oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of April 25th 2011

With around 80,000 claimants of Incapacity Benefit having a drug or alcohol dependency, we lead this weeks report with DrugScope's caution over the DWP's 'incapacity revolution'. In other news we look at injecting drug use in prisons; calls for drug policy reform in Poland; and Wikileaks reveals the extent of the DEAs global reach ~ MW & CS

People dependent on drug and alcohol need appropriate support to get back to work 

DrugScope, the national membership organisation representing the drug sector, has today responded to the release of figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which show that 79,360 people who claim Incapacity Benefit (IB) have either a drug or alcohol dependency.

The DWP figures show that of the total number of IB claimants (2,082,570, figures from August 2010), 1.8 per cent (37,000) have a drug dependency and 2 per cent (42,360) an alcohol dependency. However, a drug or alcohol dependency alone would not make someone eligible to receive IB. 

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said: “Most people with a drug or alcohol dependency also have physical or mental health problems which can affect their ability to work. While a drug or alcohol dependency can be extremely debilitating, it does not of itself give an entitlement or 'passport' to benefit, which may be suggested by the publication of today's figures. People with drug or alcohol problems must satisfy all the conditions for benefit entitlement, including proof of incapacity, and may be required to undergo a medical examination to determine eligibility. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope 

UNODC Executive Director Notes Key role of Russia in Curbing Drug Trafficking 

Vienna / Moscow. 21 April 2011. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov is paying an official visit to Moscow to meet with high-level Russian officials to discuss the challenges in dealing with the interrelated threats of drugs and crime. As the lead UN agency working with countries in tackling illicit drugs, transnational organized crime and terrorism, UNODC cooperates with states across the world in countering these threats to international safety and security.

Speaking ahead of his meetings in the Russian capital, Mr. Fedotov noted that sustained efforts by all partners in addressing contemporary challenges and threats are required: "The Russian Federation has an important geo-political role to play in dealing with some of today's most critical issues such as the trafficking of illicit drugs. On both a security level and with regard to human development at home and in the region, it is imperative that this scourge be dealt with." To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Injecting drug use and prisons 

Globally, around 16 million people inject drugs and 3 million of them are living with HIV. Explosive HIV epidemics occur in populations of injecting drug users (IDUs) where re-use and sharing of injecting equipment are common.

On average, one out of every ten new HIV infections is caused by injecting drug use and in some countries and regions, this percentage is much higher: over 80 per cent of all HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is related to drug use.

WHO strongly supports harm reduction as an evidence-based approach to HIV prevention, treatment and care for drug users. WHO advocates for Universal access to a comprehensive harm reduction package of interventions for drug injectors which includes needle and syringe programmes, drug dependence treatment - in particular opioid substitution therapy - as well as risk reduction counselling, HIV testing and counselling, and HIV treatment and care. Injecting drug use and prisons publications

Source: WHO

It's Time for Drug Policy Reform in Poland! 

In the year 2000, Poland amended its criminal legislation on drug possession. As a result, any person possessing even the smallest amount of an illegal substance was liable to be prosecuted. There were two assumptions behind this amendment: first, it is more difficult to catch the dealers if they can carry small amounts of drugs on them; second, if you cannot catch the small retail users and dealers, it is impossible to arrest the big bosses of drug trafficking gangs.

Since the amendment in 2000, the number of drug-related offences has been increasing steadily. In 2006 there were more than 70,000 drug-related criminal offences reported, and most of them were instances of personal possession. There has also been an upward trend in the amount of illicit drugs seized by the police. The enforcement of Art. 62 of the drug law (the article criminalizing drug users) costs tax payers an estimated 80 million PLN (20 million EUR) every year as well as an estimated 1.5 million working hours for law enforcement officials each year. 

However, the stringent punitive measures of Art. 62 have not yeilded the positive results that were expected.   The size of the illicit drug market has not been reduced over the past ten years, and drugs are more available now than they ever were in Poland. There is also a severe unintended consequence: tens of thousands of young people have been sentenced to prison, and many of them have actually been incarcerated – resulting in broken careers, families and lives.

