Saturday, June 30, 2007

Different audiences in the drugs debate

The third extract from Transform's upcoming publication : After the War on Drugs, Tools for the Debate:

Different audiences in the debate

These starkly opposed assumptions (see: the fault lines in the debate between prohibitionist and reform positions) mean that the drugs debate is often conducted between groups of people who see the issues around drugs and their control very differently. You will encounter a range of different audiences in the political, media, NGO or public arenas, who have a range of different views on drug policy and policy reform. It is important to adapt your approach accordingly. The positions that you will find yourself arguing against can be roughly categorised as follows:

Evangelical prohibitionists

These tend to be people directly involved in drug enforcement; those who have a strong faith position (where drug use often equates to ‘sin’); or, occasionally, those who have had bad personal experiences with illegal drugs. (Note: none of these backgrounds preclude supporting reform – see: Transform’s archive of high profile supporters of reform). Always remember and respect the fact that these views are usually sincere and well-intentioned - they may have witnessed real drug related harm, are fearful it will get worse and passionately want to prevent it. To them drugs are a Pandora ’s Box, and prohibition – the law - is keeping the lid on it. They genuinely believe that ‘legalisation’ (as they perceive it) would pry open the box, cost lives and make the world a worse place. As such, they see themselves as prohibition’s principled guardians and advocates of law reform as their natural enemies.

Such views may be so deeply entrenched that there is little point trying to turn them round - it can be like arguing Darwinism with committed creationists. Sometimes the best you can achieve with such individuals or audiences is to use any public forum as an opportunity to put your views across, contrasting your rational reform position with the ideological prohibitionist one – and let the audience make their own minds up. That said, in Transform’s experience many of the least likely people, including some of our seemingly most implacable opponents, have in time been won over. Never give up hope, but be ready to cut your losses.

Knee-jerk prohibitionists

‘Knee-jerk’ isn’t meant here in any rude way, maybe ‘prohibitionists by default’ would be a good alternative term. These are people, probably constituting the bulk of your audience, who default to supporting some or most of the prohibitionist positions outlined above on the basis of exposure to one sided discourse and debate over a number of years. It is important to remember that, superficially at least, drug war rhetoric is very appealing, especially when unchallenged in mainstream debate by any coherent alternative. This audience’s position is based on ignorance of the reform analysis, rather than entrenched ideology, and is fertile ground for informing and changing perceptions. The shifting public opinion on cannabis reform (15% supporting decriminalisation/legalisation in the mid 80s, to over 50% today) provides strong evidence of how exposure to informed debate on this issue invariably pushes people in the direction of supporting reform. This is why you need to be getting involved in the debate.

Unconvinced reformers

This audience is your most receptive target. These are people who understand the failings of the current system and instinctively know that ‘something needs to be done’, but they are unclear what that might be. In the absence of a clear argument being made for moves towards legal regulation they will generally not feel inclined to challenge reforms being put forward by government, such as increased coerced treatment or harsh criminal justice crackdowns and ‘get tough’ initiatives. Their views on legal regulation may be clouded by misunderstandings about ‘legalisation’, put forward by cannabis evangelists or extreme libertarians. When they are presented with a coherent set of policy alternatives this group will usually be happy to support them.

Prohibitionist politicians

There is a fourth audience – the prohibitionist politicians, potentially the most important audience of all but often the most unequivocal and effective opponents of reform. The drug policy debate operates at an entirely different level to the rational / scientific one. It is important to bear in mind that many politicians hold a hard-line prohibitionist position for self-interested and career reasons – they are self-appointed ‘drug warriors’. Usually they are senior parliamentarians (ministers and their shadows), their spokespeople and the civil servants who back them up. They will trot out a ‘tough on drugs’ party line and back it up with a well-practiced repertoire of moral outrage or evasion, regardless of their personal views. They are the nearest thing you will encounter to a mortal enemy in this debate: they know their case is indefensible but argue it anyway. They are treating an important debate with disdain and in doing so are perpetuating a system they know to be harmful. No amount of brilliant argument will sway them because they are not interested in genuine intellectual debate or new ideas. If you have thoughts on how to influence this group please get in touch with us.

part 1
part 2

online July 2007...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

US: Nation’s Mayors Call for a New Bottom Line in U.S. Drug Policy

From The Drug Policy Alliance news page

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) made history last weekend by passing a resolution calling for a public health approach to the problems of substance use and abuse (PDF). The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City.

The resolution proclaims the war on drugs a failure, and calls for:

“a New Bottom Line in U.S. drug policy, a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own.”

In adopting the resolution, the mayors proclaimed addiction a broad public health concern and endorsed specific health-related measures. These include greater access to drug treatment such as methadone and other maintenance therapies, elimination of the federal ban on funding sterile syringe access programs, and establishment of prevention policies based on needs assessed at the local level.

The resolution also calls for using a greater percentage of drug war funding to evaluate current programs’ efficacy and accountability. Rather than measure the success of U.S. drug policy by examining drug use levels or number of people imprisoned, a New Bottom Line should be used assessing how much drug-related harm is reduced. National drug policy should focus on reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged—and funded—according to their ability to meet these goals.

Moreover, since the impact of drug policies is most acutely felt in local communities, evaluation and decision-making must occur at the local level--and federal funding must be provided to enable communities to pursue those policies that best meet the unique challenges of substance abuse.

“The mayors are clearly signaling the serious need for drug policy reform, an issue that ranks in importance among the most serious issues of the day,” said Daniel Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for DPA.

Adopted resolutions become the official policy of the USCM, which meets every year to promote the best practices and most pressing priorities of U.S. cities. Last weekend’s event was the 75th Annual USCM Meeting in Los Angeles, California.

GPs to ask patients in drug treatment about offending

The Telegraph reported on the 18th of June that:

"GPs, medical professionals and others working in drug treatment programmes will be required from this month to ask addicts whether, in the past four weeks, they have been involved in shoplifting, selling drugs, vehicle crime, theft or burglary, fraud, forgery or violence".
The report was in response to an initiative from the National Treatment Agency about changes they have made to monitoring forms for treatment providers.

