oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of October 18th 2010

We lead this week with explosive, albeit expected, news from Washington DC. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Federal government will disregard the will of the people and continue to enforce marijuana prohibition, even if Prop 19 passes.

"Neither the resources nor political will” – As Holder Holds firm on Proposition 19, Critics Point to Practical Flaws of his Strategy

"We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law."  And so US Attorney General Eric Holder signaled his clear stand on Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana in California initiative, and commitment to uphold the Controlled Substances Act nationwide.

The comments came during a joint press conference with Prop 19 foes, including Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, as well as former heads of the DEA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Cooley, who is running for state attorney general, has said he believes all medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal.

The law enforcement paradigm which underscores Holder’s rationale, frames legalization in his view  as a "significant impediment" to the federal government's effort to target drug traffickers,  compromising “safety in California communities.” While drawing the line at medical marijuana in those states where it is legal, the DEA will not countenance recreational use – Presenting the pressing problem of arresting three million Californians.

In response to what is seen by the Prop 19 campaign as an archaic and unscientific drug policy, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), and Drug Policy Alliance issued responses on Friday morning.  Former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara, drawing comparison with alcohol prohibition was stoical – victory, he suggests, will undoubtedly kick start “a national conversation about changing our country's obviously failed marijuana prohibition policies.”

The truth is that the use of marijuana, a substance far less harmful than alcohol or tobacco is widespread in this country and nothing the government can do will ever stop that," said Steve Fox, MPP's director of government relations. "The only question is how we structure the market for marijuana so that it is best for society. “

“Will we have marijuana sold in licensed, tax-paying and regulated stores or will we continue to have it sold in a completely unregulated market that makes it more available to teens? Will we impose standards so that purchasers know the quality and purity of the marijuana they are buying or will we keep it in a far less safe unregulated market? Will we have the profits from the sale of marijuana go to legitimate taxpaying American business owners or will they go to underground dealers and cartels who will pay no taxes and defend their interests through violence?"

Fox accused Holder and law enforcement opponents of putting their own job security ahead of the health and safety of the American people. "Attorney General Holder is not looking out for the health and safety of the American people. He is nothing more than the lead advocate for a never-ending taxpayer-funded jobs program for law enforcement officials in this country.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Make Heartfelt Plea to Californians – Stand up and be Counted!

Dear drug policy reformer,

You may have read about me this week on StoptheDrugWar.org. My family and over 60 employees in California produce the best-selling natural brand of soap in the United States. Last week I made a personal $75,000 donation for a statewide "Yes We Cannabis" student fire truck tour of campuses throughout California, registering voters and getting people to the polls to pass Prop 19 and legalize cannabis this Election Day. You can read about why I decided to do this here.

I'm writing because StoptheDrugWar.org and the Prop 19 campaign need your help. Polls show Prop 19 in the lead, but it's close, and voter turnout in this midterm election year could make or break it. There are important initiatives in Arizona, South Dakota and Oregon too. Whether you live in one of these states or not, there are thins that you can help with:

  • Register to Vote: Click here to print a form out that you or your friends can submit to your local election office. You have to register by the 18th to vote in California this year.
  • Phone Bank: Call people in California to get them out to the polls: Sign up to phone bank using email or Facebook or  Twitter. Join the StoptheDrugWar.org Group on the site. Watch the Prop 19 phone bank training video. Go to the dashboard (between noon and 11:59 EST) and choose California or one of the other initiative states. (Make sure you've watched the video.) Then start calling voters. (Don't forget to invite more people to join the effort too.)

I'm grateful to Richard Lee for putting Prop 19 on the ballot with $1.5 million of his own money, and I'm proud that I could do this for Prop 19 too. Now it's your turn: The time StoptheDrugWar.org members spend at home or a friend's home or a coffee shop with your cell phone, could literally be what makes legalization happen this year. So please sign up and volunteer today!

