oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of May 9th 2011

This week we lead with news that as tens of thousands of people in Mexico take to the streets to demand an end to the war on drugs, a coalition of nearly two dozen organizations in the United States have signed an open letter supporting the protesters’ calls for a new strategy ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
10 May 2011

Two Dozen U.S. Organizations Come Out In Support of Mexican Mobilizations against the Drug War

As tens of thousands of people in Mexico take to the streets today to demand an end to the war on drugs, a coalition of nearly two dozen organizations in the United States have signed an open letter supporting the protesters’ calls for a new strategy. 

Among the reforms urged by the coalition is an open debate about alternatives to drug prohibition, which is the root cause of the violence that has killed nearly 40,000 people in Mexico in four years.

The national protest movement was formed last month after the murders of several, innocent young people, including the son of Mexican poet and journalist Javier Sicilia. Today, Mr. Sicilia joins family members of other drug war victims in leading a silent protest march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City. The march will culminate in a convergence on the capital's Zócalo (main square) on Sunday, May 8 – when protests are also planned in dozens of other cities nationwide, as well as cities in New York, California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and several other U.S. states. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Drug Policy Alliance Expands its Advocacy to Colorado  

DENVER — The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to the war on drugs, has expanded its state-based advocacy to Colorado and has appointed Art Way to its first staff position in the Centennial State. DPA fights for drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights and seeks to promote dialogue on cutting-edge drug policy issues around the country. Headquartered in New York City, DPA maintains offices in California, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

As Drug Policy Manager, Denver-based Way will supervise DPA's legislative agenda, advocacy and program efforts across the state. Building on recent statewide reforms, the organization's Colorado priorities are to minimize the costly and ineffective role of the criminal justice system in addressing drug-related issues, to increase statewide support for proven, health-centered drug policies such as expanded access to sterile syringes, and to help create the climate for a successful voter initiative to legalize marijuana for adults in Colorado as soon as 2012.

"Colorado has emerged as an epicenter of drug policy reform in this country," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Within the last two years, this state has enacted bold reforms to sentencing, parole, and re-entry into communities, legalized syringe exchange programs, and adopted the most comprehensive medical marijuana regulations in the nation. I can't imagine anyone better able to build on those policy foundations in this crucial state than Art Way." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance 

Be an Observer: Attend the Next UNAIDS Board Meeting!

The 28th UNAIDS Board Meeting will take place in Geneva on 21-23 June 2011. The draft agenda for the three day meeting includes items on food and nutrition security and HIV, gender-sensitivity of AIDS responses, support mechanisms for African States, the 2010-2011 financial report and the Unified Budget, Results and Accountability Framework 2012-2015.

Members of civil society can attend the meeting by registering as Observers. This is a great opportunity to experience policy making and to have your voice heard. As an Observer, you may have the chance – at the chair’s discretion and after board members have spoken – to give interventions on the floor during the meeting. If you attend, you will be invited to daily civil society debriefs with the Delegation where you will have a chance to ask questions about the issues discussed each day and give feedback on Delegates’ interventions.

Observers to the PCB meeting are required to make their own travel arrangements and to cover all of their expenses, including air fare and their stay in Geneva. Registration does not automatically grant access; all Observers must be approved by the UNAIDS Executive Director and chair of the Board. There is no funding available for Observers through the NGO Delegation or UNAIDS. The registration deadline is 31 May 2011.

You can apply to be an Observer via an online form at the UNAIDS website. Updates and further information will be posted in the coming weeks.


UN High Level Meeting Updates: Attendees, Panels & Schedule and How You Can Take Action

Attendees have now been approved for the 2011 high-level meeting on the comprehensive review of the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS taking place from 8-10 June 2011 in New York.

Most of the UNAIDS PCB NGO Delegates will also be in attendance at the meeting.

For the most up-to-date information on the event, please see the current President of the General Assembly’s Information Note.

You can take action by signing the ‘Zero Draft’ Civil Society Declaration, a compilation of national, regional and constituency asks by a range of community activist and networks from around the world. In the lead up to the meeting, use the Declaration in your advocacy work and share it with your governments and colleagues. 


Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Africa Regional Dialogue

The Regional Dialogue will take place on 3-4 August 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 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 Commission looks forward to hearing from you if you have worked or presently work in Africa on the following issues:

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

(2) Laws and practices that mitigate or sustain violence and discrimination as lived by women;

(3) Laws and practices that facilitate or impede HIV-related treatment access; and (4) Issues of law and HIV pertaining to children. 

You are invited to make a submission if your experience has been in a country within the African Union.

Submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee created by the United Nations and the Global Commission and a set of authors of submissions will be invited to Johannesburg to participate in the Regional dialogue, which will be conducted with simultaneous translation between English, French and Portuguese. To learn more please follow this link 


Recovery service providers encouraged to take part in Payment by Results (PbR)

Service providers are being urged to become early adopters of Payment by Results (PbR) models for drugs recovery. More than 65 drug treatment and recovery service providers attended the Department of Health (DH) in Leeds on Wednesday 27 April to hear about the emerging models of PbR following the recent announcement of eight pilot sites.

The highlight of the event was a networking opportunity enabling the pilot areas to showcase their emerging work, and encouraging providers to market their services to commissioners interested in PbR.

Chris Heffer, DH Deputy Director for Alcohol and Drugs, said the goal of the project was to free-up providers to use their expertise and develop innovative approaches. The pilots are currently in a co-design phase, working out with officials the detail of how each will operate locally when they commence in October.

Although each pilot area will be responsible for designing their own system, national definitions for the agreed outcomes will be published shortly, while an invitation to tender will also go out for the independent evaluation of the project. 

A variety of speakers at the event acknowledged the range of challenges ahead. These included whether to start with a complex or simple model; how to avoid the risk of 'perverse incentives' and 'cherry-picking' clients; the importance of minimising bureaucracy; ensuring all providers have equal opportunities to compete; delivering more outcomes without increased funding; and ensuring the needs of the whole population were addressed within a local system. To learn more please follow this link. Presentations from the event are now available.

Source: NTA

Sentencing Council Consultation on Drug Offences

The consultation on the draft guideline on drug offences is open from 28 March 2011 to 20 June 2011. The consultation documents comprise a draft guideline, a full consultation paper intended for criminal justice professionals, a shorter public consultation paper, a resource assessment and an equality impact assessment.

If you are a member of the public and you wish to read the consultation please download the following document:

There is also a simple online questionnaire which you can complete. If you are a criminal justice professional (including members of the judiciary) and would like to read the consultation, please download the following document: Drug offences guideline – professional consultation

Source: Sentencing Council

Venezuela negotiates extradition of alleged drug kingpin wanted by US 

An alleged drug lord who has implicated senior Venezuelan officials in cocaine-trafficking is bound for Caracas after President Hugo Chávez won a high-stakes extradition tussle with the United States. Walid Makled, who is in a high-security jail in Colombia, is expected to be flown to Venezuela this week to be tried – and some say muzzled – for trafficking drugs through Venezuela's state-run ports.

Makled, known as "the Turk", told reporters from prison that for years he paid senior Venezuelan government figures and 40 military officers, including the head of the navy, to let him smuggle cocaine from the Venezuelan port of Puerto Cabello.

Colombia rebuffed US efforts to gain custody of Makled, 44, who promised to reveal all if tried there, and said he would instead be extradited to Venezuela, which asked first. He is likely to be flown to Caracas this week once Venezuelan officials submit documentation guaranteeing his human rights, his lawyer, Miguel Ramirez, told El Nuevo Herald. "Once that has been presented, there is nothing more to be done." To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Mexico's failed war against the drug gangs

On Sunday thousands of Mexicans marched in the capital, Mexico City, to demand an end to the "war on drug trafficking" launched by President Felipe Calderón. They view it is an absurd war that has cost 40,000 lives. Similar protests were held across the country.

The massive mobilisation was called by the poet Javier Sicilia. In March, his son was brutally murdered along with five others in Cuernavaca. Apart from being a great writer who has received a number of literary prizes, Sicilia is a Christian with a commitment to popular causes and a follower of Ivan Illich, the controversial Austrian thinker who lived in Mexico for many years. Sicilia has no links to political parties, and has gathered around him a great many people who are unhappy with the government and with its failed war against organised crime.

