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  • MaryJane 10:20 pm on September 29, 2012 Permalink  

    What is drug decriminalization? 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 9-29-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 9-29-12.

    Question of the Week: As a multiple part series on drug control models, the question for this week asks, What is drug decriminialization?

    In the last segment, it was noted that decriminalization is often confused with depenalization. They are similar because they reduce the reliance on incarceration in drug control, but they differ according to the involvement of the criminal justice system.

    The Global Commission on Drug Policy confirmed that,

    decriminalisation is the elimination of a conduct or activity from the sphere of criminal law, while depenalisation is simply the relaxation of the penal sanction provided for by law.”

    In its 2005 report, the King County Bar Association cited Canadian drug policy expert Mark Haden’s definition of decriminalization as,

    “The removal of criminal sanctions for personal use only. This does not provide for legal options for how to obtain drugs, so there is still unregulated access to drugs of unknown purity and potency.”

    Haden went to define “defacto decriminalization” as,

    “Collectively agreeing to ignore existing laws without changing them. For many years the Netherlands have maintained the laws prohibiting the possession and sale of marijuana while allowing both of these in practice.”

    In 2001, Portugal successfully adopted a system whereby offenses involving the consumption, acquisition and possession of drugs for personal use are referred to a commission instead of the criminal justice system. Recently, Rhode Island made possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation.

    Still, scholars with the Rand Corporation asserted that decriminalization

    “is not a distinct drug control model … but rather, a form of low severity prohibition.”

  • MaryJane 10:08 pm on August 19, 2012 Permalink  

    What is drug depenalization? 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 8-19-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 8-19-12.

    Question of the Week: As a multiple part series on drug control models, the question for this week asks, What is drug depenalization?

    Depenalization is often confused with decriminalization. In fact, according to the Global Commission on Drug Policy, depenalization in Spanish

    “often refers to what in English is most often called decriminalization.”

    The Global Commission describes depenalization as

    “the relaxation of the penal sanction provided for by law,” and the “elimination or reduction of custodial penalties, although the conduct or activity remains a criminal offence.”

    A 2011 report from the World Bank quotes Glenn Greenwald’s definition of depenalization as a drug control model in which,

    “drug usage remains a criminal offense, but imprisonment is no longer imposed for possession or usage even as other criminal sanctions (e.g., fines, police record, probation) remain available.”

    A 2002 Canadian Journal of Public Health article stated that under depenalization,

    “Penalties for possession are significantly reduced and would include discharges, diversion to treatment instead of jail for possession of large amounts and trafficking, and “parking ticket” status for possession of small amounts for personal consumption.” But under this regulatory model, “The black market for heroin and cocaine is created and maintained.”

    The World Bank says that,

    “depenalization, has been applied to marijuana in 12 (now 13) U.S. states, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and parts of Australia.”

    But that,

    “There is no obvious channel by which [it] would reduce the much larger problem of systemic violence associated with drug trafficking.”

    Hence, while drug depenalization reduces drug penalties, it does nothing to end the drug war.

  • MaryJane 9:49 pm on July 30, 2012 Permalink  

    What is prohibition? 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 7-30-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 7-30-12.

    Question of the Week: As a multiple part series on drug control models, the question for this week asks, What is prohibition?

    The King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project in 2005 termed a “strict prohibition model” as one in which,

    “proscribed drugs and their use are subject to control by the criminal justice system and only complete abstinence is permissible under the law.”

    A 2006 article in the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics preferred the term “Punitive drug prohibition,” which referred to,

    “policies that rely on penal sanctions (incarceration) to punish those who use ‘illicit” drugs,’”

    The article went on to agree that,

    “The basic assumption of punitive drug prohibition is that it is possible to attain a society free from illegal drug use.”

    The primary objective of prohibition as a drug control model is therefore “use reduction” or “prevalence reduction.” According to the KCBA,

    “…the eventual goal [is] eliminating all illegal drug use. The possession of “soft” drugs, such as marijuana, is either a criminal or a serious civil offense and possession of “hard” drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, is always a criminal offense. Distribution and manufacturing are always punished even more severely.”

    But prohibition hasn’t worked. The famed Global Commission on Drug Policy acknowledged that prohibition as a drug control system has,

    “degenerated into a war on users, farmers and petty traders. The excessive negative consequences and negligible effectiveness have now been broadly acknowledged and a process of de-escalation is in full motion in many places.”


  • MaryJane 9:33 pm on July 25, 2012 Permalink  

    Drug Control Models 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 7-25-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 7-25-12.

    Question of the Week: What are drug control models?

    The abstract of a 1996 article that appeared in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management began,

    “The debate over alternative regimes for currently illicit psychoactive substances focus on polar alternatives: harsh prohibition and sweeping legalization.”

    Indeed, according to a Thomas Jefferson School of Law article,

    “The central principle of [U.S.] drug war strategy has been that vigorous enforcement of increasingly strict criminal laws, though expensive, is necessary to reduce drug abuse and related problems.”

