Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Europe: British Panel Calls for Complete Drug Law Overhaul

An expert panel in Britain Thursday called for a complete overhaul of the country's drug laws, saying Britain's Misuse of Drugs Act is so unscientific and unrealistic it should be scrapped in its entirety. The recommendation came in a 335-page report based on two years of deliberations by a panel of experts and laypeople convened by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA).

The report, Drugs -- Facing Facts is startlingly blunt in its assessment of current British drug policy -- which is very similar to US drug policy -- warning that "a radical rethink" of drug policy is needed before the government's review of the National Drug Strategy next year. Among its recommendations:

  • The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) should be repealed and replaced with a Misuse of Substances Act which incorporates alcohol, tobacco, solvents and over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
  • The new framework should be based on an index of substance-related harms -- physical, social and economic -- and drugs policy outcomes should be judged in terms of harms reduced rather than drugs seized or offenders prosecuted.
  • More emphasis should be placed on drugs education in primary school and less in secondary school, and more resources should be devoted to prevention work outside schools to reach young people in their own social settings.
  • Drug users should be treated in the same way as any other chronic disease sufferers. They should have better access to a range of options for their treatment including heroin prescribing where appropriate, better methadone prescribing, residential rehabilitation, psychological therapies and whole-family treatments.
  • Drug addicts who are managing their condition should not be discriminated against by public services such as housing and employment.
  • Through the framework of Local Area Agreements, local drugs policy should be joined up and include a renewed emphasis on creating resilient communities. Therefore, the lead in drugs policy should move from the Home Office to the Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Cannabis should continue to be controlled. But its position on the harms index several places below alcohol or tobacco suggests that the form this control takes might have to correspond far more closely with the way in which alcohol and tobacco are regulated.

"One of the themes of this report has been the need to shift drugs policy away from its current focus on crime reduction and the criminal justice system and onto a concern with drugs as posing a much more varied and complex set of social problems," said Professor Anthony King, chairman of the RSA drugs commission in a press statement accompanying the release of the report. "Drugs in our society are not just about crime; they are about individual health, public health, family life and the health and well-being of entire communities. It cannot be good for the UK that it is currently the drug-using centre of Europe."

With an eye on 2008, King called for the government to get to work on a radically new drug policy. "We urge ministers to set in train work on a new Misuse of Substances Act and to undertake with urgency the task of re-orienting drugs policy and redirecting it towards a broader conception of harm prevention and reduction. Current policy is broke and needs to be fixed."

Maryland: Drug Reform Efforts Picking Up in the Terrapin State

The Terrapin State is this year seeing increasing efforts to reform drug policy. As discussed in another article this issue, the Maryland Compassionate Use Act (HB 1040) would expand on a state medical marijuana law passed in 2003. Late last month -- perhaps preluding some larger effort -- the respected Justice Policy Institute issued a report, Maryland's Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing Laws: Their Impact on Incarceration, State Resources and Communities of Color.

Also last month, the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Delegates heard HB 283, a bill sponsored this year and last by Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Bethesda) that would require the state's education agency to provide state scholarships to students who qualify under the state's own standards but are ineligible for federal aid because of federal laws (like the Higher Education Act's drug provision). Currently such students may lose state as well as federal aid, but the decisions are delegated to individual school financial aid offices. HB 283 again did not make it through committee this year, though other avenues such as a Senate bill could be possible.

Things are looking better for a University of Maryland effort to reduce the penalties for students caught possessing marijuana in campus dorms. Currently, pot possession in the dorms is considered a Class A infraction of university rules, along with arson, assault, and similar violent crimes, and results in automatic expulsion from campus residence halls.

But after a year-long campaign by UMD SSDP and NORML chapters that saw a successful student voter initiative calling for the equalization of penalties for pot possession and underage possession of alcohol (a Class B infraction) and a subsequent Residence Hall Association Senate resolution calling on the Department of Residence Life to reclassify first-time pot possession to Class B, activists are now eagerly awaiting a decision by department director Deb Grandner on whether to accept the resolution's recommendation.

"I'm really optimistic about this," said UMD SSDP chapter head Anastasia Cosner. "I'll be meeting with Grander on Friday, and I'm going to tell her this has been approved by the students and by the residence halls, so she should probably just go ahead and approve it now."

Grandner is under some pressure to accede to the demand, said SSDP national executive director Kris Krane. "The student newspaper has done three stories on this in the past couple of weeks," he noted, "the Residence Halls Senate has called for the change, the president of the student government supports it, and now even a member of the House of Delegates has weighed in with a letter to Grandner."

"Failure to enact the recommendations of the RHA Senate by your office could have more serious implications than would result from a change in residential policy," warned Ana Sol Gutierrez, the same Delegate who sponsored HB 283. "Students who are forced to leave the residence halls during the semester often are not able to complete coursework, and may leave school altogether. Students who consequently abandon their goals for completing a college education are more likely to engage in less productive behaviors including abusing drugs in the future."

There is no firm deadline for Grandner to act, but activists say they are prepared to go to the next level if she demurs or delays. Hopefully they won't have to and a battle on the University of Maryland campus will be won sooner rather than later.

Feature: Medical Marijuana Goes Mainstream in the States

(Breaking: New Mexico effort still alive...)

Only a dozen years ago, no state made provision for the medicinal use of marijuana. Now, eleven years after California led the way with 1996's Proposition 215 initiative, patients have legal access to marijuana in 11 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington), while Maryland allows patients to mount an affirmative defense to marijuana charges. Arizona voters also passed a medical marijuana initiative in 1996, but because of its wording requiring a doctor's prescription (instead of a recommendation), the law there is essentially inoperative.

While in most medical marijuana states, the laws came about through the initiative and referendum process -- only Hawaii, Vermont, and Rhode Island have legalized medical marijuana through the legislature -- medical marijuana bills are pending this year in more than 20 states, according to a list provided to Drug War Chronicle by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). While advocates concede that given the cumbersome process of making law in the country's state houses, actual passage of medical marijuana legislation is likely this year in only a handful of states at best, it seems that medical marijuana has come in from the cold and is now a thoroughly mainstream issue.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey addresses 2005 medical marijuana press conference as Montel Williams awaits his turn at the podium
"There have been a bunch of bills introduced this year, with more to come," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "While in many cases we don't know off-hand what their chances are and many of them don't have a serious, professional effort behind them to get them passed, this is a good sign that this is no longer a fringe issue," he said.

"It is now clear that medical marijuana is increasingly a mainstream issue that is not terribly controversial anymore," Mirken continued. "Slowly but surely, legislators around the country are coming to realize this is something the public supports and that they can safely support."

"Many of these states have had about 10 years to vet this, there have been multiple bills introduced, multiple hearings, the first time out, they're generally not so successful, but the second time out, they get a little more traction, and by the third time it is almost self-evident that something has to be done," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "A few years ago, it was hard to point to a medical marijuana model, but now there are lots of models. At this point, legislators have no excuse for dragging their feet; they feel the moral imperative of responding to people who are sick and dying."

In several states with already existing medical marijuana laws, efforts are underway to expand those programs. Those states include Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In other states, efforts are afoot to enact medical marijuana laws for the first time. Here are some of the highlights:

In Illinois, a medical marijuana bill, SB 650, was passed Tuesday by the Senate Public Health Committee and now awaits a third reading next week. It is expected to get a Senate floor vote within a month. Introduced by Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the bill would allow people diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and their primary caregiver to register with the state for permission to possess up to 12 marijuana plants and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.

Despite concerns voiced by law enforcement and social conservatives, legislators in the committee voted 6-4 to approve the measure. They were swayed in part by testimony from the group Illinois Drug Education and Legislative (IDEAL) Reform, as well as citizens like Gretchen Steele of Coulterville. Steele, a registered nurse and multiple sclerosis sufferer, told the committee marijuana was able to effectively and safely treat her symptoms when other, more dangerous drugs had failed.

