Why the ‘War on Drugs’ Must End

Punishing people who make the personal choice to consume
an illicit substance has no place in the 21st century.


There’s a dangerous myth in sections of the public that the ‘War on Drugs’ is coming to an end. It’s an idea that as Cannabis legalisation sweeps across the United States (US) and many other nations around the world, legal prohibitions against ‘drug’ use will soon be reduced or removed entirely. In reality, the ‘drug’ war has never been more ferocious, targeting minorities and the most vulnerable in the US and abroad. In 2018 there were more arrests for Cannabis in the US than in 2017, despite 11 states allowing legal Cannabis for citizens over 21 years of age. The FBI released figures that detailed 663,367 Cannabis arrests in the country in 2018. In Australia, Cannabis arrests account for the largest proportion of illicit ‘drug’ arrests. ‘Drug’-related offences take up a lot of the resources within Australia’s criminal justice system.

In 2016–2017 law enforcement made 113,533 illicit ‘drug’ seizures and 154,650 ‘drug’-related arrests. Indicators of Cannabis supply and demand in Australia provide a mixed picture, but overall point to a large, relatively stable market in 2016–2017. Specifically:
There was a record 10,987 Cannabis detections at the Australian border.
The number of national Cannabis seizures decreased this reporting period from a record high in 2015–2016, while the weight of Cannabis seized in 2016–2017 increased.
While national Cannabis arrests decreased this reporting period, the 77,549 arrests reported in 2016–2017 is the second highest on record. 


“‘Drug’ prohibition has been the main basis for police corruption since the 1970’s. And you had the US soldiers bringing in all these ‘drugs’ from Vietnam, so there was a huge supply coming in. So, you got a transition in the major source of money for corrupt police and it moves to ‘drugs’ very quickly by about 1970. And that’s just the criminal justice cost”, Dr John Jiggens, Author and Journalist, Queensland, Australia


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Australia has paid a huge price, due in part to its policy of Cannabis prohibition, with an incredible increase in prison populations since the ‘War on Drugs’. In 2012 (figures for 2010-11) around 85,000 ‘drug’ offences were prosecuted in Australia. The cost to the criminal justice system in terms of law enforcement alone was $1.2 billion. About 60% of that went on policing: $800 million. 30% on prisons, not including cost of building new prisons. 10% went on the court system, largely because people pay their own costs. In 2015-16 it had gone up to 145,000 ‘drug’ offences prosecuted that financial year. The cost of ‘drug’ law enforcement, based on those figures, was about $3 billion, of which about $2 billion was going to the police, with most of the rest going to prisons.

The majority of Americans, according to polls in the last few years, support Cannabis legalisation. “Americans should be outraged police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple ‘marijuana’ possession”, National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Executive Director Erik Altieri said. Approval for legalisation of recreational Cannabis in Australia purportedly sits at around 42%, however, Cannabis possession and use is currently illegal. But around 30 years ago, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory removed criminal penalties for personal use of Cannabis. That means it’s illegal, but not a criminal offence. In all other Australian jurisdictions, charges of possession can be subject to diversion by police or court, allowing ‘offenders to avoid a criminal penalty. 

The global ‘War on Drugs’ has been fought for 50 years, without preventing the long-term trend of increasing supply and use. Beyond this failure, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has identified many serious negative unintended consequences. These costs are distinct from those relating to use and stem from taking a punitive enforcement-led approach that, by its nature, criminalises many users and places organised criminals in control of the trade. Although the list of negative consequences detailed by the UNODC is useful, it is incomplete. The costs of the ‘War on Drugs’ extend to seven key policy areas: economy, international development and security, environment, crime, public health, human rights, stigma and discrimination. Given the negative impacts of the ‘War on Drugs’, there is an urgent need to explore alternative policies that would deliver better outcomes.

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In Australia, at 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.

“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

The revelation followed a report by the NSW Crime Commission which found the rise of public enemies was “almost entirely driven by the prohibited drugs market”, and “Prosecution of offshore principals is complex, costly and generally beyond the capability of state agencies”. A senior law enforcement insider said. “We are not losing the war on drugs, we have lost it”. Current approaches to ‘drug’ policy in Australia and elsewhere have yielded limited success. The reliance on crude messages (total abstinence, Just say no to ‘drugs’!) and even cruder enforcement strategies (harsher penalties, criminalisation of users) have had little or no impact on the use of ‘drugs’ or the harmful effects on the community.

Across the world, Cannabis is just the tip of the ‘drug’ war iceberg. In the US, although the current incumbent in the office of President has spoken regularly about escalating the ‘War on Drugs’, blamed Mexico and drug cartels on the huge amounts of illicit substances entering the US – heroin, cocaine, opioids and fentanyl – he has largely ignored the elephant in the room; millions of Americans want and need illegal ‘drugs’ and illegality won’t stop them. According to a report from RAND corporation, in 2016, US citizens spent $150 billion on Cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. The opioid epidemic is the worst drug crisis in the country’s history, killing hundreds of thousands of people and costing trillions of dollars. Partly caused by pharmaceutical companies that saw an opportunity to make a fortune, some of the biggest, such as the Sackler family, are set to walk away from multi-billion dollar settlements with billions of dollars still in the bank.

pills and tablets

Over the past five years, the ‘War on Drugs’ around the world has continued. Honduras, for example, is a nation wracked by extreme violence and gang warfare. Much of the cocaine flowing into the US from South America transits through Honduras and the effect is a narco-state fully backed by the current US administration (and the one before them). Hundreds of millions of dollars of US military support has created a population fleeing its borders in huge numbers. Honduras is a failed state, partly destroyed by the immense power of drug cartels and criminal gangs trying to control the huge cocaine trade. The Trump era is seeing many vulnerable Honduran refugees being sent back to Honduras where they face threats and death. 

Guinea-Bissau in West Africa is a key cocaine transit hub between South America and Europe. Labelled a narco-state by the UN, 2019 saw the country’s biggest ever drug bust, nearly two tonnes of cocaine. Ongoing political instability ensures drug cartels view Guinea-Bissau as ripe for abuse. In the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, at least 30,000 mostly poor civilians have been murdered in the last three and a half years. Duterte remains a popular leader, able to convince a fearful population his deadly approach on methamphetamine users will bring societal renewal. The Philippines is what happens when the ‘War on Drugs’ becomes quasi-genocidal. In the UK, conservative governments have continued to punish the most vulnerable people with ‘drug’ dependence.

While use and abuse is soaring in the UK, the so-called ‘Uberisation’ of the trade in Britain has made it the cocaine capital of Europe, vast parts of the country lost to devastating austerity policies. These harsh economic cuts are directly tied to unhealthy use and abuse of cocaine, heroin and other illicit substances. The newly elected Boris Johnson government is deaf to the need for radical changes around ‘drug’ prohibition.


“The United Nations should exercise its leadership, as is its mandate … and conduct deep reflection to analyse all available options, including regulatory or market measures, in order to establish a new paradigm that prevents the flow of resources to organised crime organisations”, President Santos, Colombia; President Calderón, Mexico; and President Molina, Guatemala. Joint statement to the United Nations General Assembly, October 2012


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Ethan Nadelmann
, widely regarded as an outstanding proponent of drug policy reform both in the US and abroad, founded and directed the Drug Policy Alliance (2000-2017) and in a 2014 TED talk asked, “What has the War on Drugs done to the world? Look at the murder and mayhem in Mexico, Central America, so many other parts of the planet, the global black market estimated at $300 billion a year, prisons packed in the United States and elsewhere, police and military drawn into an unwinnable war that violates basic rights and ordinary citizens just hope they don’t get caught in the crossfire; meanwhile, more people using more ‘drugs’ than ever. It’s my country’s history with alcohol prohibition and Al Capone, times 50”. 

“It’s particularly galling to me as an American that we’ve been the driving force behind this global ‘drug’ war. Ask why so many countries criminalise ‘drugs’ they’d never heard of, why the UN ‘drug’ treaties emphasise criminalisation over health, even why most of the money worldwide for dealing with ‘drug’ abuse goes not to helping agencies but those that punish, and you’ll find the good old U. S. of A”. According to Nadelmann, the good news is most politicians in the US wanted to roll back the ‘War on Drugs’ and put fewer people behind bars, not more. America was leading the world in reforming Cannabis policies with Cannabis legal for medical purposes in almost half the US’ 50 states. Millions of Americans can legally purchase Cannabis in government-licensed dispensaries.

