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Europe: Czech Government Decriminalizes Up To Five Pot Plants, 15 Grams

Beginning January 1, possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana or up to five marijuana plants will not be a punishable offense in the Czech Republic. Likewise, people will be able to possess up to 40 hallucinogenic mushrooms. The limits were announced Tuesday after they were decided on by the cabinet. Late last year, the Czech parliament approved a new penal code that specified no punishment for the possession of “small amounts” of drugs. But the code did not specify just what constituted a “small amount,” with the result that police sometimes charged people, especially home pot growers with more serious offenses. The task of formalizing those limits has been taken up by the Justice Ministry, which submits its proposals to the cabinet. The ministry has also proposed setting the “small amount” limits for ecstasy at four tablets and for hashish at five grams. Similarly, people could possess up to two grams of methamphetamine without fear of punishment. The cabinet will consider those proposals in two weeks. Possession of amounts greater than “small amounts,” but less than those assumed to indicate drug trafficking, will result of prison sentences of up to one year for marijuana and up to two years for other drugs. According to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction‘s latest annual report, Czechs are among Europe’s leading pot smokers. Among young Czechs (age 16 to 34), 22% toke up at least once a year. The European average was 16%.
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Czech Republic

Europe: Scotland Ponders Move to Fines for Small-Time Marijuana Possession

In a report released Wednesday, the Scottish government is recommending that small-time marijuana offenders simply be handed on-the-spot fines of $67. The fines, or "fixed penalty notices," are already in effect for a number of public nuisance offenses, such as public drunkenness, vandalism, and urinating in public.

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Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland (photo from Sam Fentress via Wikimedia)
Adding small-time marijuana offenses to the list won the support of 83% of police officers surveyed for the report. If adopted, the ticketing scheme would move Scottish practices closer to those in England or in limited parts of Scotland, where police officers have the option of issuing a warning to people caught smoking or in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"This was felt to be a proportionate means of dealing with a minor offence which would also save a lot of police time," the report said.

Handing out tickets instead of arrests for public order offenses freed up nearly 22,000 hours of police officers' time, said Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing. "It is right that anyone committing a serious crime should continue to be brought before a sheriff to face the full range of penalties available to the court," he said. "However for less serious offences, such as consuming alcohol in the street, these figures show that our police officers are punishing low-level antisocial behavior swiftly and effectively, hitting perpetrators in their pockets. This is swift and visible justice for those who commit acts of anti-social behavior in our communities and hits them in their pockets."

Under current United Kingdom drug law, marijuana is a Class B drug, with simple possession punishable by up to two years in prison. In practice, such harsh sentences are rarely imposed.

Feature: Marijuana Decriminalization and Legalization Bills at the Statehouse This Year

Thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana possession so far; none have legalized it. This year, marijuana legalization bills have been filed in two states -- California and Massachusetts -- and decriminalization bills -- loosely defined -- were introduced in six states and passed in one, Maine. In Virginia, a bid to create a new marijuana offense was defeated.

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press conference for California AB 390 hearing -- Assemblyman Ammiano at right
We have tried to create a comprehensive list of marijuana reform legislation in the states -- not medical marijuana, we did that last week -- but we can't be absolutely certain we've covered everything. If you know of a bill we missed, please email us with the details and we'll add it to the list. (We compiled this list from our own coverage and a variety of other sources. The Marijuana Policy Project's state pages were especially useful.)

California: San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D) introduced a landmark legalization bill, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, AB 390, in March. Under the bill, the state would license producers and distributors, who would pay an excise tax of $50 per ounce, or about $1 per joint. Anyone 21 or over could then purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor. The bill also would allow any adult to grow up to 10 plants for personal, non-commercial use. AB 390 got a hearing before the Assembly Public Safety Committee in October, but has not moved since.

