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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of October 10th, 2010

Charles Shaw is currently on a 6-week speaking tour, so I have the honor of leading this week's report - and with only 22 days left until Californians go to the polls to determine the fate of Proposition 19, I lead with encouraging news from the latest Public Policy Institue of California poll.
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
11 October 2010

With 22 days to go, Polls breach 52% in Fight for Proposition 19

For the past few weeks I have been urging cautious optimism as we enter the final stages of the fight for a truly evidence based rational drug policy for California. The polls are close, and at this stage every vote counts so complacency must be challenged by activism.  While pausing for breath, encouraging new polls show the news that we have wanted to hear – Proposition 19 has surpassed the 50% barrier and we are on our way to victory!

A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Thursday had support for Prop 19 at 52%, with 41% opposed and 7% undecided.  The survey question asked: "Proposition 19 is called the 'Legalizes Marijuana Under California but Not Federal Law. Permits Local Governments to Regulate and Tax Commercial Production, Distribution, and Sale of Marijuana. Initiative Statute.' If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 19?"

The survey was conducted by telephone (both land lines and cell phones) with 2,004 adult California residents in English or Spanish. It has a margin of error of +/-3%. The poll is in line with most recent polls, which show the initiative leading by a few points. It is also noteworthy for showing support levels above 50%, something Prop 19 has had trouble doing in most other polls.

The poll suggests a strong correlation between political affiliation and support or opposition to the initiative. Strong majorities of Democrats (63%) and independents (65%) support the measure, while a strong majority of Republicans (62%) oppose it.

Keep up the momentum and lets win this common sense debate!

Source: Stop the Drug War

Obama may soon be forced to embrace legalization

With the 2012 presidential election looming, democratic strategists are studying a California marijuana-legalization initiative to see if similar ballot measures could energize young, liberal voters in swing states for the 2012 presidential election.  With Proposition 19 on the way to victory, a new political calculus is emerging and taking hold.

Some pollsters and party officials say Democratic candidates in California are benefiting from a surge in enthusiasm among young voters eager to back Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in certain quantities and permit local governments to regulate and tax it.

Party strategists and marijuana-legalization advocates are discussing whether to push for similar ballot questions in 2012 in Colorado and Nevada—both expected to be crucial to President Barack Obama's re-election—and Washington state, which will have races for governor and seats in both houses of Congress. [Wall Street Journal]

In the event that Prop 19 passes, Obama will have no choice but to take a position well in advance of the 2012 election. He can either order the drug war army to stand down and allow legalization to take hold, or he can authorize the DEA to intervene and accept responsibility for the raids and riots that would surely follow. There's really no middle ground here, because any federal interference whatsoever will be regarded as a massive declaration of war.

It's anyone's guess how Obama will handle the marijuana issue in the years to come, but there's no question we've entered into a political climate that requires some significant deviation from the standard script. The old approach of scare tactics and propaganda won't work this time around, and he knows it. With or without a victory for Prop 19, the legalization of marijuana will be a leading issue in the 2012 presidential election and Obama would be wise to begin developing a more thoughtful position than what we've seen from him thus far

Source: Stop the Drug War

Pick Your Side in the Proposition 19 Debate

With Election Day now less than a month away, what happens in the next 27 days is crucial, as proponents and opponents alike seek to come up with the votes to prevail.  Taking a closer look at who’s for, who’s against, Phillip Smith from Stop the Drug War examines the arguments Californians will have to choose between, and those who are arguing them! Below the key actors are presented – Read Phillip’s feature for an in depth discussion of what and who these groups represent.

In Support of a Rational, Scientific and Evidential Drug Policy

  • Dozens of (mostly) retired law enforcement figures, including former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara and former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper
  • Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the National Black Police Association
  • Four California US congressmen
  • Dozens of state and local elected officials
  • Local ACLU chapters
  • The California NAACP
  • The California Libertarian Party
  • The California Green Party
  • The California Young Democrats and many local Democratic groups
  • The Republican Liberty Caucus
  • Organized labor groups, including the SEIU of California, the Western States UFCW, the longshoremen, and various union locals
  • Clergy, including the California Council of Churches IMPACT and the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative
  • Economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron
  • A number of physicians, including former US Surgeon General Joyce Elders
  • California's burgeoning professional cannabis community has moved Prop 19 forward, with supporters including the Harborside Health Center, the Berkeley Patients Group, and the initiative's primary sponsor, Oaksterdam's Richard Lee.

