaking, most people have experienced it. The term was coined from the names of two doctors, Adolf Jarisch (1860-1902) and Karl Herxheimer (1861-1942) both of whom noticed that in response to treatment, many patients developed not only fever, perspiration, night sweats, nausea and vomiting, but their ailments became worse before settling down and healing. The more commonly known Herxheimer Reaction is a short-term (from a few days to a few weeks) detoxification reaction in the body. As the body detoxifies, it is not uncommon to experience flu-like symptoms including headache, joint and muscle pain, body aches, sore throat, general malaise, sweating, chills, nausea and a variety of other symptoms. Herxing is an over-reaction of receptors which basically do not know how to assimilate the tsunami of toxins, and produces a toxic response.

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Expanded from Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is Azadirachtin Poisoning, Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early FindingsTherapeutic Goods Listing Notice 2003 No. 2, Progress on Azadirachta indica based biopesticides in replacing synthetic toxic pesticidesPesticide Use In AustraliaComplementary Medicines Evaluation Committee – Minutes 34th Meeting 2002Azadirachtin, CHS (Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome) and BenadrylFinally, the Article on Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome that Readers DeserveComparative assessment for hyperaccumulatory and phytoremediation capability of three wild weedsRecognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, Neem oil poisoning: Case report of an adult with toxic encephalopathyAzadirachtinHandbook of Pesticide ToxicologyAzadirachtin, Cannabinoid Hyperemesis: A Case Series of 98 PatientsCannabinoid hyperemesis: cyclical hyperemesis in association with chronic cannabis abuseNeem Tree Risk AssessmentThe Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for ResearchBeyond THC: The New Generation of Cannabinoid Designer DrugsSynthetic Cannabinoid Leading to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis SyndromeCannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: A clinical discussion and A Gut Gone to Pot: A Case of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome due to K2, a Synthetic Cannabinoid



Cannabis, Lies in Law, Lawyers and the Law-makers

“A pretend law, made in excess of power, is not and never has been a law at all. Anyone in the country is entitled to disregard it”, Chief Justice Sir John Latham, 1942, South Australia v Commonwealth.

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At the end of 2017, a compassionate Cannabis healer from a southern Australian state asked on social media, “So when are the lawyers going to stand up against the lies based on laws which are the Cannabis laws? Cannabis is NOT a poison, NOT a narcotic, NOT a drug of dependence!” Earlier that year, Australia21 released a report from a round-table discussion involving 17 experts and practitioners. Retired judges, prosecutors, senior police, prison and parole administrators, drug law researchers and advocates met at the University of Sydney to discuss drug law reform. The round-table explored the range of alternative options to prohibition, including initiatives introduced in other countries. They addressed the question of exploring different approaches in their report, ‘Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?’ and agreed, “What we now have is badly broken, ineffective and even counter-productive to the harm minimisation aims of Australia’s national illicit drugs policy. We must be courageous enough to consider a new and different approach”. 

Already in 2018 there are a handful of court cases in which medical necessity will be used alongside not guilty pleas for a variety of Cannabis charges. Members of both the Australian Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party and the Medical Cannabis Users Association (MCUA) of Australia joined forces to survey their members, seeking detail on interactions with the vastly inequitable, illogical and inhumane ‘Cannabis laws’, charges and sentencing for all so-called ‘Cannabis crimes’, but especially for use of the plant for documented medical purposes and compassionate supply, entirely victimless crimes. One of the HEMP Party’s main policies is to end prohibition, release those imprisoned along with removal of all records of criminal Cannabis convictions. From the survey answers it is unambiguous that either the luck-of-the draw or political pressure is at play in sentencing in most states. Demarcation in sentencing along state lines is also reflected in the results, according to whichever political party is in charge in a given state at a given time.

1NTdrugdriving“Australia’s drug driving laws criminalise individuals who represent no risk to other drivers, making a mockery of the law as a tool for reasonably managing risk in a community”, Greg Barns Barrister and a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

In most states and territories the court will have no choice but to disqualify or cancel a first time offender’s drivers licence for a period of three to nine months. In the United States with the advent of Cannabis use for medicinal purposes an acknowledgement came from one superior court that it is patently unjust to penalise a person who does not threaten other road users in any way. The inherent unfairness of drug driving laws can be illustrated by comparing them to drink driving laws. The link between alcohol, road deaths and injuries is well known, as Assistant Professor Andrea Roth wrote in the California Law Review. We base drink driving laws on demonstrably correct data. Not so with other substances such as Cannabis (deemed a ‘drug’, but actually a herb). Australia takes the prohibitionist stance and applies it to driving without bothering to undertake rigorous analysis. 

“Australia’s drug driving laws have no evidential basis but can have severe impacts on the rights of individuals and their families. A zero tolerance approach to drugs while driving avoid[s] the need for a reliable science-based correlation between drug concentration and level of impairment”, Franjo Grotenhermen and colleagues, Addiction


As Professor Roth observes, it is a case of legislators being lazy and simply saying “a prohibitionist stance would have to do”. Dr Alex Wodak, Chair of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation noted, “One of the problems with ‘zero tolerance’ drug driving laws is that they punish some drivers who are not impaired as a way of deterring other drivers who might be impaired or might become impaired from driving. This is what we call ‘vicarious punishment’ and it offends basic notions of fairness”. Or, as Professor Roth put it, “punishment without purpose is immoral”. Australia’s drug driving laws have no evidential basis but can have severe impacts on the rights of individuals and their families, given loss of a driver’s licence can mean losing your job. Even more liberal laws, like those across the US are not legitimate because,  to quote Professor Roth, “there is no demonstrated linear or predictable relationship between THC blood limits and an increased crash risk”

In Arizona, US, the Supreme Court weighed into the issue with a landmark ruling that identified the flaw in zero tolerance drug driving laws. It noted a driver cannot be considered to be ‘under the influence’ based solely on concentrations of Cannabis or its metabolites that are insufficient to cause impairment. In other words, it is only legitimate as a matter of justice and sound public policy to prosecute individuals about whom it can be shown that the concentration of the ‘drug’ in their blood stream meant they presented a risk to other road users. Australian courts are on a daily basis, dealing with drug driving cases and criminalising individuals who represent no risk to other road users. This is making a mockery of the law as a tool for ensuring that risk in a community is managed reasonably. Drug driving laws must be reformed and this can only be done by pursuing rigorous analysis of the impact of drugs on driving. The only offence which ought to be on the statute books is one based, as is the case in respect of drink driving laws, where there is a strong research consensus on causation between the substance in a person’s blood stream and impairment. 

reefermadnessAustralia’s legislation regarding the use and cultivation of Cannabis is groundless, immoral and unethical, as Cannabis scheduling is based on false statements taken from the advice of some of the highest-paid (partially pharmaceutical funded), prohibitionists Australia has ever seen. For example, Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has spent years spewing ‘reefer madness’, prohibitionist driven lies and purport there is a large body of research and evidence on the “harms associated with Cannabis use”. However, their assertions are easily exposed as false with science-fact, not the fictions they consistently publish, noting that the purported Cannabis Use Disorder they are so fond of ‘studying’ was debunked in 2013, when the DSM-V was officially defunded due to the weakness of the manual, “its lack of validity”Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director of the US National Institute of Mental Health at the time, stated, “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure”. That consensus was deemed to be missing, whether it ever really existed also remains in doubt, as one consultant for DSM-III conceded about the horse-trading that drove the supposedly ‘evidenced-based’ edition from 1980, “There was very little systematic research and much of the research that existed was really a hodgepodge—scattered, inconsistent, ambiguous”.

A code of ethics commonly expresses the expectation of service to the community with values such as honesty, integrity, impartiality, respect for persons, respect for the law, diligence, economy and efficiency, responsiveness and accountability, evident in Australian professional ethical codes and guidelines. This ideal is espoused by Australian lawyers and in the ‘Ethics for In-House Counsel’ handbook the first ethical foundation is that the defining characteristic of each and every profession is a commitment to place the interests of others before those of its members, individually and collectively and to act in a spirit of public service. Another is that practising law requires the exercise of moral courage. The community is entitled to receive legal information and be provided with legal advice and representation to resolve disputes and establish or affirm individual rights and obligations.


Regrettably, as former Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Gerard Brennan observed: “Litigation is financially beyond the reach of practically everybody but the affluent, the corporate or the legally aided litigant; governments are anxious to restrict expenditure on legal aid and the administration of justice. It is not an overstatement to say the system of administering justice is in crisis. Ordinary people cannot afford to enforce their rights or litigate to protect their immunities … some solutions must be found and practical solutions are likely to be radical”. In the words of Kirby J (1995 Aust Torts Reports 81-367,62,795), “The great debate for lawyers in [this] century … is whether the ascendancy of economics and competition, unrestrained, will snuff out what is left of the nobility of the legal calling and the idealism of those who are attracted to its service. We must certainly all hope that the basic ideal of the legal profession, as one of the faithful service beyond pure economic self-interest will survive. But whether it survives or not is up to us, the lawyers of today”. 

Image result for HEMP AustraliaThere are tens-of-thousands of illicit Cannabis users across Australia who would like to know, as advisers to governments, when law societies and judicial commissions across the nation intend to look at the outlandish lies and inconsistencies in the Cannabis laws and speak to the Attorneys General about the impact the ideological, entirely failed and now admittedly lost War on Drugs is having on already sick and suffering citizens (patients, carers, parents and advocates) and why, when an ever-growing number of other jurisdictions worldwide allow use of Cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, Australians are still persecuted and prosecuted for what is, in some cases, their only choice between life and death? Australian drug laws have been established by decree, based on media-generated bigotry and beliefs, not carefully analysed evidence nor scientific facts. Severe punishment for possession and use of outlawed ‘drugs’, many safer than alcohol or tobacco, is cruel and unjust. Governments and regulatory bodies conceal truths and maintain misconceptions to justify hypocritical punishments meted out by the courts. 

