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Statement: Duterte Moves Against Second Drug War Critic

Senator Trillanes at our March 2018 event (photo courtesy Joey Tranchina)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2018

StoptheDrugWar.org condemns the Duterte administration's blatantly political attack on Senator Antonio Trillanes, a fierce and brave critic of the President's human rights violations.

Senator Trillanes joined our March 2018 event at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting in Vienna, where he presented administration data suggesting that extrajudicial killings in President Duterte's drug war may exceed 20,000. Perversely, the Senator observed, the administration listed these killings among its "2017 Accomplishments."

We note that President Duterte promised a year ago to "destroy" Senator Trillanes.

Senator Leila de Lima was incarcerated a year and a half ago on unsupported drug charges, half a year after President Duterte promised to "destroy" her. The case against de Lima was brought shortly after she had a confessed former member of Duterte's "Davao Death Squad" testify in the Justice Committee, one of two former DDS members to go public.

"Senator Trillanes told us in Vienna he expected political prosecutions to increase in pace during the second half of this year. But he also promised that while he remained free, he would continue to speak out," said StoptheDrugWar.org Executive Director David Borden.

"Undoubtedly the imprisoning of Senator Trillanes, if that happens, will further mobilize the already energized Philippine opposition to Duterte," Borden continued. "But it will also focus even greater world attention onto Duterte's crimes and depredations. I am saddened by this development, but I can't imagine a better gift to our international organizing efforts."

StoptheDrugWar.org is a US-based NGO with a focus on international drug policy, and which has focused on the Philippines human rights situation since early 2017. Our educational nonprofit DRCNet Foundation has been in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 2016.

Footage of Senator Trillanes' presentation in Vienna is online at https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines#vienna2018.

- END -

150 Organizations Condemn Trump's Call for Drugs Death Penalty, While Reformers Rally

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2018

CONTACT: David Borden, Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org, [email protected]

More Than 150 Organizations Condemn President Trump's Call to Execute People for Nonviolent Drug Offenses

UN to Release Annual "World Drug Report" While Reformers Rally Worldwide

Groups Accuse Singapore of Using False Drug Use Data to Justify Death Penalty

China is doing less of this, but Trump wants more. (Amnesty International)
A growing coalition with over 150 organizations as of this writing (140 when release was first done) has condemned President Trump's call to institute the death penalty for drug offenses. A copy of the statement, which was organized by the US-based NGO StoptheDrugWar.org, is online here.

The statement was submitted to the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, to be considered for inclusion in a report on the death penalty being presented to the General Assembly next fall. David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.organd the statement's author, explained, "We decided to release the statement at this time because of the immigrant family separations and the US's withdrawal from the Human Rights Council, as another example of President Trump's assault on human rights."

The statement also coincides with the June 26 release of the annual UN World Drug Report, and with the annual Support Don't PunishGlobal Day of Action for health- and human rights-based approaches to drug policy.

Among the statement's signatories are the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Latino Commission on AIDS, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Death Penalty Focus, the National Association of Social Workers, and Housing Works.

The US has never brought a death penalty case for a drug offense, but following the president's call for executions last spring, Attorney General Sessions sent a memo to prosecutors urging them to consider seeking the death penalty in some cases.

The statement argues, with references, that the president's claims of success for drug death penalty approaches in other countries is "premised on falsehoods." It notes that the world's leading executors for drug offenses, China and Iran, have scaled back their use of executions for drug offenses; and accuses Singapore's government of using "faked data" to justify their drugs death penalty.

The statement also makes note of President Trump's suggestion that police officers should bash suspects' heads on car door frames when arresting them, made during a police officers' convention in July 2017; and his repeated calls for violence against protesters at his rallies during the presidential campaign, recorded on video on seven different occasions.

The statement also notes Trump's praise for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal campaign of extrajudicial drug war killings, which Duterte administration figures suggest has claimed 20,000 lives to date. The statement has strong representation in the Philippines as well as the Filipino American community, with more than ten endorsing organizations including the iDEFEND human rights coalition, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation, and the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA).

The statement calls on Congress to repeal the US's never-used drugs death penalty statutes; to enact bipartisan sentencing reform legislation that is pending in Congress; and to pass legislation sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to impose human rights conditions on some aid to the Philippines while funding public health work and human rights advocacy.

