oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of December 6th 2010

This week, we lead with news of the MAPS Conference, taking place this weekend in Los Angeles and featuring openDemocracy's very own Charles Shaw among a long list of celebrated speakers and artists. This is followed by an inspired article by friend of the Drug Policy Forum, John Sinclair, who discusses the 'correctional economy' and Charles' book, 'Exile Nation'. ~ MW
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
6 December 2010

Charles Shaw to Speak at MAPS Conference

MAPS will be hosting several events in the downtown Los Angeles, CA area on the weekend of December 10th through the 12th.

The weekend will start off on Friday night at Temple of Visions Gallery, where MAPS will host Metamorphosis, a free reception for the Catalysts conference. This event will be free and open to the public, and will include an auction of artworks from nearly a dozen internationally renowned visionary artists.

On Saturday, December 11th from 9AM-6PM at The Downtown Independent Theatre, MAPS will host Catalysts: The Impact of Psychedelics from Consciousness to the Clinic (day one of the mini-conference). When the conference ends for the day at 6PM, doors will open again at nearby Temple of Visions, where MAPS will host Critical Components, a dinner benefitting our upcoming MDMA/PTSD study in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. When the benefit ends at 10PM, MAPS will host Flux, the official after-party for the Catalysts conference. The following afternoon, 

openDemocracy’s very own Charles Shaw will speak at  day two of the MAPS mini-conference, Catalysts: The Impact of Psychedelics from Culture to Creativity, at The Los Angeles Downtown Marriott, which will feature talks on psychedelics, consciousness, and creativity.

Charles will be in the company of celebrated artists and psychiatrists, including Professor Stanislav Grof, M.D./Ph.D., Co-Founder of Transpersonal Psychology and Holotropic Breathwork; Michael Divine, (Artist, Ten Thousand Visions); and Amanda Sage (Artist).

Tickets are still available for the conference, and with some events free, don't miss out on what promises to be a truly enlightening weekend.

For further information and to book your space, please follow this link

Source: MAPS

Ex-prisoners critique the 'correctional economy'

Legalized medical marijuana has helped remove the looming physical and mental presence of the narcotics police from our lives for the first time since we started smoking weed. If we have a patient ID card, we're protected from arrest and imprisonment for our daily smoking activities, and we can replenish our supplies from our licensed caregivers without fear of intervention by the police on either end of the transaction.

This breakthrough in the criminally elongated War on Drugs is a great thing for those of us with physical or mental ailments for which we've sought treatment from our physicians and ended up as certified medical marihuana patients.

But it does nothing for the millions of Americans who enjoy marijuana or other criminal substances on a recreational basis but suffer arrest, prosecution, jailing, drug testing, job loss, mandatory treatment programming, draconian probation or parole supervision, and other chilling punishments simply because they like to get high.

"The United States jails, imprisons and correctionally monitors (supervision, probation, parole) more people than any other nation in the world," Charles Shaw asserts in his new online memoir Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality, "around six million, or one out of every 50 Americans. Most are for nonviolent drug offenses.

"This 'correctional economy' which comprises the police, courts and prisons, accounts for millions of jobs and billions of dollars. At the same time, state budgets are so overwhelmed they can't afford to hold all the prisoners they have jammed into their systems like animals on a factory farm [while] marijuana is the No. 1 cash crop in America."

Shaw is a fellow ex-convict and a close friend of my pal Dimitri Mugianis, the ex-dope fiend and former Detroiter who cleaned up his habit with the help of iboga and has since dedicated himself to treating addicted persons all over the Western world as an underground iboga healer. Both have turned their bitter experiences with the culture of addiction and the minions of drug law enforcement into inspiration for their committed activism on behalf of the people's side of the War on Drugs.

Shaw's new book, Exile Nation, now appearing serially on the Reality Sandwich website throughout 2010 (tinyurl.com/yj6lk3c) is a memoir of his life as a writer, addict, activist, prisoner and spiritual seeker — as he puts it, "a mosaic of his descent into shadow, his personal reckoning, and the long slow crawl back out to reclaim his life, heal the past, and start over."

This guy knows the issue from the inside, and has a lot to teach the casual bystanders of the War on Drugs, whose support must be enlisted in order to bring this dreadful episode in our national history to a shuddering conclusion. I saw him win over an audience of normal citizens of the United Kingdom, who were visibly shocked by the images confronting them on the screen.

