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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of April 18th 2011

We lead this week with news from Central America, where the arrival of big-time drug trafficking has had a lethal impact, taking lives and carrying a heavy economic cost. In other news, we explore Russia's archaic approach to methadone treatment; and reflect on the Portuguese experience of drug decriminalization ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
16 April 2011

The Tormented Isthmus

WHEN Eduardo’s father came back to Guatemala after a spell in the United States, the tattoos up his arms gave away his roots in the mara (gang). Before long a rival gang had planted a knife in his back; when that failed to kill him they returned to finish him off in the street near his home. Eduardo (not his real name) was only eight at the time. But to avenge his father he joined his gang as a sicario (hitman), and killed his father’s murderer. Eduardo is now trying to find out whether life can offer any of the happiness he says he has never known. Since January he has been studying computing with La Ceiba, an NGO. As for that murder: “I enjoyed it,” he says blankly.

The bullet scar on Eduardo’s chest and the beaten right arm hanging limply by his side are signs of the violence that has come to engulf Guatemala and much of the Central American isthmus. No region on earth is more routinely murderous. Guatemala’s rate of 46 murders per 100,000 people is more than twice as high as Mexico’s, and nearly ten times greater than that of the United States. Honduras and El Salvador—the other two countries that make up Central America’s “northern triangle”, as it is called—are more violent still (see chart in map). Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, the quietest members of the group, have also seen violence increase in recent years, as has Belize.

These man-made tragedies are matched by natural disasters. Four of the seven Central American countries are among the 20 reckoned to be the most vulnerable in the world to destructive weather. Hurricanes, floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent and deadly events. They add to the steady grind of poverty and malnutrition. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist

The Russian Drug Czar vs. Methadone: Parcel of Lies

HCLU's video advocacy team filmed the press conference of the Russian government delegation at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs this year - our movie challenges the Russian drug czar's statement on opiate substitution treatment.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Reporter

Kidnappings, incarceration and the world's worst heroin habit 

In a country with more than two million heroin addicts, Irina Teplinskaya was one of the first. It was back in 1981, as a 14-year-old girl in the Baltic port of Kaliningrad, that she first tried the drug. She came from a prestigious family of senior Communists and was one of just a few who could afford the exciting new drug. She became addicted and suddenly, instead of a move to Moscow to study, her life began to take a very different path. She spent over a decade in prison and contracted hepatitis C, tuberculosis and HIV. 

During her last stay in jail, which ended in 2007, her HIV transitioned into full-blown Aids. Her life could have been very different, she says, if people had treated her drug addiction as an illness rather than a crime.

"The answer for me and for millions of others is simple," says Ms Teplinskaya, 44, who now works for an organisation Russia is the world's largest heroin consumer and, to add to that, risky injecting practices have fuelled one of the world's fastest-growing HIV epidemics. With tens of thousands of people dying every year, in a country where the population is shrinking, the twin epidemics are a catastrophe.

Russia is the world's largest heroin consumer and, to add to that, risky injecting practices have fuelled one of the world's fastest-growing HIV epidemics. With tens of thousands of people dying every year, in a country where the population is shrinking, the twin epidemics are a catastrophe. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Independent

Heroin overdose antidote should be given to prisoners, ministers told 

The government's official drug advisers are urging ministers to provide all prisoners at risk of overdosing with a "magic medicine" that could save up to 500 lives a year. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) wants all prisoners leaving jail in Britain handed packs of naloxone, a drug that reverses the symptoms of a morphine or heroin overdose for 45 minutes, which could be long enough to get emergency treatment.

Professor Les Iversen, the ACMD chairman, is pressing Home Office and Department of Health ministers to make the drug available to prisoners across England and Wales. One in eight prisoners take a heroin overdose within two weeks of their release. Recent medical research suggests the increased risk for overdose for prisoners on release is most likely related to them taking heroin when they have a low tolerance to the drug, following a period of non-use or reduced use behind bars. 

"A single injection can bring them back to life again. It really is a magic medicine," Iversen told an open meeting of the ACMD in London. "It is safe and it is very unlikely to be misused as it has the opposite effects to the opiates." He said about one in 200 heroin injectors died within a fortnight of leaving prison. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

How to make cocaine uncool 

It's a special day when Dennis Quaid and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs appear to be in cahoots and, lo, that day has come. Both have been speaking about the dangers of cocaine this week, and, perhaps not surprisingly, neither has made a particularly good fist of it.

Just as the ACMD announced that it is to publish a paper about the dangers of cocaine in an attempt to curb its inexorable popularity in Britain, particularly among 16- to 24-year-olds, Newsweek published an article by Quaid that gave a hint as to why that mission might fail. Quaid describes his addiction to cocaine, which happened to coincide with his most successful acting period; when he cleaned up in the 90s, his career, Quaid concedes, "got worse". And the moral here, children, is if you want to make The Big Easy, get the silver spoon out; if you want to star in The Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan, go straight.