Borden said, "We are committed to recognizing if and when the Trump administration takes good steps in drug policy or criminal justice. Recently the president released Alice Johnson, a 63-year old grandmother who had been imprisoned since 1996 on a drug offense, and he suggested there could be many more pardons. He has offered tentative support for legislation to give formal federal permission to states enacting marijuana legalization, though Republican leadership has blocked the bill from moving. We hope the president follows through on both these promises. In the meanwhile, however, the overall Trump administration record in the drug war is a horrific one."

The full text of the statement and signatory list is online at: https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/trump-death-penalty.pdf.

Reforming Global Drug Policy

While drug policy is primarily a national issue, there are needs and opportunities at the international level, and in US foreign policy, and global drug policy has an impact abroad and at home.

 
 
WashingtonPost.com story on our
UNGASS coalition statement

StoptheDrugWar.org plays a leading role in US-based global drug policy reform. We advocated at the United Nations and to the Obama administration during the lead-up to the second-ever "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem" (UNGASS) in April 2016, the first session at that level since 1998.

Our work has advanced the dialogue on the UN drug control treaties vs. legalization of marijuana or other drugs, and promoted the idea that human rights takes precedence over drug control objectives when the two are in conflict. We have argued for a range of reforms in the areas of public health, development, and access to medicine, all in turn based on human rights principles. Since 2017 we have also done high-profile work on the extrajudicial drug war killings situation in the Philippines.

Our 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation Inc., has been an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since July 2016. This enables us to deliver interventions (short speeches) at UN meetings, to organize side events at longer UN sessions, and to help other advocates get admitted to UN meetings.

Drug policy is implicated in global criminal justice and human rights issues such as sentencing and the death penalty. It affects public health issues like AIDS and Hepatitis C. Development is affected by drug policy, as are crime and security. The international system has made opioid pain medications largely unavailable in most countries. UN drug scheduling is a discouragement to governments wishing to legalize medical marijuana.

With respect to legalization, the big UN issue is treaties that have language proscribing it. The US position has been that marijuana is federally legal, and that tolerating state legalization is a mere prioritization of resources. This argument, however, is not well respected and has at best short-term value. While some jurisdictions have moved forward with legalization despite adverse treaty language, this comes at a diplomatic cost, and the current state of the treaties and other UN drug policies is a discouragement for many countries. (The end notes in our sign-on documents, all linked below, are a good source for reading on all these issues.)

Some of our work in this area, in reverse-chronological order:

Organized a global sign-on statement on the Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings situation, released during the November 2017 ASEAN Summit. The statement calls for a UN-led investigation into the Philippine extrajudicial drug war killings and for international aid donor governments to pressure the Duterte administration on the issue. Press coverage of the statement included articles in major Philippine news outlets, including the Daily Inquirer, Rappler, Interaksyon and the Philippine Star.

Submitted a statement for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 2017 Integration Segment (April 2017). The statement makes the case that adjustments are needed to drug policy in order to make the eradication of poverty a truly integral objective of UN programs, and noted several ways in which prohibitionist drug policies work against achievement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

 

In March 2017 we presented "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," a side event at the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting, dealing with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war mass murder campaign. Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines, a critic of the killings, sent us a video for the event, which we also released online, initially through an exclusive on the TIME web site which was followed up by an interview.


Robredo's video drew massive attention in the Philippines and some internationally. Unfortunately, opponents of the vice president used the video to attack her politically, leading to a campaign for her impeachment, a threat which is currently being considered by the Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives. We regret that political leaders of the Philippines misrepresented our event to attack the vice president, instead of facing the grim reality of widespread human rights abuses.

More information on our Philippines-related work, including full video footage and transcripts of our side event, as well as press coverage, is available here.

Also at the 2017 CND, we organized an NGO sign-on statement (initial submission on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime web site, updated version with more signatories on our web site). A major signatory on this statement, new to our global drug policy efforts, is the National Organization for Women (NOW).


We served as the ECOSOC sponsor
enabling this photo exhibit on Supervised
Injection Facilities to be presented at the
2017 UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
meeting in Vienna.