"I can tell you from firsthand experience that marijuana works better to control the spasticity, neuropathic pain, and tremors than do any of the myriad prescription medications that I currently take," she told the committee. "The fact that it is perfectly legal for my doctors to prescribe morphine, OxyCodone, diazepam, hydrocodone, and other drugs that are not only highly addictive but have many unpleasant side effects, yet it remains illegal to recommend marijuana, is beyond reasoning."

In Minnesota, SF0345 would allow patients suffering from a debilitating medical condition and who have a doctor's recommendation to register with the state to be protected from prosecution. Patients or caregivers could possess up to 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.

The bill has already passed the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee on a bipartisan voice vote and now awaits action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the measure "stands a good chance of passage in the Minnesota Legislature this year."

While the usual suspects -- law enforcement and social conservatives -- strongly oppose the bill, the Star-Tribune reports that half of House Republicans could vote for it. "Ten years ago it would have had no chance," said Rep. Steve Sviggum, who introduced a companion bill in the House. "Two years ago I probably would have been in opposition. This is a very emotional issue, but hopefully facts and information will come to the forefront."

In New Hampshire, Rep. Tim Robertson (D-Keene) announced this week that the medical marijuana bill he is sponsoring, HB 774, will get a hearing in the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee next Monday. Also this week, supporters in the Granite State released a poll showing 68% approval for medical marijuana there.

"This poll is just another indication that New Hampshire's medical marijuana bill is not only sensible, compassionate legislation -- it's also politically popular," said Robertson. "Voters are sending us a clear message: Give us a humane medical marijuana law now."

"I'm not at all surprised to learn that the overwhelming majority of Granite Staters support people like me who only want the freedom to make the best medical decisions possible," said Ian Taschner, who suffers from severe nausea. "I should be able to battle my debilitating symptoms and lead a semi-normal life without having to worry that using my doctor-recommended medicine makes me a criminal."

In New Mexico, proponents came closer than last year, picking up the support of Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who signaled his support for the bill. With time running out on this session -- it ends within two weeks -- he called Tuesday for the legislature to get moving on several of his pet projects, including medical marijuana. "We've only got a few days to go, and I'm urging very quick action on the ethics package," Richardson told local reporters. "I'm urging very quick, strong action on predatory lending. I want that cockfighting bill, I want medical marijuana, I want my tax cuts."

Late Thursday night when this article was finalized, Drug War Chronicle reported here that a vote was still pending and chances seemed good. Friday morning we received the news that the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act (SB007), failed a House vote 36-33 on Thursday afternoon.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, advocates of the legislation have vowed to continue their efforts. Erin Armstrong, a 25-year-old cancer victim after whom the bill was named, told the New Mexican, "We'll try it till it gets through. We're not going to give up on the state's patient community."

On Sunday it was reported that the issue was saved from legislative oblivion through efforts by Gov. Richardson and that the Senate had passed a modified version of the bill that will now in turn go before the House.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana proponents in states that already have such laws are looking to either strengthen or expand them:

In Maryland, the Maryland Compassionate Use Act (HB1040) was the subject of a Tuesday hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. While Maryland has a 2003 law that allows limited protection for medical marijuana patients, the new measure would allow patients to use the herb without fear of arrest or prosecution. It would create a registry, allow patients or caregivers to possess up to 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana, and bring Maryland fully into the ranks of the medical marijuana states.

The Maryland effort is supported by MPP, the Drug Policy Alliance, and Americans for Safe Access. "The science to support medical cannabis is overwhelming, yet the current law continues to treat patients like criminals. What seriously and chronically ill patients in Maryland need is assurance that their rights as patients will be protected," said Caren Woodson, Government Relations Director, Americans for Safe Access.

In Rhode Island, where the legislature last year overrode a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) to approve a medical marijuana bill, supporters are back this year to remove a sunset provision which would see the program expire on June 30. Rep. Thomas Slater (D-Providence), who, along with Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Providence), spearheaded last year's successful effort, is also behind the move to make it permanent.

"This is my third year involved with this bill," Slater said. "The first year we didn't really get anywhere. The second year we were very successful. It was overridden by the governor's veto but we were able to get the final vote. Now what we're trying to do is keep the marijuana bill alive to relieve patients' vomit [and] nausea, and to help people with cancer and muscular dystrophy. Right now we have 52 signatures, so I don't think we'll have any trouble passing it," he said. "If the governor vetoes, we're hoping to override that decision."

The states mentioned in this article aren't the only ones with medical marijuana legislation either introduced or pending, but they are the ones with the best chances of success this year. Still, given the difficulties of moving bills of any type through state legislatures, it would be a good year indeed if the number of medical marijuana states were to expand by three or four.

Weekly: This Week in History

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March 10, 1839: Lin Tse-hsü, the governor of the Chinese province of Hu-Huang, proclaims that the opium trade will no longer be tolerated in Canton, and he begins arresting known opium dealers in the local schools and naval barracks. Those found guilty of purchasing, possessing or selling opium are sentenced to public execution by strangulation. "Let no one think," Lin proclaimed, "that this is only a temporary effort on behalf of the Emperor. We will persist until the job is finished."

March 14, 1937: Setting a judicial precedent important to drug policy, the US Supreme Court rules that machine guns can be controlled by first taxing them, then using the tax act to prohibit them. One month later Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, introduces the Marijuana Tax Act to Congress.

March 11, 1966: Psychedelic guru Timothy Leary receives a 30-year prison sentence in Texas for trying to cross into Mexico with a small amount of marijuana.

March 9, 1982: The largest US domestic cocaine seizure ever to date raises US awareness of the Medellin cartel. The seizure of 3,906 pounds of cocaine, valued at over $100 million wholesale, from a Miami International Airport hanger tells US law enforcement that Colombian traffickers must be working together because no single trafficker could be behind a shipment that large.

March 10, 1984: By tracking the illegal sale of massive amounts of ether to Colombia, the DEA and Colombian police discover Tranquilandia, a laboratory operation deep in the Colombian jungle. In the subsequent bust, law enforcement officials destroy 14 laboratory complexes, which contain 13.8 metric tons of cocaine, 7 airplanes, and 11,800 drums of chemicals, conservatively estimated at $1.2 billion. The bust confirms the consolidation of the Medellin cartel's manufacturing operation.

March 12, 1998: Canada legalizes hemp production and sets a limit of 0.3% THC content that may be present in the plants and requires that all seeds be certified for THC content.

March 12, 1998: The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and West Hollywood write letters to President Clinton asking him to keep the cannabis buyers clubs open. They tell the president: "If the centers are shut down, many of these individuals will be compelled to search back alleys and street corners for their medicine," and ask him to "implement a moratorium on enforcement of federal drug laws that interfere with the daily operation of the dispensaries."

March 9, 2001: William J. Allegro, 32, of Bradley Beach, New Jersey is sentenced to 50 years in prison for growing marijuana in his home. "The court imposed this sentence because the court felt obligated to do so under the law," says Judge Paul F. Chaiet, a former prosecutor. "Mandatory sentencing provisions can create difficult results. In the court's view, this is one of those times where the ultimate results are difficult to accept."

March 10, 2004: In a Washington Post article, "Obesity Passing Smoking as Top Avoidable Cause of Death," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, when asked about unhealthy foods, says, "I don't want to start banning things… Prohibition has never worked." [NOTE: In 2000, only 0.7% of all deaths were due to illicit drug use while poor diet and physical inactivity was responsible for 16.6% of all deaths.]

Announcement: New Format for the Reformer's Calendar

With the launch of our new web site, The Reformer's Calendar no longer appears as part of the Drug War Chronicle newsletter but is instead maintained as a section of our new web site:

The Reformer's Calendar publishes events large and small of interest to drug policy reformers around the world. Whether it's a major international conference, a demonstration bringing together people from around the region or a forum at the local college, we want to know so we can let others know, too.

But we need your help to keep the calendar current, so please make sure to contact us and don't assume that we already know about the event or that we'll hear about it from someone else, because that doesn't always happen.

