oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of May 2nd 2011

We lead this weeks report with news that at the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, one of the UN's key human rights experts will call for a fundamental rethink of international drug policy in a thematic report which will be the clearest statement to date from within the UN system about the harms current drug policies have caused ~ MW & CS

UN expert calls for a fundamental shift in global drug control policy

At a press conference in New York on Tuesday 26 October, at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, one of the UN’s key human rights experts will call for a fundamental rethink of international drug policy. Anand Grover, from India, is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, whose mandate is derived from the UN Human Rights Council.

Mr Grover’s annual thematic report, to be presented on October 25/26, sets out the range of human rights abuses that have resulted from international drug control efforts, and calls on Governments to: 

  • Ensure that all harm-reduction measures (as itemized by UNAIDS) and drug-dependence treatment services, particularly opioid substitution therapy, are available to people who use drugs
  • Decriminalize or de-penalize possession and use of drugs.
  • Repeal or reform laws and policies inhibiting the delivery of essential health services to drug users, and review law enforcement initiatives around drug control to ensure compliance with human rights obligations.
  • Amend laws, regulations and policies to increase access to controlled essential medicines
  • To the UN drug control agencies, Mr Grover recommends the creation of an alternative drug regulatory framework based on a model such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The report is the clearest statement to date from within the UN system about the harms that drug policies have caused and the need for a fundamental shift in drug policy. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNGASSONDRUGS 

UNODC Executive Director Notes key role of Russia in curbing drug trafficking

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 

UNODC working with Kyrgyzstan's new anti-drug agency to curb illicit narcotics and organized crime

Vienna / Bishkek. 25 April 2011. Executive Director Yury Fedotov today met with Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva and Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev as part of a visit to the country to discuss UNODC's expanding partnership and sign off on a new project in support of Kyrgyzstan's State Service on Drug Control. The main goal of the project is to support the re-established State Service on Drug Control and to build its capacity and effectiveness in countering illicit drug trafficking. UNODC, an agency that has a lot of experience in similar assistance, has been supported in this initiative by the Governments of the Russian Federation, the United States of America and the Republic of Kazakhstan which have provided contributions to its implementation.

The UN's anti-drug and crime chief expressed that situated in relative proximity to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan has a key role to play in fighting the movement of Afghan opiates to Europe, the Russian Federation, and China and assured the country that UNODC would continue its assistance in tackling drugs in the area. Speaking on the sidelines of his meeting with Mr. Vitaly Orozaliev, Chairperson of the State Service on Drug Control, Mr. Fedotov noted: "The formation of this agency is critical in combating the interconnected ills of drug trafficking and organized crime. UNODC is proud to be able to work with authorities in assisting the people of  Kyrgyzstan and the wider region in reducing the threat of illicit drugs and we look forward to expanding our existing partnership." To learn more please follow this link 

Source: UNODC 

Indicators on drug markets, crime and supply reduction 

The need to scale up the monitoring of illicit drug supply in Europe is an important component of the current EU action plan and EMCDDA work programme 2010–12. In October 2010, the first European conference on drug supply indicators, organised by the European Commission and the EMCDDA, with the active involvement of Europol, initiated work on the conceptualisation of technically sound and sustainable indicators in this area of key importance for European drug policy.

According to the strategy adopted, the overall conceptual framework to monitor illicit drug supply will integrate three components: drug markets, drug-related crime and drug supply reduction. Special attention will be given to the possible standardisation, extension and improvement of existing data-collection systems and targeted research will be used to improve understanding of the topic. Three working groups, supported by the EMCDDA, will produce a roadmap in 2011 comprising short, medium and long-term monitoring objectives for the three areas. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: EMCDDA 

The Drug War and Terrorism: Lessons to Learn 

Advocates of the war on drugs have used the recent terrorist catastrophe to urge expansion of the drug war. But as we embark on a renewed war against terrorism it would be wise to more honestly look at the war on drugs – since like terrorism it is without national boundaries against an undefined enemy. We cannot afford to have our anti-terrorism efforts fail as clearly as the drug war has failed so we better learn from our mistakes.