At first sight this would seem to be offensive and invasive - your dentist, for example, doesn't ask you about your offending when they fill your teeth. On the other hand, from the NTA's point of view this is a rational way to find out if 'treatment' is actually reducing offending. As it says in their service users guide to the new form:
"Crime - Some people commit crimes to help fund their drug use, which can lead to prison, taking them away from their children, partner, family and friends. And society as a whole has to pay for it too. Research shows that treatment can help people avoid committing crime to fund their drug habit, and help them lead a more positive lifestyle. The TOP (Treatment Outcomes Profile) provides a measure of this but doesn’t expect you to reveal details of specific crimes."
So, invasive, offensive or just outcome monitoring? What's being missed here is what's being counted and what's not. The issue is this:

Is it fair to ask patients about their level of offending when the Government does not count the numbers who offend because of its having made drugs illegal in the first place?

What Government has done is effectively to pass the buck. The onus is now on 'treatment' to reduce the offending that is caused by the drugs' illegality in the first place. GPs have not been asked to find out whether the patients they are treating for tobacco addiction are offending less when they use patches. This is because the price of tobacco is low enough for a daily habit not to result in offending (and that's because it's legal).

What is going on here is perverse. The Government gets the Home Office to oversee the process of getting heroin and crack users offending (it now 'identifies' problem heroin and crack users through their offending) and then asks the Department of Health to reduce offending through 'treatment'.

This is not about treatment. It's about reducing the collateral damage created by prohibition. It is singularly unjust to demand that GPs and patients account for the efficacy of their intervention, whilst the Government/Home Office is not held to account for its policy.

NB There has been no official scrutiny of the efficacy of prohibition enforcement spending despite the fact that the crime costs arising from prohibition, according to the Home Office's own research, amount to over over £16 billion a year. This figure compares to less than a £1 billion a year spent on treatment.

Outcome monitoring fine, but let's apply some outcome monitoring to the the policy drug prohibition and its very expensive enforcement. Transform has been calling for an audit of prohibition since 2002 and was instrumental in getting the Lib Dems to adopt the call as party policy. Such an audit would provide a wealth of evidence to enable policy makers and civil society to assess the efficacy of existing prohibitionist drug policy. It is likely that it would expose and contribute to the demise of what is demonstrably a failed and counterproductive policy approach - probably the reason no one in Government seems interested in pursuing it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fault lines in the debate between prohibitionist and reform positions

The second extract from Tranform's upcoming publication: After the war on drugs, Tools for the debate, examines the different in the mindsets in the debate...
(part one here)

Summary table of key fault lines in the debate between prohibitionist and reform positions*

Those who support the prohibition of drugs tend to share a set of underlying assumptions about why these drugs are prohibited, and why it is important that they should remain so. Those who advocate reform of drug policy tend to do so on the basis of a different set of assumptions. The table below sets out the assumptions that typically lie behind these two polarised positions.

Status Quo position**Reform position
Illegal drug use must be eradicated

People have always used drugs,and always will
Any use of illegal drugs is problematic

Most illegal drug use is non-problematic. Many of the health harms associated with illegal drug use are actually because they are illegal.

Problematic drug use is caused by using drugs

Problematic drug use is primarily a symptom of underlying personal or social problems. Drugs can exacerbate underlying problems.

Drugs make people lose control and behave dangerously

People often take drugs partly to lose control (but it can get out of control).

Legalisation and regulation is a step into the unknown

We have centuries of experience in legally regulating thousands of different drugs

Drug law reform is being forced through by the ‘liberal elite’

Drug law reform is supported by individuals from across the social and political spectrum

Prohibition protects the health of
Prohibition creates new public health problems and maximises harms associated with illegal drug use

Prohibition sends an important message about avoiding drugs and their dangers

The criminal justice system should not be used to send public health messages.

Prohibition reduces the prevalence of use, and limits experimentation

Prevalence of use has risen dramatically under prohibition. Enforcement activity is, at best, a marginal influence on levels of use which rise and fall largely independent of policy and law

Harm reduction encourages drug use

Harm reduction saves lives. Trying to discourage drug use by maximising harm is unethical and ineffective

Reduced prevalence is the most important indicator of policy success

Reduced harm is the most important indicator of policy success

Increased availability leads to increased drug use and hence to increased problematic use

Increased availability may increase use, but well regulated availability will certainly reduce harm

Prohibition creates a barrier against temptation and actual chaos

Prohibition leads many into temptation and is creating criminal chaos.

Calling for legalisation and regulation brings the law into disrepute

Counterproductive enforcement brings the law into disrepute

Prohibition is based on a strong moral position that drugs are unacceptable

The policy that is most effective at reducing harm and maximising well being is the moral position

A strong ideological stand is more important than effectiveness

Measurable effectiveness is more important than ideology

Human rights issues of users can be ignored

Human rights issues of users and the wider community are paramount

Drugs are dangerous and should be prohibited

Drugs are dangerous and should be appropriately controlled and regulated

Prohibition controls drug use and drug markets

Prohibition abdicates control of illegal drug production and supply to the criminal networks and unregulated dealers

Ending prohibition would automatically hand control of the trade to multinational corporations (who would aggressively market drugs)

Ending prohibition allows for various models of control and regulation and takes the market away from criminals (who already aggressively market drugs)

The health, social and financial costs of prohibition are a price worth paying

Prohibition is hugely costly and counterproductive on most indicators

Underlying causes of problematic use can be addressed within a prohibitionist framework

Prohibition causes and exacerbates many problems associated with illegal drug use, and is an obstacle to addressing underlying causes

We must not ’give up’ the fight against illegal drugs

Drug policies should be adapted in response to evidence of effectiveness

Prohibition is ‘tough on drugs’

Prohibition creates a ‘gangster’s charter’

Producer countries are willfully ignoring global prohibition

Producer countries are unintentionally pushed into illegal production by the economics of illegal drug markets under global prohibition

* based on an original concept by Danny Kushlick
* * Inevitably these are generalisations, and not necessarily the precise policy positions of any individual

online July 2007...

Economist: spoof annual report from the drug mafia

As a follow up to Monday's UN world drug report the Economist, a long time supporter of drug law reform, has published a tongue in cheek editorial yesterday tellingly demonstrating how the global illicit drug market operates as a multinational business much like any other, albeit minus any legal regulatory framework, and with violence as its modus operandi. The only laws the market responds to are those of supply and demand. The piece also subtly highlights the irrelevance of current enforcement measures.

