Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation' re-published in Italian

We are pleased to announce that Transform's groundbreaking 2009 book 'After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation' has recently been re-published in Italian. Translated, redesigned and published in Italy by publishers Ediesse - it is available to buy in hard copy online here (12 euros).  The book has a new preface by Sandro Del Fattore and Giuseppe Bortone, and foreword by Franco Corleone and Grazia Zuffa*. We are particularly grateful to Grazia whose hard work made this new edition possible.

Transform made the copyright material freely available to the publishers under its existing creative commons licence as they were willing to translate, redesign and publish the book, and crucially make it available as a free pdf as of April 2012.

As full Spanish translation of Blueprint will also be published soon. Translations of the executive summary are already available (as pdfs) in Portuguese (also in print), Spanish (also in print), Italian and Russian.

The original English version remains available in print or as a free pdf download.

*The new Foreword and Introduction are the responsibility of the Italian publishers and authors, not Transform. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Important new book: 'Children of the Drug War' (free pdf download)

'Children of the Drug War' is a unique collection of original essays that investigates the impacts of the war on drugs on children, young people and their families. With contributions from around the world, providing different perspectives and utilizing a wide range of styles and approaches including ethnographic studies, personal accounts and interviews, the book asks fundamental questions of national and international drug control systems:

  • What have been the costs to children and young people of the war on drugs?
  • Is the protection of children from drugs a solid justification for current policies?
  • What kinds of public fears and preconceptions exist in relation to drugs and the drug trade?
  • How can children and young people be placed at the forefront of drug policies?
Four thematic sections address:
  • Production and trade
  • Race, class and law enforcement
  • Families and drug policy
  • Drug use and dependence

The book is published by the International Debate Education Association (iDebate Press). It is available for purchase in hard copy from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and other outlets.

The book has a dedicated webpage here which includes a downloadable pdf of the full book, and pdfs of each of its four sections. It can also be read online.

Steve Rolles, Transform's senior policy analyst, has written a chapter for the book titled 'After the War on Drugs: How Legal Regulation of Production and Trade Would Better Protect Children'.

The book also forms part of the new Count the Costs initiative - the introductory chapter, by the book's editor Damon Barrett, titled 'Counting the Costs of the Children’s Drug War'.

Please help  publicise this brilliant new resource by linking the site, publicising it on your social networks, and drawing attention of key policy makers, professionals and media to the book.  

Friday, August 05, 2011

Lib Dems consider drug law reform at conference

We're excited to see that a promising development in the UK debate is being widely reported today; the Lib Dems are to debate a motion at this years annual conference that takes a wide ranging look at drug law reform - specifically considering both decriminalisation of personal drug possession, and regulated cannabis markets. In many respects this isn't new territory for the Lib Dems - who have a long history of more rational thinking on the drugs issue than the other two main UK parties. They have had a call for legalisation and regulation of cannabis (albeit with some caveats) as official policy since 2002, and something resembling the decrim call (minus specifics) was actually in their 2010 election manifesto:

"Ensure that financial resources, and police and court time, are not wasted
on the unnecessary prosecution and imprisonment of drug users and addicts; the
focus instead should be on getting addicts the treatment they need. Police
should concentrate their efforts on organised drug pushers and gangs."
Party leader Nick Clegg, has also gone on the record in the past in favour of progressive drug law reform including legalisation and regulation (as indeed has David Cameron). The significant development then is not the emergence of the proposals themselves, but the fact that they have been accepted for debate at conference. The Lib Dem campaigners responsible for the motion (The Lib Dems for Drug Policy Reform group) have been pushing such motions for years without much luck. It could be that the Lib Dems are keen to put some distance between themselves ad the Tories with some progressive liberal ideas, but nonetheless, it's a clear sign of the changing climate that this motion is now on the table, and will be fascinating to see how the debate develops if it is adopted by one of the coalition government partners.

It's worth reading the conference motion (below) in full - which hasn't been included in any of the media coverage thus far (although the Independent has a supportive leader). Its almost alarmingly measured and reasonable. Event the Daily Mail reports it fairly straight, paying lip service to the usual antis, and not editorialising on it. It's almost as if they couldn't be bothered to get outraged about it...

The motion also highlights the important observation - thus far seemingly unnoticed by the media - that the ACMD, in effect backed the decrim concept (albeit calling it the more politically palatable 'diversion', rather than the more loaded term 'decriminalisation') in its submission to the drug strategy consultation last year.

We're delighted to see that the motion begins with a call for an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act. A position that Transform has been advocating for many years.

Protecting individuals and communities from drug harms

Conference notes:

1) That drugs are powerful substances which can have serious consequences for the individual user and society in general; and that it is therefore right and proper that the state should intervene to regulate and control the use of such substances as it does the consumption of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco and both prescription and over the counter medicines.

2) That the misuse of drugs can blight the lives of individuals and families and the purchase of illegal drugs can help to fuel organised crime.

3) The need for evidence-based policy making on drugs with a clear focus on prevention and harm-reduction.

4) There is increasing evidence that the UK’s drugs policy is not only ineffective and not cost effective but actually harmful, impacting particularly severely on the poor and marginalised.

Conference further notes:

A. The positive evidence from new approaches elsewhere including Portuguese reforms that have been successful in reducing problematic drug use through decriminalising possession for personal use of all drugs and investing in treatment programmes.

