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October 2014
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New York Times: Coalition Urges Nations to Decriminalize Drugs and Drug Use

Wall Street Journal: Decriminalize, Regulate Heroin, Cocaine, Commission Says

Gawker: International Commission: Decriminalize Drugs Everywhere

Huffington Post: World Leaders Call For Massive Shift in Global Drug Policy

New York Daily News: Leaders meet to propose changes to drug policy

Daily Beast: World Leaders’ Proposal for Winning the War on Drugs: Legalize It!

ThinkProgress: Former World Leaders Call For Legal, Regulated Drugs

Seattlepi: International leaders plea for end of War on Drugs

CBC: Decriminalize cocaine and psychedelics, global group urges

International Business Times UK: World Leaders to Meet with UN to Discuss Drug Decriminalisation, also Richard Branson: War on Drugs ‘Like a Business Which has Failed for 50 Years’

U.S. News and World Report: Ex-Leaders of 8 Countries Say It’s Time to Try Drug Legalization

Fox News Latino: World Leaders Of All Stripes Call For Drug Legalization In New Report Ahead Of UN General Assembly

… and still more to come.

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Huge Story – Global Commission calls for decriminalization, regulation, and legalization

We’ve been waiting for a big report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. It was released tonight, and it’s huge.

Washington Post: Former world leaders call for nations to decriminalize drug use and experiment with legalization

Drug use should be decriminalized and governments should experiment with drug legalization and regulation, a group of former world leaders argues in a new report published on Monday night.

The recommendations from the Global Commission on Drug Policy reflect the views of the former leaders of some of the countries hardest hit by the illegal drug trade. In the report, they strongly argue that a costly global war on drugs has not only failed but threatens public health, fosters discrimination and fuels the very crime and violence it seeks to prevent.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is time to change course,” former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, one of the commissioners, says in a statement. “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails but also to severe health and social problems.”

CNN: Why it’s time for drug regulation by Richard Branson

This latest report, “Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work,” reflects a new evolution in our thinking. We not only reiterate the case for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches, but we now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances.

The reality is that the most effective way to advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation. Much can be learned from the successes and failures in regulating alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs and other products and activities that pose health risks to individuals and societies.

Al Jazeera: World figures call for decriminalization of all drug use

Otto Pérez Molina, the president of Guatemala, floated an audacious idea last December. His government was considering legalizing the production of opium poppy — heroin’s main ingredient — as an alternative to combating drug-fueled bloodshed in Central America, where the number of violent deaths today mirror those of the 1980s, when the region was entangled in civil wars.

That seemingly fanciful proposal gained steam on Monday with the release of a pioneering report titled “Take Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work.” In the report, a group of global luminaries calls for the decriminalization of all drug use and the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Global Commission on Drugs — headed by the likes of former U.N. secretary general Kofi Anan, Reagan-era U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, and former presidents of Latin America — represents the most distinguished group of leaders to call for drastic drug policy alternatives.

Punitive drug laws, the commission says, must be replaced by public health principles and a focus on human rights. Treat drug users as patients not criminals, members say, and counter drug-traffickers by regulating illegal drug markets and slicing into the money — and power — generated by drug syndicates, which the United Nations estimates rake in $330 billion a year.

“The call for experimentation with regulation is just common sense given the failures of the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” said John Collins, coordinator of the London School of Economics’ IDEAS International Drug Policy Project. “It’s clear that the old approach is politically unsustainable as member states such as the U.S. and Uruguay move ahead with new models of regulation around cannabis.”

Tom Angell with Marijuana Majority:

“With polling having shown consistent majority voter support for legalizing marijuana in the U.S. for several years now, it’s been clear that this is a mainstream issue in this country. Now this group of world leaders has not only put marijuana legalization on the table for serious consideration on the global stage, but has gone even further by suggesting that ending the prohibition of other drugs should be considered as a way to better protect public health and safety. The hope now is that these forward-thinking recommendations by so many respected former heads of state will encourage current officials to modernize their nations’ policies.”