“Organised crime in this state and the rest of the country is out of control and cannot be stopped without a radical change”, New South Wales Crime Commission.


In the eyes of legislators it would seem any ‘drugs’, except alcohol and tobacco, that give a degree of pleasure must be prohibited and defined as ‘a dangerous drug of addiction’, whether or not the substance in question actually causes pharmacological harm! The Howard government (1996-2007) went from ‘harm minimisation’ to ‘zero tolerance’ with a tough on drugs policy. We wonder when Australian law-makers will cast aside their irrational fear of what might happen, given there is no evidence to justify their supposed anxiety. In fact, evidence from Portugal, Uruguay and US states of Colorado, Oregon and Washington, for example, show the complete opposite. Do our law-makers still think Cannabis used for medicinal purposes will warp minds; this is nothing more than prohibitionist, reefer-madness, fear-mongering led by those with a vested interest in keeping the pharmaceutical model of healthcare that has paid their salaries for decades whilst lying to the public about the toxic side-effects of their products and stigmatising Cannabis when it is in fact an entirely non-toxic herb, not a drug of addiction at all, and safer even than water (water can kill, Cannabis cannot).

As of 1 January, 2018, Cannabis will be recreationally legal in a number of states across the US including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington DC.  This will bring America in line with Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Greece, parts of India, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and Uruguay, all of which have made recreational Cannabis use legal or decriminalised.

Image result for legalised Cannabis actually reduced homicide and assault ratesIn the US, the effect of state Cannabis legalisation on Colorado, for example, has been all good since voters legalised in November 2012 for recreational use. During the first year of implementation, Denver experienced a 2.2% decrease in violent crimes and an 8.9% reduction in property crimes, according to  research conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance. Many other reports have corroborated that data, including the Colorado Department of Public Safety and the FBI Uniform Crime Report. The Colorado Department of Public Safety report showed a 6% decrease in the violent crime rate state-wide from 2009 to 2014. Other US jurisdictions that legalised Cannabis for recreational use have experienced similar declines in violent crime. In Washington State, violent crime rates decreased by 10%, from 2011-2014 and Portland, Oregon, also saw crime rates drop since legalising Cannabis for recreational use. 

Another comprehensive study published by Dr Robert Morris, Criminology professor at University of Texas, Dallas, demonstrated legalised Cannabis actually reduced homicide and assault rates. Dr Morris’ study tracked crime rates across all 50 states between 1990 and 2006, when 11 states legalised Cannabis for medical use. “We found no increase in crime rates resulting from medical marijuana legalisation”, Morris said. “In fact, we found some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault”. Implementing and enforcing Australia’s drug laws is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Australian governments spent $1.7 billion, 2009/10, on illicit ‘drugs’; 64% law enforcement, 22% treatment, 10% prevention, only 2% harm reduction. The Australian Crime Commission’s 2011-12 Illicit Drug Data Report stated 61,011 (65%) of drug arrests were Cannabis-related. That’s police and judicial time that could be better spent dealing with actual and serious crimes such as murders, domestic violence, robberies, rapes and white-collar crimes (on the rise across many jurisdictions in Australia). 

Image result for harm minimisation australiaNew South Wales Greens Dr Mehreen Faruqi, party spokesperson on drugs and harm minimisation, stated in 2017 that while change is never easy when it comes to drug law reform, the two major political parties have persisted with “failed policies of prohibition” over the last twenty years. “It seems their minds are closed to the evidence, the opinion polling and the significant social, health and economic benefits a system of legalising and regulating Cannabis could bring”, Dr Faruqi said. Dr Faruqi envisages such a market could be modelled on Oregon or Washington, US’ models, “where there are systems of licensed sellers and restrictions on advertising and marketing”. An independent regulatory authority could oversee development of the market. “I would like to see a serious parliamentary inquiry into legalising Cannabis that can bring the best and most successful elements from around the world to Australia” she said. On the subject of home-grown, Dr Faruqi is adamant people should be allowed to grow prescribed amounts. “We have seen the power of ‘big tobacco’ and ‘big alcohol’ so we need to ensure we don’t create a monopolised ‘big Cannabis’ either”, Dr Faruqi concluded.

Classified federally as a Schedule I substance in the US, defined as a “most dangerous” drug, “with no currently accepted medical use”. Neither of those statements has ever been factual, said internationally respected US Neurosurgeon and Medical Correspondent for CNN, Dr Sanjay Gupta, whom also said, “We have been terribly and systematically misled [regarding the medical benefits of Cannabis] for over 70 years and I, for one, am sorry for the part I have played in that”.


We understand sentencing is a state related matter but as we all live in the same country and the purported ‘crimes’ are the same, why, for example, is one state seemingly lenient and another incredibly harsh? Roadside Drug Testing (RDT) is a perfect example of legislation designed to suit a political agenda and not a road safety one. Testing for the presence of a substance in one’s system to purportedly make the roads safer is a complete waste of police time when they don’t test for substances that actually kill on the roads, like benzodiazepines (just behind alcohol and ahead of cocaine in drugs causative of fatal road accidents). A 2017 paper by Wollongong University Associate Professor of Law Julia Quilter and University of New South Wales Professor of Law Luke McNamara took a look at how Australian drug driving laws have developed over time and their inconsistency with “the evidence-based impairment paradigm”.

In Zero Tolerance’ Drug Driving Laws in Australia: A Gap Between Rationale and Form, the researchers aimed to call out “unprincipled law making and encourage governments to be attentive to the normative deficits … of how criminal law is employed as a public policy tool”. Random Breath Testing (RBT) transformed the common practice of drink driving into a “highly stigmatised criminal behaviour” and improved road safety. However, because of the flawed premise Australia’s current drug driving laws are based upon, they don’t have the potential to do the same. Drug driving laws across the nation make it an offence to drive a vehicle with the mere presence of certain illicit substances in a person’s system. In most jurisdictions, police only test for Cannabis, amphetamines and MDMA. Victoria was the first state to introduce this model in 2004, after amending the Road Safety Act 1986. Section 49(1)(bb) provides a person is guilty of an offence if driving “while the prescribed concentration of drugs or more … is present in his or her blood or oral fluid”. Section 3 defines “prescribed concentration of drugs” as “any concentration”.

Image result for testing for impairment improves road safety.

This model doesn’t align with the equation that testing for impairment improves road safety. Mobile drug testing doesn’t test if there are “active” drugs in a person’s system. It only tests for presence. As Lismore local court magistrate, David Heilpern accepted, drivers can test positive for ‘drugs’ they have taken days prior. A positive test result is no indication a driver is impaired and unfit to drive. Thus the whole rationale of road safety is lost when drivers using other licit (particularly pharmaceuticals) or illicit drugs that impair are allowed to use motor vehicles while impaired. Then there’s the over-criminalisation of those who do use ‘drugs’ being tested for. These individuals are punished as dangerous drivers, when there is no evidence they have actually been driving in an impaired state. These drivers are subjected to hefty fines and licence disqualification. In some jurisdictions there’s even a prison penalty option. Researchers recommend all Australian jurisdictions make three changes to existing drug driving laws:

  1. All drugs known to impair driving should be tested for, whether licit or illicit.
  2. Oral fluid testing should only be used as an initial test. Following test should be a blood sample, sent off for laboratory analysis; the basis to any criminal charges. Oral fluid tests are “a relatively poor mechanism for assessing” impairment. In the 2013 Wolff report the “gold standard” for drug detection is a blood sample; and,
  3. Minimum prescribed concentrations for all impairing drugs should be set (in 2012, Norway introduced evidence-based concentrations for 20 non-alcohol drugs, legal and illegal).

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey revealed the Australian community’s support for a new approach to drug use and addiction. Penington Institute’s acting CEO David Grant said the findings further highlight Australia’s existing approach to addiction, overdose and problematic ‘drug’ use simply isn’t working. “The failed War on Drugs continues to cost lives and money – it provides very poor return on investment for the Australian community and there is a growing awareness of this fact. Throughout the entire Australian community more and more people are dying from drug use – this is an avoidable tragedy. In addition to this, untold amounts of taxpayer dollars are squandered on an approach that continues to fail to the detriment of our entire community”. Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2017 (from the Penington Institute) shows more than twice as many Australians are now dying due to accidental overdose compared to those dying from car accidents.

Image result for australia deaths related to pharmaceutical opioids

A significant increase in deaths related to pharmaceutical opioids, street heroin and highly potent fentanyl is also highlighted. “We need to treat drug use and addiction for what it is – a serious community health issue with widespread implications for our society. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem – we need better community education for people who are experimenting with drug use before they become addicted and greater availability to a range of health and support services. We need to shift our approach to evidence-based measures with proven results – this isn’t about going soft on drugs it’s about getting smart on drugs”. Mr Grant says a review of expenditure and the allocation of resources in relation to drugs is one option to work towards a more targeted and effective response to drug use in the Australian community.