Connecticut: Senators Martin Looney (D-New Haven), the Senate Majority Leader, and Toni Harp (D-New Haven), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced a marijuana decriminalization bill, SB 349, in January. It would have made possession of less than half an ounce an unclassified misdemeanor with a maximum $250 fine. The measure passed the Joint Judiciary Committee in March on a 24-14 vote, but it was filibustered to death in the Senate Finance Committee by Sen. Toni Boucher (R-New Canaan) in May.

Maine: The legislature passed in March and Gov. John Baldacci (D) signed in May LD 250, which increases the amount of marijuana decriminalized in the state to 2.5 ounces. Previously, possession of up to 1.25 ounces was a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, but possession of between 1.25 and 2.5 ounces was a misdemeanor that could get one six months in jail. Unfortunately, the bill also increased the penalty for possession of more than eight ounces from six months and a $1,000 fine to one year and a $2,000 fine.

Massachusetts: -- At the request of former StoptheDrugWar.org and NORML board member Richard Evans, Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst) introduced another landmark legalization bill, AN ACT TO REGULATE AND TAX THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY -- H 2929, that would remove marijuana offenses from the criminal code and allow for the licensed production and sale of marijuana. The bill was assigned to the Joint Committee on Revenue, where it got a public hearing in October.

Montana: A marijuana decriminalization bill, HB 541, was introduced by Rep. Brady Wiseman (D-Bozeman). It would have made possession of up to 30 grams a civil infraction punishable by only a $50 fine. Under current law, that same amount can get you up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. The bill got a House Judiciary Committee hearing in March, but failed to get out of committee on a straight party-line 9-9 vote.

New Hampshire: In January, Rep. Steven Lindsey (D) introduced a bill that would decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Under the bill, HB 555, persons over the age of 18 would face no more than a $100 fine. Simple possession would also be decriminalized for minors, but they would be subjected to community service and a drug awareness program at their own expense or face a $1,000 fine. While the House passed a similar measure last year (it died in the Senate), this year the bill never made it out of committee. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee deemed it "inexpedient to legislate" in February.

Rhode Island: In July, as the General Assembly rushed to adjourn, the Senate approved a resolution introduced that same day to create a nine-member commission to study a broad range of issues around marijuana policy. The resolution, which did not require any further approval, set up a "Special Senate Commission to Study the Prohibition of Marijuana," which is charged with issuing a report by January 31. The panel met for the first time last week.

Tennessee: -- A bill, SB 1942, that would have made possession of less than an eighth of an ounce of marijuana a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $250 and $2500 died after being deferred by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May. Companion legislation, HB 1835, met a similar fate in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Criminal Practice and Procedure in March.

Vermont: Led by Rep. David Zuckerman (P-Burlington), 19 members of the Vermont legislature introduced in February a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Under the bill, HB 150, small-time possession would have become a civil infraction with a maximum $100 fine. But the bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it has languished ever since.

Virginia: It was not decriminalization but increasing marijuana penalties that was on the agenda in the Old Dominion. Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond) introduced HB 1807, which would create a new felony offense for people caught transporting more than one ounce but less than five pounds of marijuana into the state. The bill was filed in January and sent to the Committee on Courts of Justice, where it died upon being "Left in Courts of Justice" on February 10.

Washington: A bill, S 5615, that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana was introduced in January and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee a week after a public hearing in February. It then went to the Senate Rules Committee, where it stalled. A companion bill in the House, HB 1177, was referred to the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, which effectively killed it by refusing to schedule it for a hearing before a legislative deadline in March.

The Staggering Incoherence of Drug Warrior Charles Grassley

Earlier this month, notorious drug war cheerleader Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) provoked outrage by attempting to censor debate about drug policy reform in Congress. He proposed an amendment that would literally ban a congressionally appointed expert panel from discussing legalization or decriminalization as part of a broad evaluation of criminal justice policies.

