Lies Used To Justify Restrictive Cannabis Policies

‘Drug’ policy, like any other public policy, should be informed by science, not by political agenda or financial gain. When shown to be factually wrong, ineffective and/or counter-productive, it should be reexamined and changed. This has not been the case with the Cannabis plant. Sadly, there is a great deal of unscientific propaganda still floating around. This is nothing new, stretching at least back to Pope Innocent’s witch hunts in the 15th century. And still, much of modern scientifically inaccurate, wrong and just plain false neo-prohibitionist propaganda is propagated by those with a vested interest in generating unwarranted fears about Cannabis. The list of those with a horse in the race (e.g., whose bottom line is helped by spreading misinformation), whose job and/or profit benefits from ignoring the medicinal benefits of Cannabis is long. It includes but is not limited to so-called addictionologists, prison guards, narcotics officers, police and sheriffs (in the United States), owners and builders of private prisons and elected officials.

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The therapeutic index (the larger the TI, the safer) of Cannabis is estimated to be somewhere between 4,000:1 to 40,000:1. We don’t really know what it is because no one has ever died from an overdose of natural Cannabis. This is because there are few or no CB1 receptors in the brain stem so there is NO respiratory depression from cannabinoids. Respiratory depression can be caused by many psychoactive drugs such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, anti-depressants and opiates. By comparison, lithium, a commonly used treatment for bipolar disorder, is 1:2. As most people who have tried Cannabis (estimated to be more than one-hundred million US citizens) know, the effects can often be quite pleasant and the side effects, such as they are, are mild and less often seen in people with serious medical conditions. Like all therapeutic agents, Cannabis has acute side effects for some, which may include anxiety, paranoia, dysphoria and cognitive impairment. These side effects appear to be dose related and tend to occur in naïve users. Because of all of this, in 1988 US Judge Francis Young, DEA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, after a two-year rescheduling hearing, recommended rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule II, adding, “Cannabis was one of the safest therapeutic agents known to man”. Obviously, that still hasn’t happened.Image result for US federal government’s IND program cannabis

Chronic Effects

We can thank the US federal government’s Independent New Drug (IND) program, instituted in 1978, for teaching us there are no troubling chronic effects from regular long-term use of Cannabis. A 2004 study by Dr Ethan Russo and Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, performed a battery of tests and physical exams on several long time IND patients who had been using government-supplied Cannabis for over 25 years. They found these long-time medicinal Cannabis patients to have had no adverse health effects from decades-long respiratory consumption of 7.5-9 lbs (3.4-4+kg) of Cannabis per year. We have plenty of data to demonstrate the safety of Cannabis. Not only the government’s IND program but also epidemiology studies demonstrate there are no proven long­-term adverse effects of Cannabis use.

Addiction to Cannabis? NO

Propagandists will say Cannabis can be addictive. Cannabis addiction does not exist because it is a misuse of the word “addiction”. There is a dependency risk to Cannabis, however, and that dependency risk is one shared with other medications and/or recreational substances. As substance abuse experts Drs Hennigfield and Benowitz pointed out years ago, the dependency risk of Cannabis is less than coffee. The 1972 report of the Nixon Marijuana Commission also debunked the idea that Cannabis is addictive.Image result for addiction to cannabis less than coffee

Cognition/IQ – No Effect

Another common fear is the possibility Cannabis use is linked to adverse cognitive effects. Studies that purport to show these effects are poorly done. A prime example is they do not control for important variables such as use of drugs, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, other medical conditions, growing up in a dysfunctional family, and/or environmental factors. One study cited to support the bogus claim found a reduction in IQ of 8 points in long-time users. This has not been replicated. Several studies including a twin study done by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Minnesota showed this adverse IQ was not true. In fact, Cannabis has helped many with ADD and ADHD pay better attention and raise their academic scores from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s. One of the most egregious allegations is that Cannabis can change brain structure. Those trying to make the case point to effects in the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Of course, there are effects on this part of the brain, because it is where many CBl receptors are located. This is why Cannabis has such beneficial effects on treating anxiety, depression and impulse control.

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Psychosis

Another canard (unfounded rumour or story) is that regular use is linked to an increased risk of psychotic symptoms. This too is untrue. If it were true, epidemiology would show an increased incidence of psychotic behaviour in the 1970’s or 1980’s because of the pervasive use of Cannabis. There has been no such increase. Over the past 60 years the incidence of psychosis has stayed flat or slightly declined. Instead, Cannabis has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Educational Attainment

Then there are those who insist Cannabis is linked to lower educational attainment. This too is untrue. The work of Dr Melanie Dreher with children exposed to Cannabis in utero and in breast milk demonstrated that these children did better in school and reached their developmental landmarks sooner than those children whose mothers did not use cannabis in pregnancy.


 

David Bearman, M.D. is one of the most clinically knowledgeable physicians in the US in the field of medicinal Cannabis. He has spent 40 years working in substance and drug abuse treatment and prevention programs. Dr Bearman was a pioneer in the free and community clinic movement. His career includes public health, administrative medicine, provision of primary care, pain management and Cannabinology.

Adapted from Illegally Healed

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Decriminalisation versus Legalisation, of Cannabis

 

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Decriminalisation refers to a reduction of legal penalties imposed for personal Cannabis use, either by changing them to civil penalties such as fines, or by diverting Cannabis users away from a criminal conviction and into education or treatment options (known as ‘diversion’). Cannabis possession for personal use and use itself would still be legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions would be deemed to be exclusively administrative violations, removed completely from the criminal realm. Decriminalisation largely applies to use and possession offences, not to sale or supply. The idea is to provide users with a more humane and sensible response to their use. Decriminalisation has the potential to reduce the burden on police and the criminal justice system. Essentially, under decriminalisation, law enforcement is instructed to ‘look the other way’ when it comes to possession of small amounts of Cannabis for personal use only. Under decriminalisation, both production and sale of Cannabis remains unregulated by the State. Decriminalisation does not address the black market nor criminal networks and relies on the ‘discretion’ of law enforcement. 

Image result for cannabis decriminalisationAs an example in Jamaica, according to The Economist:

“Decriminalisation is only half the answer. As long as supplying ‘drugs’ remains illegal, the business will remain a criminal monopoly. Jamaica’s gangsters will continue to enjoy total control over the ganja market. They will go on corrupting police, murdering their rivals and pushing their products to children. People who buy cocaine in Portugal face no criminal consequences, but their euros still end up paying the wages of the thugs who saw off heads in Latin America. For the producer countries, going easy on ‘drug’-users while insisting that the product remain illegal is the worst of all worlds”.

