Green Dot

In early January 2018, licensed cannabis retailers opened their doors for recreational sales in California and not surprisingly business boomed. Dispensaries previously selling cannabis for medical use only  have expanded to include recreational sales and are reporting record breaking profits. A veritable crop of new players have entered,  and there is even a new bill in front of the California Senate that would allow marijuana companies to deliver their products to your door - think Uber Eats but for cannabis.

As an Australian living and working in Los Angeles from 2014 to 2018, it was fascinating to witness Californians’ relationship, consumption and broader cultural attitudes toward cannabis. In comparison to more conservative Australian sensibilities, recreational marijuana use was far from frowned upon and in some cases seen as a more sophisticated and even “healthier” alternative to drinking, or at least to being drunk.

It has taken Gratian (“gray-sh’n”) Punch more than two decades to return to Alstonville, the plateau village between Ballina and Lismore, where he was raised. He now lives less than a kilometer from his old family home, and on weekends, out cycling with his wife and young son, is likely to run across his mother.

If this sounds like he’s led a sheltered life, take note… after moving from Lismore’s Trinity Catholic College to a boarding school in Sydney (St Ignatius, Riverview) he entered the University of Sydney, completing degrees in Medical Science (First Class Honours) and Medicine before undertaking specialty training in general surgery, incorporating invasive training across all disciplines.

There were, however, unexpected diversions along the way.

It seems a simple message – should one continue to have a My Health Record, which will soon apply to every Australian, or choose to opt out, a decision that must be made between 16 July and 15 October this year?

Announcing the option, backed by state and territory governments and key professional bodies, including the RACGP, the federal government issued a 1500-word media release - around four pages - appended by a footnote about the Australian Digital Health Agency (mission: Safe, Seamless, and Secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia).

Apparently the message is deceptively complicated, however, because many people appear to have little idea of what the MHR actually is, even though five million already have one.


Dr Harris, do you concur?
Concur, with what, sir?
With what Dr Ashley just said, do you concur?

In the late 1960s international scammer and impostor Frank Abagnale posed as a medical officer in an paediatric hospital in the US state of Georgia. As the senior resident on the night shift he worked in a supervisory role. Getting the junior staff to manage all the cases allowed him to escape detection for 11 months. Most of his medical knowledge was derived from watching Dr Kildare, the popular TV medical drama of the time. Seeking and “running with” the majority opinion proved to be a good tactic. We concur.

Bluesfest Byron Bay, 2018

April marked the 29th anniversary of Byron Bay Bluesfest, Australia’s Contemporary Blues and Roots Festival. From a modest crowd of 6000 people in 1990, the five-day festival now attracts 100,000 revelers each year and some of the world’s biggest music acts. Bluesfest has clearly grown in size over the last three decades, as has the Australian music festival scene with more and more festivals springing up each year and attracting ever larger audiences. But while Bluesfest has ballooned, it has managed to retain its fun family feel with much less drunken debauchery and less drug related incidences than other festivals of a similar scale. 

As a millennial, I’ve been to my fair share of music festivals over the past 15 years. However, this year was my first Bluesfest and it was a markedly different and welcome experience. It’s no secret alcohol has come to make up a large part of youth festival culture, the day becoming as much about socialising with friends as the music itself. Bluesfest on the other hand, attracts a different kind of festival-goer, one that rightly prioritises the blues over the booze.