Source: DrugReporter

Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America

Study reveals alarming pattern in imprisonment for drug crimes in Latin America: The weight of the law falls on the most vulnerable individuals, overcrowding the prisons, but allowing drug trafficking to flourish. 

An unprecedented one-year comparative study on the impact of the drug laws and prison systems in eight Latin American countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay – reveals that drug laws have contributed to the prison crises these countries are experiencing. 

Source: Drug Law Reform

Cen. America 'Deadliest Non-War Zone'

Source: YouTube

WikiLeaks Reveals DEA's Global Reach

Source: CATO Institute

Chris Grayling pledges incapacity benefit 'revolution' 

The employment minister, Chris Grayling, has said the government will launch a "revolution" to help people "turn their lives around" as figures revealed that more than 80,000 people are claiming incapacity benefit for obesity and addiction to alcohol and drugs. Grayling said the figures – which show that 12,880 alcoholics and 9,200 drug abusers have been dependent on the benefit for more than 10 years – told a "pretty sorry tale".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the conditions were treatable and "able to be overcome" if people were given the "right support", and unveiled plans to launch a payment by result scheme to treat addiction.

"I don't think you can simply say because you're a drug addict or you're an alcoholic we should pay you benefits for the rest of your life, that we should consign you to the fringes of society," he said.

"We should actually, in my view, be helping those people overcome their problems and get back into the workplace, which surely is a better option.

"We are launching a revolution, a financial revolution, to try and help people turn their lives around."

Grayling said that, as part of the government's welfare strategy, it would extend the delivery of payment by result schemes for the work programme being launched in June to one specifically tailored to people with addictions. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Bolivia accepts financial aid offer from US to monitor coca eradication 

Bolivia has relaxed its hostility to US involvement in Latin America by accepting help to combat the country's growing drug trafficking problem.

President Evo Morales, an outspoken critic of Washington "imperialism", has accepted financial aid to monitor efforts to eradicate coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine. The government accepted the $250,000 offer following setbacks to its counter-narcotics programme which prompted calls for a return of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

Morales, an Aymara Indian and former coca grower, expelled around 30 DEA agents in 2008, claiming they were plotting against his socialist revolution. The president allowed coca cultivation to expand, arguing the Andean leaf had multiple legitimate uses. As a coca farmer in the 1980s he had been beaten by Bolivian police who tried to enforce the DEA's campaign against the crop.However, he pledged "zero tolerance" for cocaine, a chemical derivative of coca, and said Bolivia could crack down on traffickers without US help. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Russian policy of breaching international agreements continues, as UN Secretary General arrives in Moscow 

More than forty major civil society organizations working in the field of HIV and drugs in Russia and internationally, have sent an open letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations calling to advocate for human rights oriented and scientifically based drug treatment and HIV prevention in Russia. Ban Ki-Moon is arriving to Moscow on April 21, 2011 and has scheduled several meetings with high level Russian officials, including the President Dmitry Medvedev.

Currently, the number of new cases of HIV in the country continues to grow and has long passed a critical point. According to the UN documents Russia remains among a few countries worldwide where HIV epidemics are on the rise. This epidemic is driven by sharing contaminated injection equipment for drug use. At the same time the government denies its drug dependent citizens access to life-saving evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions such as opioid substitution treatment with methadone or buprenorphine and needle and syringe HIV prevention programs, recommended by the UN. 

“Neglecting the rights of people who use drugs, especially at the concentrated stage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, will inevitably lead to serious health and social consequences for the society as a whole”, the letter says. It goes on by pointing out that the Russian government has “failed to ensure universal access to HIV prevention and treatment when millions of people who inject drugs are deprived of medical and social services support because the Government’s rejects the UN-recommended comprehensive package which includes substitution treatment and needle and syringe programs”.