Over half of all US citizens say it’s time to legally regulate and tax Cannabis, more or less like alcohol, as Colorado and Washington do. As for other drugs, look at Portugal, where nobody goes to jail for possession and government has made a serious commitment to treating addiction as a health issue. Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, England, where people who have been addicted to heroin for many years and repeatedly tried to quit and failed can get pharmaceutical heroin and help services in medical clinics. The results are: illegal ‘drug’ abuse, disease, overdoses, crime and arrests all go down, health and well-being improve, taxpayers benefit and many users put addiction behind them.

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Most of the US Democratic candidates for President in 2020 have ‘drug’ policies that were unimaginable four years ago. Bernie Sanders advocates federal Cannabis legalisation by executive order, ending the ‘War on Drugs’, eliminating private prisons and reparation for communities disproportionately affected (largely minorities and people of colour). Joe Biden’s position on Cannabis appears to be he doesn’t support full legalisation (making him an outlier in the Democratic field). Elizabeth Warren has been vocal in her opposition to the ‘War on Drugs’, backs legalised Cannabis and safe injecting centres (a practice that already exists successfully in Europe and Australia).

One of the more exciting aspects of future US drug policy revolves around the medical use of such as LSD, ecstasy and psilocybin (‘magic mushrooms). Last year, Oakland, California became the second US city (after Denver, Colorado) to decriminalise magic mushrooms. The potential use of these to treat mental health issues, PTSD, addictions and end-of-life trauma are profound and scientific studies concur. Ecstasy could be legally available through a registered doctor by the beginning of the next decade.


“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


CorporateCannabis
Ethan Nadelmann posed the question, “Is legalisation the answer?” Legally regulating and taxing most ‘drugs’ that are now criminalised would radically reduce the crime, violence, corruption, black markets, problems of adulterated and unregulated ‘drugs’, improve public safety and allow taxpayer resources to be directed to more useful purposes. The markets in Cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are global commodities markets just like the global markets in alcohol, tobacco, coffee, sugar etc. Where there is a demand, there will be a supply. Knock out one source and another inevitably emerges.

People tend to think of prohibition as the ultimate form of regulation when it represents abdication of regulation with criminals filling the void. Which is why putting criminal laws and police front-and-centre in trying to control a dynamic global commodities market is a recipe for disaster. What we really need to do is bring the underground markets as much as possible above ground and regulate them intelligently to minimise the harms of ‘drugs’ and prohibitionist policies. The Australian Greens have made calls to end the ‘War on Drugs’ and legalise Cannabis, stating the ‘War on Drugs’ has been an expensive failure … Australia needs a new, realistic and evidence-based approach to ‘drug’ policy that reflects the reality of people’s lives.


Over the past few decades, the potential benefits of ‘harm reduction’ programmes in relation to a variety of social problems have been recognised. Such programmes accept risky behaviours cannot be completely eliminated and it is a valid aim of public health policy to reduce adverse outcomes they cause. Since the 1970’s this approach has been applied successfully in many areas, including road safety campaigns and programmes to reduce impact of alcohol and tobacco use and prevent spread of blood‐borne viral infections. One of the first harm minimisation programmes was introduction of compulsory use of seat-belts throughout Australia, early 1970’s. At the time, controversial, with opponents arguing it would cause drivers to behave more recklessly and actually increase the road toll. This did not happen and many other successful harm reduction programmes followed, including random breath testing, wearing helmets by bike riders, education campaigns about tobacco and alcohol use, introduction of needle exchange and methadone treatments, promotion of condom use and safe sex practices and widespread access to effective treatments for hepatitis C. Each of these programmes had to overcome vigorous and sustained hostility from opponents who argued they would do more harm than good, but in all cases the pessimists were wrong. As a result, the health burden from car accidents, alcohol and tobacco use, iHIV, hepatitis C and other dangers have been dramatically reduced.


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Of course, ‘drug’ legalisation is only one aspect of changing societal attitudes towards ‘drugs’. Stigmas and stereotypes around use and abuse, pushed by many in the media for decades, must change. How we think, write and talk about ‘drugs’ has contributed to politicians believing they could prosecute a racialised ‘drug’ war for over 100 years. For example, racial bias is endemic within the management of the opioid crisis in the US; white sufferers benefit from doctors prescribing drugs to treat their problems while black sufferers are either ignored or denied appropriate medication. Ending the drug war is more imaginable now than at any time in the last half century. It won’t happen overnight, nor with Trump in the White House, but the appeal of harsh prohibition is dwindling. While the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to receive obscenely huge amounts of government largesse, so many Americans now use and abuse ‘drugs’ it’s the height of futility to try to stop it. Punishing individuals who make the personal choice to consume an illicit substance has no place in the 21st century.

“We need to turn our backs on the failed prohibitions of the past and embrace new ‘drug’ policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, where people who come from across the political spectrum and every other spectrum as well, where people who love ‘drugs’, people who hate ‘drugs’ and people who don’t give a damn about ‘drugs’, but every one of us believes that this ‘War on Drugs’, this backward, heartless, disastrous ‘War on Drugs’, has got to end”, Ethan Nadelmann

Adapted from Why the War on Drugs Must End with Australian Law Enforcement have lost the “War on Drugs”Pill testing warrants assessment in careful pilot programmesHistory, not harm, dictates why some drugs are legal and others aren’t, The War on Drugs: Options and Alternatives and Why we need to end the war on drugs

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HEMP Party (Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party)

hemp-party

  • The HEMP Party is all about re-legalising the whole plant including recreational Cannabis.
  • We do what we can, when we can, with very limited funds.
  • The HEMP Party would like to see an end to the demonisation of Cannabis in every way.
  • And for very good reasons; food, fuel, fibre, medicine and recreation.

PLEASE DONATE WHAT YOU CAN TODAY

Uruguay, Where Public Health + Safety Over Profit = Legal Cannabis

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When Uruguay became the first nation in the modern era to legalise Cannabis in 2013, most of its citizens were against it (only 28% supported legalising for use other than medical in 2013; this figure increased to 33.6% in 2014). Yet, despite deep public scepticism, none of the challenges or perceived failures of the law have been enough to generate momentum to try and reverse it. Instead, during the first round of national elections in October 2019, Cannabis legalisation had all but been forgotten as an issue. It had retreated into the political background. What has happened in Uruguay sets a surprising precedent, because ‘drug’ legalisation is widely seen by politicians as a huge political risk. But then it happened again, in Canada, in October 2018. The second country to legalise Cannabis also re-elected the architect of Canadian ‘drug’ reform, President Justin Trudeau, in October 2019 with the Cannabis issue largely taking a backseat. 

In June 2012, then Uruguayan President José Mujica proposed government legalise and distribute Cannabis to cut off revenue to ‘drug’ dealers. In November a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives outlining a framework for government regulation of Cannabis production, sales and consumption. By the end of December 2013, the House and Senate had passed the bill and Mujica had signed it into law.

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The Uruguayan government’s plans were motivated primarily by concerns about crime, insecurity and public safety – its rationale being that a legal Cannabis market would reclaim most of the trade from organised crime groups and subsequently reduce rates of violence. An additional stated aim was to separate the market for Cannabis from the markets for actual drugs of addiction, such as cocaine, widely used in South America.  “People have seen that legal Cannabis hasn’t resulted in mass panic or zombies roaming the streets of Montevideo”, said Geoff Ramsey, Washington Office on Latin America  (WOLA, a US think tank), co-author of a 2018 report on the impacts of Uruguay’s Cannabis laws. “It simply hasn’t impacted most people’s daily lives”. Since April 2018, more Uruguayans are now in favour of legal Cannabis than against it.