A native of Chicago, Shaw spent the first few years of the century as a radical journalist, political activist and habitual drug user in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston and San Francisco, before he was arrested, tried and sentenced to a one-year prison sentence for possession of 14 capsules of MDMA.

He did his time for the Illinois Department of Corrections in the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Stateville prison in Joliet, and the East Moline Correctional Center, and then — "released from prison, unable to find meaningful work, and alienated from nearly everyone in his life" — Shaw backslid into a state of suicidal depression before what he calls his "rebirth and spiritual awakening" led him into "meaningful work, shamanic medicines, love and community."

There's an addendum to the book titled "The Secret History of the War on Drugs" that will open the eyes of even the best-informed student of this historical monstrosity. Shaw examines the global drug trade and the war on drugs "as a means of foreign policy, covert operation, domestic policy and social control. Highlights include the role of U.S. intelligence services in the drug trade and in the psychedelic community, the connection between drug laws and racism, and how crack and heroin were intentionally used to destroy the African-American community."

With the tide of public opinion finally rising up over the carefully constructed dams of ignorance and official disinformation to challenge the feasibility and the very basis of the War on Drugs, the one relentless question remains: How long are we going to stand for this shit? We've got them on the ropes — it's time to finish them off now and reclaim our country from the warmongers who operate what Dr. Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange has called "the largest working railroad in America: the criminal justice system."

Source: Detroit Metro Times

NTA Responds to Public Health White Paper

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse welcomed plans to make drug treatment a founding pillar of Public Health England, the dedicated professional public health service.

A Government white paper on public health confirmed that the service will take over the functions and staff of both the National Treatment Agency and the Health Protection Agency from April 2012, and be part of the Department of Health.  Public Health England will have a ring-fenced budget of about £4 billion and provide an integrated national framework for local action to improve people's lives and tackle health inequalities.

As well as recovery from drug dependency, it will be responsible for funding and ensuring the provision of services such as alcohol prevention, smoking cessation, obesity, sexual health and emergency preparedness. For the first time, funding streams for drug and alcohol treatment will be aligned in both community and criminal justice settings.  

Paul Hayes, NTA chief executive, said: "The white paper confirms that changing the behaviour of people dependent on drugs could save society almost £14 billion in the costs of drug-fuelled crime. The coalition government will set out its plans to enable drug users to overcome dependency, recover fully and contribute to society in the forthcoming Drug Strategy. Meanwhile the NTA will continue its task of managing the transition to the new public health service, and we anticipate that details of the pooled drug treatment budget for 2011-12 will be available shortly."

Source: The National Treatment Agency

Fewer Teenagers Seek help for Misuse of Class-A Drugs

Demand amongst young people for help with problems caused by primary use of Class A drugs has fallen significantly over the last five years, according to new figures released today by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA).

Overall, the numbers of under-18s receiving help, has stabilized.  This is down to fast and effective interventions being widely available together with ongoing support from related young people's services like youth offending teams, schools, teenage pregnancy, local authorities and charities.  The agency also reports that the number of under-18s completing treatment successfully has more than doubled in five years.

'Substance Misuse Among Young People: The Data for 2009-10' looks at under 18s in treatment in England.  Key findings are:

  • Numbers of under-18s accessing services in 2009-10 was 23,528 – down by 525 on the previous year.
  • Under-18s coming in for primary use of heroin and crack has more than halved over five years while use of cocaine as primary drug has fallen by 43% in the past two years. Numbers accessing services for primary ecstasy are down by 79% in two years.
  • Problems with cannabis and/or alcohol account for nine out of ten of all cases of young people receiving help during the year.

Source: The National Treatment Agency

Brazil army to take up 'peacekeeping' in Rio slums

The army in Brazil is to take on peacekeeping duties in the poor areas of Rio de Janeiro, which saw a week-long stand-off between security forces and drug dealers last month.

Soldiers will patrol the Alemao and Penha districts to ensure hundreds of drug traffickers who had made the areas their stronghold would not return. Security forces arrested more than 100 people during their sweep of the area.It will be the army's first peacekeeping mission within Brazil.

Defence Minister Nelson Jobim said the army would be able to draw on its years of experience heading the United Nation's peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has approved the army's continued presence, which was requested by the governor of Rio state, Sergio Cabral.

He had earlier praised the joint police and military operation and promised it would only be the start of a campaign to rid Rio of drugs gangs. The Alemao and Penha districts have been a stronghold of drugs traffickers and virtual no-go area for police for decades.

