Harm Intensification

RSS Feed for this category

California Governor Vetoes Needle Access Bill

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last Thursday vetoed a bill that would have allowed pharmacies all over California sell syringes to adults without a prescription. The bill was touted by health experts as a key step in reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases.

mobile needle exchange/clinic site, Fresno
The state Department of Public Health estimates that approximately 3,000 California residents contract hepatitis C through syringe sharing every year and another 750 cases of HIV are caused by syringe sharing. Sharing dirty needles is the leading cause of new hepatitis C infections in the state and the second leading cause of new HIV infections.

"When I signed legislation my first year in office allowing for a pilot program to allow the sale of syringes through participating counties and registered pharmacies, I was seeking to balance the competing public health, law enforcement and local control issues that this issue requires," the governor wrote in his veto message. "I believe this balance was achieved and SB 1029 would remove the ability of local officials to best determine policies in their jurisdiction. Some counties have not sought to implement this pilot program, citing competing priorities, lack of pharmacy interest and law enforcement opposition. I respect these local decisions and while I appreciate the author’s hard work and dedication to this issue, I cannot sign this bill," Schwarzenegger wrote.

Instead, Schwarzenegger signed AB 1701, which extends the existing Disease Prevention Demonstration Project for another eight years. That gives cities and counties the option of opting out of the program and not allowing syringe sales without a prescription.

The veto angered SB 1029 author Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who in a statement last Friday said Schwarzenegger apparently "was not interested in an effective public health measure that would reduce health care costs to taxpayers. Not only did he ignore the recommendation of doctors and other health experts, but he ignored the fact that HIV-AIDS and hepatitis do not recognize county borders. Such epidemics are certain to continue without implementing these comprehensive strategies."

SB 1029's approach "has been evaluated extensively throughout the world and has been found to significantly reduce rates of HIV and hepatitis without contributing to any increase in drug use, drug injection, crime or unsafe discard of syringes," Yee continued. "In fact, there is not one credible study that refutes these findings. The governor’s veto is a moral and fiscal dilemma."

The veto was "tragic and infuriating," said Laura Thomas of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supported Yee's bill. "It is an irrational attachment to drug war hysteria, at the expense of human life and fiscal responsibility to the California taxpayer," she said. "Nothing would have worked better and cost less in reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C than SB 1029."

Sacramento, CA
United States

Former Spanish Drug Czar Says Legalize Drugs

Madrid
Spain

What the Pot Legalization Campaign Really Threatens: Alcohol Industry Profits (Opinion)

Location: 
CA
United States
David Sirota, author of the best-selling books Hostile Takeover and The Uprising, believes our society is drunk off of alcohol propaganda we've had trouble separating fact from fiction.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugs/148279/what_the_pot_legalization_campaign_really_threatens%3A_alcohol_industry_profits

Alcohol Industry Contributions Net Anti-Marijuana Spokesman on the Hill (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2010

CONTACT: Mason Tvert, SAFER executive director, 720-255-4340

Alcohol Industry Contributions Net Anti-Marijuana Spokesman on the Hill

Congressman speaking out against marijuana and Obama's approach to it has received at least $20,000 from the beer and liquor industry this cycle

DENVER -- A national marijuana advocacy organization is calling on U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) to explain why he is speaking out against marijuana and accusing the current administration of encouraging its use when he is in fact receiving money from the alcohol industry, which produces, distributes and promotes a far more harmful substance.  Late last week, revelations that the alcohol industry is funding the campaign to defeat a marijuana legalization initiative in California resulted in a number of headlines nationwide and sparked outrage amongst supporters of marijuana policy reform.  See <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/21/this-buds-not-for-you-bee_n_732901.html?ref=fb&src=sp for the whole story.

According to a blog post published this afternoon on The Hill's website:

"The administration is clearly sending the message that they don't think it's bad to use marijuana," Smith said on Fox News. "So they're encouraging the use of marijuana. And that simply is not a good thing to do."

See: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/120035-top-republican-obama-administration-encouraging-use-of-marijuana for the whole story.

