oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of October 25th 2010

Charles Shaw is on the road this week, working on the Unheard Voices Project, so I have the honor of leading the Front Line Report. This week we lead with a roundup of news from Mexico, and of the latest battleground in the multilateral war between drug-trafficking gangs and the authorities.
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
25 October 2010

A Roundup of News from Mexico

Is it too late to catch up with the Mistakes?

There have been gunfights outside the American school and a big private university. The mayors of two suburbs have been murdered. And a grenade has been thrown at Saturday evening strollers in a square, injuring 12. All this has happened since August not in Kabul or Baghdad but in Monterrey in northern Mexico.

The latest battleground in a multilateral war between drug-trafficking gangs and the authorities, Monterrey is not a dusty outpost. It is one of the biggest industrial cities of North America, a couple of hours’ drive from Texas and home to some of Mexico’s leading companies. The maelstrom of drug-related violence that is engulfing Mexico has produced exaggerated, sometimes xenophobic, alarm in parts of the United States. The response in Mexico City has, until recently, been defensive denial. Both reactions are wrong.

The violence, in which at least 28,000 people have been killed since 2006, reflects a double failure of public policy: decades of neglect of the basic institutions of the rule of law in Mexico, and a failed approach to drug consumption (plus lax gun laws) in the United States. These mistakes have helped to create the world’s most powerful organized-crime syndicates. Reforms in both countries could help tame them.

Giving extended coverage to the Mexican Drug War Crisis, the Economist, over two separate articles explores the path these reforms could take in tackling the drug fuelled violence and corruption ravaging the nation, and asks – Is it too late to catch up with them?

To read the articles in full, please click here and here

Source: The Economist

Life on the Front Line: a Week in the Life of Mexico’s War on Drugs

Corrupt federal lawmakers, eight killed as gunmen storm a house in Ciudad Juarez and 134 tons of marijuana seized by soldiers and police. Bernard Debusmann Jr. from Stop the Drug War reports on another week in Mexico, during which a further 118 lives were lost.

Thursday, October 14: In Michoacan, a radio statement broadcast a recording described as a conversation between a high-level drug trafficker and a federal lawmaker. W radio said that the recording was between La Familia Cartel figure Servando Gomez (La Tuta) and politician Cesar Godoy. The two express support for one another and discuss offering a bribe to a journalist. Godoy was one of 36 Michoacan people accused of ties to the La Familia organization last year.

In Tamaulipas, Mexican authorities temporarily called off the search for a missing American. David Hartley has been missing since a shooting incident on Falcon Lake, which sits on the US-Mexico border. Mexican authorities will resume the search after a review of search strategies.

Friday, October 15: In the city of Chihuahua, six members of the prison Immediate Reaction Task Force were killed after the vehicle in which they were driving to work was ambushed. At least 10 gunmen fired on the vehicle with assault rifles. The attack occurred just two days after the La Linea -- the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel -- declared war on prison officials for their supposed favorable treatment of Sinaloa Cartel members.

In Jalisco, soldiers confiscated a massive cache of arms and ammunition at a home in the town of Zapopan. The arsenal included 51 rifles, 49 handguns, two rocket launchers, 20 grenades and 38,000 rounds of ammunition. Police also seized 18 kilos of meth, a small amount of cocaine, and a vehicle. No arrests appear to have been made.

Sunday, October 17: In Ciudad Juarez, 15 people were murdered in several locations. In one incident, eight people were killed when gunmen stormed a house. In another incident, the mayor of the nearby town of El Porvenir and his son were gunned down. The two had fled El Porvenir three weeks ago after the kidnap and murder of several neighbors.

Tuesday, October 19: In Tijuana, soldiers and police seized 134 tons of marijuana during early morning raids in several locations. The marijuana was packaged in at least 15,000 different packages, which were marked with coded phrases and pictures, including images of Homer Simpson saying "I'm gonna get high, dude" in Spanish. Initial reports suggest the load belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel. The raids followed a shootout with several suspects, who led authorities to the stash locations.

Weekly Body Count: 118 / Yearly Body Count: 8,508

Source: Stop the Drug War       


A Roundup of the Weeks Marijuana News

California Chamber of Commerce in Anti-Prop 19 Radio Attack Ad Campaign

The California Chamber of Commerce has begun a $250,000 radio ad campaign against Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative.

The Chamber wants employers to continue to be able to fire workers for failing a drug test for marijuana, even though such test do not measure actual impairment, but only the presence of metabolites in the body. Those metabolites can remain for days or even weeks after the psychoactive effects of marijuana have worn off.

"Imagine coming out of surgery and the nurse caring for you was high or having to work harder on your job because a co-worker shows up high on pot," intones a woman's voice in the ad. "It could happen in California if Proposition 19 passes. Prop 19 would do more than simply legalize marijuana.  Prop 19 is worded so broadly is would hurt California's economy, raise business costs and make it harder to create jobs."

