Law (Papers)

Sirs,

I believe that a state’s Attorney General and Secretary of State have the obligation to reject any petition that is obviously in violation of any law.

Whether a ballot initiative is properly worded or not, if it proposes, facilitates or allows the violation of any law – it is illegal.

EXCERPT:  “In an opinion dated Tuesday and released Wednesday, Rutledge said the ballot title of the proposal is ambiguous and “that a number of additions or changes” are needed “to more fully and correctly summarize” the proposal.

“The proposal [to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state] by Larry Morris of West Fork would allow for the cultivation, production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas.”:

As you can readily see, Mr. Morris’ proposal would violate federal law and place persons who engage in any of those activities at risk of federal prosecution or other liability.

I draw to your attention a  LEGAL PRIMER(BELOW) ON: ENFORCING THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ACT IN STATES THAT HAVE COMMERCIALIZED MARIJUANA by Mr. David Evans, Esq. in which he concludes that: “Anyone who participates in the growing, possession, manufacturing, distribution, or sales of marijuana under state law or aids or facilitates or finances such actions is at risk of federal prosecution or other liability.”

I ask that you continue to reject these illegal proposals to legalize marijuana in any form in our state of Arkansas.

I reiterate, it is your job to UPHOLD the LAW, not facilitate LAWBREAKING.

Jeanette McDougal

Board Member, Drug Watch, Intl.

Director, NAHAS – National Alliance of Health and Safety dems8692@aol.com

As part of the ongoing efforts of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to raise awareness of key issues relevant to international drug control, I have the pleasure to share with you three short texts:

* Application of principle of proportionality for drug-related offences

* Ensuring availability of narcotic drugs for medical purposes

* Carrying by international travellers of small quantities of preparations containing controlled substances

Application of principle of proportionality for drug-related offences

  1. The application of the principle of proportionality in the context of drug offences is a key aspect of a sound and effective drug policy. Some States have made extensive use of incarceration of low-level drug offenders, despite the fact that this approach is not mandated by the international drug control treaties, and some have even applied extrajudicial responses to drug-related offences, notwithstanding the fact that such actions are contrary to the treaties. It is essential to distinguish between the criminal justice provisions contained within the Conventions1,2,3, and the criminal justice policy measures which have been taken by some Governments.
  2. Implementation of the international treaties is subject to the internationally recognized principle of proportionality, which requires that a State’s treatment of illegal behaviour to be proportionate and that a punishment in response to criminal offences should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime.
  3. The INCB has repeatedly called upon States to give due regard to the principle of proportionality in the elaboration and implementation of criminal justice policy in their efforts to address drug-related crime.
  4. While the choice of legislative or policy measures to address drug-related crime, including the determination of sanctions is the prerogative of States, the international drug control treaties require that these sanctions should be adequate and proportionate, taking into account the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the alleged offender.
  5. The international drug control treaties do not automatically require the imposition of conviction and punishment for drug-related offences, including those involving the possession, purchase or cultivation of illicit drugs, in appropriate cases of minor nature or when committed by drug users. While “serious offences shall be liable to adequate punishment, particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty”, offences of a minor or lesser gravity need not necessarily be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, such as incarceration. The Conventions afford discretion for Parties to provide, either as an alternative to conviction and punishment or in addition to conviction and punishment, that drug users undergo measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation and social reintegration.

*

Ensuring availability of narcotic drugs for medical purposes

  1. Some decades ago the international community made a solemn commitment with the SingleConvention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971: to ensure the availability, to make adequate provision and not to unduly restrict the availability of drugs that were considered indispensable for medical and scientific purposes. Over the past decades that promise has not been fully met. . Too many people suffer or die in pain or do not have access to the medications they need. Unnecessary suffering because of the lack of appropriate medication due to the inaction, lack of know-how or unnecessary administrative requirements is a scandal that shames us all.
  2. Around 5.5 billion people still have limited or no access to medicines containing narcotic drugs such as codeine or morphine, leaving 75 per cent of the world population without access to proper pain relief treatment. Around 92 per cent of morphine used worldwide is consumed by only 17 per cent of the world population, primarily living in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Inadequate access violates the notion of article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the Right to medical care, which also encompasses palliative care.
    1. This situation is caused by a variety of factors, including health care professionals, that meansThe imbalance in the availability of opioid analgesics is particularly worrying as the latest data show that many of the conditions requiring pain management, particularly cancer, are prevalent and increasing in low- and middle-income countries.doctors and nurses, not receiving adequate education and training as part of their professional education, lack of know-how and capacity of government authorities, concerns about overprescribing and addiction and overly onerous regulatory and administrative requirements. Many patients in most of the countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, and South Asia are affected, but patients in other parts of the world are also affected.
    2. Concrete steps and rapid action by Member States, the international community and the pharmaceutical industry can go a long way to remedy the situation. The most important and urgent actions would involve providing specialised training for health care professionals enabling them to prescribe and administer pain medication as well as training for the competent national authorities.
    3. Governments must bring about partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, which has a duty to act in a socially responsible manner, to ensure access to and availability of affordable medications, placing emphasis on generics.
    4. Governments need also ensure that the training curricula of doctors and nurses contain, ab initio, content on the prescribing and rational use of medicines containing controlled substances.
    5. At the same time, where necessary, legislation and regulations should be revised, prescribing practices brought up to day and the capacity of national agencies involved strengthened.
    6. If Governments, together with the relevant international agencies, were to put together a sufficiently well-resourced plan of action, Member States would be on their way to significantly contributing towards achieving a major element of Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Ensuring healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

 

Carrying by international travellers of small quantities of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for personal medical use

  1. The Board’s continuing endeavour to assist travellers carrying small quantities of controlled substances for personal medical use across international borders gained, both, high visibility and prominent usefulness.
  2. An ever increasing inflow of queries from individual travellers and organizations on the aforementioned subject has been observed. The secretariat regularly receives requests for assistance and/or clarification of the applicable national rules and regulations. The requests come from organizations and individual travellers residing in various countries. In 2016, requests came from Australia, France, Italy, United Kingdom, and the United States; their countries of interest included Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Guinea Bissau, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey and the USA.
  3. Several requests relate to common rules and regulations of the European Union and the Schengen area. The substances referenced in the queries included psychotropic substances listed in Schedules II, III and IV such as amfetamine, alprazolam, buprenorphine, dextroamphetamine, diazepam, methylphenidate, nitrazepam, tramadol, zolpidem and others that are not under international control.
  4. Since 2013, the information furnished by Governments on national requirements for travellers under medical treatment carrying preparations containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances under international control has been summarized in a standardized table format and made available in six official UN languages on INCB website.
  5. To date, such information is available for 109 Governments (up from 79 in May 2014)and is uploaded to the Board’s webpage, more than half are already available in the form of standardized tables translated into six official UN languages:http://www.incb.org/incb/en/psychotropic-substances/travellers_country_regulations.html
  6. In September 2016, given the increasing interest in this pertinent information, inparticular the international guidelines for national regulations concerning travellers under treatment with internationally controlled drugs, and the compilation of standardized summary tables of regulations by country, the secretariat sent out a reminder letter to all countries and territories, requesting all Governments to visit the above website and to inform the Board if the information pertaining to their countries accurately reflects current provisions of their national laws and regulations.
    1. The Governments that have not yet furnished any information were requested to

    provide the requisite description of all relevant legal/regulatory or administrative measures

    adopted to allow travellers entering/leaving the country to carry medical preparations

    containing controlled substances for personal medical use. In addition to full texts of relevant

    pieces of information, these Governments were also requested to fill in and to submit to the

    Board the standardized summary tables that were attached to the circular letter.

    1. The secretariat will continue to augment the list of national rules and regulations

    pertaining to travellers carrying internationally controlled substances for personal medical use,

    provide requisite assistance and attend to all inquiries in this regard.

    Source:  http://www.incb.org/incb/en/news/alerts.html

    INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial body charged with promoting and monitoring Government compliance with the three international drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

 

 

 

 

 

From:

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

First published: 27 November 2014

Last updated: 25 March 2015 , see all updates

Part of: Drug misuse and dependency

Report presented to the crime prevention minister recommends a revised generic description, designed to control a broad-range of ‘third generation’ synthetic cannabinoids.

 

Documents

‘Third generation’ synthetic cannabinoids    –  PDF, 611KB, 29 pages

Addendum to report on ‘third generation’ synthetic cannabinoids   –  PDF, 21.1KB, 2 pages

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Patrick J. Kennedy, who is a former member of Congress from Rhode Island and an honorary adviser to SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

The epidemic of drug addiction and overdoses gripping Vermont, and our country at large, cries out for reform. We must change the perception that jail is an effective treatment for the disease of drug addiction, and give mental health issues the attention and funding they deserve, an opinion I know many Vermonters share.

But the legalization and commercialization of another addictive drug — marijuana — is precisely the wrong way to address this critical problem. Legalization has nothing to do with whether we lock up pot users, and everything to do with making money. Marijuana industry lobbyists that are pushing legalization to the Vermont Legislature disingenuously conflate the two issues, claiming that the only way to stop imprisoning marijuana users is to legalize the drug. They also make sweeping claims about how commercialization will control the black market and make the drug “safer.”

But both claims are demonstrably false. First of all, we can stop jailing marijuana users without letting big business sell marijuana at corner stores. Vermont has already decriminalized marijuana use for adults, and will not arrest or jail you if you possess an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use. And our Congress is already debating broader criminal justice reforms that may reduce the burden of arrests and imprisonment for drug offenses, especially on minority and low-income communities.

Second, and more broadly, we know from other states’ experiences that the billion-dollar marijuana industry — the folks behind the legalization effort — is more interested in profits than our health and safety. Legalization means inviting a powerful lobby into Vermont that pushes hard against regulations. Pot lobbyists in Colorado defeated restrictions on pot ads aimed at children. They have opposed restrictions on marijuana potency. And they are fighting laws keeping pot shops away from schools, parks, and day care centers in Oregon. Vermont legislators may think they have cracked the code on how to implement legalization “safely,” but it will not be long until industry forces expose and exploit any openings they see for the sake of profits.

Now, I put the call out to the Vermont Legislature: Please learn from the experiences of other states, and heed the warning signs — marijuana legalization does not reduce the toll drug addiction takes on our communities.

In other words, commercial marijuana behaves just like another large American industry peddling addiction — Big Tobacco. It may surprise Vermonters to know that the large tobacco companies have been studying the marijuana business since the 1960s, seeing it as a natural extension of their product line. And like tobacco, the marijuana business can only profit when it creates and cultivates heavy users. Just 20 percent of pot users consume 80 percent of all marijuana. Those heavy users, many of whom are addicts, are the target market for the pot industry, not the casual smoker.

This profit motive is why legalization and commercialization has yielded more pot use, not less, among children and adults. After legalizing pot, Colorado took the dubious honor of having the highest past-month marijuana use rates in the country in both age groups. A host of related problems have accompanied this dubious honor, including a surge in marijuana poisonings — up 148 percent overall, and up a shocking 153 percent

among children 0 to 5 years old — and a 32 percent spike in marijuana-related traffic fatalities. Even without legalization, Vermont already ranks No. 2 in past-month consumption. Commercialization will only push those numbers higher.

Moreover, legalization has not blunted Colorado’s black market. The state’s attorney general told the press last February that “The criminals are still selling on the black market. … We have plenty of cartel activity in Colorado. …” Colorado law enforcement officers have even indicated that black market activity may have increased, as people illegally export pot to other states.

Finally, like the tobacco companies, who once boasted that they targeted “the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid,” the marijuana industry has had an outsized impact on poor and minority communities in Colorado. A recent exposé showed that Denver’s pot business was highly skewed towards poor areas, with one neighborhood having one marijuana business for every 47 residents. A strategy of “profits before public health” is not the way to serve socioeconomic and racial justice.

Now, I put the call out to the Vermont Legislature: Please learn from the experiences of other states, and heed the warning signs — marijuana legalization does not reduce the toll drug addiction takes on our communities. It represents burning down the village in order to save it, by handing Vermont’s public health over to Wall Street and the marijuana lobby. Rather, I urge you to focus on solutions we know will work — sensible criminal justice reform and serious investments in drug prevention.

Source:   http://vtdigger.org/2016/02/03/patrick-kennedy-say-no-to-marijuana-legalization/

As Colorado “celebrates” its third year of marijuana legalization, reporters and marijuana enthusiasts gloat of the state’s sweeping success. “Live and let live,” they naively remark, with all the wisdom of a 1970s hippie fresh out of Woodstock. But perhaps the cannabis devotees should pause and ask themselves by what metric success ought be measured.

Most accounts of Colorado’s triumph extol the vast revenue accrued via legalization and subsequent taxation (see here, here, and here). These heralds, however, neglect to tell you the rest of the story.

Just off 15th and Little Raven Streets in Denver, Colorado is a place called “Stoner Hill.” At Stoner Hill, Colorado’s homeless youth, who are ever-growing in number, congregate and smoke in what a Denver news site, Westword, describes as “a perpetual party, a misdemeanor micro-economy and a meeting ground for Denver’s youngest homeless and assorted travelers.” Westword reports, “The grassy hilltop is where a housing crisis meets legal cannabis, and it just happens to have a panoramic view of booming downtown Denver.”

Stoner Hill is emblematic of the growing crisis Colorado and other legalization states like Washington, Oregon, and Alaska face. Coincidentally – or perhaps not so coincidentally – both Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize, were among the top three states with the largest increases in youth homelessness from 2013 to 2014. In each state, the youth homelessness rate grew by 27 and 13.3 percent respectively in just one year.

The youth-related marijuana numbers are no less concerning and should be alarming to anyone concerned with the betterment of America’s youth. Just this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a survey showing that Colorado now ranks number one for regular marijuana use among youth. This proud achievement only came incrementally, though; Colorado once ranked a distant 14th in the country for youth usage. Once again, this jump in the rankings coincided with Colorado’s 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use.

These numbers are unsurprising, though, since Colorado’s “edibles” often intentionally resemble candy or cookies. Much like the big tobacco advertising campaigns geared toward young people, big marijuana is marketing its drug as an innocuous or appealing snack, sure to garner youth attention. Stanford Law Professors Rob MacCoun and Michelle Mello have dubbed it an “attractive nuisance.”

The distrusting naysayer would retort that Colorado is just one state and should not be a bellwether for the nation. Colorado, however, is not alone in its marijuana accolades. When you consider “average past month use of marijuana by those 12 to 17 years old” – the main metric for youth usage – the cynic has a lot of explaining to do. Average youth use among teens in recreational/medical marijuana states rests at 10.5 percent compared to 8.9 percent in states where it is only legal for medicinal purposes and 6.1 percent in states were the drug is banned altogether. In other words, there is a direct correlation between availability of marijuana and teen usage.

Teenage use numbers alone do not fully capture the impending crisis Colorado and other states face. According to Arapahoe House Treatment network in Colorado, teenage admissions for marijuana addiction in Colorado increased by 66 percent between 2011 and 2014, again correlating with the 2012 passage of Amendment 64. This phenomenon is entirely predictable by science. Dr. Christian Thurstone of the University of Colorado explains the epidemic this way:

I’m interested in this subject because 95 percent of the teenagers treated for substance abuse and addiction in my adolescent substance-abuse treatment clinic at Denver Health are there because of their marijuana use,

and because nationwide, 67 percent of teens are referred to substance treatment because of their marijuana use. Marijuana is the No. 1 reason why adolescents seek substance-abuse treatment in the United States.

Citing a study by Wayne Hall and Louisa Degenhardt, Dr. Thurstone points out that two-thirds of new marijuana users annually are under the age of 18, and one in six of those new users will go on to use regularly or become dependent on the substance. For Colorado, this is a troubling finding.

Marijuana usage is not only detrimental for its addictive characteristics but also for its long-term effects on the adolescent brain. Marijuana has “acute (meaning up to six hours), subacute (6 hours to 20 days) and long-term (more than 20 days) effects.” Where the subacute effects of alcohol can be the annoyance of a brief hangover, marijuana can have substantial lingering effects, especially for young people. Charles Stimson of the Heritage Foundation reports that, while alcohol is broken down quickly, THC – the main active chemical in marijuana – is stored in the body, where it can remain for days or weeks and impair cognitive ability for enduring periods of time. Consequently, using the drug is associated with “lower test scores and lower educational attainment.”

The long-term effects are most worrisome. A comprehensive New Zealand study of 1,000 individuals over many years found that participants who used cannabis heavily in their teens had an astonishing average loss of eight IQ points. Accordingly, Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of the American College of Pediatricians, notes that “[m]arijuana’s impact on the teen brain leads to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, sexual victimization, academic failure, permanent loss of IQ, psychopathology, addiction, and psychosocial and occupational impairment.”

Sadly, youth usage is not the only devastating impact legalization has had. In Colorado, “pot-positive traffic fatalities” have increased 100 percent, emergency room visits related to marijuana have increased 57 percent, and infant exposure has increased 268 percent since legalization.

But the adverse impact on America’s youth should be enough by itself to trigger scrutiny and reform. Former Drug Czar William Bennett remarked: “We know we have a problem, and we have not managed to keep those

things from kids. Colorado was supposed to eliminate the marijuana black market, but it did not.”

While supporters applaud America’s new cash cow – marijuana – perhaps we should ask ourselves whether this newfound flow of revenue should be hoarded at the expense of America’s youth – the marijuana martyrs.

Source:  http://abovethelaw.com/2015/12/americas-youth-the-marijuana-martyrs/

The American Academy of Paediatrics published a policy statement in January about the impact of marijuana use on youth. The AAP is strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana due to the potential impact on child and adolescent health.

Marijuana use is common in the U.S. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that more than 12 percent of those over age 12 years have used marijuana in the last year; the rate of use has been increasing since the 1990s. Statistics show that if this trend continues, marijuana use will overtake cigarette smoking for high school seniors.

The active ingredient in marijuana is a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol. This chemical stimulates brain receptors and produces hallucinations, illusions, dizziness, altered perception, impaired thinking and sedation.    Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia permit marijuana to be prescribed by a doctor for medical purposes. Two states, Colorado and Washington, allow its sale for recreational purposes and Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted in November to legalize marijuana.

There are many actual and potential risks from legalized marijuana. Legalizing marijuana portrays marijuana use as harmless and results in the commercialization and marketing of a proven harmful substance. Even with strictly enforced age restrictions, increased adolescent use would occur.

Commercialization will lead to the production of stronger marijuana products. The concentration of the active ingredient in marijuana has increased four times since the 1980s. The ingestion risk of edible marijuana products such as cookies and chocolates is 10 times higher when compared to smoking marijuana. Smoking effects are seen within seconds, but oral ingestion effects are much slower. This increases the risk of ingesting more of the chemical before feeling satisfied.

Accidental ingestion of marijuana-laced food products has led to young children being admitted to intensive care units for sedation and respiratory failure in the states that have legalized marijuana. Common negative effects in teens include decreased scholastic and sports participation and performance, a loss of interest in outside activities, a withdrawal from peer interactions, increased risk-taking behaviors, decreased driving skills, damaged lung function and increased interpersonal problems with family and friends

Marijuana is an addictive substance. It is estimated that 9 percent of all those who experiment with marijuana will become addicted to it. When this estimate is limited to teens, the addiction risk increases to 17 percent. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 2.7 million people in the U.S. over age 12 met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria for addiction to marijuana.

Addiction symptoms are often overlooked because withdrawal symptoms may be minor or absent. Studies have repeatedly shown that teens who use marijuana several times per week have difficulty quitting, and the younger a child is when marijuana use starts, the greater the deleterious effects and the higher the chance for addiction.

Marijuana legalization poses a monumental risk to children and teens. The history of alcohol misuse by teens proves the limited potential of regulations and penalties to limit access by teens. The answer is clear. Legalizing marijuana is a risk we should not take.

JOE BARBER, M.D., is a pediatrician and child neurologist at Children’s Community Care Pediatrics-Erie Pediatrics. He is division chief of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Vincent Hospital and is active on social media (www.drjoebarber.com).

 Source: www.goerie.com   6th Feb 2014

The 50 states are sometimes called “laboratories of democracy”. Although the expression is intended to highlight in flattering terms how innovative they can be, it also suggests that the states’ political experiments can and do fail. In the event of failure, the hope must be that damage can be stopped at the state line. Today, the experiment of state-by-state marijuana legalization is failing before our eyes—and failing most signally where the experiment has been tried most boldly. The failure is accelerating even as the forces pushing legalization are on what appears to be an inexorable march.

In November 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the sale of marijuana to any adult consumer. Advocates of legalization carried the vote with a substantial campaign budget, a few million dollars, and a brilliant slogan: “Drug dealers don’t ask for ID.” The implied promise: Marijuana legalization would be joined to tough enforcement to keep marijuana away from minors. After all, persistent and heavy marijuana use among adolescents has been shown to reduce their IQ as adults by 6 to 8 points. An Australian study of identical twins found that a twin who started using cannabis before age 17 was 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than the twin who did not. People in Colorado had good reason to worry about teen drug use. Colorado voters had approved a limited experiment with medical marijuana in 2000. A complex series of judicial and administrative decisions in the mid-2000s overthrew most restrictions on the dispensing of marijuana. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of dispensaries jumped past 500, and the number of medical cardholders multiplied from roughly 1,000 to more than 108,000.

With so many medical-marijuana card-holders walking about, it was simply inevitable that some would re-sell their marijuana to underage users. A 2013 study of Colorado teens in drug treatment found that 74 percent had shared somebody else’s medical marijuana. The number of occasions on which they had shared averaged over 50 times. According to a report by the Rocky Mountain High-Intense Drug Trafficking Area, Colorado teens, by 2012, were 50 percent more likely to use marijuana than their peers in the rest of the country.

Debates about marijuana tend to travel pretty fast into the domain of libertarian ideology: I’m a consenting adult, why can’t I do what I want? Yet the best customers for the marijuana industry are not adults at all. The majority of people who try marijuana quit by age 30. Adults in their twenties are significantly less likely than high school students to smoke; 14 percent of twenty-somethings say they smoke marijuana, while 22.7 percent of 12th-graders smoke at least once a month, and 6.5 percent say they smoke every day.

Why do people quit using marijuana as they mature? Your guess is as good as anybody else’s, but whatever the reason, the trend presents marijuana sellers with a marketing problem. Yet there is promising news from the emerging marijuana industry’s point of view: People who start smoking in their teens are significantly more likely to become dependent than people who start smoking later: about 1 in 6, as opposed to 1 in 10. Start them young; keep them longer. Very rationally, then, the marijuana industry is rolling out products designed to appeal to the youngest consumers: cannabis-infused soda, cannabis-infused chocolate taffy, cannabis-infused jujubes.

The promise that legalization will actually protect teenagers from marijuana is false. So, too, are the other promises of the legalizers. It is false to claim that marijuana legalization will break drug cartels. Those cartels will continue to traffic in harder and more lucrative drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Criminal cartels may well stay in the marijuana business, too, marketing directly to underage users. Public policy is about trade-offs, and marijuana users need to face up to the trade-off they are urging on American society. Legal marijuana use means more marijuana use, and more marijuana use means above all more teen marijuana use.

Proponents of marijuana legalization often question why the law bans marijuana but not alcohol or tobacco. One important difference is that alcohol and tobacco are drugs on the decline. Since 1980, per capita consumption of alcohol has dropped almost 20 percent. One-third of Americans smoked tobacco in 1980; fewer than one-fifth smoke today. The progress against drunk driving is even more remarkable: Fatalities caused by drunk drivers have decreased by more than half since 1982.

The reduction in tobacco and alcohol use has been hastened by increasingly restrictive laws that govern where and how these products may be consumed. Tobacco-smoking has been banned on planes, in restaurants, and in almost all public places. The drinking age, reduced in the 1970s from 21 to 18 in most states, was restored to 21 by federal action in the 1980s. Tobacco taxes have been steeply hiked. Bars that served intoxicated patrons face rising tort risk.

With marijuana, however, the law is heading in the opposite direction, and has been for some time. Since 1996, Columbia have approved “medical marijuana” laws, whereby people who obtain a prescription from a doctor can legally use or purchase marijuana. As in Colorado, many of these supposed medical regimes are degenerating into legalization by another name. Oregon, for example: At the end of 2012, it was home to 56,531 medical-marijuana patients. The majority of these 56,000-plus permissions were approved by only nine doctors. One doctor—an 80-year-old retired heart surgeon in Yakima—approved 4,180 medical-marijuana applications in a span of 12 months. Only 4 percent of Oregon’s medical-marijuana patients, as of the end of 2012, suffered from cancer. Only 1 percent were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The large majority, 57 percent, cited unspecified “pain” as the ailment for which treatment was sought. Yet none of the nine doctors who wrote the majority of the marijuana prescriptions was a pain specialist.

Fewer than 2 percent of California card holders have HIV, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, or cancer:  One survey found that the typical California medical-marijuana patient was a healthy 32-year-old man with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Here, too, some doctors are signing thousands of recommendations after only the scantiest examination—or none at all. An NBC news investigator in Los Angeles visited one dispensary, was examined by a man who later proved to be an acupuncturist and massage therapist, and then received a prescription signed by a doctor who lived 67 miles away.

In the words of Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck, most dispensaries are “for-profit businesses engaged in the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults.” By early 2012, Los Angeles contained almost eight times as many dispensaries as Starbucks coffee shops. The city became alarmed that the customers who congregated at these dispensaries were active in crimes from robbery to murder. By July, the City Council voted unanimously to shut down all of the nearly 800 known dispensaries in the city. The marijuana lobby succeeded in preventing that ban from going into effect, so the next year, the city government tried a different approach: a local referendum called Proposition D to cap the number of dispensaries at 135, raise taxes on marijuana sales, and forbid dispensaries to locate near primary, middle, and high schools.

The proposition was approved, but this approach also proved ineffective. In the words of Medical Marijuana Business Daily (yes, it exists):

Officials have actually only forced about 70 dispensaries to close so far. While some other dispensaries shut down on their own to avoid legal troubles, most did not. That means at least 700—possibly more—illegal shops are still open.

“What happened is that we’re really trying to put a Band-Aid on some crazy open wound, and it’s not big enough to stop the bleeding,” said Adam Bierman, who runs the consultancy MedMen. “Prop D as a concept is half decent, but there’s really no way to enforce it.”

Marijuana does possess certain medicinal properties. So does opium. But we don’t allow unscrupulous quacks to write raw opium prescriptions for anyone willing to pay $65. And if we did, would anybody be surprised that the vast majority of opium buyers were not recovering from surgery—and that many of them shared or resold some of their opium to underage users?

Some older adults have a hard time crediting the dangers of marijuana use because they imagine the marijuana on sale today is the same low-grade stuff they smoked in college. The marijuana sold in the 1980s averaged between 3 and 4 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient. Today’s selectively bred marijuana averages over 12 percent THC, with some strains reaching 30 percent. Hundreds of YouTube videos will show you how to combust a marijuana wax with butane, to boost the THC content to 90 percent. As marijuana consumers shift from smoking to ingesting marijuana, they can ingest larger and larger doses of THC at a time. Since 2006, Colorado emergency rooms have seen a steep rise in the number of patients arriving panicked and disoriented from excess THC, including a near doubling of patients ages 13 and 14.

It’s said that nobody ever died from a marijuana overdose. Nobody ever died from a tobacco overdose either, but that doesn’t prove tobacco safe. Of all the dangers connected to marijuana, the most lethal is the risk of automobile accident.  Marijuana-related fatal car crashes have nearly tripled across the United States in the past decade. Marijuana legalizers may counter: Can’t we just extend laws against drunk driving to stoned driving?

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. What exactly defines marijuana impairment remains fiercely contested by an increasingly assertive marijuana industry. It took Colorado four tries to enact a legal definition of marijuana impairment: five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Yet even once enacted, the standard remains very difficult to enforce. Alcohol impairment can be detected with a Breathalyzer. Marijuana impairment is revealed only by a blood test, and long-established law requires police to obtain a search warrant before a blood test is administered.

More important than catching impaired drivers after the fact is deterring them before they get behind the wheel. In the absence of a blood-testing kit, marijuana users themselves will find it difficult to know how much is too much. Time recently quoted a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation: “It’s not like alcohol. People metabolize it differently. There are different potencies,” the official said. “So there’s really no solution in terms of saying ‘you’re now at the limit.’ I just don’t think there’s enough research that we can say, ‘Wait x amount of hours before getting on the road.’ I don’t know whether it’s five hours or 10 hours or the next day. We just don’t know.”  Back in 2007, a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that on any given Saturday night, about 12 percent of drivers tested positive for alcohol; about 6 percent for marijuana. Since then, 10 more states and the District of Columbia have adopted medical-marijuana regimes, which surely means even more buzzed drivers on the roads.

Yet the most pervasive harm of marijuana may be psychic rather than physical. A battery of studies have found regular marijuana use to be associated with worse outcomes at school, social life, and work. I use the cautious phrase “associated with,” because it’s far from clear whether marijuana use is a cause or an effect of other problems—or (most likely) both cause and effect. An isolated, underachieving kid starts smoking marijuana. That kid then descends deeper into isolation and underachievement. Marijuana may not have been the “cause” of the kid’s malaise, but it intensifies the malaise and may inhibit or even prevent his emergence from it.

The negative spiral of despondency leading to marijuana use, leading to deeper and more protracted despondency, makes the present moment a particularly unpropitious one for marijuana legalization. The United States is currently recovering feebly from the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Prospects for young people especially have narrowed. Are we really going to say to them: “Look, we haven’t got jobs for you, your chances at marriage are dwindling, you may be 30 before you can move out of your parents’ place into a home of your own, but we’ll make it up to you with pot, video games, and online porn”? They want to start life, but they are being offered instead only narcotic dreams.

As human beings, our judgment is not only imperfect, but is prone to fail in highly predictable ways. Insert a recurring charge onto our phone bill, and we will soon cease to notice it. We evolved under conditions where sugars and salt were scarce, and so we will eat far more than we need if given the chance. We overestimate our luck and will gamble our money in ways that make no mathematical sense. Our brains are wired for addictions. If a substance can trigger that addiction, it can overthrow all the reasoning and moral faculties of the mind.

Lucrative industries have arisen to exploit these weaknesses in ways highly harmful to their customers. And the bold irony is that when their practices are challenged, they’ll invoke the very principles of individual choice and self-mastery that their industry is based on negating and defeating. So it was with tobacco. So it is with casino gambling. So it will be with marijuana.

Proponents of marijuana legalization do make a valid point when they worry that marijuana laws are enforced too punitively—and that this too punitive approach inflicts disparate punishment on minority users as compared with white users. Ordinary marijuana users should receive civil penalties; repeat users belong in treatment, not prison; communities should experience law enforcement as an ally and supporter of local norms, not an outside force stamping young people with indelible criminal records for mistakes that carry fewer consequences for the more affluent and the better connected. It’s also true, however, that these alternative methods can succeed only if the background rule is that marijuana is illegal. It’s very often the threat of criminal sanction that impels users to seek the treatment they need, while still young enough to turn their lives around.  The illegal U.S. market for marijuana is already twice as big as the market for coffee. As that market is legalized, it will expand, and the industry that serves the market will be emboldened to hire lobbyists to promote its continued expansion. The vision offered by some academics of a legal but non-commercial marijuana market shows little realism about American government. American legislatures exhibit notoriously poor resistance against check-book-wielding special interests.

The resistance will be all the weaker since the costs of marijuana legalization will be borne by people to whom American legislatures pay scant attention anyway. Marijuana retailers will be located most densely in America’s poorest neighborhoods, just as liquor and cigarette retailing is now. Out of whose pockets will the marijuana taxes of the future be paid? Whose addiction and recovery services will be least well-funded? In a society in which it is already sufficiently difficult for people to rise from the bottom, who’ll find that their rise has become harder still?

David Frum is the author, most recently, of the novel Patriots (2012) and is a commentator for CNN and the Daily Beast.

Source:  http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/dont-go-to-pot/  Oct/Nov 2014

In the 1980s and 90s two successive waves of heroin use swept Britain resulting in massively escalating levels of addiction, deaths, crime, and HIV. At the same time the use of other drugs, cannabis, cocaine, etc was also increasing. There was a widespread sense of crisis with the fear that control of our cities would be lost to drug gangs, drug related crime would continue to grow exponentially, and injecting drug use would become a major route for the transmission of HIV across the population. The drug treatment system was under resourced with lengthy waiting times and high levels of drop out. In 1992 the Major government launched the first national drug strategy “Tackling Drugs Together” to grip these problems.

Fast forward to 2014. Drug use is falling, down from 12% in 2004 to 9% now. The use of heroin peaked at the end of the 1990s at 450,000, it is now 260,000. Young people are shunning heroin with typical users now in their 40s rather than the vulnerable teenagers of popular imagination. Drug related crime has fallen dramatically with investment in treatment initiated during the Blair government enabling offenders and other users to access treatment in days rather than months. The quality of treatment has improved with lower drop out and improved outcomes. The Home Office estimate 30% of the reduction in crime since 2000 is attributable to ready access to treatment which currently prevents 4.9m crimes a year. Levels of HIV among drug injectors is among the lowest in the world, 2% compared to 20% in the USA and 70% in parts of Russia, a legacy of the harm reduction policies pioneered by Norman Fowler as health secretary in the Thatcher government.

None of this featured in last weeks critique in the Huffington Post of the failures of current policy from Caroline Lucas and Julian Huppert, or in their speeches in last Thursdays parliamentary debate. Instead we had a tired unevidenced assertion that policy is a failure, in Nick Clegg’s dramatic language, “on an industrial scale”. Why are outcomes that would have been a cause of celebration in 1992 consistently derided as failure?

The major difference between 1992 and today is that the crisis has abated. There is no longer a plausible argument that drug misuse is spiralling out of control with potentially disastrous consequences for social stability. The absence of crisis frees up ideologues of right and left to posture either about the “failed war on drugs” on the left or the “calamitous consequences of 1960s hedonism” on the right.

The value of the drug debate as a badge of moral and political affiliation is too potent to allow inconvenient truths to intrude. The reality of less use and less harm has to be airbrushed out of the debate if the power of the opposing polemics is to be sustained.

The commentariat’s  self indulgence is buttressed by a political/media culture in which no government policy is allowed to succeed. Ministers are wary of claiming success, fearing charges of complacency today, and ridicule tomorrow if events turn for the worse. Perhaps surprisingly, success is more likely to be buried in Whitehall than failure. Civil servants, policy advocates, and service providers have learned to sidestep inconvenient good news to sustain an ever evolving narrative of failure which is the best route to maintain the high media and political salience on which future funding, policy influence and employment depend.

To highlight the hidden successes of current drug policy is not to deny the continuing challenges and deficits. In England drug related deaths rose alarmingly last year after falling significantly since 2008. The immediate and long term health risks of “legal highs” present an unknown threat. The lack of integration between drug and mental health services is a continuing scandal. Locking people up to protect them from themselves is difficult to justify. But the reality of our drug problem today is that fewer people are using drugs, fewer are becoming addicted, and the social and economic costs of drug use are shrinking.