 The “Usual Suspects” Against Proposition 19

  • The California Narcotics Officers' Association
  • The California Association of Highway Patrolmen
  • The California Police Chiefs Association
  • The California Correctional Supervisors Organization
  • The California Peace Officers Association
  • The California District Attorney Association
  • Local police associations
  • All federal drug czars past and present, past and present
  • DEA administrators
  • California US senators and most of the congressional delegation
  • Most newspaper editorial boards
  • The California Chamber of Commerce
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • The California Beer and Beverage Distributors
  • Californians for a Drug-Free Youth
  • DARE America
  • Other anti-drug organizations.

To read Phillip Smith’s feature in full, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

“We think he's pivotal to the future of drug policy reform in the country" – Facebook’s Sean Parker donates $100,000 to back Proposition 19

As the momentum increases to November 2nd, Facebook co-founders Sean Parker and Dustin Moskovitz have donated a total of $170,000 between them to the campaign, according to official Proposition 19 campaign finance filings.

"What's interesting here is that (Parker) is a member of the generation that really gets it," said Stephen Gutwillig, a spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, the main beneficiary of Parker's contribution. "We think he's pivotal to the future of drug policy reform in the country."

Having turned Facebook from a dorm-room project into a global business, and with new found fame from film ‘The Social Network,’ which chronicles the contentious origins of Facebook, the pair have become household names. In a recent Vanity Fair profile, the media-shy entrepreneur is described as a computer-programming prodigy with an uncanny knack for anticipating online trends and a penchant for designer clothes and partying.

At age 19, Parker helped develop Napster, the music-sharing software that turned the recording industry upside-down. He is now a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Parker's donation came shortly after the Yes on 19 campaign committee reported having meager cash on hand heading into the final weeks before the election. The money from Parker and Harvey went to a separate committee to fund the Drug Policy Alliance's work on behalf of the measure.  Much of the money will go toward a get-out-the-vote campaign targeting young voters and voters of color, Gutwillig said.

Source: The Huffington Post

President Calderon denounces Hypocrisy of Proposition 19 Ballot, While Celebrating Tijaunan Recovery

"For me, it reflects a terrible inconsistency in government policies in the United States," the Mexican leader said of the upcoming ballot. He draws attention to the encouragement of a vote on legalization at home on the one hand while on the other demanding Mexico cut down on drug trafficking.

“It's very sad to see how drug consumption is, little by little, tearing apart American society and, if we don't watch ourselves, it will tear apart ours," the president said. Legalization, Calderon argues, would serve to increase consumption and thus deepen drug addiction and related societal problems.

Speaking at the start of a two-week festival in Tijuana, the President presented the backdrop of the city's economic prowess and cultural riches  as a beacon of hope in the Mexican government's war on drug traffickers that, and proof of the success of the policy. He sent troops to restore order in Tijuana in early 2007, one of the first cities in Mexico to have the military lead the battle against organized crime.

"Until a short time ago, Tijuana had an image tied primarily, almost exclusively, to criminality," Calderon told about 2,000 invited guests earlier Thursday during the festival's opening ceremony. "Tired of being stigmatized, Tijuana has decided to show its true side."

Calderon said Tijuana continues to suffer from crime but that its problems are no different than other cities in the world - a view echoed by the city's politicians and business elite. However, Tijuana's sense of relief may prove fleeting - violence roared back in the border city of Nuevo Laredo after a lull - and there is no indication that the flow of drugs into the United States has waned.

To learn more about Tijuana and President Calderon’s war on drugs, please follow this link

Source: Washington Post

Mexico Drug War Update

Bernd Debusmann, Jr. from Stop the Drug War brings us the latest roundup of news from Mexico, where the war against drugs continues to take its toll on a fractured society.  During the past week 153 more deaths were recorded, including the tragic shooting of holiday makers on Texas’s Falcon Lake; eleven more murdered in Ciudad Juarez; 22 tourists kidnapped in Acapulco; and a grenade attack in Guadeloupe. 