Source: Transform

Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann on the Future of Legalization 

"We are making remarkable momentum with respect to changing the marijuana laws," says Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which promotes alternatives to the war on drugs.

Reason.tv caught up with Nadelmann at the Drug Policy Alliance's re:FORM Art Auction in Los Angeles, where he pointed out that the only way to move forward on marijuana legalization is for states to start taking risks by abandoning prohibition laws and setting up the conflict with the feds.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Sex, drugs and HIV – let's get rational 

Epidemiologist Elisabeth Pisani reveals the inconsistencies in current public policy which prevent the spread of HIV from being effectively combatted. She explains how the criminalisation of drug users is actively encouraging increased infection rates for HIV, before discussing how her research with at-risk populations demonstrates that seemingly counterintuitive measures could stall the spread of the disease. 

Source: Count the Costs

The Penalisation of Poverty 

Damon Barrett, Senior Human Rights Analyst at the International Harm Reduction Association, discusses how the war on drugs penalises poverty and how the current drug control framework is not fit for purpose.

Source: Count the Costs

Dependent on Development: The interrelationships between illicit drugs and socioeconomic development

A thorough report examining the complex interrelationships between illicit drugs (production, trade and use), illicit drugs policies, human rights and social and economic development. 

The report draws attention to the fact that the association between drug policy and development policy has not been adequately acknowledged, thereby hindering the achievement of a human rights-based approach to both policy areas. Download the report: Dependent-on-Development

Source: Count the Costs

Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate

A report from the NAACP which shows that minorities and the poor are most negatively affected by incarceration and criminal sanctions for drug offences and calls for an end to existing disparities in sentencing.

The report goes on to state that "When we make meaningful investments to educate rather than incarcerate, communities realize the benefits associated with learning, including increased earnings, reduced unemployment, increased tax revenues from more vibrant local economies, reduced reliance on public assistance, increased civic engagement, and improved public safety for communities at risk for violence and victimization." Download the report: Misplaced-Priorities

Source: Count the Costs

Mexican drug cartels targeting and killing children 

SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico — On a sunny afternoon last week, when the streets of this mountain mining city were filled with schoolchildren and parents hurrying home from work, gunmen entered a tiny apartment and started firing methodically. 

The assassins killed everyone: the family matriarch and her adult son; her daughter and son-in-law, and finally, her 22-month-old granddaughter.Mexico’s drug lords fall, but war goes on

The child was not killed by mistake. Preliminary forensics indicate that the gunmen, unchallenged, pointed a pistol at Scarlett Ramirez and fired. 

In Mexico’s brutal drug war, children are increasingly victims, innocents caught in the crossfire, shot dead alongside their parents — and intentionally targeted. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Washington Post

Obama Administration Releases Plan to Address Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic 

Overdose Experts Call Government Plan "Insufficient"; Ignores Proven Solutions Such as Overdose Antidote, Naloxone, and 911 Good Samaritan Laws. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Gil Kerlikowske, White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D, and other officials released Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, the Obama Administration's plan to address the national prescription drug abuse and overdose epidemic.

While Kerlikowske presented it as a comprehensive response to an enormous rise in unintentional overdose fatalities – which have more than doubled in the last decade – overdose prevention advocates were dismayed by significant omissions in the plan. Glaringly absent is any mention of a proven, evidence-based intervention called naloxone, an inexpensive generic medication approved by the FDA that rapidly reverses opiate overdose. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

A Most Inspirational Woman                     

Never before have I seen a session chair reduced to tears by a speech in the way that happened with this magnificent, brave speech by Irina Teplinskaya-Abdyusheva who works with Anya Sarang of the Andrei Rylkov Foundation when she spoke about the abuse of human rights of drug users in Russia. Neil Hunt 