 

We also served as ECOSOC sponsor for a side event on marijuana regulation and a photo exhibit on safe injection sites organized by European partners. David Borden presented on the panel, discussing the "path toward consensus" on marijuana legalization in the US. Since 2016 we have also provided UN accreditation for these and other partners in advocacy efforts on marijuana's status in the UN drug scheduling system, enabling them to serve as representatives to the UN facilities in Geneva and Vienna; and have served as the charitable sponsor nonprofit for donations to the project.

 

David Borden delivered an invited intervention on the relationship between drug policy and the Sustainable Development Goals, for the January 2017 Intersessional CND meeting (transcript on UNODC web site). The remarks noted tensions between drug prohibition and SDG goals #1 (poverty), #3 (health), #8 (work), #10 (inequality), and #16 (peace, justice and strong institutions. The remarks also noted the decline in global AIDS funding, particularly for programs responding to injection drug use.
 

 

David Borden delivered an intervention at the June 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS at the UN in New York, panel discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals. The remarks discussed ways that prohibition and the drug war contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS, and called for the UN to take on these issues during the upcoming 2019 High Level Review of UN drug policy.


 

 

David Borden delivered an intervention during the April 2016 UNGASS, Roundtable on Cross-Cutting Issues. The remarks criticized the rationale countries had offered for avoiding any discussion of possible modifications to the treaties, noting that it's the norm for treaties to be updated at times. Borden also called for regulatory approaches to be considered for New Psychoactive Substances, one of several major issue areas in drug policy that the UN has identified, not solely prohibitionist ones.

Organized a teleconference for media on prospects for marijuana legalization in Canada and Mexico, featuring Mexican Senator Laura Rojas and Canadian Member of Parliament, as well as representatives of leading NGOs in both countries:

media coverage of the teleconference:

  • Extract (Sun-Times) (4/6/16)
  • High Times (4/7/16)
  • Leafly(4/7/16)
  • Cannabis Wire (4/9/16)
  • Civilized (4/10/16)
  • Drug Truth Network (here and here) (4/10/16)
  • Seattle Times editorial (4/17/16) – we're not mentioned, but provided information
  • New York Times (4/18/16) – we're not mentioned, but provided information. The article was the first in a major media outlet to note the US opposed taking up treaty reform at the UN, despite US movement toward legalization.

Our signature effort for the UNGASS was a major sign-on statement with nearly 350 organizational signatories, released to media and at the UN in May 2015 and again in April 2016. The statement was endorsed by such leading NGOs as ACLU, Human Rights Watch and AIDS United.

The statement argues that in cases of irreconcilable conflict, nations' obligations under the human rights treaties, which are enshrined as fundamental in the United Nations Charter, take precedence over provisions of the drug control treaties.

The statement also calls for a range of improvements to policies in areas such as development, public health and security; for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study the topic of drug treaty reform; and calls on the Obama administration to harmonize its foreign policy on drugs with its domestic policies by providing leadership at the UN to make that happen.

media coverage of the statement:

We also organized a sign-on letter to President Obama in advance of the March 2016 Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting that preceded UNGASS. It noted positive aspects to the administration's approach to UNGASS, but argued that "in key respects... the... US position for UNGASS [took] a short-term approach, stopping short of the crucial reforms called for by UN agencies and US allies, while failing to address new realities." The letter generated a great deal of excitement in the NGO community, and was signed by over 250 organizations in a short period of time, many of them representing mainstream issues affected by drug policy.

media coverage of the sign-on letter:

 

David Borden presented at a February 2016 preparatory event for UNGASS, at the UN in New York.

In April 2015 we organized a sign-on letter protesting the resumption of executions for drug offenses by the government of Indonesia. The link is to a copy of the letter published as part of an article in Huffington Post, linked from their home page for 24 hours.



 

What happened at UNGASS?

April's UNGASS was called at the request of the governments of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala, nations for which the illicit drug trade creates security issues. Their hope was the UNGASS would be a platform for discussing fundamental issues and beginning a new course.

Reform met with resistance. Hard-line countries led by Russia and China opposed or diluted most reform-oriented proposals. European governments downplayed the importance of this NYC-based session, wishing to keep the center of gravity in UN drug policy in the smaller Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), based in Vienna, Austria. The UN works mainly by consensus, which meant there were limits on what any country or faction could accomplish.