Past President and current Treasurer of the MCUA, Gail Hester, summed up the situation across Australia noting that the MCUA, a not-for-profit incorporated association, with 16,000 Aussie members in their Facebook group, all want access to affordable Cannabis, including growing their own plants for medicine and food to treat and prevent illness. Although access was purportedly made legal last year, less than 200 people nationwide have been granted access via prescription as doctors are not prepared to risk their licence by prescribing it and apparently indemnity insurers are playing a role as well. This leaves thousands of otherwise law-abiding Australians with no choice but to seek out Cannabis on the black market or grow their own and it is becoming more common that patients and providers are raided, busted and dragged through the courts by police who confiscate medicine and destroy plants.

Patients and carers need protection in place to stop this happening. Courts are becoming seriously clogged with those whom use Cannabis for medicinal purposes and families are having children taken and put into “care” due to employing illicit Cannabis with amazing results for, particularly, paediatric epilepsy and autism. This too has to stop. Many hundreds of seniors who used Cannabis as a social choice have now found themselves turning to the plant to reduce symptoms of illness and ageing such as chronic pain, migraine, glaucoma, adult epilepsy and a myriad of other conditions including mental health issues including depression, anxiety and the likes of PTSD. This is because Cannabis works on the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to create and ensure balance (homoeostasis) across all the other major bodily systems and keeps disease at bay.

We know Cannabis is safe for the greater majority of people as no one has ever died from overdose (not physiologically possible), unlike the current epidemic of opioid deaths. The gateway theory has been debunked over and over and states in the US where Cannabis is fully legal have seen a drop in road related deaths, mainly because people are using less alcohol. Police continue to raid and destroy crops and take the safer option off the street here in Australia and a multitude of citizens have been seriously let down. Lucy Haslam of United in Compassion, spoke of the deep shame she felt in politicians who had imposed a system designed primarily for pharmaceutical companies; bureaucratic, convoluted, time-consuming, over-regulated and expensive. The overwhelming majority of medical Cannabis users are still forced to the black market. 

Image result for united in compassion“I think that New South Wales voters should realise they have been duped at both the state level and the federal level. Politicians have been very quick to stand in front of the camera and to take the accolades for making medical Cannabis available when in fact they’ve done the opposite”, Lucy Haslam, United in Compassion. 

In practice, the laws allowing access to medicinal Cannabis are so strict that not more than thirty or forty patients are able to access legal Cannabis in New South Wales. Lucy Haslam estimates the black market contains tens of thousands of medical Cannabis users. While access to medical Cannabis is administered in this highly restricted, bureaucratic manner, many of the activists who campaigned for legalisation continue to be arrested by the police and their supplies and their plants confiscated. A good example of misleading information is the New South Wales Centre for Road Safety website which states THC (Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) can typically be detected in saliva by a Mobile Drug Testing (MDT) stick for up to 12 hours after use (studies suggest THC is detectable for up to 22-24 hours). Stiff penalties apply for those caught; court, loss of licence, fine, a criminal record, driver education.

Criminal Barrister Stephen Lawrence said he heard hundreds of cases where drivers tested positive to Cannabis despite saying they smoked “well outside the 12-hour period. When you, as a magistrate or a criminal lawyer see a constant run of cases where people are saying exactly the same thing and you judge it not to be said in a self-serving way – you form a view. A lot of practitioners have certainly now formed the view the 12-hour figure is misleading”. Lawrence said it has been a constant issue” since government announced a crackdown on drug driving in 2015, warning mobile drug testing would triple to almost 100,000 tests each year by 2017. He said the government needs to look at its advice urgently. In a scathing judgement, Lismore magistrate David Heilpern said he’d heard hundreds of similar cases in the space of just a few months in which drivers said they waited days, sometimes weeks, after smoking Cannabis before driving, but still tested positive.

Image result for Lismore magistrate David Heilpern

He said prosecution remained silent through hundreds of cases, even when defendants claimed they tested positive after passive smoking, eating hemp seeds, rubbing hemp balm or taking medicinal tincture. In the vast majority of cases the time-frame has been over 12 hours” Mr Heilpern said. On not one occasion has the prosecution cavilled with this contention. The prosecution have remained silent when people claim they consumed Cannabis weeks prior. Not once has any scientific evidence been produced … that supports the contention the final or any other test only works for 12 hours. It could be every single one of those defendants are lying to the police. However, on balance, I find that this is unlikely”. Stephen Lawrence agreed, As a criminal lawyer, you get a sense, over a long period of time, as to whether people are being self-serving and dishonest or whether they are being honest and frank. It is a defence to a criminal charge if a person has an honest and reasonable mistaken belief in a state of affairs which, if it exists, means they are not guilty” he said.

So for example, if you had an honest and reasonable belief based on things that you read on a government website about how long active THC stays in your system, you had structured your behaviour around that advice and then you tested positive for a roadside test – then you should be seeking legal advice about whether you might have a defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact”, Criminal Barrister Stephen Lawrence.

Image result for Queensland Council of Civil Liberties

In 2017, the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties’ President Mr Michael Cope stated, “The personal use and possession of all drugs (psychoactive substances) and psychotropic plants should be decriminalised. A policy along those lines was implemented in Portugal in 2001. It has been a great success with none of the predicted dire consequences transpiring”. A study found that in Portugal since decriminalisation;

  • Levels of drugs use are less than the European average, 
  • Drug use has declined amongst 15-24 year olds, 
  • Deaths due to drug use have declined significantly

The same study reports the enforcement of criminal laws has, at best, a marginal impact in deterring people from drug use. “The centre of the Portuguese approach is harm minimisation by treating drug use as a health problem and not a criminal law problem”. Casey Isaacs, Criminal Defence Lawyer and partner at Caldicott Lawyers says, “It would take a total rethink of a lot of the criminal laws that exist. Once you make it legal, it affects drug driving laws, it will affect a lot of the provisions of the Sentencing Act”. Rachel Shaw, Criminal Defence Lawyer and a partner with Shaw and Henderson said, “At the moment, the legislation is all about what you can’t do, but my suggestion is that you create a law about what is permissible, what you can do”. The nightmare scenario would be pressing delete without doing anything else. Overnight no one from judges down to the cops would know what to do about all the boring, technical stuff.

Both Casey and Rachel suggested the best way to deal with this is to let medical Cannabis for medicinal purposes do the heavy lifting as it raises all the same issues as decriminalising Cannabis for recreational use and places like South Australia and Victoria have already reformed their Cannabis for medicinal use laws and these could be expanded to include recreational. Home cultivation would help combat the black market, according to a policy paper drafted by the British Columbia wing of Canada’s Liberal Party back in 2013. Growing Cannabis at home, the policy makers wrote, would give consumers a legal alternative to retail Cannabis, which means there wouldn’t be any need to keep dealers on the street in business and competing with home cultivation would force businesses to keep the cost of retail Cannabis low and the quality high in order to attract customers. 

503e589cab97b59cc53421127b6291af_400x400Colorado, after only a couple of years of legalisation had their lowest teen Cannabis use rate ever recorded, significant drops in violent crime figures, as well as lower driving fatality statistics. Additionally, opioid overdose deaths are lower in every state with legal access to Cannabis. Internationally respected scientific and medical figures, from the United Kingdom, Neuropharmacologist David Nutt, and from the US, Psychologist Dr Mitch Earleywine, Neurobiologist Dr Carl Hart and Psychiatrist Dr Lester Grinspoon among others, agree on the issue of facts and actual science relating to Cannabis and its medical properties.


So why has literally nothing changed in Australia? There are many factors. Firstly, major lobbying from pharmaceutical companies (which donate to major politic parties). Sales figures for opiate painkillers in legal Cannabis states in US tell of massive declines in sales as people switch to a non-lethal, herbal alternative, which many are able to grow themselves at home. In the US, the top five lobby groups opposing legislative change are police unions, private prison corporations, ‘big pharma’ companies, prison guard unions and alcohol producers. There are certainly elements of all these lobby groups active in Australia too, alongside various religious groups. Australians are being force-fed privatisation, with no offer of decriminalisation nor legalisation, driven by unmitigated greed and a complete lack of understanding of even the mechanism-of-action of Cannabis.

medicianl-cannibasAustralia could learn from the US ‘experiment’ or take a leaf out of Uruguay’s book, where full legalisation of all previously illicit ‘drugs’ took place in 2013. Drug consumption is not a crime in Uruguay, state law permits the use of any recreational substance and does not criminalise possession for personal use. Cannabis may be obtained by growing it for personal use, buying it from pharmacies or the Ministry of Health, or by being a member of a Cannabis club. Uruguay gained its prominent position on drug-related issues through vigorous campaigns in political and diplomatic arenas for drug control policies that remain cognisant of human rights, emphasise civil society participation, remain impartial and egalitarian according to principles of mutual and shared responsibility and avoid stigmatisation.

Expanded from, Australia’s drug driving laws are grossly unfair and This Can’t Go OnOpen Letter from the Front-line of the War on Drugs,  Legal Experts Call For Changes to NSW Roadside Drug Testing, How Australia Can Legalise Recreational Weed Within Five YearsCannabis Re-legalisation Its About Freedom and Good Health, Australian Law Enforcement Have Lost the War on Drugs, with The example of Dr Pot (Nimbin Good Times) by Dr John Jiggens


Tell-All Interview With Australia’s Lucy Haslam

Compassionate access campaigner battles by telling the truth

Lucy Dan Lou Haslam

For nearly four years Lucy Haslam, mother, grandmother, ex-nurse and patient advocate par excellence has been the embodiment of medical cannabis and its legal reform in Australia. These days though she says she is saddened and feeling angry. Saddened, she says, over the way Australia – from such a promising start – has handled the roll out of a system supposedly ushering in both the plant’s cultivation and access to it by patients since legislation was changed back in 2016. And angry at the lies being told – by governments and their bureaucracies – in order to throttle that access while appearing to do something positive. “2017 has been a terrible year where cannabis is concerned”, Lucy said. “There’s a national policy quite deliberately in place to prevent wider use of the medicine. It’s regardless of any legislation or regulation; just ‘policy’, simple as that. And it desperately needs to be changed. Which is what we’ll continue to fight for next year”. 