The rules on Cannabis in Uruguay allow people to grow their own plants for consumption or to create collectives for group grows. But perhaps the biggest deal for Cannabis users was in 2017 when pharmacies started selling Cannabis, causing a surge in interest, with people signing on to a legal register if they wanted to buy. The number of Uruguayans on the purchaser registry increased from roughly 4,900 to over 13,000 in the first month. We sold a lot of Cannabis on the first day”, said Esteban Riviera, a pharmacy-owner in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital. We sold 1,250 packages in six hours. There was a two-block queue …”. The legal sale of Cannabis had been much anticipated and began on 19 July 2017, more than three-and-a-half years after Uruguay’s Cannabis law had been passed. “It took them time, the government said, because they want to do it precisely and step by step”, said Guillermo Draper, a Uruguayan journalist. 

Customers queue outside a pharmacy to buy weed In Uruguay, customers queue outside a pharmacy to buy Cannabis

A young woman in a queue outside a Montevideo pharmacy said, I am standing in the sun, burning hot, waiting for 2 pm when they’ll start selling. This is one of the pharmacies who have more packages to sell without reserving online. There’s a lot of pharmacies who have less, so a lot of people go home without weed and that’s pretty sad”. The system is tightly controlled. Customers have to register with the regulator and are limited to buying 10 grams a week. The regulator also controls levels of cannabinoids – THC is limited and balanced with CBD. In pharmacies, there are just four different strains available to buy, none of which is especially strong. The price – around US$6.50 (AU$9.00) for a five-gram packet – is also set by the regulator. Pharmacy owner Gabriel Llano says he only gets about 20% of the purchase price from each packet he sells, although there’s a higher profit margin on related products like snacks and smoking papers, a slightly odd sight in a pharmacy. 

Customers come in one at a time and put a thumb and finger on a print reader to prove they’re registered to buy and haven’t already reached their limit for the month. Then they hand over cash. It has to be cash, that’s the condition on which Gabriels bank has let him keep his account. Uruguay might be a sovereign country, but it’s still affected by the United States’ strict finance laws on controlled substances. The USA Patriot Act, which dictates US banks cannot do business with companies involved in the sale or distribution of a controlled substance posed a problem for retailers in Uruguay because the Act extends the reach of the law to foreign banks with an inter-bank account in the US. “This situation left Uruguayan banks with a choice: shut down Cannabis-selling pharmacies or risk the withdrawal of major American financial institutions from the country”, Ramsey’s report said. “For Uruguayan banks, the choice was an obvious one, and pharmacies were notified that their accounts would be closed”.

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The pharmacies still selling Cannabis either work with local banks that don’t have relationships with American banks, or with cash-only. The rationale for changing the law was to move buyers from the illegal market to a legal one. But queues outside pharmacies suggest the legal market isn’t meeting demand with supply shortages from the only two authorised suppliers across Uruguay. Additionally, because tourists can’t legally buy Cannabis, black-market demand—a trend that goes against the original objective to legalising, i.e., to shrink illegal markets—has remained steady. That said, how the legal industry operates is still a work in progress. Stringent state regulation and banking issues have led to there being only 17 licensed pharmacies, across a country of 3.5 million people, that can sell legal Cannabis. “Some Uruguayan home growers and clubs have attempted to get around the ban on selling to tourists by offering ‘Cannabis tours’ … in which participants are free to sample Cannabis while on a paid tour. Others simply sell directly to tourists behind closed doors, a grey market quietly operating via word of mouth”, stated Ramsey’s report.


Snapshot of recreational Cannabis in Uruguay, as at end of June 2019

  • 36,487 customers.
  • 7,163 home growers.
  • >3,400 members of 123 Cannabis clubs where collective growing is allowed.
  • Two companies have a licence to grow high-THC medical Cannabis, at least a dozen to grow hemp and at least another dozen to perform Cannabis research.
  • Only a handful of licences for manufacturing have been granted so far.
  • As of mid-2019, approximately 3,000 kilograms of recreational Cannabis had been sold in pharmacies to registered customers.
  • In the recreational market, users have a choice of two strains of flower capped at 9% THC.

Uruguay Cannabis

Snapshot of medicinal Cannabis in Uruguay, as at end of June 2019Image result for epifractan

  • The medical market is limited.
  • One domestic company, Medicplast, registered a medical Cannabis product—Epifractan—an oil available with either 2% or 5% CBD and <0.5% THC. The company also registered a topical CBD product. The raw material for manufacturing these products is imported from Switzerland.
  • Patients are allowed to import individual products from other countries on a case-by-case basis. Bulk imports for distribution are prohibited.

“They have a lot of work to do to expand legal access and over time if they can address the banking issues—they will get there”, said John Walsh of WOLA. Perhaps even more significant is that public opinion has turned towards favouring the law despite the teething problems and even though some trends in the country go against its initial goals—not just the continued presence of the black-market, but a rise in violence generally. In the first half of 2018, 221 people were murdered compared to 131 in the same period in 2017. That has fallen off in 2019, with 171 murders between January and June, a 22% drop. The authorities attribute around half of the killings this year to organised crime. Even so, analysis by one think tank says there is little evidence to link the growing violence to the ‘drug’ trade. Some observers have said the violence is more likely due to deepening inequality, especially that which confines people to densely populated, poor communities. Image result for Fotmer Life Sciences Uruguay export to Australia

In September 2019, Uruguayan Cannabis company Fotmer Life Sciences carried out its first export of ‘medicinal Cannabis product’, to Australia. The 10 kg shipment was the first Uruguayan commercial export since legalisation in 2013. Since 2016, Fotmer Life Sciences has established itself as a leader in the field of ‘medicinal Cannabis’ in Uruguay. In 2017, the Institute for Regulation and Cannabis Control (IRCCA) granted Fotmer Life Sciences a licence to produce up to five tons of high-THC Cannabis for medical use, the highest quota ever permitted in Latin America. Uruguayan media outlet El Observador reported CEO Jordan Lewis was optimistic about the prospect of exports. “Uruguay has clearly established itself as the leading Latin American country in the incipient world Cannabis industry. The projections show that medicinal Cannabis will play an important role in the Uruguayan economy by providing jobs, attracting international investment and bringing necessary income for [marijuana*-related] investigation and development, which is vitally important. Our objective is to establish Cannabis as one of Uruguay’s main exports in the next five years”, he said.

Uruguay’s Cannabis law: Pioneering a new paradigm – 2018 Report, Key Findings

– Uruguay should consider long-term measures to ensure that Cannabis business entities have access to financial institutions, including outreach to other jurisdictions shifting toward Cannabis regulation, such as Canada.
– The medical and law enforcement sectors require substantial education and training, particularly regarding the aims and expected benefits of Cannabis regulation, how to broaden access to medical Cannabis and the new enforcement rules under the law.
– Implementation of commercial sales so far has been marked by shortcomings in distribution. Uruguay can overcome these obstacles by widening legal points of sale to include not only pharmacies, but a new form of dispensary, which authorities are already planning.
– In order for the regulated Cannabis market to displace the black-market more effectively, authorities may need to reconsider rules that require users to choose only one of the three legal forms of Cannabis supply: home-growing, clubs, or commercial purchase.
– Uruguayan authorities may also need to address a growing informal market by allowing legal sales to non-citizen tourists.
– In order to better position themselves to assess these adjustments, authorities should work closer with independent researchers and civil society to ensure they have access to key information and institutional support for their work.
Download the full report in English or Spanish.

