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The Drug & Criminal Justice Policy Forum

The openDemocracy Drug & Criminal Justice Policy Forum will frame the stories of drug policy and criminal justice reform, and bring the human arguments into the policy agenda. From the street corner to the poppy field, we will present an ongoing dialogue that focuses on the various issues regarding prohibition and crafting a saner international drug & criminal justice policy, and more importantly, culture.

How the country that invented many of the world's drugs turned against them – until now

Cocaine in 1859; heroin in 1888 – and a ban introduced in 1929. Now, however, times are changing – and more compassionate policies are taking root.

Alexander Theodore Shulgin (1925-2014)

Legendary chemist, psychedelic adventurer and author passed away June 2nd. 

New Zealand shrinks away from legal high limelight

Manufacturers aim to reap maximum profit in the minimal time before it is banned, so poorly developed NPS are thrown on the market in vast quantities with little regard to their effects. Meanwhile, prohibition simply forces a black market.

Patient data carelessness driving drug use underground

Releasing patients' medical data to police, even when 'pseudonymised', would have massive implications for public health. 

Gateway drug, to what?

Substance abuse has less to do with the substance than it has to do with the lives we live. But what has the War on Drugs done to us, and what will follow it?

How to change drug policy

There's a growing 'psychedelic community' working for acknowledgement of the potential positive effects of certain hallucinogens and a policy change to reflect them. While they have increasingly solid research to back up their arguments, it continues to be a tough sell. In this extract from his recent book the author discusses how to go about changing drug policy.

Are the general public generally wrong about drugs?

In a society where the general public are misinformed and thus, according to Ipsos Mori 'wrong about almost everything' the question is: who is guiding these opinions, and why do policies continue to be directed by hysteria and bigotry?

Psychedelics and shadows of society

Taking lessons from how psychedelics work on individuals we can build a more cohesive society. Changing drug policy needs to go hand in hand with changing attitudes. 

Is free speech on drugs being censored by corporate giants? The disappearance of a YouTube channel.

Without warning, Google's YouTube deleted hundreds of videos with information and discussion on drug use. 

Personal responsibility lost in Hitchens v Perry debate

Watching the enthrenched Newsnight argument between Matthew Perry and Peter Hitchens, I found myself agreeing with some of what Hitchens had to say. Not on the ‘war on drugs’ - but that there is no real medical evidence for this thing we call addiction.

Really breaking the taboo: ending the war on the right to choose

The 'war on drugs' is more than a war on the people that use some drugs, it is a war on perception, consciousness and human potential. [2,560 word essay]

Re-Branding social consciousness and psychedelic knowledge

How Russell Brand's political activism fuses spiritual consciousness with a resurgent psychedelic counterculture.

A growing madness

It's become far too easy for pharmaceutical companies to market drugs that simply don't do what their supposed to. As alcohol is such a familiar substance this article hypothesises it as a new pharmaceutical drug going through trials and being sold to doctors for patient medication.

A phony war

It's not a war on drugs, it's a war on drug users, most of whom have no health issues associated with their use.  

The war on drug users' families

"While the drug laws did not stop my sons from getting into drugs, they certainly went a long way to stop them from getting out." An open letter from a mother who lost her sons to overdoses. 

The US incapacity to enforce federal drug laws - and the global consequences

The US drug policy is changing, pitting states against federal law. This essay explores this inner friction of contradictory drug legislation, and what it may mean for the international drug control regime, itself a result of US drug policy. (4,400 words)

The Phoenix Project seeks trauma victims for doc series

A new documentary series that explores the pervasive effect of trauma in our culture has begun development and is seeking prospective participants.

Ketamine: Living in dreams, managing the realities

Ketamine is often perceived as a novelty drug which seems to have emerged out of nowhere with a catastrophic set of health and social consequences. Instead of repeating the mistake of further criminalising its users, the Government is urged to take a more enlightened approach to the growing ketamine crisis.

