oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of July 9th 2011

Portugal decriminalized all drugs 10 years ago and the results are in: decreased youth drug use, falling overdose and HIV/AIDS rates, less crime, reduced criminal justice expenditures, greater access to drug treatment, and safer and healthier communities ~ MW & CS

Portugal Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary of Decriminalizing Drugs 

Everyone knows that the war on drugs is a failure. Despite more than $40 billion spent every year on the U.S. drug war and 500,000 people behind bars on drug related offenses, drugs are as available as ever. But what is the alternative? What would happen if a society decided to treat drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue? What if we stopped the futile effort of using force to decrease drug consumption? What if we decriminalized drugs, not just marijuana, but all drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth? 

We've heard the horror scenarios that opponents of drug policy reform recite: more addiction, more broken families and a crazy escalation of crime and violence. On the other side, advocates for decriminalization or legal regulation say that we would be better off not criminalizing what's a health issue. They advocate for education, prevention and treatment instead of jail for drug abuse and leaving in peace those whose drug use does not cause harm to others.

So who's right? You might be surprised to hear that this isn't just about hypotheticals anymore. Portugal decriminalized all drugs 10 years ago and the results are in: decreased youth drug use, falling overdose and HIV/AIDS rates, less crime, reduced criminal justice expenditures, greater access to drug treatment, and safer and healthier communities. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

International Narcotics Control Board Regrets Bolivia’s Denunciation of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 

VIENNA, 5 July (UN Information Service) – The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) regrets the decision by the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to denounce the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,

1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol. On 29 June 2011, in an unprecedented step, the Government of Bolivia denounced the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, to which the State of Bolivia had previously acceded. The Government also announced its intention to re-accede to this Convention but with a reservation regarding specific treaty provisions.

The Board is of the opinion that while this step by Bolivia may be in line with the letter of the Convention, such action is contrary to the Convention's spirit. The international community should not accept any approach whereby Governments use the mechanism of denunciation and re-accession with reservation, in order to free themselves from the obligation to implement certain treaty provisions. Such approach would undermine the integrity of the global drug control system, undoing the good work of Governments over many years to achieve the aims and objectives of the drug control conventions, including the prevention of drug abuse which is devastating the lives of millions of people. To learn more please follow this link

Source: INCB

Guatemala becomes killing field as drug wars spread through Central America 

It is called a war, but there is no frontline or thunder of battle in this scorched wilderness. There is only a no man's land where the dead pile up in silence and the living have nothing to say. Twenty-seven farm labourers were decapitated and had their heads strewn across a field one recent night, but ask neighbours and they reply with blank looks and apologetic shrugs, as if it happened in a distant land.

Two well-known peasant leaders were killed in separate incidents as if by phantoms. Broad daylight, but no witnesses. Months later, some in the community profess ignorance it even happened. "Ricardo Estrada and Jorge Gutiérrez are dead?"

Yes, they are dead. As are three Mexicans shot in a house last week, according to neighbourhood whispers. A pick-up spirited away the bodies and the home owner scrubbed the blood before police arrived. They decided nothing happened. 

Welcome to El Naranjo, a sun-blistered one-street town on Guatemala's northern frontier, once in the middle of nowhere, now in the middle of Latin America's drug war. Mexico's narco-fuelled bloodshed, with 36,000 dead in four years, is dripping here and across much of central America. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Alexei Intervenes at the UN

Here is the 2nd text from Alexei Kurmanaevskiisey, the 30 year old Russian user activist who recently spoke at the United Nations on behalf of people who use drugs in Russia and some of its surrounding regions/countries, where as much as 80% of new HIV infections are amongst people who inject drugs.

Yet OST (such as methadone or buprenorphine are illegal / imprisonable offenses), needle and syringe access programmes are virtually non existant, there is no access to Hep C meds at all, TB treatment is totally outdated – access to HIV meds if you use or have used drugs is very limited and the list goes on. This was Alexei’s ‘Intervention from the Floor, Panel 5, as he spoke about the realities of HIV and TB for people who use drugs, on the 10th June 2011, at the UN in New York.

Source: INPUD

Headless corpses? Acid baths? This is a distorted picture of Mexico's drug wars 

Ed Vulliamy, in his article on Mexico's drug wars, talks of flayed faces, headless corpses and acid baths (Juárez is all our futures. This is the inevitable war of capitalism gone mad, 21 June). I study Mexico: a diverse and fascinating country which, when it makes the news, usually does so because of narco-violence – an important phenomenon, to be sure, but one that deserves sober reflection, not sensationalism.

Vulliamy focuses on Ciudad Juárez, "the most murderous city in the world". But Juárez is not typical of the country.

