oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of July 24th 2011

This report is dedicated to the memory of Amy Winehouse, who tragically passed away yesterday. As we mourn the loss of so talented a musician, let us also pay tribute to and remember the many millions of vulnerable, marginalised and stigmatised people who have died drug related deaths; and human cost of the failed war on drugs ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
24 July 2011

Mexico and the Americas

Mexican attorney general shakes up ranks 

Less than four months in office, Mexico's attorney general has overseen the firing of 140 police officers and investigators and has more than 280 others under investigation. 

Attorney General Marisela Morales told reporters this week that 424 personnel were in dismissal proceedings, and a report obtained by CNN confirmed that 140 have already been let go.

The shake-up at the attorney general's office, which plays a pivotal role in the country's fight against the drug cartels, is the most public show of transparency in recent history. To learn more please follow this link

Source: CNN

Mexico: collusion between drugs gangs and police must be investigated 

Amnesty International has urged the Mexican government to thoroughly investigate links between drug and criminal gangs and public officials, following the arrest this week of 16 police officers accused of working with gang members responsible for mass killings near the US border.

More than 120 bodies have been found in the last 10 days alone in mass graves in Tamaulipas state, on a route used by migrants travelling to the USA.

Amnesty has repeatedly documented collusion between criminal gangs and public officials in abuses committed against migrants and others, but officials are rarely prosecuted for human rights violations. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Amnesty International

Guatemala President Wants "NATO-Style" Force to Battle Narcos

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said Central American countries threatened by Mexican drug cartels should lobby for the creation of a regional NATO-style military force in an interview with the Financial Times Wednesday. The center-left politician said only a combined regional military force and improved intelligence could thwart the power of the violent and well-armed drug trafficking organizations.

Guatemala and other Central American nations form a transit corridor for South American cocaine destined for North American markets, an industry estimated to be worth as much as $40 billion a year. Mexican cartels seeking to expand their operations or fleeing the pressure cooker of the vicious drug war at home have moved into those small, relatively weak neighbors, with the Zetas in particular establishing a presence in Guatemala's Peten province.

In May, Zetas killed 27 farm workers at a ranch when they came looking for the owner, who wasn't there. A few days later, Zetas killed and dismembered a Guatemalan prosecutor working on the case. Drugs gangs are suspected in the killing of Facundo Cabral, the celebrated Argentine folk singer, who was gunned down as he headed toward the airport after a Guatemala City concert earlier this month. The attack was believed to be aimed not at Cabral, but at his Guatemalan concert promoter. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Book Review: To Die in Mexico 

In Mexico, journalist John Gibler points out, there is the War on Drugs and then there is the drug war. The War on Drugs is the spectacle -- the well-publicized deployment of troops, the high-level diplomatic meetings, the perp walks of captured capos before the media, all designed to show that the Mexican government is dead serious about confronting the "menace to society" that Mexican drug trafficking organizations, the mislabeled "cartels," represent.

The drug war is what is really going on -- the tens of thousands of murders, the amazing ability of cartel killers to do their dirty work in broad daylight in cities full of police and soldiers and never get arrested, the unending flow of drugs north and guns and cash south, the undeniable collusion between factions of the security apparatus and different cartels, all within the context of a nation unable to provide safety or security for its citizens.

The Mexican War on Drugs is little more than a charade, or, as Gibler puts it, "a terrifying farce." And it is a charade in which the US is complicit. Our government is handing out $1.4 billion in Plan Merida funds, most of it going to the Mexican military and law enforcement apparatus to "strengthen institutions." But those institutions our money is supposed to strengthen -- the army, the national police -- are precisely the ones complicit in the drug wars. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Treaty guardians in distress: The inquisitorial nature of the INCB response to Bolivia

Just when you start to see glimmers of hope that the troubled UN drug control system is opening up for a change process, its principal guardian the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) does it again… In a press release on July 5, the INCB secretariat condemned Bolivia’s decision to denounce the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and re-accede with a reservation on the coca leaf.

Versione italiana: La Bolivia sotto Inquisizione 

“The international community should not accept any approach whereby Governments use the mechanism of denunciation and re-accession with reservation, in order to free themselves from the obligation to implement certain treaty provisions. Such approach would undermine the integrity of the global drug control system” according to the INCB, warning Bolivia “to consider very seriously all the implications of its actions in this regard”.

