oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 17th 2011

We lead this week's Report with an HCLU study on the risks related to blood borne and sexually transmitted infections and drug use in the Hungarian prison system, based on interviews with formerly incarcerated injecting drug users. Also in this week's edition, news from Ireland where Sinn Fein have initiated an evidence based approach to drug policy; and some short films from Denmark, the Czech Republic and Mexico ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
18 January 2011

Prison and Risks 

The HCLU presents its study on risks related to blood borne and sexually transmitted infections and drug use in the Hungarian prison system, based on interviews with formerly incarcerated injecting drug users.

The study summarizes the findings of in depth interviews with 15 former inmate injecting drug users, conducted by the Drug Prevention Foundation in Budapest. The study is meant to be a reader, in which interviewees tell their stories from behind the prison walls in their own words.

In the research qualitative method was used; therefore it is not representative of the current situation in Hungarian prisons. It is the sum of the experiences had by a high-risk group during their incarceration. The findings in this study however show us a detailed insight on potential risky behaviors inside prisons, which allow adjusting and improving the methods to prevent and manage these risks accordingly.

You can read or download the study here.

Source: Drug Reporter

Sinn Fein Initiates Reform in Ireland

Sinn Féin, Ireland’s fastest growing political party, has taken several steps to encourage a more effective, evidence-based approach to tackling the problems of drug addiction and drug-related crime.In its most recent drug policy document, Sinn Féin demonstrates a welcome and pragmatic understanding of the factors influencing drug abuse, stating:

“Harmful drug use has a complex relationship with class, inequality and poverty. Unless poverty and inequality are tackled, the scourge of drugs will continue.”

The party’s reasoned stance on drug use continues with the call for a drug policy which is founded on facts rather than ideology:

“The administration of criminal justice as it interacts with drug-related crime should be reviewed, reformed and tailored to more effectively address and reduce systemic crime, economic compulsive crime and psychopharmacological crime. A broad societal debate considering every possible approach and all relevant evidence from other jurisdictions including those that have experimented with decriminalization and/or legalization is warranted to this end.

Sinn Féin has further indicated its willingness to embrace drug policy reform with the introduction of a bill to regulate the sale of ‘legal highs’. The bill proposes the establishment of a Non-Medicinal Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, whose main functions would be: 

  • To formulate and publish rules for the issuing of licenses to those involved in the retail, distribution, import and production of non-medicinal psychoactive substances
  • To establish and maintain a publicly available register of those licensed to engage in the sale, importation, distribution and production of non-medicinal psychoactive substances
  • To conduct or otherwise instigate inspections of licensees’ premises, products and any property connected to the sale, distribution, importation and production of non-medicinal psychoactive substances

Source: Transform

Joint ventures: is California's $14 billion marijuana industry the next Silicon Valley? A couple of cocky "hempreneurs" with dreams of a pot-store franchise and an IPO are betting on it

ON A SUNDAY IN EARLY OCTOBER, Dhar Mann threw a party at weGrow, his hydroponic marijuana superstore in Oakland, California. Trailed by a three-person video crew from Hempire, the reality-show pilot he's costarring in, Mann gave sound bites to a pack of reporters as he strutted past Ikea-style displays showcasing products for every stage of indoor cannabis cultivation--from Sun Pulse lightbulbs to $700 grow tents and Bud Candy plant nutrients. "It's the whole supply chain," said the fauxhawked 26-year-old, self-assured in a tailored gray suit and red silk tie.

Mann stopped to talk to a wholesaler who said his bongs would nicely complement the West Elm couches, hardwood coffee tables, and Afghan rugs decorating weGrow's cozy smoking paraphernalia showroom. "I want a whole variety of products like this," Mann told the bong guy enthusiastically, "because that's what makes us different from any other hydro store."