    However, the article goes on to note,

    “… that the overwhelming public support for ever-more punitive drug policies during the 1980s and early 1990s has disappeared and we now see substantial majorities in favor of reform measures. … voters have generally embraced proposals to move state and local drug policies away from the drug war strategy.”

    But what are these alternative proposals and strategies?

    As noted by the Global Commission on Drug Policies,

    “There is much confusion in the literature and public debate about the terms decriminalisation, depenalisation, legalisation and regulation. Universally accepted definitions do not exist and interpretations frequently vary even within the same language.”

    Canadian researcher Mark Haden stated in a 2004 article in the International Journal of Drug Policy,

    “We need to ask new questions. The question “how do we stop drug use?” is not as useful as the question “how do we regulate the market for drugs in a way which increases social cohesion and minimises harms?”

    The next few Drug War Facts segments will focus on reviewing the spectrum of options available as drug control models that will hopefully answer this question.

  • MaryJane 9:29 pm on July 21, 2012 Permalink  

    Stop and Frisk 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 7-21-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 7-21-12.

    Question of the Week: What is Stop and Frisk?

    A May 2011 briefing paper from the Drug Policy Alliance defines a “stop” as

    “the practice of police officers stopping individuals on the street to question them.”

    A pat-down frisk is

    “a limited search subject to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. It involves a police officer patting down an individual’s outer clothing, and only his outer clothing, if and only if, pursuant to a lawful forcible stop, the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the individual stopped is armed and dangerous.”

    While the Alliance’s briefing paper advises people,

    “to ask the police officer politely whether you are free to leave or not,”

    it concedes that the

    “catch … is that the cops are not required to tell individuals this; most young people stopped on the street don’t know it; and the cops often trick them into “consenting.”

    New York City has made these “Stop and Frisk” searches famous.

    An analysis by the New York Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, released this past May, found that,

    “the [New York Police Department] conducted nearly 700,000 stops in 2011. The total of 685,724 stops marked an increase of 84,439 (14 percent) stops from 2010. During the 10 years of the Bloomberg administration, there have been 4,356,927 stops.”

    The Drug Policy Alliance summarized the impact of “Stop and Frisk:”

    “… marijuana possession is now the number one arrest in New York City. More than 50,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010 alone, comprising one out of every seven arrests (15 percent). We contend that many of these arrests are the result of illegal searches or false charges.”

  • MaryJane 7:40 am on July 13, 2012 Permalink  

    AIDS and the Drug War 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 7-13-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 7-13-12.

    Question of the Week: Does the drug war cause AIDS?

    A new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy seems to think so.

    Entitled, “The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the criminalization of fuels the global pandemic,” this report in its opening sentence put it bluntly:

    “The global war on drugs is driving the HIV/AIDS pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated.”

    The report goes on to support this bold statement with these telling statistics.

    “…the worldwide supply of illicit opiates, such as heroin, has increased by more than 380 percent in recent decades, from 1000 metric tons in 1980 to more than 4800 metric tons in 2010. This increase coincided with a 79 percent decrease in the price of heroin in Europe between 1990 and 2009.”

    And these shocking percentages:

    “ … despite a greater than 600 percent increase in the US federal anti-drug budget since the early 1980s, the price of heroin in the US has decreased by approximately 80 percent during this period, and heroin purity has increased by more than 900 percent.”

    Recall that that the Global Commission is comprised of the former presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Brazil, Chile and Switzerland, among others.

    The Commission’s new HIV/AIDS report concludes:

    “Any sober assessment of the impacts of the war on drugs would conclude that many national and international organizations tasked with reducing the drug problem have actually contributed to a worsening of community health and safety. This must change.”

  • MaryJane 9:20 pm on July 4, 2012 Permalink  


    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 7-4-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 7-4-12.

    Question of the Week: What is DUID?

    DUID stands for “driving while under the influence of drugs.” Some reports have called this “OUI” or “operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs (OUI drugs), also called drugged driving.” Other common terms still include DWI (driving while under the influence) or OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while under the influence).

    According to a Western New England Law Review article,

    “Nationwide, three different standards have been drafted in legislation defining what constitutes OUI drugs: two “effect-based” laws and one “per se” law. The first effect-based law requires that an OUI drug motorist be rendered incapable of driving due to drug use. The second effect-based law requires a demonstration that an OUI drug motorist’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired or that the motorist is under the influence or affected by an intoxicating drug while driving. Some per se laws set a limit on the amount of drug or drug metabolite in the driver’s system at the time of the arrest. However, there was a lack of consensus as to the particular levels. As a result, states with per se laws now employ a “zero tolerance” per se law. This zero tolerance per se law prohibits motorists from operating a motor vehicle if there is any detectable level of illicit drug or drug metabolite in their body, regardless of whether the motorist operated the motor vehicle in an impaired manner.”

    A 2009 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded,

    “State-by-State analysis indicates there is a lack of uniformity or consistency in the way the States approach drugged drivers.”


  • MaryJane 10:13 pm on June 13, 2012 Permalink  

    Endocannabinoid System 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 6-13-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 6-13-12.