The US, while advocating some good stances, opposed treaty reform, despite (or perhaps because of) the treaty issues that marijuana legalization presents. Reportedly the US lobbied other countries to oppose treaty reform as well. As a result, perhaps, many countries' position statements for UNGASS called for "commitment to the three UN drug conventions" or to "the integrity of the conventions" – code language for not changing them.

There were some victories. As part of the process, UN agencies submitted their own position papers, many highly progressive, as were the submissions from some countries and international organizations. EU states and others fought hard for language opposing the death penalty for drug offenses, though unsuccessfully. All that discussion is on the record. Civil society engagement brought more groups into drug policy reform, more fully, and NGOs gained more involvement.

And while the UNGASS Outcome Document avoids most big issues, it puts strong emphasis on treatment and alternatives to incarceration. It acknowledges the importance of human rights and proportionate sentencing. It has support for naloxone (the overdose antidote), medication-assisted treatment (e.g. methadone and buprenorphine), and safe injecting equipment, though avoiding the term "harm reduction" itself. It calls for addressing obstacles to opioid availability.

A detailed UNGASS report by the International Drug Policy Consortium is online here.

 

 

 

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings

Concern Growing in Asia, US, World Over Philippines Extrajudicial Drug War Killings

In Advance of ASEAN Summit, More Than 270 NGOs, Political Leaders, Human Rights and Health Advocates Call for International Pressure -- and for Justice

pcoo.gov.ph
A global coalition released a statement today calling for urgent measures to stop Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's murderous drug war and to seek justice. The statement comes just before President Trump (who has repeatedly praised Duterte's drug war) will meet with Duterte for the first time, during the ASEAN Summit in the Philippines November 12-14. In anticipation, Duterte has reportedly told Trump to "lay off" human rights issues. Trump is one of 21 world leaders, along with the UN's Secretary General, expected to attend the Summit.

Of the more than 200 NGO endorsers on the statement, more than 40 are based in Asia, including a majority of ASEAN member states as well as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The statement also lists several Asia-wide networks on issues such as HIV, transgender and drug user concerns, and youth democracy activism.

A political component of the statement's outreach efforts is in the early stages, but includes legislators from Canada, Italy, Cambodia, and Washington State, as well as other political and governmental officials from Singapore, Canada and the UK.

"We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation," says the statement. "We likewise call on world leaders attending the ASEAN Summit to unequivocally call for an end to the killings and for human rights to be respected."

The statement notes: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war' in June of last year, over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained,' according to police reports. Estimates by media and human rights groups for the total drug war killings have ranged from 7,000 up to 14,000. Appearance suggests there may be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killing." (References are available in the statement's end notes section.)

The statement was organized by a coalition including the leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino American advocacy groups, drug policy reform, HIV/AIDS groups and others. It was coordinated by the Washington-DC based organization StoptheDrugWar.org, whose executive director David Borden organized a forum on extrajudicial killings at the UN in Vienna last March that became highly controversial in the Philippines.

Notable signatories on the document include the National Organization for Women (NOW), Doctors of the World, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG, a nationwide Philippines human rights lawyers group founded during the Marcos dictatorship years), Treatment Communities of America, prominent human rights advocate and actor of MASH fame Mike Farrell, former police chief of Seattle Norm Stamper, and others.

"President Duterte has defined a particular section of Philippine society as inhuman & worthy of elimination -- namely the poor," said Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson for In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), the largest human rights coalition in the Philippines. "Instead of caring for these people and addressing the root cause of their problems, this present leadership has chosen to assault and further brutalize them."

Carlos was featured speaker at a forum at the US Congress's Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in July. 'A bill in the US Senate to impose human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, "The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," was introduced in May by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and has 'seven cosponsors. Lantos Commission co-chairs Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and James McGovern (D-MA) sent a 'letterto President Trump this week urging him to "impress upon President Duterte the United States' profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government's 'war on drugs.'"

Ago Pedalizo of the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) said, "President Duterte, through reprehensible public statements, has instigated unabated extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects by police and vigilante elements as part of his war on drugs. We call on the Philippine government to conduct a thorough and effective investigation of the killings, and to fully cooperate with investigations by international human rights advocates."