Two years ago, Mann says, he had never seen a pot plant. Today, he envisions weGrow becoming the "Wal-Mart of Weed," a vertically integrated chain of big-box stores perfectly positioned to cash in on California's booming marijuana industry as it moves from the shadows to the mainstream. In this "green rush" for semi-legal weed, Mann and his partner Derek Peterson, a 36-year-old investment banker, seek to be the modern equivalents of Levi Strauss and Samuel Brannan--the Gold Rush entrepreneurs who made a killing not from mining, but from selling pans, pickaxes, and victuals to the forty-niners.

Like Mann and Peterson, Oakland has come to embrace the financial side effects of medical marijuana. The city recently approved a package of permits and taxes for pot-related businesses that it estimates could bring in more than $10 million annually. WeGrow has already caught the eye of local politicians, including Jean Quan, a city council member who was elected mayor in November. On a stage outside the warehouse, Quan commended the company: "I want to congratulate Derek and Dhar. And I want to say that this is just probably the first step in California and perhaps the rest of the nation."

To read more, please follow this link

Source: BNET

Gov. Brown Backs Long-Sought Criminal Justice Realignment to Protect Public Safety and California Tax Dollars

In his proposed 2011-12 state budget released today, Governor Jerry Brown is urging structural changes to the state's corrections system that advocates say will reduce both crime and waste. The proposals include authorizing counties to handle people convicted of "nonviolent, non-serious, non-sex offenses, and without any previous convictions for such offenses," according to budget documents.

"Governor Brown set an important tone today and made it clear that our expensive state prisons should be reserved for people convicted of serious offenses, not for everyone who's ever made a mistake," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in Southern California. "California is expected to save $500 million a year by handling more petty offenses, including low-level drug possession, at the county level. We think the savings would be even greater if drug treatment were made more available in the community. Under the plan, counties would have that option."

In both 2009 and 2010, Sacramento announced over $1 billion in unspecified cuts to corrections but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is expected to have exceeded its budget in both of those years. If the legislature accepts the governor's current proposal, CDCR spending in 2011-12 would be equivalent to that of 2010-11. Savings would come from keeping more people convicted of low-level offenses at the county level; additional costs would come from more realistic accounting of department costs, particularly in health care provision. Unfortunately, the plan released today includes further cuts to inmate education and drug treatment programs, which have been devastated in recent years.

"What Governor Brown presented today was a plan to work with counties to develop and implement long-fought-for systemic changes to corrections in this state," Dooley-Sammuli added. "We're eager to see this realignment come with resources so that local governments have what they need to implement sound public safety policies and programs. Investing in drug treatment makes good public safety and economic sense. We look forward to working with Sacramento to implement these reforms in a financially sustainable way."

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Watch Speakers from Transform’s ‘Ending the War on Drugs’ Event

Transform have now uploaded footage of the speakers at their 'Ending the War on Drugs' event which has held in November in London.

This was a really successful event, with some great speeches from a range of people who each provided their own particular insight into the so-called 'War on Drugs'. Below, watch the first speaker, award winning documentary maker Angus MacQueen.

Angus MacQueen speaking at Transform Event from Transform on Vimeo.

Source: Transform

Drug Related Deaths – Setting up a Local Review Process

The NTA has (5 January 2011) published an updated guide on setting up a local review process into drug-related deaths.

The document contains ideas and examples of local areas investigating and reviewing the causes of drug-related deaths. All are drawn from existing local systems in England. The document also takes partnerships through the chain of decisions they will want to consider in setting up their own review processes, or improving an existing process.

Further information

Source: National Treatment Agency 

UNODC and Mongolia to increase cooperation in fight against crime and drugs in East and Central Asia

Vienna. 17 January 2011. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov and the Minister of Justice and Home Affairs of Mongolia, Nyamdorj Tsend, today agreed to strengthen cooperation on the interrelated areas of drug control, crime prevention and international terrorism in East and Central Asia.

Mr. Fedotov noted: "Our increased cooperation is an important step in moving toward further tackling the threat of drugs, crime and terrorism. Not only are these considered grave dangers to the region and further afield, but they also present real issues to Mongolia's development and human security".