Thursday, September 30: On Texas's Falcon Lake, which straddles the US-Mexico border, an American couple was attacked as they rode a jet ski on the American side of the lake. Tiffany Hartley, 29, said that her and her husband David were chased and shot at by armed men coming from the Mexican side of the lake. David was shot in the head and left in the water, and is presumed dead. There have been several previous incidents of armed men on the lake, in some instances wearing Mexican police uniforms and shaking down fishermen.

In Ciudad Juarez, eleven people were murdered. This brings the total number of homicides during the month of September to 288, 44 of them women. As of September 30, approximately 2,324 murders have been committed in Ciudad Juarez.

In Acapulco, 22 Mexican tourists from Michoacan were kidnapped and remain missing.  The motives remain unclear, although it should be noted that none of the kidnapped men was a known drug trafficker and it appears they were mostly mechanics and carpenters.

Saturday, October 2: Across Mexico, at least 34 people were killed during a 48-hour period. In the isolated Durango town of San Jose de La Cruz, a firefight between rival drug traffickers left fourteen dead. Much of Durango has traditionally been under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Sunday, October 3: In Guadalupe, near Monterrey, 15 people were killed after a suspected grenade attack on the town’s main plaza.  Six children, including a three-year old, were among the wounded. It was the fourth attack with an explosive device in the Monterrey area in two days. On Friday, grenade attacks were reported outside a prison, the US consulate, and a federal court.

Tuesday, October 5: In Ciudad Juarez, 14 people were killed across the city. In one incident, a wounded man attempted to hide inside a restaurant, only to be discovered by the gunmen who were chasing him and shot dead in front of many patrons. Some were seen to have bloodstains on their clothing from the incident. 23 killings were reported in Juarez in the first 3 days of October.

Body Count for the Week: 153 / Body Count for the Year: 8,305

Source: Stop the Drug War

“People are the biggest losers" – As Over 100 Mexican Mayors Threatened, Kidnapped, shot at or subjected to Extortion since 2008

At least 11 mayors have been killed this year across Mexico, as a spooky sense of permanent siege takes hold in the many communities where rival mafias fight for control of local drug sales, marijuana and poppy fields, methamphetamine labs and billion-dollar smuggling routes to the United States.

More than 100 mayors have been threatened, kidnapped, shot at or subjected to extortion in the past two years across Mexico, according to Ramon Galindo Noriega, a senator and head of a congressional commission that supports municipal governments. The number is actually far higher, Galindo Noriega said, but many go unreported because of fears that a police investigation would only make matters worse.

The threats and killings have left many towns without candidates for office, forcing state governments to appoint caretaker administrators. The result, observers say, is a civil society at risk. In most of Mexico, city halls are the people's main contact with the state. When local governments become paralyzed, schools go unbuilt, potholes unfilled, and economic- and social-development programs grind to a halt.

"It's sad and painful," said Martin Urbina, who now is the town secretary. "People are very nervous. We are trying to stay on track. When something like this happens in a community, there is a collective psychosis. A psychosis of fear. I don't know if I am staying or leaving."

Read the full investigation in the Seattle Times

Source: Seattle Times

Angry Mob Beats Kidnappers to Death as Mexican Communities Fight Back

In his powerful new feature, José Luis Sierra discusses the Mexican communities who are standing up to the tide of violence which has befallen their communities:

“Tired of experiencing kidnappings every week with little or no response from local, state or federal police, residents of this northern Mexican town decided to take action.

The kidnappers weren’t expecting that. They were used to easy work - and to getting away with their crimes.

For the bands of kidnappers operating in this part of Mexico, it’s an almost routine operation: pick a victim, point guns at whoever happens to be nearby, and force the target to board a waiting vehicle, usually a stolen one. Speed away and call the family to ask for ransom.

There are only two escape routes from Ascensión. One leads to Highway 45, one of Mexico’s main roads. The other cuts through the Sierra Madre Occidental, a treacherous chain of mountains that slides south from the Rockies across the states of Chihuahua and Durango, toward Mexico’s middle. It is “narco land” -- a no man’s land.