The Chamber has prepared a legal analysis that argues that Prop 19 would create a "protected class" of pot-smoking workers, and "expose workers to increased risk of injury, jeopardize federally funded projects and jobs, and add more liabilities and costs to already overburdened employers." 

In addition to the Reefer Madness-style fear-mongering already cited, the Chamber ad falsely claims that "employees would be able to come to work high, and employers wouldn’t be able to punish an employee for being high until after a workplace accident," when the initiative clearly states they can sanction actual impairment.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Will South Dakota Voters Pass Medical Marijuana?

After their 2006 defeat, activists went back to the drawing board, eventually crafting a tightly-drawn medical marijuana initiative designed to win over a skeptical and conservative prairie electorate. The result, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, known on the ballot as Measure 13, would make the South Dakota medical marijuana law among the most restrictive in the nation.

The initiative limits medical marijuana access to patients with a list of specified illnesses and conditions. It requires that patients be in a "bona fide relationship" with the recommending physician and provides for a state registry and ID card system.

Patients are limited to an ounce of marijuana and six plants. They can designate one caregiver each, and each caregiver can grow for no more than five patients. Caregivers can be remunerated for costs, but cannot make profits. There is no provision for a dispensary system.

"This initiative addresses the concerns of people in South Dakota about people who just want to use it recreationally," said Tony Ryan, a former Denver police officer who is now a spokesman for the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion, the group behind the measure. "They won't be able to get it. People were worried it would get into the wrong hands, so it is really restrictive, but it will get the medicine to the patients who need it and keep them from getting arrested or going to the black market."

Source: Stop the Drug War

Californian Blacks Disproportionately Busted for Marijuana, Report Finds

In a new report released Friday, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the California NAACP charged that African-Americans have been disproportionately targeted in low-level marijuana possession arrests. The report found that despite lower use rates, African-Americans were three, four, six, or even 13 times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites.

It’s release is timed to give Proposition 19 a boost in the few remaining days until Election Day. It was released at a press conference where California NAACP and DPA representatives were joined by Prop 19 campaign head Richard Lee, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) executive director Neill Franklin, Hollywood actor Danny Glover, and former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders. 

The report found that in Los Angeles, with 10% of the state's black population, blacks were seven times more likely to get busted than whites. In San Diego, the state's second largest city, blacks were six times more likely to get busted. Ditto for Sacramento. In Torrance, blacks were 13 times more likely to be busted than whites.

 "The context is an enormous increase in the number of arrests for low-level possession in the past 20 years. Arrest rates for all other crimes have plummeted, from rape and murder to all other drug possession crimes, but marijuana possession arrests have tripled since 1990, from around 20,000 then to 61,000 last year. This was made possible by the targeting of communities of color, specifically African-Americans and Latinos"

“These disparities were built from routine, pervasive, system-wide police practices," said Gutwillig. "This is not the result of a few racist cops; this is the way the system works."

To read the report in full, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

67 Eminent US Law Professors Release Statement Backing Proposition 19

To the Voters of California: “As law professors at many law schools who focus on various areas of legal scholarship, we write this open letter to encourage a wholesale rethinking of marijuana policy in this country, and to endorse the Tax and Control Cannabis 2010 initiative—Proposition 19—that will be voted on in November in California.

For decades, our country has pursued a wasteful and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition. As with alcohol prohibition, this approach has failed to control marijuana, and left its trade in the hands of an unregulated and increasingly violent black market. At the same time, marijuana prohibition has clogged California’s courts alone with tens of thousands of non-violent marijuana offenders each year. Yet marijuana remains as available as ever, with teens reporting that it is easier for them to buy than alcohol across the country.

Proposition 19 would remove criminal penalties for private use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana by adults and allow California localities to adopt—if they choose—measures to regulate commerce in marijuana. Passage of Proposition 19 would be an important next step toward adopting an approach more grounded in reason, for California and beyond. Our communities would be better served if the criminal justice resources we currently spend to investigate, arrest, and prosecute people for marijuana offenses each year were redirected toward addressing unsolved violent crimes. In short, the present policy is causing more harm than good, and is eroding respect for the law.

Moreover, we are deeply troubled by the consistent and dramatic reports of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against young people of color. Marijuana laws were forged in racism, and have been demonstrated to be inconsistently and unfairly applied since their inception. These are independent reasons for their repeal. Especially in the current economic climate, we must evaluate the efficacy of expensive government programs and make responsible decisions about the use of state resources. We find the present policies toward marijuana to be bankrupt, and urge their rethinking. 

This country has an example of a path from prohibition. Alcohol is subject to a regulatory framework that is far safer in every respect than the days of Al Capone. Just like the State of New York did when it rolled back Prohibition 10 years before the nation as a whole, California should show leadership and restore respect for the law by enacting the Tax and Control Cannabis 2010 initiative this November.”

To see the full list, including Professors from a range of America’s most respected academic institutions including; Harvard Law School; Georgetown Law Centre; George Washington Law School; UCLA Law School; Stanford Law School; Berkley School of Law; please follow this link

Source: Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Proposition 19 Behind 44% to 44%

If ever there was a time to redouble our efforts – it is surely now. Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in California, has lost support and is now trailing, according to poll results released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). The landline and cell phone poll of 2,002 adults surveyed between October 10 and 17 has Prop 19 losing, 49% to 44%, with 7% undecided.