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Canada, the second country to legalise Cannabis, in what was widely seen as one of the most momentous pieces of ‘drug’ reform in recent times, also saw the topic fade from view. Apart from some fear-mongering disinformation, Cannabis was a virtual non-issue in their 2019 election. The Conservative party tried hammering Trudeau and the Liberals with crass scare stories about Cannabis legalisation, but it ultimately failed to hit home. However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association reported in 2018, “The way the Federal Government has decided to pursue legalisation of Cannabis is concerning. Many Canadians think … Cannabis will be legal – maybe not legal like buying milk or eggs – but something akin to alcohol, or tobacco. The belief is Cannabis will be a tightly regulated substance that people of a certain age are pretty much entrusted to use as they see fit. This is a mistake. There are a raft of new criminal offences … The fact you have a patchwork of provincial, territorial and municipal laws and by-laws that interact with the federal criminal prohibitions means something that’s perfectly legal at home may be a crime when you’re visiting your friend in another city”.

report released in March 2019 from the United Nations System Coordination Task Team describes punitive ‘drug’ policies as “ineffective in reducing drug trafficking or in addressing non-medical drug use and supply”. It goes on to say that such approaches “undermine the human rights and well-being of persons who use drugs, as well as of their families and communities”. The report represents a clear rejection of policies based on criminalisation, punishment and harsh enforcement, instead endorsing evidence based policy rooted in public health, sustainable development and respect for human rights. As such it marks a major shift in collective thinking across the leading UN agencies – and a major victory for civil society reform advocates. The Task Team was established with the purpose of reviewing the impact and effectiveness of global ‘drug’ policy. Image result for uruguay cannabis

In addition to repeatedly setting out the ineffectiveness and injustices of punitive policies, the report rejects the simplistic view that ‘drug harms’ are unrelated to the social and life experiences of ‘drug’ users, as well as pointing to the serious harms that can arise from the unnecessary imprisonment of people who use ‘drugs’. The report also provides support for a range of health and harm-reduction measures and ‘proportionate and effective policies’ including diversion of people caught in possession away from criminal justice and into support. In doing so, it clearly describes how criminal justice approaches impact disproportionately on the poor and the marginalised, creating both stigma, social inequality, health harms and human rights abuses. It also highlights major concerns with supply side enforcement that enriches organised crime and can increase levels of violence and conflict.

Overall, the report calls for policies based on evidence, human rights and social justice, stating, “… if not based on human rights standards and a solid evidence base, drug policies can have a counterproductive effect on development. Abusive, repressive and disproportionate drug control policies and laws are counterproductive, while also violating human rights, undercutting public health and wasting vital public resources”. The report also suggests making changes to both ‘drug’ laws and policing; “Structural changes in legislation and law enforcement practices can facilitate the delivery of services, including minimising the adverse consequence of drug use”. The unenlightened and uneducated express massive concerns about legalisation of Cannabis, but when they come to the realisation that it’s better than what they had before, they eventually accept it and move on. Fear of the unknown is being eradicated by the mundanity of reality.

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Adapted from Weed-Curious Politicians Should Look to Uruguay, Where There’s No Fuss Over Legal PotGlobal Cannabis: Uruguay, Major UN report condemns punitive drugs policiesUruguay: The world’s marijuana pioneer and Uruguay makes first marijuana export to Australia

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*Cannabis is the correct botanical term, marijuana is a North American colloquialism, at best.

Excessive Regulation Keeps Illegal Cannabis Markets in the Black!

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Since 2012 many American states and Canada legalised use and sale of recreational Cannabis. An expected benefit of legalisation is establishment of a legal Cannabis market to eliminate the black-market. Even though legal options are available for Cannabis producers and consumers, the black-market is still thriving. The reasons behind the persistence of the Cannabis black-market are complex but one main argument is, legalised states have failed to establish a regulatory framework which effectively keeps producers and consumers in the legal market. Instead, strict regulations and the high cost of compliance have created an environment favourable to big players, driving small-scale businesses to the black-market. Published in July 2019 the study, Effects of Regulation Intensity on Marijuana* Black-Market After Legalisation (the Oregon study), found excessive US state regulations may be the reason illegal Cannabis markets continue to exist post-legalisation. The research looked at data from the first two US states to end Cannabis prohibition, Colorado and Washington.

“The qualitative analysis of news reports reveals that regulation is one of the main reasons that people stay in the illicit market. The comparison of marijuana* crime trends in Colorado and Washington shows mixed findings. While -offence rates in Colorado largely remained steady over the years, those in Washington increased dramatically after the implementation of more intensive regulations”.

Meanwhile, in ‘Cannabis-legal’ California, in July 2019, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department served search warrants on 56 illegal Cannabis cultivation sites. Spearheaded by 390 law enforcement personnel, whose mission was to combat the ongoing problem of illegal Cannabis cultivation sites throughout California, the raids resulted in:

  • 47,939 Cannabis plants confiscated
  • 2,132 pounds of processed Cannabis
  • 47 tons of Cannabis plants disposed
  • 2 Butane Honey Oil Labs located
  • 71 firearms
  • 49 arrests

Illegal cultivation is far from just a California problem, however. If Oregon halted Cannabis production today, the state would not experience a shortage; it has a six-year surplus! But, US states that legalised recreational Cannabis with the intent of re-imagining the vast underground market as an above-board business to bolster state economies via transparent dealings have been disappointed as, to date, the US Federal Government has refused to budge regarding Cannabis’ status as an illegal Schedule 1 substance. One of the tenets of legalising Cannabis is stemming the proliferation of black-market suppliers and reducing negative effects of the ‘war on drugs’, particularly on minorities. These positive impetuses have yet to flourish as a result of the illegal status of Cannabis at US federal level leaving Cannabis-legal states to operate as islands. Taking legally purchased Cannabis from a legal to an illegal state is not only illegal, but confusing and a recipe for complications, leaving Cannabis-legal states vulnerable in an environment extremely hospitable to black-market activity.

US states that legalised production have inadvertently made it easier for illegal producers to hide in plain sight where the line between legal and illegal operations blurs. Black-market growers in legal states destabilise the market as legitimate companies pay taxes and jump through every legal hoop and cannot compete. This creates frustrations for law enforcement and cuts into the legal trade. But putting the genie of legalised recreational Cannabis back in the bottle simply isn’t feasible for operational, financial and political reasons in North America. With the proliferation of attendant illegal operations it is however becoming clearer that some form of US federal legalisation is inevitable. In legal states, growers, sellers and consumers have legitimate channelsto produce, trade and obtain Cannabis, and as such, illegal avenues should diminish, yet research shows they havent disappeared. A 2018 report found 18% of Cannabis consumers in California purchased Cannabis products from an unlicensed seller.

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An association between how intense state Cannabis-related regulations are and the extent of the remaining illegal market has been investigated. In Washington (from June 2016) and in Colorado (from November 2015 and January 2017 [in 2017 Colorado lawmakers passed new rules regarding labelling and packaging of Cannabis flower and trim, concentrates and other products]), most people grew or sold illegally due to “strict regulations and the high cost associated with the compliance … ‘over-regulation’, ‘cost of compliance’, ‘high taxes’ … Other reasons for staying in the illegal market included market fluctuations and organised crime. Washington’s crime rate increased after the state introduced more regulations. “In 2014 and 2015, marijuana* crime rates/100,000 residents were around 26. This number increased to >28 incidents in 2016. In 2017, 2,628 -crimes were reported, making the annual crime rate 35.96/capita”. Colorado did not see any significant short/long-term changes to its Cannabis-related crime rates after they implemented new regulations. 

“Although the findings are not conclusive, the results of Washington data show regulation intensity may be one of the main factors that influences or explains the persistence of illegal Cannabis transactions after the legalisation”, and, “The fact that Washington’s black-market kept growing after the implementation of more complex and sophisticated regulations at least indicates a correlation between regulation intensity and the increase of the black-market …”, the Oregon study stated.

Similar findings were not reported in Colorado suggesting “the magnitude of illicit marijuana* activities may be affected by regulation intensity …”. These results raise questions about “possible adverse effect of intensive regulations to researchers and policy-makers”. If one of the goals of Cannabis legalisation is to eliminate the unregulated market, it’s important lawmakers consider the implications of unnecessarily strict rules and focus on creating an “equitable and accessible market that allows the coexistence of both large and small businesses. The cost of compliance to regulations should be reduced to remove the barriers of establishing a legal -business”, the study concluded, and, “future policies should also pay more attention to cracking down on persistent illegal growers/ sellers and organised crime groups unwilling to participate in the legal market”.  Thus, the question may no longer be, should the US legalise Cannabis federally, but, howA path forward needs to be found. Cobbling together a pastiche of laws inevitably bolsters black-market activity as quasi-legislation at state level provides neither a check nor balance. The most likely next step for US public health, stemming black-market activity and generating maximum revenues is comprehensive national legalisation, sooner rather than later.