We look forward to apprising you of more new features on our web site as they become available.

Announcement: DRCNet RSS Feeds Now Available

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RSS feeds are the wave of the future -- and DRCNet now offers them! The latest Drug War Chronicle issue is now available using RSS at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed online.

We have many other RSS feeds available as well, following about a hundred different drug policy subtopics that we began tracking since the relaunch of our web site this summer -- indexing not only Drug War Chronicle articles but also Speakeasy blog posts, event listings, outside news links and more -- and for our daily blog postings and the different subtracks of them. Visit our Site Map page to peruse the full set.

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Chronicle on the Scene Feature: In Peru, the Coca Growers' Movement Gathers Strength, But Faces Hurdles

stunted coca plant in garden at Machu Picchu
Peru is, according to both United States and United Nations figures, the world's second largest producer of coca and cocaine, behind Colombia and ahead of Bolivia. In Colombia, the current bread basket of Andean coca production, coca growers face a hostile government and festering civil war. The odor of chemical herbicides fills the air in the country's coca growing zones, and Washington salutes President Alvaro Uribe for doing its bidding.

In Bolivia, where coca has been part of life for thousands of years, the coca growers' movement has blossomed to the point where one of its leaders, Evo Morales, has now ascended to the presidency and is taking an active role in defending the "sacred leaf." Morales is also pushing the industrialization of the coca leaf and is working with the Venezuelan and Cuban governments to push the process along. And he has responded to the clamor from coca growers in his native region of the Chapare by de facto expanding the size of the permitted coca crop.

In Peru, where coca also has a long history of traditional use, the coca growers (cocaleros) movement is neither as beleaguered as in Colombia nor as advanced as in Bolivia. While the government of President Alan Garcia continues its US-endorsed policies of forced eradication of excess coca and embracing alternative development as an option for coca growers, it also at least pays lip service to the notion of coca as a legitimate crop with numerous medicinal, alimentary and industrial uses.

Unlike Colombia, Peru recognizes the traditional market in coca and has created a national monopoly, ENACO, to buy up the legitimate crop. But the legitimate crop is only a fraction of the coca leaf produced in the country, so farmers there continue to face eradication campaigns and legal repression. More than 30,000 acres of coca fields were forcibly eradicated in 2005, and while final 2006 numbers are not yet in, that figure seems sure to be higher yet.

So Peruvian coca growers are in a feisty mood. They have clashed repeatedly with Peruvian police, soldiers, and civilian crop eradicators, they have held local strikes and national protests against forced eradication and what they see as crooked alternative development efforts, and now, some of their members are reaching positions of political power within the Peruvian government and regional political organizations.

Nancy Obregon, speaking at DRCNet's 2003 conference in Mexico, holding up coca leaves
"Nothing has changed with the new government," said Nancy Obregon, a former leader of the country's largest coca grower union, the National Confederation of Agricultural Producers of the Coca Fields (CONCPACCP), who was elected to the Peruvian congress in 2005. "It is a bad policy, very repressive, and now they are doing forced eradication again in Tocache and San Martin," the region she represents. "The government has a double discourse. It talks about valuing coca, but then eradicates it. Garcia is supporting the North American policy, but we are trying to achieve a more sensible and humane one, not one that represses the poorest while the rich businessmen in the drug trade go free."

While Obregon said she and allies in the congress are working to advance pro-coca legislation, the going is tough. As a member of the Nationalist Party of defeated presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, she and her allies are in the opposition.

"We cocaleros are people who live in extreme poverty and we have to grow the sacred leaf to survive," said current CONCPACCP head Nelson Palomino. "We are honest, hard-working Peruvians, and we are not guilty of anything for growing the coca plant to subsist," he said, chewing coca leaves as he spoke. "What are we to do? Alternative development has failed. The foreign money that is supposed to come to the valleys goes into the pockets of functionaries in Lima," Palomino complained. "We hope the world will understand that our intentions are good."

Nelson Palomino, with coca leaves
While CONCPACCP is the country's largest coca growers' union, it is not the only one, and some think that is a problem for the movement. The cocalero movement does have its problems, Palomino conceded. "We have a leadership that is isolated and radical, but shouting simple slogans like 'Gringos, No!' isn't going to solve our problems, nor is putting rocks in the highway," he explained. "Every struggle has its phases. First, the hard line, then the democratic part."

In Palomino's home area, the Ene River Valley, cocaleros have taken power precisely by democratic means. "In my valley, all of the 70 municipalities are ruled by cocaleros, and the government is worried. We have a democratic presence in Ayacucho and the Ene Valley. Now we have to put a stop to the stupid policy of eradication."

But that will require increasing the unity of the national cocalero movement. While Palomino claimed that CONCPACCP represents 90% of all Peruvian cocaleros, there are divisions and rivalries both within the confederation and between it and other coca grower leaders. Analysts familiar with but outside the cocalero movement accuse not only Palomino, but other leaders, such as Obregon and Andean Parliament representative Elsa Malpartida, both former CONCPACCP leaders, of falling prey to personalism and other political sins.

Meanwhile, in Monzon in the Upper Huallaga Valley, cocalero leader Iburcio Morales follows his own, radical path. "The situation is very complex," said Palomino. "We are very respectful of democracy and we can't dictate to other regions, but Iburcio walks alone because he doesn't listen to anything, and he talks to anybody -- the government, the Shining Path, you name it."

"The cocalero movement is isolated, subordinated to the general policies of the Peruvian government, uncoordinated, selfish, and unable to build a collective agenda to tackle the real problems of poverty, the environment, cultural issues, and the international political situation, particularly with the US," said lawyer, human rights activist, and drug and defense specialist Ricardo Soberon in a withering critique. Soberon also saw the electoral victories of Obregon and Malpartida as coming at a cost to the organizing process that had previously relied on their hands-on leadership.

"The movement lost good leaders when Nancy Obregon and Elsa Malpartida [both former CONCPACCP leaders] were elected to the Peruvian congress and the Andean Parliament, respectively. The Peruvian government is smart enough to know about the movement's inability to work together, and it plays them against one another. The government invites one leader, but not the other; it gives money to some, but not the others, and the cocalero leaders are so busy sniping at each other that they can't see the forest for the trees. I blame all four of the national leaders for this situation," said Soberon, who had been an advisor to Obregon but quit in frustration.

While Palomino scoffed at such criticisms, he qualified the democratic cocalero movement as "gestating." A "premature birth" would be a disaster, he said. "If this doesn't work in a democratic manner, we will see a lot of blood," he warned. "We are trying to prepare the ground; we want to do this right, we want to save the life of the coca plant and we want to save ourselves. We are not going to die of hunger," he vowed.

coca waiting by the side of the road to go to market, Ayacucho province, last month
Obregon also downplayed the criticism. "I am not a traditional politician; I am a peasant and a cocalero leader," she said Wednesday. "I don't have enemies within the movement, but there are comrades who have their own work and their own leadership. We have had failed leadership in the past, but we have to continue to strengthen ourselves and overcome those failures of leadership. It is difficult work, but we are making progress," she added, pointing to the election to office of herself and Elsa Malpartida.

While Obregon acknowledged back-biting and intramural sniping within the movement, she attributed it largely to human frailty. "There is envy and egocentrism, like there is everywhere," Obregon said. "We are also under attack by the yellow press, which misrepresents our actions. And, as women leaders, I think Elsa and I face a certain machismo. Yes, there are different national leaders, and some are more favored by the peasants than others, but there is no controversy within the movement," she maintained.

Although the Peruvian and US governments are quick to draw connections between coca growers and the lingering guerrillas of the Shining Path, Palomino was careful to deny any link between coca growers and the guerrillas, who gestated in Ayacucho in the 1960s and 1970s, then launched an attempted revolution that killed nearly 80,000 Peruvians in the 1980s before running out of steam. On the highway between Ayacucho and the VRAE, the ruins of villages burnt by the Shining Path are visible reminders of their brief and bloody reign. But the Shining Path still has a presence in the VRAE, where in recent months it has attacked and killed police and drug eradication workers.

