oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of June 28, 2010

A weekly summary of news and developments in drug policy and criminal justice reform in the US and UK.
Charles Shaw
28 June 2010

International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

Every year, June 26th is marked by UNODC as a focus for anti-drug activities. The world community are urged to organise activities to celebrate successful responses, or express concern at unresolved problems. In the past, the day has been used as a rallying call for the war on drugs, with some governments even organising public executions to show their commitment. It is therefore encouraging that the theme for this year’s day is ‘Think Health, Not Drugs’, and the press launch of the World Drug Report included a statement from the outgoing UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Costa, that called on member states to cease the use of capital punishment for drug offences.

The focus on health has been part of a welcome, if long overdue, trend at the UNODC to give greater priority to health outcomes at a policy and programmatic level – the growth in recent years of the HIV prevention, treatment and care activities of the Office, and the greater prominence given to drug dependence treatment, have accompanied more progressive leadership statements in speeches, discussion papers and policy positions. Indeed, the statement issued by Ban Ki Moon for June 26th promotes the importance of ‘measures to reduce the harmful effects of drug use’ as an important part of the battle to combat HIV/AIDS, and also the adoption of a social and economic development approach in drug-growing regions.

These are positive developments in international drug policy. However, on this day, it is important to remember that there are still many countries that continue to favour extreme and repressive drug control measures that fail to reduce drug use, drug dependence and the scale of the drug market.  Such policies have ignored health concerns and human rights, led to prison overcrowding and the waste of billions of dollars on ineffective and counterproductive strategies to create ‘drug-free’ societies.  It is time to support global drug policy reform and join the fifty organisations from around the world – from South Africa to Colombia to China to Russia – who have renewed their call for an end to this ineffective war on drugs. Specifically, these groups are calling for governments to:

  1. Focus on reducing the harms related to drug trade and use, such as making needle and syringe exchange programs widely available.
  2. Decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use.
  3. Ensure that evidence-based treatments for pain and addiction are widely available, including methadone and buprenorphine.
  4. Treat supporting farmers in moving away from coca or poppy cultivation as a development issue.
  5. Comply fully with human rights obligations in any drug control measure, ensuring proportionality of penalties, abolishing the death penalty, and avoiding non-evidence-based forms of treatment.

In too many countries, the “war on drugs” has become war on people. This has to change.

Please support our Call to Action for a Global Drug Policy Reform.

(Source: The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC))


UNODC World Drug Report 2010 now available online

In 2009, the United Nations Member States decided to make further and decisive progress, within a decade, in controlling illicit drug supply and demand. Many illicit drug markets have reached global dimensions and require control strategies on a comparable scale. In that context, there is a need to better understand these transnational markets and the manner in which they operate. This year's World Drug Report is a contribution towards that objective. It opens with an analytical discussion of three key transnational drug markets: the markets for heroin, cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants. The market discussion is followed by a presentation of statistical trends for all major drug categories. The latest information on drug production, seizures and consumption is presented. Finally, there is a discussion on the relationship between drug trafficking and instability.

The Report shows that drug use is shifting towards new drugs and new markets. Drug cultivation is declining in Afghanistan (for opium) and the Andean countries (coca), and drug use has stabilized in the developed world. However, there are signs of an increase in drug use in developing countries, and growing abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and prescription drugs around the world.

Click here to access the 2010 World Drug Report.

(Source: The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC))


Sentencing Reform for drug offences in England and Wales

Sentencing for drug offences in England and Wales has recently undergone a widesweeping review and public consultation. Fundamental issues of principle were brought forward for a constructive public discussion for the first time and an Advice has been issued which, if adopted, will radically change sentencing in the courts for many drug offences, and particularly in the case of drug-couriers. The purpose of this report is to examine and evaluate this mechanism for law reform, without the need for legislative reform, and to consider the specific discussion around sentencing for drug offences which it has led to.

Conclusions & Recommendations
  • Through the Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) we have learnt that deterrence as the basis of drug sentencing is, in fact, without evidence-base and ineffective. 
  • In the UK, current levels of sentencing for drugs couriers are disproportionate to their culpability and to the harm associated with their offence.
  • SAP’s advice has attempted to give a delicate balance between the consistency, transparency, and separation of powers necessary for the rule of law, the predictability which allows better resource allocation, and the overriding commitment to do justice in the individual case.