In fact, it is a grotesque aberration – seven times more homicidal than Mexico as a whole, 13 times more than Mexico City (the capital's homicide rate, by the way, is about one-third that of Washington DC). In other words, drug-related violence is highly variable within Mexico; Yucatán's homicide rate is less than Canada's. Juárez – where no cartel dominates, street gangs operate with relative impunity, and the murder of women is commonplace – is an extreme outlier, not a typical case. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

The war on drugs Boxing cleverer 

THE war on drugs, like the war on terror, is proving a dear and dreary struggle against faceless enemies on shifting terrain. The latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), published on June 23rd, gives little reason to think it is being won.

In America, where cannabis consumption had been falling, the UNODC thinks it is staging a comeback, along with ecstasy. In western Europe use of cannabis is stable, but it has increased in eastern Europe and Latin America. In Asia synthetic stimulants are on the rise. 

More illegal substances are produced in the country in which they are consumed, whether cannabis in London or ecstasy and crystal meth in Indonesia. Fast-changing designer drugs are marketed before regulators have figured out whether to outlaw them, and the line between using drugs to combat medical conditions and taking them simply to improve performance—in exams, sports or sex—is increasingly blurred. Against a backdrop of violence in producer countries such as Mexico and Colombia, and mass incarceration in consumer countries including America and Britain, the argument over what to do about drugs is escalating. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist 

Khat use in Europe: update and policy implications 

‘The number of khat users in Europe appears to be growing, yet the scale and nature of the problem is poorly understood’. This is according to a new publication on the subject released today by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). ‘Khat use in Europe: implications for European policy’ is published in the EMCDDA’s policy briefing series Drugs in focus (1).

Khat refers to the young leaves and shoots of the khat tree (Catha edulis), cultivated in the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast. The leaves have been chewed for centuries for their mildly stimulating properties and, for many, are part of their cultural legacy and social life. Migration from the Horn of Africa has been associated with the spread of khat use to neighbouring countries, Europe and the rest of the world. The  drug goes by many names: ‘qat’ (Yemen), ‘chad’ (Ethiopia, Somalia), ‘miraa’ (Kenya) or ‘marungi’ (Uganda, Rwanda).

Khat contains stimulant substances that have amphetamine-like properties (e.g. cathinone) which, in their pure forms, are internationally controlled substances. The leaves, however, are not controlled and no consistent approach exists to khat in the EU (it is treated as an illegal drug in 15 of the 27 EU Member States and in Norway). To learn more please follow this link

Source: EMCDDA 

The Great Billion Dollar Drug Scam 

Alongside pneumococcal diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia, rotavirus-related diarrhoea is a primary childhood killer in developing countries, thought to snuff out the lives of 500,000 children each and every year. An overwhelming 85 per cent of these children are African and Asian. The need for medical miracles is as great as ever, but corporate mispricing generates huge profits, while driving up the price of life saving medicines.

British-based drug corporation GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently offered a five-year deal to supply poor nations with 125 million doses of the rotavirus vaccine - Rotarix - at $2.50 a dose, just five per cent of the current going price in Western markets. Through the GAVI group, the international vaccine agency financed by developed nations such as the UK, it is hoped that GSK and pharmaceutical multinational Merck - who, between them, dominate the rotavirus vaccine market - will provide a secure line of low-cost drugs for as many as forty countries in the near future. But is it really a discount, and if so, who is paying the cost? To learn more please follow this link

Source: Al Jazeera

Bill Maher and Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann

Source: Youtube

UNODC Executive Director and President Martinelli discuss Panama's role in curbing corruption and trafficking

Vienna / Panama City. 30 June 2011. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov today concluded a two-day visit to Panama, meeting with several high-level officials including President Ricardo Martinelli and Vice-President Juan Carlos Varela. The visit covered several issues ranging from anti-corruption, organized crime and criminal justice, to border control, illicit drugs and human trafficking. An agreement was also signed to support the establishment of a Regional Anti-Corruption Academy in Panama City. 

These topics were also discussed with a range of senior officials including Panama's Deputy Minister of Public Security, Alejandro Garúz; the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Transparency against Corruption, Abigail Benzadón; the Minister of Government, Roxana Méndez; the Director of Customs, Gloria Moreno de López; the Executive Vice President of Operations of the Authority of the Canal of Panama, Manuel Benitez; and the Manager of Canal Security, Antonio Michel. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Colorado Alliance Files Ballot Initiative to Tax and Regulate Marijuana 

Denver-based activists have filed a ballot initiative with the Secretary of State that regulates marijuana in Colorado in a manner similar to alcohol. The proposal requires the Department of Revenue to tax and regulate marijuana and directs this new revenue source to the public school capital construction assistance fund. The campaign must now gather 86.105 signatures before August 6th, 2012 to qualify for the November general election ballot. The initiative's proponents are long-time Colorado marijuana policy reformers Brian Vicente and Mason Tvert of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol.