United In compassionThe founder of United in Compassion, one of this country’s most vocal cannabis advocacy groups, is talking from the small office she’s created in an outbuilding at the back of her home in Tamworth, New South Wales (NSW) which serves as the organisation’s headquarters. But what does she mean when she says ‘fight’? “We’ll throw some light where it’s not wanted for one thing. About 18 months ago I was halfway through writing a book. Then I stopped. I don’t know why, I just did. But now I’ve gone back to it, and let’s just say I know a whole lot more now than I did when I first began – and that was when Dan was still with us”. She’s speaking of course about her late son, who, at the age of just 20 was diagnosed with the bowel cancer that would ultimately end his short life. Cannabis, Dan found, was the only substance to give him relief from the unbearable effects of his radical chemotherapy, but the use of which made him a criminal. It was this obvious injustice – employing a ‘drug’ found to be so effective in such awful circumstances, but which was completely illegal – that led the Haslams to begin their campaign, in a story that’s become almost legendary.

Lucy Dan Lou Haslam
Countless TV appearances and a 250,000-strong petition later and the Turnbull Government, in the face of enormous public pressure brought about largely by Dan and Lucy’s efforts, passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act in February 2016. It was done, cynically, on the anniversary of Dan’s death a year earlier and when it went through – with unanimous support in both Houses – Lucy described the event as ‘pretty amazing’. But that’s not what she thinks any more. Those who’ve followed Australia’s medical cannabis ‘journey’ will be aware the policies and government action surrounding it have been what any normal person would call reprehensible. Far from marking “an historic day for Australia” and ensuring “genuine patients were no longer treated as criminals” as then Health Minister Sussan Ley put it the day legislation was passed, the ‘drug’ is as difficult to get hold of (legally speaking) as ever. And patients – including children – have died.

Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act in February 2016

I had faith in my Government”, Lucy said. “Blind faith. You do, don’t you? If they tell you they’re going to do something, that they’re going to support you then that’s what you expect to them to do. We wanted a scheme based on compassionate access, on person-centred medicine and that’s what I thought we’d get. What we’ve ended up with is probably the worst system in the world. Australia is the only place where a system for medical cannabis supposedly exists but where no-one can get medical cannabis. It really is pretty disgusting”. So what does she think needs to happen? What can be done to improve the lot of the thousands across Australia now using cannabis for medicinal purposes – all bar a minuscule handful sourcing it from a vast and expanding black market? “I have a few ideas”, Lucy said, “and the book will be part of that mix. Those responsible for this mess know exactly who they are and what they’ve been up to and it’s about time some of that was made public. I’ve done my utmost to work co-operatively until now yet I feel I’ve been largely ignored and the public has been massively duped. Maybe sharing a bit of this background might move certain people into re-thinking policy, who knows?”

Mike Baird

If anyone’s privy to the kind of ‘background’ being referred to it’s Lucy. From the outset she’s been – and has remained – in close touch with politicians, government officials, public figures and cannabis experts worldwide so has a few tales to tell. Only last month it was announced former NSW Premier Mike Baird and ‘Australia’s Sweetheart’ Olivia Newton John had become Patrons of UIC. So the book then. Will she give everyone a sneak preview? “It’s Dan’s story”,’ she says, “and mine. But it’s a lot of other people’s as well. Take Suli Peek for example – her treatment by Queensland Health and the Lady Cilento Hospital was beyond contemptible. I think it was possibly criminal. That child died without being given the opportunity to find out whether a legal supply of her medicine might have kept her alive a bit longer. We can’t say for sure that it would, but doctors can’t say it wouldn’t. What we can say is she never had the chance to find out”.

Suli Peek

Suli’s plight was highlighted by AMC Signpost in September, just a few weeks before she passed away, one of several children ‘compassionate supplier’ Jenny Hallam identified in a powerful video made about some of the families she’s helped. Hallam, whose home was raided at the beginning of 2017 is still awaiting trial for her ‘crime’ and could face jail time for trafficking ‘drugs’. “I won’t give too much away”, Lucy says, “but it’s full of anecdotes that aren’t as yet in the public domain and which are likely to raise a few eyebrows …”. Such as? “Well, here’s an example”, she says. “It shows you the kind of misinformation being spread and the sorts of people that do it, thought it’s rather surprising in this instance because the credentials involved are impeccable. The individual concerned should have been bigger and better than this”. She’s referring to a piece in the latest edition of the popular science magazine Cosmos, edited by Elizabeth Finkel, who authored the article in question.

Elizabeth Finkel

Titled ‘The Bad Science of Medical Cannabis‘, it was in some ways reasonably informed – which you’d expect from a high ranking scientist and admirably qualified academic like Finkel. But it was damning about ‘natural’ cannabis, describing it as “medieval medicine – akin to boiling willow bark to treat headacheIn the 29 US states that have legalised it”, Finkel wrote, “dispensaries that resemble something out of a Harry Potter tale sell candies, cookies, oils, ointments and joints to an estimated 2.3 million Americans. As to their exact medical benefits and risks, no one knows”. “But here’s the thing”, Lucy says, “the argument hung largely on a couple of highly negative remarks attributed to Dedi Meiri, one of the foremost researchers in the world when it comes to cannabis as a treatment for cancer. Dedi and the Israelis in general, really are blazing a trail in this sphere”, she continues, “so when I saw what he’d apparently said my heart literally sank. And then the alarm bells began seriously ringingFinkel had Meiri saying ‘Even now I am reluctant to tell people I work on medical cannabis’, and that he was ‘not pro-cannabis; I think 90% is placebo’, – kind of important when coming from such a giant at work in that crucial space”.

Dedi Meiri Israel“And especially true when the article is picked up and used by other media outlets both here and all over the world, including an interview with Finkel on ABC radio’s Night Live just recently. I know Dedi quite well, Lucy goes on, “he spoke at our last Symposium, so I was amazed when I read the Cosmos piece and I dropped him a quick line. This is how he replied: ‘Happy you asked me these questions. The title of the article is: The Bad Science of Medical Cannabis – what do you think I think about this? I was shocked to read it and to realise how much Elizabeth hadn’t understood what I said – and her use of half-sentencesFor example, I said ‘I still see myself more of a cancer researcher than a cannabis one so when someone asks me what I do I tell them I run a cancer research lab. From that we end up with ‘even now I’m reluctant to tell people I work on medical cannabis!’ I told her many times ‘even if 90% of what people are saying about cannabis is placebo, still 10% (non-placebo) is huge. There are so many indications that cannabis can help with, even if just 10% are real it’s still the biggest thing in medicine in the last 100 years’. From that we got ‘I am not pro-cannabis; I think 90% is placebo’. I’m totally upset about this article’, Dedi told me, then went on to blame himself for not looking at it before publication because of time constraints. ‘It’s my fault’, he said, ‘and this is my penalty for not reading it first. Though when it came out I was very angry and I’m totally unhappy with the way my views were presented, I’ve learned a lesson and I’m very sorry for the outcome’”.


Interesting, especially when it turns out Finkel is involved with an outfit called AUSiMED, which raises funds to support scientific collaborations between Australia and Israel. She’s also the wife of Australia’s multi-millionaire Chief Scientist, so chances are her views are shared in some fairly high places. No wonder we’re where we are now. “These are the sorts of distortions that happen every day of the week”, Lucy says, “though this one’s particularly egregious. Finkel would no doubt be acutely aware of Israel’s ‘Green Book’ – official guidance for GP’s from the country’s Ministry of Health about prescribing cannabis to the 27,000 plus patients already receiving it. High-ranking TGA representatives were given a copy of this personally by Israeli officials during a visit – I saw it myself – yet it’s been completely ignored”. Which is significant since Australia is about to be handed down its own ‘National Clinical Guidelines’ which Lucy and others are dreading. “It was put together by some of the most rabidly anti-cannabis researchers and academics in the world”, Lucy says, meaning the ‘Foxes’ AMC Signpost discussed as far back as January, set to guard the ‘Henhouse’ of medical cannabis.

Reefer MadnessThey include Wayne Hall – a Prince among the ‘Reefer Madness’-type propagandists and Jan Copeland, ex-Head of the country’s now defunct National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. Hall’s work has been described as ‘deeply flawed’ while Copeland once said of cannabis “The burden of disease… due to its use and dependence is estimated to be greater than that of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C combined”. Needless to say, as one wag wrote, “the Australian government spent $40 million on Prof Jan and NCPIC over the next eight years and, during that time, there was not one death attributed to this scourge of humanity”. Other stories that spring to Lucy’s mind are the fact that Mike Baird, when Premier, was deliberately thwarted in his efforts to provide wider patient access by then Health Minister Jillian Skinner abetted by various officials. “How can we stop this?” Skinner apparently asked, to be told: “Just tie it all up in clinical trials and base access on the outcome of those”, which of course is exactly what happened, leading to situations like the one described in, NSW Health’s Machiavellian games with Medicinal Cannabis.