"It is unfortunate that President Trump has repeatedly praised not only Duterte personally, but Duterte's bloody drug war too," said Borden. "I hope that both presidents change course on this. In the meantime, Congress should step in by including language from the Cardin/Rubio bill in the pending State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill."

The statement concludes: "The world is at a crossroads. At this uncertain time, lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act -- by individual conscience, age-old moral principles, and the global agreements seeking peace and security for all. The time for action is now."

Warning Signs: Trump and Human Rights

The following statement was distributed this morning by Human Rights Watch. One of the issues it touches on is the Philippines drug war killings and the president-elect's troubling conversation with the mass murderer president of the Philippines. (We are doing work related to the Philippines situation that will be announced in the near future. Human Rights Watch was a key partner in our global drug policy sign-on statement prepared for the 2016 UNGASS.)

(Washington, January 20, 2017) -- Donald Trump takes office today having vowed to enact policies that would threaten rights at home and abroad if actually implemented, Human Rights Watch said today. Human rights advocates, elected officials, and members of the public should press the new United States president to abandon those proposals and should call out government actions that violate rights. Congress, the courts, and the people of the United States should demand transparency and hold the administration accountable for policies and actions that threaten rights.

"This inauguration opens up a dangerous and uncertain new era for the United States," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Even if President Trump acts only on ten percent of the most problematic of his campaign proposals, it will cause a momentous setback for human rights at home and abroad. The onus is now on elected officials and the public to demand respect for rights that the President-elect seems to have put in his crosshairs."

Both during his presidential campaign and since his election, Trump has embraced policies that would harm the rights of millions of people -- from the immigrants he has vowed to deport in vast numbers, to the women whose reproductive rights he has promised to restrict through his judicial appointments. He has at times publicly embraced torture and the illegal targeted killing of civilians abroad. He said he would halt the release of men from Guantanamo Bay detention facility and "load it up with some bad dudes." Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has a long track record of hostility and disdain towards the very civil rights enforcement tools the US Justice Department is called on to deploy in defense of rights.

Trump's approach to foreign policy appears to embrace close collaboration with repressive governments on a range of issues, without regard for their troubling human rights records. During his confirmation hearing, Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, refused to acknowledge human rights violations by Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines, despite extensive documentation of the violations by numerous sources, including the US government.

Greatly compounding all of these concerns, there is every reason to worry that the Trump administration will seek to minimize scrutiny of its actions. Trump and his advisers have regularly and very publicly insulted or smeared his critics. Reports indicate his team is considering restricting media access to the White House. And Trump has famously said that he would like to weaken libel laws to facilitate lawsuits against journalists.

"By trampling on the rights of millions of people in the US and abroad, Trump's proposals if enacted would weaken everybody's rights," Roth said. "Elected officials and the public should call out proposals and policies that would weaken rights, and demand a government that protects them."

Release: Major Groups Call for UN to Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana or Other Drugs (5/5/15)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2015

CONTACT: David Borden, [email protected]

Major Groups Call for UN to Respect Countries That Legalize Marijuana or Other Drugs

Human Rights Should Take Priority Over Drug Enforcement, New Letter Says

NEW YORK, NY – As the United Nations prepares for the first comprehensive review of global responses to drug problems in nearly two decades, a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations is pushing for the international body to respect countries that move away from prohibition.

"Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations," the groups write in a new letter being released today.

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange, Drug Policy Alliance and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights are among the signatories. Also notable are a number of organizations devoted to health policy and AIDS services.

The letter's release is timed to a United Nations "High-Level Thematic Debate on the World Drug Problem" taking place in New York on Thursday, May 7, in preparation for a UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) scheduled for April 2016. Advocates believe that countries should take the UNGASS as an opportunity to pursue a range of reforms to global drug policy, including revising provisions of the UN Drug Conventions that threaten to stand in the way of reform. The Obama administration has taken the stance that countries should be free to pursue different kinds of systems under the treaties – including legalization – but has also opposed treaty reform, a stance which advocates have questioned.