Source: BBC News

Drug addiction blights the Indian state of Punjab

There is growing concern in India about the rapid rise in drug addiction cases in Punjab, one of the country's wealthiest states. The main university in the region has claimed that 70% of young Punjabi men are hooked on drugs or alcohol.

The problem is at its worst along the border with Pakistan where heroin originating from Afghanistan is smuggled into the country.

To watch Mark Dummett’s report from Amritsar please follow this link

Source: BBC News

Half of Canadians Say Legalize Marijuana

Exactly 50% of Canadians support legalizing marijuana, according to poll results released Monday by Angus-Reid Public Opinion. Some 44% oppose legalization, with 6% undecided. 

Support for legalization has declined slightly when compared to Angus-Reid polls in 2008 and earlier this year. In both those polls, support for legalization was at 53%. But the difference is within the poll's +/- 3.1% margin of error.

Support for pot legalization was highest in Manitoba and Saskatechewan (61%), British Columbia (54%), and Ontario (51%). Support was weakest in Alberta (45%).

The poll also asked about support for legalizing drugs other than marijuana. In no case was support for legalizing hard drugs higher than 10%. 

The poll also queried respondents on whether Canada has a "drug problem" and how serious it is, as well as their positions on several drug policy-related government proposals. Slightly more than a third (37%) thought Canada has a drug abuse problem that affects the whole country, while 41% thought the drug abuse problem was reserved for "specific areas and people." Only 11% thought Canada did not have a serious drug problem, and 10% had no opinion or didn't know.

To read Stop the Drug War’s analysis of the Poll, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

NGOs a vital link in fight against drugs, says UNODC Executive Director

3 December 2010 - UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov today in Vienna welcomed the new chairperson of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, Mr. Michel Perron.

"To tackle drugs, we need to keep constant contact with on the ground knowledge and expertise. Our main partner NGOs provide that context and support our work from the local to the global level", said Mr. Fedotov.

The new chair, Mr. Perron, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse a lead NGO in drug prevention and treatment. From 2007 to 2009, he led the " Beyond 2008", a global initiative undertaken in partnership with UNODC  that  engaged over 900 NGOs from 145 countries to review the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) is one of the main NGO partners that UNODC collaborates with, and has members from major international, national and local NGOs around the globe. It represents some 10 million affiliated individuals working on drug related issues and provides a vital and unique bridge between NGOs, the work of Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and UNODC.

This initiative succeeded in reaching consensus among a wide range of civil society organizations with diverse ideological background for a set of recommendations which were brought to the high level Segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

To read some excerpts of an interview with Mr. Perron on his appointment, please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Tajikistan is the first line of defence in stemming Afghan drugs, says UNODC Executive Director

1 December 2010 - As part of his visit to West and Central Asia, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC yesterday met with Tajikistan officials to discuss increased cooperation to tackle drug trafficking.

"The flow of drugs from Afghanistan poses a serious threat to security and development throughout Central Asia, and Tajikistan is the first line of defence", said Mr. Fedotov. "We appreciate the difficulties Tajikistan faces in carrying out this dangerous and daunting task", he added. Current estimates show that 15 per cent of all Afghanistan's opiates and 20 per cent of heroin is trafficked through Tajikistan.

Mr. Fedotov thanked the President of Tajikistan, Mr. Emomalii Rahmon for, "Tajikistan's steadfast efforts to combat drug trafficking". He also discussed collaboration opportunities between UNODC and Tajik authorities in border management, drug control, terrorism and corruption on local and regional levels.

The relationship between UNODC and Tajikistan stretches back to the late 1990s when the two entities joined efforts to establish a national Drug Control Agency and to improve operational capacity of the Tajik Border Forces. The current relationship largely focuses on these linked issues, with the aim of supporting law enforcement, capacity building, providing policy and legislation advice to Government institutions and reducing the spread of drugs.

To read the UNODC’s press release in full, please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Access to HIV services is a right for drug users

1 December 2010 - An estimated 16 million people across the world inject drugs, with over two-fifths, or around 3 million people, of these living with HIV. In countries where comprehensive models for the delivery of HIV services have been adopted, and where communities have been enabled to provide evidence-informed and human rights-based HIV services on a larger scale, remarkable results have been achieved in decreasing the number of newly diagnosed HIV infections.