It's just a transparently pathetic strategy of defending the drug war status quo by outlawing meaningful debate and keeping alternatives off the table. Fortunately, just about everyone saw right through it. Pete Guither points out that Grassley is so cornered, he's now begging his constituents in Iowa to back him up on this. And the harder he tries to defend it, the weaker it sounds:

First and foremost, Congress ought to tackle issues whenever possible before bucking them to commissions. Increasingly, Congress is using commissions to avoid doing what Americans elect members to do: ask tough questions, identify possible answers, debate policy solutions and take a stand. [Des Moines Register]

Yeah, who needs experts when we've got politicians to make all our decisions for us?

This commission also would cost $14 million. It's hard to justify that expenditure in the current fiscal situation, especially when it's work that Congress should be doing itself.

Wait, so you can justify spending $50 billion a year on the war on drugs, but we can't justify $14 million to evaluate whether it makes any sense?

Finally, I put forward an amendment to address the issue of decriminalization and legalization of any controlled substance. I filed this amendment in an effort to start a debate on this important issue.


Really, Chuck? Really? How exactly does banning discussion of something promote debate? Everything, from the language of Grassley's amendment to his rich history of ignorant pro-drug-war posturing, proves what a total lie that is. The very essence of this controversy is that he blatantly attempted to prevent experts from looking into the issues he doesn’t want to talk about. Clearly, Grassley greatly underestimated the growing public demand for a new dialogue about our drug policies and got burned by his own arrogance, to such an extent that he is now hilariously masquerading as the champion of that critical discussion.  

The obvious bottom line here is that Grassley is consumed by his fear about what the experts will say. That is just implicit in all of this. If he wasn't deeply afraid of their conclusions, he wouldn’t be introducing amendments telling them what conclusions not to reach.  

The commission hasn’t even been appointed yet, so the very notion that it will become a referendum on the urgent need for sweeping reforms to our drug policy is purely a product of his paranoid imagination (combined perhaps with a subconscious recognition that the drug war is a gaping suckhole and smart people aren't exactly in love with it anymore). If Congress had named an expert panel consisting of Ethan Nadelmann, Rob Kampia, Jacob Sullum, Paul Armentano, Micah Daigle, Norm Stamper, Pete Guither and Willie Nelson, then maybe Charles Grassley could be forgiven for tearing from D.C. to Des Moines on horseback, flailing a dinner bell over his head and screaming that the legalizers are coming.  

Until that happens, the drug war pep squad would be well advised to just pipe down for the time being, lest their suggestions that we not discuss certain things should lead to yet more discussion of the things they don’t want discussed.

Update: Turns out Grassley's piece was a response to this Op-ed by Marni Steadham of University of Iowa SSDP. More coverage here.

Europe: Fired British Drug Advisor Calls for Royal Commission on Marijuana Decriminalization

Professor David Nutt, the former head of Britain's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), who was fired late last month by Home Secretary Alan Johnson for criticizing the government's drug policies as driven by politics instead of science, is now calling for a Royal Commission to study whether to decriminalize marijuana.

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David Nutt
As head of the ACMD, Nutt had recommended that marijuana not be up-scheduled by the Labor government, but the government ignored that advice and moved marijuana back to a Class B drug, where it had been before the government down-scheduled it to Class C in 2004. Nutt and the ACMD had also recommended down-scheduling Ecstasy, another position the government rejected.

Nutt's firing three weeks ago has led to considerable criticism of the government from the scientific community. It has also led to the resignations of five members of the ACMD.

Now, Nutt has told BBC's Radio 4 that a Royal Commission examining decriminalization was a "sensible" idea that could bring "big health benefits." Nutt added: "We've seen some countries like Portugal make real progress in terms of drug-related crime and drug-related harms by decriminalizing drugs of personal use. You could make a moral position that why should people be imprisoned for possessing something that effectively will only harm themselves?"

The Dutch model was one worthy possibility, Nutt said. "I certainly am interested in the idea that we might de-penalize possession and even allow the Dutch model for cannabis -- the coffee shops -- which could potentially have many benefits. I think it's perfectly sensible to think about the Dutch model for cannabis and explore whether that might be a tenable way of allowing young people to get an intoxicant which is safer than alcohol, and which they could then use in a controlled, safe environment."