TNI/IDPC Drug Law Reform Project

This briefing forms part of series under a joint project on Drug Law Reform from the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC). This project aims to promote more humane, balanced, and effective drug laws and seeks to stimulate the debate around legislative reforms by highlighting good practices and lessons learned in areas such as decriminalisation, proportionality of sentences, specific harm reduction measures, alternatives to incarceration, and scheduling criteria for different substances. It also aims to encourage a constructive dialogue amongst policy makers, multi-lateral agencies and civil society in order to shape policies that are grounded in the principles of human rights, public health and harm reduction.

PDF download: 

Sentencing for drug offences in England and Wales.pdf

(Source: The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC))

Viva Rio launches "Drugs and culture: new perspectives"

On 24th June, Viva Rio launched “Drugs and culture: new perspectives”, a publication by the Ministry of Culture, the Federal University of Bahia and other important research institutions. Its authors are some of the most experienced researchers about drug uses and legislation in Brazil. Its 17 essays cover diverse aspects related to drugs, from the history of drug uses in the West to the consumption of drugs as a cultural phenomenon, through different approaches: ayahuasca and its relations with the sacred to legal drugs, synthetic drugs and electronic music, harm caused by prohibition, coca leaf, etc. The book treats drug use as a social construct, which meaning changes according to cultural contexts.

(Source: The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC))


IHRA Report - The Global State of Harm Reduction 2010: Key Issues for Broadening the Response

The Global State of Harm Reduction 2010: Key Issues for Broadening the Response was launched at Harm Reduction 2010 in Liverpool in April. 

As the second major report in the series, the document provides a region-by-region update of key developments in harm reduction since the first Global State report was released in 2008. It also explores several issues key to the response to drug-related harms worldwide, including increasing access to harm reduction in prisons and other places of detention, reaching people who use drugs with diagnosis, treatment and care for viral hepatitis and tuberculosis, preventing overdose-related mortality among people who use drugs, preventing and treating injecting-related bacterial infections, expanding the response to harms related to amphetamine use and addressing the current shortage of funds for harm reduction worldwide.

The report is designed to be an advocacy and reference tool for a wide range of audiences, including international donor organisations, multilateral and bilateral agencies, non-governmental and community-based organisations, including organisations and groups of people who use drugs, researchers and the media.

Click here to download the full report, or separate chapters.

If you wish to receive hard copies of the report, please email Catherine Cook at [email protected].


  Shifting the Problem: Fact Sheet on Proposed California Community Corrections Enhancement Act

The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released a fact sheet last week laying out reasons why the proposed California Community Corrections Act of 2010 is misguided and deeply flawed. The bill would move people serving sentences of less than three years from state prisons to already crowded county jails, shifting the costs to local counties that are already facing budget shortfalls. The grant funding available to counties for this move would not cover the costs of increased incarceration, but may create incentives for counties to incarcerate more people rather than to utilize alternatives to incarceration, like probation, since funding is based on the number of people held for the state.

JPI’s fact sheet, Shifting the Problem, notes that, on the heels of a recent court order to reduce the number of people in prison by 40,000, the state is moving in the right direction by examining different ways to reduce its prison population. This proposed legislation, however, would do more harm than good, and is not a solution to the continuing problem of over-incarceration in California; the state’s prison growth even outpaces its population growth.


In Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated, thirteen exonerees describe their experiences—the events that led to their convictions, their years in prison, and their new lives outside. Each oral history is a stark account of our criminal justice system’s unforgivable flaws. Sidebars interspersed throughout the book offer context for their cases and the broader problem, with information on the causes of wrongful convictions and on the obstacles exonerees face in jail and after their release. Surviving Justice is an attempt to expose a disgraceful situation that continues throughout our country—men and women sent to prison for someone else’s crime.[Read the foreword by Scott Turow][Read the introduction by Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen][Exoneree biographies]


Outrageous OpEd of the Week

We haven’t had one of these to make fun of for awhile…

Here’s Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom writing at Minnesota Public Radio’s website: Marijuana, America’s most dangerous illegal drug

Here are some lowlights:

Methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin may be America’s most addictive and destructive drugs, but marijuana is the most dangerous illegal drug in our nation. [...]