"Marijuana is becoming more acceptable and the alcohol industry is defending its turf," said Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), a non-profit organization that highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.  "The booze industry and its good friends in Washington recognize that marijuana legalization is imminent and it is fighting to maintain alcohol's status as the only legal intoxicant.  This, despite the fact that it is far more harmful than marijuana to the user and society."

SAFER and marijuana reform supporters nationwide are now calling on the congressman to explain his opposition to marijuana in light of his acceptance of campaign contributions from the alcohol industry.  According to OpenSecrets.org, his current campaign has received at least $20,000 from the beer, wine, and liquor industry, including a $10,000 donation from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, a $5,000 contribution from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, and $5,000 from Constellation Brands Premium Wine and Spirits Company.

"For Rep. Smith to accept money from the alcohol industry and then work to stifle that industry's competition is unethical and hypocritical," Tvert said.  "It's time he explained his reason for preferring adults use alcohol -- a substance whose use alone kills more than 30,000 Americans per year -- instead of marijuana, which has never resulted in a single death in history.

"Unlike marijuana, alcohol use contributes to domestic violence, sexual assaults, and other serious problems," Tvert said. "If Rep.

Smith is so concerned about public safety, why is he helping Big Alcohol drive Americans to drink?  He should be thrilled that more Americans are making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol when they relax and recreate."

# # #

SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation) is a national non-profit organization based in Denver and dedicated to educating the the public about the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol for the user and society.  Its social welfare lobbying arm, the SAFER Voter Education Fund, advocates for laws and policies that reflect that fact and no longer steer people toward drinking and away from making the safer choice.  For more information visit http://www.saferchoice.org/

Alcohol Lobby Teams with Law Enforcement to Fund Anti-Marijuana Campaign (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

SEPTEMBER 15, 2010

Alcohol Lobby Teams with Law Enforcement to Fund Anti-Marijuana Campaign

California Beer and Beverage Distributors Give $10K to “No On Proposition 19” Campaign in Attempt to Kill the Competition 

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP director of communications …………… 202-905-2030 or 443-927-6400

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On September 7, a major new front opened up in the campaign for Proposition 19, the ballot measure to tax and regulate marijuana in California. On that day, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors made a $10,000 contribution to a committee opposing Proposition 19. Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project and co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, had the following reaction to the news:

         “Unless the beer distributors in California have suddenly developed a philosophical opposition to the use of intoxicating substances, the motivation behind this contribution is clear,” Fox said. “Plain and simple, the alcohol industry is trying to kill the competition. They know that marijuana is less addictive, less toxic and less likely to be associated with violent behavior than alcohol. So they don’t want adults to have the option of using marijuana legally instead of alcohol. Their mission is to drive people to drink.”

         The alcohol industry is now working hand-in-hand with the law enforcement community to keep marijuana illegal. For example, the California Police Chiefs Association has given at least $30,000 to the “No on Proposition 19” campaign, while the California Narcotics Officers’ Association has chipped in $20,500 of its own. This partnership underscores the hypocrisy among law enforcement officials opposed to Prop. 19.

         “Members of law enforcement have argued against Proposition 19 by asserting, ‘We have enough problems with alcohol, we don’t need to add another intoxicating substance to the mix,’ implying that marijuana is just as bad as alcohol,” Fox continued. “But the truth is that a legal marijuana market would not add another dangerous intoxicant to the mix; rather it would provide adults with a less harmful legal alternative to alcohol.”

         “In their campaign to defeat Proposition 19, members of law enforcement and the alcohol industry have joined together under an umbrella group calling themselves ‘Public Safety First.’ Sadly, by fighting to keep marijuana illegal and steering adults toward alcohol instead, they are putting public safety last,” said Fox.