But according to the accounts of Ascensión residents, the kidnappers who snatched a teenage girl two weeks ago were not narcos, and after this particular job, they didn’t get very far.

The incident -- in which two suspected 17-year-old kidnappers were grabbed by an angry mob and beaten to death -- generated headlines across Mexico.”

To read José’s article in full, please follow this link

Source: Alternet

New Guidelines for testing HIV, viral hepatitis and other infections in injecting drug users

The potentially serious health consequences of injecting drug use, exposing users to a range of infectious and communicable diseases through a variety of risk behaviors and underlying conditions such as poor hygiene, homelessness and poverty, and with the associated healthcare and societal costs highlight the need of the new EMCDDA guidelines, which aim to: 

  • Improve the general health of the individual IDU
  • Improve the uptake of testing for HIV and other drug-related infections
  • Increase IDUs’ access to treatment for HIV and other infectious diseases
  • Improve the diagnosis of chronic infections that need specialist care
  • Increase vaccination coverage among IDUs
  • Encourage IDUs to be more actively engaged in their own healthcare
  • Improve IDUs’ access to prevention counseling and information
  • Improve  epidemiological surveillance of HIV infection, hepatitis and other infections in IDUs

The EMCDDA guidelines are accompanied by a recommended package of prevention and primary care in relation to injecting drug users and infections. Treatment and other specialist care are not discussed in detail but are dealt with by indicating referral to appropriate services.

To read to the new guidelines in full, please click here

Source: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

Moving beyond Policymaking – The African Union Conference of Ministers for Drug Control and Crime Prevention

At a meeting of the African Union Conference of Ministers for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, held in Addis Ababa on 1 and 2 October, representatives of 34 African Union member States and international entities, including UNODC, addressed the emergence of organized crime and drug control in Africa.

At the meeting in Addis Ababa, Ministers recognized that the time had come to move beyond policymaking. As Francis Maertens, Deputy Executive Director of UNODC, said: "Comprehensive continental, regional and national action plans and programmes have been developed and launched. Now is the time to fully translate them into action on the ground." Governments present at the meeting resolved to take the following steps, among others:

Involve international partners such as UNODC and INTERPOL, as well as the media, in their efforts to fight drugs and crime

  • Prohibit the cultivation of cannabis plant and the abuse of its derivatives
  • Harmonize drug control legislation
  • Do more to control chemicals used in the manufacture of illicit drugs (so-called "precursor chemicals")
  • Implement minimum standards for drug dependence treatment
  • Carry out more research and share information through drug focal points of the African Union Commission
  • Improve the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for the relief of pain
  • Set aside a share of their annual national budgets for the fight against drugs

The Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, Bience Gawanas, noted that drug trafficking was on the increase, and that the "revenue generated from illicit activities is distorting some economies and destabilizing some African countries".  This was seen as part of a wider context of challenges, including the smuggling of migrants to Europe, selling counterfeit medicines, corruption and maritime piracy.

To read the official report on the meeting please follow this link

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

“Legalize it, control it, regulate it, tax it” - A Walk back through Drug Policy History

Stop the Drug War’s David Guard takes a walk through October in drug policy history, a month that witnessed; the passing of the Uniform State Narcotics Act; Comprehensive Crime Control Act; Former US Secretary of State George Schultz advocating the controlled legalization of illicit drugs; and comedian Tommy Chong beginning a nine month jail sentence.

October 8, 1932: The Uniform State Narcotics Act is passed, endorsed by the federal Bureau of Narcotics as an alternative to federal laws. By 1937 every state prohibits marijuana use.

October 12, 1984: The Comprehensive Crime Control Act becomes law, establishing federal "mandatory minimum" sentencing guidelines eliminating judges' discretion when handing down prison terms. Over the next two years drug sentences increase by 71% nationwide.

October 7, 1989: Former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz tells an alumni gathering at Stanford Business School, "It seems to me we're not really going to get anywhere until we can take the criminality out of the drug business and the incentives for criminality out of it. Frankly, the only way I can think of to accomplish this is to make it possible for addicts to buy drugs at some regulated place at a price that approximates their cost... We need at least to consider and examine forms of controlled legalization of drugs... No politician wants to say what I have just said, not for a minute."