Is the narcotics industry in trouble?

"FOR decades business has been booming. Over the years rival operators have found ways to lift production, they have devised inventive supply chains that reach across the globe and have expanded markets so that they supply loyal consumers in almost every country. Estimates are hard to confirm, not least because enterprises have been reluctant to open their accounts to public scrutiny, but the industry was thought to claim global annual sales of some $320 billion in 2005 (tax free). And although some better-known trade bodies (the Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels, for example) have been forced to close shop, largely as a result of tough state regulation, the industry as a whole remains in rude health."

read the complete article here

Sunday, June 24, 2007

US: mayor of Newark speaks out against the drug war destroying his city

From the spiritual home of the war on drugs, a political leader with the intelligence to see what is going on, the courage to speak out, and the sense to try and do something constructive about it.

Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark


Booker redirects his anger at the war on drugs
(after page one click 'outside the US' to read the remainder of the article)

He is an angrier man now. And the focus of that anger is a public policy that he believes is ruining his city and threatening his hopes to change it.

The problem, he says, is New Jersey's tough tactics in the drug war. We are heavy on jail time and unforgiving even when prisoners finish their terms. At a time when even states like Texas are changing course, we are sticking with our failed strategy.

The result is to turn thousands of young men into economic cripples and to give the crime wave in Newark a flood of fresh recruits. Booker describes it as almost an economic genocide against African-American men in his city.

And if it doesn't change, he says, he's ready to go to jail in protest, in the tradition of the civil rights movement.

"I'm going to battle on this," the mayor says. "We're going to start doing it the gentlemanly way. And then we're going to do the civil disobedience way. Because this is absurd.

"I'm talking about marches. I'm talking about sit-ins at the state capitol. I'm talking about whatever it takes."

He wants to reserve prison cells for those who do violence and divert the nonviolent drug offenders into treatment programs and halfway houses.

"The drug war is causing crime," Booker says. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark." [...]

He knows it'll be tough. But when he talks about it, the political smile disappears and he wears the expression of a man preparing to smash his head into a brick wall if that's what it takes.

Lucky thing. Because that wall is sturdy. And it's way past time that someone knocked it down.

Some more quotes on drug law reform from US politicians in the Transform supprters of reform archive

thanks to Drug War Rant

Saturday, June 23, 2007

World Anti Drugs Day attempts to disguise UN drug agency failings

UN World Anti Drugs Day attempts to disguise the catastrophic failure of the UN drug agencies


No embargo

On Tuesday June 26th the UN office of drugs and crime (UNODC) will celebrate annual World Anti-Drugs Day. Transform Drug Policy Foundation, the UK's leading independent centre of expertise on drug policy and law reform, condemn the UNODC for once again attempting to dress up the striking failure of its anti-drugs strategy as success, and failing to speak out against mass executions of drug offenders in China.

Transform Drug Policy Foundation spokesperson Steve Rolles said:

“In 1998 the UN drug agencies pledged to create a ‘Drug Free World’ within ten years. However, The UNODC’s own annual world drug reports have chronicled the continued global rise in the production and use of drugs over the last decade, particularly of the most dangerous drugs, heroin and cocaine. By any measure the UNODC's policy and ten year strategy has been an abject failure, with Afghanistan opium production breaking new records, and cocaine use in Europe rising dramatically.

“But instead of reflecting on these failures and considering alternative strategies for controlling drug markets that do not involve wasting billions on futile eradication programmes and increasing militarization of the war on drugs, we just hear more tough talking and yet more announcements of new initiatives.

“This year, as they launch another initiative with the motto ‘do drugs control your life’, they should be asked why they have continually failed to condemn the practice in China of celebrating world anti-drugs day with mass executions of drug offenders. The UN Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions has called on China to end the use of the death penalty for drug trafficking, yet the UNODC, who organise world anti-drugs day has never seen fit to comment on China’s barbaric practices.

New UNODC campaign motto
'Do drugs control YOUR LIFE'
for UN World Anti-Drugs Day 26.06.07

Death sentence is publicly passed against a woman in
China who was immediately executed on drugs charges.
UN International Anti-Drugs Day 26.06.03
( via AI web site)


Background information

UNODC world anti drugs day page

UNODC annual report 2007

UNODC world drugs report 2006 (2007 edition due end of June, after world anti-drugs day)

Critique of UNODC world drugs report 2006 from the Trans National Institute

Transform briefing on the crisis in the UN drug agencies

Amnesty International condemn Chinese practice of executions to mark world anti-drug day

Stop the Drug War Blog on Chinese executions of drug offenders on world anti-drugs day

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Parliamentarians don’t support Reclassification of Pseudoephedrine

Below is copied a press release issued jointly by two all party parliamentary groups (drug misuse and primary care and public health) this week calling for the MRHA not to reclassify over the counter medicines containing ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine as prescription only.

This follows on from the recent kerfuffle about the dangers of cold remedies, such as Lemsip and Sudafed which contain the drugs in question (albeit in relatively tiny doses), being used in the illicit manufacture of meth amphetamine. As discussed here the recent War on Lemsip blog such a move would be largely gesture politics, and have no discernible impact on the production supply and use of meth amphetamine. As we have seen over the past century's experience of trying to prohibit drugs that are in demand, such moves will always fail. If there is profit to be made then illicit markets will always find a way to produce and supply.

Curiously though, in the UK at least there is no such demand. Methamphetamine use is relatively insignificant, with demand for stimulants being more than met with the more familiar amphetamine market (as well as other stimulants like cocaine and crack). Indeed the difference from a public health perspective between amphetamine and meth amphetamine is very little. Meth may be more potent and longer acting but of course there is nothing to stop the amphetamine user taking bigger doses more often. If banning lemsip etc is supposed to nip the problem in the bud then policy makers in the Home Office and MHRA are deluding themselves. Such moves have been tried in the US and shown to be completely ineffective. Similarly making the drug Class A as happened recently in the UK will be entirely ineffective as discussed on the blog here.

