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EU Court Okays Dutch Coffee Shop Ban for Foreigners

Saying the effort to combat drug use and drug tourism outweighed European Union provisions for equal treatment for all EU citizens, the European Court of Justice last Thursday upheld a Dutch border town's ban on the sale of marijuana to foreigners. The ruling paves the way for Holland to institute a national "weed pass" to keep non-Dutch out of the nation's famous coffee shops.

Can windmills and the Rijksmuseum pack 'em in like the coffee shops? (wikimedia.org)
The ruling came in Josemans v. Maastricht, in which Maastricht coffee shop owner Marc Michel Josemans challenged a 2005 Maastricht ban on selling cannabis products to non-residents. He was forced to temporarily close his shop after selling to foreigners in order to set up a test case. Josemans challenged the law in Dutch administrative courts, which asked the European Court of Justice to review the issue.

"The prohibition on the admission of non-resident to Netherlands 'coffee shops' complies with European Union law," the court held. "That restriction is justified by the objective of combating drug tourism and the accompanying public nuisance, an objective which concerns both the maintenance of public order and the protection of the health of citizens at the level of the Member States at European level."

Josemans had argued that barring foreigners from the coffee shops amounted to illegal discrimination under EU law, but the court held that because their product was illegal, coffee shop owners could not rely on EU protections: "As the release of narcotic drugs into the economic and commercial channels of the European Union is prohibited, a coffee-shop proprietor cannot rely on the freedoms of movement or the principle of non-discrimination in so far as concerns the marketing of cannabis," the court held.

The ruling opens the way for Holland's conservative Liberal/Christian Democrat governing coalition to institute a nationwide ban on foreigners purchasing marijuana at the coffee shops. The government is planning to introduce a "weed pass" that will be required to purchase pot and will only be available to Dutch citizens and legal residents.

"If the Council of State rules that access to coffee shops can be limited to inhabitants of the Netherlands, then the weed pass this Cabinet wants to introduce can be limited to inhabitants of the Netherlands and that helps combat drug tourism," Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen told Bloomberg News Friday.

Barring foreigners may be a Pyrrhic victory for Dutch border towns. Maastricht alone sees 10,000 visitors a day, mostly from Belgium, Germany, and France. The number of those visitors who come primarily to purchase marijuana is substantial, and, of course, pot isn't all they purchase. Income and tax revenues from border city coffee shops are likely to decline precipitously.

The looming ban on foreigners in coffee shops is just part of a larger crackdown on the shops in Holland. Their numbers have shrunk by about half from their peak as local governments seek to close shops that have violated the law, are too close to schools, or otherwise inconvenient for local authorities. The national government is also hostile.

Netherlands

The Largest Prison Strike In US History Rages On

Location: 
GA
United States
The sharp increase in the incarceration rate largely due to the drug war and mandatory minimum sentencing have led to the United States becoming the world’s largest jailer. On December 9th, the largest prison strike in US history began in multiple facilities in Georgia. Thousands of those inside have united in a self-imposed lockdown to demand various human rights demands ranging from an end to slave labor, access to health care and education, communication from their families, and an end to cruel and unusual punishment. Despite a harsh crackdown, the strike has been raging on for the last week, and shows no signs of ending.
Publication/Source: 
News Junkie Post (CA)
URL: 
http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/12/16/the-largest-prison-strike-in-us-history-rages-on/

Poland: Unconsititutional and Costly Drugs Laws Infringe on Human Rights (Opinion)

Location: 
Poland
"Criminalisation of drug possession does not help to decrease illicit drug consumption. Instead, it distracts the attention and energy of the police from the real originators of the problem: mass producers and major and minor drug dealers" – write the signatories of a letter of support for liberalizing drug policy in Poland. Among them are former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski and a world-famous sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman. Other signatories include writers, artists and respected public figures.
Publication/Source: 
PR Canna Zine (UK)
URL: 
http://pr.cannazine.co.uk/201012141397/green/eco-news/poland-unconsititutional-and-costly-drugs-laws-infringe-on-human-rights.html

US Supreme Court Hears California Prison Crowding Case, Advocates Urge California to Focus on Resolving Crisis, Including Ending Prison as Response to Drug Use (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 30, 2010
CONTACT: Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at 213-291-4190 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215

US Supreme Court Hears California Prison Crowding Case

Advocates Urge California to Focus on Resolving Crisis, Including Ending Prison as Response to Drug Use

10,000 in Prison for Drug Possession at Cost of $500 Million a Year

WASHINGTON - November 30 - The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Schwarzenegger v. Plata, a landmark prison rights case in which a federal court found the unconstitutional conditions of California's prisons were caused primarily by overcrowding and ordered California to reduce prison overcrowding from over 200% of design capacity down (by about 40,000 people) to 137.5% of capacity within two years. California has conceded that the state's prison conditions are unconstitutional but has nonetheless asked the Supreme Court to put the states' right to administer its prisons before the constitutional rights of individuals who are wards of the state.

