oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 9th 2012

This week we open with an editorial written by Amanda Fielding, who explains why so many countries who wish to engage in drug policy reform have such a difficult time implementing it: the UN Conventions. It's led to policies in the US that are often criticized for targeting minorities and the poor, and worldwide, governments pursue punitive action against drug users rather than healthcare initiatives and education. Politicians wishing to appear "tough on crime", especially in election years, continue to embrace prohibition and incarceration as solutions to the complex problems of drug use and abuse. ~ jw

Magic Mushrooms, International Law, and the Failed War on Drugs

Drugs policies around the world are based on three UN conventions, dating from 1961, 1971 and 1988. The conventions allow limited production and possession of drugs, but only for scientific and therapeutic use. In particular, parties to the 1988 Convention (which include the vast majority of UN member states) are obliged to criminalise the production, distribution, sale, purchase and possession of listed drugs other than for approved scientific and medical purposes. The result is the criminalisation of millions of people guilty of nothing other than personal drug use.

Read the full editorial at: The Guardian

North America

NYC Marijuana Arrests Highest in a Decade

To the Drug Police Alliance and other critics, the marijuana arrests are a dubious outgrowth of the NYPD's strategy of stopping and frisking people whom police say meet crime suspects' descriptions. Although a 1977 state law says that small amounts of marijuana have to be in open view to merit an arrest, the Drug Policy Alliance, defense lawyers and some arrestees say officers conducting "stop-and-frisks" often book people after finding the drug in their pockets or bags, or by telling the people to empty them and thereby inducing them to bring the pot into the open.

Read the full article at: KSRO

The Daily Show Reveals Hypocrisy of Lawmakers Drug-testing the Poor for Benefits

Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi did a powerful and humorous segment that features elected officials, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, hypocritically forcing poor people to piss in a cup for money to feed their children, but refusing to take the piss test themselves.

The segment also features Luis Lebron, a navy veteran who is being represented by the ACLU in a lawsuit against the Florida law. Lebron, a father of two, explains that he is unwilling to submit to a drug test because it is a violation of his constitutional right to privacy under the 4th amendment.

 

Read the full text of the editorial at: Huffington Post

Why Small-town America is Drowning in Drugs

When people lose 66% of their paychecks overnight at a local meat-packing factory because cheap immigrant labor from Mexico is available in substantial numbers, the shock waves that result are not just local and immediate—they quickly spread out in time and space. It takes a long time for people to figure out how to overcome that kind of a cataclysmic shock to their system, and during that time they have to find a way to survive. They have daily needs to meet, so they may start selling drugs. Meth is the easiest drug to sell because you can make it yourself and do it pretty cheaply.

Read the full article at: The Fix

Doubt Cast on Canada as "Hotbed" of Synthetic Drug Production

Like marijuana, meth and ecstasy can be produced virtually anywhere in the world and "Canada is no more and no less of a global player today than it was five years ago," the study concluded.

Lead author Martin Bouchard, a criminology professor at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University, said in an interview Canada is more likely among the Top 15-producing countries, as opposed to the Top 3.

Read the full article at: Canada.com

NAACP Leader's Emotional Account of Why She Works to End the War on Drugs

Locked up for drugs at ten times the rate of the white population, the black community is so harmed by the drug war that in July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) passed a historic resolution to end it. Alice Huffman, the president of the NAACP, brought the message of the NAACP to the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in downtown Los Angeles.

Read the full text of the speech at: AlterNet

Latin America

Mexico Drugs: How One DEA Killing Began a Brutal War

For many analysts, the Camarena killing marked a key turning point in the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico.

First, it broke up the Guadalajara cartel into splinter groups, which formed the basis of today's powerful drug organisations.

Among them is the Sinaloa cartel, led by a former protege of Felix Gallardo, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, currently considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it marked a new level of brazenness by the cartels.

Read the full article at: BBC News

With Extradition Law, Honduras Outsources Justice to U.S.

The government presented the move as part of a national security drive for Honduras -- where the murder rate is the highest in the world -- which includes reforming the police force and sending the military on to the streets in a law-enforcement role. Lobo welcomed the amendment as “historic,” arguing that Honduras “has sent a clear message … that we will not allow the country to become a center of drug trafficking for the region.”

