oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of June 12th 2011

The Wire has been described by many critics as the greatest television series ever made and it has been praised for its realistic portrayal of urban life - especially the war on drugs. We lead this week’s Drug Policy Report with an excellent HCLU interview by Peter Sarosi with Sonja Sohn, who plays Detective Kima Greggs ~ MW & CS

Love is what transforms 

The Wire has been described by many critics as the greatest television series ever made and it has been praised for its realistic portrayal of urban life - especially the war on drugs. We at the HCLU video advocacy team are definiteley great fans of the show and one of our favourite characters was Detective Kima Greggs. We were delighted to find out that Sonja Sohn - the actress who played Kima - is attending the 8th National Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas organized by the Harm Reduction Coalition, where she was so kind to give an interview to us. 

We learnt that she founded the ReWIRED for Change - an outreach program intended to communicate with (and ultimately rehabilitate) at-risk youth involved in criminal activity. This program has been using the TV show as a teaching tool to examine and query their lives and past actions. In addition to being a great actress she is wonderful person who transforms her environment with her kindness and love.

Source: Drug Reporter

Voices from the Margin: Drug User Activists in the US

This movie was filmed by the HCLU at the 8th National Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas - we thank the Harm Reduction Coalition for the invitation and for organizing this wonderful conference!

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," said Gil Kerlikowske, the US drug czar in his first public statement after his appointment to the White Hose’s drug office. This is especially true for people who use drugs. It is not drugs that are being arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, stigmatized and marginalized – but people. These people affected most by the war on drugs have been organizing a resistance movement all over the world: they form user groups, they promote harm reduction programs, they fight for better health and social care, they negotiate peace with the authorities.

In our movie on the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) we showed how drug user movement is being organized internationally. In our latest movie we focus on the user movement in the US: how can people who use drugs survive in the country where the global war on drugs was born. The activists we interviewed show a brilliant example how unfair is the prejudice against drug users that they are passive and incapacitated, or that they don’t care about the social and political environment in which they use drugs.

Source: Drug Reporter

2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS is available

The final wording of the UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS has been circulated. It has been the subject of intense negotiations in New York, and at this time, instead of getting to the weaknesses of it (which we will get to soon, as will may others), the first job is to congratulate all those civil society and national delegation reps who worked tirelessly to make this document as strong as it could be in the circumstances. Given the opposition they faced from states hell bent on ruining any effective response to HIV it is amazing that the document even says AIDS, never mind harm reduction or people who inject drugs

So, for now, well done to friends, colleagues and allies.

More to come. For now:

Final unedited text (Official version still to come) See paras 26 and 59(h) (PDF, 104 KB)

INPUD's Tatyana Afanasiadi (Ukraine) telling it like it is:

http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/06/23682.html

Source: HRI

Tatyana, a voice from people who use drugs at the United Nations

Source: INPUD

Pope Benedict XVI and head of UNODC discuss drugs and crime-related social and health challenges

Vienna / Vatican City. 08 June 2011.The UN's lead anti-drug and crime official, Yury Fedotov, today met with Pope Benedict XVI as part of a visit to the Vatican to discuss some of the core issues currently affecting communities across the globe.

With a focus on drug prevention, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, crime eradication, human trafficking and migrant smuggling, the audience with the head of the Catholic Church aimed to elaborate and expand on synergies with the Church.

Commenting on the growing partnership that UNODC enjoys with religious organizations and noting their importance as partners in promoting drug- and crime-free societies, Mr. Fedotov stated: "With over a billion followers, the Catholic Church - as with all religions - has a special link to people across the globe and is in a unique position to spread key messages in helping prevent drug use and crime. UNODC looks forward to expanding our relationship with all religions as we work together in addressing social and health challenges of drugs and crime in every part of the world." To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Can a vaccine stop drug abuse?

THE idea of vaccinating drug addicts against their affliction is an intriguing one. In principle, it should not be too hard. The immune system works, in part, by making antibodies that are specific to particular sorts of hostile molecule. Such antibodies recognise and attach themselves to these molecules, rendering them harmless. Vaccines work by presenting the immune system with novel targets, so that it can learn to react to them if it comes across them again.

