Drug War Chronicle

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Editorial: Ya Es Hora de Hablar en Serio Sobre el Opio en Afganistán

David Borden, Director Ejecutivo, 28 de Julio de 2006

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David Borden
Yo no diría que muchos países son verdaderamente racionales respecto de las políticas de drogas todavía, pero algunos de ellos tienen más gente, en más cargos importantes, que los que tenemos aquí. Cuando lo son, ello tiene a trascender los límites políticos tradicionales - por ejemplo, el líder del partido conservador, David Cameron, en Gran Bretaña, que sugestionó la legalización durante la campaña para su elección al cargo, y otros en su partido que le pidieron esta semana que apoyara a un esquema de autorización para el opio afgano en oposición al régimen actual de prohibición total y esfuerzos de erradicación esporádicos e ineficaces.

Lo que algunos de los Tories están diciendo es que no es realista pensar que podemos ser eficaces contra una industria que es 50% de la economía batalladora del país, que cuando los esfuerzos de erradicación ocurren, ellos llevan los agricultores al rincón del Talibán y parecen estar correlacionados con irrupciones de violencia, que instituir un cultivo legal de adormideras (que podían ser usadas y, en verdad, son algo necesarias para el mercado medicinal legal) reduciría el mercado ilícito y le daría un golpe a los malhechores al traer dinero directo y reducir su acceso a ello.

Dadas las amenazas considerables existentes a la seguridad y el rol que los movimientos que funcionan desde Afganistán han desempeñado en algunas de ellas, yo voto en el realismo. Estos bretones están correctos - tratar de desenchufar el tráfico de opio de Afganistán es una verdadera locura -- apenas descubriríamos el tamaño de la locura si pudiéramos vencerla de veras. La guerra contra las drogas es una guerra que no puede ser vencida - demasiadas personas están determinadas a usarlas y están dispuestas a pagar la plata que es necesaria para adquirirlas.

En ese sentido, los bandidos siempre tendrán más recursos para trabajar que los chicos buenos. En un sentido más amplio, las líneas que dividen los bandidos de los chicos buenos están más que borradas, cuando el enemigo incluye aparentemente a agricultores tercermundistas necesitados que sólo quieren salvar a sus familias del hambre y ciudadanos estadounidenses y europeos normales que sólo quieren ser dejados en paz para permitirse sus pasatiempos en privado.

Cameron, claro, está en el otro extremo del actual primer ministro británico Tony Blair, y aun si los conservadores estuviesen en el poder, sin lugar a dudas ellos todos no apoyarían a sus puntos de vista sobre la legalización. Hacer algo es aún más difícil que eso. Y obviamente que los afganos pueden decir lo que pasa en su país también y ni todos ellos están de acuerdo aun con la propuesta moderada de autorización para la oferta medicinal. (Nuestro editor, Phil Smith, descubrió eso cuando él participó de la conferencia de Septiembre último en Kabul sobre la idea.)

Pero, hay que empezar en alguna parte y un líder político importante en un país que es el aliado más íntimo de los Estados Unidos parece un lugar tan bueno como los otros. Un país desesperado como Afganistán, que necesita urgentemente estabilidad y reducir la criminalidad, también parecería un lugar valedero, aún más a la luz de nuestros propios intereses relacionados allí. Ya es hora de hablar en serio sobre el opio en Afganistán.

Reportaje: Mientras Estalla la Lucha en el Sur de Afganistán, el Apoyo a la Producción Autorizada de Opio Crece

El lunes, los comandantes militares estadounidenses en Afganistán entregaron oficialmente el control del sur inquieto y rico en opio del país a la OTAN en medio de rumores crecientes de preocupación de los políticos europeos - la preocupación tanto con las bajas crecientes de la coalición como con el conocimiento de intentar procesar la guerra contra las drogas y la operación antiinsurgencia contra el Talibán y la Al Qaeda al mismo tiempo. Con unos 18.500 efectivos, será la misión más grande de la historia de la OTAN, cuyo resultado es dudoso a lo mejor.

Este año ha ocurrido un alza en las batallas en Afganistán, con unas 1.700 muertes en la violencia diseminada hasta ahora. Entre ellas están 65 efectivos estadounidenses y 35 efectivos de la OTAN, incluyendo a tres soldados británicos muertos el martes en una emboscada en la provincia sureña de Helmand y más dos muertos el miércoles. El año pasado, el año más sangriento para las fuerzas de la coalición hasta ahora, presenció 129 soldados estadounidenses y de la OTAN muertos, pero este año parece que va a ser aún más sangriento. Apenas en los últimos tres meses, 58 soldados estadounidenses y de la OTAN han sido muertos, 35 en el sur. De la manera que van las cosas, estos datos probablemente estarán desactualizados cuando usted lea esto.

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simposio del Consejo Senlis en 2005
Según todos los informes, también ha presenciado un alza en la producción de adormideras, especialmente en el sur. A pesar de las palabras de provocación del Primer Ministro Karzai, que ha prometido una guerra santa contra la adormidera, los esfuerzos de erradicación están logrando resultados confusos a lo mejor. Eso pasa porque el gobierno Karzai y sus partidarios occidentales son confrontados por una multitud de factores que militan contra el éxito.

"El combate a las drogas es continuo, pero no muy eficaz", dijo Abdul Raheem Yaseer, director asistente del Centro de Estudios Sobre Afganistán en la Universidad de Nebraska-Omaha. "La falta de capacidad del gobierno de ayudar a los agricultores a encontrar mercados y la dificultad de transportar los bienes por las malas carreteras son muy desalentadoras. Y ahora el área está sufriendo con la sequía", dijo a DRCNet. "La gente estaba optimista en el comienzo de año con la posibilidad de vender su producción, entonces invirtió su plata y vino la sequía. Ahora, muchos de ellos dicen que no van a lograr recuperar el dinero que gastaron, entonces están regresando al opio. Ellos hablan abiertamente. Dicen 'Tenemos familias que alimentar, préstamos que pagar, no hay agua, no hay mejorías en las carreteras'".

Yaseer señaló los distintos factores que impiden la erradicación. "Los señores de las drogas se han estado beneficiando durante años y ellos luchan para mantener esa renta", dijo. "Las altas alzas que suceden en Kabul son todas hechas por los señores de las drogas. Pero algunos de esos señores de las drogas son miembros del gobierno, lo que complica aún más las cosas. Karzai habla con mucha severidad sobre la erradicación, pero la realidad es bien diferente. La corrupción junto con la falta de apoyo dentro del gobierno y del Occidente permite que los señores de las drogas disfruten de una época relativamente pacífica".

Pero si el Teniente Coronel David Richards de Gran Bretaña, el nuevo comandante de la OTAN en el sur, consigue lo que desea, los traficantes de drogas están a punto de sentir la ira del Occidente. "Estoy convencido de que gran parte de la violencia es causada solamente por las actividades relacionadas con las drogas en el sur", dijo Richards en una conferencia de prensa en Kabul el sábado. "El tráfico de opio está siendo amenazado por la expansión de la OTAN en el sur y ellos van a luchar duro para mantener lo que tienen y mucho de lo que estamos viendo no tiene nada que ver con cualquier compromiso ideológico" con el Talibán, dijo. "Esencialmente, durante los últimos cuatro años, algunas personas muy brutales han estado desarrollando sus pequeños feudos aquí y exportando gran parte del opio al resto del mundo. Ese mismo tráfico malvado está siendo amenazado por la expansión de la OTAN en el sur. Ésta es una causa muy noble con la cual estamos comprometidos y tenemos que liberar las personas del azote de esos jefes de guerra".

"La OTAN tiene tres objetivos", dijo Yaseer. "Su primera prioridad es derrotar la insurgencia, en segundo lugar ganar sus corazones y mentes, y, en tercer lugar, suprimir el opio". Pero, él reconoció, esas metas son contradictorias, dada la enorme dependencia de Afganistán de la economía del opio. De acuerdo con las Naciones Unidas, el opio responde por algo entre 40% y 50% de la economía nacional.

Y la tentativa de ir detrás de todos los tres objetivos al mismo tiempo puede llevar muy bien a una alianza más formal entre los traficantes y los insurgentes. Los traficantes de drogas más importantes también se alinean con el Talibán y lo que Yaseer llamó de "intrusos" de Pakistán, refiriéndose a los agentes de la inteligencia pakistaní, el ISI, que él dijo que trabajan para impedir que Afganistán logre la estabilidad. "Los señores de las drogas no quieren ser controlados por el gobierno afgano, entonces ellos se alían con los intrusos y el Talibán y comparten los lucros con ellos. Estos intrusos de Pakistán no están ayudando; ellos están poniendo en riesgo los esfuerzos contra el contrabando y la erradicación de las adormideras. En cuanto al Talibán, ellos podrían tener problemas religiosos con el opio, pero les gusta el dinero y cooperan con los cultivadores y traficantes".

