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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of June 4th 2011

With much attention focused this week on the landmark Global Commission Report, the Drug Policy Report takes a look at the week's other stories, leading with the disquieting news that Iran is to hang 300 for drug trafficking -starkly illustrating the urgent need for the Commission's call for a global paradigm shift ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
4 June 2011

Iran to Hang 300 for Drug Trafficking 

Three hundred people convicted of drug trafficking offenses are on death row in Iran, the Islamic Republic's judiciary said Monday. According to the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain, at least 126 people have already been hanged for drug offenses so far this year.

"For 300 drug-related convicts, including those who were in possession of at least 30 grams of heroin, execution verdicts have been issued," said Tehran prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, according to a Reuters report. An annual British report on human rights put the number executed in Iran last year at more than 650, up from 388 in 2009. Of last year's executions, a whopping 590 were for drug trafficking, according to that report.

 Members of the Iranian government have confirmed that drug executions make up a huge part of all executions, but added that if the West was unhappy with the killings, Iran could simply quit enforcing its drug laws. 

"The number of executions in Iran is high because 74% of those executed are traffickers in large quantities of opium from Afghanistan bound for European markets," said Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran's Supreme Council for Human Rights, during a press conference in May. To learn more please follow this link

 Source: Stop the Drug War

United States of Harm Reduction

Although most decision makers and professionals acknowledge the value and effectiveness of harm reduction interventions in reducing drug-related crime, death and disease, the term itself and the philosophy behind the term is still viewed as controversial in the US. Many Americans share the views of the Partnership for a Drug Free America, a zealot prohibitionist organization, who claim that harm reduction is a Trojan horse for drug legalizers and it makes people believe that drug use can be safe. 

While the interventions labeled as harm reduction interventions - such as opiate substitution treatment or needle and syringe distribution programs - are now accepted as integral parts of a comprehensive social and health care system, government officials and strategic policy documents still avoid using the term ‘harm reduction.’ At the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the central drug policy making body of the United Nations, the US delegation now openly speaks for needle exchange, yet it is still a fierce opponent of the term harm reduction in any official statements or resolutions. It seems the United States accepts the practice of harm reduction but refuses the theory of harm reduction. 

Our movie shows another US: the United States of Harm Reduction. In November last year we asked many activists, outreach workers and service providers who attended the 8th National Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas what harm reduction means to them. The conference was organized by the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national advocacy and capacity-building organization that promotes the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use.

For most people we interviewed, harm reduction is not an obscure ideology or a Trojan horse - but simply a way of life, a way of helping people who use drugs to stay alive and healthy against all odds in a country hit by the war on drugs. They are not revolutionaries like Timothy Leary, they do not want to break social rules, but they would like to rewrite them. As one activist said, he believes that over time harm reduction will just become a part of the landscape. This pragmatic attitude is the key to their success.

 

Source: Drug Reporter

Successful Drug Policy Reform Advocacy in Poland

A few years ago the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) launched a new project, the European Drug Policy Initiative (EDPI), to help NGOs improve their advocacy efforts to reform drug policies. As one of the first steps, in 2008 we conducted a public poll survey among the general population of six European countries to assess the views of people on various issues related to drug policy. The results showed that Polish people have the most conservative and restrictive views on drug policy in Europe.

For example, the majority of Polish respondents (59 percent) favored a “war on cannabis” while the vast majority of respondents (76 percent) favored decriminalization or legalization in the Netherlands. The actual legislation also mirrors public opinion: Poland has one of the most punitive drug policies in the European Union. Every year, tens of thousands of young people are criminalized for the simple possession of illicit drugs. Because of these facts, we did not expect there to be any serious prospects of drug policy reform in this country. And yet the unexpected came true this year. To learn more please follow this link

 

Source: Drug Reporter

Drug War Update: Global War on Drugs 

Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, explains how Nixon's U.S. war on drugs was actually a global offensive that allowed America to spread its prohibitionist strategies worldwide.

