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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of November 1st 2010

Charles Shaw is still on the road working on his Unheard Voices Project, so I lead this weeks report with news from the Mid-Term Elections in the United States; and optimism in the wake of the defeat of Proposition 19 in California. Now is a time to consider the great momentum of the campaign, and debate which has been heard on a broader ground than ever before. As Steve Gutwillig says - "Tonight was an enormous step in placing this movement in the mainstream of American Politics."
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
3 November 2010

Proposition 19 to Legalize Marijuana in California Defeated

It is with a heavy heart that I bring news from California of the defeat of Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. Below features commentary from Stop the Drug War on what came so close to being an historic moment for rational and evidenced based drug policy.

We appreciate the tremendous victory in pushing this issue forward," said Dale Jones, Yes on 19 spokesperson. "We've taken this further than ever before. It's just a matter of taking the next step forward," she told the crowd inside Oaksterdam University, with the video also being projected onto the university's great wall for a crowd of hundreds outside. "We made this happen. This the debate heard 'round the world," she said.

"We are going to keep fighting," Richard Lee said. "We made big breakthroughs with this campaign, with all the allies we've gotten on board," before thanking those arrayed on the stage behind him, including Dan Rush of the UFCW, LEAP, the Drug Policy Alliance's Steve Gutwillig and Ethan Nadelmann, East Bay activist couple Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, NORML's Allen St. Pierre, a pair of phone bank volunteers, campaign figures Jeff and Dale Jones, and even his mom and dad.

"We have a coalition moving forward, you have not seen the last of the group that brought you Prop 19," Jones said. "We are going to stay here and keep building," said Rush. "We are going to continue this fight together and across the nation. Next time we're going to take Colorado and Michigan. We're going to keep riding this train.

"This is a watershed moment in a very long struggle to end the decades-long failure of marijuana prohibition in this country," said DPA's Steve Gutwillig. "Tonight was an enormous step in placing this movement in the mainstream of American politics. That's what happened tonight."

Gutwillig vowed that two to five legalization initiatives will be on the ballot in 2012. "Marijuana prohibition is going down," he said. Maybe in 2012.

Source: Stop the Drug War               

Arizona’s Proposition 203, Oregon’s Measure 74 and South Dakota’s Measure 13 defeated

It was a tough night for medical marijuana, with two state initiatives losing decisively and a third trailing slightly very late in the game.

In Arizona, Proposition 203, which would create a tightly regulated medical marijuana dispensary system, was trailing in a very close race, with 49.7% of the vote to 50.3% against, in unofficial results from the secretary of state. At press time, it was down 4,900 votes with 97% of the precincts counted. To win, Prop 203 will need about 58% of votes cast in the remaining precincts, an unlikely level of variation from the rest of the state.

Oregon's Measure 74 would have expanded the state's existing medical marijuana program by allowing for a system of state-regulated, nonprofit dispensaries and grow operations. According to official figures, it lost 42% to 58%.

South Dakota's Measure 13 would have created a tightly restrictive medical marijuana program, with no dispensaries and a list of specified ailments and conditions. According to unofficial figures from the secretary of state, it lost 37% to 63%.

None of the medical marijuana campaigns have yet reacted publicly to Tuesday's results. Look for a Chronicle feature article exploring what went wrong in the near future.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Iowa Pharmacy Board says Marijuana is Medicine

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy Tuesday declared that marijuana is a drug with medicinal purposes. In doing so, it agreed to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under Iowa law.

The board found that while marijuana has a high potential for abuse, it is now considered to have accepted medical uses. Schedule I drugs are those that have no proven or accepted medical use.

But the board denied a request from petitioner Carl Olson of Des Moines that it promulgate rules on the medical use of marijuana. That is beyond the scope of the board's authority, chairman Vernon Benjamin said. While the board can regulate drugs and pharmacists, it is up to the legislature to approve the medicinal use of marijuana, he said.

"We can't set any penalties. We can't set any guidelines on how marijuana's going to be produced, what standards are going to be. And I think all those kind of things are things the legislature's going to have the ultimate say-so about anyway," said Benjamin in remarks reported by local media.

The ball is now in the hands of the legislature, which so far has failed to act to pass a medical marijuana bill.