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Legalisation, on the other hand, is the lifting or abolishing of laws banning possession  and personal use of Cannabis. Legalisation would eliminate, or significantly reduce, the illegal black market and criminal networks as criminals do not profit in a legal market.  Legalisation allows government to regulate and tax Cannabis use and sales, accruing taxation revenue as they currently do from gambling, alcohol and tobacco. Moving the issue away from police and the criminal justice system and concentrating responses within health would save big taxpayer dollars and remove the negative consequences (including stigma) associated with criminal convictions for Cannabis use. Finally, use figures post legalisation in most jurisdictions show either no change or a drop in use numbers, along with a reduction in crime and overdose deaths from all other drugs.

Currently legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, are widely consumed and associated with an extensive economic burden to society – including hospital admissions, alcoholism treatment programs and public nuisance.

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We should all be concerned about laws on substances deemed drugs (as Cannabis, for example, is a herb) because they affect all of us: people who use; who have family members using; health professionals seeing people for related problems; ambulance and police officers; and all who pay high insurance premiums because drug-related crime is extensive. Drug-related offences also take up the lion’s share of the work of police, courts and prisons. The moral argument against legalisation suggests the use of illegal drugs is somehow amoral, anti-social and otherwise unacceptable in today’s society. The concern is legalisation would ‘send the wrong message’. The moral argument also applies to decriminalisation, as lesser penalties may suggest society approves of drug use. Many countries, including Australia, have decriminalised Cannabis use to some degree: measures include providing diversion programs (all Australian states and territories) and moving from criminal penalties to civil penalties (such as fines in South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). 

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Research on Portugal suggests previously illegal drug use rates didn’t rise under decriminalisation, with measurable savings to the criminal justice system. The Portuguese government had been waging the ‘war on drugs since the 1980’s, but it wasn’t working (and hasn’t worked anywhere). Around 1% of the population was addicted to heroin in 1999 with the highest number of drug-related AIDS deaths in the European Union. In 2001 they took the unprecedented step of decriminalising all illicit substances deemed as ‘drugs’, from Cannabis to crystal methamphetamine to heroin. The Portuguese drug policy has been lauded by ultra-conservative and quasi-judicial, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which deemed it exemplary in December 2015. A decreasing trend in the total number of notifications of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases has continued to be registered since the early 2000’s. In 2016, a total of 1,030 new HIV-positive individuals and 261 new AIDS cases were reported for all risk groups; 14.3% of drug users who had ever injected and tested at outpatient treatment services were HIV positive, indicating an overall downward trend since 2013; and, Portugal’s drug-induced death rate sat at three per million residents, five times lower than the European average.

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A person caught using or possessing a small quantity of drugs in Portugal for personal use (by law, should not exceed quantity required or average individual consumption over a period of 10 days), where there is no suspicion of involvement in trafficking, will be evaluated by a local Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction (CDT), composed of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. Punitive sanctions can be applied, but the objective is to explore the need for treatment and to promote healthy recovery. Trafficking may incur a sentence of 1-5 or 4-12 years’ imprisonment, depending on specific criteria, such as the nature of the substance supplied. The penalty is reduced for users who sell to finance their own consumption. Decriminalisation seems to have taken some pressure off the Portuguese criminal justice system. In 2000, approximately 14,000 people were arrested for drug-related crimes. This number dropped to an average of 5,000-5,500 people per year after decriminalisation. However, the number of people the police have cited for administrative drug use offences has also remained constant at about 6,000 per year. 

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Uruguay legalised Cannabis use in December 2013 under President Jose Mujica, known for donating 90% of his wages to the needy. The goal was to stamp out the black market, controlled mainly by Paraguayan smugglers, without encouraging consumption. Other considerations were to assist health problems, battle ‘drug’ related crime by controlling growing, importing and distribution of Cannabis and lowering the profit organised crime rings would gain by trafficking etc. Three separate surveys were conducted early 2014, late 2015 and mid‐2017 with national representative samples of adults. 60.7% of respondents in 2014 were against legalisation; in 2017, 54.1% remained opposed. In 2015, half those interviewed (49.9%) supported access through self‐cultivation, while 38.6% favoured Cannabis clubs and 33.1% agreed with retail sales in pharmacies. Support for medical Cannabis was high in 2015, with 74.5% favouring it. The surveys evidenced a change in public opinion toward legalisation. 

Registered Uruguayan citizens (not visitors) are able to get Cannabis in one of three ways: grow up to six plants at home; join a club (45 members can cultivate up to 99 plants); or buy in pharmacies. Consumers are restricted to 40 grams (1.4 ounces) a month. About 10% of adult Uruguayans smoke at least once a year and more than 6,600 people initially registered to grow at home, with 51 clubs opened. Cannabis Clubs can grow a wide variety of plants, more than pharmacies are allowed to sell, with no limits on THC. “It’s the equivalent of comparing a bottle of wine with a box of wine” says Marco Algorta, grower at the 420 Cannabis Club in Montevideo. His worry is 99 plants are not enough to supply members with their full entitlement and he wants permission to grow more. 

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Even then, clubs and home growers will only cater to a niche market and pharmacies’ business will build, slowly (it’s only been five years since legalisation, this coming December). Thirty pharmacies initially signed up to cover much of the country, but their corporate suppliers are allowed to grow only four tonnes a year, 15% of what Uruguayans smoke. In June 2017, Uruguay’s envoy to Ottawa, Canada, Ambassador Martin Vidal, said his country’s goal had not been to change the minds of other countries about Cannabis, but to get them to accept that there are other ways to approach ‘drug’ control. “Some other countries have joined us in this discussion and others in the future, maybe Canada will be one of them, will find it’s not that the path is already clear, but we have facilitated a lot because we worked very hard in the last years to introduce this perspective” said Vidal, whose country is home to about 3.4 million people, about one-tenth Canada’s population.

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There hasn’t been a rise in Cannabis use rates in Australia, despite states and territories introducing civil penalties for users. Research has noted a negative side effect to the way in which decriminalisation operates in Australia; ‘net widening’, whereby more people are swept into the criminal justice system than would have been otherwise under full prohibition because discretion by police is less likely and/or they do not meet their obligations. Despite the largely supportive evidence base, politicians appear reluctant to proceed along the decriminalisation path, let alone legalisation, due somewhat to vested interests (mostly pharmaceutical interests). But public opinion is largely in support of decriminalisation and even legalisation where it concerns Cannabis. In a national survey in 2015, more than nine out of 10 Australians (91%) believed the use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes should be made legal, according to a special survey conducted 20-22 October. Only 7% were against legalisation and 2% couldn’t say.

