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Opinion: Failed US drug policy

United States
am New York

ENCOD Statement to Commission on Narcotic Drugs

ONE YEAR LEFT Dear delegates, On behalf of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, a platform of more than 150 citizens’ association from around Europe, we wish to ask your attention for the following. Next year, a crucial deadline expires. During the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June 1998, in New York, a political declaration was adopted mentioning two important objectives and a target date. In this declaration, the UN General Assembly committed itself to “achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction” as well as to “eliminating or reducing significantly the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy” by the year 2008. The failure of policies based on this assumption is proved every day by citizens, by the farmers living in coca and opium producing areas in South America and Asia, by people in jails, on dancefloors, in coffeeshops, in user rooms, but also in institutional corridors. According to figures published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the annual prevalence of drug use (as percentage of population aged 15 and above) is showing a slight increase with regards to ecstasy, opiates and cocaine (for instance, in the USA, the annual prevalence of cocaine use raised from 2.6% in 2000 to 2.8 % in 2004), and a larger increase in the use of cannabis (USA: from 8,3% in 2000 to 12,6 % in 2004) and amphetamine (USA: from 0,9% in 2000 to 1,5% in 2004). Considering the cultivation of illicit plants, the amount of produced opium has increased from 4.346 tons in 1998 to 4.620 tons in 2005, cocaine has increased from 825 tons in 1998 to 910 tons in 2005 and cannabis from an estimated 30.000 tons in 1998 to 42.000 tons in 2005 (a third of which is produced in from North America). It is obvious that the global efforts to “eliminate or significantly reduce drugs demand and supply” before the 2008 deadline have not been successful. These efforts have caused considerable damage to human rights, public health, environment, sound economy, sustainable development, the state of law and the relation between citizens and authorities across the world, yet they have not been effective. In a year from now, you will have to take an important decision. When you meet here in this room in March 2008, you need to have a story. Your government or organisation needs to present its conclusions of the past 10 years, as well as its recommendations for the future. Essentially you have two possibilities. You can either choose to ignore the evidence, and continue on this costly, ineffective and counterproductive affair called the War on Drugs. Future generations will hold you responsible for the failure of drug policies in the years to come. You will have missed an excellent opportunity to repair a historical mistake. Or you can decide to make a genuine and sincere review of the impact of current drug policies and start to consider a change in international drug legislation in order to allow countries to start with policies that may be more effective in reducing harms and increasing benefits. Hundreds of millions of people are challenging current drug policies. They feel they have no other choice than to break the law on drugs in order to survive, exercise their human rights or reduce harm related to drugs consumption . Today, harm reduction is embraced by many local and regional authorities in Europe as an effective approach to the most urgent health problems related to drug use. Still many options to apply harm reduction measures are being jeopardized by national legislation and blocked by the international legislatory framework (i.e., the UN conventions on drugs and their narrow interpretation and inappropriate application). As a consequence of the pragmatic attitude of most European citizens towards the use of cannabis, the possession of small quantities of cannabis is no longer considered an offence in most countries. In countries where the cultivation of cannabis for personal use is depenalised, consumers are taking initiatives to organise a transparant, controllable, and closed circuit of cannabis cultivation, distribution and consumption by adults. These initiatives should be embraced by governments as a way to reduce the size of the illegal market . The international depenalisation of the coca leaf could allow the export of tea and other benefitial coca derivates and thus contribute to the worldwide recognition of the great nutritional, medicinal and cultural value of coca. This could help to reduce the dependence of coca farmers of the illegal economy and establish a sustainable economy based on renewable agricultural resources. And finally, depenalising the cultivation of opium and allowing the use of this substance for benefitial purposes, among others as a pain killer, could become an important option to increase the life standards of opium farmers in Afghanistan, Burma and other countries. Vienna 2008 should mark the start of a different era in drug policy. A minimum standard of tolerance could be established within the international legislatory framework , which can facilitate the legal and political space for local, regional and national authorities to apply policies that are not based on prohibition. We are convinced that very soon, drug prohibition will be considered as an ill-conceived strategy that has only produced harm to producers and consumers and benefits to organised crime. We hope to see you next year in Vienna. Best wishes, On behalf of ENCOD Steering Committee FOR A BETTER SYSTEM: EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD) Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen Belgium Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436 Mob. 00 32 (0)495 122 644 Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225 Website:

The Anti-Dobbs: Winning the War Within Through Drug Legalization

[As part of a series of programs on the drug issue by the CNN show Lou Dobbs Tonight, populist broadcaster Lou Dobbs this week penned an editorial titled "The War Within, Killing Ourselves" -- a piece he concludes by demanding the nation commit to "victory" in the drug war. But informed observers of drug policy understand this to be an unachievable utopian fantasy based on flawed premises. David Borden, executive director of, has written a response to Dobbs' piece that is modeled after it, paragraph by paragraph, but which tells the real deal.)]

WASHINGTON (Drug War Chronicle) -- We're fighting a war that is inflicting even greater casualties than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which over time has cost as much money. We're losing the War on Drugs. Actually, we've had it all wrong from the beginning.
Lou Dobbs on the drug war -- he just doesn't get it.
That we can't win the drug war is a truth you won't hear from John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who spent last week trumpeting the Bush administration's anti-drug policies. He claims these policies have led to a decline in drug abuse and improvements in our physical and mental health.

While Walters focused on a marginal decline in casual drug use, he made no mention of the shocking rise in drug overdoses. According to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, "the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week reported unintentional drug overdoses nearly doubled over the course of five years, rising from 11,155 in 1999 to 19,838 in 2004. Fatal drug overdoses in teenagers and young adults soared 113 percent." Hundreds of heroin users died last year when a batch of heroin laced with the powerful synthetic opiate fentanyl worked its way through several major cities.

If drugs were legal, users would be less likely to overdose, because instead of buying drugs on the street, where purity can fluctuate wildly and the batch one obtains might be adulterated, they would get them from licensed, regulated distributors and manufacturers and would know what they were getting. It's not surprising that people like Walters or Dobbs wouldn't like such ideas. But short of ending prohibition, lives could be saved even now by making the overdose antidote naloxone widely available. Tragically, drug czar Walters has opposed even that.

Obviously, John Walters and Lou Dobbs aren't facing reality. There is simply no excuse for causing the destruction of so many young lives through these counterproductive prohibition laws.

How can anyone rationalize the fact that the United States, with only 4 percent of the world's population, holds 20 percent of the world's prisoners? More than half a million of our incarcerated are there for nonviolent drug offenses.

Drug prohibition was enacted 93 years ago, long before former President Richard Nixon called drugs "public enemy number one" and pushed through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Since then the government has waged a century-long war of aggression on its own people, but a futile one. Though supply-side enforcement strategies seek to discourage use by making drugs less available and therefore more expensive, measures of drugs' availability have gone in the wrong direction: Heroin, for example, sold for $329 per gram in 1981 but $60 per gram in 2003. Cocaine prices have dropped to a similar degree.

As Dobbs has pointed out, "more than two million inmates in our nation's prisons meet the clinical criteria for drug or alcohol dependence, and yet fewer than one-fifth of these offenders receive any kind of treatment" even though "studies show successful treatment cuts drug abuse in half, reduces criminal activity by as much 80 percent." Too bad we use up valuable treatment slots on people who aren't really addicted but get "referred" to treatment programs by the criminal justice system anyway, many of them mere casual users of marijuana.

In the midst of the global war on terror along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, illicit narcotics trafficking made possible by global drug prohibition is giving aid to our enemies through the easy, unregulated profits it makes available to them. We must repeal these abusive, self-destructive drug laws, while providing positive alternatives for youth, successful treatment for Americans struggling to beat addictions, and harm reduction programs like syringe exchange for those who are not yet ready to quit drugs.

Whatever course we follow in prosecuting other wars, we must commit ourselves as members of this great society to only one option in the War on Drugs -- victory through legalization.

Though Lou Dobbs calls legalization "ridiculous," the opinions expressed in this commentary are shared by many of the most thoughtful and respected people throughout the world including judges, attorneys general and heads of state.