October 13, 1999: In a series of raids named "Operation Millennium," law enforcement in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador arrest 31 persons for drug trafficking, including Colombian cartel leader Fabio Ochoa. Ochoa is indicted in a Ft. Lauderdale court for importing cocaine into the US, which requests his extradition in December 1999.

October 13, 1999: Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson is quoted by the Boston Globe: "Make drugs a controlled substance like alcohol. Legalize it, control it, regulate it, tax it. If you legalize it, we might actually have a healthier society."

October 9, 2000: PBS begins a special two-day program entitled "Drug Wars." The series examines America's ceaseless efforts over the past three decades to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country, and shows how the drug war wastes hundreds of billions of dollars, alters the criminal justice system, puts millions of people in jail, and allows organized crime to thrive.

October 10, 2002: Drug Czar John Walters travels to Las Vegas, Nevada and begins two days of making appearances around the state illegally lobbying against Question 9, a proposal to amend the state constitution by making the possession of three ounces or less of marijuana legal for adults. The measure is defeated at the polls the following month.

October 7, 2003: Comedian Tommy Chong begins a nine-month federal prison sentence for operating a glass blowing shop that sold pipes to marijuana smokers.

Source: Stop the Drug War

‘Narrow in scope, thin on policy and short on timing’ – National Centre of Expertise on Drugs Responds to UK Government Consultation

Release, the UK’s National centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law have made a stinging criticism of the ‘Government’s half hearted attempt at a drug strategy consultation.’ With the new Coalition Government, so a new drug strategy is soon to be ushered in, in theory the result of thorough and extensive ‘consultation process’ with a wide range of key stakeholders.

In reality, this key area public policy has, according to Release, been ‘narrow in scope, thin on policy and short on timing,’  clearly undermining the promised ‘holistic approach.’ The strategy and consultation were characterized instead by the absence of a harm reduction approach; by the government's insistence that recovery focus on abstinence-based treatment; and the absence of consideration of other major relevant factors such as the criminalisation of young people and violence of the illegal market.

Release's response to the drug strategy consultation urges the government to avoid tinkering with a failing approach and to look instead at how wide-ranging reforms may be able to genuinely improve drug policy for the benefit of individuals and communities worldwide.

To read Releases’ Drug Strategy Response, click here

Source: Release

UK’s National Drug Evidence Centre Release Drug Treatment Activity in England 2009-10

The UKs NDTMS have published their yearly key statistical results on the number of adult (18 and over) problem drug misusers in contact with drug treatment agencies and general practitioners in England in 2009/10, and proportion of clients retained in drug treatment at twelve weeks following triage. Key findings include: 

  • Of the 206,889 clients aged 18 and over in treatment contact in 2009/10, 192,367 were in treatment for 12 weeks or more or exited treatment free of dependency before 12 weeks (93%)
  • Of the 174,496 opiate and / or crack cocaine using clients (all ages) in treatment contact in 2009/10, 164,802 were in treatment for 12 weeks or more or exited treatment free of dependency before 12 weeks (94%)
  • Clients’ median age at their first point of contact in their latest treatment journey in 2009/10 was 33 and 73% of clients in treatment were male
  • Most clients were White British (83%), while other ethnic groups each accounted for no more than three percent of clients
  • Most clients in contact with treatment were using opiates and / or crack cocaine (84%)
  • Cannabis was used as a primary drug by 7% of clients and powder cocaine as a primary drug by 5% of clients
  • The most common routes into treatment for clients starting treatment in 2009/10 were self-referrals (40%) and referrals from the criminal justice system (29%)
  • Onward referrals from other drug services together accounted for 14%.
  • 84% of the clients starting new treatment journeys in 2009/10 were in treatment for 12 weeks or more or exited treatment free of dependency before 12 weeks
  • Nearly all clients waited less than three weeks to commence treatment (94%)
  • Of the clients starting treatment (and where reported) just under half (46%) reported having ever injected with 20% currently injecting at time of presentation
  • Where reported, 8% of clients had No Fixed Abode on presenting for treatment, and a further 15% of clients had other housing problems
  • 23,680 (38%) of clients exiting treatment in 2009/10 completed treatment successfully, defined as having overcome their dependency; a further 9,352 (15%) were transferred for further treatment within the community, while 5,266 (8%) were transferred into appropriate treatment while in custody

