oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 16th 2012

Last Saturday, singer Whitney Houston died at the age of 48. The toxicology reports are yet to be completed, but it's reported her death was caused by a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. Houston struggled for years with her addiction to both legal and illicit substances. Her tragic death brings the spotlight on addiction, and subsequently the war on drugs, into the public conversation in a visceral way. At the same time, the very definition of addiction and how it's perceived by the medical community receives a long overdue revision; addiction is a disease of the brain, not a moral failing or lack of willpower. Hopefully, global drug reform will also be formulated with that understanding in mind, rather than the punishment approach, which simply does not work -- not for those addicted, not for their loved ones, and certainly not for society. ~ jw

How the Death of Whitney Houston, and Countless Others, Could Have Been Prevented

My first reaction to the news of Houston’s death was to wonder if anyone ever taught her the basics of how-to-use-drugs-and-not-die. Essentially, we’re willing to let people die because we’re so fearful that teaching people how to use drugs in a less risky way “enables” them to keep using drugs. But shouldn’t we do whatever is necessary just to keep people alive? Alive long enough to help get them into drug treatment. Alive long enough to work through their troubles. Alive long enough to help them find some measure of peace in their lives.

Read the full editorial at: AlterNet

NPR's This American Life Takes On The Police

Stories about people who have the right to remain silent... but choose not to exercise that right—including police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who secretly recorded his supervisors telling officers to manipulate crime statistics and make illegal arrests.

MORE

"Attractive Undercover Cop Poses As Student And Entraps Teens To 'Sell' Her Marijuana"

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other. One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn't smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn't want the money -- he got it for her as a present. A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrested 31 students -- including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.

Huffington Post

Tony Bennett is Right: Legalizing Drugs Would Save Lives

It doesn't matter if you're hooked on alcohol, Xanax or illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine -- prohibition for some drugs stigmatizes all people struggling with addiction. Period. Addicts are not defined simply by their drug of choice nor the drug that is or is not their ultimate cause of death. Their entire lives are tragically plagued by the stigma that criminalization heaps upon them, and the marginalized underworld prohibition thrusts them into.

That is a painful and deadly component of the experience of anyone unlucky enough to live with a disease that, unlike cancer, our government tries to battle with handcuffs.

Read the full editorial at: Huffington Post

North America

Obama's War on Pot

In a shocking about-face, the administration has launched a government-wide crackdown on medical marijuana

"Over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi­agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst.""

Read more at RollingStone.com.

Push To Privatize US Prisons Lurks in Corporate Investment Scheme

Firm will purchase facilities from states in exchange for guaranteed 90% occupancy rate.

The privatization of US prisons is in the news today after a close vote in the Florida state senate on Tuesday defeated an attempt to privatize a huge swath of correctional facilities in the southern state. Also, a report in the Huffington Post on Tuesday highlighted how Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest operator of private prisons, has a plan in place to purchase public prisons from 48 states.

Read more.

Marijuana Law Reform at the Statehouse 2012

"Each year, these bills are easier to introduce, there is less controversy, and the media reaction is generally neutral to positive," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML. "Baby boomers, medical marijuana, the Internet, and the state of the economy have all had an impact, even, finally, on legislators and their staffs," he explained.

"Before 1996, nobody invited NORML; now our staff is regularly going to meetings requested by legislators around the country," St. Pierre recalled. "First, we couldn't get them to return our phone calls; now they're calling us. Everything is in play because of activists around the country doing years of work."

Read the full article at: Stop the Drug War

New Definition of Addiction Stirs Up a Scientific Storm

Indeed, the new neurologically focused definition debunks, in whole or in part, a host of common conceptions about addiction. Addiction, the statement declares, is a “bio-psycho-socio-spiritual” illness characterized by (a) damaged decision-making (affecting learning, perception, and judgment) and by (b) persistent risk and/or recurrence of relapse; the unambiguous implications are that (a) addicts have no control over their addictive behaviors and (b) total abstinence is, for some addicts, an unrealistic goal of effective treatment.

The bad behaviors themselves are all symptoms of addiction, not the disease itself. "The state of addiction is not the same as the state of intoxication," the ASAM takes pains to point out. Far from being evidence of a failure of will or morality, the behaviors are the addict's attempt to resolve the general "dysfunctional emotional state" that develops in tandem with the disease. In other words, conscious choice plays little or no role in the actual state of addiction; as a result, a person cannot choose not to be addicted.

Read the full article at: The Fix

Should Officials Be Allowed to Search Students' Bras for Drugs?

A divided state Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of the student, finding the search was “degrading, demeaning and highly intrusive.” The state appealed that decision. The state Supreme Court decision is expected to affect 1.5 million public school students.

Powell said the search was not unreasonable because there was “a compelling governmental need” that outweighed the rights of individual privacy, she said. The school’s primary responsibility “was to promote the health and safety of students,” she said.

Read the full article at: The Washington Post 

Europe/UK

Health Alert Over Drug Sold as “Safe Ketamine”

Methoxetamine, known as MXE or "mexxy", mimics the effects of the banned anaesthetic ketamine, and its use has grown over the last six months in Britain as well as northern Europe, say charity workers.

A survey of drug trends published in November showed that the use of both ketamine, which is a class C drug, and methoxetamine, its "legal doppelgänger", is on the rise in several areas of the UK.

Read the full article at: The Independent 

Mobsters Without Borders [documentary]

This documentary film investigates the European leader’s cocaine importing network stretching from Calabria to Milan, Italy and from Costa del Sol, Spain to Ruhr Valley, Germany. Infiltrating sectors such as real estate and healthcare to government contracting and marketing to laundering illegal drug trafficking and weapons smuggling profits, Calabrian mobs permeate economies across the European Union.


Latin America

Mexico Seizes 15 Tons of Methamphetamine

“The big thing it shows is the sheer capacity that these superlabs have in Mexico,” said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “When we see one lab with the capability to produce such a mass tonnage of meth, it begs a question: What else is out there?”

Read the full article at: New York Times

Off the Beaten Path, Chile Still Caught in Drug Supply Chain

Sharing a border with two of the world's top cocaine producers -- Bolivia and Peru -- makes Chile's involvement in the narcotics trade a virtual inevitability. However, unlike its northern neighbors, Chile is strictly a drug-consuming nation. With Brazil and Argentina, it accounts for two thirds of cocaine consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean. Alone, it makes up 10 percent, according to the UN's 2011 World Drug Report.

Read the full article at: InSight

Middle East

No Help for Kashmir's Female Drug Addicts

"Keeping in view the social stigma which female drug addicts face, it is important to set up a de-addiction centre for them," said Sameena (name changed), a 22-year-old college student and former drug addict.

Sameena said she began with glue sniffing "for fun" during her school days and then moved on to opiates. Fear of social stigma and lack of facilities forced her parents to take her outside Kashmir for treatment. Sameena has been under medication for 11 months now.

Read the full article at: IPS News

Other News

New Exile Nation Video: Lynette Shaw

Lynette Shaw was the owner of the very first legal cannabis dispensary in the State of California, which she opened in Fairfax in the early 1990s. A key figure in the fight to legalize medical cannabis, Shaw's life as an activist began when her home was raided by police, after a dealer turned her in. But that's only one small aspect of her extraordinary life story, recounted here, which at one point saw her living underground while authorities scoured the world for her, after she became a suspect in the 1980 overdose death of actor John Belushi.

 

Lynette Shaw from Charles B Shaw on Vimeo.

View the entire extended interview archive for The Exile Nation Project.

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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.