oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 26th 2012

Despite its lack of success on a global level, prohibition is alive and well as the primary solution most nations adopt to deal with drug problems. While legislators everywhere continue to ban substances and criminalize their users, the US Supreme Court surprised some by overturning a life sentence for a drug dealer because law enforcement did not seek the proper warrants for surveillance. It should be interesting to see how laws evolve to accommodate the unique issues created by the digital age. ~jw

US Supreme Court Rejects Warrantless GPS Tracking

The justices agreed to hear the case in a bid to settle conflicting lower-court decisions — some of which ruled a warrant was necessary, while others found the government had unchecked GPS surveillance powers. For the moment, the conflict is unresolved and “will take more lawsuits,” Orin Kerr, a Fourth Amendment scholar and former Justice Department prosecutor, said in a telephone interview.

Read the full article at: Wired

North America

US Opens New Canadian Front in War on Drugs

A report cites the challenges of stemming illegal drug traffic at the Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation that straddles the Canada-U.S. border along the St. Lawrence River, and in the Pacific Northwest, where Mexican drug traffickers are taking advantage of Washington reservations and tribal members.

The report characterizes the current North America illegal drug market as driven by big profits, but shifting as Asian gangs move to set up indoor grow-ops in the U.S. as well.

Read the full article at: The Toronto Star

Killer Pills! America's Biggest Health Crisis

In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were sold nationwide to keep every American medicated around the clock for an entire month. Some 12 million Americans admitted that they were using painkillers without a prescription, and at least 14% of these nonmedical users met the criteria for abuse or dependence. In one recent survey, more than 5 million Americans reported using them to get high—in a single month period. The majority of those people say they obtained (or stole) them from friends or their family.

Read the full article at: The Fix

Virginia Legislature Advances Bill to Drug Test Poor and Unemployed

"Frankly, I think the use of drugs for some people is the reason they are unemployed," Senator Black said. "I don't believe that taxpayers have an obligation to pay for recreational drug use ... And I think if a person has the money to pay for illicit drugs, then they have the money to support themselves."

Read the full article at: Huffington Post

Europe/UK

Branson: It's Time to End the Failed War on Drugs

Too many of our leaders worldwide are ignoring policy reforms that could rapidly reduce violence and organised crime, cut down on theft, improve public health and reduce the use of illicit drugs. They are failing to act because the reforms that are needed centre on decriminalising drug use and treating it as a health problem. They are scared to take a stand that might seem “soft”.

Read the full editorial at: The Telegraph

UK Could Become Smuggling Hub for Khat

"What worries me about the Netherlands is that once these legal Somali traders are criminalised and have their livelihood taken away from them - what are they going to do next?" says Axel Klein, an expert witness for the ACMD's 2005 report.

"They have contacts, trading skills, financial acumen so it is very possible that they will start trafficking the khat and then diversify into harder drugs."

Read the full article at: BBC News

Latin America

Mexico's War on Drugs: Stories From the Front Line

Six people living on the front lines of Mexico's ongoing war on drugs talk about their experiences. A journalist, a pathologist, a priest, and a farmer who has had family members kidnapped and murdered share their thoughts, and a cartel boss and a police officer talk about the violence they have experienced at first hand.

See the photo essay at: The Guardian

Colombia: Fighting the Last War

The idea that sheer military might and political will can beat back the narcotics trade is a powerful one. Uribe’s ideas and tactics have spread to every corner of the globe marred by the drug trade and nearly every institution that is fighting organized crime. Which means that if those ideas are misguided—or, perhaps more dangerously, misunderstood— then so too is nearly every fight in the drug war.

Read the full article at: Washington Monthly

Guatemala Prepares to Fight Mexico's Zetas Cartel

In recent years, Guatemala has become a major staging post for the cocaine traffickers, as they bring their product from the Andes to market in the United States. At his inauguration on Saturday, Perez Molina warned that one of Mexico’s most ferocious syndicates, the Zetas, was seeking to monopolize the drugs trade in Guatemala.

Read the full article at: The Global Post

Other News

Study Finds Psilocybin Subdues Brain Activity

“Psychedelics are thought of as ‘mind-expanding’ drugs, so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity,” says Nutt. “Surprisingly, we found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas.”

Read the full article at: Nature

Anonymous Cop Criticizes War on Drugs

Despite my current silence, I believe a paradigm shift regarding the drug war is quietly occurring in every law enforcement agency in this country, thanks in large part to the efforts of LEAP.  This paradigm shift is palpable— I can see it, feel it, and on occasion I hear it slip out from fellow officers and even supervisors once in a blue moon. I firmly believe things are about to change in this country, and when they do, those within law enforcement will be jumping off this drug war rat ship like it was on fire. And the jumpers will proclaim that they knew the drug war was wrong the whole time.

Read the full editorial at: LEAP

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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.