[Editor's Note: At least, that's the official version. Cocalero leaders in the town where five policemen and two civilian eradication workers were killed earlier this year denied it was a Shining Path action. Instead, they said, the police had been accosting and robbing coca growers, and local residents took matters into their own hands.]

"CONCPACCP is against subversion, either on the part of the government or the clandestine forces," Palomino said. "We are a peaceful and democratic movement, and we would like to see an efficient policy toward the narco-traffic and toward subversion, but your drug war is not working. Your intelligence agencies are working without intelligence, and the police are likely to detain us as terrorists, but we cocaleros are not responsible for that."

For Palomino, a correct coca policy is one that does not attack coca, but one which concentrates on the drug traffic and on going after consumers in the First World. "A sincere policy would attack the chemicals used to make cocaine, and there is no drastic policy against the consumers," he maintained. [Editor's Note: At this point, your reporter had to interrupt to point out that in the US alone, more than 500,000 people are imprisoned in the drug war.] "The US doesn't go after the big chemical factories," Palomino continued. "The corruption and the drug trade is managed by the United States, the men in suits and ties, while they go after us, the humble peasants."

Eradication is definitely the wrong policy, Palomino said. "The Peruvian government is following the lead of the North Americans, but this policy is killing us. This is why we become a pole of resistance. We aren't a colony of the US, we aren't crazy, we chew coca all the time, and we are neither terrorists nor narco-traffickers, we are just trying to survive. We cannot permit forced eradication of our crops."

"The current policy is a disaster," agreed psychologist and coca expert Baldomero Caceres from his apartment in the upscale Lima suburb of Miraflores. "Nothing has changed under Garcia. Public opinion has begun to shift in the sense that the coca leaf is now beginning to be seen as a valuable natural resource, but the government hasn't acted on its own conclusions because it doesn't want to irritate the North American government. We are going to need a miracle, because the political establishment doesn't want to talk about this."

Soberon was largely in agreement on what needs to be done on coca policy in Peru. "First, we have to put a stop to the current things being done by the Peruvian state -- eradication, interdiction, militarization," he said. "The government goes along seizing ten or a dozen metric tons of cocaine a year and arresting 10,000 or 12,000 people, but most of them are just consumers who have to be released, and this is very inefficient. We need to have an assessment of what the current policies have achieved," he argued.

"Second, we need to leave the cocaleros alone. I would use the resources on the coast to get the cocaine leaving the country," he suggested. "We also need more transparency in alternative development. The peasants have been completely mistrustful of Lima for decades, and we have to show we trust the peasants. Finally, we have to fundamentally revise our relations with the US. What are our Peruvian priorities?"

Palomino and CONCPACCP look with hope toward the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in Vienna next year. "We are fortifying our cause for Vienna in 2008. We will work together against the drugs, but when they talk of coca, we demand that they legalize it and decriminalize it as an indigenous plant -- not a drug -- and promote it for industrial and nutritional use."

As for removing coca from the UN treaties' list of proscribed substances, Caceres was not hopeful. "I continue to be pessimistic about the prospects for change at that level," he said. "The Peruvian government isn't doing what needs to be done to present a case for change to the UN, and I don't think Bolivia can go it alone. That is the only useful route to affecting change, but I don't think it is time yet."

For Caceres, legalizing the coca plant would be only an interim step toward doing away with the global drug prohibition regime. "I believe that ultimately we need to work toward the legalization of both the plants and the pharmaceuticals derived from them," he said. "As with coca, so with marijuana and the opium poppy. But there is no reason to have hope that will happen in the foreseeable future," he lamented.

Soberon also had a sobering view of the prospects for change at the UN. "I think 2008 will only bring more of the same," he said. "Now that I have some idea how that bureaucracy works, I don't think things will move on that level. They may throw us a few bones, but at the end of the day, the drug issue is a political tool for the US to intervene in foreign countries. And while Morales in Bolivia may push things, Bogota will always do what the US wants, and so will Lima."

Peru's cocalero movement is strong and vibrant, but also divided and isolated. Beset by internecine rivalries and a difficult international conjuncture, it has so far been unable to fend off the worst of the repressive policies directed from Washington and Lima. While leaders like Nelson Palomino would like to achieve the stature of Bolivia's Evo Morales, none has yet managed to do so. Yet, the cocalero movement is by no means going away. The stakes are too high; for cocaleros it is not just a plant or a crop that is at stake, but their very culture and way of life.

When asked what he would say to the American government and people, Palomino extended a hand of friendship. "I would send a fraternal and democratic salute from the cocaleros. We are not your enemies, but your friends and brothers. But you need to change your international policies. We need alternatives that reduce poverty, not increase it, and we want to live in peace. We also transmit to your land the hope that our culture does not disappear. The very thought makes our blood run cold."

Announcement: DRCNet Content Syndication Feeds Now Available for YOUR Web Site!

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Are you a fan of DRCNet, and do you have a web site you'd like to use to spread the word more forcefully than a single link to our site can achieve? We are pleased to announce that DRCNet content syndication feeds are now available. Whether your readers' interest is in-depth reporting as in Drug War Chronicle, the ongoing commentary in our blogs, or info on specific drug war subtopics, we are now able to provide customizable code for you to paste into appropriate spots on your blog or web site to run automatically updating links to DRCNet educational content.

For example, if you're a big fan of Drug War Chronicle and you think your readers would benefit from it, you can have the latest issue's headlines, or a portion of them, automatically show up and refresh when each new issue comes out.

If your site is devoted to marijuana policy, you can run our topical archive, featuring links to every item we post to our site about marijuana -- Chronicle articles, blog posts, event listings, outside news links, more. The same for harm reduction, asset forfeiture, drug trade violence, needle exchange programs, Canada, ballot initiatives, roughly a hundred different topics we are now tracking on an ongoing basis. (Visit the Chronicle main page, right-hand column, to see the complete current list.)

If you're especially into our new Speakeasy blog section, new content coming out every day dealing with all the issues, you can run links to those posts or to subsections of the Speakeasy.

Click here to view a sample of what is available -- please note that the length, the look and other details of how it will appear on your site can be customized to match your needs and preferences.

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Contact us for assistance or to let us know what you are running and where. And thank you in advance for your support.

Europe: Candidate's Remarks Open Window on Scottish Labor Party Drug Policy Split

After years of embracing what is essentially a harm reduction approach to drug policy, the Scottish Labor Party (SLP) has recently turned toward a hard-line approach, with calls for drug users to embrace abstinence and plans to stop drug users from having children. But that doesn't sit well with Scottish parliament candidate and SLP member Norman Murray, who late last week lambasted his party's new drug policies as "simplistic and wrong."

"I just don't feel my own party's views on the drugs issues are necessarily the right ones," Murray said. "I think they might send out the wrong message to drug users, particularly people who are trying to come off heroin or crack cocaine. It's too simplistic a view to suggest people should go into cold turkey."

Murray took special umbrage at the SLP's embrace of "contracts" with drug users which would bar them from having children. "It is complete and utter nonsense," he said. "I just found that distasteful and it is part of the wrong message we are sending people."

Instead of taking a hard line, the SLP should embrace radical drug policy reform, including decriminalizing marijuana and possibly even harder drugs, said Murray, who is currently head of the East Lothian Council. "Decriminalization of cannabis is something I believe we should be arguing for. My own party isn't arguing that, but it's a view I strongly hold. Such a policy would take cannabis out of the black market," he said. "Criminalization is not working, and the police will tell you that. Cannabis does not lead to class A drugs, but it does allow the dealers to experiment with young people."

Perhaps the same should be done with heroin and cocaine, Murray suggested. "There is a strong argument coming from the police and medical people that says we should maybe be looking at licensing heroin and cocaine, creating a more controlled environment," he said.

