oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 23rd 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, the global War on Drugs gets strangely surreal, from collective magic in Mexico to a DIY concoction in Russia that eats users from the inside out. Poland decides to divert drug offenders to treatment, rather than jail time. The US finds its own citizens' cocaine habits may be funding Hezbollah as well as the drug cartels. We'll be on break until after the New Year, and wish you all a happy holiday season... ~ jw

Jodorwarsky's Psychomagic in Mexico

In this most magical of seasons, we bring you a story of some truly unusual magic being conjured in the War on Drugs. Writer and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorwarsky called on the people of Mexico to join him in a public ritual of psychomagic to mourn the dead and manifest peace for the violence-ravaged country. The Marcha de las Calaveras (March of the Skulls) drew some 3,000 participants in Mexico City on 27 November, 2011. In a nation where even the narco-traffickers have patron saints and incorporate brujería (witchcraft) for protection, this kind of mass sympathetic magic reflects how deeply wounded the collective consciousness of Mexico is by the narco-terrorism, and how politicians on both sides of the border are failing the people with lack of substantial prohibition reform or effective policy.

Read the full article at: Los Angeles Times

North America

"The Ten Most Significant Criminal Justice Stories of 2011"

What were the brightest and most encouraging developments in criminal justice this year? Here are The Crime Report’s 10 nominations.

US Says Hezbollah Benefits from American Cocaine Users and Mexican Cartels

Joumaa allegedly coordinated the smuggling of at least 85 tons of Colombian cocaine through Central America and Mexico in partnership with the Zetas, the brutal Mexican cartel founded by former commandos, according to the indictment. Between 1997 and 2010, Joumaa's mafia laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for the Zetas and their Colombian and Venezuelan suppliers, regularly picking up southbound bulk cash shipments of $2 million to $4 million in Mexico City, the indictment says.

Read the full article at: Pro Publica

US House Votes to Ban Synthetic Drugs

At least 40 states have passed bans on the new synthetic drugs, and the DEA has placed both fake pot and bath salts under emergency bans. The bill would make both sets of substances Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, which would pose substantial impediments to researching them.

Read the full article at: Stop the Drug War

1 Out of 3 Americans Arrested by Age 23, Study Says

The increase may be a reflection of the justice system becoming more punitive and more aggressive in its reach during the last half-century, the researchers said. Arrests for drug-related offenses, for example, have become far more common, as have zero-tolerance policies in schools.

Read the full article at: New York Times 

Gateway Interventions

Psychologically and politically, Americans are particularly uncomfortable with current anti-drug operations. This month, for the first time, half of those polled by Gallup favored the legalization of marijuana. Videos of brutal and misbegotten SWAT raids -- such as last year's now-infamous raid in Columbia, Missouri -- rack up millions of views on YouTube and amplify outrage across the Internet. Americans perceive significant variances in the threat to public health and public order -- if any -- posed by marijuana, methamphetamines, and other prohibited substances. Recognition is increasing that the U.S. demand for drugs, which none less than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called "insatiable," is to blame in significant part for the volume and profitability of the international drug trade.

Read the full article at: Foreign Policy

Latin America

Colombian Drug Gang Surrenders to Government, Leaving Power Vacuum

ERPAC's leader, Jose Eberto Lopez Montero, alias "Caracho," had insisted in recent months that he was keen to surrender and dismantle his organization, and implied that he would not demand concessions in return. The question now is whether the Colombian state has offered Caracho and his organization some kind of incentive. So far authorities have denied giving the ERPAC any concessions, though·it is safe to assume that 450 fighters do not hand themselves in without any guarantees.

Read the full article at: InSight

 Brazil's Ecstasy Haul Points to New Generation of Drug Mules

Foreign mules are regularly caught trying to ferry South American cocaine back to Europe – this year Romanian, Spanish and Polish citizens have been arrested at Belo Horizonte's Confins airport. But the narco-turistas are exclusively Brazilian. Normally they have no criminal record. They are often students, nearly always men, nearly always wealthy.

Read the full article at: The Guardian

Portugal and the Drug War

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in Portugal. It is one of the safest psychoactive substances known to humanity, its effects on the brain and body have been thoroughly studied, and smoking marijuana causes little to no harm to users - as compared to alcohol which is legal and poses well-documented health risks. Marijuana is the drug most involved in administrative sanctions each year, evidence that more addictive drugs have not gained in popularity in Portugal despite their availability. What decriminalisation shows is that the majority of people aren't interested in injecting potent narcotics or stimulants into their veins and many of those who do want treatment.

Read the full editorial at: Al Jazeera 

Poland's “Treatment Not Jail” Law Now in Effect

The Polish drug law is considered to be one of the most severe in Europe. Possession of drugs still remains illegal, but from now on it is for a prosecutor in a specific case to decide, whether it is to be treated as an offence or as a misdemeanour. One of the parts of the new amendment, which is surely to be questioned, is the lack of a definition of what “a small amount of drugs” is.

Read the full report at: Global Voices Online

Siberia: Krokodil Tears

Russia is the biggest consumer of heroin in the world. The Siberian town of Novokuznetsk lies on the Kazakhstan border, the area hit hardest by the country's heroin problem. We visit the hub of the heroin trade, see religious cults disguised as rehab centers, and witness the effects of a bootleg drug called Krokodil, which eats its users from the inside out.

See the video and related items at: Vice News

Other News

When the Cop is the Criminal: Preying on Drug Addicts

Perhaps more importantly, Sullivan used his experience as a police officer to prey on the weak — and, as he was later charged, to influence a public official. Sullivan allegedly hung out at a home for recovering meth addicts, where he traded meth for sex with young men. Beyond prostitution, the activity raises questions of consent. A drug warrior who worked to keep drugs away from kids, Sullivan should know the plight that addicts face, as well as the great lengths they may go to to score drugs fueling their addictions.

Read the full article at: AlterNet

Clemency and Restoration in New York

Gov. Ehrlish granted an amazing 249 pardons and commutations. When interviewed by the Baltimore Sun he said that by granting individuals their freedom he was met with neither moral outrage nor wild cheering. But on a personal level Gov. Ehrlish was extremely gratified to hear from those who received clemency from him and had expressed their gratitude for giving them a second chance in life by restoring their freedom and the many civil rights that were taken away.

Read the full editorial at: Counterpunch

Newsletters and Weekly Features

-- Drug War Chronicle #13 - Dec 13, 2011

-- International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) - Dec 2011

-- The Weed Blog

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.