The problem is that the molecules antibodies recognise and react to are the big ones, such as proteins, that are characteristic of bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents. Small molecules, such as drugs, go unnoticed. But not for much longer, if Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego has his way. In a paper just published in theJournal of the American Chemical Society, Dr Janda and his colleagues suggest how a vaccine against methamphetamine, a popular street drug, might be made. If their method works, it would open the possibility of vaccinating people against other drugs, too. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist

Drugs Bust

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: The war on drugs.

On the morning of June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon, speaking from the Briefing Room of the White House, declared: “America’s public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive. I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world.”

So began a war that has waxed and waned, sputtered and sprinted, until it became an unmitigated disaster, an abomination of justice and a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The New York Times

It’s time to end dismally failed ‘war on drugs’

How do you end America’s longest war that is an abject failure? No, not Afghanistan. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon launched the “War on Drugs.” And now, four decades later, it would be impossible to invent a more complete failure.

About $1 trillion has been spent on the war. Millions of citizens who pose no threat to anyone have been incarcerated in prison. Some 2.3 million now overcrowd America’s prisons — 25 percent of whom have been arrested for nonviolent drug crimes.Our neighbors to the south — Mexico and Colombia — are being torn about by gang violence and corruption. In Afghanistan, where our soldiers risk their lives, fully one-third to one-half of the entire economy is generated by the opium and heroin trade. All of this is in reaction to nonviolent acts that were not even crimes a century ago.

Yet despite this, drugs are just as available and cheaper than they were 40 years ago. As the U.S. drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, concluded: “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful. Forty years later, the concern about drugs and the drug problem is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” I have spent decades talking with young men and women about the perils of drugs, in classrooms, in church basements, in prisons and jails and on the street. The scourge of drugs is destructive of lives and of hope. But so, too, is the war against drugs

Source: Chicago Sun

The global drug war and the Nixon Connection

As historian Alfred McCoy explained in his 1972 classic, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade - later revised and expanded into The Politics of Heroin - the global hard drug trade was virtually destroyed by World War II. The CIA helped revive it, beginning by striking a deal with the Corsican Mafia to secure their assistance in driving communist union organisers off of the docks of Marseilles, laying the foundations for the "French Connection".

There followed a long, far-reaching pattern of cooperation between US covert operations and high-level drug-dealing organisations, who helped make the shadier covert operations self-financing, insulating them from unwanted oversight. Thus, Southeast Asia became a major global drug-supplier as an off-shoot of the Vietnam War, especially its more covert aspects. Similarly, the CIA-supported Afghanistan conflict not only helped create al-Qaeda, it rocketed the local poppy crop to the top of the global charts. In addition, a wide range of covert actions across Latin America helped fuel the cocaine explosion of the 1970s and 1980s, including the innovation of crack cocaine.

But this was only one side of the story. The other side begins with Richard Nixon, who ran for president on "law and order" in 1968. This was largely just code for lumping together his most voiceless political enemies - student demonstrators and "uppity" urban blacks - but it was given a rational veneer as a promise to crack down on street crime - something that presidents had virtually nothing to do with at the time. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Al Jazeera

America's fatal addiction to prescription drugs

Over the last 10 years, prescription drug abuse – abuse of medications which are legal for distribution – has become a national epidemic. Prescription drugs now surpass motor vehicle accidents as the No 1 cause of accidental death in almost half the states in this country. Last year, nearly 30,000 Americans died from an overdose, with at least half of these deaths related to legally controlled substances that were misused, abused, prescribed incorrectly, or simply just in the wrong person's hands.

Among the startling statistics, the United States now consumes 80% of the world's opioid pain medications and 99% of the world's hydrocodone (semi-synthetic opioid). The milligram per person use of prescription opioids in the United States increased from 74mg to 369mg, an increase of 402%, between 1997 and 2007. Prescription medication abuse is now only second to marijuana in terms of frequency. Prescription pharmaceuticals have become the newest – and seemingly, deadliest – gateway drug we have seen yet; nearly a third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs "recreationally" for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

The war on drugs war is lost. Now it's time for a rational response

Four decades ago, Richard Nixon was casting around for a new enemy to shore up support for his unique brand of uncompassionate conservatism. Having risen to national prominence as an anti-communist campaigner, then turned his attention to crime, he found a new foe in the counterculture.