In the new PPIC poll, the initiative lost significant support among independents (from 65% to 40%) and Latinos (63% to 42%), and among almost all demographic groups. Whites are now more likely to oppose the support Prop 19 by a thin margin, a reversal from last month.

This poll is the fifth of 15 polls taken this year to show Prop 19 trailing. Ten others had it ahead, but only four of them had it at 50% or over, and the last one to do so was last month's PPIC poll. According to the Talking Points Memo Polltracker, the average of all polls has Prop 19 leading 46.8% to 44.5%.  As of publication time, it had not been updated with Wednesday's two polls, but in terms of the poll averages, they would be a wash.

Source: Stop the Drug War


News from the UK

Drug Services under Threat – Coalition Spending Review Could Cost Billions for the Voluntary Sector

Dame Suzi Leather, the chair of the Charity Commission, said cutting funding to charities that were providing key public services would be short sighted. She told BBC One's Politics Show that the move could undermine Prime Minister David Cameron's Big Society project.

Many of the 160,000 organizations the Commission oversees provide key services for councils and rely on local authorities for funding, the BBC reported. Dame Suzi warned that a cut in the amount of money going to children's services could mean more young people from deprived backgrounds ending up in police stations and the criminal justice system, presenting the taxpayer with an even bigger bill.

She feared up to £5bn could be cut from charities which would "pull the rug" from under Mr. Cameron's Big Society idea. The BBC said it had received a statement from the Cabinet Office which said it recognised the cuts would be challenging for some voluntary organizations, and it would work quickly to start a £100m short-term fund to help charities with funding shortfalls.

Dame Suzi told the programme: "If you cut the charities, you are cutting our ability to help each other, you are cutting what structures our neighborliness. "That is what Big Society is all about, so you are pulling the rug from under that."

Source: The Independent

DMT in the UK

Border guards have intercepted a record £13million haul of DMT - a powerful hallucinogen used by Amazon tribes.

Smokers of the crystals almost immediately suffer intense and often terrifying visions. The Class-A drug has also been linked to schizophrenia. It is feared smugglers are now trying to flood the UK - as they have in recent years with deadly methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth.

A senior police source said: "We've never seen quantities of DMT like this. This is clearly the latest drug trend. Dealers have seen big money to be made here." The UK Border Agency recently intercepted 126 kilos of DMT being smuggled into Britain in 15 parcels from Brazil and Peru. Five found at the postal depot at Coventry Airport were heading for London.

The drug extract is broken down into smokeable crystals by South American smugglers. Peter Stoker, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said: "We must get a grip on this before it takes hold of our young. DMT is a nasty piece of work. "Its consumption under the gaze of seasoned tribal leaders in the Amazon is nothing like what a UK novice would experience."

A Border Agency spokesman said: "We are determined to protect society from an activity which can have such a destructive impact."

Source: The Scottish Sun

Project Prevention is ‘Exploitative, Ethically dubious and Morally Questionable’ says DrugScope

The United States-based organisation Project Prevention is establishing a UK operational arm to offer £200 to any drug user in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and parts of Wales who agrees to be sterilised.

Project Prevention has attracted plenty of controversy since arriving in the country earlier this year. The programme is estimated to have already paid over 3,500 people in the United States to be sterilised or take long-term contraception. A 38 year old man from Leicester is the first in the UK to have agreed to be operated on in exchange for payment.

Its director and founder, Barbara Harris, set up the organisation in 1994 after adopting four children born to a drug user in Los Angeles. The project is to yet to have received charitable status in the UK. Martin Barnes, DrugScope Chief Executive, said: “It is enshrined in law that the welfare of children is paramount. But the issues are much less straightforward when it is claimed that the welfare of unborn children should be put above all else.

“Unlike the United States, we have universal, free health and social care system available to parents and their children. It is a fundamental principle of the NHS constitution that all treatment should be both informed and consensual; we believe that offering cash incentives to often very poor and marginalised people in return for sterilisation runs directly counter to this. It is exploitative, ethically dubious and morally questionable.£

To read DrugScope’s official statement in full, please follow this link

Source: DrugScope

Responsibility to our Children – In Contemplation of Project Prevention?

Nicholas Crichton, a Judge within the Family, Drugs and Alcohol Court shares his perspective on Project Prevention:

Working as a judge for 18 years I have dealt with many, many drug-addicted mothers. Taking the sixth, seventh or even eighth child away from one mother is quite common. This is an incredibly complex issue, and I am deeply concerned for these vulnerable women. But I am even more concerned for the plight of the children.

I don't believe that offering money for them to be sterilized is the best way forward. We need to work with these parents in the way we do in the family drug and alcohol court, which aims to stabilize parents and keep families together. But if we can't get them to engage and they would be willing to accept money for sterilization, or contraception, which I prefer to sterilization, why would you not offer it?