Calderón took office as president in December 2006, after a controversial election beset by allegations of fraud. Seeking a legitimacy that the polls did not give him, he took the military out of the barracks and into politics. The outcome has been disastrous. Tens of thousands of people have been murdered. Many of them were unarmed, and had not picked a fight. They were not killed as part of the all-out war between rival drug cartels or during clashes between the military and/or the police and organised crime gangs. Their deaths were crimes committed in a country where vast areas are under a non-declared state of siege, patrolled day and night by thousands of police and military. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian 

Leading experts to review global developments in new drugs and ‘legal highs’ 

This week a new chapter in the history of Colombia's long and bloodthirsty civil conflict is set to open. The "Victims' Law" and land restitution bill, which has been crawling through the national congress for the last six months, is about to be passed. And with it, says the Colombian government, an entirely new settlement between Colombia's three million victims of internal violence and the state.

The law provides financial compensation to Colombians affected by guerrilla, paramilitary and state violence. It also aims to restore lands lost by rural Colombians during the conflict, confiscated or forcibly bought by rightwing paramilitary groups. Combined with an ambitious programme of rural development, the law aims to restore millions of hectares of misappropriated land to up to two million internal refugees. 

Significantly, the Victims' Law legally recognises for the first time the state's culpability in the violence. Last Wednesday a clause was inserted in the law asserting that the beneficiaries of the bill were victims of "armed conflict". This seemingly obvious proposition is bitterly opposed by a faction led by former president Alvaro Uribe, who argues that it equalises the actions of the state and illegal armed groups. For Senator Juan Fernando Cristo, the author of the bill, Uribe's words demonstrate a "profound ignorance of international humanitarian law". To learn more please follow this link

Source: EMCDDA 

EMCDDA celebrates Europe day with partners in Lisbon 

The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) will be hosting an exhibition stand during upcoming Europe Day celebrations in Lisbon from 7–9 May. This year the focus of events will be on young people, in the context of the EU flagship campaign ‘Youth on the move’. The stand will be located in the Europe Day exhibition tent at Praça do Rossio, where staff members will be meeting the public and talking about their work. 

The initiative is organised by the representation of the European Commission in Portugal, in partnership with the European Parliament office in Portugal, the Presidency of the European Union (Hungary) and the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Concerts, debates, workshops and theatre will be among the attractions. 

On 9 May 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman issued a declaration calling on France, Germany and other European countries to pool together their coal and steel production as ‘the first concrete foundation of a European federation’. This was the first move towards what would eventually become the European Union. Today, 9 May has become a symbol of the European project. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: EMCDDA 

Dr Katharine May – psychologist and addiction specialist 

Dr May is a psychologist who specialises and works in addiction. In this interview she talks about the ‘Myth of the Addict’, the bio-psycho-social model of drug use, signs to indicate addiction, the formation of drug policy and its effects on scientific research and the process someone going into rehab might go through. She also gives a physiological explanation of what happens to your body when you mix cocaine and alcohol. Skip through the chapters at the bottom of the screen to see the subject areas she covers.

Source: Know Drugs

Jail the drug dealers, free the users 

The war on drugs hasn't worked in Thailand and it hasn't worked at the global level. After 50 years of harsh drug prohibition enforcement policies throughout the world following the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the only people smiling are the drug dealers and the officials in their pay. 

The UK drug policy coalition "Count the Costs" (countthecosts.org) states that: "The war on drugs creates massive costs, resulting from the enforcement-led approach that puts organised crime in control of the trade."

With the global HIV/Aids epidemic has come the realisation that criminalisation of drug users has been an important contributing factor to the spread of HIV, as it has prevented drug users from accessing Aids education and health services. 

It has also hampered efforts to encourage injecting drug users to use clean needles and syringes rather than sharing injecting equipment with others. This realisation has led to the concept of "harm reduction": that it is much better to focus on reducing the harmful effects of drug use to a minimum, than to go all out for total abstinence, which is generally unrealistic and unachievable. 

In countries with strong harm reduction programmes, injecting drug users are encouraged to make use of many kinds of HIV prevention services such as needle and syringe exchange facilities, drug-injecting centres and long-term methadone substitution. Although possession of drugs may remain illegal, police and health officials agree to turn a blind eye to drug users participating in these programmes. 