Murray is in line to replace retiring Member of the Scottish Parliament Susan Deacon, who has already articulated similar criticisms of the new party line on drug policy. Deacon, a former health minister recently accused the SLP of offering "knee-jerk responses and blanket solutions" to Scotland's drug problems. "The fact is, it's time to get real," she said. "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."

But the reformist views of Murray and Deacon are not party policy, and an SLP spokesman was quick to distance the party from their remarks. "I simply cannot agree with Norman's reported comments," said the spokesman. "I am sure that anyone who has looked at the detail of what Labor is doing in the fight against drugs will see clearly that we have the right policy to tackle the cause and effects of drugs in Scotland."

And so goes the debate within Scotland's ruling political party.

Marijuana: Wisconsin's Dane County (Madison) Will No Longer Prosecute Simple Possession

The Dane County, Wisconsin, District Attorney's Office will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases involving less than 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of pot. Prosecutors said it wasn't an effort to decriminalize marijuana, merely recognition of limited resources and setting priorities for the office.

"There's been some adjustment in our policies," Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard told reporters March 1. While Blanchard acknowledged that state law defines marijuana possession as a crime, he said his office had different priorities. "We're simply going more wholesale to saying 25 grams or less of possession of marijuana -- not a crime."

With Dane County having the same number of prosecutors it had 20 years ago, prosecuting marijuana possession offenses cannot take priority over other crimes, Blanchard said. "We're about to have the same number of prosecutors in this office that we had in 1988," he noted. "We struggle to staff child abuse cases, so when it comes to something like marijuana possession we are not going to be handling it as aggressively as we could."

While state law mandates up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for simple marijuana possession, Dane County residents will now be looking at only a citation. In Madison, a ticket for pot possession could cost up to $109, but in some smaller Dane County communities, the fines could be much steeper, as in Fitchburg, where users could be hit with a $1,300 ticket. County communities without a local marijuana ordinance can submit cases to the District Attorney's Office, which will issue citations for violating the county anti-marijuana ordinance. That carries a fine of up to $310.

"Marijuana possession is one of the least significant cases we get in our office," Blanchard said. Cases with victims -- such as sexual and physical assaults and thefts -- take priority, he said. The county faces much more serious drug problems than marijuana, Blanchard said. "I don't think we have a marijuana problem in Dane County. I think we have a heroin problem. I think we have a crack problem... I think we have a much larger alcohol problem than we have a marijuana problem."

Europe: Dutch Left Greens Open Pro-Marijuana Web Site

Two Dutch Left Green (GroenLinks) politicians have opened a web site to promote marijuana and its legal use and enjoyment. The Weed Map web site includes a search tool that locates all of Holland's coffee shops, as the country's marijuana bars are colloquially known. Coffee shop locations are marked with a pot leaf logo, moving one's mouse over which causes a window with the shop's street address to pop up.

Weed Map web site in use -- partial screenshot
Left Green politicians David Rietveld and Koen Martens opened the web site because they want marijuana to be available to all "because smoking cannabis is pleasant," as the site says. "Smoking cannabis should simply be allowed. Always and everywhere. Because it is pleasant and in many respects better than alcohol, for example. Better for people's health and better for society."

But that isn't always the case, even in Holland, the site warns. "Some places do not offer the possibility of using cannabis. It is up to you to join us in charting these problem areas. Then we can urge councils to make sure coffee shops are within everybody's reach for once and for all."

The site was set up to parody the Weed Free anti-marijuana web site set up by the ruling Christian Democrats (CDA). "The CDA website states that cannabis use may be linked to psychological complaints," Rietveld told reporters over the weekend. "There is insufficient scientific evidence to support this, however."

Latin America: Brazilian Governor Says Legalize Drugs to Fight Crime

The governor of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro told reporters last Friday that legalizing drugs could help stem the violent crime that is making the city of Rio one of the most dangerous in Latin America. In doing so, he took a swipe at United States-style prohibitionist policies.

favela neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro
"A lot of crime in my state and city comes from [drug] prohibition, many young people die in wars over drug selling spots," said Gov. Sérgio Cabral. He called for a discussion of drug legalization in Brazil and internationally. "Is the United States correct in its conservative policy on drugs? In my view, absolutely incorrect," he said.

In the favelas of Rio, drug dealers organized into "commands" control entire neighborhoods and have engaged in uprising and gun battles with police on numerous occasions in the past few years. More recently, paramilitary vigilante groups known as "milicias" have joined the fray, waging war against the commands. This all contributes to a murder rate of about 40 per 100,000, making violent crime a serious social and political problem.

Gov. Cabral campaigned on a pledge to reduce violent crime and moved early in his administration to send federal special police into the city to confront the commands. But so far, it hasn't worked.

"The governor is merely saying out loud what so many more think but fear to say," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Rio today is like Chicago under Al Capone -- times ten. Reforming drug prohibition won't be as quick and easy as repealing alcohol Prohibition was, but there's no hope for breaking the drug-crime nexus unless many more elected officials heed Governor Cabral's call."

Sérgio Cabral
Cabral's comments were greeted cautiously but enthusiastically by Brazil's leading anti-prohibitionist drug reform organization, Rio-based Psicotropicus. In an open letter, the group lauded Cabral for having "the guts to say what the vast majority of people who understand the workings of the drug economy don't have the courage to say." For Psicotropicus, congratulations are in order for a governor "who begins his term with a step in the right direction as he dares to propose paths not yet traveled toward the solution of the grave problems resulting from the criminalization of some psychoactive substances and the barbarian violence produced by such criminalization."

Psicotropicus worries that Cabral will not move forward, but retreat in the face of criticism from drug warriors and moralists. It urges the governor to stand firm and put together a commission to move toward an end to the drug prohibition regime. The life of the city is at stake: "A transition has to be made, one that among other things should reduce the war arsenal in the hands of the several criminalized groups who control the illegal trade of drugs," the group argued. "There is a civil war going on in Rio de Janeiro and we don't realize that one of its main reasons is that we don't control those illicit drugs but instead put them in the hands of outlawed groups to produce and distribute them. And then we mobilize the police to fight these groups who heavily arm themselves, violence explodes and the population is fucked. It couldn't be more stupid."

Canada: Afghan Opium Should Be Bought Up and Marketed Worldwide, Defense Think Tank Says

A stolidly mainstream Canadian think tank, the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute, is calling for an international marketing board for Afghan opium in an effort to defang the Taliban insurgency and deflate the booming drug trade in Afghanistan. The recommendation came in an Institute report on Canada's involvement in Afghanistan that warned that the war against the Taliban could be lost.

2005 Senlis Council symposium on opium licensing, Kabul (photo by Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith)
The Institute and the report support Canadian involvement in Afghanistan, but say current NATO policies in the country need adjusting. The possibility of negotiating with the Taliban must be considered, the report concluded, as must innovative approaches to the Afghan opium dilemma.

Last year, Afghanistan accounted for more than 90% of the global supply of illicit opium, creating more than $3 billion in revenues. While much of that money goes to national and international traffickers, the crop is worth at least $750 million to Afghan farmers.

Attempting to eradicate Afghan opium crops, which is official US and NATO policy, only drives farmers into the waiting arms of the Taliban, said the report authored by Gordon Smith, Canada's ambassador to NATO between 1985 and 1990. A better approach would be to create an international clearinghouse to purchase opium crops and resell them in the legal medicinal market.

According to the report, Canada in Afghanistan: Is It Working?:

"Innovative alternatives are urgently required to replace current counterproductive policies of poppy eradication by force that only alienate farmers and drive them into the arms of the Taliban. Poppy production in Afghanistan has been a problem for over half a century and has consistently defied international control efforts. Meanwhile, the world's hospitals face a major shortage of opiate-based medicines like morphine. Canada should advocate for the creation of an international marketing board for Afghan poppy producers, whereby farmers are paid fair prices, and overseen by the auspices of a governmental body that would ensure central regulation, legality, and security. Production marketed through this body would be used solely for medicinal purposes on the international market."