David Bronner, President, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

Source: Stop the Drug War

“Our brothers and sisters are getting caught in the cross-fire“– LULAC Endorse Proposition 19

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of California has endorsed Proposition 19, California's tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. LULAC is one of the most prominent organizations representing Latino voters. The group announced Friday it is supporting the initiative.

"The current prohibition laws are not working for Latinos, nor for society as a whole," said Argentina Dávila-Luévano, California LULAC State Director. "Far too many of our brothers and sisters are getting caught in the cross-fire of gang wars here in California and the cartel wars south of our border.  It's time to end prohibition, put violent, organized criminals out of business and bring marijuana under the control of the law."

Proposition 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults over 21 and allow them to grow their own in a space of up to 25 square feet and possess the harvest. It would also allow counties and municipalities to permit, regulate, and tax commercial marijuana sales and cultivation.

In a June report, the Drug Policy Alliance highlighted the reality of racially disproportionate marijuana arrests "a system-wide phenomenon." Police departments, the report said “deploy most narcotics police to neighborhoods usually designated 'high crime – disproportionately low-income, and disproportionately African-American and Latino neighborhoods.”  

With low level marijuana possession the item young people in any neighborhood are most likely to possess, arrests are racially-biased mainly because systematic 'fishing' for arrests in only some neighborhoods produces what has been termed "racism without racists.'"

Beyond the arrests, LULAC, in these tough economic times argues the need to “find ways to provide new jobs for our people and prosperity in our communities. Supporting Prop 19 will put more Latinos to work and generate cash for our state's budget."

Source: Stop the Drug War

Insurance Founder Lewis gives $219,000 boost to Proposition 19 Campaign 

Proposition 19, California's tax and regulate pot initiative, has received yet another large late donation, this one from Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, who announced Saturday he was donating $209,500 for the effort. "I'm supporting the campaign because I support common-sense reform of the nation's drug laws," Lewis said Saturday in a statement. Lewis, whose net worth Forbes pegs at $1.1 billion, has given millions to the drug reform cause in the past decade and a half.

Prop 19 holds a four-point lead in the Talking Points Memo Polltracker average of the 13 polls taken on it so far this year. Prop 19 has 47.4% in the poll average to 43.2% against, with less than 10% undecided. However, with support under 50%, voter turnout and the undecideds will be critical in achieving victory.  The closeness of the race has inspired a surge of late donations to the campaign, including from Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker; Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap and from Washington, DC's Capitol Hemp.

Lewis actually gave only $59,500 to the Prop 19 campaign committee, with the other $159,005 going to the Drug Policy Action Committee, an independent entity controlled by the Drug Policy Alliance. While that committee is spending money on get out the vote efforts, it also donated $35,000 to the Prop 19 campaign committee Thursday.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Flashbacks to a Time Gone By

As Californians anticipate their likely historic victory in the polls, David Guard from Stop the Drug War takes a look back into drug policy history, in a week when Nixon’s politicized CSA was introduced; the DEA refused to provide the Kerry Committee with information on the links between US backed Contras and drug trafficking; and Governor Jeb Bush’s daughter was led away to jail. 

October 14, 1970: President Nixon spearheads the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), legislation establishing today's "schedules" as a means of classifying drugs strictly by their medical value and potential for abuse. In practice the science drug scheduling has often yielded to drug war politics, however.

October 15, 1986: Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard testifies before the Kerry Committee that he had attended a meeting with 20 to 25 officials and that the DEA did not want to provide any of the information the committee had requested on the involvement of US-backed Nicaraguan Contra rebels in drug trafficking.

October 19, 1999: Taking a states' rights approach to medical marijuana, candidate George W. Bush says, "I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose." As president, Bush instead escalates prosecutions of medical marijuana providers by the US Dept. of Justice and opposes states' rights arguments in court proceedings.

