oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of March 21st 2011

We lead this week with news of the 54th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs which opened yesterday in Vienna. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov called for a vigorous, comprehensive and integrated approach to reducing drug demand, supply and trafficking ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
22 March 2011

Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs opens in Vienna

21 March 2011 ­- Calling for a vigorous, comprehensive and integrated approach to reducing drug demand, supply and trafficking, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov yesterday opened the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which is meeting in Vienna from 21 to 25 March.

Mr. Fedotov said that more attention should be paid to safeguarding health, human rights and justice in the areas of drugs and crime policy and advocated for the need to relieve suffering and to decrease the negative effects of drugs on individuals, families and communities.

Each year, drug barons earn a staggering $320 billion. "So, if we are to make real progress against heroin and cocaine, and I trust we really can do it, we must continue to address illicit cultivation in a more meaningful and coordinated way", he told the annual meeting of the United Nations policymaking body for drug-related matters.

Alarmed by certain emerging trends, Mr. Fedotov pointed to the growing abuse of drugs by young children, especially in developing countries.  Meanwhile, in developed countries, abuse of prescription drugs was increasing and drug traffickers were responding to those demands, he said. He therefore underscored the importance of family skills training to enable parents to protect their children from drug abuse. "Children whose parents use drugs are themselves at greater risk of drug abuse and other risky behaviours. Drugs contribute to social problems that harm communities and are creating dangerous new challenges to public health." To learn more please follow this link

Related information

Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Full speech by UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov at the ppening of the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

To read draft resolutions of the 54th Session please follow this link

Source: UNODC

Drug Lords Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Global Prohibition

Drug lords say no to drug policy reform and thank the UN for keeping drugs illegal

50 years ago the United Nations adopted the first international treaty to prohibit some drugs – particularly drugs used by non-Europeans such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. The logic of the system was simple: any use of the drugs listed, unless sanctioned for medical or scientific purposes, would be deemed ‘abuse’ and thus illegal.

As a result of this convention, the unsanctioned production and trafficking of these drugs became a crime in all member states of the UN. It is now clear that punitive drug policies have several unintended consequences: they fuel the global HIV epidemic, undermine public health systems, result in a crisis for criminal justice systems, lead to severe human rights violations and create a massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of almost 400 billion USD.

There is a small group though that benefits from the global war on drugs: organized criminals and terrorists. (Read more about the global drug war!)  

Source: Drug Reporter

Treatment-Instead-of-Incarceration Bill Passes Legislature with Overwhelming Bi-partisan Support

Santa Fe – Last night, the New Mexico State Legislature passed the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act with overwhelming bi-partisan support.  This bill proposes appropriate community-based treatment, instead of incarceration, for non-violent drug possession offenders and people with drug-related probation or parole violations.   Senate Bill 321, sponsored by Senator Martinez and Representative Maestas, sailed through both the Senate and the House with a vote of 21-3 in the Senate and 41-26 in the House.

"The Legislature has given our Governor an opportunity to help New Mexico's families break the cycle of addiction and incarceration, improve public safety and save millions of dollars," said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico.  "This is not a partisan issue. Everyone wins."

Representative Maestas and Senator Martinez, along with support from many organizations including the Drug Policy Alliance, Young Women United, Women's Justice Project, and New Mexico Crime and Delinquency, have been working tirelessly to pass this legislation.

"This is an important piece of legislation for all New Mexicans," shares Adriann Barboa, Director of Young Women United. "We understand that substance users are our parents, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles. SB 321 is a smart policy for stronger families and healthier communities."

Similar legislation passed by other states has proven to be a cost-effective, common-sense solution to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one.  Offering treatment instead of incarceration would enhance public safety by reducing drug-related crime and preserving jail and prison space for violent offenders. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Drug Policy Alliance Joins Opposition to Proposed De Facto Ban on Medical Cannabis Dispensaries in San Diego City

San Diego – On March 28, the San Diego City Council will vote on an ordinance that amounts to a de facto ban on medical cannabis facilities in the City of San Diego. If passed as currently written, this unduly restrictive ordinance would threaten the quality of life for some of the most vulnerable members of our community and would deny safe access for thousands of patients in the city. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) urges the City Council to oppose this ordinance.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) played a leadership role during the campaign to pass the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215), which was passed by a majority of Californians – and San Diego residents – in 1996. Since the passage of Prop. 215, DPA has worked vigilantly through both legislative advocacy and litigation in federal and state courts to expand, protect, and defend medical marijuana in California. DPA was instrumental in the passage of SB 420, which established statewide guidelines and a patient and caregiver registration and ID card program to protect patients and caregivers from interference from law enforcement. DPA has worked on the local level in various cities and counties throughout the state to ensure that local medical marijuana regulations protect and monitor dispensaries so that patients have uninterrupted access to safe medicine.