Babies born to drug-addicted mothers are often premature and must be taken straight into intensive care. These children are born literally fighting for life. They are drug-addicted and spend their first weeks being weaned off the drugs their mothers took while they were in the womb. When they are ready for discharge they are taken into local authority care. That is no way to begin a life, and have a duty to protect the rights of these children.

The family drug and alcohol court, which we have been piloting for the last two-and-a-half years, has been shown to make a significant difference to these cases. We have had great success in helping more parents to come off drugs and alcohol and keep their families together. But where the

journey is too hard, the court speeds up the care process and allows children to find permanent, stable homes more quickly.

We must help those who can and will be helped, but not everyone is capable of change and for those cases, perhaps we do need to consider something different.

Source: The Guardian

Glasgow’s Pioneering Addiction Service under Threat

Glasgow’s pioneering addictions service could be threatened by the break-up of the merger of social work and health services, union leaders have warned. Unison has expressed concerns that rehabilitation services could be adversely affected by the health board’s decision to end community health care partnerships (CHCPs) with the council and go it alone.

There is understood to be friction between Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde over the running of the jointly managed addictions service. Unions have expressed concern about a “lack of clarity” over the plans and any potential negative impact on funding. The service’s annual budget from the health board and council amounts to £50 million.

NHS GGC claim the service will continue to be jointly funded and that discussions are ongoing about the final structure of the service.  However union leaders say it is inevitable that some support services will be adversely affected and pointed to the loss of the general manager’s post in the joint service.

It comes after the head of the Glasgow service, Eric Steel, warned earlier that the service would need to double in size to deal with every problem addict in the city.  Estimates suggest around 10,000 addicts and drug users are not receiving any help.

To read more about these issues, please follow this link

Source: Scotland Evening Times

Transform’s Updated ‘Comparative Cost-Effectiveness of Drug Prohibition / Regulation’ Report

On the eve of the Comprehensive Spending Review Transform relauched and revamped its 2009 report: 'A Comparison of the Cost-Effectiveness of Prohibition and regulation of Drugs.’ The publication created a decent media splash, led to a PQ and ultimately a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Summary of key recommendations: 

  • Despite billions spent each year on proactive and reactive drug law enforcement, the punitive prohibitionist approach has consistently delivered the opposite of its stated goals. The Government’s own data clearly demonstrates drug supply and availability increasing; use of drugs that cause the most harm increasing; health harms increasing; massive levels of crime created at all scales leading to a crisis in the criminal justice system; and illicit drug profits enriching criminals, fuelling conflict and destabilising producer and transit countries from Mexico to Afghanistan.
  • The UK Government specifically claims the benefits of any move away from prohibition towards legal regulation of drug markets would be outweighed by the costs. No such cost-benefit analysis, or even a proper Impact Assessment of existing enforcement policy and legislation has ever been carried out here or anywhere else in the world. Yet there are clear Government guidelines that an Impact Assessment should be triggered by amongst other things, a policy going out to public consultation or when ‘unintended consequences’ are identified, both of which have happened with drug policy in recent years.
  • Alternative approaches - involving established regulatory models of controlling drug production, supply and use - have not been considered or costed. The limited cost effectiveness analysis of current policy that has been undertaken has frequently been suppressed. In terms of scrutinizing major public policy and spending initiatives, current drug policy is unique in this regard.
  • The generalizations being used to defend continuation of an expensive and systematically failing policy of drugs prohibition, and close down a mature and rational exploration of alternative approaches, are demonstrably based on un-evidenced assumptions.
  • This paper is an attempt to begin to redress these failings by comparing the costs and benefits of the current policy of drug prohibition, with those of a proposed model for the legal regulation of drugs in the UK. We also identify areas of further research, and steps to ensure future drugs policy is genuinely based on evidence of what works.
  • This initial analysis demonstrates that a move to legally regulated drug supply would deliver substantial benefits to the Treasury and wider community, even in the highly unlikely event of a substantial increase in use.

Source: Transform Drug Policy Foundation 

Crime in England and Wales: Quarterly Update 2010

This quarterly update presents the most recent crime statistics from two different sources: the British Crime Survey (BCS) and police recorded crime, to present a balanced picture of trends in crime in England & Wales. Key observations are as follows:

  • The number of crimes recorded by the police fell by eight per cent in the year ending June 2010 compared with a year earlier
  • BCS interviews showed that the risk of being a victim of crime (21.5%) has decreased compared with the year ending June 2009 (22.4%)
  • In the year ending June 2010, there were no increases in any of the police recorded crime offence groups compared with the previous year, with the exception of sexual offences (which increased by 8%). The largest percentage falls were for criminal damage (down 17%) and offences against vehicles (down 16%)
  • Levels of BCS violent crime showed no statistically significant change compared with the previous year. In contrast, violence against the person offences recorded by the police fell by four per cent and robberies by seven per cent
  • Numbers of BCS household crimes showed a decrease of four per cent compared with the previous year, mainly due to falls of 12 per cent in vehicle-related theft and six per cent in vandalism. There was no statistically significant change in the overall levels of BCS personal crime over the same period
  • BCS burglaries showed no statistically significant change compared with the previous year. In contrast, police recorded domestic burglaries fell by eight per cent and other burglaries by 11 per cent
  • There was a two per cent fall in firearm offences recorded by the police compared with the previous 12 months
  • There was a decrease in the proportion of people with a high level of perceived anti-social behaviour in their local area compared with the year ending June 2009 (from 16% to 14%). All but one of the seven indicators relating to specific problems showed falls (perception of problems with noisy neighbours or loud parties showed no statistically significant change)
  • The proportion of adults with a high level of worry about violent crime fell from 14 per cent to 13 per cent compared with the previous year
  • BCS interviews showed that 52 per cent of people agreed that the police and local agencies were dealing with the anti-social behaviour and crime issues that mattered in their area, higher than the 50 per cent in the previous year 

Source: The Home Office

Health Minister opens new Drug Treatment and Support Centre in Swansea

An investment of nearly £1.5m by the Welsh Assembly Government has enabled a local charity, the Swansea Drugs Project, to purchase new premises in the city centre and completely revamp them. As a result, Swansea Drugs Project will be able to increase its treatment capacity considerably, as well as increasing the range of treatment options that it offers. Mrs. Hart said: 

 “Substance misuse has a devastating impact of individuals, families and society...we aim to reduce that impact through investment in prevention and education to stop people becoming hooked on alcohol or drugs in the first place, whilst also investing in treatment and rehabilitation for those who are addicted at the same time. This development, which is a good example of that investment, will help to improve access to these services and is intended to reduce substance misuse and its impact in Swansea.” 

The new premises include provision for needle exchange, counselling rooms, a clinical room, a family room, a crèche and accommodation for staff. Ifor Glyn, the Director, said: 

“The Project welcomes the backing and investment we have received from the Assembly Government to enable us to open this new centre. In this day and age, most people will know an individual who is affected by misuse of drugs or alcohol. It never just affects one person and can affect anybody. This centre is for everyone in Swansea who needs it.” 

Source: Welsh Assembly Government 

UK Criminal Statistics Annual Report Released 

The latest National Statistics release on annual criminal statistics in England and Wales covers offenders dealt with by formal police cautions, reprimands or warning, or criminal court proceedings in England and Wales. Key observations include:

  • Violent crimes against the person decreased four per cent from 903,400 to 871,700. Violent crimes leading to an injury decreased by five per cent from 421,000 to 401,700.
  • Sexual offences increased by six per cent from 51,400 to 54,500. Rape of a female increased by 15 per cent from 12,100 to 14,000.
  • Burglaries decreased by seven per cent from 581,600 to 540,700. Other theft offences decreased by four per cent from 1.08 million to 1.04 million. Offences against vehicles decreased by 16 per cent from 591,800 to 495,000.
  • Fraud and forgery offences decreased by seven per cent from 163,200 to 152,300.
  • Drug offences decreased by four per cent from 243,500 to 235,000.
  • Criminal damage offences decreased by 14 per cent from 936,400 to 806,700.  

To read the report in full, please follow this link 

Source: Ministry of Justice 

East Region Recovery Week (25th-29th October 2010) – Former Drug Addicts Celebrate Recovery 

Former drug addicts throughout the East of England will be celebrating freedom from addiction and the rebuilding of shattered lives in a week of events in prisons, treatment centres and community halls across the region 

Eastern Region Recovery Week (25-29 October 2010), supported by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) to promote recovery and encourage other drug users to come into treatment, will feature events in Norfolk, Bedfordshire, Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. 

Regional Manager for the NTA, Emma Pawson, said: "The aim of the NTA is to move people as quickly and safely as possible through treatment to recovery and re-integration into society. However, former drug users need jobs, housing and the support of family and community if they are to sustain recovery.  This is where mutual aid networks, peer support groups and recovery communities come in. 

Former addicts with their families, drug workers and supporters are planning hundreds of activities to showcase the benefits of recovery including parties and films, planting and balloon launching ceremonies, prison bands and art exhibitions.

Source: National Treatment Agency 

Transform’s Submission to the UK Drug Strategy Consultation 

Transform has a number of serious concerns about the consultation process and the contents of the consultation paper itself. These concerns are explored first with reference to the consultation document where relevant, and the Governments consultation code of practice. We then highlight and discuss key areas of policy that are absent from the consultation. 

