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Drug Lords Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Global Prohibition (Video)

Location: 
50 years ago the United Nations adopted the first international treaty to prohibit some drugs. The logic of the system was simple: any use of the drugs listed, unless sanctioned for medical or scientific purposes, would be deemed 'abuse' and thus illegal. As a result of this convention, the unsanctioned production and trafficking of these drugs became a crime in all member states of the UN. There is a small group that benefits phenomenally from the global war on drugs: organized criminals and terrorists. View this video from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and find out more.
Publication/Source: 
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (Hungary)
URL: 
http://drogriporter.hu/en/dli_short

Bolivia President Evo Morales Attacks Drug Reports

Location: 
Bolivia
Bolivian president Evo Morales has accused the United States and the United Nations of conspiring to defame his government in two drug reports. He said criticism over Bolivia's handling of the war on drugs were part of a strategy to falsely link his government to drug trafficking. Morales said the US was trying to force him to invite American anti-narcotics agents back into Bolivia.
Publication/Source: 
BBC News (UK)
URL: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12707641

Most of World Lacks Access to Pain Drugs, UN Agency Says [FEATURE]

More than eight out of 10 of the world's inhabitants have little or no access to opioid pain medications, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said Wednesday. The finding came as the INCB released both its Annual Report 2010 and a special report on the global availability of pain medications.

INCB head Hamid Ghodse (l) briefing reporters in Vienna (incb.org)
People in many countries in Africa, Asia, and parts of the Americas had little or no access to opioid pain medications and psychotropic substances for medical purposes, the INCB found. Opioids include both narcotics, such as morphine and oxycodone, and synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl. Psychotropic medicines include depressants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

"Ninety percent of the licit drugs are consumed by 10% of the world's population in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and some European countries," Hamid Ghodse, the INCB's president, said in a briefing on the release of the reports. "It has to be recognized that the availability of narcotics and psychotropic medicines is indispensable to medical practice," Ghodse told reporters.

The US is by far the world's leading consumer of opioid pain medications. According to INCB figures, for every pain pill consumed per capita in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, 50 are consumed in Europe, and 300 in North America. The US alone, with 5% of the world population, consumed 56% of the world's pain pills. [Editor's Note: This does not mean that US patients who need opioids can always get prescriptions for them.]

The special report on the availability of pain medicines found that while the global supply of raw opium for licit needs is adequate, there are a number of obstacles blocking their availability in large parts of the world. The INCB identified the obstacles in descending order as concerns about addiction, reluctance to stock or prescribe, lack of training of professionals, restrictive laws, administrative problems, cost, distribution problems, lack of supply, and absence of policies around the prescribing of the drugs for pain treatment.

Lack of supply was near the bottom of the list. The INCB said opiate raw materials, including opium, poppy straw, and poppy straw concentrate were sufficient to outstrip consumption. "There is no problem whatsoever with the availability of raw materials," Ghodse said.

Ghodse called on governments to analyze the problem, identify barriers to adequate availability, and take action to reduce or remove them. The report called on governments to collect data on licit drug requirements, legislation, education and training, national drug control systems, and steps to combat misuse.

For the INCB, the flip side of barriers to adequate pain pill access in large swathes of the world is excess availability, which it said can lead to abuse and drug dependence. While the number of single doses of opioid pain medications consumed has increased four-fold in the last 20 years, driven largely by increases in synthetic opioid production, consumption in the US, for example, has increased six-fold. The US now sees more people dying of prescription drug overdoses than from illegal drugs.

morphine consumption by region (incb.org)
"In countries with excessive availability, the non-medical use of pain relievers, tranquillizers, stimulants or sedatives has become the fastest growing drug problem," the report said.

That is a theme repeated from last year's INCB report, when the monitoring body reported that the abuse of prescription drugs was increasingly markedly worldwide. More people were taking prescription drugs for non-medical reasons than were using heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy combined, that report said.

Another major theme for the INCB in this year's report was increasing concern over the emergence of new synthetic drugs, or what it called designer drugs. The INCB said the development of such drugs is escalating so rapidly that governments need to adopt generic bans on new substances.

The report cited 4-methyl-methcathinone, or mephedrone, which has effects similar to cocaine or amphetamines and is being marketed as bath salts under names like Ivory Wave. The drug is currently the cause of ongoing concern in the US, where it has been banned in at least four states, and in Europe, where it has been banned by the European Union.