The achievements of harm reduction programmes in reducing the spread of HIV, not only among drug users but also among the general population, has been evident in many countries. Thailand, on the other hand, has completely failed to control the spread of HIV among injecting drug users due to the continued criminalisation of drug possession (even for personal use) and continuous harassment of known drug users by the police.

During the past 18 years the incidence of HIV infection among injecting drug users has remained at a shocking level of around 40%.

Because the drug problem in Thailand is so visible and unacceptable to the public, every government has to put on a show of toughness to get votes. Unfortunately it is not the big drug dealers who are affected by the various "wars on drugs" but rather the unfortunate drug users. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Bangkok Post 

Expert: Mexican Drug Cartels Infesting US, Even Our National Parks 

Lost in the rhetoric about illegal immigration are new reports that Mexican drug cartels have moved into the United States, gaining a major foothold here that may be the start of a permanent expansion onto this side of the border. They're even growing marijuana in our national parks, one expert says.

Mexico's cartel families and their associates have moved into cities in the southwestern U.S. as part of their ongoing drug selling and distribution operations, according to an alert from the U.S. Justice Department's Drug Intelligence Center, first reported April 11 by Mexican media. 

Roberta Jacobson, deputy secretary of state for Mexico and Canada, said on April 12 that Mexican drug cartels are now operating in 230 American cities. Drug trafficking "is not a crisis that affects only the border," Jacobson said. ""It's a crisis in our cities across the country." To learn more please follow this link 

Source: AOL News

Rick Scott Poised To Sign Welfare Drug Test Bill into Law 

Applying for welfare benefits in Florida? Soon you’ll need to get drug tested. A measure requiring the tests passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to Gov. Rick Scott, who called it one of his legislative priorities.

“It’s fair to taxpayers,” Scott said after the vote. “They’re paying the bill. And they’re often drug screened for their jobs. On top of that, it’s good for families. It creates another reason why people will think again before using drugs, which as you know is just a significant issue in our state.”

Scott already signed an executive order requiring random drug testing of state workers. HB 353 requires all adult recipients of federal cash benefits — the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — to pay for the tests, which are typically around $35. The screen would be for all controlled substances and applicants would have to disclose any legal prescriptions.

Recipients who test positive for drugs would lose their benefits for a year. If they fail a second time, they lose the benefits for three years. Parents who test positive must designate another adult to receive benefits on behalf of their children. Those who pass would be reimbursed by having their benefits increased by the cost of the test. “This is an effort to stop this cycle of drug abuse,” said Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, one of the sponsors, who added the requirement was similar to one that many employers make of workers. The measure provides no money for substance abuse treatment. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Miami Herald

INCB announces results of elections 

On Wednesday 27th April, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held elections in New York for the International Narcotics Control Board for a five-year term (2012-2017).

The INCB consists of 13 members who are elected by the ECOSOC and who serve in their personal capacity, not as government representatives. Three members with medical, pharmacological or pharmaceutical experience are elected from a list of persons nominated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and 10 members are elected from a list of persons nominated by Governments.

From among the five candidates by the World Health Organisation, the ECOSOC re-elected Professor Hamid Ghodse (Islamic Republic of Iran), and elected Wayne Hall (Australia). From among the fifteen candidates nominated by governments, the ECOSOC elected David T. Johnson (USA), Ahmed Kamal Eldin Samak (Egypt) and Werner Sipp (Germany), and re-elected Jorge Montaño (Mexico) and Raymond Yans (Belgium).

Source: IDPC

IDPC Report - 3rd IDPC South East Europe Drug Policy Network Meeting

IDPC held the third meeting of the South East European Drug Policy Network in Thessaloniki, Greece in March 2011. 24 participants attended the meeting from NGOs and government public services throughout the region. This event followed two previous meetings held in Athens and in Macedonia last year. The main objective of these meetings is to shared knowledge and experiences from across the region, identifying common problems and key priorities for drug policy advocacy. 

The network meeting was generously hosted by KETHEA, a Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals. Visits in small groups to KETHEA and OKANA (the Greek Organisation Against Drugs) were organised, giving participants the opportunity to learn about two of the largest providers of treatment and reintegration programmes in Greece. Participants then gave reports on their visits. This was followed by Dr. Konstatinos Gazgalidis from OKANA and Dr. Gerasimos Papanastasatos from KETHEA presenting further information about their organisations and the opportunity for questions from the network. 