Past years have brought about some positive steps forward in the way the UN system struggles with drug policy dilemmas. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) took up a more pro-active role in the policy debate with papers such as “fit for purpose” and its World Drug Report has started to become more evidence-based. The tension between human rights and drug control has appeared – with difficulty – on the agenda, and other UN agencies and Special Rapporteurs have started to pay more attention to what is going on within the secluded drug control corner of the UN system dominated by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), UNODC and INCB. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Transnational Institute

Crack hits Brazil late but hard, and despite booming economy, funds for a fight back are scarce 

RIO DE JANEIRO — In the dark before dawn, social workers advance slowly down a narrow road dividing two vast slums, entering a landscape of littered streets and broken-down shacks, where an open-air crack cocaine market does business among piles of rubble.

Escorted by police through this “cracolandia,” or crackland, they look behind cardboard lean-tos, in corners hidden by overgrown weeds for drug users who emerge, dazed, from ragged blankets. Some fight and run. One frantic young woman, her pregnant belly bulging under her short top, starts crying and pulling at her hair as police officers securing the area try to pacify her. 

About two decades after the U.S. emerged from the worst of its own crack epidemic, Brazilian authorities are watching the cheap drug spread across this country of 190 million people. They have far fewer resources to deal with it, despite a booming economy that expanded 7.5 percent last year. No corner of Brazil has been spared. A recent survey by the National Federation of Counties found 98 percent of them had registered traffic or consumption of crack. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Washington Post 


Thailand's "war on drugs" heats up 

Thailand is set for a new “war on drugs” as addiction rates increase and the country’s new president hints at a hard line stance.

The equivalent of one in every sixty citizens in Thailand is a methamphetamine user, the head of the country's anti-drug police told the Guardian. Around 1.1 million Thais will use the drug this year. The number of users has soared by 100,000 annually over the last five to six years, said Lieutenant-General Atitep Panjamanond.

The drug, which commonly comes in tablet form is known to make many users violent and aggressive, and is particularly prevalent in on Thai building and laboring sites, where the work is gruel ling and physically tough.

While the increase in drug use has alarmed Thai police, politicians and the public, there are human rights concerns about how Thailand deals with drug issues. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Global Post 

Thailand: Make Human Rights a Priority 

(Bangkok) - Thailand's political parties and newly elected members of parliament should make human rights a priority following general elections scheduled for July 3, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today.

During the election campaign, parties and candidates paid little attention to the country's deepening human rights crisis, particularly the lack of accountability for the violent confrontations in April and May 2010 that left at least 90 people dead. Other major concerns are the increasing repression of the media, and killings in the south and in the "war on drugs." 

"The violence and abuses since 2010 demand that Thai political parties put forward a strong human rights agenda," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "But while speaking broadly about the need for reconciliation, they have failed miserably to present any concrete plans on how to reverse the continuing repression of basic rights."

Source: Human Rights Watch

Cambodia’s Alarming New Drug Law 

Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen last week approved a controversial new drug law that opens the door to rampant human rights violations. The legislation, which is expected to be signed into law within the next few weeks, will force drug users in the Asian nation into involuntary treatment for up to two years. Most of those who are detained will find themselves in facilities where detainees report that beatings, forced labor, and rape are commonplace. 

Beyond compulsory treatment, other troubling provisions in the law include one that defines a drug addict as any person who “consumes drugs and is under the influence of drugs.”  Moreover, two of the most effective public health interventions for drug users—harm reduction and needle-exchange programs—are not protected from prosecution.

Government officials in Cambodia have argued the country needs tough policies to curb drug use, but human rights groups have roundly criticized the new law as draconian and abusive. In the interview below, Phnom Penh-based human-rights research consultant Sara Bradford weighs in on what she sees as the new law’s potential impact and what steps critics can take next. What will be the most immediate impact of the new reforms? To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Open Society Foundations

UN warns of new Asia drug surge 

The UN anti-narcotics agency on Thursday sounded the alarm over soaring production and consumption of heroin and new designer drugs that are again making Southeast Asia a major drugs hub.

"The international community seems to have taken its eye off the ball on drug control in Southeast Asia," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 

The agency's World Drug Report 2011 warned that Myanmar has become a prime source of synthetic narcotic methamphetamine which it said is "sweeping" across East Asia.

Source: France 24 

Eastern Europe

Candlelight Vigil at the Russian Embassy in Budapest 

On July 21, the International Drug User Memorial Day, activists gather in several cities of the world to commemorate those who passed away because of the global war on drugs that deprives millions of young people from their human rights, their freedoms, their health and their lives.

This year our Russian friends asked us to organize these memorials at Russian embassies all over the world to urge the government of the Russian Federation to give up its plans to introduce a "total war on drugs" and implement science-based, effective forms of prevention, treatment and harm reduction that respect the human rights of people who use drugs.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) organized a candlelight vigil at the Russian Embassy in Budapest where several international activists (the students of the Summer School on Human Rights and Drug Policy of the Central European University) spoke out against the madness of the war on drugs. Please watch the short video made by Istvan Gabor Takács and share our message with your friends!