Source: Stop the Drug War               

Alcohol ‘more Harmful than Heroin’, says Professor David Nutt

Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack when the overall dangers to the individual and society are considered, according to a study in the Lancet.  The report is co-authored by Professor David Nutt, the former government chief drugs adviser who was sacked in 2009.  It ranked 20 drugs on 16 measures of harm to users and to wider society. Heroin, crack and crystal meth were deemed worst for individuals, with alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine worst for society, and alcohol worst overall.

The study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs also said tobacco and cocaine were judged to be equally harmful, while ecstasy and LSD were among the least damaging. Harm score: Professor Nutt refused to leave the drugs debate when he was sacked from his official post by the former Labour Home Secretary, Alan Johnson.

He went on to form the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, which says it aims to investigate the drug issue without any political interference. One of its other members is Dr Les King, another former government adviser who quit over Prof Nutt's treatment.

The study involved 16 criteria, including a drug's affects on users' physical and mental health, social harms including crime, "family adversities" and environmental damage, economic costs and "international damage".

The findings run contrary to the government's long-established drug classification system, but the paper's authors argue that their system - based on the consensus of experts - provides an accurate assessment of harm for policy makers. "Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm," the paper says.

"They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."

In 2007, Prof Nutt and colleagues undertook a limited attempt to create a harm ranking system, sparking controversy over the criteria and the findings. The new, more complex, system ranked alcohol as three times more harmful than cocaine or tobacco. Ecstasy was ranked as causing one-eighth the harm of alcohol.

It also contradicted the Home Office's decision to make the so-called legal high mephedrone a Class B drug, saying that alcohol was five times more harmful. The rankings have been published to coincide with a conference on drugs policy, organized by Prof Nutt's committee.

Prof Nutt told the BBC: "Overall, alcohol is the most harmful drug because it's so widely used.”Crack cocaine is more addictive than alcohol but because alcohol is so widely used there are hundreds of thousands of people who crave alcohol every day, and those people will go to extraordinary lengths to get it." He said it was important to separate harm to individuals and harm to society.

To read the Lancet report in full, please follow this link to the Lancet

Source: BBC News      

Britain's drugs hypocrisy is a giant self-inflicted wound

A dreary ritual follows any pronouncement from Professor David Nutt, former government drugs adviser and brain chemistry pundit. First, politicians groan. Then civil servants hide. Then newspaper editors run howling back to the dark ages. Nothing happens, absolutely nothing. A day later the waters close over the debate. A few months later the professor speaks again and the same thing recurs.

The sacking of Nutt last year by the then home secretary, Alan Johnson, was a disgrace that disqualified Johnson from high office. Anyone who so lacked the guts to hear occasionally unwelcome expert advice should not be shadow chancellor. Nutt's offence was to protest, mildly, in an academic lecture, at the political second-guessing of his official committee on drug classification. Johnson was a typical Labour headline-grabber and thought it would look tough to sack Nutt, who went off with his more robust colleagues to found an "independent scientific committee on drugs".

On Monday this group produced a report in the Lancet on drugs harm. It draws a distinction between the harm done by mind-altering substances to the individual and the harm done to wider society. Libertarians and authoritarians have long argued over the role of government in straddling this distinction. Most people in a free society recognize the distinction, with most accepting a more liberal interpretation of what they should be allowed to do to their bodies.

Nutt's new study heads straight for the enemy, the lax approach of the last government towards alcohol consumption. Just about every statistic on drunkenness – such as death from alcohol, crimes of violence attributable to alcohol, imprisonment for alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol – puts Britain in the European doghouse.

So far, so bad. Nutt's new study goes further. It seeks to fuse legal and illegal drug use and combine the resulting personal and social harms, the better to inform public policy. The outcome is a glaring hierarchy of harm. By far the biggest menace is alcohol (with an overall score of 72). Heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) come next, outscoring nicotine (26) and cannabis (20), with anabolic steroids and ecstasy both on nine. As a social menace, the government should clearly worry most about drink. Yet it does not, being obsessed instead with taboo drugs designated as illicit and filling prisons with the resulting miscreants. This is crazy.

The incompetent regulation of legal and illegal drugs is the biggest self-inflicted wound of modern British government. Nor is it fair for ministers to blame public opinion. There is a weight of polling evidence showing opinion in favour of easing the laws on drug possession, and in favour of curbing alcohol consumption, at least in public places. We regulate cigarettes with a measure of subtlety. Why do we not dare regulate other narcotic substances, now freely available in every high street in Britain?