"Once again Colorado is at the forefront of the national movement to reform our ineffective marijuana laws," said Art Way, Colorado Drug Policy Manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization advocating alternatives to the war on drugs. "The responsible regulation of marijuana is a crucial first step in undoing the harms associated with the failed drug war."

Recent ballot initiatives and legislative advocacy in Colorado have decriminalized marijuana and established one of the most expansive medical marijuana regulatory systems in the country.  Recent polling shows that more than half of the voters in Colorado support ending marijuana prohibition while 46% of Americans nationwide support making marijuana legal.  A decade ago, only a quarter of Americans supported legalization. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DPA

Death fears over Soviet street drug

FORENSIC experts in Scotland are warning about the increasing misuse of a legal drug five times the strength of Valium that is freely available to buy online. Phenazepam was developed in the Soviet Union to treat neurological disorders such as epilepsy and insomnia but has never been prescribed in western Europe. 

However, a forensic team at Dundee University has identified several cases of phenazepam misuse and has warned it could become used more widely as a substitute for controlled sedatives such as Valium (diazepam). To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Herald

Epilepsy drug misuse 'on the rise' 

A drug for epilepsy and anxiety is increasingly being misused by young people in the UK, researchers say. Phenazepam was developed in the 1970s for the treatment of epilepsy, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, insomnia and anxiety.

It is a prescription-only drug in several former Soviet Bloc countries, and is not controlled in the UK, most of Europe, or the US. As a result, people have been buying it legally over the internet, leading to reports of misuse in the UK, Sweden, Finland and the US.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), researchers from the University of Dundee said phenazepam was being used as a substitute for illegal drugs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Independent

Germany launch for cannabis drug Sativex 

The Aim-listed business already sells Sativex, which treats muscle stiffness associated with MS, in Britain and Spain. GW said in May that in the nine months since launching in the UK, sales had reached around £2m.

Sativex contains active ingredients called 'cannabinoids' that are extracted from cannabis plants. It took GW around 10 years to develop the medicine, using genetically unique cannabis plants that are grown at a top-secret farm. 

GW, with its marketing partner Almirall, is planning further European launches of Sativex and GW is also trialling the drug as a potential treatment in cancer pain. Last week, the company began a second Phase III trial of Sativex in cancer, in conjunction with Japan's Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

The company said today that muscle stiffness is a common symptom affecting around 80pc of the 130,000 MS patients in Germany.

Source: The Telegraph

DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition 

The DEA Friday denied a petition asking the federal government to reschedule marijuana out of Schedule l of the Controlled Substances Act. The petition had languished within the bowels of federal bureaucracies for nine years, but the agency finally moved to deny it two months after medical marijuana advocates filed a lawsuit to compel the government to act.

The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis had sought to reclassify marijuana on a lesser schedule, arguing that current science does not allow for it to be classified as a Schedule I drug. Such substances must have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the US, and a lack of accepted safety for use.

 While marijuana has abuse potential, a DEA judge in 1989 cited it as one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man, and it is currently being used as a legal medicine under the laws of 15 states and the District of Columbia. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

President Obama's Justice Department Issues Medical Marijuana Guidance to U.S. Attorneys 

The following is a statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

"The U.S. Justice Department's (DoJ) medical marijuana guidance to U.S. Attorneys, issued by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole last week, raises more questions than it answers. The Department's 2009 Ogden memorandum established guidance that federal resources should not be employed to target medical marijuana patients and providers who are in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state-based medical marijuana laws. Last week's so-called clarification is in fact open to many interpretations and falls far short of the explanation of policy that state lawmakers, members of Congress and advocates sought.

"The Cole memorandum reiterates much of the guidance provided in the Ogden memo, including that all medical marijuana offenses are illegal under federal law but that the Justice Department will prioritize enforcement so as not to waste resources. It clearly states that large-scale, commercial medical marijuana providers are proper targets for federal enforcement, even if they are in compliance with the state law.

The guidance does not address smaller medical marijuana providers widely believed to be protected by the Odgen memo. In fact, the Cole memo explicitly tells U.S. Attorneys to refer to the Odgen memo for guidance on enforcing federal marijuana laws, suggesting that the Department of Justice may likely only target large operations, leaving small operations to the states to regulate. The new memo, however, does not provide guidance on what the federal government considers to be the line between small and large-scale production. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DPA

Administration Medical Marijuana Memo Causes Dismay, Anger 

The medical marijuana movement is reeling after the Obama Justice Department released a memo last week declaring that it might prosecute large-scale medical marijuana cultivation operations and dispensaries even in states where they are operating in compliance with state laws. Advocates reacted with dismay and disappointment, even as they plotted strategies about what to do next.