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

####

Location: 
CA
United States

Canadian Medical Association Journal Article Sides with Drug Injection Site

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal slams the federal government for its efforts to shut down Insite in downtown Vancouver, Canada's only safe injection site for drug addicts.
Publication/Source: 
CBC Radio-Canda (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/08/30/con-insite-cmaj.html

Rasmussen Poll: Fewer Than One In Five Americans Say Marijuana Is More Dangerous Than Booze

Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered. Only 17% of those polled said that marijuana is the more dangerous than alcohol. A majority of respondents (65 percent) said that they believed that marijuana would be legal in the United States within ten years.
Publication/Source: 
eNews Park Forest (IL)
URL: 
http://www.enewspf.com/index.php/latest-news/analysis/18028-rasmussen-poll-fewer-than-one-in-five-americans-say-marijuana-is-more-dangerous-than-booze-

On the street, you can see the harm caused by drug laws (Opinion)

Location: 
Canada
Former British Columbia police officer David Bratzer discusses drug prohibition's role in increasing the rate of HIV infections, and how the Vienna Declaration is trying to bring positive change.
Publication/Source: 
The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/street+harm+caused+drug+laws/3334743/story.html

UNODC: The Russians Are Coming

[Update, 6:20pm EST: Peter Sarosi at HCLU just told me Ban Ki-moon has indeed picked Fedotov. Hence I have removed the question mark from the end of the title of this article. :( - DB]

Current head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Antonio Maria Costa is set to end his 10-year term at the end of this month, and according to at least one published report, a Russian diplomat has emerged as the frontrunner in the race to replace him. That is causing shivers in some sectors of the drug reform community because the Russians are viewed as quite retrograde in their drug policy positions.

The report names Russia's current ambassador to the United Kingdom, Yuri Fedotov, as the top candidate to oversee UNODC and its $250 million annual budget. Other short-listed candidates include Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana, who headed a UN anti-crime commission in Guatemala, Colombian Ambassador to the European Union Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and Brazilian attorney Pedro Abramovay. The final decision is up to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

If Fedotov wins the position, Russia would be in a far more influential position to influence international drug policy, and that is raising concerns because of Russia's increasingly shrill demands that the US and NATO return to opium eradication in Afghanistan, its refusal to allow methadone maintenance and its refusal to fund needle exchange programs even as it confronts fast-growing heroin addiction and HIV infection rates.

The concerns have crystallized in a campaign to block his appointment, including a Facebook group called We Don't Want A Russian UN Drug Czar!, which is urging people to send an email message to that effect to Secretary General Ki-moon. Group organizers the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have also produced a video on the subject:

Feature: Drug War a Devastating Failure, Scientists and Researchers Say in Vienna Declaration

A decade ago, scientists, researchers, and AIDS activists confronted a sitting president in South Africa who denied that AIDS was caused by HIV. They responded by declaring at the 2000 Durbin AIDS conference that the evidence was in and the matter was settled. Now, with the Vienna AIDS conference coming up later this month, they are at it again -- only this time the target is the war on drugs.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/vienna2009demo1.jpg
HCLU-organized demonstration outside UN anti-drug agency, former SSDP executive director Kris Krane inside cage (drogriporter.hu/en/demonstration)
Their weapon is the Vienna Declaration, an official conference statement authored by experts from the International AIDS Society, the International Center for Science in Drug Policy, and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The document is a harsh indictment of the global drug war that calls for evidence-based policymaking. It demands that laws which criminalize drug users and help fuel the spread of AIDS be reformed.

The authors of the Vienna Declaration want you to sign on, too. You can do so at the web site linked to above.

"The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed," they said in the declaration.

Arguing there is "overwhelming evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to meet its stated objectives," the declaration lays out the consequences of the drug war:

  • HIV epidemics fueled by the criminalization of people who use illicit drugs and by prohibitions on the provision of sterile needles and opioid substitution treatment.
  • HIV outbreaks among incarcerated and institutionalized drug users as a result of punitive laws and policies and a lack of HIV prevention services in these settings.
  • The undermining of public health systems when law enforcement drives drug users away from prevention and care services and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C & B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased.
  • A crisis in criminal justice systems as a result of record incarceration rates in a number of nations. This has negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities. While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offenses are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.
  • Stigma towards people who use illicit drugs, which reinforces the political popularity of criminalizing drug users and undermines HIV prevention and other health promotion efforts.
  • Severe human rights violations, including torture, forced labor, inhuman and degrading treatment, and execution of drug offenders in a number of countries.
  • A massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of US $320 billion. These profits remain entirely outside the control of government. They fuel crime, violence and corruption in countless urban communities and have destabilized entire countries, such as Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.
  • Billions of tax dollars wasted on a "War on Drugs" approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives and, instead, directly or indirectly contributes to the above harms.

"Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts of misguided drug policies every day," said Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. "As scientists, we are committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime," added Montaner, who will serve as chairman of the Vienna conference.

"There is no positive spin you can put on the war on drugs," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Center for Science in Drug Policy. "You have a $320 billion illegal market, the enrichment of organized crime, violence, the spread of infectious disease. This declaration coming from the scientific community is long overdue. The community has not been meeting its ethical obligations in terms of speaking up about the harms of the war on drugs."

Stating that governments and international organizations have "ethical and legal obligations to respond to this crisis," the declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the UN to:

  • Undertake a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
  • Implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the individual and community harms stemming from illicit drug use.
  • Decriminalize drug users, scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options and abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centers that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the implementation of the comprehensive package of HIV interventions spelled out in the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Target Setting Guide.
  • Meaningfully involve members of the affected community in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives.
  • We further call upon the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to urgently implement measures to ensure that the United Nations system -- including the International Narcotics Control Board -- speaks with one voice to support the decriminalization of drug users and the implementation of evidence-based approaches to drug control.

"This is a great initiative," enthused Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It is the most significant effort to date by the sponsors of the global AIDS conference to highlight the destructive impact of the global drug war. It is nicely coordinated with The Lancet to demonstrate legitimacy in the medical community. And it is relatively far reaching given that the declaration was drafted as a consensus statement."

"This is aimed at politicians, leaders of governments, the UN system, and it's aimed at housewives. We are trying to do basic education around the facts on this. There are still politicians who get elected vowing to crack down on drugs," said Wood. "While the declaration has a global aim and scope, at the end of the day, the person who is going to end the drug war is your average voter, who may or may not have been affected by it," he said.

"This was needed a long time ago," said Wood. "The war on drugs does not achieve its stated objectives of reducing the availability and use of drugs and is incredibly wasteful of resources in locking people up, which does little more than turn people into hardened criminals," he said.

The authors are hoping that an official declaration broadly endorsed will help begin to sway policy makers. "It will be interesting to see what kind of support it receives," said Wood. "Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper has endorsed it, and we have a 2008 Nobel prize winner for medicine on the web site. There are high level endorsements, and more are coming. Whether we touch a nerve with the news media remains to be seen. I am hoping it will have a big impact since this is the official conference declaration of one of the largest public health conferences on the planet."

"We have reached a tipping point in the conversation about drugs, drug policy, drug law enforcement, and the drug war," said Stamper, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "More and more, science has found its way into the conversation, and this is one step to advance that in some more dramatic fashion. I've heard much from the other side that is emotional and irrational. This is one effort to create even more impetus for infusing this dialogue on drug policy with evidence-driven, research-based findings."

That the AIDS conference is being held in Vienna adds a special fillip to the declaration, Wood said. "Vienna is symbolically important because it is where the infrastructure for maintaining the global war on drugs is located," said Woods, "and also because of the problems in Eastern Europe. In Russia, it's estimated that one out of every 100 adults is infected with the AIDS virus because Russia has not embraced evidence-based approaches. Methadone maintenance therapy is illegal there, needle exchanges are severely limited, the treatment programs are not evidence-based, and there are all sorts of human rights abuses around the drug war."

With the AIDS conference set to open July 18, Wood and the other authors are hoping the momentum will keep building up to and beyond. "It is my hope that now that the Vienna Declaration is online, large numbers of people will come forward and lend their names to this effort," he said.

The Vienna Declaration is one more indication of just how badly drug war orthodoxy has wilted under the harsh gaze of science. It's hard to win an argument when the facts are against you, but as the declaration notes, there are "those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo." The declaration should make their jobs that much more difficult and bring progressive approaches to drug policy that much closer.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School