“Prohibition has failed. As a drug and alcohol doctor, I’ve seen that the ‘tough on drugs’ approach causes enormous harm. It drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market”, Richard Di Natale

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In April 2018, Richard Di Natale, Leader of The Australian Greens said: “The Greens see ‘drug’ use as a health issue, not a criminal issue. Our plan to create a legal market for Cannabis production and sale will reduce the risks, bust the business model of criminal dealers and syndicates and protect young people from unfair criminal prosecutions”. He said in a poll in 2017, 55% of Australians believed Cannabis should be taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. The plan would be expected to raise “hundreds of millions” of dollars for the budget. In May 2018, Senator David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrat from New South Wales, put forward a private member’s bill, ‘Criminal Code and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Commonwealth Restrictions on Cannabis) Bill 2018’, which would amend five Acts and the Criminal Code Regulations 2002 to remove barriers in Commonwealth legislation to the legalisation and regulation of Cannabis for recreational, medicinal, industrial and other purposes.

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“Adults should be free to make their own choices, as long as they do not harm others”, he told Parliament House in Canberra. The NSW minor-party Senator has been a long-time supporter of recreational Cannabis as a libertarian who champions free speech, lower taxes and unwinding gun control. Senator Leyonhjelm previously supported the Greens’ plan to make the herb legal in the face of bans in every state and territory. In March, a Victorian parliamentary Inquiry Into Drug Law Reform called for recreational use to be legalised, after MP’s visited Colorado and California, where it is legal to use Cannabis, recreationally. They argued a sales tax could be levied on Cannabis if it was legalised and explored how Cannabis could be regulated with child-proof packaging, only available for sale to adults. 

reefermadnessOpponents of legalisation are concerned it will increase use, increase crime, increase risk of car accidents and reduce public health, including mental health. None of which has happened in any jurisdiction under legalisation (in fact mostly the opposite has been shown to be true). The current incarnation of the Australian Federal Health Minister, the misogynistic Greg Hunt, actually said in April 2018, “marijuana is a gateway drug”. Hunt graduated in Law from Melbourne University and won a full scholarship for his Masters in International Relations via Yale University. Great qualifications for a health portfolio; a lawyer who spruiks ‘reefer madness’ rubbish, as the ‘gateway drug’ hypothesis was well and truly discounted decades ago. The majority of people who use Cannabis do not go on to use other drugs. In addition, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals usually precede Cannabis use, which if the theory were correct would make those drugs the ‘gateway’. There is also no evidence legalisation increases use

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Australia’s official drug strategy is purportedly based on a platform of harm minimisation, including supply reduction, demand reduction (prevention and treatment) and harm reduction. Arguably, policies should therefore have a net reduction in harm.  But some of the major harms from using illicit drugs are precisely because they are illegal. A significant harm is having a criminal record for possessing drugs for personal use. This can negatively impact a person’s future, including careers and travel. A large proportion of the work of the justice system (police, courts and prisons) is spent on drug-related offences. Yet, as Mick Palmer, former AFP Commissioner, noted “drug law enforcement has had little impact on the Australian drug market”. Decriminalisation may reduce the burden on the justice system, but not as much as full legalisation because police and court resources would still be used for cautioning, issuing fines, or diversion to education or treatment. 

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Legalising for recreational use would boost the budget by up to $1.8 billion a year, the Parliamentary Budget Office revealed. The independent costing of the policy submitted by the Greens shows a tobacco-style 25% per cent excise on each sale with a 10% Goods and Services Tax and a reduction in law enforcement would net $3.5 billion by 2020-21. Tourists travelling to Australia would add up to “10% of total sales”, earning $130 million in revenue by 2020. The boost would be used to fund drug education and treatment programs. The PBO said the policy would allow the Australian Federal Police to “re-allocate a proportion of the resources currently directed at Cannabis to strengthen the law enforcement of other illicit substances”, such as ice, methamphetamines and heroin.  There would also be minimal costs for the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Home Affairs to administer the taxes, the PBO found, as that could be done through established systems and processes. 

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Many see Cannabis prohibition as an infringement on civil rights, citing the limited to non-existent harms associated with Cannabis use. This includes the exceptionally low rate of so-called ‘dependence’ (it can certainly be habit-forming) and impossibility of overdosing on Cannabis, as well as incredibly low to non-existent risk of harms to people using, or others. Many activities that are legal are potentially harmful: driving a car, drinking alcohol, bungee jumping. Rather than making them illegal, there are guidelines, laws and education to make them safer that creates a balance between civil liberties and safety. Legalisation of Cannabis is relatively recent in most jurisdictions so longer-term benefits of legalisation are not yet known. But one study found little effect of legalisation on ‘drug’ use or other outcomes and other studies have shown no increase in use, even among teens

Related imageIn Australia there is a lack of clarity about the issues with poor understanding of the different models of decriminalisation and some basic confusion existing between what decriminalisation and legalisation actually constitute. Many people equate decriminalisation with legalisation, but as detailed, they are very different in policy, intent, action and outcome. Decriminalisation is also sometimes incorrectly confused with harm reduction services, such as safe injecting centres. In order for the debate to progress, we need clarity of terms and dispassionate presentation of what evidence we have, not more ‘reefer madness’ from unqualified and ignorant, in their lack of education regarding actual Cannabis, elected officials, politicians, senior so-called ‘medical professionals’ and self-serving academics. Three words leap to mind, ‘Cranial Rectal Inversion’.
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Adapted from Decriminalisation or legalisation: injecting evidence in the drug law reform debate with Portugal’s Experience of Drug DecriminalisationThe status of support for cannabis regulation in Uruguay 4 years after reform: Evidence from public opinion surveysUruguayan pharmacies will start selling cannabisGreens want cannabis to be made legalDrug War Facts – Region – PortugalCriminal Offences in Portugal 2012, by Type of ‘Drug’Drug harms in Portugal 2018, Uruguay sets path for Canada on marijuana legalization within international treatiesLegal highs: arguments for and against legalising cannabis in Australia$3.5 billion budget boost from legalising marijuana, costing shows and Australia: Senator introduces bill to allow the use of recreational cannabis 

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Is the Government Removing ‘Medical Cannabis’ Competition?

This man was arrested for giving patients Cannabis medicine for free. Despite purported legalisation, it remains extremely difficult to access ‘medical Cannabis’ in Australia. 

Prominent Cannabis Grower Tony Bower Is Arrested For Gifting Cannabis Oil To Patients
Tony Bower – If You Can, Please Support His Legal Fund

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On 28th March 2018, police arrested prolific Australian Cannabis grower and founder of Mullaways Medical Cannabis (company registered 21 October, 2008), Tony Bower. His company develops Cannabis-based medicines to treat a variety of illnesses and conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy (particularly intractable paediatric forms), cancer/s and the likes of multiple sclerosis. As a result of his arrest, over 150 individuals who rely on his Cannabis-based treatments will need to look elsewhere, at least in the short term. Tony’s wife, Julie, said the couple had only a relatively small amount of Cannabis oil left in stock at the time of Tony’s arrest. 

