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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of July 31st 2011

The WHO refers to hepatitis C (HCV) as a “viral time bomb” due to the remarkable toll in worldwide infections and the extent of time it takes for HCV to become symptomatic. Globally, between 130-170 million people are chronically infected with HCV. In this report we take a closer look at the global response to HCV in the days following the first official World Hepatitis Day ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
31 July 2011

Hepatitis C: A viral time bomb 

28 July 2011 marks first official World Hepatitis Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to hepatitis C (HCV) as a “viral time bomb” due to the remarkable toll in worldwide infections and the extent of time it takes for HCV to become symptomatic.  Globally, between 130-170 million people are chronically infected with HCV and there are approximately 10 million people living with HCV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). 

Unlike hepatitis A and B, a vaccine for HCV does not exist. As a result, every year 3-4 million people are infected with the virus (WHO, 2011).  However, there is a cure for HCV.  Yet, access to HCV treatment for lower middle-income countries, such as most countries in EECA, is severely limited by high drug prices. 

HCV antivirals are extremely costly for governments let alone the individuals in EECA where the average household monthly wages and salaries per capita range from US $277 in Ukraine to US $564 in Kazakhstan. Globally, inaccessibility to HCV treatment has contributed to liver cirrhosis among 50% of people living with the disease and liver cancer among 5% of those living with the disease. Furthermore, 350,000 people per year needlessly die from these and more HCV-related diseases (WHO, 2011).  

On World Hepatitis Day, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) calls for civil society to demand HCV treatment price reduction in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in order for the millions of people living with HCV to gain access to life saving drugs. The full text of call to action is available online in English and Russian. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC 

How to make Congressmen furious—fast 

AS MEXICO’S battle with drug traffickers has grown increasingly bloody in recent years, its government has stepped up its criticism of the United States for failing to stop criminal gangs from buying guns in America and killing with them in Mexico. In early 2009, when relations between the two countries were particularly strained, Barack Obama promised to clamp down on the illegal arms trade. That year the Department of Justice launched “Operation Fast and Furious”, a controversial and secretive programme that would apply well-established intelligence tactics from the drug war to weapons traffickers. 

America’s gun-control efforts have historically focused on the point of purchase—requiring dealers to alert the authorities if any red flags come up in a background check. But Mexico’s gangs have circumvented this system by hiring individuals with clean records to buy on their behalf. To fight this tactic, Fast and Furious would let suspected straw buyers make off with the guns, and then track them up the criminal chain to their destination. 

The logic behind Fast and Furious was solid. Nabbing a straw buyer is like pinching a street-corner drug pusher: a law-enforcement intervention that has, at best, a marginal effect on the overall market. In contrast, following guns as they make their way to the border could allow the authorities to make much bigger busts and capture higher-ranking gang lieutenants. But a stray gun can do far more damage than a stray dime bag. To use this perilous strategy, America’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had to be positive it would never lose track of a single purchase. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist

Study: Mexico homicides rose 23 percent in 2010, many tied to drug violence 

MEXICO CITY — The number of homicides in Mexico rose by nearly a quarter in 2010 compared to the year before as the drug war intensified across the country, Mexican statisticians said Thursday.

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography recorded 24,374 homicides over the course of last year, a 23 percent increase from 19,803 in 2009. Last year’s figure represented 22 killings for every 100,000 residents in the country Many but not all of the homicides were committed by organized crime organizations, the institute told The Associated Press. 

Violence has risen in many Mexican regions as a result of drug trafficking and other organized criminal activity. President Felipe Calderon’s office has said that more than 15,000 homicides in 2010 were attributed to organized crime. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Washington Post

A losing game: The tragically predictable end of a fragile star 

IN A way, Amy Winehouse, who was found dead at her home in north London on July 23rd, lived her career backwards. Barely out of her teens when she released her first album, “Frank”, in 2003, she already had the knowing tone of a performer with a lifetime of heartbreak behind her. Then, in her 20s, she set about acquiring the tragic worldliness that the timbre of her voice conveyed. 

