oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of February 14th 2010

We lead this weeks report with promising news of the launch of the new Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, Chaired by Professor David Nutt - former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. In other news we assess 40 years of the war on drugs; the harassment of drug users in Ukraine and heavy handed interference with evidence based strategies; and the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights' forthcoming meeting with Russian President Medvedev ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
14 February 2011

Prof David Nutt press conference introducing the new Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs

We lead this weeks report with promising news of the launch of the new Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, Chaired by Professor David Nutt - former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Over the next three months the Committee will develop two or three work programmes; one on legal highs, one on assessing harms and developing better and more flexible ways of determining harms, and finally a programme focusing on ketamine. 

The Committee will focus on the science of drugs, as opposed to the work of the ACMD which is not a scientific body, but one made up of a variety of people including drug treatment professionals, the police and magistrates. In this scientific role, the ISCD hopes to make an active contribution to the evidence base underlying the ACMDs work, while having the freedom which comes from a complete independence from Government. 

You can learn more at the ISCD website

Source: Youtube

Decriminalisation, the UN drug conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child 

Damon Barrett, Project Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Constitutional Court of Colombia in a case challenging the criminalisation of possession for personal use. 

The submission (jointly with the International Harm Reduction Association, where Damon is senior human rights analyst) asks whether decriminalisation of personal possession of controlled drugs is permissible in international law, looking at the three core international drug conventions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They are treaties that are sometimes seen as precluding decriminalisation or moves away from ‘restrictive’ drug policies. Upon analysis, however, this is not the case. Four broad conclusions are made: 

  • There is nothing in international law to prohibit Colombia decriminalising possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use if it were found that to criminalise such possession would be unconstitutional
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does not require criminalisation and there is a question mark about whether criminalisation for personal possession is an ‘appropriate measure’ for the purposes of the Convention.
  • Tests of proportionality and arbitrariness require scrutiny of criminal laws applied to drug use.
  • The burden of proof is on the State to justify criminalisation

Source: IHRA 

HCLU Film 2010 

In 2010 HCLU produced 127 videos. There are 91 foreign language (English or Russian) and 36 Hungarian language videos. Besides drug policy, we produced many interesting films in the fields of HIV/AIDS and human rights, disability rights, freedom of speech and freedom of information, and within the framework of the HCLU's roma program on the issues of roma rights. All our films from 2010 are available from this picture illustrated portfolio.

You can download the portfolio here. You can view all the non-hungarian language films and subtitled Hungarian language films on this page, and you can find all the hungarian ones and those that are subtitled to Hungarian, here. The full database of our films and subtitles with streaming and download links in English can be found here, and in Hungarian here.

Source: HCLU

Reuters: Activists push for heroin help in U.N. Russia visit 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will meet President Dmitry Medvedev, government officials and around 60 rights campaigners during a five-day visit to Moscow. 

"This is a national health crisis and a human rights priority in Russia that must be raised at the highest levels," said senior human rights analyst Damon Barrett from the London-based International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA).

The IHRA and 16 other HIV-focused rights organizations have sent a letter to Pillay asking her to push for HIV/AIDS and drug-fighting measures including the introduction of methadone, during her meetings with Russian government.

The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) says Russia has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world, fueled up to three million heroin addicts, many of whom use dirty needles, local health organizations say.

Unlike most countries, Russia refuses to finance harm reduction programs such as needle exchanges, or to legalize the replacement drug methadone.

The Health Ministry says there is no proof methadone is effective, while the country's top doctor Gennady Onishchenko has called methadone "just another narcotic."

"The fact that the government's policy is so incomprehensible is what makes it so frustrating," Barrett said.

The WHO says there are a million HIV-positive people in Russia, and deems methadone essential in fighting the epidemic.

Source: IHRA

Nominations invited for HR: 2011 IHRA Awards

Nominations are invited for the following IHRA awards to be announced at the Harm Reduction 2011 conference being held in Beirut in April 2011.