There is a danger here that we are buying into a classic drug panic. It is interesting to note that the language and discourse of the nascent meth panic is almost identical to previous drug panics, indeed apart from the drug name itself the latest accounts of misery, addiction, depravity and death associated with meth are virtually indistinguishable from those in the 90s associated with crack, the 70's and 80's with cocaine and PCP. Going back further still they are not that different from cannabis in the 30's and even alcohol in the 20's.

The parliamentarians are to be applauded for having the pragmatism not to throw the baby out with the bath water, and prevent legitimate access to everyday medicines because of a largely politically driven panic about an as yet non-existent problem.

Meth: coming soon to a drug den near you (maybe)


Primary Care and Public Health
Drugs Misuse

Joint inquiry: Proposals to restrict the availability of medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine

Parliamentarians don’t support Reclassification of Pseudoephedrine

The Joint Inquiry Report into proposals to restrict the availability of medicines containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care & Public Health and the executive members of the All Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group has been submitted to the MHRA in response to their consultation MLX 337. It has also been sent to Health Ministers and the Home Office.

The inquiry, which also held an urgent oral session on 18th April 2007, received evidence from multi-stakeholder organisations including patient and consumer groups, Drugscope (the drug charity), law enforcement agencies, MHRA, medical bodies and industry. Organisations that supported the MHRA proposal to reclassify medicines to POM were the BMA, Nursing & Midwifery Council, ACPO and of course the MHRA, the majority of evidence received however were opposed to the reverse switch.

In the Inquiry Report, the two Groups concluded that the evidence received by the law enforcement agencies and MHRA was not sufficient to justify the reclassification of medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to prescription only. This is especially the case, according to the Groups, because the controls that are currently in place in the UK are similar to those that exist in countries where there is an acknowledged methylamphetamine problem.

The Groups recommended a mixture of statutory and non-statutory controls:

  • reduce OTC medicine pack sizes to contain a maximum of 720mg through statute
  • limit the sales of products to one pack per person
  • tighten the pharmacy control of these medicines by working with the pharmacy profession to strengthen their vigilance in sale and supply
  • ensure the monitoring of the situation on a regular basis by a stakeholder group including law enforcement agencies, MHRA, pharmacy and industry, enabling a quick response should the situation change to a high risk of harm.
The Groups also feel it is essential that the Department of Health and the Home Office consider using the Misuse of Drugs Act to add further controls, similar to those implemented in the US, to criminalise the possession or supply of quantities of pseudoephedrine greater than those required for normal use.

For further details please contact Libby Whittaker who provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care & Public Health on 020 7421 9318 or email

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Canada: Free speech goes up in smoke at school

Below is copied a story chronicling just the latest installment of drug war madness in North America, this time from Canada. Discussing the relative risks of illegal drugs alongside legal ones in the wrong environment, a school for example, and apparently you are sending out 'pro-drug' messages. So another triumph of misplaced moral posturing over science and reason then. It is admittedly worse over there than here in the UK, but not by much if the recent furore over cannabis reclassification and 'sending out messages' is anything to go by. I wonder how the distinguished authors of the recent Lancet paper, that made the same point as young Kieran regards relative drug harms, would feel about this?

Young people need to know the risks and dangers of all drugs they may encounter, regardless of legal status. Actually, now I think about it, arguably illegal status is one of the potential harms they need to be warned about aswell, as a criminal record will often cause more harm than the use of the drug itself.

The free speech issues in this story also echo the very wierd 'Bong Hits for Jesus' saga, which recently reached the US supreme court.

Free speech goes up in smoke at school

Saskatchewan student's marijuana research spurs lock down and suspension


From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

June 20, 2007

WINNIPEG — It started months ago when Kieran King's high-school class heard a presentation about the dangers of drug use.

Kieran, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student in tiny Wawota, Sask., population 600, thought the presentation lacked credibility, so he did some research on the relative health risks of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.

When he told some of his fellow students that cannabis seemed the least hazardous of the three, he set in motion a series of events that led to a school lockdown, a threat assessment involving the RCMP, a suspension and failing grades on his exams.

"It's all a bit overwhelming," his mother, Jo Anne Euler, said. "It's just totally bizarre."

She explained that her son is a compulsive researcher who tends to go on at length about what he reads on the Internet.

One student at Wawota Parkland School didn't want to hear Kieran's thoughts about marijuana, and complained to principal Susan Wilson.

The principal then called Kieran's mother because she was concerned he was advocating drug use, Ms. Euler said.

Ms. Euler told the principal her son is an A student who doesn't go out, doesn't smoke or drink, and isn't pushing drugs on other kids.

"She said 'Well, if he talks about it again, I will be calling the police,' " Ms. Euler said. "I told Kieran that and he said 'Mom, all I'm doing is sharing the facts.' "

Kieran felt his right to free speech was being trampled, so he enlisted the help of the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party.

Together they planned a school walkout for free speech, scheduled for 11 a.m. last Tuesday, where free chocolate chip hemp seed cookies would be handed out.

But just before 11 that day, the principal announced that the school was a closed campus and that no one was allowed outside.

When several students tried to leave anyway, teachers barred the doors and ordered them back to class, Ms. Euler said. Kieran and his younger brother Lucas defied and joined a ragtag group of five protesters standing across from the school holding placards.

The principal then ordered a lockdown to ensure the safety of students. The RCMP raced to the scene, only to find a small, peaceful protest.

Kieran's mother was again called to the school and told that both her sons had been suspended for three days. Later that day, the school conducted a threat assessment on Kieran with the help of the RCMP and school division counsellors, Ms. Euler said............

read the rest of this sorry tale here


Where is the drug policy reform debate up to today?

Below is an edited section from the introduction to the upcoming Transform publication 'After the War on Drug's - tools for the debate' A guide to making the case for drug policy reform. The Transform blog has secured exclusive serialisation rights for an undisclosed 5-figure sum. The guide will be available in print (and as a free pdf download) in July, but the blog will be serialising key sections over the coming weeks.....

Cover Design (an early draft...)

Where are we up to today?