Any evidence based change to policy needs to acknowledge its successes as well as its deficits. It isn’t enough to dust off arguments from the sixth form debating society as MPs did in the commons this week. The calls for a radical change in policy do not sit well with a significantly shrinking problem. Proponents of change need to explain, not only how reform will prevent imprisonment of users, a laudable aim, but also how they would prevent increases in use and harm arising as a consequence. To steer a sensible pragmatic evidence based route through these policy challenges requires all the evidence to be on the table, including the surprisingly good news that some people would prefer to see ignored.

Source:   http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paul-hayes/drug-policy-uk-untold-success-story  4th Nov 2014

 ALASKA Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc.

1.     Legalization will place a significant financial burden on local law enforcement agencies due to the need for special training that will be necessary to identify marijuana users who are driving impaired and to create or enhance youth education programs.

  •  It is estimated that Alaskan police departments will have combined costs of nearly $6,000,000 to respond to immediate needs which will arise from legalization of marijuana. These costs include necessary training of police officers to establish drug impairment based on symptomology because there are no roadside tools like breathalyzers for testing marijuana usage, and for increasing the number of School Resource Officers (SROs) in communities to educate teens about the dangers of drug use. These are expenditures that have been tallied by mostly municipal police departments, therefore the bulk of these costs will likely need to be borne by taxpayers in the impacted communities. Additional costs may exist for the Department of Public Safety.

  • After medicinal marijuana became easy to get in Colorado, seizures of smuggled marijuana quadrupled in roughly 4 years as “legal” marijuana was diverted to other markets . No comparable studies have been found addressing this problem in Alaska, but if legalization in this state results in a similar increase in diversion trafficking, more than 75% of Alaskan police feel they will not have sufficient local resources to combat the potential impact in their community.

  • In 2011, the national average for youth aged 12 to 17 years old and considered “current” marijuana users was 7.64 percent which was the highest average since 1981. The most recent figures found for Alaska teens dates from 2009 and puts the number of students claiming to have used marijuana within the last 30 days at 22.7% and the number who have used the drug  during their lifetime at 44.5% . Only 16 Alaskan chiefs report currently having SROs in their communities. If legalization occurs in Alaska, 64% of police chiefs felt it would be necessary to increase the number of school resource and DARE officers doing youth outreach in their communities to protect against an increase in local teen drug usage.

  •  In 2006, Colorado drivers testing positive for marijuana were involved in 28 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving drugs. By 2011 that number had increased to 56 percent. These statistics clearly indicate the importance of traffic enforcement, but identification of impairment due to marijuana requires special skills. No figures seem to exist which can illuminate the degree of the problem in Alaska  but the consistency of data from other states would support the assumption that the Alaskan experience would be comparable. Ninety seven percent of Alaskan chiefs responding to the AACOP survey felt their officers needed additional Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) or Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training to help them properly identify drivers impaired by marijuana. Of more than 950 police officers in the state, less than 100 are estimated to have ARIDE training, and less than 20 now have DRE training.

  • Less than 6% of the AACOP survey respondents felt their local taxpayers would support a sufficient increase in their police budget to meet the anticipated financial implications of marijuana legalization.

  • Seventy five percent of respondents felt their agency would require financial assistance to meet training needs that will be created by legalization. Providing this training for all police officers will not only be costly to local taxpayers and also logistically difficult.

  • ·Unlike alcohol, for which impairment can be reasonably measured using a breathalyzer (and confirmed with a blood alcohol content measurement), valid detection for cannabis is time-consuming, and blood tests cannot definitively determine an approximate degree of impairment. The lack of suitable roadside tests and agreed-upon intoxication levels will make enforcement of impaired driving more difficult.       

  • The necessity of drawing blood for toxicology testing creates another potential problem for police as it will necessitate training officers as phlebotomists, contracting with an independent phlebotomist to be on call, or taking all drivers suspected of impaired driving due to drugs (DUID) to the nearest hospital or clinic to have blood drawn.. In this “post-CSI” era, juries are likely to expect effective prosecution of drug impairment will require a toxicology evaluation combined with the testimony of a trained Drug Recognition Expert.

 

2.     Stoned driving and other dangers would be increased, while the difficulty of proving impairment from marijuana may impact prosecutions, and could make civil settlements more difficult in the case of personal injury lawsuits.

  • Drugged driving impairs one’s motor skills, reaction time, and judgment and  is a public health concern because it puts not only the driver at risk, but also passengers and others who share the road.

  • In other states where there has been an enormous increase in “medical” marijuana cardholders, DUI arrests involving marijuana have skyrocketed, as have traffic fatalities where marijuana was found in the system of one of the drivers. Because toxicology results are not universally reported for Alaskan crashes no definitive data exists which would demonstrate a different result here.

  • In 2011 there were 9.4 million persons aged 12 and older who reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the past year. The rate was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25.

  • Drugs that may affect driving were detected in one of every seven weekend night time drivers in California during the summer of 2012. In the first California state wide roadside survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers, 14 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs, 7.4 percent of drivers tested positive for alcohol, and just as many as tested positive for marijuana as alcohol.

  • In a study of seriously injured drivers admitted to a Maryland Level-1 shock-trauma center, 65.7 percent were found to have positive toxicology results for alcohol and/or drugs. Almost 51 percent of the total tested positive for illegal drugs. A total of 26.9 percent of the drivers tested positive for marijuana.

  • The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has called for a science-based educational campaign targeting drugged driving behavior. In a January 2008 report titled, Cannabis and Driving, it is noted that motorists should be discouraged from driving if they have recently smoked cannabis and should never operate a motor vehicle after having consumed both marijuana and alcohol. The report also calls for the development of roadside, cannabis-sensitive technology to better assist law enforcement in identifying drivers who may be under the influence of pot.

  • In a 2007 National Roadside Survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers, a random sample of weekend nighttime drivers across the United States found that 16.3 percent of the drivers tested positive for drugs, compared to 2.2 percent of drivers with blood alcohol concentrations at or above the legal limit. Drugs were present more than 7 times as frequently as alcohol.

  • Low doses of THC moderately impairs cognitive and psychomotor tasks associated with driving, while severe driving impairment is observed with high doses, chronic use and in combination with low doses of alcohol. The more difficult and unpredictable the task, the more likely marijuana will impair performance.

 

3.     Persons under the influence of marijuana will present a risk on job-sites. If marijuana is legalized, aggressive drug screening and periodic testing of medical personnel, industrial workers, transportation workers. and others will be necessary to insure safety of the public and other workers. 

  • According to the American Council for Drug Education in New York, employees who abuse drugs are 10 times more likely to miss work, 3.6 times more likely to be involved in on-the-job incidents (and 5 times more likely to injure themselves or another worker in the process) and 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim. They also are said to be 33 percent less productive and responsible for potentially tripling health care costs.

  • The risk that your surgeon, pilot, bus driver, or coworker has used marijuana will increase if the drug is decriminalized.

  • A Rand study suggests drug use leads to about a 25-percent increase in men’s risk of having a workplace injury.

  •  In addition to the acute effects of alcohol and other drug use on judgment and psychomotor skills, substance use that occurs hours before a worker begins his or her shift can cause spillover effects, such as fatigue and hangovers, that may independently increase injury risk. Studies have shown that hangovers affect cognitive skills, including tasks related to driving or piloting aircraft, which may therefore influence the risk of injury in a manner similar to the influences of acute alcohol intoxication.

  • Persons more likely to misuse alcohol and other substances may be more likely to be engaged in other behaviors that increase the risk of injury, a concept termed deviance proneness

 

4.     Marijuana legalization will usher in Drug Commercialization increasing the chances of the drug falling into the hands of kids.

  • Already, private holding groups and financiers have raised millions of start-up dollars to promote businesses that will sell marijuana and marijuana-related merchandise.

  • Cannabis food and candy is being marketed to children and are already responsible for a growing number of marijuana-related ER visits.  Edibles with names such as “Ring Pots” and “Pot Tarts” are inspired by common children’s candy and dessert products such as “Ring Pops” and “Pop Tarts.”

  • Several, profitable vending machines containing products such as marijuana brownies are emerging throughout the country.

  • The former head of Strategy for Microsoft has said that he wants to “mint more millionaires than Microsoft” with marijuana and that he wants to create the “Starbucks of marijuana.”

 

5.     Marijuana use will increase under legalization

  • Because they are accessible and available, our legal drugs are used far more than our illegal ones. According to recent surveys, alcohol is used by 52% of Americans and tobacco is used by 27% of Americans. Marijuana is used by 8% of Americans.

  • When RAND researchers analyzed California’s 2010 effort to legalize marijuana, they concluded that the price of the drug could plummet and therefore marijuana consumption could increase.

  •  The 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey noted that daily or near daily marijuana use, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the past 30 days rose significantly in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades in 2010 and rose slightly higher again in 2011. This translates to one in every 15 high school seniors smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis, the highest rates that has been seen in thirty years – since 1981.

 

6.     Marijuana is especially harmful to kids and adolescents.

  • Marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk they will become addicted to the drug. The risk of addiction goes from about 1 in 11 overall to 1 in 6 for those who start using in their teens, and even higher among daily smokers.

  • Marijuana contributes to psychosis and schizophrenia , addiction for 1 in 6 kids who ever use it once , and it reduces IQ among those who started smoking before age 18.

  • Regular or daily use of marijuana may be robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel. THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the brain’s hippocampus to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, recent research has shown that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function in adulthood.

 

7.     Today’s marijuana is NOT your Woodstock weed.

  •  In the 1960s and ‘70s, THC levels of the marijuana smoked by baby boomers averaged around 1%, increasing to just under 4% in 1983, and almost tripling in the subsequent 30 years to around 11% in 2011.

 

8.     Marijuana legalization will increase public costs.

  • For every $1 in alcohol and tobacco tax revenues, society loses $10 in social costs, from accidents to health damage .

  • In addition to the costs to law enforcement for training and prevention, the anticipated increase in impaired driving arrests would result in additional court costs including prosecution and public defenders. Even in places where these costs are not borne directly by taxpayers, they will divert funds which might otherwise be used to support other civic needs.

 

9.     People are not in prison for small time marijuana use.

  • Few people are currently in prison for marijuana possession (in fact, only 0.1% of prisoners with no prior offenses ) and current alcohol arrest rates are over three times higher than marijuana arrest rates.

  • Statistics on state-level prisoners around the United States reveal that just 0.3% of all state inmates were behind bars for marijuana possession only (with many of those pleading down from more serious crimes).

  • 99.8% of federal prisoners sentenced for drug offenses were incarcerated for drug trafficking.

  • The risk of arrest for each joint smoked is estimated at 1 in 12,000. 

  • On the most recent prison census date only 4 people were incarcerated in Alaska prisons due to conviction on 6th degree Misconduct Involving Controlled Substance (MICS) which would include possession of less than 1 oz. of marijuana (the amount legalized by the proposed legislation). It is undetermined if these MICS-6 offenders had concurrent convictions for other offenses as well, but it is possible that at least some do.

 

10.  Drug cartels and the black market will continue to function under legalization.

  • A recent RAND report showed that Mexican drug trafficking groups only received a minority of their revenue (15-25%) from marijuana. For them, the big money is found in illegal trade such as human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, piracy, and other illicit drugs.

  • We know from past experience with other businesses that illegal actors have a lot to do with so called legal industries. These cartels will only be helped with legalization and more addiction, not hurt.

  • Dealers aren’t likely to give up their lucrative income. Legalization of marijuana will lead entrepreneur dealers and cartels to focus their energies on selling harder drugs.

 

11.  The foreign experience is not promising. Neither Portugal nor Holland provides any successful example of legalization.

  • Offenses related to drug use or possession for use continued to comprise the majority of drug law offenses in 2010; between 2005 and 2010, there was an estimated 19 percent increase in the number of offenses related to drug use in Europe.

  • Independent research reveals that in the Netherlands, where marijuana was commercialized and sold openly at “coffee shops,” marijuana use among young adults increased almost 300%. Now, the Dutch are retreated from their loose policies. About 70 percent of Dutch towns have a zero-tolerance policy toward cannabis cafes.

  • There are signs that tolerance for marijuana in the Netherlands is receding. They have recently closed hundreds of coffee shops, and today Dutch citizens have a higher likelihood of being admitted to treatment than nearly all other countries in Europe.

  • In Portugal, use levels are mixed, and despite reports to the contrary, they have notlegalized drugs. In 2001, Portugal started to refer drug users to three person “panels of social workers” that recommend treatment or another course of action. As the European Monitoring Center’s findings concluded: “the country does not show specific developments in its drug situation that would clearly distinguish it from other European countries that have a different policy.”

 

12.   Marijuana is believed by some to have medicinal properties, but we shouldn’t smoke the plant in order to derive those benefits, just like we do not smoke opium to get the benefits of morphine. More widespread use would increase the dangers of secondhand smoke damage to nonsmokers  and children in the homes of users.

  • A 1999 The Institute of Medicine (IOM) study explained that “smoked marijuana . . . is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.” In addition, “plants contain a variable mixture of biologically active compounds and cannot be expected to provide a precisely defined drug effect.” Therefore, the study concluded that “there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication.”

  • The principal IOM investigators explicitly stated that using smoked marijuana in clinical trials “should not be designed to develop it as a licensed drug, but should be a stepping stone to the development of new, safe delivery systems of cannabinoids.”

  • In states with medical marijuana laws, the average user is a male in his 30s with no terminal illness and a history of drug abuse. 

  • Less than 2% of users have cancer or AIDS.

  • Residents of states with medical marijuana laws generally have abuse and dependence rates almost twice as high as states with no such laws.

  • ·Research should be conducted to produce pharmacy-attainable, non-smoked medications based on marijuana.

 

13.   The Alaska Initiative is premature. The experience of Colorado and Washington is not promising. It is better to wait to see if predictions of both sides are borne out by hard data rather than rely on speculation and the promise that benefit will outweigh harm.

  • Two independent reports released in August 2013 document how Colorado’s supposedly regulated system is not well regulated at all.

  • Teen use has increased in the past five years. Currently, the marijuana use rate among Colorado teens is 50% above the national average.

  • Drug-related referrals for high school students testing positive for marijuana has increased.

  • Medical marijuana is easily diverted to youth.

  • While the total number of car crashes in Colorado declined from 2007 to 2011, the number of fatal car crashes with drivers testing positive for marijuana rose sharply.

 

14.   Marijuana is often used as a stepping-stone drug, leading to heroin, cocaine, or other harder drugs.

  • Teens who experiment with marijuana may be making themselves more vulnerable to heroin addiction later in life, if the findings from experiments with rats are any indication. Cannabis has very long-term, enduring effects on the brain..

  • Marijuana is a frequent precursor to the use of more dangerous drugs and signals a significantly enhanced likelihood of drug problems in adult life. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported, based on a study of 300 sets of twins, “that marijuana-using twins were four times more likely than their siblings to use cocaine and crack cocaine, and five times more likely to use hallucinogens such as LSD.”

  • Long-term studies on patterns of drug usage among young people show that very few of them use other drugs without first starting with marijuana. For example, one study found that among adults (age 26 and older) who had used cocaine, 62 percent had initiated marijuana use before age 15. By contrast, less than one percent of adults who never tried marijuana went on to use cocaine. 

  • Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) reports that teens who used marijuana at least once in the last month are 13 times likelier than other teens to use another drug like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine and almost 26 times likelier than those teens who have never used marijuana to use  another drug.

  • An estimated 3.1 million persons aged 12 or older – an average of approximately 8,400 per day – used a drug other than alcohol for the first time in the past year according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of these new users reported that marijuana was the first drug they tried. 

  • Nearly one in ten high school students (9 percent) report using marijuana 20 times or more in the past month according to the findings of the 2011 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey.

  • Teens past month heavy marijuana users are significantly more likely than teens that have not used marijuana in the past to: use cocaine/crack (30 times more likely); use Ecstasy (20 times more likely); abuse prescription pain relievers (15 times more likely): and abuse over the counter medications (14 times more likely). This clearly denotes that teens that use marijuana regularly are using other substances at a much higher rate than teens who do not smoke marijuana, or smoke less often.

 

ENDNOTES

AACOP survey of  Alaskan police chiefs conducted April 28-May 5, 2014

The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Vol. 1/August 2013

AACOP survey of  Alaskan police chiefs conducted April 28-May 5, 2014

MARIJUANA USE BY YOUNG PEOPLE: The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Laws By Karen O’Keefe, Esq, .Director of State Policies, Marijuana Policy Project and Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology University at Albany, State University of New York, Updated: June 2011

AACOP survey of  Alaskan police chiefs conducted April 28-May 5, 2014

The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Vol. 1/August 2013

AACOP survey of  Alaskan police chiefs conducted April 28-May 5, 2014

AACOP survey of  Alaskan police chiefs conducted April 28-May 5, 2014

AACOP survey of  Alaskan police chiefs conducted April 28-May 5, 2014

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Volz, Matt. “Drug overdose: Medical marijuana facing a backlash.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37282436

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http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/economic-2000; Urban Institute and Brookings Institution (2012, October 15).

State and local alcoholic beverage tax revenue, selected years 1977-2010. Tax Policy Center. Retrieved from

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=399; Saul, S. (2008, August 30). Government gets

hooked on tobacco tax billions. The New York Times. Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/weekinreview/31saul.html?em&_r=0; for Federal estimates, see Urban Institute

and Brookings Institution (2012, October 15). State and local tobacco tax revenue, selected years 1977-2010. Tax

Policy Center. Retrieved from  http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=403; Campaign for

Tobacco-Free Kids (n.d.). Toll of tobacco in the United States of America. Retrieved from

http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsh

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2004). Data collection: Survey of inmates in state correctional facilities (SISCF). Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=275 

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). Persons arrested. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/aboutus/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/persons-arrested 

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2004). Data collection: Survey of inmates in state correctional facilities (SISCF). Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=275  

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2004). Data collection: Survey of inmates in state correctional facilities (SISCF). Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=275 

Kilmer, B., et al. “Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets”. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010.http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP315

Alaska Department of Corrections prison population census data 2013

Kilmer, B, Caulkins, J.P, Bond, B.M. & Reuter, P.H. “Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico: Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help?” Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010.

http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP325  ___“Annual Report 2012: The State of the Drugs Problem in Europe.” European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Lisbon. November 2012. P. 35.

Annual Report 2012: The State of the Drugs Problem in Europe.” European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Lisbon. November 2012. P. 35.

MacCoun, R. & Reuter, P. (2001). Evaluating Alternate Cannabis Regimes. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 178.

INTRAVAL Bureau for Research & Consultancy. “Coffeeshops in the Netherlands 2004.” Dutch Ministry of Justice. June 2005.http://www.intraval.nl/en/b/b45.html.

MacCoun, R. (2010). What can we learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop experience? RAND Drug Policy Research Center.Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2010/RAND_WR768.pdf

European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug and Addiction. (2011). Drug Policy Profiles-Portugal. Retrieved fromhttp://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drug–policyprofiles/portugal

Institute of Medicine. “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.” (1999). Summary http://www.nap.edu/html/marimed   (January 11, 2006).

Benson, John A., Jr. and Watson, Stanley J., Jr. “Strike a Balance in the Marijuana Debate.” The Standard-Times. 13 April 1999.

O’Connell, T.J. & Bou-Matar, C.B. (2007). Long term marijuana users seeking medical cannabis in California

(2001–2007): demographics, social characteristics, patterns of cannabis and other drug use of 4117 applicants. Harm

Reduction Journal, 4(16)

   Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (2011)

Cerda, M., et al. (2012). Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: Investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse and dependence. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 120(1-3).

Colorado Office of the State Auditor. (2013). & City of Denver Office of the Auditor. (2013).

 NSDUH, Summary of National Findings, 2012. Retrieved from

 http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/NationalFindings/NSDUHresults2012.pdf

Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (2013). Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Retrieved from

 http://www.rmhidta.org/html/FINAL%20Legalization%20of%20MJ%20in%20Colorado%20The%20Impact.pdf

Salomonsen-Sautel, S., et al. (2012). Medical marijuana use among adolescents in substance abuse treatment. Journal of American Academic Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(7).

Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (2013). Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Retrieved from

http://www.rmhidta.org/html/FINAL%20Legalization%20of%20MJ%20in%20Colorado%20The%20Impact.pdf

Harding, Anne. “Pot May Indeed Lead to Heroin Use, Rat Study Shows” Reuters. July 12, 2006. See also: “Why Teenagers Should Steer Clear of Cannabis” Vine, Gaia. www.NewScientist.com

What Americans Need to Know about Marijuana.” Office of National Drug Control Policy. October 2003.

Gfroerer, Joseph C., et al. “Initiation of Marijuana Use: Trends, Patterns and Implications.” Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. July 2002. Page 71.

Non-Medical Marijuana II: Rite of Passage or Russian Roulette?” CASA Reports. April 2004. Chapter V, Page 15.

More Than Two-Thirds of U.S. Residents Who First Started Using Drugs in the Past Year began with Marijuana: 22% Started with Nonmedical Use of Prescriptions.” CESARFAX. Vol. 21. Issue 42. October 22, 2012

Nearly One in Ten U.S High School Students Report Heavy Marijuana Use in the Past Month: One Third or More of  Heavy Users Also Used Cocaine, Ecstasy, or Other Drugs.” CESARFAX, Vol 21. Issue 21. May 29, 2012

The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: 2011 Parents and Teens Full Report.” MetLife and the Partnership At Drugfree.org.   May 2, 2012. P7.

Source:

Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc. – 14 Reasons Against Marijuana Legalization Sept.2014

 

A brief look at the confusing messages emerging from current ‘prevention’ application in Australian drug policy.

Shane Varcoe – Executive Director “Will the real ‘Drug policy’ please stand up!”

Dalgarno Institute | www.dalgarnoinstitute.org.au 2

QUIT – MODERATE – ACCOMMODATE? WHICH EMPHASIS ARE WE FOLLOWING?

What is going on with Australian Drug Policy Prevention application? It appears to be struggling with, what can only be described, as a Dis-associative Identity Disorder (D.I.D). The current interpretation continues to baffle the average Australian, and leaves many of us who are active in the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) field scratching our heads in bewilderment and sometimes utter disbelief!

SMOKING – The new leprosy?

The growing and relentless assault against tobacco via the QUIT campaign is something only ‘mushrooms’ would know little of. This vital and effective demand-reduction and education ‘war’ has been clear from its inception, and has continued to burgeon, evermore aggressively to the crusade we now see today.

The message is at the very least unambiguous, at times, bombastic! There is no guessing what the outcome of this endeavour is to be. The message and mandate is not ‘slow down’, it is not ‘moderate’ it is QUIT. The end game is the only game. There are no illusions about the time it may take to reach that goal, but that goal is the only target to aim at and as a consequence measures and outcomes are effective – more and more Australians are quitting!

Let’s commence by acknowledging the following principle, which is all but irrefutable… accessibility, availability and permissibility all increase consumption. When you reduce these, you reduce consumption. For example, the following details shows how education and legislation all reduced demand. Accessibility, availability and permissibility are all restricted and consumption drops.

In 1945 approximately 72% of Australian men smoked. The rate has been dropping ever since then. In 2007 only 18% of Australian males were daily smokers. In 1945 26% of Australian women smoked…In 2007 women were smoking at a lower rate than men with 15.2% still smoking daily. 1

• increases in getting help to quit smoking, especially use of the Quitline (2% to 4%) and nicotine replacement therapy (7% to 10%);

• increase in one year quit rate from 8% to 11% among smokers and recent quitters;

• a statistically significant reduction of about 1.5% in the estimated adult prevalence of smoking. 2

However, as successful as this message has been, the fight is not over yet, as the following excerpt so irrefutably affirms…

“ANTI-SMOKING campaigners have far from finished their battle with the tobacco industry, with some pushing for a ”license to smoke” and many predicting that cigarettes could be outlawed within a decade.” 3

Well so was the bold opening statement in recent article ‘Now butt out: new push seeks to outlaw cigarettes’ in The Age Newspaper.

Fascinating…outlawing cigarettes, even though around 17% of Australians are still smoking – outrageous! The article went on to note that if such a ban were to take place the government would stand to lose around $6 billion dollars in tax revenue, but save an estimated $31 billion dollars currently spent per annum on smoking related health problems.

No doubt to everyone who is not a smoker this makes good health and fiscal sense…maybe even to some smokers too?    So how is that we have managed to convince a society that a ban could actually be possible on a legal drug – tobacco, that in its boom era (during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s) was a key social accessory, that a legal ban be actually possible? A quick inventory of the processes engaged may give us some insight…

§ A clear and uncompromising acknowledgement from health, government and fiscal sectors that cigarette smoking was damaging our community.

§ The ensuing resolve that this must change for both fiscal, but more importantly, health reasons.

§ The continuing single voice of disapproval of cigarettes from academics, politicians and health professionals. (Stopped the propaganda of the pro-smoking academics/doctors and started the recognition of the undeniable facts that ‘every cigarette is doing you damage’.)

§ The sustained political will to create and implement policies to bring about change, including increased taxation, total advertising ‘blackouts’ and bans on smoking in defined places.

§ These have been followed by the creation and implementation of Demand Reduction strategies that only grow in number and intensity and the relentless public education campaign on the dangers of smoking.

It would appear from both empirical data that such resolute policies work…even with a once widely accepted and socially palatable ‘legal drug’ like tobacco.   In a recent war of words over the zealous, if not poorly thought through, ‘plain packaging’ strategy, the Federal Minister for Health Nicola Roxon was quoted as saying…. “Big tobacco are fighting to protect their profits, but we are fighting to save lives.” 4 If that vitriol wasn’t enough, she was also quoted in the Australian Newspaper, again in regard to challenges to the plain packaging strategy …‘”We’re Australians. We can make laws in Australia to protect Australians…” 5     Feisty! I like it! However, comes the question… protect Australians from what? Well, Captain Obvious may answer that in this context it would be protection from the health and health budget destroying wrecking ball that is tobacco.

But is ‘health’ the real motivator that is underpinning this zeal for the wellbeing of Australians? I hope it is, but the utter inconsistency of this focused passion belies another agenda. Or is it that some people just can’t see the utter inconsistencies or, at worst, hypocrisies of this unbalanced policy focus?

“We’re Australians. We can make laws in Australia to protect Australians…” 

Nicola Roxon – Federal Minister for Health

If ‘health’ was the sole or main issue, then wouldn’t that same zeal, that same passion for justice of Aussie’s Health be mirrored in other areas of drug policy too? I mean, Roxon is pursuing a policy – plain packaging – that has a number of downsides to it, and only small possibility of a reduction in smoking – But that was enough, it seems, for her to implement the policy! Great I say, go for it, but why doesn’t this same ‘doggedness’ apply to the two other big monsters in the drug arena?

The Federal minister seems passionate about the anti-smoking message, passionate enough to make those sweeping statements we just read – ‘fighting to save lives!’ – ‘Making laws to protect Australians!’ and pursuing every possible vehicle to STOP people killing themselves (and our health budgets)on the way.

In a very recent interview published by the Financial Review, we get a glimpse into some of the motivators behind Roxon’s campaign against tobacco – ‘This is a defining moment for Roxon one that transcends politics and is deeply personal. Her father, a one-time smoker, died of oesophageal cancer at the age of 42…“All of us girls keenly felt the loss of not having our father as we grew up but that is not the same as being out on the street as some families are…it has made me very aware of the impact that smoking can have,” Said Roxon. This mother of a 6 year old daughter went on in the interview to declare that, ”This fight is about the past and the future. “We might be making the world a healthier place for our children, and that is very motivating. I don’t think the political gains will be very high or very quick, but the long-term health impact and feeling [that] you are in government to do some good is rewarding.”’*

I have no issue at all with this motivation from Roxon, I mean it is the personal encounter with tragedy and/or the grief of loss/dysfunction that adds undisputable weight to the abundance of health-destroying evidence that exists. But again, why isn’t this same passion for health/safety/future of children applied to the other life and health destroying drugs in the ‘recreational’ arena? Nicola would do well to spend time at Rehabilitation clinics, with families of alcohol and other drug using individuals who have not only shattered their lives but their families. Countless stories of lives and potential ruined at young ages because a drug was accessible, permissible, available and cheap. This very powerful evidence should also inform the prevention focused emphasis of alcohol and other drugs policy platform. All measures including high volumetric tax, plus clear and powerful warning labels should also be taken immediately to further ensure that children and families have the greatest protection from the damage of these drugs.

Alcohol – The protected substance? 

When it comes to the other ‘legal drug’ the (it would appear) culturally entrenched alcohol – options for management have one glaring omission. Can you guess what it might be? No prizes if you said ‘QUIT’. The conspicuousness of the absence of this goal in the strategy is probably the noisiest of all elephants in the ‘Drug policy’ room. So, why is that?

*’Where there’s smoke there’s fire’ – Financial Review 29/7/2011 http://afr.com/p/home/where_there_smoke_nFtdXlsglhsibzQQCzgyDM 

The Globe, Issue 2, 2011 

 

We seem to have no problems creating what ‘defenders of the right to self destruct’ call a ‘Nanny State’ posture when it comes to cigarette smokers or our indigenous communities for that matter – But when it comes to the rest of the population quitting or abstaining from alcohol, then howls of derision chanting anti-‘Nanny State’ mantras are deafening!

James Campbell in his article ‘wowsers enough to drive you to drink’ featured in Herald-Sun 6 drew out, in his classic libertine framework article, some of the same inconsistencies we are bringing to attention in this paper – but I’m quick to add, for very different reasons. (Of course James would never have used the term ‘wowser’ in his title if he had even an inkling of what it stands for – We Only Want Social Evils Rectified – This of course is what all socially responsible people want. Yes, a free society, but a freedom that doesn’t disregard a) the liberty, safety and wellbeing of others b) the protection of the young, and c) bestowal of dignity on every human being… all of which are casualties when the imbibing begins.)

In his article he noted the data and subsequent recommendations recently released by the Cancer Council, but also what he has interpreted their seeming ‘double standard’ on the ‘drink’ issue. Professor Olver was quoted in the Age as saying… ”If you want to reduce your cancer risk as far as possible [abstinence] would be the option you have.” 7     yet in his article, Campbell states they stopped short of recommending abstinence from alcohol and settled for NHRMC recommendations of ‘a couple of standard drinks at any time’.   ‘The point now is what do we do with that information? Certainly promoting abstinence as an option should be absolutely imperative, but that’s the problem, the ‘A’ word isn’t permitted, even in the ‘optional’ category!’

Now whilst I can see the point of incongruence, I would like to challenge Campbell’s ‘framing’ of the response. It is clear that not all cancers are caused or even added to, by alcohol, but it is equally clear, through evidence based science, that alcohol is carcinogenic.*  The point now is what do we do with that information? Certainly promoting abstinence as an option should be absolutely imperative…but that’s the problem… the ‘A’ word isn’t permitted, even in the ‘optional’ category!

Our culture is either so deeply addicted to this drug or so completely gripped by fear at being labeled something less than human because they don’t drink, that they actually cannot see the option of saying ‘No Thank you!’

Now if this was just, fully developed ‘grown ups’ who don’t care about their health or even worse, are self-medicating the vicissitudes of life with the grog, and never venture into the public space and expose others in the community to their less than sober persona, I suppose it would make less difference if one ‘partook’ (except for the medical and health bills the tax payer will have to fund)! However, it is the vulnerable in our society – the young (under 25 – still developing brains), the mentally ill, the socially and relationally isolated, the violent, the elderly, children and often women, who end up casualties of not only their own drinking, but that of others!

Whilst the link between cigarettes and disease is clear, it is no less clear with alcohol…

Alcohol consumption is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease and disability; in middle-income countries, it is the greatest risk. Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries and a component cause in 200 others. Almost 4% (1 in 25) of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol, greater than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis. 8

 

A couple of questions that are often conspicuous by their absence, when it comes to the inconsistencies in drug policy when dealing with tobacco and alcohol, are to do with impact on others. Yes, it is good to have gone to considerable lengths to minimise ‘passive smoking’, but what of the impact of what Professor Rob Moodie calls ‘passive drinking’? A couple of quick questions to ponder…

The real tragedy in all this ‘cultural reinforcement’ is that the imperative message for this demographic of abstinence, and delayed onset of drinking as long as possible, has completely disappeared.

When was the last time a cigarette caused a man to beat his wife to death?

When was the last time a cigarette caused an automobile accident killing two and disabling one for life?

When was the last time a cigarette caused a pub brawl or ‘glassing’ incident?

 

For the sake of brevity (and being seen to be too merciless on the sensibility of the Aussie imbiber) the following are just some of the long known, but only recently quantified data on this so called ‘social lubricant’….

 

a) Fiscal Cost: The research by the Australian Education and Rehabilitation Foundation (AER Foundation) has now put the total economic impact of alcohol misuse at $36 billion per annum which is over double 2005 estimates. This comprises $24.7 billion in tangible costs, which include out-of-pocket expenses, forgone wages or productivity and hospital and childcare protection costs. There are a further $11.6 billion in intangible costs, which includes lost quality of life from someone else’s drinking

b) Consumption: Drinking more than ever before, at least 10.2 litres pure alcohol per person per annum 10  , mouth, pharynx and larynx. 1 in 5 cases of breast cancer are linked to alcohol”. 11

c) Cancer: “Alcohol use has been linked to thousands of cases of cancers including bowel 9

d) Violence: There are more than 70,000 Australians who are victims of alcohol related assaults each year

e) Emergency Services: Ambulance Call outs in Greater Melbourne alone, for predominantly alcohol abuse have increased almost 600%: 1998-99: 1043 by 2008-09 it was 6924 13

f) Crime – In just one State alone, alcohol-related crime in Queensland has increased by 30 per cent, and public disorder offences by 65 per cent just in the past few years alone…Alcohol abuse in Queensland is now responsible for 100,000 crimes annually, or one-quarter of all offences.14

…alcohol-fuelled violence and abuse affects one in five people 12 You get the point! This is, if not worse, then at the very least as bad as the smoking issue…. So, why aren’t all zeal, all passion and all strategies being implemented to prevent or stop the impact of alcohol on the Australian people and the economy?