The International Rolleston Award

  • The National Rolleston Award
  • The Carol and Travis Jenkins Award
  • The Film Festival Award

Each year, IHRA presents these awards to organisations, groups or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to reducing harm from psychoactive substances. These contributions may include work on:

  • Harm reduction programs
  • Harm reduction practice
  • Harm reduction policy
  • Harm reduction teaching and training
  • Science, research or critical thinking relevant to harm reduction
  • Advocacy for harm reduction
  • Provision of funding or resources for harm reduction

To learn more about the categories, please follow this link

Source: IHRA 

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls for drug law reform and specialised harm reduction for children at risk

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child last week issued strong recommendations calling for “specialised and youth-friendly drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services for children and young people” and amending “laws that criminalise children for possession or use of drugs” which may “impede access to such services”.

The recommendations were made to the Government of Ukraine during the country’s periodic review process at the 56th session of the Committee. The Concluding Observations, reproduced here (and available at the Committee’s website) are an important addition to jurisprudence relating to children and drug use.

Source: International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy

Join the Drug User Peace Initiative

The spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people are all a direct result of completely misguided policies driven by dogma. The International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) calls for an end to this war on our people and for a new period of peace and intelligent open debate.

To join the Drugs User Peace Initiative, please follow this link

Source: INPUD

The Lancet: Drugs and harm to society 

David Nutt and colleagues point out the extent of harm that alcohol does to individuals and to society. In countries with an established market economy, alcohol accounts for 10·3% of disability-adjusted life-years (second only to tobacco, with 11·7%).

Relevant also in recessionary times, alcohol has been estimated to cost the UK economy £55·1 billion annually (amounting over 15 years to the entire UK deficit). We believe the most important message from this study is therefore the urgent need for more action on the harm caused both to the individual and to society by alcohol.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Lancet

Homelessness: charities face 30% funding cuts 

How bad are the cuts to homelessness services in the UK? The latest survey compiled by Homelessness Link, based on returns from 400 charities, suggest that one fifth of the 44,000 of hostel beds in England will be lost after 1 April.

That's a slight improvement on its initial survey, carried out over a fortnight ago, which estimated a quarter of all beds were under threat.

The overall financial situation, however, seems to be getting worse: homeless charities say they expect to lose 30% of their funding from councils from April. In some part of the country, says Homeless Link, those figures will be higher, perhaps as high as 30-40%. In a letter to the prime minister, David Cameron, it points out:

"The situation is urgent. If nothing changes, the risk is that we lose a substantial proportion of the services that catch people as they fall into homelessness. At this point in the economic cycle there is a high risk of increased flows into homelessness. As a nation it is vital to strengthen, not weaken, the services that can prevent this and catch people before they spiral into deep decline."

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Guardian 

The addled priorities of US drugs policy

If you still doubt that the war on drugs has completely warped American law enforcement priorities, look at Camden, New Jersey, poorest city in the state and second most dangerous city in the US. Last month, Camden laid off nearly half its police force – and raised taxes by 23% – in a desperate attempt to plug a few budget holes. 

Camden's police chief, Scott Thomson, said his reduced force lacks the manpower to investigate every crime in the city, so cops will no longer respond to calls about vandalism, petty theft or car accidents that don't cause injuries or traffic jams. (Incidentally, convincing auto insurance companies to pay accident claims without a police report isn't easy; good luck to Camden's drivers with that.)

Instead, cops will focus on more serious problems like "homicide, gun violence and drug dealing". Murder and violence – with guns or without – definitely warrant police notice, but drug dealing? Camden police keep cracking down on it, even as they let vandals and petty thieves operate at will; a police adviser from Newark suggested Camden ask for DEA assistance to bulk up its narcotics squad.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Guardian 

US considering anti-drug aid plan for CentAm

The Obama administration is considering an anti-drug aid plan exclusively for Central America, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield said Washington would initially put in $200 million to be used just by the seven Central American countries. Authorities say Mexican drug cartels are increasingly transporting Colombian cocaine by land, sea and air to Central America, then to Mexico and on into the U.S.

