oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of March 14th 2011

We lead this week with exciting news of a special preview of "The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System.” Written, produced and directed by our very own Charles Shaw, the film puts a human face on the millions of American's subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
16 March 2011

Special Preview of “The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & American Criminal Justice System” 

It gives me great pleasure to lead our report this week with exciting news of a special preview of "The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs & the American Criminal Justice System.”

Written, produced and directed by our very own Charles Shaw, the film is presents an oral history that puts a human face on the millions of American's subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs.

The "Land of the Free" punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other country.  While the United States hosts just 5% of the world's population, it holds a full 25% of the world's prisoners. At 2.5 million, the US has more prisoners than China. Not more prisoners per capita, more prisoners.

An additional 5 million are under "Correctional Supervision" (probation, parole, or court monitoring), leaving 1 in 31 Americans under constant State control, prompting The Economist to declare that "never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little." 

The Exile Nation Project is a documentary archive of interviews and testimonies from criminal offenders, family members, and experts revealing the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs and the American Criminal Justice System.

Please find information about the San Francisco and Los Angeles screenings below: 

SF March 31st- http://exilenationproject.eventbrite.com

LA April 1 - http://exilenationhollywood.eventbrite.com

Please click here for more information and also please visit www.ExileNation.org

Prisons alone won’t win war on drugs

Our criminal justice system is stressed to the breaking point. Now is the time to address the major reason our jails are overcrowded, communities are plagued by violent crime and law enforcement budgets are stretched so thin.

It is estimated that by 2020, one in 25 people in the United States will have an opiate dependence. In fact, Oxycontin and heroin have become so widely abused that the addiction rate in Massachusetts has increased 950 percent in the last 10 years. Today, far too many of our loved ones are addicted. They commit crimes to feed this powerful addiction and are funneled through our courts and jails at great expense, destined only to return. Massachusetts is not only losing money in this continual cycle, we are also losing our future.

The state’s prison system is operating at 140 percent capacity, and county jails often reach 361 percent capacity. We know that nationally, nearly 80 percent of offenders either have a substance abuse problem or in some way had drugs involved in the commission of their crime. This means that in Massachusetts, of the approximately 12,000 incarcerated, nearly 10,000 people are imprisoned because of their addiction and drug-related crimes.

This revolving door of substance abuse, crime and incarceration looms so large it seems beyond resolution. But taking some commonsense steps today will go a long way toward changing the outcome tomorrow and for decades to come.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Boston Herald

Montana Raids Farms Growing Medical Cannabis 

Federal and local law enforcement officials raided medical marijuana operations in Montana this week as legislators debated a proposal aimed at repealing the law that legalized its use.

The state’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the repeal bill last month, but in a 6-to-6 vote, it failed to advance past a Senate committee. What seemed like a small victory for advocates of medical marijuana was overshadowed by reports from growers that the authorities were sweeping down on their operations on Monday. 

Most of the locations that were raided were medical marijuana growers or providers, according to Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland, Calif., group that has been working to fight Montana’s repeal effort. A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office declined to discuss details. To learn more please follow this link

Source: New York Times 

Drugnet Europe 73 

Drugnet Europe, the EMCDDA's quarterly newsletter, provides regular information on the Agency's activities to a broad readership.

In this issue: mephedrone ban across the EU; Poland passes new law to control ‘head shops’ and ‘legal highs’; a new European Society for Prevention Research; 2011 EMCDDA work programme; a new prize for top scientific papers; new EMCDDA products and services.

Download as pdf (219Kb): English (en)

Source: EMCDDA 

New York City Spending $75 Million a Year on Marijuana Arrests

Three members of the New York City Council joined advocates and community members on the steps of City Hall today at a press conference organized by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. They announced the release of a new report: "$75 Million A Year - The Cost of New York City's Marijuana Arrests."

The report, written by CUNY Professor Harry Levine and attorney Loren Siegel, shows that since 1996 New York City has spent from half a billion to over a billion dollars arresting people for less than an ounce of marijuana.