“A 62-year-old Crescent Head man remains in custody following his latest appearance in court on three drug-related charges. Police executed a raid on a property near Kempsey. Anthony Bower was charged by police from the Mid North Coast Police District after they executed a search warrant with assistance of the Dog Unit. Police facts allege they located a large amount of cash, Cannabis leaf and 280 plants. Bower was arrested and charged with cultivating prohibited plant, deal in proceeds of crime, possess prohibited drug and supply prohibited drug. He was refused bail and remains in custody. His next court appearance is on 20 June”.

Tony waits in the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre for a June bail hearing after bail was refused in Local Court as he was deemed a high risk of ‘re-offending’. Anyone who knows, or has heard of, Tony, ‘Mullaway’, knows he is anything but criminal. To even suggest such seems, in effect, criminal, as laws based on lies are ‘pretend laws’ after all! However, the authorities have been trying to stop him and his important, life-saving work for years. Tony’s first time in court for growing and supplying Cannabis was in 1998, charged for cultivation. In 2013, he was charged with possession. Sentenced to one year’s incarceration, he appealed and was released after only six weeks. The following year, caught with more Cannabis plants, he was charged once again.

“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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Tony has long experimented with plant breeding to cultivate safe cannabinoid medicines. From Mullaways’ website;

“The Research by Mullaways Medical Cannabis has made it possible for the first time to; Design, Cultivate, Trial and Evaluate Cannabinoid Treatments using SAFE Doses of Cannabinoids / THCA / THC. While the rest of the Medical Cannabis Research world tries to genetically engineer Cannabis without any THC or tries to produce a rich Blend of Cannabinoids / THC from low THC Cannabis Mullaway’s Research has already produced the Jewel in the Crown of Medical Cannabis Research”.

However, Tony’s plans have been put on hold as he once again sits behind bars. In February 2016, Australia officially legalised ‘medical Cannabis’. Since then, government has signalled its intention to expand its ‘medical Cannabis’ operations, stating it would approve exports, becoming the fourth country in the world to do so. The country’s health minister said his government aims “to give farmers and producers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal Cannabis”.

Mullaways

Without legal permits, Tony was an easy target for law enforcement. But many in the community see Mullaways’ independent operation as a necessary alternative to the government-run, overly bureaucratic program. Many patients report accessing ‘medical Cannabis’ in Australia remains difficult. According to some estimates, only roughly one in ten users has been granted permission to access Cannabis legally, regardless of the government streamlining the current convoluted process.


Support Tony Bower with Legal Fees

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Thank you for your interest.

Adapted from Prominent Cannabis Grower Tony Bower is Arrested For Gifting Cannabis Oil to Patients with Man remains in custody on cannabis charges, Patient Access to Medicinal Cannabis Products in Australia

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).

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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).

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INQUIRY INTO USE OF CANNABIS FOR MEDICAL PURPOSES
Organisation: MT BARKER SOUTH SURGERY
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


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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. 

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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.

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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.

Image result for ‘Jarisch-Herxheimer Effect’

 

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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”.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Cannabis Re-Legalisation, It’s About Freedom and Good Health

What is the difference between ‘recreational’ and ‘medicinal’ Cannabis use? There is no difference, it’s purely semantics. A Cannabis flower’s utility medicinally or recreationally is determined solely by the user, but in the era of re-legalisation and corporatisation of Cannabis, the distinction apparently matters. As across the United States (US), different state governments would give a variety of answers to the question of Cannabis utility. At the end of 2015 in Utah, Cannabis had to be smuggled in from nearby states for those wishing to treat their Crohn’s disease, for example, with no legal production or distribution system within Utah’s borders for the then newly legalised medicine. In the eyes of the Utah state legislature, only severely epileptic patients deserved access to Cannabis ‘medicines’ and even then they had to be so low in delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THCthat they could arbitrarily have been defined as industrial hemp!

Utah was unfortunately the rule not the exception. US national Cannabis laws are a patchwork of majority unscientifically-based assumptions, mostly by anti-Cannabis legislators worried about the imaginary ‘havoc’ that could purportedly be wreaked on society should people secure legal access to a plant they already obtained on the black market. Ask an old school California activist like Dennis Peron, who spearheaded Proposition 215 in 1996 (the first medical Cannabis initiative to pass in California) and he will tell you all use of Cannabis is ‘medical’. Some might know Peron as one of Prop. 215’s authors, fewer people know the personal cost he paid. Once a big dealer in his district, he was shot in the leg by a San Francisco cop who later said he wished he’d killed Peron, as there’d be “one less fag” in town. Peron lost friends and his partner to the HIV/AIDS crisis, which was when America re-discovered Cannabis as medicine.

At the time, AIDS was still a mystery. Researchers, doctors and nurses were baffled and confused, and some refused to treat patients for whom a diagnosis was a death sentence. About the only thing that helped AIDS patients, who were wasting away, to eat, sleep and live in less pain, was Cannabis. Through most of the 1980’s, a former waitress, known as Brownie Mary, handed out brownies, baked with Peron’s pot, to the patients in San Francisco General hospital’s AIDS ward. After his partner, who lived long enough to offer testimony to acquit Peron of his latest pot bust, died, Peron opened up a four-story medical Cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, the country’s very first. Local officials refused to prosecute him, so the state attorney general raided him. Peron was lauded, while the attorney general was lampooned in the comic strip Doonesbury, but that was the end of his major dealing days.

After Prop. 215 passed, Cannabis clubs sprang up around San Francisco and Oakland, and Peron was out of business. While recovering from a stroke in 2010, he was raided again by San Francisco cops, one the partner of the cop who’d shot him 32 years before, and the stress caused a seizure. Talking has been a challenge for Peron ever since, but he still does speak, especially about Cannabis. One of the great ironies is that Dennis Peron, champion of Cannabis, opposed the 2016 efforts to legalise it in California. As the movement became an industry, Peron was seemingly the only voice saying anything negative about the billionaire-bankrolled legalisation efforts. “All use is medical”, he would say, which meant legalisation was unnecessary. He insisted Prop. 215 was all California needed and took the message to Humboldt County (in the heart of the Emerald Triangle), where growers were preparing commercial-sized greenhouses for the impending Cannabis market and told them money was tyranny and taxing Cannabis meant giving up control. Calling Cannabis “recreational” was the worst of all; it trivialised the plant. 

Image result for 1899, Cannabis was America’s number one painkiller.While some may scoff at the notion that all Cannabis use is medicinal, there is plenty of basic science to back up the therapeutic efficacy of Cannabis and cannabinoids. Whether or not the user is treating a diagnosed condition with Cannabis, their choice to use it in place of a more toxic pharmaceutical or recreational drug is a proven healthful choice. Deemed as relatively benign, drugs like aspirin for example, are far more dangerous than Cannabis could ever be. Aspirin can cause gastrointestinal complications and death if too much is ingested. When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, Cannabis was America’s number one painkiller. Until Cannabis prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed Cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. With Cannabis’ medicinal potency and non-toxicity, the AMA considered it a potential ‘wonder drug’!