Here’s the report

Our recommendations can be summarized as follows:

Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions. Read More
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession. Read more
  • Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state. Read more
  • Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain. Read more
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs. Read more
  • Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances. Read more
  • Here are some of the members of the commission:

    Global Commission on Drug Policy
    From left: Branson, Annan, Zedillo, Cardoso, Gaviria, Dreifuss, Kazatchkine, Sampaio and Stoltenberg

    The full commission includes:

    Aleksander Kwasniewski
    Former President of Poland

    Asma Jahangir
    Human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan

    Carlos Fuentes
    Writer and public intellectual, Mexico – in memoriam

    César Gaviria
    Former President of Colômbia

    Ernesto Zedillo
    Former President of Mexico

    Fernando Henrique Cardoso
    Former President of Brazil (chair)

    George Papandreou
    Former Prime Minister of Greece

    George Shultz
    Former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)

    Javier Solana
    Former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain

    John Whitehead
    Banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial, United States

    Jorge Sampaio
    Former President of Portugal

    Kofi Annan
    Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana

    Louise Arbour
    Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, president of the International Crisis Group, Canada

    Maria Cattaui
    Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland

    Mario Vargas Llosa
    Writer and public intellectual, Peru

    Michel Kazatchkine
    Professor of medicine, former Executive director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria

    Paul Volcker
    Former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board, US

    Pavel Bém
    Former Mayor of Prague, member of the Parliament, Czech Republic

    Ricardo Lagos
    Former president of Chile

    Richard Branson
    Entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom

    Ruth Dreifuss
    Former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

    Thorvald Stoltenberg
    Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

    This is truly an impressive set of recommendations that have the potential to really shake up the status quo of international drug policy.

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    Open Thread

    Some very good reading this morning…

    bullet image Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes (Washington Post)

    Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country. [...]

    A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing “trophy shots” of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. [...]

    There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.

    There’s a good video demonstrating a couple of cases of asset forfeiture.

    bullet image Crime, Bias and Statistics by Charles M. Blow, New York Times

    Crime policies that disproportionately target people of color can increase crime rates by concentrating the effects of criminal labeling and collateral consequences on racial minorities and by fostering a sense of legal immunity among whites.”

    There is no way in this country to discuss crime statistics without including in that discussion the myriad ways in which those statistics are informed and influenced by the systemic effects of racial distortion.

    We know that the drug war is a huge part of the problem in terms of crime policies that disproportionately target people of color.

    bullet image The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing (New York Times)

    An outstanding video segment on the history of SWAT and how it’s gotten out of control.

    The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 at the end of Reconstruction and amended but slightly over the decades, prohibits the nation’s armed forces from being used as a police force within the United States. Soldiers, the reasoning goes, exist to fight wars. Chasing local wrongdoers is a job for cops.

    But many police departments today are so heavily armed with Pentagon-supplied hand-me-downs — tools of war like M-16 rifles, armored trucks, grenade launchers and more — that the principle underlying the Posse Comitatus Act can seem as if it, too, has gone thataway. Questions about whether police forces are overly militarized have been around for years. They are now being asked with new urgency because of the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager faced off for a while against mightily armed officers in battle dress and gas masks.

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    We must prevent education… you know, for the children

    One of the things that the drug reform movement has faced throughout its history is the pernicious and constant attempts to silence any efforts to provide honest education about illicit drugs. To even discuss illicit drugs in any realistic way was painted as a an attempt to encourage kids to become druggies.

    There was even one time that DrugWarRant got unintentionally embroiled in a local Congressional race and the charge was leveled that since I had a link to Erowid, my site was a danger to the community as young kids could follow that link and learn how to do drugs!

    Sometimes these attempts get downright hilarious.

    Check out the kerfuffle generated by the Daily Mail over a botanical exhibit.

    Kew Gardens storm over ‘Intoxication Season’ which includes talks on mind-altering plants

    It’s really quite a nice little educational program at the Royal Botanical Gardens, which will include live plants that can be used to produce both legal and illicit drugs, with a series of lectures about the plants, their history, and their properties.

    The Daily Mail makes it seem like the end of civilization.

    But last night campaign groups said that Kew, whose patron is Prince Charles, was ‘failing to safeguard youngsters from the dangers of drugs’.

    Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, chief executive of the charity DrugFAM, said: ‘The literature from Kew Gardens reads like an invitation for children to come and experiment with drugs. I am sure these people are all experts in their field but I deal with families who have lost children to drugs and my son died as a result of them.

    ‘The organisers are behaving extremely irresponsibly and not safeguarding youngsters. It’s awful a publicly funded organisation is using its money for such a festival.’

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    Update: This story is from 2012. Sorry about that. Still, if you missed it then, it’s a very strong point. We need to keep pushing for more of this.