Brownfield said that the plan aims to enable more collaboration and coordination with Central America in the fight against illegal drugs and that it wouldn't replace aid being given by existing initiatives. The United States currently gives anti-drug aid to Central America through the Merida Initiative, although most of the plan's money goes to Mexico.

For the current fiscal year, the administration has asked Congress to appropriate $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America.

Source: The Washington Post

Human Rights Watch: Ukraine - Stop Targeting Harm Reduction Services 

Human Rights Watch has called on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to cease harassment of drug users and to put an end to the government’s heavy-handed tactics intended to interfere with the evidence-based treatment services. 

The letter outlines numerous abusive practices intended to intimidate patients receiving opiate substitution treatment and hinder the work of HIV organisations. 

The letter states: 'These current heavy-handed tactics appear to be part of an ongoing campaign targeting people who use drugs and those who work with them that worsened in 2010. Police have raided drug treatment clinics; interrogated, fingerprinted, and photographed patients; confiscated medical records and medications; and detained medical personnel in cities nationwide. Many raids appear to have been conducted without probable cause and in violation of Ukraine's rules for police operations. The raids have disrupted treatment, and two doctors are being charged with drug trafficking, an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The entire letter is available in both English and Ukrainian

Source: IHRA

Ban on miaow miaow may have done harm rather than good, report suggests

A survey by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs has revealed that users have noticed little difference in their ability to get hold of mephedrone, which is nicknamed miaow miaow, since it was banned. 

The report, the key findings of which are to be published this week and is the first authoritative survey of mephedrone users since the government added the drug to the list of banned substances in April 2010, reveals that more than half of those questioned had noticed no change in the availability of the drug in their area.

It also shows that 44 per cent of those who have used mephedrone said the ban made them more likely to use the Class A party drug ecstasy instead. Professor David Nutt, a leading psychopahrmacologist who chairs the committee and has been an outspoken critic of the Home Office's approach to tackling recreational drugs which led to him being sacked as head of the government's official drug advisory council, said banning mephedrone did not appear to have been effective.

He warned that the move, which came after mephedrone had been linked to a number of deaths which were later found not to be attributable to the drug, could be driving demand for other new drugs.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Telegraph

The Prospects for Drug Reform: California

The West Coast is a different world when it comes to progress on drug policy reform. Three of the four states most likely to see strong pushes for marijuana legalization in the next couple of years are on the West Coast (the other being Colorado). And medical marijuana is a fact of life from San Diego to Seattle, even if many bruising battles remain, and is certain to be an area of contention in coming years.

But it's not just pot politics that makes the West Coast different. The region has also been a pioneer in sentencing reform and harm reduction practices, even if countervailing forces remain strong and both policy areas remain contested terrain.

And the fact that all three states are initiative and referendum states adds another dimension to the politics of drug reform. In all three states, the initiative process has been an important vehicle for drug reform, although it has also been used for anti-reform efforts, most notably with Oregon sentencing initiatives.

Will the West Coast continue to be the drug reform vanguard? Here, we look at the prospects for reform in four broad areas -- medical marijuana, marijuana legalization or decriminalization, drug sentencing reform, and the enactment of harm reduction practices -- and assess where the reform movement can most productively apply its energies. We also attempt to identify areas and issues around which larger coalitions can be formed to advance drug policy and criminal justice reform objectives.

To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Iran Declares War on Meth

Already faced with one of the world's highest levels of opiate use, Iran is now confronting a new drug: methamphetamine. The Islamic Republic has responded with intensified law enforcement efforts and, last month, amended its drug law so that for the first time it now imposes harsh penalties for possessing, manufacturing, or trafficking synthetic drugs, including meth and other amphetamines.

Under the amended Dangerous Drug Act, people caught with more than fifty grams (less than two ounces) of synthetic drugs could face a death sentence if convicted. Iran already imposes the death penalty for people caught in possession of more than five kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin.

For the synthetics, however, it will take a second conviction to merit a sentence of either life in prison or death by hanging. First offenders will be fined and jailed. Iran is already one of the world's most prolific drug offender executioners. Dozens go the gallows for drug offenses each year, and this year, Iran is on an especially blistering pace. At least 56 people were executed for drug offenses in January alone.