In Australia, adoption in 1926 of the Geneva Convention on Opium and Other Drugs imposed restrictions on the manufacture, importation, sale, distribution, exportation and use of Cannabis, opium, cocaine, morphine and heroin, allowing for medical and scientific purposes only. Accounts differ as to how widespread the use of Cannabis as a medicine was at the time in Australia, but it was a main ingredient in various patent remedies, with its therapeutic use initially popularised by Ireland’s Dr William O’Shaughnessy, physician and member of the Royal Society (United Kingdom’s national academy of science). Although Cannabis was mentioned by early botanists and explorers describing their travels, little was actually known about Cannabis therapy in Europe and America until O’Shaughnessy presented a paper to students and scholars of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta in 1839. The 40-page paper was a model of modern pharmaceutical research and included a thorough review of the history of Cannabis’ medical uses by Ayurvedic and Persian physicians in India and the Middle East.

O’Shaughnessy conducted the first clinical trials of Cannabis preparations, first with safety experiments on mice, dogs, rabbits and cats, then by giving extracts and tinctures (of his own devising, based on native recipes) to some of his patients. O’Shaughnessy presented concise case studies of patients suffering from rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera and tetanus (his cousin Richard penned a paper on a case cured by Cannabis preparation), as well as a 40-day-old baby with convulsions, who responded well to Cannabis therapy, from near death to the enjoyment of robust health in a few days. In 1843 ‘On the Preparations of the Indian Hemp or GunjahCannabis Indica Their Effects on the Animal System in Health, and their Utility in the Treatment of Tetanus and other Convulsive Diseases’ was published.

A healthy person who chooses a joint (Cannabis cigarette) over a beer is making a positive health decision (even though vaping would be preferable to smoking). Around 22,000 Americans die per year (and around 3,000 Australians) from excessive consumption (abuse) of alcohol.

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Non-toxic Cannabis claims zero lives annually and remains one of the most non-toxic substances humans consume (even water is more toxic than Cannabis)! However, as more states across the US legalise adult ‘recreational’ Cannabis, state-sanctioned ‘medical Cannabis’ programs have come under attack. In an attempt to sell legalisation to anti-Cannabis voters, legalisation advocates emphasised the financial rewards over harm reduction or freedom. Good old-fashioned American capitalism driving legalisation should come as no surprise, although the arguments for freedom and liberty should be more powerful drivers. 

Does there even need to be a distinction between ‘recreational’ and ‘medicinal’? It seems drawing lines in the sand may cause more harm than good. In the case of American states in the era of re-legalisation, it is no longer the user’s right to determine the utility of their use, but government’s. If government thinks you’re just wanting to have a good time they can levy 20% or more in tax which provides states with an incentive to classify more use as recreational rather than medicinal. Most states with ‘medical cannabis’ have a list of conditions for which recommendations are approved. These usually include the most serious and common fatal and chronic illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, autoimmune disorders and epilepsy. When it comes to mental disorders, and diseases so obscure they don’t fit on the list, or the right to use Cannabis in place of ‘as needed’ drugs like aspirin, US state governments have determined that this use is recreational, not medicinal.

In Oregon, Washington and Colorado state legislators were quite concerned about who could still get access to lower-priced, tax-free, medicinal Cannabis. This led to a ‘decoupling’ of patients from their caregivers and many patients being told they no longer qualified as medicinal. Why? Because the argument for American greed won over the argument for American liberty. As both US conservatives and liberals view freedom as autonomy over one’s body and the medications they choose to use to treat whatever it is that ails them, it would seem most un-American to allow the state to determine the best medical care for patients, rather than the doctors and patients themselves. The heart of Prop. 215 was freedom. Unlike subsequent medical Cannabis bills that passed in other states in the years after, Prop. 215 was vague and created no regulatory structure. Instead, it simply said a person had the right to use Cannabis for any condition for which a doctor saw fit.

Image result for AUMA California 2016The lack of an approved list of conditions was one of the biggest criticisms of Prop. 215. If any condition qualified, essentially anyone could access California’s massive industry. Legislators in other states point to this as what they, as responsible politicians, would not do. Prop. 215 was about allowing doctors and patients the right to determine what worked best for them, even if it was a safe non-toxic substance that happened to be federally illegal thanks to 80 years of lies and propaganda. Further, the state of California never addressed the legislation and the commerce that would arise around it. There was no state medical Cannabis program in California; just a thriving industry among a messy patchwork of regulations and bans across the state’s many diverse regions. Fast-forward twenty years to 2016 and California Proposition 64. The ‘California Marijuana Legalisation Initiative’, on the 8 November ballot as an initiated state statute was approved.

Legalisation passed, 57.13% voted yes as opposed to 43.87% who voted no, in California. Supporters referred to the initiative as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). A ‘yes’ vote supported “legalising recreational Cannabis for persons aged 21 years or older under state law, establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes”. Prop. 64 made it legal for individuals to use and grow Cannabis for personal use. However, the sale and subsequent taxation of recreational Cannabis will not go into effect until 1 January, 2018 and the Government, not doctors nor medical professionals, will now determine the route of medical care for patients. Prop. 64 permits Cannabis smoking in a private home or at a business, licensed for on-site consumption, but Cannabis smoking remains illegal while driving a vehicle, anywhere smoking tobacco is and in all public places. Up to 28.5 grams of botanical Cannabis and 8 grams of Cannabis concentrate are legal to possess under the measure.

However, possession on the grounds of a school, day care or youth centre while children are present remains illegal. An individual is permitted to grow up to six plants within a private home as long as the area is securely locked, not visible from a public place, is licensed and has been inspected and approved by law enforcement. The California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation was renamed the Bureau of Marijuana* Control, responsible for regulating and licensing Cannabis businesses across the state. Counties and municipalities are now empowered to restrict where Cannabis businesses can be located and local governments are allowed to completely ban the sale of Cannabis from their jurisdiction. Moreover, local jurisdictions are allowed to “reasonably regulate” personal growth, possession and use of Cannabis plants.

The majority of citizens across California agreed with Prop. 215, the law that was passed in 1996, so why did they seemingly sit back while the bureaucrats and businessmen redefined personal use for them? Appeasing the obscenely wealthy prohibitionists, or the lying minority, that’s why. Pro-cannabis and concerned patients need to recognise they have huge power; they are the honest majority. More importantly, ‘free’ people (we are supposedly free) have a choice; liberty or greed? With ‘alternative facts’ abounding across the US, Granny Storm Crow in California expressed her amazement and horror at current US and world politics. Her grandfather would be beside himself, “If the truth won’t do, then something is wrong”, he would reiterate most strenuously. Very wrong indeed!