The American public recognizes the drug war’s failure – a recent Pew poll shows 75% see the failure. Only the most diehard drug warriors continue to urge escalation. We have spent a half a trillion dollars since 1980 and developed the largest prison system in world history but heroin and cocaine are less expensive and more pure, overdoses and emergency room mentions of drugs are at record highs and adolescent drug use has increased by 50% since 1990. The failed drug war is a luxury we can no longer afford it drains our resources costing $40 billion dollars annually. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Narco Terror

Thousands across Mexico Call for New Strategy in Drug War 

In early April, thousands of Mexicans poured into the streets in over 20 Mexican cities to raise their voices in a chorus of protest against the government's ineffective and increasingly unpopular military campaign against organized crime. That same week, authorities unearthed 145 murder victims in northeastern Mexico, not far from where 72 migrants were massacred last August. This gruesome discovery has further fueled the Mexican people's anger at the government's failure to stem spiraling violence that has led to over 35,000 dead in the past four years.

These mass mobilizations mark some of the most heated condemnation yet of violence and impunity associated with President Calderón's U.S.-supported "drug war." The day of protest has been described as a historic "sea change" in Mexican public opinion as well as an unprecedented rejection of the Mexican Army's role in public security efforts. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post 

Alleged Illegal Searches by NYPD May Be Increasing Marijuana Arrests 

Police arrest 140 people every day in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It's now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in the city, and thousands of these arrests take place when police stop-and-frisk young men in the poorest neighborhoods. While police say these stop-and-frisks are a way to find guns, what they find more often is a bag of marijuana.

An investigation by WNYC suggests that some police officers may be violating people’s constitutional rights when they are making marijuana arrests. Current and former cops, defense lawyers and more than a dozen men arrested for the lowest-level marijuana possession say illegal searches take place during stop-and-frisks, which are street encounters carried out overwhelmingly on blacks and Latinos. To learn more please follow this link

Source: WNYC News

The Obama Administration’s drug control policy on auto-pilot 

In a widely watched You Tube video, U.S. President Barack Obama is asked whether or not the drug war may in fact be counterproductive. Instead of the resounding NO that would have come from any of his recent predecessors, Obama responded: “I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate.”

He then qualified his remarks by adding, “I am not in favor of legalization.” Nonetheless, even acknowledging the legitimacy of debate on U.S. drug policy is a significant shift from the past, when successive administrations stifled discussion and routinely labeled anyone promoting alternative approaches to the so-called U.S. “war on drugs” as dangerous and surreptitiously promoting massive drug use and poisoning America’s youth.

With over two years in office, the Obama administration has had time to begin to make its mark on the government’s domestic and international drug policies. But has the welcome change in tone been matched by a change in policies? The track record to date is disappointing, with far more continuity than change. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC

Sign 'HIV and injecting drug use: A global call for action' 

The 2001 UNGASS Declaration of Commitment and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS established time-bound targets to be met and reported on by countries worldwide. The commitments aimed to address the needs of people who inject drugs, their families and the communities in which they live through an “urgent, coordinated and sustained response.”

The 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which will be held in New York from 8-10th June 2011, is one of the key international fora through which to advance progress on harm reduction and related drug policy reform. Ten years since the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, world leaders and civil society representatives will come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS. At this meeting, Member States are expected to adopt a new Declaration that will reaffirm current commitments and commit to actions to guide and sustain the global AIDS response.

The declaration 'HIV and injecting drug use: a global call for action' aims to hold the United Nations accountable to their commitments on HIV/AIDS for people who inject drugs worldwide. It does this by providing a clear platform for mobilising a broad constituency of civil society organisations and governments in support of evidence-based harm reduction interventions and drug policy reform as outlined in the Vienna Declaration. Ultimately, efforts around the declaration aim to raise the profile of these issues within the proceedings and outputs of the United Nations HLM on HIV/AIDS in New York. The Lancet published an editorial in April, explicitly endorsing the declaration. Sign the declaration! HRA-declaration-on-hiv.pdf

Source: IDPC

Middle East and North Africa ready to scale up harm reduction services in its response to AIDS 

Injecting drug use and the growing HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa were the focus of the International Harm Reduction Conference 2011 that took place in Beirut, Lebanon from 3-7 April 2011. Some 1000 scientists, researchers, drug users, doctors and politicians from 80 countries participated in the first international drugs-related conference to be held in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Discussions during the conference centred around the existence of legislation in the region that hinders the implementation of harm reduction programmes. Nearly one million people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) inject drugs. Injecting drug use is already the major mode of HIV transmission in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran (more than 67% of registered cases) and Libya (up to 90% of cases). It is also significant in Oman and Bahrain and has growing incidence in Morocco and Egypt.

