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About Juliana Willars

Juliana Willars is an American journalist and researcher. She works in drug education and harm reduction, and is pursuing a degree in Anthropology, specializing in Mesoamerican cultures.

Articles by Juliana Willars

This week’s front page editor

Clare Sambrook

Clare Sambrook, investigative journalist, co-edits Shine a Light.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 23rd 2012

The prison industrial complex has been one of the main beneficiaries of drug prohibition in the US. Since the Reagan administration, many prisons have become privatized, making a highly-profitable business of incarcerating people. The exponential increase in the prison population is a byproduct of similar drug policies in the Latin American region. Earlier this month, a catastrophic prison fire claimed the lives of over 300 inmates in Honduras, many being held on minor drug charges. As Canadian politicians consider mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, they are being asked by American law enforcement officials to learn from mistakes made on this side of the border in the ongoing War on Drugs... ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 16th 2012

Last Saturday, singer Whitney Houston died at the age of 48. The toxicology reports are yet to be completed, but it's reported her death was caused by a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. Houston struggled for years with her addiction to both legal and illicit substances. Her tragic death brings the spotlight on addiction, and subsequently the war on drugs, into the public conversation in a visceral way. At the same time, the very definition of addiction and how it's perceived by the medical community receives a long overdue revision; addiction is a disease of the brain, not a moral failing or lack of willpower. Hopefully, global drug reform will also be formulated with that understanding in mind, rather than the punishment approach, which simply does not work -- not for those addicted, not for their loved ones, and certainly not for society. ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 9th 2012

This week we open with an editorial written by Amanda Fielding, who explains why so many countries who wish to engage in drug policy reform have such a difficult time implementing it: the UN Conventions. It's led to policies in the US that are often criticized for targeting minorities and the poor, and worldwide, governments pursue punitive action against drug users rather than healthcare initiatives and education. Politicians wishing to appear "tough on crime", especially in election years, continue to embrace prohibition and incarceration as solutions to the complex problems of drug use and abuse. ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 2nd 2012

While activists push for reform of drug laws, various legislative entities continue to tighten restrictions on the use of psychoactive substances, from marijuana to "bath salts". One state in the US moves closer to drug-testing not only its welfare recipients, but its lawmakers as well. Mexico's cartels set new records in 2011 for the number of people murdered, close to 50,000 - which does not factor in those who have "disappeared", and the emotional and often physical suffering their absence exacts on the loved ones left behind, who by and large are women and children. ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 26th 2012

Despite its lack of success on a global level, prohibition is alive and well as the primary solution most nations adopt to deal with drug problems. While legislators everywhere continue to ban substances and criminalize their users, the US Supreme Court surprised some by overturning a life sentence for a drug dealer because law enforcement did not seek the proper warrants for surveillance. It should be interesting to see how laws evolve to accommodate the unique issues created by the digital age. ~jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 20th 2012

The US celebrated the birthdate of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, as several states consider legislation to require drug tests for those applying for government assistance. While drug use is certainly not restricted to minorities or the poor, they are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and subsequently imprisoned. The Dutch government, continuing its swing to the far right, has outlawed a psychoactive plant used almost exclusively by Muslim immigrants -- as one critic of the ban noted, "in other words, black men".

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 12th 2012

This week's stories reveal how the US continues to pursue militarized action in the War on Drugs, while municipal governments in Canada attempt to address the problem with harm reduction outreach. Mexico's once-glamorous resort of Acapulco is now ravaged by drug violence, and Costa Rica sees an emerging crack epidemic tarnish its image as a peaceful oasis in Central America.

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 5th 2012

2011 was a watershed year in drug policy all over the globe. The American and Canadian governments seemed to embrace status quo prohibition, while the citizens of both nations showed increasing support for reform laws, particularly with medical cannabis. Some countries in Europe moved towards legalization, while the Netherlands surprised everyone by taking steps to forbid access of coffee shops to foreigners. Meanwhile, things continue to spiral out of control in Latin America, leaving no country untouched by drug violence

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 23rd 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, the global War on Drugs gets strangely surreal, from collective magic in Mexico to a DIY concoction in Russia that eats users from the inside out. Poland decides to divert drug offenders to treatment, rather than jail time. The US finds its own citizens' cocaine habits may be funding Hezbollah as well as the drug cartels. We'll be on break until after the New Year, and wish you all a happy holiday season... ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 15th 2011

Switzerland and the autonomous Basque region of Spain decide to shift their marijuana policies in a more liberal, reformist direction. The governor of Arizona suddenly becomes a fan of federal law over states' rights and appeals to the courts to rule on the new voter-approved medical cannabis laws. Mexico, as always, maintains a high profile this week, from its nascent anti-cartel movement to the apparent incursion of trafficking violence across the US border. ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 8th 2011

As 2011 heads towards a close, US high courts send marijuana advocates a mixed message about states' rights and federal enforcement of drug laws. Copenhagen attempts to legalize (rather than decriminalize) marijuana, while various nations in Central America hand over policing duties to the military. But it's not all doom and gloom: find out about the real origins of modern Christmas traditions, which have more to do with shamans and mushroom-munching reindeer than a babe in a manger... ~jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 1st 2011

Local officials in both British Columbia and Amsterdam wrangle with their respective national governments on the question of how to deal with marijuana trafficking. Meanwhile, Colombia's incumbent president seeks to begin an international dialogue on the legalization of marijuana and other drugs. The UN reports that synthetic drug use in Asia is reaching epidemic proportions, with half the world's users living in East and Southeast Asia. ~ jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of November 24th 2011

While governments around the globe debate on which direction to go in revising drug policy, the American military struggles to deal with record numbers of suicide among service personnel afflicted with PTSD. Many of those suffering from the disorder engage in substance abuse. The stigma and legal ramifications of using illicit drugs remains significant, despite the fact that pharmaceuticals can be just as problematic and dangerous as street drugs. ~jw

oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of November 16th 2011

On behalf of Charles Shaw and myself, I'd like to welcome you to the latest installment of the Drug Policy Forum. We deeply appreciate your patience during the last month, and look forward to resuming regular reports. We're shifting the editorial direction slightly, continuing to focus on developments in international public policy, as well as the cultural implications and personal stories of those in the front lines of the War on Drugs. The punitive cost to entire communities, as well as individuals, is enormous. Governments with constrained budgets continue to spend freely on prohibition policies that neither curtail illicit use nor address the deeper issues of addiction or public health. ~jw
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