The media were full of stories of clean-cut young men returning from Vietnam as wrecked junkies, while intellectuals such as Timothy Leary were promoting the use of LSD. So Nixon, elected on a wafer-thin margin and desperate to turn back the tide of permissiveness, declared war ondrugs. "America's public enemy number one is drug abuse," he thundered.

While the Vietnam conflict has faded into history, thousands are dying and millions of lives are still being destroyed in his insane struggle. Fittingly, since it was launched by a president who turned out to be a crook, the biggest beneficiaries have been the most murderous gangsters on the globe as they rip apart country after country. Yet our leaders limp on in this self-defeating, $100bn-a-year war. Last week saw the latest salvo in the struggle when a host of distinguished names gathered under the banner of the Global Commission on Drug Policy to urge a truce. Their thoughtful report pointed out a series of obvious truths underlying how the war backfired so terribly and called for policies based on treatment rather than prosecution.

Source: The Guardian

The Saturday interview: Richard Branson

It's been 50 years since the United Nations orchestrated a global convention on drug prohibition, and 40 years since president Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. It isn't working. According to the UN's own figures, between 1998 and 2008 opiate consumption increased by 34.5% worldwide, and cocaine use rose by 25%. Drugs have turned parts of Mexico into a war zone, they are financing terrorists around the world and costing taxpayers billions. "I've seen the war on drugs and I've not been impressed," says Sir Richard Branson. "Thousands of people are being killed in Mexico because of the demand for drugs in America. Whole sections of society are becoming lawless, and most of it is over marijuana."

The Virgin king, who is 61 next month, had his first big business success with a music label, where he made grade-A drug contacts. Keith Richards taught him to roll a joint. "I was a late starter, in my early 20s, in a recording studio in Oxford. He was very patient with me," says Branson. Nor is he a stranger to the damage drugs can do. Branson signed the Sex Pistols before the heroin-addicted Sid Vicious murdered his girlfriend and committed suicide. He was also close to 1980s pop icon Boy George, a "massive talent", who has struggled with drug addiction. He put the star up at his house when he was trying to kick the habit. George had lost "two or three people" close to him to drugs at the time, says Branson. "He was just very lucky that he wasn't one of the ones to go."

Branson wasn't impressed with the official "solution" to George's drug issues. "The police turned up and arrested him when he was in treatment. What good does that do?" he says. "It was obvious to me that locking people up in prison was not the answer. Treating the problem as a health problem, rather than a crime, is. In the few countries in the world where they have decriminalised the taking of drugs, Portugal being the best example, the amount of heroin addicts has dropped by half. There's been a drop in the HIV figures, the amount of cannabis use is the lowest in Europe." To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Oxi: Twice as powerful as crack cocaine at just a fraction of the price

The snakes come at night, darting out of the shadows and into Marcelo's subconscious. "You start thinking, 'There are people coming! The police are coming! A snake is coming! Everything is coming!' You panic. But there is no snake. No police. There's nobody there. There's nothing. You're just tripping out."

Marcelo is an illiterate 24-year-old drug addict whose home is a sliver of cardboard on the streets of Rio Branco, a riverside city in the Brazilian Amazon. His drug of choice is oxi, a highly addictive and hallucinogenic blend of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene and quicklime (calcium oxide) that is wreaking havoc across the Amazon region. Oxi, or oxidado – "rust" – is the latest drug to surface in the Amazon. It is reputedly twice as powerful as crack cocaine and just a fifth of the price.

"It is terrifying," said Alvaro Mendes, an outreach worker in Rio Branco from the state of Acre's Harm Reduction Association, the NGO that first detected the drug. "The majority of first-time users become addicted on their first contact with the drug. Most of them go seven to 10 days without sleeping, without eating. They start to go into a process of degeneration. After months of use … they go into a state where they look like zombies, wandering … in search of pleasure." To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Addaction embrace recovery month across the UK

During June 2011, Addaction will be encouraging service users and ex-service users and people affected by drugs and alcohol to get together to celebrate and promote recovery.