Source: IDPC

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. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC

HRI launches the Beirut Declaration on HIV and injecting drug use

Harm Reduction International launched the Beirut Declaration on HIV and Injecting Drug Use: A Global Call for Action at the 22nd International Harm Reduction Conference in Beirut, Lebanon on April 3rd, 2011. The Declaration points to a number of gaps in the HIV/AIDS response to injecting drug use, harm reduction and drug policy, and calls for a renewed commitment to HIV-related harm reduction and drug policy reform in the output document of the United Nations High Level Meeting in June 2011. 

Our aim is to mobilize support from a broad constituency of HIV/AIDS, human rights and development organisations globally. Over 150 organisations endorsed the Beirut Declaration on HIV and Injectings Drug Use since it was launched. This list includes amFAR, CAFOD, Medicins du Monde, Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, the Executive Director of the Global Fund Michel Kazatchkine, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and many others. In their April 9th editorial, the Lancet drew heavily on the Beirut Declaration featuring it as a key document for informing High Level Meeting priorities.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: IHRA

Reflections on Harm Reduction: 2011 

Thank you to all those who attended this year's harm reduction conference in Beirut, Lebanon. The support and enthusiasm Harm Reduction International received helped to make the event a success. As a result of the conference we hope to be reporting on positive changes and outcomes throughout the year.

Photos, videos, presentations and other conference resources will all be available very shortly on the HRI conference archive. Please check back soon to view these materials. In the meantime we have compiled a brief report which outlines the key points and highlights from the event. Please click here to have a read through this document. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year, in Adelaide!

Source: IHRA

Harm Reduction International Intervene in Insite Case 

Harm Reduction Association, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and CACTUS Montréal have been granted joint intervener status to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to support Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site, against the Canadian government’s attempts to close it down.

In a landmark 2010 decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled that Insite fell within the jurisdictional authority of the provincial government, since the supervision of injections of illicit drugs within a health-care setting constituted a matter of public health, and as such did not violate federal health or drug laws — a decision the federal government lost little time in appealing. This appeal is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The three NGOs have been granted 10 minutes to make oral arguments before the Supreme Court Justices when the case is heard in mid-May. The outcome of this appeal will carry serious implications for other jurisdictions across Canada looking to emulate Insite’s success by implementing their own safe-injection sites.

Please click here to view a press release on the Insite case. Please click here to view a pleading to the supreme court of Canada from IHRA (HRI), the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Cactus, Montreal.

Source: IHRA

The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2010

Harm Reduction International released a study on the death penalty for drug offences today on the opening day of the 19th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, taking place in Vienna. The report, titled ‘The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2010’, finds that hundreds of people are executed for drug offences each year around the world, a figure that very likely exceeds one thousand when taking into account those countries that keep their death penalty statistics secret. 

The report is the first detailed country by country overview of the death penalty for drugs, monitoring both national legislation and state practice of enforcement. Of the states worldwide that retain the death penalty, 32 jurisdictions maintain laws that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences. The study also found that in some states, drug offenders make up a significant portion – if not the outright majority – of those sentenced to death and/or executed each year. Death Penalty Report

Source: IHRA

French National AIDS Council calls for drug law reforms

On 6th April 2011, the French National AIDS Council (CNS) released a report on the impacts of drugs laws on infectious diseases. They report that harm reduction policies have managed to vastly reduce HIV infections among people who use drug in France, yet several serious problems remain, including a high prevalence of hepatitis and serious social and sanitary problems among many people who use drugs.

The CNS regrets that the main focus of the French government in recent years has been to arrest and prosecute drug users (on the basis of the 1970 French laws on drugs), a costly effort which has failed to reduce consumption of illicit substances.  They call instead for the development of  harm-reduction programs, notably towards people who are most socially excluded, women, and prisoners.  They conclude by inviting French law makers to revise French drug laws.  The CNS report is available (in French) at this link cns-report-on-hiv-harm-reduction.pdf

Source: IDPC

Polish drug law reform goes forward

In early April, the Polish parliament amended Poland's drug law. The debate was heated and speeches were, at times, dramatic. 258 MPs voted in favour of amending the law, 159 were against, and 6 refrained. The amendment project was drawn up by a team of experts in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. After three years of work, common sense and public health finally prevailed. 