But what Quaid lacks in simple lessons, the ACMD makes up for in simplemindedness. As has been gleefully reported many times before, Britain has been topping the European cocaine league table for several years – which is perhaps not surprising of a country in which socialising is so shrouded in bashful anxiety that it is taken as a given that real friendships are forged only under the forgiving umbrella of mutual inebriation. Fifty quid a gramme to head off the risk of any awkward silences? Bargain. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

The problem with Drug Tsars 

I met the US Drug Tsar Gil Kerlikowske recently. It was at a reception at the US Ambassador's residence in Vienna during the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This is an annual event, and a welcome opportunity for the NGOs attending the CND in an official capacity (Transform has ECOSOC special consultative status) to meet various US figures and ONDCP staff.

I asked how the potential tensions between state, federal and international law might play out if one of the US State ballot initiatives to legalise and regulate cannabis/marijuana was passed by voters. Kerlikowske's answer was to list a number of arguments against legalisation - all familiar to those who followed the debate around Prop 19 in California last year.

I responded by saying that I understood the arguments for and against, but was specifically interested in what would happen in terms of the conflicts between state, federal and international law, given the the likelyhood that one of the various proposed state ballot initiatives would pass in 2012 (the California initiative is set to rerun, as well as initiatives in Colorado, and other states). This time Kerlikowske pointed out that 56% of voters in California had been sufficiently concerned about Marijuana abuse and drug driving to oppose the 2011 prop 19 initiative. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Transform

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

New Report Finds New Jersey a National Leader in Reducing Recidivism 

Trenton – A new report from the PEW Center for the States evaluated national prison recidivism rates and found New Jersey to be among a small group of states making progress in reducing prison recidivism rates.  Six states, (Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and Utah) reduced their rates of recidivism by more than 10 percent.  New Jersey reduced its recidivism rate by 11.4 percent between 1999 and 2007.  The report also found that New Jersey had reduced its crime rate at the same time it was reducing its incarceration rate.  

Advocates called the news exciting and encouraging. "New Jersey has made real strides in the last decade on criminal justice reform," said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of Drug Policy Alliance. "It’s great to see New Jersey get credit for policies that are helping individuals reintegrate successfully into their communities while at the same time increasing the safety of those communities."

In 2009, New Jersey’s Parole Board won a prestigious national award from the Council of State Governments for a program designed to reduce recidivism among individuals on parole.  The program, the first of its kind in the country, created two Regional Assessment Centers where parolees with low level parole violations could receive increased supervision and support to keep them out of prison.  The Parole Board estimated that the program saved taxpayers $2 million in 2009 and was expected to save more than $14 million in 2010.  It costs New Jersey more than $46,000 a year to incarcerate an individual. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Governor Vetoes Treatment-Instead-of-Incarceration Bill 

Santa Fe - Today, Governor Martinez vetoed the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act that was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support.  If signed, the bill would have offered appropriate community-based treatment, instead of incarceration, for non-violent drug possession offenders and people with drug-related probation or parole violations.

Thousands of New Mexicans called and emailed the Governor, telling their stories and asking her to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one. "I know what it means to have an incarcerated parent. I know how it feels to have a parent that is sick and only gets time in jail instead of treatment," stated Avicra Luckey, a family member impacted by substance use. "Governor Martinez could have, and should have signed this bill to help families like mine."

Cynthia Sandia, from Albuquerque stated, "Governor Martinez has done our families wrong.  Treatment gives someone a second chance, a chance to heal. Living through substance use, we suffer and our families suffer. If someone is ready and willing to go through treatment, they deserve a shot at life, and support so they don't go back to the old ways." With the stroke of a pen, Martinez Administration painted a bleak future for New Mexico's families facing substance use. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance 

Marc Emery Denied Transfer to Canadian Prison 

Canadian marijuana legalization activist Marc Emery, currently serving a five-year federal prison sentence in the US, has been denied in his request to finish serving his time in a Canadian prison. His Canadian attorney, Kirk Tousaw, said Friday that Emery received notice that US authorities had denied the request on the grounds of "the seriousness of the offense" and "law enforcement concerns."

Emery, the self-proclaimed "Prince of Pot" is serving time for selling marijuana seeds. Emery used the profits from those seed sales to fund pot legalization campaigns in Canada, the US, and elsewhere. His supporters have long charged that his prosecution was politically motivated.

Emery is currently at the federal holding facility in El Reno, Oklahoma, while awaiting transfer to a medium-security prison in Mississippi. He had previously been held in a minimum-security prison in Georgia. It is unclear why he is being transferred to a higher security prison. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Florida Welfare Drug Testing Bills Advance

Bills that would require new applicants for temporary welfare assistance to undergo suspicionless drug tests -- and pay for them themselves -- are advancing in the Florida legislature. On Wednesday, House Bill 353 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee. That same day, the Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 556, won approval from Senate budget subcommittee. Both votes were party-line votes in the Republican dominated legislature.

