Leaked UN document: countries want to end War on Drugs and prohibition

A rare, leaked UN document reveals deep divisions among member-states about the war on drugs, with many nations demanding treatment and decriminalization instead of prohibition. The draft document, dating from September, is from the UN's attempt to set a global policy on drugs and drug trafficking. The document shows Ecuador demanding an official statement "that the world needs to look beyond prohibition" and Venezuela seeking recognition of "the economic implications of the current dominating health and law enforcement approach in tackling the world drug problem." Other dissenters include Norway, Switzerland and the EU. Read the rest

Florida sheriff arrests mayor on drug charges: "This isn't Toronto"

Barry Layne Moore, erstwhile mayor of Hampton, Florida, has been arrested for possessing and selling Oxycodone. Upon arresting him, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith quipped: Read the rest

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NSA hacked email of Mexican president and drug-war reformers

A Snowden leak, discussed in detail in Der Spiegel, shows how the NSA broke into the email servers of the Mexican president Felipe Calderon's public account, and used that access to wiretap the president, cabinet members, and senior diplomats. The NSA described the program, called "Flatliquid" as "lucrative." A second program, "Whitetamale," also spied on senior Mexican politicians (including presidential candidate Peña Nieto), targeting efforts to change the country's disastrous War on Drugs. Read the rest

Crux, a sequel to Nexus - bioethical technothriller

I loved Nexus, Ramez Naam's 2012 debut novel about biohackers who produce a nano-based party drug that installs a networked computer inside your brain, and quickly turns into a war-on-drugs bioethics thriller about the free/open transhumanists and mirthless, ruthless drug enforcement agents.

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Civil Forfeiture: America's daylight robbery, courtesy of the War on Drugs

"Taken" is a blood-boiling, beautifully written expose on America's "civil forfeiture" laws by which people who are tangentially related to suspected drug offenses have their assets seized, even when no charges are filed and no guilt is found. The story, which Sarah Stillman wrote for The New Yorker, revolves around the notorious town of Tenaha, TX, a small town on US 59 where a corrupt system allowed cops to pull over people -- mostly brown people -- and simply take away all their possessions: their cars, their cash, even the gold crosses around their necks. The victims of the scam were threatened with the loss of custody of their children as well as time in jail, and the funds raised by this were used by the local District Attorney for frivolities like popcorn machines, as well as for donations to influential churches that helped elect her to her office.

But the story isn't limited to one town in Texas. From West Philadelphia -- where frail, elderly African-American couples have their homes seized in dawn no-knock raids because their children or even grandchildren are suspected of involvement in drug trafficking -- to towns across America, civil forfeiture is a cash-cow and an end-run around the Fourth Amendment, a way for cash-strapped towns and counties to pay for their law-enforcement infrastructure through literal daylight robbery. And it's a vicious cycle: the more the cops steal from the poor and powerless, the more money they have to hire more cops to commit more theft. Read the rest

Raising funds for a sensible guide to cannabis regulation

Will sez, "Transform Drug Policy Foundation have created a manual which they would like to distribute to policy makers in the UK. They need £5000 in order to do so, and are seeking donations." Read the rest

Head-shop CCTV catches police informant/undercover planting crack

Charlie writes, "There is a smoke shop in Scotia NY, owned by a young black man. There are many, many smoke shops in the capital region, but the rest are owned by white people. Undercover police decided to send an 'undercover agent' (an informant facing his own jail time) to investigate. Shortly after, the owner was charged with possession of crack cocaine. He was facing almost a decade in prison. Just one hitch though: the owner had video cameras set up in his shop. The videos captured the informant dropped a bag of crack on the counter; planting the drugs. The charges were dismissed, the informant has suddenly "disappeared" and the owner is now considering a law suit." Read the rest

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Drug Czar pretends the 1.5 million people arrested every year for nonviolent drug offenses don't exist

Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance says: "Yesterday during a nationally televised event at the National Press Club, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske repeated the federal government’s claim that they ended the war on drugs in 2009 and are now prioritizing drug treatment and prevention over incarceration. They cite an increase for drug treatment in President Obama’s proposal for the new drug control budget as evidence of their new approach. But their rhetoric does not match the reality – more than 1.5 million people are arrested for nonviolent drug offenses every year." Read the rest

Rare footage of a "normal person" given LSD in 1950s clinical research

In this video, Sidney Cohen (author of The Beyond Within: The L.S.D. Story, administers LSD under clinical conditions to an unnamed "normal person" (her description), some time in the 1950s. Her description of her experience is really wonderful -- you can tell she's going through something profound and amazing. As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote in 2011,

The experience she describes includes familiar themes such as gorgeous colors, geometric patterns, microscopic particles suddenly visible, and a sense of transcendence, oneness, and ineffability:

"I can see everything in color. You have to see the air. You can't believe it....I've never seen such infinite beauty in my life....Everything is so beautiful and lovely and alive....This is reality...I wish I could talk in Technicolor....I can't tell you about it. If you can't see it, then you'll just never know it. I feel sorry for you."

Today all this may sound hackneyed, but what's striking about this woman's account is that her expectations were not shaped by the huge surge of publicity that LSD attracted in the next two decades. Although she had not heard what an LSD trip was supposed to be like, her experience included several of the features that later came to be seen as typical—a reminder that, as important as "set and setting" are, "drug" matters too.