Each arrest costs at least $1,000 to $2,000 (conservatively estimated), and in 2010 the NYPD made nearly 1,000 arrests a week. The 50,383 people arrested for marijuana in 2010 were all fingerprinted, photographed, and most spent 24 hours or more in jail. In all cases, marijuana possession was the highest charge or the only charge. To learn more, please follow this link

Source: AlterNet 

The Passing of a Drug Reform Hero: Retired Judge Jerome Marks 

There are heroes and then there are heroes.  My good friend Judge Jerry Marks, a former New York Supreme Court Justice, was a hero’s hero. On March 9, he died at age 95. Judge Marks had a long and distinguished career as a New York elected official and jurist. He served as state representative for six years beginning in 1963, and later as a Supreme Court Justice until he retired in 1992. In his retirement, Marks devoted his life to change New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws and helped secure clemency for prisoners rotting away in prison for their roles in minor drug crimes.  To learn about the extraordinary life of Judge Marks, please follow this link 

Source: AlterNet

Regulations covering medical marijuana vary in 15 states

Fifteen states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

But the laws allowing it in three of those locations –– Arizona, New Jersey and the District of Columbia –– have yet to be formally implemented, according to Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Maryland has a law that requires a judge to consider a defendant’s use of medical marijuana to be a mitigating factor in state prosecutions involving violations of the marijuana laws. If a patient who’s arrested successfully argues at trial that his or her use of marijuana is based on medical necessity, the maximum penalty allowed by law is a $100 fine.  Most of the states that do allow medicinal marijuana do not have statutes that specifically provide for dispensaries. And there are moves afoot in some states to repeal laws that are allowing people to use medical marijuana based on alleged abuses.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Projo

Portugal's experiment with drug laws is paying off 

Imagine a country so fed up with its ineffective crime-and-punishment approach to drug abuse that it decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of narcotics for personal use. 

At the same time, it launches a concerted effort to provide treatment for addicts instead of just throwing them in prison. Surely such a naive land would see a sharp increase in drug use, and perhaps a generation of youth blighted by easy access to mind-altering substances. But in Portugal, which is just such a country, that's not what happened.

Drug use does seem to have gone up, but this increase may well be illusory—and rather harmless. What's not illusory, on the other hand, is the sharp reduction in the ills associated with drug abuse. Nine years into its courageous experiment with sanity as a national drug policy, Portugal is indisputably better off. And it's getting some well-earned attention for its efforts.

Policy-makers in some other western countries, including the U.S., ought to pay especially close attention, given the colossal futility of its own endless “war on drugs” — for never has a cure been so much more catastrophic than the disease it was intended to remedy. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Guelph Mercury

Drug overdose deaths highlight Britain's recent heroin shortage 

The arrival of rogue high-purity batches of heroin is believed to have triggered a spate of overdose deaths in the middle of Britain's longest heroin drought, drugs charities have warned. 

A snapshot survey of frontline drug services, police and service users in 18 towns and cities, published by Druglink magazine, reveals the scale of the "unprecedented" heroin drought first identified last October – and the risks of using the new supplies.

It says: "In some areas, batches of good quality heroin have appeared and may have been responsible – because of users' reduced tolerance levels – for drug-related deaths." The magazine discloses that unpublished Forensic Science Service figures confirm that the average purity of available street heroin is at its lowest level since 1984. 

"Users and their families should be increasingly alert to a sudden increase in purity, which could put lives in greater danger." To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian 

IHRA AGM 2011, Beirut – Monday 4th April 

IHRA's annual AGM meeting will take place on Monday 4th April from 14:30-16:00 in the Noura Room of the Metropolitan Palace Hotel, Horsh Tabet, Sin El Fil, Beirut, Lebanon, in the margins of the Harm Reduction 2011 conference.

If you have any queries or need any further information about the AGM please email [email protected]

Source: IHRA

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law is seeking submissions from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region 

On behalf of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, this is a Call for Submissions for the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Dialogue.

The Regional Dialogue will take place on 18-19 May 2011 in Chisinau, Moldova. In addition to giving voice to regional and country perspectives on issues of HIV and the law, the dialogue aims to contribute to regional efforts for creating enabling legal environments which support effective HIV responses. The forum will provide a unique opportunity for civil society to engage directly with government officials, law experts, United Nations representatives and members of the Global Commission to discuss gaps and opportunities for changes in the law, practices of law enforcement, issues with legal aid and access to redress. 