TGAIt had politicians running for cover and bureaucrats babbling excuses (completely misleading but naturally) on 2GB Radio within hours. “I also know that Labor, if elected, plan to leave cannabis with the TGA”, Lucy says, “‘so I’ve written a bit about that. And when those National Clinical Guidelines hit, politicians of any flavour will have the perfect excuse to keep access completely fettered. The ‘experts’ will confirm there’s no evidence while over-stressing the risks. And they’ve been so sneaky about it; look at the expert advisory thing …”. She’s talking here about the so-called ‘Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis’ – a group of political appointees gathered by the TGA to give input on policy matters. It again includes Professor Wayne Hall as well as other equally hostile figures – and was the subject of another piece back in February. Only recently documents were received by AMC Signpost pertaining to the Council, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Though heavily redacted (and subject to an immediate appeal) still, some of them show just how conniving the top brass involved in all of this are, as one missive between the TGA’s head John Skerritt and his lieutenant Bill Turner amply illustrates.

Australia's TGA cannabis

Discussing, from what we’re able to tell, the appointment of the Council’s Chairman, here’s Skerrit’s directions to Turner: “I need more advice as I have serious concerns about signing the submission in its current form …” Skerritt says. “I do not think it appropriate that a Minute should refer to bias/favouritism. We should be silent on this. We should also be totally neutral on the language re. the nomination using only the passive voice so as not to suggest it is a nomination from me …”. They also show how Helen Zorbas from Cancer Australia – who sits on the Council as one of just two ‘patient groups’ supposedly being represented – was at pains to explain her organisation was actually no such thing (as was pointed out at the time). “I think it important that neither I nor Cancer Australia, as a government agency, is portrayed as representing cancer consumers”, Zorbas said. “I presumed I was being invited for my expertise in evidence based practice and policy in cancer control”, she told the TGA, though it fell on completely deaf ears. The organisation continued to lead the public and press to believe otherwise.

Blood on their hands Derryn Hinch Senate cannabis

The documents also revealed Wayne Hall had provided advice to the Queensland Government – which would later produce its own Guidelines for the prescription of cannabis. They stipulated ‘no THC for those under 25 years of age’ thus in effect preventing children like Suli Peek from obtaining a legal supply. Some people, it seems, really do have blood on their hands as Derryn Hinch told the Senate in an October debate on proposed legislation to relax the TGA’s Category A access pathway. These are just some of the least explosive from Lucy’s long list of tales – from how she was duped into brokering a deal with Labor to facilitate passage of the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act to the real story of how a planned farm to grow cannabis fell through, there are some real surprises in store. “Looking back, going through my diaries it’s surprising how much there is to tell”, she says. “I’ll try and include as much as I can but meanwhile, we’ve still got an uphill battle”.  She’s particularly dismayed, she says, by the in-fighting between other cannabis activists whose numbers have swollen since its use as a medicine was given such a high profile from 2014 on.


Facebook, has, over the last several months, been like a war zone, with petty rivalries, personal dislikes and vendettas being aired publicly often accompanied by some outrageously venomous accusations. “This ought to stop”, she says, “it’s making us all look ridiculous. The John Skerritts and Bill Turners of this world who look at the pages concerned must be rubbing their hands at all this. It’s total disorganisation. I’m not asking anyone to join UIC or anything like that. What I am suggesting is keep whatever grievances there are out of the public domain. Trying to score points and abuse others as some have been doing is totally counter-productive and makes it look like the whole movement’s imploding when it actually that isn’t the case, as I hope we’ll be showing in 2018I’ll never give up on this”, she insists. “I’m 55 now, I reckon I’ve got another 20 years in me and if that’s what it takes I’ll spend that time fighting for what’s right. I really believe we’re going to get there. Good has just got to win out”.

Medical cannabis knowledge is power

How then, with so many obstacles, does she believe that might happen? “It’s partly a struggle between the educated and the uneducated”, she says. “Where medicinal cannabis is concerned, you tend to find there are two kinds of people – those who know nothing about it and believe all the nasty propaganda they’ve been fed and those who begin to educate themselves and find out, and as soon as they do they become converts”. To these she could easily have added a third – those who simply refuse to accept facts when presented to them – those perhaps like Wayne Hall and Elizabeth Finkel. What’s really needed Lucy believes, is an Australian Sanjay Gupta – the American doctor and CNN’s chief medical correspondent who, in 2013, very publicly apologised to the entire nation for getting things wrong about cannabis. In 2009 he penned an article for Time Magazine called ‘Why I Would Vote No On Pot’ but subsequently changed his opinion. “I am here to apologise”, he wrote. “I apologise because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis”.

Dr Sanjay Gupta Cannabis

And he went on to admit, “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years … and I apologise for my own role in that”. But set against such positions “there are some serious forces at work” Lucy reckons. “Drug companies in particular help shape medicines policy in this country and cannabis is no exception. We need to understand what’s going on. It takes corporations many years and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars to bring a drug to market. They’re not just going to accept something like cannabis slipping through all the hoops they’ve had to jump through unchallenged, especially if it eats into profits. And Australia accounts for just 1% of Big Pharma’s business globally, yet companies like Pfizer are among some of this country’s largest. Imagine if they simply turned round and said ‘ok we don’t want to market our products here any more because of medicinal cannabis’. That’s probably what the Government is scared of and possibly the kinds of threats such companies could make. Don’t forget all of them have highly resourced ‘Market Access Divisons’ whose sole job it is to – one way or another – buy influence. Unless we recognise that and realise quite what a spot politicians are in, it’s unlikely we’ll get very far. I hate the situation, but it’s a real one and there actually aren’t easy answers. And that’s just one of the issues we face”.

So what then might be the way forward?  “Well look”, Lucy says, “Iain McGregor of the Lambert Initiative recently estimated there were 250,000 patients using the ‘drug’ medicinally. That’s quite a lot and the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. There’s nothing this Government has done that can’t be adjusted – though we might need a new one to do it. What I do know is, there’s not a single country that’s legalised medicinal cannabis without its own specialist office or organisation to deal with it. There’s no reason, if things are done properly, why such an entity shouldn’t exist as a branch within the TGA but the political will is needed to make it happen. And its purpose should be to facilitate cannabis availability not prevent it. What’s needed are wide n=1 trials for everyone currently using cannabis medicinally – while providing them a legal supply. There was a great piece in Medical Republic on this just recently.  Policy-makers could start off by reading that. Whether it’s through the Courts or the court of public opinion, whether it’s at the political level or whether all three, which it probably will be, we just need to keep up the pressure”.

Cannabis IS medicine
“The argument’s already been lost by our opponents in terms of whether the ‘drug’ can and should be used as a medicine – that’s why they’re forced to lie all the time. And it’s also why we need to be better organised if we’re to continue. But it needs to be done as sanely and as reasonably as possible, even when we have cause to embarrass them”. By ‘them’ Lucy means both politicians and their bureaucrats as well as those in the medical profession enjoying the largesse of Big Pharma. “It’s not going to happen overnight”, Lucy says, “especially with those forthcoming Clinical Guidelines. So we need to be ready and we need to be able to challenge – and be able to do it on all fronts. It’s a big task, but it’s worked overseas and we’ve done it once here already so it’s certainly far from impossible. I wish we weren’t in this position but there are people too sick to fight for themselves and I’m grateful to have people around me obviously on the side of the angels”. And if Dan were here, what would he make of it all? “He would be devastated”, Lucy says. “He’d be very angry. And he was not someone who’d get angry easily. He’d think it’s despicable, what’s happened. I often feel like he’s with me though, while I’m doing what I’m doing. For that reason I’ll never give up”. And there’s something about her that makes you just know she means every word.

Adapted from Tell All: An Interview With Lucy Haslam


For the Goodness of Your Health’s Sake, Look After Your Endocannabinoid System

There are many who really want to look after their health and with that in mind, there’s a biological system we should all become better acquainted with, regardless of age. One that since discovery in the 1980’s-1990’s barely gets taught at medical school, but one that performs an extraordinarily vital role in keeping our health in balance (homoeostasis). It’s called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and it is responsible for modulating, regulating and maintaining many physiological systems in the human brain and body including sleep, appetite, mood, immune system, reproduction, pain, inflammation and much more involved with everyday experience.

Homeostasis, maintenance of a constant internal environment in response to changes

When scientists were first studying Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they realised most mammals have a vast network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain, central nervous, immune and gastrointestinal systems. The discovery of receptors in the brain that respond pharmacologically to cannabinoids (chemical compounds that trigger cannabinoid and other receptors) and the subsequent identification of endogenous (endo meaning ‘within’ the body) cannabinoid compounds, endocannabinoids, which bind to these receptors and act like locks on the surface of cells waiting to be opened, has significantly advanced a better understanding of human biology, health and disease. The ECS has been likened to a dimmer switch, working to keep the primary functions within the body operating at optimum level.

ECS Man and Woman

Over 100 cannabinoids have been identified in the Cannabis plant. Of these molecules, THC and cannabidiol (CBD) have been studied most extensively along with the endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2AG. In recent years, scientists associated with the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS have elucidated a therapeutic impact. Dr Sean McAllister and colleagues, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco laboratory, stated the best results were obtained when CBD was administered along with THC. Several studies underscore the therapeutic advantages for combining CBD and THC, particularly for treating peripheral neuropathy, a painful condition associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, arthritis and other neurodegenerative ailments.

Clinical research conducted with GW Pharmaceuticals has also shown that CBD is most effective as an analgesic when administered in combination with whole plant THC. Unfortunately, through stresses of modern living (most in western ‘civilisation’ live in a toxic soup with faux food and synthetic ‘medicines’), the ECS can become depleted, meaning it cannot effectively carry out its role of bringing balance to the body. American Neurologist Ethan Russo termed this, ‘Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency’, suggesting it lies at the root of illnesses such as fibromyalgia, muscular sclerosis, IBD/IBS and migraines.