Compared with the anodyne, identikit bands churned out by talent shows, Ms Winehouse was an unusual pop idol. She started off close to jazz before switching to soul with her second album, “Back to Black” (2006). Her new sound, tailored by her producer Mark Ronson and nodding to her hero Ray Charles, was out of step with the fashion, but that helped to broaden her appeal. She wrote most of the songs on “Back to Black”, and they made her a global success.

But the writing was already being scrawled on the wall. The refrain of the album’s opening track—“They tried to make me go to rehab, I said ‘no no no’” —sounded at once like an ironic comment on celebrity excesses and a straight bit of autobiography. Ms Winehouse had begun her long, terminal spiral of booze, drugs, a bad relationship that became a worse marriage, arrests, overdoses and, despite the famous lyric, occasional bouts of rehab. It was a familiar narrative, this time played out at gruesomely high speed and chronicled remorselessly by the tabloids. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist

Mephedrone, or 'meow meow', as popular as cocaine, drugs survey says 

Mephedrone, the former legal high known as "meow meow", is as popular as cocaine among teenagers and young adults despite being banned last year, according to official figures. 

Home Office figures drawn from the authoritative British Crime Survey estimate that around 300,000 16 to 24-year-olds, or 4.4% of their age group, used mephedrone in the past 12 months. This is a similar level of popularity to the use of powder cocaine by teenagers and young adults. The BCS survey, drug misuse declared 2010/2011, say that mephedrone and cocaine rank joint second in popularity behind cannabis for this age group.

Mephedrone ranks alongside ecstasy in popularity among all drug users aged between 16 and 59, with 1.4% of all adults reporting they had used them in the past year. The results of the annual survey of drug use in England and Wales show that almost 3 million people (8.8% of adults) used illicit drugs in the past year. They also show that one million of them – or 3% – used class-A drugs, with a fall in the use of cocaine accompanied by a rise in the use of methadone.

Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, denied that the alarming figures for the use of mephedrone, which was made illegal in April 2010, demonstrated that the ban had been ineffective. He said the BCS figures covered patterns of use before and after the ban had come into force. He stressed that just because a drug had been sold as a legal high it did not mean it was harmless. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Florida: Drug Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Orlando on Wednesday declared the state’s controlled-substances laws unconstitutional. A 2002 Florida law eliminated the requirement of a “guilty mind,” or “mens rea,” as part of a drug offense.

Briefs attacking the Florida law, in which a defendant need not know that a substance is illegal to be convicted of possessing or selling it, had been filed by groups including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and dozens of law professors. Judge Mary S. Scriven of Federal District Court threw out the drug delivery charges against Mackle Vincent Shelton, and ordered a new sentencing hearing on other charges.

Florida’s unique law expressly eliminating mens rea for drug offenses, the judge wrote, is “atavistic and repugnant to the common law.” The state is expected to appeal the decision, which could leave hundreds, if not thousands, of convictions in question and affect pending cases.

Source: New York Times

Sigmund Freud’s Cocaine Years 

On April 21, 1884, a 28-year-old researcher in the field now called neuroscience sat down at the cluttered desk of his cramped room in Vienna General Hospital and composed a letter to his fiancée, Martha Bernays, telling her of his recent studies: “I have been reading about cocaine, the effective ingredient of coca leaves,” Sigmund Freud wrote, “which some Indian tribes chew in order to make themselves resistant to privation and fatigue.” 

Less than a month later, Freud was writing to Bernays about the many self-experiments in which he had swallowed various quantities of the drug, finding it useful in relieving brief episodes of depression and anxiety. Later, he described how “a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now busy collecting the literature” — in German, French and English — “for a song of praise to this magical substance.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: New York Times

Drug service cutbacks have a 'devastating impact' on young addicts, claim charities 

Budget cuts to drug and alcohol services for young people are having a "devastating impact" on the fight against substance abuse, according to leading health groups and charities.

Among the services being shut down or scaled back are drug education in schools, treatment for young people battling addiction, and support for professionals working in the sector.