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In Australia, Cannabis legislation remains incredibly complicated despite changes to the Narcotic Drugs Act in 2016, to purportedly allow Cannabis to be legally grown for medical and scientific purposes. The uptake of ‘medicinal Cannabis’ has been slow, with access incredibly difficult due to long waiting periods, high costs and uninformed doctors. Canada legalised Cannabis, 17 October 2018, with ‘medicinal Cannabis’ available since 2001. However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association reported in 2018, “The way the Federal Government has decided to pursue legalisation of Cannabis is concerning. Many Canadians think … Cannabis will be legal – maybe not legal like buying milk or eggs – but something akin to alcohol, or tobacco. The belief is Cannabis will be a tightly regulated substance that people of a certain age are pretty much entrusted to use as they see fit. This is a mistake. There are a raft of new criminal offences … The fact you have a patchwork of provincial, territorial and municipal laws and by-laws that interact with the federal criminal prohibitions means something that’s perfectly legal at home may be a crime when you’re visiting your friend in another city”.

“As of 2016, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimated that some 10.4% of the total population used Cannabis and that the tolerance for regular use had risen from 9.8% to 14.5% between 2013 and 2016. It is not completely unrealistic that the number of recreational users could double as a percentage of the population over the next decade, although this would be tempered by the fact that many users are likely to remain light or occasional users”, said Prohibition Partners Head of Insights, Alexandra Curley. In January 2018 the Australian Federal Government announced plans to become the fourth country in the world to legalise ‘medicinal Cannabis’ exports. Shares soared for the >20 Cannabis producers on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and Cannabis Jobs Australia estimated by 2028 there would be 50,000 Cannabis jobs in Australia. The climate makes it the perfect place for growth with a potential for two crops a year in areas with high sunlight.

“Australia boasts an optimum climate for growing some strains of Cannabis that are expensive to produce in more established markets such as Canada. This, coupled with anticipated changes to the law, will create an environment that will enable the region to capitalise on strong growth within the industry. That’s going to make Australia a very attractive proposition to investors”, Alexandra Curley, Prohibition Partners.

The bill that would legalise Cannabis for personal use in the ACT could be passed next week.

However, growers are unable to use the outdoor environment according to Barry Lambert, chairman of Ecofibre, an industrial hemp company. “On the growing side, we can only grow it indoors … Compare that to where we (Ecofibre) grow in the US … outdoors under the Kentucky sun”, he said. According to Statistics Canada, close to 5.4 million Canadians will buy Cannabis over the next 12 months. The US is also a growing market for exporters where sales grew by 30% in 2016 to US$6.7 b, without it being legal nationwide. The US now makes up 90% of the Cannabis stock trade, which can only go up with federal legislation. But Mr Lambert said there was no market in those countries for Cannabis exporters. “Who are they going to export it to? America, you can buy it over the counter at a fraction of the price. Canada, it has been legal for some time to sell Cannabis and they are trying to export it”

HLB Mann Judd (Accounting and Financial firm) partner Marcus Ohm says there are a lot of uncertainties in the industry. “Australia is at an early stage in relation to the regulatory environment relative to other jurisdictions … countries vary on whether marijuana* is illegal, permitted for medicinal purposes or permitted for recreational and medicinal use. Australia has eased some aspects … but compared to the US (state level) and Canada (federal), Australia has narrower applications”Mr Lambert said, “I personally haven’t invested in any other company … and I see no reason why I would …”, further stating most of the companies on the stock exchange are not making money, but spending it. “Australian companies will find it very hard ever to make a dollar … There’s no revenue and they’re spending millions …”.

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President of the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance, James Vosper, said, “There is a lot of investment in the industry but there have been some issues with people getting access to medicines so therefore the number of people being treated in Australia isn’t as high as it could be”Mr Lambert said legalising ‘medicinal Cannabis’ in Australia did absolutely nothing for promotion of the industry. There are two reasons. One … no demand for the product because the rules around getting the product are unworkable … no doctor understands it because they aren’t trained … until 2016 it had been illegal. Secondly, there’s been no research in this country because it’s been illegal. So, doctors don’t know about it, therefore they don’t prescribe it”Mr Lambert said the US system allowed for ‘medicinal Cannabis’ to be sold over the counter, a system Australia needed to adopt. Without that the industry was dead before it even began.

“We don’t believe that the prescription system works. And, therefore, those medical Cannabis companies are going to find it very hard or impossible to be successful and that their solution is adoption of the American system”, Barry Lambert, Ecofibre.

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Others remain more optimistic, with Mr Vosper saying the future looked bright. “I think Australia has a great future in this industry. The whole world is moving towards an organic model and Australia has half of the world’s organic farmland. Put that with a great reputation for products and you have a great future in the medicinal Cannabis industry”The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government passed laws in September 2019 that essentially fully decriminalised Cannabis under certain and very specific conditions.  When the legislation comes into effect on 31 January, 2020, it will be legal, under ACT law, for adults in Canberra to grow, smoke and own small amounts of Cannabis (50 grams). But the Commonwealth has laws of its own in this area and those laws explicitly prohibit possessing any quantity of Cannabis (with the exception of ‘medicinal Cannabis’, a completely separate thing). Introduced by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson in 2018, to legalise possession of 50 grams of Cannabis for adults, the ACT Government stated, 

“It is important to note that, even after the passage of this bill, possessing and growing Cannabis will carry a degree of risk arising from interactions between territory and Commonwealth law”. Mr Pettersson said, “In order to reduce harm and stigma, we need to make sure that people can feel free to come forward and get help. In order to do this, we need to remove the penalties and charges associated with the possession and use of small amounts of Cannabis …”.

Across the ditch (from Australia) in New Zealand, Cannabis is classified as an illegal ‘drug’ under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and possession, use and supply are subject variously to penalties ranging from fines to many years imprisonment. The Helen Clark (former Prime Minister of New Zealand and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy) Foundation, released a report setting out the case for legalising and regulating Cannabis. The prospect of invoking criminal sanctions has had little impact on people’s behaviour as longitudinal studies indicate by age 25, 80% of New Zealanders had tried Cannabis at least once. Simply, prohibition-based policy approaches have not eradicated and will not eradicate Cannabis consumption and supply in New Zealand or anywhere else where use is established. The New Zealand Referendum due in 2020 will be to legalise and regulate. Decriminalisation is not expected to be an option.Image result for new zealand cannabis

Helen Clark herself stated, “The time has come for New Zealand to face up to the widespread use and supply of Cannabis in the country and to legalise and regulate it accordingly. No useful purpose is served by maintaining its illegal status. A “yes” vote in the 2020 referendum will be positive for social justice and equity, contribute to reducing the country’s excessively large prison population and enable those health issues associated with Cannabis to be dealt with upfront. These are the reasons why I support legalisation”. However, in legalising and regulating in New Zealand, it will be important not to create another ‘big tobacco’ or ‘big alcohol’. Both industries fought and continue to fight efforts to reduce harm they cause, including regulation of access, product promotion and taxation aimed at disincentivising use.

503e589cab97b59cc53421127b6291af_400x400On the weighted score for harms of drugs in the United Kingdom developed by scientist David Nutt, former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and colleagues, published in the Lancet in 2010, Cannabis is assessed as immensely less harmful to those who use it and to others, than is alcohol. Various other rankings concur Cannabis use is significantly less problematic for individual health than either tobacco or alcohol. The classification of drugs  pursuant to international drug conventions, however, is based on more cultural and political factors than scientific evidence. Those classifications have scarred the lives of countless millions of people worldwide, caught up in the criminal net cast over what is deemed to be illegal ‘drug’ possession, use and supply. It is not surprising, therefore, a growing number of jurisdictions have been moving away from the prohibitionist approach promoted by the international conventions.