So entrenched is the alcohol culture that according to the Australian Drug Foundation, parental supply has eclipsed all other sources of supply of alcohol to children aged 12-17. Now the excuses  tabled for this kind of outrageous conduct are as follows…

a) Parents want to either, initiate their child into alcohol ‘wisely’ or at least ‘know’ how much they are drinking.

b) Parents want to be friends with their child and not parents. Believing they are avoiding stress at home by giving in to negative social influences.

c) Parents believe that if their children are going to ‘experiment’ then it’s better to do so with the legal drug.

d) ‘It’s part of being Aussie, it’s gunna happen, so might as well try and be ‘responsible’ and give them a hand in using this legal drug ‘properly’.’     So, how has that been working for us as a community? Well the evidence seems to correspond with the mindset. Again an Australian Drug Foundation recent release shows that by 16, one in five teenagers regularly binge drinks; by 18 it is 50 per cent.    It would appear this level of permissibility has only added to accessibility and availability and thus consumption has increased. I mean… ‘after all Mum and Dad are giving it to me and they use it, so it must be ok?’        The real tragedy in all this ‘cultural reinforcement’ is that the imperative message for this vulnerable demographic of abstinence and delayed onset of drinking as long as possible, has completely disappeared. All the scientific evidence reveals that their vulnerable developing brains need this option to be aggressively promoted as best practice and their parents, above all, need to get this reality check too.     Again, what continues to generate this disconnect between policy emphasis around the legal drugs of tobacco and alcohol? Both drugs are legal, but perhaps smoking an easy target now that fewer Australians do it, and is marginalised so much that scathing vitriol and uncompromising legislation will have little opposition?

But, not so with alcohol – Whilst approximately 14% of Australians who are legally permitted to drink, don’t, the amount of alcohol being consumed per person, per annum is near record highs. It would seem that challenging this second ‘monster’ can prove a difficulty, if a) votes matter b) the power brokers themselves are unable to say NO to alcohol; c) It has become the central and often sole ‘social amenity’ or even worse, d) it becomes the medication of choice for the ever growing epidemic of community wide psycho-social dysthymia.

Whatever the reason, a clear gulf exists in zeal, attention and endeavour when we juxtapose tobacco and alcohol. A gulf that screams, at best inconsistency, but at worst hypocrisy!

A quick recap… 

When it comes to tobacco the policy aim for smoking is ‘quit’, and we have no problem aggressively challenging ‘smoking’ as a reckless act that needs stronger management. We have used Prohibition in its legal context to prevent smoking in a number of places and breaches of such prohibitions have met with not only social censure, but a fiscal punitive response – fines. And in this framework there appears no fear about attracting the pejorative ‘nanny state’ label.

 

When it comes to Alcohol, the policy aim (at the moment at least) is to avoid the ‘nanny state’ label, calling instead for management, more like a caring friend provoking a peer to a healthier choice. So the push seems to be toward ‘moderation’.

 

But what is happening in the arena of current illicit drug policy?

We appear to be losing the plot – the pro-drug lobby is trying to take over the judiciary, if not legislature!

When it comes to illicit drugs there appears to be a departure from all regulatory sanity. The ‘State’, on whose advice we can easily guess (George Soros funded propagandists) works ruthlessly to assassinate, mutilate and bury all processes that are focused on prevention or abstinence. Such processes the patronizingly dump into the ‘Nanny-State’ model/basket . Nor, would it seem are they interested in a Good Parent model, or even the ‘caring friend’ model… No, it would appear from all current debate this confederacy has opted for the ‘go with whatever feeling grabs you; it’s your ‘right’ and let the State clean up the mess’ approach!

 

There appears little to no censure, no label of ‘bad’ or ‘harmful’ or ‘destructive’ to the conduct that is illicit drug using. In fact great pains are taken to remove all terms from public documents that could potentially ‘marginalise’ the drug user. Whilst ‘name calling’ should never be condoned, conduct that is illegal and destructive needs to be called for what it is and measures taken to change it. Whether the terms are legal or medical, they can never be ‘neutral’, or worse complimentary and condoning.

What is of greater concern is the tacit message oozing through the permissive interpretation of Harm Minimisation policy by the Harm Reduction Only Lobby, which is that the State sanctions and promotes – not challenges or changes – a drug user’s ‘habit’. (Yet it is the ‘habit’ that needs to change – more on that later.)

For example, they seem to be saying :

 

a) Please come to a special place with your illegal substance and we will assist you to take the drug of your choice (Medically Supervised Injecting Centre – MSIC). At no point will anyone ‘judge’ you for your ‘lifestyle choice’. Instead we will ensure you are comfortable and enabled in your drug taking activity whilst funding this process with tax-payer’s money. (No matter that this process breaks international laws on illicit drug use)

 

b) We will give you as many clean ‘needles’ as you like and will not hold you accountable for the return of used ones. In fact we will pay someone to go around and pick up your discarded syringes so you can continue to be free (not irresponsible, that would be pejorative)to continue, unhindered in your substance use, wherever and whenever you choose.

 

c) If the substance user opts to seek a change in conduct, only then may we humbly recommend a referral to a treatment facility. However, after we have just enabled you to continue your substance abuse (in our MSIC) and you are ‘feeling’ better (yet getting worse) after your State assisted ‘fix’, then it is unlikely that you’ll ‘feel’ the need for detox, let alone rehabilitate. So, the passive referral is ignored or forgotten.

 

d) If you are one of the single digit percentage of substance users that actually ‘follows through’ on referral, then no requirement will be placed on you to become drug free. No, we are only interested in trying to minimise your potential to kill yourself and make you as comfortable as possible. We will introduce you to other substances that may, or may not lead you to drug free recovery, but again, that is NOT our aim. This, after all, is only for the ‘problematic’ drug user and we must not have anyone feeling discomfort or distress from the withdrawal from drug use, even if is for a week – That would be ‘unkind’. So rather than treat you like a precious, intelligent, whole human being, we’ll simply treat you like a wounded pet and only treat the symptoms and not address the real problem.

 

e)  The recent aggressive upsurge of promotion and use of, so called, ‘legal highs’ has produced an even clearer manifestation of this policy D.I.D/hypocrisy/inconsistencies. As these synthesized ‘designer’ concoctions started getting a more public profile, several States in Australia were quick to react by imposing age restrictions and then applying significant financial penalties (six figure fines) for those involved in distributing/using these products. Yet in some of these same States the use of current illicit drugs such as cannabis (and other currently illicit drugs that have clearly documented health damaging properties) attracts no more than a slap on the wrist for use and little more for trafficking!

It would seem no effort is spared, to ensure the drug user is rarely, if ever, is called to make changes. More than that, and at any point, an act of horrendous nature can be perpetrated against another citizen as we saw recently in the senseless murder of a deaf octogenarian pensioner, murdered by yet another (it would appear by the new label) ‘problematic drug user’. Diminished responsibility, mitigation, equivocation, even obfuscation, are employed to avoid ownership of the issue by the substance user. What’s more disturbing is that at no point is the abysmally interpreted Harm Minimisation Policy used to bring about change, let alone drug free wellness of these dysfunctional people.

The following (conveniently) long forgotten words of the remarkable Statesmen, Edmund Burke, are even more appropriate today than at any other time in recent history…

 

“Men are qualified for liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites… Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” Sir Edmund Burke

 

The very thing that is needed as outlined by Burke is the very thing the pro-drug lobby works tirelessly to negate. Morality is ‘off the table’ in this arena (The only time morality is invoked these days is when it comes to climate change; nowhere else is this allowed in the public discourse) In this ‘amoral’ space all attempts to impugn drug taking are perceivably removed. Terms like ‘wrong’, ‘bad’ ‘irresponsible’ are no longer permitted. So, if it is no longer referred to as ‘wrong’ then comes the next manipulative question: on what grounds should substance use still be illegal? The next step is to turn the debate into a purely ‘health’ issue. It is true, it is also a health issue, but, it is still a social, psychological and moral issue as well. But even just at the level of health policy, would think that all measures should be taken to rectify the dysfunction /disorder/ailment in order to remove the health damaging substances at least from the patient, even if not the community. Ah, but no, that’s not the agenda of this lobby faction is it!

 

The health issue is invoked only to manage some of the damage of substance taking and other second tier outcomes of these bad health choices, such as blood borne infections and or death. The call now in this decriminalised, so called amoral and consequence avoiding space, is that all health measures be taken to keep the patient alive and as healthy as possible to continue their ‘lifestyle choice’ of drug consumption.

 

This is not Australian – Time to Stand up!

At the moment the vast majority of Australians are still smart enough to know (perhaps drug free enough to know) that ultimately there I absolutely no gain/benefit in illicit drug use for individuals or society;

Ø The current National Household survey (2007) has the vast majority of Australians declaring their disapproval of illicit drugs and their use.

 

99% don’t want use of hard drugs accepted 

95% don’t want hard drugs legalized 

94% don’t want use of cannabis accepted 

79% don’t want cannabis legalized 

Most Australians want tougher penalties for drug dealers.15 

 

Ø The largest youth survey done in our nation with a sample of around 50,000 young people saw alcohol and others drugs as the second highest on ‘what is an important issue for Australia’. This issue is the most worrying to the youngest in this most susceptible to damage of Australia’s demographic – the ones we need most protect – our children 16

 

When the overwhelming majority of people disapprove of illicit drugs, it might just be a cue to do something more significant than concede ground to it. You’d think that even the process (let alone value) of democracy, had any weight then the above mentioned majority opinion would mandate all and every action be taken to eradicate illicit drug use from society. According to collected data, around 6% of the world’s population aged between 15 and 64 currently use illicit drugs. 17 Australia’s stats are only a little higher than that. So here we have a user group that is arguably (at most) between a half or a third of current tobacco users, who are involved in a wilful breaking of the law to their own and the wider community’s detriment generating an exorbitant cost to our community.

So what has the response been to this? Well, it depends on where you look, who you talk to and who is playing the strings of the propaganda harp.

 

In recent years there has been a rising noise, about the need for illicit drug policy change. The standard mantra has been ‘the war on drugs has failed!’ Consequently we need to stop and rethink our processes and priorities.

 

What ‘war on drugs’? Where did this notion come from?

Well, let’s pretend for a moment there actually was a ‘war on drugs’. How could it possibly be won? Well, again it depends on how this ‘war’ was fought and what priorities were set. If the war on drugs simply attempted supply removal and arrest, then it will have limited success. However, as with most ‘battle strategies’, if they only have one tactic, then success will always be limited or the potential for failure increased. If a ‘war on drugs’ isn’t really waged as it should be then it is locked into only limited success and more likely subject to criticism of its limitation. However, as in all wars the first casualty is always truth and that is no different in this theatre of combat, as the following reveals…

The term “war on drugs” was not used in 1971 and is not used today by anyone except those who mischaracterize history and current drug policy in the US. However, if one were going to connect the term to President Nixon, then it would be more accurate to say that Nixon ended, rather than launched, the “war on drugs.”

The Nixon Administration repealed federal mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana, and on June 17, 1971, for the first time in US history, the long-dominant law enforcement approach to

drug policy, known as “supply reduction”, was augmented by an entirely new and massive commitment to prevention, intervention and treatment, known as “demand reduction”. President Nixon announced this new, balanced approach to drug policy and it received full bipartisan support. Since that time, the idea of taking a balanced approach has enjoyed strong and sustained support through the terms of the seven US Presidents that followed. The US drug prevention policy, fully described in the annual National Drug Control Strategy published by ONDCP, maintains this twin-commitment to supply reduction and demand reduction, with the aim of reducing illegal drug use and the corresponding medical and social burdens that drug abuse imposes upon our nation.18

Supply reduction remains a key tactical component and criminalisation will always lend weight to that vital strategy component. Time and space here will not permit us to go into all the local and national impact on drug use that supply reduction has facilitated, but just two examples will give us a clear indication

a) ABS 2000 death stats collection: Heroin: 417; methadone: 118;Benzos: 403; anti-depressants: 268; Cannabis: 49 Note the reduction in Heroin deaths the following year when the heroin drought (for whatever reason) caused availability to dry up, the ABS 2001 death stats collection showed: Heroin: 113; methadone: 107;Benzos: 252; anti-depressants: 194; cannabis: 28!

b) According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, the four top reasons why detained illicit drug users had not used in the previous month 19 was in order of main reason to least.

1) Dealer didn’t have drug of choice (highest reason by far)

2) No Dealers available

3) Poor quality product

4) Police presence

 

 

“When you reduce permissibility, accessibility and availability you reduce consumption.”  

I want you to notice that supply reduction elements are the key factor in reducing illicit drug consumption. Again, when you reduce permissibility, accessibility and availability you reduce consumption. This is why complementary Supply Reduction strategies are imperative in conjunction with Demand Reduction strategies and compulsory detox and rehabilitation strategies.

When Ethan Nadelmann and Dr. Alex Wodak, the well-known supporters/ purveyors of the George Soros brand of cultural chaos, were on the media stage peddling their brand of harm ‘reduction’( (including the decriminalisation of illicit drugs), the voices of dissent from any other quarter were hard to hear, but not because they don’t exist considering over 90% of Australians disapprove of illicit drugs. It was the classic situation where the sane majority simply expect the government to do all that is necessary to eliminate drug use without bothering to mobilise against that small, but very ‘squeaky wheel ‘of pro-drug propaganda at legislators doors. Consequently, the long standing anti-drug movements were given no space at all.

The Nadelmann/Wodak ‘spin’ had people believing prohibition drug policy had failed and therefore the only option left was to decriminalise or legalise. They even used cleverly spun unrelated science and misrepresented data from other nations and calling that ‘enlightened’ (Such as the so called Portugal decriminalisation ‘success’). Or they hijacked the debate away from drug use and placed it in the framework of management of damage caused by drug use, which actually increases dysfunction.

 

It is remarkable that few clinicians or policy makers care to see or even acknowledge that the current illicit drug policy in Australia (among other western nations) has be completely hijacked by the single dimensional ‘harm reduction’ element and that has distanced them even further from the problems of drug use.

This one dimensional focus has barely anything to do with drug use and absolutely nothing to do with reducing drug use. ‘Harm Reduction’ as it currently stands, when it is all distilled down to its core (a one step process) is only focused on the attempted prevention of death and blood borne infections. Whilst this may be a noble aim, we need to move drug policy back to the forgotten reduction or prevention of drug use in our society. We are all for having a policy for reducing the spread of blood borne infections and death, but let’s call it that and move drug policy back to what drug policy is supposed to be about – the prevention and reduction of drug use in our society. Of course, even a ‘blind man’ could see, that if you prevent and/or reduce drug use, you reduce the incidence of the other damage so focused on – but that is the very thing the pro-drug lobby doesn’t want to happen, the reduction of drug use! They advocate continuation of drug use, funded by tax-payer’s who keep them alive and pay for their treatment.

 

So in our mind, an unavoidable question is – Where was Federal Minister for Health, Roxon on these issues? Where was the same zeal that was focused on cigarettes? At the time where this ‘drug reform’ lobby has used special arguments to remove the protection, where was the declaration, ‘making laws that protect Australians’ from substances that have long been banned because of the undeniable damage they do?

 

Is it utter ignorance that generates this silence? Or is it as one prominent AOD Clinician once said ‘Harm minimisation is just a euphemism for ‘we don’t know what the hell to do, so we’ve just given up!’. Or is it, reason spare us, a tacit yet wilful pursuit of cultural sabotage foisted on society because a minority of drug users who believe they can control their ‘habit’ have ‘friends’ in high places?

 

Prohibition is a word that has been marginalised and disparaged, again by hijacking the meaning and reinterpreting it in a different context – the context of purely a moral control of a majority. However, prohibition is, in this context, a matter of law and not a simple moral based endeavour. We prohibit by law things that are injurious to individuals and the community. With Tobacco law, cigarette smoking is prohibited in restaurants, government buildings, some public spaces, inside cars and so on. Illicit drugs are prohibited at a higher level because of the health, family and social damage and the impediment of function and increased danger they that create. The prohibiting is based on minimising the harms done by these toxins to the community and individuals. Decriminalisation will only lead to greater substance use and experimentation and simply bolsters well the ranks of the damaged and dysfunctional. It will perpetuate this damage in an emerging generation that has little capacity to handle it. This is a crime!

Will the real drug policy emphasis, please stand up and will it stand for health, justice, responsibility and protection of the young?

Shane Varcoe – Executive Director, Dalgarno Institute.

*“Alcohol and Cancer in the spotlight: Studies in Europe and Australia confirm alcohol as a cause of cancer, but role of moderate drinking controversial”, The Globe, Issue 2, 2011

 

 

Endnotes

1 http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/editorial.asp?pageid=371

2 CHANGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE NATIONAL TOBACCO CAMPAIGN PRE AND POST CAMPAIGNSURVEYS COMPARED by Melanie Wakefield http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-publicat-document-metadata-tobccamp.htm/$FILE/tobccamp_c.pdf

3 Stark , Jill The Age, 22.5. 2011 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/now-butt-out-new-push-seeks-to-outlaw-cigarettes-20110521-1ey2s.html#ixzz1OBTg5SRQ

4 http://www.smokernewsworld.com/market-cheap-cigarettes/

5 Nicola Roxon solid on cigarette packaging Sallie Don and Sue Dunlevy From: The Australian May 27, 2011 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/nicola-roxon-solid-on-cigarette-packaging/story-fn59niix-1226063781056

6 James Campbell – wowsers enough to drive you to drink, page 78, Sunday Herald-Sun May 28, 2011,

7 http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/quit-drinking-to-cut-cancer-risk-20110501-1e38g.html

8 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health. Taken from Introduction page x, ISBN 978 92 4 156415 1 (NLM classification: WM 274) © World Health Organization 2011

9 Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation – Range and Magnitude of Alcohol’s Harm to Others August 2010

10 Wine link to rise in alcohol intake, Sikora, Kate; Page 16, Herald-Sun Edition 1 – 2/11/2010

11 Medical Journal of Australia (published May 2011)

12 Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation – Range and Magnitude of Alcohol’s Harm to Others August 2010

13 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/mateship-abandoned-drunks-left-behind/story-fn7x8me2-1226063706968

14 “Punch Drunk Campaign”, QLD Courier Mail – July 2009

15 The 2007 Illicit Drug Strategy Household Survey of Australian attitudes to illicit drug usage and “Drugs and suicide main worries for the young, says survey, The West Australian, 26/11/2009

16 National Survey of Young Australians 2010 – key and emerging issues; Mission Australia. 2011

17 ‘Should drugs be legalised” by Dr Ian OLIVER is a former Chief Constable of Grampian Police, 2009

18 Global Commission on Drug Policy Offers Reckless, Vague Drug Legalization Proposal; Current Drug Policy Should be improved through innovative linkage of Prevention, Treatment and the Criminal Justice System

(Commentary – IBH (Institute for Behaviour & Health) July 2011

19 Crime Fact Sheet No 152 ‘Reasons for not buying drugs’ ( July 2007)

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Australia,Law (Papers) :

To understand how Minnesota’s Drug Court system is working, you need only to consider this before-and-after scenario.

Before: In March of 2012, Steve B. of Hastings was facing a prison sentence of seven to 10 years on felony charges of possession and sale (to an undercover cop) of methamphetamines. There were restraining orders against him. He had lost his wife, his house, his job in the construction industry, parental rights, and access to his then 5-year-old daughter. He’d been using for five years, was “caught up in the lifestyle,” and keeping company with others on the same hellish trajectory. “I was willing to give up everything for the drug,” he says in retrospect. “I had a good life, and I lost it all.”

After: Last Monday, in Dakota County Adult Drug Court, Steve B. was accepting a round of courtroom applause and personal congratulations from Judge Kathryn Messerich, who told him that he’d be “graduating” March 10 after successfully completing 18 months in the rigorous program. He had done a few months of jail time, finished treatment, remained sober, followed the rules, returned to the work force and recovered his relationship with his daughter. They were going to Disney World, he proudly told the court. “You have really earned this trip,” Messerich told him. “I have to commend you for how hard you have worked to be a good dad. There is one young lady who is going to have a good life because [you] are her dad.”

He was one of four people in the courtroom that day who were told they’d be graduating. “I’m losing all my people,” Messerich said earlier Monday during a team meeting to review the day’s cases. And that was a good thing.

Cost-effective outcomes

The state’s first drug court was established in Hennepin County in 1996 and has grown to more than 37 specialty courts (including drug, DWI, veterans, family dependency, juvenile and some hybrids) serving more than 30 counties.  The goal is to stop felony drug offenders’ revolving-door interactions with law enforcement and to give them a foothold in a productive, drug-free life. Other goals include improving public safety and reducing the overall costs of illegal drug activity and incarceration. A 2012 statewide study confirmed that the labor-intensive but cost-effective effort was paying off: The study of 535 participants in 16 different courts who entered drug court between July 2007 and December 2008 found a 37 percent reduction in recidivism rates (compared with nonparticipants); a 47 percent reduction in reconviction rates; a 54 percent graduation rate (62 percent if you exclude Hennepin County); higher rates of completing drug treatment programs and maintaining sobriety; higher rates of employment and educational achievement; and greater command of such life skills and responsibilities as obtaining a driver’s license, locating housing and making child-support payments. Most were diagnosed with drug-use disorders, and slightly less than half also had mental-health diagnoses.

The study also found that incarceration costs (both prison and jail) were about $3,000 less for drug court participants (who oftentimes must also do some time) than nonparticipants.

“Before specialty courts, there was no focus at all on rehabilitating the offenders,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom in an interview last week. “We just did our job, which was to prosecute them, convict them, and put them in jail or prison. And then you didn’t worry about what was going to happen next. But … if we want to keep our communities safe, the most important thing we can do is ensure that these offenders get the help they need for the chemical addictions they have so they don’t break the law again.”

A team approach

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to help a repeat felony drug offender break the cycle. Each drug court takes a team approach, with all players at the table – a judge, a prosecutor, a public defender, a law-enforcement official, probation officers, chemical dependency experts, and community volunteers. Traditional adversaries in the courtroom now become advocates – all pulling in the same direction.

The Dakota County team provides a good example of how it works.

The day’s caseload (last Monday) includes 14 drug-court participants in various stages of program completion. Some are in Phase I, which requires a courtroom appearance every other week before the judge, twice-weekly random urine tests and meetings with probation officers, compliance with all chemical dependency assessments and treatment recommendations, attendance at the pre-court hearing AA meetings, and participation in cognition skills courses – just to name a few of the stringent requirements. Some are in stepped-down phases II and III, and some are ready to graduate. Still others are applying to enter the program, and team members try to gauge each person’s level of motivation and possibility of success. Criminal charges in other jurisdictions are considered, and past crimes are weighed.

To opt in, you must agree to plead guilty. And not everyone is eligible: Those who committed violent crimes, have gang affiliations, sold drugs to children, or caused vehicular homicide need not apply.

It gets personal

It’s clear that the relationships have become quite personal.

The team members take note of any program participant’s life stressors – a child-custody battle, a new job to learn, an illness, a bout of depression. They discuss victories – graduation from school or treatment, reconciliation with a family member, landing a job. They discuss any violations of the program rules. One man whose urine test was positive for cocaine, and who then attributed it to medication that had been prescribed by a doctor, will get seven days in jail – not just for using but for lying about it. (Other possible sanctions include repeating a phase, community service, electronic home monitoring, or termination from the program.) A woman spotted in a liquor store by a county employee will get a stern reminder about the company she keeps and the choices she is making.

Sure, it gets personal, said Barbara Bauer, drug court coordinator and probation officer. “Sometimes they tell me I’m nosy. We go to their homes. We go to their jobs, if that’s possible. We go to their treatment programs and coordinate with their case managers and therapists. We go to their graduations.” And sometimes there’s a “knock-and-talk” surprise visit from a community police officer. To know them [the program participants] is to “help them figure it out,” she said.

Backstrom agreed, saying that it’s one of the features of drug court that he likes best. “It’s the relationships that you develop with these offenders – letting them know that you believe in them, and that you’re proud of what they’ve accomplished. I think that really helps these individuals get some hope back in their lives. That’s one of the things you lose when you become addicted: hope for your future. You become despondent, depressed. And it’s a cycle that can lead to your death – at a premature age in many cases – or continuing criminal involvement, which we can stop.”

To the courtroom

After discussing and deciding on a course of action for each case, the team then heads for the weekly courtroom session (every Monday in Dakota County), where all the program participants and hopefuls sit waiting in the jury box. Some are in handcuffs. A scattering of family members – some in agony, and some filled with pride – also are present.

The mood is mostly upbeat, as Messerich praises the four who will graduate. Her words are authentic and believable and land with impact.

“It’s hard to lose participants who are such good role models,” she tells Steve B. There are affirmations for others as well: “You look like you have a sense of calmness about you.” “I can’t tell you how happy I am to see that smile on your face.” “You have always impressed me with your energy and focus.”

The county attorney, defense attorney and probation officers also add their words of encouragement. In turn, the participants are given a chance to convey their gratitude and answer the questions, “How did you do it? What advice do you have for others?”

One woman tells Messerich with pride that she has been hired after completing a job-training program and is giving back by volunteering at a halfway house for teens – the very same place where she sought refuge as a teen.

For those who are in violation of the rules, Messerich is firm but not retributive. And even here, she manages to inspire rather than discourage. “This is not just an issue of your health but your freedom,” she tells a man who has been caught using and who will spend the next seven days in jail. “I hope we can get you back on track.”

No one’s immune

Backstrom, who participated in the formation of the state’s drug court system and the establishment of its standards, takes a personal interest in its long-term success. His own family has not been immune from the disease of addiction, he said. An uncle died of alcoholism in his 50s, and a beloved nephew died recently of complications from alcoholism. Though his nephew had been through treatment and was attending AA meetings, he had relapsed. Fearful of being found out, he put off getting treated for a bacterial infection until it was too late to save him. “It’s been terrible,” Backstrom said. “My sister and her family have really struggled – as we all have.”

An even earlier tragedy left its mark, when a young man who had been drinking crashed head-on into Backstrom’s parents’ car. Backstrom was just 19 years old, a college freshman. His father recovered from his injuries, but his mother, who died in 2004, suffered permanent brain damage. “It destroyed my family in many ways,” Backstrom said. “The mother I grew up knowing really wasn’t with me anymore. She was a different mother. I loved her just as much. But she could never say a sentence for the rest of her life. She could never walk normally. She could never move her right hand again. She suffered every day for the final 31 years of her life because of a poor decision a young man made.”

Backstrom says he sometimes wonders what became of the young man who caused the accident: “I’ve always wondered if he really, fully understood the extent of the damage he caused to my mother and my family. I hope he didn’t have any further violations, and I hope he lived a good life.”

As he wonders, perhaps he can take some comfort from Steve B., who said of the Dakota County Drug Court team: “They gave me the strength. They cared for me when I couldn’t care for myself.”

Source: www.minnpost.com  5th March 2014

Filed under: Law (Papers),USA :

This excerpt from the book Keep Off The Grass gives an interesting background to current situation of the push to legalize cannabis – early last century the majority of delegates to the conventions were aware of both mental and physical harm produced by the drug; and in the international community, at least, there was no doubt of the dangers to health inherent in marijuana.

KEEP OFF THE GRASS   by Gabriel G. Nahas, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.

Foreword by Jacques Yves Cousteau

PAUL S. ERIKSSON, PUBliSHER Middlebury, Vermont 05753

IV.              An International Problem (Pages 33-37)

Americans think that anti-marijuana laws were created in recent years just to thwart use of the drug by younger people.  Not true! They are actually the result of international agreements signed by the United States a half century ago in order to halt traffic in what was then considered to be a dangerous substance.

Aware of this fact, on my return to the United States in the autumn of 1970, I decided that the logical place for my own detailed research into that aspect of marijuana would be the Dag Hammarskjold Library for International Scholars at the United Nations in New York. If the nations of the world had seen fit to meet on several occasions in order to control the Distribution of cannabis derivatives, then they must have suspected or known of specific health hazards. The examination of these international documents might lead to some clues that would aid me in the direction of my own laboratory work.

My study soon revealed that at the turn of the century, with the development of intercontinental communications, it became apparent to the nations of the world that the control of substances dangerous to man’s health and to society-mainly opium at that time-had to be controlled on a global basis.  Representatives of sovereign nations held conferences to formulate regulations for the international control of opium and other dangerous drugs. The first such gathering was held in Shanghai in 1904 at the instigation of President Theodore Roosevelt. This preliminary meeting set the stage First Opium Conference at The Hague in 1912. The preamble to the text of this conference spells out its general goals:

“The Emperor of all Russias, the King of England’/ Emperor of India, the Kaiser of Germany , the President of the  French Republic, the President of the United States of America. . . desirous of advancing a step further on the road opened by the International Commission of Shanghai of 1909; determined to bring about the gradual suppression’ the abuse of opium, morphine and cocaine and also of the drugs prepared or derived from these substances which might give rise to similar abuses; taking into consideration the necessity and the mutual advantage of an international agreement on this point; convinced that in this humanitarian endeavor they will meet with the unanimous adherence of all States concerned: have decided to conclude a convention with this object.”

Almost as an afterthought, an “Indian Hemp Re801 was tacked on, calling for the “study [of] the question of Indian Hemp from the statistical and scientific point of with the object of regulating its abuses, should the necessity  be felt, by internal regulation or by international agreement.”

By the time of the Second Opium Conference, her Geneva in 1924, some scientists had agreed that the time for cannabis control was at hand. While opium was still major consideration, Egypt’s delegate, Dr. El Guindy, said, “There is, however, another product, which is at least as harmful as opium, if not more so, and which my government would be glad to see in the same category as the other narcotics already mentioned. I refer to hashish, the product of Cannabis sativa. This substance and its derivatives work such havoc that the Egyptian government has for a long time past prohibited their introduction into the country. I cannot emphasize sufficiently the importance of including this product in the list of narcotics, the use of which is to be regulated by this Conference.”

In answer to questions from other delegates, Dr. EI Guindy claimed that although the Egyptian government had banned the growing of cannabis, large amounts were still smuggled in from neighboring countries. “This illicit use of hashish,” he told the Conference, “is the principal cause of insanity in Egypt, varying from thirty to sixty percent of the total number of cases reported. Taken occasionally and in small doses, hashish perhaps does not offer much danger, but there is always the risk that once a person begins to take it, he will continue. He acquires the habit and becomes addicted to the drug and once this happens it is very difficult to escape.”

The greatest hazards of cannabis intoxication mentioned by Dr. EI Guindy were “acute hashishism,” marked by crises of delirium and insanity, and “chronic hashishism;” marked by visible mental and physical deterioration. Because of pressure from the Egyptian and Turkish delegates, who would not sign a ban on opium unless cannabis was also included, after some debate all the delegates voted in favor of controlling “Indian Hemp” as defined by the “dried flowering or fruiting tops of the pistillate plant Cannabis sativa from which the resin has not been extracted, under whatever name they may be designated in commerce.”  Thus, cannabis was put on the forbidden list, not because of medical reasons, but for social ones.

After World War II, the United Nations inherited the duty of enforcing the highly complex international agreements on control of dangerous drugs, including the above cannabis control resolution. When the World Health Organization came into being in 1948, this responsibility was shifted to them in the form of an: expert Committee on Drug Depen-dence that served as an advisory group to the United Nations Commission on Narcotics. The committee, made up of physicians and scientists, reviewed the cannabis situation and quickly came to the conclusion “that use of the drug was dangerous from every point of view, whether physical, mental or social. The ultimate result of this review was the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in which 500 delegates from seventy-four nations, including some of the best toxicologists and pharmacologists in the world, recommended that cannabis, in all its forms, be limited exclusively to medical and scientific purposes.” The primary reason for this strict regulation was that all the available expert advice from the World Health Organization indicated that cannabis did constitute a danger to health and a hazard to society although, admittedly, not well-documented.

While the United States was a signatory member of both the Second Opium Conference and the United Nations agreements, the signing was done with the attitude that the inclusion of cannabis in an international drug ban was “more important to them than to us.”  Marijuana was not’ problem in America, and there were only a farsighted few like the head of the American delegation, career diplomat, Harry Anslinger, who recognized its dangers.

The Single Convention was hailed by most countries as a landmark for the control of dangerous drugs throughout the world. It was also hailed as a model of the kind of international cooperation the United Nations can achieve.  The agreements reached by the Convention were unanimously ratified by the participating nations.

Ten years later, however, in the United States the climate of opinion had changed as the use of marijuana had become widespread. Now there were dissenters who objected to the inclusion of cannabis in the Single Convention. Thus, Harry Anslinger became the focal point of the attack of the new proponents of pot. One critic said, “The inclusion of cannabis into an international agreement mainly concerned with opiates and cocaine was due to the efforts of one determined man, Harry Anslinger.” But anyone who has read the documents would realize that the agreement was the result of a historical movement to control or eliminate dangerous psychotropic drugs, including cannabis-as are virtually all the United States federal and state anti marijuana laws.

In any event, the United Nations Single convention of 1961 was not the last one to be held on this subject.  A new conference in Vienna in 1971 produced an international agreement to control many of the newer psychotropic drugs such as hallucinogens, barbiturates, and stimulants.

‘While my research at the Dag Hammarskjold Library did not produce any major revelations, it did clarify certain points that I considered to be important to the evolution of my own work. Essentially, I became convinced that the present legal strictures against marijuana in the United States were not based on one man’s perversity but were the result of international agreements that went back to the beginning of this century; cannabis was included in these international agreements because the majority of delegates to the conventions were aware of both mental and physical harm produced by the drug; and in the international community, at least, there was no doubt of the dangers to health inherent in marijuana.

Source:  Book,  Keep Off The Grass by Gabriel Nahas

Filed under: Law (Papers),USA :

December 16, 2013

By Robert DuPont

White House “Drug Czar” (1973-1977)

Uruguay has become the world’s first country to legalize the growth, consumption, and trading of marijuana, highlighting the impatience that many have for the protracted Drug War. Former White House Drug Czar Robert DuPont argues that legalization of prohibited drugs will not lead to their disappearance on the black market.

According to the pro-drug lobby – and with a boost from the media – Uruguay is leading the world by legalizing marijuana. The pro-drug lobby claims that prohibition is a failure and that all drugs should be legalized. Marijuana, the most widely used illegal drug in the world, is just the leader of this campaign. The strategy takes its precedent from the legalization of the sale of alcohol, but the policy is disarmingly simplistic and presents a terrible threat to public health and safety.

Alcohol and tobacco are the leading preventable causes of illness and death in the United States and the rest of the developed world. This is not because they are more dangerous than drugs that are currently illegal, but because they are legal and commercially produced and distributed.

Legalizing marijuana would not stop the production, sale, or use of illegal marijuana.

Look at the numbers: In the United States, 52 percent of those aged 12 and older drank alcohol in the past month, and 27 percent used tobacco, but only nine percent used any illegal drug and only seven percent used marijuana. This indicates that prohibition is successfully deterring illegal drug use. While prohibition is not without real costs, and today’s drug policy can be improved, our balanced and restrictive drug policy is limiting the damage done by illegal drug use in the United States and around the world.

The promises of drug legalization are bogus. Legalizing marijuana would not stop the production, sale, or use of illegal marijuana. If marijuana were taxed and regulated, there would be plenty of marijuana grown and sold on the black market. Furthermore, normalizing marijuana use would increase demand in both the legal and illegal markets.

The tax bonanza promoted by legalization advocates is hard to take seriously. Legal marijuana sales would struggle to compete with black-market sales, which would continue to provide more potent products at lower, tax-free prices. To the extent that there would be tax revenues from legal marijuana, they would pale in comparison to the social costs. In the United States, the tax revenues from alcohol and tobacco are far less than their social costs. Is this an attractive precedent? I don’t think so.