The bill was then adopted by the Senate on 28th April. 52 senators voted for the law reform, 35 senators were against it and 2 senators abstained from voting. At present, the Act should be signed by the President to come into force. Under the new law, public prosecutors will be able to refrain from prosecuting a person for the possession of psychoactive or psychotropic substances if the individual possesses only a small amount of an illegal drug for personal use and has been arrested for the first time. At the same time, the maximum penalty for possessing a large amount of drugs was raised. Despite attempts by the Social Liberal Democrats (SLD), upper and lower limits were not defined or written into the bill. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC

Better Safe than Sorry in Addiction Research 

In an era when politicians pledge allegiance to a "drug-free" world and Big Pharma seeks new markets for new products, addiction research is a tricky business. A study published this week in The Lancet [subscription required] found that people abstained from using heroin and other opioids when taking a once-monthly, injectable form of the medication naltrexone. Disturbing, however, was the decision of study sponsors to offer nothing more than a placebo and counseling to some trial participants, and not to report what happened to the many who dropped out of the trial. 

Researchers also didn't detail whether follow-up was done to monitor for post-treatment opioid overdose among participants. As I and other co-authors argued in a commentary linked to the Lancet article, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approved the efficacy of the medicine for opioid users based on this one trial in Russia, should have demanded more data and higher ethical standards before giving marketers the green light.

While use of injectable naltrexone in opioid dependence is new, the FDA’s own Adverse Event Reporting System has recorded 51 fatal reports associated with injectable naltrexone since it was approved for alcoholism dependence—a magnitude of unlabeled adverse events that in the past has triggered black-box warnings for other drugs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: OSI

Scientists Opposing the Drug War 

A short video demonstrating the extent of support for the idea that drug policy should be dictated by the best available evidence. Filmed to promote the Vienna Declaration, the clip mentions how scientists from various fields, including Nobel Prize winners, support an approach to drugs which is centred around public health rather than criminal justice.

Source: Count the Costs

Raw Opium: Pain, Pleasure, Profits

The trailer for an upcoming 2011 feature documentary about the global opium trade. Using interviews with a variety of people affected by the trade – including an opium master in southeast Asia, a UN drug enforcement officer, a former Indian government drug czar, a crusading Vancouver doctor and a Portuguese street worker – the film challenges commonly held assumptions about the war on drugs and the nature of addiction.

Source: Count the Costs

British Medical Journal: HIV Shoots Up

Strict laws on the criminalisation of drug use and drug users are fuelling the spread of HIV and other serious harms associated with the criminal market and should be reviewed, say experts. In this video, epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani; Transform Drug Policy Foundation's Senior Policy Analyst, Steve Rolles; Gerry Stimson, Executive Director of the International Harm Reduction Association; and Professor of Public Health Sociology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Tim Rhodes, describe which countries are leading the way in tackling HIV infection among injecting drug users.

Source: Count the Costs

Drugs and Prisons in Ecuador

In this video, Analia Silva says she started dealing drugs out of poverty. Not knowing how to read or write, she says she considered two options: "becoming a prostitute or selling drugs". She was caught in 2003 and sentenced to eight years in jail. 

She explains that she did not even know the type of drugs she was selling, and that, while she didn't want to get involved in the trade, as the sole provider of her two children she needed to make ends meet. Ecuador has one of the harshest drug laws in the hemisphere. A non-violent drug offender can receive the same sentence, sometimes even harsher, than a murderer.

Drugs and Prisons in Ecuador from WOLA on Vimeo.

Source: Count the Costs

Shoveling Water 

This film shows the impact of anti-drug fumigations in Colombia. Interviews are conducted with people on the ground who have been directly affected by this practice.

Shoveling Water from Witness For Peace on Vimeo.

Source: Count the Costs

Frequency of incarceration associated with risk of poor HIV treatment adherence for injecting drug users 

Incarceration is associated with poor adherence to HIV therapy among injecting drug users, an international team of researchers report in the May 1st edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Just one instance of imprisonment increased the risk of sub-optimal adherence to antiretroviral treatment, and the more often a patient was incarcerated then the greater their risk of poor adherence.