Countries and individual states/provinces/territories have legalised possession, use and supply of Cannabis. Other jurisdictions have decriminalised personal possession and use. President of New Zealand’s criminal lawyers’ society supports legalising Cannabis for personal use and says existing law criminalises too many people. Len Andersen, Criminal Bar Association President, said banning Cannabis created demand for more harmful drugs, including synthetic ‘cannabinoids​’, implicated in at least 70 deaths. Mr Andersen said prohibition put otherwise law-abiding people who chose to use Cannabis “in the position of constant illegality”. The Association said its membership comprised 700 practising criminal lawyers across New Zealand. “I think most members would support legalisation of Cannabis for personal use”, Andersen said. An amendment to New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act directed police only to prosecute those using ‘drugs’ when there is ‘public interest’. The New Zealand Federal Government has been clear it wants to take a health and well-being-based approach. Drug law reform, including legalisation of Cannabis, helps meet both objectives.

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The ‘war on drugs’ has failed. In Australia, 35% have tried Cannabis, but this choice could earn a criminal record, just for having a small amount of Cannabis in your possession (or system). This ‘tough on drugs’ approach causes enormous harm, driving people away from getting help and exposing them to a dangerous black-market. From Uruguay to Spain, New Zealand to the US and Canada, countries around the world are realising prohibition causes more harm than it prevents. Cannabis use is a health issue, not a criminal one. Legalising Cannabis use would reduce harm, increase protection for vulnerable people and break the business model of criminal gangs. World-wide, the Cannabis ‘cake’ should be big enough for everybody; corporates, government/s, home-growers, not-for-profits and the most-oft-forgotten sick and suffering, to get a slice. It’s all in how you carve it up, and it could and should be, equitable. The world has seen enough of the double-standards, mass-hypocrisy and worst of all, ignorance of science fact, because it is not profitable. It is way past time to put people before profits and free Cannabis from the constraints of prohibitionistic regulations and the out-and-out lies that have besmirched this wonderfully efficacious herb for far too long! Save lives and legalise!

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Adapted from Heavy Regulations Allow Illegal Marijuana Sales to Persist, Study Argues with Effects of Regulation Intensity on Marijuana Black-Market After LegalizationStemming the Cannabis Black-MarketTHE BLUNT TRUTH, Cannabis prohibition doesn’t work anywhere. It’s New Zealand’s turn to legalise itLaws to legalise cannabis for personal use in the ACT could pass next weekCannabis laws bound for the courtroom to work out whether ACT or Commonwealth is rightLegalise weed, criminal lawyer group president says and Legalise It

*marijuana – Cannabis sativa is the correct botanical term for the plant, the term marijuana is a North American colloquialism, at best.

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Australian Legal ‘Medicinal Cannabis’, Overpriced and Difficult to Obtain

It is estimated that close to a million patients are now seeking access to ‘medicinal Cannabis’ in Australia. Australian government figures show around 20,000 patients now have approvals for access to legal ‘medicinal Cannabis’ products. The Medical Cannabis Users Association of Australia Inc. (MCUA) reports many patients are still having to turn to the ‘black’ market or are self supplying because, access to and cost of, the majority of legal ‘medicinal Cannabis’ products is way beyond their financial reach. This is happening in Queensland, for example, partly because public hospital policy does not permit its doctors to prescribe Cannabis-based products.

The MCUA states the rate of approvals has increased substantially with a mushrooming of corporate clinics set up to move products that had been languishing on warehouse shelves because General Practitioners (GP’s) were refusing to prescribe ‘medical Cannabis’. These clinics have the sole purpose of prescribing corporate ‘Cannabis’-based products and have become the gateway to moving these over-priced, often longitudinally untested pharmaceuticals off the shelves. It appears these clinics are given ‘special treatment’ in this highly regulated environment as the MCUA noted when CEO of ‘medical Cannabis’ company, THC, David Radford said on Sky News;

“… We are working with individual state governments to get their approvals (for clinics) … not the same as a health clinic that you go through so we are not expecting the same regulatory hurdles …”.

The current modus operandi of the clinics when communicating with ‘patients’ is an offering of either/or teleconferencing and face to face consultations with doctors who it is being alleged have no prior experience using or prescribing ‘Cannabis’-based medicine in a clinical situation and who also have had limited training via educational videos and ‘medical Cannabis’ company backup. Some patients have said to the MCUA that consultation processes have been amateur in approach. In some cases, no medical history of the patient was recorded and prospective patients weren’t even asked about current medications or allergies they might have. As to consultation fees the MCUA report these can vary enormously between clinics.

The majority of ‘medical Cannabis’ patients do not receive a Medicare rebate and on average, patients are charged fees by third parties of around $200 to apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) online (a process for which there is no fee attached if one registers directly). Other costs,  it is reported, vary from <$100 to >$1,000 for an initial consultation and an application for ‘medical Cannabis’. Due to the increasing number of complaints about these clinics the MCUA is conducting a patient satisfaction survey asking about patient experiences overall with the delivery model set up by the Australian Federal Government. Responses to their survey have been consistent throughout with +45% of patients saying they are paying up to $500-$1,000 a month for products.Image result for australian medical cannabis products

Most survey respondents are on Centrelink payments because of their illness and some have got themselves into debt with family or friends to enable them to purchase the medicine. Almost half of the prescriptions written have not been filled. Peter Crock, CEO of the Cann Group and Chairman of Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia reinforces this scenario.  He said on ABC radio that, “All medicinal Cannabis is being imported … that is what is keeping prices high … and people are taking the opportunity to make super profits on the way through”. Many survey respondents say they have had more than one approval with 20% saying they have had more than five approvals. The dissatisfaction rate with the delivery system is consistently 86% .

Patient experiences gathered via the survey include the following;

  • One MCUA member reported being charged $700.00 in consultation fees and product for her fathers palliative medicine. The product was delivered in November 2019, a six week supply of Cannabis oil with an expiry date of October 2019. They were told the family GP would need to sign off on the prescription and treatment would not begin until the Clinic doctor saw the GP because the state owned aged-care facility could not give out-of-date medicine. The woman’s dying father was denied medicine to make his passing easier. 
  • Another wrote they were worried their Cannabis clinic was ‘taking them for a ride’. Their first prescribed medicine was bought as two 25 ml bottles to avoid an extra $50 for shipping. The first script cost $633.30, the next $330.30 due to the distributor lowering the cost. After three months the ‘patient’ had to pay the clinic to write a new script, which needed to be approved again by the TGA. When the clinic couldn’t get the same product they had to re-apply for TGA approval and supplied a different product altogether at a cost of $540.00 for two bottles (50 ml). The cost to use on a daily basis was initially (February 2019) an average of $15.20. When the price dropped it reduced the daily cost to $7.92 and now the ‘patient’ is paying $16.20 daily. 
  • One said she recently applied for the ‘legal version’, knowing full well it was beyond what she could afford after the initial appointment cost $200.00. Subsequent scripts, she was told, would cost $59.00. It would be $80.00 for a follow-up appointment and $59.00 whenever there was an adjustment to dose or product. Requiring two products, one at $660.00 a month and the other at $300.00 a month, needless to say, she could not afford to fill the scripts and believes this circumstance to be discriminatory against people on low incomes. 
  • And one, with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), degenerative spinal conditions (previous high impact crush injury – L5/4/3), a dislocated neck (C4/3), Scheuermann’s Kyphosis Scoliosis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), high blood pressure, diabetes, Sarcoidosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is going blind because of the MS. This 36 year old, on a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Pension, 18 months ago was looking at being an invalid, possibly under palliative care but that simply was not an option as they had children. They researched and made Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO). According to them it was the only reason they did not become wheelchair-bound and paralysed. For $350.00/ounce of black-market Cannabis they could make 250 ml of oil. They used 50 ml ($70.00 worth) a month. Image result for FECO cannabis productsBefore the illegal oil, they took 19 ‘pills’ every morning, 20 at night and another ten throughout the day. They no longer take opioids or other pain-killers except the Cannabis oil which healed the broken back and dislocated neck, when they were told they’d never walk again. They sought approval for legal supply through a prescription, because they go to hospital regularly due to lung and kidney issues, but the hospital won’t let them use their oil because it’s not ‘legal’. They now have a script for legal supply but the bottle of oil is waiting at the pharmacy as they cannot afford it. It’s a THC/CBD blend, 25 ml for $300.00. The doctor said that was the dose for one month. With no way to maintain that cost the ‘patient’ has no option but to continue to make their own oil and run the risk of being raided and prosecuted. Which they were; arrested and charged when caught by police for sending a bottle of home-made medicine to a fellow sufferer. 
  • Another paid $110.00 for two consultations, first with a nurse to see if they met the criteria and second with a doctor to go through the application. They were told they would hear back within a week. After four weeks, they emailed the clinic and got no response. They called the mobile numbers and found they were disconnected, so they wrote a bad review online and looked into reporting the clinic as a scam. The clinic contacted them and asked them to remove the review. In exchange the clinic said they would pay for half the prescription. The full cost was beyond the ‘patient’, so they agreed and drove 1½ hours (round trip) to collect it. The ‘patient’ very quickly worked their way to the maximum dose, without any noticeable impact and was not prepared to spend $385.00 every five days on something that did not work. They were told they would have ongoing follow up care from the team, that they were not going to have to go through the process alone, the entire team was behind them. They never heard from the clinic again. 
  • And yet another at a popular access clinic felt badly treated after commenting about the high cost of the consultations and product. The clinic pharmacist said if they couldn’t afford it to go back to their GP! The ‘patient’ complained to the practice manager and got nowhere. Left without any oil since June, the clinic didn’t care they were not coping, in extreme pain and couldn’t afford to keep paying for consultations, approval applications and the outrageous cost of the oil which they felt was very diluted and not effective at the low dose prescribed. They repeatedly told the clinic they couldn’t afford $450.00 every three weeks on a Disability Pension. They noted that the system is not working and nobody seems to want to help.

