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oD Drug & Criminal Justice Policy Forum: Front Line Report - March 15, 2012

It's hard to know these days which way the proverbial worm is turning when it comes to shifts in drug policy. Election years tend to do that. Despite an historical turn of events in Central America which saw Presidents of drug trafficking nations come together to call for world wide decriminalization of drugs, in an effort to end the violence and corruption of the drug trade, the US continues to demur, absurdly claiming that the "War on Drugs" has been a success. Even stranger is Canada's recent announcement that they plan to follow the US model of a "tough on crime" approach to drug policy, which threatens to swell their correctional system in the same ways as in the US. Still, good news abounds with recent studies showing that LSD can cure alcoholism, psychedelics can cure PTSD, and cannabis smoking is not nearly as harmful as the prohibition governments claim. ~ CS 

Google+ Presents: It's Time To End The War On Drugs

To liberalise or prohibit, that is the question. And to answer it the masters of live debate have joined forces with the masters of web technology to create a never-seen-before combination of Oxford debating and Silicon Valley prowess.

Prohibitionists argue that legalising anything increases its consumption. The world has enough of a problem with legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, so why add to the problem by legalising cannabis, cocaine and heroin?&nbsp

The liberalisers say prohibition doesn’t work. By declaring certain drugs illegal we haven’t reduced consumption or solved any problem. Instead we’ve created an epidemic of crime, illness, failed states and money laundering.

Julian Assange and Richard Branson; Russell Brand and Misha Glenny; Geoffrey Robertson and Eliot Spitzer. Experts, orators and celebrities who’ve made this their cause – come and see them lock horns in a new Intelligence²/Google+ debate format. Some of our speakers will be on stage in London, others beamed in from Mexico City or São Paulo or New Orleans, all thanks to the “Hangout” tool on Google+.

The web will have its say, and so can you at the event in London. Be part of the buzz of the audience, be part of an event beamed across the web to millions. Come and witness the future of the global mind-clash at the first of our Versus debates, live at Kings Place

Source: Intelligence 2 from Google +

North America

America's plague of incarceration

The message is (or should be) deeply disturbing. Shouldn't the USA be ashamed at having the world's largest prison system and highest incarceration rate (754 per 100 000 people)? The richest country in the world has so many of its citizens in prison that it can't afford to house them with even basic minimum medical care (more than half of all prisoners have mental health or drug problems). Prison overcrowding itself has become so terrible in California, that in May, 2011, the US Supreme Court affirmed a lower court order that California release some 46 000 prisoners because of the inhuman conditions under which they were being held. In the Court's words, “A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in a civilised society.”

Source: "A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America," The Lancet.

International Women's Day:  U.S. Must Address Impact of Mass Incarceration on Women.

More women are ending up behind bars than ever. Between 1980 and 1989, the number of women in U.S. prisons tripled. And the number of women in prison has continued to rise since. In the last 10 years, the number of women under jurisdiction of state or federal authorities increased 21 percent to almost 113,000. During the same time period, the increase in the number of men in prison was 6 percentage points lower, at about 15 percent. The increase in women in the federal population was even larger- over 41 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Most women are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. Over one-fourth are in prison for a drug offense, while 29.6 percent were convicted of a property crime. Addiction plays a large part in a number of women's property crimes, and a lack of available or appropriate treatment only serves to drive their contact with the justice system.

Source: Justice Policy Institute

Sane Drug Laws: How California May Finally Stop Prison Overcrowding

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different outcome. California has been doing the same thing with drug users for decades, while wasting billions of dollars and wrecking lives in the process. Not only have we flooded our courts, jails and prisons with felony offenses for low-level drug users, we have created barriers to getting their lives back on track.

Senate Bill 1506, introduced last week by State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, changes that. SB 1506 would reclassify drug possession for personal use from a felony to a misdemeanor, reducing the potential sentences for these offenses from a maximum of three years imprisonment to a maximum of one year in county jail.

Source: Alternet

From Cell to Screen: The Story of Mumia Abu-Jamal -- Part I

 

Stephen Vittoria is that rare commodity in Hollywood today: a filmmaker with a conscience. To be more precise, a filmmaker with a strong political conscience. After making two feature films,>Black and White& Hollywood Boulevard (1996), as well as three feature documentaries:Save Your Life -- The Life and Holistic Times of Dr. Richard Schulze (1998),;Keeper of the Flame (2005) and the award-winning art house hit One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern (2005), a portrait of the South Dakota senator who tried to unseat Richard Nixon from the White House in 1972.

For his latest exploration into America's socio-political landscape, Vittoria joins forces with radio producer Noelle Hanrahan to bring Long Distance Revolutionary, the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal, to the screen. Born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal made his name as a tireless writer and journalist during the racially-charged 1970s that often portrayed the City of Brotherly Love as anything but. With his intense coverage of the MOVE organization, a black empowerment group whose ongoing battle with the police and city hall came to a fiery end in 1985, Abu-Jamal become a constant thorn in the side of the city's powerful establishment. Things came to a sudden head for Abu-Jamal himself on the evening of December 9, 1981 when he was accused of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. He received a death sentence the following year, and has been on Pennsylvania's death row until early this year, when his death sentence was commuted to a life sentence in December, 2011.

