Australia: Fake News By Mainstream Media In Australia Hindering Cannabis Legalization Globally

Authored By: Loren Wiener

This Week In Weed TV & Blog

We do not have to look hard to find “fake news” these days. Listening to the media on politics, if you consider the “Bowling Green Massacre”, “Atlanta Terrorist Event” and the recently announced “Swedish Incident’, all these have one thing in common they never happened.

  • In those cases, when reported, some would call that “fake news”. However, when the source is the US Government in that case, then the situation is interesting, if media reports it without comment, they are correctly reporting what was “said” rather than the facts of the story, sloppy reporting at best.
  • However, if the media is called out over the inaccuracies of the story they reported and failed to even google the facts, but refer to the story as “fact” multiple times even elaborating on the misinformation incorrectly, they are no longer the “victim” if they ever were. This is the case in Australia, the media and Cannabis Law Reform.


  • The Australian government, in each state and nationally, promised “legalised medical cannabis” in 2014 with words that could have been cut and pasted from Canadian law reform but for the lack of sincerity in the words. “We will make medical cannabis products legal, so those that benefit do not have to buy “crude, mould infested products from the illegal black market”. Since those statements, there have been a few big challenges for the government perspective. This started in a government referenced 2015 survey asking how many people supported “medicinal cannabis” unfortunately for government it came back as 94% –
  • A 2015, mandated state run “event” in the Australian state Victoria saw the VLRC (Victoria Law Review Commission) essentially be requested to validate the Government mandate of how to allow the least number of people to access Cannabis. Unfortunately for Government much more was captured in the consultations, most of which subsequently ignored by Government.
  • To address this, there would have to be a conscious decision made by all states, and federally to manage the legal narrative in multiple bills. The question was how to fulfil the 2014 promises of “legal medical cannabis” but to protect government (especially being that the pharmaceutical industry is part of Australian government and a large financial lobbying power) –
  • To facilitate this unfortunately for us Australians, the Government decided to redefine the definition of the word cannabis from “a plant” to a suite of “pharmaceuticals products, GMO, and even synthetics” (as in not from a plant). More recently the Australia state of QLD in 2016, re-defined the synthetic opioid Subsys / fentanyl (that the singer Prince died of an overdose from) as a “cannabinoid” (page 6). On querying the QLD government, they insisted it was not a typo and stood behind it. When pushed a few more times on clarity, the detailed definition explanation document disappeared from the government website, but is still there in the public view and was replaced with this paragraph, in the actual bill that passed in late 2016, without amendment;

7 – Meaning of cannabis product – Clause 7 (chapter 2)

provides the meaning of cannabis product – as any product that is or was a part of, or – derived from, the plant of the genus Cannabis -, whether living or dead, or a product that is intended to have a substantially similar effect. Clause 7(c) ensures synthetic cannabis

products will be included within the meaning of cannabis product

for the purposes of the Bill.

  • One Australia activist, Matt Riley of the FCC, wisely suggests, “Treat bud like beer” a great idea where choice and simplicity is the key, for some pharmaceutical beer, others prefer home brewing, and still others prefer to buy their craft beer or standard beer from their local. So, what happens when the government to keep prohibition in place re-defines “cola” as a “beer”? We promised you beer here is beer (cola).
  • Analogies aside, the media reporting on the Australian government, like the public can see the government debates on the bills live in Video online, in person, or delayed and in text in “Hansard”. The Hansard is the official report of the proceedings of ALL the Australian parliament and its committees. This includes the Senate, House of Representatives, the Federation Chamber and all parliamentary committees.
  • In one such debate (the Access to Cannabis Bill of 2016), we had an amendment accepted and a kind mention in the senate reference concerns over the discussed high jacking of the word “Cannabis”, still early in its “bastardisation of definition phase”. In my instance, it was for the Coalition Liberal Party that are the main governmental power nationally but the opposition in State Victoria and generally opposed to Cannabis for medical use. We got a kind mention in the bill, and accepted amendment, but it made little difference to the entire bill as expected, but still the amendment was on point, and I hoped by being able to reference “on the record” the issue of the definition “Cannabis’ could be addressed by the media wishing to fact check me or others raising it.


  • The Age Newspaper in Australia November 2015 ran an article – (Victoria, Australia) PREMIER DANIEL ANDREWS SAYS DEALERS SELLING ICE (crystal meth) AT SCHOOLS FACE 25 YEARS JAIL – – The story reported that those dealing ICE In new laws would face multiple new penalties. Even the audio of the story featuring the Premier of Victoria was edited to make the story sound authentic. The full interview only seconds longer, mentions Cannabis. When the media was notified of the issues, they did not want to know. The reporter said as expected it was the story he was given and they do not fact check sound bites. However multiple references by the Age Newspaper, have repeated aspects of the same story and others that are simply not based on facts.
  • (Josh Butler) Huffington Post Australia just this week even ran a story reporting the leader of the Labor Party (Bill Shorten) in Australia says the Prime Minister should speed up the roll out of “medical marijuana products”, yet his Labor state of Victoria has the harshest laws In Australia on Cannabis and has said “medical Cannabis products” need not include “Cannabis”. Bill Shorten also supported the various bills that redefined medical Cannabis / marijuana from a “plant” to a “suite of pharmaceuticals, synthetics and GMO” per definitions. This makes just that part of the story by HP factually incorrect. When the reporter was notified of the mistakes, and falsehoods, he asked for the details then, “did not comment” after that. The story takes advantage of a handicapped youth that uses Cannabis for treatment, yet addresses “Cannabis Products” a known term in Australia legal speak that excludes Cannabis (the plant) or any products from real Cannabis.
  • Australia Bills and Media That Shaped the Fake News – The first of these introduced wording “drugs of dependence” an old reference that includes mainly Cannabis. For

the first time now in 2016, we had a bill followed by others that introduced 10 new laws against ICE and Drugs of dependence (Cannabis) mainly possession, books, magazines, trafficking, growing, or just curiosity. These new laws introduced 10 year penalties for even sharing an email about Cannabis, 20 years for selling within 500m of a school (even to an adult for medicine and with no children nearby) and introduced new categories of crimes with rape, incest, terrorism and Cannabis cultivation being guilty of mandatory sentencing.

