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Europe: British Drug Expert Calls for Downgrade on LSD, Ecstasy

Britain's drug classification scheme is out of whack and should be adjusted, said Dr. David Nutt, head of the British parliament's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in remarks reported by the BBC. Nutt called for ecstasy and LSD to be downgraded from Class A to Class B, while suggesting that barbiturates should be upgraded to Class A.

Grouping ecstasy and LSD with other Class A drugs like heroin is "an anomaly," Nutt said, adding that barbiturates could be "worth moving up to Class A." Nutt was responding to a query from the House of Commons' all-party Science and Technology Committee. "I think 4MTA [a little used relative of Ecstasy], LSD and ecstasy probably shouldn't be Class A," he told the committee.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ukparliament.jpg
British Parliament
In theory, Britain's drug classification scheme reflects the relative dangers of various controlled substances. But the scheme has been under increasing attack from critics -- including a parliamentary committee -- who say it does not accurately reflect the comparative social and personal harms of using various drugs.

Under Britain's classification scheme, possession of Class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of seven years, compared to five for Class B drugs. Sales of Class A drugs can bring a maximum of life in prison, compared to 14 years for Class B drugs.

While other committee members confirmed that ecstasy's status is under review, British drugs minister Vernon Croaker told the BBC he would listen to the ACMD's recommendations, but would not be bound by them. "If the ACMD look at a drug and come to us with a recommendation of course we will look at it," he said. "Whether we then act on it will be a matter of political judgment."

This isn't the first time a move to downgrade ecstasy -- which is used by an estimated half-million Britons each weekend -- has been bruited. In 2002, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended lowering the penalties for ecstasy, but that suggestion was dismissed by then Home Secretary David Blunkett. Last month, current Home Secretary John Reid said he would not revise the classification system despite rising criticism.

Sentencing: Veteran Houston Judge Calls for Shorter Sentences for Drug Possession

Harris County (Houston), Texas, currently has some 1,869 inmates serving state jail time for possessing less than a gram of illegal drugs -- more than double the number in Bexar (San Antonio), Dallas, and Tarrant (Ft. Worth) counties combined -- and now a veteran Houston jurist is saying enough is enough. The city's premier newspaper agrees with him.

State District Judge Michael McSpadden, a pro-police, pro-prosecutor Republican with more than two decades on the Houston bench, told the Houston Chronicle that small-time drug cases were clogging court dockets and swelling jail populations without addressing the underlying causes of drug abuse. Police and prosecutors brought possession charges against people possessing no more than crack residue to pad their statistics, he added. Drug addicts should be offered treatment and drug court, not state jail time, he said.

Under Texas law, possession of less than a gram of illegal drugs is a felony punishable by up to two years in a state jail. Harris County inmates account for more than one-third of all 4,846 state jail inmates statewide doing time for possession of less than a gram. Most of those crack residue cases could instead be charged as possession of paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail, McSpadden said.

Now, McSpadden is asking Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the Texas legislature to make possession or delivery of less than a gram a misdemeanor. In a letter he recently sent to Perry, he wrote: "These minor offenses are now overwhelming every felony docket, and the courts necessarily spend less time on the more important, violent crimes."

It also costs money to imprison thousands of low-level drug offenders. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the state paid more than $59 million to imprison less-than-a-gram offenders last year. And Harris County taxpayers may be about to pay up for the jailing binge, too. The County Commissioner Court is currently pondering building two new jails at a projected cost of $267 million to address overcrowding.

Jailing small-fries doesn't even work, McFadden wrote to Perry. "Unfortunately, it is obvious that the demand for drugs will not diminish, no matter what the consequences are," he wrote. "I changed my mind a few years ago when it was obvious the 'war on drugs' was a complete failure and should be considered as symbolic at best."

A Perry spokeswoman told the Houston Chronicle the governor will wait and see on any sentencing reform bills. "He is willing to look at anything that the Legislature presents him, and he wants to hear the debate in the Legislature about the pros and cons of the issue," said Kathy Walt. The governor supports creating drug courts, but believes those who violate the drug laws should be prosecuted, she added.

The Houston Chronicle was more positive about McSpadden's ideas in a Monday editorial. "When a respected felony criminal judge known for his lock-'em-up philosophy concludes that slamming minor drug offenders with long sentences is counterproductive to sensible prison management and public safety, perhaps it's time for Harris County to listen," the paper opined. "And when that judge's advice -- to provide drug abusers with treatment options while focusing policing efforts on major offenders -- squares with best practices in other counties, perhaps it's time for Harris County to change its crime-fighting ways."

The current approach is ineffective, expensive, and short-sighted, the Chronicle complained. "After all, the ill effects on a community of committing huge numbers of prospectless drug addicts to lengthy jail sentences and felony records without dealing with their underlying drug dependence are well-documented and long-term. And those ill effects are suffered by everyone in this county."

Well, now, there's news from Houston. It's up to the legislature and the governor to listen.