Image result for australian medical cannabis productsThis is a small sample. There are many such ‘horror’ stories and MCUA has witnessed firsthand how the system has failed the ill and suffering. There needs to be a review with public input and recommendations made to facilitate a quicker more affordable delivery system. MCUA President, Deb Lynch, is currently waiting for a trial date after being arrested and charged for self-supply following many attempts to acquire a prescription through Queensland (Qld) Health, whose doctors have been advised not to prescribe Cannabis under public hospital policy. Being on a disability pension, there is no way she can afford the costs involved in getting a script from one of these corporate Cannabis clinics.

The MCUA is still seeking patients who have been through the legal process to fill in their Medical Cannabis Access – Patient Satisfaction Survey (2019) which will be forwarded to the Federal Senate, via the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Senator Anne Urquhart, along with their current petition asking for a full review of the delivery system put in place by the Liberal/National Party (LNP). Cannabis is a herbal remedy and trying to squeeze it into the pharmaceutical delivery model will mean that the hold-ups will continue and prices will remain high as companies who have spent millions to get into the market are not turning a profit. The MCUA is asking anyone with an opinion to comment on their petition asking for this review.

The MCUA is contactable via their website.

Image result for australian medical cannabis productsAdapted from Australian Medical Marijuana Patients Find It Difficult To Get and Medical Cannabis Rip Offs result in patients charged with self supply

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It’s Past Time to Remove False Claims About Cannabis

In 2017, the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) removed some false claims about Cannabis from their website. The nonprofit advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, used government policy against the DEA, filing a petition that stated they had violated the Information Quality Act (Data Quality Act), meant to ensure objective, fact-based information is supplied on government websites and literature meant to educate the public. The group cited at least 25 misleading statements found on the DEA’s website and in a report from the agency titled, “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse”, that not only contradicted commonly accepted facts about Cannabis backed by science and research, but also the DEA’s own statements from 2016 when then-US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Cannabis is not, in fact, a gateway drug’. “We usually … are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem”, she said.

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Image result for ban the deaAmong the other misinformation the DEA was passing off as purported fact was that marijuana’ induces psychosis and causes long-term brain damage. “We are pleased that in the face of our request the DEA withdrew some of the damaging misinformation from its website”,  said Vickie Feeman of law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe“We are hopeful the DEA will also remove the remaining statements rather than continue to mislead the public in the face of the scientifically proven benefits of ‘medical Cannabis’”, she said. “However, the DEA continues to disseminate many damaging facts about the health risks of ‘medical Cannabis’, and patients across the country face ongoing harm as a result of these alternative facts’”. In 2019, there are still concerning statements on the DEA website that contradict accepted facts about Cannabis.

The Australian Government’s Department of Health (DoH) website states the following:

… ‘drugs’ can be categorised by the way in which they affect our bodies;

  • depressants — slow down the function of the central nervous system
  • hallucinogens — affect your senses and change the way you see, hear, taste, smell or feel things
  • stimulants — speed up the function of the central nervous system

Some ‘drugs’ affect the body in many ways and can fall into more than one category. For example, Cannabis appears in all three categories.

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The links to individual substances listed on the DoH website lead you to the Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) website for the purported facts (to use the term, facts, extremely loosely). On Cannabis it notes the effects include anxiety, blurred vision, clumsiness, dry mouth, excitement, fast heart rate, feeling sleepy, increased appetite, low blood pressure, paranoia, quiet mood, reflective mood, relaxation, slower reflexes, spontaneous laughter … and calls it a cannabinoid drug’, contradicting the DoH, using an adapted Drug Wheel (from the United Kingdom).

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Checking the references of the ADF article on Cannabis there are no surprises as to the misinformation, on the short list of names there are several of the usual culprits; high-profile Australian prohibitionists who profit from pushing propaganda with scant regard for actual science or the truth (many ‘brought to us’ by the pharmaceutical industry, among others with vested interests).


Australian Cannabis statistics from the Alcohol and Drug FoundationRelated image
Australians Nationally

34.8%, 14 years and over, have used Cannabis once or more in their life,
10.4%, 14 years and over have used Cannabis in the previous 12 months,
Young People in Australia
• Most do not use Cannabis – 68.7% of 12-17 year olds have never tried it.


Image result for Cannabis and those pernicious substances, the drugs, are wholly unalikeThe therapeutic index (larger the TI, the safer) of Cannabis is estimated to be between 4,000:1 to 40,000:1. Nobody really knows 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. As most people who have tried Cannabis (estimated to be more than one-hundred million US citizens alone) 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 can cause side effects for some, which may include anxiety, paranoia, dysphoria and cognitive impairment. These side effects appear to be dose related, tend to occur in naïve users and are entirely temporary. Due to 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”.cannapharmaco

 


The reality is clear: Cannabis and those pernicious substances, the drugs, are wholly unalike. As the word ‘drug’ is wrong and inapplicable to Cannabis, it is necessary to establish a correct word, veracious vocabulary, which is fitting. “Because Cannabis has been loosely, widely and incorrectly referred to in the past as a ‘drug’ does not mean that this basic untruth can become acceptable. On the contrary, since the introduction of Prohibition the legal situation compels veracity and clarity more than ever, for not to articulate the truth accurately involves perjury. Yet truthful language, the truth, exposes the mendacious basis to the crime that is this prohibition of Cannabis”. 

From The Report of the Family Council on Drug Awareness (FCDA) (Europe, 2000)


Anti-weed activists say violent crimes have increased in states like Colorado. Picture: AP Photo/Dave Zalubowski

Image result for addiction to cannabis less than coffeeThe US Federal Government’s Independent New Drug (IND) program, instituted in 1978,  showed 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 IND patients supplied with government-grown Cannabis for over 25 years. They found these Cannabis patients to have had no adverse health effects from decades-long respiratory consumption of 7.5-9 lbs (3.4-4+kg) per year. There is plenty of data to demonstrate the safety of Cannabis. Not only the US Government’s IND program but also epidemiology studies demonstrate there are no proven long­-term adverse effects of Cannabis use. Prohibitionistic propagandists will say Cannabis is addictive. However, Cannabis addiction does not exist (except as an oxymoron). It is a misunderstanding of the definition of addiction alongside a lack of knowledge of the action of cannabinoids on the human Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Of course there is a dependency risk to Cannabis, one shared with other medications and/or recreational substances. As substance abuse experts Drs Hennigfield and Benowitz pointed out decades 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 cognition iq cannabis use

Another common fallacy 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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Another canard (unfounded rumour or story) is that regular Cannabis 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 was 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.  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 breastmilk 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. And the lies continue to percolate wherever it is politically and economically advantageous to those in power in so many jurisdictions, worldwide.