Evidence shows that people who use drugs are willing to protect themselves, their sexual partners and their societies. Providing comprehensive services and outreach to people who inject drugs - and to their injecting or sexual partners - can effectively prevent HIV transmission. The sooner HIV prevention programs are implemented, the more effective such responses will be.

With World AIDS Day 2010 being recognized on 1 December, this is a particularly relevant issue for UNODC particularly keeping in mind the recently adopted UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) vision statement: 'Zero new HIV infections. Zero AIDS related deaths. Zero discrimination.' Speaking on World AIDS Day 2010, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted: "As one of the ten cosponsors of UNAIDS, this vision gives UNODC a clear directive to our work: to strive for zero new HIV infections among drug users and in closed settings, including prisons." 

Although considerable progress has been made in the global HIV response over the past two decades, coverage of the most effective HIV interventions for men and women who inject drugs across the world remains low, at only 8% of injecting drug users on opioid substitution therapy and 4% on HIV treatment.

To read the UNODC’s press release in full, please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Fear and Loathing in Debrecen

The police fight a war on people who use drugs in Hungary 

On a rainy Sunday morning in February dozens of young people were dancing in a small club in the outskirts of the city of Debrecen (East-Hungary, Central Europe). They were celebrating the birthday of the club owner who organized a private party with his friends – most of them used some illicit drugs at the club, marijuana, speed or GHB. When dozens of masked policemen showed up in the middle of the party many guests thought that some people dressed like policemen to play a joke on the celebrated owner. However, they had to realize soon that this is far from a joke: the officers busted the guests, floored and handcuffed everybody. They said somebody called them and said there is drug trafficking in the place. They searched the club, they even broke the toilets.

They separated the girls from the boys and asked them to undress to reveal if they hide any drugs in their clothes or in their bodies. They were not mindful that according to the Hungarian law people cannot be body searched only in the police station and only in the presence of officers from the same sex. They did not pay attention to the fact that handcuffs can be used only in cases where there is a danger of escape or resistance. Despite its desperate efforts the squad did not find any dealers and the amount of drugs they seized was not enough to prove anything more than personal consumption.

This HCLU short film discusses the events of that night and wider impact of the Conservative government’s ‘tough on crime approach’ which is mitigating against fundamental civil liberties

Source: Drug Reporter

Cartel Arrests Don't Stop the Drug Trade -- But They Do Increase Violence

The Associated Press deserves a Pulitzer Prize for its “Impact Series” on the Drug War. Back in May, AP dropped a bombshell on America's longest war and the headline said it all: "The US Drug War has Met None of its Goals." The extensive piece reviewed the last 40 years, starting with President Nixon's official launch of the War on Drugs all the way to President Obama's annual strategy released this year. The piece packed a punch from the start: "After 40 years, the United States' War on Drugs has cost $1 trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence more brutal and widespread." 

Today the AP Impact Series again broke ground with its piece, “Cartel Arrests Did Not Curb Drug Trade.” The bottom line is that despite all of the DEA and Justice Department press conferences, photo-ops of people in handcuffs, and tons of drugs seized, the cartels are stronger than ever.

The AP tracked almost 200 of the people arrested, analyzed thousands of pages of court records, and interviewed dozens of prisoners, law enforcement agents and criminal law experts. Among the findings: 

• Federal agents have not nabbed top cartel bosses. None of the bosses who control their syndicates have ever been arrested in the U.S

• Many of the people they do arrest are not even middle management. They are low-level American street dealers and "mules" who help smuggle the drugs. Such workers are easily replaced with only a minor inconvenience to the organization

• A third of those arrested are already out on the streets. Jurors acquitted them, or prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to hold them. Others jumped bail or went undercover for the DEA 

To learn more about the AP’s damning assessment of the war on drugs, please follow this link

Source: AlterNet

IV Drug policy fails HIV patients: Red Cross 

The spread of HIV and AIDS among millions of people could be slowed if addicts who inject drugs were treated as medical patients rather than as criminals, the International Federation of the Red Cross said Friday 28 November. 

More than 80 per cent of the world's governments "are inclined to artificial realities, impervious to the evidence that treating people who inject drugs as criminals is a failed policy that contributes to the spread of HIV," the Red Cross said. 

An estimated 16 million people worldwide inject drugs, mainly because it delivers the fastest, most intense high, in what has become a growing trend on every continent, according to the Red Cross. 