 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Executive Director committed to putting health, human rights and crime control at the centre of the work of the United Nations 

During a visit to Switzerland this week, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov forged closer cooperation with the heads of organizations active in many of the major fields of work of the United Nations, including health; labour; human rights; humanitarian action and disaster relief; saving endangered species; and development. He also met officials of the Government of Switzerland, a major UNODC donor.

Geneva is the second largest United Nations duty station after United Nations Headquarters in New York and is acknowledged as the humanitarian capital of the world. Two thirds of the activities of the United Nations system take place in Geneva and much of the work of UNODC relates to those mandates. Mr. Fedotov therefore visited intergovernmental organizations, specialized agencies, programmes, funds, offices, research institutes and related organizations with a view to bringing added value to their work and drawing upon their wide expertise.

Specifically, the Executive Director sought to draw attention to the importance of the fight against drugs and organized crime given that those phenomena impede development. By mainstreaming those issues in every sphere of activity, development agencies and peacekeeping operations could improve their chances of achieving long-term success and fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Michelle Alexander at Riverside: New Jim Crow convict under-caste

 

Source: Youtube

Retired Police Officer Gets Choked Up Reflecting On The Injustices of the War On Drugs

 

Source: Youtube

Dutch to Ban Foreigners from Cannabis Cafes 

The Dutch cabinet announced last Friday that it is moving ahead with plans to effectively bar foreigners from the country's famous cannabis coffee shops. It plans to turn the coffee shops into private clubs limited to 1,500 members, who can only join if they are over 18 and can prove they are Dutch citizens or legal residents, according to Dutch News.

While the government must win approval from the Dutch Supreme Court for its ban on foreigners, it hopes to accomplish as much by limiting membership in the clubs. Proprietors will be forced to choose between local customers and foreign visitors.

The Netherlands has for more than 30 years tolerated the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana, turning the country into a mecca for marijuana aficionados from around the world. But the conservative coalition government, tilted even further to the right after the last election by the addition of the far-right anti-immigrant party of politician Geert Wilders, is now tightening the screws in a bid to reduce drug tourism and what it says is crime and nuisance associated with the coffee shops.

"In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end," the Dutch health and justice ministers wrote in a letter to the country's parliament last Friday. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

AG Holder Backs Early Release for Crack Cocaine Prisoners

In testimony before the US Sentencing Commission Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder gave his support to a proposal that could result in the early release of thousands of federal crack cocaine prisoners.  The proposal would make retroactive last year's Fair Sentencing Act, which sharply reduced the disparities in sentencing between powder and crack cocaine offenses.

Under laws in effect since the crack panic of the mid-1980s, it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, but only five grams of crack to earn the same time. The Fairness in Sentencing Act reduced that 100:1 disparity to 18:1, providing sentencing relief to future crack defendants.

But that law did not provide relief for the nearly 12,000 people currently serving federal crack sentences under the old laws. Prisoners and their families, civil rights activists, and drug reform activists have been calling on the Sentencing Commission to make the sentencing changes retroactive. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Florida Welfare Drug Testing Bill Signed Into Law 

Florida welfare applicants and recipients, mostly women with children, will now have to undergo drug tests at their own expense to receive cash benefits after Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a drug testing bill, HB 353, that passed the state legislature earlier this month. Scott also signed HB 1039, a law banning "bath salts," or new synthetic stimulant drugs.

More than 21,000 Floridians receiving benefits as heads of households will have to pay for and take the drug tests, as well as any new applicants. If they pass the drug test, they will be reimbursed for the cost. If they fail the drug test, they become ineligible to receive benefits for one year or until successfully completing drug treatment. Children of heads of household who test positive would still be eligible to receive benefits through a designated third party.

 Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature argued that the law is necessary to stop welfare recipients from using the money to buy drugs. But opponents cited studies demonstrating that drug use is no more common among welfare recipients than among the general public.

"While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction," Scott said in a press release. "This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

A Million Medical Marijuana Patients in California? 

In an analysis released Tuesday, California NORML estimated that the number of medical marijuana patients in the Golden State is at least 750,000 and could be as high as 1,125,000. Those figures represent 2% and 3% of the state's population, respectively. 