Drugs: a war lost and a way forward

A former Deputy Chief of the LAPD explains how prohibition has failed again, and offers 10 concrete ways of improving US drug policing.

Top Ten Drug War Stories of 2012

From the dogged reporting and statistics of Drug War Facts, this year has seen a dramatic change in drug policy, though it is still business as usual when it comes to enforcement.

Drug Policy Alliance's Top Stories of 2012

Some of top stories of 2012 that capture the momentum gained in this extraordinary year of change, which promise to present an exit strategy to the disastrous war on drugs.

American conservatives shift on mass incarceration

When Newt Gingrinch announced last year, “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it," it may have signaled that those who formerly advocated rapid prison expansion, have shifted gears and begun to distance themselves from private prison corporations and explore ways to reduce spending on corrections.

The Prison Policy Initiative

The Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 by Peter Wagner. While they are most famous for their work documenting how mass incarceration skews American democracy, they're also demonstrating how mass incarceration impacts everyone, not just those directly involved in the criminal justice system, empowering new voices to help set criminal justice policy.

Fewer Americans behind bars?

For the third straight year, fewer Americans were under "correctional supervision"--a catch-all description that includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole--in 2011.  Do these slight changes in the numbers from year to year indicate major shifts in the American way of punishment?

New pot law in Washington is a buzz kill

Colorado & Washington State recently voted to legalize cannabis. Winston Ross of The Daily Beast takes a practical look at Washington’s new cannabis law.

Private prison company used in drug raids at public high school

A recent "drug sweep" in the central Arizona town of Casa Grande shows the hand of private corrections corporations reaching into the classroom, assisting local law enforcement agencies in drug raids at public schools.

Mandatory Minimums Forced Me to Send More Than 1,000 Nonviolent Drug Offenders to Federal Prison

If lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug addicts actually worked, one might be able to rationalize them. But there is no evidence that they do. 

A fresh approach to drugs: the final report of the UK Drug Policy Commission

In this report, UKDPC proposes a radical rethink of how we structure our response to drug problems. It provides an analysis of the evidence for how policies and interventions could be improved, with recommendations for policymakers and practitioners to address the new and established challenges associated with drug use.

Why has Barack Obama done so little about America’s most racist domestic policy?

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, it was hailed by many as a final triumph over race. Some people muttered at the time that the US remains a deeply racially divided country, and that Obama’s victory was one merely at the level of political symbols. Four years later, it is hard to overstate quite how vindicated the latter group have been.

It is time for a post-drug war Marshall Plan

If prohibition was a genuine protection racket, at least we would be protected from harm. But it isn’t. It is much worse than that. It is effectively an “endangerment racket”, says Danny Kushlick

"Land of the Free" - The best investigative reporting on U.S. prisons

The U.S. has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. Pro Publica has just compiled some of the best investigative journalism on U.S. prisons and the problems that plague them.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Mary Barr (Pt. II)

Part II of the Exile Nation Project's interview with former crack cocaine addict and prostitute Mary Barr, who now works as a lecturer at John Jay College of Law.

A quiet revolution: drug decriminalisation policies in practice across the globe

The main aim of the report was to look at the existing research on twenty countries to establish whether the adoption of a decriminalised policy led to significant increases in drug use - the simple answer is that it did not. 

How Chicago said yes to pot

The sudden passage of the law is the latest example of the absurdity surrounding marijuana policies and politics—an ongoing saga in which elected officials vow to crack down on a behavior that millions of Americans have engaged in, then giggle at their own jokes about getting stoned and getting the munchies. 


The Exile Nation Project - Mary Barr (Pt. 1)

Mary Barr is a former crack cocaine addict and prostitute who now works as a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and as an advocate for addicts and sex workers. During Mary's time on the streets, she was arrested 50 times in 5 years, beaten, stabbed, raped, and left for dead. All the while, she was battling a crippling addiction, which eventually resulted in the loss of her children to Child Protective Services. A chance encounter with a social worker at Riker's Island Prison opened the door to her recovery when she was told, simply, "you don't have to live like this anymore."

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