The cause of drug law reform has been a prolonged struggle that began as soon as drug prohibition in its modern form came into being. Although prohibitions of various drugs stretch back into the 18th century (see Transform’s history of prohibition time line), the modern drug law reform movement began in earnest with the social movements of the 1960s. It was during this decade that the 1961 UN Convention on Drugs enshrined prohibition as a truly global policy, and recreational drug use in the West simultaneously began its dramatic rise toward current levels.

The drugs debate has moved on considerably since that time, with the political, social and cultural landscape shifting and evolving dramatically, both in the UK and in the wider world. All the problems associated with drug prohibition and illegal markets have continued to worsen over the past four decades: the prevalence of illegal drug use has risen steadily despite the many billions spent on enforcing a policy intended to eradicate it. As prohibition’s policy outcomes have deteriorated, the volume of calls for a rethink and serious consideration of alternative policy options has grown. This growth accelerated particularly rapidly during the 1990s as recreational use of illegal drugs became a truly mainstream youth phenomenon, and problematic use (of heroin in particular) ballooned to epidemic proportions. Problematic drug use now causes a level of secondary crime-related harms to wider society that is unprecedented in modern history, and was entirely unanticipated when drugs were prohibited.

It is now clear that our drug policy cannot continue down the same failed path forever. Prohibition’s failure is now widely understood and acknowledged among key stakeholders in the debate. Although politicians have thus far been the primary beneficiaries of the policy (the other beneficiaries being the mafia), the political benefits of pursuing prohibition are now waning and the political costs of its continuation are becoming unsustainable. The intellectual and political consensus supporting a ‘War on Drugs’ is crumbling rapidly, and calls for ‘more of the same’, or ever tougher enforcement responses, no longer go unchallenged. Since the 1990s, a vigorous network of domestic and international NGOs have been making the case for substantive pragmatic reform to drug policy and law.

However, although the failure of the current policy is now widely accepted, even within government, there is less consensus on 'so, where now?'. Those in a state of denial over the failure of the drug war typically argue that policy can be tweaked within the prohibitionist framework to make it more effective. This usually means directing more resources into treatment and harm reduction, and perhaps being more tolerant of low level drug users. There is considerable room for manoeuvre within UK and international law for policies that could improve the current situation and indeed many such changes are already underway. In recent years we have seen cannabis reclassification, the expansion of heroin and methadone prescribing, harm reduction programs such as the needle exchanges and ‘injecting kits’, and increased investment in drug treatment.

Internationally, reforms have gone much further. A number of countries have progressed to de facto decriminalision of personal possession of all drugs, including Russia, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Holland. Harm reduction measures have been widely adopted, including maintenance prescribing of heroin (and increasingly of stimulants), supervised drug consumption rooms, and even tolerance of low level ‘grey market’ sales of some drugs, such as the cannabis ‘coffee shop’ system in Holland.

The problem is that, for the most part, these reforms are merely reducing harms created by illegal markets and harshly enforced prohibition in the first place. They never address its fundamental problems: the creation of crime and illegal markets and the injustice of criminalising drug users. Tinkering with domestic policy under strict international prohibition is not a long term solution. It is an attempt to minimise harms within a legal framework that maximises them, and thus its successes will always be marginal ones.

By contrast, the truth that underlies the drug reform movement - that a punitive enforcement approach is actively counter-productive – is far harder to address directly. This prevents it being followed to its obvious logical conclusion: decriminalising consenting adult drug use and moving towards the legal regulation and control of some or all drug production and supply.

Yet this last taboo is now also crumbling, as Transform’s collection of quotes from supporters of reform so resoundingly demonstrates. The Transform quote archive also reveals that there have been strong arguments in favour of drug law reform in media as diverse as the Mirror, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Times, the Economist, The New Statesman and many others besides. You really do not have to wait for the reform position to gain mainstream traction – it already has it.

Whilst it remains important to support and encourage the process of incremental change away from harshly enforced prohibition towards a new evidence-based public health approach, there are already many groups dedicated to doing this and much change is already happening in this direction. The specific task of Transform and the movement for longer term reform is to make the case and campaign for a repeal of the absolute drug prohibition currently enshrined in domestic and international law. It is only this fundamental step that will make it possible to end the criminal free-for-all of the illegal drugs market by replacing it with appropriately regulated drug production and supply. That is what will lead to a real transformation of society, both for those who use drugs and those who don’t; and that is what the 'Tools for Debate' guide is all about.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Westminster Hall debate on drug classification: report

Overall, this debate on drug classification, following up on the Science and Technology Select Committee's 2006 highly critical report on the subject, was rather disappointing. Stretching out over more than three hours, with three 15 minute breaks for division-bell votes in the Commons, this was less of a debate than a restatement of existing positions. Some of it was very interesting but there was little added to previous written reports and committee sessions. For a far more incisive and informative debate I highly recommend reading the transcript of the committees follow up session last November in which they re-interrogated the Minister, the Chair of the ACMD and the Chair of the ACMD technical committee following the written responses to the committee's 'Making a hash of it' report .

see here for more details on the debate and background info

Unlike the cut and thrust of committee interrogations and cross examinations, which are far more feisty and unpredictable, this was in the classic parliamentary debate format with speeches from interested parties, followed by a response by the Minister Vernon Coaker, representing the Government. Whilst people were free to make interventions they generally didn't, and I personally found it all a bit flat and unrewarding. It will all be online on Hansard in a couple of days so you can make your own minds up then. In the mean time.....

Phil Willis, chair of the committee, gave an excellent introductory speech essentially summarising the committees findings and then critiquing the rather hopeless response from the Government.

Brian Iddon then gave a similar speech picking up on a few of the details of the report, using the risible lack of science or scrutiny behind the decision to classify magic mushrooms as a class A drug in 2005 as his central example.

Paul Flynn, not a member of the committee, then took the floor to lambast the failure of the Government's drug policy in the strongest of terms, reminding the Minister that he had sat through 20 years of empty promises from tough talking ministers hell-bent on an enforcement led drug policy despite the disastrous consequences for all to see. He referred to the Government's response to the inquiry as a disgrace and highlighted the harm, including drug deaths in his constituency that were the direct result of prohibition. (He also name-checked Transform - which was good to hear).