The Commission looks forward to hearing from you if you have worked or presently work in Eastern Europe and Central Asia on the following issues:

(1) Laws and practices that effectively criminalise people living with HIV and vulnerable to HIV;

(2) Laws and practices that facilitate or impede HIV-related treatment access;

(3) Issues of law and HIV pertaining to the rights to education, work, healthcare and residency.

For more information and how to apply please follow this link

Source: IHRA

Expert meeting on the criminalisation, penalisation and segregation of people living in poverty - Geneva 17 & 18 March

The International Council on Human Rights Policy will convene an international workshop in Geneva on 17-18 March 2011 to contribute to the preparation of the reports and policy briefings on a new project on the Penalisation of People Living in Poverty.

The workshop will gather around 20 experts including human rights advocates, those engaged in urban planning and administration, advocacy groups of the urban poor, representatives of grass roots organisations, and UN experts and academics working on issues related to criminalisation of poverty or related themes in different regions of the world.

The ways in which state and social forces penalise, segregate and control those living in poverty are inherently interconnected and multi-dimensional, and cannot be analysed in an isolated context. However, for the purposes of the research workshop and the study, we will approach these measures of social control under four broadly defined themes: Public Health; Urban Planning and Public Spaces; Social Welfare Measures and Institutions; and Policing and Criminal Justice. To learn more please follow this link

Source: IHRA

IHRA Submits to the Universal Periodic Review of Thailand at the Human Rights Council 

IHRA, in partnership with a collection of public health and human rights NGOs, authored a submission on Thailand to the UN Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review. 

The submission – which was written with the Asian Harm Reduction Network, the Open Society Institute, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group – focuses on the death penalty for drug offences; compulsory drug treatment; the high number of women in prison for drug-related offences as well as the lack of harm reduction services and the right to health.

The Universal Periodic Review is a peer-review process, under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in which countries review one another’s human rights records. Every country gets reviewed once every four years. Civil society is invited to provide submissions of information which are considered during the review. Thailand's review will take place in October 2011.

The full submission is available for download. (PDF, 211 KB) 

Source: IHRA 

IHRA at the UN Human Rights Council: Annual day on the rights of the child 

The UN Human Rights Council is the highest political body in the UN system focusing on human rights. (Those paying attention to the situation in Libya may have recently heard about the Council in the news). Every year the Council holds a full day’s session on the rights of the child involving Member States, international experts, UN mechanisms and NGOs. This year’s day focused on children living and/or working on the street.

IHRA attended the session, focusing on drugs and drug policies. Our oral statement, delivered during the session, is copied below and may be viewed online. It was delivered jointly on behalf of Human Rights Watch, World Vision International, Consortium for Street Children, Child Rights Information Network, and the International Catholic Child Bureau. 

IHRA also supported other NGOs and coalitions in their statements: World Vision International on health, and the Coalition for Street Children on data collection. All of the interventions may be watched online, but we recommend that you listen to the speech delivered by Father Patrick Shanahan, founder of Street Invest. It was genuinely inspiring, overshadowing anything said by Member States that day. 

Source: IHRA

Payment by Results and Drugs Recovery 

Payment by results is at the very heart of the Government’s proposals for what it described in the 2010 Spending Review as ‘a radical programme of public service reform’.  According to the Spending Review, the principal benefit of payment by results is ‘increasing diversity of provision in public services’ through ‘removing barriers to greater independent provision’. In other words, it’s about shaking things up by requiring the public sector to compete with charities and private sector organisations. The other big driver is an impatience with ‘process targets’ and a desire for a greater focus on tangible outcomes for the community.

Not that payment by results is an invention of this government. It was developed by Labour in the NHS and the welfare system. The Social Impact Bond Scheme at HMP Peterborough, in which investors receive a return for reduced re-offending, was signed off by Jack Straw.

However, this Government is taking payment by results in new directions. Proposals for six ‘recovery’ pilots for drug treatment are particularly radical. They involve outcomes stretching across four domains: getting people free of drugs of dependency, reducing offending or ‘continued non-offending’, sustained employment or full-time education and ‘health and well-being’.  The financial risks inherent in a results based system will not be borne by social investors (as in the Social Bond scheme), but directly by providers themselves. There is no real precedent for this. To learn more, please follow this link

Source: Works for Freedom 

WDP response to the Ministry of Justice green paper Breaking the cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders 

WDP (Westminster Drug Project) calls for a more radical approach to accommodation in drug and alcohol treatment as part of its response to the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) green paper.