Good afternoon! My cordial greetings to everyone who came here today. I am very much honoured to speak at the final session of this Conference, and I am actually very nervous about it. Unlike most of you, I am very new to the activists community, I have become an activist just recently, and this is my first real experience at the International conference. And I not only feel highly privileged but also deeply responsible to speak up on behalf of all Russian drug users. For the first time ever, this marginalized community is now getting chance to have a personal representative speaking publicly about our problems and giving a first-hand evidence about widespread violations of our human rights. I do not speak good English, but I speak from my heart, and I believe that speaking heart to heart will help us understand each other even if we speak different languages. To read the speech in full please follow this link

Source: INPUD

Oklahoma Senate Passes Life Sentence for Hash Making 

The Oklahoma Senate Wednesday passed a bill that would mandate a sentence of up to life in prison for making hashish out of marijuana. The House has already approved the measure, but it must go back to the lower chamber for a final vote. The measure sailed through the Senate with little debate, passing on a vote of 44-2. The House also approved the measure by a large margin, passing it on a vote of 75-18.

The bill, House Bill 1798, creates a new felony of converting marijuana into hash. A first conviction could garner a $50,000 fine and prison sentence of two years to life. Second or subsequent convictions would net doubled penalties. Oklahoma legislative analysts said the bill would cost the state $56 per day, or more than $20,000 a year, for each day someone is imprisoned. At that rate, if Oklahoma imprisoned five hash makers for 10 years each, the bill to taxpayers would be one million dollars.

The bill was the brainchild of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD), which says on its web site that its mission is "to serve the citizens of Oklahoma in the quest for a drug-free state." According to the Tulsa World, OBNDD said there have been "few" cases of hash making in the Sooner State. But OBNDD spokesman Mark Woodward said the goal of the bill is to "send a message" that illegal drugs won't be tolerated in Oklahoma. Neither, apparently, will common sense or a sense of proportionality.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Drug Policy Alliance 2011 Grants Program LOI Deadline 

The Drug Policy Alliance will have approximately $750,000 to allocate during the 2011/2012 Promoting Policy Change grant cycle. Promoting Policy Change is a fund that has a two tier application process. We require an LOI to initiate the relationship, and thereafter, a proposal from those invited to apply. The deadline for the LOI is is Friday, April 29 at midnight EST.

The LOI should include a single page that includes your organizational name and all contact information; if you are a 501(c)(3); what the mission of your organization is; and what the specific goals and deliverables you propose are. If you are invited to apply, you will be notified on or about May 15th, and the deadline for proposals requested is June 20, 2011 at 8:00pm EST. Through the annual Promoting Policy Change grant cycle -- which does not accept unsolicited proposals -- we seek to broaden public support for drug policy reform and will fund invited organizations who have continually demonstrated strategic and innovative approaches to increase such support.

We invite proposals designed to:

  • Educate the public and policymakers about the negative consequences of current local, state or national drug policies
  • Promote better awareness and understanding of alternatives to current drug policies.
  • Broaden awareness and understanding of the extent to which punitive prohibitionist policies are responsible for most drug-related problems around the country

Source: Stop the Drug War

Launch of the International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy

During the 22nd International Harm Reduction Conference in Beirut this month a new resource for legal scholarship on human rights and drug policy was launched. The International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy is the first and only peer reviewed law journal focusing on human rights and drug policy through the lens of international law.

The Journal is published by the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, founded by Rick Lines and Damon Barrett of Harm Reduction International and having its academic home at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway. The Journal is available for free download and is operating under a creative commons licence to ensure wide access and usage.

Source: IHRA

U.S. FDA Releases Long-Awaited Opioid-REMS

At a press conference on April 19, 2011, the United States government unveiled a multi-agency, multi-pronged master plan aimed at stemming the “nationwide epidemic” of prescription drug abuse. Part of the plan was the long-awaited FDA-backed Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, focusing on reducing the misprescribing, misuse, and abuse of opioid analgesics. However, there are many facets of the Opioid-REMS to be developed during the months ahead.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), said the new plan — a collaborative effort involving agencies of the departments of Justice (DEA), Health and Human Services (FDA), Veterans Affairs, Defense, and others — provides a national framework for reducing prescription drug abuse and the diversion of prescription drugs for recreational use. Four key elements of the plan include: 

  1. Expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (while recognizing that “more work needs to be done to maximize their effectiveness”).
  2. Recommending convenient and environmentally responsible ways to remove unused medications from homes.
  3. Reducing the number of “pill mills” and rampant doctor-shopping through law enforcement efforts.
  4. Supporting education for health care providers and patients, particularly regarding controlled substances and especially opioid analgesics.