As the West finds itself hung on the horns of the Afghan opium dilemma -- eradicate it and increase support for the Taliban; ignore it and watch the Taliban grow rich off the trade while the world's junkies drown in cheap smack -- calls for an innovative response like the one outlined by the Institute are coming with greater frequency. But there is little indication that they're listening in Washington.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Our "This Week's Corrupt Cops" feature may have been on hiatus while your editor was down South America way, but it's been pretty much business as usual. We're back now, and here's this week's edition with the usual cast of crooked cops and greedy guards. Let's get to it:

In Randolph County, North Carolina, a juvenile detention supervisor has been indicted on federal cocaine trafficking charges. James Ledwell, 37, who spent the last nine years teaching young people about the dangers of drugs, was arrested February 28 on federal charges. The indictment came three weeks after Ledwell was busted trying to sell more than a half-pound of coke to a Greensboro police officer.

In Hollywood, Florida, a veteran detective has surrendered after being charged along with three other officers in a sting where they thought they were protecting mob shipments of drugs and stolen art, diamonds, and watches. Hollywood Detective Thomas Simcox, 50, surrendered to federal agents February 28 and was released later that same day on a $350,000 bond. The four officers were charged with drug trafficking and other offenses after a two-year FBI sting in which they agreed to "protect and facilitate" criminal activities for what was supposed to be a "criminal organization based out of New York." Instead, it was feds posing as mobsters. Now the cops face up to life in prison.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a Scranton police officer was arrested March 1 after allegedly dealing drugs while on duty. Officer Mark Conway, 36, was in uniform when Lackawanna County detectives found five Oxycontin tablets and 33 methadone tablets in his car. Conway went down after an informant told police Conway had been addicted to heroin for more than a year and the informant had scored for him numerous times. A second informant recorded a conversation with Conway in which the officer agreed to deliver Oxycontin and methadone for $780. Conway was charged with possession of methadone, possession of OxyContin, unlawful delivery of OxyContin and two counts of using a telephone for a drug transaction. He is out on $25,000 bail.

In Fishkill, New York, an Ulster County jail guard was arrested Monday after being caught with 10 ounces of cocaine. Shawn Forte, 30, faces a charge of first degree criminal possession of a controlled substance after he was stopped for "speeding" on Interstate 84 in Fishkill. According to state police, the charges stemmed from an investigation by the Ulster County Sheriff's Office and the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team. Forte was being held without bail at the Dutchess County Jail as of mid-week, and more charges could be pending.

In Beaver, Pennsylvania, an outside report has found that the Beaver County Jail is "tainted" with sex, drugs, and violence, and jail guards are involved. The report found guards having sex with prisoners, guards physically abusing prisoners, guards accused of providing drugs to prisoners, and nearly half of prisoners who had been in for at least 60 days and were tested for drugs came back positive. Beaver County Controller Richard Towcimak, who chairs the prison board, said board members were "completely disheartened" by the report, while Beaver County District Attorney Tony Berosh said he would turn it over to the state attorney general's office.

Southwest Asia: Opium -- Not Just for Afghanistan Anymore?

With a keen eye peeled on his country's southern neighbor, Afghanistan, a Kyrgyz politician Wednesday came up with a unique solution to solving his own country's foreign debt problem. Kyrgyzstan Member of Parliament Azimbek Beknazarov, a former national prosecutor general, told parliament Kyrgyzstan should allow the planting of opium to pay its foreign debts.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
"To solve this problem [of foreign debt] we need unordinary steps. I know that my suggestion will stir a heated debate," Beknazarov said. "This year Afghanistan announced almost officially that it will increase opium crops. We have to do the same and permit our people to plant opium for a year or two. After that all international organizations will raise havoc and offer themselves to write off out country's debts," the deputy said.

Beknazarov's remarks came after the parliament refused to enroll in an international program that would write off part of the debt for the world's poorest countries because deputies did not want to admit that Kyrgyzstan is among those countries. The country's foreign debt is about $2 billion.

That figure is about two-thirds the estimated annual revenues from the Afghan opium trade. Afghanistan is also set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in anti-drug aid from the United States and NATO countries this year. While Beknazarov was undoubtedly speaking tongue in cheek, there is a certain element of truth to his remarks.

Anúncio: Novo Formato para o Calendário do Reformador

Com o lançamento da nossa nova página, O Calendário do Reformador não aparecerá mais como parte do boletim Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas, mas será mantido como seção de nossa nova página:

O Calendário do Reformador publica eventos grandes e pequenos de interesse para os reformadores das políticas de drogas ao redor do mundo. Seja uma grande conferência internacional, uma manifestação que reúna pessoas de toda a região ou um fórum na universidade local, queremos saber para que possamos informar os demais também.

Porém, precisamos da sua ajuda para mantermos o calendário atualizado, então, por favor, entre em contato conosco e não suponha que já estamos informados sobre o evento ou que vamos saber dele por outra pessoa, porque isso nem sempre acontece.

Ansiamos por informá-lo de mais matérias novas de nossa nova página assim que estiverem disponíveis.

Anúncio: Os Feeds RSS da DRCNet Estão Disponíveis

Os feeds RSS são uma onda do futuro – e a DRCNet os oferece agora! A última edição da Crônica da guerra Contra as Drogas está disponível usando RSS em http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed.

Temos muitos outros feeds RSS disponíveis também, sobre cerca de cem subtópicos diferentes das políticas de drogas que começamos a rastrear desde o relançamento da nossa página neste verão – relacionando não somente os artigos da Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas, mas também as publicações no Bar Clandestino, as listas de eventos, os links a notícias externas e mais – e para as nossas publicações diárias nos blogs e em seus diferentes subendereços. Visite o nosso Mapa do Sítio para ler a série completa.

Obrigado por se sintonizar na DRCNet e na reforma das políticas de drogas!

Anúncio: Agora os Feeds de Agregação de Conteúdo da DRCNet Estão Disponíveis para a SUA Página!

Você é fã da DRCNet e tem uma página que gostaria de usar para difundir a mensagem com mais força do que um único link ao nosso sítio pode conseguir? Temos o prazer de anunciar que os feeds de agregação de conteúdo da DRCNet estão disponíveis. Tanto se o interesse dos seus leitores está na reportagem investigativa quanto na Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas, o comentário corrente nos nossos blogs, a informação sobre subtópicos específicos da guerra às drogas, agora podemos dar-lhes códigos personalizáveis para que você os ponha nos lugares adequados no seu blog ou página e atualizem automaticamente os links ao conteúdo de conscientização da DRCNet.

Por exemplo, se você for um grande fã da Crônica da Guerra Contra as Drogas e acha que os seus leitores tirariam benefícios dela, pode ter as manchetes da última edição, ou uma porção delas, aparecendo e atualizando-se automaticamente quando sair cada nova edição.

Se a sua página é dedicada às políticas de maconha, pode publicar o nosso arquivo temático, com links a todos os artigos que publicamos na nossa página acerca da maconha – os artigos da Crônica, as publicações nos blogs, a lista de eventos, links a notícias externas e mais. O mesmo vale para a redução de danos, o seqüestro de bens, a violência do narcotráfico, os programas de troca de seringas, o Canadá, as iniciativas eleitorais, quase cem tópicos diferentes que rastreamos correntemente. (Visite o portal da Crônica, na coluna direita, para ver a lista atual completa.)

Se você gosta especialmente da nossa nova seção do Bar Clandestino, há conteúdo novo todos os dias lidando com todas as questões e você pode colocar links a essas publicações ou a subseções do Bar Clandestino.

Clique aqui para ver uma amostra do que está disponível - por favor, note que a extensão, a aparência e demais detalhes de como isso aparecerá na sua página podem ser personalizados para se adequarem às suas necessidades e preferências.