Feature: The State of Play -- Federal Drug Reform Legislation in the Congress

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US Capitol, Senate side
Ten months into the Obama administration, drug policy reform in the US Congress is moving along on a number of tracks. Here's an update on some of the more significant legislation moving (or not) on the Hill. With a few exceptions, this report does not deal with funding issues that are tied up in the tangled congressional appropriations process.

Next week Drug War Chronicle will publish a parallel report on the state of play for drug policy in the nation's statehouses.

The Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

After years of inertia, efforts to undo the 100:1 sentencing disparity in federal crack and powder cocaine cases have picked up traction this year. In July, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 83 cosponsors introduced the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act, which would eliminate the disparity by treating all cocaine offenses as if they were powder cocaine offenses for sentencing purposes. That bill has passed the House Judiciary Committee and is now before the Energy and Commerce Committee. On the Senate side, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced companion legislation, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2009, last month. It is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Federal Needle Exchange Funding Ban

The longstanding ban on the use of federal AIDS grant funds to pay for needle exchange programs may soon be history. Although the Obama administration left the ban in its budget request, Obama pledged to eliminate it during his campaign, and his administration has signaled it wouldn't mind seeing it go. The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies stripped out the ban language in a July 10 vote. A week later, the full Appropriations Committee approved the bill after voting down an amendment proposed by US Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) that would have reinstated the funding ban, but accepted a poison pill amendment that would ban federally-funded needle exchange from operating "within 1,000 feet of a public or private day care center, elementary school, vocational school, secondary school, college, junior college, or university, or any public swimming pool, park, playground, video arcade, or youth center, or an event sponsored by any such entity." The House later passed the appropriations bill with the 1000-foot ban intact, but defeated a floor amendment by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to reinstate the funding ban.

On the Senate side, the appropriations bill has yet to be passed, but the Senate committee working on the issue did not include language ending the funding ban. Reform advocates are hoping that the Senate will come on board for ending the ban in conference committee, and that committee members also strip out the 1000-foot provision.

The National Criminal Justice Commission

Introduced in March by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 would create a commission that would have 18 months to do a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and come back with concrete, wide-ranging reforms to address the nation's sky-high incarceration rate, respond to international and domestic gang violence, and restructure the county's approach to drug policy. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where this week it was set to hear a raft of hostile amendments from Republican members. It currently has 34 cosponsors, including Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Restoring College Aid to Students with Drug Convictions

The infamous Higher Education Act (HEA) anti-drug provision, or "Aid Elimination Penalty," which bars students committing drug offenses from receiving financial aid for specified periods of time, is under fresh assault. In September, the US House of Representatives approved H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), one of the provisions of which restricts the penalty to those convicted of drug sales, not mere drug possession. The bill will next go to a conference committee, whose job will be to produce a reconciled version of H.R. 3221 and a yet-to-be-passed Senate bill. The final version must then be reapproved by both the House and the Senate. If that final version contains the same or very similar language, it will mark the second significant reduction of the penalty, the decade-old handiwork of arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). In 2006, the provision was scaled back to include only drug convictions that occurred while students were enrolled in college and receiving financial aid (a change supported by Souder himself). Souder opposed this year's possible change.

Medical Marijuana

Late last month, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense -- a right they do not have under current federal law. The bill currently has 28 cosponsors and has been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and civil liberties organizations. It is before the House Judiciary Committee.

That isn't the only medical marijuana bill pending. In June, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, which would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug and eliminate federal authority to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. The measure has 29 cosponsors and has been sitting in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce ever since. Frank introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses, but the bills never got a committee vote or even a hearing. Advocates hoped that with a Democratically-controlled Congress and a president who has at least given lip service to medical marijuana, Congress this year would prove to be friendlier ground, but that hasn't proven to be the case so far.