The public has been led to believe that this politically potent movement is just about marijuana. It is not. Every argument made today in support of marijuana legalization is also being made – or will be made – for other illegal drugs.

The real drug-abuse challenge facing the world today is seldom recognized, let alone debated. It is rooted not in politics, but in biology. Drugs of abuse, including marijuana, target the brain’s reward system more intensely than natural pleasures such as food and sex. Drugs are addicting not because users experience withdrawal when they stop using them, but because they produce a brain reward that the once-addicted brain never forgets. That is why relapses to drug use are so common long after all withdrawal symptoms have passed.

Legalizing drugs, including marijuana, is absolutely not the new and better idea to reduce the toll of illegal drug use.

To combat the rising demand for illegal drugs around the world, we must fashion more effective strategies to limit the use of drugs of abuse outside legitimate and controlled medical situations – strategies that are affordable and compatible with contemporary laws and culture. This is an enormous task, but one that can be completed with international cooperation and leadership. Drug use can be reduced by, among other things, implementing strong prevention strategies, increasing access to treatment, improving quality of treatment, and leveraging the criminal justice system to reduce drug use while also reducing recidivism and incarceration. Legalizing drugs, including marijuana, is absolutely not the new and better idea to reduce the toll of illegal drug use.

As for Uruguay, President José Mujica and his legislature have produced a media sensation. It is difficult to imagine that legalizing marijuana as envisioned in Uruguay’s proposed law could result in the reduction of Uruguay’s role as a country used for drug transit for Paraguayan marijuana and Bolivian cocaine. Monitoring the outcomes of this policy change is enormously important. Sadly, there is little doubt that the new law will encourage the use and sale of marijuana and other drugs of abuse both in Uruguay and in the international marketplace.

Having spent four decades working to reduce drug use and lower the devastating public-health costs of drug abuse, I struggle to understand why so many otherwise sensible and responsible people accept the drug legalization hogwash.

Robert L. DuPont, M.D Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.

The state marijuana legalization ballot initiatives passed in November 2012 in the states of Colorado and Washington make United States the only nation in the world to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana. These initiatives violate federal law and are in conflict with US international treaty obligations. The recent announcement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that it will not enforce federal law is a green light for these two states to pursue regulation of legal marijuana. In contrast, on other controversial issues the Obama administration has taken strong stands against state laws that conflict with federal law. In 2010, the DOJ brought a lawsuit against Arizona after determining that the state’s immigration law, S.B. 1070, conflicted with federal law. Similarly, in August, 2013, it filed suit against Texas over S.B. 14, a voter identification law, due to a conflict with federal law.  Where is the federal leadership on marijuana legalization? Marijuana remains an illicit drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The supremacy of federal law regarding marijuana was reaffirmed in 2005 by the US Supreme Court inGonzales vs. Raich.

The guidance recently provided by the DOJ to federal prosecutors identified eight priorities for enforcement related to legal marijuana including, among others, preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing diversion of marijuana to other states and preventing drugged driving and other adverse public health consequences of marijuana use.  Conspicuously absent from the DOJ position were answers to questions such as: How can the regulatory schemes of Colorado and Washington achieve these goals? How will these priority areas be monitored? What are the thresholds for federal intervention?

We can expect all of the dangers captured in the DOJ’s eight priority areas to grow under marijuana legalization because use of a drug is greater when it is legal. Among Americans 12 and older, 52.1% used alcohol in the prior 30 days and 26.7% used tobacco.(5) These figures vastly exceed the rate of illegal drug use; 9.2% of the population used any illegal drug, including marijuana, in the past month. Only 7.3% of Americans used marijuana in the past month. Many people do not use marijuana because it is illegal.

How can anyone look at these numbers and not see the public health benefit of keeping marijuana and other drugs illegal? How can anyone not see that legalizing marijuana will lead to huge increases in marijuana use, and consequentially, increases in the negative results of marijuana use? The federal government, which now is a passive bystander in the reckless rush to legalize marijuana, must scientifically monitor the impact of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington with the full understanding that the impact of these radical policies extends beyond these two states. Now is the time to collect national baseline data on every facet of life impacted by marijuana use and addiction so that the current wave of permissive marijuana policies is carefully studied to assess its impact on public health and safety, with particular interest given to the effects on youth, education, health, productivity and highway safety.

Marijuana legalization is fuelled by a lavishly funded campaign decades in the making that promotes marijuana use as harmless. Not long ago, the negative health consequences of the use of alcohol and tobacco were similarly trivialized. Scientific evidence shows that marijuana is an addictive drug; about 9% of individuals who use marijuana become dependent.  Marijuana is responsible for 58.9% of all Americans age 12 and older, and 80.9% of all youth age 12 to 17, suffering from illicit drug abuse or dependence.  Marijuana was the primary drug of abuse for 73% of all teen admissions to state-funded treatment in 2010, more than any other drug, including alcohol   Marijuana is harmful to the developing adolescent brain,  causes significant impairment   and contributes to deaths and injuries on the nation’s roads and highways.  Opposing marijuana legalization is neither cool nor politic. Those who do oppose it are mocked and ridiculed when not ignored. The individuals, organizations and coalitions that have spoken with courage and conviction in opposition to the legalization of marijuana should be applauded.

Our nation’s experiment with marijuana legalization will not end with Washington and Colorado. The pro-drug lobby is following through on their plans to bring marijuana legalization to many more states through ballot initiatives and state legislation. The crisis caused by marijuana legalization will be hastened by the certain entry of major business into marijuana production and sale. The result will be powerful economic interests that will reinforce their political interests, a pattern that mirrors the well-established alcohol and tobacco industries and lobbies. Today’s drug policy initiative is not only about the legalization of marijuana. It is about the legalization of all drugs of abuse. That is where the pro-drug lobby is headed. Every argument used in support of marijuana legalization applies to all of the other drugs of abuse. This adds weight to the importance of documenting the impacts of drug policy changes starting, but not ending, with marijuana.

If any drug, including marijuana, were to be legalized in the US, such a move should be achieved through legislative action at the federal level where the merits and the hazards of such historic action could be fully assessed and discussed. Federal action could authorize state “experiments” with drug legalization and establish data collection to assess the effects of these experiments in a systematic way. In contrast, with ballot initiatives, any thoughtful, deliberative process has been abandoned in favour of backdoor manoeuvers that are easily manipulated by money and clever, deceptive media campaigns.

Drug addiction is a powerful teacher. Only when addicts “hit bottom”, when the negative consequences of their drug use become intolerable, do drug addicts seek freedom from chemical slavery. Today with marijuana legalization, the US is headed to a similar fate. Perhaps only after the negative consequences of a more permissive drug policy become unmistakable and intolerable will the country sober up on marijuana. The policy crisis triggered by marijuana legalization must be used to create a new, improved and more comprehensive drug policy. This is the time for bipartisan consideration of the larger problems of drug abuse, including the ascendant problems of designer drugs and prescription drug abuse. While the country is mesmerized by the battles over states legalizing marijuana, the modern drug epidemic is rapidly evolving to become even more menacing. The new American drug policy needs to focus on reducing drug use, including reducing marijuana use, through balanced restrictive drug policies that lower incarceration rates.   There are abundant new ideas to achieve those goals. Marijuana legalization is not part of those better drug policies for the future.

 

Author Biography

For more than 40 years, Robert L. DuPont, M.D. has been a leader in drug abuse prevention and treatment.

He served as the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-1978) and as the second

White House Drug Chief (1973-1977). Following this distinguished public career, in 1978 Dr. DuPont

became the founding President of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., a non-profit organization

dedicated to reducing illegal drug use (www.ibhinc.org). He is Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of  Bensinger, DuPont & Associates (BDA), a leading national consulting

firm dealing with substance abuse. Since 1985, he has also been Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.

Source: www.globaldrugpolicy.org  October 2013

Filed under: Law (Papers) :

An excellent and cogent article written by a doctor in 1997 – and still pertinent today in 2013..

 

Don’t Legalize Drugs  (Some thoughts on Prohibition)

by Theodore Dalrymple

 

Here is a progression in the minds of men: first the unthinkable becomes thinkable, and then it becomes an orthodoxy whose truth seems so obvious that no one remembers that anyone ever thought differently. This is just what is happening with the idea of legalizing drugs: it has reached the stage when with the idea of legalizing drugs: it has reached the stage when millions of thinking men are agreed that allowing people to take whatever they like is the obvious, indeed only, solution to the social problems that arise from the consumption of drugs.

Man’s desire to take mind-altering substances is as old as society itself: as are attempts to regulate their consumption. If intoxication in one form or another is inevitable, then so is customary or legal restraint upon that intoxication. But no society until our own has had to contend with the ready availability of so many different mind-altering drugs, combined with a citizenry jealous of its right to pursue its own pleasures in its own way.

The arguments in favour of legalizing the use of all narcotic and stimulant drugs are twofold: philosophical and pragmatic. Neither argument is negligible, but both are mistaken, I believe, and both miss the point.

The philosophic argument is that, in a free society, adults should be permitted to do whatever they please, always provided that they are prepared to take the consequences of their own choices and that they cause no direct harm to others. The locus classicus for this point of view is John Stuart Mill’s famous essay On Liberty: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of the community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others, (Mill wrote. “His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.) This radical individualism allows society no part whatever in shaping, determining, or enforcing a moral code: in short, we have nothing in common but our contractual agreement not to interfere with one another as we go about seeking our private pleasures.

In practice, of course, it is exceedingly difficult to make people take all the consequences of their own actions (as they must, if Mill’s great principle is to serve as a philosophical guide to policy. Addiction to, or regular use of, most currently prohibited drugs cannot affect only the person who takes them) and not his spouse, children, neighbours, or employers. No man, except possibly a hermit, is an island; and so it is virtually impossible for Mill’s principle to apply to any human action whatever, let alone shooting up heroin or smoking crack. Such a principle is virtually useless in determining what should or should not be permitted.

Perhaps we ought not be too harsh on Mill’s principle: it’s not clear that anyone has ever thought of a better one. But that is precisely the point. Human affairs cannot be decided by an appeal to an infallible rule, expressible in a few words, whose simple application can decide all cases, including whether drugs should be freely available to the entire adult population. Philosophical fundamentalism is not preferable to the religious variety; and because the desiderata of human life are many, and often in conflict with one another, mere philosophical inconsistency in policy (such as permitting the consumption of alcohol while outlawing cocaine) is not a sufficient argument against that policy. We all value freedom, and we all value order; sometimes we sacrifice freedom for order, and sometimes order for freedom. But once a prohibition has been removed, it is hard to restore, even when the new found freedom proves to have been ill-conceived and socially disastrous.

Even Mill came to see the limitations of his own principle as a guide for policy and to deny that all pleasures were of equal significance for human existence. It was better, he said, to be Socrates discontented than a fool satisfied. Mill acknowledged that some goals were intrinsically worthier of pursuit than others.

This being the case, not all freedoms are equal, and neither are all limitations of freedom: some are serious and some trivial. The freedom we cherish – or should cherish – is not merely that of satisfying our appetites, whatever they happen to be. We are not Dickensian Harold Skimpoles, exclaiming in protest that “Even the butterflies are free!” We are not children who chafe at restrictions because they are restrictions. And we even recognize the apparent paradox that some limitations to our freedoms have the consequence of making us freer overall. The freest man is not the one who slavishly follows his appetites and desires throughout his life – as all too many of my patients have discovered to their cost.

We are prepared to accept limitations to our freedoms for many reasons, not just that of public order. Take an extreme hypothetical case: public exhibitions of necrophilia are quite rightly not permitted, though on Mill’s principle they should be. A corpse has no interests and cannot be harmed, because it is no longer a person; and no member of the public is harmed if he has agreed to attend such an exhibition.

Our resolve to prohibit such exhibitions would not be altered if we discovered that millions of people wished to attend them or even if we discovered that millions already were attending them illicitly. Our objection is not based upon pragmatic considerations or upon a head count: it is based upon the wrongness of the would-be exhibitions themselves. The fact that the prohibition represents a genuine restriction of our freedom is of no account. It might be argued that the freedom to choose among a variety of intoxicating substances is a much more important freedom and that millions of people have derived innocent fun from taking stimulants and narcotics. But the consumption of drugs has the effect of reducing men’s freedom by circum-scribing the range of their interests. It impairs their ability to pursue more important human aims, such as raising a family and fulfilling civic obligations. Very often it impairs their ability to pursue gainful employment and promotes parasitism. Moreover, far from being expanders of consciousness, most drugs severely limit it. One of the most striking characteristics of drug takers is their intense and tedious self-absorption; and their journeys into inner space are generally forays into inner vacuums. Drug taking is a lazy man’s way of pursuing happiness and wisdom, and the shortcut turns out to be the deadest of dead ends. We lose remarkably little by not being permitted to take drugs.

The idea that freedom is merely the ability to act upon one’s whims is surely very thin and hardly begins to capture the complexities of human existence; a man whose appetite is his law strikes us not as liberated but enslaved. And when such a narrowly conceived freedom is made the touchstone of public policy, a dissolution of society is bound to follow. No culture that makes publicly sanctioned self-indulgence its highest good can long survive: a radical egotism is bound to ensue, in which any limitations upon personal behaviour are experienced as infringements of basic rights. Distinctions between the important and the trivial, between the freedom to criticize received ideas and the freedom to take LSD, are precisely the standards that keep societies from barbarism.

So the legalization of drugs cannot be supported by philosophical principle. But if the pragmatic argument in favour of legalization were strong enough, it might overwhelm other objections. It is upon this argument that proponents of legalization rest the larger part of their case.

The argument is that the overwhelming majority of the harm done to society by the consumption of currently illicit drugs is caused not by their pharmacological properties but by their prohibition and the resultant criminal activity that prohibition always calls into being. Simple reflection tells us that a supply invariably grows up to meet a demand; and when the demand is widespread, suppression is useless. Indeed, it is harmful, since (by raising the price of the commodity in question) it raises the profits of middlemen, which gives them an even more powerful incentive to stimulate demand further. The vast profits to be made from cocaine and heroin (which, were it not for their illegality, would be cheap and easily affordable even by the poorest in affluent societies) exert a deeply corrupting effect on producers, distributors, consumers, and law enforcers alike. Besides, it is well known that illegality in itself has attractions for youth already inclined to disaffection. Even many of the harmful physical effects of illicit drugs stem from their illegal status: for example, fluctuations in the purity of heroin bought on the street are responsible for many of the deaths by overdose. If the sale and consumption of such drugs were legalized, consumers would know how much they were taking and thus avoid overdoses.

Moreover, since society already permits the use of some mind-altering substances known to be both addictive and harmful, such as alcohol and nicotine, in prohibiting others it appears hypocritical, arbitrary, and dictatorial. Its hypocrisy, as well as its patent failure to enforce its prohibitions successfully, leads inevitably to a decline in respect for the law as a whole. Thus things fall apart, and the centre cannot hold.

It stands to reason, therefore, that all these problems would be resolved at a stroke if everyone were permitted to smoke, swallow, or inject anything he chose. The corruption of the police, the luring of children of 11 and 12 into illegal activities, the making of such vast sums of money by drug dealing that legitimate work seems pointless and silly by comparison, and the turf wars that make poor neighbourhoods so exceedingly violent and dangerous, would all cease at once were drug taking to be decriminalized and the supply regulated in the same way as alcohol.

But a certain modesty in the face of an inherently unknowable future is surely advisable. That is why prudence is a political virtue: what stands to reason should happen does not necessarily happen in practice. As Goethe said, all theory (even of the monetarist or free-market variety) is grey, but green springs the golden tree of life. If drugs were legalized, I suspect that the golden tree of life might spring some unpleasant surprises.

It is of course true, but only trivially so, that the present illegality of drugs is the cause of the criminality surrounding their distribution. Likewise, it is the illegality of stealing cars that creates car thieves. In fact, the ultimate cause of all criminality is law. As far as I am aware, no one has ever suggested that law should therefore be abandoned. Moreover, the impossibility of winning the “war” against theft, burglary, robbery, and fraud has never been used as an argument that these categories of crime should be abandoned. And so long as the demand for material goods outstrips supply, people will be tempted to commit criminal acts against the owners of property. This is not an argument, in my view, against private property or in favour of the common ownership of all goods. It does suggest, however, that we shall need a police force for a long time to come.

In any case, there are reasons to doubt whether the crime rate would fall quite as dramatically as advocates of legalization have suggested. Amsterdam, where access to drugs is relatively unproblematic, is among the most violent and squalid cities in Europe. The idea behind crime – of getting rich, or at least richer, quickly and without much effort – is unlikely to disappear once drugs are freely available to all who want them. And it may be that officially sanctioned antisocial behaviour – the official lifting of taboos – breeds yet more antisocial behaviour, as the “broken windows” theory would suggest.

Having met large numbers of drug dealers in prison, I doubt that they would return to respectable life if the principal article of their commerce were to be legalized. Far from evincing a desire to be reincorporated into the world of regular work, they express a deep contempt for it and regard those who accept the bargain of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay as cowards and fools. A life of crime has its attractions for many who would otherwise lead a mundane existence. So long as there is the possibility of a lucrative racket or illegal traffic, such people find it and extend its scope. Therefore, since even lega1izers would hesitate to allow children to take drugs, decriminalization might easily result in dealers turning their attentions to younger and younger children, who – in the permissive atmosphere that even now prevails – have already been inducted into the drug subculture in alarmingly high numbers.

Those who do not deal in drugs but commit crimes to fund their consumption of them are, of course, more numerous than large-scale dealers. And it is true that once opiate addicts, for example, enter a treatment program, which often includes maintenance doses of methadone, the rate at which they commit crimes falls markedly. The drug clinic in my hospital claims an 80 percent reduction in criminal convictions among heroin addicts once they have been stabilized on methadone.

This is impressive, but it is not certain that the results should be generalized. First, the patients are self-selected: they have some motivation to change, otherwise they would not have attended the clinic in the first place. Only a minority of addicts attend, and therefore it is not safe to conclude that, if other addicts were to receive methadone, their criminal activity would similarly diminish.

Second, a decline in convictions is not necessarily the same as a decline in criminal acts. If methadone stabilizes an addict’s life, he may become a more efficient, harder-to-catch criminal. Moreover, when the police in our city do catch an addict, they are less likely to prosecute him if he can prove that he is undergoing anything remotely resembling psychiatric treatment. They return him directly to his doctor. Having once had a psychiatric consultation is an all-purpose alibi for a robber or a burglar; the police, who do not want to fill in the 40-plus forms it now takes to charge anyone with anything in England, consider a single contact with a psychiatrist sufficient to deprive anyone of legal responsibility for crime forever.

Third, the rate of criminal activity among those drug addicts who receive methadone from the clinic, though reduced, remains very high. The deputy director of the clinic estimates that the number of criminal acts committed by his average patient (as judged by self-report) was 250 per year before entering treatment and 50 afterward. It may well be that the real difference is considerably less than this, because the patients have an incentive to exaggerate it to secure the continuation of their methadone. But clearly, opiate addicts who receive their drugs legally and free of charge continue to commit large numbers of crimes. In my clinics in prison, I see numerous prisoners who were on methadone when they committed the crime for which they are incarcerated. Why do addicts given their drug free of charge continue to commit crimes? Some addicts, of course, continue to take drugs other than those prescribed and have to fund their consumption of them. So long as any restriction whatever regulates the consumption of drugs, many addicts will seek them illicitly, regardless of what they receive legally. In addition, the drugs themselves exert a long-term effect on a person’s ability to earn a living and severely limit rather than expand his horizons and mental repertoire. They sap the will or the ability of an addict to make long-term plans. While drugs are the focus of an addict’s life, they are not all he needs to live, and many addicts thus continue to procure the rest of what they need by criminal means.

For the proposed legalization of drugs to have its much vaunted beneficial effect on the rate of criminality, such drugs would have to be both cheap and readily available. The legalizers assume that there is a natural limit to the demand for these drugs, and that if their consumption were legalized, the demand would not increase substantially. Those psychologically unstable persons currently taking drugs would continue to do so, with the necessity to commit crimes removed, while psychologically stabler people (such as you and I and our children) would not be enticed to take drugs by their new legal status and cheapness. But price and availability, I need hardly say, exert a profound effect on consumption: the cheaper alcohol becomes, for example, the more of it is consumed, at least within quite wide limits.

I have personal experience of this effect. I once worked as a doctor on a British government aid project to Africa. We were building a road through remote African bush. The contract stipulated that the construction company could import, free of all taxes, alcoholic drinks from the United Kingdom. These drinks the company then sold to its British workers at cost, in the local currency at the official exchange rate, which was approximately one-sixth the black-market rate. A litre bottle of gin thus cost less than a dollar and could be sold on the open market for almost ten dollars. So it was theoretically possible to remain dead drunk for several years for an initial outlay of less than a dollar.

Of course, the necessity to go to work somewhat limited the workers’ consumption of alcohol. Nevertheless, drunkenness among them far outstripped anything I have ever seen, before or since. I discovered that, when alcohol is effectively free of charge, a fifth of British construction workers will regularly go to bed so drunk that they are incontinent both of urine and faeces. I remember one man who very rarely got as far as his bed at night: he fell asleep in the lavatory, where he was usually found the next morning. Half the men shook in the mornings and resorted to the hair of the dog to steady their hands before they drove their bulldozers and other heavy machines (which they frequently wrecked, at enormous expense to the British taxpayer); hangovers were universal. The men were either drunk or hung over for months on end.

Sure, construction workers are notoriously liable to drink heavily, but in these circumstances even formerly moderate drinkers turned alcoholic and eventually suffered from delirium tremens. The heavy drinking occurred not because of the isolation of the African bush: not only did the company provide sports facilities for its workers, but there were many other ways to occupy oneself there. Other groups of workers in the bush whom I visited, who did not have the same rights of importation of alcoholic drink but had to purchase it at normal prices, were not nearly as drunk. And when the company asked its workers what it could do to improve their conditions, they unanimously asked for a further reduction in the price of alcohol, because they could think of nothing else to ask for.

The conclusion was inescapable: that a susceptible population had responded to the low price of alcohol, and the lack of other effective restraints upon its consumption, by drinking destructively large quantities of it. The health of many men suffered as a consequence, as did their capacity for work; and they gained a well- deserved local reputation for reprehensible, violent, antisocial behaviour.

It is therefore perfectly possible that the demand for drugs, including opiates, would rise dramatically were their price to fall and their availability to increase. And if it is true that the consumption of these drugs in itself predisposes to criminal behaviour (as data from our clinic suggest), it is also possible that the effect on the rate of criminality of this rise in consumption would swamp the decrease that resulted from decriminalization. We would have just as much crime in aggregate as before, but many more addicts.

The intermediate position on drug legalization, such as that espoused by Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, a drug policy research institute sponsored by financier George Soros, is emphatically not the answer to drug-related crime. This view holds that it should be easy for addicts to receive opiate drugs from doctors, either free or at cost, and that they should receive them in municipal injecting rooms, such as now exist in Zurich. But just look at Liverpool, where 2,000 people of a population of 600,000 receive official prescriptions for methadone: this once proud and prosperous city is still the world capital of drug-motivated burglary, according to the police and independent researchers.

Of course, many addicts in Liverpool are not yet on methadone, because the clinics are insufficient in number to deal with the demand. If the city expended more money on clinics, perhaps the number of addicts in treatment could be increased five- or tenfold. But would that solve the problem of burglary in Liverpool? No, because the profits to be made from selling illicit opiates would still be large: dealers would therefore make efforts to expand into parts of the population hitherto relatively untouched, in order to protect their profits. The new addicts would still burgle to feed their habits. Yet more clinics dispensing yet more methadone would then be needed. In fact Britain, which has had a relatively liberal approach to the prescribing of opiate drugs to addicts since 1928 (1 myself have prescribed heroin to addicts), has seen an explosive increase in addiction to opiates and all the evils associated with it since the 1960s, despite that liberal policy. A few hundred have become more than a hundred thousand. At the heart of Nadelmann’s position, then, is an evasion. The legal and liberal provision of drugs for people who are already addicted to them will not reduce the economic benefits to dealers of pushing these drugs, at least until the entire susceptible population is addicted and in a treatment program. So long as there are addicts who have to resort to the black market for their drugs, there will be drug-associated crime. Nadelmann assumes that the number of potential addicts wouldn’t soar under considerably more liberal drug laws. 1 can’t muster such Panglossian optimism.

The problem of reducing the amount of crime committed by individual addicts is emphatically not the same as the problem of reducing the amount of crime committed by addicts as a whole. 1 can illustrate what 1 mean by an analogy: it is often claimed that prison does not work because many prisoners are recidivists who, by definition, failed to be deterred from further wrongdoing by their last prison sentence. But does any sensible person believe that the abolition of prisons in their entirety would not reduce the numbers of the law-abiding? The murder rate in New York and the rate of drunken driving in Britain have not been reduced by a sudden upsurge in the love of humanity, but by the effective threat of punishment. An institution such as prison can work for society even if it does not work for an individual.

The situation could be very much worse than I have suggested hitherto, however, if we legalized the consumption of drugs other than opiates. So far, I have considered only opiates, which exert a generally tranquilizing effect. If opiate addicts commit crimes even when they receive their drugs free of charge, it is because they are unable to meet their other needs any other way; but there are, unfortunately, drugs whose consumption directly leads to violence because of their psychopharmacological properties and not merely because of the criminality associated with their distribution. Stimulant drugs such as crack cocaine provoke paranoia, increase aggression, and promote violence. Much of this violence takes place in the home, as the relatives of crack takers will testify.  It is something 1 know from personal acquaintance by working in the emergency room and in the wards of our hospital. Only someone who has not been assaulted by drug takers rendered psychotic by their drug could view with equanimity the prospect of the further spread of the abuse of stimulants.

And no one should underestimate the possibility that the use of stimulant drugs could spread very much wider, and become far more general, than it is now, if restraints on their use were relaxed. The importation of the mildly stimulant khat is legal in Britain, and a large proportion of the community of Somali refugees there devotes its entire life to chewing the leaves that contain the stimulant, miring these refugees in far worse poverty than they would otherwise experience. The reason that the khat habit has not spread to the rest of the population is that it takes an entire day’s chewing of disgustingly bitter leaves to gain the comparatively mild pharmacological effect. The point is, however, that once the use of a stimulant becomes culturally acceptable and normal, it can easily become so general as to exert devastating social effects. And the kinds of stimulants on offer in Western cities – cocaine, crack, amphetamines -are vastly more attractive than khat.

In claiming that prohibition, not the drugs themselves, is the problem, Nadelmann and many others – even policemen – have said that “the war on drugs is lost.” But to demand a yes or no answer to the question “Is the war against drugs being won?” is like demanding a yes or no answer to the question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Never can an unimaginative and fundamentally stupid metaphor have exerted a more baleful effect upon proper thought.

Let us ask whether medicine is winning the war against death. The answer is obviously no, it isn’t winning: the one fundamental rule of human existence remains, unfortunately, one man one death. And this is despite the fact that 14 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States (to say nothing of the efforts of other countries) goes into the fight against death. Was ever a war more expensively lost? Let us then abolish medical schools, hospitals, and departments of public health. If every man has to die, it doesn’t matter very much when he does so. If the war against drugs is lost, then so are the wars against theft, speeding, incest, fraud, rape, murder, arson, and illegal parking. Few, if any, such wars are winnable. So let us all do anything we choose.

Even the legalizers’ argument that permitting the purchase and use of drugs as freely as Milton Friedman suggests will necessarily result in less governmental and other official interference in our lives doesn’t stand up. To the contrary, if the use of narcotics and stimulants were to become virtually universal, as is by no means impossible, the number of situations in which compulsory checks upon people would have to be carried out, for reasons of public safety, would increase enormously. Pharmacies, banks, schools, hospitals – indeed, all organizations dealing with the public – might feel obliged to check regularly and randomly on the drug consumption of their employees. The general use of such drugs would increase the locus standi of innumerable agencies, public and private, to interfere in our lives; and freedom from interference, far from having increased, would have drastically shrunk.

The present situation is bad, undoubtedly; but few are the situations so bad that they cannot be made worse by a wrong policy decision. The extreme intellectual elegance of the proposal to legalize the distribution and consumption of drugs, touted as the solution to so many problems at once (AIDS, crime, overcrowding in the prisons, and even the attractiveness of drugs to foolish young people) should give rise to skepticism. Social problems are not usually like that. Analogies with the Prohibition era, often drawn by those who would legalize drugs, are false and inexact: it is one thing to attempt to ban a substance that has been in customary use for centuries by at least nine-tenths of the adult population, and quite another to retain a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, in an attempt to ensure that they never do become customary. Surely we have already slid down enough slippery slopes in the last 30 years with-out looking for more such slopes to slide down.

 

Source:  City Journal, Vol 7, No.2, Spring 1997, Manhattan Institute, England

Filed under: Law (Papers) :

by Fabio Bernabei

The consequences of what’s happening in Uruguay are certainly not destined to remain within the boundaries of that South American nation and could have important consequences for the peoples all over the world.

The Uruguay left-wing government have decided to pass a national law, for now in the Lower House by a narrow margin (50 votes against 46), pending the vote in the Senate, which unilaterally wipe out the obligation to respect the rules and controls set under UN Conventions on Drugs, legitimizing the cultivation and sale of cannabis.   José Alberto Mujica Cordano, current head of State and Government, is the kingpin for this decisive turning-point against the population will who’s for 63% contrary to the legitimacy of cannabis.

The President Mujica Cordano, at the beginning of the parliamentary process to ratify that unjustified violation of international law, refused to meet the delegation of the International Narcotics Control Board-INCB, an independent body that monitors implementation of the UN Conventions on Drugs by the signatory States such as Uruguay.   The INCB, stated in an press release, in line with its mandate, “has always aimed at maintaining a dialogue with the Government of Uruguay on this issue, including proposing a mission to the country at the highest-level. The Board regrets that the Government of Uruguay refused to receive an INCB mission before the draft law was submitted to Parliament for deliberation”

. A one more (il)legal precedent disrespectful the International Community.

In an attempt to reassure the international public opinion, President José Mujica, told the Brazilian press his government will not allow unlimited use of marijuana and illicit drug dealing: “And if somebody buys 20 marijuana cigarettes, he will have to smoke them. He won’t be able to sell them”.    Amazing statement, unless you put a police officer to shadow each individual, legal, buyer, as long as he has smoked it all and he did it in moderation!

In order to convince the majority of the Uruguayan population, contrary to the legalization, the President Mujica has promised to launch at the same time “a campaign aimed at young people on how to consume marijuana. Avoid, for example, to smoke to not damage the lungs but inhale or consume it with food”.

Nothing new: the Pro-Legalizer Lobby is interested from the very beginning in the psychoactive effects of cannabis on the conscience of the people, to scale up drug use and to cause a social revolution in “interiore homine” .But for that it’s necessary do not have big health emergencies so to provoke a social alarm inside the public opinion that could spark a strong reaction of parents in defense of their kids as happened in some countries in the past times.

For the ideological anti-prohibitionist front the so called “Harm Reduction”of the drug use is a constant concern so to scheme a “pragmatic” strategy, seemingly far from the “ideal” one of the Hippy movement, which was codified in 1990 “Frankfurt Resolution”.

An anti-prohibitionists stereotype, used by President Mujica Cordano, is also the cliché according to the promotion by the State of production and use of the drugs would defeat the illegal drug trafficking, whereas each legalization in any part of the world has always created a “gray” market close to the “black” one which was never replaced by the “legal” market.    The popular protests seem to push the Uruguayan government to hold a referendum on the new anti-prohibitionist legislation. For that reason the Open Society

Foundation headed by the financier George Soros has announced the launch of a massive media campaign across the nation to manipulate the public consensus

.Yesterday a social revolution by “armed propaganda” …  today by drugs?

How it is possible that a government violates international law and respect for human rights enshrined in the UN Conventions on Drugs in a such harsh way, you can tell by reading the biography on the official page of the President of Uruguay, José Mujica Cordano, cofounder of the ‘60 Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-MLN-Tupamaros, along with Raúl Sendic and others.

The Marxist inspired group practiced guerrilla warfare, along with every kind of crime: theft, robbery and kidnapping of people, by what they call “armed propaganda” in their manual of subversion “Nous les Tupamaros” (We, the Tupamaros).

Convicted of numerous crimes José Mujica will be arrested and his organization dismantled. Convicted of numerous crimes will serve fourteen years in jail until the general amnesty of 1985 enacted to reopen a national reconciliation and a new democratic season. José Mujica, who never abandoned his own ideals, once free gave life, with other leaders of the MLN and some sectors of the Left, to a new party: the Movimiento de Participación Popular (MPP).

The Tupamaros, founded by the current President of Uruguay, represented a turning point in Latin America bringing the Terror firmly inside the cities with spectacular actions that gave them worldwide visibility: “The Tupamaros attracted a great deal of attention in the world media , but in final analysis the only result of their operations was the destruction of freedom in a country that is almost alone in Latin America, had an unbroken democratic tradition, however imperfect.”

More, the Tupamaros extolled the primacy of the intellectual propaganda, summed up in their slogan: “Las palabras nos separan, the acción nos une” (Words divide us, the action unites us).

The ideology of Tupamaros was never presented in any single official document. In fact the Tupamaros  actions, nor political statement or ideological platform, “were the way most important for the creation of a revolutionary consciousness”.

For their goals the Tupamaros argued it should be used every means, even the use of the violence, in their words, “a legitimate means, the more powerful tool and more effective way to gain power.”  Violence never indiscriminate or excessive,  to not frighten the public opinion in which they sought sympathy and support.

The Tupamaros, former or epigones, nowadays to set off a “revolutionary collective consciousness” seems to prefer the use of marijuana but with the foresight to put, at least nominally, some limitations. This to avoid to be defeated, as happened in Italy, Sweden and the United States, by the popular reaction to the suffering, moral degradation and violence subsequent to the legalization laws pro “personal” drug use during the ’60 and ’70.

The unprecedented attack to the International Law, and the disregards of the uruguayan people will, have obtained the same worldwide clamor of the violent actions of the Tupamaros led by, the now President, Mujica,

Imposing the production and sale of drugs as a Common Good to be protected by law is unquestionably, for all its possible consequences, the more “revolutionary” act never accomplished by Tupamaros in respect of International law, Human Rights and Core Democratic Values.  But drug legalization is a key factor who anyone want a deep revolution inside a civil society. Legalize marijuana it’s an important step, the Radical

Party leader, Marco Pannella, told at the founding meeting of the International League Antiprohibitionist (LIA) in 1987, “as has been the introduction of the Divorce and Abortion laws”.

That’s because, the then European Commissioner, and now italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino admitted: “in fact, on the question of drugs (old, new or brand new) you play one fundamental game. A challenge between two opposing political and cultural models. A comparison between two different kind of societies to be built. ”

Pope Francis: “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!” Fight the drug legalization !