A working group meeting was held beforehand and a summary of the decisions made were presented to the network. Ideas and proposals for the strategy and action plan of the Network for 2011-2012 were then considered. Relevant issues in the area of treatment and harm reduction, advocacy work and drug law developments were also discussed. The Network was also informed of events both at a national, regional and international level. A report of the meeting is available here: idpc-report-see-network-meeting-thessaloniki-march-2011.pdf 

Source: IDPC 

IDPC Report - The 2011 Commission on Narcotic Drugs: report of proceedings 

Mindful of a number of issues, it looked as if the 54th CND would be an intriguing event. Held in Vienna between 21-25 March, the Commission would be the first for the new Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr. Yury Fedotov. It was also the first meeting since several states had objected to Bolivia’s proposed coca related amendment to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Furthermore, 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the Convention: the bedrock of the current prohibition-oriented international control system. 

Expectations consequently focused predominantly upon these issues; how, for example, would Mr. Fedotov approach the meeting? Would Bolivia make a statement in regard to its proposal to amend the Single Convention and lift the ban on coca chewing? And, amidst ongoing tensions within the system, to what extent would the delegates dwell upon the anniversary of the Single Convention? Some of these issues were addressed and as is always the case others emerged, or re-emerged, as topics of concern. 

This report aims to provide the reader with a summary of what happened at the meeting, including at various satellite events, and offers some analysis of the key discussions and debates. idpc-report-cnd-proceedings-document-2011.pdf 

Source: IDPC

VIETNAM: Compulsory drug treatment centres “counterproductive” 

HANOI, 9 May 2011 (IRIN) - International health experts criticize Vietnam’s estimated 70 compulsory drug treatment centres.  The centres are part of a government strategy aimed at "correcting the illegal behaviours of drug use and sex work”, according to UNAIDS.

They are believed to hold 20,000-70,000 drug addicts and/or former sex workers, said a Hanoi-based health expert familiar with Vietnam’s drug treatment procedures.  Vietnam’s compulsory treatment centres “are counterproductive on every single level,” said Simon Baldwin, a former senior technical officer for HIV and drugs, at the US NGO Family Health International, which is working on drug treatment in Vietnam.

More than 90 percent of injecting drug users held at these centres relapse into drug addiction upon release, according to UNAIDS.  Beneficiaries at the centres, which began opening in the mid-2000s, are supposed to receive counselling, health checks, and vocational training to assist recovery and prevent relapse. But according to health experts, employees are not trained to treat drug addiction, and the fear of being sent to the centres encourages drug users to go underground. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Humanitarian News International

Another Prescription Drug Abuse Problem: The Overmedication of Foster Kids

Recently the Obama administration announced that it is taking action to address the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. Of course this is good news, and more must be done to raise awareness of this issue and crack down on those who abuse the system. It reminded me of another problem related to prescription drug use: the inappropriate use of psychotropic drugs for children in foster care. 

A recent study by the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute found that over that past decade the use of psychotropic medications -- those used for the treatment of behavioral and mental health issues -- for children between the ages of 2 and 21 has risen significantly. Moreover, while during the same period an estimated 4 percent of the general youth population was prescribed these medications, the figure for kids in foster care was much higher -- anywhere from 13 to 52 percent. Recent studies in Texas and Georgia arrive at similar findings. 

We could debate the precise meaning of such statistics, but they are supported by many instances of foster youth who have been so heavily medicated that they can barely talk, or who felt more imprisoned than cared for while on a mixture of these drugs. It's no longer possible to ignore the conclusion that there is a serious problem here. In many cases, psychotropic drugs are being prescribed for foster children not on the basis of legitimate medical diagnosis, but on demand or worse -- for convenience. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Vermont Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill 

The Vermont House voted 99-44 Thursday to approve a bill that would allow for the creation of four medical marijuana dispensaries to serve the state's hundreds of patients. The Senate, which had passed the bill in April on a 25-4 vote, on Friday gave final approval to changes made by the House. 

The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Peter Schumlin (D), who is expected to sign it. He authored a similar Bill in the Senate last year.  The bill, Senate Bill 17, would expand Vermont's medical marijuana law and improve patient access by allowing the sale of marijuana at dispensaries. The four dispensaries would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Public Safety.