Despite the similarity between this woman's description of her experience and testimonials from acid aficionados of the '60s and '70s, her presentation is so calm and nonthreatening that it is hard to imagine how anyone could perceive this drug as an intolerable danger to society.

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Nexus: fast technothriller about transhuman drug crackdown

Ramez Naam's debut novel Nexus is a superbly plotted high-tension technothriller about a War-on-Drugs-style crackdown on brain/computer interfaces.

If you're suspected of drug involvement, America takes your house; HSBC admits to laundering cartel billions, loses five weeks' income and execs have to partially defer bonuses

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is brilliantly incandescent in his column about the HSBC drug-money-laundering settlement with the US government. HSBC was an active, knowing participant in laundering billions in drug money, and was fined a small percentage of its net worth (five weeks' income). Meanwhile, private individuals who are suspected of being incidentally involved in the drug trade routinely have all of their property confiscated, down to their houses and cars, under America's insane forfeiture laws. Then they often go to jail.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the reasoning here is beyond flawed. When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC's Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn't protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most "reputable" banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can't be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department's response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way...

... So the executives who spent a decade laundering billions of dollars will have to partially defer their bonuses during the five-year deferred prosecution agreement? Are you fucking kidding me?

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California pot decriminalization correlated to lowest youth crime rate in recorded history

California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low, a paper from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, analyzes recent data from the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center, and concludes that decriminalizing marijuana was correlated with an unheard-of 20% drop in the youth crime rate. The California youth crime rate is now the lowest it's been in recorded state history.

A large proportion of the drop in youth crime is directly attributable to a drop in arrests for possession of small amount of marijuana, but the rest seems to be a dividend from keeping kids out of the criminal justice system. That is, if you stop jailing kids for holding a little weed, they won't go to juvie and become career criminals.

California is still jailing some kids for holding, though, thanks to the provision in law that makes possessing marijuana in or near a school into a special offense.

Males said he suspects that many of the 5,831 marijuana arrests of juveniles in California last year may have occurred on school grounds. He doesn’t have data yet to check his theory, however.

In his police briefing, Males also notes that juvenile arrests in California were the lowest ever recorded since statewide statistics were first compiled in 1954. The decline, Males said, wasn’t due just to fewer marijuana arrests.

Drug-related juvenile arrests overall fell by 47 percent between 2010 and 2011. Violent crime arrests fell by 16 percent; homicide arrests by 26 percent; rape arrests by 10 percent; and property-crime arrests by 16 percent.

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Kidnapped radio engineers forced to build comms networks for the Zetas, never seen again

Mexican drug cartels, notably the Zetas, kidnap skilled radio engineers and force them to build out elaborate communications networks.

64,000 drug-bust samples in Mass. were processed by a dirty lab tech who tampered with them, altered weight, faked positive tests for illegal substances

Michael F sez, "There's a Massachusetts state crime lab scandal that hasn't yet received too much national attention (outside of the state)--and I thought it was worth sharing. It's been alleged that a single chemist (with forged education credentials) may be responsible for tampering with drug evidence that could have affected the outcome of up to 40,000 cases over the past 10 years. Based on the local coverage and on conversations with friends who are affiliated with the state lab (in an unrelated department), there's a good chance that an unprecedented number of drug convictions will be contested and overturned in the near future. "

From a Phillip Smith story on StoptheDrugWar.org:

State Police have notified prosecutors that some 64,000 drug samples involving the cases may be tainted because of alleged misconduct by former analyst Annie Dookhan in conducting tests on substances submitted to her by them.

Dookhan worked at the Hinton crime lab in Jamaica Plain from 2003 until she resigned in June. According to the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which was briefed on the scandal by the Deval Patrick administration last week, the meeting revealed why State Police are now questioning the reliability of the drug evidence Dookhan worked on.

"The lab analyst in question had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, and tampered with evidence bags, altered the actual weight of the drugs, did not calibrate machines correctly, and altered samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not," the association wrote in a letter to its members.

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Drugs: Without the Hot Air, now in the USA!

I wrote last June about Drugs: Without the Hot Air, the best book on drug policy I've read, written by David Nutt, the UK drug czar who was fired because he refused to bow to political pressure to repudiate his own research on the relative harms from illegal drugs and legal activities. Nutt's book has now been published in the USA. As I said in June, this is a book that everyone should read. From my review:

Like the other writers in the series, Nutt is both committed to rigorous, evidence-based policy and to clear, no-nonsense prose that makes complex subjects comprehensible. He begins and ends the book with a look at the irrationality of our present drug policy, recounting a call he had with then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was furious that he'd compared horseback riding harms to the harms from taking MDMA. Smith says that "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." When Nutt asks why not, she says, "because one is illegal." When he asks why it is illegal, she says, "Because it is harmful." So he asks, "Don't we need to compare harms to determine if it should be illegal?" And Smith reiterates, "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." Lather, rinse, repeat, and you'll get our current drugs-policy disaster.

Nutt has been talking about harm reduction and evidence-based policy for drugs policy for years, and he often frames the question by pointing out that alcohol is a terrible killer of addicts and the people around them, and a disaster for society.

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