There is no need for any more reports, seminars, committees or thinktanks. There is no argument for more research or more consultation. It is all a waste of time. There needs to be a ban on cheap supermarket drink and "happy hours". There needs to be a thumping increase in alcohol taxes, a clampdown on public drunkenness, and the legalisation, taxation and regulation of currently illicit narcotic distribution, graded according to the Nutt committee's hierarchy of harms – as may happen in California. There is not a shred of evidence it would increase cannabis consumption, and such reform would secure millions for the Treasury.

What stops this happening? One thing: the absence so far of a home secretary and a justice secretary with the guts to do it. Or might the coalition amaze us all?

Source: The Guardian

Mary Ann Sieghart: Restore sanity in the debate on drugs

America declared war on drugs 40 years ago. You'd think that by now, it might have won. Instead, any US teenager can buy cannabis, at higher strength and at a lower price. Meanwhile, severed heads are rolled across floors in Mexican discos and innocent people are scared to leave their homes in cities such as Ciudad Juarez, where the war on drugs has taken its highest toll.

Joseph McNamara is the retired police chief of San Jose. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, he says:"Like an increasing number of law enforcers, I have learned that most bad things about marijuana, especially the violence made inevitable by an obscenely profitable black market, are caused by the prohibition, not by the plant."

McNamara has been fronting a TV campaign for Proposition 19. When Californians go to the polls tomorrow in the US mid-term elections, they will also vote on this proposition, allowing cannabis to be legalised, regulated and taxed in the state. The "yes" campaign has been boosted by a $1 million donation from the billionaire financier George Soros, and its supporters are energised. Thousands descended on Washington at the weekend to take part in the comedian Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity.

Sanity is exactly what is needed in America's approach to drugs. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1840, "A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." The principles of liberty and the pursuit of happiness are certainly infringed by laws that punish adults for lighting up in the privacy of their own home. But, principles aside, it's not as if prohibition has even worked.

The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy has recently published two devastating research papers. In one, it found an extremely strong link between anti-drug law enforcement policies and rises in drug-related crime, murder and gun violence. The other shows that the surge in US anti-drug funding between 1990 and 2007 has utterly failed in its purpose. In that time, the strength of cannabis has increased – there has been a 145 per cent rise in its active ingredient, THC. And its price, after inflation, has fallen by 58 per cent.

Quite apart from the violence, look at the harm prohibition does. Every year, some 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small quantities of cannabis. That is a waste of time and money for the police and the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, black and Hispanic citizens are more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, even though white people are more likely to smoke it. So prohibition does nothing for race relations.

A study by the libertarian Cato Institute has calculated that legalising cannabis would save $8.7bn in the costs of policing and criminal justice and raise another $8.7bn in tax revenue. In California alone, where marijuana is the state's biggest cash crop, legalisation would save about $1.4bn and raise another $1.4bn. In a state with a $19bn budget deficit, that's a tidy sum.

The advantage of legalising and regulating, rather than simply decriminalising, is that the production and sale of cannabis is taken out of the hands of organised crime and given to legal producers and suppliers. Given that Mexican drug cartels earn 60 per cent of their revenue from cannabis, this could have a dramatic effect.

But it also means that quality and strength can be regulated. Many users don't want to fry their brains with skunk; they would prefer a milder high from cannabis with a lower THC content.

To read Mary-Ann Sieghart’s article in full, please follow this link

Source: The Independent

New Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Crack Cocaine now in Effect

New federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses went into effect Monday, a week after the US Sentencing Commission promulgated them. The commission acted on a temporary basis to implement the Fair Sentencing Act, which was passed into law last summer. It will vote in May to make the changes permanent.

The Fair Sentencing Act was passed in the face of growing uneasiness over racial disparities in federal drug sentences. From the 1980s until the act was passed, people caught with as little as five grams of crack cocaine faced mandatory minimum five-year prison sentences, while people caught with powder cocaine had to be caught with 500 grams before being hit with the mandatory minimum. More than 80% of federal crack prosecutions were aimed at blacks, even though more whites than blacks used crack.