"Los señores de las drogas y los contrabandistas son tan fuertes militarmente como el Talibán y la Al Qaeda", dijo Yaseer. "Si ellos se unen de verdad, las fuerzas de la coalición se enfrentarán a una resistencia grande y fuerte".

La entrega del comando de los estadounidenses a la OTAN y el número creciente de muertos entre los soldados de la OTAN están empezando a llamar la atención de los políticos europeos, algunos de los cuales están empezando a pedir la adopción de un esquema de lo que sería la producción autorizada de opio para el mercado medicinal legítimo. Formalmente revelada el Octubre pasado en Kabul, la propuesta del instituto de consultoría europeo en seguridad y desarrollo, El Consejo Senlis, atrajo hasta ahora apenas el apoyo limitado de personajes decisivos importantes en Kabul y las capitales del Occidente.

La semana pasada, la Crónica de la Guerra Contra las Drogas informó que algunos conservadores británicos habían empezado a pedir la adopción de la propuesta del Consejo Senlis. Cuando ese informe apareció, nuevos pedidos de adopción del esquema de autorización vinieron del gobierno italiano.

"El gobierno italiano será un promotor tanto en Europa como en Afganistán" del proyecto de "comprar legalmente el opio producido en Afganistán y usarlo para fines medicinales", dijo el viceministro de relaciones exteriores de Italia, Ugo Intini, el viernes pasado, mientras conversaba con los periodistas en el Senado Italiano. La meta es reducir el tráfico ilícito de opio y volver los medicamentos opiáceos para el dolor más disponibles para los países pobres en vías de desarrollo, dijo. La falta de medicaciones opiáceas en los países en vías de desarrollo es "profundamente injusta", añadió.

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placa que recuerda a los periodistas asesinados por el Talibán en el hotel en que ellos se hospedaron en Jalalabad
Un político del Partido Laborista Británico le dijo a la DRCNet el jueves que él también apoyaba a la propuesta del Consejo Senlis. "En Helmand, Gran Bretaña ha parado de destruir los cultivos de adormideras para concentrarse en bombardear la gente rumbo la democracia e intentar ganar los corazones y mentes usando bombas y balas", dijo el Parlamentario Paul Flynn, un opositor incondicional de la guerra a las drogas. "Los $40 millones pagados al gobierno corrupto de Karzai para compensar a los agricultores por los cultivos anteriormente destruidos nunca llegaron a los agricultores. La única manera sensible de hacer progreso es dar autorización a los agricultores para que usen sus cultivos de adormideras para reducir la falta de morfina por todo el mundo".

Pero la idea de que los EE.UU., que se oponen a cualquier relajamiento de cualquier ley sobre las drogas en cualquier lugar con base en la ideología, o el gobierno afgano van adoptar la propuesta está equivocada probablemente, dijo Yaseer. "Así que se oiga las palabras 'drogas legalizadas', todos tipos de resistencias religiosas, tradicionales y otras surgen. El problema aquí es que el estado es demasiado débil. No pueden controlarlo cuando es ilegal y no serían capaces de controlarlo si fuera legal. Ya hay cantidades de opio sin autorización; en el contexto afgano, la autorización significa libertad para cultivar más".

En vez de eso, dijo Yaseer, el gobierno afgano y el Occidente deberían subsidiar a los agricultores, buscar cultivos alternativos y permitir que el gobierno local establezca realmente el control sobre el lugar. Pero eso no será fácil, reconoció. Mientras tanto, las adormideras siguen floreciendo, los señores de las drogas, tanto dentro como fuera del gobierno Karzai, siguen enriqueciendo, y los soldados de la OTAN, los soldados estadounidenses, los insurgentes del Talibán y de la Al Qaeda y los matones de los traficantes de drogas siguen todos luchando y muriendo. Y los ciudadanos afganos, la mayoría de los cuales gustaría nada más que paz y prosperidad, están entre los perdedores más grandes mientras las balas vuelan y las bombas caen.

visite: La DRCNet en Afganistán (en Inglés)

Editorial: Às Vezes Dizem a Verdade

David Borden, Diretor Executivo

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David Borden
É alternadamente refrescante ou assombroso ouvir os servidores públicos que lidam com as políticas de drogas dizerem a verdade sobre elas ocasionalmente. Nesta semana, os reformadores puderam ser testemunhas de algo de ambos.

A enunciação refrescante da verdade veio da Grã-Bretanha, onde um Comitê Parlamentar destroçou duramente o esquema oficial de classificação das drogas usado no Ato de Abuso de Drogas e a agência que é responsável por mantê-lo. Muitas das classificações pareciam ter resultado de "respostas reflexivas às tempestades na mídia", acusou o comitê, sem nenhuma consistência nem "provas sólidas para respaldar o ponto de vista de que a classificação tinha um efeito dissuasivo". "O sistema atual de classificação está cheio de anomalias e claramente não é adequado ao seu propósito", disse o presidente. "Pelo que temos visto, a abordagem do ACMD e do Ministério do Interior à classificação parecer ter sido baseada em particularidades e conservadorismo". (Leia os dois artigos abaixo nesta edição para saber tudo sobre isso.)

Não tem como não gostar disso! Mas, por enquanto, há algo de que eu não gosto - não gosto nada. Na Filadélfia, uma das cidades que sofre sob uma crise de heroína feita com fentanil e a onda resultante de overdoses freqüentemente fatais, o programa de redução de danos Prevention Point Philadelphia, trabalhando conjuntamente com um médico local, começou a distribuir naloxona, uma medicação que, se usada no momento adequado durante uma overdose, pode salvar a vida da vítima.

A distribuição de naloxona é um tipo de programa conhecido como "redução de danos", a idéia da qual é que já que sabemos que as pessoas vão usar drogas apesar de como as combatamos, há coisas que podem ser feitas para ajudá-las a salvar suas vidas e as vidas dos outros - mesmo antes de pararem de usar drogas, mesmo se elas nunca pararem de usar drogas. Os programas de troca de seringas são outro exemplo da redução de danos em funcionamento.

O gabinete do secretário antidrogas reagiu à aventura do PPP com críticas. Se os consumidores de heroína tiverem a chance de sobreviver a uma overdose, discorreu o raciocínio, é "desinibidor" para o objetivo de fazer com que os dependentes parem de usar a droga. "Não queremos mandar o recado de que há uma maneira segura de usar heroína", disse uma porta-voz da ONDCP. Mas, "os dependentes mortos não se recuperam", como diz o mantra comum no campo da redução de danos.

Embora a posição do secretário antidrogas esteja equivocada até a morte nisto - fatalmente equivocada, na verdade - o comentário parece uma explanação bem verdadeira do jeito horrível que muitos guerreiros antidrogas pensam. É um corolário direto do comentário da porta-voz de que é melhor que os que podem ser salvos morram a fim de dissuadir os outros de consumir drogas - melhor garantir que as drogas matem - para que todos tenham certeza de que as drogas matam sim. Mas os mortos por overdose estão definitivamente (e permanentemente) mortos, enquanto que aqueles que, a través da suspensão da assistência salvadora de vidas a alguns, são salvos assim da morte através de suas próprias escolhas, podem ou não existir.

Aqueles que se opõem à redução de danos estão na realidade apoiando a "intensificação do dano" - uma tentativa de aumentar os perigos das drogas propositalmente através das políticas - às custas das vidas, e, no meu ponto de vista, da moralidade também.

Mas disso se trata verdadeiramente a proibição, a intensificação do dano em escala global. Por isso a necessidade de legalização -- idéias tão moralmente defuntas como aquelas expressas nesta semana pelo gabinete do secretário antidrogas podem ser deixadas em repouso e suas conseqüências assombrosas finalmente detidas.

Editorial: A Veces Dicen la Verdad

David Borden, Director Ejecutivo

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David Borden
Es alternadamente refrescante o asombroso escuchar a servidores públicos que tratan de las políticas de drogas decir la verdad sobre ellas ocasionalmente. Esta semana, los reformadores pudieron ser testigos de algo de ambos.

La enunciación refrescante de la verdad vino de Gran Bretaña, donde un Comité Parlamentario destrozó duramente el esquema oficial de clasificación de las drogas usado en la Ley de Abuso de Drogas y la agencia que es responsable por mantenerlo. Muchas de las clasificaciones parecían haber resultado de “respuestas reflejas a las tempestades en los medios”, acusó el comité, sin ninguna consistencia ni “pruebas sólidas para respaldar el punto de vista de que la clasificación tenía un efecto disuasivo”. “El sistema actual de clasificación está lleno de anomalías y claramente no es adecuado a su propósito”, dijo el presidente. “Por lo que hemos visto, el abordaje del ACMD y del Ministerio del Interior a la clasificación parece haber sido basado en particularidades y conservadurismo” (Lea los dos artículos abajo en esta edición para saber todo sobre ello.)