To read the report in full, please follow this link

Source: National Treatment Agency

“A moral and fiscal dilemma”- Governor Schwarzenegger Ignores Scientific and Medical Evidence

In a move which has been called “tragic,” “irrational” and which ignored “the recommendation of doctors and other health experts” and reality of the cross border HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Californian Governor refused to sign bill 1029 which would have allowed Californian pharmacies to sell syringes to adults without prescription.

The bill, central to public health efforts to reduce transmission of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other blood borne diseases was vital for a State within which approximately 3,000 California residents contract hepatitis C through syringe sharing every year and another 750 cases of HIV are caused by syringe sharing.

Governor Schwarzenegger justified his decision on the grounds of satisfying the competing “public health, law enforcement and local control issues that this issue requires," going on to argue the need for locals to have the ability to best determine policies in their jurisdiction. Governor Schwarzenegger may respect these local considerations, but he does so at the expense of widely accepted medical and scientific evidence – and he does so at the expense of a clear public health imperative.

Calling the policy an “irrational attachment to drug war hysteria, at the expense of human life and fiscal responsibility to the Californian taxpayer,” Laura Thomas of the Drug Policy Alliance said “nothing would have worked better and cost less in reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis.”

For more on this story, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

“Euthanizing the Elderly” and “the Degradation of Human Beings” – Peruvian President Opposes Drug Legalization

As analogies for drug legalization go, Peruvian President Alan García wins the prize for the least rational and most out of step with his assertions that it will not only lead to killing grandma, but lead mankind down a death spiral to "fascist barbarism" and genocide.

Vowing to fight a “constant war on all fronts” against drug use and the drug trade, following his logic that legalizing marijuana will take society down the path towards euthanizing the elderly, President García has urged the US to provide a greater financial package to continue its war on drugs.

Yet, the results of his war are not encouraging – A reinvigorated eradication campaign has already led to renewed strife in the countryside, where tens of thousands of peasant families make a living from coca. Two weeks ago, hundreds of coca growers seized a hydroelectric plant in Ucayali province and blocked highways in the region to protest eradication efforts. Police later regained control of the plant, but the region remains restive.

"The Peruvian government has a firm position: I am absolutely against the drug legalization," García said after opening the 20th meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA) of Latin America and the Caribbean. Human beings "cannot kneel before their own powerlessness," he said.

García's sentiments put him out of step with a region that is increasingly amenable to ending the decades long war on drugs. Former heads of state from Columbia, Brazil, and Mexico have called for an end to the drug war, while Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico have depenalized simple drug possession.

Source: Stop the Drug War

"The state will not flinch in the struggle against these substances" – Polish Government Confront Synthetic Drugs

The owner of a chain of shops selling new synthetic drugs may have a heavy fight on his hands as he plans to sue the Government over the closure of his shops.

The closure, one of around a thousand which have taken place over the past couple of weeks in the wake of several hospitalizations and deaths attributed to synthetics, marked the Polish Government’s concerted effort to confront newly the newly emerging drugs.

In an operation beginning last week, police and health inspectors sealed the doors of stores selling the drugs. But that was just the beginning, Kwiatkowski said. He said the government would enact legislation to plug loopholes in the existing drug law, including adding a three-year prison sentence for anyone who supplies minors with a substance posing a risk to their health or life. Another proposed amendment would allow health inspectors to pull from the shelves for up to 18 months any substance suspected of being harmful.

To read more about this story, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

“Setting a clear end date for commercial tobacco sales” – New Zealand Study urges “Ethical” Response to Target Smoking Related Deaths

A group of New Zealand researchers says it is time to begin thinking about phasing out cigarette sales, not just reducing the level of smoking. The researchers, from the University of Otago, Wellington, say that in New Zealand nearly all smoking could be halted over the next decade by the government imposing increasingly tight limits on the supply of commercial tobacco.