Source: Drug Reporter                     

"We are the Keepers of the Light" 

Source: Drug Reporter

Azerbaijan: Youth activist convicted on 'trumped up' drugs charge 

Jabbar Savalan, 19, was sentenced on 4 May 2011 to two and a half years in prison on fabricated drugs charges. We consider him to be a prisoner of conscience, and believe the real reason Jabbar Savalan was convicted was to punish him for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

On 4 February Jabbar had posted on Facebook calling for protests against the government. The next evening he was arrested as he returned home from a meeting of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. After the trial, Jabbar’s lawyer, Anar Gasimov, was threatened by a police officer. To take action please follow this link

Source: Amnesty International

Day of mourning scheduled at Russian Embassies throughout the world 

On the 21st of July, the International Community of People Who Use Drugs will lead a Day of Commemoration for the victims of the War on Drugs at Russian Embassies in a sign of support for individuals living in that country. Russian drugs policies continue to claim thousands of lives every year.

Flowers, signifying the countless victims of the war on drugs, and white slippers, signifying outrage towards the brutal and inhumane relations that characterize drug policies in Russia, will serve as the primary symbols for this event. Russia remains a country devastated by a quickly developing HIV/AIDS epidemic and contains an enormous number of drug users. According to experts, there are currently over 5 million narcotics users in Russia. Everyday, over 150 individuals are newly infected with HIV. 

The majority of these cases are due to a lack of access to clean syringes and needles, as well as a paucity of evidence-based drug treatment strategies such as substitution therapy and other prophylactic measures within the drug user community.  Nearly as many people die everyday from overdoses. Families continue to lose their relatives and loved ones. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC 

United Kingdom 

Health Select Committee Consultation Inquiry into Public Health: Response from DrugScope 

DrugScope welcomes the commitment in the ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’ White Paper that the NHS Constitution will apply in full to public health, including, by implication, the provision of drug and alcohol services. 

There is, however, concern among DrugScope’s membership about the very limited reference to and detail about drug and alcohol services in the recent public health consultation; what is perceived as a lack of adequate engagement with this aspect of public health in planning and preparation in some local areas; and the risk of significant disinvestment in drug and alcohol services and supporting recovery. We note, for example, that in the Government consultation document on outcomes for public health only two of over 60 proposed outcome indicators were directly concerned with drug and alcohol services. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope

Report highlights ketamine risks and long term harms: DrugScope calls for public health response 

The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD), based at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, has published a metareview of existing data and original research into ketamine, produced for the organisation by Dr Celia Morgan and Professor Val Curran.

Ketamine was first introduced as an anaesthetic in 1964 but its hallucinogenic effects quickly made it attractive to recreational drug users.Its recreational use has increased in recent years in many countries throughout the world including the UK and evidence of risks and harms associated with the drug has been emerging, especially among those who develop regular and heavy use patterns or dependency.In response to the report, Ketamine use: a review, DrugScope’s Chief Executive, Martin Barnes, said: 

“We welcome the wealth of information presented in this report, which brings together the latest research on ketamine and its use. Concern has been building for some time about the physical risks associated with ketamine dependency, but this report provides compelling evidence of both the physical and psychological harms associated with the drug, which are particularly acute for those who become heavy or dependent users.” To learn more please follow this link 

Source: DrugScope

Charities warn of ‘devastating impact’ of cuts to young people’s drug and alcohol services 

DrugScope’s Druglink magazine has revealed evidence of the impact of funding cuts on the provision of drug and alcohol services for young people.Drug education and prevention provision for young people delivered in school settings, drug treatment for young people who are already using drugs and alcohol, and support for infrastructure organisations for professionals working in the sector are all affected.

DrugScope and other charities working in the sector are warning that young people experiencing problems with drugs and alcohol will increasingly find it difficult to get support, as services close or reduce their staff numbers.DrugScope can confirm, for example, that a number of young people’s treatment services have already closed in the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, Newham and Merton. In February this year, research published by the Department for Education concluded that young people’s drug treatment is a cost effective intervention, estimating that for every £1 spent on young person’s treatment, between £5 and £8 is saved by the NHS and other agencies.Yet funding cuts are disproportionately affecting support for young people. 

