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The Hempire News - June 05

UK News
In 1987 one in every fifty children aged 14 or 15 used cannabis. Today the figure is one in four. This huge increase has occurred as skunk has proliferated and skunk, as we know, is dangerous for teenage brains. Prohibitionists see this as reason to reclassify back to B. But prohibitionists get everything the wrong way round.

Teenagers say it is harder to get hold of alcohol and cigarettes than it is cannabis. The reason being you need ID to buy alcohol and cigarettes but you only need money to buy dope. The answer, therefore, is not to lock up cannabis users but to create a system of coffeeshops and punish coffeeshop owners if they sell to someone under-age.

Age controls aren't perfect but they're certainly better than what we've got now. Prohibitionists wont accept this because they suffer from the delusion that it's possible to stop people using something which brings pleasure. Which means they've no grasp of history, no understanding of human nature and, ultimately, no hope whatsoever of winning.
- full story here

Prohibitionists have tried all manner of things in their quest to make us conform. It's not like they ask nicely either - everything they do is designed to scare us into submission. And when it comes to children there's no holds barred, as the latest depressing craze of drug testing shows.

Given their previous litany of hugely successful efforts I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear that drug testing doesn't work. Drug testing doesn't catch hardcore users, doesn't prevent people from using but does further alienate children at a time when they need guidance most.

None of which has stopped Colne Community School in Brightlingsea. Yes parents and teachers did approve the policy but parents and teachers aren't drug experts, they're simply the ones prohibitionists have scared. So scared are they they'll do whatever prohibitionists say, with all the disastrous consequences that inevitably follow.
- full story here

I know it's two months since the last election but it's still worth recording the success the Legalise Cannabis Alliance enjoyed. The LCA campaign was shockingly underfunded yet managed to get more than three-quarters of a million flyers through letterboxes. And spread the word to millions of people through hustings and television and radio. And get more votes in Wales than Respect and the BNP.

There are many highly dedicated campaigners who give their money, time, effort and, in some cases, liberty for the freedom of others. I salute them all.

Medical News
Last December Spanish researchers discovered that cannabis can prevent the growth of cancerous tumours. These findings have now been advanced in Israel.

Cannabinoids were taken from hash, put through an oxidation process and injected into mice. As found in Spain this stopped a tumour growing in two different ways; some cancerous cells were killed and those still alive stopped stealing nourishment from other healthy cells.

The Israeli study was conducted under the supervision of the eminent Professor Raphael Mechoulam, who was quoted as saying: "Almost every pharmaceutical in the world uses the active ingredients in cannabis as a basis for existing drugs and those under development."

They've kept that quiet haven't they?
- full story here

The body produces two types of natural pain blockers. One is known to be opioid-based, which is why morphine is so often used in hospitals. Thanks to a recent study we now know the other is cannabinoid-based.

This discovery is highly important - and not just because it proves prohibitionists wrong yet again. Many pain-relief medications have side-effects so severe as to negate the benefit given. Cannabis-based medications will work where others don't, wont get people hooked and wont cause some of the other complications found in existing treatments.
- full story here

For some conditions the treatment options are limited in the extreme; migraines for example. Migraines cause sufferers a type of pain that even shovel-loads of painkillers can't relieve. The best option seems to be lie down in a dark room and wait it out.

However, many doctors in America are now quietly recommending their patients use cannabis. Cannabis has limited toxicity, works fast and in such low doses as to not be debilitating.

Legal painkillers can only wish they were that good.
- full story here

The effect of cannabis on migraines is also being investigated by natural healthcare company William Ransom. The company, apparently better known for it's Aloe Vera toothpaste, has a history of producing cannabis medicines. They only stopped in 1973 because the law said the substance had no therapeutic use.

Well let's see now. Just this month we've found it kills tumours in mice, may provide a whole new raft of painkillers and definitely relieves some migraines. Previously there's been evidence it helps people with MS, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, HIV, morning sickness, depression, a low libido and a whole host of other conditions.

No therapeutic use?
- full story here

So the evidence supporting the medicinal benefits of cannabis is growing and other companies are looking for a piece of the action. Yet still GW Pharmaceuticals can't get Sativex licensed for the UK. They've just been told they'll need to do further clinical trials first, a decision which condemns tens of thousands of MS sufferers to more unnecessary agony.

The UK regulatory authority was satisfied with the quality and safety of Sativex but wasn't convinced about it's effectiveness - something I would have thought the patient was best placed to decide. Meanwhile Canada has approved the medicine, partly because they reviewed a range of studies. We only looked at one.

Funnily enough Canada is also far more liberal about the recreational use of cannabis. Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist by nature but there does seem to be increasing evidence to support the idea that the decision in the UK is based more on politics than on the needs of the seriously ill.
- full story here

We know cannabis can exacerbate mental illnesses. We're starting to learn it can help them too. The reason the same substance works in two different ways is due to its two main compounds, THC and CBD.

Cannabis rich in THC and low in CBD, i.e. skunk, can bring on psychosis and schizophrenia in people susceptible. However, cannabis with a greater CBD content could well work as an anti-psychotic.

The problem for researchers is that it's difficult for full studies to take place in the UK because of the law. The law also makes it impossible to communicate this key element about cannabis to those who might be in danger.

Only when it is legal would cannabis be properly labelled as high in THC and low in CBD - or vice versa. Only when it is legal will we be able to prevent vulnerable teenagers buying it. And only when it is legal might those at risk heed warnings to stay away from skunk.
- full story here

The law also makes it very difficult for doctors to do their job, as an editorial in The Lancet outlined brilliantly this month. The Lancet wants an honest debate into drug use because drug war moralising and threats of punishment make patients reluctant to reveal all. Doctors need the whole story, part of it is not enough.

The need for an honest debate extends further than to provide help to those in immediate medical need. This country is witnessing an explosion in drug use. Drugs are absolutely everywhere. We will never know their true impact until people feel able to talk openly about their use.

The editorial continues: "The Lancet does not endorse illegal drug use, but we believe that the cloak of secrecy shrouding those who use illicit substances is the most destructive feature by far of the cultural condemnation of recreational drug use. Discussions framed by moralising or by adherence to social ideals have little utility in a society of which drug use is an inescapable part."

- full story here

International News
Two decisions in America strike a serious blow against medicinal marijuana. Both allow the federal government to overrule state's laws and prosecute medicinal users for something which is entirely legal where they live.

However, the outrage that followed these decisions has carried the argument for medicinal use far and wide. There have been literally hundreds of articles discussing what happened, and given the number of news shows with space to fill I'm pretty sure it's been on a tv show or two. As a result tens of millions of Americans have been repeatedly exposed to the pros and cons of legalising cannabis for those in medical need.

So the decision to prosecute has, like asking George Galloway to testify, backfired spectacularly. Prohibitionists fear a debate more than anything else because they know they'll lose. After all, who in the right mind could possibly deny sick people the only medicine which works. Oh yes, Mr Bush and Mr Blair.
- Supreme Court
- the House

A price has finally been put on the cost of prohibiting cannabis; it's $10-$14bn a year in America alone. This figure was compiled using government figures by a cast of over 500 economists, amongst whom was the celebrated - and ultra-conservative - Milton Friedman.

About $8bn of the cost is due to enforcing prohibition, the remainder is the revenue which could be gained from taxation. This figure doesn't even include the huge cost on individuals or society, an intangible cost which cannot be measured but is felt in abundance.

Transform and others have been urging our Government to undergo a similar audit. In a world of targets and performance indicators prohibition is uniquely not subject to the usual procedures to check we're getting our money's worth. Problem is prohibitionists don't want their approach prodded too much. Houses of cards aren't particularly stable.
- full story here

Prohibitionists shy away from facts about drugs purely because the facts always prove them wrong. What they tend to do instead is make sweeping scare statements full of unverifiable claims. Such as was recently found coming from the mouth of the UN.

According to the UN even the occasional use of cannabis is a link in a 'long and dangerous cycle of crime, degradation and terrorism'. So spark up and you're in league with gangsters, collaborating with the sex trade and dropping coins in Al Qaeda's collection box.

Well they've got to try something I suppose. They've promised us a drug free world by 2008 and the 200 million people currently using don't seem in any hurry to stop. Fifteen million more people used drugs this year than last. Drugs are cheaper, purer, more available and more in demand than ever. You'd be forgiven for thinking the UN's drug strategy isn't working.

Oh sorry, there's Laos. Laos is a big win for the UN because the country is no longer considered a supplier of opiates. Only problem is that prohibition has the same effect as pressing on a half-full balloon. Deflate one site and you inflate another. So clamp down on Laos and another country will fill the void. Afghanistan for example.
- full story here

Just when we thought we'd got rid of the gateway theory forever along comes Professor Yasmin Hurd. The Swedish researcher discovered that rats self-administered heroin more frequently if they'd been given THC in the past. From this she concluded that the gateway effect was real and that cannabis does lead people to take harder drugs.

What she's missing is the fact that rats aren't human and are thus less likely to make rational decisions about what drugs may or may not be good for them; they went for the pleasure provided by heroin because they'd found pressing that lever brought pleasure before. Pleasure you or I might seek if we were locked in a cage for 24 hours a day and subjected to random experiments.
- full story here

Miscellaneous News
In a dangerous move for stoners everywhere an Australian entrepreneur plans to launch a range of hemp treats for hounds. Not that a stoned hound is anything to fear, just that dog treats will be even more tempting when there's nothing else in the cupboard.
- full story here

There will be a lot of stress and anger when the settlers in Gaza are removed. So thank Elohim for an Israeli pro-pot party who have sought permission to get the settlers and army high first. Strangely, the request was refused - perhaps because their government knew that stoned people would be less aggressive but even more keen to stay exactly where they are.
- full story here

Spare a thought for the Welsh assembly minister who, when demonstrating a drug-testing machine, found she tested positive for cannabis. She claims she picked up traces of the substance from door handles or money or other public areas. If anyone tries that in court do let me know the response of the judge.
- full story here