The ONDCP’s master plan — titled “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis” [PDF available here] — expands upon the Obama administration’s National Drug Control Strategy.

Source: Pain Topics News

Jeremy Sare on drug sentencing

Most drug users are not addicted. Most suppliers of drugs are not dealers. These central truths about patterns of drug use in Britain are incompatible with the policies adopted by those in power who believe ever more muscular enforcement will somehow steer young people away from taking them. In drugs policy, there remains an unparalleled disconnect between power and knowledge. And power means both ministers and media who, on drugs policy, are intertwined in a deadly embrace.

There is no better example of this disconnect when attempts are made to draw a definitive line between possession and supply. Sounds fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? When a consultation paper on sentencing guidelines was published last month, it drew a spirited if somewhat deranged reaction from the Sun and the Daily Mail. The sentencing council was trying to establish, for the first time, a framework of sentencing for drugs including those caught in “possession with intent to supply.” Both papers recklessly exaggerated the well-considered measures being proposed: the Sun’s, front page speculated whether judges were substance abusers themselves, asking pejoratively, “What are they on?”
 
In these reports, the drugs were all presented as “addictive” and of equivalent risk; all dealers were only in the business of “enslavement.” This deeply misleading language is also expressed routinely in Parliamentary debates. But the majority of drug use involves substances with quite low addictive properties like cannabis and ecstasy and are not taken habitually – most illegal drugs are supplied mate-to-mate for no profit. To learn more please follow this link

Source: British Medical Journal

Take Action Now: ‘Zero Draft’ Civil Society Resolution 

Over the last few months consultations by national, regional and global AIDS advocates and representatives of key populations’ networks have led to many sets of civil society ‘asks’ of governments to respond to HIV and AIDS.  It was crucial to urgently develop a coordinated civil society approach to the negotiations for the outcome declaration from the UN General Assembly Comprehensive AIDS review High Level Meeting (HLM) in June 2011.

A consolidated set of civil society asks has been drafted from these national, regional and constituency asks by a range of community activist and networks from around the world.  On April 7, at a meeting organized by the Civil Society Task Force and ICASO (supported by UNAIDS), over a hundred civil society representatives provided feedback from their regions and constituencies on the priority issues/asks.  Many of these issues were raised by civil society speakers and representatives at the April 8 UNGASS Civil Society Hearing to feed into the HLM outcome.

Out of these many consultations a “zero draft” civil society declaration has been developed by national, regional, global and constituency-based organizations to assist in coordinated civil society advocacy with UN member states (governments).    The “zero draft” will immediately be used for negotiations with governments in New York and in the national capitals around the world as consultations with member states has already begun.

ACTION you can take:

  1. Sign-up your organization to this “zero draft” civil society declaration by sending an email to universalaccess2010@icaso.org
  2. Use this “zero draft” immediately to negotiate and advocate with government representatives in your home capitals and with government missions to the UN in New York.
  3. Share your feedback/intelligence from meetings with governments with your civil society colleagues. You can join the civil society email group ‘aidsreview2011’ by sending an email to universalaccess2010@icaso.org with ‘join aidsreview2011’ in the subject line.

Updated versions of the civil society draft declaration will be shared to reflect advances in the negotiations of the UN “zero draft”. The full list of endorsements will be sent to all UN Missions in New York and other key stakeholders.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to: universalaccess2010@icaso.org

Source: UNAIDS PCB NGO

 

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.