¡Hay que apreciar eso! Pero por el momento hay algo que no me gusta – no me gusta nada. En Filadelfia, una de las ciudades que sufre bajo una crisis de heroína hecha con fentanil y la onda resultante de sobredosis frecuentemente fatales, el programa de reducción de daños Prevention Point Philadelphia, trabajando conjuntamente con un médico local, ha empezado a distribuir naloxona, una medicación que, si usada en el momento adecuado durante una sobredosis, puede salvar la vida de la víctima.

La distribución de naloxona es un tipo de programa conocido como “reducción de daños”, la idea de la cual es que ya que sabemos que la gente va a usar drogas pese a como las combatamos, hay cosas que se pueden hacer para ayudarles a salvar sus vidas y las vidas de otros – aun antes de parar de usar drogas, por si acaso aun si ellos nunca paran de usar drogas. Los programas de trueque de jeringas son otro ejemplo de la reducción de daños en funcionamiento.

El gabinete del secretario antidroga reaccionó a la aventura del PPP con críticas. Si los consumidores de heroína tienen la oportunidad de sobrevivir a una sobredosis, discurrió el raciocinio, es “desinhibidor” para el objetivo de hacer con que los adictos paren de usar la droga. “No queremos mandar el mensaje de que hay una manera segura de usar heroína”, dijo una vocera del ONDCP. Pero “los adictos muertes no se recuperan”, como dice el mantra común en el campo de la reducción de daños.

Aunque la posición del secretario antidroga esté equivocada a muerte en esto – fatalmente equivocada, en verdad – el comentario parece una explanación bien verdadera de la manera horrible que muchos guerreros antidrogas piensan. Es un corolario directo del comentario de la vocera que es mejor que los que pueden ser salvados se mueran a fin de disuadir a los otros de consumir drogas – mejor asegurarse que las drogas maten – para que todos estén seguros de que las drogas sí matan. Pero los muertos por sobredosis están definitivamente (y permanentemente) muertos, en tanto que aquellos que, a través de la suspensión de la asistencia salvadora de vidas a algunos, son salvados así de la muerte a través de sus propias opciones, pueden o no existir.

Aquellos que se oponen a la reducción de daños están en realidad apoyando a la “intensificación del daño” – una tentativa de aumentar los peligros de las drogas de propósito a través de las políticas – a cuestas de vidas, y, en mi punto de vista, de la moralidad también.

Pero de eso se trata verdaderamente la prohibición, la intensificación del daño en escala global. Por eso la necesidad de legalización – ideas tan moralmente difuntas como aquellas expresadas esta semana por el gabinete del secretario antidroga pueden ser dejadas en reposo y sus consecuencias asombradoras finalmente detenidas.

Reportaje: Comité Parlamentario Británico Golpea Esquema de Clasificación de Drogas y Pide Sistema Basado en Pruebas

El Comité de Ciencia y Tecnología del Parlamento Británico lanzó el lunes un informe que acaba con el esquema actual de clasificación de las drogas de Gran Bretaña como “opaco” y pide que sea reemplazado por un sistema que esté basado en pruebas científicas y refleje precisamente el perjuicio real a los usuarios de drogas y la sociedad. El sistema actual “no es adecuado a su propósito”, decidió el informe chamuscante.

Según el sistema actual, las drogas son clasificadas como Clase A (heroína, cocaína), B (metanfetamina) o C (marihuana, anabolizantes), siendo que las drogas de Clase A son consideradas las más nocivas y las de la Clase C son las drogas consideradas menos nocivas. Las drogas de Clase A acarrean una sentencia de siete años de prisión por tenencia, las de la Clase B cinco años y las de la Clase C dos años. Las ventas de las drogas de la Clase A pueden granjear hasta una sentencia de prisión perpetua, en tanto que las ventas de drogas de las Clases B y C pueden acarrear hasta 14 años. El Ministro británico del Interior es acusado de decidir cuáles drogas entran en aquellas clases en el esquema de clasificación con base en pruebas presentadas por los consejeros, que deben ponderar los problemas causados por varias drogas y clasificarlas de acuerdo con eso.

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píldoras de éxtasis
No ha sido así, concluyó el comité en su informe, aptamente intitulado "Drug Clasification: Making a Hash Of It?" [La Clasificación de las Drogas: ¿Haciendo un Estropicio de Ella?]. "Hubo una falta de consistencia en la manera que algunas drogas eran clasificadas en el sistema A, B y C y no había ninguna prueba sólida para respaldar el punto de vista de que la clasificación tenía un efecto disuasivo", observó secamente el comité mientras lanzaba sus hallazgos. "El Comité también fue crítico del Consejo Accesorio contra el Abuso de Drogas (ACMD), el cuerpo científico accesorio más importante en las políticas de drogas, llamando su fracaso de alertar el Ministro del Interior sobre los grandes defectos en el sistema de clasificación de un 'no-cumplimiento de su deber'".

Señalando la reciente revisión del rebajamiento de la marihuana de la Clase B para la Clase C en 2004 contra una batida firme de desespero de los tabloides por sus supuestos peligros, el comité se quejó que tales revisiones dieron la impresión de ser "respuestas reflejas a las tempestades en los medios". El comité también fustigó al Ministerio del Interior y el ACMD por no demostrar que el sistema actual de clasificación es eficaz y por no invertir en la pesquisa sobre la adicción.

"El sistema actual de clasificación está lleno de anomalías y claramente no es adecuado a su propósito", dijo el presidente del comité, el Parlamentario Phil Willis, en una declaración que acompañó al lanzamiento del informe. "Por lo que hemos visto, el abordaje del Ministerio del Interior y del ACMD a la clasificación parece haber estado basado en particularidades y conservadurismo. Es obvio que hay una necesidad urgente de una revisión total del sistema de clasificación, como prometido por el Ministro del Interior anterior. Todos nosotros sabemos que el actual Ministro del Interior está ocupado con otras cosas, pero eso no es pretexto para intentar ignorar esta cuestión".

Si Gran Bretaña quiere un sistema racional de clasificación de las drogas que funcione, dijo Willis, debe olvidarse de usarlo para castigar a las personas por usar drogas que el gobierno no gusta. "La única manera de conseguir un sistema preciso y actualizado de clasificación es quitar el enlace con las penas y concentrarse solamente en el perjuicio. Ése debe ser no apenas el daño al usuario, sino el daño definido por las consecuencias sociales también", explicó el presidente del comité. "Ya es hora de incluir un abordaje más sistemático y científico a la clasificación de las drogas - ¿cómo podemos informar a los jóvenes si lo que decimos no está basado en pruebas?"

El informe también pide la inclusión del alcohol y el tabaco en cualquier nuevo esquema de clasificación de las drogas y sugestiona que deban ser clasificados como drogas más peligrosas que el éxtasis. También atacó a la clasificación de diversas drogas de parte del gobierno. Con los hongos psicodélicos, el gobierno los reclasificó administrativamente como drogas peligrosas de Clase A, evitando así la consulta con el ACMD. Esa pasada "trasgredió el espíritu de la Ley de Abuso de Drogas [Misuse of Drugs Act] y no dio al ACMD la oportunidad de ponderar las pruebas apropiadamente".

El informe del comité criticó al ACMD por no pronunciarse sobre la cuestión de los hongos, diciendo que no pronunciarse ha "socavado su credibilidad". El informe también reprendió el ACMD por nunca ponerse a revisar el estatus del éxtasis, el cual malclasifica actualmente junto con las drogas más peligrosas y nocivas.

El DrugScope, el importante instituto británico de consultoría en políticas de drogas, dio las bienvenidas al pedido del comité de reevaluación del sistema de clasificación. "La Ley de Abuso de Drogas ya tiene más de 30 años y la escena de drogas en el Reino Unido ha cambiado hasta ponerse irreconocible desde entonces", dijo el director de DrugScope, Martin Barnes, en una declaración saludando el lanzamiento del informe. "También es verdad que algunas de las decisiones acerca de poner ciertas drogas dentro de la Ley, como el éxtasis y los hongos frescos, no soportan mucho escrutinio científico. Es importante que la Ley adecue más precisamente las sanciones penales al riesgo total de las drogas a la sociedad. Dicha revisión fue prometida por el Ministerio del Interior en Enero, pero no hemos escuchado nada sobre ello desde entonces", regañó Barnes.
Pero el DrugScope rechazó algunas de las críticas hechas contra el ACMD en el informe. "Puede ser que el ACMD pudiera haber sido más proactivo respecto de la clasificación de las drogas, pero sus muchos informes han ayudado a moldar el sistema de tratamiento químico en el Reino Unido", dijo Barnes. "En particular, su recomendación sobre la oferta de agujas y jeringas a los consumidores de heroína en los años 1980 puede haber salvado el Reino Unido de una enorme epidemia de VIH/SIDA".

