An article published recently in El Espectador commented on the two issues that underpin the Colombian discourse on the subject of drugs. To be precise, the government’s discourse is far from reflecting what goes on in practice, or the actions that are still being carried out in the country. Colombia is seen as the star pupil in complying with the United Nations drug treaties and it continues to do things that many other countries would avoid.
By taking cues from users’ self-regulation strategies, it is possible to design innovative operational models for drug services as well as drug policies, strengthening Harm Reduction as an alternative approach to the disease model.
At the International Conference on Alternative Development (ICAD), held 15-16 November 2012 in Lima, the Peruvian Government continued to insist on the relevance of “Alternative Development (AD),” with particular emphasis on the so-called San Martín “miracle” or “model.”
In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken.
The present issue of Drugs & Conflict intends to debunk and disentangle the most prominent myths surrounding the coca leaf. It aims to clear the air and help steer the debate towards a more evidence-based judgement of the issues.
The cocaine base, or “pasta”, may be seen as a type of South American crack. Its obligatory method of administration is smoking. A primary condition of the “pasta” smoker is compulsive drug-search behavior and addiction to cocaine base destroys emotional and mental balance. Socio-economic maladjustment is the norm amongst “pasta” addicts. Since 1984 I have recommended the chewing of the coca leaf, between 100 to 200 grams of coca leaf per week for the treatment of cocaine dependence.
The West Africa Commission on Drugs says drug cartels are undermining the region by using it to transit cocaine. The commission, headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, says the cartels should be tackled but that punishing the personal use of drugs does not work. It argues that current policies incite corruption and provoke violence. Drug trafficking and consumption have become major issues in West Africa since the turn of the century. (See also: West Africa needs to look at partially decriminalising drugs, says thinktank)
Brighton is set to be the first British city to offer official "drug consumption rooms" where addicts can use heroin, crack and cocaine under supervision without fear of prosecution. The city's public health leaders will "give serious consideration" to the plan in order to save lives. A report published from an independent drugs commission led by the crime author Peter James and Mike Trace, a former UK deputy drugs tsar, is expected to say that drug consumption rooms "significantly reduce overdose death rates" and do not encourage further use.
In Latin America’s latest challenge to Washington’s “war on drugs,” Ecuador has quietly begun releasing thousands of convicted cocaine smugglers. The move is a result of the country’s new criminal law, which took effect August 10. It treats “drug mules” who commit the low-profit, high-risk offense more as vulnerable people exploited by cartels than as hardened criminals. Around 500 mules have already been freed and at least another 2,000 are expected to follow, says Jorge Paladines, national coordinator of the Public Defender’s Office.
The Organization of American States' (OAS) latest drug consumption report highlights shifting trends in drug use among youths in the Western Hemisphere. One noteworthy trend is changing cocaine consumption among high school students in South America, when compared to the United States -- the region's largest overall drug consumer. While cocaine use among US high school students has declined since peaking in 1998, consumption in South America has increased, most notably in Argentina and Uruguay, and less so in other nations like Chile and Brazil.
One of Northern Ireland's most senior drugs workers has said that class A drugs like heroin should be decriminalised, regulated and made available on prescription. "I think the impact of decriminalising, of regulating, of taking this activity out of the hands of organised crime, is the way to improve our society right now," said Michael Foley, the head of the Belfast Trust's Drug Outreach Team.
Illicit drugs made from plants (e.g., cocaine, heroin) are being replaced in some national drug markets by those that are synthesized (e.g., methamphetamine, fentanyl). The U.S. has had a parallel experience in the past decade with the rise of illicit consumption of synthetic opioids and cannabinoids. If illicit drug markets continue to separate from an agricultural base, it would upend traditional understandings of drug markets and drug policy.
Drug users in France will soon have a state-sanctioned place where they can use heroin, crack and other intravenous drugs, after the government approved a pilot site in Paris. The City Council had already voted to allow a secure injection site to be opened in the city, a controversial measure, which social workers say should help to reduce the number of drug users in the streets.
In Brazil, the first large crack consumption market appeared at the end of the 1980s in São Paulo and expanded during the 1990s reaching its peak halfway the decade. Crack use spread to other regions in Brazil during the 1990s, in particular to youngsters from low-income population in urban areas. A 2002 survey among young street dwellers in all the state capitals revealed that crack had spread to 22 states.
Latin America is now at the vanguard of international efforts to promote drug policy reform: Bolivia has rewritten its constitution to recognize the right to use the coca leaf for traditional and legal purposes, Uruguay has become the first nation in the world to adopt a legal, regulated Cannabis market, and Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador are openly critiquing the prevailing international drug control paradigm at the UN. And now with the United States itself relaxing its marijuana laws state by state, the U.S. prohibitionist drug war strategies are losing credibility in the region.
Reports of the discovery of a coca plant in Colombia's Sierra Nevada that have a high cocaine content and a higher level of purity, and also resistant to the effects of aerial spraying is based on evidence that is riddled with errors and distortions. It reflects badly on the INCB and the media that unquestioningly reported it.
If you actually read the treaties, while they do set firm limitations on the legal, "non-medical" or "non-scientific" sale of schedule drugs — limits that Uruguay, Colorado and Washington ignored when legalizing cannabis — they don’t otherwise obligate countries to penalize drug use. Even the 1988 convention, the harshest of the three, which instructs countries to criminalize use, still provides an out for states, allowing such laws only as they are "subject to its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system." This loophole has been used by the Dutch to argue legally for their coffee shops.
The expert seminar “Innovative cocaine and poly drug abuse prevention programme”, organized by the Forum Droghe, took place in Florence, gathering over 30 people, mainly drug addiction professionals (clinicians or working in harm reduction programs); academics, researchers, NGO representatives. The seminar was introduced by a public presentation of the project, addressed to local and regional policy makers, Italian press and drug professionals from the whole region, in addition to foreign and Italian participants to the seminar. The general aim was to identify the main features of an innovative model of intervention, gathering suggestions from research on “controls” over drug use.