"One of the primary reasons that the state's prisons are dangerously overcrowded is that California continues to lock up thousands of people each year for low-level drug possession. There is no basis in evidence or principle to expose people to this dangerous environment simply for the possession of a small amount of illicit substances," says Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in Southern California. "California must follow the lead of other states like Texas and New York and stop sending people to state prison for drug possession, which can be handled as a health issue safely, effectively and affordably in the community."

"The state currently spends $500 million a year to incarcerate 10,000 people for nothing more than personal drug possession," Dooley-Sammuli continued. "That does not include the unknown number of parolees who have been returned to prison for a few months based on the results of a drug test. This is a terrible waste of scarce resources. Treatment in the community is effective and affordable. Unfortunately, California this year eliminated funding for community-based treatment for drug possession arrestees."

"People who use drugs do not belong in the state's cruel and costly prisons simply for that personal use. We urge California to take the logical step of ending incarceration as a response to drug possession, while expanding opportunities for drug treatment in the community," continued Dooley-Sammuli.

Location: 
CA
United States

Election 2010 and US Drug Policy in Latin America [FEATURE]

This month's election returns, which resulted in the Republican Party taking back control of the US House of Representatives, have serious, if cloudy, ramifications for progress on drug policy on the domestic front. Similarly, when we look south of the border, where a cash-strapped US has been throwing billions of dollars, mainly at the governments of Colombia and Mexico in a quixotic bid to thwart the drug trade, the Republican return to control in the House could mean a more unfriendly atmosphere for efforts to reform our Latin American drug policy.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/clinton-plan-merida-meeting.jpg
Plan Merida funding on the line?
Or not. Analysts consulted by Drug War Chronicle this week said it was too soon to tell. They varied on the impact of the Tea Party movement on Republican drug policy positions, as well as reaching differing conclusions as to whether the Tea Party's much-touted allegiance to fiscal austerity will be trumped by mainstream Republican militarism, interventionism, and hostility to drug reform.

Since 2006, and including Fiscal Year 2011 budgets that have not actually been passed yet, the US has spent nearly $2.8 billion on military and police aid to Colombia, with that number increasing to roughly $7 billion if spending back to the beginning of Plan Colombia in 1999 is included. Likewise, since 2006, the US has dished out nearly $1.5 billion for the Mexican drug war, as well as smaller, but still significant amounts for other Latin American countries and multi-country regional initiatives. Overall, the US has spent $6.56 billion in military and police assistance to Latin America in the past five years, with the drug war used to justify almost all of it.

Even by its own metrics, the US drug war spending in Colombia has had, at best, limited success. It has helped stabilize the country's shaky democracy, it has helped weaken the leftist guerrillas of the FARC, and it has managed to marginally reduce coca and cocaine production in Colombia.

But those advances have come at very high price. Tens of thousands of Colombians have been killed in the violence in the past two decades, Colombia has the world's highest number of internal refugees, widespread aerial spraying of coca crops has led to environmental damage, and paramilitary death squads linked to the government continue to rampage. Some 38 labor leaders have been killed there so far this year.

The results of US anti-drug spending in Mexico have been even more meager. The $1.4 billion Plan Merida has beefed up the Mexican military and law enforcement, but the violence raging there has not been reduced at all. To the contrary, it has increased dramatically since, with US support, President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the cartels at the beginning of 2007. Around 30,000 people have been killed since then, gunfights are a near daily occurrence in cities just across the border from the US, and the flow of drugs into the US remains virtually unimpeded.

That is the reality confronting Republicans in the House, who will now take over. The shift in power in the House means that the chairmanship of key foreign affairs committees will shift from moderate Democrats to conservative Republicans. Current House Foreign Relations Committee chair Howard Berman (D-CA) will be replaced by anti-Castro zealot Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), while in the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Elliot Engel (D-NY) will be replaced by Connie Mack (R-FL).

Other Republicans on the subcommittee include hard-liners Dan Burton (R-IN) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA). But there will be one anti-drug war Republican on the committee, Ron Paul (R-TX).

"Ileana and her committee will try to stir things up more, but it's too early to say what that means for drug policy," said Sanho Tree, drug policy analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. "She'll do anything she can to screw over the Castro brothers, and that is the lens through which she sees the world."

That could mean hearings designed to go after Castro ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who threw out the DEA several years ago, and whose country is cited each year by the State Department as not complying with US drug policy objectives. But beyond that is anybody's guess.

"I think you might see a change of tone," said Adam Isaacson, an analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America. "You'll see Venezuela portrayed more and more as the drug bad guy, but neither Ros-Lehtinen or Mack can see much beyond Cuba," he said.