Read the full article at: InSight

Europe/UK

Czech Republic Moves Towards Legalizing Medical Cannabis

"The first step which the expert group of the Czech government took was to ask 70 different expert communities of Czech medical doctors whether they believed this was evidence-based treatment that they wanted to see in use and the answer from 10 of the societies, including oncologists and neurologists, people who deal with the treatment of pain, said ‘Yes, this is an evidence-based approach and we want to support it’."

Read the full article and hear the interview at: Radio Prague

Russia's Free Speech and Public Health Crackdown

A special report to the oD Drug Policy Forum

By Damon Barrett and Patrick Gallahue

In the world of HIV/AIDS there is an old adage: silence = death.

The rallying cry of Act Up Paris since the early days of HIV activism has become short hand for the need to speak out, get informed and speak truth to power.

Nowhere is this more necessary than in Russia, which hosts a massive population of injecting drug users, and one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. It is also home to a government with one of the poorest track records on HIV prevention and human rights. Now in a chilling assault on the right to freedom of expression, the government’s anti-drugs agency, FSKN Moscow Department, last weekend took steps to block the Russian-language website of a prominent Russian HIV/AIDS organisation, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation. (An English language version remains available).

This action was allegedly taken because of “placement of materials which propagandize (advertise) the use of drugs, information about distribution, purchasing of drugs and inciting the use of drugs”.

President of the Foundation, Anya Sarang, suggests the government was particularly concerned about its advocacy against the government’s ban on methadone – a critical intervention in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“Plain and simple -- it’s methadone,” Sarang said.

The Andrey Rylkov Foundation promotes drug policies grounded in health and human rights. The organization has been a vocal critic of the Russian government’s ban on methadone, an essential medicine of the World Health Organization and one of the core interventions for the prevention of HIV.

Russia’s refusal to implement evidence-based health interventions has resulted in 37 percent adult HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs.

The Andrey Rylkov Foundation appealed to a UN human rights body -- the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights – in 2010 to urge the government to provide vital services such as opioid substitution therapy.

In the 2010 report to the Committee, the organisation wrote that “the Government stifles the debates concerning substitution therapy and harm reduction, thus violating the right to impart and receive information on the health-related matters.”

Then it asked the Committee to "Ensure that drug propaganda laws are not used to stifle the debates on drug treatment and harm reduction."

Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said in a press release opposing the shut down, “The right to information is essential to realising the right to health … A government agency such as Federal Drug Control Service should not have the ability to ban websites at the whim of a bureaucrat. This is particularly so when considering the impact of censoring discussions relating to drug addiction or HIV/AIDS.”

Sarang said the recent shut down of her organisation’s website has been part of an ongoing governmental “campaign” against the organisation. She said she was notified by both the Public Prosecutor’s office and the Department of Economic Security and Counteraction of Corruption of the Ministry of the Interior that she was the subject of an investigation due to her “involvement with ‘propaganda about methadone’”.

“This is not the first case of governmental pressure and it seems that the authorities started a campaign against us,” she said.

Diederik Lohman, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch, said “The government has nothing to gain by censoring this small organization for trying to help people stay safe. It is totally unacceptable and evidence of the Russian authorities’ ongoing resistance to internationally accepted methods of HIV prevention and international standards for freedom of expression.”

The Russian government’s action represents a genuinely frightening (and potentially illegal) breach of international law. It also silences people fighting to raise issues the government is refusing to face.

Russia’s assault on public health advocates represents an effort to compel silence. People who care about health, human rights and the right to expression must speak up.

Because the adage remains true: silence = death.

Damon Barrett is Senior Human Rights Analyst and Patrick Gallahue a Human Rights Analyst, at Harm Reduction International

Other News

New Exile Nation Video: Scott Tracy Imler

Scott Tracy Imler is one of the central figures in the history of medical cannabis legislation. He was a co-author of the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, more commonly known as "Prop 215," which made cannabis legal for medicinal use in the State of California. In 1996 Scott opened the first medical cannabis co-op in the Los Angeles area, which remained open until a DEA raid in October 2001, shortly after 9/11, an incident that began the Federal backlash against medical cannabis.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Scott Tracy Imler from Charles B Shaw on Vimeo.

 

Newsletters and Weekly Features

 

 

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.