October 17, 2002: Florida Governor Jeb Bush's daughter is sentenced to 10 days in jail and led away in handcuffs after being accused of having crack cocaine in her shoe while in drug rehab. In a statement, the governor says he realizes his daughter must face the consequences of her actions.

October 14, 2003: Supreme Court justices reject the Clinton administration's request, continued by the Bush administration, to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or even discussing the use of marijuana for their patients. The decision by the High Court clears the way for state laws allowing ill patients to smoke marijuana if a doctor recommends it.

October 14, 2003: At Emory University Law School former President Jimmy Carter says, "All three of my boys smoked pot. I knew it. But I also knew if one was caught he would never go to prison. But if any of my [black] neighbors got caught, they would go to prison for ten, twelve years. No law school has had the temerity to look at what is fundamentally wrong with our legal system, which discriminates against the poor."

October 20, 2004: A groundbreaking coalition of black professional organizations comes together to form the National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC). NAADPC "urgently seeks alternatives to misguided drug policies that have led to mass incarceration."

Source: Stop the Drug War

85 More Lives Lost and the Futile Mexican War on Drugs Continues

Another week, another 85 lives lost in the failed and “inconsistent” war on Mexico’s drug cartels.  Bernard Debusmann Jr. of Stop the Drug War brings us the latest developments from a week in which another mayor was murdered; a prison riot saw the deaths of two prisoners; and three were murdered outside an emergency room hospital.

Thursday, October 7: In Tijuana, President Calderon said that California's ballot measure to legalize marijuana represents hypocrisy in US drug policy. "For me, it reflects a terrible inconsistency in government policies in the United States," he said, referring to US demands that Mexico and other countries clamp down on production and trafficking.

Saturday, October 9: In Oaxaca, the mayor-elect of a small town was shot and killed . Antonio Jimenez Banos, 47, was due to become the mayor of the small coastal town of Martires de Tacubaya. He was shot in the head and chest as he returned home to his small farm. Eleven sitting mayors have been assassinated in Mexico this year, as well as several candidates and representative-elects.

In Ciudad Juarez, 12 people were killed in several incidents. In one incident, two prisoners inside the city’s main prison were killed during a prison riot between the rival Azteca and Mexicles gangs, which work for the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, respectively. At the same time, another riot occurred in a municipal prison. Soldiers responding to the incident confiscated an unknown quantity of weapons and drugs.

Sunday, October 10: In Ciudad Juarez, six people were killed. In one incident, a group of armed men shot dead three people outside an emergency room hospital. The three men were apparently attempting to flee and hide from the gunmen, but were gunned down just outside the building.
 

Monday, October 11: In Sinaloa, eight police officers were killed after their convoy was ambushed by gunmen. The officers were patrolling a highway about 50 miles outside of the state capital of Culiacan when they were attacked by a convoy of gunmen traveling in three or four vehicles and wielding automatic weapons. Mexican news sources have reported that three other officers were wounded in the attack. Sinaloa has long been at the heart of Mexico's drug trade. Marijuana and poppy is grown in the area and large-scale meth labs have been known to operate in the area.

In Ciudad Juarez, 14 people were killed across the city. The murders occurred despite immensely tight security in the city due to the arrival of President Calderon and a security summit with Mexican governors.

Tuesday, October 12: According to a Zapata County Sheriff, a Mexican investigator working on the recent Falcoln Lake shooting incident was beheaded. Rolando Flores was a member of the State police based in the city of Miguel Aleman, and was part of the team investigating the shooting of David Hartley, who has been missing since September 30th. Flores' head was reportedly found in a suitcase left outside a Mexican Army installation.

Weekly number of deaths: 85 / Yearly number of deaths: 8,390

Source: Stop the Drug War

Mexico Drug War News Bulletin

Monterrey and the state it is situated in - Nuevo Leon - has become one of Mexico's most violent places after a turf war broke out between two major drug cartels. More than 600 people have been killed in the last year; as a result the state and authorities have launched an unprecedented war against drug gangs. And as Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez reports from Monterrey, fear and frustration have gripped the city.