Summary: The consultation does not adhere to the first three criterion of the Government’s consultation code of practice regarding when to consult, duration of the consultation, or clarity and scope of impact. There is no Impact Assessment for proposed policy changes, or research data / analysis presented in support of any proposals. Key areas of the public policy debate are entirely absent from the consultation, specifically: 

  • Harm reduction – a key pillar of UK drug policy receives no mention 
  • Sentencing / decriminalization – the growing body of evidence, high level backing and active public debate are ignored
  •  Supply side enforcement – its efficacy is unquestioned (despite the absence of evidence) and its impacts unexplored
  • The classification system / ACMD – none of the high profile public debates and controversies on this important issue are addressed
  • International drug policy – there is no mention of or engagement with the international dimension of UK drug policy
  • Evaluative framework – there is no engagement with how policy should be evaluated – regards targets, KPIs and or how they should be prioritized
  • Tobacco – there are many mentions of alcohol, but none of the drug associated with the greatest number of addictions and chronic deaths in the UK

The full document is available here

Source: Transform Drug Policy Foundation 

Party Drug Dependence Higher among Gay Men, UK Drug Expert Warns

In 2009, in response to patients experiencing severe withdrawal reactions from GBL, a party drugs clinic was established in South London. After a year of operation, it was clear that the majority of patients were gay men, consistent with recent findings that they are much more likely to use illegal drugs than the general population.

Dr James Bell, head of the Party Drugs Clinic at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), said the majority of his patients were young, well-educated, professional gay men. Dr Bell also said the gay community tended to be early adopters of new party drugs, such as recent new arrivals on the party scene, ‘meow meow’ and ‘ivory wave’.

A recent report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) found that homosexuals were three times more likely to use illegal drugs than the general population. Findings from the British Crime Survey estimated that 33 per cent of gay and bisexual people took illegal drugs last year, compared with 10 per cent of heterosexual population.

Dr Bell, who established the UK’s only GBL withdrawal service at SLaM’s Party Drugs Clinic, said the majority of GBL dependent users who attended the clinic were young, gay men who used a range of drugs as part of their party lifestyle. “I have seen charming, privileged and formerly hardworking young people who found themselves dependent on GBL neglecting friends, family and work commitments and experiencing severe withdrawal.”

“It is always dangerous to make assumptions or stereotypes about minority groups, however the evidence does indicate that drug use is higher among gay men,” Dr Bell said. “My experience is that many GBL-dependent patients have great difficulty accessing treatment, and we need to tailor services to meet the needs of the gay community.”

To learn more about the SLaM GBH / GBL Clinic, please follow this link

Source: South London and Maudsley NHS Trust


The United Nations and European Union

European Union Uses Weak Evidence to Urge Mephedrone Ban

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU) called for an EU-wide ban on the synthetic drug mephedrone Wednesday, calling it a "dangerous psychoactive substance," but based that call on scanty evidence. The stimulant drug, with effects likened to those of cocaine and ecstasy, is already illegal in 15 EU countries, but remains available in 12 more.

The commission claimed that mephedrone "has been linked to at least 37 deaths in the UK and Ireland alone" and acted in an emergency manner because of a mephedrone risk assessment report published Wednesday by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Alcohol (EMCDDA). The commission added that the report "showed that mephedrone can cause acute health problems and lead to dependency."

But the report itself says that no direct causal link can yet be made between mephedrone and the reported deaths. "The studies available on mephedrone are few, largely preliminary and focused on user self-reports. To date no epidemiological data on prevalence has been published.” As a result, EMCDDA warned against a rush to judgment about mephedrone's danger. "Taken as a whole, the scientific evidence base available for drawing conclusions is limited and this should be borne in mind when interpreting the findings of the risk assessment exercise."

But that, of course, is what the EU has done with its call for a union-wide ban on the new club drug. That didn't sit well with former British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs head David Nutt, who EUobserver:“By legislating on a substance without reliable scientifically-based evidence, we run the risk of causing more harm through criminalizing users than might be caused by the drug itself. The evidence on drug harms should not be sacrificed for political and media pressure."

Source: Stop the Drug War

Implementation of the United Nations’ Transnational Organized Crime Convention 

The 5th Conference of States Parties of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime today made significant progress in agreeing to set up a working group to lay the ground for the possible adoption of a review mechanism in two years time.  A review mechanism would monitor the progress of Member States in implementing the convention. 

In praising all delegations for their constructiveness and flexibility, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said: "Let us hope that establishing a review mechanism for the Convention will help the international community confront transnational organized crime more effectively. It is in all of our interests to ensure that the Convention is implemented fully." 

Mr Fedotov also asked Member States to join with him in his concern about the victims of crime, enlisting their support for the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking which will be launched in early November in New York. 

Considerable attention was also devoted during the Conference to formulating and strengthening responses to new and emerging forms of transnational organized crime, such as cybercrime, environmental crime and crimes against cultural property with the adoption of a specific Resolution on cultural property crime. 