  • The bills were so well hidden, not mentioned in media or miss represented so the public simply are not aware of the facts. The Project TV Show staff said, “I doubt it is true”. – Then names were given to the Project, including the LIV (Law Institute Victoria) and multiple members of the Senate for fact checking, nothing was ever done to correct their ongoing misinformation, so it got repeated over and over again.
  • Industry moves in as Government creates new black market – In late 2016 we have seen industry move in as the government introduces a new licensing scheme for manufacturing “Cannabis products” that are legal. Unfortunately, that excludes Cannabis (with THC). The scheme run by the new ODC (Office of Drug Control) – and is a sister organisation of the TGA (Therapeutic Drug Administration) similar to the USA’s FDA. The ODC went around the country laid out a framework requiring potential and existing hemp farmers growing hemp above 1% THC to cull their crops or go through the process to be called legal “Cannabis” growers/ “Medical Cannabis providers”. When asked if this was confusing in that it is not Cannabis, the government was quick to point out “they” did not make the definitions ministers do.
  • The new rules, regulations and costs meant that $4m was estimated to be the first-year costs with no guarantees of a second-year permit. With demand, be quantified by names and details of potential patients, it is a list no one has. This resulted in a new black market just to get the lists, and an activity to trick folks into providing names and addresses offering Cannabis products (with no THC) and wanting names and addresses for those interested all to trick the ODC. Unknown to most, the ODC already had the new license holders lined up and they were none for those trying to get the lists, only traditional big pharma. With demand for Cannabis with no THC being so low it is estimated demand will be VERY low. This way the government can say Medical Cannabis is legal to grow (with a license and as long as it is not Cannabis). Media just used the sound bites and ignored the detail.
  • Global Impact of Australian Media Fake News – With Medical Cannabis not needing to include Cannabis, this has allowed those offering CBD products with no THC for medical use / (medical industrial hemp) to be able to sell their products for external use. This then resulted in Australia, USA and UK all introducing laws addressing CBD as well. The result is there are multiple types of industrial hemp being sold in oils, and as Cannabis; mainly those made from seeds, stalk, and stems only, those made from leaves and flowers only (just high CBD low/no THC Cannabis) and those that use everything. Within those groups some support (real)
  • Cannabis legislation, others are against Cannabis and THC. A good example of the global implication was the Arizona company Insys, that makes Subsys / Fentanyl a synthetic opioid that as mentioned Prince died of in 2016. In the USA, it was widely reported that they spent over $650,000AUD, to defeat a ballot initiative to make Cannabis legal in the USA. – Possible headline had Prince lived in Australia QLD
  • GW Pharma UK – has a strong presence in Australia and their sole distributor Novartis is a $170 billion-dollar company employs 118,000 and is a large “consultant and donator” to the Australian government providing CBD product Epidiolex (98% CBD and zero THC), and is defined as Cannabis in Australia. They are now facing increasing competition in Australia as the CBD industry moves in domestically and abroad. On the back of that they are currently moving multiple bills and laws in the USA seeking to control the entire market in certain states (2 so far 7 more pending) reports www.leafly.com
  • United Kingdom / USA – with CBD being Cannabis in Australia per the media, in October 2016, The UK announced CBD was now medicine as well. This would negatively impact all but the pharmaceutical industry. However, in some cases if CBD is not controlled, industry is lobbying to stop it becoming so. The landscape looks like this inside and outside Australia – Currently there are multiple bills pending in Australia on Cannabis Law Reform with the media now confused between what is and what is not Cannabis the public remain confused.
  • The only victim in these stories are patients seeking the basic medicine and self-growing of a leaf and a flower. One Australia Cannabis activist John Mills said, “Patients need to be protected from arrest and prosecution under law”. The end result of this, misinformation, lies, or fake news the result is the same, eventually the truth will rise to the top but the faster it does the more lives that can be saved and or just improved, but patients’ rights are not being looked after, that is for sure.

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Julie Godard
Carl L Rowley -Thompson Coburn LLP

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Ian Stewart – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
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Lance Rogers – Greenspoon Marder – San Diego
Jessica McElfresh -McElfresh Law – San Diego
Tracy Gallegos – Partner – Fox Rothschild

Adam Detsky – Knight Nicastro
Dave Rodman – Dave Rodman Law Group
Peter Fendel – CMR Real Estate Network
Nate Reed – CMR Real Estate Network

Matthew Ginder – Greenspoon Marder
David C. Kotler – Cohen Kotler

William Bogot – Fox Rothschild

Valerio Romano, Attorney – VGR Law Firm, PC

Neal Gidvani – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder
Phillip Silvestri – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder

Tracy Gallegos – Associate Fox Rothschild

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Matthew G. Miller – MG Miller Intellectual Property Law LLC
Daniel T. McKillop – Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

New York
Gregory J. Ryan, Esq. Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Tim Nolen Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Paul Loney & Kristie Cromwell – Loney Law Group
William Stewart – Half Baked Labs

Andrew B. Sacks – Managing Partner Sacks Weston Diamond
William Roark – Principal Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin
Joshua Horn – Partner Fox Rothschild

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Teddy Eynon – Partner Fox Rothschild