UNODC's Executive Director Mr. Fedotov and the Minister, Mr. Nyamdorj signed a Joint Statement on their cooperation. Mr. Nyamdorj's working visit follows meetings last year between UNODC and Mongolia's Prime Minister, Sükhbaataryn Batbold, which focused on cooperation around drug control and crime prevention, fighting money laundering and financial crimes, and building capacity of law enforcement in the country. Today's meeting also served as the basis for an assessment team mission which is expected to be undertaken at the end of the first quarter 2011.

Mr. Nyamdorj expressed appreciation to UNODC for its efforts and leadership in fighting illicit drug trafficking and other forms of international crime, and emphasised the importance that the Government attached in further promoting cooperation in the areas of tackling corruption and human trafficking.

As a global leader in the fight against the various aspects of international crime, UNODC will be working closely with Mongolian authorities to tackle illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, transnational organized crime, corruption and financial crimes through the exchange of information, experts, and support. A key component of this partnership will be assisting the Mongolian Government in aligning national laws and regulations with international treaties that the country is party to.

Source: UNODC

Drug Prohibition Violence in Mexico: The Austin Session

The HCLU's video advocacy team filmed some presentations on the consequences of the drug war in Mexico, at the Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas, on November 19, 2010. The first appears below, but to see all of these informative films, please follow this link

Border Violence: Mexico, Southwest United States & Drug Policy by William Martin, from the Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, Houston, TX

William Martin -- Border Violence: Mexico, Southwest United States & Drug Policy from Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on Vimeo.

Source: Drug Reporter

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch: Global drugs policy in 2010 

Watch the full length presentation by the head of OSI's Global Drug Policy Program, that was recorded at the "Urban Drug Policies in the Globalized World" Conference in Prague, 30th September 2010.

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch -- Global drugs policy in 2010 from Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on Vimeo.

Source: Drug Reporter

Sign the petition to save evidence-based drug policy in Hungary! 

The Hungarian government took over the EU presidency - please remind them to follow the principles of evidence-based EU policies!

A few weeks before it took over the EU presidency, the Hungarian government announced that it does not support the country's national drug strategy because they say it's based on "drug liberalization and harm reduction" - even though the document is supported by the vast majority of professionals and civil society organizations and it is fully in line with the EU drug strategy. In addition, the national drug coordinator was dismissed, the National Drug Prevention Institute was abolished and the drug budget was significantly cut. 

Your Hungarian peers need your help – we should direct international attention to our problems in order to put pressure on the Hungarian government to listen to us and return to the values of a balanced, evidence-based drug policy.

PLEASE SUPPORT HUNGARIAN NGOs by signing our petition, which can be found at this link

Source: Drug Reporter

Drug Policy During the Obama Administration: An Assessment 

Watch the full length video of the analysis by Ethan Nadelmann, presented at the 8th National Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, USA. UPDATE - Now with full text transcription!

The HCLU's video advocacy team filmed the presentation of the Drug Policy Alliance's Executive Director, Ethan Nadelmann, at the Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas, on November 18, 2010

Ethan Nadelmann -- Drug Policy During the Obama Administration: An Assessment from Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on Vimeo.

the full transcript is available here for those who would prefer to read the speach. 

Source: Drug Reporter

Waiting for a Legal Dose 

HCLU and the Danish Street Lawyers present you their new short movie about the introduction of heroin maintenance to Denmark

In February 2008 the Danish parliament made an almost unanimous decision to launch a 9,5 Million € medical heroin maintenance project. This decision put an end to a 15 years long debate on how to treat those “hard core” heroin users who do not want or who cannot abstain from using heroin for a longer period of time.

Denmark is the first country where decision makers introduced heroin maintenance as a permanent service without a trial.

Source: European Drug Policy Initiative

Surprise - Drug War Now Killing More People than War in Afghanistan 

In Afghanistan, more than 140,000 US and NATO are in the ninth year of a guerrilla war with thousands of Taliban fighters flush with profits from the opium trade, while in Mexico, more than 50,000 federal troops are engaged in the fourth year of a fight with the so-called cartels, who are also at war with each other.