Iranian police have not been waiting for the new law to crack down. In a statement to media late last month, anti-drug police said they had seized 129 meth labs and 1,151 kilos of meth since March. Hamid Rez Hossein-Abadi, the head of the anti-drug police, added that more than 20,000 people had been arrested for meth offenses in the same time period.

Source: Stop the Drug War

2010 NYC Marijuana Arrest Numbers Released: 50,383 New Yorkers Arrested for Possessing Small Amounts of Marijuana

Recently released figures by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services show that in 2010, the New York City Police Department arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses. Arrests for low-level marijuana possession offenses are the number one arrest in New York City, making up 15 percent of all arrests. On average, nearly 140 people are arrested every day for marijuana possession in NYC, making the Big Apple the "Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World."

This dramatic rise in marijuana arrests is not the result of increased marijuana use, which peaked nationally around 1980 according to data collected by the U.S. government.  Over the last twenty years, NYPD has quietly made arrests for marijuana their top enforcement priority, without public acknowledgement or debate. This is the sixth year in a row with an increase in marijuana possession arrests. In 2005, there were 29,752 such arrests, and in 2010, there were 50,383, a 69 percent increase. Since Michael Bloomberg came into office in 2002, there have been 350,000 arrests for low-level marijuana offenses in NYC. 

Most people arrested for marijuana possession offenses are handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted and photographed, held in jail for 24 hours or more and then arraigned before a judge. Almost 70 percent of those arrested are younger than 30 years old. 86 percent of those arrested are Black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates.

To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance 

Drug Rehab Treatment: America's Broken System 

Any doctor will tell you, there are no guarantees with addiction. All we can do is give people the best shot at treatment, and sadly, right now, our system is failing at that. 

When Charlie Sheen finally entered rehab, it wasn't terribly shocking news. But what most people did find surprising was that instead of checking into a swanky Malibu treatment center as he has done in the past, Sheen opted to receive in-home rehab. Immediately the media began criticizing his choice and questioning his commitment to getting sober. 

There are undoubtedly certain challenges related to in-home rehab, but are you really guaranteed better care if you check into a treatment center? Absolutely not, thanks to the lack of standardization in our current rehab system. 

With a lax application process for state licensure and certification, there is little accountability placed on facilities, or their ownership, to ensure proper treatment is being offered. With more than 12,000 rehab centers in the country, the odds of finding the one that best fits your needs are next to impossible. When treatment fails, which it often does, it is then assumed to be the addict who failed, when in reality it was often the addict who was failed by a flawed system. 

To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Alternet

Christian GP sacked as Government drugs adviser over views on homosexuality

Dr Hans-Christian Raabe was dismissed from his role on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on the grounds that he had failed to inform officials about his views on homosexuality.

The Manchester family GP, who is said to take a hard line against cannabis, said he had been “sacrificed on the altar of political correctness”. Drugs campaigners also said they were appalled at the decision.

The Home Office confirmed Dr Raabe, who was appointed to the ACMD by James Brokenshire, drugs minister, had been dismissed. Officials will on Monday confirm he will not continue with the unpaid, three-year post and recruiting for a new adviser will begin shortly. 

Sources said he had been sacked after not “disclosing” his 2005 paper, which had linked homosexuality to child sex offences, during interviews for the role.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Telegraph

Complicity or Abolition? The Death Penalty and International Support for Drug Enforcement

Released in June 2010 - Complicity or Abolition? The Death Penalty and International Support for Drug Enforcement - exposes the links between the carrying out of executions and the financial contributions from European governments, the European Commission and the UNODC to support drug enforcement operations in countries that use the death penalty such as China, Iran and Viet Nam.

The report notes that such operations continue to be funded without appropriate safeguards despite the fact that the abolition of the death penalty is a requirement of entry into the Council of Europe and the European Union and that the United Nations advocates strongly against capital punishment.