Pope Francis, following in predecessors footsteps, gave a warning about the danger of marijuana legalization in a speech during the Brazil Apostolic Journey: “The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America”. In the same speech, the Holy Father invited all of us to consider that there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!”

Let us not “be ropped of hope” of a future that has “a different perspective” from the “illusory enticements of the idols” of the Tupamaros and High Finance and the Antiproibitionist utopias.

In his Pastoral Handbook, the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care wrote on that topic: “We need to be able to identify and recognise the importance of drug lobbies, as well as the pressure they place on civil authorities and within the whole society, in order to fight them with the various weapons at our disposal: political, economic, and judicial; and, at national, regional and international levels.

In particular, it would be wise for all civil authorities, to set in place laws and norms to effectively fight at all levels the networks of drugs, refusing to decriminalise any use of them. Decriminalisation opens the door to total liberation, leading only to the perpetuation of drug addiction”.

Let us “become bearers of hope”, and push stronger the fight against any kind of sale, free or for profit, authorized or illegal, of any drugs!

Fabio Bernabei  (fabio.bernabei@gmail.com)

Footnotes 1http://globovision.com/articulo/para-producir-cannabis-uruguay-planea-entregar-licencias-a-privados#.UfrRNQ4VB8U.twitter 2  www.elobservador.com.uy/septimodia/post/889/la-revolucion/ 3  www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/en/pressrels/2013/unisnar1176.html 4 www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/uruguay/9347452/Uruguay-marijuana-sales-to-be-controlled-by-state.html 5www.lastampa.it/2013/02/21/esteri/l-ultima-sfida-del-presidente-mujica-vi-insegno-come-usare-la-marijuana-9DqZIHKyZ7zAX1sA3cAL3K/pagina.html

THE FOLLOWING PAPER SHOWS EXTRACTS FROM A REPORT PUBLISHED IN AUGUST 2013 – SHOWING THE IMPACT OF MARIJUANA LEGALISATION AND SO-CALLED MEDICAL MARIJUANA FROM 2009.  THIS REPORT IS SHOCKING AND SHOULD BE CAREFULLY READ IN FULL BY ANY POLITICIANS CONSIDERING CHANGING DRUG POLICY LAWS.

NDPA SUGGESTS YOU GO ONLINE TO ACCESS THE FULL REPORT.

THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA IN COLORADO: THE IMPACT Vol. 1/August 2013 Executive Summary

2006 – 2008: There were between 1,000 and 4,800 medical marijuana cardholders and no known dispensaries operating in Colorado.

2009 – 2012: There were over 108,000 medical marijuana cardholders and 532 licensed dispensaries operating in Colorado by November 2012.

 

Colorado Youth Marijuana Use: In 2011, the national average for youth 12 to 17 years old considered “current” marijuana users was 7.64 percent which was the highest average since 1981. The Colorado average percent was 10.72.

 

Colorado Adult Marijuana Use: In 2011, the national average for young adults ages 18 to 25 considered current marijuana users was at 18.7 percent. The Colorado average was 27.26 percent.

 

Colorado Emergency Room – Marijuana Admissions: From 2005 through 2008 there was an average of 741 visits per year to the emergency room in Colorado for marijuana-related incidents involving youth. That number increased to 800 visits per year between 2009 and 2011.

 

Colorado Marijuana-Related Exposure Cases: From 2005 through 2008, the yearly average number of marijuana-related exposures for children ages 0 to 5 years was 4. For 2009 through 2012, that number increased 200 percent to an average of 12 per year.

 

Diversion of Colorado Marijuana (General): From 2005 to 2008, compared to 2009 to 2012, interdiction seizures involving Colorado marijuana quadrupled from an average per year of 52 to 242. During the same period, the average number of pounds of Colorado marijuana seized per year increased 77 percent from an average of 2,220 to 3,937 pounds. A total of 7,008 pounds was seized in 2012

 

Beginning in the spring of 2009, Colorado experienced an explosion to over 20,000 new medical marijuana patient applications and the emergence of over 250 medical marijuana dispensaries (allowed to operate as “caregivers”). One dispensary owner claimed to be a primary caregiver to 1,200 patients. Government took little or no action against these commercial operations.

By the end of 2009, new patient applications jumped from around 6,000 for the first seven years to an additional 38,000 in just one year. Actual cardholders went from 4,800 in 2008 to 41,000 in 2009. By mid-2010, there were over 900 marijuana dispensaries identified by law enforcement.

In 2010, law enforcement sought legislation to ban dispensaries and reinstate the one-to-five ratio of caregiver to patient as the model. However, in 2010 the Colorado Legislature passed HB-1284 which legalized medical marijuana centers (dispensaries), marijuana cultivation operations, and manufacturers for marijuana edible products. By 2012, there were 532 licensed dispensaries in Colorado and over 108,000 registered patients, 94 percent of who qualified for a card because of severe pain.

 

Traffic fatalities in Colorado decreased 16 percent1, from 2006 to 2011, which is consistent with national trends. During the same six years in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for just marijuana increased 114 percent.2

• In 2006 in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented 5 percent of the total traffic fatalities. By 2011, that percent more than doubled to 13 percent.2

• In 2006, drivers testing positive for marijuana were involved in 28 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving drugs. By 2011 that number had increased to 56 percent.2

 

DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs)

Victim Voice President Ed Wood shares his perspective on drugged driving:

“Drivers on drugs are involved in a remarkably high proportion of fatalities. When we look at only collisions where drivers’ blood tests were reported, we see that 36 percent of the fatalities involved drivers testing positive for drugs, and 20 percent tested positive for marijuana. These percentages held steady from 2006 through 2009 (averaging 29 percent and 12 percent respectively), but the marijuana numbers took a big jump to 17 percent in 2010 and again to 20 percent in 2011 after dispensaries were established.”

 

 

The French National Institute for Transportation and Safety Research, in a study published in 2005 by the British Medical Journal, concludes that even small amounts of marijuana could double the chances of a driver suffering a crash and larger doses could more than triple the risk.

• According to the Columbia University School of Public Health, the risk of an automobile crash is almost 2.7 times higher among marijuana users than non-users. The more marijuana smoked in terms of frequency and potency, the greater likelihood of a crash.4

 

• Glenn Davis, Highway Safety Manager, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Office of Transportation Safety, said that of drug-related deaths, half involved marijuana. He stated, “You have a substance [marijuana] that causes impairment that is more readily available than it was two years ago.” Davis said that was because of the increasing use of medical marijuana in Colorado.5

 

• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2009) found more people are driving on weekend nights under the influence of marijuana (8.3 percent) compared to alcohol (2.2 percent).6

 

• Close to one out of four teens admit to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and, of those, 75 percent do not believe smoking marijuana adversely affects their driving.7

 

• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2004) found that marijuana significantly impairs one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. They cite: decreased car handling performance, inability to maintain headway, impaired time and distance estimation, increased reaction time, lack of motor coordination and impaired sustained vigilance.8

• An article published in the Volume 34, 2012 edition of Epidemiologic Reviews examined nine studies conducted over the past two decades on marijuana and car crash risks. Their conclusion: “Drivers who tested positive for marijuana, or self-reported using marijuana, are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”

 

A study published by the National Institute of Health Public Access in 2009 showed that the effects of marijuana vary more between the individual than the effects of alcohol. The study also states that laboratory tests and driving studies show, “Cannabis may acutely impair several driving-related skills in a dose-related fashion but the effects between individuals varies more than they do with alcohol because of tolerance, the difference in smoking techniques and different absorption of THC.” The study warns that patients who smoke marijuana should be counseled to have a designated driver if possible or to wait at least three hours after smoking.10

• A 2009 study published by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany claimed that states with legalized medical marijuana actually had a drop in traffic deaths. This study was not peer reviewed. The states selected were Vermont with only 400 cardholders, Rhode Island with only 3,000 cardholders and Montana which had only 6,000 cardholders.11

• A study by Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) Associate Professors Ashbridge and Hayden published in the British Medical Journal on February 9, 2012 showed: “Driving under the influence of cannabis was associated with a significantly increased risk of motor vehicle collisions compared with unimpaired driving.

 

Students’ Current Marijuana Use

In 2011, nearly one out of four of the Boulder County School District high school students (9th – 12th grade) surveyed indicated that they were current marijuana users.  This is more than three times the national rate.

o In academic school years 2008 – 2010, an average of 20.75 percent of Adams County high school students surveyed indicated they were current marijuana users (at least once in the last 30 days). That number increased 39 percent during academic years 2010 – 2012 to 28.85 percent.

 

In the academic school years 2008 – 2010, an average of 5.65 percent of Adams County middle school students surveyed indicated they were current marijuana users (at least once in the last 30 days). That number increased 50 percent during academic years 2010 – 2012 to 8.5 percent.11

 

 

Colorado Springs Drug Testing High School Referrals o Drug-related referrals for high school students testing positive for marijuana have increased each year from 2007 – 2012. During 2007 – 2009 an average of 5.6 students tested positive for marijuana.

During 2010 – 2012 the average number of students who tested positive for marijuana increased to 17.3 students per year.

 

In 2007, tests positive for marijuana made up 33 percent of the total drug screenings, by 2012 that number increased to 57 percent.

 

Detected THC levels in the students increased by 76 percent after 2009. § 2007 – 2009 the average THC level quantified = 225 nanograms.

2010 – 2012 the average THC level quantified = 396 nanograms.

 

Current Marijuana Use Rates for 12th-Graders

In 2011, the average of 12th graders using marijuana in the last 30 days:  Nationally – 28.0 percent12 (22.6 percent2 according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse [NIDA])

Colorado – 31.2 percent10

Denver Public Schools – 32 percent6

Boulder County High Schools – 36 percent3

 

High School Senior Daily Use of Marijuana o Nationally in 2011, of the 12th grade respondents, 6.6 percent reported smoking marijuana daily, which is the highest level since 1981 when the rate was 7 percent. In 2011, 7.8 percent of Colorado’s high school seniors reported using marijuana 40 or more times per month.  Another 2.9 percent reported using marijuana between 20 and 39 times a month.

 

Colorado Department of Education- Drug Related Suspensions and Expulsions

There was a 32 percent increase in drug-related expulsions and suspensions from the 2008 – 2009 academic year to 2009 – 2010 academic year.7

For the academic years ending in 07, 08, and 09, drug related expulsions/suspensions remained stable with an average of 3,782.7

For the academic years ending in 10, 11, and 12, drug-related expulsions/suspensions increased to an average of 5,217.7 This is a 37 percent increase.

 

“Drug violations shot up dramatically in Colorado schools during the 2009-2010 school year, reversing a decade of steady decline…”9

Rebecca Jones, reporter, EdNews Colorado

 

 

• The average reported past month marijuana use for young adults (ages 18-25) in 2011: o The national average = 18.78 percent

o The Colorado average = 27.26 percent

 

• The average reported past month marijuana use for adults (ages 26+) in Colorado has increased from 5.32 percent in 2008 to 8.19 percent in 2011. That is a 54 percent increase.

 

 

Drug Abuse Warning Network (Ages 12 – 17) Data: o Colorado ER visits per year related to marijuana only:

2005 – 2008 = 741 average visits per year

2009 – 2011 = 800 average visits per year

 

In 2011, Colorado ER data showed that marijuana-related incidents accounted for 26 percent of the total ER visits, compared to 21 percent nationally.

 

 

• Young children (ages 0 to 5) marijuana-related exposures in Colorado

 

During the years 2006 – 2008, the average number of marijuana-related exposures for ages 0 to 5 was 4 per year.1

For the years 2009 – 2012, the average number of marijuana-related exposures for ages 0 to 5 was 12 per year.1 § This is a 200 percent increase.

 

 

El Paso Intelligence Center, National Seizure System

NOTE: This only includes those cases in which Colorado marijuana was actually seized and reported. It is unknown how many

Colorado marijuana loads were not detected or, if seized, were not reported.

 

El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) has established the National Seizure System (NSS) for voluntary reporting interdiction seizures throughout the country.

 

 

Many state highway patrols have done a good job reporting their highway seizures. RMHIDTA was able to identify the number of interdiction seizures involving marijuana from Colorado destined for other states in the country.

 

• In 2012, there were 274 Colorado marijuana interdiction seizures destined for other states compared to 54 in 2005. This is a 407 percent increase.

 

• Of the 274 seizures in 2012, there were 37 different states destined to receive marijuana from Colorado. The most common destinations were Kansas (37), Missouri (30), Illinois (22) Texas (18), Wisconsin (18), Florida (16) and Nebraska (13). There were some seizures in which the destination state was unknown.

• From 2005 – 2008, compared to 2009 – 2012, the average number of interdiction seizures per year involving Colorado marijuana more than quadrupled from 52.2 to 242.

• From 2005 – 2008, compared to 2009 – 2012, the total average number of pounds of Colorado marijuana seized from interdictions increased 77 percent from an average of 2,220 pounds to 3,937.

 

• In 2012, there were 7,008 pounds of Colorado marijuana seized by interdictions that were destined for other states in the country.

 

• The top three Colorado counties identified as the source for the marijuana in 2012 were Denver (141), Boulder (27) and El Paso (24).

 

Dispensary “Patient” Sells Fifty Percent of His Dispensary Marijuana to Juveniles: On May 31, 2012, North Metro Task Force executed a residential search warrant in Thornton, COLORADO where a 19-year-old male was selling marijuana. The suspect admitted to selling marijuana for two years but recently expanded his business after getting his medical marijuana card. He stated that he gets the marijuana he sells from a dispensary in the Denver Metro area. The suspect admitted he purchases approximately 5 to 6 ounces of marijuana per week. He sells 60 percent while using or sharing the other 40 percent. He estimated that his profit is approximately 30 percent. He admitted to three to four drug sales per day, seven days per week. He also stated that 50 percent of these sales are directly to juveniles. He said dispensary marijuana is easy to get and is of high quality.

Impaired Driver Cites Ease of Getting Dispensary Marijuana: In April 2012, the Thornton Police Department (COLORADO) contacted a driver who admitted to smoking marijuana while driving. She failed voluntary roadside tests and was arrested. During a search of her vehicle officers found 3 ounces of marijuana with dispensary stickers. In an interview she admitted she does not have a medical marijuana card. She stands in front of dispensaries and asks people to buy her marijuana. She admitted that she had done this multiple times and had never gone away empty handed. When asked why she goes to dispensaries, she stated that the marijuana is better but the main reason was availability. She said she never had to wait more than two hours to get a couple ounces of marijuana. Conversely, when she was buying from other sources she sometimes would have to wait and never get what she wanted. She noted the ease and certainty of buying marijuana has made using dispensaries well worth it.

 

In a press release dated August 13, 2012, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers stated, “It is becoming clear that as predicted in the 2010 legislative hearings, Colorado is becoming a significant exporter of marijuana to the rest of the country.”

A 2011 report from the Drug Enforcement Administration – Denver Field Division states, “Colorado’s medical marijuana system allows for a widespread exportation and illicit marijuana distribution…. Colorado is on track to become a primary source of supply for high-grade marijuana throughout the country.”2

Nebraska State Patrol Sergeant Dana Korell: “Marijuana out of Colorado is having a local impact. It is flooding, just flooding the marketplace. It’s everywhere.”3

Cheyenne County (Nebraska) Sheriff John Jensen claims legalizing marijuana in Colorado changed local drug trafficking in a way not seen in his seventeen years in law enforcement. “Now you have dispensaries, you have grow houses in our neighboring states that are growing a much better product.” “Now we’re getting the high-grade marijuana” coming across the border.3

The Intelligence Center’s analysis of the illegal drug market in the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which includes Nebraska, found “demand for high-potency marijuana has increased during the last three years, fueling both increased indoor hydroponic grows and importation from California and Colorado.”4

 

United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) “Prohibited Mailing of Narcotics”

(PMN) drug database:

This database does not capture parcels with smaller amounts of marijuana which are handled administratively.

 

• From 2010 – 2013, the number of intercepted parcel packages of marijuana from Colorado, has increased each year:

2010: 15 parcels

2011: 36 parcels

2012: 158 parcels § Over ten times the number seized in 2010

2013: 209 parcels – only as of May 2013 (five months)

 

• From 2010 – 2012 the total pounds of marijuana seized from packages mailed from Colorado has increased each year:

In 2010: total of 57 pounds were seized

In 2011: total of 68 pounds were seized

In 2012: total of 262 pounds were seized § Nearly five times the amount seized in 2010

These figures only reflect packages seized. They do not count packages of Colorado marijuana that were mailed and reached the intended destination.

 

In 2013: 205 pounds have been seized – as of May 2013 (five months)

 

• Between 2010 and 2012, the number of states destined to receive marijuana mailed from Colorado has increased each year:

In 2010 – 10 states

In 2011 – 24 states

In 2012 – 29 states

In 2013 – 23 states in only the first three months

Much has been written and argued about the legalization of marijuana. Media outlets have recently reported that anywhere from 40 percent to 52 percent of U.S. adults are in favor of the drug’s legalization. In the study for the first figure, overall public support among adults for medical use, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana was 70, 50 and 40 percent respectively and — surprisingly — only slightly lower among parents. Many of these adults — and much of what has been written in favor of legalization — believe that legalizing this drug will bring in increased tax revenue and lesser emphasis on criminalizing its users, allowing law enforcement officers more time to focus on our bigger problems in this country and solve our overcrowded prisons issue. But is that actually true and what are some of the real costs our country would pay for legalizing pot?

Tax Savings — At What Cost?

Pro-legalization groups are often comparing the potential tax revenue of marijuana with alcohol and tobacco; it is true that nothing is more heavily taxed in our society than these two substances. Yet, under closer examination, it is clear that this revenue doesn’t even come close to covering the enormous costs to our society from these products: alcohol misuse results in increased traffic accidents, ER visits, domestic violence and lost work productivity, while both substances lead to substantial and costly medical problems, and even death. In 2010, there were 15,990 alcohol liver deaths and 25,692 alcohol-induced deaths excluding alcohol-related accidents and homicides. In the prior year, there were 10,839 traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These are just the figures for fatalities — quite obviously the costs to society soar even higher when figuring in those “lucky” enough to just be injured in accidents or still living with emphysema, lung or liver disease.

There are still many people who believe that a person high on marijuana can function properly at home or work and can operate a motor vehicle without impairment. But the reality is that in 2011, marijuana was involved in 455,668 emergency room visits nationwide, and marijuana has been proven to impair motor coordination and reaction time, being the second most prevalent drug (after alcohol) implicated in automobile accidents.

Criminal Justice Relief — Are There Better Ways?

 Many believe that prisons are overcrowded with people who have been arrested and convicted for using marijuana. The first part is true — there are many people in prison related to their marijuana use, however, they are not there because they were arrested or convicted of any marijuana-related legal offense. The prisons are overcrowded with marijuana users due to policies that send a person who is on probation/parole back to jail if they test positive for any illegal substance, including marijuana. Essentially no one is in jail for solely using marijuana, but for testing

positive while on probation for another crime. This is, quite frankly, a misguided and unnecessary policy. We can — and should — seek to modify this policy to address prison overcrowding without having to legalize marijuana. Legalizing the drug will only increase its use and result in added costs to our various systems.

Perhaps one of the biggest prices we would pay for legalizing marijuana has to do with the message we send to our youth and the negative effects we now know are caused by its use. Recent NIH reports show that fewer adolescents believe that regular marijuana use is harmful to their health. At the same time, adolescents are initiating pot use at younger ages, are more likely to use it on a daily basis, and are using marijuana that is much more potent than that used by previous generations.

Most unfortunately, research has shown that persistent marijuana use is associated with neuropsychological decline and more cognitive problems. It has an impact on mental development and is associated with the onset of major mental illness, including psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Impairment is worst when marijuana use begins in adolescence, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Even more disheartening, stopping use does not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset users. In addition, marijuana use is consistently associated with poorer academic grades and reduced likelihood of graduating from high school. Heavy adolescent marijuana use (defined as using more than 20 times) may lead to drug and property crime and criminal justice system interactions.

Legalizing marijuana sends the explicit message to our youth that this drug is okay, that it is harmless, when it is addictive and can destroy their lives.

A person under the influence of marijuana has a diminished cognitive capacity, regular use leads to persistent decreases in cognitive abilities, and — for young people — its use can delay cognitive development, and its users are more likely to be involved in an accident or perpetrate a crime. Legalizing marijuana will increase users, increase frequency and have long-term consequences for our youth. The tax revenue it would generate would be dwarfed by the costs to our society. Isn’t that enough to make us just say no to legalization?

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deni-carise/legalizing-marijuana-the-_b_3620472.html   23.07.13

Filed under: Law (Papers),USA :

Colorado and Washington state’s middle class social experiment on the poor.

The People have spoken. And soon they’ll be tokin’.

After the success of two popular initiatives last fall, cannabis is now legal for recreational use (like squash, I suppose) in the wild and blue states of Colorado and Washington state. Federal law, which trumps state law, still considers marijuana an illegal substance, but with 99 percent of all cannabis prosecutions at state or local levels, the Obama Administration has shown little desire to force the issue.

Those of us who believe direct democracy is the tool of the devil have been proven right again. Public referenda, initiatives, and recalls undermine the kind of deliberative, representative government the Founders, in all their glorious 18th century wisdom, intended. We have state legislatures for a reason — one being so that farmers and other country folk have the same voice as marketing directors, rap singers, and baseball team owners — in other words, so the song of the rural minority is not overwhelmed by the roar of the urban majority.

Instead the Democratic-controlled legislatures of Washington state and Colorado, knowing they lacked the votes to legalize cannabis and override their governor’s certain veto, allowed the question to go before the people in the kind of direct democratic ballot that would have given John Adams nightmares, and which avoids the whole extravagance of a governor’s veto.

Coloradans and Washington staters believe they can legalize pot and bear the consequences of becoming an international drug scene and popular dope destination. That’s their prerogative. Better the people write policy than the faceless, placeless bureaucrats in D.C. Besides marijuana laws are about as local an issue as one can imagine. Drugs, first and foremost, destroy individual lives, families, streets, and neighborhoods. So it makes sense that states, not the federal government, would be in charge of regulating drugs.

This kind of local lawmaking, however, goes against the American grain. We have grown used to tackling every problem at the national level, no doubt because we think of this nation as a great homogenized mass, not the thousands of unique, diverse towns, villages and regions that we are. We have forgotten that the culture of East St. Louis, Illinois — Miles Davis’ old stomping grounds — has very little in common with the culture of the backcountry near Seney in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — Ernest Hemingway’s old stomping grounds. But the difference in those cultures is the difference between Bitch’s Brew and In Our Time. What works in Seney is not likely to work in East St. Louis, and vice versa.

THE PEOPLE OF Colorado and Washington can probably survive legal pot, because their states are, by and large, rural middle class states, with strong work ethics and low crime rates. Besides, the middle class is notoriously resilient. That is why a country like the Netherlands, with its mostly white middle class and strong Protestant work ethic, can decriminalize weed and not suffer too greatly from the negative consequences. King County, Washington and Denver are another story. These are multi-ethnic, multi-class metropolises. Some enclaves are extremely poor with high crime rates and suffer all the usual pathologies of the underclass. Resilient the underclass is not. A “social experiment”

(in the words of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson) in the ghettos, trailer parks, and slums will be much more devastating.

But then governments have a long history of using the underclass as lab rats in their social experiments. Remember the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment? The only difference is that this time it is the majority middle class baby boomers and hipsters who have demanded the “social experiment.”

Earlier I said there is no veto for a public referendum, but that is not entirely true. Fortunately local governments can just say no to the legal marijuana craze. In Colorado, nearly three-dozen cities and towns have banned retail marijuana sales, while 25 have passed moratoriums. That’s a whopping three-dozen cities to choose from if you are looking to start a family in Colorado!

Here is something for the city fathers of King County and Denver to consider. Historically the underclass suffers most from the consequences of radical social engineering. No doubt legal marijuana will only increase the problems their poorest, least educated residents battle day in and day out. However, the middle class will not be unaffected. A stoned, apathetic, unemployable underclass will see to that.

Source:  www.spectator.org  11th July 2013 By Christopher Orlet

Filed under: Law (Papers),USA :

It is called dabbing, and it is something the marijuana legalization movement would rather you didn’t know about. As crack is to powdered cocaine, so a dab is to a joint of marijuana: the same drug, in a much more concentrated form. But butane hash oil, or BHO, the end product of dabbing, is seen by many in the movement as a potential public relations disaster.  It’s easy to find instructions on the Internet for making butane hash oil. (Not to be confused with the hash oil of the 1970s produced, most commonly, using sieves, ice, naphtha, or acetone to separate the THC-rich trichomes from the rest of the plant material.) Butane hash oil, produced by “blasting” butane through top-quality marijuana, then “purging” away the butane, looks a bit like beeswax and allegedly boosts THC content to a mind-blowing 70 to 90 per cent. The most potent of today’s varietals rarely reach or exceed 20 per cent. The result is known as wax, shatter, honey oil, and about a dozen other monikers. It is smoked using a glass tube and a red-hot piece of metal, not unlike the hippie “hot knives” method of smoking. As Andrew Sullivan wrote at his blog, The Dish: “Going on the basis of such super high purity alone, even the funkiest colored trichome crystal encased high-grade leaf starts to look like steam punk technology in a fossil fuel world.”  Or, in the pithy phrasing favored by High Times: “A quantum leap forward in stoner evolution.” In a High Times magazine article last year, author Bobby Black wrote about the central problem, namely that “the techniques used to make and consume BHO bear an eerie resemblance to those used for harder drugs like meth and crack.” This creates “a fear that seeing teenagers wielding blowtorches or blowing themselves up on the evening news might incite a new anti-pot paranoia that could set the legalization movement back decades.” It happened when wine and ale became whiskey and gin, according to one school of thought. It happened again when hand dried, hand rolled tobacco became the machine rolled cigarette. And it happened when powdered cocaine became crack. Increasingly concentrated forms of plant drugs became more potent, more addictive, more expensive—and more socially disruptive. Has it happened in a high-tech way with good old friendly organic backyard marijuana? And is BHO any more dangerous to users than regular weed? The butane technique is controversial, and the effects of ingesting marijuana that has previously been supersaturated with that particular solvent are intensely debated in the weed world. Marijuana collectives in California have been selling “butane honey oil” to qualified medical marijuana customers for some time now. There are tasting parties called “Wax Wednesdays.” But the state has made it illegal to produce BHO. David Downs, writing last month in Oakland’s East Bay Express, reported on a state appellate courting hearing in San Francisco, “in which an attorney for defendant Ryan Schultz worked to overturn the San Francisco resident’s three-year probation sentence for operating a BHO ‘drug lab.’ Meanwhile, several blocks away at permitted pot dispensaries, the fruits of such drug labs are on sale for upwards of $50 per gram.”  The defendant’s case was not helped when, in January, “two blasters blew themselves up in a San Diego motel, resulting in hospitalization, followed by drug lab charges.” And just to confuse the matter a bit more, BHO production is legal in Colorado, and other medical marijuana states are considering it. The health verdict on all this isn’t in yet. The primary danger of BHO may be its manufacture, and in all the Richard Pryor-type explosions that lie ahead. Even High Times seems to be a bit wary of it. The magazine “strongly discourages anyone who has not been professionally trained from making BHO on their own.” Ventilation, it seems, is the key.  It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that the amount of residual butane inhaled could constitute a health threat. Cheap butane contains various impurities, and there has been at least one reported case of chemical epiglottitis, a condition in which inflammation caused by a chemical blocks off the windpipe. But as one marijuana backer told High Times, “you can actually get epiglottitis from hot coffee if you swallow it incorrectly.” In February, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was moved to issue a formal bulletin on the matter: “Butane is highly explosive, colorless, odorless and heaver than air and therefore can travel along the floor until it encounters an ignition source…. Reported fires and explosions have blown out windows, walls, and caused numerous burn injuries.”  Bob Melamede, an associate professor of biology at the University of Colorado and the CEO of Cannabis Science Inc., told High Times: “If you have contaminants (i.e., pesticides, herbicides, fungi) on your plant, that’s going to come off into the extract. Then, when you evaporate the solvent, you’ll actually be concentrating those things—and THAT’S the real danger.”

Source:  ADDICTION INBOX

THE SCIENCE OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE JUNE 2, 2013 Photo Credit: http://www.hightimes.com/

Recent figures show the libertarian claim that the ‘war on drugs is being lost’ is becoming less and less credible Guy Bentley recently argued on this site that “Theresa May has shown a lack of courage and integrity by denying the British people the chance to have an open debate on drugs based on evidence”, because she has dismissed the suggestion of a royal commission to consider the legalisation of drugs. This was followed by the familiar claim that the Government is ‘losing the war on drugs’, although I doubt very much that Theresa May or any other government minister does describe government policy as a ‘war’.

Bentley argues that “36 percent of adults had used an illegal drug in their lifetime; and nine percent of adults used illegal drugs in the last year. Hardly a success.” But look at these figures the other way round: 64 per cent of adults have never used an illegal drug in their lifetime. 91 per cent of adults have not used an illegal drug in the last year. Hardly a failure.

As Bentley himself recognises, heroin and crack cocaine addiction is at a record low, with the number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England below 300,000 for the first time since these records began. Part of the reason for this is that UK drug policy is not simply criminalisation without anything else, or a ‘war’, but has included a major expansion of treatment for drug addiction. Bentley described this progress as a ‘modest fall’, but if you look at the younger generation, the improvements are even more striking. According to recent Home Office analysis, the proportion of those aged 16 to 24 that have ever taken illicit drugs has fallen from 54 percent in 1998 to 38 percent in 2012. Among those aged 11 to 15, the figure has fallen from 29 percent to 17 percent. Those aged 16 to 24 who have taken any illegal drug in the last year has fallen from 30 percent in 1996 to 19 percent in 2012. For the use of Class A drugs in the last year, the proportion has fallen from 9 percent to 6 percent.

So much for the argument that prohibition is doomed to fail and that the ‘war on drugs’ is ‘plainly being lost’. These figures are rather inconvenient for the legalisation lobby.

And so much for the argument that ‘everybody tries drugs’ when they are young. Instead, it seems that a combination of education, treatment, deterrence and socioeconomic factors is driving drug use down.

What those who advocate the legalisation of drugs need to explain is how they think legalisation would make the situation any better. They like to use figures to suggest that the ‘war on drugs’ is failing (although the figures no longer fit the argument), but in doing so they seem to implicitly recognise that drug use is a problem.

Advocates need to explain therefore how legalising drugs is the answer. Does anyone honestly think that legalisation would lead to less, rather than more, drug use?

Bentley argues that these reductions in illegal drug use are balanced out by an increase in the use of ‘legal highs’. But legalisation would make all drugs ‘legal highs’, and would be most likely to lead to a substantial increase in their use. Bemoaning the increasing use of legal highs – which are so easily available because they are legal – hardly seems to support the argument that all other drugs should be made legal too.

As mentioned above, treatment for drug addicts has been expanded in recent years, and often works in conjunction with the criminal justice system. If drugs were not illegal, and no one was ever arrested for possession or for drug-dealing, how many fewer of these addicts would be given treatment at all?

Similarly, advocates of legalisation seem to imagine that if drugs were legalised, all the problems associated with their use would magically disappear. And as the author of ConservativeHome’s ‘Deep End’ column recently put it:

“Liberals seem to imagine that, upon a change in the law, thousands of decent, upright citizens will suddenly come forward to serve the community as caring, responsible pimps and drug dealers who pay their taxes, recognise unions and recycle their rubbish. After all, why become a teacher or a doctor when you could be persuading vulnerable young people to sell their bodies or buy your crystal meth?”

Bentley eventually comes on to the libertarian argument for legalisation, which seems to be the real reason he is advocating it, rather than any conviction that the ‘war on drugs’ is failing and that legalisation is somehow a better approach to dealing with drug use as a problem.

But if drugs were made legal as a matter of principle, then would prescription drugs also be made freely available for people to privately buy? Presumably lots of health and safety and consumer protection laws would also have to be scrapped, along with all laws against selling poisons and toxic and dangerous substances. It would now be legal to sell people toxic substances for the purpose of poisoning themselves.

Libertarians who argue that drugs should be legal as a matter of principle should stop hiding behind the claim that they somehow have a better solution to dealing with drugs as a problem, as though their case is based on pragmatism and experience rather than ideology.

The obvious reality is that they would believe drugs should be legalised whether drug use was getting better or worse. And as recent figures show, their claim that the ‘war on drugs is being lost’ is becoming less and less credible.

Peter Cannon is a Conservative councillor in Dartford, Kent

Filed under: Law (Papers) :

A personal view by David Raynes

 

The background to and an account of the hearing, in London on 5th February 2008, of evidence to the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. It met to take this evidence on re-classifying cannabis to Class B from C under the UK system.

There is surely hardly an observer of drug politics in the world who does not know that the UK, four years ago, surprisingly downgraded cannabis from B to C. under our A to C classification system of potential harm, (Also used to establish social sanctions against use & trafficking). With only a short debate in parliament, the issue was driven through by Home Secretary David Blunkett (now out of government) who had only weeks before, entered the UK Home Office as the responsible Minister.  The issue was noticed and claimed around the world as a victory for the drug legalisation lobby who clearly thought this was a step on the way to their nirvana of legal dope for all. Such an action would have been unthinkable for Blunkett’s predecessor Jack Straw (still in Government). Perhaps Prime Minister Blair took his eye off the domestic ball; bogged down over Iraq, he gave Blunkett his way while apparently we are now told, “having real doubts” himself. Thus are we governed.

The downgrading reverberated around and beyond the English speaking world; such is the power of the internet.  Some lobbyists lied about it, saying the UK had made cannabis legal. It had not, it had messed up, confusing the anti-use message and, strangely, had to put up the penalties for trafficking all Class C drugs because Blunkett had apparently not appreciated his proposed action held the danger of making Cannabis trafficking a minor crime compared to tobacco trafficking. Politically unsustainable. He swears now to this writer he had no external influences on him. Foreign readers may not know he is blind. Does his denial of external influence during his arrival briefing and subsequently before his announcement, sound credible?

Cannabis downgrading (and ultimately legalisation) had been heavily pushed in the UK, since the mid 90s, by a small but noisy, largely London based, media lobby. The downgrading and even legalisation issue was taken to the heart of an educated elite, perhaps fearful their kids might get arrested for pot smoking and not overly concerned about the wider social consequences of cannabis use, especially on the socially disadvantaged.

The statutory body that advises government on drugs, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) had also advanced the downgrading issue. A report from the “Police Foundation” (not much to do with the Police) led by Baroness Runciman also contributed to this new golden age of pro-pot haze and muddled thinking. A current Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, then a senior Policeman, made his own timely contribution by announcing the relaxing of the policing of cannabis the day before a pro-pot march. The scene was set. South London lapsed into a drugs no-mans land of dealers in all illegal substances. Great work! Really helpful to anxious parents. A real mess of confusing signals.