According to Dr Russo, “If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would be sick, meaning nauseated. You would have a lowered seizure threshold. And just a whole litany of other problems”. To strengthen the ECS, Dr Russo suggests ‘topping up’ the body’s endocannabinoids with cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant (cannabis and hemp). This will restart the ECS, bringing homoeostasis. While this remains just a theory, the ability of the cannabis plant to re-calibrate the Endocannabinoid System can be demonstrated in cases of children suffering from extreme forms of epilepsy who have responded favourably to whole plant therapy.

To boost the Endocanabinoid System, you can try the following:

1. Exercise: Studies show that as well as releasing endorphins when we do cardiovascular exercise, the body produces the ‘feel good’ endocannabinoid, anandamide (the ‘bliss’ molecule), explaining the ‘runners’ high’.

2. Omega 3 (hemp is perfect): Vital to ECS health, without it scientists believe endocannabinoid CB1 receptors may not form correctly, potentially resulting in “impaired emotional behaviour”.

3. Cut Out Alcoholstudies show ethanol dampens the ECS. A great imperative to go dry. A good replacement for boozy alcohol could be one of an almost endless variety of herbal teas, many are low or zero caffeine and all can be sweetened naturally with home-grown Stevia perhaps or a little organic Honey or Maple syrup.

4. Augment Anandamide:proven to relieve stress-related affective and anxiety disorders. Cannabis may be an effective safe therapeutic strategy to mitigate adverse behavioural and physiological consequences of stress. Both THC and CBD are proven beneficial for the treatment of anxiety through several mechanisms. 


5. Eat Your Greens: leafy green vegetables (including organic ‘home-grown’ Cannabis leaves) contain many therapeutically useful terpenes. A dietary cannabinoid (terpene) called beta-caryophyllene (BCP) has researchers attributing its anti-inflammatory effect to activation of the cannabinoid receptor CB2.

6. Terpenes: many found in Cannabis produce anti-anxiety effects by binding to receptor sites  of the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, creating the same effect as benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. Five different terpenes in cannabis provide anti-anxiety results: β-Caryophyllene (BCP), Limonene, Linalool, Pinene and Phytol.

7. Copaiba Essential Oil: has a high (45-55%) BCP content. Due to targeting CB2 receptors, BCP is an effective way to medicate while avoiding any alteration in perception or motor skills. It can be used to treat several inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis and colitis. BCP has been shown to fight cancer, reduce anxiety and is gastroprotective (used to treat ulcers). There is a mountain of evidence to support the use of BCP for easing tension and discomfort, providing protective effects for kidney and liver systems, providing protection against auto-immune disruptionseasing depressive feelings and even helping to abstain from unhealthy habits such as alcohol dependence. Copaiba also shows skin-enhancing benefits. Applied directly to acne pimples and scars, it reduces inflammation and speeds up skin healing. 
Copaiba may afford even more relief due to there being no THC, it won’t give a false positive on a drug test. BCP’s are in plenty of foods and other essential oils but nowhere near the concentration nor purity found in Copaiba. According to Dr Ethan B. Russo in his 2011 study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects

β-Caryophyllene is generally the most common sesquiterpenoid encountered in cannabis … Caryophyllene is anti-inflammatory … comparable in potency to the toxic phenylbutazone and an essential oil (EO) containing it was on par with etodolac and indomethacin. In contrast to the latter agents, however, caryophyllene was a gastric cytoprotective, as had been claimed in the past in treating duodenal ulcers in the UK with Cannabis extract. Caryophyllene may have contributed to antimalarial effects as an EO component. Perhaps the greatest revelation regarding caryophyllene has been its demonstration as a selective full agonist at CB2”.


Your Endocannabinoid System works tirelessly to keep you happy, healthy and on an even keel. Now you know, there’s no turning back. Be sure to look after your ECS and it will look after you.

Adapted from If You Do One Thing In 2017 For Your Health, Look After Your Endocannabinoid System with Endocannabinoid System, and Copaiba – Natural Anti-inflammatory – Better Than Cannabidiol.

Copaiba – Natural Anti-inflammatory – Better Than Cannabidiol

CBDThere is a lot of hype around Cannabidiol (CBD), for very good reasons. CBD is one of two well-known major cannabinoids, potent substances with enormous therapeutic potential, causing quite a buzz among scientists, health professionals and patients who are using CBD-rich products to treat a wide range of conditions including anxiety, antibiotic-resistant infections, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, Crohn’s, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia and more. However, legality, purity and potency get in the way of many realising any real relief from CBD. As a completely legal alternative, Copaiba (Copaifera reticulate) essential oil (EO), has the highest known botanical content of one of the most commonly found terpenes in Cannabis, beta-caryophyllene (BCP). Terpenes are produced in special secretory cells within the trichomes of the Cannabis plant, the nearly microscopic resinous stalks that cover the flowers and leaves. This is also where all cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, are created. About 20,000 terpenes exist in nature; around 200 have been identified in Cannabis.


BCP was first synthesised in 1964, but it wasn’t until 2008 that European scientists discovered it had cannabinoid-like properties. CBD has significant impacts on human health but doesn’t bind to cannabinoid receptors. BCP has many of the same health benefits as cannabinoids do, without binding to CB1 receptors. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body to which BCP’s bind, as evidenced in the 2013 study, Involvement of peripheral cannabinoid and opioid receptors in β-caryophyllene-induced antinociception (antinociception is the process of blocking detection of a painful or injurious stimulus by sensory neurons). The abstract of the 2008 study, Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid, concludes;

This natural product exerts cannabimimetic effects in vivo. These results identify (E)-BCP as a functional non-psychoactive CB2 receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic* anti-inflammatory cannabinoid in Cannabis”.

*Relating to or denoting a ring composed of a relatively large number of atoms, such as occur in chlorophyll and several natural antibiotics.

CB1 CB2 receptors

Due to targeting CB2 receptors, BCP is an effective way to medicate while avoiding any alteration in perception or motor skills. It can be used to treat several inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis and colitis. BCP has been shown to fight cancer, reduce anxiety and is gastroprotective, meaning it can be used to treat ulcers. There is a mountain of evidence to support the use of BCP for easing tension and discomfort, providing protective effects for kidney and liver systems, providing protection against auto-immune disruptionseasing depressive feelings and even helping to abstain from unhealthy habits such as alcohol dependence. Copaiba also shows skin-enhancing benefits. Applied directly to acne pimples and scars, it reduces inflammation and speeds up skin healing. 

1pain_reliefCB2 activation is correlated with the concentration of BCP’s. CBD oil is 35% BCP while Copaiba is 55%. This means even using high quality Cannabis oil it may be BCP doing all the work in easing health issues. Switching to Copaiba may afford even more relief and due to there being no THC, it won’t give a false positive on a drug test. BCP’s are in plenty of foods and other essential oils but nowhere near the concentration nor purity found in Copaiba. According to Dr Ethan B. Russo in his 2011 study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects;

β-Caryophyllene is generally the most common sesquiterpenoid encountered in cannabis … Caryophyllene is anti-inflammatory … comparable in potency to the toxic phenylbutazone and an essential oil (EO) containing it was on par with etodolac and indomethacin. In contrast to the latter agents, however, caryophyllene was a gastric cytoprotective, as had been claimed in the past in treating duodenal ulcers in the UK with Cannabis extract. Caryophyllene may have contributed to antimalarial effects as an EO component. Perhaps the greatest revelation regarding caryophyllene has been its demonstration as a selective full agonist at CB2”.


To get the amazing benefits of BCP from Copaiba EO, use it aromatically, apply topically to affected areas or internally, for example, use as a calmative before sleep, applying a few drops under the tongue (sublingually). CBD oil produced from hemp might not actually have much CBD whilst oils derived from Cannabis might contain THC and heavy metal traces, depending on the soil it was grown in and extraction techniques employed. If you want access to similar health benefits of as those provided by cannabinoids, a 15 ml bottle of Copaiba EO is competitively priced, hugely discounted in comparison to a 15 ml bottle of CBD oil!

Copaiba oil extractionCopaiba is a stimulant oleoresin obtained from the trunk of several pinnate-leaved South American leguminous trees found in the Amazon. Its medicinal use dates back to the 16th century when natives of Brazil used it as folk medicine. Today, Brazil produces approximately 95% of this oil-resin, exporting more than 500 tons each year. Sales of Copaiba are increasing, at least in part because more than 54 million American adults suffer from some form of arthritis and 23.7 million are limited in their usual activity primarily due to pain.

In Australia, 3.5 million (15% of) people have a form of arthritis, with the majority of those affected being of working age or younger. The conventional way to treat arthritis is using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) as well as cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors (COXIB’s), which are not without adverse events like gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attacks and stroke. The side effects of NSAID’s and COXIB’s as well as warnings on the risks of gastrointestinal side effects, bleeding and cardiovascular disease all suggest the need to test novel therapies with potential clinical benefits and fewer side effects than available pharmaceuticals.

ClovesSo, what plants are high in this CB2 agonist BCP? Well the James Duke ARS databse  identifies many plants that have signficant amounts of BCP with the very highest being Celery. Herbs with BCP include Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis), Sage (Salvia officinalis) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Spices as a source of BCP include Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), Cinnamon (Cinnamomum varieties) and Cloves (Syzgium aromaticum). If you’re working on inflammatory problems in the body, try a combination approach; combining CBD from hemp with traditional anti-inflammatory herbs. Alternatively, just include all of the above in your diet to support a healthy endocannabinoid system (ECS) response using food!


