Friday, June 18, 2010

Norway Contemplates Heroin Treatment Centers for Addicts

Norway took a tentative step towards a more compassionate drug policy this week. The drug in question? Heroin. The tactic? Opening up treatment centers where heavy addicts can receive doses of heroin prescribed by a doctor. The reason? A controversial report delivered to the government by a committee chaired by a well-connected elder statesman.

Norway's leading drug reform group, the Association for Humane Drug Policy, led by Arild Knutsen, called the approach "rational and humane." He told Norwewgian media that "it offers medical professional assessments as grounds for choice of medicine, rather than ideological constraints."

The news of a more relaxed policy follows a recommendation for "heroin addiction treatment"-- even for addicts under 18 -- from an official report by current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's father, Thorvald Stoltenberg. The Prime Minister supports the nine-member Stoltenberg committee's recommendations.

The older Stoltenberg's committee -- comprised of a district attorney and a representative from police, government, religious, and community members -- attracted much attention when its findings were leaked a day before publication. The committee has been criticized for not including scientific professionals. Critics challenge Stoltenberg's chairmanship for a supposed conflict of interest: his daughter, Ninni, has suffered heroin addiction. For his part, Stoltenberg told NRK, the Norwegian broadcaster, that he is not "embarrassed" by his committee's recommendations.

Other critics include Norway's Salvation Army, the police community association, and some psychiatrists. The health minister has not taken a position, preferring instead to wait for the results of a broad consultation over the summer.

The Justice Minister Knut Storberget supports the proposals. "My attitude is that here we must dare to think differently. Over 60 per cent of those who sit in Norwegian prisons struggle with significant drug problems, and it shows us that we need other tools that are not subject to punishment and imprisonment."

Heroin may be one of the most widely consumed drugs in Norway. According to Erowid, current Norwegian law lists heroin as Schedule 1. The UK drugs charity states that users can already receive free needles but the opium derivative remains illegal to procure or possess.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Economist Magazine Sparks Public Debate on Drug Legalization

"Where do you stand?" The Economist's new ad campaign in the UK asks readers to think about where they stand on a variety of issues. A billboard poster campaign outlines opposing viewpoints on the issues, the first being drug legalization.

The Economist has succeeded in bringing the discussion of drug policy reform into clear public view. However, these billboards aren't the only way to stimulate public discussion. The campaign is also supported by a series of Twitter debates and a Facebook page where anybody can debate about the topics.

For more about drug policy reform and ending the War on Drugs, read Failed states and failed policies: How to stop the drug wars.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Take Action in California Today!

Americans for Safe Access - Advancing Legal Medical Marijuana Therapeutics and Research

An Americans for Safe Access sponsored resolution that calls on Congress and the President to end federal interference in state medical cannabis laws is now being heard in the State Assembly. SJR 14, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) and passed by the State Senate last year, calls for the development of a comprehensive national policy to ensure safe and legal access.  We need you to call TODAY to help move this resolution out of the Assembly Committee on Health (hearing today).

SJR 14 seeks to give guidance to the Administration, by calling for an end to federal interference and intimidation, fair trials for medical cannabis defendants in federal court, and advanced clinical trials into the medical benefits of cannabis. The resolution is part of ASA's national strategy to bring safe access to every American.

Please see below for instructions on how to call your Assembly person. Your call is needed now to bring this resolution out of committee and to the floor of the Assembly for final passage!

How to Call and Locate Your California Assembly representative:
If your assembly member sits on the Assembly Committee on Health it is especially urgent that you call today. See list below, or Committee on Health list. If not, call the committee chair William W. Monning  (916) 319-2027 or

To find out who your Assembly Member is, type in your zip code. Tell them:

"Hello. I am a medical cannabis patient/supporter in District ___, and I am calling to urge Assemblymember ___________ to vote FOR SJR14. California must tell the Federal government that the formation of a comprehensive national policy to guarantee safe access to every American patient is critically needed!"

California State Assembly Committee on Health Member List
William W. Monning - Chair     Dem-27    (916) 319-2027
Nathan Fletcher - Vice Chair     Rep-75    (916) 319-2075

Tom Ammiano     Dem-13    (916) 319-2013
Wilmer Amina Carter     Dem-62    (916) 319-2062

Connie Conway     Rep-34    (916) 319-2034

Hector De La Torre     Dem-50    (916) 319-2050

Kevin de Leon     Dem-45    (916) 319-2045

Mike Eng     Dem-49    (916) 319-2049

Ted Gaines     Rep-4    (916) 319-2004

Mary Hayashi     Dem-18    (916) 319-2018

Edward P. Hernandez     Dem-57    (916) 319-2057

Dave Jones     Dem-9    (916) 319-2009

Bonnie Lowenthal     Dem-54    (916) 319-2054
Pedro Nava     Dem-35    (916) 319-2035

V. Manuel PĂ©rez     Dem-80    (916) 319-2080
Mary Salas     Dem-79    (916) 319-2079

Cameron Smyth     Rep-38    (916) 319-2038

Audra Strickland     Rep-37    (916) 319-2037

Get more information about SJR 14

Monday, June 14, 2010

Detaining the Wind: Peruvian Cocaine Production Hits New Highs

How does drug trafficking become more resilient to repression, better able to cross borders, and increase supply?

Part of the answer lies in the approach of the Washington, DC anti-narcotics policy apparatus. For example, back in the 1990s Washington's narcs and the US military decided to staunch the cocaine supply from Colombia. (It had come to Colombia in the same decade after eradication efforts in Peru squeezed growers out from its ancestral home.)

Washington's Colombian strategy changed the region: where once the powder went by sea and air, almost overnight the drug cartels opted for the overland route, through Mexico. According to Brown University scholar Peter Andreas in Border Games, not a single beltway policy wonk foresaw that coke would still flow from Colombia, surging through Mexico with disastrous consequences, an obvious yet unnoticed land bridge.

Now in a repetition of the tired but tested law of Washington's unintended consequences, Peru might go the same way as Mexico, according to the New York Times. Again, Washington has its hand in this change. Since 2000 Colombia has received $5 billion in aid to eradicate coca production. Watch this video from the New York Times.

But of course coca production hasn't declined in the Andes, it's just shifted BACK to Peru. This is known as the "balloon effect" where the problem "swells in one spot when another is squeezed." SSDP advisory council member Sanho Tree has also compared coca eradication to the game whac-a-mole and Shoveling Water. And this happens with dramatic consequences.

Soldiers, civilians and paramilitaries have died in clashes between guerrillas and Peruvian troops. US anti-narcotics aid to Peru has climbed this year from last year, reports the NYT in its article, even though the Obama Administration stated in its 2010 National Drug Control Policy to focus more on patients than prohibition. Obama's move seemed to gel with Latin America's leaders who called in February for a different, less punitive approach to US, and their own, drug policies. Yet in a continuation of the past, the Obama Administration has increased money for eradication and interdiction.

At least some in the Andes are aware that their task is impossible. The Peruvian general in charge of eradication refers to his efforts as, "detaining the wind." But the cartels are bristling in the breeze, strengthening their resolve, and increasing their profits and production.