“We observed a dose-dependent association between the cumulative burden of incarceration and ART [antiretroviral therapy] non adherence,” comment the investigators, who believe their study “clearly indicates that increasing number of cycles of imprisonment, release and reincarceration is associated with poorer ART adherence in this population of IDUs [injecting drug users].” To learn more please follow this link

Source: AIDSMAP

Mother's Day Launch of New National Campaign: Moms United to End War on Drugs

Moms from around the country are using Mother's Day to announce the national launch of a new campaign whose mission is to help end the disastrous drug war. Moms United to End the War on Drugs hopes to play a similar role as moms in the 1930's who led the successful fight to end Alcohol Prohibition.

Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs, including having family who suffer from addiction, have been repeatedly incarcerated, or have died from preventable drug overdoses.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

New Jersey Attorney General's Letter Seeking Guidance on Medical Marijuana Program Draws Criticism from Advocates 

Trenton—A letter sent by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding New Jersey's fledgling medical marijuana program is drawing sharp criticism from medical marijuana supporters, including patients and families who advocated for the law. 

Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of Drug Policy Alliance, expressed surprise that the legal status of the program would be raised as an issue at this late date. "The legislature worked on this bill for almost five years and it was thoroughly vetted legally.  It is clear that in New Jersey, just as in other states with medical marijuana laws, the state has the authority under state law to implement such a program.  The federal government retains the right to prosecute under federal law.  This isn't news.  The federal government has never exercised this authority against officials in any of the fifteen states that have medical marijuana laws." 

Seriously ill patients who are desperately awaiting access to medical marijuana in New Jersey said that they fear that the administration is playing politics with the law and might use federal authority as an excuse not to implement the program. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Obama Administration Releases Plan to Address Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

Washington: 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. 

The action plan comes with a hefty price tag. ONDCP is requesting a $222 million increase in funding from Congress to implement it. "It's discouraging that the new plan ignores cost effective, proven solutions like naloxone and Good Samaritan 911 policies, while simultaneously calling for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for unhelpful programs like prescription drug monitoring databases. It's described as ‘comprehensive,' but in fact it's insufficient,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

New Poll Finds Strong Majority of CA Voters Believe Too Many People Imprisoned, Favor Reducing Drug Possession Penalty from a Felony to a Misdemeanor 

A new statewide poll released today finds that nearly three-quarters (72%) of California voters support reducing the penalty for possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use from a felony to a misdemeanor, including a solid majority who support this reform strongly. The March 21-24 survey of 800 California general election voters was conducted by Lake Research Partners. Poll results and analysis are available online.

This poll offers important proof that most Californians do not approve of lengthy prison sentences for drug possession for personal use. At a time when California is slashing funding for education and health care while billions of dollars in incarceration costs remain untouched, this poll finds that Californians believe that too many people are incarcerated for too long. Key poll findings include: 

  • 56% believe that too many people are imprisoned in California
  • 72% favor reducing the penalty for personal drug possession, including majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (72%), and Republicans (66%), as well as majorities of voters in every corner of the state (regional data available upon request)
  • 51% believe that those caught with a small amount of drugs for personal use should spend fewer than 3 months (27%) or no time at all (24%) in jail
  • 41% say they’d be more likely to support a candidate who reduced the penalty to a misdemeanor, compared to 15% who say they’d be less likely

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Groundbreaking New Report Shatters "Tough on Crime" Myth 

Trenton—A groundbreaking, new report on New Jersey's Criminal Code and public attitudes toward sentencing was released today in Trenton. The report, Crime and Punishment in New Jersey: The Criminal Code and Public Opinion on Sentencing, was produced by University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Paul H. Robinson and the University of Pennsylvania Criminal Law Research Group. Robinson is one of the world's leading criminal law scholars, a former federal prosecutor and former counsel for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Laws and Procedures. The report was commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The most dramatic finding of the report comes from a survey of more than 200 New Jersey residents who were asked their opinions on the level of seriousness of 108 offenses found in New Jersey's criminal code. The respondents rated almost 90 percent of the offenses as less serious, and therefore deserving of less serious punishment, than mandated by New Jersey. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Every parent's worst nightmare: how ketamine killed our daughter 

When Vicky and Ross Cattell woke at the usual time on Wednesday 2 March they had no reason to think the day would not pan out just like any other. They were at their flat in Geneva, where they had been living for just over a year, and their first thought, as always, was for their children in London, Tommy, 23, and Louise, 21. Both, as far as they knew, were still safely in bed, Tommy at the family home in Belsize Park and Louise at her bachelor-girl flat in Clapton, further east.