Under the new law, it will take 28 grams of crack to trigger the mandatory minimum five-year sentence. Under the old law, 50 grams of crack earned a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence; under the new law, the threshold rises to 280 grams. That means the old 100:1 sentencing disparity has been reduced to 18:1.

That's not enough for groups like the November Coalition and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which have fought for years for federal drug sentencing reform. Still on the agenda for reformers is eliminating the remaining sentencing disparity and making the law retroactive to benefit people already serving draconian federal crack sentences.

It's not all good news. The new guidelines will also add months to some drug offender sentences. "Aggravating factors" such as intimidating girlfriends or elderly family members to sell drugs could earn drug gang leaders extra prison time. On the other hand, some low level offenders who were intimidated into participating in drug sales could see months shaved off their sentences. 

Source: Stop the Drug War               

Colombian Shaman Arrested for Ayahuasca on Arriving in the United States

A widely known and well-respected indigenous Colombian shaman is in US custody on drug trafficking charges for possessing the psychedelic concoction ayahuasca when he arrived in Houston October 19 on a flight from Colombia. Taita Juan Agreda Chindoy faces up to 20 years in federal prison after being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Taita Juan is a traditional healer of the Cametsa people who live in the Sibundoy Valley in Colombia's Alto Putomayo region. He is recognized by the Colombian Ministry of Health as a traditional healer and is widely known in his community as an established healer and leader. He was traveling to Oregon to give a presentation when he was arrested.

Although used as a religious sacrament in the Amazon, ayahuasca is banned under the US Controlled Substances Act because it contains DMT, a fast-acting hallucinogenic chemical. But in a unanimous 2006 decision, the US Supreme Court held that a US branch of a Brazilian church may use ayahuasca as a sacrament during religious rituals.

Taita Juan's supporters are organizing a campaign for his release and have created a web site, Free Taita Juan, to help mobilize support. His attorney was scheduled to meet with prosecutors Tuesday in a bid to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, the shaman remains behind bars in a US detention center.

Source: Stop the Drug War               

NICE Considers Incentive Schemes to Encourage Change

Incentive systems such as cash or vouchers could be an effective way of encouraging people to change unhealthy lifestyles, according to a report from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) ‘citizen’s council’. 

The council – made up of members of the public – was asked to consider whether incentives ‘could acceptably be used to help motivate people to live healthier lives’. The majority agreed, provided certain conditions – including effective monitoring and analysis, only offering cash as a last resort and incentives not being exchangeable for tobacco or alcohol – were met. It was also agreed that schemes were likely to work best when part of a wider programme of support and they avoided adding to stigmatisation.

They should also ‘acknowledge the complex factors that motivate people to put their health at risk, such as by excessive eating or drinking (or) drug taking’, the council said.

NICE is now holding a public consultation on the issue. The views of the council did not constitute ‘formal guidance’, said NICE chair Sir Michael Rawlins, but did ‘advise us about the social values that should underpin our work’.

Source: Drink and Drug News

Harm Reduction ‘Should be Centre’ of drug Strategy

Harm reduction should be the focus of the forthcoming drug strategy, according to a poll carried out by drug testing provider Concateno at the National Conference on Injecting Drug Use. The strategy is widely predicted to focus on an abstinence/recovery approach.

Aftercare and housing were seen as the most significant issues for drug treatment, alongside training for drug workers. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents thought education around bloodborne viruses was inadequate while 95 per cent thought that steroid users should have access to treatment, despite many not seeing themselves as part of the injecting drug community.

‘We wanted to see what those in the drug treatment industry thought should be the focus of treatment provision,’ said Concateno’s account manager for the Midlands and South Wales, Susan Carter. ‘We asked delegates whether harm reduction or abstinence should be the focus – several argued that a shift towards abstinence at the expense of harm reduction could be dangerous for services users. One delegate said that “harm reduction is being forgotten in favour of recovery”.’ 

Source: Drink and Drug News 

Mexico Drug War Update 

Another week, another 82 lives lost in President Caderon's war on drugs. Stop the Drug War's Bernd Debussman Jr. reports on a week in which 15 people were shot dead at a carwash; the former President, Vicente Fox, gave his full support to Proposition 19; and The director of Puente Grande prison was arrested because of alleged ties to drug cartels.