    Doug Darrell Acquitted of Marijuana Charges Through Jury Nullification in New Hampshire

    Here’s the key point:

    After deliberating for six hours, the jury unanimously declared Darrell not guilty.

    Juror Cathleen Converse, self-described as a “straitlaced little old lady,” explained her reasoning in an interview with Free Talk Live.

    “Mr. Darrell is a peaceful man,” she said. “He grows for his own personal religious and medicinal use. I knew that my community would be poorer rather than better off had he been convicted.”

    [Thanks, Malcolm]

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    We may be turning the tide, but there are still too many victims

    Jacob Sullum soberly reminds us that while people are openly and legally buying pot in some parts of the country, there are others behind bars for inconceivable lengths of time for marijuana offenses.

    Life In Prison For Pot And Other Travesties of Marijuana Prohibition

    The relatively lenient treatment of cannabis consumers raises a moral question that no prohibitionist has ever satisfactorily answered. If smoking pot is not such a big deal, how can merely helping people smoke pot by supplying the raw material justify locking anyone in a cage for years or decades?

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    Novel approach: teach students

    I have mixed feelings about this article. I’m pleased that the school district has come to their senses, but also concerned about how long it’s taken for them (and many other districts around the country) to realize that an automatic-expel-them-and-forget-them approach is destructive.

    ASD Changes Drug & Alcohol Policy To Keep More Students In School

    The Anchorage School District averages more than 60 expulsions and almost 400 suspensions a year for drugs and alcohol. Now it says it’s time to take a different approach, when changing the behavior of its students. [...]

    The new policy changes the requirement that a student who offends must be expelled right away. The district said the policy is just catching up to something that’s already happening in its schools.

    “Those days of expelling,’ –you’re out on the curb and you’re gone from the Anchorage School District, we don’t care about you anymore,’ — long, long gone,” said Graham, “We have these programs and now a policy in place that really allows us to make it easy for us to do this.”

    There’s no doubt that there are some students who just don’t belong in school – those who are disruptive and really don’t want to be there. But to kick out students just because they got caught with drugs or alcohol is an abdication of any responsibility for their future.

    It’s like saying “Because you have been caught using drugs, we’re going to take away your opportunity for an education, and send you out on the street as a criminal to sell drugs.

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    Yawn, majority favor marijuana legalization

    Marijuana Legalization Supported By A Growing Majority

    The survey, released last week from online polling data company CivicScience, asked more than 450,000 U.S. adults over the last two years this question: “Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol?”

    Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they support marijuana legalization — with 39 percent saying they “strongly support” and 19 percent saying they “somewhat support” reformed marijuana laws in their states. Thirty-five percent oppose legalization of marijuana — with 29 percent “strongly” opposing and 6 percent “somewhat” opposing laws that would regulate marijuana like alcohol. Seven percent of respondents had no opinion on the issue.

    The surprising part of this news is… it’s really not a surprise. Majority support is now where we live.

    That doesn’t mean we can rest, and we still have a huge way to go on the larger issue of drug legalization, but boy, it sure is nice to be at a place where a poll like this is merely… ho hum.

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    Students for Liberty

    Students for Liberty have a new website focused on ending the war on drugs. Good for them!

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    Everybody panic… because we don’t have enough evidence to induce panic

    Marijuana Legalization Has Researchers Wondering If Traffic Deaths Will Rise

    Why are they wondering? Because there’s no clear evidence that it’s going to happen and that’s frustrating them.

    It’s not, however, stopping them from speculating…

    What worries highway safety experts are cases like that of New York teenager Joseph Beer, who in October 2012 smoked marijuana, climbed into a Subaru Impreza with four friends and drove more than 100 mph before losing control. The car crashed into trees with such force that the vehicle split in half, killing his friends.

    Of course… because that’s what you do when you smoke pot. Pot smoking makes you buy a Subaru, causes friends to get into the car with you, and then makes you drive 100 mph and crash into trees. That’s why, no matter where you look, you see nothing but split-in-half Subaru Imprezas everywhere.

    Now, I once heard of a reporter who wrote an article for the Huffington Post and then had sex with a goat. It makes me wonder if we’re doing enough to protect the goat population from Huffington Post authors.

    Admittedly, studies of Huffington Post article-authorship and goat-rape risk are “highly inconclusive.” Some studies show a two- or three-fold increase, while others show none. Some studies even showed less risk if someone was a writer.

    Still, this should be a reason to be concerned for anyone who cares about the safety of our goats.

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