La Rethink, una importante organización de la salud mental, usó la emisión del informe para clamar por más informaciones sobre las relaciones entre la marihuana y la enfermedad mental. El Director de Relaciones Públicas de Rethink, Paul Corry, dijo: "En cualquier debate sobre la clasificación del cannabis, la principal preocupación de la Rethink es la de que el gobierno haga promesas de concienciar el público acerca de los riesgos a la salud mental del consumo de cannabis", dijo en una declaración el lunes. "La Rethink está preocupada con la falta de progreso respecto de esta cuestión crítica de salud pública. Sabemos que los usuarios jóvenes, los usuarios de largo tiempo y las personas con antecedentes familiares de salud mental también tienen un alto riesgo de desarrollar psicosis del fumo de cannabis - el problema es que ellos no lo saben porque el gobierno no ha cumplido su promesa", debatió Corry.

El grupo británico de reforma, la Fundación Transform Drug Policy, también emitió una declaración dando las bienvenidas al informe. "La Transform saluda el hecho de que el comité haya aceptado la crítica general del sistema de clasificación en vez de meterse en un debate sin sentido sobre por qué cada droga está en determinada clase", dijo el funcionario de información de la Transform, Steve Rolles. "La cuestión más importante en juego aquí es la de que todo el sistema de clasificación está basado en la ideología de la guerra a las drogas, no tiene ninguna base científica y hace lo contrario de lo que pretende hacer. Gustaríamos de ver esto como un preludio a una inquisición más considerable de la base de pruebas para la penalización de las drogas de por sí".

Rolles también hico eco de los pedidos de acción de parte del Ministro del Interior. "También esperamos que el Ministerio del Interior reanude ahora su consulta acerca de la clasificación de las drogas anunciada por el entonces Ministro del Interior, Charles Clarke, a principios de este año, como recomendado específicamente por el comité", dijo. "El documento de consulta estaba listo para ser publicado, pero parece haber sido ignorado por el nuevo Ministro del Interior. La crítica decreciente del Comité Selecto vuelve esta consulta prometida del Ministerio del Interior mucho más urgente".

Los tories están usando el informe para golpear las políticas de drogas del Partido Laborista y asumir la pancarta del "peligro de la marihuana". El Subsecretario del Interior, Edward Garnier, lanzó rápidamente una declaración que buscaba ventaja política. "Estudiaremos el Informe del Comité Selecto minuciosamente, pero lo que es y ha sido aparente durante algún tiempo es la falta de clareza en las políticas de este gobierno contra las drogas ilegales", acusó Garnier. "El rebajamiento del cannabis envió el mensaje de que ello era bien inofensivo y habrá alentado a los jóvenes a usarlo. Es vital que tomemos medidas fuertes y eficaces advirtiendo a los niños sobre los peligros de las drogas sin ninguna confusión".

Hasta ahora, el Partido Laborista se ha quedado quieto, pero el Parlamentario Laborista Paul Flynn, le dijo a la DRCNet que él halló el informe del comité un paliativo útil para la politización de las políticas de drogas. "Categorizar las drogas en 1971 significaba ser la bala de plata para cortar el consumo de drogas. En aquel momento, había 1.000 adictos; ahora, hay 280.000", observó. "Pero, todos los partidos políticos aún se agarran a esta bala votando en 2005 en favor de la locura que clasificaba los hongos juntamente con la heroína y dejaba el alcohol y la nicotina fuera de la clasificación. Gracias al comité de ciencia por un soplo de cordura".

Con la publicación del informe del comité, Gran Bretaña avanzó un paso hacia el sistema racional y probado de clasificación de las drogas. El sistema estadounidense de clasificación de las drogas es similarmente irracional, poniendo, por ejemplo, la marihuana y el LSD en la misma categoría que la heroína, pero no hay ninguna señal de cualquier abordaje científico así por aquí.

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Editorial: Sometimes They Tell the Truth

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
It's alternately refreshing or appalling to hear public officials who deal with drug policy occasionally tell the truth about it. This week reformers got to bring home some of both.

The refreshing truth-telling came from Great Britain, where a Parliamentary Committee harshly tore into the official drug classification scheme used in the Misuse of Drugs Act, and the agency that is responsible for maintaining it. Many of the rankings seemed to have resulted from "knee-jerk responses to media storms," the committee charged, with no consistency and "no solid evidence to back-up the view that classification had a deterrent effect." "The current classification system is riddled with anomalies and clearly not fit for its purpose," the chairman said. "From what we have seen, the Home Office and ACMD approach to classification seems to have been based on ad hockery and conservatism." (See two articles below in this issue to read all about it.)

Gotta like that! But now for one that I don't like -- not at all. In Philadelphia, one of the cities suffering under the crisis of fentanyl-laced heroin and the resulting wave of often fatal overdoses, the harm reduction program Prevention Point Philadelphia, partnering with a local physician, has begun to help distribute naloxone, a medication that if used soon enough during an overdose can save the victim's life.

Naloxone distribution is a type of program known as "harm reduction," the idea of which is that since we know some people are going to use drugs regardless of how we fight them, there are things that can be done to help them save their lives and the lives of others -- even before they stop using drugs, for that matter even if they never stop using drugs. Needle exchange programs are another example of harm reduction at work.

The drug czar's office reacted to the PPP venture with criticism. If heroin users have a chance of surviving an overdose, the reasoning went, it is "disinhibiting" to the objective of getting addicts to just stop using the stuff. "We don't want to send the message out that there is a safe way to use heroin," an ONDCP spokesperson said. But "dead addicts don't recover," as the common mantra in the harm reduction field goes.

While the drug czar's position is dead wrong about this -- deadly wrong, in fact -- the comment seems a fairly truthful explanation of the horrible way that many drug warriors think. It is a direct corollary of the spokesperson's comment that it is better to have people who could be saved instead die, in order to dissuade others from using drugs -- better to make sure that drugs kill -- so that everyone will be sure that drugs do kill. But the dead from overdoses are definitely (and permanently) dead, whereas those who, through the withholding of livesaving assistance to some, are thereby saved from death through their own choices, may or may not exist.

Those who oppose harm reduction are in effect supporting "harm intensification" instead -- a deliberate attempt through policy to increase the dangers of drugs -- at a cost of lives, and in my view of morality too.

But that is what prohibition is truly about, harm intensification on a global scale. Hence the need for legalization instead -- so morally defunct ideas like those expressed this week by the drug czar's office can be laid to rest and their ghastly consequences finally be made to cease.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics

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August 5-6, Spokane, WA, Spokane Hempfest, visit http://www.spokanehempfest.com for further information.

August 9, 2:00pm, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Public Forum on Methadone Treatment. Sponsored by The British Columbia Association of People On Methadone, at the Vancouver Public Library, Main Branch, 350 West Georgia, downstairs in the Peter Alma Room, snacks, open to the public. For further information, contact Ann at (604) 719-5313 or VANDU at (604) 683-606.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

October 28-29, 11:00am-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Second Annual Wonders of Cannabis Festival," benefit for the Cannabis Action Network and Green Aid, hosted by Ed Rosenthal. At the Hall of Flowers, Golden Gate park, individual admission $20, 18 and over, contact Danielle at (510) 486-8083 or [email protected] for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at [email protected].

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at http://www.ssdp.org online.

December 1, 6:30pm, New York, NY, First Annual Charity Dinner/Fundraiser for In Arms Reach: Parent Behind Bars: Children in Crisis, with former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks. At the Great Hall of City College, call (212) 650-5894 for further information.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Announcement: Sick Editor = Short Issue

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Phil Smith
After enduring nine straight days of 100 degree-plus heat on the drought-ravaged, sun-baked prairies of South Dakota, Chronicle editor Phil Smith was struck down by an attack of chills and fevers Sunday night and diagnosed with pneumonia Monday morning. (The doctors say they are seeing many cases of "summer pneumonia" that they attribute to the record-breaking heatwave.)

Determined journalist that he is, Smith ripped the IV tubes from his arm and staggered from his hospital bed to do the Chronicle.

Okay, okay, they gave me a shot in the butt, some antibiotics, a bottle of Motrin, and sent me on my way. Still, it cut into my work week this week, thus the short issue. Don't worry -- we'll be back at full strength next week.

Marijuana: Seattle Hempfest Sues City, Art Museum Over Permitting, Access

Who would have thought the organizers of the Seattle Hempfest, the world's largest marijuana law reform rally, would have to take legal action against the progressive city of Seattle and one of its art museums? But that's exactly what happened Monday, when Hempfest announced it was suing the city over its failure to process the permit application in a timely manner and its failure to address transportation and access issues caused by construction at Seattle Art Museum.