"The administration's call to respect countries' right to try regulation rather than prohibition is a positive step for drug policy, as are other reforms the US has sought internationally," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, who coordinated the sign-on letter. "But it doesn't make sense to oppose having a discussion within the UN about modernizing the treaties to reflect that."

The coalition has called for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study treaty reform, a common UN procedure for addressing issues of interest.

To date, four US states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, as has the nation of Uruguay. Many other countries have decriminalized possession of certain drugs or have implemented harm reduction measures like syringe exchange programs. While the UN's drug enforcement body has warned that some of these policies may violate the treaties, the push for reform doesn't appear to be slowing anytime soon.

The new letter calls for revising the treaties, and says that in the meanwhile "in case of irreconcilable conflict, human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions."  Human rights concerns may require shifting to drug control systems that aren't based on prohibition, the statement suggests. "Accommodating… experiments… with legalization and regulation of internationally controlled substances may require that the UN drug conventions are interpreted in light of countries' international human rights and other obligations."

Although marijuana legalization is a major factor driving the international drug debate, another is the impact the illicit drug trade has in Latin America, where violence and related criminal problems associated with the trade exceed that suffered in other regions.

John Walsh, senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), said, "Some Latin American leaders are now openly questioning the global drug prohibition regime, because of the destruction caused by criminal organizations fueled by enormous drug trade profits. Meanwhile, the US is undergoing important shifts in its own domestic policy, with the Obama administration wisely accommodating states that are legalizing and regulating cannabis. This expands the political space for other countries as well." Walsh is the coauthor of "Marijuana Legalization is an Opportunity to Modernize International Drug Treaties," co-published by WOLA and The Brookings Institution.

Advocates also warn that flexibility, as called for by the State Department, shouldn't be used to justify human rights violations in any country, such as the death penalty for nonviolent offenses or the banning of life-saving public health interventions like syringe exchange or opioid substitution therapy. "Prohibition has been a public health and human rights disaster," said Charles King, CEO of the US's largest community-based AIDS service organization, Housing Works. "That's why citizens around the world are calling for – and in some cases enacting – forward-thinking reforms that move away from criminalization and toward regulation and control. US and UN agencies should stop trying to cut off the treaty reform discussion and encourage a truly open debate instead."

The full text of the letter and list of signatories are online at http://stopthedrugwar.org/un.

StoptheDrugWar.org works for an end to drug prohibition worldwide, and an end to the "drug war" in its current form. We believe that much of the harm commonly attributed to "drugs" is really the result of placing drugs in a criminal environment. We believe the global drug war has fueled violence, civil instability and public health crises; and that the currently prevalent arrest- and punishment-based policies toward drugs are unjust.

# # #

Don't Miss Mexican Human Rights/Drug War Activist Javier Sicilia in DC This Week

Mexico poet and human rights activist Javier Sicilia and the Caravan for Peace (Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity) will be in the nation's capital Tuesday and Wednesday. Sicilia will address both Congress and the Organization of American States. The events are open to the public. This press release has more details.

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Rally Monday at Obama Fundraiser in Oakland, Demand End to Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana

MEDIA ADVISORY

Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
July 20, 2012
Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes or ASA California Director Don Duncan

Medical Marijuana Patients to Rally Monday at Obama Fundraiser in Oakland, Demand End to Federal Attacks
President Obama's visit to Oakland follows aggressive DOJ actions aimed at shutting down city-permitted dispensaries

Oakland, CA -- Hundreds of medical marijuana patients and advocates will stage a rally Monday in downtown Oakland at a fundraiser for President Obama's re-election campaign. The president's visit to Oakland follows a recent forfeiture action aimed at shutting down Harborside Health Center, a city-permitted dispensary that has operated since 2006 without incident. Earlier this year, the Obama Justice Department raided and shut down another of Oakland's permitted dispensaries, Blue Sky, leaving the city with a dwindling number of facilities to serve Oakland's patient population. On Monday, protesters will demand an end to federal interference and call for the firing of Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for northern California.