"If you bought the premise that the drug war was an extension of the Cold War, you could have a brand new Cold War framework here," said Isaacson. "They won't be able to buy a lot of Blackhawks, but they can use it as another way to beat up on the Obama administration."

"I think not much is going to change," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "To the extent the need is to cut money, Republicans might want less funding for these programs, but that's a big if. But this is a different sort of Republican, and so there may be the possibility of a left-right coalition to quit funding Plan Colombia. I'm not sure the Republicans can keep their people in line on Mexico and Colombia."

"Obama has been unyielding when it comes to maintaining the status quo on hemispheric drug policy," said Larry Birns, executive director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "He hasn't come up with any new programs or expressed any sympathy for the progressive drug policy initiatives coming out of Latin America. He is not going to allow himself to be accused of being soft on drugs. All hope for reform is gone, and there is little likelihood that the administration will come up with any drug-related initiative that will cost more money than we're spending now or that would challenge the pro-drug war lobby that now exists. I don't think we will see much activity on this front," he predicted.

Nor did Birns look to Tea Party-style incoming Republicans to break with drug war orthodoxy. He cited campaign season attacks from Tea Party candidates that Washington was "soft on drugs" and suggested that despite the occasional articulation of anti-drug war themes from some candidates, "the decision makers in the Tea Party are not going to sanction a softening on drugs in any way."

"I'm not aware of a single reference to the prospective drug policy of the new class of representatives," said Birns. "It seems to have become desaparicido when it comes to hemispheric policy."

"The Tea Partiers are very vague on foreign policy in general, and we're seeing things like John McCain coming out and attacking Rand Paul for not being interventionist enough," noted Tree.

Despite calls from conservatives for vigorous budget cutting, Tree was skeptical that the Latin American drug war budget would be cut. "In the Heritage Foundation budget cut report, for example, they killed ONDCP's funding and foreign assistance, but nothing from the military budget," he noted. "Maybe they can find some common ground on the drug war, but I'm not holding my breath."

"We haven’t heard them say too much yet," said Isaacson, disagreeing with Tree. "But they don't have any money. The Tea party wants to cut the budget and the foreign aid budget is most vulnerable. Even the Merida Initiative could be in play," he said.

But, Isaacson said, the old-school hard-liners are already at work. He cited a Wednesday conference on Capitol Hill called Danger in the Andes, which explores the "threat" from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba.

"A lot of these new guys went," he said. "John Walters, Roger Noriega, and Otto Reich were there. Good to see some new faces," he laughed painfully.

"We still don't know much about the Tea Party when it comes to foreign policy," said Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. "Whether these guys will follow their budget-cutting instincts and look to reduce foreign aid and the military presence abroad, or whether they will follow the neoconservative wing of the party that believes in empire and strong defense and pursuing interventionist policies all over the world is the question," he said.

"I expect more of the same under the Republicans," said Hidalgo. "I don't foresee big changes. This Tea Party is going to play conservative when it comes to the war on drugs," he predicted. "But I haven't seen a single Tea Partier say what they believe on this issue. We have to give them six months to a year to show their colors."

Mexican Marines being trained by US Marines
The Tea Party movement has already shown conflicting tendencies within it when it comes to foreign policy in general and US drug policy in Latin America in particular, Hidalgo argued. "Some part of it is militaristic and interventionist, like Sarah Palin. On the other hand, there are people link Rand Paul, who stands for a non-interventionist foreign policy and who thinks drug policy should be reassessed," he said. "We don't know how that is going to play out."

But Hidalgo strongly suggested he thought that it wasn't going to be in a reformist direction. "Even though the Tea Partiers believe in smaller government, the movement has been hijacked by the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party," he said. "Its biggest names are Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, both of whom are ultraconservative Republicans. I would be pleasantly surprised to see Tea Party representatives come into office and say the war on drugs is a failure, a big waste of money that has failed miserably. They claim they will look at every single budget item, and what better way to cut spending? I'll believe it when I see it," he said.

One thing that managed to win reluctant Democratic votes for funding the drug wars in Colombia and Mexico was human rights conditionality, meaning that -- in theory, at least -- US assistance could be pared back if those countries did not address identified human rights concerns. With tens of thousands dead in both Mexico and Colombia in the drug war, with widespread allegations of torture and abuses in both countries, the issue should be on the front burner.

In reality, human rights concerns always took a back seat to the imperatives of realpolitik. That's likely to be even more the case with Republicans in control of the House.

"There is not going to be much sympathy to human rights as a driver of US policy," said Birns. "The Republicans initially used human rights as an anti-communist vehicle; it was never meant to be used against rightists. Given that the Obama administration has been conspicuously silent on Latin America, human rights, like drug policy reform, is an issue that has largely disappeared from the public debate. If anything, the noise level of things to come on drug policy will be significantly lowered. Whatever was in the air about new approaches has pretty much been put to bed for the winter."