Staff at The Lifeline Project, which provides drug and alcohol treatment services for young people across England, warn that cuts to their services will affect the numbers they are able to support in the future.Addaction, one of the UK’s major treatment providers, has confirmed that some local authorities have imposed funding cuts on their young people’s services of up to 50 per cent.In terms of the long term social and economic costs associated with young people’s drug use, Martin Moran, Director of Young People’s Services at Lifeline said that cuts were “a false economy”; Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive at Addaction, stated that “without timely intervention, severe drug and alcohol problems escalate.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope

Imports of new 'legal high' banned 

From midnight tonight, the UK Border Agency will seize and destroy shipments of phenazepam. The government will also take steps to control the so-called legal high as class C drug when Parliament returns. This follows advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) which recommended that measures are taken at the border to stop it gaining a foot-hold in the UK. Read more about the import ban here.

Minister for crime prevention and antisocial behaviour Baroness Browning said: 'We are committed to tackling emerging new drugs and stopping them gaining a foothold in this country. Banning the importation of this harmful substance and taking steps to control it, sends a clear message to unscrupulous traffickers and dealers trying to start a market here for their dangerous drugs.

'Our law enforcement agencies are already working closely with international partners to prevent drugs reaching our streets in the first place and we are creating a new border policing command as part of the National Crime Agency to better tackle international drug gangs.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: Home Office

ACMD advice on Phenazepam 

Phenazepam is a benzodiazepine drug, (‘street’ names include, ‘Bonsai’ and ‘Bonsai Supersleep’) and it is being sold as a ‘legal high’ on the internet. The ACMD is aware that phenazepam is being sold in various ways: under its own name as a single substance; in combination with dimethocaine (one example ‘brand’ name is ‘Dimethocaine Phenazepam Legal Powder’); and, as a counterfeit for ‘Valium’ (diazepam) on line. Phenazepam is being sold in pure material in powder form and as a 1 mg per ml solution in dropper bottles.

Phenazepam acts as a depressant and was originally developed in the 1970s by the former Soviet Union, and is now produced in Russia and some CIS (The Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. There is no recognised use in the UK. In some countries it is used, although infrequently and not as routine, to treat neurological disorders and epilepsy, and as a premedication prior to surgery as it augments the effects of anesthetics. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Home Office

David Nutt: Review was right to criticise BBC's science coverage 

An independent review of the BBC's science coverage, led by the geneticist Professor Steve Jones, has concluded that journalists have in the past distorted scientific research by giving too much coverage to fringe scientific viewpoints. I read the report with great interest, as I have myself had cause to reflect on the media's science impartiality in relation to several interviews I have done about drug harms and drug treatment policy.

The two most remarkable instances came in radio interviews on current affairs programs. One was after the publication of our recent Lancet paper on the comparative harms of 20 commonly used drugs. The Today programme had asked me for an interview and said they would try to get someone else on to discuss the implications of our findings (the key conclusion was that alcohol is the most harmful drug in the UK today). I asked to be informed of whom I would be up against – the editors agreed. I presume that they had some difficulty finding someone to provide scientific opposition, for it wasn't until just before I went on the program at 8:20am that I heard I was not up against a scientist but a journalist, Peter Hitchens.

The interview was remarkable for several reasons and lead to a high number of complaints from listeners about his behaviour. First he asserted that the study was of very poor scientific quality, for no reason other than that we came to a conclusion he didn't like – that cannabis was not as harmful as alcohol. He continued to harangue and talk over me when I tried to explain our scientific method and interpret the findings... To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian 

North America 

Country Behind Bars: Charles Shaw’s Exile Nation aims to be a complete, 40-year oral history of the War on Drugs 

Charles Shaw spent a year in prison on a drug-possession charge. But then so have a lot of guys. The difference is that Shaw has written a book about his experience, chronicling everything from the therapeutic advantages of drugs to the inefficiency of the prison system.

Armed with a creative writing degree from Boston University, Shaw has taken aim at what put him behind bars: the War on Drugs. His book (subtitled “Drugs, Prisons, Politics and Spirituality”) is available online at Reality Sandwich and in print next year through Counterpoint/ Soft Skull Press.

In the documentary film version of Exile Nation (at the Magic Lantern on Friday night), Shaw creates an oral history of the War on Drugs by interviewing dealers, addicts, sociologists and more. The War on Drugs, he says, is “a mind-boggling crisis that affects every sector of society.”  To learn more please follow this link 

The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs [HD] from Charles B Shaw on Vimeo.

Source: The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Martin Sheen, former TV president, lobbies Congress on drug courts 

Actor Martin Sheen, who portrayed a president on television and is the father of admitted drug user Charlie Sheen, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday to ask Congress for continued support of drug courts, an alternative criminal justice program.

A drug court is a special docket that addresses the cases of nonviolent drug offenders. Members participate in substance abuse treatment programs – usually for at least one year – and are subject to random drug testing. There are currently more than 2,500 drug courts across the country, treating more than 120,000 Americans. 