As one of the UK’s largest specialist treatment charities, Addaction manages more than 120 services in 80 locations in England and Scotland, treating 37,000 individuals last year. The charity is committed to implementing an organisation wide Recovery Champions Framework, which will see representation in every service. Read the full Addaction press release

Source: Addaction

Debates about cannabis decriminalisation oppose French government and NGOs

In early June, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a reportwhich demonstrates that the current drug control strategy relying on heavy penalties towards drug users has failed. The report triggered heavy debates all around the world on the alternatives proposed by the Global Commission - decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use, and regulation.

As a response to the report, several French policy makers, including Claude Gueant (French Ministry of Interior) and Nora Berra (state Secretary of Health), strongly opposed the possibility of cannabis decrminalisation. Despite available evidence showing otherwise, Mr. Gueant declared: "If we decriminalise, we make access easier, which would increase health problems. With regards to delinquency and the phenomenon of gangs, it has been observed everywhere that decriminalisation of cannabis leads gangs to start trafficking other substances". 

A number of French organisations working on drug policy and harm reduction reacted strongly to these statements. This was the case, for instance of AIDES and ASUD (Association Francaise d'Usagers de Drogues). Their statement, addressed to Nora Berra, is available in French at this link: Aides-asud-declaration.pdf

Source: IDPC

Russia defies growing consensus with declaration of 'total war on drugs'

Drug dealers are to be "treated like serial killers" and could be sent to forced labour camps under harsh laws being drawn up by Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament. Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the state duma, the lower house, said a "total war on drugs" was needed to stem a soaring abuse rate driven by the flow of Afghan heroin through central Asia to Europe. 

Russia has as many as 6 million dependent users (one in 25 people). Every year 100,000 people die from using drugs, Gryzlov said in a newspaper. The scale of the problem "threatens Russia's gene pool", he said. "We are standing on the edge of a precipice. Either we squash drug addiction or it will destroy us." The Global Commission on Drugs Policy said in a report last week that there needed to be a shift away from criminalising drugs and incarcerating those who use them. Gryzlov, however, claimed that "criminal responsibility for the use of narcotics is a powerful preventative measure".

Special punishments should also be considered for dealers, he added: "Sending drug traders to a katorga (forced labour camp), for example. Felling timber, laying rails and constructing mines – that's very different from sitting in a personal cell with a television and a fridge while you keep up your 'business' on the outside." To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC

Italian NGOs take position against their government’s policies on harm reduction

A joint statement issued by several associations working in the field of AIDS and drug policies (Italian League for the Struggle Against AIDS-LILA, ANLAIDS, CNCA, Forum droghe, Villa Maraini among them) hasstrongly denounced some alarming negative developments in the official Italian policies concerning HIV and drugs (see also the article by Alessandra Cerioli, president of LILA, in the national daily Il Manifesto, 25 May). Specifically, the ad hoc Undersecretary in the Prime Minister's office, Carlo Giovanardi and the Department of Antidrug Policies (DPA) headed by Giovanni Serpelloni have announced that they would submit a proposal to cancel the term "harm reduction" at the June UNGASS New York meeting on HIV/AIDS, which they propose to substitute with a watered-down "risk reduction".

The rationale of such a proposal, which is also supported by the Vatican State, Russia and Iran, is not merely semantic or lexical. The argument is rather that the term "harm reduction" is all-too-often associated with "inadmissible" practices such as shooting rooms and heroin programs for selected addicts whose response to, e.g., methadone is inadequate. Though the term “harm reduction” has been canceled in all the official documents, Giovanardi and Serpelloni insist that the Italian National Action Plan on Drugs 2010-2013 and related initiatives clearly guarantee the effectiveness of the recommended and authorized measures in preventing the adverse effects of drug overdoses and HIV infections. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC

The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?

It seems that Americans are in the midst of a raging epidemic of mental illness, at least as judged by the increase in the numbers treated for it. The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades. Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children, well ahead of physical disabilities like cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, for which the federal programs were created.

What is going on here? Is the prevalence of mental illness really that high and still climbing? Particularly if these disorders are biologically determined and not a result of environmental influences, is it plausible to suppose that such an increase is real? Or are we learning to recognize and diagnose mental disorders that were always there? On the other hand, are we simply expanding the criteria for mental illness so that nearly everyone has one? And what about the drugs that are now the mainstay of treatment? Do they work? If they do, shouldn’t we expect the prevalence of mental illness to be declining, not rising?