Source: UNODC

UN Special Rapporteur to Call for Fundamental Shift in Global Drug Policy – Including Decriminalization

Anand Grover, from India, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, in his annual thematic report, to be presented on October 25/26, will set out the range of human rights abuses resulting from international drug control efforts, and calls on Governments to:

  • Ensure that all harm-reduction measures (as itemized by UNAIDS) and drug-dependence treatment services, particularly opioid substitution therapy, are available to people who use drugs, in particular those among incarcerated populations
  • Decriminalize or de-penalize possession and use of drugs
  • Repeal or substantially reform laws and policies inhibiting the delivery of essential health services to drug users, and review law enforcement compliance with human rights obligations
  • Amend laws, regulations and policies to increase access to controlled essential medicines
  • To the UN drug control agencies, Mr Grover recommends the creation of an alternative drug regulatory framework based on a model such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The report is the clearest statement to date from within the UN system about the harms that drug policies have caused and the need for a fundamental shift in drug policy.  The report has been welcomed by the European Union in the EU statement on crime and drugs to the UN General Assembly.

Press conference details: Tuesday, 26 October at 1:15pm at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, New York, (close to the UN library in the Secretariat Building - entrance on 42nd Street and 1st Avenue). There will be a press release issued.

For press enquiries please contact: Fiona Lander, MBBS (Hons)/LLB (Hons), Research Assistant to Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, +91 9930 925496   fiona lander at gmail.com 

Source: Transform Drug Policy Foundation


Other News

Public Hearings on Prison Privatization in Arizona to be held October 27th
In the interest of government accountability, integrity of our corrections system, and public safety, the American Friends Service Committee, the Private Corrections Working Group, and community partners are initiating a series of public hearings on prison privatization to answer critical questions about the integrity of the prison system.

The first will be held in Tucson on Wednesday, October 27th from 6:00-8:00pm at Pima Community College, Downtown Campus. The hearing will be convened by a panel of elected officials and community leaders who will hear the testimony and pose questions. The conveners of the Tucson panel confirmed at present are:

Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias; Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik; Assistant City Manager Richard Miranda, former Chief of Police; State Representative Phil Lopes;

The hearing will feature testimony from all the parties involved in or impacted by prison privatization, including:

  • The Arizona Department of Corrections
  • The for-profit prison management corporations
  • Prison staff
  • Prisoners, formerly incarcerated people and their families
  • Local community members
  • Experts on the financial and social impacts of prison privatization

The hearings will be video recorded and will be presented to the state legislature and the Governor, along with written materials produced through the hearings. Members of the public wishing to present testimony are asked to bring a printed copy of their remarks to enter into the record.

Source: November

A (Harm Reduction) Guide to Initiating Responses to Fluorescent Blue Lights

There is no known publication, report or research that demonstrates fluorescent blue lights as an effective form of drug prevention, yet they continue to be found in settings throughout the UK on a regular basis. Their widespread introduction and popularity pose challenges for harm reduction advocates and practitioners.

Due to this challenge Dr. Stephen Parkin organized a workshop session to inform a 'standardized' harm reduction response to any current/planned fluorescent blue lighting in local settings on a national basis. The results of the workshop are summarized below. They provide advice, information and a suggested 'action plan' for practitioners concerned about existing/planned blue lights in their particular area/setting:

Proactive Response (to any installation planned/proposed by local agencies

  • Identify the relevant agency responsible for planning blue light installations
  • Request meeting to discuss proposed installation
  • At meeting, determine why such lights are to be installed (e.g. increased amounts of drug related litter?) and request detail on how they are to be evaluated
  • At meeting, also request any evidence to illustrate the efficacy of blue lights in preventing injecting drug use (from any setting)
  • Also, request data that illustrates blue lights as an example of 'evidence-based' good practice
  • If there is an evidence base of increased drug use at the proposed site of installation, request consideration for more 'enabling' harm reduction focused intervention (for example: discrete placement of drug related litter bins; outreach work with targeted intervention at site concerned)
  • Provide a summary of the findings relating to the harms associated with injecting drug use in blue light environments (a copy of the paper outlining these can be obtained via email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and/or from the summary on Injecting Advice)
  • Following any responses to each of the above, refer agency to Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 2005 report 'Tackling Drug Related Litter: Guidance and Good Practice' Report, that clearly recommends (2005, page 36)
    • 'due to the increased risks to users and lack of evidence as to its efficiency, blue lighting should not be used in public toilets to deter drug use'.
  • Ask the relevant agency to consider the annual costs of lighting and if this cost may be used for other more constructive, targeted intervention in the site concerned (e.g. aimed at injecting drug user 'participation' rather than displacement/prevention of injecting drug use)

Reactive Response (to any installation already in place)

  • Identify the relevant agency responsible for installing blue lights
  • Request meeting to discuss existing installation
  • At meeting, determine why such lights were installed (e.g. increased amounts of drug related litter?) and request how the situation may have changed. Request information that may demonstrate a 'prevention effect' and seek information how others (i.e. non-drug users, members of staff, general public) may have been affected by the lighting
  • At meeting, request evidence to illustrate the efficacy of blue lights in preventing injecting drug use (from any setting)
  • Also request data that illustrates blue lights as an example of 'evidence-based' good practice
  • If there is evidence of continued drug use at the site of installation, request consideration for more 'enabling' harm reduction focused intervention (for example: discrete placement of drug related litter bins; outreach work with targeted intervention at site concerned as more appropriate harm reduction intervention)
  • Engage with members of the public attending sites containing blue light installations; obtain their views and attempt to evaluate from their perspective (also include any relevant employees working in such sites)
  • Provide a summary of the findings relating to the harms associated with injecting drug use in blue light environments (a copy of the paper outlining these can be obtained via email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and/or from the summary on Injecting Advice)
  • Following any response to each of the above, refer agency to Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 2005 report 'Tackling Drug Related Litter: Guidance and Good Practice' Report, that clearly recommends (2005, page 36)
    • 'due to the increased risks to users and lack of evidence as to its efficiency, blue lighting should not be used in public toilets to deter drug use'.
  • Consider the annual costs of lighting and if this cost may be used for other more constructive, targeted intervention in the site concerned (e.g. aimed at injecting drug user 'participation' rather than displacement/prevention of injecting drug use)