It supports the government’s emphasis on the rehabilitation of offenders as the best way to cut reoffending and its recognition that imprisonment is a barrier to rehabilitation in most cases and therefore community sentences are more effective. 

But WDP argues that inadequate or non-existent accommodation for those serving community sentences is also a major barrier to change. Yasmin Batliwala, Chair of WDP, says: “We need to get beyond the idea that drug and alcohol treatment is either ‘rehab’ – delivered in a residential setting – or structured and unstructured interventions delivered to people we assume have their own accommodation. To learn more please follow this link and please read WDP’s response to the green paper

Source: Westminster Drug Project 

Leading UK charities join forces to impart life-saving skills to people affected by substance misuse

Addaction, the UK’s largest treatment charity, has formed a partnership with humanitarian organisation British Red Cross to support people affected by misuse of drugs and alcohol.

By combining the skills of both organisations, these people will be trained to respond in potentially life-threatening situations, helping to preventing accidental death, avoid contracting blood borne viruses; and reducing the harm caused by drug use.

The British Red Cross will train Addaction’s front-line staff in emergency first aid skills, before staff pass on the acquired skills to a total of 4,000 of the charity’s service users. British Red Cross spokesperson Joe Mulligan - Head of First Aid Education said: “We are extremely excited to be working with Addaction and provide emergency first aid education.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: Addaction

UNODC and United Nations peacekeeping forces team up to combat drugs and crime in conflict zones

2 March 2011 - UNODC and the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations yesterday signed a joint plan of action to further strengthen their cooperation in the battle against drugs and organized crime in conflict and post-conflict zones and to proactively address threats to stability and security.

Speaking at the event, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said: "Development needs security to succeed. The United Nations must integrate responses to transnational organized crime, including criminal justice reform, into its peacekeeping, peacebuilding, security, development and disarmament activities. The UNODC-Department of Peacekeeping Operations joint plan of action is an important step in this direction."

Adding that the fight against drugs and organized crime was critical to the success of peacekeeping operations because criminals exploit regions weakened by war, Mr. Fedotov pointed out that UNODC and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had mandates and comparative advantages that complemented each other and enhanced the impact of their efforts to strengthen peace and stability and support the United Nations security and development agenda. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UNODC

International Narcotics Control Board annual report: mixed thoughts

On March 2, 2011 the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released its Annual Report 2010. The report highlights the Board's concerns about issues such as designer drugs, synthetic cannabinoids and precursor chemicals and also presents regional developments and recommendations for Governments.

This year’s INCB report for the first time does not include any wording to criticize countries for decriminalizing possession of drugs for personal use. Last year the Board strongly criticized Argentina, Brazil and Mexico (see TNI/WOLA press release, “UN’s International Narcotics Control Board’s Annual Report oversteps mandate and interferes with countries’ sovereignty.”). This year only in the case of Spain the Board still expresses concern over the existence of drug consumption rooms, but the issue is not highlighted as it was in previous years and the same is true for heroin prescription programmes. Negative comments about decriminalization or harm reduction are fully absent from the concluding recommendations section of the report.

However, INCB continues to ignore issues that are mainstream in the rest of the UN such as human rights, right to health, HIV prevention, and indigenous rights. For more please read Martin Jelsma's (Transnational Institute, TNI) March 2, 2011 article.

INCB is the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. It was established in 1968 in accordance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961.

Source: EHRN

Dutch City Wants Marijuana Growing Co-ops 

The Dutch city of Utrecht wants to experiment with letting marijuana smokers grow together in co-ops in a bid to improve public health and safety, but the Dutch government is warning against the idea. The Netherlands tolerates the possession and sale of small quantities of marijuana and allows individual users to grow up to five plants for personal use. But the mass production of marijuana is illegal and puts big bucks in the pockets of organized crime groups.