These are the questions, among others, that concern the authors of the three provocative books under review here. They come at the questions from different backgrounds—Irving Kirsch is a psychologist at the University of Hull in the UK, Robert Whitaker a journalist and previously the author of a history of the treatment of mental illness called Mad in America (2001), and Daniel Carlat a psychiatrist who practices in a Boston suburb and publishes a newsletter and blog about his profession. To learn more please follow this link

Source: New York Review of Books

The War on Drugs = A War on Women and Families

The War on Drugs = A War on Women and Families states the new report released by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on 8 June, 2011. The report looks at the "war on drugs" and it’s devastating impact on women and families. The main group affected by policies like mandatory minimum sentences, prosecution of low-level drug offenses, increased conviction and imprisonment of those with relationships to drug dealers, and criminalization of women with drug addiction and mental health problems and histories of sexual abuse.

The report reveals that the number of women in prison increased at a rate nearly double that of men. Women of color are disproportionately affected: African-American women are more than three times as likely as white women to be incarcerated, and Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely. Two thirds of women state prisoners are the mothers of minor children. Furthermore,  it has found a great deal of evidence of the 40-year-old "war on drugs" to be a war of little success but huge casualties.

Having underlined the collateral damage of this war that far exceeds the benefits it calls for the reform of United States’ drug policies to stop fighting on its own citizens and instead: (1) enact policies that help those individuals who need mental and physical health care; (2) cure addictions of approximately 80 percent of women in state prisons with substance abuse problems; (3) provide jobs and economic opportunity for all members of our society so that dealing drugs is no longer the best-paying job available. The report further recommends that its time for the United States’ government to work to improve the lives of all members of our community rather than continuing to fight this war against poor women (including of color) and their children.  Full report is available here

Source: HRI

Beirut Declaration on HIV and Injecting Drug Use calls on UN meeting to address the role of injecting drug use in the AIDS epidemic

Monday, June 6, 2011 (New York, USA)-- Over 200 leading  international NGOs have backed the Beirut Declaration on HIV and Injecting Drug Use calling on world leaders to scale up  harm reduction programs that  address the role of injecting drug use in the AIDS epidemic. The Declaration, co-ordinated by Harm Reduction International (formerly the International Harm Reduction Association), is a global call to action aimed at leaders participating in the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS taking  place in New York this week. Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic injecting drug use is the main driver of up to 80 percent of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and parts of South East Asia. In Russia, over the past decade, new HIV infections have increased ten fold from 100, 000 to one million. Some 80 per cent of those infected are under 30 years of age.

The Beirut Declaration HIV and Injecting Drug Use, launched in April earlier this year by Harm Reduction International  at its 22nd International Harm Reduction Conference held in Lebanon,  is an urgent call for the implementation, scale-up and financing of evidence-based harm reduction programmes, including needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy, in both communities and prisons. The Declaration has been endorsed by The Lancet as a key document for informing decision making at the UN meeting on AIDS.

 “World leaders have no choice but to make the right call on injecting drugs and HIV at this week`s meeting. It is as simple as this: take action, or continue allowing people to die” said Rick Lines, Executive Director of  HRI, in New York for the High Level Meeting. To learn more please follow this link

Source: HRI

Harm Reduction International launches '3 Cents' report

Harm Reduction International's new '3 cents' report shows the small amount of money being invested in harm reduction. It is estimated that in 2007 approximately $160 million was invested in harm reduction in low and middle income countries, of which $136 million (90%) came from international donors. This figure is certainly almost an over estimate of actual spending on harm reduction services, which would only have received about one third of this total harm reduction investment. Spending on harm reduction needs to be increased urgently and dramatically, especially for direct frontline services. To read the report please follow this link

Source: HRI

Rising to the challenge: DrugScope conference November 2011

The sheer weight and speed of government activity which will directly or indirectly impact on our sector has left many breathless and not a little bewildered. There is the drug strategy itself, the localism and recovery agendas, welfare and NHS reforms, payment by results, election of police commissioners, the formation of Public Health England, the list goes on.

So here is an opportunity to step back and take stock of all these developments in the company of distinguished speakers, workshop leaders and panelists – your chance to debate the issues and share concerns with colleagues from across the UK.