What: Rally and press conference to protest federal attacks on the medical marijuana community and on Oakland's dispensaries in particular
When: Monday, July 23rd Press Conference at 1:45pm (Rally Noon-5pm)
Where: Press conference at Oaksterdam University, 1600 Broadway, Oakland (Rally at City Hall Plaza)

"The Obama Administration's attacks on the medical marijuana community are unprecedented and out-of-control," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy organization and one of the groups organizing Monday's rally. "We're here to let the president know that there's a political, and not just a financial, cost to shutting down law-abiding dispensaries," continued Sherer. "Patients are demanding that the president take account for his administration's harmful actions and address medical marijuana like the public health issue that it is."

President Obama has been dogged for the actions of U.S. Attorneys over the past two years, as his administration engaged in an all-out attack in medical marijuana states. From thinly-veiled threats against public officials in several medical marijuana states to hundreds of SWAT-style raids and threats against property owners, resulting in the closure of hundreds of dispensaries in California and other states, Obama's Justice Department has expended millions of dollars to target state law-compliant businesses.

These attacks represent an about-face to President Obama's stated policy that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." Most recently, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month that his Justice Department was only targeting medical marijuana businesses "out of conformity with state law." Four days later, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided El Camino Wellness, a legally permitted dispensary in Sacramento widely supported by City Council members and others in the community.

Just last week, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed a forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord of Harborside Health Center, lauded as the most popular dispensary in the country, in an attempt to shut down its two facilities in Oakland and San Jose. The legal action by Haag elicited outrage from not just the medical marijuana community, but also from a number of supportive public officials, including Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, State Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), and Betty Yee of the State Board of Equalization, which collects more than $100 million in annual sales tax revenue from California's dispensaries.

In May, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee unanimously adopted a resolution, decrying the federal raids as "a breach of promise and ill-directed use of taxpayer dollars," and calling on the federal government "to adhere to Administration promises about respecting state laws on medical marijuana by directing federal agencies to cease and desist from any further such action in California."

# # #

With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

US Law Enforcement Officials Call on Canadian Prime Minister to Legalize Marijuana

WASHINGTON, DC -- A high-profile group of current and former law enforcement officials from the United States is calling on the Canadian government to reconsider the mandatory minimum sentences for minor marijuana offenses proposed in Bill C-10, arguing that the taxation and regulation of marijuana is a more effective policy approach to reducing crime.

On Wednesday, the law enforcers released a letter outlining their concerns, addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian senators. It is signed by more than two dozen current and former judges, police officers, special agents, narcotics investigators and other criminal justice professionals, all of whom are members of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). The letter strongly reinforces the failure of U.S. crime policies that those proposed in the Canadian federal government’s Bill C-10 legislation seem to be modeled on.

“Through our years of service enforcing anti-marijuana laws, we have seen the devastating consequences of these laws,” the letter states. “Among the greatest concerns is the growth in organized crime and gang violence. Just as with alcohol prohibition, gang violence, corruption and social decay have marched in lockstep with marijuana prohibition.”

“We were deeply involved with the war on drugs and have now accepted, due to our own experience and the clear evidence before us, that these policies are a costly failure,” the letter continues. “Marijuana prohibition drives corruption and violence and tougher laws only worsen the problem.”

Bill C-10, titled “The Safe Streets and Communities Act,” is currently being heard by the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Among other proposals, the bill calls for stricter mandatory minimum sentences for minor marijuana offenses, including minimum six-month sentences for growing as few as six marijuana plants.

“The Canadian government believes the answer is to get tougher on criminals,” said Norm Stamper, retired chief of police in Seattle, Washington. “But as we’ve learned with our decades-long failed experiment with the ‘war on drugs,’ the stricter sentencing proposed in the bill will only serve to help fill jails. It will not reduce harms related to the illicit marijuana trade, make Canadian streets safer or diminish gang activity.”

Said retired Washington State Superior Court Judge David Nichols: “Policies similar to those in the U.S. and now under consideration in Canada have been costly failures in the United States, wasting tax dollars and bankrupting state budgets. Following our path presents obvious and significant risks to Canadians.”

Among the 28 signers of the letter are many law enforcement officials working in border areas. They pointed to the illegal cross-border marijuana trade as sustaining gang activity in the region.

“Organized crime groups move marijuana to the U.S. from British Columbia and return with cocaine and guns,” said Stamper. “Prohibition continues to fill the coffers of organized criminals, making communities on both sides of the border less safe.”

