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
Charles Shaw Juliana Willars
16 November 2011

Why Do People Become Addicts?

Our lead article is an illuminating perspective on the origins of addiction, and how it can begin to be holistically healed. Dr. Gabor Maté, staff physician at the only legal safe injection site in North America, is a renowned expert on addiction treatment and harm reduction. In this interview, he talks about the root causes of drug addiction, local versus federal drug policy, and the hungry ghosts that dwell within each of us:

“The hungry ghost is a Buddhist image. The Buddhist wheel of life cycles through six realms of human existence: the ordinary human realm; the hell realm of unbearable emotions like rage and terror; the animal realm of passions, instincts, and drives; and so on.

The hungry ghost realm depicts creatures with large empty bellies, small scrawny necks and mouths. They’re forever hungry and insatiable, but can never fill that emptiness. So they go around attempting to satisfy this inner void without ever being able to do so. That, of course, is the realm of addiction.”

Read the full story at: AlterNet

The War on Addiction Has Been Brought Home

Combat veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries are suffering from skyrocketing rates of addiction, alcoholism and suicide. Thirty-five years after Vietnam, is America creating another lost generation?

“Multiple tours and violent conflict generate PTSD. Add to that the worst economy since the Great Depression, traumatic brain injury, and suicide and divorce rates that are off the charts—there is going to be a tsunami of addiction, alcoholism and homelessness.”

Source:The Fix

Introducing "Cokeville," the New American Suburb,

With a collapsed economy and shrinking middle class, Coatesville, Pa., represents small-town America. Now, the cocaine market is the only industry that's booming. Is this our nation's future?

Coatesville has long been the primary coke supplier for Philly’s western suburbs. Local teens who move the crack bags and act as corner lookouts call their hometown “Cook Cokeville.” The town was once a major supplier of steel under the Lukens and later Bethlehem Steel banners; its mill even produced girders for the World Trade Center. The mill remains operational, owned now by Luxemburg conglomerate ArcelorMittal, and while its sprawling campus still dominates the landscape, it no longer drives the local economy as it once did. Crack cocaine replaced the steel.

Source: The Fix

Latin America

Bolivia just says no to the DEA

Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, and a cocalero, has told the U.S. in no uncertain terms that the DEA is not welcome in his country. President Morales expelled the American ambassador in 2008, and drug enforcement agents shortly thereafter, accusing them of inciting opposition. Relations between the two countries have been strained since then, but the two nations have formally agreed to restore diplomatic ties. Morales is an Aymara Indian, whose culture has an ancestral relationship to the coca leaf.

As a coca growers’ union leader before his 2005 election, Morales added, he was “personally a victim” because U.S agents controlled Bolivia’s military and police.

Bolivia’s anti-narcotics police, working closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration, often clashed with coca growers and Morales has said they once beat him unconscious.

“They repressed us in Bolivia. That has ended,” Morales said.

Read the full story at The Washington Post


The Rise of Femicide and Women in Drug Trafficking

The increased involvement of women in the drug industry is not only a problem for the women themselves; it affects the region's crime rate and prison systems as well. Prisons in Latin America are quickly becoming filled with women imprisoned for drug trafficking. In some countries, a drug mule can face the same amount of time in prison as a murderer.

Photo courtesy of COHA

Read the full story at: Council on Hemispheric Affairs


Ecuador to Debate Decriminalization

Rising levels of violence related to drug-trafficking in Ecuador have led the government to consider decriminalizing small amounts of drugs for personal use. It's estimated that a quarter of all cocaine from South America passes through Ecuador, even though it's not a center of production as neighbouring Peru and Colombia are. Draconian drug laws, some of the harshest in Latin America, assume guilt unless innocence can be proven, and carry excessively long minimum sentences.

Proposed changes to Ecuador's penal code would decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use, including up to 10 grams of marijuana and hashish, four grams of opium, five grams of cocaine, and 100 milligrams of heroin.