Expanded from Five Reasons Copaiba is Better Than CBD Oil with Copaiba: Silver bullet or snake oil?BCP (Beta-Caryophyllene) : a potent CB2-agonist (anti-inflammatory) cannabinoid from food and Beta Caryophyllene (BCP): Cancer-Fighting Terpene


Legal Status of ‘Medicinal Cannabis’ in Australia

‘Medicinal cannabis’ is usually prescribed to treat the effects of certain conditions such as pain management, epilepsy management, joint degeneration, improved movement, appetite stimulation for weight gain, reduce nausea and vomiting, slowing degeneration of neural pathways and mood.

Specific conditions treated include cancer, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injury, diabetes, end-of-life illnesses, treatment-resistant epilepsy, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, patients undergoing chemotherapy, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

While the recreational use of cannabis remains illegal across all federal, state and territory laws, most jurisdictions permit the prescription of ‘medicinal cannabis’ under specific circumstances.

The following is the current legal status regarding the prescription of ‘medicinal cannabis’ in each jurisdiction:

Australian Capital Territory: Legal if prescribed by medical practitioner who is duly authorised under Commonwealth and territory law to do so. More information here.

Information regarding obtaining authorised prescriber approval from the TGA can be found on the TGA website at

Information regarding importation of ‘medicinal cannabis’ products can be found on the Office of Drug Control website at

Application for approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis

Follow the link for information on the ACT Medicinal Cannabis Medical Advisory Panel.

New South Wales: Legislation was passed in 2016 that makes certain cannabis-based products allowed for medicinal use in appropriate cases; for example, in treating chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. Under the policy, doctors have to apply to relevant authorities in order to prescribe cannabis-based products. These changes were made with the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Designated Non-ARTG Products) Regulation 2016 and came into effect on the 1 August 2016. More information here.

Further questions about the Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme should be directed to

Fact sheet for adults and their carers (60.9 KB)

Fact sheet for NSW medical practitioners (59.7 KB)

Registration form (138.7 KB)

Northern Territory: Not legal. Cannabis is listed as a prohibited drug. More information here.

Queensland: Legal by prescription from a specialist for patients with a range of conditions including multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cancer and HIV/AIDS. See Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016More information here.

South Australia: Legal by prescription from doctors under certain conditions. More information here.

Patient Access to Medicinal Cannabis in South Australia overview (PDF 228KB)

Factsheet: Prescribing medicinal cannabis in South Australia (PDF 192KB)

Tasmania: There is a Controlled Access Scheme which allows patients to access unregistered ‘medicinal cannabis’. This did not require legislative change. Commonwealth law means that Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval is still required to access ‘medicinal cannabis’ products approved under the scheme. More information here.

Victoria: Legal for use by children with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy, under the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 . The legislation enables access to locally manufactured ‘medical cannabis’ products for a defined group of patients. More information here.

Fact sheet: Information for patients and carers

Fact sheet: Information for medical professionals

Victorian treatment permit

Western Australia: Legal by prescription from doctors under certain circumstances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 [WA]. More information here.

Medicinal cannabis FAQs fact sheet (PDF 761KB)


Extract from Drug and alcohol policy – what about medicinal cannabis?

Endocannabinoids – Beyond the Brain

In 2009 in the United States (US), Neuropharmacology Post-doctoral Nick DiPatrizio was trying to identify exactly where and how endocannabinoids, endogenous molecules that bind to the same receptors as active ingredients in cannabis, were controlling food intake in rats. The young scientist persisted and eventually discovered hunger and the taste of fat led to increased endocannabinoid levels in the jejunum, a part of the small intestine. Endocannabinoid signalling in the gut, not the brain, was controlling food intake in the rodents in response to tasting fats. In 2011 he published his findings in the study, Endocannabinoid signal in the gut controls dietary fat intake‘.

Ever since the first endocannabinoid receptor was identified in the late 1980’s, the field has been overwhelmingly focused on the central nervous system. The main endocannabinoid receptor, CB1, was first discovered in a rat brain and is now known to be among the most abundant G protein–coupled receptors in neurons there. However, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a family of endogenous ligands, receptors and enzymes, isn’t exclusive to the brain. It is present everywhere scientists have looked, in the body: heart, liver, pancreas, skin, reproductive tract etc. Disrupted endocannabinoid signalling has been associated with many disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, infertility, liver disease and more. “There is so much that’s still unknown about this system. It looks to be regulating every physiological system in the body” said DiPatrizio.

Nicholas V. DiPatrizioNow an Assistant Professor at Riverside School of Medicine, University of California, DiPatrizio has trained his research on the gut, where the ECS appears to be a major player in human health and disease. His lab has suggested endocannabinoid signalling in the gut drives the overeating characteristic of Western diets. In a rodent model, chronic consumption of a high-fat, high-sugar diet led to elevated levels of endocannabinoids in the gut and blood, promoting further consumption of fatty foods. Blocking endocannabinoids from their receptors decreased over-eating in animals as reported in the 2017 study, ‘Peripheral endocannabinoid signaling controls hyperphagia in western diet-induced obesity‘.

Due to the link to appetite, pHARMaceutical companies have sought to target the ECS to create the ultimate diet pill, a drug to reduce appetite or treat metabolic disorders. Those efforts have been subdued by two tragic and highly visible failures. The ECS is a tantalising, elusive target for the pHARMaceutical industry, especially for conditions related to appetite and gut health. Sanofi-Aventis was the first to market an anti-obesity drug targeting endocannabinoid receptors. In 2006, the European Commission approved the CB1 antagonist rimonabant (Acomplia) as a treatment to curb hunger. But as a wider population of people began using it, dangerous side effects emerged. A small percentage of users suffered from serious psychiatric symptoms, including suicidal thoughts, evidenced in a meta-analysis published in 2007, ‘Efficacy and safety of the weight-loss drug rimonabant: a meta-analysis of randomised trials‘.

In 2008, the European Medicines Agency recommended suspension of the drug and the company withdrew it. That halted development of the whole class of CB1 antagonists, said George Kunos, M.D., Ph. D., Scientific Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), in the US. Yet the side effects should have been predictable, he argued, as CB1 receptors play an important role in brain reward pathways. Blocking them, therefore is likely to cause an inability to feel pleasure. Last January, the field was dealt a second blow. In France, six participants in a Phase 1 study of a compound known as BIA 10-2474 were hospitalised with neurological symptoms. Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial was developing the drug as a candidate to treat a number of neurological disorders, including anxiety. But within days of receiving multiple daily doses of the drug, one participant was declared brain-dead, while others developed severe lesions on their brains.

BIA 10-2474 is an inhibitor of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), a key enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids. Researchers had hoped by targeting a downstream part of the ECS, rather than the receptors themselves, they might avoid off-target effects in the brain and elsewhere. That was not the case. “That, again, scared regulators and the industry away from consideration of that system” said the University of Calgary’s Keith Sharkey. There is still potential for drug development in the field, but only under carefully controlled conditions with drugs that can be restricted to specific sites of action. But some scientists still hope that by understanding the true nature of this system, they might identify new treatments, especially for conditions related to gut health and metabolism.

“We are now at a point where you have to understand how endocannabinoids can be so relevant in so many areas – literally everywhere in the body”, said Mauro Maccarrone, Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Italy, who has studied the molecules since 1995. “There must be a reason why these endocannabinoids are always there”. Researchers describe the ECS as the most complicated and most ubiquitous signalling system in our bodies, yet no one knew it was part of human physiology until the 1980’s. And that realisation came from an oft-derided effort to understand how cannabis gets us ‘high’, ‘Multiple Functions of Endocannabinoid Signaling in the Brain‘.

In 1964, researchers seeking to understand the ‘psychoactive’ component of the cannabis plant identified the compound Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Over two decades later, in 1988, investigators found direct evidence of an endogenous signalling system for THC, a receptor in the rat brain that bound a synthetic version of THC with high affinity. Blocking the receptor with a chemical antagonist in humans effectively blocks the ‘high’ typically experienced after smoking cannabis. The receptor, called CB1, was subsequently identified in other mammalian brains, including those of humans and appeared to be present in similar density to receptors for other neurotransmitters, including glutamate, GABA and dopamine. A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was discovered in 1993. This receptor was first isolated in the rat spleen. That surprising finding was an omen of things to come; the ECS functions far afield from the brain, practically everywhere in the body.

The presence of these receptors sparked a quest to find natural ligands that bind to them. The first endocannabinoid identified, a fatty acid-based agonist for both receptors, was named anandamide, based on the Sanskrit word ananda meaning “inner bliss”. A second agonist, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), appeared to be present at high levels in normal mammalian brains. By 1995, the so-called “grass route” was complete: over three decades, researchers had identified THC, its endogenous receptors and endogenous ligands for those receptors. Maccarrone suspects endocannabinoids are among the oldest signalling molecules to be used by eukaryotic cells. His team recently showed anandamide and its related enzymes are present in truffles, delectable fungi that first arrived on the evolutionary scene about 156 million years ago, suggesting endocannabinoids evolved even earlier than cannabis plants.