A couple of oddball Chief Constables added their pro-drugs bit and in all the UK parliamentary parties there were similar odd (but minority) contributors to the general nonsense. None of these people thinking through exactly how this idea would further damage Britain’s already bad drug using culture. Rank and file Police Officers, the key top scientists and many experienced drug workers, of course opposed the changes but were ignored. David Blunkett astonishingly refused to see six top scientists & doctors who strongly opposed his downgrading.

The UK continued to develop one of the biggest drug problems in Europe. We have difficulties with all drugs, legal or illegal. In a separate earlier action in 1999, focussing on “the drugs that cause most harm” (I always wonder who thought up that phrase), UK Customs had stopped targeting cannabis imports and the UK was flooded with the stuff, much of it Moroccan Cannabis Resin and according to users, of poor quality. The price after 2000 dropped as supplies increased, “Blunkett’s Blunder” in downgrading took effect three years later.  “Age of first use” dropped alarmingly as did “age of first regular use”. Reportedly, kids–often pre teen were/are using cannabis on the way to school, at school and on their way home. The effect of this is that these kids become un-teachable, discipline breaks down, they fail academically, some drop out of education, they are forever damaged. Many, too many, become mentally ill, some diagnosed psychotic, others below formal diagnosis as mentally ill, are nevertheless unable to really contribute to society and cause huge distress to their families. The unemployment or mentally disabled register looms for many, their jobs taken by educated hard-working Poles and others from Eastern Europe. The government becomes seriously worried. Alarm bells ring in the Department of Social Security and in the Department of Health, both now picking up the pieces of the very wrong Home Office policy. The downgrading policy is looking expensive and socially damaging.

Out on the streets, the imported poor quality cannabis resin was gradually replaced by home grown and Dutch “sinsemilla” or “skunk” cannabis, this getting progressively stronger but strength alone being only one of several contributing factors to damage.. Frequency of use and age of first use is also important, and, in the view of this writer, so is the different ratio of THC to CBD in this new fresh, home grown “super-weed”. The belief is that CBD moderates the effect of THC on the brain.

A new Home Secretary, (Blunkett having left government), took over and anxiously asked the ACMD for advice –yet again, on cannabis classification. The ACMD resorted to “return-to-sender” for this enquiry after a half-hearted review where, according to inside information, there was no vote merely a decision by the Chairman, Sir Michael Rawlins and a round the table “chat”. Dissent in the ACMD, is not encouraged our spies tell us; the ACMD members, all of them, have only negligible knowledge of the drugs market. The self-selection of new members keeps out those who oppose liberalisation so plainly, the internal debate is and can only be, very one-sided.  Perhaps the Home Office should ensure more balance?

No change then, the cannabis problem for teenagers and pre-teens gets worse. In 2007 the spin doctors and even Ministers take comfort in figures from the British Crime Survey which shows a slight reduction in cannabis use at ages 16 to 24. No one other than this writer mentions this is simply because cannabis for older young people is becoming unfashionable and gets replaced by cocaine, crack-cocaine and (particularly) gross & physically damaging alcohol consumption. Government has allowed 24 hour alcohol licensing despite widespread public concern.  Cocaine use in the UK has also zoomed up. The infection spreads to Ireland, that society develops a similar drug habit.

The regular discovery of organised Cannabis Farms, a new phenomenon in the UK (although known elsewhere, for example in Canada) and an entire new industry in the UK since “Blunkett’s Blunder”, goes unexplained, Cannabis use is down we are emphatically told. When this writer challenges this and points to the farms, one joker (A Professor and a pro-pot lobbyist) suggests the UK is a substantial exporter of cannabis. A statement that defies belief, there is no evidence of such a thing, not substantial anyway. Things are spiralling out of control. Britain is a nation of sick young people; drugs of all sorts are cheaper than ever, youth is more affluent than ever. Prime Minister Tony Blair, architect of “Blair’s Britain” and now being blamed for “Blair’s Feral Youth” is forced from office in the autumn of 2007, largely over Iraq and his handling of the Middle East but his party and most other people are basically just sick of him. This writer tells the media that the cannabis market has widened and deepened, the totality of use is higher. If it is not, where is the output of the cannabis farms going?

A new broom and a largely new group of Government Ministers take over in autumn 2007. Gordon Brown as new Prime Minister is a dour Scot, son of a church Minister he sets a different social tone to Blair and just maybe, has more integrity and social conscience. Consideration is suddenly being given to abandoning plans for giant casinos; 24 hour drinking is being reviewed, so is cannabis policy. Brown appoints a new Home Secretary, Jacquie Smith, first woman in that position. She is a self confessed experimenter with pot at University but all credit to her, she and Brown, together, take a different tone on drugs issues. She is after all a mum and mums (good for them) are driving a new national wave of sustained protest about kids being mentally damaged by pot. Brown signals he is minded to re grade cannabis to where it was, back to Class B, ending the confusion and sending clear messages about the harms. Smith refers the issue once again, back to the ACMD. The implication, clear beyond any doubt, is that Brown and Smith want, and will have, cannabis re-graded even if the ACMD do not support it. On the fringes of the ACMD there are dark mutterings about resignations if their views are ignored. Some observers may think that would be a good thing.

So we arrive at 5th February 2008. The ACMD is forced; reluctantly it seems, to hold some of its hearings in public (Why not all in public you might ask-Parliament is after all in public). It arranges a one day hearing in the City of London. Public access is limited because numbers are limited and prior application and approval are needed.  Questions to witnesses by members of the public are strictly forbidden though there is a short public comment/question session at the end.

Chairman Sir Michael Rawlins runs a tight ship, ACMD members call him “Sir”, he calls them by their first names. Very few ACMD members ask questions. Of those that do the most active seem to do it to show how clever they are, not, particularly, to illuminate the real issues. We get no indication or feel for what most members think at all. There is a pre-occupation with the penalties for drugs use & possession, not the science and social science of harm-potential and the actuality in the country. Arguably the very things that should most concern this committee. Astonishing.

Early witnesses from the Forensic Science Service and GW Pharmaceuticals confirm that herbal cannabis seizures (home grown) in the UK, are gradually getting much stronger in THC and that this new form of the drug contains hardly any CBD, leaving the effects of strong THC unconstrained. Resin we are told, long the staple of the UK market, is declining in market share and historically had almost equal amounts of THC & CBD. More work is needed on the issue of CBD but it is plain that by selection, a much higher THC-containing product is gradually taking over the market. It will continue to do so. Other academic witnesses on the potential mental health effects tell us that CBD may be “anti-psychotic”. The absence of CBD may therefore be aggravating the mental damage from the stronger THC. The new selected cannabis may be two or three times stronger, certainly not the 10 or 20 times of the tabloid press and even some over zealous commentators on my side of the debate. Cannabis is not homogeneous and techniques are available in the market to sieve it and extract a higher THC product. The mental health ill effects are more marked in young men; by 2010 cannabis use will be implicated in 25% of schizophrenia cases. Professor Robin Murray has spoken of 1500 cases a year, very expensive to treat and of course this is only the clinically diagnosed.

The most telling early witnesses are from “SANE” & “Rethink”, both mental health charities. Marjorie Wallace from SANE talks of the “confusion about legality & safety” and that cannabis is implicated in 80% of 1st episode psychosis. She says, “Only re-classification can counter the mixed messages”. There is then, an immediate and astonishing outburst from Chairman Sir Michael, angry, venomous, red-faced. (This is a really serious scientific approach, observe and learn I think to myself?) He barks out, “Are you really wanting people to go to prison for five years for possession”

Any minor confidence one might have had in a dispassionate scientific appraisal, led by Sir Michael at least, surely evaporated. His remarks are nonsense of course and misleading of the ignorant. Sentencing guidelines and historical fact show that imprisonment for just personal use possession, of any illegal drug, hardly occurs in the UK. Why bother with the facts when you are Chairman of such an important meeting, advising government, confident, despite the evidence, that you know best? Does the Home Office know he is behaving like this?

The position of “Rethink” is truly hard to fathom. They accept all the harms of cannabis, indeed they tell us about them, yes they are getting worse but to them, re-classifying so that the public can understand this better, is astonishingly not important. To this observer they seem to have been “got at” by someone, so perverse is their position. Is their funding being threatened if they take a more robust view?  Their position is surely odd especially seen in the light of the remarks by Wallace. This observer smells something very wrong indeed. They are in the same business as SANE, or ought to be. Just what is going on?

Professor Louis Appleby, National Director of Mental Health for the Department of Health gives an impressive presentation, he is clear about the mental harm, we hear of patient suicides and homicides, figures trip out, “68% had taken cannabis”, we (as a society) are “guilty of complacency” (about cannabis), “causal factor”, “benefits from re-classification”. “health perspectives” and much more. Professor Appleby is hugely convincing. He is in no doubt at all that re-classification is needed. One is encouraged that here, at last, we have a public servant being so clear about what is needed and why.

Another presentation about the physical harms is convincing that in cannabis there are all the harms of tobacco and more. Talk of head & throat cancers, early emphysema etc. A second presentation about cannabis & driving illuminates the fact that cannabis is now by far the most common drug found in those arrested under the Road Traffic Act. Cannabis influenced drivers exhibit “poor road tracking” & “divided attention”.

Debra Bell of the “Talking about Cannabis” mum’s pressure group then speaks, together with another mum, an anonymous Barrister, whose own family life, like Debra’s has been severely and permanently damaged by teenage cannabis use. Promising young people damaged mentally and permanently, we are told. Educational under-achievement, wasted years. We are told of the thousands of hits on Debra’s website, the families feeling “let down” by government and the ACMD, the widespread feeling that cannabis use has become acceptable and that parents and teachers were undermined by Blunkett’s downgrading.  Debra tells of the phone calls, parents at their wits-end, desperate and helpless in the face of kids who say cannabis is not so bad, “the government downgraded, it must be OK”. Some kids who even think it is legal. These mums must really worry Prime Minister Brown. These are articulate and educated people, they are not going to give up. They are also voters. These are the people we need to take the campaign against cannabis use forward. They bring a new focus to the battle.

M/s Cindy Burnett. Representing the Magistrates Association & Youth Courts. She is very convincing, she and colleagues are “worried about the message”, “downgrading sent the wrong message”, “caused confusion”. “unnecessary”, “poor effect on health”, “increased addiction”, “ youthful “addiction to cannabis”, “downgrading had a bad effect”, “shoplifting driven by drug addiction” (cannabis), “wrong in principle”, “badly handled”, “downward spiral”, need for Youth courts to be supportive. All strong stuff. The ACMD listen in silence, are they taking it in? Who knows?

A few government apparatchiks from the Home Office talk about their wonderful publicity campaign, they show some clips, fancy indeed but have they worked? How could these adverts turn back the bad effect of downgrading? Like swimming against a strong current. Such stuff keeps people in work but will probably have little effect.

The next speaker is Professor Simon Lenton from the National Drug Research Institute of Australia, his presence confuses, just why is he, particularly him here? I notice he pops up later in the programme again on behalf of The Beckley Foundation, (run by our disgraced ex Deputy Drugs Czar Mike Trace who resigned from the UN when exposed as linked with the George Soros inspired legalisation campaign and “Open Society”). I wonder who has paid Lenton’s fare, was it George? He can afford it. I certainly hope it was not UK public money.

Again, I ponder just why his presence is allowed by Sir Michael.

Lenton is badly briefed about the UK debate and absolutely confused; he addresses us on “The impact of the legislative options for Cannabis”. He seems to think that the lobby against cannabis and for re-classification in the UK is from people who want to “lock users up”; he is more concerned about the social sanctions than about the adverse effects. He does not appear to understand that those who want cannabis upgraded, re-graded to where it historically was, are quite prepared to examine different social sanctions, we know, everyone knows, the UK cannot arrest its way out of our drug problem.  Does he not know the pressure is about putting cannabis back where it belongs? To send a signal about the real harms. To start to change the damaging culture created around use, by the downgrading.

Is Lenton a closet legaliser cloaked in fine words, hiding his real intentions? I “Google” Lenton when I get home and check my files. Yes I thought I had heard of him from Australian friends. As I suspected, keywords, legalisation, Lindesmith, International Harm reduction, support for changes to the UN Drug Conventions etc, need I go on? That and the link with Trace tell me enough.

Does Sir Michael Rawlins understand this chap is a covert pro pot lobbyist? Does the Home Office know the witnesses have been rigged like this?

Steve Rolles from Transform, the UK’s main drug legalisation lobby group (for legalising of all drugs) speaks to us. I know him well and away from this subject can enjoy his company. He is a bright guy. His thunder has been stolen by Lenton he complains! Yes Steve we are having views like yours laid on pretty thick are we not? Is this deliberate? Is Sir Michael rigging all this stuff, does he understand it? If not him just who is rigging it? Legalisation is not up for discussion any more so just why does Transform get a slot (Debra Bell nearly did not!). Steve though admits “Cannabis is more harmful than we thought”. Well more harmful than you thought Steve, my view has been consistent since I met my first pot-heads in the 60s. My allies have always said Blunkett got it wrong, indeed the World Health Organisation indicated the mental harms of pot in its 1997 report.   Rolles advises the ACMD to concentrate on a “Scientific Harm Assessment”. Yes, I can live with that; as long as they take in all harm not just harm to the individual. Yes and they should remember that defining the social penalties for use or trafficking are not what they (the ACMD) are about, leave that to others. Rawlins passion about that penalty issue nags at me.

Do the ACMD silent members (maybe most of them) know they are being manipulated? Again, does the Home Secretary know about this? This loading the witnesses with legalisers when that is not on any agenda is surely verging on the corrupt. No wonder they want to keep out those of a different view. I reflect that it is apparent there are at least two other days of private hearings, just who are this group listening to then?  Would a “Freedom of Information” request flush it out? Can Jacquie Smith just ask? Will she? Perhaps, I muse, she will if she gets a copy of my note.

The penultimate speaker is Simon Byrne Assistant Chief Constable Merseyside Police. He is the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on cannabis. He is a reassuring and sensible figure, ACPO have changed their view, they are seeing the problems with youngsters on the ground, and, picking up the pieces. He is also not interested in locking youngsters up; he wants early intervention, guidance to youngsters and strong signals sent out that use is potentially very damaging. Byrne tells us there have been 2000 cannabis farms found in England & Wales in the last few years since downgrading, that this is a huge new criminal industry since “Blunketts Blunder” (though he does not call it that). Illegal immigrants, often Vietnamese are involved; it is taking up lots of police time. UK based readers may remember downgrading was partly sold as saving police time.  Byrne speaks of confused public views on cannabis; he and his colleagues are now strongly for re-classification to B. Re-classification would reinforce the perceptions of harm. Is anyone listening?

Next witness is Lenton again, this time on behalf of Beckley Foundation.  “Is cannabis use a contributory cause of psychosis”? He is reading a presentation prepared by Wayne Hall & Robin Room.  Yes it is a cause, and more, 1 in 10 users become dependent. Really? Age of first use is important. Well we agree. We just do not agree on a part of the solution, telling the public the truth by classifying the cannabis in the right place.

There is a brief open forum, I manage to chide Lenton for his ignorance about the reasons behind the desire for re classification, I speak about parents and supporting them, telling the truth about cannabis, there is applause from some of the public.  An ACMD member says they are not forgetting the individual sad cases they have heard about (from the mums), he looks at me, he is, I think, defensive, a man with a conscience. I remind the ACMD that Robin Murray’s 1500 schizophrenia cases a year are the tip of an iceberg, there are a quarter of a million people under 35 unable to work and claiming sickness benefits through mental illness, often associated with drug use.  There are thousands of others not in the statistics because their illness is not clinically diagnosed; the prisons are full of those who are said to be mentally ill.

A few other speakers, first a mum, then a legalise cannabis advocate, and more, it comes to an end. It is over. Lenton follows me and speaks to me outside. He is uneasy and edgy.  We debate changing the UN conventions, he wants it, I do not. The best kept international conventions of all I say. Their strength is in the fact that everyone keeps to them. I know but he appears not to, that the UK Government has explicitly said it wishes no change in the conventions. He wants “more freedom for States to do their own thing”. What are those things I say, what can states not do that you want them to do? We in the UK have prescribed heroin for years to a minority of users, the British system. He struggles to answer. He wants the Dutch to be able to deal with and control, (legitimise he means), their cannabis growers. Why I ask? Do neighbours want that? Does he not understand that one European country can not do that independently of the rest? Do the Dutch, most of them, even want that? (We know from an opinion poll that 70% do not want it). I remind him that Dutch drug policy has made the Netherlands, which is a first world country and economy, have a third-world drugs manufacturing, warehousing and distribution problem. Astonishing levels of drugs based criminality feeding ATS (amphetamine type substances) to the whole world, including Australia. . He has no other ideas when challenged. He is plainly not used to being properly challenged. Why is someone with his views here, in this meeting, priming people who are going to advise our government? Who invited him?

As I travel home, I reflect, we have heard very strong messages about the harms of cannabis, is the ACMD about to change its position? I very much doubt it. They seem to be set in their ways, closed off to the harms, controlled tightly by Rawlins, most of them not taking part in the debate. I remember the question “do users mix cannabis with tobacco”. Quite extraordinary, he is in another world.

We have though, I think, seen the cannabis legalisation argument holed below the waterline; they will keep trying but that legalisation debate is surely over in the UK. If it is really over here perhaps it will be over everywhere else. What happens in the UK is of enormous influence because of the English language and the Internet.

Will UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jacquie Smith re classify cannabis even if the ACMD is not with them? Yes probably. They will have the support of most MPs; the Conservative parliamentary opposition is supporting it. Even some important Liberal Democrats including the then leader (our third party) who have historically been weak and wrong on drug policy have been seen at Debra Bell’s meetings, that is really good. They are also getting the cannabis harm message.  Drug Policy is best when all parties are in broad agreement. Britain’s drug policy failure can I think, be tracked back to the breaking of that unanimity in the mid 90s.

Prime Minister Brown has “made his views clear” on cannabis, he said that this week at “Prime Ministers Questions” in the House of Commons. Brown has widely been accused by his opponents of dither and “government by review”, of putting off decisions. On this I think, based on the evidence, he means business.

David Raynes.

Member. International Task force on Strategic Drug Policy

http://www.itfsdp.org/members.php

Executive Councillor National Drug Prevention Alliance UK

February 2008

HIGH POINT, N.C. — For over three months, police investigated more than 20 dealers operating in this city’s West End neighborhood, where crack cocaine was openly sold on the street and in houses. Police made dozens of undercover buys and videotaped many other drug purchases.
They also did something unusual: they determined the “influentials” in the dealers’ lives — mothers, grandmothers, mentors — and cultivated relationships with them. When police felt they had amassed ironclad legal cases, they did something even more striking: they refrained from arresting most of the suspected dealers.
In a counterintuitive approach, police here are trying to shut down entire drug markets, in part by giving nonviolent suspected drug dealers a second chance. Their strategy combines the “soft” pressure from families and community with the “hard” threat of aggressive, ready-to-go criminal cases. While critics say the strategy is too lenient, it has met with early success and is being tried by other communities afflicted with overt drug markets and the violence they breed.
Overt drug markets — street-corner dealing, drug houses, and the like — constitute one of the worst scourges of poor communities. Such markets foment violent clashes between dealers, as well as robbery by addicts desperate for drug money. Property values suffer. Businesses and families move out — or avoid moving in. Many residents who remain feel under siege. Police often rely on sweeps — mass arrests of street-level dealers — to eradicate drug-related crime. But those rarely provide more than short-term relief. In High Point, police believe that the combination of extensive investigation of the entire market and community involvement has helped solve the problem.
In May 2004, after accumulating evidence in the West End, police chief James Fealy invited 12 suspected dealers to a meeting at the police station, with a promise that they wouldn’t be arrested that night. Encouraged by their “influentials,” nine showed up.
In one room, they met with about 30 clergy, social workers and other community members who confronted them with the harm they were doing, implored them to stop dealing, and offered them help. The suspects, however, “were slouching in their seats and one guy even seemed to be dozing off,” recalls Don Stevenson, pastor of a local congregation, the First Reformed United Church of Christ. “Their attitude was, ‘This is just another program and it will blow over.'”
Then the alleged dealers moved to a second room where they encountered a phalanx of law-enforcement officials: police, a district attorney, an assistant U.S. attorney, and representatives of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and others. Around the room hung poster-size photos of crack houses that had been the dealers’ headquarters. In front of each alleged dealer was a binder, laying out the evidence against him or her. There were even arrest warrants, lacking only the signature of a judge.
The law-enforcement officials made an ultimatum: stop dealing or go to jail. Several suspected dealers with violent records had already been arrested and were facing maximum charges. The same fate, officials emphasized, awaited anyone in the room who returned to dealing drugs. The district attorney promised to seek the maximum possible sentences, and the assistant U.S. attorney threatened to bring federal charges, which, he stressed, don’t allow for parole. Police from surrounding areas warned them against trying to relocate operations, noting that their names were flagged on statewide law-enforcement computers.
Rev. Stevenson recalls that the alleged dealers “seemed to be paying a lot more attention.”
The West End street drug market closed “overnight” and hasn’t reopened in more than two years, says Chief Fealy, who was “shocked” at the success. High Point police say they have since shut down the city’s two other major street drug markets, using the same strategy.
Police in neighboring Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as Newburgh, N.Y., have deployed the strategy with success, and word is spreading. Encouraged by the National Urban League, which wants to see the approach replicated nationwide, police departments in Tucson, Ariz., Providence, R.I., Kansas City, Mo., and elsewhere are gearing up to try it.
“It’s the hottest thing in drug enforcement,” says Mark A. R. Kleiman, a University of California, Los Angeles professor who specializes in illicit drug issues and isn’t involved in the project.
Some police and prosecutors object to the approach.
“Why not slam ’em from the beginning and forget this foolishness?” says Karen Richards, county prosecutor in the Fort Wayne, Ind., area. The Urban League tried to convince her and the Fort Wayne police to try the strategy, but Ms. Richards didn’t support it. She draws a distinction between addicts, who she believes should get social support, and dealers, who she believes deserve incarceration. “Drug dealers are drug dealers,” she says. “They won’t have an epiphany and end up as model citizens.”
In Winston-Salem, many officers at first dubbed the initiative “hug-a-thug,” though few do so now that they’ve seen it in practice.
In High Point, the West End neighborhood had been a major drug market for almost 15 years, with 16 known crack houses operating at the start of the initiative. A traffic jam began almost every afternoon, as buyers, many destined for homes in the suburbs, converged on the area seeking crack, according to residents and police.
Charlie Simpson, who owns and operates a radiator-repair shop in the West End, says he frequently saw drug dealers “on all four corners, selling drugs out of their pockets.” The dealing drove away business “because women were afraid to come, men didn’t want to bring their wives, plus they didn’t want to leave their car overnight.”
The neighborhood of modest clapboard bungalows became the city’s crime capital. Lucille Dennis, 89, who has lived in the West End for half a century, says that before the initiative, she suffered three break-ins within a year and a half, and she stopped sitting on her porch for fear of getting robbed.
After the West End initiative, violent crime — defined as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, prostitution, sex offenses, and weapons violations — dropped. More than two years later, violent crime remains more than 25% lower in the area, according to police statistics. Since the initiative, there hasn’t been a single murder or rape reported in the West End. “I don’t know exactly how to phrase it,” Mrs. Dennis says, “but you just don’t see as many people riding around doing nothing.”
It isn’t clear how well such an approach would work in big cities, which have much higher absolute numbers of crimes. High Point has about 90,000 residents and Winston-Salem has 190,000. In Kansas City, a city of about 500,000, Police Chief James Corwin says, “Will it work in Kansas City? I don’t really know.” His police department has almost finished the undercover investigation of a drug market it has targeted.
The initiative hasn’t eradicated illegal drug use — and it doesn’t aim to. “This is not a war on drugs,” says Chief Fealy. Rather, he says, the goal is to shut down overt drug markets because “street-level dope-dealing is what drives a significant amount of crime.”
The police had been trying to drive dealers out of the West End for years. “We were actually doing a sting every month in [West End] making dozens of arrests,” says High Point Assistant Police Chief Marty Sumner. “But the market persisted.”
It’s a pattern seen nationwide. In a report published last year by the American Enterprise Institute, authors David Boyum and Peter Reuter point to government statistics that show arrests per dollar of cocaine and heroin sold in the U.S. soared tenfold from 1981 to 2001. Moreover, the percentage of arrests that led to incarceration also shot up; in 2001 more than half the inmates in federal prisons were convicted of drug crimes, up from just 5% in 1981. Yet, during that same two-decade period, the street price of cocaine and heroin, measured in constant dollars, dropped by two-thirds, suggesting it isn’t more difficult to deal. Indeed, the authors estimated that the risk of arrest per individual cocaine sale is less than one in 15,000.
When police do sweep in, Chief Fealy says, they often capture “targets of opportunity” — dealers who are easy to nab. Hardened dealers expect dragnets, so they rarely conduct sales themselves or have significant amounts of drugs in their possession.
Drug dragnets can actually worsen the problem, because some residents resent the heavy-handed tactics, which can inflame racial tensions. Many community members “wonder whose side are the police on,” says Janet Zobel of the National Urban League. Either out of a sense of futility or suspicion, many residents stop cooperating with the police.
The High Point strategy was the brainchild of David Kennedy, a 48-year-old professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the 1990s, when he was at Harvard University, Mr. Kennedy helped develop Boston’s anti-gang strategy, a community-involvement approach credited with drastically reducing violent crime.
But the drug initiative was a much harder sell. Mr. Kennedy says he had been trying for more than five years to convince police departments across the country to try it. When Mr. Kennedy first approached Winston-Salem, “We all told him he was crazy,” says Police Chief Patricia Norris. Mr. Kennedy says he would ask, “When do you think what you’re doing now is going to start working?”
Chief Fealy took to the idea the first time he heard it in 2003. He came to High Point from Austin, Texas, where he had been assistant chief and commanded the security detail for then-Gov. George W. Bush.
Before his job interview in High Point, Mr. Fealy drove around the city and was struck by the open drug dealing. “It was just so blatant and in-your-face,” he says. Poring through crime statistics, he saw “well over 60% of our homicides were directly drug-related, and almost 100% of our person-on-person robberies.” He decided to give Mr. Kennedy’s idea a try.
First, police crunch data to find the “hot spots” most plagued by violent and drug-related crime. Then they engage in months of undercover research to understand the local drug market and identify the players — big and small. Police are accustomed to spending months undercover only to nab a major criminal, such as an organized-crime boss. “So putting three months’ work into investigating 20 corner rock dealers” normally would be considered a waste of time, Assistant Chief Sumner says.
But there is a payoff. “A market is something that requires a large number of actors,” says Mr. Reuter, who is an economist as well as an illicit-drugs expert. “If can you can get all the actors out, you can disrupt the system.”
Randy Dejournette, one of the alleged dealers invited to come to the second-chance meeting at the police station in 2004, says “everybody’s gone” from the streets in the West End — and that’s one reason he says he doesn’t deal now. “I’m not going to go out there by myself and sit on the corner and look dumb.”
The High Point police knew who were the lookouts, the runners, the petty dealers and the big wheels. Analyzing the overall market led them to suppliers they might not have found otherwise. Assistant Chief Sumner points to Kevin Cotton, a six-foot-two man with a tattoo that read “thug life,” who was a major source of drugs in a neighborhood targeted by police. An informant told them that he not only supplied dealers, but robbed and intimidated them. He “controlled the market,” Mr. Sumner says. But because he didn’t live in the area, “we probably never would have focused on him.” Police made enough undercover buys to warrant federal charges, then arrested Mr. Cotton because they felt his record was too violent for him to be offered a second chance. He’s now serving 20 years in federal prison.
Arresting violent offenders is one key to making the initiative work. It removes the dominant actors in the market and sets a powerful example. But the other key is that police refrain from arresting suspects who haven’t become hardened, violent criminals. These are often young people — Mr. Dejournette, for example, was 19 when he was invited to the second-chance meeting. For them, police try to implement a communitywide intervention, choreographed to send three clear messages: If they return to dealing, they’ll go to jail; their community will help them turn their lives around but won’t tolerate drug crime any longer; and the police and community are working together to combat dealing.
At the second-chance meeting, police lay out their evidence in a deliberately theatrical way. The Winston-Salem police edited hours of undercover surveillance footage into a short video that showed each suspect making at least one sale. “Raise your hand when you see yourself committing a felony,” the prosecutor told the suspects, according to two people who were there. They started raising their hands, and “that was a thing of beauty,” police captain David Clayton recalls. “They knew we had ’em.”
Alleged dealers are told that they have been put on a special list. “Every one of my assistants has your name,” the district attorney told the suspects at the West End meeting. “And if they don’t prosecute you as aggressively as they can, I’ll fire ’em.” Even the public defender — who would likely represent them in court — warned that the cases were so tight there would be virtually nothing he could do to help them.
Immediate enforcement bolsters that message. The three suspected dealers who didn’t attend the West End community meeting were arrested the next day. One person who attended the meeting but tried to sell drugs days later was also arrested. Police and community groups advertised the arrests by posting fliers throughout the neighborhood with pictures of the suspects.
The threat of going to jail is coupled with a message of support from locals. Jim Summey, pastor of the West End’s English Road Baptist Church and a leader in the community’s anticrime crusade, sums up the message: “We are against what you’re doing, but we’re for you.”
Mr. Dejournette recalls, “We wasn’t expecting that….It did make an impression on me.”
So did something deeply personal: the fact that his mother, Annette Dejournette, was, in her words, “disappointed,” “ashamed” and “hurt” by her son’s actions. She convinced him to attend the meeting even though he had been afraid it was a ploy to arrest him.
Ms. Dejournette works as a clerk in a thrift shop. Money is tight, and often the electricity or phone will get cut off, her son says. “Momma be sitting back crying and stressing, and that make me want to go back outside [on the streets] and really do something to stop my momma from crying, but she the one who talks me out of it.”
The fact that the police are giving nonviolent dealers a second chance has encouraged community cooperation. West End residents have been increasingly calling police to report minor offenses, such as truancy or drunkenness. Ms. Dejournette says she went up to several police officers and city officials and “thanked them for trying to help my son.”
The Winston-Salem neighborhood where the approach was launched last year has proved tougher. The area, centered on the Cleveland Avenue Homes housing project, has fewer community institutions, such as churches, than West End does. Turnover in its public housing is extremely high. Mattie Young, 78, president of the Cleveland Avenue Homes residents’ council for almost 18 years, says the initiative eradicated open drug dealing during the first four months. But since then, she says, it has begun to creep back, especially at night.
Police captain David Clayton says that much of the new dealing may be due to one “very dangerous individual” recently identified by residents, whom police are seeking. Still, comparing the year before the initiative to the year after, major property crimes, such as robbery and burglary, dropped by 35%, according to police figures.
In the three neighborhoods where High Point has implemented the initiative, a total of 40 alleged dealers attended the second-chance meetings. Since then, six have been arrested for dealing. Another 10 have been arrested for various other crimes, from robbery to possession of marijuana. The rest — 24 out of 40 — have stayed clear of the law, police say.
After a dispute with his boss, Mr. Dejournette lost a job with the city parks department. Now, he says, “I fill out applications, but I never get that call back.” He works odd jobs, many through a brother who does construction, but he doesn’t make the $200 a day he says he made running errands for dealers. In April, Mr. Dejournette was arrested but not charged for a nondrug offense, so he is “teetering on the edge,” as Assistant Chief Sumner puts it.
Latisha Fisher, 32, of Winston-Salem, says she had been dealing drugs on and off since she was 15. After going to a community meeting and seeing herself on a police undercover videotape, she took her second chance. Her first job was at a fast-food restaurant. The pay: $6.50 an hour. “I toughed it out” for eight months, she says. “My church and family helped me.” This summer, she landed a job on an assembly line manufacturing earth excavators, making $8.50 per hour.
Yon Weaver, a High Point city employee who helps ex-offenders or suspects find jobs, says only 10 to 15 companies in the area are willing to hire people convicted of a crime. Of the 40 suspected dealers called in to the community meetings, about 10 contacted his office for assistance. He knows three have found jobs. Some suspected dealers have simply dropped out of sight. Police say they don’t think dealers merely relocated, because no new drug hot spots have emerged since High Point’s three markets closed.
Rev. Stevenson says the alleged dealers “are still God’s people, and I want them to do well and have productive, law-abiding lives.” But noting that two murders took place within a block of his church before the initiative, he doesn’t gauge the effort’s success by whether dealers turn their lives around.
“It sounds a little ugly,” he says, “but my first priority is the community.”

By MARK SCHOOFS

Source: WallStreetJournal online. Sept. 27th 2006

A Nation Descends into Violence

By Mathieu von Rohr

The Mexican government has been using the army to fight the nation’s drug cartels for about four years. It isn’t working. Some critics say the army is part of the problem, even if the occasional mission removes a kingpin. But President Felipe Calderón has no one else to trust.
Ivana García didn’t flee when two headless bodies were found in front of the city hall, nor did she leave when a body without arms or legs was hanging above a downtown square. But when fighting erupted on the street in front of her house, when mercenaries working for the drug cartels began firing their Kalashnikovs from armored vehicles, and when house-to-house skirmishes went on for hours, as if Ciudad Mier were a town in Afghanistan, not bordering the United States, she had no choice but to flee. In fact, almost the entire population, about 6,000 people, left Ciudad Mier. When they realized there was no one to protect them — no government, no army — they packed their belongings and left their homes.
Ciudad Mier used to be an inconspicuous Mexican municipality on the Rio Grande River, consisting of a colonial center and a few rectangular blocks of houses. Now it is known throughout the country as a ghost town — one of those symbolic places that exist all over Mexico. Each of these towns can tell the story of a nation descending into violence.
Horrific, but Commonplace
One of them is Ciudad Juárez, where more than 3,000 murders were committed this year alone, making it the most violent city in the world. Criminals battle each other in broad daylight in the resort town of Acapulco. In the village of Praxedis, a 20-year-old woman became police chief because no one else dared to accept the job. On a ranch in northern Mexico, a 77-year-old man shot and killed four of the gunmen who had been sent to kill him, only to be murdered by the rest. He was celebrated as a hero. Horrific news reports have become commonplace in Mexico. Some 29,000 people have died in drug wars within the past four years, and this year the number of killings doubled to about 12,000. An astonishing 98 percent of the crimes committed in Mexico remain unpunished.
It has been four years since President Felipe Calderón came to office promising to defeat the cartels, multibillion-dollar organizations that supply the United States, the world’s largest drug market, with cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and marijuana. Calderón mobilized 45,000 soldiers and federal police officers for his campaign. There was no one else he could trust, including local police forces and governors. The army is his only reliable tool.
There have certainly been many spectacular arrests. Famous drug kingpins were arrested or killed, including the leader of the “La Familia” cartel, who died earlier this month. But have these successes weakened the drug cartels? There are few indications that this is the case.
At first, many citizens saw the violent excesses as the beginning of a necessary evil. Recent opinion polls, however, show that a majority now opposes the government’s strategy. The newspapers are filled with reports of kidnappings, blackmail and beheadings. There are blogs that specialize in publishing photos of severed limbs taken with mobile phones.
It is easy to picture the savagery with which this war is being waged. But it is more difficult to understand why the violence doesn’t stop, what its causes are and what can be done about it. Could the legalization of drugs be the answer, as some experts suggest? Or maybe more border controls? Would a new national police force and a reform of the government solve the problem? Or is it best to simply leave the cartels alone, which for years was the government’s policy?
These are the questions that Mexico is asking itself in 2010, the 200th anniversary of the beginning of its war of independence. The filmmaker Luis Estrada has given his native country a bitter film for its anniversary: “El Infierno” (Hell). It is the portrait of a world consisting of nothing but narcos, whores and corruption. “We have a national problem, and it’s called impunity,” says Estrada, a soft-spoken man with glasses and a gray beard. “People who break the law aren’t punished. That’s why many believe that honesty doesn’t pay. We Mexicans are in hell, that’s for sure. I just don’t know which pit of hell it is at the moment.”