B. That those countries and states that have decriminalised possession of some or all drugs have not seen increased use of those drugs relative to their neighbours.

C. That heroin maintenance clinics in Switzerland and The Netherlands have delivered great health benefits for addicts while delivering considerable reductions in drug-related crime and prevalence of heroin use.

D. The contribution of the ACMD to the 2010 Drug Strategy consultation which states that “people found to be in possession of drugs (any) for personal use (and involved in no other criminal offences) should not be processed through the criminal justice system but instead be diverted into drug education/awareness courses or possibly other, more creative civil punishment”.

E. The report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy whose members include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former heads of state of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Switzerland, the current Prime Minister of Greece, a former US Secretary of State and many other eminent world figures, which encouraged governments to consider the legal regulation of drugs in order to, “undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens”.

F. That the United Kingdom remains bound by various international conventions and that any re-negotiation or new agreements will require international co-ordination.

Conference believes:

i) That individuals, especially young people, can be damaged both by the imposition of criminal records and by a drug habit, and that the priority for those addicted to all substances must be health care, education and rehabilitation not punishment.

ii) Governments should reject policies if they are demonstrated to be ineffective in achieving their stated goals and should seek to learn from policies which have been successful.

iii) At a time when Home Office and Ministry of Justice spending is facing considerable contraction, thereis a powerful case for examining whether an evidence-based policy would produce savings allowing the quality of service provided by these departments to be maintained or to improve.

iv) That one of the key barriers to developing better drugs policy has been the previous Labour government’s persistent refusal to take on board scientific advice, and the absence of an overall evaluative framework of the UK’s drugs strategy.

v) That the Department of Health should take on a greater responsibility for dealing with drugs.

Conference calls for:

a) The Government to immediately establish an independent panel tasked with carrying out an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, to properly evaluate, economically and scientifically, the present legal framework for dealing with drugs in the United Kingdom.

b) The Panel should also consider reform of the law, based on the Portuguese model, such that i) possession of any controlled drug for personal use would not be a criminal offence;

ii) possession would be prohibited but should cause police officers to issue citations for individuals to appear before panels tasked with determining appropriate education, health or social interventions.

c) The panel should also consider as an alternative, potential frameworks for a strictly controlled and regulated cannabis market and the potential impacts of such regulation on organised crime, and the health and safety of the public, especially children.

d) The reinvestment of any resources released into effective education, treatment and rehabilitation programmes.

e) The widespread provision of the highest quality evidence-based medical, psychological and social services for those affected by drugs problems. These services should include widespread availability of heroin maintenance clinics for the most problematic and vulnerable heroin users.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

US National Association for the Advancement of Colored People calls for end to war on drugs

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, (the oldest and largest civil rights organisation in the US) has joined the list of prominent organisations and individuals calling for a major paradigm shift away from the failed and punitive "war on drugs" and toward a health-based approach, with a resolution passed last week at the organization's national conference in Los Angeles (see the full press release below).

Neill Franklin, an African American former narcotics cop from Baltimore and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who presented on the need to end the "war on drugs" at the NAACP conference, said about the resolution:

"The NAACP has been on the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and social justice in this country for over a century. The fact that these leaders are joining others like the National Black Police Association in calling for an end to the 'war on drugs' should be a wake up call to those politicians - including and especially President Obama - who still have not come to terms with the devastation that the 'drug war' causes in our society and especially in communities of color."
This is a video of Neill's address to the conference:

Given that the discriminatory application of the drug laws applies throughout the world, Transform looks forward to black and ethnic minority groups in the UK and beyond calling for reform.

A televised broadcast of President Obama repeating his opposition to what he called "decriminalisation" can be seen here. In it he says: “Just to make sure that I’m actually answering your question, am I willing to pursue a decriminalization strategy as an approach? No.”


President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous: Major step towards equity, justice, effective law enforcement

Contact: Ben Wrobel

(917) 846-0658

(Los Angeles, CA) – Today the NAACP passed a historic resolution calling for an end to the war on drugs. The resolution was voted on by a majority of delegates at the 102nd NAACP Annual Convention in Los Angeles, CA. The overall message of the resolution is captured by its title: A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow. 

“Today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement,” stated Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. “These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America.”

The resolution outlines the facts about the failed drug war, highlighting that the U.S. spends over $40 billion annually on the war on drugs, locking up low-level drug offenders – mostly from communities of color. African Americans are in fact 13 times more likely to go to jail for the same drug-related offense than their white counterparts.

“Studies show that all racial groups abuse drugs at similar rates, but the numbers also show that African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison for drug-related charges at a much higher rate,” stated Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP. “This dual system of drug law enforcement that serves to keep African-Americans and other minorities under lock and key and in prison must be exposed and eradicated.

”Instead of sending drug offenders to prison, the resolution calls for the creation and expansion of rehabilitation and treatment programs, methadone clinics, and other treatment protocols that have been proven effective.

“We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the forty years that we’ve been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down,”
stated Robert Rooks, Director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program. “The only thing we’ve accomplished is becoming the world’s largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960s.”

Once ratified by the board of directors in October, the resolution will encourage the more than 1200 active NAACP units across the country to organize campaigns to advocate for the end of the war on drugs. 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.