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

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

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

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

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

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

Murray is in line to replace retiring Member of the Scottish Parliament Susan Deacon, who has already articulated similar criticisms of the new party line on drug policy. Deacon, a former health minister recently accused the SLP of offering "knee-jerk responses and blanket solutions" to Scotland's drug problems. "The fact is, it's time to get real," she said. "The demonization of drugs and drugs users may make for rabble-rousing speeches and sensationalist headlines, but it does little to promote understanding of what is really going on in our society."

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

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

Europe: Dutch Left Greens Open Pro-Marijuana Web Site

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

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

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

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

Risk-taking kiwis protest looming "party pill" ban

Location: 
Wellington
New Zealand
Publication/Source: 
The Scotsman (UK)
URL: 
http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=365012007

Latin America: Brazilian Governor Says Legalize Drugs to Fight Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New initiative in Europe to combat drug importation into Ireland

Location: 
Ireland
Publication/Source: 
Kilkenny Advertiser (Ireland)
URL: 
http://www.kilkennyadvertiser.ie/index.php?aid=4841

Scientists Explore Medical Benefits of Cocaine Plant

Location: 
La Paz
Bolivia
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.myfoxcolorado.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=2591695&version=2&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.2.1

Afghan opium crop set to grow in 2007: UN

Location: 
KAB
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Gulf Times Newspaper (Qatar)
URL: 
http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=136458&version=1&template_id=41&parent_id=23

Drug war is overwhelming Guatemala: Murder of politicians by police just latest indication of challenge associated press file

Location: 
Guatemala City
Guatemala
Publication/Source: 
Wilmington Morning Star (NC)
URL: 
http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070306/NEWS/703060329/1050&template=currents

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