Ross set off for work at Deloitte, the financial advisory firm, and Vicky prepared for her daily exercise routine. Everything seemed utterly normal. Then, just before his 8.30am meeting, Ross's phone rang with the news that would rip their world apart: Louise was dead, drowned in the bath after taking ketamine, the horse tranquilliser that is currently the "party drug" of choice among young people across the UK. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Washington Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Dispensaries 

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire Friday vetoed large parts of a medical marijuana bill that would have created a state-wide patient and provider registry and a state-licensed and regulated dispensary system, citing the potential threat to state workers who could be prosecuted under federal law. Gregoire's partial veto eliminated the dispensary and registry provisions, leaving little left of Senate Bill 4073 but a reiteration of existing affirmative defenses for patients and providers.

In her veto statement, Gov. Gregoire said that the dispensary licensing and regulation provisions "would direct employees of the state departments of Health and Agriculture to authorize and license commercial businesses that produce, process or dispense cannabis. These sections would open public employees to federal prosecution, and the United States Attorneys have made it clear that state law would not provide these individuals safe harbor from federal prosecution. No state employee should be required to violate federal criminal law in order to fulfill duties under state law. For these reasons, I have vetoed" the relevant sections

Source: Stop the Drug War

Two GOP Drug War Critics Seek Presidency 

Two prominent Republican anti-prohibitionists are seeking the nod to head the party's ticket in the 2012 presidential election. Last week, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson formally threw his hat in the ring with a tweet and a speech in New Hampshire, and this week, Rep. Ron Paul (TX) announced he was forming an exploratory committee for the 2012 campaign, with a final decision to come next month.

Both men are libertarian-leaning, anti-interventionist, fiscal conservatives who will compete to gain the support of some of the same elements of the Republican base. Both have long records of speaking out against drug prohibition. They are up against a Republican field that has so far thrown up few strong front runners, and early primary victories could catapult them to the front of the field. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Dutch Can Grow Five Marijuana Plants, No Problem 

People can grow up to five marijuana plants at home without facing criminal charges, no matter how big the harvest, the Dutch high court ruled Tuesday. But the plants must be handed over to police if they come on an official visit, the court held.

The ruling addresses two separate marijuana cultivation cases from 2006 and 2008. In one case, a man was found to have five plants in his garden that yielded nearly five pounds of pot. In the other case, a couple was found with five plants yielding nearly 12 pounds. Prosecutors had argued that the large harvests violated regulations that allow individuals to possess up to five grams of marijuana for their own use.

It is unclear what the cultivators intended to do with their harvests. Under Dutch policy, licensed coffee shops can sell pot to customers, but the policy makes no provision for growing pot for the coffee shops to sell. A significant black market has grown up to supply the coffee houses.

Source: Stop the Drug War

US Congressman to File Marijuana Legalization Bill This Year 

America is on the cusp of majority support for marijuana legalization, but legalization is not inevitable and it's up to activists and the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry to start throwing their weight around to make it happen, US Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) told an overflow crowd during the keynote address at NORML's 40th annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Denver Saturday afternoon.

"I am optimistic that we will reach a day when America has the smart, sensible marijuana policy that we deserve," Polis told an attentive audience. "But it could go either way. We could return to the dark ages of repression, or we could be on the eve of a new era of marijuana legalization. Your efforts will help determine which route this country takes and the legacy of this generation of activists on what marijuana policy looks like. Together we can accomplish this," he told the crowd. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

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. And that's a mandatory minimum two years. Second or subsequent convictions would net doubled penalties.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Former drug user Patric’s story of addiction and recovery 

Video interview with Patric, whose journey with drugs began aged 7 when he started sniffing solvents. Now 41, he has extensive personal experience with among others alcohol, heroin, crack, crystal meth, speed, dexedrine, cannabis, tobacco and LSD. He has sold drugs and spent a total of over 15 years in prison. He has now been in recovery (with the 12 step programme) for 8 years and works to help other addicts. 

Source: Know Drugs

 

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.