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2005 Hempfest
The Hempfest takes place each year at Myrtle Edwards Park, a narrow strip of land adjoining Puget Sound just north of downtown Seattle. Access to the park is limited, and the Seattle Art Museum's ongoing construction at its Olympic Sculpture Park leaves only a 14-foot-wide point of access for the estimated 150,000 people that will attend over Hempfest's two-day run.

Hempfest organizers say they are running out of time and cannot wait any longer for permits and resolution of the access issue. The permit application for the event was filed on January 3, and the city should have replied within 60 days, but has yet to do so. Nor has it arrived at a transportation plan that addresses the crucial access issue.

"Since the late fall of 2005, Hempfest has been meeting regularly with Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and city officials to resolve all issues and allow adequate space for pedestrian access, as well as access for police and fire officials. Public safety is a top priority for Hempfest," organizers said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "Construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park is in risk of jeopardizing public safety and depriving the public use of a major park," said Vivian McPeak, Executive Director of the Seattle Hempfest and plaintiff. "After months of negotiations with the City and SAM, I am confident that there is room for both the Sculpture Park and Hempfest," he added.

Organizers were quick to clarify that Hempfest will take place. Period. This year's event, set for August 19 and 20, features dozens of musical acts and speakers. This year's line up includes former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and Seattle City Council President Nick Licata (not to mention DRCNet associate director David Guard). Hundreds of exhibitors will sell hemp wares and dozens of organizations, including the ACLU and NORML and DRCNet, will recruit for their organizations and advocate an end to the drug war.

Latin America: New Report Says Colombian Cocaine Production Seriously Underestimated

"For a long time, the statistics on eradication of illicit crops have been mistaken. It's incredible that nobody has realized that Colombia produces much more cocaine than the reports say," said Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos back in June.

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eradication: much pain, no gain
He was responding to the release of report on his country's cocaine production conducted by US, UN, and Colombian experts at the request of the Colombian government. Now, the Colombian newsweekly Cambio has published an article based on that report, and the rest of us get to understand what Santos was talking about.

According to the report, the UN, the US, and the Colombian National Police have all seriously underestimated total cocaine production in the country, currently the world's leading cocaine producer. The Colombian police estimate was 497 tons in 2005, while the US estimated 545 tons, and the UN estimated 640 tons. But the authors of this most recent report estimate that cocaine production last year was actually a staggering 776 tons, or nearly half again as much as the US or Colombian police estimates.

The Colombians undertook the new survey after noticing that despite massive seizures of tons of cocaine, the price of the drug stayed stable. Investigators visited 1,400 coca growers and ran tests at more than 400 plantations. They found that growers had improved their growing techniques and were now able to produce not four harvests per year, but six.

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cocaine bricks (source: US DEA)
According to Cambio, "That explained why the strategies designed to confront the phenomenon have not produced the expected results and the drug trade is flourishing as much or more than before."

The research results raised questions about the effectiveness of the much-criticized aerial fumigation program financed by the United States. Colombian and US officials had suggested the lack of results from spraying herbicides was because traffickers had large stocks of cocaine warehoused. "Without a doubt, that's a big mistake," Colombian anti-drug police subdirector Carlos Medina told Cambio. "The narcos don’t need to store cocaine because the market demands coca and more coca."

The US has about $5 billion invested in this farce so far. One can't help but wonder when the politicians in Washington will notice all those tax dollars going down the rat hole.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another sheriff who couldn't resist temptation, another drug-dealing cop, and something smells mighty bad in a Mississippi anti-drug task force. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Adel, Iowa, the Dallas County sheriff was charged July 28 with stealing $120,000 in seized drug money. According to WHO-TV in nearby Des Moines, Sheriff Brian Gilbert is accused of pilfering one packet of cash in a $900,000 seizure. Gilbert took the cash from the scene and reportedly detoured to his home on the way to the station. When he got there, Deputy Scott Faiferlick noticed one of the packets was missing and told investigators. Sheriff Gilbert maintains his innocence, but now faces charges of first degree theft.

In Henrico, Virginia, a former city police officer is on the lam after police went public with two arrest warrants for him Monday. Former Officer Charles Harpster faces charges of obtaining drugs by fraud and marijuana distribution, Henrico police told WRIC-TV8 in Richmond. Police have released little other information, except to neither confirm nor deny allegations he took drugs from the police evidence room.

In Ellisville, Mississippi, prosecutors have dismissed at least three dozen drug cases because of an ongoing investigation into "questionable activities" by the Southeast Mississippi Drug Task force, according to a July 26 report by WDAM-TV7 in Hattiesburg. Jones County Assistant District Attorney Ronald Parrish told the station a number of other cases will not be presented to a grand jury. No specifics of the alleged police wrongdoing have been made public, but it must be pretty serious if prosecutors are already dismissing cases.

Harm Reduction: Drug Czar's Office Opposes Letting Heroin Users Have Easy Access to Overdose Antidote

When heroin users around Philadelphia started overdosing on junk laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate, a local harm reduction group began working with a sympathetic physician to provide addicts prescriptions to naloxone (brand name Narcan). The Office of National Drug Control Policy thinks that's a bad idea.

In many cities, paramedics carry Narcan with them, but by the time they arrive on the scene, it can be too late, explained Casey Cook, executive director of Prevention Point Philadelphia, the group that runs the city's needle exchange program. "If people have to rely on paramedics, more often than not, the overdose is going to be fatal, just because of the amount of time for people to get there," she told the Associated Press in an interview last Friday.

But the drug czar's office is worried that providing addicts with the means to survive an overdose would prove "disinhibiting," much the same way social conservatives argue that providing teenagers with condoms to prevent pregnancy and disease "disinhibits" them from remaining abstinent. ONDCP doesn't want to appear to condone drug use. "We don't want to send the message out that there is a safe way to use heroin," said Jennifer DeVallance, an ONDCP spokesperson told the AP.

There were some 16,000 drug-related deaths reported in 2002, the vast majority of them involving either heroin or prescription opiates, and at least 400 people have died in the wave of fentanyl-related heroin ODs in the past few months. Better they should die than people think heroin is safe, huh?

Feature: As Fighting Flares in Southern Afghanistan, Support for Licensed Opium Production Grows

American military commanders in Afghanistan Monday officially turned control of the country's restive, opium-rich south to NATO amid increasing rumblings of concern from European politicians -- concern over both rising coalition casualties and the wisdom of trying to prosecute the war on drugs and the counterinsurgency operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda at the same time. With some 18,500 troops, it will be the biggest mission in NATO history, and one whose outcome is cloudy at best.

This year has seen an upsurge in fighting in Afghanistan, with some 1,700 people killed in the spreading violence so far. Among them are 65 US troops and 35 NATO troops, including three British soldiers killed Tuesday in an ambush in southern Helmand province and two more killed Wednesday. Last year, the bloodiest year yet for coalition forces, saw 129 US and NATO soldiers killed, but this year looks set to be bloodier yet. In the last three months alone, 58 NATO or American soldiers have been killed, 35 in the south. At the rate things are going, these figures will probably be outdated by the time you read this.

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2005 Senlis symposium
It has also, by all accounts, seen an upsurge in opium production, especially in the south. Despite the stirring words of Prime Minister Karzai, who has vowed a holy war against the poppy, eradication efforts are achieving mixed results at best. That is because the Karzai government and its Western backers are confronted by a multitude of factors militating against success.

"The drug fight is continuing, but it is not very effective," said Abdul Raheem Yaseer, assistant director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. "The lack of the government's ability to help farmers find markets and the difficulty of transporting goods on the bad roads are very discouraging. And now the area is suffering from drought," he told DRCNet. "People were optimistic at the beginning of the year that they could sell their produce, so they invested their money, and then the drought came. Now, many of them are saying they can't make back the money they spent, so they are shifting back to opium. They speak openly. They say 'We have families to feed, loans to pay, there is no water, there is no improvement in the roads.'"

Yaseer pointed to several factors hindering the eradication effort. "The drug lords have been benefiting for years, and they fight to keep that revenue going," he said. "The high rises going up in Kabul are all built by drug lords. But some of those drug lords are members of the government, which complicates matters even more. Karzai talks very tough about eradication, but the reality on the ground is quite different. The corruption, along with the lack of support within the government and by the West, allows the drug lords to enjoy a relatively peaceful time."

But if British Lt. Gen. David Richards, the new NATO commander in the south, has his way, the drug traffickers are about to feel the wrath of the West. "I'm convinced that much of the violence is only caused by the drugs-related activities in the south," said Richards at a Kabul press conference Saturday. "The opium trade is being threatened by the NATO expansion into the south and they are going to fight very hard to keep what they have got and a lot of what we are seeing has nothing to do with any ideological commitment" to the Taliban, he said. "Essentially for the last four years some very brutal people have been developing their little fiefdoms down there and exporting a lot of opium to the rest of the world. That very evil trade is being threatened by the NATO expansion in the south. This is a very noble cause we're engaged in, and we have to liberate the people from that scourge of those warlords."