As a result, the independent drugs monitoring body DrugScope, in conjunction with several leading charities, is warning that young people with drugs and alcohol problems are finding it increasingly difficult to find help. It is the first sign that cuts are having a direct impact on front-line rehabilitation and prevention services. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Drug deaths, misuse and overdose statistics in England: see how they've changed 

How bad are the drug deaths figures? Shortly after 4pm on Saturday afternoon, police discovered the bodyAmy Winehouse in her London home. The singer's battles with drink and drug addictions received orders of magnitude more publicity over the last five years than her prodigious musical talent. 

Police are treating Winehouse's death as unexplained, but press reports have widely suggested the case is being treated as a suspected overdose. Whether or not that is the case, the story has drawn attention to problem drug users in England. Each day, across England and Wales, drug use or its complications claim the lives of five people. 

In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, 1,738 people dieddrugs-related deaths, of whom 374 were women. Accidental overdose was the principal cause of death, account for 763 of the cases.

Winehouse was 27 years old at her death (coincidentally, so were Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Rolling Stone Brian Jones). 439 people aged 29 or under died of drugs-related causes in 2008.

Drug deaths are still on the rise: yearly deaths have increased by 19% over the last decade – equivalent to an extra 281 deaths each year. But despite the increase in deaths from drug use – and frequent headlines about drug epidemics –use of illegal substances in the UK has fallen substantially. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

DrugScope responds to interim report on Recovery Orientated Drug Treatment 

An interim report on the role of opiate substitution treatment (OST) concludes that it remains a valid and evidence-based intervention as part of the overall care package necessary to deliver the recovery ambitions of the new drug strategy. The report, written by Professor John Strang, was commissioned by the National Treatment Agency, and forms part of the Recovery Orientated Drug Treatment expert group tasked to develop clinical protocols for health professionals delivering drug treatment.

In line with DrugScope’s 2009 report, Drug Treatment at the Crossroads, the report highlights the progress towards recovery that individuals can make on substitute drugs, but warns against the drift into long-term maintenance on substitute prescriptions, in situations where, according to Professor Strang, prescribing is "allowed to become detached and delivered in isolation from other crucial components of effective treatment."

Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, said: “This interim report is a welcome reminder of the challenges that face the sector in the effective delivery of a balanced evidence-based treatment service ensuring that treatment is person-centred, that the full range of treatment options are available and that we have a workforce suitably trained to deliver on individual aspirations of recovery.

But it is also worth reiterating, in the light of the forthcoming payment by results pilots, that recovery goes well beyond the treatment gates; an individual's failure to access housing, training and employment, for example, will inevitably undermine both treatment outcomes and the wider ambitions of the recovery agenda". To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope

Drug use statistics show downward trend but continued investment in drug treatment provision for adults and young people vital 

Today, two major datasets have been published by the government looking at the current rates of drug use in England and Wales:Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2010 and Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey. Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said today: “While the broad downward trends we can see in today’s figures on drug use among school pupils and adults are both welcome and encouraging, the UK still has high levels of drug use in comparison to many of our European neighbours. 

“The inclusion of mephedrone in the British Crime Survey for the first time reveals conclusively the extent to which the drug has become established on the drug market. Our magazine Druglink first reported on mephedrone back in March 2009 and it has quickly become a popular substance among existing recreational drug users. It is concerning that levels of use of mephedrone are the same as cocaine and second only to cannabis. Evidence on the long-term harms associated with the drug is still unclear, as is information on the risks of using it in combination with other substances. Given the timing of this survey, it is likely to include people who used the drug before it was classified in April 2010.

“Addaction, a DrugScope member and leading provider of young people’s treatment, has today voiced concern, as their services have seen a rise in the number of young people coming forward for help with problems relating to alcohol, ketamine and mephedrone - at a time when funding for young people’s treatment services is being severely affected by local authority cuts. DrugScope and a number of our member organisations have recently spoken out about funding cuts which appear to be disproportionately affecting young people’s drug treatment, education and prevention work. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: DrugScope

Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey England and Wales 

Home Office Statistical Bulletin 12/11 examines the extent and trends in illicit drug use among a nationally representative sample of 16 to 59 year olds resident in households in England and Wales. The bulletin is based on results from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey (BCS); including comparisons with 2009/10 and trends since 1996.