A Ghost-Town Census

It is a hot day in late November, and Ivana García has screwed up the courage to return to Ciudad Mier for the first time since she left. She walks through the abandoned streets of the town that was once hers, a 34-year-old woman in jeans, wearing gold-plated earrings and carrying a plastic purse. The army has hired her to count the number of people still living in the town, but there are few left to count. They offered her 700 pesos, or €42 ($55) a week. She was afraid to take the job, but she needed the money to pay the exorbitant rent for her apartment in Ciudad Alemán, the next town, where she now lives.
García and two other young women walk from house to house, knocking on doors that no one opens. The few people they encounter couldn’t afford to leave or are very old. The questionnaires the women have brought along in clear plastic binders include questions about income and the remaining residents’ opinions about safety. They represent the government’s clumsy attempt to demonstrate that it still exists. Two dozen soldiers follow the women, on foot and in pickup trucks armed with machine guns, securing the streets. Most of the houses they pass are riddled with bullet holes. Starving dogs slink across the dirt roads.
Some 400 people still live in a refugee camp in the next town. They have been there for more than four weeks, and most do not want to return to Ciudad Mier. They say that when the army withdraws, in a few weeks or months, the whole thing will start again.

‘Some States Remind Me of Afghanistan’

Ciudad Mier is in the northwestern panhandle of the state of Tamaulipas, a narrow strip of land bordering Texas. It is one of the areas some experts compare to failed states. One expert, Edgardo Buscaglia, who specializes in drug-related organized crime, is currently working in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In a telephone interview, he said he had stopped using the expression “Colombianization” to describe what’s happening in Mexico. “There are now areas in some states that remind me of what I see here in Afghanistan,” he said. Narcos, or drug dealers, control about 12 percent of Mexican territory, according to some estimates.
There are no longer any police officers or mayors in large sections of Tamaulipas and the northern part of Nuevo León, two states in northeastern Mexico. They were either killed or have fled, and now the narcos operate checkpoints on the streets.
The two drug cartels that are at war in Tamaulipas were allies until a year ago: The Gulf cartel and its paramilitary arm, the Zetas. Here, the term drug war isn’t just a metaphor for a series of gang murders, as it is in Ciudad Juárez. Instead, it describes a level of almost military violence between cartels, which send armies of adolescent “sicarios,” or killers, into battle, often better equipped than soldiers in the Mexican army.
A Code of Silence
The mayor of Ciudad Mier, a perfumed man who wears his shirt open at the chest, is standing in the town hall. He says he cannot give an interview, or else — and he runs his finger across the neck of this reporter to demonstrate what could happen to him if he did. The citizens of his town want to talk, but they also want to remain anonymous. There has always been drug smuggling here, they say, and the Zetas have always been in power. In a town where there was hardly any work for young men, the drug lords were able to entice recruits with the promise of fast money, cocaine and the prettiest girls.
Their villas, built in the ornamental narco style, with gilded railings and decorative columns, are still standing. The owners fled when the Zetas broke with the Gulf Cartel, and today they live in the United States or in Mexico City. There was a victory parade of sorts when the Gulf Cartel captured the town on Feb. 22. A motorcade of 60 SUVs and pickup trucks carrying heavily armed fighters drove into the streets of Ciudad Mier.
They killed five police officers that had worked for the Zetas, beheaded a police chief and a female drug dealer, and laid out the remains on the village square. After that, say local residents, the new gangs were friendly. Unlike the Zetas, they said hello to people on the street. But the fighting wasn’t over yet. In mid-October, Ivana García found a dead Zeta fighter on the street. She had never seen the man. He must have been a mercenary from somewhere else, she thought, a young man wearing brown trousers and with a muscular torso. He was lying in a pool of blood.
On Nov. 2, the Zetas returned, driving 40 heavily armored SUVs with gun barrels poking out of their sides. The ensuing battle wore on for days and nights, killing many, and leading to the departure of residents and the arrival of the army.
The soldiers stalking along behind García as she walks through Ciudad Mier hold their rifles at the ready, as if someone could shoot at them at any moment. They storm suspicious-looking houses. The hooded commander says that he doesn’t know whether all of the bandits were driven out. The government of Tamaulipas claims the town is now safe and has called upon the local population to return to their homes. By the end of her first day of work, García has counted six inhabited houses.

‘Narco Saints,’ Money and Girls

Almost no other business in the world is as lucrative as the drug trade. The United Nations estimates that $72 billion (€55 billion) worth of drugs are sold each year. Cocaine is the most profitable of all drugs. Cocaine paste costs $800 a kilo (2.2 pounds) in Colombia, and in Chicago a buyer pays $100 a gram. The price goes up by 12,400 percent along the way. Mexican cartels smuggle an estimated 192 tons to the United States each year.
There are seven drug cartels in Mexico. While alliances often change, almost all the groups have their origins in Sinaloa, a state on Mexico’s west coast known as the birthplace of the narcos. The area is home to Joaquín Guzmán, also called El Chapo, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. He’s the world’s most glamorous drug lord, as evidenced by the fact that Forbes includes him on its list of the wealthiest people in the world. (No one, however, has access to his bank statements. Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, is the Rotterdam of the cocaine trade, the place where prices are set. It lies between the Pacific Ocean and the green hills of the Sierra, where farmers grow marijuana and opium poppies. It is a friendly-looking city of 600,000 with whitewashed homes, though Culiacán has the second-highest murder rate in the country.
For the past two years, El Chapo has been battling his former allies, the Beltrán Leyva brothers. It is a war of kings, and when author Elmer Mendoza tells the story, it sounds like a Greek tragedy. Mendoza, 61, is a bearded, soft-spoken man born in Culiacán, where his crime novels are set. He portrays this world so realistically that some accuse him of being a narco author.
“I’ve been hearing their legends since I was a child,” he says. “These people had bigger houses and the most beautiful girls, and sometimes songs were even written in their honor.” There is a folk hero in Sinaloa, Jesús Malverde, who is known as the “narco saint,” a Robin Hood who took from the rich and gave to the poor. Many believe that El Chapo is his revenant, a hero of the people. Mendoza says that what is happening to his country is terrible. “But as an author, I admire people who do extraordinary things. Isn’t there something epic about bringing a shipment of cocaine from Medellín to Los Angeles?”

Culiacán, Ground Zero

The gang war that originated in Culiacán and eventually engulfed half the country began on Jan. 21, 2008, when the army arrested the drug lord Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, known as El Mochomo, in a simple house in the Tierra Blanca neighborhood. Did El Chapo tip off the army? Convinced that he did, the Beltrán Leyva brothers brought Zeta mercenaries into the city and began killing everyone who worked for him, including police officers, judges, politicians and journalists.
These people had believed that El Chapo would protect them, but then the Zetas shot and killed one of his sons in a shopping center parking lot. “People began to doubt their hero. They were afraid,” says Mendoza. “Isn’t that beautiful, from a purely literary point of view?” The author stands in the cemetery of Culiacán, the narcos’ final resting place. The graveyard is a city of marble and domed mausoleums known as Jardines del Humaya. It’s the size of several football fields, and it continues to grow.
They’re all buried here, side-by-side — the drug lords and their rivals, their children and the 18-year-old killers who, at the end of their brief lives, were at least able to afford some measure of splendor. The larger than life-sized portraits of young men with hard features hang in giant, 10-meter-tall mausoleums, next to pictures of their girlfriends and their weapons.
Nowhere in Culiacán is the power of the drug cartels as palpable as it is here. This is their temple city, and anyone who desecrates their graves can expect to receive death threats from the scouts and guards before long.
The Absent Government
Why isn’t El Chapo, the most powerful of all drug lords, in prison? He’s been living in a secret location for years. Is the government incompetent, or is it protecting a cartel? Many credible people believe the government has an agreement with the drug lord. Some believe that it is trying to solve the violence problem by handing over the drug trade to one cartel. In a recently published book, investigative journalists Anabel Hernández claims that former President Vicente Fox allowed El Chapo to escape from a maximum security prison in 2001 in return for a payment of $20 million. According to Hernandez, the Calderón government knows his whereabouts, but instead of arresting him it is eliminating his enemies.
There are many rumors and conspiracy theories in Mexico. What is perhaps most remarkable about them is what people believe their government to be capable of. They have little faith in federal institutions, which are weak. Mexico has been a real democracy only for the last 10 years, after being controlled for 70 years by a single party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRI protected organized crime, but also held it in check.
President Calderón declared war on the cartels, but he lacked the necessary tools. The police are corrupt at almost every level, and in some communities they’re identical with the ruling cartel, which helps to explain why so many municipal officers are murdered. The justice system is also viewed as corrupt. There are no independent prosecutors, and charges are never brought in many cases, because they are handled poorly or because defendants buy their way out.
The army is the only institution that Calderón can trust, although the story of Ciudad Mier reveals how ineffective it is. Soldiers can occupy a territory, but they cannot investigate or penetrate the structures of a cartel. According to security consultant Alberto Islas, a cartel is like a logistics company with a military arm. Instead of scrutinizing the structures, the government becomes embroiled in skirmishes with 18-year-old foot soldiers.

A ‘Decapitation Strategy’

The government has hardly any functioning investigative agencies. Mexico receives key information from US government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Americans provide the army with information on the whereabouts of drug lords, allowing the Mexican soldiers to capture or kill them. This “decapitation strategy” produces reports of successes, but no real success. The cartels quickly replace their leaders.
The massive deployment of the military also poses a threat to society. Throughout Mexico, soldiers have been accused of hundreds of cases of human rights violations and torture, even murder. Critics say the large number of military operations is responsible for the violence in the first place, because it has destroyed equilibriums and triggered turf wars across the country.
The army cannot solve Mexico’s real problems — poverty, lack of education and weak government. Most experts agree on how Mexico ought to liberate itself. The only question is whether anyone has the political power to do it.
The country is a long way from being a stable democratic society, says Luís Astorga, a social scientist in Mexico City. The biggest challenge, according to Astorga, is to create a constitutional state strong enough to resist the power and money of the cartels. This requires nonpartisan political will; but Astorga says representatives of the three major parties all have their hands in the drug business. Astorga says he does not believe the government is cooperating with a cartel. But as long as there are no independent judges, he believes, there will always be rumors and speculation.
Many yearn for simple solutions; they believe in a return to the days when the cartels were allowed to do as they pleased. Even some high-level politicians say privately that the problem is drug consumption in the United States, and that it’s time to legalize marijuana. But the cartels are involved in up to 22 other types of crimes as well, including film piracy, human trafficking and extortion.
Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution in Washington says that bringing in the army was unavoidable, but that what is important now is to finally develop a functioning police force. Mexico does have plans for a national police reform, but they are making slow progress Edgardo Buscaglia, the expert on drug-related crime, and his team studied 17 countries that have successfully fought organized crime. He says that all of them took the same four important steps.
• First, says Buscaglia, comes a reform of the judicial system.
• Second, laws are needed to fight corruption in politics, because 70 percent of all election campaigns in the country are partially financed with drug money.
• Third, Mexico must investigate the flow of funds from the drug trade into the economy. According to Buscaglia, 78 percent of the Mexican economy has ties to the drug cartels.
• Finally, social programs are needed for young people, as the Colombian city of Medellín has demonstrated. Such programs are meant to turn young people’s attention away from a life working for the cartels — a life that can end quickly.

Taking Back Mexico, With PowerPoint

There are many ideas, but who is there to implement them?
Javier Treviño, the lieutenant governor of Nuevo León, has a plan that consists of a large number of PowerPoint slides. He wants to eliminate violence in Monterrey, the city where he lives, and in the surrounding state. Treviño, a short man with a moustache and glasses, speaks English with an American accent. He studied at Harvard, then worked as a diplomat and later in private industry, before he entered politics. He’s one of the few people in Mexico who have not lost faith in the ability of politics to shape the country.
Perhaps it is also a question of honor for Monterrey, Mexico’s wealthiest city. Located in the northeastern part of the country, 140 kilometers (88 miles) south of the US border and surrounded by mountains on three sides, Monterrey resembles an American city, with its glass and marble office towers. Many of the country’s most important companies are headquartered there.
It came as a shock to the city’s affluent citizens when, at the beginning of the year, members of the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel suddenly started shooting each other on their streets. The battle being waged in Ciudad Mier had moved to the middle of Monterrey, an economic center that was always immune to chaos elsewhere in Mexico. Many of the wealthy left town, or even the country — including the publisher of the country’s most important newspaper, La Reforma, who fled to Dallas.
Treviño is proud of the 29 slides in his presentation, which he shows to every visitor. His plan includes all the elements the think tanks have deemed necessary: social programs and reforms of the judiciary and the criminal code. The state of Nuevo León has also established a statewide police force that it hopes will finally be clean and effective. The officers will be required to take regular lie-detector tests. They will be paid well enough to end their dependence on bribes; they will receive scholarships for their children.
Nuevo León is to become a model for all of Mexico, says Treviño. It sounds like an effective plan. And who knows? It might even work. Once it is implemented, there might be at least one state in Mexico with a functioning police force. Treviño wants to make a start by strengthening institutions and society, and what better place to launch such an effort than Monterrey, the most advanced city in the country?
He continues clicking through his slides. The next one shows the country’s highway network. Two of the five main highways in the north are colored dark red, which means that they are safe for travel. The goal for 2011, says Treviño, is to make the three other highways safe as well.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Source: www.spiegel online 23rd Dec. 2010

By Douglas B. Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D.
Chief of Science & Policy

Effectiveness

More research has been published on the effects of adult drug courts than virtually all other criminal justice programs combined. By 2006, the scientific community had concluded beyond a reasonable doubt from advanced statistical procedures called meta-analyses2that drug courts reduce criminal recidivism, typically measured by fewer re-arrests for new offenses and technical violations. The Table below summarizes the results of five independent meta-analyses all reporting superior effects for drug courts over randomized or matched comparison samples of drug offenders who were on probation or undergoing traditional criminal case processing. In each analysis, the results revealed that drug courts significantly reduced crime rates by an average of approximately 8 to 26 percent, with the “average of the averages” reflecting approximately a 10 to 15 percent reduction in recidivism.
Because these figures reflect averages, they mask substantial variability in the performance of individual drug courts. Approximately three quarters of the drug courts (78%) were found to have significantly reduced crime (Shaffer, 2006), with the best drug courts reducing crime by as much as 35 to 40 percent (Lowenkamp et al., 2005; Shaffer,
2006). In well-controlled experimental studies, the reductions in recidivism were shown to last at least three years post-entry (Gottfredson et al., 2005, 2006; Turner et al., 1999), and in one study the effects lasted an astounding 14 years (Finigan et al., 2007).
In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO, 2005) similarly concluded that drug courts reduce crime; however, relatively little information was available at that time about their effects on other important outcomes, such as substance abuse, employment, family functioning and mental health. In response to the GAO report, the National Institute of Justice sponsored a national study of adult drug courts, entitled the Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation (or MADCE). The MADCE compared outcomes for participants in 23 adult drug courts located in seven geographic clusters around the country (n = 1,156) to those of a matched comparison sample of drug offenders drawn from six non-drug court sites in four geographic clusters (n = 625). The participants in both groups were interviewed at entry and at 6 and 18-month follow-ups, and provided oral fluid specimens at the 18-month follow-up. Their official criminal records are also being examined for up to 24 months.

The 6 and 18-month findings were presented at the 2009 Annual Conference of the American Society of Criminology (Rempel & Green, 2009; Rossman et al., 2009). In addition to significantly less involvement in criminal activity, the drug court participants also reported significantly less use of illegal drugs and heavy use of alcohol3. These self-report findings were confirmed by saliva drug tests, which revealed significantly fewer positive results for the drug court participants at the 18-month assessment (29% vs. 46%, p < .01). The drug court participants also reported significantly better improvements in their family relationships, and non-significant trends favoring higher employment rates and higher annual incomes. These findings confirm that drug courts elicit substantial improvements in other outcomes apart from criminal recidivism.

Cost-Effectiveness

In line with their positive effects on crime reduction, drug courts have also proven highly cost-effective (Belenko et al., 2005). A recent cost-related meta-analysis concluded that drug courts produce an average of $2.21 in direct benefits to the criminal justice system for every $1.00 invested — a 221% return on investment (Bhati et al., 2008). When drug courts targeted their services to the more serious, higher-risk offenders, the average return on investment was determined to be even higher: $3.36 for every $1.00 invested.

These savings reflect measurable cost-offsets to the criminal justice system stemming from reduced re-arrests, law enforcement contacts, court hearings, and use of jail or prison beds. When more distal cost-offsets were also taken into account, such as savings from reduced foster care placements and healthcare service utilization, studies have reported economic benefits ranging from approximately $2.00 to $27.00 for every $1.00 invested (Carey et al., 2006; Loman, 2004; Finigan et al., 2007; Barnoski & Aos, 2003). The result has been net economic benefits to local communities ranging from approximately $3,000 to $13,000 per drug court participant (e.g., Aos et al., 2006; Carey et al., 2006; Finigan et al., 2007; Loman, 2004; Barnoski & Aos, 2003; Logan et al., 2004).

Target Population

No program should be expected to work for all people. According to the criminological paradigm of the Risk Principle, intensive programs such as drug courts are expected to have the greatest effects for high-risk offenders who have more severe antisocial backgrounds or poorer prognoses for success in standard treatments (e.g., Andrews & Bonta, 2006; Taxman & Marlowe, 2006). Such high-risk individuals ordinarily require a combined regimen of intensive supervision, behavioral accountability, and evidence-based treatment services, which drug courts are specifically structured to provide.

Consistent with the predictions of the Risk Principle, drug courts have been shown to have the greatest effects for high-risk participants who were relatively younger, had more prior felony convictions, were diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, or had previously failed in less intensive dispositions (Lowenkamp et al., 2005; Fielding et al., 2002; Marlowe et al., 2006, 2007; Festinger et al., 2002). In one meta-analysis, the effect size for drug court was determined to be twice the magnitude for high-risk participants than for low-risk participants (Lowenkamp et al., 2005). In a county-wide evaluation of drug courts in Los Angeles, virtually all of the positive effects of the drug courts were determined to have been attributable to the higher-risk participants (Fielding et al., 2002).

Fidelity to the 10 Key Components

In fiscally challenging times, there is always the pressure to do more with less. This raises the critical question of whether certain components of the drug court model can be dropped or the dosage decreased without eroding the effects. The “key components” of drug courts are hypothesized to include a multidisciplinary team approach, an ongoing schedule of judicial status hearings, weekly drug testing, contingent sanctions and incentives, and a standardized regimen of substance abuse treatment (NADCP, 1997). Each of these hypothesized key components has been studied by researchers or evaluators to determine whether it is, in fact, necessary for effective results. The results have confirmed that fidelity to the full drug court model is necessary for optimum outcomes — assuming that the programs are treating their correct target population of high-risk, addicted drug offenders.

Multidisciplinary Team Approach

The most effective drug courts require regular attendance by the judge, defense counsel, prosecutor, treatment providers and law enforcement officers at staff meetings and status hearings (Carey et al., 2008). When any one of these professional disciplines was regularly absent from team discussions, the programs tended to have outcomes that were, on average, approximately 50 percent less favorable (Carey et al., in press). In other words, if any one professional discipline walks away from the table, there is reason to anticipate the effectiveness of a drug court could be cut by as much as one half.

Judicial Status Hearings

Research clearly demonstrates that judicial status hearings are an indispensible element of drug courts (Carey et al., 2008; Festinger et al., 2002; Marlowe et al., 2004a, 2004b, 2006, 2007). The optimal schedule appears to be no less frequently than bi-weekly hearings for at least the first phase (first few months) of the program. Subsequently, the frequency of status hearings can be ratcheted downward; however, it appears that status hearings should be held at least once per month until participants have achieved a stable period of sobriety and have completed the intensive phases of their treatment regimen
.
Drug Testing

The most effective drug courts perform urine drug testing at least twice per week during the first several months of the program (Carey et al., 2008). Because the metabolites of most common drugs of abuse remain detectable in human bodily fluids for only about one to four days, testing less frequently can leave an unacceptable time gap during which participants can use drugs and evade detection. In addition, drug testing is most effective when it is performed on a random basis. If participants know in advance when they will be drug tested, they may adjust their usage accordingly or take other countermeasures in an effort to beat the tests.

Graduated Sanctions & Rewards

The pervasive perception among both staff members and participants in drug courts is that sanctions and incentives are strong motivators of positive behavioral change (Lindquist et al., 2006; Goldkamp et al., 2002; Harrell & Roman, 2001; Farole & Cissner, 2007). Two randomized, controlled experiments have confirmed that the imposition of gradually escalating sanctions for infractions, including brief intervals of jail detention, significantly improves outcomes among drug offenders (Harrell et al., 1999; Hawken & Kleiman, 2009). Comparably less research has addressed the use of positive rewards in drug courts, but preliminary evidence suggests that tangible incentives may improve outcomes especially for the more incorrigible, higher-risk participants (Marlowe et al., 2008).
Substance Abuse Treatment

Longer tenure in substance abuse treatment predicts better outcomes (Simpson et al., 1997) and drug courts are proven to retain offenders in treatment considerably longer than most other correctional programs (Belenko, 1998; Lindquist et al., 2009; Marlowe et al., 2003). The quality of treatment is also a critically important consideration. Significantly better outcomes have been achieved when drug courts adopted standardized, evidence-based treatments, including Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT; Heck, 2008; Kirchner & Goodman, 2007), the MATRIX Model (Marinelli-Casey et al., 2008) and Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST; Henggeler et al., 2006); as well as culturally proficient services (Vito & Tewksbury, 1998). What all of these evidence-based treatments share in common is that they are highly structured, are clearly specified in a manual or workbook, apply behavioral or cognitive-behavioral interventions, and take participants’ communities of origin into account.

Conclusion

The scientific evidence is overwhelming that adult drug courts reduce crime, reduce substance abuse, improve family relationships, and increase earning potential. In the process, they return net dollar savings back to their communities that are at least two to three times the initial investments. The optimal target population for drug courts has been identified, and fidelity to several key ingredients of the drug court model has been demonstrated to be necessary for favorable results.

The challenge now is to extend the reach of adult drug courts without diluting the intervention below effective levels. Any program can be made cheaper simply by lowering the dosage or by providing fewer services to more participants. The difficult task is to maintain effectiveness in the process. Rather than drop essential components of the drug court model, research indicates that the better course of action is to standardize the best practices of drug courts so they can be reliably implemented by a larger number of programs, each serving a larger census of clients. This is the next great challenge for the drug court field.

Source: National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

References

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Barnoski, R,. & Aos, S. (2003). Washington State’s drug courts for adult defendants: Outcome evaluation and cost-benefit analysis. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
Belenko, S. (1998). Research on drug courts: A critical review. National Drug Court Institute Review, 1, 1-42.
Belenko, S., Patapis, N., & French, M. T. (2005). Economic benefits of drug treatment: A critical review of the evidence for policy makers. Missouri Foundation for Health, National Rural Alcohol & Drug Abuse Network.
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Carey, S. M., Finigan, M., Crumpton, D., & Waller, M. (2006). California drug courts: Outcomes, costs and promising practices: An overview of phase II in a statewide study. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, SARC Supplement 3, 345-356.
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Farole, D. J., & Cissner, A. B. (2007). Seeing eye to eye: Participant and staff perspectives on drug courts. In G. Berman, M. Rempel & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting Results: Research on Problem-Solving Justice (pp. 51-73). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
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Fielding, J. E., Tye, G., Ogawa, P. L., Imam, I. J., & Long, A. M. (2002). Los Angeles County drug court programs: Initial results. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 23, 217-224.
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Gottfredson, D. C., Kearley, B. W., Najaka, S. S., & Rocha, C. M. (2005). The Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court: 3-year outcome study. Evaluation Review, 29, 42-64.
Gottfredson, D. C., Najaka, S. S., Kearley, B. W., & Rocha, C. M. (2006). Long-term effects of participation in the Baltimore City drug treatment court: Results from an experimental study. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2, 67-98.
Harrell, A., Cavanagh, S., & Roman, J. (1999). Final report: Findings From the Evaluation of the D.C. Superior Court Drug Intervention Program. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
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Heck, C. (2008). MRT: Critical component of a local drug court program. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Review, 17(1), 1-2.
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Kirchner, R. A., & Goodman, E. (2007). Effectiveness and impact of Thurston County, Washington drug court program. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Review, 16(2), 1-4.
Latimer, J., Morton-Bourgon, K., & Chretien, J. (2006). A meta-analytic examination of drug treatment courts: Do they reduce recidivism? Canada Dept. of Justice, Research & Statistics Division.
Lindquist, C. H., Krebs, C. P., & Lattimore, P. K. (2006). Sanctions and rewards in drug court programs: Implementation, perceived efficacy, and decision making. Journal of Drug Issues, 36, 119-146.
Lindquist, C. H., Krebs, C. P., Warner, T. D., & Lattimore, P. K. (2009). An exploration of treatment and supervision intensity among drug court and non-drug court participants. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 48, 167-193.
Lipsey, M. W., & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Logan, T. K., Hoyt, W., McCollister, K. E., French, M. T., Leukefeld, C., & Minton, L. (2004). Economic evaluation of drug court: Methodology, results, and policy implications. Evaluation & Program Planning,27, 381-396.
Loman, L. A. (2004). A cost-benefit analysis of the St. Louis City Adult Felony Drug Court. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Applied Research.
Lowenkamp, C. T., Holsinger, A. M., & Latessa, E. J. (2005). Are drug courts effective? A meta-analytic review. Journal of Community Corrections, Fall, 5-28.
Marinelli-Casey, P., Gonzales, R., Hillhouse, M., et al. (2008). Drug court treatment for methamphetamine dependence: Treatment response and post-treatment outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 34, 242-248.
Marlowe, D. B., DeMatteo, D. S., & Festinger, D. S. (2003). A sober assessment of drug courts. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 16, 153-157.
Marlowe, D. B., Festinger, D. S., Dugosh, K. L., Arabia, P. L., & Kirby, K. C. (2008). An effectiveness trial of contingency management in a felony pre-adjudication drug court. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 41, 565-577.
Marlowe, D. B., Festinger, D. S., Dugosh, K. L., Lee, P. A., & Benasutti, K. M. (2007). Adapting judicial supervision to the risk level of drug offenders: Discharge and six-month outcomes from a prospective matching study. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 88S, 4-13.
Marlowe, D. B., Festinger, D. S., & Lee, P. A. (2004a). The judge is a key component of drug court. Drug Court Review, 4 (2), 1-34.
Marlowe, D. B., Festinger, D. S., & Lee, P. A. (2004b). The role of judicial status hearings in drug court. In K. Knight & D. Farabee (Eds.), Treating addicted offenders: A continuum of effective practices (chap. 11). Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.
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Rempel, M., & Green, M. (2009, November). Do drug courts reduce crime and produce psychosocial benefits? Presentation at the 2009 Annual Conference of the American Society of Criminology, Philadelphia, PA.
Rossman, S. B., Green, M., & Rempel, M. (2009, November). Substance abuse findings from the Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE). Presentation at the 2009 Annual Conference of the American Society of Criminology, Philadelphia, PA.
1 Updated 6/29/10
Meta-analysis is an advanced statistical procedure that yields a conservative and rigorous estimate of the average effects of an intervention. It involves systematically reviewing the research literature, selecting out only those studies that are scientifically defensible according to standardized criteria, and statistically averaging the effects of the intervention across the good-quality studies (e.g., Lipsey & Wilson, 2002).
3 “Heavy use” of alcohol was defined as = 4 drinks per day for women, and = 5 drinks per day for men.
Shaffer, D. K. (2006). Reconsidering drug court effectiveness: A meta-analytic review [Doctoral Dissertation]. Las Vegas: Dept. of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada.
Simpson, D. D., Joe, G. W., &Brown, B. S. (1997). Treatment retention and follow-up outcomes in the drug abuse treatment outcome study (DATOS). Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 11, 294-307.
Taxman, F. S., & Marlowe, D. B. (Eds.) (2006). Risk, needs, responsivity: In action or inaction? [Special Issue]. Crime & Delinquency, 52(1).
Turner, S., Greenwood, P. Fain, T., & Deschenes, E. (1999). Perceptions of drug court: How offenders view ease of program completion, strengths and weaknesses, and the impact on their lives. National Drug Court Institute Review, 2, 61-85.
U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2005). Adult drug courts: Evidence indicates recidivism reductions and mixed results for other outcomes [No. GAO-05-219]. Washington, DC: Author.
Vito, G. F., & Tewksbury, R. A. (1998). The impact of treatment: The Jefferson County (Kentucky) drug court program. Federal Probation, 62, 46-51.
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Filed under: Law (Papers) :

White House ‘drug czar’ Gil Kerlikowske lays out his most thorough arguments yet against marijuana legalization. They help clear up confusion over White House drug policy, and can serve as talking points for parents and officials.
The Obama White House has finally laid out its most thorough, reasoned rebuttal to arguments for marijuana legalization – countering a campaign that is gaining alarming momentum at the state level.
The president’s tough position was delivered in early March by his “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske, in a private talk before police chiefs in California – which is ground zero for this debate.
“Marijuana legalization – for any purpose – is a nonstarter in the Obama administration,” said Mr. Kerlikowske, a former police chief himself.
It’s almost certain that California voters will be asked in a November ballot initiative whether to allow local governments to regulate and tax marijuana (similar to taxes on sales of alcohol). Other states are considering similar proposals, which are really a backdoor way to legalize pot.
(For a Monitor news story on the California ballot initiative, click here)
Thirteen states have decriminalized the use or possession of small amounts of marijuana, which is not the same as legalizing it. Selling it is still illegal except in states where it is used for medical purposes. And under federal law, any sort of marijuana use or sale is a criminal offense.
The drug czar’s remarks are worth notice for two reasons. First, they provide needed talking points for those who oppose legalization but who can’t seem to make their message resonate in the face of a well-financed, well-organized pro-marijuana effort. Second, they help clear up confusion about the White House policy on legalization.
When Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that US law enforcement officials would neither raid nor prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries or those using them, states got mixed signals. Mr. Holder explained it as a matter of the best use of scarce federal law enforcement resources, which he didn’t want to expend in the now 14 states that have approved some use of medical marijuana.
But “a lot of people believe the administration is somewhat in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana,” says Scott Kirkland, police chief for El Cerrito, in the San Francisco Bay area. In California, the public, city council members, city managers, even police chiefs have “misinterpreted” the administration’s position, says Mr. Kirkland, the spokesman for marijuana issues for the California Police Chiefs Association.
The drug czar couldn’t have been more plain. On medical marijuana, which has strong public backing in opinion polls, the former Seattle police chief said that “science should determine what a medicine is, not popular vote.” As Kerlikowske pointed out, marijuana is harmful – and he has the studies to back it up. Read the footnotes in his speech; they’re sobering, especially No. 8.
(For a previous Monitor editorial on the perils of legalizing pot, click here)
Legalization supporters argue that no one has ever died from an overdose of this “soft” drug. But here’s what “science” has found so far: Smoking marijuana can result in dependence on the drug.
More than 30 percent of people who are 18 and over and who used marijuana in the past year are either dependent on the drug or abuse it – that is, they use it repeatedly under hazardous conditions or are imparied when they’re supposed to be interacting with others, such as at work. This is according to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Pot is also associated with poor motor skills, cognitive impairment (i.e., affecting the ability to think, reason, and process information), and respiratory and mental illness.
The recent “Pentagon shooter,” John Patrick Bedell, was a heavy marijuana user. The disturbed young man’s psychiatrist told the Associated Press that marijuana made the symptoms of his mental illness more pronounced. Mr. Bedell’s brother, Jeffrey, told The Washington Post that marijuana made his brother’s thinking “more disordered” and that he had implored him to stop smoking pot, to no avail.
Kerlikowske also effectively knocked down the argument that regulating and taxing marijuana is a great way for states to make money in these deficit-dreary times. Indeed, NORML, the lead group in the legalization movement, is set to launch a digital ad campaign in Manhattan’s Times Square next week: “Money CAN grow on trees!”
It’s a claim that’s too good to be true, just as the exclamation point implies. Look at the nation’s experience with regulated alcohol. America collects nearly $15 billion a year in federal and state taxes from alcohol. But Kerlikowske says that covers less than 10 percent of the “social costs” related to healthcare, lost productivity, and law enforcement. And what about lost lives? Let’s not add marijuana to the mix of regulated substances.
“The costs of legalizing marijuana would outweigh any possible tax that could be levied,” Kerlikowske explains. In the United States, illegal drugs already cost an estimated $180 billion annually in social costs, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. That number would increase as marijuana became more widely and easily available.
The Dutch – so often praised by marijuana advocates – have had to greatly ratchet back the number of legal marijuana outlets because of crime, nuisance, and increased pot usage among youth. Los Angeles, too, now sees the need to scale back the number of private dispensaries of medical marijuana. Many California towns have looked at L.A. and are saying “no” to dispensaries.
The California Board of Equalization, which administers the state’s sales tax, estimates $1.4 billion of potential revenue from a marijuana tax. Found money? Its reasoning is based on either “a series of assumptions that are in some instances subject to tremendous uncertainty or in other cases not valid,” according to an independent study by the RAND Corporation.
What’s too bad about the drug czar’s speech is that it was made behind closed doors at a venue not accessible to the press, then quietly put on the administration’s website. Given the confusion over the message, the White House needs to be far more outspoken about this.
President Obama himself needs to get more involved than simply letting his drug czar reveal this critical stance below the radar. As a high-profile parent, he can help other parents who are struggling to prevent their children from going down the rabbit hole of drug use. If one message can resonate in this debate, it’s that America’s young people are most vulnerable to the threat of legalization.
They are particularly sensitive to the price of pot (and prices will come down if pot is legalized). They’re the most influenced by societal norms (and public approval is growing). And they’re the ones most heavily engaged in studying and learning – a process that pot smoking can impair.
Individuals who reach age 21 without using drugs are almost certain to never use them. But according to a study by a leading source on young people and drugs, Monitoring the Future, marijuana use among teens has increased in recent years, after a decade of decline. Teens perceive less risk in use – not surprising when states approve of it as medicine. Risk perception greatly influences drug use among young people.
The risks of marijuana – and the wisdom of knowing that joy and satisfaction are not found in a drug – are lessons that Mr. Obama could effectively teach the nation. But even so, it can’t stop there.
The momentum, for now, is with those who want to legalize marijuana. They have been generously financed by a few billionaires, including George Soros, and make strategic use of the Internet and media.
It will take clear-thinking parents, teachers, local officials, faith leaders, and law enforcement officers to convincingly articulate why the march to legalization must be stopped. They can, if they use the kinds of reasonable and fact-based arguments that the nation’s drug czar has just laid out.
(To read Gil Kerlikowske’s speech, click here.)
Kerlikowske also effectively knocked down the argument that regulating and taxing marijuana is a great way for states to make money in these deficit-dreary times. Indeed, NORML, the lead group in the legalization movement, is set to launch a digital ad campaign in Manhattan’s Times Square next week: “Money CAN grow on trees!”
It’s a claim that’s too good to be true, just as the exclamation point implies. Look at the nation’s experience with regulated alcohol. America collects nearly $15 billion a year in federal and state taxes from alcohol. But Kerlikowske says that covers less than 10 percent of the “social costs” related to healthcare, lost productivity, and law enforcement. And what about lost lives? Let’s not add marijuana to the mix of regulated substances.
“The costs of legalizing marijuana would outweigh any possible tax that could be levied,” Kerlikowske explains. In the United States, illegal drugs already cost an estimated $180 billion annually in social costs, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. That number would increase as marijuana became more widely and easily available.
The Dutch – so often praised by marijuana advocates – have had to greatly ratchet back the number of legal marijuana outlets because of crime, nuisance, and increased pot usage among youth. Los Angeles, too, now sees the need to scale back the number of private dispensaries of medical marijuana. Many California towns have looked at L.A. and are saying “no” to dispensaries.
The California Board of Equalization, which administers the state’s sales tax, estimates $1.4 billion of potential revenue from a marijuana tax. Found money? Its reasoning is based on either “a series of assumptions that are in some instances subject to tremendous uncertainty or in other cases not valid,” according to an independent study by the RAND Corporation.
What’s too bad about the drug czar’s speech is that it was made behind closed doors at a venue not accessible to the press, then quietly put on the administration’s website. Given the confusion over the message, the White House needs to be far more outspoken about this.
President Obama himself needs to get more involved than simply letting his drug czar reveal this critical stance below the radar. As a high-profile parent, he can help other parents who are struggling to prevent their children from going down the rabbit hole of drug use. If one message can resonate in this debate, it’s that America’s young people are most vulnerable to the threat of legalization.
They are particularly sensitive to the price of pot (and prices will come down if pot is legalized). They’re the most influenced by societal norms (and public approval is growing). And they’re the ones most heavily engaged in studying and learning – a process that pot smoking can impair.
Individuals who reach age 21 without using drugs are almost certain to never use them. But according to a study by a leading source on young people and drugs, Monitoring the Future, marijuana use among teens has increased in recent years, after a decade of decline. Teens perceive less risk in use – not surprising when states approve of it as medicine. Risk perception greatly influences drug use among young people.
The risks of marijuana – and the wisdom of knowing that joy and satisfaction are not found in a drug – are lessons that Mr. Obama could effectively teach the nation. But even so, it can’t stop there.
The momentum, for now, is with those who want to legalize marijuana. They have been generously financed by a few billionaires, including George Soros, and make strategic use of the Internet and media.
It will take clear-thinking parents, teachers, local officials, faith leaders, and law enforcement officers to convincingly articulate why the march to legalization must be stopped. They can, if they use the kinds of reasonable and fact-based arguments that the nation’s drug czar has just laid out.
Source: www.csmonitor.com  By the Monitor’s Editorial Board / March 12, 2010

Scientific Research and Peer-Approved Trials Essential

SUMMARY:
Cannabis as grown would not meet the EU Rules’ for medical acceptability; UK is a signatory to these. It has already been rejected by several authorities, including the BMA. In particular, smoking as a means of delivery has been universally rejected. Extracts are under trial, but experience with the extract so far approved has been mixed; most doctors only use it as a last resort. Interest in cannabis comes in part from the genuinely ill, expectations having been raised by ‘recreational use’ lobbyists. Political or treatment expediencies must not compromise medical standards for safety and efficacy.