Eric Sterling, who helped the U.S. Congress write the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, cautions: “As counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during the 1980's, I played a major role in writing the mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws which later turned out to not only be ineffective in reducing drug use, but which directly contributed to the disastrous overincarceration problem in this country. I urge policy makers in Canada to learn from our mistakes.”

Canadian Senator Larry Campbell, a member of LEAP’s advisory board and a former member of the RCMP and its drug squad, added: “I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues will listen to the voice of experience, and take into account the advice from leading U.S. law enforcement officials to avoid mandatory minimum sentences. The U.S. and many of its citizens have suffered greatly due to the inflexible and dogmatic nature of mandatory minimum sentences, and Canada would be wise to learn from and avoid that costly and socially destructive mistake.”

U.S. Becoming More Progressive than Canada with Marijuana Policy

While Canada moves towards stricter sentencing with Bill C-10, many states in the U.S. are shifting in the opposite direction, toward control and regulation of the marijuana trade. The law enforcement officials pointed to the 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have already passed laws allowing medical use of cannabis, the 14 states that have taken steps to decriminalize marijuana possession and the initiatives to fully tax and regulate marijuana that are likely to appear on statewide ballots this November in Washington State, Colorado and possibly California.

“We assume this news will not make you consider closing the borders with the United States,” the law enforcement officials write in their letter.

For a copy of the law enforcement letter, please visit http://www.leap.cc/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/regulation-in-canada.pdf

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, federal agents and others who want to legalize and regulate marijuana and other drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence.

More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 22, 2012

CONTACT: Tom Angell, [email protected] or Steve Finlay, [email protected]

Location: 
Canada

Bipartisan New Mexico Bill Supports Fund for State Medical Marijuana Program

 

Drug Policy Alliance

www.drugpolicy.org

 

For Immediate Release:                            Contact: Emily Kaltenbach (505) 920-5256

February 3, 2012                                                             Tony Newman (646) 335-5384

 

In Rare Bi-partisan Move, State Legislators Back Fund to Support New Mexico Medical Marijuana Program

Senators Adair (R), Ortiz y Pino (D), and Ryan (R), join Senator McSorley (D) to sponsor Senate Bill 240

 

(Santa Fe) – Midway through the 2012 Legislative Session, a bill aimed at protecting thousands of sick New Mexicans' legal right to the most appropriate medication to relieve their symptoms and suffering has been introduced by Senator Cisco McSorley (D) and signed on by Senator Rod Adair (R), Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D), and Senator John Ryan (R).  Senate Bill 240 creates a Medical Marijuana Fund sustained by the producer and patient production licensing fees currently being collected by the Department of Health.  The Department of Health will be able to use these funds to directly administer the program.

"This bill is an unusual partnership among conservatives and liberals for the advancement of policy efforts in New Mexico," said Emily Kaltenbach, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico office. "Many of the best ideas defy political labels."

SB240 is one of those ideas.  Since the funding will come from existing fees, there is no added burden to the taxpayers and the additional resources will greatly strengthen the state's ability to fulfill its oversight and legal duties under the existing law (Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act) while continuing to provide safe access to safe medicine to patients who are suffering from serious illnesses.  

Yesterday, SB240 unanimously passed the Senate Conservation Committee and will be heard next in the Senate Finance Committee.

Out of the 16 states with medical marijuana laws, New Mexico was one of few states in which a majority of Republican legislators voted for the passage of the legislation. New Mexico passed its medical marijuana bill in early 2007 with overwhelming bi-partisan legislative support, including a Senate vote of 32 – 3.

Today, New Mexico's vital Medical Marijuana Program is serving over 5,000 patients diagnosed with serious illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, spinal cord injury, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and epilepsy. 

A New Mexico Drug Policy Reform study found 79% of New Mexico voters support making medical marijuana available to seriously or terminally ill patients in order to reduce their pain and suffering.

Senate Bill 240’s bi-partisan sponsorship comes on the heels of a forum co-hosted by the Rio Grande Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance in late 2011.  Last October, more than a dozen New Mexico legislators from both sides of the aisle joined about 70 others to explore their shared values and principles on a more rational public safety and health response to drug policy reform. 

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. 

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Location: 
NM
United States

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