Putative mechanism of endocannabinoid-mediated ­retrograde signalling in the nervous system. Activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) by glutamate triggers the activation of the phospholipase C (PLC)-diacylglycerol lipase (DGL) pathway to generate the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). First, the 2-AG precursor diacylglycerol (DAG) is formed from PLC-mediated hydrolysis of membrane phospholipid precursors (PIPx). DAG is then hydrolysed by the enzyme DGL-α to generate 2-AG. 2-AG is released from the post-synaptic neuron and acts as a retrograde signalling ­molecule. Endocannabinoids activate pre-synaptic CB1 receptors which reside on terminals of glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons. Activation of CB1 by 2-AG, anandamide, or exogenous cannabinoids (e.g., ­tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) inhibits calcium influx in the pre-synaptic terminal, thereby inhibiting release of the primary neurotransmitter (i.e., glutamate or GABA) from the synaptic vesicle. Endocannabinoids are then rapidly deactivated by transport into cells (via a putative endocannabinoid transporter) followed by intracellular hydrolysis. 2-AG is metabolized by the enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL), whereas anandamide is metabolised by a distinct enzyme, fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). MGL co-localises with CB1 in the presynaptic terminal, whereas FAAH is localised to post-synaptic sites. The existence of an endocannabinoid transporter remains controversial. Pharmacological inhibitors of either endocannabinoid deactivation (e.g., FAAH and MGL inhibitors) or transport (i.e., uptake inhibitors) have been developed to exploit the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid signalling system in the treatment of pain.

“They are kind of a master signalling system and other signals have learned to talk to these lipids” said Maccarrone. In the brain, endocannabinoids interact with other neurotransmitters; in the reproductive tract, with steroid hormones; in the muscles, with myokines; and so on. But even though researchers have documented the existence of the ECS throughout the body, they still don’t really know what role it plays outside the brain, where it is involved in synaptic signalling and plasticity. In healthy, non-obese animals, there is typically no consequence to knocking out endocannabinoid receptors in peripheral organs. “There is no detectable effect on any important biological function” said George Kunos.

The one exception to this functional black box is the gastrointestinal tract. The idea cannabis, or endogenous cannabinoids, affects the gut is not surprising. Preparations derived from cannabis have long been used to treat digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and vomiting. Even before CB1 was discovered, scientists had suggested cannabinoids regulate the motility of the gastrointestinal tract, the orchestrated movements of muscles that churn and move food through the intestines. For example, in 1973, Australian researchers showed oral ingestion of THC slowed the passage of a meal through the intestines of mice. Conversely, knocking out parts of the system is associated with increased movement of food through the colon, a common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These pathways are conserved among many species.

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors are present and active in the gut, though they appear to be involved in different gut functions. At the University of Calgary, Keith Sharkey and colleagues found increased intestinal motility in the inflamed gut was reversed when CB2 receptors, but not CB1 receptors, were activated. To make things even more complicated, there is a group of non-classical receptors that interact with endocannabinoids in the gut, said Jakub Fichna, Head of the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical University of Lodz, Poland. His lab studies the role of these receptors in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and IBS. Depending on the conditions in the gut, some of these non-classical receptors don’t even need an agonist or antagonist to become active, Fichna says. “It can even be the change in pressure or pH of the neighbourhood. For example, if you have inflammation, most of the time you have decreasing pH and this is already enough for some of the endocannabinoid receptors to be activated”.

Endocannabinoids and their receptors also appear to be involved in gastric secretions, ion transport and cell proliferation in the gut. And then there is appetite. Cannabis users often experience the “munchies”, a sharp and sudden increase in appetite after inhaling or ingesting the herb. Kunos wondered whether endocannabinoids cause a similar increase in appetite. In 2001, with the help of collaborators, he confirmed the suspicion: endocannabinoids acting on CB1 receptors promoted appetite and mice with CB1  receptors knocked out ate less than their wild-type litter-mates. Additional research supported the idea endocannabinoids act as a general appetite-promoting signal and as DiPatrizio’s work showed, endocannabinoids control food intake not exclusively via the brain, but by way of signals generated in the gut. It’s a simple hypothesis with big implications for the management of obesity and other metabolic syndromes.

During his post-doctorate, DiPatrizio found when rodents tasted dietary fats (tasted, not swallowed), endocannabinoid levels increased in the rat small intestine, nowhere else. A CB1 receptor antagonist blocked that signal, leading the rodents to decrease their ingestion of fatty foods. “This suggests to us that this is a very important and critical mechanism that drives food intake” says DiPatrizio. From an evolutionary perspective, having a positive feedback mechanism for fat intake makes sense. When an animal in the wild detects high-energy foods, it is beneficial to stock up. However, that’s not true for people in today’s developed countries. “There’s no period of famine. It’s feast all the time, so now the system can drive us to over-consume” said DiPatrizio.

Sharkey sees the system as a regulator of homoeostasis within the body, especially considering its roles in maintenance of food intake, body weight and inflammation. “It seems to be very important in the conservation of energy. But in modern Western society in particular, those are the things that appear to have been dysregulated” said Sharkey. Although the job of the ECS remains mysterious in healthy tissues outside the brain and gut, diseases reveal clues. In obesity, both CB1 and CB2 receptors are up-regulated throughout the body, including in the liver and adipose tissue. And the activation of CB1 receptors increases food intake and affects energy metabolism in peripheral tissues. In type 2 diabetes, endocannabinoids and their receptors are up-regulated in circulating macrophages and contribute to the loss of pancreatic beta cells, which store and release insulin.

Interestingly, chronic cannabis users have no documented increased incidence of diabetes or obesity. Researchers speculate this is because chronic use results in down-regulation of CB1receptors, a form of pharmacological tolerance. Another possibility, explored by Sharkey and colleagues in 2015, is chronic THC exposure alters the gut microbiome, affecting food intake and preventing weight increase. In liver disease, up-regulation of CB1 appears to contribute to cell death and the accumulation of scar tissue (fibrosis).  The two classical cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are expressed by enteric neurons, immune cells and other cell types within the gastrointestinal tract. The gut and the liver also synthesise two key ligands, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), for those receptors. Combined, this signalling system acts locally in the gut and liver, but also communicates with the brain to affect food intake, pain, inflammation and more.

In the liver, endocannabinoids are thought to act almost like hormones, stimulating cell division at some times, cell death at others. In the healthy liver, expression of CB receptors is very low, but in a diseased liver expression increases, and endocannabinoid ligands are released from all four cell types. Many ligands are produced and bind to CB1 receptors, causing lipid accumulation and insulin resistance in hepatocytes and increased proliferation of activated stellate cells, the major cell type involved in fibrosis (scarring) of the liver. Blocking CB1 receptors with drugs decreased the amount of fibrosis in mouse models.

Both CB1 and CB2 regulate the rhythmic contractions of the intestinal tract, called gut motility. In the healthy gut, CB1 predominates, but during intestinal inflammation, CB2 also contributes to motility. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease often exhibit increased prevalence of these receptors, which results in decreased motility. Endocannabinoid signalling has also been shown to reduce inflammation, increase the permeability of gut epithelial cells and signal hunger to the brain.

Yet there remains debate as to whether endocannabinoid receptors are always the bad guys in disease. In some cases, endocannabinoid signalling appears to be therapeutic. Animal studies suggest endocannabinoids are effective pain relievers and the system has anti-inflammatory properties in certain contexts. In IBD, Sharkey’s team found activation of both CB1 and CB2 receptors resulted in reduced inflammation, suggesting the system may be activated as a protective force. Likewise, CBactivation appears to be anti-inflammatory in cases of atherosclerosis, says O’Sullivan, who focuses on endocannabinoids in the cardiovascular system. “It’s a bit of a rescue receptor. In times of trouble, it gets upregulated”, she said. And several tantalising studies suggest cannabinoids from plants or synthetic compounds that mimic botanical molecules and the body’s own directly inhibit cancer growth by inducing cell death in tumour cells.

But the very thing that makes the ECS so interesting, its ubiquity and varied roles in the body, is also what makes it a difficult drug target. Within the last 10 years, two drugs targeting the ECS proved to have dire side effects in humans when the compounds crossed the blood-brain barrier. Off-target effects in other organ systems could also have long-term consequences. In a review of the pharmacology of 18 different CBligands as potential drug candidates, Maccarrone and a large team of European researchers, in collaboration with Roche, concluded just three merited additional pre-clinical or clinical studies. Many of the other compounds engendered too many off-target effects.

Researchers are now working toward second-generation drugs that more specifically target peripheral systems. “If the scientific community faces the challenge of really understanding how to direct certain drugs to the right target, then we could have wonderful drugs for the future” says Maccarrone. Most of those compounds are in pre-clinical trials, though Kunos hopes to have an Investigational New Drug approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon for one agent his team has been working on as a possible treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The compound does not penetrate the brain and is designed to accumulate in the liver, which may explain its efficacy in treating liver disease without causing psychiatric side effects in animal models, said Kunos.

If researchers can figure out how to avoid the devastating off-target effects, there is one more reason why endocannabinoids may effectively help treat disease: they provide an indirect link to the brain. “We’ve known, for some time, that the brain can modulate the gut” said Sharkey. With endocannabinoids, it appears the gut can also modify the brain. It is now clear, for example, there are very active communication pathways originating from peripheral nerves in the gut, able to modulate brain function. Numerous studies suggest the vagus nerve is a major information highway between the gut and brain. DiPatrizio is studying those communication pathways and hopes to identify ways to regulate feeding without ever getting near the brain with a drug. The research complements other evidence showing the gut is able to modulate pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood and even influence central nervous system disorders. “We believe we can remotely control the brain from the gut, safely” says DiPatrizio. “That’s why, once again, endocannabinoid receptors are very attractive targets”.

Adapted from, Endocannabinoids, a System That Functions Beyond the Brain and Endocannabinoids in the Groove