Dr Evan Harris
then took the floor, focusing on the response to the committee's report from the ACMD itself, which he rightly noted to have been defensive to the point of rudeness. The reports author, ACMD chair Sir Micheal Rawlins, had clearly taken exception to the committee's criticisms (which were arguably over-personalised), and had penned a terse and stroppy response that Dr Harris then critiqued (Rawlins, it should be acknowledged had made amends for this at the November follow up session). Harris also restated the Lib Dems progressive policy and tried rather lamely to claim they were fully behind it (actually it has hardly ever been mentioned and disappeared from their website during the general election. hmmm).

Finally there was a rather dull exposition from Vernon Coaker's Shadow, Edward Garnier, speaking for the Tories, who had a few vaguely interesting things to say about his experience as a judge, along with the new Tory policy (basically: send addicts to rehab not prison), but nothing useful to contribute to the debate about classification. This was presumably because the Tories daren't touch drug law reform whilst they still think there's tabloid capital to be made by hyping the 'skunk' panic and then making the Government look bad by endlessly twittering on about cannabis re-classification, or re-re-classification, to try and make the Government look bad. He was interrupted twice by the division bell and had to forfeit a couple of pages of speech, which, to be honest, was a relief.

After all that, and with only about 15 minutes of the 3 hour session remaining the Minister finally took the floor to respond. This he did predictably enough beginning with lots of platitudes about how wonderful the report, the committee and the debate were, and how there were passionate views on all sides and he respected etc. etc. This was then followed with a list of all the changes that had been made in response to the committee. These included:

on increasing transparency:

  • that ACMD minutes would henceforth be available online (on the Home Office website at some unspecified point in the future)
  • that ACMD meetings would, with a few exceptions, be open to the public, who would also be able to ask questions (times and dates will be on the Transform website when we learn them)
on reviewing classification:
  • The ACMD would be doing a systematic review of all drug classifications, including ecstasy and magic mushrooms (although no time scale was given on this, and to be honest that is their job anyway so its hardly a massive concession).
  • Coaker renewed his assertion that the Government had no intention of reclassifying ecstasy, but said, in a micro-concession perhaps, that they would 'wait and see' what the ACMD had to say, and also that the Government had never rejected a recommendation made by the committee ( perhaps overlooking the ACMD call to reclassify cannabis which they had been recommending since the seventies?)
And that was that. On all the substantive critique about the and lack of science and evidence base underpinning the system more generally he said nothing useful at all, except to repeat the line from the Government's written report that he believed the classification system was great and doing its job brilliantly, almost as if saying it enough times might somehow make it true. Evidence for this success was a list of cherry picked statistics, (some of which have been deconstructed here ) and meaningless process indicators (basically a re-run of this article).

The issue of a consultation/review of the classification was briefly addressed towards the end, having cropped up repeatedly in the speeches. Specifically why the Government had cancelled its plans (announced by the previous Home Secretary to the House of Commons last January) to have such a review despite calls from the ACMD itself, the Science and technology Select committee, The RSA, and many others, and despite the fact that the consultation document had been drafted and was days away from publication. We were given the preposterous fob off of answer that : ' there is no optimum system obviously better than what we have today'. This runs contrary to the conclusions of the Committee, the Lancet paper published by the head of the ACMD's own technical committee and the head of the Medical Research Council, not to mention our old friends logic and reason.

The minister was similarly dismissive on the issue of the lack of evidence base for classification as a deterrent to use or dealing. In a classic ministerial 'we'll get back to you on that' non-answer Coaker said that the Home Office was doing some 'scoping' work on deterrence and 'we are looking to how to take that forward'. Translation: we know there's no evidence so we are going to stall on this one until it hopefully goes away.

Coaker is a great politician and a likable chap, he does sincerity very well. But even if he buys into some of the Government's position on drugs (regards harm reduction and treatment perhaps where arguably progress has been made) it must be quite distressing to have to come before a Select Committee of scientists, who clearly know more about the issue than he does, and who have systematically and rather brilliantly critiqued one key aspect of drug policy which is transparently unscientific, and demonstrably a total failure - and then have to passionately defend it. The only option available (obviously excluding conceding the mistake and improving policy accordingly) is to spin the few crumbs of success where you can find them and then avoid all the substantive issues using the familiar ministerial armoury of rhetorical tricksyness.

This particular junior ministerial position appears more and more like a rite of passage for future cabinet ministers. It reminds me of a frat-house hazing ritual - survive it and you become one of the gang (Blears, Flint), mess it up and you're relegated (Howath, Ainsworth). If you can carry the poisoned chalice of drug prohibition, defend the indefensible, spin catastrophic failure as success, and keep your chin up and your smile in place whilst running the gauntlet of truth-seeking scientists and free-thinking backbenchers and NGO's, then maybe sonny-jim, there's a place at the big table for you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Canada: 'Put the gangs out of business: legalize drugs'

A powerful op-ed appears in today's National Post in Canada. Written byMichael C. Chettleburgh (author, researcher and consultant on Canadian gang culture), and titled 'put the drug gangs out of business: legalize drugs', it considers the the role of prohibition, in combination with social deprivation, in fuelling the devastating development of violent urban gang culture in the US and Canada. He argues for a remedy involving prevention in the form of social development combined with the collapsing of the illicit market through legalisation and regulation of illegal drugs. From the conclusion:

"Absent a robust underground trade in drugs, just how are Canada's estimated 14,000 street gangsters going to make sufficient money to offset the dangers inherent in the job of gangster? Sure, they may turn to other criminal enterprise, but there is not another in the world so alluring, so profitable, so vibrant, than the drug trade. Drug reform will not solve the drug problem entirely. But it will go a long way to solving what has been termed the "drug-problem problem," which is the pull of the gang and its associated crime and violence."

MEPs clued up on drug law reform?

A newly published study by the Universities of Manchester, Aberystwyth and the London School of Economics surveyed the beliefs of 272 MEPs on a number of key issues. At that time, summer 2006, 20% thought cannabis should be decriminalised. Support amongst UK MEPs was 30% and Dutch MEPs at 82%. The full report will be available by the end of today.