Por favor, note também que ficaremos felizes em fazer-lhe mais permutas do nosso conteúdo disponível sob pedido (apesar de não podermos prometer o cumprimento imediato de tais solicitações já que, em muitos casos, a oportunidade dependerá da disponibilidade do nosso web designer). Visite o nosso Mapa do Sítio para ver o que está disponível atualmente – qualquer feed RSS disponível ali também está disponível como feed de javascript para a sua página (junto com o feed da Crônica que não aparece ainda, mas que você já pode encontrar na página de feeds relacionada acima). Experimente o nosso gerador automático de feeds aqui.

Busca na Rede

página em tributo a Ken Gorman

relatório sobre as sentenças mínimas obrigatórias de Maryland, do Justice Policy Institute

grupos atacam o Conselho Internacional de Controle dos Entorpecentes por impedir a prevenção eficaz a HIV/AIDS

Prisões Privadas: Comércio em Almas [Private Prisons: Commerce in Souls?], documentário de Silja Talvi (vídeo) para SourceCode, The Dish Network

a Anistia Internacional sobre a desmobilização dos paramilitares colombianos (eles a chamam de farsa), com animação de Mark Fiore

a rádio Al Group 86 com os policiais contra a guerra às drogas, Real e MP3

Tony Newman sobre "$125 por um maço de cigarros!" [$125 for a pack of cigs!] nas prisões californianas, Huffington Post

artigo do East-Village.com sobre a vernissagem de Tony Papa

O James Bond apóia a legalização?, Daniel Craig no blog da Transform

Europa: Grã-Bretanha fornecerá heroína a dependentes, diz escrito "confidencial" do Ministério do Interior

O governo britânico está preparado para começar a prescrever heroína através do Serviço Nacional de Saúde a "usuários veteranos reincidentes" depois que um programa-piloto provou ter sucesso, de acordo com um informe no jornal The Independent, que cita um escrito "confidencial" preparado pela equipe de políticas estratégicas do Ministério do Interior. O documento informativo também sugere a autorização das vendas de heroína e cocaína, mas o governo não irá tão longe assim, disse The Independent.

De acordo com o escrito, do qual The Independent diz que obteve uma cópia: "O Ministério do Interior deve ponderar a entrega mais ampla de heroína prescritível injetável a usuários altamente dependentes através do NHS. Dado o fracasso das intervenções na oferta em ter qualquer efeito considerável sobre o mercado de drogas, vale a pena considerar uma administração maior do mercado pela entrega mais ampla de heroína prescritível injetável a usuários altamente dependentes através do NHS".

De acordo com as fontes do Ministério do Interior citadas pelo jornal, só os usuários inveterados que não responderam ao tratamento com metadona estarão aptos. "Ele só se aplicará a um pequeno número de pessoas", disse um porta-voz do Ministério do Interior.

As fontes do Ministério do Interior acrescentaram que, na Suíça, onde os médicos prescrevem heroína em vez de metadona a tais usuários, 26% pararam de usar e a criminalidade e o desemprego caíram. Citando a experiência suíça, o escrito diz, "Contrariamente à crença popular, há provas de que a heroína não intoxica necessariamente o usuário - ela pode ser estabilizada com as pessoas que levam vidas relativamente normais".

O despacho também adverte que a Grã-Bretanha está metida numa batalha perdida com os contrabandistas de drogas e sugere a legalização da venda da heroína e da cocaína. "Há cada vez mais provas da impossibilidade de vencer a guerra contra a oferta de drogas. Um sistema de oferta fiscalizada das drogas permitiria que o Governo exercesse um grau muito maior de influência sobre a maneira pela qual as substâncias são consumidas do que é possível atualmente", aconselhou o relatório. "Há um argumento forte de que a proibição causou ou criou muitos dos problemas que acompanham o consumo ou consumo indébito de drogas. Uma opção para o futuro seria regular as drogas diferentemente, através ou das vendas sem receita médica ou das vendas autorizadas ou da prescrição do médico".

Mas, em um editorial de domingo do Independent, o jornal observou que o governo não tomará providências para autorizar ou regulamentar de outra maneira as vendas de drogas. "Legalizar a oferta de drogas foi recusado firmemente pelo governo porque sancionaria o consumo de drogas", observou o jornal. "A política de objetivar os contrabandistas e traficantes de drogas continua, apesar da advertência do relatório de que reduzir a oferta de drogas faz com que os preços subam e a criminalidade aumente".

Política Extrema: Prefeito de Vermont Pede a Pena de Morte para os Traficantes de Drogas Pesadas e a Legalização da Maconha

A frustração do prefeito de Barre, Vermont, Thomas Lauzon, com as drogas e as políticas de drogas está aparecendo e o está deixando um pouquinho esquizofrênico. Em comentários informados no Barre-Montpelier Times Argus no sábado, Lauzon pediu a pena de morte para os traficantes de crack e heroína e, no mesmo fôlego, pediu a legalização da maconha.

Ele disse que planeja pedir à assembléia estadual que adote a pena de morte e legalize a maconha. Se não obtiver sucesso nisso, disse, espera iniciar uma discussão em todo o estado sobre o problema de drogas estadual, provavelmente a partir de um fórum de abril em Barre.

Barre (pronuncia-se "berry") é uma cidade de rápido desenvolvimento que no passado era conhecida como "A Chicago da Nova Inglaterra". Hoje em dia, Barre tem a fama de ser exportadora de monumentos fúnebres de granito, uma distinção que lhe conseguiu uma matéria "ZipUSA" na edição de outubro de 2003 da National Geographic.

"As pessoas que estão traficando crack e traficando heroína tem valor social zero e deveriam pegar pena de morte", disse Lauzon. "Estou seguro que todos se distanciarão de mim", disse Lauzon no sábado de seu pedido da pena de morte. "Mas se alguém diz que estamos ganhando a guerra contra as drogas, está mentindo".

No sábado à noite ele reiterou essa posição em outra entrevista com o Times Argus. "Que valor social têm? Estão traficando crack e heroína aos jovens, sabendo muito bem quais serão os efeitos", disse o prefeito. "A que propósito servem na sociedade,. afora destruir vidas e destruir famílias?"

Os políticos de Vermont reagiram com cautela. O senador estadual Richard Sears (D-Bennington), presidente do Comitê Judiciário do Senado, disse que ele compreendia a frustração de Lauzon, mas não adotava nem a pena de morte para traficar drogas pesadas nem a legalização da maconha. "Acho que o homem está muito frustrado e compreendo a frustração dele", disse Sears. "A meu ver, o problema é que ignoramos este problema até que ficou fora de controle".

Jason Gibbs, porta-voz do governador James Douglas, disse ao jornal que embora o governador não fosse inalteravelmente contrário à pena de morte, ele era contrário à legalização da maconha. "Ele não é inalteravelmente contrário à pena de morte, mas não tem nenhum plano de introduzi-la. Há algumas circunstâncias nas quais ele apoiaria uma pena de morte, mas não tenho certeza se esta está entre elas", disse Gibbs. "A maconha é uma droga inicial para alguns, então ele não quer apoiar a legalização".

Lauzon disse que discutira as propostas dele com alguns legisladores, mas não chegara muito longe. "Eles ouvem com educação. Eu gostaria de ter uma conversa em todo o estado. A conversa que eu gostaria de começar é 'Como vamos? Estamos contentes com o nosso progresso na guerra contra as drogas? O que estamos fazendo em Vermont a respeito da guerra contra as drogas?" disse Lauzon. "Talvez comecemos em Barre".

Embora a proposta de Lauzon da pena de morte para os narcotraficantes seja a primeira na história recente de Vermont, o seu pedido de legalização da maconha ecoa um feito em dezembro passado pelo Promotor da Comarca de Windsor, Robert Sand, que pediu a legalização da maconha e a descriminalização das outras drogas. E assim está o debate sobre as drogas em Vermont.