Op-Ed: Limits on drugs a boon to cartels

United States
The Daily Breeze (CA)

Op-Ed: It's time to end pointless war on drugs

United States
Zanesville Times Recorder (OH)

Europe: Scottish Labor Politician Fights for Harm Reduction as Party Turns Hard-Line on Drugs

On the eve of a major conference on new approaches to Scottish drug and alcohol policy Monday, outgoing Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Susan Deacon, blasted her party's increasingly hard-line approach to drug policy, defended harm reduction approaches, and called drug prohibition "the product of a bygone age." The harsh critique of the Scottish Labor Party's disdain for methadone maintenance, push for abstention-based drug treatment, and enthusiasm for taking children from drug-using parents came in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Herald, "The Political Addiction to Tough Talking on Drugs Has Failed Us All."
Susan Deacon
Deacon, the MSP for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, is a member of the Scottish Royal Academy's RSA UK Commission on Illegal Drugs, Public Policy and Communities, which will issue a report in March. She is also a former Labor health minister who will retire after the next elections. And she is increasingly at odds with her bench-mates on drug policy. The party's recent moves toward abstinence-based "contracts" for addicts and away from previous support for methadone maintenance prompted Deacon to respond with vigor.

"The fact is," she wrote, "it's time to get real. The demonization of drugs and drugs users may make for rabble-rousing speeches and sensationalist headlines but it does little to promote understanding of what is really going on in our society, to help those whose lives are affected. Here in Scotland, we have seen too many knee-jerk responses and blanket solutions. Policy and practice should not be framed by immediate reactions to the latest tragic incident or research report. We need a pragmatic approach to drugs policy -- not a moralistic one."

The notion that methadone maintenance had failed was "nonsense," Deacon wrote. "What about the people for whom methadone has helped them to move away from criminal activity, to hold down a job or to look after their children?" Deacon called proposed moves to restrict treatment options "utterly perverse" and said the idea of taking children from drug-using parents was "paternalistic and simplistic."

But while she explicitly defended harm reduction as a policy approach to drug problems, Deacon also attacked drug prohibition. "UK drugs control laws are more than 30 years old, a product of a bygone age," she wrote. "A growing number of voices, both at home and abroad, are raising questions about whether the current national and international legal framework is fit for purpose -- this discussion cannot be a no-go area."

Oddly enough, Deacon's intra-party foe on drug policy, MSP Duncan McNeil called her critique "conservative." McNeil, who first proposed the idea of "contracts" for drug users, said of Deacon: "The harm reduction policy was well meant and necessary, but things move on. Susan has her views on this subject but she has become very conservative.
"The Labor Party has gone through an extensive consultation on this, but Susan didn't take part in the debate on it at conference."

While her own Labor Party was one target of Deacon's opinion piece, she also aimed to inoculate Monday's Scottish parliament's Futures Forum from more reflexive drug fighter chest-beating. The forum brought together more than 250 senior police officers, academics, community leaders, and health professionals seeking a "fresh perspective" on Scotland's approach to drugs and alcohol.

According to one account of the forum, Deacon may have found a more receptive audience there than within her own party. That account found leading police official and drug policy experts talking bluntly about the need to get beyond "macho posturing" and how the Misuse of Drugs Act was "not fit for contemporary purpose."

With endemic heroin and alcohol abuse, and now, the newfound popularity of cocaine, Scotland is in need of new approaches to drug policy. With politicians like Deacon fighting regressive tendencies in her own party and ongoing efforts like the Futures Forum and the RSA UK Commission on Drugs underway, Scottish politicians will have the knowledge base to act. Whether they will have the political will to apply that knowledge remains to be seen.

Former Narcs Say Drug War is Futile

United States
Fox News

Mexican cartels settling into Peru

The Herald (Mexico)

Prohibition: a crippling habit; There is only one way to end the misery of addiction revealed by the investigation into the Ipswich murders: legalise the drugs.

United Kingdom
The Guardian (UK)

January is Drug Prohibition Month at W-S Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship

January 2007: The Social Action Committee of the Winston-Salem UU Fellowship, 4055 Robinhood Road ( will highlight the problems of drug prohibition. The 9:00 forum January 21 will discuss drug use in other countries. There will be a booth in the lobby each Sunday featuring posters, literature, and books. All are welcome. All questions answered.
Sun, 01/07/2007 - 10:30am - Sun, 01/28/2007 - 12:30pm
4055 Robinhood Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27106-4736
United States

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