The European Parliament has historically been far more outspoken than its UK counterpart in its criticisms of prohibition and calls for reform. In 2002, 108 MEPs, Including ten UK MEPs (and a further five UK MPs) signed a petition stating that

"the drug prohibition policy stemming from the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 is the actual cause of the increasing damage which the production, trafficking, sale and consumption of illegal substances inflict on entire sections of society, the economy as well as public institutions, thus undermining health, freedom and individuals' lives"and calling for "a system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

EVENTS: Westminster Hall debate on drug classification

The Science and Technology Select committee is holding a debate on its report: Drug Classification: Making a hash of it. The Debate is in Westminster Hall this Thursday, from 2.30- 5.30, and is open to the Public. (details below)

The committee's report was highly critical of the A,B,C drug classification system, which it concluded was unscientific, outdated, riddled with anomalies and 'not fit for purpose'. The report made a series of suggestions for ways forward including institutional reforms.

Responses to the report were received from the ACMD (which itself came in for some criticism) and the Government. There has subsequently been a follow up session during which the Committee returned to the issue in light of these written responses, during which they re-interrogated Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker, and the two senior figures in the ACMD.

Thursdays debate will again feature Vernon Coaker defending the Governments position that it 'believes' the classification 'has stood the test of time' and is 'fit for purpose' despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary as assembled by his fellow MPs on the committee. It promises to provide a showcase for the essential Home Office ministerial skills of spin and defending the indefensible for transparently political reasons. The hopeless written response from the Government was absurdly dismissive of the Committee's detailed analysis and an insulting intellectual response to the Committee's considered conclusions and recommendations. We can expect some fireworks, especially if the Ministerial bluster from the follow up session is any precedent. The Committee are clearly not happy.

Report links:

Transform's written submission to the Inquiry
which, along with Transform's oral evidence, is extensively quoted in the final report, significantly shaping its conclusions and critique.

Drug Classification: making a hash of it?
The Committees final report in pdf (includes oral and written evidence). It is strongest on the science critique, although arguably a bit clumsy in some of the institutional/structural critique.

Governments written response to the report
Defensive to the point of being an embarrassment to all concerned. Fails to engage with all meaningful questions asked about the scientific basis or evidence base for drug policy and classification.

Follow up session on classification with The Committee cross examining the Drugs Minister and ACMD chair (Hansard transcript)

Whilst ACMD are redeemed to some degree, this is worth reading for the absolute astonishing series of exchanges with Coaker in which the Government's belief-based drug policy is laid bare in all its science-free glory. Any pretence that the policy is based on evidence is unashamedly jettisoned.

Previous blogs:

Transform Blog: Classification and Deterrence: Where's the evidence?
discussion of one of the more ludicrous aspects of the Government's response to the Committees assertion that the classification system lacked an evidence base.

Transform Blog: Meth is Class A: we can relax now
revisits some of the themes from the committee report with reference to the reclassification of meth-amphetamine

Transform Blog: The Lancet and drug harms: missing the bigger picture
the ACMD technical experts finally publish their new methodology for assessing drug harms in the Lancet. The Home Office, who appoint the ACMD to advise them on classification issue. Also discusses the Minister's response to this analysis in the world's premier medical journal - needs to be read to be believed.

press release from Select Committee on Science and Technology

No. 39 of Session 2006-07 22 May 2007

A debate on the Committee’s Report
Thursday 14 June 2007

On Thursday 14 June there will be a debate in Westminster Hall on the Committee’s Report Drug classification: making a hash of it?. The debate is open to the public.

The debate will focus on the conclusions of the Committee’s Report, the Government’s response as well as the response received from the ACMD, and will also cover relevant recent developments.

The Report to be debated is:

  • Fifth Report, Session 2005-06, Drug classification: making a hash of it?, published on 31 July 2006 as HC 1031.
Also relevant is the subsequent Government response to the Committee’s Fifth Report:
  • The Government Reply to the Fifth Report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Session 2005-06, HC 1031, Drug classification: making a hash of it?, published in October 2006 as Cm 6941

The Committee held a follow-up evidence session with the Minister on 22 November 2006. Minutes of Evidence from this session are published as:

  • Drug classification: making a hash of it? – follow-up: Oral evidence from Mr Vernon Coaker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety, Home Office, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman, and Professor David Nutt, Member and Chair, Technical Committee, Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), published as HC 65-i on 20 March 2007.

The response received from ACMD is published together with the oral evidence.

For further information please call Ana Ferreira, on 020 7219 2793.

Previous press notices and publications are available on our website

Notes for those wishing to attend the debate in Westminster Hall:

Members of the public wishing to attend should present themselves at St Stephen’s Entrance where they will be directed through security and to Westminster Hall. It is advisable to allow about 15 minutes for this. Please ensure that mobile phones and pagers are turned off before entering Westminster Hall. Under no circumstances should members of the public address Members during the debate. Those attending the debate are asked to remain silent throughout.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Powdered alcohol for kids

*updated 16.02. see below* .

After a almost a week of booze hogging the blog we will hopefully be returning to good old fashioned illegal drug news soon. In the mean time......

The latest shocker comes from the Netherlands where some students have, according to Reuters, produced a powder, named Booz2go, which when water is added creates a fizzy lime flavoured beverage that is 3% alcohol. A bit implausible perhaps but not entirely beyond the realms of science. Worryingly the inventors are very specifically "aiming for the youth market. They are really more into it because you can compare it with Bacardi-mixed drinks".

So its a powdered alcopops for the nippers.

The inventors, who cooked up the new product for an end of year school project (on which course I have to wonder?) note that "Because the alcohol is not in liquid form, we can sell it to people below 16," and that as a non liquid it is also not liable to tax (in the Netherlands anyway, I have no idea how the law would view it in the UK or elsewhere).

So actually its a powdered alcopop that tastes like a lime Bacardi breezer, that you can sell to under 16's and don't have to pay tax.

bad enough in the more conventional liquid form

It is perhaps no surprise that the news story ends with the news that 'A number of companies are interested'. And why not; for the alcohol industry this is their DREAM PRODUCT. No tax, no pesky age restrictions, and no need for the pretence that 'alcopops are not produced to target underage drinkers, honest'. Maybe it can be snorted too. That could open up a whole new market....