In Afghanistan, interior ministry spokesman Zemari Bashary told reporters January 1 that more than 10,000 people, about one-fifth of them civilians, died in the fighting last year. He put the number of civilians, police, and insurgents killed at 8,560, while an additional 810 Afghan soldiers died. According to the independent web site icasualties.org, another 711 Western troops were killed in Afghanistan last year. That figure includes 499 US troops, 103 British troops, and 109 soldiers from other NATO countries.

The total dead from the Afghan war last year is thus 10,081, including 2,043 civilians killed either in Taliban attacks or in military operations targeting the insurgents. Nearly 1,300 Afghan police were killed battling the Taliban, while 5,225 insurgents were reported killed. 

Although the conflict in Afghanistan is a full-fledged guerrilla conflict replete with air power, heavy weapons, and numerous roadside bombs, it has still been less deadly than the Mexican drug war. Definitive numbers are hard to come by, but Agence France-Presse put the year's death toll at more than 15,000 and CNN estimated 13,000. In mid-December, the Mexican attorney general's office reported that 12,456 people had been killed through the end of November. Given that rate of more than 1,000 killed a month in 2010, a year end figure of more than 13,000 seems entirely reasonable.

In the case of Afghanistan, it has taken a full-blown guerrilla war pitting the world's most powerful military and its allies against a tenacious homegrown insurgency to ratchet the annual death toll up over 10,000. In Mexico, all it has taken is drug prohibition and the all-too-foreseeable emergence of organized crime forces feeding off it.

Source: AlterNet

Welfare Drug Testing Bill Introduced in Nebraska

Under a recent Bill introduced by state Sen. Charlie Janssen (Fremont-Nonpartisan), Nebraska residents applying for or receiving welfare benefits could be subject to drug testing and the loss of their benefits if they test positive.

The bill, LB 2221, would direct the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop a program to screen welfare applicants or recipients for the presence of controlled substances if the department has "reasonable cause" to think they may be using drugs. "Reasonable cause" is not defined.

If applicants or recipients test positive, they are entitled to an administrative hearing to determine whether the drug test is accurate. If the drug test result is deemed accurate at the hearing, the department "shall declare the applicant or recipient ineligible for such cash benefits for a period of one year from the date of such a determination." The person would also be referred to a drug treatment program.

Bills requiring welfare recipients or recipients of unemployment benefits to be subject to drug testing are a perennial favorite with pseudo-populist politicians, but in recent years have all gone nowhere. One reason is the cost of drug testing thousands or tens of thousands of people; another is because of their questionable constitutionality. The only welfare drug testing bill to pass in recent years was a 1998 bill in Michigan, but that bill was never implemented before being ruled unconstitutional by a US appeals court in 2003.

Janssen rose to national prominence as an advocate of tough local anti-illegal immigration laws in Fremont, Nebraska

Source: Stop the Drug War

Did You Know? Increasing Prison Costs and Overcrowding, on DrugWarFacts.org

DrugWarFacts.org, a publication of Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP), is an in-depth compilation of key facts, stats and quotes on the full range of drug policy issues, excerpted from expert publications on the subjects. The Chronicle is running a series of info items from DrugWarFacts.org over the next several weeks, and we encourage you to check it out.

Did you know that 23 states' prison systems are operating at over 100% capacity? "The increases in drug imprisonment, the decrease in releases from prison, and re-incarceration for technical parole violations are leading to significant overcrowding and the growing costs of prisons. Prisons are stretched beyond capacity, creating dangerous and unconstitutional conditions which often result in costly lawsuits. In 2006, 40 out of 50 states were at 90 percent capacity or more, with 23 of those states operating at over 100 percent capacity."

(Justice Policy Institute, "Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety," May 2009, via the DrugWarFacts.org Prisons and Drug Offenders chapter.) 

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from DrugWarFacts.org over the next several weeks, or sign up for the DWF new facts RSS feed.

Common Sense for Drug Policy is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reforming drug policy and expanding harm reduction. CSDP disseminates factual information and comments on existing laws, policies and practices.

Source: Stop the Drug War

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