In July, the House passed the District of Columbia appropriations bill and in so doing removed an 11-year-old amendment barring the District from implementing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. Known as the Barr amendment after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the amendment has been attacked by both medical marijuana and DC home rule advocates for years as an unconscionable intrusion into District affairs. The Senate has yet to act. Among the proponents for removing the Barr amendment: Bob Barr.

Marijuana Decriminalization

In June, Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act, which would remove federal criminal penalties for the possession of less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce. The bill would not change marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance, would not change federal laws banning the growing, sale, and import and export of marijuana, and would not undo state laws prohibiting marijuana. It currently has nine cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

And just so you don't get the mistaken idea that the era of drug war zealotry on the Hill is completely in the past, there is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). In June, Kirk introduced the High Potency Marijuana Sentencing Enhancement Act, which would increase penalties for marijuana offenses if the THC level is above 15%. Taking a page from the British tabloids, Kirk complained that high-potency "Kush" was turning his suburban Chicago constituents into "zombies." Nearly six months later, Kirk's bill has exactly zero cosponsors and has been sent to die in the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Industrial Hemp

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) again introduced an industrial hemp bill this year. HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. They were joined by a bipartisan group of nine cosponsors, a number which has since grown to 18. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary committees upon introduction. Six weeks later, Judiciary referred it to its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, where it has languished ever since.

Safe and Drug-Free Schools Funding

In May, the Obama administration compiled a budgetary hit list of 121 programs it recommended by cut or completely eliminated, including $295 million for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools community grants program. (It left intact funding for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Program). Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed with the White House and zeroed out the program. The House education appropriations bill has already passed, but the Senate bill is still in process. Proponents of the program may still try to reinstate it in the Senate or during the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate appropriations bills.

Next week, look for a report on drug policy-related doings in the various state legislatures.

Drug Legalization: Senator Pushes Amendment to Censor Any Talk of That

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), an inveterate drug warrior, doesn't want to hear the L-word in Washington. This week, the corn-belt conservative offered an amendment to Senator Jim Webb's (D-VA) pending bill, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, that would explicitly forbid any recommendations that even mention drug legalization or decriminalization.

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the face of ignorance and prejudice -- US Sen. Charles Grassley
Webb, a congressional champion of criminal justice and drug law reform, introduced the bill in a bid to fix what he considers a failing, costly, and inhumane criminal justice system, including the war on drugs. Webb's bill contemplates the creation of "a commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom." That would presumably include taking a close look at the impact of drug laws.

Grassley's amendment says its purpose is "to restrict the authority of the Commission to examine policies that favor decriminalization of violations of the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substances." The amendment in its entirety reads as follows:

The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.

Grassley's politically bowdlerizing ploy quickly drew the ire of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "Senator Grassley's censorship amendment would block what Senator Webb is trying to achieve with this bill," said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics detective who now heads the LEAP. "All along, Senator Webb has said that in the effort to fix our broken criminal justice system 'nothing should be off the table.' That should include the obvious solution of ending the 'drug war' as a way to solve the unintended problems caused by that failed policy."

As Grassley's amendment started to draw critical scrutiny, he attempted to defend himself. In a conference call with media this week, Grassley responded to a question about the amendment: "Well, my intent on that amendment isn't any different than any other amendments that are coming up. The Congress is setting up a commission to study certain things. And the commission is a -- is an arm of Congress, because Congress doesn't have time to review some of these laws. And -- and -- and the point is, for them to do what we tell them to do. And one of the things that I was anticipating telling them not to do is to -- to recommend or study the legalization of drugs."

When asked if his amendment would include limiting the discussion of medical marijuana, Grassley responded: "Yes, the extent to which it would be decriminalization, the answer is yes."

Grassley added that he had floated several amendments and that he would not necessarily introduce all of them. As of Thursday, he had not yet formally introduced his censorship amendment.

Outrage: Drug Warrior Congressman Tries to Prohibit Discussion of Legalization

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has introduced legislation calling for a thorough evaluation of the U.S. criminal justice system, namely for the purpose of exploring ways to reduce our world-record prison population. As you might guess, simply discussing whether we should keep millions of American behind bars is enough to terrify the drug war's most committed champions.