In earlier analyses, California NORML had estimated the number of patients at 75,000 in 2004, 150,000 in 2005, and 300,000 in 2007. Because patients are not required to register with the state, nobody knows for sure what the real number is. California NORML arrived at its estimate by looking at registration rates in other medical marijuana states that have similar wide access to medical marijuana clinics and dispensaries, most notably Colorado and Montana.

In Colorado, 2.5% of the state population is on the medical marijuana registry, while in Montana, the figure is 3%. Other registry states have lower percentages, but those can be attributed to the lack of dispensaries, limits on dispensaries, or, in the case of Michigan, the relative newness of the program.

In accepting a figure in the 2.5-3% range, California NORML is being cautious. California's medical marijuana law has been in effect for longer than those states and it is the most inclusive, allowing a recommendation to be issued for virtually any reason.

Despite the high number of medical marijuana users, there is no evidence that easy access to medical marijuana has spurred pot use in California, the group argued, citing federal and state government surveys. California is only slightly above the national average for past month or past year use and use among teenagers has actually declined, California NORML pointed out. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

UNODC Executive Director lauds container control programme in tackling the smuggling of drugs and cultural artefacts 

Vienna. 11 May 2011. More than two tons of cocaine and numerous cultural artefacts have been seized in Ecuador over the past two months as part of the work of the first ever inter-agency seaport container profiling unit. 

On 9 April 2011, drug detector dogs discovered approximately 290 kg of cocaine in a shipment with bananas destined for Spain. This followed a seizure the previous day when 1,000 kg of cocaine was found hidden in a shipment of pineapples destined for the Port of Antwerp in Belgium and a 1 March bust by the unit when they intercepted 796 kg cocaine which had been hidden inside pre-cooked tuna loin. According to officials of the unit, the containers were identified as high-risk based on the training delivered to the unit under the joint UNODC-World Customs Organization (WCO) Container Control Programme (CCP) launched in 2003.

In late-February Ecuadorian authorities seized an illegal shipment of teak wood in the Port of Contecon, headed for Nhava Sheva in India. In the same period, an extensive range of heritage cultural pieces including paintings and carvings were found being smuggled out of the country destined for Argentina and France. In addition to the European-bound archaeological pieces which were seized, authorities uncovered protected animal species which were trying to be moved out of the country illegally. Three weeks ago, on 20 April, authorities in the Panamanian Port of Balboa uncovered 119 kg of cocaine hidden amongst instant coffee containers destined for Gdynia, Poland. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Should ibogaine be an approved drug treatment? 

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring alkaloid of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, which is native to West Central Africa. It ’s a powerful psychedelic that has been used medicinally and in religious ceremonies for centuries.

But now a growing network of doctors, researchers and activists – many of whom are active in ‘underground’ ibogaine treatment centres because its use is illegal in many countries – say this substance is the new wonder drug for treating opiate addiction. It may also be effective for addictions to alcohol and nicotine and the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorders.

However, many medical professionals warn not enough is yet known about ibogaine to be sure the substance is safe and that its side-effects give more than enough cause for pause. 

In this edition of Viewpoints, we provide the arguments for and against approving ibogaine as a treatment for addiction and withdrawal. To learn more please follow this link

Source: New Zealand Drug Foundation

War on Drugs - Obama and Cameron can leave a legacy of peace

On Thursday 2 June the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a panel of world leaders and politicians, will host a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York to launch a report that describes the drug war as a failure, and calls for a paradigm shift in global drug policy, including the decriminalisation and legal regulation of drugs. 

Transform Drug Policy Foundation welcomes the report, because fifty years of global prohibition have resulted in massive levels of crime, destabilised entire nation states, created huge health harms, criminalised 250 million users, and wasted trillions of dollars. Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs said: “This report is a watershed moment that puts legal regulation of drugs onto the mainstream political agenda worldwide.

“Globally we spend $100 billion a year on the war on drugs, so if we carry on as we are, over the next decade we will waste a trillion dollars increasing insecurity, damaging development and promoting crime and ill-health in some of the most disadvantaged places on earth.“We call on UK party political leaders to call a ceasefire in their political point scoring, and instead unite to explore peaceful and effective alternatives to the war on drugs. 