To watch the report, please follow this link 

Source: The Real News

Challenge Hopelessness and Facilitate Citizenship, says National Treatment Agency

Treatment services need to be ambitious for their clients, provide best value for money and respond to changing patterns of drug use, Paul Hayes, NTA chief executive, said today. Speaking to treatment providers, he set out a challenging agenda for the next 18 months in the run-up to the establishment of a new Public Health Service responsible for drug and alcohol treatment.  

In a speech to the EATA conference, Mr Hayes said commissioners and providers should focus on what works in straitened financial times. The Government had threatened spending cuts that would be "tough but fair" but he was convinced there were efficiencies to be gained in the system.

Mr. Hayes’ said the drug treatment system is well-placed to take advantage of the Prime Minister's vision for a Big Society, because mutual aid networks, peer support groups, and the grassroots movement around recovery communities were all in tune with that ethos. 

Drawing on last week’s annual treatment statistics, Mr Hayes urged an appreciation of the changing demands of drug treatment, with cocaine services experiencing fewer clients, while rising numbers of people are accessing services for cannabis related issues.

Safety should, Mr. Hayes said, not be compromised by a desire for speed of treatment. "Medical experts tell us it can take several years for heroin addicts to overcome their dependency. So it is hardly surprising that a large proportion of those in treatment - about 95,000 at the last count – were on prescribing for longer than a year, one-third of them for more than four years," he said.

"We know that some vulnerable individuals will always need long-term support, but we also suspect that many others could be helped towards recovery sooner. What are the right proportions, who is ready to move on safely and when, and how we ensure substitute prescribing does not become a default option, are issues we want Prof John Strang and his expert clinical group to consider."

Source: The National Treatment Agency

Once a Month Injectable Drug to Fight Opiate Addiction 

New treatments for addiction to heroin or narcotic painkillers promise longer-lasting relief that may remove some day-to-day uncertainty of care: A once-a-month shot is now approved and a six-month implant is in the final testing phase. The main treatment options have long been once a day methadone or buprenorphine, which suppress withdrawal and craving without the high.

Skipping a dose risks a relapse, but summoning the daily willpower to stick with treatment is "a formidable task," says National Institute on Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the monthly shot Vivitrol for long-term treatment of opioid addiction – to heroin or such painkillers as morphine, Oxycontin and Vicodin.

Vivitrol works differently than methadone or buprenorphine: It blocks the high if a recovering addict slips up, and it's not addictive. Scientists had tried a daily version of Vivitrol's ingredient, naltrextone, years ago, but too many patients skipped pills. So Alkermes Inc. created the longer-lasting version first for alcoholism in 2006, and now opioid addiction. In a study of 250 opioid addicts in Russia, more than half of Vivitrol recipients stuck with therapy for the six-month trial. Encouragingly, 36% stayed completely drug-free.

Next in the pipeline: A matchstick-size implant that for six months at a time slowly oozes a low dose of buprenorphine into the bloodstream, to keep cravings tamped down. A large study published last week deemed the implant, called Probuphine, promising – just over a third of those patients, too, tested drug-free. Ongoing research partly funded by the government should show next spring if it's ready for FDA evaluation.

About 800,000 people in the U.S. are addicted to heroin, and another 1.8 million either abuse or are dependent on opioid painkillers, Volkow says. To read more about these interesting developments, and the pros and cons of each treatment, please follow this link

Source: The Huffington Post

Bolivia Repeals New Law Limiting Coca Leaf Sales 

Faced with protests and road blockades from angry coca growers, the Bolivian government said Monday it was annulling a new coca production law that would reduce by two-thirds the amount of coca leaves producers could sell. But even that move may not be enough to end the dispute between the government of President Evo Morales, himself a former coca grower union leader, and the main Yungas growers' association.