E.U. Rules [1] set out various criteria for the acceptance of a drug for medical use, these include:
1. All active ingredients have to be identified and their chemistry determined. They have to be tested for purity with limits set for all impurities including pesticides, microbes & fungi and their products. These tests have to be validated and reproduced if necessary in an official laboratory.
The cannabis plant contains some 400 chemicals, a multiplicity of ingredients that vary with habitat – impossible to standardise and often contaminated with microbes, fungi or pesticides.[2]
2. Animal testing will include information on fertility, embryo toxicity, immuno-toxicity, mutagenic and carcinogenic potential. Risks to humans, especially pregnant women and lactating mothers, will be evaluated.
Cannabis has been shown to reduce sperm production.[3] Babies born to cannabis-using mothers are smaller, have learning and behavioural problems and are 10 times more likely to develop one form of leukaemia.[4] The immune system is impaired.[5] Smoking herbal cannabis results in the inhalation of three times as much tar as from a tobacco cigarette.[6]
3. Adequate safety and efficacy trials must be carried out. They must state the method of administration and report on the results from different groups, i.e. healthy volunteers, patients, special groups of the elderly, people with liver and kidney problems and pregnant women. Adverse drug reactions (ADR) have to be stated and include any effects on driving or operating machinery.
Presumably it is envisaged that cannabis would be smoked. No medicine prescribed today is smoked. Concentration, motor.coordination and memory are all badly affected.[7] Changes in the brain have been observed[8] and U.S.A. clinics are now coping with more cases of psychosis caused by cannabis than by any other drug. It is essential to note that the content of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) is on average ten times higher than it was in the 1960s.[9] The fat.soluble THC lingers in the body for weeks [10] and the ability to drive safely is impaired for at least 24 hours after smoking cannabis. [11] Although ten times as many people use alcohol, cannabis is implicated in a similar number of road accidents. [12]
4. The drug must be accepted by qualified experts. Their detailed reports need to take account of all the relevant scientific literature and the potential of the drug to cause dependence.
There are numerous accounts of both psychological and physical dependencies in cannabis use. [13] Some 77000 people are admitted annually to hospitals in U.S.A for cannabis dependence, 8000 of them as emergencies. [14] To date there are over 12000 scientific publications relating to cannabis. [15]
THC has already undergone all the medical tests. It is available on prescription in tablet form for the relief of nausea from chemotherapy and appetite stimulation in AIDS patients. However Marinol (USA) and Nabilone (UK), synthetic forms of THC and identical in action to it, are not the first drugs of choice among oncologists in Washington D.C. ranking only 9th in the treatment of mild nausea and 6th for more severe nausea. [16] The warning on nabilone reads:
“THC encourages both physical and psychological dependence and is highly abusable. It causes mood changes, loss of memory, psychoses, impairment of co-ordination and perception, and complicates pregnancy”.
Other Cannabinoids: Cannabis contains around 60 cannabinoids that are unique to the plant. Some of these could be similarly extracted, purified and tested for safety and efficacy. In the report ‘Therapeutic Uses Of Cannabis’ (BMA, 1997) the British Medical Association said, “It is considered here that cannabis is unsuitable for medical use. Such use should be confined to known dosages of pure or synthetic cannabinoids given singly or sometimes in combination”

WHAT THE EXPERTS HAVE SAID
Dr. Eric Voth MD, FACP (Chairman of the International Drug Strategy Institute) said in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan 1997),

“Long term effects aside, contaminants, purity, standardisation of dose etc are all reasons to not use an impure herb as a medicine. Whether terminal or not, should we support smoking Foxglove plant to obtain Digoxin for heart failure, or Yew tree bark to obtain Taxol for breast cancer? If so, then supporters of smoked marijuana better be ready to support smoking tobacco for weight control and anxiety. We must have compassion for the sick and suffering and we must offer them reliable and quality medicine, not crude substances that threaten their well being”
Glaucoma: The pressure in the eye caused by this condition can be reduced by smoking cannabis but Professor Keith Green, Director of Ophthalmic Research at the Medical College of Georgia said some 6 ‘joints’ a day would be required, rendering the patient effectively ‘stoned’ and incapable of useful activities.
Multiple Sclerosis: Dr. Donald Silberg, Chief of Neurology, Pennsylvania school of Medicine said, “I have not found any legitimate or scientific works which show that marijuana is medically effective in treating Multiple Sclerosis or spasticity. The use of marijuana especially for long-term treatment would be worse than the illness itself”

DOES THE PUBLIC REALLY WANT THIS?

Nov 1996: Proposition 200 permitted physicians in Arizona to prescribe pure marijuana with no limitation on the age of the patient or disorder involved.

Jan 1997: A public opinion poll revealed that 85% of registered voters believed that proposition 200 should be changed and 60% wanted it repealed, 70% said it gave children the impression that drugs are OK for recreational use. [17]

HOW DID THE CAMPAIGN GET STARTED?

In 1979: Keith Stroup, an American pot-using lawyer, and the then head of NORML (National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws) said, “We will use the medical marijuana argument as a red herring to give pot a good name.” [18]

Early 1990s Richie Cowan, Stroup’s successor at NORML, echoed him when he said, “Medical marijuana is our strongest suit. It is our point of leverage which will move us toward the legalisation of marijuana for personal use.” [19]

A LAST WORD FROM DR. ERIC VOTH

“We cannot by-pass the usual safety and efficacy process of the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) because of the hue and cry of a self-preserving drug culture which seeks to add medicinal applications of marijuana, mixed messages of legalisation of illegal drugs, harm reduction and tolerance of drug use.” [20]

REFERENCES

1. The Rules Governing Medicinal Products in the European Union, Vols 2A & 2B. Europe Publications, Luxembourg, 1998.
2. Jenike MA. Drug Abuse. In Rubenstein E, Federman DD (eds) Scientific American Medicine, Inc. 1993. Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, BMA, 1997.
3. Issidorides MR. Observations in chronic hashish users. In Nahas GG & Paton WDM (Eds). Marijuana: Biological Effects &c. 1979. Stephanis CN & Issidorides MR. Cellular effects of chronic cannabis use in man. In Nahas GG & Paton WDM (Eds), Marijuana: Chemistry, Biochemistry and Cellular Effects. 1976. Nahas GG and Paton WDM (Eds). Marijuana: Biological Effects, Analysis, Metabolism, Cellular Responses, Reproduction and Brain. Pergamon, NY, 1979.
4. Hingson R, Alpert JJ, Day N et al. Effects of maternal drinking and marijuana use on foetal growth and development. Paediatrics. 1982. Quas QH, Mariano E, Milman DH et al. Abnormalities in offspring associated with prenatal marijuana exposure. Dev. Pharm. Thera. 1985. Day NL, Richardson GA, Goldschmidt L et al. Effect of prenatal marijuana exposure on the cognitive development of offspring at age three. Neurotox. Teratol. 1994. Fried PA & Watkinson B. 36 and 48 month neurobehavioral follow up of children prenatally exposed to marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol. Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics,1990. Robinson LL, Buchley JD, Daigle AE et al. Maternal drug use and risk of childhood non-lymphoblastic leukaemia among offspring: An epidemiological investigation implicating marijuana. Cancer. 1989. Ward NI et al. factors in human foetal development. Jour. Nutrit. Med. 1990.
5. Cabral GA. Marijuana decreases macrophage anti-viral and anti-tumour activities. Advances in Biosciences,
80. 1991. Cabral GA & Vasquez R. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol suppresses macrophage extrinsic anti-herpes virus activity. Proc. Exper. Biol. Med. 1992. Cabral GA et al. Proc. Soc. Exper. Med. Biol. 1986. Gross G, Roussaki A, Ikenberg H & Drees N. Genital warts do not respond to systemic recombinant interferon alfa-2 treatment during cannabis consumption. Dermatologia. 1991. Leuchtenberger C. Effects of marijuana smoke on cellular biochemistry, utilising in vitro test systems. Adverse health and behavioural consequences of cannabis use. Addiction Research Foundation Press. Toronto, Canada. 1982. Morahan et al. Effects of cannabinoids on host resistance to Listeria monocytogenes and Herpes simplex virus. Infect. Immunol. 23. 1979. Munson & Fehr. Immunological effects of cannabis. Adverse health and behavioural consequences of cannabis use. Addiction Research Foundation Press. Toronto, Canada. 1982. Polen MR et al. Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not use tobacco. Western Jour. Med. 158. 1993. Specter S, Lancz G, Djev J et al. Advances in Exper. Med. Biol. 1991. Zimmerman AM & Raj AY. Influences of cannabinoids on somatic cells in vivo. Pharmacology 21. 1980.
6. Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, BMA, 1997. Broom JW et al. Respiratory effects of non-tobacco cigarettes. BMJ, 1987. Caplan GA, Brigham BA. Marijuana smoking and carcinoma of the tongue. Cancer. 1990. Donald PJ. Marijuana and upper respiratory tract malignancy in young patients. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 1991. Ferguson RP, Hasson J & Walker S. Metastasic lung cancer in a young marijuana smoker. JAMA. 1989. Marijuana and Health. National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine Report. Washington DC. 1982. Marijuana Rescheduling Petition by NORML Denied by DEA. Federal Register Vol. 54, No 249. 29 Dec 1989. Polen MR et al. Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not use tobacco. Western Jour. Med. 158. 1993. Schwartz RH. American Journ. Dis. Child. 143(6); p 644. 1989. Tashkin DP et al. Respiratory symptoms and lung function in habitual smokers of marijuana alone, smokers of marijuana and tobacco, smokers of tobacco alone and non-smokers. American Review of Respiratory Diseases. 1987. Tashkin DP et al. Longitudinal changes in respiratory systems and lung function in non-smokers, tobacco smokers and heavy habitual smokers of marijuana with or without tobacco. An International Research Report. Proceedings of the Melbourne Symposium on Cannabis, September 1987 (see also Amer. Review of Respiratory Diseases, 1987). Taylor FM. Marijuana as a potential respiratory tract carcinogen: A retrospective analysis of a community hospital population. Southern Med. Jour. 1988. Tennant FS, Guerry RL & Henderson RL. Histopathological & clinical abnormalities of the respiratory system in chronic hashish smokers. Subst. Alcohol Actions Misuse. 1980 Wengen DF. Marijuana and malignant tumours of the upper aerodigestive tract in young patients: On the risk assessment of marijuana. Laryngorhinotologie. 1993.
7. Polen MR et al. Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not use tobacco. Western Jour. Med.158. 1993. Schwartz RH. Persistent impairment of short-term memory associated with heavy marijuana use.Committees of Correspondence – Drug Prevention Newsletter. June 1990. Solowij N, Michie PT & Fox AM Differential impairments of selective attention due to frequency and duration of Cannabis use. Biol. Psychiatry1995. Solowij N. Do cognitive impairments recover following cessation of Cannabis use? Life Sciences Vol. 56. 1995. Varma VK, Malhotra AK, Dang R, et al. Cannabis and cognitive functions: a prospective study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1988.
8. Devane WA et al. Isolation and structure of a brain constituent that binds to the cannabmoid receptor. Science.1992. Lex BW, Griffin ML, et al. Alcohol, marijuana and mood status in young women. International Journal of the Addictions. 1989. Mathew RJ. Middle cerebral artery velocity during upright posture after marijuana smoking. Acta Psych. Scand. 1992. Nahas GG. Historical outlook of the psychopathology of Cannabis. In Cannabis: Physiopathology, Epidemiology, Detection. CRC Press, 1993. Nahas G & Latour C. The human toxicity of marijuana. The Medical Journal of Australia. 1992.
9. Information supplied by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
10. Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, BMA, 1997. See also ref. 6.
11. Leirer VO & Yesavage JA. Marijuana carry-over effects on aircraft pilot performance. Aviation Space & Environmental Medicine. 1991.
12. Soderstrom CA, Tniffillis AL et al. Marijuana and alcohol use among 1023 trauma patients: A prospective study. Arch. Surg. Vol.123, June. 1988.
13. Information supplied on the use of MARINOL by Roxane Laboratories Inc., 1989 revision. Aceto MD et al. Cannabinoid-precipitated withdrawal by a selective antagonist SR141716A. European Journal of Pharmacology. 1995. Adams IB and Martin BR. Cannabis: Pharmacology and Toxicology in Animals and Humans. Journal of Addiction. Vol. 91. 1996. Anthony JC and Helger JE.Syndromes of drug abuse and dependence. In Roberts and Regine (Eds) Psychiatric Disorders in America. New York Free Press — Macmillan. 1991. Compton DR, Dewey WL & Martin BR. Cannabis dependence and tolerance production. Advances in Alcohol & Substance Abuse. 1990. Compton DR et al. Cannabinoid structure-activity relationships: correlation of receptor binding and in vivo activities. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 1993 De Fonseca FR, Camera MRA et al. Activation of corticotropin-releasing factor in the limbic system during cannabinoid withdrawal. Science. 1997. Devane WA et al. Determination and characterisation of a cannabinoid receptor in rat brain. Molecular Pharmacology. 1988 Devane WA et al. Isolation and structure of a brain constituent that binds to the cannabinoid receptor. Science. 1992. Gold MS. Marijuana. Plenum Medical Book Company, New York. 1989. Howlett AC et al. The cannabinoid receptor: biochemical, anatomical and behavioural charactenisation. Trends in Neuroscience. 1990. Jones. Cannabis tolerance and dependence. In Fehr KO and Kalant H (Eds) Adverse Health and Behavioural Consequences of Cannabis Use. Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto. 1982. Kaplan HB, Martin SS et al. Escalation of marijuana use: Application of a general theory of deviant behaviour. Jour. Health & Social Behaviour. 1986. Kaufman E et al. Committee on Drug Abuse of the Council on Psychiatric Services. Position Statement on psychoactive substance use and dependence: update on marijuana and cocaine. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1987. Miller NS and Gold MS. The diagnosis of marijuana (cannabis) dependence. Jour. Subst. Abuse Treatment. 1989. Miller NS, Gold MS & Pottash AC. A 12-step treatment approach for marijuana (cannabis) dependence. Jour. Substance Abuse Treatment. 1989. National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre of Australia Report. August 1997. Poulton et al. New Zealand Medical Journal. Vol.110. 1997. Schuster CR. Alaskans for Drug-free Youth Newsletter. Winter, 1993/94. Schwartz RH. Marijuana: an overview. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 1987. Tanda G, Pontieri FE & Di Chiara G. Cannabinoid and heroin activation of mesolimbic dopamine transmission by a common m1 opioid receptor mechanism. Science. 1997. Tson et al. Physical withdrawal in rats tolerant to delta-9-THC precipitated by a cannabinoid receptor antagonist. European Journal of Pharmacology. 1995.
14. Hart RH. Bitter Grass. Mentor Press, Kansas, USA2.
15. Mississippi University Library.
16. Bonner R. Marijuana Rescheduling Petitions 57. Federal Register 1992, 10499-10508.
17. Public Opinion Poll January 27-31, 1997 taken by Dr Bruce Merrill, Prof. of Mass Communications & Director Medical Research Center, Walter Cronkite School, Arizona State University.
18. K. Stroup (Director of NORML) in an address to audience at Emory University, 1979.
19. Video of Drug Culture Conference celebrating 50th Anniversary of the discovery of LSD, April
1993. Sponsored by NORML and others, San Francisco.
20. Voth EA, MD, International Drug Strategy Institute Position Paper. Medical Applications of Marijuana, 1995.

 

Filed under: Law (Papers) :

By Mike Howell-staff writer

Viewers who tuned in to the national news on Jan. 24 witnessed disturbing images of thieves beating two elderly men in a Downtown Eastside alley.

One man was knocked senseless by a forearm smash to the head, leaving him to fall hard to the ground. The other man was stumbling and attempting to stop blood from spurting over his face and clothes.

The thieves quickly picked through their victims’ pockets, looking for cash and valuables. Unfortunately, there was no audio to the amateur footage captured by the person who filmed the violence.

But Vancouver police Const. Al Arsenault has no doubt the victims were told they would be beaten again or killed, if they reported the attacks.

Arsenault should know, since he sat in those alleys over two nights and was robbed by some of the same thieves.

Employing a technique not commonly used by police, Arsenault volunteered to be a decoy, a piece of human bait. The 52-year-old fit martial arts expert changed his appearance and acted like an injured old man with a mental illness.

It took less than 45 minutes to be robbed on both nights. Thieves used knives, razor blades and scissors to cut Arsenault’s bag from around his neck. He pretended to be asleep, while his cover team of officers kept watch.

“One guy was so close to me, I could smell the crack [cocaine] on his breath. I was thinking, ‘What if the guy decides to slit my throat?’ My heart was pumping pretty fast.”

Arsenault survived unscathed, and chalked up the project as a “calculated risk.” The job though doesn’t exactly have a waiting list of officers willing to take that risk.

Undercover work-whether it be posing as a decoy or infiltrating an organized crime group-is dangerous, stressful and can lead to strained relationships with partners and families.

In the case of Vancouver RCMP Cpl. Derek Flanagan, it led to his death in Thailand in 1989. The 35-year-old father of three children fell from the box of a pickup truck during a struggle with a heroin dealer.

Yet, undercover work continues to be done by police all over the world, including by a veteran RCMP officer who agreed to share anecdotes for this story as long as his name and current project aren’t revealed.

RCMP Insp. Bill Majcher, who spent 13 years undercover, can only now talk about some of his secretive projects, including his last one that ended in Florida in 2002.

After more than two years posing as a frontman for a Colombian drug cartel, Majcher and his cover team snared the “Lex Luthor” of Canadian crime, Martin Chambers, in a money laundering probe.

Despite the risks, Majcher and his police colleagues say undercover work is necessary to catch bad guys who otherwise couldn’t be caught.

“A lot of [criminals] know how the law works, and they know how they can protect themselves by using the law. In many cases, it seems we have all the rules and no money, and they have all the money and no rules.”

When Arsenault took to the alleys in January, it fulfilled a desire he had as a rookie more than 20 years ago.

At the time, he heard about fellow officers lying on benches in the Downtown Eastside, pretending to be drunk and flashing money to lure thieves.

“If memory serves, there were some hairy situations, but I knew it was something I wanted to try some day. It would be a test for me to see how good I would be at something like that.”

Project Oldtimer, as it was called, was hatched by Arsenault and partner Sgt. Toby Hinton. Using a decoy, they believed, was the only way to catch the thieves.

Arsenault volunteered knowing a team of officers would be hiding in nearby businesses and watching him from a distance. His cover team would also be talking to him through a receiver in his ear.

A make-up artist spent two hours transforming Arsenault into an old man. Once he dressed in bulky clothing-his protective vest underneath-and put on a helmet, he became that old man (pictured on the front page of this newspaper).

The helmet concealed a camera, which filmed the half dozen criminals who robbed Arsenault. The helmet helped complete the look of a senior on a motorized scooter.

During the project, Arsenault ditched the scooter, but kept the helmet on. “The helmet was more for in case they decided to pipe me over the head. I’m willing to take a shot, but losing some teeth is one thing, sipping cream of beef soup for the rest of my life is another.”

When he was robbed, he was lying in alcoves in the south alley of Hastings, between Abbott and Main streets. Five men and one woman, all in their 20s, were charged with robbery.

“Not everybody wants to do this work,” he says. “But if anybody should do it, it should be me because I’ve got the most experience on the street. I know what the street feels like and sounds like and looks like-and I’m a pretty good actor.”

Arsenault is a long-time Downtown Eastside cop. His connection to the community’s residents allowed him and Hinton to film Through a Blue Lens, a documentary that chronicles the lives of drug addicts.

Arsenault also has black belts in karate, judo and in san shou dao, a Chinese martial art. But he is quick to point out that self-defence is only required if an undercover operation goes awry.

How the officer acts and what he says are key factors in gaining the trust of bad guys, he says, recalling a robbery case in June 1991 where he was placed in a cell with a suspect. Arsenault’s job was to befriend the suspect in an attempt to find out the identity of two other robbers who held up Nick’s Spaghetti House on Commercial Drive.

At the time, Arsenault had shoulder-length hair, was scruffy-looking and not as well-known on the street as he is today. It was one of his first undercover gigs.

“He was a man who was small in stature, but big in talk. So I just oohed and aahed at his stories of crime. I pretended to be all impressed by his actions on the street. Eventually, he told me who the other people were and they went to jail.”

In another cell mate case in February 1992, he befriended a man suspected of killing six Chilean flamingos in Stanley Park. Jason Laberge, also known as the “Flamingo Killer,” was sentenced to eight months in jail and fined $9,000.

“He told me everything in detail, he really blabbed his guts out.”

Arsenault is proud of his undercover work, but doesn’t put himself in the same league as officers who spend months and years on projects. He’s never been trained to do that.

“I’m a lightweight when it comes to the undercover operators thing because I didn’t do a lot of it. Some of these other guys make it their career. I never chose to do that.”

For 13 years, Bill Majcher chose that life.

It began in the same alleys Arsenault has worked for years.

As a 26-year-old RCMP constable, Majcher spent four months in 1990 posing as a drug addict to buy heroin from dealers in the Downtown Eastside.

With a thin build, a full beard and long hair, he looked the part. At the time, the RCMP and Vancouver police had an amalgamated drug squad, allowing constables like Majcher to get a first-hand feel of drug work in the city.

“I really got my eyes opened to the realities and the dangers of policing in the Downtown Eastside. I look back and I think a lot of the foundation for my undercover career was developed working with the Vancouver police.”

Dubbed Project Norway, Majcher worked long hours buying heroin from dozens of dealers. His act seemed to work, although one dealer believed Majcher might be a police informant and sucker punched him as he walked out of the Columbia Hotel.

His cover team was about to move in, but Majcher shoved the dealer and shouted at him until they both carried on down the street.

“I just bought heroin in the Columbia, and I walk out into a fist. It could have easily been a bat or a knife. When you’re dealing with that culture, the dealers are fairly low end, but the work is high-risk because the people who live in that environment live by the sword and die by the sword.”

Majcher’s other life at the time was in Richmond, where he had just been elected as a school trustee. A community-minded man, who coached hockey and baseball, he became a politician on the encouragement of a parent.

During Project Norway, he would attend meetings in a beard and long hair, then go to the Downtown Eastside to buy heroin. The job of a politician and undercover officer quickly became incompatible, leading to his resignation from the school board in 1991.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort and time into making these projects go, and I didn’t want to be the Achilles heel that exposed myself or the project,” he says, noting school board meetings were televised on community cable.

The success of Project Norway, which led to the arrests of 120 people, was the beginning of a bright future for Majcher. His skills would see him work undercover in more drug cases, homicide investigations and dangerous organized crime probes.

His work has taken him across the country, into the United States, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. His longest case lasted almost three years and involved a Colombian drug cartel.

He wouldn’t elaborate, but says the experience gave him the background and confidence to pose as a frontman for a Colombian drug cartel in the ensuing money laundering probe that landed former Vancouver lawyer Martin Chambers in jail.

Majcher’s success hasn’t come without sacrifice. Like Arsenault, the 42-year-old has never been married, but was in serious relationships for most of his undercover career. Those relationships are over.

“You could be gone for months, and then you come home for a weekend and you know you’ve been living under a lot of stress and pressure, so you’re maybe not the best partner when you do get home.”

Majcher likens the job of an undercover officer to a working police dog.

“The dog is happiest when it’s working, it’s happiest when it’s following a scent. When I’d be gone for two or three months and then be home for the weekend, I was like that working dog. I wanted to get back on the scent.”

He adds, “the true unsung heroes of this lifestyle really are the family members because you leave them behind many times.”

In the Chambers case, Majcher worked in Miami off and on for more than two years. To relieve tension, he would take long walks and read to keep his body and mind sharp.

The RCMP has a set of “checks and balances,” including psychological testing to scrutinize undercover officers’ behaviour. Despite the roles he played, Majcher says he never lost sight of who he was or his job.

“At all times, I knew I was a police officer. At all times, I knew this person wasn’t my friend, but a criminal.”

That thought was certainly on Majcher’s mind when he was grilled by Chambers and his associates in a hotel room. The meeting wasn’t planned, leaving Majcher without his cover team.

“My initial thought was, ‘If things go bad, how do I get out of here?’ Then I just fell back on my training, my experience. I’ve always found once I start talking, and get into a rhythm, I can deal with it.”

In another close call, an FBI agent posing as the captain of a yacht told Majcher that “you Canadian guys don’t know how to drink.” Chambers and his associates thought Majcher was American.

“All of a sudden they’re looking at me, demanding an explanation. And here we are with $200,000 cash and a money counter on the table, and then I’ve got to start quickly talking about what he meant by that.”

Majcher talked himself out of that situation, too. He told them his father was in the military, that Majcher was born in Canada, but grew up in America.

His stories paid off.

Chambers, whom police say agreed to launder up to $26 million US per year, was sentenced in December 2003 to 15 years and eight months in jail.

It was the last undercover operation for Majcher, who is now the RCMP’s inspector in charge of the Integrated Market Enforcement Team. From his 22nd floor office at Homer and Georgia, Majcher has a view of the same streets where his undercover career began.

“I miss it, but sometimes you have to give up what you love doing to take advantage of new opportunities.”

Jack Burns-not his real name-is still heavily engaged in undercover work for the RCMP.

A Mountie for more than 25 years, he’s spent a good portion of his career tricking bad guys in Canada, the United States, Southeast Asia and China. It’s a role he thrives on, having infiltrated drug smuggling syndicates and motorcycle gangs.

As with Arsenault and Majcher, he finds the work gripping. Each encounter with a bad guy is a true test of an officer’s intelligence.

“My first instinct is to think like a bad guy,” says Burns in an email dispatch from his current post. “I am truthful, respectful with targets. Gaining trust is the first and foremost thing.”

He cites one case in Manitoba where he bought marijuana from a big-time dealer at his house. The dealer was trying to fix his son’s mountain bike, but didn’t have a clue what to do. Burns took the tools out of his hands and fixed the bike.

“I can remember him shrugging his shoulders, not saying much, but he did say thanks.”

On the day of the arrest, the dealer was shocked when he learned Burns’ true identity. The evidence Burns collected during the operation put the dealer in prison for three years.

“In court, I kind of felt bad because he had his son and wife and the rest of the clan there.”

Even so, Burns says he’s never been worried about his safety.

“I’ve had problems sleeping at times, but it is from excitement. Most bad guys don’t like you, but they respect you for what you did. They usually take it in stride.”

Burns’ undercover career began in Portage La Prairie, Man. in 1981. For four months, he worked as a pizza delivery driver and bought drugs while delivering pizza to dealers.

His work led to 64 charges, with bigger players in Winnipeg and in the northern United States all identified in the probe.

That success led Burns to larger investigations, including befriending a motorcycle gang.

He lived through several close calls during the probe, including an incident where a fight broke out in a bar between bikers’ girlfriends. Burns’ table was knocked over, sending his jacket-equipped with a monitoring device-out of his reach.

“I knew my cover team was listening and I didn’t want them coming through the door and getting the wrong impression, so my mind was racing on how quickly I could notify them. I then moved back from the table as the two women were all over the table, and kicked my jacket to a safe place. When I picked it up, I said something to the effect about the women fighting to give the cover team a signal I was OK.”

In another incident, a bar maid close to the bikers took a liking to Burns. She approached him one day and said she had a dream that he was a cop.

“My cover team took precautions and I laughed it off. Although squirming inside, it turned out she really did have a dream and was not trying to find something out.”

When at home in the Lower Mainland, Burns lies low and says his neighbours know not to ask about his projects until he tells them he’s finished.

Divorced with a 27-year-old daughter, Burns prefers the single life-a common trait, it seems, among the officers interviewed for this story.

Still, his mother worries about him.

“But she gets over it, she knows I like the challenge and the excitement. I really don’t give too many details to people unless I really trust them not to say anything until the job is done. Therefore, the few people that know, not many can be affected.”

Fiona Flanagan knew a lot about what her late husband Derek Flanagan did as an undercover RCMP officer.

He never kept it a secret, often phoning from various locations and checking on his family.

“If you watch some of the police shows on TV, you would think that nobody knows what their husband does and they don’t know what they’re doing. I knew everything.”

She also knew that marrying a police officer who did undercover work would mean to expect the unexpected and to “go with the flow.” Working as a civilian with the RCMP also helped.

“You have be a certain type of person. If you were really into schedules and you didn’t like people to change things, then you’re probably not going to like being married to somebody who does undercover work.”

The night before Flanagan died in Thailand, Fiona was working as a radio operator with the Richmond RCMP. She had just finished a 12-hour shift when he called.

“‘You’re telling me that you’ve just had a nice beer, and I’ve got two screaming kids here, so I don’t really want to hear about it.’ That was sort of my last conversation with him.”

Flanagan was an undercover officer in Operation Deception. He was in Chiang Mai, Thailand setting up a deal to buy five kilograms of heroin when he died Feb. 20, 1989.

Sitting in the back of the heroin dealers’ pickup truck, he tested the drug and signaled to his cover team that it was genuine. But before officers reached the truck, the driver took off, leaving Flanagan to struggle with one of the dealers.

The six-foot-three, 220-pound Flanagan was either pushed or fell from the truck, hit his head on the ground and broke his neck. He was on life support for most of the night until Fiona instructed doctors to take him off.

“I thought if he was going to die on the job, he would go down in a blaze of glory-that it would be something more dramatic in a sense. Overall, it was dramatic, but everybody said he was the biggest, strongest guy we knew. There’s no way he could fall off a truck like that and be dead.”

At the time, his son Geordie was 18 months old, and his other son Chris was four years old. He also had an 10-year-old daughter, Patti, from a previous marriage.

Fiona recalls breaking the news to Chris.

“The RCMP had a psychiatrist [at the apartment], and asked how I talked to my kids. I said I just kind of say it, so he said then just say it. So, I took Chris upstairs and I said ‘Your dad is dead and he’s not coming back.’ It was pretty simple, actually. He cried and then asked if there was any food, and I said, ‘Oh, there’s all kinds of food.'”

Chris is now 20, and wrote his RCMP entrance exam last Saturday. If he gets accepted, and chooses to pursue an undercover career, his mother is all for it.

“How can you tell somebody not to do what they want to do?”

Her brother and nephew are members of the Vancouver police department, and she continues to work as a civilian with the RCMP’s major crime section.

She’s been around policing since leaving high school. She loves the camaraderie, the adrenaline and people the profession attracts.

Her life though isn’t the same without the man who enjoyed hiking the Lions, listening to Lou Reed and playing hockey with his kids.

“My husband was doing what he loved to do. He wanted to make things better for people-stop the flow of drugs, put away criminals, that kind of thing. But he absolutely expected to come home at the end of his shift, too.”

 

 

Source: Vancouver Courier.Com March 28th 2005

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