"On Plan Merida, the Democrats attached human rights conditions because of concerns the Mexican army was committing human rights abuses," said Hidalgo. "It's an open question whether a Republican House will be less concerned about human rights when it comes to helping Mexico, or will they say we should cut spending there?"

For Hidalgo, the big election news in 2010 was not the change in the House of Representatives, but the defeat of Proposition 19 in California.

"Before the vote, several Latin American leaders, including Colombian President Santos, said that if it were to pass, that would force Colombia to reconsider its drug policy and the war on drugs and bring this issue to international forums like the United Nations," he said. "That gave many of us hope that Colombia would precipitate an international discussion on whether to continue the current approach or to adopt a more sensible approach like Portugal or the Netherlands," he said. "Now, that is not going to happen."

Washington, DC
United States

Confessed Mexican Hitman Claims Torture

Location: 
Mexico
A man accused of being one of Mexico's most notorious hired killers says his confessions were false and extracted through torture. Soto Arias, 29, a junkyard owner, has been convicted of nothing, and his torture complaint is being investigated by Mexico's human rights commission. Many other crime suspects and ordinary citizens have made similar allegations about disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture at the hands of the Mexican military and police.
Publication/Source: 
United Press International (DC)
URL: 
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2010/10/10/Confessed-Mexican-hit-man-claims-torture/UPI-32881286748076/

The D.E.A. Changes a Policy on Painkillers

The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a new guideline intended to help ease the delay some nursing home residents face in receiving certain painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. The D.E.A. had not previously recognized nurses employed by nursing homes as the legal agents of doctors in conveying controlled substances prescriptions to pharmacists. The agency’s previous stance, critics said in an article last week in The New York Times, caused many nursing home residents to suffer in pain while they waited for their prescriptions.
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times (NY)
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/health/policy/07aging.html

Cambodia Opens First Methadone Clinic

The Cambodian Ministry of Health has opened a clinic where people addicted to opiates, primarily heroin, can be administered methadone. The move is a significant departure in a country in which "drug treatment" has typically meant imprisonment, forced labor, and unproven herbal treatments.

Royal Palace, Cambodia (wikimedia.org)
The opening of the clinic is the culmination of years of quiet effort by harm reduction organizations, the BBC reported. Two of those groups, which run outreach programs for drug users, will identify candidates for treatment.

The program is strictly voluntary. Participants will be taken to the clinic for a needs assessment in line with international standards. The clinic is inside a public hospital and run by the Ministry of Health with support from the UN's World Health Organization.

While harm reductionists and public health workers are pleased with the government's new approach, they said more steps need to be taken to shut down the existing, punitive drug treatment centers. But the government says it has no plans to do so.

Read an expose of existing Cambodian drug treatment centers here.

Cambodia

Russian Diplomat Takes Over at UN Drug Agency

As of Monday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is under new management. Russian diplomat Yury Fedotov , who was nominated for the post earlier this year by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has now taken over the organization that makes up a key part of the global drug prohibition regime. He replaces outgoing UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa.

Yuri Fedotov (courtesy Voice of Russia, ruvr.ru)
The Vienna-based agency, established in 1997, is charged with fighting the illegal drug trade, as well as other international crime, such as corruption and human trafficking. It also publishes annual reports on the global drug scene, as well as regional reports, including annual surveys of Afghan opium poppy production.

"Public health and human rights must be central" to his agency's work, Fedotov said in a statement Monday. "Whether we talk of the victims of human trafficking, communities oppressed by corrupt leaders, unfair criminal justice systems or drug users marginalized by society, we are committed to making a positive difference," he said.

"Drug dependence is a health disorder, and drug users need humane and effective treatment -- not punishment," he added. "Drug treatment should also promote the prevention of HIV."

Harm reductionists and AIDS activists had earlier urged Ki-moon not to appoint Fedotov, pointing to Russia's abysmal record on human rights, the treatment of drug users, and HIV/AIDS prevention. But on Monday, the International Harm Reduction Association told the Associated Press it was willing to give Fedotov a chance based on his early remarks.

"We certainly hope this sets the benchmark for the path he'll be taking," said the association's executive director Rick Lines. "For any public official, they're going to be judged by what they do with the responsibility they're given."

Vienna
Austria

Absence of Morphine Condemns Children to a Life of Pain

Location: 
Kenya
Morphine, as a narcotic, has such a bad reputation in many poor countries that doctors cannot obtain it for their patients. A new report from Human Rights Watch describes the suffering of children in pain in Kenya.
Publication/Source: 
The Guardian (UK)
URL: 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/sarah-boseley-global-health/2010/sep/09/international-aid-and-development-kenya

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