Wednesday, October 27: In Nayarit, 15 people were shot and killed after being attacked by heavily armed gunmen at a carwash. All the dead were workers at the car wash. The exact motive for the killings is unclear, and Mexican officials are denying initial reports that the men are former drug addicts.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, interviewing with Mexico's W radio network, gave his full support to California's Proposition 19 initiative to legalize marijuana. Fox told the network, "How great it would be for California to set this example. May God let it pass. The other US states will have to follow step." Fox added that Mexico has taken "the least productive route, which is fighting violence with violence. Violence never resolves violence," also commenting that Mexico's legal exports would go up if marijuana were legalized and peasants could legally grow it.

Thursday, October 28: In Mexico City, six young men were gunned down outside a store. The victims were all in their 20’s, and several had criminal records. Mexican media sources have stated that the men were members of Los Perros, a Mexico City gang that is known to have ties to the Zetas Organization. The incident took place in Tepito, a neighborhood known for black market activity.

Near Ciudad Juarez, four people were killed and 15 were wounded after gunmen attacked three buses taking workers to a Maquiladora factory owned by US-based automobile interior company Eagle Ottawa.

Friday, October 29: The director of Puente Grande prison was arrested because of alleged ties to drug cartels during his tenure as a high-level official at the federal Attorney General’s Office. He had resigned from his post in 2008 after a corruption probe that led to the arrest of several officials for ties to the Beltran-Leyva Organization. He was named to be director of Puente Grande prison in early 2010. Puente Grande is notorious as the prison from which Sinaloa Cartel boss "El Chapo" Guzman escaped in 2001.

Sunday, October 31: In Ciudad Juarez, seven people were murdered in several incidents across the city. This brings the monthly total for October to 352 homicides, making it the most violent month in the history of the city. The number exceeds the yearly total of many previous years. The previous highest monthly death toll was August of this year, in which 339 people were murdered. The total so far for 2010 is nearly 2,700 murders. October was also the most deadly month for women in Ciudad Juarez, with 48 women murdered. Almost 300 women have been killed in the city this year.

Monday, November 1: In Ciudad Juarez, three people were killed in two separate incidents. This is the lowest daily death toll in the city the last three months.

In Chihuahua, Mexican authorities said that four American citizens were among the most recent victims of Mexico’s drug war. On Sunday, Arturo Sandoval, 35, of El Paso, was shot and killed in a triple homicide in Ciudad Juarez. On Saturday, a 26-year old American woman and her 15-year old son were gunned down with a Mexican national shortly after crossing the bridge from El Paso. On Friday, a 24-year old American woman was among two people killed by gunmen inside a taco store.

Weekly Body Count:82 / Yearly Body Count: 8,789

Source: Stop the Drug War               

This week in History

Stop the Drug War's David Guard walks us through time, and takes a look at this week in Drug Policy's past; a week which saw the introduction of the Boggs Act; President Reagan sign the Anti-Drug Abuse Act; and Raymond Kendall call drug prohibition 'obsolete and dangerous'.

November 2, 1951: The Boggs Act nearly quadruples penalties for all narcotics offenses and unscientifically lumps marijuana in with narcotic drugs. (Narcotics are by definition a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant, containing opium, or produced synthetically and to have opium-like effects. Opioid drugs relieve pain, dull the senses and induce sleep.)

November 1, 1968: The UK's Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence releases the Wootton Report, recommending that marijuana possession not be a criminal offense.

October 27, 1969: Anthropologist Margaret Mead provides testimony to Congress: "It is my considered opinion at present that marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few over-users."

October 27, 1970: Congress passes the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It strengthens law enforcement by allowing police to conduct "no-knock" searches and includes the Controlled Substances Act, which establishes five categories ("schedules") for regulating drugs based on their medicinal value and potential for addiction.

October 27, 1986: President Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, an enormous omnibus drug bill which appropriates $1.7 billion to "fight the drug crisis." The bill's most consequential action is the creation of mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses.

October 29, 1993: The administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Robert C. Bonner, resigns after three years in office to enter private law practice in Los Angeles. He disagreed with the Clinton administration's increased emphasis on drug treatment, saying it amounted to a decrease in emphasis on law enforcement and the pursuit of cooperation from foreign governments. "Drug treatment, particularly in this town, is the real feel good (method) for how you deal with the drug problem. It doesn't deal with any enforcement of the laws. It makes everybody feel all warm and fuzzy... I think treatment is being oversold," says Bonner.

October 30, 1995: President Bill Clinton signs legislation passed by Congress rejecting a US Sentencing Commission move to reduce penalties for crack cocaine offenses to bring them equal with powder cocaine.

October 27, 1997: After a four-year investigation and a five-month trial, a federal jury returns a not guilty verdict on one racketeering charge against two former US prosecutors who became lawyers for a drug cartel, but fails to reach verdicts on drug trafficking and other charges against the two lawyers.

October 27, 2001: The Guardian (UK) reports that a majority of Britons believe cannabis should be legalized and sold under license in a similar way to alcohol. Some 65 percent of those questioned in a poll agree it should be legalized and 91 percent said it should be available on prescription for sufferers of diseases like multiple sclerosis.

October 28, 2002: The New York Post reports that a Time/CNN poll reveals that 72 percent of Americans now feel that people arrested with small amounts of marijuana should not do any jail time, while just 19 percent favored sending pot smokers to jail. Nearly 60 percent of Americans still want marijuana possession to be considered a criminal offense -- but 34 percent now favor complete legalization. The new poll also offers good news to activists and lawmakers who are calling for the legalization of medical marijuana: 80 percent of those surveyed said they favored dispensing pot for medicinal purposes.

October 31, 2002: The Washington Post publishes a story about a rare interview with Benjamín Arellano Félix, the man accused of running Mexico's most ruthless drug cartel, from the La Palma maximum security federal prison in Almoloya de Juárez, Mexico. Arellano said the United States has already lost its war on drugs and that violent trafficking gangs will thrive as long as Americans keep buying marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

November 1, 2002: Every prosecutor in the United States is sent a letter from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), urging them to make prosecution of cannabis crimes a high priority and to fight efforts to ease drug laws.

October 27, 2004: In an op-ed piece in the Paris newspaper Le Monde, Raymond Kendall, the chief of the international law enforcement agency Interpol from 1985 to 2000, calls drug prohibition "obsolete and dangerous" and says its continuation represents a missed opportunity for reform. He says prohibition has failed to protect the world from drugs and Europe must take the lead in reforming the drug laws, particularly at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in Vienna in 2008.

Source: Stop the Drug War   

NTA Supports New Innovative Treatment Centre

A new centre of excellence for drug and alcohol treatment has opened in Birmingham, offering a unique 'one-stop-shop' approach to detox, stabilisation and rehabilitation for residential and community patients. Supported by £2.3m of NTA funding, Park House provides 24-hour nursing and healthcare, with the centre containing its own dispensary, GP-style treatment rooms, and blood-testing facility.

Service users have helped shape every aspect of Park House, and this trend is planned to continue. Partnership-working – with families, carers and the community – is an equal priority; it's hoped the centre will be a hub for drug treatment in the city, with emphasis on service user involvement, support groups and links with housing and employment agencies.

NTA director of delivery Rosanna O'Connor said: "Park House is the first centre of its kind in Birmingham and fills a vital gap in the range of treatment on offer in the city. Our support of this project is further evidence of our commitment to provide a balanced service in England which enables addicts to move as quickly and safely as possible through treatment to recovery and reintegration into their local community." Mike Quinn, Park House project manager, said: "Park House accommodates people with the most severe drug and alcohol problems and those ready to make long-term changes to their lifestyle. 

"With recovery and abstinence now high on the government's agenda, we see Park House as a unique and much-needed resource for the city which provides residents with 24-hour nursing and health care. Park House is a big improvement to the city's drug and alcohol treatment system and will help Birmingham to achieve the wider aims of the city to improve overall levels of health and wellbeing and reduce risks from offending behaviour and drug use."

Source: National Treatment Agency

Is West Africa becoming a hub for global methamphetamine trafficking?

Illicit manufacture of methamphetamine is not entirely new to the African continent. Since 2004, regular reports of illicit manufacture of the substance have been received from South Africa, and Egypt reported a case as recently as April 2010. Now, over the past 12 months, there have been indications that amphetamine-type stimulants are also being manufactured in West Africa.

In July 2009, chemicals and large-scale equipment used in the illicit manufacture of ecstasy were discovered in Guinea, highlighting potential manufacture in West Africa. Since then, several cases of methamphetamine trafficking originating from various West African nations, including Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria, have been reported.

The latest developments in methamphetamine in Africa are highlighted in the latest issue of the Global SMART Update Volume 4, issued by the UNODC global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) programme. Developments in Africa are covered in the special segment of the update.

"The events in Africa affect other regions as well", said Beate Hammond, manager of the global SMART programme. "In fact, the most common destinations for methamphetamine trafficked through Africa have been outside the region, namely Japan, followed by the Republic of Korea. We have also received reports from Malaysia and Thailand." Cases are typically multi-kilo and concealment methods are similar to those used by West African criminal organizations for other drugs. Significantly larger shipments have also been reported. In May 2010, Nigerian authorities stopped two separate cargo shipments totaling 63 kg of methamphetamine and amphetamine to Japan and South Africa.

The increase in trafficking in methamphetamine may also have a health dimension. Use of amphetamines has already been reported in several West African countries, even among school-aged children.

The current issue also includes information on the use of synthetic drugs among university students in Brazil, significant seizures as well as the emergence of a new, uncontrolled chemical that could be used in the illicit manufacture of ecstasy.

The Global SMART Update is published twice a year to provide brief, regular reporting on emerging patterns and trends in the fast-changing global synthetic drugs situation.

Source: UNODC

‘Public Inquiry Demands on Parental Alcohol Misuse

A public inquiry into the effects of parental alcohol misuse on children has been called for by the Children’s Society and Alcohol Concern. More than 700,000 children live with a dependent drinker, according to a new report issued by the two organisations, while 2.6m live with a parent whose drinking ‘puts them at risk of neglect’. 

An inquiry into the scale of harm could improve the protection of children by forcing local authorities and other organisations to act more quickly, says Swept under the carpet, which also wants to see mandatory drug and alcohol training for social workers. Seventy-eight per cent of young offenders with an alcohol problem grew up in a home with parental alcohol misuse and domestic violence, says the report, with alcohol playing a part in up to 33 per cent of known cases of child abuse.

‘It’s shocking that in spite of the worrying numbers of children affected by parents’ heavy drinking and domestic abuse, so little is being done to address this,’ said Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker. ‘The whole system sweeps the problem under the carpet and together with the secrecy and stigma involved, millions of children are left to do their best in incredibly difficult circumstances. A government inquiry must look into all aspects of parental alcohol misuse so that we can improve outcomes for these children.’

 Meanwhile, ‘millions of children as young as four’ were exposed to alcohol marketing during televised world cup matches this summer, says Alcohol Concern. Live England games shown on ITV featured adverts for Stella Artois, Magners, Fosters, Carling and WKD, with the total number of children exposed potentially as high as 5m, states the charity’s Overexposed – alcohol marketing during the world cup report. Alcohol Concern wants to see a 9pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV and a ban on alcohol advertising online.

‘Children are affected by alcohol marketing,’ said Professor Ian Gilmore of the Royal College of Physicians. ‘It influences the age at which they start drinking and how much they then drink. Alcohol is a drug of potential addiction and if drinks producers and retailers won’t stop pushing it at our children then urgent and tough legislation is needed to protect them.’

Source: Drink and Drug News

Karzai hits out at Russians over drugs bust

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has lashed out at Russia's growing influence in his country, deriding a multi-million dollar drugs bust that involved four Russian agents as a "violation of Afghan sovereignty as well as international law". About 70 Afghan, Russian and Nato personnel, backed up by attack helicopters, seized drugs with a street value of $250m (£157m) in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend.

"While Afghanistan remains committed to its joint efforts with the international community against narcotics, it also makes it clear that no organisation or institution shall have the right to carry out such a military operation without prior authorisation and consent of the government of Afghanistan," said a statement released by the President's office.

Russian officials professed surprise at the outburst, with one counter-narcotics agent claiming that Kabul had been "informed of the operation", which was also apparently orchestrated in advance by Afghanistan's interior ministry.

Elite Afghan counter-narcotics agents had taken part in the raid on heroin and morphine-producing labs in eastern Nangarhar province, an unnamed agent told state media, making it "not very understandable why there has been such a reaction". An aide to the Russian president Dimitry Medvedev called Mr Karzai's statement "incomprehensible".

That may be stretching the truth. The strain of balancing incompatible foreign interests in his country has frequently told on Afghanistan's highly-strung leader, and Moscow may have trumpeted news of the drugs bust a little too loudly for Mr Karzai's comfort.

Russian influence in Afghanistan is growing swiftly, and it is a sensitive issue. Twenty-one years ago the Soviet Red army withdrew from Afghanistan following its biggest military disaster; a nine-year folly that cost tens of thousands of lives, tipped the country towards civil war and introduced its civilians to the horrors of carpet-bombing, scorched earth tactics and collective punishment. Many of Afghanistan's current generation of political leaders spent their formative years fighting the Soviets, and have bitter memories of their old nemesis.

Yet, as Nato scrabbles around for an exit strategy, the prospect of Russian help in Afghanistan has grown increasingly attractive for the beleaguered alliance. Last week, The Independent revealed that Moscow was engaged in training the Afghan army and counter-narcotics troops, and had agreed in principle to supply Nato with several dozen helicopters for use in Afgh-anistan. In return Moscow is seeking more co-operation from Nato, including demands that the alliance restricts the number of troops it bases in member countries that are also former members of the Warsaw Pact. Although Russia appears to be milking its return to the fray for all its worth, it has little interest in an unstable Afghanistan, which could destabilise neighbouring Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – countries that Moscow sees as client states.

The Russian government has also frequently criticised Western and Afghan counter-narcotics policies as next to useless and advocated a much tougher line against drugs production.

Source: The Independent

ACMD advertisement for appointment of new chair and members

The Home Office is looking to appoint a Chair person to the ACMD and eight members with specified expertise.

The ACMD is a non-departmental public body established under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to advise the Government on drug related issues within the UK. It is sponsored by the Home Office. The ACMD is responsible for keeping under review the situation in the UK with respect to drugs which are being, or appear likely to be, misused and the misuse of which is having, or appears capable of having, harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem. The ACMD advises Ministers accordingly.

The persons: 1 Chair person / 8 members 

  • Chemist
  • Social Sciences or equivalent (2 positions)
  • Enforcement
  • Psychology/Addiction Psychiatry or Treatment (2 positions)
  • Law
  • General Practice

The appointments will be for a maximum period of 3 years. Please note: Members are not entitled to receive any remuneration but can claim travel and subsistence expenses.

If you would like to find out more, you can get an information pack, by calling 0207 035 3330 during office hours or by email quoting the relevant job reference to srssrecruitment@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.

Closing date: 18th November 2010.

Source: The Home Office

Bigger Welfare State Reduces Hard Drug Use

Reducing the use of drugs would be better tackled by having a bigger welfare state, rather than criminalising addicts, according to research.

The work, published today, shows countries that provide a generous social security system have low levels of injecting drug use, irrespective of how punitive the drugs policy is. Charities have used the study to argue that the government's welfare cuts will see a rise in drug addicts.

Alex Stevens, professor in criminal justice at the University of Kent, said countries that imprison swaths of drug offenders and that have a limited welfare state, such as the US and to a lesser extent, the UK, consistently have "serious drug problems". However, countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, which offer generous benefits, have dramatically curbed the spread of hard drugs such as heroin.

Stevens said his book, Drugs, Crime and Public Health, showed social inclusion was needed to reduce drug use, rather than a programme of "mass incarceration".

There are two reasons, he said, why welfare is so important: regular benefits keep people out of a criminal underclass and the welfare state allows addicts to kick the habit by bringing stability to their lives. "Making sure users have a roof over their heads means they can be enrolled in programmes to get them off drugs."

Neil McKechnie, professor of drug misuse research at Glasgow University, said this was a "highly questionable analysis".

He said: "It is a rather old Labour way of thinking that poverty or deprivation is the explanation for drug use. The reality is that many people have difficult lives but they are not all taking drugs. Policy is important and I think that we have not tried abstinence, really enforced it."

But charities welcomed the research. Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, said: "At a time of spending cuts and social reform, it is timely evidence of the importance of the benefits system in both mitigating and preventing social and health problems, thereby reducing longer-term costs to society."

Source: The Guardian

 

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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