At least thirty-two countries maintain the death penalty for drug offences, although the enthusiasm with which they implement these laws varies significantly. The report identifies European and UNODC supported drug enforcement projects in death penalty countries such Iran, Viet Nam and China.

Complicity or Abolition Report

Source: IHRA

The Disastrous War on Drugs Turns 40: How Do We Stop the Madness?

It's hard to believe that Americans have spent roughly a trillion dollars (give or take a few hundred million) on this forty-year war.

Hard to believe that tens of millions have been arrested, and many millions locked up in jails and prisons, for committing nonviolent acts that were not even crimes a century ago.

Hard to believe that the number of people incarcerated on drug charges increased more than ten times even as the country's population grew by only half.

Hard to believe that millions of Americans have been deprived of the right to vote not because they killed a fellow citizen or betrayed their country but simply because they bought, sold, produced or simply possessed a psychoactive plant or chemical.

And hard to believe that hundreds of thousands of Americans have been allowed to die -- of overdoses, AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases -- because the drug war blocked and even prohibited treating addiction to certain drugs as a health problem rather than a criminal one.

Reflect we must on not just the consequences of this war at home but abroad as well. The prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption in Mexico today resemble Chicago during alcohol Prohibition -- times fifty.

Parts of Central America are even more out of control, and many Caribbean nations can only hope that they are not next.

The illegal opium and heroin markets in Afghanistan reportedly account for one-third to half of the country's GDP.

In Africa, prohibitionist profiteering, trafficking and corruption are spreading rapidly.

As for South America and Asia, just pick a moment and a country -- and the stories are much the same, from Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil to Pakistan, Laos, Burma and Thailand.

Wars can be costly -- in money, rights and lives -- but still necessary to defend national sovereignty and core values. It's impossible to make that case on behalf of the war on drugs.

To learn more please follow this link

Source: Alternet

Psychedelics, Spirituality, and Transformation

The California ballot initiative for partial marijuana legalization (Proposition 19) may have been defeated for the moment, but nevertheless more than four million voters said "yes" to it. Between the recent reduction in California's penalties for use -- now reduced to a fine for possession of under an ounce of marijuana -- and the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, clearly the times are a-changin'.

There are many hundreds of thousands of certified medical marijuana users in California, and twelve other states now have some reduction in marijuana criminalization as well. With scientific research into the clinical effects of psychedelics also burgeoning and a growing number of papers indicating benefit for various psychiatric conditions (post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, terminal illnesses, and drug addiction), thereby bolstering historic claims for clinical utility, and with the horrific costs of failed prohibition more and more obvious to the public, decriminalization -- if not legalization -- has become more of a possibility.

With this as background, it is imperative to undertake a public reevaluation of where we are with respect to psychedelic use, its risks, and its potential to support personal, spiritual, and cultural transformation. Psychoactive substance-induced alteration of consciousness is ages old, the specific history dependent on humans' particular geographic location and corresponding native plant habitats. The remarkable discovery, perpetuation, refinement of use, and sacralization of psychoactive substances in early and stone age cultures testifies to the timeless human interest in transcending "ordinary" historical and cultural realities.

To learn more please follow this link

Source: Tikkun Magazine

For Some Troops, Powerful Drug Cocktails Have Deadly Results

In his last months alive, Senior Airman Anthony Mena rarely left home without a backpack filled with medications.

He returned from his second deployment to Iraq complaining of back pain, insomnia, anxiety and nightmares. Doctors diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed powerful cocktails of psychiatric drugs and narcotics.

Yet his pain only deepened, as did his depression. “I have almost given up hope,” he told a doctor in 2008, medical records show. “I should have died in Iraq.” 

Airman Mena died instead in his Albuquerque apartment, on July 21, 2009, five months after leaving the Air Force on a medical discharge. A toxicologist found eight prescription medications in his blood, including three antidepressants, a sedative, a sleeping pill and two potent painkillers.

Yet his death was no suicide, the medical examiner concluded. What killed Airman Mena was not an overdose of any one drug, but the interaction of many. He was 23.

To learn more please follow this link

Source: New York Times

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData