Category Archives:Drug Premises

Sydney Uni Pioneers Medical Marijuana Research

In an important step towards legalising medical marijuana in Australia, it was announced last week that Sydney University will lead research into the effectiveness of cannabis on a range of conditions.

The research will primarily be funded by a generous $33.7 million donation from Aussie businessman Barry Lambert and his wife Joy, who are passionate about investigating the use of marijuana for treating health problems such as cancer, chronic pain, and epilepsy. The centre will be aptly named the Lambert Institute.

Supplementing the Lambert’s donation is a $12 million grant from the state government to be spent over four years on establishing the centre.

For the Lamberts, the campaign to recognise medical marijuana has a personal touch – their young granddaughter, Katelyn, suffered epileptic seizures and found relief in cannabis-derived medicines. Now, the couple hopes that positive research findings may help other families who are struggling to find a way to treat complex health problems such as epilepsy.

International Cannabis Research Centres

The Lambert Institute will propel Australia to the forefront of medicinal cannabis research – an area which is currently being led by the United States.

The University of California already runs its own Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), which studies the safety of cannabis compounds in treating illnesses.

Since its inception, the CMCR has studied the effectiveness of marijuana in treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, HIV, diabetes and spinal cord injury. It has also researched the impact that medicinal cannabis has on sleep and driving abilities.

What Will The Lambert Institute’s Research Involve?

Like overseas centres, the Lambert Institute will attempt to isolate a THC compound which is suitable for treating illnesses – and which minimises negative side effects.

Scientists have identified 10 different cannabinoid compounds which have scientific potential, out of a total of around 100. Trials in Sydney have already delivered promising results, finding that some of the compounds may even be used to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

Ironically, the Institute will bring together some of the world’s leading scientific and medical minds to study the benefits of the drug despite it remaining illegal in NSW – at least for the time-being.

Given this apparent setback, some have questioned how the Institute will gain access to the marijuana required for the research. However, experts have hinted that the centre may be granted the rare opportunity to grow and harvest its own marijuana crops – a statement that has been backed by Premier Mike Baird.

Clinical Trials on the Horizon

Research conducted by the Lambert Institute will be bolstered by clinical trials of the drug, which are expected to begin in the near future. The state government announced the trials in December last year, allocating $9 million towards the program. It is expected that the individuals selected to take part in the trial will be announced shortly.

Other states, including Victoria, may follow in the footsteps of NSW and conduct their own trials.

The forthcoming trial provides hope for parents who have been praying for a legal means to treat childhood epilepsy. Cannabis-based tinctures have reportedly had an extraordinary effect on chronically ill children – but, as mentioned in one of our earlier blogs, adults who administer these unorthodox treatments could face criminal charges and even lose the right to see their kids.

Medical marijuana advocates hope that the approach taken by New South Wales will signify a move away from prohibition, and towards recognising the benefits of marijuana.

And for those suffering chronic health issues, the move represents an important step towards overcoming the hurdles currently faced in obtaining safe and effective natural treatments.

Are drug raids really a deterrent to crime? Is the cost to the community justified?

Highly publicised police raids are increasingly common and they are often reported as leading to significant reductions of drugs on the streets, keeping our communities safer and disrupting the supply of drugs into Australia. Drug raids can lead to arrests and harsh penalties. But they can be extremely expensive for taxpayers, and a recent report has shed doubt on how effective they really are when it comes to reducing drug-related arrests and overdoses over the long term.

Last month, police announced the second largest drug bust in Australian history in western Sydney, allegedly seizing an estimated 2.8 tonnes of illegal drugs found to have been imported in a shipping container. The drugs were estimated to be worth $1.5 billion, and allegedly included ecstasy and methamphetamine. The raids were the results of an international investigation spanning several months, and resulted in six men being charged. NSW Premier Mike Baird commented on the raid, saying that it had potentially saved lives, as the drugs would now not be distributed on the streets, especially during the summer party scene. Another recent drugs raid in Queensland saw an estimated $400,000 worth of drugs allegedly seized in a single operation.

But what effect will these highly publicised raids really have on the overall rate of drug harm and use within the community? Police may talk about keeping drugs off the street, and push the benefits of large-scale drugs raids, but research from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) rsuggests that there is no link between big drugs hauls and a reduction in drugs harm in the community.

What the report reveals

The report from BOCSAR looked at the effects of police drugs raids on arrest rates and overdose rates from drugs over a 10-year period. It found that there was no link between police raids and a reduction in the number of overdoses and arrests for drugs offences over the decade leading up to 2011.

Although the police have often claimed that raids mean there are fewer drugs on the street, this would appear not to be the case. The results of the study actually suggest that the link between the number of drugs on the streets and police raids works the other way, with raids being an indication that there were more drugs available in the community, instead of disrupting the supply.

The study also noted that the strongest link between raids and drug harm actually showed that overdoses and arrests went up, not down after big seizures. Dr Don Weatherburn, director of BOCSAR, noted that police were finding more drugs in raids recently because a higher number of drugs were coming into the country, not because they were taking a large portion of drugs out of circulation.

The study looked at the months following large seizures and found that with a few exceptions, the number of drugs available remained the same and there was no reduction in the use of amphetamines, heroin or cocaine. The exceptions were three cocaine raids undertaken in 2010 that resulted in the seizure of almost 700 kg of cocaine. There was a temporary reduction in cocaine overdoses and arrests for possession and use after the raids, but the rate subsequently rose back to normal over time.

Are drug raids a waste of time?

Dr Weatherburn noted that he didn’t believe drug raids were a waste of time, stating that although they didn’t have the effect they were often assumed to have, the threat of raids and high penalties was enough to deter many dealers from getting involved in drug-crime unless they were going make a significant profit out of it. This, he believes, keeps the street price of drugs higher and makes it harder for people in the community to access drugs. He said that it would be more disruptive to the overall presence of drugs in the community if five drugs traffickers were arrested with one kilo of drugs each, than one trafficker with five kilos.

Big drug raids may get a large amount of publicity, but are they really helping the community? It would seem that when it comes to reducing the level of harm caused by drugs, large-scale raids may not be the answer and they could even potentially lead to other problems.