Confirmed speakers include Marcus Roberts (DrugScope), Paul Hayes (NTA), Tim Hollis (ACPO), Joy Barlow (STRADA), Dominic Harrison (Blackburn PCT), John Ashton (Cumbria Public Health) and Jeremy Swain (Thamesreach). There will be a ministerial keynote plus workshops on: practical issues around recovery; working with street drinkers; caring for pregnant drug users, and an update on legal highs/new drugs. We will also be running a panel discussion on recovery chaired by Stephen Bamber of the Recovery Academy with Mark Gilman (NTA), Alistair Sinclair and Anne-Marie Ward (UK Recovery Federation) and Richard Phillips (SMART Recovery).

Please download, print and fill out the booking form by hand. Please send it by post to Cheryl Farnum, DrugScope, 2nd floor, Prince Consort House, 109-111, Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BW or by fax to 0207 520 7555. Alternatively, you can print out and fill in the form by hand before scanning and emailing it to conferences@drugscope.org.uk

Source: DrugScope

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse’s (NTA) written statement to Health Select Committee inquiry into Public Health

The NTA welcomes the opportunity to give evidence to this inquiry. Drug and alcohol misuse is a major public health issue that also cuts across many other areas of policy and practice, both national and local.The 2010 Drug Strategy tasked the NTA to support the development of a recovery-based drug treatment system, and build a role to improve the provision of services for severe alcohol dependence.

Recovery from drug addiction benefits public health and cuts crime, as well as delivering value for money for the taxpayer. Every pound spent on treatment delivered £2.50 worth of benefit to society, mostly by cutting crime but also in reduced health and social costs. We believe the creation of Public Health England at a national level, to support and oversee local commissioning arrangements for drugs and alcohol services, is the best vehicle for taking forward the government’s ambition of recovery for people dependent on alcohol or drugs.

This ambition will also require work across housing, employment, education, children services, families, criminal justice, and communities as well as treatment services. Transferring the NTA’s critical functions into Public Health England (PHE) will provide expert support for local authorities as they exercise their new alcohol and drug commissioning responsibilities. To learn more please follow this link

Source: NTA

Pharmageddon: how America got hooked on killer prescription drugs

The Kentucky number plate on Chad's pick-up truck, parked round the back of a doctor's clinic in Palm Beach, Florida, reveals that he has just driven a thousand miles, 16 hours overnight, to be here – and he's not come for the surfing. "It's my back," he says, rubbing his lower vertebrae. "I'm a builder. I fell off the roof and hurt my back."

That's odd, as we have just watched him run out of the clinic and over to his truck without so much as a limp. He's clutching a prescription for 180 30mg doses of the painkiller oxycodone. Chad is one of thousands of "pillbillies" who descend on Florida every year from across the south and east coasts of America. Some come in trucks bearing telltale number plates from Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, even far-away Ohio. Others come by the busload on the apocryphally named Oxycodone Express.

It's a lucrative trade. Chad tells us he has just paid $275 (£168) to the doctor inside the clinic, or pill mill, as it is pejoratively called. The doctor, who can see up to 100 people in a sitting, can make more than $25,000 in a day, cash in hand.

For Chad the profits are handsome too. He will spend $720 at a pharmacy on his 180 pills, giving him a total outlay of about $1,000. Back in Kentucky he can sell each pill for $30, giving them a street value of $5,400 and Chad a clear profit of more than $4,000. If he goes to 10 pill mills in Palm Beach on this one trip he could multiply that windfall tenfold. But then there's the other cost of the oxycodone trade, a cost that is less often talked about, certainly not by Chad or his accommodating doctor. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

US can't justify its drug war spending, reports say

A Los Angeles Times article covering two 2011 reports which criticise the American government's growing use of US contractors such as DynCorp and Lockheed Martin in fighting the drug war. These contractors were paid more than $3 billion to train local prosecutors and police, help eradicate fields of coca, operate surveillance equipment and otherwise battle the widening drug trade in Latin America over the last five years. US politicians and academics have attacked this policy, saying it is incredibly wasteful and ineffective.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-narco-contract-20110...