Abu-Jamal's case remains one of the most controversial and heatedly debated in American legal history, with participants on both sides either protesting his innocence in the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner or his absolute guilt with equal passion and more often, great vehemence.

Source: Huffington Post

What’s In a Name? A Lot, When the Name is “Felon”

At a recent conference of journalists at John Jay College, I raised an issue I have about language in the media:  the frequent use of the word “felon” to describe a person who has been convicted of a crime.

“Felon” is an ugly label that confirms the debased status that accompanies conviction. It identifies a person as belonging to a class outside many protections of the law, someone who can be freely discriminated against, someone who exists at the margins of society. 

In short, a “felon” is a legal outlaw and social outcast.  

Source:  The Crime Report

Addiction: Medical Disease or Moral Defect?

Scientific theories that addiction hijacks the brain have just increased the stigma that they were meant to stop. At least in the moralistic bad old days, addicts were still viewed as having free will. Here's an alternative to both of these no-win approaches.

Source: The Fix

Scientists Explore Hallucinogen Treatments for PTSD, Sex Abuse Victims

Mind-altering compounds, such as LSD and psilocybin, stirred controversy in the 1960s. As the counter-culture’s psychedelic drugs of choice, the widespread use - and abuse - of hallucinogens prompted tougher anti-drug laws.

That also led to a crackdown on clinical studies of the drugs’ complex psychological effects. However, now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to approve limited research into the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs.

No one is more aware of the stigma attached to psychedelics than Rick Doblin, director of the Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a drug development firm that funds FDA-approved clinical trials to examine the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics.

Source: Voice of America

PBS Newshour: "Clearing the Smoke: The Benefits, Limits of Medical Marijuana"

Sixteen states have passed laws that allow patients to use medical marijuana to treat side effects of various illnesses, but now some are moving to either limit or repeal those laws. Anna Rau of Montana PBS reports.

Source: PBS Newshour

Drug users' union in San Francisco part of growing movement

Heroin shooters, speed users, pot smokers and even some men and women who now are drug-free convene regularly in this city's gritty Tenderloin district — not for treatment, but to discuss public health policy and share their experiences free from shame or blame.

Source: LA Times

New Report on Police Use of Force

How do varying policies affect police use of force? A new report, from research funded by the Department of Justice, examined eight police agencies, (Columbus, OH, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC, Portland, OR, Albuquerque, NM, Colorado Springs, CO, St. Petersburg, FL, Fort Wayne, IN, and Knoxville, TN) and examined how different policies changed law enforcement strategies.

Researchers found that there is no ideal (or flawed) policy approach across all outcomes, but the report offers ranking and outcomes for each policy offered allowing police executives to choose the best route for their force.

Access the report here.

Source: The Crime Report

End 'destructive' war on pot, panel urges Harper

The Global Commission on Drug Policy says it's "very weird" that Canada is taking a tougher line on marijuana when governments across the globe are reconsidering the war on drugs.

In an open letter Wednesday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Brazil-based commission calls on Canada to stop pursuing the "destructive, expensive and ineffective" prohibition of pot.

Louise Arbour, a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso, former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson are among the signatories to the letter that warns Canada is repeating "the same grave mistakes as other countries."

"Building more prisons, tried for decades in the United States under its failed war on drugs, only deepens the drug problem and does not reduce cannabis supply or rates of use," says the letter. "Instead, North American youth now report easier access to cannabis than to alcohol or tobacco."

Source: CBC

Marijuana Smokers Breathe Easy Says The University of Alabama

As of January 10, 2012, a new study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association exonerating marijuana from the bad reputation of being as harmful to your lungs when smoked as tobacco cigarettes. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and the University of Alabama at Birmingham completed a twenty-year study between 1986 and 2006 on over 5,000 adults over the age of 21 in four American cities. Study co-author Dr. Stefan Kertesz is a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He explained that the studies measured the pulmonary obstruction in individuals with up to seven joint-years of lifetime exposure (one joint per day for seven years or one joint per week for 49 years). "What this study clarifies," Kertesz explains in a released video, "is that the relationship to marijuana and lung function changes depending on how much a person has taken in over the course of a lifetime."

Source: Nugs.com

Marijuana Training Considered In Colorado Senate

DENVER (AP) – Colorado senators have delayed action on a proposal to increase training for medical marijuana workers in Colorado. A Senate committee delayed a vote Wednesday on a bill setting up an optional “preferred vendor” classification for dispensaries and other companies that deal with medical marijuana. Under the proposal,the business community could decide to give all their employees additional training in exchange for a chance at softer penalties if they ever run afoul of state marijuana rules.