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The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) recommended that, beyond 2019, United Nations (UN) member states should end punitive ‘drug’ control approaches and put people and communities first. The IDPC’s Shadow Report, ‘Taking stock: A decade of drug policy’ evaluates the impacts of policies implemented across the world over the past decade, using UN data, complemented with peer-reviewed academic research and grey literature reports from civil society. Image result for IDPC LOGOThe important role of civil society in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of global policies is recognised in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on drugs, as well as in the Outcome Document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS). It is in this spirit the IDPC produced the Shadow Report, to contribute constructively to high-level discussions on the next decade in global drug policy. The Shadow Report concluded that member states should identify more meaningful policy goals and targets in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNGASS Outcome Document and international human rights commitments.


IDPC’s Shadow Report, ‘Taking stock: A decade of drug policy’ – Key Conclusions

• Data from the Shadow Report show targets and commitments made in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action have not been achieved, and in many cases have resulted in counterproductive policies.
• The Shadow Report highlights the urgent need to conduct more comprehensive and balanced research and evaluations on the impacts of drug policies worldwide, taking into account government data, but also academic research and civil society findings.
• The Shadow Report concludes member states should identify more meaningful drug policy goals and targets in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNGASS Outcome Document and international human rights commitments.


Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.Image result for cannabis is not a drug

 

 

 

 

 

 

The right to the truth is a human right. Cannabis is a herb, not a drug, and should be removed from all the various drug conventions, worldwide; then it could be provided to all in need, just as ‘Mother Nature’ intended. In the interim, how about the whole, organic truth about the Cannabis sativa plant; it might just set us all free.

 

Adapted from DEA Removes False Claims About Cannabis from Their WebsiteDEA Finally Removes Misinformation about Pot from WebsiteLIES USED TO JUSTIFY RESTRICTIVE CANNABIS POLICIES, Illegally HealedDEA Drops Inaccurate Cannabis Claims From WebsiteWhat You Should Know About MARIJUANAGranny Storm Crow’s List and CANNABIS IS NOT A DRUG.

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Granny Storm Crow’s News Articles for Cannabis Beginners

Beginners – Start Here! 

No one is born knowing about Cannabis, we were all beginners, once.
Reading the following now will save you a lot of questions later …


NEWS ARTICLES – 2010-2019

What to know before visiting your first pot shop (news–2015)

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CannaCurious? Here’s How To Get Started With Marijuana (news–2016) 

What is the Endocannabinoid System? Here’s Everything You Need to Know (news–2016)

Cannabis 101: THC vs CBD (news–2016)

Identifying Old or Bad Cannabis Past its Shelf Life (news–2016)

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The Endocannabinoid System: A Beginner’s Guide (news–2017)

Top Marijuana Strains for Beginners and Low-Tolerance Tokers (news–2017)

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Beyond baggies: How to read modern marijuana packaging (news–2018) 

Marijuana 101: Why You Shouldn’t Hold Your Hits For More Than 3 Seconds (news–2018)

How to vape cannabis for beginners (news–2018)

Tips For People Consuming Marijuana For The First Time (news–2018)

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Watch The Rejected Medical Marijuana Super Bowl Commercial: ‘Cannabis Has Given Me My Life Back’
(video – just a little taste of the future) (news/ad–2019)

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Granny★

Granny Storm Crow’s List

Cannabis to Treat Opioid Addiction

Medical Cannabis

In the United States in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared an ‘opioid epidemic’. This announcement came on the heels of two decades of medical over-prescribing practices, leading to opioid misuse and abuse, resulting in soaring rates of overdoses across the US. Too little, too late? Addiction isn’t a new problem. The human body is inherently vulnerable to addiction through the action of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, a prominent chemical messenger, is released in response to rewarding and pleasurable events. Its role is to reinforce biologically relevant and necessary behaviours, including eating, sleeping and sex.

However, humans and other animals are at risk of becoming dependent on the dopamine ‘rush’ and can, therefore, develop an addiction to these behaviours whereby their body becomes dependent on the increased dopamine to function at baseline. Just like food or sex, substances like alcohol and opioids can lead to dopamine release. Opioids are derived from the poppy plant and are a key component of illicit drugs (like heroin) and pain medications (like oxycodone). While opioid medications have been used for many years to treat pain, a few crucial factors converged in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that led to an opioid-addicted US.

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In 1996, healthcare professionals were urged to pay closer attention to the pain reported by their patients – a recommendation bordering on being a requirement, prompting recognition of pain as the ‘fifth vital sign’. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisation heightened the urgency to treat pain in their published guidelines and US Congress declared the first decade of the 21st century to be the “Decade of Pain Control and Research”. These events and associated policy changes sent a jolting ripple effect through the medical community that resulted in greatly increased prescriptions for pain medications.

Concurrently, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of OxyContin®, began aggressively marketing their prescription opioids, spending $200 million on advertising. Their tactics included down-playing the potential risk of addiction and dependency caused by opioid medications. As a result, OxyContin® sales soared from $48 million in 1996 to almost $1.1 billion in 2000. While Purdue eventually faced criminal and civil charges, by then, the damage to America had already been done. In 2017 there were 47,600 opioid-related deaths in the US. While prescription opioids certainly contributed to these statistics, many of these deaths involved heroin; those who take opioid medications are at significantly higher risk of using heroin, due to its lower cost and easier access.

In fact, the nature of the opioid epidemic fundamentally shifted the way addiction is viewed in the US. Government initiatives have invested in strategies to reduce access to prescription opioid medications but this does nothing to help patients with chronic pain who need treatment, nor those recovering from addiction. Fortunately, there is an overwhelming amount of data supporting Cannabis as both an effective agent for pain relief and an aide in helping people recover from opioid addiction. The idea of using Cannabis to treat pain is not new – in fact, ancient Chinese civilisations used Cannabis for joint pain and inflammation before it came to the West (Cannabis is one of the ancient Chinese ‘50 Fundamental Herbs’).

Opioids, derived from the poppy plant, have also been historically used for pain control; however, unlike Cannabis, those who used opioids quickly learned of the risk of addiction. Cannabis shares some physiological similarities to opioids, as short-term use increases dopamine to relieve pain. However, Cannabis increases dopamine via cannabinoid receptors, while opioids increase it via opioid receptors. Additionally, the increase in dopamine levels from Cannabis does not persist over time and, therefore, the risk of possible dependence is significantly lower.

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The effects of Cannabis on pain have been demonstrated across many studies. A meta-analysis of 28 clinical trials conducted on Cannabis and pain ranging from 1948-2015 reported positive findings, concluding Cannabis is effective in treating pain with a reasonable safety profile. Cannabis has therefore been approved to treat chronic pain in the majority of US states where its use is legalised. But, what about treating opioid addiction and not just pain? US states with legalised medical’ Cannabis have significantly lower levels of opioid use and opioid-related deaths.

A study in 2016 found a 64% reduction in opioid use in American patients who used Cannabis for their chronic pain. Studies have shown Cannabis may be effective in reducing craving for opioids and easing withdrawal symptoms. Based on this evidence and the unrelenting opioid crisis, New Jersey and Pennsylvania added opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for ‘medical’ Cannabis and other states like New Mexico, Maryland, Connecticut and Ohio are drafting similar policies. New York and Illinois allow patients prescribed opioids to receive ‘medical’ Cannabis instead.

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These policies certainly represent tremendous progress toward helping patients use ‘medical’ Cannabis to treat their pain and potentially aid them in recovery as they transition off opioids. However, Cannabis still remains a Schedule I substance at the federal level in the US, which restricts patients’ access to it and continues to slow critical research. Despite growing awareness and recognition of the potential for Cannabis in alleviating the epidemic caused by opioid addiction, ending prohibition entirely is the only way to further progress and alleviate the opioid crisis in the United States.

Adapted from Medical Cannabis for Opioid Addiction: A Two-Pronged Approach, Part 1 and Medical Cannabis for Opioid Addiction: A Two-Pronged Approach, Part 2

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