Now DPA stands united with Canvass for a Cause, Americans for Safe Access and over twenty local and national organizations to oppose the proposed ordinance in San Diego City and to mobilize grassroots opposition to the de facto ban. In the last several weeks, the campaign has generated over 1,600 letters of opposition from constituents in the City of San Diego and brought together a large coalition united in opposition to this ordinance. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Statement from the NTA on National Drug Treatment Statistics

An article in the latest edition of Addiction Today asserts inaccurately that "drug free is formally defined in government statistics as being on drugs." While many other claims in the article could also be challenged, the NTA is concerned to set the record straight on this particular topic. The facts are that the category "drug free" in official National Statistics is defined as no longer requiring structured treatment and not using any illicit drug.

The decision to discharge a client from drug treatment rests with the clinician and depends on their professional judgement. Any individual on a methadone prescription is by definition still in treatment, and cannot be discharged or claimed as "drug free".

An individual who has overcome a drug dependency but shows signs of addiction to other substances (including alcohol or cannabis), or is at risk of relapse, should not be discharged but referred on to an appropriate service. It therefore follows that any client recorded on the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System as having "completed treatment drug free" is judged by their clinician as having overcome the dependency for which they entered treatment and is not dependent on any other drug. To learn more please follow this link

Source: NTA

CFR report calls for Commission on alternatives, including legalisation

A new report from the US based Council on Foreign Relations titled 'The Drug War in Mexico: Confronting a Shared Threat' makes a powerful critique of the ongoing enforcement-led US response, before calling for a more pragmatic approach built more around development and public health interventions. The report specifically calls for a Government inquiry into the potential costs and benefits drug legalisation, and for the Federal government to allow state level experimentation with the legalisation, taxation and regulation of cannabis/marijuana.

The analysis that leads to these recommendations is not new, but is clearly stated (for full text with references - see pdf) highlighting the need to look at the potential costs and benefits of current policy against those of policy alternatives (a DTO is a Drug Trafficking Organisation):

Mexico’s security crisis illustrates the limitations of current anti-drug strategies and offers an opportunity to shift the paradigm to a more sensible approach. Over the last four decades, the war on drugs has lacked clear, consistent, or achievable objectives; has had little effect on aggregate demand; and has imposed an enormous social and economic cost. A state-driven, supply-side, and penalty based approach has failed to curb market production, distribution, and consumption of drugs.

The assumption that punishing suppliers and users can effectively combat a large market for illicit drugs has proven to be utterly false. Rather, prohibition bestows enormous profits on traffickers, criminalizes otherwise law-abiding users and addicts, and imposes enormous costs on society. Meanwhile, there has been no real effect on the availability of drugs or their consumption, and three quarters of U.S. citizens believe that the war on drugs has failed.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Transform

Feds Push Banks to Spy On Legal Marijuana Dealers

Federal regulators ignited a firestorm of controversy recently when they ordered banks located in the North Coast area of California to spy on transactions of customers who are suspected of making money in the marijuana business. In a bid to crack down on California's marijuana industry, regulators have ordered banks to look out for suspicious activity by those running such operations, but that is leaving legal -- under state, but not federal law -- medical marijuana businesses out in the cold.

Although DEA and FBI officials are not specifically targeting medical marijuana, they say they are looking for drug traffickers and money launderers, and they regard any marijuana-related banking activities with suspicion. The banks are not being ordered to not do business with dispensaries, but are instead closing accounts rather than put up with the hassles of investigating and reporting those transactions.

Banks in the North Coast region, including Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, the Exchange Bank, and Ukiah Bank, as well as other financial institutions in the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas are scrambling to comply with the government's order as the feds continue their onslaught against the legal marijuana trade.

The enforcement action is the result of the North Coast's widespread reputation for marijuana production and also includes the arrest of citizens in the area operating legal medical marijuana businesses under California state law. California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, legalizing the medical use of marijuana for patients whose doctors have recommended they use it. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Alternet

Colombia Is No Model for Mexico's Drug War

When Washington ramped up its anti-drug efforts through Plan Colombia, more than 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States came through Colombia. A decade later, we get about 97 percent of our cocaine via Colombia.

Amazingly, officials are hailing the program's "success" and want Mexico to learn from Colombia's experience. While Plan Colombia may have helped make that country safer from guerrilla attacks, it has failed as a drug control strategy. Adapting that program in Mexico won't staunch that country's bloodbath and isn't likely to produce better results.