The vote to approve dispensaries came in spite of a letter from the state's US attorney warning that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That letter was part of a stepped-up campaign by US attorneys in various states to intimidate and rein-in large-scale medical marijuana cultivation and sales. 

Source: Stop the Drug War

Delaware House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill 

The Delaware House Thursday passed a bill that would allow chronically ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation and to obtain it at one of three state-licensed not-for-profit dispensaries. Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) passed the House on a vote of 27-14. 

The state Senate has already passed the bill, but must now vote to approve changes made in the House version of the bill. Those changes require that medical marijuana be distributed in tamper-proof containers (so caregivers can't pilfer it) and prohibit smoking it in buses and vehicles. Henry, who is also Senate Majority Whip, told Delaware Online the Senate could have its final vote as early as Tuesday and that the House changes would not derail the bill. "They're fine," she said of the changes. "It's not a problem."

The bill would allow people with cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, and other debilitating conditions to get a doctor's recommendation for marijuana to treat their illnesses or the pain or nausea associated with them. Patients would be issued a state ID card. Patients would not be able to grow their own, but would have to go the dispensaries, one for each of the state's three counties. "This is a significant victory for seriously ill patients in Delaware," said the Marijuana Policy Project, which crafted the bill and has helped shepherd it through the legislative process. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Stop the Drug War

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Discusses Drug Legalization 

In a radio interview on WOR-AM last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unexpectedly brought up the subject of drug legalization. Responding to a question about medical marijuana tweeted by a listener, Bloomberg seemed to realize he was stumbling into a minefield. "I'm sort of reticent to bring it up," he said, "What's up with medical marijuana in NYC," he continued, reading the question aloud. "Is it going to be okay soon? Need to know by this weekend," he read, inspiring mayoral laughter. "We don't allow medical marijuana in this state," he replied. "They do in California…"

Then, apparently very much in the moment, Bloomberg turned from medical marijuana to drug legalization: "The argument is that the only way you're going to end the drug trade is to legalize drugs and take away the profit motive," he said. "And that the corruption funds enormous dislocations, like Mexico, where thousands or tens of thousands of people have been killed in the wars where the government tried to crack down on the drug dealers..."

Good start! Mayor Bloomberg, uncharacteristically for a prominent mainstream US politician, had articulated two of the core arguments made by legalization advocates. But then, perhaps realizing where he had gone politically, Bloomberg fumbled. "There is no easy answer to these things... There are places where they've legalized drugs, and whether it destroyed society or didn't is open to debate."  Actually, no country has legalized drugs. There are countries, however, that have embraced drug policies less reliant on repression via law enforcement, such as the Netherlands, with its tolerance of cannabis coffee shops and personal possession, or Portugal, which decriminalized drug possession a decade ago. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Feds on New Medical Marijuana Offensive 

While DEA raids on medical marijuana providers never came to a complete halt after the Obama administration declared in 2009 that it would not interfere with people operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, the pace did slacken. But now, the raids are on the increase -- there have been at least 90 DEA SWAT-style raids since Obama took office -- and the federal government has unveiled an ominous new weapon in its war on the weed: US attorneys in a number of medical marijuana states sending letters to politicians threatening dire consequences, even the potential arrest of state employees, if states okay schemes to tolerate and regulate medical marijuana distribution. 

Threatening letters from US attorneys have been sent to officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington. The first was in February in California; the latest came this week in Arizona. What is worse is that the interventions by the US attorneys appear deliberately timed to intimidate elected officials as they consider regulating medical marijuana dispensaries -- and it seems to be working. Last week, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a bill that would have created a regulated dispensary system after requesting and receiving a threatening letter from her state's two US attorneys. This week, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee "placed a hold" on dispensaries about to open there after receiving an unsolicited threatening letter from the US attorney. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Stop the Drug War

New Zealand Commission Urges Drug Law Reform 

The New Zealand Law Commission Monday urged a broad overhaul of the island nation's drug laws to bring them into the 21st Century. The call came as the commission unveiled its review of the country's drug laws in a report, Controlling and Regulating Drugs: A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. 

The Law Commission is an independent, but government-funded, body whose mission is to review areas of law that need developing or reforming and to make recommendations to parliament. It was asked by the then Labor government in 2007 to review the drug laws.

