Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Politics Outside US

RSS Feed for this category

Psychedelics Could Treat Addiction, Says Vancouver Official

Vancouver, BC
The Tyee

Editorial: Sometimes They Tell the Truth

David Borden, Executive Director
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.

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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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

Roadside Drug Tests in Two Years (UK)

United States
The Scotsman

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.
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.

Mayor Seeks Drug Maintenance for Drug Addicts

United States
Vancouver Sun

Belgian "Draw Up Your Plant" Campaign for Cannabis Regulation

“The Flemish Institute for Alcohol and Drugs Questions” and our cannabis association “Draw Up Your Plant” agree on a specific problem: Belgian cannabis law is creating legal insecurity for Civil society. Draw Up Your Plant organized a very successful press moment on Thursday Juli 27. “The mother plant, seeds and clones” were the subject of our action this time. We showed the planting of the seed to grow a mother plant that'll provide clones for the Draw Up Your Plant plantation. ATV-News (Dutch): Foto report by Jos van Cannaclopedia: Antwerpen Apart (Dutch): Het Nieuwsblad (Dutch): Oradio website (Dutch) : I've put it all on my cannapage: Draw Up Your Plant isn't the only organization who finds that Belgian cannabis law creates legal insecurity for Belgian Civil society. VAD/De Druglijn (a tele-service for people with questions about drugs) released a press article on Juli 13 last month. They describe the problems with Belgian cannabis law: (Tom Evenepoel (VAD / De Druglijn) about the content of questions asked to De Druglijn) “Legislation is taken into consideration in 15% of the questions. This is even a higher percentage as with the federal drug note in 2001. Moreover, the questions continually get more specific. It no longer concerns the general question if cannabis now can be smoked or not, but about what is allowed in certain specific situation or not, and what the eventual sanction can be. We do what we can, but often it is a great challenge and sometimes even impossible to give answers to the questions about legislation..” Full article (Dutch): According to the ministerial directive of January 2005 one can possess 3 grammes of canabis and one harvested cannabis plant. Draw Up Your Plant offers cannabis consumers a protocol enabling them to attain cannabis without trade. Each member of the organization can grow it's plant in a common plantation according to strict, yet simple rules. One man/woman one plant. Each plant in the plantation will contain a label with it's owners name on it. There are 2 ways in witch the situation for Draw Up Your Plant can evolve now: or we get a political solution, or we get a judicial solution. We don't expect our political policy makers will come up with a legislative initiative because that would be an acknowledgement of debt for bad governance earlier in this period of government. Draw Up Your Plant is in favor of a political solution, but we expect to be challenged by criminal law and fight our fight in court. We need 1500 euro if we go to court. We try to gather this money by asking a 50 euro memberships fee to people who want to become a member of our association. So we need 30 members to start with. We're doing the Draw Up Your Plant campaign since januari of this year. We did a monthly press release and so now and then an event (like the one last week). We where in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television and websites. We now have several hundreds of supporters from all over the country. But we only have 24 members until now. Manny of our supporters are concerned mainly about the fact if they're gonna have a harvest-ready plant for the 50 euro they've paid. People often only think short term (My weed!!!) and one cannot understand that you have to arrange this legal business first before you can do your grow in relaxed surroundings. We try to get our association Draw Up Your Plant regulated. If we succeed then we can get thousands of cannabis associations in all kind of forms and celebrate the end of cannabis prohibition. This is really possible just because of this unclear, unworkable cannabis law. In the first place there is the fact that at present nobody can explain how cannabis laws are to be interpreted. Secondly, Judges suffer under this problem (how should they rule?) and maybe want to send a signal to the legislators responsible for this and let us go. (cheer) :jh (cheer) Stijn Goossens Philippe De Craene Joep Oomen TREKT UW PLANT (vzw i.o) STAD/ENCOD/VOLVOX Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen Tel. 03 237 7436 GSM: 0479 982271 / 0486 499 453 E-mail:[email protected] / [email protected] Website: / / HaRdCOREhARMREdUCER BreaklinePeerSupport InternationalDrugUserActivists TrektUwPlant!!!

British Drug Policy Controversy Heats Up

United States
The Guardian Unlimited

Canadian "Up in Smoke Cafe" Raided, Probably Closed for Good

Hamilton, ON
Cannabis Culture

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School