"NATO has three objectives," said Yaseer. "Their first priority is to defeat the insurgency, secondly to win hearts and minds, and third to wipe out the opium." But, he conceded, those goals are contradictory, given Afghanistan's huge dependency on the opium economy. According to the United Nations, opium accounts for somewhere between 40% and 50% of the national economy.

And the attempt to prosecute all three objectives at the same time could well led to a more formal alliance between traffickers and insurgents. The major drug traffickers also align themselves with the Taliban and what Yaseer called "intruders" from Pakistan, referring to agents of Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, who he said work to keep Afghanistan from gaining stability. "The drug lords do not want to be controlled by the Afghan government, so they side with the intruders and the Taliban and share profits with them. These intruders from Pakistan are not helping; they are jeopardizing the efforts against smuggling and to eradicate the poppies. As for the Taliban, they might have religious problems with opium, but they like the money and they cooperate with the growers and traffickers."

"The drug lords and smugglers are as strong militarily as the Taliban and Al Qaeda," said Yaseer. "If they really unite together, the coalition forces will face a big strong resistance."

The command turnover from the Americans to NATO, and the rising death toll among NATO soldiers is beginning to focus the minds of European politicians, some of whom are beginning to call for the adoption of a scheme that would allow the licensed production of opium for the legitimate medicinal market. Formally unveiled last October in Kabul, the proposal from the European security and development think tank, The Senlis Council, has so far attracted only limited support from key decision-makers in Kabul and the capitals of the West.

Last week, Drug War Chronicle reported that some British Conservatives had begun to call for adoption of the Senlis proposal. By the time that report appeared, new calls to adopt the licensing scheme came from the Italian government.

"The Italian government will be a promoter both in Europe and in Afghanistan" of a project to "legally purchase the opium produced in Afghanistan and use it for medicinal purposes," said Italian foreign vice minister Ugo Intini last Friday, as he spoke with journalists at the Italian Senate. The aim is to reduce the illicit trafficking of opium and make opioid pain medications more available to poor developing countries, he said. The lack of opioid pain medications in the developing countries is "profoundly unfair," he added.

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plaque memorializing journalists murdered by Taliban, at hotel where they stayed in Jalalabad
A British Labor Party politician told DRCNet Thursday that he, too, supported the Senlis proposal. "In Helmand, Britain has stopped destroying poppy crops to concentrate on bombing people into democracy and trying to win hearts and minds by using bombs and bullets," said MP Paul Flynn, a staunch opponent of the drug war. "The $40 million paid to the corrupt Karzai government to compensate farmers for crops previously destroyed never reached the farmers. The only sensible way to make progress is to license the farmers to use their poppy crop to reduce the world-wide morphine shortage."

But the idea that the US, which opposes any relaxation of any drug law anywhere on ideological grounds, or the Afghan government, will embrace the proposal is probably mistaken, said Yaseer. "As soon as you hear 'legalize drugs,' all kinds of religious, traditional, and other resistance pops up. One problem here is that the state is too weak. They can’t control it when it is illegal, and they wouldn’t be able to control it if it were legal. There is plenty of opium already without licensing; in the Afghan context, licensing means freedom to grow more."

Instead, said Yaseer, the Afghan government and the West should subsidize the farmers, seek alternative crops, and enable local government to actually establish control on the ground. But that will not be easy, he conceded. In the meantime, the poppies continue to bloom, the drug lords, both within and without the Karzai government, continue to get rich, and NATO soldiers, American soldiers, Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, and drug trafficker gunmen all continue to fight and die. And civilian Afghan citizens, most of whom would like nothing more than peace and prosperity, are among the biggest losers as the bullets fly and the bombs drop.

visit: DRCNet in Afghanistan

Feature: British Parliamentary Committee Slams Drug Classification Scheme, Calls for Evidence-Based System

The British Parliament's Science and Technology Committee released a report Monday that rips into Britain's current drug classification scheme as "opaque" and urges that it be replaced with a system that is based on scientific evidence and accurately reflects actual harm to drug users and society. The current system is "not fit for its purpose," the scorching report found.

Under the current system, drugs are classified as Class A (heroin, cocaine), B (methamphetamine), or C (marijuana, anabolic steroids), with the Class A drugs considered most harmful and Class C drugs considered least harmful. Class A drugs carry a seven-year prison sentence for possession, Class B five years, and Class C two years. Sales of Class A drugs can earn up to a life sentence, while sales of Class B and C drugs can earn up to 14 years. The British Home Secretary is charged with deciding which drug goes where in the classification scheme based on evidence provided by advisors, who are supposed to weigh the problems caused by various drugs and classify them accordingly.

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ecstasy pills
It hasn’t worked out that way, the committee concluded in its report, aptly titled "Drug Classification: Making a Hash Of It? "There was a lack of consistency in the way some drugs were classified in the A,B,C system and no solid evidence to back-up the view that classification had a deterrent effect," the committee noted dryly as it released its findings. "The Committee was also critical of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the key scientific advisory body on drugs policy, calling its failure to alert the Home Secretary to the serious flaws in the classification system a 'dereliction of its duty.'"

Pointing to the recent review of the 2004 down-classification of marijuana from Class B to Class C against a steady drumbeat of tabloid hyperventilation over its alleged dangers, the committee complained that such reviews gave the impression they were “knee-jerk responses to media storms." The committee also scored the Home Office and ACMD for failing to demonstrate that the current classification system is effective and for failing to invest in research on addiction.

“The current classification system is riddled with anomalies and clearly not fit for its purpose," committee chair MP Phil Willis said in a statement accompanying the report's release. "From what we have seen, the Home Office and ACMD approach to classification seems to have been based on ad hockery and conservatism. It’s obvious that there is an urgent need for a root and branch review of the classification system, as promised by the previous Home Secretary. We all know that the current Home Secretary has other things on his mind, but that’s not an excuse for trying to kick this issue into the long grass."

If Britain wants a rational drug classification system that works, said Willis, it should forget about using it to punish people for taking drugs the government doesn’t like. "The only way to get an accurate and up to date classification system is to remove the link with penalties and just focus on harm. That must be harm not only to the user but harm defined by the social consequences as well," the committee head explained. "It's time to bring in a more systematic and scientific approach to drug classification – how can we get the message across to young people if what we are saying is not based on evidence?"

The report also calls for including alcohol and tobacco in any new drug classification scheme, and suggests they should be classified as more dangerous than ecstasy. It also attacked the government's classification of several drugs. With psychedelic mushrooms, the government reclassified them administratively as dangerous Class A drugs, thus avoiding consultation with the ACMD. That move "contravened the spirit of the Misuse of Drugs Act and did not give the ACMD the chance to consider the evidence properly."

The committee report criticized the ACMD for not speaking out on the mushroom issue, saying its failure to do speak has "undermined its credibility." The report also scolded the ACMD for never getting around to reviewing ecstasy status, which currently mis-classifies it along with the most dangerous and harmful drugs.

Drugscope, a leading British drug policy thinktank, welcomed the committee's call for an overhaul of the classification system. "The Misuse of Drugs Act is over 30 years old and the drug scene in the UK has changed out of all recognition since then," said Drugscope head Marvin Barnes in a statement greeting the report's release. "It also true that some of the decisions about placing certain drugs within the Act, such as ecstasy and fresh magic mushrooms, do not bear much scientific scrutiny. It is important that the Act more accurately matches legal penalties to the overall risk of drugs to society. Such a review was promised by the Home Office in January, but we have heard nothing about it since," Barnes chided.

But Drugscope rejected some of the criticisms leveled against the ACMD in the report. "It may be that the ACMD could have been more proactive regarding drug classification, but their many reports have helped shape the drug treatment system in the UK," Barnes said. "In particular, their recommendation about supplying needles and syringes to heroin users in the 1980s may have saved the UK from a major HIV/AIDS epidemic."

A leading mental health nonprofit, Rethink, used the report's release to clamor for more information about the links between marijuana and mental illness. Rethink’s Director of Public Affairs Paul Corry said: "In any debate about the classification of cannabis, Rethink’s main concern is that the government delivers on its promise to educate the public about the mental health risks of cannabis use," said Rethink public affairs director Paul Corry in a statement Monday. "Rethink is concerned by the lack of progress concerning this critical public health issue. We know that early-age users, long-term users and people with a family history of mental illness are at a high risk of developing psychosis from smoking cannabis – the problem is that they don’t know it because the government has failed to act on its promise," Corry argued.

The British reform group the Transform Drug Policy Foundation also issued a statement welcoming the report. "Transform welcomes the fact that the committee has taken on board the broader critique of the classification system rather than getting bogged down in a pointless debate about why each drug is in a particular class," said Transform information officer Steve Rolles. "The bigger issue at stake here is that the entire classification system is based on drug war ideology, has no scientific basis whatsoever, and does the exact opposite of what it is intended to do. We would like to see this is a prelude to a more significant inquiry into the evidence base for the criminalization of drugs per se.”

