oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 2nd 2012

While activists push for reform of drug laws, various legislative entities continue to tighten restrictions on the use of psychoactive substances, from marijuana to "bath salts". One state in the US moves closer to drug-testing not only its welfare recipients, but its lawmakers as well. Mexico's cartels set new records in 2011 for the number of people murdered, close to 50,000 - which does not factor in those who have "disappeared", and the emotional and often physical suffering their absence exacts on the loved ones left behind, who by and large are women and children. ~ jw

The Drug War's Invisible Victims

There are also war tolls beyond the body counts. The homicide number misses the disappeared, the thousands whose bodies – dead or alive – are never found, never counted. And it hides the mutilation of lives caused by “collateral damage”: the loss of loved ones, families forced from their homes, permanent injury, orphans and widows, sexual abuse, lives lived in fear.

These costs fall primarily on the shoulders of women–the mothers, daughters, and sisters who are left with the nearly impossible task of seeking answers and redress in a justice system outpaced by violence and overrun by corruption. They are often re-victimized by government agencies that ignore, reject, or stifle their pleas for justice.

Read the full article at: CIP Americas

North America

Pot-based Prescription Drugs Are On Their Way

A British company, GW Pharma, is in advanced clinical trials for the world's first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana instead of synthetic equivalents — a mouth spray it hopes to market in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain. It hopes to see FDA approval by the end of 2013.

Sativex contains marijuana's two best known components — delta 9-THC and cannabidiol — and already has been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries for relieving muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

Read the full article at: Seattle Times

Welfare Drug-testing Bill Passes Indiana House

Rep. McMillin withdrew his bill on Friday, saying Dvorak's amendment likely violated the Constitution. On Monday, he came back with a new version of the legislation that softened the lawmaker drug testing provision. Instead of blanket testing for every member of the General Assembly, the new version of the bill lets lawmakers opt in to a system of random screening similar to the one for families seeking cash assistance. (If they don't consent, they lose their parking spaces and other perks.)

Read the full article at: Huffington Post

Critics Counter County's Claim of Ecstasy Epidemic

If anything, Sibley says, it’s the drugs that aren’t MDMA or ecstasy that can do the most damage. MDMA, colloquially referred to as Molly, often comes in through black-market shipments of pills or capsules containing powder, Sibley says, which can lead to the drugs being cut with methamphetamine, ketamine, benzopiprozene (BZP), or dextromethorphan (DXM).

According to county figures, five people have died from taking drugs they thought were ecstasy since 2009.

“The frightening thing, when you look at it, is that so few of them actually contain [MDMA],” Sibley says. Of the tablets seized by law enforcement, Sibley estimates that as few as one in four may actually contain MDMA.

Read the full article at: SanJose.com 

Europe/UK

Is Banning Legal Highs Effective? Learning From the Hungarian Experience

This current epidemic of legal highs was partly caused by the collapse of the European Ecstasy (MDMA) market in 2008. That is, the (at least temporarily) successful efforts of our politicians to prevent the large scale production of MDMA led to the rise of new legal substitutes to fill the gap in the recreational stimulant market. So now, instead of one relatively less harmful substance (MDMA) dominating the night life we have many new substances with unknown risks and harms. Governments try to respond the crisis of prohibition with more prohibition: restrict drug legislation and prohibit new substances as fast as they can.

Read the full editorial at: European Drug Policy Initiative 

Fixerum: The Mobile Injection Room in Copenhagen

Most injecting drug users has been using drugs in dark alleys where there is no access to sterile injection equipment and nobody helps if they overdose - but this situation is changing now. Harm reduction activists were tired of many years of debate so they went ahead and set up a new mobile injection room, Fixerum. This van aims to reach out people who use drugs on the streets and let them use drugs under medial supervision.

Read the full article accompanying the video at: International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)

Drugs Mule Terms Cut in New Sentencing Guidelines

Under the new guideline, which comes into force on 27 February, the starting point for sentencing drug mules guilty of carrying crack, heroin and cocaine will be six years, before judges take into account aggravating and mitigating factors.

Those found guilty of a much higher level of involvement in the drugs trade will face longer sentences.

Read the full article at: BBC News

Latin America

The State of Mexico's Major Cartels

Global intelligence organization STRATFOR released its annual analysis of the state of the Mexican drug cartels, and forecasts their activities in 2012. It's a comprehensive primer for anyone interested in the narco-war and its social and political implications for the violence-plagued country.

Read the full report at: The Cutting Edge News

Organized Crime Sets Its Sights on Peaceful Uruguay

While the scale of drug trafficking in Uruguay is nowhere near that which exists in Mexico, its remote borders with Argentina and Brazil and its 600 kilometer-long coast make the country a significant transshipment point for foreign drug smugglers. A comparison could be drawn with Ecuador, which is used by criminal groups of various nationalities, drawn by its convenient location bordering Colombia and Peru.

Read the full article at: InSight

Other News

The Neuroscience of Pot: Why Marijuana May Bring Serenity or Psychosis

In the new study, the researchers had 15 men who were relatively unseasoned pot users take capsules containing THC, CBD, and flour (placebo) on each of three occasions. The participants then took simple computer tests in which arrows, pointing either left or right, flashed on the screen; the men had to respond based on their direction. Occasionally, an “oddball” arrow was thrown in to the sequence, which was at a 23-degree angle. This setup allowed the researchers to compare the men’s reactions to usual vs. oddball stimuli, and to see how the various chemicals affected it.

Read the full article at: Forbes

New Exile Nation Video

Jean Marlowe is known as the Godmother of Medical Cannabis in the State of North Carolina. In this wildly entertaining interview, the feisty Marlowe gives her irreverent take on the hypocrisy of cannabis prohibition, and gives moving testimony about the damage done to medical patients caught up in the criminal justice system.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Jean Marlowe from Charles B Shaw on Vimeo.

 

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About the authors

Juliana Willars is an American journalist and researcher. She works in drug education and harm reduction, and is pursuing a degree in Anthropology, specializing in Mesoamerican cultures.

Charles Shaw is a writer and activist living in the Bay Area of San Francisco. He is the author of Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics and Spirituality, and the Director of The Exile Nation Project. Charles serves as editor for the Dictionary of Ethical Politics and the oD Drug Policy Forum.