Drug court advocates contend that the courts help reduce recidivism, reducing the number of people in prison and returning law-abiding, tax-paying citizens to society. Drug court participants reported 25% less criminal activity and had 16% fewer arrests than comparable offenders not enrolled in drug courts, according to a Justice Department study. "It's a deeply personal [issue],” Sheen told reporters after the congressional hearing, adding that "it's no secret I've been through a 12-step program.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: Los Angeles Times

Marijuana for Patients Remains Off-Limits 

Irvina Booker makes a most unlikely criminal. She lives in constant pain, disabled by multiple sclerosis and arthritis, a grandmother whose limited mobility depends on her walker, her daughter andmarijuana.  “I never smoked it before I got sick, and I don’t smoke it for fun,” said Ms. Booker, 59, who lives in Englewood, N.J. She would not divulge how she obtains her marijuana, but said, “I don’t want to be sneaking around, afraid someone is going to get arrested getting it for me.”

Like many people who contend that marijuana eases pain and appetite loss from serious diseases, Ms. Booker cheered in January 2010, when New Jersey legalized its use in cases like hers. But a year and a half later, there is still no state-sanctioned marijuana available for patients, and none being grown, and there is no sign of when there might be.

In the last few months, officials in New Jersey, as well as several other states, have said that mixed signals from the Obama administration have left them unsure whether their medical marijuana programs could draw federal prosecution of the people involved, including state employees.

Source: New York Times

Marijuana May Be Studied for Combat Disorder 

DENVER — For years now, some veterans groups and marijuana advocates have argued that the therapeutic benefits of the drug can help soothe the psychological wounds of battle. But with only anecdotal evidence as support, their claims have yet to gain widespread acceptance in medical circles.

Now, however, researchers are seeking federal approval for what is believed to be the first study to examine the effects of marijuana on veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The proposal, from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, Calif., and a researcher at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, would look at the potential benefits of cannabis by examining 50 combat veterans who suffer from the condition and have not responded to other treatment. To learn more please follow this link

Source: New York Times

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Plans to Let Medical-Marijuana Sales Get Started 

July 19 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he plans to end the suspension on implementing the state’s medical-marijuana program. 

Christie, a first-term Republican and former U.S. prosecutor, told reporters he doesn’t believe federal law- enforcement officials will go after dispensaries of medical marijuana or state workers who help to implement the program. “I believe that the need to provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk we are taking in moving forward with the program,” Christie, 48, said today in Trenton.

Former Governor Jon Corzine, a 64-year-old Democrat whom Christie succeeded, signed a law in 2009 legalizing marijuana for medicinal use in New Jersey by those suffering from cancer, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, and other afflictions. The sale and possession of the drug remains illegal under federal law, even for medical use. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Bloomberg 

Governor Andrew Cuomo Signs 911 Good Samaritan Law to Reduce Drug and Alcohol Overdose Deaths in New York 

New York – Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law bipartisan legislation that seeks to reduce the number of preventable deaths resulting from accidental drug or alcohol overdoses. The bipartisan legislation makes New York the largest state in the country to take aggressive action to curb accidental overdose fatalities by removing barriers to accessing emergency health services.

A national overdose crisis has emerged in recent years as the number of deaths from both illegal and legal drugs has skyrocketed. New York is among the many states where drug overdose fatalities are the number one accidental death, surpassing even motor vehicle deaths. Tragically, most of these deaths are preventable. Although studies indicate that most people overdose in the presence of others, most people do not call for emergency services. 

Numerous studies have show that the number one reason that people don't call 911 in an overdose situation is fear of arrest and criminal prosecution for drug possession. To encourage people to seek emergency health services in the event of an accidental overdose,  New York's 911 Good Samaritan law provides limited protections from charge and prosecution for possession of small amounts of drugs. Those who sell drugs are not protected under the new law. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

"The War On Drugs Hurts America!" Congressman Jared Polis 

Source: YouTube 

Congressman Cohen calls for end to War on Drugs 

Source: YouTube 

Philadelphia’s Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails: Taking Stock of a Year of Change and the Challenges That Remain

The Philadelphia Research Initiative's study, Philadelphia’s Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails, sheds light on dramatic changes within Philadelphia's jail system.  Though the population in Philadelphia's jails quadrupled from 1980 to 2008, in the last few years, the inmate count has dropped in a dramatic way. In 2010 alone, the average daily population declined by 11 percent. Population in the system peaked in January 2009 at 9,787; in June 2011, it stood at 8,048, after falling below 7,700 in the spring. 

As a result, the city’s budget for its jails in Fiscal 2012, at $231 million, is $10 million lower than it was three years ago. The declining population has also contributed to a reduction in the amount of overtime paid to police ($6.4 million over two years) and sheriff’s personnel ($1 million in Fiscal 2011).