They can’t handle the tough questions, so they're trying to make it illegal to even ask. Drug war hall-of-famer Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) today introduced an amendment to Webb's bill that would literally prohibit the commission from talking about legalization or even decriminalization:

AMENDMENT intended to be proposed by Mr. GRASSLEY
….
SEC. ll. RESTRICTIONS ON AUTHORITY.
The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.


These words are a legal blueprint for silencing all criticism of the war on drugs before the experts even get a chance to discuss it. The whole thing flagrantly violates the spirit of the entire inquiry and renders meaningless everything Webb is trying to do. And yes, that's exactly the point.

No one has done more than Charles Grassley to make the drug war into the horrible mess that it's become, so you can bet he'll do anything to protect his shameful legacy. If he succeeds, the bill will almost certainly end up protecting bad policies instead of exposing them. We can’t let that happen. Click here to tell your Senators to oppose this misguided amendment and let the experts do their job without political interference.

A serious evaluation of criminal justice and drug policies is long overdue and that effort means nothing unless all options are debated openly.

Southeast Asia: UN's Top Health Rights Officials Calls for Decriminalizing Drug Use, Ending Forced "Rehab Camps"

The UN's top official on health rights called Tuesday for the decriminalization of drug use and an end to forced drug rehabilitation camps in Asia. The camps amount to "keeping sick people jailed," said Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health at a conference on international health rights in Hanoi.

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Anand Grover (unaids.org)
"The criminalization of these practices actually hinders the right to health of all persons," Grover said.

Grover denounced the practice of many Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam, of forcing drug users to detoxify in massive drug treatment camps. The Open Society Institute reports that more than 50,000 people are being held in such camps in Vietnam and as many as 350,000 in China.

Grover elaborated on his decriminalization remarks in a Tuesday interview with Radio Australia. Remarking on the battle to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Grover said: "Well, you know the success in Asia has been by being able to protect and empower the communities of sex workers, drug users and men having sex with men. But ultimately their rights are not being protected because their right to health is being compromised by, for example, large numbers of drug users who because possession and consumption is illegal in most countries find themselves in either compulsory treatment centers or voluntary treatment centers where it's not the evidence-based treatment which is actually resorted to, but old detoxification, which has a huge relapse rate, and they're subjected to a large number of abuses throughout the region, including in India for instance where NGOs run the centers and they're totally unregulated. And people will end up dying later on."

Grover clarified that he was not talking about legalizing the drug trade. "It's not the drug trade that we want to decriminalize," he said. "I think that large numbers of people who are just simple drug users they find themselves being treated as criminals and their rights abused."

Europe: In Opinion Poll, Romanians Reject Marijuana Legalization

Last month, a Romanian presidential committee recommended decriminalizing the possession of "soft" drugs, implementing needle exchange programs, and legalizing prostitution. A poll this month suggests the committee and President Traian Băsescu have some work to do in winning over the Romanian public -- at least on the drugs issue.

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Traian Băsescu
According to a poll conducted by eResearch Corporation, an Angus-Reid affiliate, only 34% of Romanians agree with decriminalization, while 59% oppose it.

Băsescu came to power in 2004 as head of the Alliance for Truth and Justice, a coalition consisting of the Democratic and National Liberal parties, and vowed to institute reforms in the former communist satrapy. His Presidential Committee for the Analysis of Social and Demographic Risk was part of that pledge.

"Drug abuse needs to be discouraged, but with the adequate difference made between soft drugs and hard drugs, especially the ones injected such as heroin, which have devastating negative effects," the report said. But the report also called for "disincrimination (sic) of drug consumption -- but not of trafficking -- to bring consumers to the surface."

According to another eResearch poll, Romanians are going for bringing sex work in from the cold. That poll found that 56% supported legalizing prostitution, while only 37% opposed it.

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