The government last month approved the new law, which limited coca growers to selling five pounds of leaf a month, down from the current 15. The now-repealed law would also have given the central government control over sales, which are currently controlled by local communities. The government said it passed the bill in a bid to reduce the sale of coca leaf to cocaine traffickers.

Minister of Government Sacha Llorenti Solid told a Monday press conference that the law would be repealed because the government had failed to consult with all coca growers. "Because of this, and recognizing this mistake, we have gone back and annulled the law, and make clear that any changes will be made in consultation, by consensus and in coordination with social organizations," he said.

Bolivia is the world's third largest coca producer, behind Peru and Colombia.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Mexican Authorities Seize 105 Tons of Marijuana 

Mexican security forces seized at least 105 tons of U.S. bound marijuana in the border city of Tijuana on Monday, by far the biggest pot bust in the country in recent years. Soldiers and police grabbed the drugs in pre-dawn raids in three neighborhoods after police arrested 11 people following a shootout, army Gen. Alfonso Duarte Mujica said at a news conference.

The marijuana was found wrapped in 10,000 packages, which were displayed to journalists by soldiers in masks. Duarte said the drug had an estimated street value in Mexico of 4.2 billion pesos, about $340 million.

Duarte said local criminal gangs were gathering the drugs to smuggle into the United States. He did not identify any of the gangs or say where the marijuana originated. Although Mexican drug cartels smuggle marijuana from South America, the drug is increasingly produced in Mexico.

Source: Stop the Drug War

First £200 Vasectomy ‘bribe’ paid to British Drug Addict

Drugs charities have condemned a £200 payment to a British drug addict for having a vasectomy as "exploitative" and morally and ethically dubious. The incentive payment, the first in the UK, was made to a 38-year-old opiates addict from Leicester, known as John, by a controversial US organisation targeting drug and alcohol abusers.

Project Prevention, set up by Barbara Harris from North Carolina, has been compared by US critics to the Nazi eugenics programme. After paying more than 3,500 mainly female American addicts not to have children, it is now offering the service in the UK after a $20,000 (£12,500) donation from an anonymous US businessman living in Britain.

DrugScope said the approach was "exploitative, ethically dubious and morally questionable". Its chief executive, Martin Barnes, said the premise that people with drug problems should be sterilised "further entrenches the significant stigmatisation and demonisation experienced by this group, making it less likely that people will come forward for help and support when they need it most".

"And where should the line be drawn?" he asked. "Who would be targeted next – people who smoke, have mental health problems, or live in poverty?"

Harris has said her next project will be in Haiti, where women "who are having children they can't even feed" will be offered Depo-Provera

Source: The Guardian

Countries to address global toll of transnational organized crime 

Calling for more vigorous and universal implementation of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocols, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, today said that organized crime had "ballooned to global proportions."

Amid fears that globalization is extending the reach of crime in unprecedented ways, Mr. Fedotov opened the said that the Convention was a powerful but underutilized tool. Although 157 States have ratified the instrument, which forms the global basis for extradition and mutual legal assistance, Mr. Fedotov remarked that more awareness was needed of how States could make more effective use of the Convention.

UNTOC provides new possibilities and frameworks for law enforcement agencies to coordinate their efforts, including trans-border intelligence-sharing and joint investigations. It is highly adaptable in providing effective responses since its definition of transnational organized crime is broad enough to encompass new and emerging forms of crime. 

With its detailed measures to combat money-laundering; go after plundered assets; and to end banking secrecy, UNTOC can to hit criminals where it hurts - by helping cut off their cash lifeblood. Drug trafficking continues to be the most lucrative line of business for criminals. As UNODC reported in its 2010 Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment,

  • Cocaine trafficked from the Andean region to North America and Europe is worth $72 billion annually
  • Heroin trafficked from Afghanistan to Europe has a street value of $33 billion.