Source: Transform

New information about counternarcotics contracts in Latin America

A US Senate Subcommittee report, commissioned by Senator Claire McCaskill, which examines State Department and Defense Department spending on contracts to supply counternarcotics assistance to governments in Latin America. The report's analysis finds that from 2005 to 2009, the federal government’s annual spending on counternarcotics contracts in Latin America rose by 32%, from $482 million in 2005 to $635.8 million in 2009; and that, in total, the US government spent more than $3.1 billion on counternarcotics contracts during this period, despite not having any uniform systems in place to track or evaluate whether these contracts are achieving their goals.

Download report: New_Info_Counternarcotics_Contracts.pdf

Source: Transform

In Breach of International Law: Ukranian Drug Legislation and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

A report by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network that challenges the legality of a 2010 Ukrainian Ministry of Health Resolution which significantly reduced the legal threshold for "small", "large" and "extra large" quantities of certain types of illegal drugs, including those most commonly used by people in Ukraine.

The report's analysis of the Resolution indicates that it does not conform to the European Convention or the practice of the European Court with respect to the application of Article 5(1)(a) (on the right to liberty and security of person), Article 7 (no punishment without law) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention. The report's authors argue that the Resolution should therefore be repealed in favour of a human rights-based and public health-oriented approach to drugs.

Download report: In_Breach_of_International_Law.pdf

Source: Transform

The Failed Drug War Has Created a Human Rights Nightmare -- How Can This Happen in Our Country and Go Virtually Undiscussed?

So much about our racial reality today is little more than a mirage. The promised land of racial equality quivers just out of our reach in the barren desert of our new, "colorblind" political landscape. It looks so good from a distance: Barack Obama, our nation’s first black president, standing behind a podium in the Rose Garden looking handsome, dignified, and in charge. Flip the channel and there’s the whole Obama family exiting Air Force One, waving to the crowd -- a gorgeous black family living in the White House, cheered by the world.

Drive a few blocks from the White House and you find the other America. You find you're still in the desert, dying of thirst, wondering what wrong turn was made and how you managed to miss the promised land, though you reached for it with all your might.

A vast new racial undercaste now exists in America, though their plight is rarely mentioned. Obama won't mention it; the Tea Party won't mention it; media pundits would rather talk about anything else. The members of the undercaste are largely invisible to those of us who have jobs, live in decent neighborhoods, and zoom around on freeways, passing by the virtual and literal prisons in which they live.

But here are the facts: There are more African-American adults under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. In major urban areas such as Chicago, Obama’s hometown, the majority of working-age African-American men have criminal records and are thus subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. Millions of people in the United States, primarily poor people of color, are denied the very rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement: the right to vote, to serve on juries, and to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits. Branded "criminals" and "felons," such people now find themselves relegated to a permanent second-class status. They live in a parallel social universe: the other America, where they will stay for the rest of their lives.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: AlterNet

Presentation: Is drug law enforcement proportionate?

Harm Reduction International's Damon Barrett asking whether drug law enforcement would pass a test of proportionality in human rights law.

The presentation was delivered in the sidelines of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna at the launch of the Count the Costs campaign, spearheaded by Transform Drug Policy Foundation. It was filmed by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.

 

Source: HRI

Israeli Study of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

This study has the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Health and Ethics Committee, and will be initiated pending clearance by the US FDA. On January 10, 2011, our clinical team submitted the documents detailing our new protocol for our new Israeli study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Beer Yaakov, Israel. On January 19, the ethics committee approved the protocol.

revised protocol incorporating several changes to the study has been approved by the Israeli ethics committe. After reviewing the revised protocol, the ethics committee forwarded it to the Israeli Ministry of Health, which approved the study on June 1, 2011. The MDMA to be used in the study was previously imported for our earlier Israeli MDMA/PTSD study, so once the FDA has given its final approval we will have the initiation visit and start the study. We anticipate that it will be several months before we are able to begin treating subjects. New Israeli MDMA/PTSD Pilot Study Protocol / View the timeline for this study.

Source: MAPS

Supreme Court Holds Crack Penalties Apply to "Cocaine Base"

In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the US Supreme Court upheld a 10-year federal prison sentence for possession of cocaine base, rejecting an appeal that harsher penalties for crack cocaine did not apply to "cocaine base." The case was DePierre v. US, and it concerned the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, passed at the height of mid-1980s crack hysteria.

