oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of August 9, 2010

We lead this week's report with collection of voices calling for an end to the War on Drugs as a means of mitigating the violence that has engulfed places like Chicago and Mexico.
Charles Shaw
10 August 2010

The Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, said today he would consider a debate on legalising drugs, as his government announced that more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug violence since he launched a crackdown against cartels in 2006.

The director of country's intelligence agency, Guillermo Valdes, also said the authorities had confiscated about 84,000 weapons and seized $411m (£258m) in US currency and $26m worth in pesos.

Valdes released the statistics during a meeting with Calderón and representatives of business and civic groups, where attendees explored ways to improve Mexico's anti-drug strategy and called on the government to open a debate on legalisation.

Calderón said he has taken note of the idea of legally regulating drugs in the past. "It's a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality [of opinions]," he said. "You have to analyse carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides."

Three former presidents – César Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil – urged Latin American countries last year to consider legalising marijuana to undermine a major source of income for drug cartels. Mexico's congress has also debated the issue.

But Calderón has long said he is opposed to the idea, and his office issued a statement hours after the meeting saying that while he was open to debate on the issue, he remains "against the legalisation of drugs".

Continue reading here.

(Source: Guardian UK)


In a powerful piece on the Huffington Post ("Sacrifice of the Innocents: Drugs, Money and Murder in Mexico") the Beckley Foundation's Amanda Fielding paints a disturbing picture of the unseen consequences of Mexico's brutal drug war and exhorts the Calderon government to consider legalization as a means of ending the violence.

In response to President Calderon's call to open up this debate, we should examine some of the potential benefits of legalization in the Mexican context. Producing a legal commodity is cheaper than producing an illegal one because there is no need to bribe the police and officials to avoid arrest, or keep a standing army to protect the operation. As the cost of producing drugs falls, so does their value and the incentive to use violence to control the trade.

By undermining the profitability of the drug business and giving it a legal status, corruption is both unaffordable and unnecessary. The cartels will cease to be a major employer and the rule of law can be given the chance to re-emerge. Instead of vast revenues flowing to the drug cartels, they can flow into the state coffers to be used for security, education and treatment services.

The cons of legalization are more uncertain, but we should be open-minded and sober about them. The main threat is an increase in the misuse of drugs, and the concomitant social and health problems that can result. Many studies indicate that the consumption of drugs is linked to price, lower prices leading to more consumption.

Since no country has legalized drugs it is impossible to predict the outcomes in Mexico, but a study by The Beckley Foundation which examines the effects of the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal, concludes that whilst usage rates of marijuana have risen mildly (which may be in part due to increased reporting and rising rates of usage in Europe as a whole), rates of heroin use have fallen sharply as addicts seek treatment, and rates of cocaine use have remained stable.

Read entire article here.

Click here to connect with The Beckley Foundation on Facebook  and Twitter.

(Source: Huffington Post)


  • Two New Books By Beckley Foundation Explore LSD

The Pharmacology of LSD: A Critical Review

By Annelie Hintzen & Torsten Passie

After the discovery of the effects of LSD in 1943, it became the most extensively studied psychopharmacological agent ever. Its experimental use led to some groundbreaking discoveries about the brain and the deeper layers of the human psyche. This book represents the first ever comprehensive review of the pharmacological effects of LSD, drawing on data from more than 3000 experimental and clinical studies. The Pharmacology of LSD provides a unique and valuable resource for anyone interested in a comprehensive review of the findings relating to this controversial hallucinogenic drug - it should be of great interest to neuro-scientists, psychopharmacologists, addiction researchers, and psychiatrists.

"We should be grateful to the authors for their patient compilation of a huge literature ... The subject has always raised emotional controversies, but this volume provides a much-needed sober and scientific account" -Prof. Leslie Iversen, Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford

Hofmann's Elixir: LSD and the New Eleusis
Edited By Amanda Feilding

Dr Albert Hofmann died in 2008 aged 102. The philosopher-chemist would have been a remarkable man even if he hadn’t discovered the chemical compound that changed the course of the 20th century – LSD. This unique book collects, for the first time, a number of his later essays and lectures. Between them they present a comprehensive overview of Hofmann’s relationship to his controversial creation, and reveal his profound mystical outlook, informed both by his own LSD experiences, and by a life lived through one of the most turbulent centuries in human history.

"His character has left great impressions on those who knew him and this book provides the reader with a wonderful, insightful picture of one of the 20thcentury’s most important and charismatic scientists". -Psychadelic Press UK

You can follow Beckley's work and access a vast library of information on their website.

This is in response to "In search of peace: How can we stop the mayhem?" (Commentary, July 28), by Tribune columnists Dennis Byrne and Eric Zorn. This piece about stopping the violence should have emphasized ending the war on drugs as the logical solution to a large part of the violence.

Drugs are dangerous substances and that is the very reason that the government should regulate and control them, not simply make them illegal and let criminals control the market. The war on drugs has wasted more taxpayers' dollars and ruined more lives than alcohol prohibition, yet ending this conspicuous infringement on numerous civil rights is still not even on the table as a solution to curtailing the violence plaguing Chicago.

Legalize the drugs and the gangs can't make as much money. Legalize the drugs and gangs can't fight over drug-dealing turf wars. Legalize the drugs and children won't be able to get them because sellers will be asking for age verification. Legalize the drugs and purity and potency levels will be measured, thus preventing many overdoses. Legalize the drugs and allow responsible citizens to do what they want with their minds and bodies.

~Dan Linn, Chicago


Newshour reports on how one state is dealing with a surge in heroin-related crimes. Frederica Freyberg of Wisconsin Public Television reports.