    Question of the Week: What is the endocannabinoid system?

    According to the Drug Enforcement Administration in its July 2011 entry into the Federal Register,

    “Some 483 natural constituents have been identified in marijuana, including approximately 66 compounds that are classified as cannabinoids.  Cannabinoids are not known to exist in plants other than marijuana … “

    A Brazillian overview states that,

    “In the tip of secreting hairs located mainly on female-plant flowers and, in a smaller amount, in the leaves of cannabis plant, there are resin glands that have a considerable amount of chemically related active compounds, called cannabinoids.”

    A 2003 article in Nature Reviews calls cannanbinoids,

    “the active components of Cannabis sativa and their derivatives [that] act in the organism by mimicking endogenous substances, the endocannabinoids, that activate specific cannabinoid receptors.”

    Trends in Pharmacological Sciences in 2009 stated that,

    “most attention has been paid to [delta]9-tetrahydrocannabinol ([THC]), which is the most psychotropic component and binds specific Gprotein-coupled receptors named cannabinoid (CB1 and CB2) receptors. The discovery of a specific cell membrane receptor for [delta]9-THC was followed by isolation and identification of endogenous (animal) ligands termed endocannabinoids.”

    According to Wikipedia, ligand is, “an ion or molecule that binds to a central metal atom to form a coordination complex

    The Trends article goes on to read,

    “Cannabinoid receptors, endogenous ligands that activate them, and the mechanisms for endocannabinoid biosynthesis and inactivation constitute the ‘endocannabinoid system.’ With its ability to modulate several physiological and pathophysiological processes (e.g. neurotransmitter release in the central and peripheral nervous system, pain perception, and cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and liver functions), the endocannabinoid system represents a potential target for pharmacotherapy”

  • MaryJane 9:43 pm on June 5, 2012 Permalink  

    Drugs in Ancient History 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 6-5-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 6-5-12.

    Question of the Week: When did people start using drugs?

    According to a 2009 historical overview by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,

    “The use of psychoactive substances has occurred since ancient times …”

    Reviewing just opium, cannabis and coca, the UNODC goes on to say,

    “The use of opium for medicinal and recreational use is documented in antiquity. The Sumerians referred to it as ‘Gil Hul’ or ‘joy plant’ as early as 3000 B.C. Techniques of opium production were passed to the Babylonians from where it spread to other countries in the Near and Middle East. Opium production shifted from Mesopotamia to Egypt around 1500 B.C., to Persia probably around 900 B.C, and to Asia Minor around 500 B.C.”

    The UNODC also traces cannabis use to

    “as early as 4000 B.C. in Central Asia and north-western China, with written evidence going back to 2700 B.C. in the pharmacopeia of emperor Chen-Nong. It then gradually spread across the globe, to India (some 1500 B.C., also mentioned in Altharva Veda, one of four holy books about 1400 B.C.1), the Near and Middle East (some 900 B.C.),
    Europe (some 800 B.C.), various parts of South-East Asia (2nd century A.D.), Africa (as of the 11th century A.D.) to the Americas (19th century) and the rest of the world.”

    Regarding coca, the non-profit Acción Andina states that,

    “Archaeological evidence has confirmed that the coca leaf has been  cultivated and used by the indigenous people of the Andes region for at least 4,000-5,000 years while other estimates put this as far back as 20,000 years.”

    Thus the short answer to the question of when people started using drugs is a very, very long time ago!

  • MaryJane 9:16 pm on June 2, 2012 Permalink  

    Global Illicit Market Value 

    Drug Policy Question of the Week – 6-2-12

    As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 6-2-12.

    Question of the Week: How much is the global illicit market worth?

    The last Drug Truth Network segment covered Transnational Organized Crime, a relatively new term that was the focus of a 2011 report by Global Financial Integrity. It concluded,

    “Whether it is drugs, human kidneys, human beings, illegally harvested timber, weapons, or rhinoceros horns, as long as someone is willing to buy it, someone will be willing to sell it.”

    Understanding profit as a driving force, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime computed a “macro” estimate of global illicit trade in 2009, finding

    “The overall best estimates of [its] criminal proceeds are close to US$2.1 trillion in 2009 … About half of these proceeds were linked to trafficking in drugs.”

    The “micro” components of these criminal proceeds can be found in a new Drug War Facts table based on Global Financial Integrity’s estimates. This table also includes dollar values from the UNODC for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamine stimulants.

    This table shows that the $321 billion illicit drug trade clearly dominated the illicit international trade, representing almost half of its total estimated $646 billion value in 2005. The only other market to come close was “Counterfeiting” at $250 billion. In contrast, the “Small arms and Light Weapons” market had a “mere” value of only $650 million or 0.1% of the total.

    At $141 billion, cannabis and cannabis resin combined were estimated to have a global retail value equal to twice the sum of these ten “smaller” illicit markets combined.

    Hence, removing just cannabis and cannabis resin from the illicit market place could reduce the proceeds available to transnational organized crime by almost one quarter.

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