Combined, these figures exceed $100 billion, money diverted from the United Nations development goals and which are invested in criminal businesses or fuel terrorism. Or, to put it another way: cocaine and heroin traffickers are earning almost $280 million every day.

Source: UNODC

Transform Launches Updated and Re-designed “Comparative Cost Effectiveness of Drug Prohibition / Regulation” Report

On the eve of the Comprehensive Spending Review it seems like an opportune moment to relaunch Transform's 2009 report: 'A Comparison of the Cost-Effectiveness of Prohibition and regulation of Drugs.'

The publication created a decent media splash, led to a PQ and ultimately a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Key conclusions:

  • Despite the billions spent each year on proactive and reactive drug law enforcement, the punitive prohibitionist approach has consistently delivered the opposite of its stated goals. The Government’s own data clearly demonstrates drug supply and availability increasing; use of drugs that cause the most harm increasing; health harms increasing; massive levels of crime created at all scales leading to a crisis in the criminal justice system; and illicit drug profits enriching criminals, fuelling conflict and destabilising producer and transit countries from Mexico to Afghanistan.
  • This is an expensive policy that, in the words of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has also created a raft of 'negative unintended consequences’
  • The UK Government specifically claims the benefits of any move away from prohibition towards legal regulation of drug markets would be outweighed by the costs. No such cost-benefit analysis, or even a proper Impact Assessment of existing enforcement policy and legislation has ever been carried out here or anywhere else in the world.
  • Yet there are clear Government guidelines that an Impact Assessment should be triggered by amongst other things, a policy going out to public consultation or when ‘unintended consequences’ are identified, both of which have happened with drug policy in recent years
  • Alternative approaches - involving established regulatory models of controlling drug production, supply and use - have not been considered or costed. The limited cost effectiveness analysis of current policy that has been undertaken has frequently been suppressed. In terms of scrutinizing major public policy and spending initiatives, current drug policy is unique in this regard.
  • The generalisations being used to defend continuation of an expensive and systematically failing policy of drugs prohibition, and close down a mature and rational exploration of alternative approaches, are demonstrably based on un-evidenced assumptions
  • This paper is an attempt to begin to redress these failings by comparing the costs and benefits of the current policy of drug prohibition, with those of a proposed model for the legal regulation of drugs in the UK. We also identify areas of further research, and steps to ensure future drugs policy is genuinely based on evidence of what works
  • This initial analysis demonstrates that a move to legally regulated drug supply would deliver substantial benefits to the Treasury and wider community, even in the highly unlikely event of a substantial increase in use

Source: Transform

Public should decide drugs law, says Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones 

 

One of Australia's highest ranking police officers believes the public should decide if some illicit drugs should be legalised.

Victoria's Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones said there needed to be a public discussion on drug policy.

"I'd love to have a debate at some point about legalisation," Sir Ken told a major conference on organised crime.

He said the public should be educated about the flow-on costs, from higher insurance premiums to delays in elective surgery as hospitals treated the fallout from drugs and crime.

Outside the conference, Sir Ken said he was not advocating a softer stance on drugs. He said his invitation to a debate was in response to a call by some academics and international police experts for harm minimisation or decriminalisation policies.

"There are people in academia, in public policy and law enforcement who are challenging us and saying the current approach is not working," he told the Herald Sun. "I'm hearing it come up a lot." Sir Ken refused to nominate which drugs should be part of any legalisation debate.

Former premier Jeff Kennett canned the call for a debate on marijuana. "I would be absolutely opposed to any legalisation of marijuana," he said.

Source: Herald Sun

 

About the authors

Mark Weiss edits the openDemocracy Drug Policy Forum Front Line Report.

He has explored UK drug law for DrugScope and worked with Harm Reduction International,  providing support on UN / EU projects. He holds a Masters in Law from Birkbeck Law School and BA (Hons) in Politics from Queen Mary, University of London.

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.