Heroin use is up nearly 400 percent in the last five years in Wisconsin, coming in by car, where at any given moment along the interstates drug runners could be bringing the heroin in from south of the border. Like from Rockford, Illinois, which, along with Chicago, has become a heroin hub in the Midwest. Police there say the drug comes directly from Mexico.

A state crime lab map of cases by county shows heroin on the move.

But one county, made up of small cities and large tracks of farm land, is taking a direct hit by virtue of place.

Rock County has recently been included in the federally designated high-intensity drug trafficking area, along with Dane and Milwaukee Counties.

See full story here.


"Heroin makes Lou Reed feel like Jesus, and it won't leave Guns N' Roses alone, but how does it end up here in the United States? GOOD Magazine take a look at the global opium trade from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to a shady street corner near you."


This newsletter relays what the Mexican and Latin American press is saying about the drug war. Many of these stories will appear to English-speaking readers as out-of-context to the media-driven "consensus" within the United States regarding the drug war. These stories are not reported in the United States or other world powers: the very nations that pride themselves on freedom of the press. Why not? Ineptness? Intent? The imposed silence of a market-driven media? Each of these ills is a factor and Narco News will take no prisoners in afflicting the comfortable members of the Fourth Estate, one at a time, for their role in the whole mess. Artificially created consensus - based on untruths and lack of information - always breaks. Each time it shatters, that fracture is called history.

The Narco News Bulletin does not claim objectivity: we are out to break the manufactured consensus north of the border, where the illusion that the drug war is about combatting drugs remains the dominant discourse. In the South, as the stories we translate and summarize demonstrate, a new consensus, based on the reality of drug prohibition between nations and peoples, is already under construction. The Narco News Bulletin likewise seeks to comfort the afflicted members of the press who practice authentic journalism. Latin American journalists (and a very few conscientious gringos), living daily at the drug war front and facing greater danger than the desk jockeys of the mass media, are doing a better job at covering the problem than those who have grown soft in the land of the First Amendment.

By alerting the English-speaking world to the work being done by many Latin American journalists (American journalists, Simón Bolívar might have corrected), Narco News aims to force these stories - and more honest drug war coverage overall - onto the docket of the US media.

To review the week's collection of stories from NarcoNews reporters, go here


Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war from the Drug War Chronicle.

In Mexico City, Mexico's intelligence chief acknowledged that the death toll from drug-related violence is far higher than previously reported. Guillermo Valdes Castellanos, the head of the National Security and Investigation Center (CISEN) now estimates that just over 28,000 people have been killed since President Calderon took office. Last month, the office of Mexico's Attorney General estimated that some 25,000 had been killed.

Also in Mexico City, President Calderon said he was open to debate on the legalization  of drugs. Calderon went on to say that Mexican policy would likely be driven by California's decision on marijuana legalization, which is due to take place later this year.

Continue reading here.


Few substances have attracted a greater variety of epithets than the cannabis plant and  its products, modes of use and means of consumption. The note by Mr G. A. Grierson,  appended to the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report,  which catalogues references to the  hemp plant occurring in Sanskrit and Hindi literature, includes tenns celebrating the  spiritually and physically invigorating properties of the herb, such as Indracana, 'the food of Indra' and Vijaya or 'victory'. Drawing  from the ancient Vedic scriptures of India, Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary lists at least forty terms related to  hemp.

Read full report here


Welcome to the MAPS Rites of Passage project, an alternative to the abstinence-only drug abuse prevention strategies currently dominating public discourse. Acknowledging that experimentation with consciousness is nearly universal, we believe that the creation of socially-sanctioned contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana may be a powerful approach to reducing drug abuse. In other words, education about appropriate drug use may be more effective in reducing drug abuse than the pursuit of an undesirable and entirely unobtainable "Drug-Free" world. MAPS' Rites of Passage project is thus an effort to provide information to families, particularly parents and their adolescent children and young adults, about the potential benefits and risks of an educated and careful relationship with psychedelics and marijuana.

The MAPS Rites of Passage project advances the idea that discussing potentially beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana is an effective technique in reducing haphazard or reckless use. Responsible decision-making must begin with honest and balanced dialogue, dialogue that reflects these substances' potential to be helpful or harmful. Simplistic answers like "Just say no" education and criminal prohibition not only fail to protect families, they can drive families apart.

Read more about the "Rite of Passage" project here.


Alternet's Tony Newman has pulled together his 5 favorite anti-Drug War videos.

"A cartoon can be worth a thousand words -- or even a book. For years, those of us in the anti-drug war movement have tried to show folks the harms of drug prohibition. Last week, “The Flower,” a three-minute anti-prohibition video was released on AlterNet. It quickly went viral and has already been viewed 300,000 times. Without using one word, “The Flower” is able to portray the harms of prohibition in an effective and entertaining way. I’ve always loved short videos that are able to educate and motivate people through animations, music, and popular culture. I remember the first time I heard Immortal Technique’s song, “Peruvian Coke.” It blew me away how he could cover our whole issue, from the coca fields in Latin America to the people incarcerated in New York all in four minutes. He literally took information that could make up a 500-page book and made it accessible to people rocking out at their desk, or in the club, home, or car. Below are five videos I love about the failed drug war."

See videos here.


As a person in long-term recovery and a drug treatment professional, I know a thing or two about drugs, addiction and the drug war. As a mother and a grandmother, I know more than I care to about how all of those things affect families - including my own. Addiction is a particularly painful health issue for any family to struggle with. Like most other chronic health conditions, like cancer and diabetes, it can be treated and managed. But unlike other chronic health conditions, our government is at war with it. The sad truth is that the war on drugs is a war on people, and they can be people you love. 

Continue reading here.


Pierce Martin of the new site, Forensic Science, has created a fascinating infographic about the unreliability of forensic science in criminal justice cases, what he calls the "CSI Effect."




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