Although they voted to legalise Cannabis in California, local governments are now adding restrictions that make it difficult to grow legally. with no indoor growing, but at the same time, no ‘natural sun’ growing, either. Plants in California must be grown in a hard-sided greenhouse, not visible to the public, fenced, locked, inspected and approved by law enforcement. For which the owner must have a grow license, around US$130, that the county is responsible for but does not yet offer! Granny’s advice is to be sure the right to grow your own is ‘hard-wired’ into law! Unless we are free to grow our own Cannabis, we are merely trading one drug lord for another! I think I’ll just go on like always and quietly keep growing in my ‘very well-lit’ closet in the den. Been doing it for 17 years and haven’t been caught yet.

Australians are being force-fed privatisation, with no offer of decriminalisation nor re-legalisation, driven by unmitigated greed and a complete lack of understanding of even the mechanism-of-action of Cannabis. Australia could learn from the US ‘experiment’ or take a leaf out of Uruguay’s book, where full re-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 is the exception when it comes to permissible ways of obtaining substances deemed, ‘drugs’, as 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 the stigmatisation of certain countries.

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The Australian Government has rushed to benefit pharmaceutical corporations (who donate to all sides of politics in Australia) without considering their own citizens. They have most certainly put profits before patients which has already led to the demise of at least one former government employee featured in mainstream media. Australia’s Sackville Royal Commission on Non-Medical use of Drugs in South Australia was perhaps the most intelligent and least corrupt of three Australian Royal Commissions during the 1970’s and its recommendations produced South Australia’s decriminalisation model for Cannabis. Decriminalisation is seen as the simplest first step toward re-legalisation, as it merely entails changing regulations surrounding a simple offence or deleting the simple offence entirely. However, decriminalisation is a misnomer, and does not make for less criminals by those in control. Re-legalisation does not support the continued criminalisation of otherwise law-abiding citizens for using a natural, non-toxic, preventative herb. Without complete freedom it is a farce!

Cannabis, in both medicinal and recreational contexts, has now been re-legalised in eight US states. In 2012, the then Chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ (NORML) Paul Kuhn stated, The health risks of Cannabis are far less than those of alcohol and tobacco and more akin to those of caffeine. In fact, thousands of studies show Cannabis has potential health benefits in fighting diseases like Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, MS and even cancer”. He added, Most hard drug addicts start with tobacco and alcohol, not marijuana*. I have friends who consider marijuana* ‘the exit drug’ because it helped them recover from dependence on alcohol and other addictive, deadly substances. Reform of Cannabis laws in the US is, at its core, not a political issue, but one of personal health. That it has become politicised is a testament to how no shortage of ‘civic servants’ seek to manipulate a quintessentially private matter for public gain”.Image result for NORML US

The idea of ending prohibition entirely enjoys strong support across the US. NORML’s Deputy Director, Paul Armentano stated in an interview in March 2017, The ongoing enforcement of Cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of colour. It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatisation of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis prohibition was, and still is, an outgrowth of a broader ongoing cultural war engaged in and perpetuated by certain segments of society upon other segments of our society, particularly ethnic minorities and the poor. This policy has never been about Cannabis per se; it is about targeting, stigmatising, prosecuting and disenfranchising particular social or cultural groups who are stereotypically associated with its use”.

If America’s Cannabis policies were guided by science and evidence rather than by emotional rhetoric and cultural stereotypes, we would have enacted an entirely different policy long ago. Most Americans support the enactment of a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the licensed commercial production and retail sale of Cannabis to adults, but that also restricts and discourages its use among young people. Such a regulated environment already exists for alcohol and tobacco and has proven effective at reducing problematic use, and especially use among young people, to historic lows. These same principles ought to be applied to regulating Cannabis. By contrast, advocating for continued criminalisation does nothing to offset potential risks to the individual user and to society; it only compounds them”.

1449036336207Australian patients wanting legal access to ‘medicinal Cannabis’ have been told they will need to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for an imported product, as state and federal governments continue to fight over who should subsidise it. Patients have been quoted up to AU$34,000 a year, or about $93 a day, from an approved importer, leaving them no choice but to continue sourcing Cannabis through illegal channels. The state of Queensland’s Chief Health Officer told a parliamentary committee that just four patients had been granted access to ‘medicinal Cannabis’ through the state’s single-prescriber pathway, plus two patients enrolled in the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital pharmaceutical trial. She said it was hoped the new bulk importation rules introduced by the Federal Government would reduce waiting times, currently averaging four months, and bring down costs for patients. Steve Peek, who fears his eight-year-old daughter Suli will die without access to the Cannabis oil he usually gets for free from a supplier, said he had been quoted $US26,000 a year for a legal alternative. “It’s impossible”, he said.

Expanded from Legalization Is About Freedom And Good Health, Not Greed, with Dennis Peron: A Cannabis Folk Hero Who Never Sold OutBallotpedia-California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016)Cannabis Is Safer Than AspirinAntique Cannabis Book – W. B. O’Shaughnessy The Man Who Brought Medical Cannabis to the West, Granny Storm Crow’s ListUN Drug Control Country Information – Latin America, Uruguay, and Australian Medical Cannabis Signpost

*Cannabis sativa L., is the correct botanical term, marijuana is a North American colloquialism 

Australian Law Enforcement Have Lost The “War On Drugs”

“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 (NSW) Crime Commission.

maxresdefaultAt the end of January 2017, Sydney’s senior law enforcement agency made the admission they had lost the “War on Drugs”. The revelation came that organised crime in NSW was out of control and anti-drug agencies were failing dismally to stem the tsunami of illicit substances flooding the streets. The revelation that 607 drug lords were operating in Sydney and law enforcement were unable to track them, followed a report by the NSW Crime Commission which found the rise of public enemies was “almost entirely driven by the prohibited drugs market. The report revealed part of the problem is the number of drug lords who live overseas. Prosecution of offshore principals is complex, costly and generally beyond the capability of state agencies”.  The white flag followed a series of brazen murders in Sydney, with gangsters gunned down in public. Many drug lords do not live in Australia, operating from Dubai or China, making it virtually impossible for police to bring them down. A senior law enforcement insider said. “We are not losing the war on drugs, we have lost it”.

Only low-level ‘foot soldiers’ are arrested, which is good publicity for police but not making a dent in the problem. The report also warned murder is becoming easier for drug bosses, “The ability to raise vast amounts of cash enables organised crime groups to source weapons and employ persons prepared to undertake murder for profit …”. The Commission’s admission was at odds with claims by the NSW Police Commissioner that crime in the state was going down. “According to statistical reporting, mainstream crime has been slowly reduced over time … however, the observed situation in ­relation to organised crime is considered to be the opposite”, the report said. One senior law enforcement ­officer said, “The chances of having your car stolen or house broken into may have dropped but the chances your children will get hooked on drugs are a lot higher …”

“The money they are making is obscene … runners coming over here from China, Mexico, Dubai and eastern Europe … picking up and laundering millions of dollars a week. And that’s only what we know about or detect”, Crime Commission insider.