Under that law, possession of 50 grams of "cocaine base" was punishable by a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, while it took five kilograms of powder cocaine (cocaine hydrochloride or "cocaine salts") to garner the same sentence. While those penalties have been imposed almost exclusively on crack cocaine offenders, the words "crack cocaine" do not appear in the law. Instead the harsher penalties are imposed on those who possess substances or mixtures containing "cocaine base."

Frantz DePierre got busted for selling more than 50 grams of "cocaine base" to an undercover agent in Massachuseets in 2005. At trial, a federal judge rejected his request to instruct the jury that "cocaine base" meant only crack cocaine, and a federal appeals court in Boston agreed with the trial judge. And now the US Supreme Court has endorsed those lower court rulings. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

No Job Protection for WA Medical Marijuana Patients, Court Rules

Employers in Washington state can fire employees who fail a drug test, even if they have a valid recommendation to use medical marijuana, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The ruling came in the case of a Bremerton woman who was fired from her job after failing a drug test, although she had a recommendation to use marijuana for migraine headaches.

In the case, Jane Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Management, the anonymous plaintiff was pulled out of a training class and fired in October 2006 because she failed a pre-employment drug test. Her attorney argued that the Washington state medical marijuana law implicitly required employers to accommodate medical marijuana use outside the workplace. But in an 8-1 decision, the state Supreme Court disagreed. The majority noted that the state law explicitly allows employers to forbid on-the-job medical marijuana use, but says nothing about medical marijuana use outside the workplace. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Poland Approves Drug Decriminalization - Sort Of

With President Bronislaw Komorwski signing into law late last month an amendment to the country's harsh, decade-old drug laws, Poland has taken a step in the direction of the decriminalization of drug possession. But how much of a difference the new law will make is unclear at this point, and it won't go into effect for another six months. The new law also increases sentences for some drug distribution offenses.

Under the old law, possession of even the smallest quantity of illegal drugs could lead to a three-year prison sentence. Under the amended drug law, people would still be arrested, but prosecutors will have the option of not charging people for personal drug possession if the quantity involved is small, if it is a first offense, or if the person is drug dependent.

It is one thing to have the law on the books, but whether prosecutors will take advantage of it remains to be seen. The experience in other European countries that have enacted similar laws suggests that they will have to be prodded. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Connecticut Legislature Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

The Connecticut Senate Saturday narrowly approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The vote was an 18-18 tie until Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D), in her position as president of the Senate, cast the tie-breaking vote to put the measure over the top.

On Tuesday, it passed the House. It is supported by Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who Saturday urged the House to pass it. Under current law, the possession of "any usable amount" of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000. The fine jumps to $3,000 for subsequent offenses.

The bill, Senate Bill 1014, would make possession of less than a half-ounce of pot a civil infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $150. Fines jump to from $200 to $500 for subsequent violations. People under 21 would see their drivers' licenses suspended for 60 days, similar to the punishment for minors in possession of alcohol. Under an amendment by marijuana foe Rep. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) and accepted by Democrats, anyone thrice cited for small-time possession would be required to seek drug treatment. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Launch of the Count the Costs campaign - The presentations now on video!

Martin Powell - Launch of the Count the Costs campaign: Martin Powell is the Count the Costs project coordinator at Transform Drug Policy Foundation (UK).

Simona Merkinaite - The health and human rights impacts of drug law enforcement in the Eurasian regions. Simona Merkinaite is the Policy and Advocacy Program Officer at the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (Lithuania)

Aram Barra - Counting the costs of Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’. Aram Barra is the Drug Policy Programme Director at Espolea (Mexico).

Source: Drug Reporter

Middle Tennessee Police Profiting Off Drug Trade?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A major NewsChannel 5 investigation has uncovered serious questions about Tennessee's war on drugs. Among the questions: are some police agencies more concerned about making money off the drugs, than stopping them?

At the center of this months-long investigation are laws that let officers pull driver over looking for cash.  Those officers do not even have to file criminal charges against a person to take his/her money. It turns out, those kind of stops are now happening almost every day in Middle Tennessee.

Source: Channel 5 News

 

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.