“The UK Government is also in the perfect position to bring the US to the table to negotiate an end to the war on drugs and a Marshall Plan to consolidate the peace. In 2002 David Cameron called for the UN to debate legal regulation, and in 2004 President Obama described the war on drugs as an “utter failure”. Cameron and Obama now have the greatest opportunity ever to use the ‘essential relationship’ to find a peaceful solution to the longest conflict of modern times. Ending the war on drugs and bringing peace to some of the most violent places in the world would be a truly great legacy.”

Source: TDPF

US Sentencing Commission Holding Hearing on Retroactive Application of the Recent Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reform 

Today, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is holding a public hearing on the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, which Congress passed last year and narrowed a decades-old disparity in federal sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. If the Commission decides to apply the sentencing guideline changes retroactive as many as 12,000 people in federal prison could be released early, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. 

"Since 1995, the US Sentencing Commission has, in four reports to Congress, requested that Congress raise the threshold quantities of crack that trigger mandatory minimums in order to ease the unconscionable racial disparities in sentencing," said Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, who will testify in front of the Commission today.  "It makes no sense to deny relief to the thousands of defendants whose sentences the Commission has consistently condemned for the past seventeen years."

In a statement to the Commission Attorney General Eric Holder said retroactive application of the law is important for "promoting public safety and public trust – and ensuring a fair and effective criminal justice system." His testimony adds more weight to the growing momentum in support of retroactivity, a movement that already includes members of Congress, civil rights groups, drug policy reform groups, and the families of thousands of incarcerated individuals. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

New DrugScope book will help professionals support women during pregnancy 

The latest in DrugScope’s series of resource books for professionals, The Essential Guide to Problem Substance Use During Pregnancy, is now on sale.This unique text is the go-to reference guide for all practitioners who provide care to women who use drugs or alcohol before, during and after their pregnancy.Drug and alcohol workers, social workers, midwives, nurses, health visitors, GPs and students from all these disciplines will find the guide invaluable.

As well as being a joyful time, becoming a mother can undoubtedly be a difficult experience too.For a woman with drug or alcohol problems, it may also be very frightening.With or without justification, she may be afraid that their substance use will harm her baby’s health, that health or substance misuse professionals may be judgemental, or that the authorities may remove her child if her substance use is known, regardless of her parenting capacity.However, the profound changes brought by pregnancy and parenthood can also provide a significant opportunity for positive engagement with services and a determination to meet the challenges of parenthood and overcoming substance use head on.Professionals who work with this client group must be able to respond appropriately to women’s needs, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the baby, mother, her partner and wider family.

The Essential Guide to Problem Substance Use During Pregnancy aims to help address the most common issues faced by practitioners working with women who use drugs or alcohol and who are pregnant.The practical, twelve chapter guide establishes a ‘framework for care,’ synthesising the latest good practice advice, official guidelines and research knowledge from the UK and abroad.Information and intervention strategies are provided on a vast range of topics. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope 

Will legalising marijuana fix California's problems?

California spends a countless amount of money each year fighting its illegal marijuana trade. But can legalising the drug in the state be the answer to its woes?

The helicopter hovers above steep brush-covered slopes of a remote canyon in southern California. We are on a raid, tracking America's biggest cash crop - marijuana. The pilot, an LA County Sheriff's deputy, points out agents below searching through dry undergrowth.

The terrain, the Angeles National Forest, is so difficult that they had to be lowered in from the air. The forest is a protected wilderness area, less than two hours from Los Angeles. But it is also remote enough to offer a good hiding place.

Authorities say organised crime gangs, including Mexican drug cartels, are increasingly using inaccessible, often publicly owned land like this to grow huge amounts of marijuana. It's an industry estimated to be worth around $35bn (£22bn) a year in the US, and no other crop comes close.