As we reported last year in the Philadelphia Research Initiative’s initial look at this topic, Philadelphia’s Crowded, Costly Jails: The Search for Safe Solutions, much of the early reduction in the city’s jail population was due to a change in the state law that forced certain sentenced inmates to serve time in state prisons instead of the city’s jails. But in 2010, which is the focus of this report, the most significant factors in the declining jail population were drops in the numbers of those detained on a pretrial basis and those held for alleged violations of probation or parole. To view the report please follow this link.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

National Poll Finds Support for Welfare Drug Testing 

Rasmussen poll released this week found majority support for automatic drug testing of new welfare applicants and lesser, but still high, levels of support for drug testing people already receiving welfare benefits. The poll comes as a new law Florida law mandating the suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants and recipients is about to be implemented. Missouri has also passed a law requiring the drug testing of welfare recipients if there is "reasonable suspicion" to suspect drug use.

Bills to drug test welfare recipients have become increasingly popular as states face tough economic times and seek ways to tighten their belts, even though it is not clear that the costs of drug testing tens or hundreds of thousands of people would be offset by the savings generated by throwing drug users off the dole.

Such bills are also constitutionally dubious. A 1999 Michigan law subjecting welfare recipients to suspicionless drug testing was thrown out by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 when the court found that it amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. But that doesn't stop politicians from pandering to public resentment of welfare recipients. This Rasmussen poll suggests why legislators find supporting drug testing such an enticing position. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Drug War Chronicle 

United Nations and European Union 

Global Fund Reaffirms Support for Overdose Prevention

In its latest Harm Reduction Information Note (pdf), which provides guidance for grant applicants, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria continues to encourage national HIV programs to include overdose prevention activities as part of a basic set of HIV services for people who use drugs.  The Global Fund has been supporting overdose education and naloxone for several years, initially in Russia and later in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and elsewhere. The Fund first explicitly called on applicants to implement overdose programs in its Round 10 funding guidance in 2010. As the new Round 11 guidance states: 

"[O]verdose prevention should be a core component of “targeted information, education and communication” for people who use drugs. Overdose is a major cause of mortality and morbidity among people who use drugs, impacting directly on HIV-related harm reduction services. Therefore, applicants are strongly encouraged to consider interventions such as peer and staff training in overdose prevention.”   Created in 2002, the Global Fund is a public-private financing body that has devoted more than $21 billion to controlling HIV, TB and Malaria in 150 low- and middle-income countries.  Russian, French and Spanish versions of the Round 11 Information Note will be available soon and posted here.

Source: Overdose Prevention Alliance

UNODC Executive Director meets President Ahmadinejad as he concludes trip to Iran

21 July 2011- Tehran/Vienna (UNODC) - Concluding an official three-day visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to explore ways of enhancing practical cooperation in counter-narcotics.  The Office is strengthening its portfolio in Iran with a new Country Programme. The Executive Director thanked the President for his support and for his country's excellent cooperation with UNODC.

"Iran has the world's highest rate of seizures of opium and heroin and is contributing effectively to various regional mechanisms. I am happy to be here with the President to discuss ways to enhance cooperation, increase technical dialogue with the international community and promote active participation in the forthcoming UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries", the Executive Director stated.

In his meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Akbar Salehi, the Executive Director encouraged Iran to work more closely with UNODC in the implementation of the Country Programme. He praised Iran's ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and invited the country to consider ratifying the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols .To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

UNODC Executive Director visits drug treatment centre in Tehran 

20 July 2011 - With 1.2 million drug-dependent users, the Islamic Republic of Iran has one of the most severe addiction problem in the world. Opiate addiction is equivalent to 2.26 per cent of the population aged 15-64 years. More than one fifth of them are injecting drug users. The Iranian Government has been recognised as one of the pioneering countries in the region to offer opium substitution therapies, as well as running free HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment centres for drug users.

In order to witness interventions for drug users, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, on his first official mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran, today visited Pamenar, a Drop-in Centre in Tehran. The centre, which is run by a local NGO called Rebirth Society, offers therapies and psychosocial support and facilitates self-help groups.

Speaking at the centre, Mr. Fedotov said, "Drug addiction is a global problem requiring joint interventions by communities, governments and international organizations. Drug use is a health problem; and drug users need treatment, care and social integration. I believe in placing a strong emphasis on safeguarding the health of all." To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Shoring up a flood of drugs - Afghan heroin enters Iran's eastern border

19 July 2011 -The border separating the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan from the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan and Pakistan is today considered one of the major trafficking areas for heroin and opium.  The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a whole, is responsible for the world's highest seizure rates with some 89 per cent of opium and 41 per cent of the global heroin and morphine being intercepted in that country. 