The public health researchers stress that such a move would be completely different from alcohol prohibition, as pharmaceutical products to deliver nicotine would be allowed, and would be made easier to access; while home-grown tobacco for personal use would remain legal.

In a presentation at the Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health in Sydney today, and in an article just published in the international journal Tobacco Control, the University of Otago researchers suggest a government-led strategy of six monthly 5% reductions in the amount of tobacco released to the market for sale (from 100% to 95% to 90% etc.). Tobacco manufacturers would periodically bid to the government for quota to allow sales.

“Setting a clear end date for commercial tobacco sales would be one of the best incentives for quitting,” says Dr George Thomson. “In addition, quitting would be further encouraged by tobacco prices rising to high levels, as supply diminished.”

Professor Tony Blakely says: “It’s unethical to simply watch as thousands of people die each year due to smoking in New Zealand, whilst we wait for the gradual passing of the tobacco epidemic. We must put in place methods for a more predictable and faster end to smoking.” This is a win-win, with both improving health for all and reducing health inequalities.

A PDF copy of the publication can be obtained from: simon.ancell@otago.ac.nz

Source: Scoop Independent News

New Report: U.S. Government Data Demonstrates Failure of Cannabis Prohibition

The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) today released a new research report that demonstrates the clear failure of U.S. marijuana prohibition and supports calls for evidence-based models to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis. The British Medical Journal, one of the world’s most influential medical journals, published a supportive commentary to coincide with the report’s release today.

The new report, entitled Tools for debate: U.S. federal government data on cannabis prohibition, uses 20 years of data collected by surveillance systems funded by the U.S. government to highlight the failure of cannabis prohibition in America. The report has deep relevance for California as the state prepares to vote on the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis proposition and, potentially, legalize cannabis.

“Data, collected and paid for by the U.S. government, clearly shows that prohibition has not reduced cannabis consumption or supply. Since prohibition is not working, we need new approaches to better address the harms of cannabis use,” says Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the ICSDP. “Scientific evidence clearly shows that regulatory tools have the potential to effectively reduce rates of cannabis-related harm.”

Despite dramatically increased law enforcement funding, the U.S. government’s data demonstrates that cannabis prohibition has not resulted in a decrease in cannabis availability or accessibility. According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, federal anti-drug expenditures in the U.S. increased 600% from $1.5 billion in 1981 to over $18 billion in 2002. However, during this period, the potency of cannabis increased by 145% and the price of cannabis decreased by a dramatic 58%.

According to U.S. government funded reports, in the face of increasing enforcement expenditures over the last 30 years, cannabis has remained almost “universally available” to young Americans. Cannabis use among U.S. grade 12 students increased from 27% in 1990 to 32% in 2008 and approximately 80-90% of grade 12 students say the drug is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain.

“From a public health and scientific perspective, the evidence demonstrates that cannabis prohibition has not achieved its intended objectives,” states Dr. Carl Hart, a co-author on the report and Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. “The fact that cannabis prohibition has also enriched organized crime groups and fueled violence in the community creates an urgency to implement evidence-based alternatives that may be more effective at controlling cannabis supply and access.”

The full report is available online at www.icsdp.org.

Source: International Centre for Science and Drug Addiction

‘121 tons of pills cleaned out from America's medicine cabinets in 24 Hours’

We end this weeks report with news of the DEA’s “Take-Back Campaign.”

In the six year period to 2006, federal data showed a 175% increase in prescription overdoses – a trend that the DEA and Federal Government approached head on with its recent daylong nationwide effort to get people to turn in old or unwanted prescription drugs.

"The Take-Back Campaign was a stunning nationwide success that cleaned out more than 121 tons of pills from America's medicine cabinets, a crucial step toward reducing the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is plaguing this nation," DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said in a statement Tuesday.

DEA spokesman David Ausiello said people across the country flocked to more than 4,000 sites to get rid of old drugs and just about anything they got with a prescription that they didn't need any more, including needles.

It's illegal to turn over unused prescriptions to anyone other than law enforcement. But the House and Senate have passed legislation allowing state and private entities to create responsible drug take-back programs. The bill awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

Ausiello said DEA officials are likely to hold at least one more take-back day before any legislation takes effect.

Source: Huffington Post

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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