Sunday, January 02, 2011

Last Year’s Top 10 Drug Stories

The British website openDemocracy publishes a regular feature called the Drug Policy Forum that takes a critical reformist look at stories about the "war on drugs" and criminal justice issues.

Yesterday, the Drug Policy Forum published its selection of Last Year’s top 10 Drug Stories:
  • The Mexican Tragedy: "Mexico's ongoing tragedy is exhibit number one in the failure of global drug prohibition. This month, the official death toll since President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the so-called cartels in December 2006 passed 30,000, with 10,000 killed this year alone. The multi-sided conflict pits the cartels against each other, cartel factions against each other, cartels against law enforcement and the military, and, at times, elements of the military and different levels of law enforcement against each other."
  • The Rising Clamor for a New Paradigm and an End to Drug Prohibition: "The critique of the international drug policy status quo that has been growing louder and louder for the past decade or so turned into a roar in 2010. Impelled in part by the ongoing crisis in Mexico and in part by a more generalized disdain for failed drug war policies, calls for radical reform came fast and furious, and from some unexpected corners this year."
  • Opium and the Afghan War: "More than nine years after the US invaded Afghanistan in a bid to decapitate Al Qaeda and punish the Taliban, the US and NATO occupation drags bloodily on (...) the Taliban runs to a large degree on profits from the opium and heroin trade. In a Faustian bargain, the West has found itself forced to accept widespread opium production as the price of keeping the peasantry out of Taliban ranks while at the same time acknowledging that the profits from the poppies end up as shiny new weapons used to kill Western soldiers and their Afghan allies."
  • The Netherlands Reins in Its Cannabis Coffee Shops: "Holland's three-decade long experiment with tolerated marijuana sales at the country's famous coffee shops is probable not going to end under the current conservative government, but it is under pressure. The number of coffee shops operating in the country has dropped by about half from its peak, local governments are putting the squeeze on them via measures such as distance restrictions (must be so far from a school, etc.), and the national government is about to unveil a plan to effectively bar foreigners from the shops. "
  • Russian Takeover at the UNODC: " In September, there was a changing of the guard at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), one of the key bureaucratic power centers for the global drug prohibition regime. Outgoing UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa, a former Italian prosecutor, was replaced by veteran Russian diplomat Yury Fedotov. Given Russia's dismal record on drug policy, especially around human rights issues, the treatment of hard drug users, and HIV/AIDS prevention, as well as the Russian government's insistence that the West resort to opium eradication in Afghanistan (...), the international drug reform community looked askance at Fedotov's appointment."
  • US War on Coca on Autopilot: "Coca production is ongoing, if down slightly, in the Andes, after more than a quarter century of US efforts to wipe it out. "
  • Canada Marches Boldly Backward: "When the Liberals held power in the early part of this decade, Canada was something of a drug reform beacon ... They supported Vancouver's safe injection site and embraced harm reduction policies. But under the government of Prime Minister Steven Harper, Canada this year fought and lost (again) to shut down the safe injection site."
  • A New Drug Generates a Tired, Old Response: "When in doubt, prohibit. That would seem to be the mantra in Europe, where, confronted by the emergence of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant derived from cathinone, the active ingredient in the khat plant, first Britain and then the entire European Union responded by banning it. "
  • Heroin Maintenance Expands Slowly in Europe: " In March, Denmark became the latest country to embrace heroin maintenance. The Danes thus join Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and, to a lesser degree, Britain, in the heroin maintenance club. In June, British scientists rolled out a study showing heroin maintenance worked and urging the expansion of limited existing programs there. The following month, a blue-ribbon Norwegian committee called for heroin prescription trials and other harm reduction measures there"
  • Opium is Back in the Golden Triangle: "Okay, it never really went away in Laos, Burma, and Thailand, and it is still below its levels of the mid-1990s, but opium planting has been on the increase for the last four years in the Golden Triangle (...) While Southeast Asian opium production still trails far behind that in Afghanistan, opium is back with a vengeance in the Golden Triangle."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:39 pm


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