To see first-hand the smuggling route favoured by traffickers and to discuss approaches in curbing the movement of drugs and other illicit goods across the border, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov today visited the south Khorasan and north Baluchestan border areas. An immense structure aimed at stemming the movement of heroin through Iran, the 1,000 km long barrier is a series of embankments, canals, trenches, and cement walls sprawled along the eastern border. As the frontline in tackling the movement of illicit drugs both into and through Iran, the dangers of working in this area are evident. In the past three decades around 3,700 police officers have been killed in counternarcotics operations with tens of thousands injured.

According to the police there are presently 50 smuggling routes in use in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province, with key locations in Mirjaveh, Zahedan, and Iranshahr. In recent years new tactics have been employed leading to a dramatic increase in the number of these routes and posing new challenges to tackling trafficking in the region. Drug trafficking and its related crimes present a serious challenge to the country. In addition to security threats, health issues are of major concern since Iran has a high rate of drug addiction. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC 

1.2 million Opium and Heroin Addicts in Iran

Iran is suffering from the second most severe addiction to heroin and opium in the world according to the UN office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

There are 1.2 million addicts in the country. The government is making efforts to prevent the opiates from being imported into the country from neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Daniel Dickinson has been speaking to Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of UNODC who has just returned from Iran. He asked Mr Fedotov what is driving the addiction. Download (Duration: 2’31”)

Source: United Nations News & Media Services 

User involvement and user organising in harm reduction 

Within Europe, the active involvement of drug users in services and activities that affect their lives can be traced back to the Netherlands in the 1970s, pre-dating the development of harm reduction in response to HIV/AIDS. This chapter distinguishes involvement approaches, which typically focus on improving treatment and care, from user-led initiatives, where objectives are determined more autonomously. The chapter describes differences in user involvement and organising with respect to the preferred drugs of different populations (heroin and cocaine, ‘party drugs’ and cannabis).

We also highlight the different aims and methods of user involvement and user organising initiatives. These also illustrate differences that are shaped by: the drugs used; the context of their use; and national contrasts in patterns of use and harm. In addition to noting some of the practical challenges linked to user involvement/organising, we also note potential tensions, most notably regarding disputes about the extent to which drug prohibition is construed as a cause of harm, and its reform seen as a legitimate target for drug users’ activism.

Finally, we summarise available evidence of the impact of user involvement and organising. We conclude that harms can best be reduced where affected people participate meaningfully in decisions concerning the systems and services that shape their lives. This requires clear commitment at every level and will frequently need corresponding resources, if its full potential is to be realised. To learn more please follow this link

Source: EMCDDA

European Commission public consultation - Green paper on detention 

On 14 June 2011, the European Commission launched a Public Consultation on a Green Paper entitled "Strengthening mutual trust in the European judicial area - A Green Paper on the application of EU criminal justice legislation in the field of detention".

The Commission wishes to explore the extent to which detention issues (following a criminal offence) impact on mutual trust, and consequently on mutual recognition and judicial cooperation generally within the European Union. Whilst detention conditions and prison management are the responsibility of Member States, the Commission is interested in this issue because of the central importance of the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions for the area of freedom, security and justice. Is further action necessary and possible? If yes, what kind of action?

Although the Green Paper covers a wide range of detention issues which are not necessarily drugs-related, it does allow for reflection and input on probation & alternative sanctions and pre-trial detention periods which may be relevant for drug-law offences. It also covers detention conditions and the monitoring of detention conditions by Member States. These issues are of relevance for the EU Drugs Action Plan (2009-2012), and in particular in regards to the actions related to alternatives to prison (action 16), the development and implementation of drug-related health services in prison (action 21) and the monitoring of drug use, drug-related health and drug services delivery in prisons (action 22). The press statement and the Green Paper can be found on the news section of the DG Justice website. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC 

Other News 

Al Jazeera documentary - Freedom from pain 

For much of the Western world, physical pain ends with a simple pill. Yet more than half the world's countries have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain.

Freedom from Pain shines a light on this under-reported story. "For a victim of police torture, they will usually sign a confession and the torture stops," says Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch in the film. "For someone who has cancer pain, that torturous experience continues for weeks, and sometimes months on end."

Unlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose and is easily made. The treatment of pain is complicated by many factors, including drug laws, bureaucratic rigidity and commercial disincentives.