Washington's response to Mexico's increasingly violent drug trafficking problem has emphasized disrupting criminal organizations by breaking them up into smaller fragments. Yet there's no evidence that this strategy of "fracturing" the traffickers ever worked in Colombia, where we've already tried it for two decades.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Alternet

Scottish under 15s drink and drug use declines

Drink and drug use by young people in Scotland has declined in the past decade, a study has revealed.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the rate of smoking among 15-year-olds had fallen from 16% to 11% since 2002.

The findings are from the latest NHS-funded Health Behaviours in School-aged Children (HBSC) report.

The number of young people drinking alcohol at least once a week fell by over a third, and cannabis use halved. Almost 7,000 pupils were interviewed for the report, which provides a picture of the wellbeing of young people aged 11, 13 and 15.

Professor Candace Currie, director of the Child and Adolescent Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said: "These recent findings are extremely encouraging with improvements in several areas relating to children's overall wellbeing. To learn more please follow this link

Source: BBC News

War on Drugs takes Stage on Obama’s Latin America Trip

On his second country stop in South America, President Obama did not shy away from the drug trafficking epidemic affecting the United States and Latin America. Speaking in Santiago, Chile Monday, Obama expressed the concerns that gangs and traffickers threaten not only security of citizens but democracy for the region.

He emphasized the importance of training and shared technologies so governments can work cross boarders to maintain safety. "We're improving coordination and sharing more information so that those who traffic in drugs and human beings have fewer places to hide," he said. "And we're putting unprecedented pressures on cartel finances, including in the United States."

The address in Chile was the major speech of President Obama's five-day trip to the entire Latin American world. More focus on security is expected in his next country stop of El Salvador, the only Central American country Obama will visit this week. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Fox News

Illinois Death Penalty Repeal Has National Implications

Illinois governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation making Illinois the fourth U.S. state to end the death penalty in just five years. Sixteen states in total have abandoned it, and momentum towards repeal is accelerating nationally.

In 2009, repeal bills were pending in 11 states. This year Connecticut, Kansas, and Montana are also considering repeal. Americans are coming to realize that the death penalty is ineffective and insufficient to support victims in the aftermath of murder. In a 2010 Lake Research Partners report, a majority of Americans favored alternative punishments for murder, such as life without parole, over the death penalty.

Additionally, more criminal justice and law enforcement professionals are speaking out against the punishment. In a national survey of police officers [pdf], respondents ranked the death penalty last as a law enforcement tool. Many said that the money states waste on the death penalty could be put to better use funding safety equipment, training, and hiring more police. Most recently, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, the chief architect of the death penalty statute in Ohio, stated in a published article that capital punishment should be repealed because it is not fairly or evenly applied. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Open Society 

The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention

Approximately 10 million people per year pass through pretrial detention; many of them will spend months or even years behind bars—without being tried or found guilty. Locking away millions of people who are presumed innocent is a waste of human potential that undermines economic development.

The economic effects of excessive pretrial detention—from lost wages to misspent government resources—are documented in a new report, The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention, published by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the United Nations Development Program.

This study attempts for the first time to count the full cost of excessive pretrial detention, including lost employment, stunted economic growth, the spread of disease and corruption, and the misuse of state resources. Combining statistics, personal accounts, and recommendations for reform, The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention provides empirical arguments against the overuse of pretrial detention.

The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention

Related Information

The Hidden Cost of Pretrial Detention


Innovative Approaches to Criminal Justice Reform in Africa: The Role of Civil Society


Giving Mexico the Criminal Justice System It Deserves

Source: Open Society

Overreliance on Drug Courts Comes at Too High a Cost 

America’s growing reliance on drug courts is an ineffective allocation of scarce state resources, according to a new report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). Drug courts can needlessly widen the net of criminal justice involvement, and cannot replace the need for improved treatment services in the community. Of the nearly 8 million people in the U.S. reporting needing treatment for drug use, less than one fourth of people classified with substance abuse or a dependence on drugs and/or alcohol receives treatment, and for those who do receive treatment, over 37 percent are referred by the criminal justice system.

Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities

finds that providing people with alternatives like community-based treatment are more cost-effective and provide greater public safety benefits than treatment that comes with the collateral consequences associated with involvement in the criminal justice system.

“It is shameful that for many people involvement in the criminal justice system is the only way to access substance abuse treatment in this country,” said Nastassia Walsh, author of Addicted to Courts and Research Associate at JPI. “We need to change the way we think about drug use and the drug policies that bring so many people into the justice system.” Walsh added, “The dramatic increase in drug courts over the past 20 years may provide talking points for so-called ‘tough-on-crime’ policymakers; however, there are other, better options that can save money and support people and communities. More effective, community-based programs and services that can have a positive, lasting impact on individuals, families and communities should be made available.”

To read the full report or the factsheet of Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities, CLICK HERE.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Justice Policy Institute

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