Rollins also echoed calls for the Home Secretary to act. "We also hope that the Home Office will now resume the drug classification consultation announced by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke earlier this year, as specifically recommended by the committee," he said. "The consultation document was ready to be published but seems to have been kicked into the long grass by the new Home Secretary. The Select Committee’s withering critique makes this promised Home Office consultation all the more urgent"

The Tories are using the report to hammer Labor's drug policy and take up the "dangerous marijuana" banner. Shadow Home Secretary Edward Garnier quickly released a statement seeking political advantage. "We will study the Select Committee Report in detail, but what is and has been apparent for some time is the lack of clarity in this government's policy on illegal drugs," Garnier charged. "The downgrading of cannabis sent out the message that it was pretty harmless and will have encouraged youngsters to take it up. It is vital that we have strong and effective measures warning children of the dangers of drugs devoid of any confusion."

Labor so far has been quiet, but Labor MP Paul Flynn told DRCNet he found the committee report a useful palliative for the politicization of drug policy. "Categorizing drugs in 1971 was to be the silver bullet to cut drug use. Then there were 1,000 addicts; now there are 280,000," he noted. "Yet all political parties still cling to this duff bullet by voting in 2005 for the insanity that classified magic mushrooms with heroin and left alcohol and nicotine unclassified. Thanks to the science committee for a whiff of sanity."

With the publication of the committee report, Britain is one step closer to rational, evidence-based drug classification system. The US drug classification system is similarly irrational, placing, for instance, marijuana and LSD in the same category as heroin, but there is no sign of any such scientifically-guided approach here.

In Memoriam: Methadone Pioneer Vincent P. Dole

(This memorial piece for a great pioneer in addiction treatment was written and distributed by his friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Newman.)

Dr. Vincent Dole (an internist) and his late wife, Marie Nyswander, MD (a psychiatrist), began their collaborative research with methadone with a handful of long-term heroin-dependent individuals in 1964. They did so in the face of overt threats of harsh criminal and civil action by federal narcotics agents. Their courageous, pioneering work demonstrated that methadone maintenance is a medical treatment of unparalleled effectiveness -- a superlative description that is as applicable today as it was four decades ago. As a result, well over three-quarters of a million people throughout the world are able to lead healthy, productive, self-fulfilling lives - over 200,000 in the United States, an estimated 530,000 in Western Europe, and many tens of thousands more in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Central Asia, Far East, Australia and New Zealand.

After the remarkable transformation they observed in their first few patients, Dr. Dole and Dr. Nyswander went on to provide direct supervision of the first methadone maintenance treatment program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. In so doing they demonstrated that it was possible to replicate on a large scale the therapeutic success they achieved in the small, controlled, research environment of the Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University). Dr. Dole was also responsible in the early 1970s for convincing the New York City Department of Corrections (at the time headed by Commissioner Ben Malcolm) that detoxification of heroin-dependent inmates in the city's main detention facility at Rikers Island was imperative to save lives and lessen suffering (there had been a wave of suicides at the time that had been attributed to severe opiate withdrawal). The detoxification program continues to this day, and has become a model for enlightened corrections officials in other countries.

Dr. Dole and Dr. Nyswander's contributions, however, transcend the life-saving clinical impact on patients and the enormous associated benefits to the community as a whole. They had prescience to hypothesize, years before the discovery of the morphine-like endorphine system in the human body, that addiction is a metabolic disorder, a disease, and one that can and must be treated like any other chronic illness. What was at the time brilliant insight on their part is today almost universally accepted by scientists and clinicians alike, and remains the foundation upon which all rational policies and practices in the field rest.

In his mid-80s Dr. Dole traveled to Hamburg to be present at the naming ceremony of the Marie Nyswander Street; in less than ten years Germany moved from methadone being illegal to having over 60,000 patients in treatment! His efforts during recent years were devoted to fighting the stigma that, tragically, remains so widespread against the illness of addiction, the patients and the treatment.

Weekly: This Week in History

August 4, 1996: In the midst of an election season that includes California's medical marijuana initiative, Prop. 215, state narcotics agents, at the direction of California Attorney General Dan Lungren, raid the Cannabis Buyers' Club of San Francisco.

August 5, 2004: In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed entitled “War on Drugs Escalates to War on Families,” Walter Cronkite calls the war on drugs “disastrous” and a “failure” and provides a plethora of reasons why it should end immediately.

August 6, 1990: Robert C. Bonner is sworn in as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Bonner had been a federal judge in Los Angeles. Before he became a judge, Bonner served as a US attorney from 1984 to 1989.

August 6, 2004: The Ninth Circuit orders the release, pending appeal, of Bryan Epis, who had been convicted of conspiracy to grow 1,000 marijuana plants in a federal trial in which the jury was not allowed to hear that he was a medical marijuana activist.

August 7, 1997: The New England Journal of Medicine opines, "Virtually no one thinks it is reasonable to initiate criminal prosecution of patients with cancer or AIDS who use marijuana on the advice of their physicians to help them through conventional medical treatment for their disease."

August 8, 1988: The domestic marijuana seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 389,113 pounds in Miami, Florida.

August 8, 2001: During his third term in Congress, Asa Hutchinson is appointed by President Bush as chief administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

August 9, 1990: Two hundred National Guardsmen and Bureau of Land Management rangers conduct a marijuana raid dubbed Operation Green Sweep on a federal conservation area in California known as King Ridge. Local residents file a $100 million lawsuit, claiming that federal agents illegally invaded their property, wrongfully arrested them, and harassed them with their low-flying helicopters and loaded guns.

Web Scan

"How Legalizing Drugs Will End the Violence," former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, for AlterNet

Cultural Baggage with Prof. Arnold Trebach, author "Fatal Distraction - Drug War in a time of Islamic Terror," also Name Drug, Terry Nelson, Black Perspective II, Poppygate, Official Govt Truth

Century of Lies with Dean Kuipers, author of "Burning Rainbow Farm," also Terry Michael of Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, Black Perspective I, DRCNet Corrupt Cops Story

DrugScience.org, updated web site of the Cannabis Rescheduling petition and future home of the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform

court filings, Multi-Denominational Ministry of Cannabis and Rastafari federal injunction case

Announcement: IJPD Seeks Article Submissions on Women and Harm Reduction

The International Journal of Drug Policy has released a call for papers, for a special issue: "Women and Harm Reduction: Spanning the Globe," guest editors Susan Sherman, Adeeba bte Kamarulzaman and Patti Spittal.

The issue aims to examine: the unique factors (e.g. cultural, relational, legal or economic) that contribute to women's use of psychoactive drugs (licit and illicit); the stigma associated with women's drug use; proximal and distal effects of drug use on the lives of women drug users as well as drug users’ female sexual partners; examine patterns of use and consequences of different types of drugs (e.g. ATS, alcohol, opiates); to explore the effects of different types of drugs; to examine gender-related policies regarding harm reduction services and treatment; and to examine innovative programs targeting women drug users.

The issue aims to include work representing a range of geographic regions (e.g. former Soviet Union, Middle East, South Asia,Southeast Asia, Europe/North America). Papers must be relevant to harm reduction and policy.

Several types of contributions are invited: Scientific review papers (max 8,000 words) ; Original research papers (3,000 – 7,000 words); Short research reports (up to 1500 words); Descriptions of interesting (positive or negative) programmes or policies (2,000 – 5,000 words); Descriptions of problems (e.g. structural barriers) in gaining access to needed services or programmes (2,000 – 5,000 words); Policies and/or historical analyses (3,000 – 7,000 words); Commentaries (max 4,000 words); Editorials (1,500 - 2,500 words).

The deadline for outline abstracts or other short descriptions (not exceeding 400 words) is September 23, 2006; they should be sent to [email protected]. If selected for submission, the deadline for completion of draft contributions will be in December, 2006. Submissions will be made on the Elsevier on-line electronic submission system and will be subject to peer-review.

Editorial: It's Time to Get Real About Opium in Afghanistan

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/28/06

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David Borden
I wouldn't say that many countries are truly rational about drug policy yet, but some of them have more people, in more prominent positions, who have gotten there. When they do, it tends to transcend traditional political boundaries -- for example, Conservative party leader David Cameron in Great Britain, who suggested legalization during the run-up to his selection for the post, and others in his party who asked him this week to support a licensing scheme for Afghan opium as opposed to the current regime of total prohibition and sporadic and ineffective eradication efforts.

What some of the Tories are saying is that it's unrealistic to think we can be effective against an industry that makes up 50% of the struggling nation's economy, that when eradication efforts happen, they drive farmers into the Taliban's corner and seem correlated with outbreaks of violence, that instituting a legal opium crop (which could be used and is actually somewhat needed for the legal medical market) would reduce the illicit market and deal a blow to evil-doers by bringing the money above-board and reducing their access to it.