Source: IDPC 

George Soros: My Philanthropy 

The formative experience of my life was the German occupation of Hungary in 1944. I was Jewish and not yet fourteen years old. I could have easily perished in the Holocaust or suffered lasting psychological damage had it not been for my father, who understood the dangers and coped with them better than most others. He had gone through a somewhat similar experience in World War I, which prepared him for what happened in World War II. 

When the Germans occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944, my father knew exactly what to do. He realized that these were abnormal times and people who followed the normal rules were at risk. He arranged false identities not only for his immediate family but also for a larger circle. He charged a fee, sometimes quite an exorbitant one, to those who could afford it, and helped others for free. I had never seen him work so hard before. That was his finest hour. Both his immediate family and most of those whom he advised or helped managed to survive. 

Instead of submitting to our fate we resisted an evil force that was much stronger than we were—yet we prevailed. Not only did we survive, but we managed to help others. This left a lasting mark on me, turning a disaster of unthinkable proportions into an exhilarating adventure. That gave me an appetite for taking risk, and under my father’s wise guidance I learned how to cope with it—exploring the limits of the possible but not going beyond them. I relish confronting harsh reality, and I am drawn to tackling seemingly insoluble problems. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Official Website of George Soros 

A personal story of why the Global Commission's report matters

The founders of TDPF Scotland, Jolene Crawford and Katrina Thornton, on why the new the Global Commission on Drug Policy report  is personally important for them, and why Scotland should take a lead on drug policy on the global stage. Just over three years ago we lost a brother / cousin in a drug-related death. We know only too well the pain of losing someone in such a futile manner. We understand the need to apportion blame and the desire to prevent any other family going through a similar nightmare. 

But however initially tempting it was to call for all drugs to be banned, we decided to educate ourselves about legal and illegal drugs and the real issues that pertain to these substances. What we discovered surprised us greatly and resulted in the founding of TDPF Scotland (Transform Drug Policy Foundation Scotland) – a campaign for the control and regulation of all illegal and legal drugs. As busy women juggling careers and children, taking on this challenge was not easy. It’s painful for the family each time we speak out. But when we discovered that current drug policy has no factual basis, and the individuals who create these policies often acknowledge in private that drug prohibition is a disaster (though few will put their heads above the parapet) we felt we had no choice but to speak out.

Most importantly, we found that the government does indeed have the power to make changes to drug policy that would have a transformative effect on the lives of individuals, families and society as a whole. For this reason, it was extremely heartening to read the findings of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and see the high profile individuals who back its calls. Basically the report represents a watershed moment that puts legal regulation of drugs onto the mainstream political agenda worldwide. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Transform

Singer Amy Winehouse Found Dead of Apparent Drug Overdose

Singer Amy Winehouse, who rose to fame and fortune with her 2006 album Back to Black, was found dead just before 4pm today in her London flat. An autopsy is scheduled for sometime in the next two days, but early reports seem to confirm the cause of death was an apparent drug overdose. She was 27 years old.

Winehouse has battled substance abuse for many years, and her drug problems and rehabilitation efforts were the inspiration for a great many of her songs, including her hit song Rehab. She had reportedly successfully completed rehab recently, but her entire summer tour this year had to be canceled after she struggled onstage during a few early performances. There was intense speculation that Winehouse was intoxicated or otherwise under the influence in those shows.

Whatever personal demons she struggled with, there is no question she was a great performer, and the music world has lost a wonderful talent who will be sadly missed. My condolences and best wishes go out to Winehouse’s family at this tragic time

Source: Forbes

Razor sharp, Winehouse changed the music scene for ever 

It is hard to believe, as I type these words, in a state of shock, at Saturday teatime, that Amy Winehouse is dead. Yes, it was something people had speculated upon for some time. Yes, you might even suggest that if somebody takes that many hard drugs, drinks that much liquor and punishes their young flimsy body to that extent, death is not so much a tragedy as an inevitability. You can even point out that, at 27, Amy's death puts her in the morbid hall of rock'n'roll deaths about which conspiracy theorists love to ponder. Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison all destroyed themselves at the same point in their lives – something that Cobain's mother described, after her son's passing, as "joining that stupid club".

But the death of Amy Winehouse was not inevitable, and it is pretty hard not to think of it as tragic. Keith Richards has lived through such physical self-destruction to tell the tale. And so we hoped, hoped desperately, that Winehouse would too. I met her on several occasions, interviewed her, followed her career avidly, played her songs so many times I knew the lyrics backwards. Surprisingly, the tabloid reports were not unduly sensationalist – she really was that much of a mess. But she was also hysterically funny, with a razor-sharp London wit and a shocking line in politically incorrect putdowns and deadpan one-liners. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Independent

You Know I'm No Good - LIVE - Grammy Awards - HQ 

Source: YouTube

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