"Mephedrone has now become a problem drug of abuse in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and in Australia and New Zealand," the INCB report said. But mephedrone is just "one example of a large number of designer drugs that are being abused."

The European Union, for example, is monitoring 15 other methcathinone analogues alone, while Japan recently placed 51 designer drugs under control. The INCB is recommending generic bans on such substances.

"Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances," said Ghodse.

The INCB's schizophrenic report -- increase access to licit opioid pain medications, continue to ban new drugs -- reflects its bifurcated mission. At the same time it is charged with ensuring an adequate supply of medicines to the world, it is also charged with preventing non-medical use and diversion.

Vienna
Austria

54th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The Economic and Social Council established the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 1946 as the central policy-making body of the United Nations in drug related matters. The Commission enables Member States to analyse the global drug situation, provide follow-up to the twentieth special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem and to take measures at the global level within its scope of action. It also monitors the implementation of the three international drug control conventions and is empowered to consider all matters pertaining to the aim of the conventions, including the scheduling of substances to be brought under international control.

For more information, see http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/commissions/CND/session/54.html

Date: 
Mon, 03/21/2011 - 10:00am - Fri, 03/25/2011 - 6:00pm
Location: 
Wagramer Strasse 5 Vienna International Centre (VIC)
Vienna 1220
Austria

Bolivians Hold Coca "Chew-Ins" Opposing UN Ban

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coca-chew-in-1.jpg
photos courtesy Andean Information Network
Thousands of Bolivians took to the streets January 26 to chew coca leaf in support of their government's effort to have coca chewing removed from the list of proscribed activities and substances under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The government of President Evo Morales 18 months ago offered an amendment to the treaty that urges the United Nations to undo the ban on coca chewing.

Coca, a plant indigenous to the Andes, is the source of cocaine, but the coca leaf has been part of traditional Andean culture for thousands of years. Chewing the leaf provides an energy boost and relieves hunger pangs. Bolivia has recognized the coca leaf as part of its cultural patrimony.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coca-chew-in-2.jpg
Advocates for the amendment point to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It says that "indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions."

As the January 31 deadline to contest the amendment draws has come and gone, the US, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Germany, and Norway have objected to the amendment. The new Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos withdrew an objection it had filed in December. If there had been no objections, the amendment would have automatically taken effect, but now the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will have to decide whether to approve or reject the amendment, or to convene a conference of the parties to discuss the matter.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coca-chew-in-3.jpg
Last week, the US Embassy in Bolivia tried to play both sides of the aisle, saying in a statement that it "respects indigenous peoples' culture and recognizes that acullico (coca-chewing) is a traditional custom in Bolivian culture," but that it does not support the amendment because of "the importance of maintaining the integrity of the 1961 Convention, which represents an important tool in the global fight against narcotrafficking."

Now it will be up to ECOSOC to move this issue forward.

 
http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coca-chew-in-4.jpg












 

Bolivia

International Day of Action in Defense of Coca Chewing Underway

Location: 
Bolivia
Coca growers from the Chapare (Cochabamba) and the Yungas (La Paz) — Bolivia’s two coca-growing regions — have travelled to Bolivia’s nine departmental capitals today to publicly chew the traditional leaf and to support the Bolivian government campaign to end the UN prohibition on coca chewing.
Publication/Source: 
European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (Belgium)
URL: 
http://www.encod.org/info/International-Day-of-Action-in.html

Afghan Opium Crop May Rise After "Cash Bonanza"

Location: 
Afghanistan
Opium prices in Afghanistan more than doubled last year after disease cut production in half, the United Nations said, creating a "cash bonanza" for many farmers that could drive up cultivation of the drug in 2011.
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE70J4H120110120

Bolivia Presents Coca Leaf Soda. The U.S. Objects

Location: 
Bolivia
The United States is urging all countries to file formal objections to Bolivia’s announcement that it had developed a coca leaf soft drink. Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, permits limited cultivation of coca for legal use in cooking, folk medicine and Andean religious rites. Unadulterated coca is a mild stimulant that counteracts the effects of altitude sickness and suppresses hunger pangs.
Publication/Source: 
Fox News (US)
URL: 
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2011/01/18/new-coca-based-soda-backed-bolivian-government/

US Says No to Lifting UN Coca Leaf Ban

A year and a half ago, the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales formally requested an amendment to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to remove the ban on coca leaf chewing and bring the treaty in line with the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now, with the deadline to contest that amendment drawing near, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) is reporting that the US and other Western countries are mobilizing to kill the amendment. The IDPC is calling on those countries to abstain from blocking the amendment.