More than 4 million Americans are estimated to be dependent upon or abusers of marijuana, more than any other illegal drug. Treatment admissions for marijuana abuse have been higher than for any other illegal drug in our nation since 2002. [..]

Marijuana is not the harmless substance many would like us to believe. Marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health risks to its users. Short-term effects of marijuana include memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, and loss of motor skills. Long-term adverse impacts include loss in muscle strength, increased heart rate, respiratory problems, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, impaired ability to fight off infections and risk of cancer (marijuana contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke). [...]

Even more troubling is that marijuana serves as a gateway to the use of other illegal drugs. [...]

Last, but certainly not least, there are strong links between marijuana use, violence and other criminal activity. [...]

The connection between marijuana use and gang activity and violence is inescapable. [...]

We would be wise as a society not to underestimate the destructive nature of marijuana. It is a powerful and addictive substance that is a gateway drug to other controlled substance abuse. Marijuana use finances in large part the activities of gangs and drug dealers. It is by far the most frequently used illegal drug in America and its use is directly connected to crime and violence in our communities.

And the ghost of Harry Anslinger smiles.

(Source: DrugWarRant.com)



GW Pharmaceuticals announces UK launch of world’s first prescription cannabis medicine, Sativex® marketed to treat spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

"Sativex® contains two cannabinoids or active ingredients - THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).  It is the first cannabinoid medicine derived from whole plant extracts from the cannabis sativa plant.



Transition USA Takes on Prison Reform

There is a tremendous need for prison reform in the state of California as these edifices are now housing more than twice the number of inmates they were originally designed to house. Also, the costs of housing inmates are sky-rocketing due to the aging of the prison population. While it costs around $45,000 to house a 35 year old inmate it now costs an average of $150,000 to house a inmate over 60 due to health care costs. And due to the Three Strikes Law, many of those in prison are there for offenses involving small amounts of marijuana trafficking, but are serving life sentences. And among these are many who are aging.

Due to this factor, Governor Schwartzenegger has been forced to order early releases for 40,000 prisoners considered to be non-violent this year. Many of these prisoners are also going to be coming out without having undergone any counseling on how to assimilate back into the general population. The other problem is that there will be no jobs for these people since the jobless rate in 5 counties in California is now around 20%. As well, just today 1.2 million people across the country have lost their unemployment benefits since Congress refused to pass an extension. This is a crisis building beyond our imagination and must be addressed immediately.

What we also know is that as the price of gasoline escalates it will be increasingly difficult to get food into the prisons.

The solution here is to begin a prison reform program where the inmates are growing their own food and learning how to become master gardeners. And, while they are learning to grow their own food, they are also learning about nutrition and what foods are the most nutritious to be grown and eaten. Gardening is a transformational program in and of itself. So, coupled with other programs we can be rehabilitating prisoners so that when they are released they are assured of being people who are welcome back in their communities.

But not only do we want these programs inside of the prison walls, we want them outside as well so that these people are assured of jobs upon release. And while assured of jobs as gardeners they can also be producing healthy organically grown food for hospitals, retirement homes, other elderly people, the homeless, and the disabled.

As the Founder of Future Dawning Enterprises, i am a consultant in the field of evolving human consciousness and creating sustainable living communities. My partner, Kent Mesplay, Ph.D. and myself are now working with the International Academy of Holodynamics to develop teams to address crisis situations such as this one associated with prison reform. Dr. V. Vernon Woolf and his academy members have for several years been developing new technologies in the energy field. We will be incorporating these new technologies into a prison reform program so that we may lower the costs of operating these facilities as well. And as we move along will be applying them in many other ways.

I am currently looking for individuals and groups who may be interested in working with us to help develop and implement these programs. Please contact me if you are interested. While we are focusing on California initially, the prison reform program through gardening is one that needs to be implemented on a national scale.

Mary Rose

[email protected]


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