Separate data tables include additional tables on long-term trends in drug use by key demographic and lifestyle characteristics.

Source: The Home Office

We should not be complacent about these falls in drug and alcohol use

Today, the NHS have released its latest figures on smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England. The figures show that, across England, rates of drug taking and drinking among this age group are lower than in previous years. The proportion of secondary school pupils who drank alcohol in the week previous to the survey fell from a peak of 26 per cent in 2001 to 18 per cent in 2009, with the percentage in 2010, standing at 13 per cent. The proportion who had used drugs in the last month stood at seven per cent. In 2001, this figure stood at 12 per cent and has declined ever since. 

Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive for Addaction says:"At Addaction we're seeing more young people successfully overcome their problems. And it is encouraging to see, from these figures, that less young people are drinking or using illegal drugs. However, the falls in these NHS figures haven't been replicated by a fall in referrals to our services.

In fact, over the past year, Addaction has seen a rise in young people who drink problematically, and who use drugs like ketamine or mephedrone. As any parent whose child is having problems will tell you, instances of drug and alcohol misuse are still far too common. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Addaction

WHO: Hepatitis toll 'in millions'

Medical experts are calling for global action to tackle the viruses that cause the liver disease hepatitis.The first worldwide estimates in drug users show 10 million have hepatitis C while 1.3 million have hepatitis B. Writing in the Lancet, experts say only a fraction of those who could benefit are receiving antiviral drugs. 

Only one in five infants around the world are vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, they say. The figures, published in the Lancet, show about 67% of injecting drug users in the world have been exposed to hepatitis C, while around 10% have come into contact with hepatitis B.

In the UK, around half of injecting drug users have been infected with the hepatitis C virus, while the rate for exposure to hepatitis B is 9% - the highest in western Europe. To learn more please follow this link

Source: BBC News

Global epidemiology of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in people who inject drugs: results of systematic reviews 

Injecting drug use is an important risk factor for transmission of viral hepatitis, but detailed, transparent estimates of the scale of the issue do not exist. We estimated national, regional, and global prevalence and population size for hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) in injecting drug users (IDUs).

We systematically searched for data for HBV and HCV in IDUs in peer-reviewed databases (Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO), grey literature, conference abstracts, and online resources, and made a widely distributed call for additional data. From 4386 peer-reviewed and 1019 grey literature sources, we reviewed 1125 sources in full. We extracted studies into a customised database and graded them according to their methods.

More IDUs have anti-HCV than HIV infection, and viral hepatitis poses a key challenge to public health. Variation in the coverage and quality of existing research creates uncertainty around estimates. Improved and more complete data and reporting are needed to estimate the scale of the issue, which will inform efforts to prevent and treat HCV and HBV in IDUs.

Source: The Lancet

Prison needle exchange 'makes sense' 

Drug support groups have dismissed criticism of a plan to set up a needle exchange program at Canberra's jail. The ACT Government wants to introduce a needle exchange program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. It is considering a report by the Public Health Association which recommends changes to ACT law to require such a program be established.

The report proposes three models, recommending a contained program at the jail's health centre that could be run by either a non-government organisation or ACT Health. The report has received a mixed response from politicians but has been welcomed by drug support groups. Public health organisation Anex has developed needle and syringe program protocols for Victoria.

Anex CEO John Ryan says it is all about preventing the spread of diseases. "Sometimes up 100 other people have used that one needle. So the needle and syringe program is there for effectively two core reasons - one to prevent HIV infection, and two, hepatitis and other infectious diseases," he said.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: ABC News

Prison Use of Medications for Opioid Addiction Remains Low

An estimated 200,000 people with heroin addiction pass through U.S. criminal justice systems each year, and few of them receive methadone or buprenorphine therapy.

In response to a nationwide survey, prison medical directors cited doubts about the benefits of the medications, cost, concerns about the security of supplies, and longstanding institutional policies among their reasons for not offering opioid replacement therapy (ORT).