Bolivian coca leaf chewer (image courtesy of the author)
There are only two weeks before the January 31 deadline. According to the IDPC, the US, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Sweden are all planning to try to block the amendment. The IDPC characterizes the move as trying "to stop the right of Bolivians to express their own culture."

Washington made it official Tuesday. An anonymous "senior US official" told the Associated Press the US would file a formal objection to the request. "We hope a number of other countries will file as well," he said.

While coca is the raw material from which cocaine is made, it is also a plant that has been used by the indigenous peoples of the Andes for thousands of years. It is valued for its mild stimulant and hunger-suppressing effects. Bolivia is the world's third largest producer of coca, behind Peru and Colombia.

"Coca leaf chewing is one of the socio-cultural practices and rituals of the Andean indigenous peoples. It is closely linked to our history and cultural identity,” President Morales wrote in a letter to the UN seeking the amendment. This traditional practice "cannot and should not be prohibited," he added.

"At a time when drug prohibition has enriched and emboldened criminal cartels to such an extent that they are attempting to violently annex the state in parts of Mexico and Guatemala, the US is expending considerable effort in blocking the Bolivian government’s legitimate and democratic right to protect and preserve a harmless indigenous practice," said British MP Jeremy Corbin, secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bolivia. "The international community needs to get its priorities right and resist this culturally ignorant attempt to dictate to indigenous people in Bolivia."

And someone needs to tell Washington.

Bolivia

This Year's Top 10 International Drug Policy Stories

This year saw continued turmoil, agitation, and evolution on the international drug policy front. While we don't have the space to cover all the developments -- the expansion of medical marijuana access in Israel, the rise of Portugal as a drug reform model, the slow spread of harm reduction practices across Eurasia -- here are what we see as the most significant international drug policy developments of the year.

The Mexican Tragedy

San Malverde, Mexico's patron saint of narco-traffickers
Mexico's ongoing tragedy is exhibit number one in the failure of global drug prohibition. This month, the official death toll since President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the so-called cartels in December 2006 passed 30,000, with 10,000 killed this year alone. The multi-sided conflict pits the cartels against each other, cartel factions against each other, cartels against law enforcement and the military, and, at times, elements of the military and different levels of law enforcement against each other. The US has spent $1.2 billion of Plan Merida funds, mainly beefing up the police and the military, and appropriated another $600 million this summer, much of it to send more lawmen, prosecutors, and National Guard units to the border. None of it seems to make much difference in the supply of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine coming over (under, around, and through) the border, but the horrorific violence of Mexico's drug war is eroding public confidence in the state and its ability to exercise one of its essential functions: maintaining order. The slow-motion disaster has spurred talk of legalization in Mexico -- and beyond -- but there is little chance of any real movement toward that solution anytime in the near future. In the mean time, Mexico bleeds for our sins.

The Rising Clamor for a New Paradigm and an End to Drug Prohibition

The critique of the international drug policy status quo that has been growing louder and louder for the past decade or so turned into a roar in 2010. Impelled in part by the ongoing crisis in Mexico and in part by a more generalized disdain for failed drug war policies, calls for radical reform came fast and furious, and from some unexpected corners this year.

In January, the former French Polynesian President Oscar Temaru called for Tahiti to legalize marijuana and sell it to European tourists to provide jobs for unemployed youth. Three months later, members of the ruling party of another island nation spoke out for reform. In traditionally tough on drugs Bermuda, leading Progressive Labor Party members called for decriminalization.

In February, an international conference of political figures, academics, social scientists, security experts, and activists in Mexico City called prohibition in Mexico a disaster and urged drug policies based on prevention, scientific evidence, and respect for human life. By August, as the wave of violence sweeping Mexico grew ever more threatening, President Felipe Calderon opened the door to a discussion of drug legalization, and although he quickly tried to slam it shut, former President Vicente Fox quickly jumped in to call for the legalization of the production, distribution, and sale of drugs. "Radical prohibition strategies have never worked," he said. That inspired Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to say that he supported the call for a debate on legalization. The situation in Mexico also inspired two leading Spanish political figures, former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales and former drug czar Araceli Manjon-Cabeza to call for an end to drug prohibition in the fall.