Given the substantial threats existing to security and the role movements operating from Afghanistan have played in some of them, I vote for realism. These Brits are right -- trying to pull the plug on Afghanistan's opium trade is a truly insane idea -- we would only find out how insane if we were actually to succeed. The war against drugs is a war that cannot be won -- too many people are determined to take them and are willing to pay the money that it takes to get them.

In that sense, the bad guys will always have more resources to work with then the good guys. In a larger sense, the lines dividing the bad guys from the good guys are more than a little blurred, when the enemy apparently include destitute third-world farmers who only want to save their families from starving, and ordinary American and European citizens who only want to be left alone to indulge in their pastimes in private.

Cameron, of course, is from the other side of the aisle as current British prime minister Tony Blair, and even if the Conservatives were in power, they doubtless don't all support his views about legalization. Doing something about it is even harder still than that. And of course the Afghans get to have some say in what happens in their country too, and they are not all on board even with the moderate proposal of licensing for the medical supply. (Our editor Phil Smith found that out when he attended last September's conference in Kabul on the idea.)

Still, you have to start somewhere, and a the top political leaders in a nation that is the US's closest ally seems as good a place as any. A desperate country like Afghanistan that urgently needs stability and to reduce criminality also would seem a worthy place, even more so in light of our own related interests there. It's time to get real about opium in Afghanistan.

Web Scan

Nightline blows it big time with khat bust report -- they actually liken khat to methamphetamine(!) -- coffee with a shot or two of espresso might be more like it -- and say the ring was connected with terrorism even though officials say they were only investigating whether it could have been.

Tony Papa debunks prosecutor's anti-Rockefeller Reform report, in Long Island's Newsday

DrugSense web section on drug reformers' electoral campaigns

New audio from the DrugTruth radio network:

Former Sheriff Earl Barnett, Chris Conrad marijuana expert, Black Perspective II, Official Govt. Truth

Radley Balko report on SWAT team abuse for Cato Institute, Black Perspective I, Terry Nelson of LEAP, Corrupt Cops Story, Poppygate, Drug War Facts

Medical Marijuana: In New York Democratic Gubernatorial Race, Spitzer Says No, Suozzi Says Yes

Running an uphill race for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination against state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi hoped to use a televised debate to heighten his profile and open some space between himself and Spitzer on the issues. He managed to do that on a number of issuing, including medical marijuana.

When asked by debate moderator Dominick Carter whether medical marijuana should be legalized in the Empire State, Spitzer answered "no," which generated booing from the audience, while Suozzi answered "yes."

The next question was whether the candidates had ever used marijuana. Both said "yes," but Spitzer's affirmative was followed by laughter, then clapping from the audience. Neither candidate elaborated on their monosyllabic responses.

While Spitzer opposes medical marijuana, he has been a staunch supporter of Rockefeller drug law reform. Neither candidate, however, mentions Rockefeller drug law reform as a major issue on their campaign web sites.

(Audio of the debate can be accessed on the WNYC web site -- the marijuana exchange is 57:47 deep into the file.)

Errata: Kershaw Not In Kershaw Anymore

Last week, one of the "corrupt cops" stories we reported on was from Kershaw County, South Carolina, or so we thought:

In Lancaster, South Carolina, a Kershaw County prison guard was charged with taking what he thought was Ecstasy from undercover agents to sneak into the prison, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced in a July 12 press release. Joseph Sanders, 29, was arrested the night before and charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner. According to the arrest warrant, Sanders took the fake drug from the SLED narc with the intention of smuggling it into the prison.

A local journalist who saw our article on Google News set the record straight for us. It turns out that while the suspect is from Lancaster -- which is part of Lancaster County -- Kershaw Correctional Institute where he works (and which is in Kershaw) is also part of Lancaster County, hence he was a Lancaster County prison guard, not a Kershaw County prison guard as we misidentified him. The arrest, however, took place in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Camden -- part of Kershaw County -- Kershaw itself used to be part of Kershaw County, but removed itself from it decades ago and is now part of Lancaster County.

Drug War Chronicle regrets the error -- but hopes we'll get some slack on this one. The original story -- correct, we think -- can be found here.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Posted in:

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics

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August 5-6, Spokane, WA, Spokane Hempfest, visit http://www.spokanehempfest.com for further information.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

October 28-29, 11:00am-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Second Annual Wonders of Cannabis Festival," benefit for the Cannabis Action Network and Green Aid, hosted by Ed Rosenthal. At the Hall of Flowers, Golden Gate park, individual admission $20, 18 and over, contact Danielle at (510) 486-8083 or [email protected] for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at [email protected].

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at http://www.ssdp.org online.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Weekly: This Week in History

July 28, 2003: James Geddes, originally sentenced to 150 years for possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia and for growing five marijuana plants, is released.

July 29, 1997: A large number of Los Angeles sheriff's deputies swarm into the home of author and medical marijuana patient Peter McWilliams and well-known medical marijuana activist Todd McCormick, a medical marijuana user and grower who had cancer ten times as a child and suffers from chronic pain as the result of having the vertebrae in his neck fused in childhood surgery. McCormick ultimately serves a five-year sentence, while McWilliams choked to death on his own vomit in 2000 after being denied medical marijuana by a federal judge.

July 30, 2002: ABC airs John Stossels' special report "War on Drugs, A War On Ourselves."

July 31, 2000: In Canada, Ontario's top court rules unanimously (3-0) that Canada's law making marijuana possession a crime is unconstitutional because it does not take into account the needs of Canadian medical marijuana patients. The judges allow the current law to remain in effect for another 12 months, to permit Parliament to rewrite it, but says that if the Canadian federal government fails to set up a medical marijuana distribution program by July 31, 2001, all marijuana laws in Canada will be struck down.

July 31, 2003: Karen P. Tandy is confirmed by unanimous consent in the US Senate as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Tandy was serving in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She previously served in DOJ as Chief of Litigation in the Asset Forfeiture Office and Deputy Chief for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and she prosecuted drug, money laundering, and forteiture cases as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the Western District of Washington.

August 1, 2000: The first Shadow Convention convenes in Philadelphia, PA, with the drug war being one of the gathering's three main themes.

August1, 2004: The Observer (UK) reports: The US has blamed Britain's 'lack of urgency' for its failure to arrest the booming opium trade in Afghanistan, exposing a schism between the allies as the country trembles on the brink of anarchy.

August 2, 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act is passed by Congress, enacting marijuana prohibition at the federal level for the first time. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger tells the Congressmen at the hearings, "Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."

August 2, 1977: In a speech to Congress, Jimmy Carter addresses the harm done by prohibition, saying, "Penalties against a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana for personal use. The National Commission on Marijuana... concluded years ago that marijuana should be decriminalized, and I believe it is time to implement those basic recommendations."

August 3, 2004: Sixty percent of Detroit’s residents vote in favor of Proposition M or “The Detroit Medical Marijuana Act” which amends the Detroit city criminal code so that local criminal penalties no longer apply to any individual “possessing or using marijuana under the direction... of a physician or other licensed health professional.”

Khat: Feds Arrest 62 in Crackdown on Mild East African Stimulant Herb

Khat, a shrub that grows in East Africa, has been used for centuries as a mild stimulant in the region, with a high similar to that obtained by drinking a lot of tea or coffee. Khat is legal thoughout Africa and most European countries, but US federal authorities consider it a dangerous drug. They struck Wednesday, arresting 62 East African immigrants on charges they smuggled more than 25 tons of the stuff into the United States.

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family khat use scene, Vietnam
Federal officials told reporters Wednesday they are investigating reports the khat smugglers may be linked to "war lords" in Somalia and Ethiopia, but they have not produced any proof of that, nor do any of the indictments allege any links to terrorist activities in the region, where Islamic extremism is on the march. Muslim fundamentalists linked to Al-Qaida are battling Western-backed "war lords" for control of Somalia.

"It is suspected that there are ties to some type of terrorist organizations," a federal agent demanding anonymity told the McClatchy Newspaper chain. While the indictments do not allege terror links, they do charge the group laundered money through hawalas, an informal network of remittances widely used in South Asia and the Middle East. Some of the money ended up in the Middle East financial capital Dubai, the indictments allege.

FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon told a New York news conference Wednesday that the agency continues to seek "the ultimate destiny of the funds." According to Mershon, intelligence suggests the money was headed for "countries in East Africa which are a hotbed for Sunni extremism and a wellspring for terrorists associated with Al-Qaida."

Hmmm…They are also the countries from which those arrested hail and where khat is widely grown. Meanwhile, the man charged as ringleader for the group faces up to life in prison and the others face up to 20 years for using and dealing in an herb with which they grew up.

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