Advice to injecting drug users

  • Provide as much information as possible relating to the potentially harmful effect of blue lights upon injecting practice (again, these are described in the above paper available via email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and/or from the summary on Injecting Advice)
  • This could be assisted with an 'in-house' leaflet designed by local harm reduction agencies and circulated with injecting paraphernalia that addresses specific settings (i.e. a locally relevant information sheet)
  • Alert service-users of all blue lights in area/planned and explain why they may have been installed
  • Request service users find alternative, safer places to inject and to avoid visiting blue light areas where possible
  • The best advice here is not to inject under blue lights; regardless of individual injecting ability or length of injecting career
  • If decisions to install blue lights relate to increased amounts of drug related litter, engage with service users about the issue of safer discarding practice

Source: Injecting Advice

A Stroll through Time

In this week’s penultimate article, Stop the Drug War’s David Guard takes a look at this week in the past– A week which saw; psilocybin possession illegal in the US; the first publicly known case of Contra cocaine shipments appears in government files in a cable from the CIA's Directorate of Operations; and Britain's Home Secretary, David Blunkett, proposes the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C.

October 24, 1968: Possession of psilocybin or psilocin becomes illegal in the US.

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

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

October 22, 1982: The first publicly known case of Contra cocaine shipments appears in government files in a cable from the CIA's Directorate of Operations. The cable passes on word that US law enforcement agencies are aware of "links between (a US religious organization) and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups [which] involve an exchange in (the United States) of narcotics for arms." [The material in parentheses was inserted by the CIA as part of its declassification of the cable. The name of the religious group remains secret.]

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

October 26, 1993: Reuters reports that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) joined scores of Boy Scout troops, Elks Clubs, and other community groups in a program in which participants clean up sections of Ohio's highway system. The Ohio Department of Transportation had denied NORML's application twice previously, arguing it would be helping to advertise a "controversial activist" group. The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in, and Ohio's attorney general forced transportation officials to relent.

October 25, 1997: Regarding Colombia, the New York Times quotes US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey as saying, "Let there be no doubt: We are not taking part in counter guerrilla operations." Less than two years later, on July 17, 1999, the Miami Herald reports: "McCaffrey said it was 'silly at this point' to try to differentiate between anti-drug efforts and the war against insurgent groups."

October 26, 1997: The Los Angeles Times reports that twelve years after a US drug agent was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Mexico, evidence has emerged that federal prosecutors relied on perjured testimony and false information, casting a cloud over the convictions of three men now serving life sentences in the case.

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

October 23, 2001: Britain's Home Secretary, David Blunkett, proposes the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C. Cannabis is soon decriminalized in Great Britain, only to be returned to Class B by the Labor government in 2008.

October 26, 2001: DEA agents descend on the LA Cannabis Resource Center, seizing all of the center's computers, files, bank account, plants, and medicine. The DEA cites a recent Supreme Court decision as justification for their action. The patient cannabis garden at the West Hollywood site is seized by DEA agents despite the loud protestations of the West Hollywood mayor and many local officials and residents.

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

October 23, 2002: Time/CNN conducts a telephone poll of 1,007 adult Americans over two days (October 23-24). The result: Nearly one out of every two American adults acknowledges they have used marijuana, up from fewer than one in three in 1983.

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

Source: Stop the Drug War

What the World can learn from Switzerland’s Drug Policy Shift

We end this week’s report with a short film from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union about the Swiss model of drug policy. In the late 1980s, Switzerland witnessed a significant increase in the use of injected drugs and was hit hard by the harms associated with it, such as increased HIV infection and rising crime rates.

This short film by the HCLU, a grantee of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program, outlines how the country successfully resolved these problems through the introduction of an innovative national drug policy based on scientifically proven methods, not rhetoric.

The HCLU video advocacy team interviewed Professor Ambros Uchtenhagen, head of the first heroin maintenance program in Switzerland; Felix Lengweiler, the chief of security police and policing of narcotics crime at the Zurich City Police; and Uwe Serduelt, deputy director, Centre of Research on Direct Democracy at the Zurich University.

Find out more: Read From the Mountaintops: What the World Can Learn from Drug Policy Change in Switzerland, the new report by the Open Society Foundations.

Source: Drug Reporter


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