Under the legislation, applicants who fail a drug test would be barred from receiving cash assistance for one year. Failing a second drug test, would mean a three-year ban. Children of rejected applicants could receive benefits if they can find another adult who can pass the drug test to be a payee.

Republicans voting for the bills argued that since many taxpayers must endure drug testing on the job, it was only fair that welfare recipients be tested as well. They also argued drug testing would provide an incentive for drug abusers to seek treatment. Democrats and their supporters retorted that suspicionless drug testing would likely be found unconstitutional. They also argued that it would be unfair to force people seeking assistance because they're poor to pay the estimated $35 cost of the drug test. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War 

Ontario Court Overturns Canada's Marijuana Law 

An Ontario Superior Court judge Tuesday threw out the sections of Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that bar marijuana possession and cultivation. The ruling came in the case of R. v. Mernagh, in which a medical marijuana patient argued that Health Canada's Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) were so burdensome that the effectively barred patients from gaining legal access to marijuana.

Matt Mernagh is a medical marijuana patient and activist who used the herb to relieve the symptoms of scoliosis, seizures, and fibryomyalgia. Mernagh was unable to find a doctor willing to sign the paperwork to allow him to become a legal patient under the MMAR, and was raided and arrested for growing his own plants without a license.

In the ruling, Justice Donald Taliano gave the government 90 days to come up with a solution in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government could appeal the decision. If the government does not act within 90 days, marijuana will be legal across the province of Ontario, and the Ontario precedent could be considered by courts in other provinces. The MMAR and the sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that prohibit marijuana possession and cultivation are "constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect," Taliano found.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Jamaica to Look Again at Decriminalizing Marijuana

Ten years ago, Jamaica's government-appointed National Commission on Ganja produced a report calling for marijuana decriminalization, which the Jamaican government, under pressure from the US, promptly forgot about. But now, the government of Prime Minister Bruce Golding has announced that it will again review those recommendations.

According to the Associated Press, the decision was announced Monday in Kingston. Six cabinet ministers will review the 2001 report. That report, which was authored by academics and physicians, found that pot smoking was "culturally entrenched" in the island nation and that most moderate users suffered no ill effects. While it called for decriminalization, ominous rumblings from the US Embassy in Kingston at the time ensured that the notion died a quiet death.

The Rev. Webster Edwards, who was a commission member, told the Associated Press Tuesday he was relieved that the report would be reviewed by cabinet members and that he hoped the review would eventually lead to loosening the marijuana laws. That would require legislative action.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria launches consultation

Act Now! Take the survey to have your say on the future of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: CLICK  HERE - http://www.aidsportal.org/web/globalfundconsult/survey 

This is your opportunity to have your views heard and shape the future direction of the Global Fund. As part of a broad-based consultation process for the Global Fund’s biennial Partnership Forum taking place between March and June 2011, an online survey has been designed to hear your views on the future direction and operations of the Global Fund.  The survey is open until April 30th. 

To take part in other consultation opportunities and continue this conversation, please join the Global Fund Consultation eForum by sending a blank message to:

[email protected] 

For more information about this project please visit the website below.

Web: http://www.aidsportal.org/web/globalfundconsult/home

Web: http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/partnershipforum/2011/      

Source: IHRA

The Push for Endorsements

Source: Youtube

Good news on young criminals 

The most thorough study to date, just released by The U.S. Department of Justice, brings lots of good news about criminal desistance among serious adolescent offenders.

The most important finding is that even adolescents who have committed serious offenses are not necessarily on track for adult criminal careers. Only a small proportion of the offenders studied continued to offend at a high level throughout the followup period. The other critical finding was that incarceration is for the most part unnecessary and ineffective:

Longer stays in juvenile facilities did not reduce reoffending; institutional placement even raised offending levels in those with the lowest level of offending.  Instead, the study found, interventions that combined community-based supervision and substance abuse treatment helped youthful offenders stay in school, get jobs, and avoid further offending. To learn more, please follow think link

Source: In the News

U.S. high court restricts federal death penalty appeals

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that federal habeas appeals cannot consider new evidence, but must limit themselves to information already presented at the state court level. The majority opinion, written by Judge Clarence Thomas, will severely restrict federal petitions in capital cases.

In a lengthy dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor (joined in part by Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) lamented that federal judges must now "turn a blind eye" to such miscarriages of justice, even when they result in "harsh" outcomes. "Some habeas petitioners are unable to develop the factual basis of their claims in state court through no fault of their own," she noted.

The case is the latest stemming from the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, §2254, which restricts the power of federal courts to grant habeas relief to state prisoners. 