The launch of the International Federation of the Red Cross' 24-page report - essentially to promote a new strategy for nations to stop the spread of the virus among injecting drug users - comes in the week before World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. 

The federation, which represents national Red Cross chapters in almost every country of the world, suggests ways to lessen the risk that addicts will contract the virus from tainted blood transmitted through shared needles. 

It also points out that many of the addicts are selling sex to pay for their habits, which "massively increases the likelihood of spreading HIV into an unsuspecting public." More than three million people who inject drugs now have HIV - almost one-10th of all the 33.3 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV. 

The Red Cross calls the increasing rate of HIV infection among drug users who use needles "a public health emergency" and recommends more governments provide health services such as substitute drug therapy and clean needle and syringe exchanges. It says studies consistently show that needle exchanges can lower transmission rates by as much as 42 per cent.

To learn more about the Federation of the Red Cross’ Report, please follow this link

Source: IDPC

Prison overcrowding: Chickens coming home to roost

 When is the last time you heard of prisoners and prison guards teaming up in a legal case? They are united on the same side in a case set to be argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The case concerns prison overcrowding in California, where about 164,00 prisoners are crowded into facilities designed to hold less than half that number. The state is fighting a federal district court that the massive population must be cut by 40,000 to allow for minimally adequate mental health and medical treatment.

“The case is being widely watched across the U.S, as other states grapple with California-style problems: tough sentencing laws that filled up prisons even as the economy battered state budgets,” write Joanna Chung and Bobby White in today’s Wall Street Journal. Eighteen states have filed briefs backing California in the case of Schwarzenegger vs. Plata, arguing that releasing prisoners would threaten public safety.

The issue of inadequate mental care in California prisons has been in the courts since 1991, when Ralph Coleman filed a lawsuit that was eventually merged with prisoner Marciano Plata’s similar lawsuit of 2001. The district court appointed an independent expert to oversee prison health care. That expert, law professor Clark Kelso, believes the court-ordered reductions in the prisoner population are needed to achieve "sustainable constitutional health care" in the face of continued prison construction.

As Chung and White report: The rare alliance of California's powerful prison guard union and the inmates illustrates the severity of the situation, legal experts say. "It should not be a surprise to anyone that the chickens have come home to roost after a series of disastrous policy choices that has landed California in this position," says David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, which has filed a brief on behalf of the inmates….

To read more about this shocking prison policy and an update on the hearing, please follow this link

Source: In the News by Karen Franklin PhD

Roy Greenslade discusses new guide aiming to bring sense to the media coverage of drugs

I was expecting to speak at midday today at the launch of an excellent pamphlet The media guide to drugs: Key facts and figures for journalists produced by an organisation called DrugScope.It is a superb, comprehensive piece of work, running to 140 pages, that should prove invaluable to all journalists who write at any time about drugs.

Sadly, there are no trains this morning from Brighton to London because of the snow, so I will not be able to attend the launch after all. If I had done so, I would have said that newspapers have had a poor record in reporting on drugs. They have contributed to the widespread misunderstanding about the topic.

I would have expanded on the theme outlined in the quotation in my name carried on the back of the guide:

"I have despaired over the years about the hysterical and ill informed way in which the media, most especially the largest-selling popular newspapers, report on the subject of drugs. Journalists are too ready to accept myths and, by passing them on, contribute to yet further myth-making by their readers.

By reacting emotionally rather than rationally to the topic, and by denying reality, newspapers do a disservice to society. This guide will surely help the next generation of journalists because it deals with facts that counter ignorance and prejudice. I believe it will prove invaluable."

To read Roy’s article in full, and have some media myths demystified, please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Pew Study: Many Cities and Counties are Taking Steps to Reduce Jail Populations

A new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative finds that city and county officials throughout the country are taking steps to reduce jail populations in ways intended to save money, maintain public safety and make the criminal justice system more efficient.

The brief, Local Jails: Working to Reduce Populations and Costs, notes that the average daily local jail population in large jurisdictions declined in 2009—down 2.3 percent from the previous year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics—after climbing 30 percent from 1999 to 2008. This decline is the first in three decades.

“While it is too soon to tell whether this one-year dip is the start of a new trend, some local governments now facing severe budget pressures seem intent on making it so,” said Claire Shubik-Richards, senior associate at Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative. “Reducing the jail population safely and in a sustained way requires the consensus of the criminal justice community, the support of elected officials and the acceptance of the public.”