Having consulted some of my science boffin friends it would appear that this story is another example of bad reporting of a some non-news. This story from August 2005 bears an uncanny resemblence to the Reuters 'news' item; the Dutch student's product would apear to be neither an 'innovation' nor their 'invention'. A German product called 'subyou' apparently actually made it to the market, briefly (the website is now defunct)

Subyou sales website

the product

according to the original 2005 coverage on the dw-world German website:

“They look harmless enough, the inconspicuous packets often next to the cashier at gas stations, convenience stores, beverage stores and bars. But according to consumer protection officials, that’s what makes them all the more dangerous, since the powder inside contains alcohol, and a lot of it — about 4.8 percent by volume. That is the equivalent of one to one-and-a-half glasses of liquor.

“The product is called subyou, manufactured by a company in North Rhine-Westphalia, and is marketed squarely at teenagers with slogans like “taste for not much dough” and “gets a good buzz going.” Add the powder to cold water, and consumers have an alcoholic drink containing either vodka or rum. “These are just as dangerous as the alcopops that came in the bottles,” Birgit Rehlender, nutrition expert at consumer affairs organization Stiftung Warentest told Der Spiegel weekly.

“While authorities were able to curtail the consumption of alcopops with a special tax on the drinks last August — which put them out of the reach of many teenage budgets — these new alcopops in powder form cost between 1.65 and 2.40 euros ($2.06 and $3.00) per package. Subyou is able to get around the tax because its product comes in powder form. The powder was first sold over the Internet, and word spread quickly among teenage circles that those under 18 could order off the Internet without fear of being asked for proof of age. However, according to Andrea Schauff, a nutritional expert at Hesse’s consumer protection organization, in many stores the powder is being sold to under-age kids even though a warning is printed on the packets: “Alcohol can be addictive — no sales to minors.”

There is also some details about possible health issues:

“Besides the high alcohol content, youth advocates also worry about the powder’s other ingredients, including high levels of preservatives, sorbic acid, and dyes that have not been approved by health experts. ”
One person noted in a forum I have been discussing this issue on: "Most compounds that would easily release ethanol aren't particularly nice, e.g. diethylpyrocarbonate or diethylcarbonate".

I honestly thought this story was just some agency fluff, a daft 'and finally' story. If, as appears, it actually has some substance then the relevant authorities would need to have this nasty stuff regulated pretty quickly (as appears to have happened in germany) to prevent underage access, and if it is a dodgy as it appears to be, keep it off the market altogether. It seems highly unlikely this will ever trouble us in the UK but, strewth, as if there wasn't enough problems with regular booze.....

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

another alcohol strategy: fine words, but spineless

The new Alcohol strategy document is published today (approx 1 meg pdf):

Safe, Sensible, Sociable

There is alot of common sense in this document, lots of good ideas and good intentions, as in fact their was in the last one. But good intentions in an attractive document does not itself automatically translate into good policy making, or good policy outcomes.

There is also, regrettably, alot of the same spinning of policy failure as success that we have seen in policy on illegal drugs, mostly using the same trick: trumpeting largely meaningless 'process' successes, whilst playing down failures on those troublesome so-called 'outcome' measures. In today's Government press release for example, Home Office minister Vernon Coaker, master of the genre, gives good process:

"Since the previous alcohol strategy we have seen significant progress through the 'Know Your Limits' binge drinking publicity campaign, new enforcement powers in the licensing and Violent Crime Reduction Acts and the establishment of a new independent charity, the 'Drinkaware Trust', to promote sensible drinking. We are looking to build on these successes and for us all to pull together and call time on the way some of us drink"

The process-fest continues in the introduction of the strategy itself where we learn, fascinatingly, that as part of the success of the previous strategy:

"of the 41 actions in the original strategy, 26 have been delivered and a further 14 are underway."

Woohoo! On the outcome front we learn that 'levels of alcohol consumption no longer rising' , a fairly crap idea of 'success' if the goal is a fall in use. Stabilising at a level amongst the highest in Europe is nothing to crow about, just as the drug strategy celebrating heroin and cocaine use 'stabilising' (at a precipitous and unprecedented high, top of the Euro consumption league) is a bit lame given the goal of a 50% reduction (although, to be fair, they have till next March to achieve that).

you have to look far lower down the press release before you learn from the young people's Minister that:
"The evidence we've looked at suggests young people are drinking at a younger age and in greater quantities than before"
and plough through a couple of chapters beyond the exec summary of the report itself before you start to see miserable graphs like this one:

The other thing that strikes me is the feeling that the industry funded Portman Group PR front organisation is breathing down my neck as I read. Portman Group research is extensively quoted, and the industry funded drinkaware website is repeatedly highlighted (problem drinkers being presumably one of the populations least likely to access websites) , as is the industry funded drinkaware charity. Why should we rely on the alcohol industry to provide information to the public on alcohol and health? Er, conflict of interest anyone? By what factor, I wonder, does the industry marketing and advertising budget (none of which output contains any health warnings) eclipse the money spent on drinkaware? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand?

We also have inexplicable calls for a public consultation on, of all things, alcohol pricing and promotion. Seriously, what do you think they will say? Odd that the Portman Group, (amonsgt lots of other process calls) should claim yesterday that:
“We welcome the independent review into whether price promotions contribute to harmful drinking. At the moment, the effect of such promotions is unknown. This review should collect the evidence before we can determine if any new restrictions are necessary."
Rubbish. Once again there is masses of evidence, undisputed by the WHO, the BMA, various royal colleges, Alcohol Concern etc. that low prices and promotions (the clue is in the word) 'promote' increased consumption. Again you have to wonder who the Government have been talking to, or rather, listening to. This stuff is obvious and well understood. Alcohol is relatively far cheaper than it was a few decades ago, and consumption has risen dramatically: the Government knows full well that increasing prices would dissuade use amongst key groups, and they are in the position to easily make the intervention. A public consultation will add nothing useful to this body of knowledge, it is simply an ingenious stalling tactic from the industry to protect its interests - which resolutely do not involve a reduction in consumption. It is symptomatic of our whole spineless alcohol policy that this Government has caved in to the industry, again, despite overwhelming evidence that they should listen to experts who are not also making money marketing potentially risky drugs to young people.

recent blogs on alcohol policy:

Why alcohol ads being pulled from kids replica kits is nowhere near enough.

Government complicity in the alcohol marketing scandal