Nevertheless, says Dr. Josiah D. Rich of Brown University and Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, omitting that evidence-based approach represents a missed opportunity for improved public health and safety. To learn more please follow this link

Source: NIDA

Safe injection sites needed Canada-wide to fight hep B, C

Canada needs safe-injection sites in every region to curb the spread of hepatitis B and C, says a health-care coalition that is calling for a more aggressive approach to combat the diseases. The Canadian Coalition of Organizations Responding to Hepatitis B and C has issued a report card on Canada's performance and found that resources are inconsistent across the country. 

Co-ordination appears particularly poor in Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and prison inmates across the country are especially vulnerable, the group says in its report. "Governments are essentially failing in terms of the prison population," the report says.

"There is no consistency from one institution to the next. Harm-reduction measures, resources and equipment must be available and accessible in all provincial and federal institutions." The report notes that besides safe-injection sites, all regions also need methadone clinics and needle exchanges. "All governments need to adopt a broader perspective on the determinants of health if they are to be able to address the harms associated with drug use and drug use policy," the report says. It also suggested some prison policies actually hinder harm reduction. To learn more please follow this link

Source: CTV News

World Hepatitis Day - 28th July 2011

Viral hepatitis affects more than one in twelve (or half a billion) people worldwide, of whom one million will die every year, 1 2confirms a new systematic review published in The Lancet  earlier today to coincide with the first World Hepatitis Day. The review found that 60–80% of people who inject drugs had anti-HCV in 25 countries and more than 80% did so in 12 countries. 3 (PDF, 2 MB)

Approximately 10 million people who inject drugs worldwide may be infected with Hepatitis C, a figure that surpasses HIV infection among this population. 4 The greatest numbers of infections are found in China (1.6 million), USA (1.5 million), and Russia (1.3 million), the authors report. Worldwide, 6.4 million IDUs are reported to have Hepatitis B, and 1.2 million Hepatitis A. 5

The review, which analyses prevalence data from 59 countries, is the first to systematically collate and analyze national, regional, and global prevalence and population size for hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) in people who inject drugs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Harm Reduction International

World Prison Population 2011 

More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world the latest World Prison Population Briefing revealed published in late July by the International Centre for Prison Studies, University of Essex. According to the briefing paper there has been a 300,000 increase in the world’s prison population over last two years since the previous edition was issued.

The World Prison Population Briefing covers 218 countries and territories with unavailable figures from only seven countries – Bhutan, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, North Korea and Somalia.

According to briefing, United States of America (USA) still remains the leading country with 2.29 million people in prisons, China as a second with 1.65 million sentenced prisoners, and Russia occupies a third place having imprisoned 0.81 million people for the moment of writing the briefing. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Harm Reduction International

Where Is the WHO Leadership on Hepatitis C Treatment? 

Earlier this week I highlighted the prohibitively expensive cost of hepatitis C treatment and urged the manufacturers of these lifesaving medicines to substantially drop prices as a first but critical step toward increasing access to treatment for the millions of people living with this disease worldwide.

Today is the first official World Hepatitis Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO).  In a video message on the WHO website marking the occasion, Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, outlines the agency’s commitment to developing a comprehensive strategy to tackle viral hepatitis, in accordance with the 63rd World Health Assembly resolution on viral hepatitis [pdf].

In the video, Dr. Chan accurately mentions the importance of raising awareness, getting tested, and various ways to prevent transmission, including vaccination (available for hepatitis A, B, D, and soon E).  What is not mentioned, however, is the urgent need to ensure access to life-saving treatment for people infected, in particular for those living with hepatitis C. While this oversight is undoubtedly related to the prohibitively high price of available treatments, one would have expected a more courageous message from the WHO, including, for instance, a commitment to ensure that affordable treatment is available soon. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Open Society

Peru - New law on involuntary internment of psychiatric patients and addicts 

At the beginning of July, the Peruvian State approved a law that allows involuntary internment (meaning institutionalisation or hospitalisation) of people suffering from mental disorders or addiction. 

The Peruvian Ombudsman office has already demanded the state to recall this law, which is deemed against the constitution and in contradiction with several human rights documents. Civil society organisations recently issued a statement (see link below, Spanish only), which IFHHRO's Peruvian member EDHUCASalud has signed.  