Read the full story at: InSight


Europe and UK

Maastricht Loses Millions from Drug-tourism Ban

The Dutch border city has become a test case to prohibit foreign tourists from buying cannabis in coffee shops. The sale of marijuana is decriminalized, but as of October 1st only citizens of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium may purchase soft drugs in these venues. Government authorities claim the ban is necessary to combat public disorder issues stemming from drug tourism.

The Dutch government plans to eventually stop everyone who is not an official resident of the Netherlands from buying marijuana in cannabis cafés by turning them into member-only clubs.

Read the full story at: The Telegraph


North America

White House Responds to Marijuana Petitions 

Over 151,000 signatures were collected on eight “We The People” online petitions asking the Obama administration to reevaluate the laws against cannabis and regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol. Waiting until most of the White House press corp had left on a Friday evening in late October to make his announcement, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske gave the following response:

“According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world's largest source of drug abuse research - marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20s. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.”

Read the full editorial at: Toke of the Town


The Shocking Militarization of the Police in the War on Drugs

Since Nixon declared the war on drugs 40 years ago, police serving warrants have used increasingly violent paramilitary tactics to raid residences and search for suspected caches of illicit drugs. It's not even that uncommon for police to get the wrong address, as in the recent case of a family in Alameda, California.

Perhaps the fact that the wife is a reporter for CBS prevented them from being treated the way some are during these operations, with nonthreatening pets – or humans - being shot, possessions destroyed, children traumatized. Most of these search warrants are issued for alleged marijuana possession, sometimes from tips coming from anonymous sources.

SWAT, a specialized paramilitary force used in especially dangerous situations—think armed robberies, barricaded suspects, hostages, the Columbine school shootings—had been in existence before the drug war. But today, their mission is almost exclusively the execution of search warrants in drug cases.

A police officer’s job is to preserve the peace, to maintain public order on the streets of America’s cities. A soldier’s job is to fight wars on foreign soil. These are two profoundly different roles.

Read the full story at: AlterNet


Cook County Commissioner Proposes Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Pot, Issuing Tickets

Authorities in the Chicago metropolitan area hope to persuade local law enforcement to cite offenders, rather than taking them to jail for minor possession of marijuana. Several nearby towns already have similar laws in place, and Commissioner Fritchey hopes the move will keep officers on the street and reduce the expense the county incurs to prosecute such cases, often unsuccessfully.

“There is no basis anymore for us to have a policy of locking people up, giving them an arrest record, making them criminals and dismissing” their cases, Fritchey said, noting that an arrest record can hurt someone trying to get a job. “We need a new policy, we need a new way of thinking about this.”

Read the full story at: The Chicago Sun-Times


Other News

Toke Up the Revolution: Why Marijuana is an Anarchist Weapon

Anslinger is credited with such words of wisdom on marijuana as: "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."

Read the full editorial at: OpEdNews


Dopey, Boozy, Smoky - and Stupid

Not all drugs are equally risky or abusable. But since different drugs are abused in different ways and have different harm profiles, there is no single measure of “harmfulness” or “addictiveness” by which drugs can be ranked. Moreover, the overall damage caused by a drug does not depend on its neurochemistry alone; the composition of the user base and the social context and customs around its use also matter. Alcohol, for example, constitutes a major violence-and-disorder problem in Britain, but not in Italy.

Read the full article at: The American Interest

2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Los Angeles was host to the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference earlier this month. Over 1,200 people from around the world attended the three-day event, including the closing night's rally and concert in MacArthur Park. Attendees included law enforcement officers, former prisoners, college students, reform activists, and social workers.

Topics of discussion included marijuana law reform in California, the ongoing drug violence in Mexico, and the glaring lack of leadership among politicians to end the war on drugs.

In this clip, former New Mexico Governor and Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson discusses his stance on legalizing marijuana:


Read about the conference highlights and see more video at: Stop the Drug War

Newsletters & Weekly Features

--Drug War Chronicle #709 - November 17, 2011

--Drug War Chronicle #707 - November 03, 2011

--The Fix - The Best of Addiction & Recovery

--Alternet - Drug Policy Reporting

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