Judge Calls for Easing of Drug Penalty; Citing Felony Docket Loads, He Asks Perry to Cut Sentences for Minor Possession

Location: 
Houston, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4344708.html

Russ Luncsford will be featured at Christmas in Prison Arts and Crafts Show

This Prison Arts and Crafts Show is sponsored by the Prison Art Gallery and the Prisons Foundation. It will be held at First Trinity Lutheran Church, 309 E Street, NW from 10 AM to 5 PM, with free admission, live entertainment and hundreds of pieces of prison art for sale from prison artists across America, including original art and prints by ex-prisoner Russ Luncsford. Luncsford will appear on December 9 noon at the First Trinity Arts and Crafts Show and also on the same day at the Prison Art Gallery at 3 PM (1600 K Street NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC). Russ Luncsford, 38, a resident of Waterloo, Iowa, was released from prison in January 2005. During his incarceration Luncsford made artistic contributions to various prisoner advocacy groups throughout the United States. Today post-release, he continues to work with the Prisons Foundation and several other groups, realizing the human potential caged within the nation's growing prison system. Luncsford’s artwork reflects the despair and oppression of unforgiveness for those who remain in prison and also for those who remain chained to a past as debilitating as any prison constructed from concrete and steel. He wants to raise awareness that unforgiveness is counterproductive and no less uncaring than that of the offense itself. This is not to condone criminal or otherwise harmful behavior. Russ believes people need to be held accountable for their actions. In promoting forgiveness Russ has teamed up with Joel Kimball, an exprisoner and friend from Canada, to form a not- for profit organization called Compassion Works. Through Russ's powerful artwork they seek to move other hearts to a restorative perspective that wrong need not be returned for wrong or harm for harm but that something positive may be brought from tragedy. In addition to Luncsford and his work featured at the Prison Arts and Crafts Shows, there will be live entertainment by exprisoner classical guitarist Dennis Sobin and Jazz by MudPie, providing a playful musical experience with drums, bass and guitar that is free from traditional restrictions. For further information visit www.PrisonsFoundation.org or call 202 -393-1511. (Art by Russ Luncsford is featured in "Art for Justice" (Pg 14), a bimonthly newmagazine published by the Prisons Foundation which can be viewed at www.PrisonsFoundation.org, and also on the Prisons Foundation website at http://prisonsfoundation.org/prints/ box.html. Luncsford is available for interviews and media appearances before and during the event. High resolution examples of his art will be sent as email attachments upon request.) Contact: Dennis Sobin email: [email protected] phone: 202-393-1511
Date: 
Sat, 12/09/2006 - 10:00am - 5:00pm
Location: 
United States

China to reward individuals for reporting drugs-related crimes (People's Daily Online, China)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://english.people.com.cn/200611/15/eng20061115_321849.html

Italy signals major overhaul of drugs laws (EuroNews, France)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://euronews.net/create_html.php?page=detail_info&article=390711&lng=1

Can We Fix the Crack/Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Already?

Our good friend and occasional Speakeasy contributor Eric Sterling has a superb op-ed in the LA Times on the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity.

He says it’s about time to fix the darned thing. It’s an opinion to which Sterling is certainly entitled. He actually wrote the law.

Congress should do what it tried to do in 1986 — make the Justice Department focus exclusively on high-level cases because state and local law enforcement cannot. There are three elements to fix the problem: Raise the quantity triggers for all drugs to realistic levels for high-level traffickers, such as 50 or 100 kilos of cocaine, and end the crack/powder imbalance; Require the attorney general to approve prosecution of any case involving less than 50 kilos of cocaine; Analyze federal drug cases district by district to identify agents and prosecutors who waste their time and our money. If only high-level dealers were being prosecuted by the feds, no one would have cause to complain about the race of the defendants.

Drug policy reform would go a lot faster if there weren’t so many different harmful laws to be changed. I bet we could have fixed the sentencing disparity years ago if it weren’t for that stupid HEA Drug Provision.


Location: 
United States

Blair's sham war on drugs

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
Daily Express
URL: 
http://express.lineone.net/news_detail.html?sku=708

Eureka Springs : Victory energizes ‘pot’ law backers (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/172626/

Election 2006: Arizona Voters Take a Step Backwards on Sentencing Reform

Arizona voters Tuesday approved Proposition 301, which rolls back a decade-old sentencing reform when it comes to methamphetamine offenders, by a margin of 58% to 42%. Under the state's reformed sentencing structure, people convicted for first- or second-offense drug possession cannot be sentenced to jail or prison. Tuesday's vote means that Arizona voters have now singled out meth users as eligible for jail or prison for first- or second-offense possession.

Votes for Prop. 301 came primarily from the metropolitan Phoenix area, which supported the rollback by 60%, compared to only 52% in Tucson, the state's other significant metropolitan area.

Under the sentencing reform, the 1996 Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act, which was approved by two-thirds of the voters, while drug possession offenders could not be sentenced to jail or prison, they could be subjected to mandatory probation and drug treatment. Now, methamphetamine possession offenders will not be eligible for this program.

Although the proposition was opposed by prominent Arizona jurists and a coalition of community-based activists organized as Meth-Free Arizona -- No On Proposition 301, voters chose to go back to the bad old days when it comes to the demon drug du jour and its users.

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