According to EDHUCASalud, the law was proposed and written by a doctor who is a congressman of the party in power (APRA). EDHUCASalud is now proposing a legal analysis, which will include an analysis of the implications of implementing the law.  Read the full story and civil society statement

Source: Harm Reduction International

Afghan opiates remain global threat, says new UNODC Study 

Kabul / Vienna. 29 July 2011. Afghanistan remains by far the largest source of the global illicit trade in opium and heroin, which generated some US$ 68 billion in 2009 - a sum exceeding the GDP of many countries - according to the study Global Afghan Opium Trade: A Threat Assessment which was issued yesterday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Covering international flows of Afghan opiates in 2009, this is also the first in-depth study by UNODC of trafficking in acetic anhydride to Afghanistan (an indispensable 'precursor' chemical used for converting opium into heroin).

Spanning a decade, the report states that some 16.5 million people annually abuse opiates worldwide. Heroin takes the bulk of the market with 12 - 13 million people consuming 375 tons of heroin per year, and of that, a sizeable 150 tons are consumed in Europe. 

Opiate consumption in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries has risen sharply in the past decade - 35,000 out of the current 123,000 hectares under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan are needed to produce opiates for this region alone. But the problem extends far beyond. Afghan heroin has also been spreading to consumer markets in East Asia traditionally supplied by Myanmar. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

'Drug Policy Doesn’t Work' – Says Leader in The Times 

In its leader today The Times calls for a ‘radical rethink’ of drug policy. Under the title ‘Drug Policy Doesn’t Work', the leader concludes:

“This is a complex issue. If there were an obvious answer it would have been found by now. One thing, though, is clear — a radical rethink is needed. Drug abuse ruins so many lives and a policy based on prohibition, although comprehensible in its own terms, is not succeeding in reducing either usage or harm. There are some examples, in Switzerland, for example, of heroin being offered in a controlled and prescribed way for addicts. There are a number of intermediate points between prohibition and legalisation, and it is time to start exploring them.”

The paper will include a follow up column on the issue tomorrow. The Times is to be congratulated for making such a clear call. The leader shows now that the issue of the need to explore alternatives is very much in the political mainstream. The paper's economics editor, Anatole Kaletsky called for legalisation in his column, back in August 2007. Unfortunately the online paper requires a subscription, but if you want to see the whole thing, it’s here.

Source: Transform

Why it is sometimes better to broadcast than engage 

In its recent submission (pdf) to the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) Consultation on Sentencing for Drug Offences, Transform endorsed Release’s submission (pdf) and made a call for the entire Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to be reviewed, using the Impact Assessment framework.

We are well aware that this call falls outside of the SAC’s remit, so you might wonder why we bothered submitting at all.There are two basic reasons for taking this approach:

We are keenly aware that organisations like Release have far greater expertise and experience in the law. And we are supportive of their submission.

  • Sometimes it is more important to repeat a campaign position – such as, the need to evaluate the outcomes of the Act – than to engage with the detail of a consultation. 

We find it hard to understand how the Ministry of Justice can contemplate tinkering with the detail of an Act whose operation is so blatantly counterproductive and discriminatory. It is the same approach that we took with regard to anearlier consultation with the Sentencing Advisory Panel (which the SAC replaced).

Now that the European Commission has decided to conduct an Impact Assessment of so-called ‘legal highs’, we hope that our call will begin to have more…impact.

Source: Transform

Federal Judge Throws Out Florida's Drug Law

A federal judge Wednesday ruled that Florida's drug law was unconstitutional, leaving thousands of criminal cases up in the air. US District Court Judge Mary Scriven of Orlando threw out the Florida Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law on the grounds that it violates due process because it does not require prosecutors to prove a person knew he or she possessed illegal drugs.

In 2002, Florida legislators amended the state's drug law, eliminating the requirement that prosecutors prove mens rea, or criminal intent, as part of obtaining a conviction. Florida was the only state in the nation to not require mens rea as part of a drug conviction.

"Not surprisingly, Florida stands alone in its express elimination of mens rea as an element of a drug offense," Scriven wrote in her order. "Other states have rejected such a draconian and unreasonable construction of the law that would criminalize the 'unknowing' possession of a controlled substance." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle

NAACP Calls for End to War on Drugs

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has now officially broken with the war on drugs. At its 102nd annual convention in Los Angeles Tuesday, the nation's oldest and largest black advocacy group passed an historic resolution calling for an end to the drug war.