Web Scan

Report: The Consequences Aren't Minor: The Impact of Trying Youth as Adults and Strategies for Reform, Campaign for Youth Justice

Video: Member of Canadian Parliament Libby Davies at the recent CSSDP inaugural conference

Save Bernie's Farm!, campaign by medical marijuana patient and drug war victim Bernie Ellis

Drug Truth update, 3/16/07:
Cultural Baggage: Phil Smith of Stop The Drug War (DRCNet) reports on recent trip to Peru and Bolivia, Atty Joe Alford + Terry Nelson of LEAP, Drug War Facts , & Black Perspective (MP3)
Century of Lies: Prof. William Martin of the James A. Baker Institute for Policy Studies + Eric Sterling & Maia Szalavitz (MP3)

Where's the outrage? Schiavo coverage v. Raich's struggle to stay alive, Silja Talvi, Women in Media and News blog

Veterans Suffering from Trauma are Turning to Drugs, and Even Suicide, DPA's asha bandele and Tony Newman in the Huffington Post

Europa: Comunicador Irlandês Lendário Diz que o País Deveria Debater a Legalização das Drogas

O ex-apresentador de programa de entrevistas irlandês e atual diretor do Departamento de Trânsito da Irlanda, Gay Byrne, pediu um debate nacional sobre a legalização das drogas. Como apresentador do Late Late Show na Irlanda de 1962 a 1999, Byrne foi um catalisador destacado na transformação da sociedade irlandesa, abordando tabus como o aborto, a homossexualidade, o abuso sexual de menores por padres, o divórcio e a AIDS. Agora, está se pronunciando sobre as políticas de drogas.

Gay Byrne
Em comentários informados durante o fim de semana, Byrne disse que chegara ao ponto em que ele achava que eram necessárias novas idéias nas políticas de drogas irlandesas. "É um grande abismo o que eu vou pular", disse, "mas cheguei à conclusão de que a possibilidade de legalizar as drogas deveria ser examinada".

Byrne disse que a polícia irlandesa está gastando milhões de dólares tentando parar o narcotráfico e esteve fazendo isso durante anos, mas sem muito sucesso. "Cadáveres estão sendo encontrados todos os dias da semana. Tudo o que digo é que talvez exista outro jeito de fazer isso", disse. "Você continua tentando solucionar um problema que tem nos acompanhado por 40 anos ou deveríamos dar uma olhada na legalização da maldita coisa?"

A proibição das drogas resulta em um aumento na criminalidade, sugeriu Byrne. "Não há pessoas matando uma a outra por um maço de cigarros ou uma lata de Heineken", discutiu. "Até quando se conserta um carro que não está funcionando antes que se diga que quiçá exista outra maneira de fazer isto?"

Para sempre, se o governo irlandês fizer o que quer. Apesar das preocupações crescentes com a criminalidade relacionada à proibição, os altos índices do consumo de drogas e as overdoses com drogas, o governo foi rápido em responder os comentários de Byrne com uma negativa firme. "Sou totalmente contrário a legalizar qualquer droga", disse Noel Ahern, o ministro de estado responsável pelas políticas de drogas. "Em diferentes estágios, pessoas diferentes tentaram defender a legalização das drogas. Mas, essa não é uma sugestão que possa dar certo. As drogas são ilegais e assim elas devem ser mantidas. Qualquer papo sobre liberalizar as drogas é irresponsável".

Certo. Supõe-se que é melhor enveredar pela senda contente das políticas proibicionistas fracassadas do que discutir as alternativas. Mas, dada a história de Gay Byrne como catalisador da mudança, talvez Ahern e seus colegas pensem nisso duas vezes.

Liberdade de expressão: Caso "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" se dirige para a Suprema Corte no mês que vem, com Ken Starr apoiando um lado e o SSDP o outro

Em um caso que pode determinar se os estudantes do ensino médio têm o direito a enunciar posições sobre as políticas de drogas que estejam em desacordo com as políticas antidrogas do distrito escolar, a Suprema Corte dos EUA ouvirá em breve [o caso] Frederick vs. Morse - popularmente conhecido como "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" -, pondo frente a frente um ex-estudante do ensino médio do Alasca contra a sua diretora e a diretoria do colégio, que o puniu por segurar um cartaz com essa frase fora da propriedade escolar.

Ken Starr quer inibir quaisquer imitadores do 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' em potencial
Há quase cinco anos, Joseph Frederick, um estudante Colégio Secundário Douglas em Juneau, Alasca, exibiu o seu cartaz "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" depois que os estudantes foram dispensados do colégio para ver um desfile que trazia a tocha olímpica e passava pela cidade. Frederick foi suspenso por 10 dias pela diretora da escola, que citou as políticas antidrogas escolares. Ele recorreu à diretoria do distrito escolar, que manteve a suspensão dele, mas a limitou aos oito dias de aulas que ele perdera até aquele momento.

Então, Frederick processou a diretora e o colégio, afirmando violações dos seus direitos constitucionais estaduais e federais à liberdade de expressão. Frederick perdeu em tribunal federal de distrito, mas o Tribunal de Apelações do 9° Circuito dos EUA concordou com ele em uma decisão de 2006, sustentando que, porque a exposição do cartaz não aconteceu durante um evento sancionado pela escola, a diretora e o distrito escolar tinham infringido o seu direito à liberdade de expressão previsto pela Primeira Emenda.

Com a assistência do ex-procurador especial de Whitewater, Kenneth Starr, que está trabalhando gratuitamente, o distrito escolar recorreu à Suprema Corte, que concordou em ouvir o caso em dezembro. A argumentação oral está marcada para o dia 19 de março. O distrito escolar discutiu que deixar que Frederick se expresse fazendo referências aos apetrechos e ao consumo de drogas pode interferir em seu esforço para promover uma política antidrogas consistente.

A organização sediada nos campi, o Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), cujas sucursais estão localizadas principalmente nas faculdades, mas que tem algumas nos colégios, viu um impacto em potencial do caso sobre o poder estudantil de desafiar o dogma da guerra às drogas e decidiu intervir com alegações amicus curiæ ao tribunal superior. De acordo com as alegações do SSDP, "As políticas de drogas do nosso país afetam direta e indiretamente as vidas cotidianas dos estudantes. Ora pelos exames toxicológicos aleatórios para atletas estudantis, ora pelo auxílio financeiro federal condicionado pela falta de qualquer condenação por drogas, os jovens são consideravelmente afetados nas posições como estudantes pelas políticas relacionadas às drogas. Assim, os estudantes têm um interesse pessoal em compreender e discutir as questões subjacentes que orientam e afetam as políticas de drogas deste país. A Primeira Emenda garante que a voz deles sobre estas questões esteja protegida".

"Este caso se centra em um estudante que segurou um cartaz absurdo, mas o argumento do distrito escolar - se for adotado pela Corte - silenciaria a liberdade de expressão nas escolas públicas acerca de tópicos importantes como os exames toxicológicos com estudantes, os fracassos da DARE ou a maconha medicinal", disse Kris Krane, diretor-executivo do SSDP. "A Guerra Contra as Drogas tem impacto sobre os jovens todo santo dia. Os estudantes devem reter o seu direito garantido pela Primeira Emenda a debater as políticas de drogas que os afetam diretamente", acrescentou.

Em nota à imprensa na semana passada, o principal advogado do American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow, chamou o caso Frederick vs Morse de "um caso extremamente fraco que nem deveria ser considerado pela Suprema Corte" e pediu que a corte revertesse a sua decisão de ouvi-lo.

Maconha Medicinal: Flint Vira a Quinta Cidade do Michigan a Permiti-la

Os eleitores em Flint, Michigan, foram a favor de permitir o consumo de maconha medicinal por uma margem de 62% a 38% na terça-feira. Flint vira a quinta cidade do Michigan a aprovar tal medida e embora a maconha medicinal continue sendo ilegal tanto segundo a lei estadual quanto a lei federal, a votação em Flint só deve acrescentar força ao ímpeto para pôr a questão perante todo o estado.

Defendido pela NORML Michigan e a Flint Compassionate Care Coalition, o esforço também foi ajudado pela assistência do Marijuana Policy Project e do escritório nacional da NORML.

Agora, Flint se une a Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ferndale e Traverse City como cidades do Michigan em que os eleitores aprovaram o uso de maconha medicinal.

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