Source: CBS 4 Denver

Europe

Greek Health Crusader Is Arrested For Ordering Hemp Protein

Athens, Greece — On Wednesday morning July 16th, Anna Korakaki went to her local post office in Athens, Greece to pick up her latest health product order from Navitas Naturals, a health food company based in the USA. Anna had previously received shipments from Navitas which included raw cacao and maca from Peru, goji berries from China, and other high-quality nutritious foods. Moments after accepting her package Anna was immediately intercepted by 4 police officers, thrown on the hood of a police car and brutally handcuffed. Police then ransacked her apartment and after finding nothing suspicious or illegal, took Anna to a police station for further interrogation. Anna was then forced to spend the night in an Athens jail cell. The reason for Anna Korakaki's arrest was that she had received 4.5 kilos of hemp protein (a 'super-food' made from powdered hemp seeds), which she had ordered for the express purpose of making healthy smoothies. The order had a value of 57 Euros (US$89), and represented but one of hundreds of hemp products available worldwide in health food stores, super-markets and via the Internet.

Source: Hemp Industries Association

LSD 'helps alcoholics to give up drinking"

A study, presented in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Helmet, Freesans looked at data from six trials and more than 500 patients. It said there was a "significant beneficial effect" on alcohol abuse, which lasted several months after the drug was taken.

An expert said this was "as good as anything we've got".

LSD is a class A drug in the UK and is one of the most powerful hallucinogens ever identified. It appears to work by blocking a chemical in the brain, serotonin, which controls functions including perception, behaviour, hunger and mood.

Source: BBC

Having trouble with drinking? Maybe you should try a dose of Acid. Researchers claim that a single dose of LSD could be helpful in treating alcoholism. A new paper, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, examines six different trials throughout the '60s and '70s, involving a total of 536 patients being treated for alcohol problems. The researchers, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's department of neuroscience, discovered that 59% of subjects given a single dose of LSD showed improvements in their alcohol habits in follow-up assessments months later—compared with just 38% of people who didn't take the drug.

Source: The Fix

Source: The Journal of Psychopharmacology: "Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for alcoholism: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials."

Latin America

Legalization Debate Takes Off in Latin America

Something incredible is happening right now in Latin America.

After decades of being brutalized by the U.S. government's failed prohibitionist drug policies, Latin American leaders, including not just distinguished former presidents but also current presidents, are saying "enough is enough." They're demanding that the range of policy options be expanded to include alternatives that help reduce the crime, violence and corruption in their own countries -- and insisting that decriminalization and legal regulation of currently illicit drug markets be considered.

Source: Ethan Nadelmann, Huffington Post

Is Latin America heading towards drug legalization?

On Saturday February 11, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina declared that following discussions with Colombian President Santos, he will present a proposal for the legalization of drugs in Central America at the Summit of the Americas, on April 14-15. Guatemalan Vice-President Roxana Baldetti toured Central America to discuss the proposal with regional leaders and garner support for it, starting with Panama on February 29. Unsurprisingly, the move was greeted by a quick rebuke from the US government who hurriedly dispatched Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to the region on February 28, one day ahead of Roxana Baldetti’s own tour. Baldetti still managed to gain the support of Costa Rica and Salvador. The US is now pulling out its heavy artillery, sending to the region VP Biden, a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs.

Source: World War-D

Honduras Invites Colombia and Mexico to Join Drug Legalization Debate

President Porfirio Lobo yesterday invited Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderón to a meeting of the presidents of Central American Integration System (SICA) on March 24 in Guatemala. The gathering will focus on a recent proposal by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to legalize drugs. On Tuesday, presidents met in Honduras with United States Vice-President Joe Biden to discuss the issue of drug legalization as strategy for combating the growing power of organized crime in Central America and Mexico and the associated violence plaguing the region. Despite Vice-President Biden's reiteration that the US government is adamantly opposed to legalizing drugs, there appears to be enough support for the idea among SICA heads of state to continue the debate and expand it to other nations such as Mexico and Colombia, which have also been affected by transnational narcotrafficking.

Source: Honduras Weekly

New Exile Nation Video

JULIE FALCO & DAN LINN

Julie Falco and Dan Linn are two of the leading drug policy reform activists in the State of Illinois. They have spent the better part of the last 10 years attempting to pass a medical cannabis bill, and have found themselves consistently thwarted.

Julie has advanced Multiple Sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair. When she discovered edible cannabis as a medicinal therapy for MS patients it changed her life, and so she dedicated herself to bringing this medicine to others. But it was only after the death, in police custody, of a quadriplegic named Johnathan Magbie, that she found her strength to speak out.

Dan Linn began his activist work as a college student, and has since grown into a formidable voice for reform, appearing on television and in the news debating with career drug warriors.

Weekly Newsletters & Digests

Drug War Chronicle #725 - March 15, 2012

UK Drug Policy Commission - New Reports Online

Mexico Drug War, Human Rights and Rule of Law Weekly News Summary, March 9-15, 2012

About the author

Charles Shaw is an award-winning journalist, editor and filmmaker, and the author of the critically-acclaimed memoir Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality. He is currently working on a new film called I’m Still Here, a documentary on Trauma and Healing that will be released in 2015.


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