The commission called for steps toward legalizing medical marijuana, decriminalizing drug possession and small-time drug dealing, and doing away with drug paraphernalia laws. In response to the arrival of new synthetic drugs, it called for the reversal of current policy, which allows them until they are proven dangerous, and its replacement with a policy that bans them until they are proven safe. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Stop the Drug War 

Fourth marijuana conviction gets Slidell man life in prison

Cornell Hood II got off with probation after three marijuana convictions in New Orleans. He didn't fare too well after moving to St. Tammany Parish, however. A single such conviction on the north shore landed the 35-year-old in prison for the rest of his life.

State Judge Raymond S. Childress punished Hood under Louisiana's repeat-offender law in his courtroom in Covington on Thursday. A jury on Feb. 15 found the defendant guilty of attempting to possess and distribute marijuana at his Slidell home, court records show. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Nola 

Curiouser and curiouser: Could ecstasy actually heal brains as well as minds? 

For 30 years we have had a systematic attack on the safety of ecstasy [MDMA]. This has been fueled by a desire by governments, lobbyists and some scientists to justify the illegal status of this drug which in the UK is at the very highest level – Class A. This puts it alongside drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin which by all scientific assessments are much more harmful [Nutt King and Phillips 2010]. 

Much of the so called scientific evidence that has been used to justify MDMA as being harmful is flawed, some just simply wrong as they used the wrong drug [Ricaurte et al 2002] and most findings are exaggerated. For example, a well reported recent study that claimed to provide proof that MDMA impaired memory in fact found a minimal effect in only one memory measure that was of no clinical significance. This was taken as proof that MDMA damaged the brain despite the fact that on some other measures of brain function, the MDMA-using group performed better than the controls [Schilt et al 2007]. 

It appears there is an assumption that MDMA will damage human brains because in studies in some animal species [rats and monkeys] it can lead to damage to the serotonin nerve cells. These effects are most pronounced at high doses and are not seen when human equivalent doses are used [Fantegrossi et al 2004]. But still the concern is there, at least in the mind of the Home Sec Jaqui Smith when she announced that MDMA would remain Class A against the recommendations of the ACMD. She said that as long as there were “public concerns” about the risks of ecstasy on the brain she would not be moved, even though these concerns were largely manufactured by the media and magnified by bad science on ecstasy [Forsyth 2001]. To learn more please follow this link

Source: David Nutt’s Blog

Blair’s Other War

I write this from Mexico, where the ‘War on Drugs’ and clashing drug cartels have claimed thousands of lives. The billions of dollars worth of aid being pumped in countries in South America, Afghanistan and elsewhere have resulted in, at best, the ‘balloon effect’, where production is pushed down in one area only to pop up in another. In the fifty years since the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the ‘War on Drugs’ has morphed from a figurative battle to a literal one. The fog of war has driven politicians to go beyond the bounds of law in their lust for battle: the Single Convention allows for the medical and scientific use of controlled drugs and yet, many countries interpret it as prohibiting all use of all Schedule I drugs, hindering potentially life changing research.

Domestic law has also been trampled upon in the rush to act tough on drugs. The UK’s 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act [MDAct] was designed to remove decision-making about drugs from the party politics of parliament to minimise the risk that short term party interests might lead to bad laws. The MDAct classified drugs in three levels – A B C – based on their relative harms of drugs, which were decided upon by an expert group, the ACMD [Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs]. This worked well for the first 30 years and even Margaret Thatcher accepted its recommendations on needle-exchange to limit HIV spread. Though this went against her political philosophy, she accepted that it was logical to be guided by experts and was rewarded by the UK leading the world in terms of slowing the rate of HIV spread from intravenous drug use.

In the last decade under Tony Blair’s government, things began to change. It decided it knew better than experts and hunted for evidence to support its policy decisions rather than the other way round. In late 2004, Blair decided to wage a different type of war – this time on drugs. For unknown reasons – at least not explained in his autobiography – he decided to ignore the MDAct (i.e. break the law) and make decisions on drugs without consulting the experts on ACMD. He convened a special meeting of senior police, military and customs officials, from which the war was initiated. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: David Nutt’s Blog

Harm Reduction Conference 2011 - Naloxone Panel

Source: YouTube

I’m Dangerous with Love – Iboga & Ibogaine Documentary

Source: YouTube


Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData