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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of November 22nd 2010

This weeks front line report covers a broad ground, from news of the Subtance Misuse Consortium in the UK working to drive treatment standards up; the relationship between hepitatitis C, substance misuse and health equality; a 20 fold increase in the number of users criminalized in Ukraine; and the start of our regular showcasing of films from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. We lead though with a news of a considered documentary film, 'Marijauna - A Chronic History?'
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
23 November 2010

You know attitudes are changing when you get a thoroughly mainstream media outlet to run a program like this which doesn't resort to flaccid stereotypes, one that largely supports reforming marijuana laws without having to say so. Ironically, one of the voices of dissent is from none other than UCLA's Mark Kleiman, who was also interviewed for The Unheard Voices Project. Of course, those of us who know Mark and his work aren't surprised at all. ~ CS

Marijuana: A Chronic History

The fight against drug use in America has been going on since the turn of the last century but the term War on Drugs only became part of our national dialog in 1970 when it was first used by President Richard Nixon.

The President later formed the DEA and started a push to outlaw drugs of all kinds. Among the most discussed drugs in this war is Marijuana.

This special will look at the storied and strange history of Marijuana in America. Probably one of the better documentaries, mostly seems pro-cannabis and by far the most pro-cannabis documentary thus far released by the History Channel.

The documentary attempts to educate everyone who still has a Reefer Madness mindset, who still thinks cannabis prohibition is reasonable, and who have no idea that widespread cannabis use is relatively harmless compared to alcohol, tobacco, and especially pharmaceutical and other drugs.

Source: Top Documentary Times

10 Rules for Dealing with Police

From the creators of the classic, BUSTED: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters (2003), Flex Your Rights releases its new achievement, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. The 40-minute docudrama is the most sophisticated and entertaining film of its kind. Narrated by the legendary trial lawyer William “Billy” Murphy, Jr. (from HBO’s The Wire), 10 Rules depicts innocent people dealing with heavy-handed policing tactics used every day in the United States.

Through extensive collaboration with victims of police abuse, legal experts and law enforcement professionals, we’ve developed a powerful multi-language (English, Spanish & Arabic) resource that provides proven survival strategies for dealing with racial profiling and police abuse. Do you know what your rights are if you’re stopped by police? Most people don’t, and the consequences can be severe. From simple misunderstandings to illegal searches and excessive force, a bad police encounter can happen to anyone. But after watching 10 Rules for Dealing with Police, you’ll be more confident and better prepared to handle every kind of police situation.

Source: Documentary Wire

New initiative to improve airport intelligence sharing on drug trafficking in West Africa

According to UNODC estimates, between 30 and 100 tons of cocaine transited through West Africa in 2009. The frequency of big drug seizures, such as the recent 2.2 tons of cocaine seized in Gambia, emphasize the seriousness of the problem of drug trafficking in the region. Cocaine mainly transits through West Africa by air and sea, originating from Latin America and heading to Europe.

UNODC recently teamed up with the World Customs Organization and Interpol to start a project that will improve airport intelligence and information sharing between seven West African countries and Brazil.

The project, called Aircop, aims to establish secure, effective communications and exchange of intelligence between Brazil, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo during its first phase, while Guinea Conakry and Morocco have been invited to join.

The 3.2 million dollars project, financed by the European Union and Canada, consists of setting up Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces composed of officers from all law enforcement agencies involved in combating illicit trafficking, operating around the clock at each of the selected international airports.

The task forces are not meant to conduct investigations, but to help increase the number and quality of drug seizures through providing more specialized services. The task forces will be equipped with effective communication equipment with access to Interpol's international databases and to a secured system of communications managed by the World Customs Organization (called CENcomm), allowing real-time exchange of operational information between participating airports. For its first phase, the project will run for 36 months through  the coordination of the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa.

Speaking at the launch of the project in Dakar, Senegal, the head of the European Union delegation in Dakar, Gilles Hervio, said, "Aircop will bring together all agencies in charge of fighting trafficking and organized crime at the national level into a unit that can work with regional and trans-regional counterparts". His counterpart from Canada, Ambassador Perry Carlerwood, welcomed the new development, saying "it could also contribute to the fight against illegal movements of persons, goods, and prevent terrorism".

The Aircop project is a product of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa, and it contributes to the Dakar Initiative to Fight Narcotics. The project will soon be extended to more Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Source: UNODC

Anya Sarang on HIV, Drug Policy and Harm Reduction

In a new part of the report showcasing the excellent work of film makers at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Movement, we are pleased to present a brief presentation by Anya Sarang, the director of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, addressesing delegates of the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

 

 

Anya Sarang on HIV, Drug Policy and Harm Reduction from Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on Vimeo.

Source: Drug Reporter

Hard Times after Hard Time for the Formerly Incarcerated

Once the cell door slams shut, a life is severed. For the individual, a prison sentence imposes a "social death" in the form of isolation from family, social networks, and the economy. Less visible is the collective punishment that prison metes out against the families on the outside, broken up by the state and shattered by economic crisis.

According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the social and economic isolation that people suffer in prison continues to plague them long after their release. After prison, in fact, a second sentence begins as people are pushed out into a hostile economy, locked out of decent work opportunities and dogged by the stigma of a criminal record.

The researchers found devastating long-term consequences for the formerly imprisoned: 

  • After release, former male inmates work nine fewer weeks annually and take home 40 percent less in annual earnings, making $23,500 instead of $39,100. That amounts to an expected earnings loss of nearly $179,000 through age 48 for men who have been incarcerated
  • Incarceration depresses the total earnings of white males by 2 percent, of Hispanic males by 6 percent, and of black males by 9 percent

The recession has complicated reentry struggles, as competition even for low-wage jobs is tighter than ever. The one in 100 Americans in the prison system must contend with near double-digit unemployment, and even higher unemployment among Blacks and Latinos, who, not coincidentally, are also disparately impacted by criminal justice systems.

As they brave an economic assault, many formerly incarcerated parents struggle to reuild their families after years of separation. Poverty and social distress are rampant among children of incarcerated parents, foreclosing their future before it even begins, according to Pew:

  • Children with fathers who have been incarcerated are significantly more likely than other children to be expelled or suspended from school (23 percent compared with 4 percent)
  • Family income averaged over the years a father is incarcerated is 22 percent lower than family income was the year before a father is incarcerated. Even in the year after the father is released, family income remains 15 percent lower than it was the year before incarceration 

This intergenerational destabilization is all the more tragic in light of the scope of mass incarceration in America. Pew estimates that there “more than 120,000 mothers and 1.1 million fathers” incarcerated nationwide. That translates into about one in every 28 children, or 2.7 million with a parent behind bars. A full one in nine Black children have an incarcerated parent, compared with just one in 57 white children. 

Prison's ripple effects drain the economy from both ends: Harsh sentencing regimes suck working-age adults from the labor force, often for nonviolent offenses (these folks are conveniently omitted from unemployment counts); the fiscal cost of prisons saps precious state funds that could go toward other social programs. 

Release from prison doesn't feel very emancipating when you fall head-first into a miserable job market, with no financial or social supports. It's no wonder that recidivism rates are extraordinarily high in the reentry population; resorting to illegal activity to keep the rent up, sadly, might make economic sense.

Pew recommends that state and federal authorities overhaul and expand programs to help former inmates connect to jobs and housing, and stay out of trouble. The most basic step is to provide training and job placement services around the time of release. States could also lessen the former inmates burden by relieving debts imposed as part of their punishment, or promoting prison-based college programs

And then there is the long-term project of weaning America off of its prison addiction in general, by moving toward alternative sentencing programs for low-level and nonviolent offenders, and issuing penalties that are actually commensurate with real public safety concerns. There are some signs that states are already leaning in this direction, in part due to fiscal pressures. 

But at the prison gates, unmet needs are way outpacing resources. Officials can't afford to keep dealing with incarceration and reentry through the narrow prism of correction policy alone. In addition to being a crime problem, the prison crisis is a social welfare issue, a race issue, and more broadly, a labor and economic equity issue. 

The criminal justice system is designed to teach citizens that crime doesn't pay. But for millions struggling with the aftermath of imprisonment, neither does freedom. 

Source: Common Dreams 

Branded for Life 

Some people’s lives change forever in a single moment, and for Carol, it happened 22 years ago. Before she tells her story, she prints a “do not disturb” sign and tapes it to her office door. Her past life still isn’t one she likes many people to know about. 

At age 26, Carol was dying. Years of booze and drugs had turned her skin gray. Her bones stuck out from her thin frame. Friend after friend died around her. 

And then it happened: She got arrested. A cop pulled her over and found cocaine and a gun in her car. Carol spent the next 30 days in a county jail, sick with drug withdrawal. 

“I really believe those people saved my life,” says Carol, now 48. “They really nursed me back to health.”

She ended up in court-ordered rehab in Spokane, and there she began putting her life back together. She wanted to be a better mother. She wanted to go to school. Start a career. Maybe even start her own business. 

She studied to be an insurance agent. But when it came time to be certified, Carol’s old arrest popped up.

“I went and took the test and passed it with flying colors. I had a job with an insurance company,” she says. “But after my test results came back, the insurance commission said, ‘We’re not going to give you your license.’” So Carol decided to go into nursing, and before she started, she told Spokane Community College that she had a criminal record. 

“They said it wouldn’t be a problem,” Carol says. “I spent a year and half doing the prerequisites for the program.”

Then she found out that — again — she wouldn’t be able to get a license. A felon can’t be a nurse. 

“This is already after I put a year and a half of money into it,” she says. “I started this big circle of chasing my tail.”

Carol may have left her past behind, but it kept coming back to haunt her. It was as if she had been marked with a scarlet letter. Like society had decided that she could not be anything but a felon. 

“You keep getting told what you are,” she says. “And what happens is you have this identity of being a felon.”

Her story is hardly unique. From 1970 to 2000, the United States’ rate of incarceration jumped by more than 500 percent. Today 2.3 million people live behind bars, and an estimated 13 million Americans have felony convictions on their records. 

While half are violent offenders, half are like Carol — people with drug offenses or property crimes. And long after their sentences are served, debts paid, rehabilitation completed and lessons learned, they’re still branded as felons. 

Felons are, perhaps, the last group that can be legally discriminated against: A felony can automatically disqualify someone from a job, from getting a safe place to live, from being eligible to vote. Many felons end up living in poor neighborhoods and raising children in crime-riddled areas — where their children get caught up in the same traps.

Elliott Bronstein, who works with the city of Seattle Office for Civil Rights, says reformed felons like Carol who regret their crimes and want to change can’t. And that’s something everyone should care about, if for no other reason than money: Housing a person in prison for a year costs more than $25,000.

“If we set up a system so that when somebody gets out of jail, it is practically impossible for them to find a place to live or find a job,” Bronstein says, “then that doesn’t just impact them — it impacts me. Because if you can’t find a job and you can’t find a place to live, there’s a chance you’re going to be driven to other measures.”

Todd Clear, one of the nation’s most prominent scholars of criminology, says it is impossible for someone like Carol to get a fresh start. The system is not only set up to make felons fail, but to keep them coming back to prison.

To read the rest of this feature story and learn of the lifelong impact a criminal conviction can have, please click here

Source: Pacific Northwest Inlander

Welcome to the Arcane World of Asset Forfeiture

The DEA and the Missouri Highway Patrol are attempting to seize a large tract of land in central Missouri known as Camp Zoe. Zoe is owned by Jimmy Tebeau, front man for the Schwag, the band that gives name to the Schwagstock festivals held on the property several times a year. (Full disclosure: I have camped at Zoe numerous times, both for Schwagstocks and private gatherings of friends.) The DEA and highway patrol allege that Tebeau knowingly allowed people to sell drugs on the property, but Tebeau has not been charged with any crime.

However, that’s not necessary because under the rules of civil asset forfeiture, it is the property–not the person, who has all sorts of troublesome rights–that is charged with the crime. This procedure is rooted in medieval superstition–essentially, people believed that property used to commit a crime was haunted–and biases the outcome in the government’s favor in a number of ways. First and foremost, in a civil case the government can win with a preponderance of the evidence as opposed to the much higher burden of a reasonable doubt necessary to convict a person of a crime. Also, since there is no person on trial, the owner has no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and anything he says could be used later if criminal charges are ever brought.

Under Missouri state law this seizure would be impossible because Missouri requires the owner to be convicted of a related felony before the property can be forfeited to the state, but since the feds are involved that minor detail becomes unnecessary. The Missouri Highway Patrol also stands to profit handsomely from pursuing forfeiture at the federal level instead of the state level should they be successful. That’s because under the rules of equitable sharing, the federal agency will kick back up to 80% of the proceeds from the forfeiture, which assuming Zoe sold at its $600,000 assessed value, would give the highway patrol up to $480,000. On the other hand, property forfeited through Missouri state law must be given to a state fund for school construction to remove any incentive for police to enrich themselves by stealing property, but the federal government has given them an easy way of working around the obvious intent of state forfeiture reforms.

Finally, I wonder how much property the feds could seize under the rationale that drugs are produced or sold on them. I think we can safely include every venue ever played by the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, the Flaming Lips, Government Mule, Phish, and Moe, among others. Furthermore, even land already owned by the federal government would not seem to be immune. Rainbow gatherings are held regularly on National Forest land and the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man is held is federal property, and I don’t think anyone can credibly claim the government doesn’t know what sort illicit activities occur at these events. Simply put, if these are the standards, massive amounts of private property is subject to seizure anytime the DEA decides to investigate.

Source: Rough ‘Ol Boy

10 Ways to Outfox Cops That Are Abusing Their Powers to Trick You

As a 33-year law enforcement veteran and former training commander with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, I know how easy it is to intimidate citizens into answering incriminating questions or letting me search through their belongings. This reality might make things easier for police looking to make an easy arrest, but it doesn't always serve the interests of justice. That's why I believe all citizens should understand how to protect their constitutional rights and make smart decisions when dealing with officers of the law.

Unfortunately, this important information has remained largely unavailable to the public, despite growing concerns about police misconduct and the excesses of the war on drugs. For this reason, I agreed to serve as a technical consultant for the important new film, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. The 40-minute docudrama aims to educate the public about basic legal and practical survival strategies for handling even the scariest police encounters. It was produced by the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights and is narrated by former federal judge and acclaimed Baltimore trial lawyer William "Billy" Murphy, Jr.

The opening scene portrays Darren, a young black man getting pulled over. He's driving home from college. This is the fifth time he's been pulled over in a year. Frustrated and scared, Darren immediately breaks Rule #1: Always Be Calm & Cool. Mouthing off to the officer, Darren aggressively exits the car and slams the door. The officer overreacts, dropping Darren with a taser shot to his chest.

Should the officer have tased Darren in that situation? Probably not. Would the officer likely be disciplined? No. But that's not the main point of 10 Rules. The point is that the choices you make during the course of such encounters have a massive impact on whether it ends with a simple warning, a tasing -- or worse. This is true even if you've done nothing illegal.

While being calm and cool is key to getting the best possible outcome, it's not enough to keep police from violating your constitutional rights. For example, when the officer commandingly asks Darren "You're not hiding any AK-47s in there? You don't mind if I take a look?", Darren gets tricked like most people do.

Intimidated and unaware of other options, he consents to the search. The officer carelessly dumps his bags, accidentally shattering Darren's laptop on the asphalt. In another "what if" scenario, the officer finds a small amount of marijuana hidden away. While someone else might have left it there, Darren winds up getting arrested.

What few people understand, but police know all too well, is that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them. Unless they have strong evidence (i.e. probable cause) police need your permission to search your belongings or enter your home. The instant you grant them permission to invade your privacy, many of your legal protections go out the window and you're left on the hook for anything illegal the police find, as well as any damage they cause in the process.

In today's world of smart phone video, YouTube and Twitter, stories of police abuse travel fast, creating greater awareness of the problem of police misconduct. Unfortunately, this heightened awareness often serves to reinforce the notion that "cops can do whatever they want." It's true that much work remains to be done towards ensuring police accountability, but the very first step is to educate the public about basic constitutional rights.

Citizens who understand their rights are much less likely to experience negative outcomes, both on the street and in a court of law. Until each of us has the ability to protect our individual rights and recognize injustices against others, we're not likely to accomplish much in the realm of broader policy reform.

I hope 10 Rules for Dealing with Police will be embraced by parents, teachers, activists, and even police departments as we work towards reducing the tension that too often characterizes the relationship between cops and the communities they serve.

Here are the ten rules featured in the film:

1. Always be calm and cool: a bad attitude guarantees a bad outcome.

2. Remain silent: what you don't say can't hurt you.

3. You have the right to refuse searches: saying no to searches can't be held against you.

4. Don't get tricked: remember, police are allowed to lie to you.

5. Determine if you're free to go: police need evidence to detain you.

6. Don't expose yourself: doing dumb stuff in public makes you an easy target.

7. Don't run: they'll catch you and make you regret it.

8. Never touch a cop: aggressive actions will only earn you a more aggressive response.

9. Report misconduct: be a good witness.

10. You don't have to let them in: police need a warrant to enter your home.

Click here to learn more about the film and get copies of it to share.

Source: AlterNet

Arizona Medical Marijuana Initiative Wins

After trailing on Election Day and all the way through most of the late vote counting, Arizona's medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 203, pulled ahead Friday and, with all votes counted, was declared the unofficial winner Saturday. The final tally had the measure winning, 50.1% to 49.9%.

The measure won by fewer than 5,700 votes out of more than 1.6 million cast."Voters in Arizona have sided with science and compassion while dealing yet another blow to our nation's cruel and irrational prohibition on marijuana," said Rob Kampia, Marijuana Policy Project executive director, in a statement greeting the outcome.

"Arizona's law now reflects the mainstream public opinion that seriously ill people should not be treated like criminals if marijuana can provide them relief, and that doctors should be able to recommend marijuana to patients if they believe it can help alleviate their suffering."

The Marijuana Policy Project had advised and helped finance the campaign. Arizona will now become the 15th medical marijuana state when official results are announced November 29. The state will then have 120 days to create regulations. 

Source: Stop the Drug War

Oakland Okays Medical Marijuana Mega-Grows

The Oakland city council last week approved an application process for commercial-scale medical marijuana grow ops. That same night, the city council also approved a separate measure doubling the number of dispensaries licensed to operate in the city from four to eight.

The move makes Oakland the first city in the nation to approve marijuana cultivation on such a large scale. City council members said it was designed to take medical marijuana cultivation out of the shadows.

"Oakland is a leader in this industry, and I'm hoping that this will continue to grow," said Councilman Larry Reid in remarks reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Under the regulations approved Tuesday, applicants for the four grow licenses must undergo extensive financial background checks, provide security, and show themselves to be well-backed financially. The regulations also require that applicants pay back taxes for marijuana they have sold to Oakland dispensaries over the years, as well as interest and penalties.

It is unclear just how much marijuana large growers seeking one of the four permits have sold to city dispensaries. Much of the marijuana in the dispensaries is produced by small growers. The council earlier this year promised to create regulations to include them too, but has not yet done so. 

Source: Stop the Drug War

This Week in History

November 23, 1919: Mescaline is first isolated and identified by Dr. Arthur Heffter.

November 22, 1963: Aldous Huxley uses LSD to enhance his awareness as he dies.

November 22, 1975: Colombian police seize 600 kilos from a small plane at the Cali airport -- the largest cocaine seizure to date. In response, drug traffickers begin a vendetta known as the "Medellin Massacre." Forty people die in Medellin in one weekend. This event signals the new power of Colombia's cocaine industry, headquartered in Medellin.

November 24, 1976: Federal Judge James Washington rules that Robert Randall's use of marijuana constitutes a "medical necessity."

November 18, 1986: A US federal grand jury in Miami releases the indictment of the Ochoas, Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, and José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha under the RICO statute. The indictment names the Medellin cartel as the largest cocaine smuggling organization in the world.

November 21, 1987: Jorge Ochoa is arrested in Colombia. Ochoa is held in prison on the bull-smuggling charge for which he was extradited from Spain. Twenty-four hours later a gang of thugs arrive at the house of Juan Gómez Martínez, the editor of Medellin's daily newspaper El Colombiano. They present Martinez with a communique signed by "The Extraditables," which threatens execution of Colombian political leaders if Ochoa is extradited. On December 30, Ochoa is released under dubious legal circumstances. In January 1988, the murder of Colombian Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos is claimed by the Extraditables.

November 19, 1993:
In Missouri, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) helicopter crashes while conducting surveillance of suspected drug activity, killing a St. Louis police officer and critically injuring the pilot. The crash occurs in a rural, heavily wooded area 15 miles south of St. Louis. The man killed is Stephen Strehl, 35, a 14-year department veteran assigned to a DEA drug task force. The pilot, Hawthorn Lee, is hospitalized in critical condition.

November 19, 2001: Former West Vancouver (Canada) school superintendent Ed Carlin becomes furious with the North Vancouver Royal Canadian Mounted Police after a blunder during which the emergency response team raids a basement rental suite occupied by his son and three others in search of drugs and guns -- the police find Nintendo controllers in the home, but no guns or drugs.

November 20, 2010:
Irvin Rosenfeld marks his twenty-eighth anniversary of receiving a monthly tin of about 300 pre-rolled medical marijuana cigarettes from the United States government, as one of five living patients grandfathered into the now defunct Compassionate Investigative New Drug Program 

Source: Stop the Drug War

Mexico Drug War Update

Tuesday, November 2: In Ciudad Juarez, 14 people were killed in the city. In one incident, two females and three males allegedly on their way to collect extortion money were intercepted by gunmen traveling in at least five vehicles and killed. Police recovered two grenades from their car. In another incident, a 30-year old man who was recently discharged from a rehab facility was shot outside his home. In another, two men were chased by gunmen and shot.

Friday, November 5: In Matamoros, Tamaulipas, a powerful Gulf Cartel leader was killed during a prolonged gun battle with the Mexican military. Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, 48, also known as Tony Tormenta, was the second most important figure in the Gulf Cartel, and the brother of the former boss, Osiel. Two members of Mexico's naval commando unit were killed in the fighting, as was a Matamoros crime reporter. At one point cartel gunmen launched a counter-attack in an effort to break through army lines to rescue Cardenas. At least 55 people were killed in gun battles throughout the city, although some Mexican news sources report figures of at least 100.

Saturday, November 6: In Ciudad Juarez, 18 people were murdered in several incidents across the city. In one incident, seven people were gunned down after gunmen stormed a family party.

Sunday, November 7: In Ciudad Juarez, gunmen shot dead five people inside a bar just after midnight. During the attack, gunmen are said to have formed a perimeter around the bar before attacking. The gunmen, who were heavily armed, were led by an unidentified female.

Monday, November 8: In Denver, 35 people were indicted for being part of a Sinaloa-cartel affiliated drug trafficking organization which trafficked cocaine from the Ciudad Juarez area. Among the accused are a retired firefight and an assistant college baseball coach. The group is accused of supplying the Denver area with over 40 kilograms of cocaine a week.

Tuesday, November 9: In Veracruz, the mayor-elect of the small town and two companions were kidnapped and murdered. Gregorio Barradas Miravete, who had recently been elected in the municipality of Juan Rodriguez Clara, was forced into a Hummer, and then allegedly driven to Oaxaca, where he and the two other men were killed.

Thursday, November 11: In Acapulco, gunmen attacked the offices of El Sur newspaper. The offices were sprayed with automatic gunfire, but nobody was wounded. El Sur has been extremely criticial of the government of the state of Guerrero, in which Acapulco is located.

Friday, November 12: In Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas, hundreds of people fled the city after gunmen burned vehicles and businesses. At least 300 people left left town and headed for the nearby city of Miguel Aleman. It is unclear which organization's gunmen were involved in the incident, but the area is currently being fought over by the Gulf Cartel and Zetas.

In Morelos, police arrested a 12-year old boy who is alleged to be a well-known assassin for the Cartel del Pacifico Sur, which is allied to the Zetas organization. Pedro Luis Benitez, also known as El Ponchis, is known for slitting the throats of his victims as part of a unit which also includes several of his sisters. He has appeared in internet videos slitting the throat of one man and posing with several weapons, including an AK-47. Mexican media sources later reported that he was mistakenly released by the army, and is currently being searched for again.

Saturday, November 13: In the city of Chihuahua, a former high-level prison official was killed and his son was wounded after being ambushed by gunmen. Gerardo Torres had been sacked from his post last year for allegedly helping facilitate the escape of several prisoners.

Monday, November 15: In Ciudad Juarez, at least ten people were killed in the city. In one incident, a woman riding a bus to her factory job was killed by a stray bullet from an armed robbery of a gas station. In another incident, two women thought to be involved in car theft were gunned down by men armed with automatic rifles.

Tuesday, November 16: In Tabasco, two young men were shot and killed by soldiers after an incident at an army roadblock. One of the men was 21 and the other was 23. The army is claiming they tried to avoid the roadblock, but the families of the men say they had nothing to hide.

In Culiacan, a high-ranking police official was found dead. Ramon Abel Duarte Navaratte was a member of the police protective service. His predecessor had been assassinated along with three bodyguards.

Total Body Count since the last update: 293 / Total Body Count for the year: 9,082 

Source: Stop the Drug War

Drug and Alcohol Treatment sector Drives up Standards of Care

Doctors, former drug users, healthcare managers and charities, among others, have formed a unique new partnership to drive up standards in drug and alcohol treatment in England and help more people achieve recovery.

The Substance Misuse Skills Consortium launches today (22 November) with an online gateway, the Skills Hub, offering easy access to hundreds of resources to help front line drug and alcohol workers improve services and achieve better results for those in their care.

This new resource gives everyone in the field the chance to share best practice and work together towards recovery for service users.

The chairman of the Skills Consortium, William Butler, said:"Everyone involved in drug and alcohol treatment wants to help users overcome addiction and achieve safe sustained recovery and reintegration into their communities.   This is an important new initiative to harness the extensive knowledge in the sector to create a highly skilled and ambitious workforce to enable drug and alcohol users to succeed in treatment."

Senior keyworker Zoe Gatland, who works with the Lifeline Project's Blackburn young people's service, said:"The Skills Consortium website looks fantastic. I look forward to using it myself and would encourage other practitioners to try this valuable resource."

The NTA is providing the secretariat for the consortium. Paul Hayes, Chief Executive, said:"This is a home-grown initiative by employers and provider organisations to improve the skills and clinical practice of the drug and alcohol treatment workforce, and the NTA is helping to enable it become a self-sufficient operation."

A challenging programme of work for the consortium in the coming year will support services in meeting the recovery ambitions of their users. It will include forming a sector-led consensus on how to develop the evidence base that supports effective treatment, ensuring that qualifications and training meet the needs of treatment services, and adding even more online resources to the Skills Hub.

Source: National Treatment Agency

Kids, 10, on Drink and Drugs

CHILDREN as young as ten have been reported in the Capital for abusing drink and drugs, it was revealed today.

A total of 26 underage youngsters were referred to the Children's Reporter over drugs or alcohol misuse after police deemed intervention was needed to protect them.

Children's charities today said the figures were worrying and said youngsters were putting their lives at risk.

Up to four ten-year-olds were reported by officers for substance misuse between last April and March. The figures also included children aged 12 and 13 abusing drugs and alcohol, while nine 14-year-olds and eight 15-year-olds were reported.

However, the number of under-18s reported for substance misuse fell compared with the previous year when 53 were identified, the youngest of whom was 12.

Police chiefs said the force's work in educating youngsters at school and tackling the illegal sale of alcohol to under-18s may be factors behind the drop.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Parents, teachers, police and local authorities all have a role to play to ensure that children are protected from the harm caused by alcohol. Adults should never provide alcohol to children as children's bodies aren't developed enough to cope with alcohol, so even relatively small amounts of alcohol can be problematic.

"Adults should also be aware that their own drinking behaviour will influence their children's attitude to alcohol.

"We should be giving children and young people a clear message that excessive drinking has more negative than positive consequences."

Kate Higgins, policy manager for charity Children 1st, said: "It is often the case that when a child or young person is using drugs or alcohol it is as a consequence of something else that is affecting their life in a negative way. This should be investigated and addressed and their support needs recognised."

Youngsters reported for misusing drink or drugs are typically referred if they are felt to be at risk due to their behaviour and may require intervention to ensure their protection. That can include supervision orders or being taken to secure accommodation.

Tom Philliben, reporter manager for east region with the SCRA, said the drop in alcohol and drug-related referrals may be due to "pre-referral screenings" which try to identify vulnerable youngsters at an earlier stage.

Mr Philliben added: "However, there is still cause for concern when we are getting young children coming to the attention of the Reporter due to alcohol and drugs issues. Children referred in these circumstances are recognised to be at risk, and require intervention for their own care and protection.

It is vital that these children are identified and given the earliest and most effective support and intervention."

A police spokesman said: "Lothian and Borders Police is committed to tackling substance misuse among young people, through a combination of early intervention and robust enforcement.

"As well as educating young people to the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse through initiatives such as our annual Choices for Life event, our local officers organise diversionary activities designed to provide young people with an alternative to substance misuse and associated forms of antisocial behaviour."

He added: "In appropriate cases we will refer young people that we identify as having issues with substance misuse to social work, in order that action can be taken to address that individual's behaviour." 

Source: Edinburgh Evening News

QuADs Support Project

QuADS (Quality Standards in Alcohol and Drugs Services) is a quality standards framework that was developed by Drug Scope and Alcohol Concern in the UK in 1999 and has been selected as the guiding quality standard framework for HSE Addiction Services in Ireland.

We are pleased to announce that the Progression Routes team has now made available a comprehensive policy library which contains more than 75 template policies for drug services. Developed over the last twelve months the policies have been extensively researched and have had editorial input from industry leaders from the health & commercial sectors. The policies have been designed to be adapted, locally, to the needs of each organisation through an internal consultation processes. The policies are available through our website: www.progressionroutes.ie

The QuADS Support Project is supported by HSE National Social Inclusion Office and the North Inner City Drugs Task Force.

In 2011 Progression Routes will be working with another 30 services to support them in implementing policies that meet the QuADS standards - supports offered include; training, facilitation as well as research and policy development supports. If you are interested in your service being a part of this project please email [email protected] with an expression of interest.

Contact Caroline if you would like further information on the QuADS Support Project or any other area of the Progression Routes initiative:

Caroline Gardner
Project Manager
Progression Routes
Ana Liffey Drug Project
48 Middle Abbey Street
Dublin 1
Tel: 01 878 6899
Email: [email protected]

Source: Ana Liffey Drug Project

Hepatitis C, Substance Misuse and Health Equalities

An estimated 34,000 Londoners with a history of injecting drugs have hepatitis C. About 800 are being treated. Most people simply fall through the gaps in existing services, but the future cost to NHS London of not acting now could be over £600 million. 

Chaired by Professor David Nutt, the main aims of the conference were to develop a stakeholder consensus on what needs to be done to integrate London health and addiction services to support vulnerable patients to get treatment for hepatitis C, tackle health inequalities and stop the spread of the virus.

The consensus document will be available to download here in the new year. For further information regarding the conference, or the London Joint Working Group for Hepatitis C and Substance Misuse, please email David Badcock [email protected]

Source: Addaction

Increasing levels of criminal prosecution of drug users by 20-fold threaten with a burst of the HIV epidemic in Ukraine

As a result of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health Resolution No. 634 which has recently entered into force, the level of criminalisation of users has been increased 20-fold. 

From now on, illicit possession of acetylated opium is liable for criminal prosecution in Ukraine for an amount of 0.005 g, compared to 0.5 g in neighboring Russian Federation.

Judicial practice in Ukraine proves that even traces of this drug in a used syringe may sometimes be enough for a person to be criminally liable under p. 309 of the Criminal Code, and sent to prison for up to 3 years.

Concerns about the issue have been expressed by Andriy Klepikov, Chief Executive of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine, and Yevhen Bystrytsky, Chief Executive of the International Renaissance Foundation.

“Injecting drug use is currently the key driver of the HIV (58% of all officially registered cases) and hepatitis C epidemics in Ukraine. Increasing the level of criminal responsibility will not lower the level of drug usage by drug addicts. They will continue to use drugs but they will do it in a more dangerous way. Syringe exchange programmes implemented by NGOs and departments of the State Social Service in accordance with the National HIV/AIDS Programme will be paralysed: millions of syringes will be thrown around playgrounds, in front of porches and near houses. This may turn into a splash of HIV infections in Ukraine”,  commented Andriy Klepikov.

The problem directly concerns at least 59,800 people, representing 76% of all individuals officially registered by the Ukrainian MoH as patients suffering from chronic opiate dependence. This proportion is even higher if one considers those that have not been registered by the MoH.

“We are very much concerned about the repressive nature of the new policy concerning drug dependent people. The efficiency of counteracting organised drug crime has not been increased. Instead of eradicating corruption among law enforcement officers responsible for fighting illicit drugs, the government chooses the easiest way —prosecuting sick drug dependent people. It is not logical, and only pushes sick people underground, it drives them to a blind corner, and simultaneously threatens the wellbeing of millions of people, who will face an increased danger of getting infected with HIV ”, declared Yevhen Bystrytsky.

“Drug dependency is virtually considered equal to a crime”, explained Pavlo Kutsev, Director of CF “Drop In Center”. “We should realise that already high corruption levels among law enforcement officers will grow even more, as from now on they will demand money even if they seize a sick person with a used syringe”.

We have to admit that the criminalisation of drug users in Ukraine takes place at a time when inverse processes have been observed in many other countries. Following the results of the XVIII International AIDS Conference held in July 2010 in Vienna (Austria), more than 17,000 people signed the Vienna Declaration, calling for global decriminalisation of drug dependent people.

Attention should be given to other disturbing changes in the national drug policy which have recently occurred. In spite of the fact that drug dependency is defined as a chronic disease in the laws of Ukraine, the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 1038, which will come into effect in the near future, provides that the MoH will no longer be involved in the National Council on Drug Abuse. Similarly, a new Concept of Drug Policy for 2010-2015 approved in September 2010 does not include any measures related to the treatment of drug dependency.

The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which provides financial support to HIV prevention services reaching more than 170,000 injecting drug users (IDUs) in Ukraine, is about to pass a decision concerning the proposal submitted by Ukraine for the following five-year funding round for an amount of up to USD 300 million. Activities aimed to prevent HIV transmission among IDUs, including support for syringe exchange programmes, is one of key prevention areas of the future project which is currently under threat.

A special meeting of the National Security and Defense Council dedicated to solving problems of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and other infection diseases and chaired by the President of Ukraine will be held on 26 November 2010. On  November 17, the National HIV/AIDS Conference “For Every Life Together” organised with the support of the Ukrainian Government and international organisations will be opened in Kyiv.

On the eve of these important events, and taking into account World AIDS Day which will be commemorated all over the world on 1 December, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine and the International Renaissance Foundation appeal to the Ukrainian Government together with other NGOs and international organisations to immediately revise recent destructive resolutions in the drug policy area, to consider people living with drug dependency and/or HIV.

Source: IDPC

Criminalising drug users does not help society

We were pleased to read Simon Jenkins's article on Professor David Nutt's report which, he says, "draws a distinction between the harm done by mind altering substances to the individual and the harm done to the wider society" (Britain's drugs hypocrisy is a giant self-inflicted wound, 3 November).

Our personal experience as parents whose youngest son became involved with heroin, and who is suffering the consequences 10 years on, has led us to the view that if you can reduce the harm to the individual then a reduction of the harm to society will take care of itself – after all, society is a collection of individuals. This approach would be opposite to that taken by current and previous governments and their agencies, whose primary focus has been on reducing the harm to society caused by alcohol and drugs.

Our son is talented and able, but he made unfortunate choices in his late teens. He tries to work and contribute to society but he has an illness – addiction – brought on by heroin. We believe that, instead of being treated as a criminal, he should be treated as someone who needs medical help. If this was done and his illness cured, he would be able to make a full contribution to society. However, this is not what our society does.

The current criminalisation of class A drug users reminds us of the fictional society in Erewhon, by Samuel Butler, where individuals who are ill are convicted and sentenced by a criminal court. Last year our son received a conviction. Though this was technically correct, the reality is that he is a drug user on prescribed methadone, registered with a drug treatment agency, who was caught up in a police operation. The operation appeared to be designed to show the public that the police were "doing something about drugs" and was not designed to help individuals or society.

As Jenkins remarked, Alan Johnson – the former home secretary who sacked Professor Nutt last year – was "a typical Labour headline grabber". Our son recently told us: "Unfortunately the best way to treat addicts is not the best way to get votes." It is also, as Jenkins points out, a reflection of the government "being obsessed ... with taboo drugs designated as illicit and filling prisons with the resulting miscreants".

As taxpayers we are dismayed at the amount spent on the police operation and legal proceedings to convict our son; and as parents we are deeply saddened that his illness can be treated with such contempt by the police force and legal system.

Many excellent people are now supporting our son. However, we remain very concerned that his addiction is being maintained by his methadone programme and feel strongly that this is designed to reduce the harm to society rather than help him.

We strongly agree with Jenkins that "there is no need for any more reports, seminars, committees or thinktanks". Politicians need a different perspective on the problems of drugs and alcohol, and should listen to Professor Nutt, his colleagues, and those who have intimate experiences of the reality of drugs and the harm they can do.

Source: The Guardian

Britain tops cocaine league table 

European countries with the highest prevalence of cocaine use are the UK, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Denmark, with 2.9 per cent of Italian 15 to 34-year-olds using the drug in the last year compared to 6.2 per cent of Britons the same age.

At least 1m people in the EU receive some form of drug treatment each year, says the report, but with ‘considerable challenges’ for services. Around 670,000 Europeans now receive opioid substitution treatment, a ten-fold increase since 1993, with several countries scaling up provision by involving additional service providers like GPs. The EMCDDA estimates that there are around 1.35m problem opioid users in the EU and Norway, but while injecting drug is generally stable or declining it remains a major problem, particularly in Eastern Europe. More older drug users are also seeking help, says Treatment and care for older drug users, a special review published alongside the main report, with around one in five of all those entering treatment in Europe aged 40 or above.

‘Over the last decade, important, if uneven, gains have been made in responding to drug problems’, said EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz. ‘Treatment provision has grown dramatically and considerable progress has been made in addressing some of the most harmful health consequences of drug use, such as HIV infection. But at a time when effective responses need to be sustained, austerity measures could lead to reductions in treatment services. Current pressure on the public purse may well provoke policy decisions that result in Europe incurring long-term costs that far outweigh any short-term savings’.

Amphetamine consumption trends, meanwhile, have remained stable across the continent, with problem amphetamine use ‘mainly reported by countries in the north of Europe’ – and accounting for 32 per cent of those entering treatment in Sweden. While problem methamphetamine use remains mainly restricted to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the drug ‘appears to be becoming more available in parts of northern Europe’, says EMCDDA.

Levels of cannabis use are rising in parts of Eastern Europe – ‘in some cases now rivalling or exceeding prevalence levels found in parts of Western Europe’ – with the highest levels of last-year cannabis use among 15 to 34-year-olds in the Czech Republic, at 28 per cent. While the latest data confirms the ‘general stabilising or downward trend in cannabis use’ cited in previous reports, the emergence of a ‘record number of new substances’ is increasingly testing ‘Europe’s drug control models,’ says the agency.

Source: Drink and Drug News

‘Cutting edge’ consortium to raise treatment standards

A major new partnership to drive up standards in drug and alcohol treatment officially launches today (Monday). The Substance Misuse Skills Consortium includes healthcare managers, doctors, charities and former drug users, among others, and will make a wide range of best practice resources available to frontline workers through its online ‘skills hub’.

The consortium has been inviting applications for membership since the summer (DDN, 19 July, page 4) and now has 170 full and associate members, with its executive committee including representatives of DrugScope, Adfam, FDAP, eATA, The Alliance, the Lifeline Project and the royal colleges of psychiatrists, nursing and GPs, among many others.

The consortium’s secretariat is provided by the NTA, while its work pro-gramme will include forming a consensus on developing an evidence base to support effective treatment, and making sure that training and qualifications meet the needs of services. ‘This is a home-grown initiative by employers and provider organisations to improve the skills and clinical practice of the drug and alcohol treatment workforce, and the NTA is helping to enable it become a self-sufficient operation,’ said NTA chief executive Paul Hayes.

‘I am delighted to be part of the consortium, which is an excellent example of the treatment field pooling knowledge and working collaboratively,’ said chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Addictions, Owen Bowden-Jones. ‘By defining the skills needed to deliver evidence-based care, the consortium hopes to drive up standards, benefitting patients at all stages of their treatment journey. The skills hub provides, for the first time, a national resource for frontline staff. Packed with useful clinical tools and information, I anticipate the hub will become a key support for all staff. Most exciting of all, it will be regularly updated taking into account emerging evidence and new trends.’

‘The important thing is drawing on the skills and the expertise of the sector because, as we know, it’s very diverse,’ said consortium chair, William Butler. ‘I don’t think in the past that the sector has been as good as it could have been in terms of coming together, and it’s important to have something like this for people to coalesce around.’

‘It’s a really big opportunity to demonstrate strong unity around the importance of quality,’ added Lifeline Project chief executive Ian Wardle. ‘The field hasn’t necessarily shown itself off to its best advantage over the recent past and the workforce needs to know that our industry is capable of leading itself towards excellence in delivery – key to that is the quality of the training and skills and education. I strongly believe in what we’ve developed, and we have to express a strong debt of gratitude to the NTA, because although the product belongs to all of us the developmental work has been theirs.

What it promises is a big leap forward. Although the NTA has got us off to a great start I think the broad field – especially the big providers – have to take a responsibility in resourcing this, and I’m absolutely convinced that we can develop something that’s really at the cutting edge and that will attract international interest. It’s pulled together not just providers but commissioners, service user groups and the royal colleges, and it’s that unity we’ve got to build on. If we can I think a lot of the demoralisation that the workforce has suffered will be addressed and overcome.’

Source: Drink and Drug News

Back off

Conferences seem to have gone heavyweight as everyone tries to peer across a landscape of change. The FDAP conference heard how recovery communities could provide the key to survival in tough economic times (page 11). DrugScope’s event gave reassurance that harm reduction would survive the maelstrom to be acknowledged in the forthcoming drug strategy (page 14). While at Medineo’s conference Dr Ed Day made the case for integrating opiate substitution with other visions of recovery (page 8).

Surely it’s a hopeful sign that we’re not all navel gazing, but actively planning ahead and counting on being part of future dialogue. The new Substance Misuse Skills Consortium (page 4) is a prime example of organisations pooling knowledge to make sure frontline staff are better supported to weather the times ahead. Its membership includes representatives of organisations that support families, service users, medical staff and treatment agencies as well as professional standards, so it’s surely a sign that we’re going to speak with many and varied voices to protect essential interests.

Reacting to new demands while planning ahead takes confidence at the moment, and we’re grateful to Tom Woodcock for sharing Lancashire DAAT’s thought processes (page 12). There are some tough choices involved, and many of you will identify with the agonies associated with major overhaul. We want to hear how you’re tackling demands to modernise on a budget.

Last, but not least, we’re flagging up the difficult issue of stigma in this issue’s cover story (page 6), because it’s never been more crucial to make sure we don’t light the touchpaper to prejudice that could torch fair policymaking. Whatever challenges we’re up against at the moment, we’ve never needed to be more focused on making sure service users are not penalised for having needs that poll lower down the public’s popularity stakes.

Source: Drink and Drug News

Senate Holds Hearings on Controversial DEA Nominee

Michele Leonhart's nomination to be Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator appeared to be on track for an easy confirmation after a Wednesday hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is opposed by the drug reform, medical marijuana, and hemp movements, but insiders say it is all but a done deal.

While reformers had hoped one or more senators would ask Leonhart "tough questions" about her tenure as acting DEA administrator, that didn't happen. Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pressed Leonhart about easing access to pain medications for senior citizens in nursing homes, but that was about the extent of the prodding.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), expressing concern about all that legalization talk in the air, gave Leonhart the opportunity to assure him that she and the DEA stood steadfast. She obliged him.

"I have seen what marijuana use has done to young people," Leonhart said. "I've seen the addiction, the family breakup. I've seen the bad. I'm extremely concerned about the legalization of any drugs," she avowed. "We already have problems with prescription drugs, which are legal, so it's of concern."

Legalizers are singing a seductive siren song, Leonhart warned. "The danger of these legalization efforts, they say we could just end the problem of drugs if we just make it legal," she explained. "But any country that has tried that -- the Netherlands, Alaska -- it has not worked, it is failed public policy."

Leonhart was nominated by President Bush to be administrator at DEA after replacing Karen Tandy in 2007 and has been acting administrator ever since. The Obama administration renominated her as administrator in February, but the nomination languished as the committee dealt with other business, most notably addressing  a backlog of judicial nominations and preparing for confirmation hearings for the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Medical marijuana and drug reform advocacy groups have opposed Leonhart's nomination on a variety of grounds. As Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's Los Angeles office from 1998 to 2004 and DEA deputy administrator from 2003 to 2007, she presided over hundreds of raids on medical marijuana patients and providers. As acting administrator, she ran DEA while California medical marijuana raids continued unabated until the October 2009 Justice Department memorandum  to quit persecuting patients and providers "whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws."

Even since then, while DEA medical marijuana raids have diminished, they have not stopped. According to the medical marijuana support group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), since the memo went out, the DEA under Leonhart has engaged in more than 30 raids of medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal.

"As the deputy director, Ms. Leonhart supervised an unprecedented level of paramilitary-style enforcement raids designed to undermine safe access and the implementation of state medical marijuana programs," ASA said in an alert to its members.

Leonhart is also drawing fire from advocates for overturning a DEA administrative law judge's decision to issue a license to UMass-Amherst Professor Lyle Craker to grow marijuana for FDA-approved research. That decision left intact the federal government's monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes. It is grown only at the University of Mississippi.

And she is being opposed as well for her DEA's recalcitrance when it comes to industrial hemp. In a July letter to the committee, the industry group Vote Hemp said it opposed Leonhart's nomination because under her tenure DEA continues to block hemp production in the US, has failed for more than three years to respond to several applications from North Dakota-licensed farmers to grow hemp, and continues to maintain the fiction that hemp is marijuana.

"Michele Leonhart, the nominee for administrator and a lifetime DEA bureaucrat, severely lacks the vision to change policy on hemp farming for the better," the group said.  "Vote Hemp strongly opposes the nomination of Michele Leonhart to be Administrator of the DEA."

There is another reason to question her suitability to run DEA -- her dealings with and defense of one-time DEA "supersnitch" Andrew Chambers. Chambers earned an astounding $2.2 million for his work as a DEA informant between 1984 and 2000. The problem was that he was caught perjuring himself repeatedly. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called him a liar in 1993, and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals echoed that verdict two years later.

But instead of terminating its relationship with Chambers, the DEA protected him, failing to notify prosecutors and defense attorneys about his record. At one point, DEA and the Justice Department for 17 months stalled a public defender seeking to examine the results of DEA's background check on Chambers. Even after the agency knew its snitch was rotten, it refused to stop using Chambers, and it took the intervention of then Attorney General Janet Reno to force the agency to quit using him.

Michele Leonhart defended Chambers. When asked if, given his credibility problems, the agency should quit using him, she said, "That would be a sad day for DEA, and a sad day for anybody in the law enforcement world... He's one in a million. In my career, I'll probably never come across another Andrew."

Another Leonhart statement on Chambers is even more shocking, as much for what it says about Leonhart as for what Leonhart says about Chambers. "The only criticism (of Chambers) I've ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand," she said, adding that once prosecutors check him out, they will agree with his DEA admirers that he is "an outstanding testifier."

And then there's her connection to the "House of Death" scandal. The "House of Death" in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, was a house used by the Juárez drug cartel to murder people. Dozens of bodies were eventually recovered when the police raided it. The case revolves around a US Immigration and Customs (ICE) and DEA informant in Mexico, code-named "Lalo," who witnessed (and perhaps took part in) a murder in the House of Death during August 2003. In a lawsuit, whistleblower and former DEA Special Agent Sanalio Gonzalez charges that Leonhart and other officials fired him for speaking out about the murders and then helped cover the scandal up.

A number of reform groups have organized Internet and phone call-in campaigns in a bid to derail the nomination. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, NORML, California NORML, and Firedoglake have all sounded the alarm. So has the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

[Editor's Note: The interviews below were conducted before Wednesday's hearing.]

"We are asking our supporters and followers to contact their representatives if they are serving on the committee and tell them to ask her some tough questions about her previous actions," said MPP communications director Mike Meno. "She presided over hundreds of DEA raids on legal medical marijuana providers during Bush admin, and played a crucial role in rejecting applications to do FDA-level research on marijuana."

ASA provided a list of questions for the committee to ask Leonhart, including how raiding medical marijuana providers was an efficient use of DEA resources, how the DEA might work with medical marijuana states, why the DEA didn't just hand over cases of "clear and unambiguous" violations of state medical marijuana laws to state authorities, and when the DEA might get around to deciding the status of a 2002 petition to reschedule marijuana.

"I was hoping that this nomination was going to die a slow death but it appears as if they are going forward with it," said Tom Murphy, outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp. "We sent a letter in opposition, as I know a number of other organizations have. We've also got a pair of action alerts up on our web site. We've been working it against this since June, and we have a long list of reasons to oppose her nomination."

But it doesn’t appear that the senators on the Judiciary Committee are paying much heed to the stop Leonhart campaign. Despite the protests, her nomination is likely to sale through the committee tomorrow and be quickly approved by the Senate.

"Unfortunately, I don't think there's any chance of stopping her nomination," said Murphy. "She was nominated by Bush, and the committee sat on it, and renominated by Obama and they sat it on. Now we're a lame duck session, and they’re moving it. That tells me they have the votes to get it through and it's a done deal."

"The prospects aren't good. Every office we've talked to has said they weren't going to go against an Obama nominee," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which also opposed the nomination. "But if we can get some senators to put pressure on her publicly or privately, maybe she will quit being such as obstacle when it comes to things like Amherst and the raids. We're taking sort of a harm reduction approach, like when Asa Hutchinson was grilled during his hearing and came out in support of reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity."

Getting Michele Leonhart to back off a little on the medical marijuana raids would be a welcome consolation, but don't hold your breath. Progressive drug policy stances are not the traditional province of the DEA, and it looks like nothing is going to change there for the foreseeable future. 

Source: Stop the Drug War

Dutch Want to Ban Foreigners from Marijuana Coffee Shops

The newly elected rightist Dutch government said Wednesday it wants to bar foreigners from buying marijuana in the Netherlands' famous cannabis coffee shops. The move is part of a national crack down on drug use, a government spokesman said.

For more than 30 years, Holland has allowed the sale of small amounts of marijuana (currently up to five grams) in coffee shops, even though laws against marijuana possession technically remained on the books. In recent years, conservative governments have increasingly signaled their unhappiness with the status quo and have embarked on campaigns to reduce the number of coffee shops.

Dutch coffee shops are a popular tourist destination, especially with visitors from neighboring France, Germany, Belgium, and other countries with more repressive approaches to pot. But some border towns have already moved to bar foreigners, citing traffic, congestion, and public order problems.

On Wednesday, Dutch Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten told NOS radio the governing coalition had agreed to limit marijuana sales to Dutch residents in order to curb crime linked to marijuana production and sales. "No tourist attractions," said Opstelten. "We don't like that."

But it is not "drug tourism" that creates crime around pot cultivation and distribution. Instead, it is Holland's half-baked approach to tolerating marijuana. The Dutch government allows for legal retail marijuana sales, but does not allow for a legal method of growing marijuana to supply the coffee shops. That leaves the door open for criminals to get involved in the trade.

While some border towns have already acted to bar foreigners, there is less enthusiasm for a ban in Amsterdam, home to some 223 coffee shops. The municipal government there said it was studying the government proposal. "We are taking the current practice as a starting point. It is not perfect but in many ways we have a functioning coffee shop system," an Amsterdam city spokesman said.

The "no foreigners" policy has not yet been formally drafted and no firm date for the ban has yet been set. But it looks like foreign pot smokers are about to join Muslims as persona non grata in the brave new Holland

Source: Stop the Drug War

Calderon's Drug War Agenda Stymied By Politics

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made his war against his country's so-called drug cartels the centerpiece of his presidency. But with prohibition-related violence at record levels and with his single six-year term already past the halfway point, Calderon's ability to get what he considers key reforms through the Mexican legislature is in doubt, and so is his legacy.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since Calderon deployed the army nearly four years ago in a misbegotten bid to crack down on the cartels. With his brute force strategy failing to produce the desired results, and with rising pressure from fearful citizens and hesitant foreign investors, not to mention the United States, Calderon has turned to a pair of legislative initiatives to rescue his crusade.

One measure would reform policing by placing the 22,000 municipal police agencies under the control of state governors. The municipal agencies are notoriously susceptible to the threats and entreaties of the cartels, who are fighting the government and each other to control lucrative smuggling franchises.

The other measure would strengthen money laundering legislation in a bid to hit the cartels in the wallet. A bill he announced in August is aimed at getting the government's hands on a larger share of the estimated $40 billion a year in cartel revenues.

But despite the climate of crisis provoked by the daily drumbeat of shoot-outs, kidnappings, beheadings, and other acts of horrorific exemplary violence, Calderon's agenda is running up against political calculation and is stalled and in danger of dying without being enacted. With the political parties jockeying for position ahead of elections in 2012, and with dissension within his own ruling PAN, Calderon's reform proposals will most likely be watered down significantly if they are passed at all.

"There is no consensus among lawmakers, not even within the PAN. There is a lot of opposition to the proposal for a unified police command," PAN Senator Alejandro Gonzalez, who heads the Senate's justice committee, told Reuters.

"The Mexican Congress has used its newly acquired power not to push through modernizing reforms but rather to control and thwart the executive at every turn," said political analyst Denise Dresser.

Calderon tried to fight back last week, telling reporters the money laundering reforms and the unified police command "are the key to our security." He emphasized the money laundering provisions, saying, "The goal is to hit the criminals where it hurts most, on the economic front."

While the money laundering reforms have more support than the police reforms, they still face an uphill battle. "The president introduced this initiative with a lot of force but it got stuck in the Senate," Jose Trejo, the PAN senator who heads the finance committee, told Reuters. "If it passes, it will only be with various changes. It will be complicated in this session."

Calderon and the PAN need the support of the main opposition party, the PRI, to get his reforms through the congress. But neither the PRI nor the leftist PRD are likely to hand Calderon any legislative victories before the 2012 elections. Congress will recess on December 15 without having moved on the legislation, and the prospects for passage next year are even dimmer.

Source: Stop the Drug War

 

 

 

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