Midsummer saw the emergence of the Vienna Declaration, an official conference declaration of the World AIDS Conference, which called for evidence-based policy making and the decriminalization of drug use. The declaration has garnered thousands of signatures and endorsements, including the endorsements of three former Latin American presidents, Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Cesar Gaviria of Colombia. It has also picked up the support of public health organizations and municipalities worldwide, including the city of Vancouver.

Great Britain has also been a locus of drug war criticism this year, beginning with continuing resignations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Several members of the official body had quit late last year in the wake of the firing of Professor David Nutt as ACMD after he criticized government decisions to reschedule cannabis and not to down-schedule ecstasy. In April, two more ACMD members resigned, this time in response to the government's ignoring their recommendations and banning mephedrone (see below).

The revolt continued in August, when the former head of Britain's Royal College of Physicians joined the growing chorus calling for radical reforms of the country's drug laws. Sir Ian Gilmore said the government should consider decriminalizing drug possession because prohibition neither reduced crime nor improved health. That came just three weeks after Nicholas Green, chairman of the Bar Council (the British equivalent of the ABA), called for decriminalization. The following month, Britain's leading cannabis scientist, Roger Pertwee called for cannabis to be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco, and the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officer's drug committee said marijuana should be decriminalized. Chief Constable Tim Hollis said decrim would allow police to concentrate on more serious crime. The following day, the Liberal Democrats, junior partners in a coalition government with the Conservatives, were lambasted by one of their own. Ewan Hoyle called for a rational debate on drug policy and scolded the party for remaining silent on the issue. And just this past week, former Blair administration Home Office drug minister and defense minister Bob Ainsworth called for the legalization of all illicit drugs, including cocaine and heroin.

From Mexico to Great Britain, Vancouver to Vienna, not to mention from Tahiti to Bermuda, the clamor for drug legalization has clearly grown in volume in 2010.

Opium and the Afghan War

More than nine years after the US invaded Afghanistan in a bid to decapitate Al Qaeda and punish the Taliban, the US and NATO occupation drags bloodily on. This year has been the deadliest so far for Western occupiers, with 697 US and NATO troops killed as of December 20. And while the US war machine is fueled by a seemingly endless supply of borrowed cash -- another $160 billion was just authorized for the coming year -- the Taliban runs to a large degree on profits from the opium and heroin trade. In a Faustian bargain, the West has found itself forced to accept widespread opium production as the price of keeping the peasantry out of Taliban ranks while at the same time acknowledging that the profits from the poppies end up as shiny new weapons used to kill Western soldiers and their Afghan allies. The Afghan poppy crop was down this year, not because of successful eradication programs, but because a fungus blighted much of the crop. But even that is not good news: The poppy shortage means prices will rebound and more farmers will plant next year. The West could buy up the entire poppy crop for less than what the US spends in a week to prosecute this war, but it has so far rejected that option.

The Netherlands Reins in Its Cannabis Coffee Shops

Holland's three-decade long experiment with tolerated marijuana sales at the country's famous coffee shops is probable not going to end under the current conservative government, but it is under pressure. The number of coffee shops operating in the country has dropped by about half from its peak, local governments are putting the squeeze on them via measures such as distance restrictions (must be so far from a school, etc.), and the national government is about to unveil a plan to effectively bar foreigners from the shops. The way for that was cleared this month when the European Court of Justice ruled that such a ban did not violate European Union guarantees of freedom of travel and equality under the law within the EU because what the coffee shops sell is an illegal product that promotes drug use and public disorder. Whether the "weed pass" system contemplated by opponents of "drug tourism" will come to pass nationwide remains to be seen, but it appears the famous Dutch tolerance is eroding, especially when it comes to foreigners. Do the Dutch really think most people go there just to visit the windmills and the Rijksmuseum?