The study includes analysis of jail populations and spending in 11 major urban jurisdictions: Allegheny County (which includes Pittsburgh), the city of Baltimore, Cook County (Chicago), Fulton County (Atlanta), Harris County (Houston), Los Angeles County, Maricopa County (Phoenix), New York City, Philadelphia, Suffolk County (Boston) and Wayne County (Detroit).

The drop in jail populations parallels a decrease in the total population of the nation’s state prisons, which was documented in March by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. The net decline was 0.3 percent. The Public Safety Performance Project works to help states advance fiscally sound, data-driven policies and practices in sentencing and corrections that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and control corrections costs.

In its new study, Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative found that taxpayers and public officials in communities large and small are confronting the reality that more money for jails can mean less money for other government services, especially in these tough economic times. 

To learn more about this fascinating Pew Trust report, and the decline in Jail populations, follow this link

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Portuguese Drug Reformers look beyond Decriminalization 

The Portuguese government has garnered well-earned plaudits for its nine-year-old policy of the decriminalization of drug possession, first last year from Glenn Greenwald in a White Paper commissioned by the Cato Institute, and just last month in a new academic study in the British Journal of Criminology. But while they applaud the Portuguese government for embracing decriminalization, some drug user advocates there are saying there is more to be done.

Portugal broke new ground back in July 2001 when it decriminalized the possession of up to a 10-day supply of all illicit drugs. Under the new policy, drug users caught with drugs are not arrested, but are instead referred to regional "committees for the dissuasion of addiction." Those committees are empowered to impose warnings or administrative penalties, including fines, restrictions on driving, and referral to treatment.

But in most cases, the committees simply suspend the proceedings, meaning that, in effect, no punishment is meted out. The decriminalization policy has been accompanied by increased investment in treatment and harm reduction services, including methadone maintenance for people addicted to heroin. As Greenwald found last year, and researchers Dr. Caitlin Hughes and Professor Alex Stevens last month, decriminalization is working. Hughes and Stevens found that while there had been a modest increase in drug use by adults, it was in line with increases reported by other southern European countries.

While drug use increased modestly, Hughes and Stevens were able to report that the harms associated with drug use had decreased under decriminalization. They found a reduction in the rate of spread of HIV/AIDS, a reduction in drug-related deaths, and a reduction in drug use by adolescents. They also found that drug seizures had increased under decriminalization. "Contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use," the researchers concluded. "Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding.”

With its drug decriminalization policy, Portugal has indeed become a beacon to the world, a model of progressive drug reform that could and should be emulated elsewhere. But as Roque and Oomen make clear, decriminalization is only half the battle. To learn more, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War 

The only Winner in the ‘War on Drugs’ 

One of the most interesting and challenging paradoxes of debate on the "war on drugs" is how little examination there has been of its major warrior: the military. In Latin America, that means the US Southern Command (SouthCom). 

The story of the US military's involvement begins in the late 1970s and early 1980s with episodic counter-narcotics operations, but when the "war on drugs" became a national security issue, the difference between military and police activities became blurred. At first, there was a certain reluctance on the part of the military to being sucked into an unconventional, politically-driven fight against the illegal drug trade. But they were eventually won over to participation in anti-narcotics efforts – thanks, in part, to growing anti-drug budgets approved by Congress.

New objectives and more resources were the result: correspondingly, SouthCom grew and evolved into a crucial player in what became, by the mid 1990s, a low-intensity conflict being fought on a very broad front. As SouthCom's role became dominant, ideology came into play: the Miami-based command not only carried out anti-drug activities, but also defined a new enemy – "radical populism", in the words of former SouthCom Commander General James T Hill, to the House armed services committee in 2004. Yet, seldom was the US Southern Command's role in the region subjected to scrutiny. 

After 9/11 and the rise of the so-called "new threats" (the supposed amalgamation of international terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking and weapons of mass destruction), Washington ceased to observe a distinction between internal security and external defence. SouthCom experienced a "great leap forward": its role was already extensive, but now it developed into a more autonomous protagonist in the "war on drugs". Plan Colombia, first, and the Mérida Initiative, more recently, were emblematic of the core rationality of a coercive anti-drug strategy – a strategy that, by definition, placed the military centre-stage in a prohibitionist crusade in the Americas. 

To learn more about the role of SouthCom and its implications in today’s world, please follow this link 

Source: The Guardian

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