IFAustralian 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. 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. Prime Minister Howard used the phrase repeatedly, unambiguously and emphatically to describe his government’s approach to illicit drugs and often described his personal attitude as ‘zero tolerance’. After a 6:3 majority of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy supported a scientific trial of prescription heroin in July 1997, Howard intervened personally to stop the trial on grounds research would ‘send the wrong message’. 

“The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law-and-order approach to drugs and it has failed”Hon. Dr Michael Wooldridge, Former Health Minister in the Howard Government

Image result for ice wars

Under zero-tolerance, some ‘drug crimes’ have gone up in Australia, with methamphetamine use a growing problem for law enforcement and for those addicted to the crystal form of methamphetamine, or more precisely, ice. There is no epidemic, however, as statistics show those in Australia who use ice are in the same numbers who used other forms of methamphetamine before them. Sniff off TriangleRather than basing judgements on an incident or spate of incidents, or on how crime is portrayed in the mainstream media, it’s important to look at trends for crime, or, all reported crime. Surveys conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show most people think crime is increasing when most crime is not. So with serious crime on the decline why are police arresting and processing more and more Australians every year? Prohibitionists want even more police actions to arrest, charge and imprison users and dealers, conveniently ignoring decades of this failed approach.

“We must show some balls in war on drugs”, screamed the headlines in 2015, followed by an obedient police force in NSW, arresting and charging countless young Australians possessing small amounts of illegal ‘drugs’. Despite strange, expensive and much mocked anti-Cannabis advertisements (Prohibitionists even distanced themselves from the now infamous ‘Stoner Sloth’ campaign), and excessive use of sniffer dogs, party drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine are still widely consumed across Australia. In 2016, ABC TV’s Four Corners showed the failure of current laws to deter ‘drug’ use and even former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Mick Palmer, AO APM, said mass arresting personal drug users is futile

NSW has lost the war on drugs.

“It is easy to roll out arguments about the harm created by our current arrangements. Young people who are convicted for being in possession of small amounts of Cannabis automatically lose rights to be employed in the public service and in the defence forces and in the police services. They can’t travel …”, Mick Palmer (former Commissioner, AFP)

In early 2016, Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale was pushing for decriminalisation, arguing drug-taking is a health issue rather than a criminal one. Decriminalisation has been working well in Portugal for over a decade with reductions in drug-related harms, decline in drug use among the most vulnerable (including problematic users) and tremendous increases in the number of drug-dependent individuals accessing treatment. This has been followed by significant reductions in transmission of HIV, tuberculosis and diagnoses of AIDS has also decreased. Unsurprisingly decriminalisation reduced criminal drug offences, which led to a significant reduction in prison overcrowding. Law-enforcement statistics revealed an increase in operational capacity, more domestic drug trafficking seizures and an increase in international anti-trafficking collaborations. Police officers, initially resistant, view decriminalisation as a positive change, with people more likely to cooperate due to less fear of prosecution and improved community relations as a result. In terms of social costs decriminalisation over a 10 year period created a reduction of 18%, as a result of both indirect health and legal costs.
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In Uruguay, it’s not legal to buy Cannabis on the street, yet, but the country has legal Cannabis Clubs which pool resources to grow and distribute to registered, paying members with no doctors involved. Legislation passed in 2013 allows Uruguayan residents to grow at home and soon pharmacies will begin selling across the country. Legislators say it is important to get the program right to serve as a model for legalising other substances and end the deadly, unproductive “War on Drugs”. Under Uruguay’s drug law, anyone found in possession of a ‘reasonable quantity exclusively destined for personal consumption’ as determined by a judge, is exempt from punishment. If a judge makes a determination drugs were intended for sale, production or distribution, they must explain the reasoning in any sentence issued. “Latin America is one of the regions which has suffered the most from the politics of Prohibition”, said legislator Sebastian Sabini in Montevideo. “We have a low-intensity undeclared war in Mexico, with 25,000 disappeared and 60,000 killed in recent years; wide-scale impunity and areas where narco-traffickers control daily life. We see drug groups donating to political campaigns, forming alliances with the state and infiltrating our institutions …”. Uruguay aims to avoid the creation of lucrative Cannabis businesses with profits tightly controlled, no brands and no advertising. It’s an approach Sabini would like to see extended to other illicit substances and he hopes by proving careful regulation can prevent increased use, decriminalisation can be extended to cocaine. He would also like to ban all alcohol advertising.

It would take a brave politician to advocate for legalisation of all illicit drugs in Australia, with the large disconnection from more enlightened policies or proposals internationally. In 2015, Irish police backed full decriminalisation of all illicit ‘drugs’ and in January 2017, Irish lawmakers made it known they want government to subsidise the medicinal use of Cannabis, following the United Kingdom, where health authorities determined CBD to be legitimately medicinal. Canada’s government has pledged to legalise all use of Cannabis, and a growing number of US states (28 medical and 8 full, February 2017) are regulating and taxing Cannabis (with authorities taking in nearly US$1 billion in tax). The paucity of sensible public debate over ‘drugs’ in Australia is clear. Major political parties, fearing a tabloid press backlash and loss of funding from other major industries, dare acknowledge the failures of Prohibition while support for legal access to Cannabis for medicinal uses has grown. 

One of the key arguments for legalising ‘drugs’ is the reduction in criminality and violence with evidence from the US that this is happening in Colorado. Although legalising all ‘drugs’ wouldn’t completely remove worldwide criminality, it should make a significant difference, argued Annie Machon, former British intelligence officer and European Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a global group of former and current police and government officials who oppose the “war on drugs”.

“Decriminalisation is a good start but it wouldn’t remove criminal gangs. LEAP supports legalising, regulating and taxing all drugs”, Annie Machon said. 

After decades of drug-related violence globally, especially in Mexico and South America, another path is essential. Australia and other western nations, markets for illicit substances, should be committed to finding more humane, sensible solutions. Prohibition places the emphasis on law enforcement and criminalisation, whereas other options, including de-penalisation, decriminalisation, legalisation, regulation and taxation would make it possible to focus primarily on the health and social effects. Governments in Australia often use harsh rhetoric when referring to drug use and users, clearly contrasting with two legal psychoactive drugs in widespread use, nicotine and alcohol. Despite creating far more health, social and economic costs than currently illegal ‘drugs’, they are not prohibited. Nicotine use has diminished with regulation, taxation and social control invoked, however, alcohol’s identifiable social harms continue to increase as earlier regulatory and social controls have been relaxed. But neither drug is prohibited, instead, they are controlled by governments, not organised crime.