The memo, written by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, "clarifies" the October 2009 memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that told federal prosecutors not to focus their resources on patients and providers in compliance with state laws. The earlier memo gave some substance to President Obama's campaign promise not to persecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal.

But after the 2009 memo, federal officials watched aghast as a veritable medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary boom took off in places such as Colorado and Montana, where dispensaries went from near zero to hundreds of operations, and as localities in California began considering huge commercial grows. The Justice Department responded with increased federal raids -- now at twice the rate of the Bush administration, according to Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization -- and earlier this year, sent threatening letters from US Attorneys to governors and legislators in states considering or implementing medical marijuana distribution programs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

To live Outside the Law by Leaf Fielding – review 

This memoir begins in a cottage in mid-Wales on 26 March 1977. Leaf Fielding wakes with a jolt. Somebody is shining a torch in his eyes. There's lots of shouting and swearing. He's dragged out of bed, arrested, taken to the police station. He realises the game is up; for a while, he's been in charge of distribution for a drug gang. He's led a secretive life, passing on hundreds of thousands of tablets of LSD. The police have been watching him for months. This is Operation Julie, one of the biggest drug busts ever. Now Leaf is going to jail. For ages. 

As Leaf is processed through the criminal system, he casts his mind back. How did it all go so wrong? He hadn't meant any harm. In fact, he'd fervently believed that LSD would save the world. He tells us about his life. His father was an army officer. His mother died young. He was sent to an oppressive boarding school. He grew up hating the system, like so many people in the rigid, small-minded 1950s. He was in his early teens when the Beatles came on the scene; he was in his late teens during the Summer of Love in 1967. He was radicalised by the student riots in France in 1968. He was exactly the right age, class and temperament to become a hippie. 

I really enjoyed this book. Not so much in the early parts, which tell the story of a drug dealer being arrested. It takes a while to figure out why you should care. But after about 50 pages, something clicked. Fielding seems to sum up his era perfectly. He was idealistic. He was a vegetarian, a dope-smoker, a guy who wanted to turn the rest of the world on. He thought that if everybody dropped acid, all the bad stuff in the world would stop. But he wasn't just a soppy guy with long hair. For years, he was a small-time criminal, drifting around the world, on the run, doing this and that – in other words, the genuine hippie experience. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Following Mexico’s Drug Money Trail 

A rally and conference against Mexico's drug war poured fresh blood onto the streets of Ciudad Juárez over the weekend, when police shot a 19-year-old student in the back with a high-powered assault rifle. Laura Carlsen, who spoke at the anti-militarisation event which had been billed as a "march against death", said the shooting of the student on a university campus was "a game changer" in the country's spiralling violence.

"It was really the first time [during the latest violence] the police had targeted a peace protester and the cartels were not involved at all," said Carlsen, who directs the Americas programme of the International Relations Center from Mexico City. The wounded student, José Dario Álvarez Orrantia, is expected to recover, although his injuries will likely plague him for the rest of his life.

Activists say the shooting underscores their point that brute force is not the best way to tackle  violence that has claimed almost 30,000 lives since 2006. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Al Jazeera 

Dying to Cover the Drug War 

Pedro Torres doesn't have the air of a man who stares down death on a daily basis. He is a mild mannered reporter during the day, and at night. But just showing up for work at El Diario newspaper in Juarez, one of the world's most dangerous journalism jobs, could be considered a heroic feat. 

"This is what I like to do, I have been here for 25 years," Torres says during an interview in his office. It's a standard answer for a newspaper man, except that two of his staff members have been gunned down in cold blooded shootings in the last few years, as drug violence rages in this border city. 

The desk where Armando "El Choco" Rodriguez once sat - writing tracks on crime and government corruption -has been left vacant as a shrine after he was murdered in a targeted killing in November, 2008. He was sitting in his white Nissan car, preparing to drive his daughter to school, when masked gunmen approached, opened fire with automatic weapons and then fled. No one has been prosecuted for the attack. 

"Journalists are being killed systematically and regularly," says Bruce Bagley, chairman of the international studies department at the University of Miami, who researches Mexico. "Narco groups have decided they don’t like bad publicity in the areas which they control; it has become incredibly dangerous to be an investigative reporter. Often, local and state police are complicit in these attacks." 

A few days before his murder, Rodriguez had written a story linking the state prosecutor's nephew to drug traffickers. Cartels earn as much as $39bn yearly from selling illicit narcotics, according to the US Justice Department, and serious journalism which exposes criminality is bad for business. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Al Jazeera

 

 
 

 

 

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.