David Raynes – life long drug prevention campaigner 

David Raynes has spent years campaigning on drug prevention with the National Drug Prevention Alliance and the International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy. Prior to that he worked for Customs and Excise tackling drug smuggling.

In this interview he talks about his childhood and how his attitudes to drug use were formed, his experience of the changing patterns of drug trafficking over time and why he believes moves towards liberalisation of drug laws are fundamentally wrong. When asked about his own drug use, David describes himself as an occasional and moderate (alcohol) drinker.

Source: Know Drugs 

UNODC to receive over 3 million dollars from Siemens Integrity Initiative 

VIENNA -15 April 2010- (UNODC) - Siemens AG, the German industrial conglomerate, today granted $3.05 million USD to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the largest ever donation made by the private sector to the Office. Selected through the Siemens Integrity Initiative, UNODC is one of the first recipients of financing for anti-corruption projects. 

The US$100 million Initiative, which is part of the World Bank-Siemens AG comprehensive settlement agreed in 2009, will finance three UNODC projects over three years.

Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, thanked Siemens for the donation, saying "I wish to see more collaboration with the private sector on corruption and crime issues. This is a goal that UNODC is actively pursuing. I hope that by Siemens' example, other companies will follow suit." To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC 

Event report: supporting families affected by substance use and domestic violence

A brief event report has been produced following the practitioner seminar on supporting families affected by substance use and domestic violence run jointly by Adfam and the Stella Project on 30 March 2011.

It covers the key points of the three workshops: 

  • Recovery through family-focused interventions: putting domestic violence survivors into the new Drug Strategy – Jennifer Holly and Shannon Harvey, Stella Project
  • Working together to support family members and discussion – Dr Sarah Galvani, University of Bedfordshire
  • Supporting and protecting children and young people affected by domestic violence and substance use – Hasret Tekin, Senior Children’s Drugs and Alcohol Worker/Play Therapist, Solace Women’s Aid

Download the report (pdf) 

Source: ADFAM

5 Years After: Portugal's Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results

In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.

Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006,  according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.

"Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Scientific American

More Black Men in Prison Than Were Enslaved II 

This week we ran a piece written by Dick Price entitled, “More Black Men Now in Prison System Than Were Enslaved“. Tens of thousands read it. Many left comments. The popularity of his article and the comments posted has lead to this follow-up article.

The article Dick wrote was a recap of a talk given by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow. Alexander, a civil rights attorney turned scholar, recently made an appearance in Southern California. She delivered an information packed presentation at the Pasadena Library, to a standing-room-only crowd.

Dick wrote a review of her talk. In this article I focus on a specific topic addressed in her book — what is driving the growth in the prison population and prison-based gerrymandering. Like the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex has had far-reaching negative consequences many of which remain unaddressed or ignored by the larger society but they take their toll on the whole of society never-the-less. To learn more please follow this link

Source: LA Progressive

Herat Addicts Rise to Over 70,000

The number of drug addicts in the western Herat city has risen to over 70,000, provincial officials say. Herat addicts mainly include jobless youths most of whom have returned from Iran.  They were addicted to drugs while living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Governor of Herat said.

The only medical facility for the treatment of addicts in Herat is a 150-bed hospital. "We have more than 70,000 addicts in Herat and need many years to treat them. This is a big challenge from a security and economic point of view," Mr Saba said. Some of the addicts call on the Afghan government to help them with their treatment.

Some of the main causes of addiction in Afghanistan are unawareness, poverty, unemployment and family problems. A UN report in June 2010 described Afghanistan as a major consumer of opium and its derivatives. It said the number of regular opium users had increased by 53% while the number of heroin users had risen by 140% in comparison to 2005. Afghanistan is considered the source of about 90% of the world's opium. To learn more please follow this link

Source: e-Ariana

An Assessment of the Scientific Support Underlying the FY2011 Budget Priorities of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Testimony presented before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Domestic Policy on April 14, 2010. Download  Full Document

Source: Rand

Implementation of UK HIV testing guidelines hampered by the recommendations of other medical bodies 

Although the HIV testing guidelines developed by HIV and sexual health clinicians recommend that a wide range of non-HIV physicians should offer HIV testing, these recommendations are not supported or are contradicted by a significant number of clinical guidelines developed by other organisations, Martin Fisher told the British HIV Association conference in Bournemouth last week. 

This is one reason why implementation of the 2008 testing guidelines outside of sexual health settings has been limited, as shown by a number of other presentations to the conference. A quarter of newly diagnosed people are thought to have had a ‘missed opportunity’ for an earlier diagnosis - they had previously seen a clinician who had neglected to offer an HIV test. 

While there has been an increase in the number of diagnoses made outside of specialist settings, this has come from a low starting point. Four in five diagnoses are still made in either a sexual health or an antenatal clinic. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: AIDSMAP

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here.

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