Costs to Australian society for alcohol (2010)

Governments and the community need to consider the range of available alternatives to current criminalisation, and develop one which is actually effective. The unacceptably high number of drug deaths cannot be allowed to continue, with a particular need to engage parents and young people in considering benefits and costs of a shift away from Prohibition. A bipartisan political approach is highly desirable with the move against Prohibition gathering momentum in other countries across the ideological spectrum as communities around the world place responsibility for the costs of Prohibition where it belongs; with legislators who continue to support the international Prohibition approach. 

HIGH TIMES: Police from Strike Force Hyperion unload cannabis seized from Clouds Creek State Forest south of Nymboida, which had an estimated street value of over $400,000.

Police from Strike Force Hyperion unload Cannabis seized from Clouds Creek State Forest, south of Nymboida, with an estimated (by law enforcement) street value of over AU$400,000.

In December 2016, annual police Cannabis raids across the Northern Rivers (NSW) were put under the microscope by law and Cannabis experts. 3,314 Cannabis plants were seized with an estimated ‘law-enforcement’ street value of AU$6.6 million. After more than two decades of annual eradication operations across the region, Southern Cross University’s School of Law and Justice lecturer, Aidan Ricketts, said the raids haven’t made a dint in supply and was critical of the effectiveness of the busts, saying, “Supply reduction doesn’t work because the laws of supply and demand will always fill any gap”. Nimbin HEMP Embassy President Michael Balderstone claimed the eradication program signifies a cultural war rather than Cannabis search”. Mr Balderstone said a huge percentage of crops in the area are very small, grown for personal or medicinal use that would never get to market or the street”

According to Mr Ricketts, many commentators have suggested the police valuation of Cannabis plants at AU$2,000 a plant is quite inflated”, and Mr Balderstone agrees, with male plants and seedlings seized by police more or less worthless”. Balderstone said it’s ironic the herb is still illegal despite state government trials in ‘medicinal Cannabis’. Mr Ricketts questioned the imminence of Cannabis decriminalisation, “There is the sense that Cannabis decriminalisation is coming internationally one way or another and yet we are sort of operating on a business-as-usual model in Australia …”, he said. “If the herb is decriminalised in Australia, resources from the Cannabis eradication program could be reinvested into cracking down on other illicit substances such as ice. You’ve got things like meth., labs and other drugs which are of much more concern to the community, a lot of people would probably prefer to see the resources going into those operations”.


Australia’s National Drug Strategy:

  1. Supply Reduction – Reducing availability of drugs through legislation and law enforcement
  2. Demand Reduction – Reducing demand for drugs through prevention and treatment 
  3. Harm Reduction – Reducing harms of drugs among the people who continue to use them

Image result for australia's prohibition

The argument most widely used in Australia supporting change in Prohibition is the current approaches are failing to achieve primary goals of reduced drug availability and harms. Instead they produce serious unintended adverse consequences, including corruption and more crime. Demonising substances that can have important health and social benefits results in demonising those who use them, by association, leading to considerable stigma and discrimination. Principal arguments used against changing failed policy tend to be moral, not scientific. The use of the term “war” in reference to drugs mobilises fear as a political asset, being part of a war against the threat of “evil drugs” has been a political vote winner. Being “soft on drugs” is a label used politically about those who question Prohibition. While drugs remain prohibited, there is a hugely lucrative black market committed to promoting them and many people are justifiably fearful of their children becoming exposed and entangled in the drug culture and its illegality. 

“By maintaining prohibition and suppressing or avoiding debate about its costs and benefits, it can be argued justifiably that our governments and other community leaders are standing idly by while our children are killed and criminalised”. Australia21

In Australia, numbers of prisoners grew 8%, 2015-2016, with prisoners exhibiting high rates of recidivism, in large part due to ongoing problems with alcohol and other drugs along with a high rate of functional illiteracy and numeracy among prisoners and parolees. Keeping prisoners engaged with their family and community helps reduce recidivism. So, too, conjugal visits and the ability to be educated in a practical way to engage with the world outside. British Conservative Home Office Minister Douglas Hurd, who served in Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments said it best, “Prisons are an expensive way of making bad people worse”. State and territory governments in Australia claim to be anxious to reduce spending, yet currently spend huge amounts of money incarcerating people at a higher rate than any European country and at a rate that is steadily increasing. Victoria’s Ombudsman believed the Andrews Government’s short term headline-grabbing view of crime does nothing to reduce crime or reoffending rates, but contributes to small-time offenders becoming hardened criminals. 

Victoria’s overall crime rate rose by 12.4%, 2015-2016, largely as a result of a spike in property crime committed by young repeat offenders. The Victorian Andrews government fImage result for victoria ombudsmanaced criticism from opposition leader Matthew Guy, “there is a crime wave in this city that is out of control” claiming only his political party was tough enough to stop it. In September 2016 Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research called for a complete rethink of the way crime is dealt with in the face of an exploding NSW prison population. He believed “toning down the political rhetoric” was important for allowing investment to be made in what works, rather than what wins votes. It is hoped political leaders will focus on effective measures to reduce crime, rather than pandering to police associations and engaging in wars of words.

Image result for Victorian Shadow Police Minister Edward O’DonohueVictorian Shadow Police Minister Edward O’Donohue said the rise in crime is directly attributable to insufficient funding of the State’s police force. “As a result of Daniel Andrews’ weakening of our justice system, many of these offenders have little concern for the consequences of their crimes and are soon back out on the street”. Victoria’s Police Association Secretary said crime is caused by a reduced police presence, “When you have police stations that ten years ago put two vehicles on the road now struggling to get one out … of course, criminals will take advantage … it stands to reason that theft and burglaries will rise”. Those claims are not, however borne out by statistics or research, which suggests the most effective way of reducing crime is implementing preventative measures aimed at repeat offenders. If politicians are to move to change this culture they will need to be confident that any change will improve, not worsen, the current situation. A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that such concerns can be alleviated.

Adapted from Are Cannabis Raids Effective?, with Drug Laws By Decree, Not Scientific Fact,  The war on drugs has failed, end it now, Organised crime in NSW at levels not seen previously as state loses war on drugsElection FactCheck: is crime getting worse in Australia?, Recorded Crime – Offenders, 2015-16, Australian crime: Facts & figures: 2014 » Chapter 1: Recorded crime & selected crime profiles, A QUIET REVOLUTION: DRUG DECRIMINALISATION ACROSS THE GLOBE, Uruguay’s Drug Policy: Major Innovations, Major ChallengesCivil Liberties Australia, Bulging prisons? Recidivist politicians, Time for Australia to abandon ‘failed war on drugs’, The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen., In a first for Latin America, Uruguay rolls out program legalizing marijuana, and, Ombudsman Blasts Government’s ‘Tough on Crime’ Policies

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