Russian Takeover at the UNODC

In September, there was a changing of the guard at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), one of the key bureaucratic power centers for the global drug prohibition regime. Outgoing UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa, a former Italian prosecutor, was replaced by veteran Russian diplomat Yury Fedotov. Given Russia's dismal record on drug policy, especially around human rights issues, the treatment of hard drug users, and HIV/AIDS prevention, as well as the Russian government's insistence that the West resort to opium eradication in Afghanistan (Russia is in the throes of a heroin epidemic based on cheap Afghan smack), the international drug reform community looked askance at Fedotov's appointment. But the diplomat's first missive as ONDCP head talked of drug dependence as a disease, not something to be punished, and emphasized a concern with public health and human rights. Fedotov has shown he can talk the talk, but whether he will walk the walk remains to be seen.

US War on Coca on Autopilot

Coca production is ongoing, if down slightly, in the Andes, after more than a quarter century of US efforts to wipe it out. Plan Colombia continues to be funded, although at declining levels, and aerial and manual eradication continues there. That, and a boom in coca growing in Peru, have led to Peru's arguably retaking first place in coca production from Colombia, but have also led to increased conflict between Peruvian coca growers and a hostile national government. And remnants of the Shining Path have appointed themselves protectors of the trade in several Peruvian coca producing regions. They have clashed repeatedly with Peruvian police, military, and coca eradicators. Meanwhile, Bolivia, the world's number three coca producer continues to be governed by former coca grower union leader Evo Morales, who has allowed a limited increase in coca leaf production. That's enough to upset the US, but not enough to satisfy Bolivian coca growers, who this fall forced Evo's government to repeal a law limiting coca leaf sales.

Canada Marches Boldly Backward

Canada under the Conservatives continues to disappoint. When the Liberals held power in the early part of this decade, Canada was something of a drug reform beacon, even if the Liberals could never quite get around to passing their own marijuana decriminalization bill while in power. They supported Vancouver's safe injection site and embraced harm reduction policies. But under the government of Prime Minister Steven Harper, Canada this year fought and lost (again) to shut down the safe injection site. Harper's justice minister, Rob Nicholson, in May signed extradition papers allowing "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery to fall into the clutches of the Americans, in whose gulag he now resides for the next four years for selling pot seeds. And while Harper's dismissal of parliament in January killed the government's bill to introduced mandatory minimum sentences for a number of offenses, including growing as few as five pot plants, his government reintroduced the bill this fall. It just passed the Senate, but needs to win approval in the House of Commons. The Conservatives won't be able to pass it by themselves there, so the question now becomes whether the Liberals will have the gumption to stand against it. This as polls consistently show a majority of Canadians favoring marijuana legalization.

A New Drug Generates a Tired, Old Response

When in doubt, prohibit. That would seem to be the mantra in Europe, where, confronted by the emergence of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant derived from cathinone, the active ingredient in the khat plant, first Britain and then the entire European Union responded by banning it. Described as having effects similar to cocaine or ecstasy, mephedrone emerged in the English club scene in the past 18 months, generating hysterical tabloid press accounts of its alleged dangers. When two young people supposedly died of mephedrone early this year, the British government ignored the advice of its Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which called for it to be a Schedule B drug, and banned it. Poland followed suit in September, shutting down shops that sold the drug and claiming the power to pull from the shelves any product that could be harmful to life or health. And just this month, after misrepresenting a study by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction, the EU instituted a continent-wide ban on mephedrone. Meet the newest entrant into the black market.

Heroin Maintenance Expands Slowly in Europe

Heroin maintenance continues its slow spread in Europe. In March, Denmark became the latest country to embrace heroin maintenance. The Danes thus join Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and, to a lesser degree, Britain, in the heroin maintenance club. In June, British scientists rolled out a study showing heroin maintenance worked and urging the expansion of limited existing programs there. The following month, a blue-ribbon Norwegian committee called for heroin prescription trials and other harm reduction measures there. Research reports on heron maintenance programs have shown they reduce criminality among participants, decrease the chaos in their lives, and make them more amenable to integration into society.

Opium is Back in the Golden Triangle

Okay, it never really went away in Laos, Burma, and Thailand, and it is still below its levels of the mid-1990s, but opium planting has been on the increase for the last four years in the Golden Triangle. Production has nearly doubled in Burma since 2006 to more than 38,000 hectares, while in Laos, production has more than doubled since 2007. The UNODC values the crop this year at more than $200 million, more than double the estimate of last year's crop. Part of the increase is attributable to increased planting, but part is accounted for by rising prices. While Southeast Asian opium production still trails far behind that in Afghanistan, opium is back with a vengeance in the Golden Triangle.

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