Illegal growers profit, while taxpayers fund eradication exercises like this. Ground teams pull up plants they find for later destruction. But Captain Ralph Ornelas, from the Bureau of Narcotics at LA County Sheriff's Department, admits they recover "maybe 1-5%" of illicit plants. To learn more please follow this link

Source: BBC News

 "Video Activism- In our own Voices: A Conversation with the HCLU’s Peter Sarosi and István Gábor Takács"

"Video Activism- In our own Voices: A Conversation with the HCLU’s Peter Sarosi and István Gábor Takács" This week’s podcast is a conversation with pioneering video activists Peter Sarosi and István Gábor Takács. Taking advantage of the changing social media environment, Peter and István have been producing brilliant, pithy, witty, incisive videos on drug policy and harm reduction usurping dominant media to present an alternative viewpoint. Recent video from the HRC US harm reduction conference http://bit.ly/iIM3Ic . Article from the OSI blog http://bit.ly/iTGxTq Available on I-tunes and at http://bit.ly/fmAaIR

Source: Harm Reduction Coalition

Russia, human rights and the building understanding of harm reduction and the right to health, an analysis by Harm Reduction International 

The UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights released its‘Concluding Observations’ on Russia’s implementation of one of the core UN human rights treaties – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The treaty, agreed in 1966, sets out the clearest articulation of the right to health in international law and has been ratified by 160 UN member states. In 2010 members of the Committee visited Russia to meet with people who use drugs who spoke about their experiences of Russian anti-harm reduction and anti-HIV prevention policies. The visit was co-ordinated by the Andrey Rylkov Foundation with the assistance of the UNODC, Moscow Office.

Noting its concerns about the “growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and tuberculosis in the Russian Federation”, the Committee went on to say that it “remains concerned about the continued ban on the medical use of methadone and buprenorphine for treatment of drug dependence and the fact that the Government does not support opioid substitution therapy (OST) and needle and syringe programs which are strongly recommended by WHO/UNAIDS, UNODC, and other international organizations, as effective measures for prevention of HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users”

This concern was made in relation to article 12 of the Covenant – the right to health. It follows previous recommendations from this Committee relating harm reduction (Tajikistan 2006, Ukraine 2007, Poland 2009, Kazakhstan 2010, Mauritius 2010) but this is a first for two reasons: First, the Committee deals with a ban on opioid substitution therapy and calls explicitly for law reform to rectify the situation, strongly recommending that Russia “provide clear legal grounds and other support for the internationally recognized measures for HIV prevention among injecting drug users, in particular the opioid substitution therapy (OST) with use of methadone and buprenorphine, as well as needle and syringe programs”

Second, the Committee recommends legal grounds and other support for "overdose prevention programs" as a requirement of the right to health. While overdose has been raised on rare occasions by other human rights monitors (e.g. the Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to Norway in 2010) this is the first time is has been explicitly connected to the right to health under the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights so that people who use drugs “do not forfeit their basic right to health”. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IDPC

Canadian drug facility cut overdose deaths: study

The study came as Canada's highest court prepared to hear a lawsuit over the federal government's attempt to close down the Insite facility in Vancouver despite calls by local health officials and police to keep it open.

Heroin and cocaine addicts at the facility are given clean needles to inject themselves with their own drugs in a room supervised by a nurse. They are then allowed to stay in a "chill-out" room before returning to the streets.

The facility has cut drug overdose deaths by 35 percent in Vancouver's downtown Eastside neighborhood, which has one of Canada's highest drug addiction rates, according to the study in Lancet.

Overdose deaths fell elsewhere in Vancouver at the same time but by much less than in the area surrounding Insite, where most of its users live, according to researchers from the B.C. Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Modeled on facilities in Europe, Insite is funded by the province of British Columbia and requires an exemption from Canada's drug laws to remain open.

It was initially allowed to open as a medical trial, as researchers studied claims it would reduce overdose deaths, control the spread of HIV and help get addicts into treatment programs without increasing crime in the neighborhood. 

Insite's critics say it promotes illegal drug use, and the federal government has said it wants to shut down the facility now that the medical trial period has ended. The United States has urged Canada to shut down the facility. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Reuters

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.

That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here.

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