"We want to tackle this in the experiment. If you have some users grow the cannabis you remove it from the criminal and illegal scene," Utrecht's alderman Victor Everhardt told Dutch public broadcaster NOS on Thursday. But the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice told Reuters the plan was illegal and would be prosecuted if implemented. "The soft drugs policy does not allow for the collection of plants and to grow, for instance, 500 plants," the ministry spokesman said.

That's not surprising from a conservative coalition government that for the past several years has been closing down as many of the country's famous cannabis coffeehouses as it can and is attempting to limit the sale of marijuana to foreigners.

Source: Stop the Drug War

New Jersey's Medical Marijuana Muddle 

More than a year after then Gov. Jon Corzine (D) signed New Jersey's Compassionate Use Act into law, it has yet to be implemented. Corzine's replacement, Gov. Chris Christie (R) first delayed implementing the program, then his Health Department promulgated draft regulations that the medical marijuana community and the legislature consider to be against both the spirit and the letter of the law.

It's unclear what will happen next. The Christie administration is moving forward with implementation, saying it is accepting applications for dispensaries, or alternative treatment centers (ATCs), although it won't name the applicants. But the legislature may move to invalidate all or part of the regulations, and if it does that, it isn't clear what that will mean for the program, either.While the Assembly sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D), came to an agreement with Christie in December, the Senate sponsor, Sen. Nick Scutari (D) remains unhappy with the regulations. A call to his office Wednesday about his intentions had not been returned by press time.

A public hearing on the proposed regulations Monday saw almost unanimous condemnation of the regulations, as patients, providers, advocates, and family members lined up unleash volleys of criticism at the proposed rules. Only one person, a spokesman for Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, which has applied for an ATC permit, applauded the rules. To read the rest of this drug war chronicle feature please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Kentucky Cuts Drug Sentences

Kentucky has become the latest state to enact sentencing reforms in a bid to rein in skyrocketing corrections costs. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) last Thursday signed into law HB 463, a comprehensive corrections bill that will save the state millions of dollars a year, in part by sentencing drug possession offenders to probation instead of prison.

The bill was based on a multi-year collaboration between the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project and state officials. State officials and legislators working with the project convened a Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act and issued a January report that was the basis for the legislation.

"This overhaul of Kentucky's penal code is the result of a multi-year effort involving members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches," said Gov. Beshear. "Over the last three years, we've made headway with aggressive efforts to bring common sense to Kentucky's penal code, and our prison population has dropped each of the past three years. House Bill 463 helps us be tough on crime, while being smart on crime."

The new law calls for sentences of "presumptive probation" for small-time drug possession offenders, meaning they will get probation unless judges can offer a compelling reason why they should go to prison. It also calls for drug treatment to be made available for drug offenders. It reduces penalties for small-time drug dealing while increasing penalties for large-scale trafficking. And it shrinks "drug-free" zones from 1,000 yards to 1,000 feet. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Recent Publications

We end this weeks report with a compilation of recent publications by ISSDP

Needle and Syringe Program March 2011

Treatment service users (TSU) project: phase two [Department of Health and Ageing, Australia] 

The Drug War in Mexico: Confronting a Shared Threat March 2011

This 35-page US report analyzes the drug war in Mexico [Council on Foreign Relations, USA]

2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report March 2011

The 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act

Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Act 2010 March 2011

The Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Act 2010 (the Act) came into effect in Victoria on 1 March 2011 - Summary PDF [Department of Health, Victoria, Australia]

Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Regulations 2011 March 2011

Authorised by the [Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Australia]

Comorbidity competencies March 2011

Skills indicators - ATOD practitioners will need to support clients with multiple and complex needs - mapping undertaken by Hannah Graham and Rob White as a component of their Salvation Army Bridge Program / University of Tasmania Comorbidity Improved Services Initiative (ISI) capacity building project [School of Sociology & Social Work, University of Tasmania]

INCB Annual Report 2010 March 2011

The report highlights the Board's concerns about issues such as designer drugs, synthetic cannabinoids and precursor chemicals and also presents regional developments and recommendations for Governments [INCB]

Continued cannabis use and risk of incidence and persistence of psychotic symptoms: 10 year follow-up cohort study March 2011

Conclusion Cannabis use is a risk factor for the development of incident psychotic symptoms. Continued cannabis use might increase the risk for psychotic disorder by impacting on the persistence of symptoms [British Medical Journal]

Source: ISSDP

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