The title of the resolution pretty much says it all: "A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow."

Today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.  "These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle

Legislation to Ban K2/Spice, "Bath Salts" and Other Synthetic Drugs Sailing Through Congress Today 

Federal legislation that would ban possession and sales of chemical compounds found in products such as "K2," "Spice," and "bath salts" began moving this week in House and Senate committees. Lawmakers are considering four bills -- three in the Senate and one in the House -- that would add these synthetic drugs to Schedule I, which is the most restrictive category of drugs that have a "high potential for abuse and no medical value." 

On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Health approved legislation by voice vote, and today (Thursday, July 28th) the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to vote on legislation. 

"Lawmakers are poised to repeat mistakes from the past by creating ineffective laws that will criminalize more people and drive these substances into the illicit market," said Grant Smith, federal policy coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance. "History has clearly shown that prohibiting a drug makes it more dangerous, not less.

Instead of more failed drug prohibition, Congress would be much more successful with an approach that restricts how these drugs are marketed, provides comprehensive drug education, and has strict age controls. To best reduce the harms of these drugs, Congress should instead support rigorous scientific study to better understand what is in these products, and establish a robust system of regulation and control of the synthetic drug market." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Obama Says Drug Users Must Be Treated as Criminals 

The explosive debate over drug policy in America is now so impossible to ignore that even the president is often forced to comment on it. His typical script about emphasizing a public health approach with an increased focus on treatment and prevention has become quite familiar to those following the issue. 

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the topic arose yet again during a town hall at the University of Maryland on Friday.  "Much is being asked of our generation," a doctoral student named Steve told the president at a town hall event in Maryland. "So, when are our economic perspectives going to be addressed? For example, when is the war on drugs in society going to be abandoned and be replaced by a more sophisticated and cost effective program of rehabilitation such as the one in Portugal?" [Raw Story] To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Obama Anti-Drug Strategy More Rhetoric than Reality 

The U.S. government has unveiled a "new" strategy against transnational organized crime which is vintage Obama: long on politically correct rhetoric, short on actual policy changes. 

The policy, which is available online, is the result of what the administration says is the first comprehensive review of the U.S. approach to fighting organized crime since 1995. It lays out the administration's priorities in clear, concise language, even taking the time to define "transnational organized crime." (What's next? Organized Crime for Dummies?) 

To be fair, there are some parts of the strategy that are positive. There is a clear recognition that transnational organized crime (TOC) is a potent force that undermines communities, governments, and economies across the globe. There is also a recognition that this is a complex, multi-layered problem that requires an equally complex multi-layered solution. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Insight

“The war against drugs has failed”

A report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy has concluded that the war on drugs has failed, triggering a heated debate in the United States. 

The report, written by a high-profile panel including former Swiss cabinet minister Ruth Dreifuss, criticises the repressive approach in the US and calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.

Instead of prohibition, the commission recommends “regulation models of illicit drugs designed to undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and safety of their citizens”. To learn more please follow this link

Source: SwissInfo

Drug driving test at your fingertips 

A FINGERPRINT is all you need to determine whether someone is under the influence of drugs. Paul Yates from Intelligent Fingerprinting, a company spun out from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and colleagues, have developed a handheld device that police can use to detect breakdown products from drugs excreted through sweat pores in the fingertips. 

The device applies gold nanoparticles coated with antibodies to a fingerprint. The antibodies stick to antigens on specific metabolites in the fingerprint. Fluorescent dyes attached to the antibodies will highlight the presence of any metabolites. The technique was first used to detect nicotine, but now works on a range of drugs, including cocaine, methadone and cannabis. 

It is hard to prove that someone is drug driving, for example, says Yates, because existing tests are invasive, can be contaminated, or aren't sensitive enough. The new device could detect nanograms of metabolites in minutes, he says. The device was announced at the UCL International Crime Science Conference in London last week. 

Source: New Scientist

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

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