If moral entrepreneurs and interest groups manage to whip up enough fear and anxiety, they can create a full-blown moral panic, the widespread sense that the moral condition of society is deteriorating at a rapid pace, which can be conveniently used to distract from underlying, status quo-threatening social problems and exert social control over the working class or other rebellious sectors of society.
Authorities say crack use has dropped 80 percent in São Paulo's notorious "Crackland" district since the implementation of With Open Arms ("De Braços Abertos"), a government-sponsored drug treatment program initiated in January 2014, reported a municipal government office in São Paulo. But there are reasons to doubt the initiative's reported success.
On a mild winter morning in São Paulo, two dozen people pick up brooms and rubbish bins from a warehouse. They wear blue jumpsuits with a De Braços Abertos (With Open Arms) logo, referring to a controversial new programme for crack cocaine addicts, and set off to sweep streets in the city centre.
São Paulo's Cracolândia has been here for 15 years. Its population hovered around 1,500. The city recently took over a collection of flophouses around Cracolândia – businesses whose clientele had fled along with most regular commerce in the neighbourhood – and set 400 addicts up in long-term accommodation. They also pitched a big tent on the edge of the fluxo, the shifting mattress camp on the streetcorner where addicts squat, hung up the Braços Abertos (Open Arms) banner and deployed an army of social workers
In December, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to legislate for the production, sale and state regulation of marijuana. Many hope that when the law takes full effect next year, fewer people will use a cheap, highly addictive cocaine derivative called "pasta base". By allowing adults to grow their own cannabis or buy a maximum of 40g a month from a pharmacy, supporters of the new law believe it will separate the marijuana market from more problematic drugs.
Sao Paulo State expanded its attack on crack cocaine by unveiling a program that will provide about $650 a month in subsidies for the rehabilitation of addicts at private treatment centers. Governor Geraldo Alckmin said 1,350 reals will be earmarked monthly for each crack user who voluntarily enrolls in a rehabilitation program that is expected to get under way in 11 cities. The state will give the money to accredited rehabilitation centers when clients present a "Begin Again" card they receive after enrolling in a program.
With Brazil gripped by a crack epidemic, the authorities have launched a series of controversial initiatives. Since the start of last year, São Paulo has introduced street clearance operations by police, increased funds for rehabilitation centres and, most recently, focused more on judicial intervention and involuntary treatment. Critics argue that the policies are haphazard, shift with the political winds, often violate the rights of the users and may be driven by business demands to clean up a piece of potentially valuable land.
Marijuana has long been accused of being a gateway to deadlier vices. But could cannabis be a swinging door that might also lead people away from hard drugs? That’s what this capital city is trying to find out. In coming weeks, Bogotá is embarking on a controversial public health project where it will begin supplying marijuana to 300 addicts of bazuco — a cheap cocaine derivative that generates crack-like highs and is as addictive as heroin.
The mayor of Bogota has recently proposed a pilot scheme with crack cocaine addicts to explore the substitution of crack made of cocaine base paste (or bazuco as it is called in Colombia) by marijuana. The substitution treatment plan will include 15 problematic users from the marginalized Bronx area who are already receiving health assistance of the CAMAD operating in that sector of the city. The treatment will last approximately eight months, after which the results will be evaluated.
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.
Daniel Vaillant (PS), a suggéré de réfléchir à la création d’une salle de consommation de crack, une fois que la «salle de shoot» de la gare du Nord aura été mise en place. «Je pense qu’il faut d’abord mettre sur pied la salle de consommation à moindre risque du côté de la gare du Nord. Mais il conviendrait de réfléchir avec les praticiens à l’ouverture d’une salle pour les consommateurs de crack, sous forme expérimentale», a déclaré l’ancien ministre de l’Intérieur à l’AFP.
São Paulo’s Cracolândia was Brazil’s first and is still its biggest. It is home to 2,000 addicts. But most Brazilian cities now have similar districts. Recent studies put the country’s crack-using population at 1m-1.2m, the world’s largest. Some city governments have used strong-arm tactics against the crack epidemic—with little effect other than to fill prisons, which have more than twice as many inmates as a decade ago.
BBC Mundo reports that Bogotá is planning a system of "controlled consumption centers," where addicts could be weaned off more hard-core drugs, such as heroin or crack (bazuco), and slowly introduced to pot. Because of its continued prevalence, as well as its toxicity, bazuco will be one of the drugs targeted by Mayor Gustavo Petro's planned treatment centers. The treatment centers are part of a larger movement in Colombia to classify drug addiction as an issue of public health rather than crime.
The city of Rio de Janeiro has begun a program of involuntary hospitalization for crack users, one month after Brazil’s biggest city São Paulo began a similar program. Critics say that forcing addicts into rehabilitation treatment is ineffective. “When an addict is interned unwillingly, he can remain abstinent as long as he remains hospitalized,” Psychiatrist Dartiu Xavier da Silveira said. “When he returns to his normal life (and his usual problems), the vast majority of users go back to using the drug as before.”
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.
The government’s campaign to curb crack cocaine use that was launched late last year is failing to deliver on its targets, reports O Globo. As of the start 2013, the program Entitled ‘Crack, É Possível Vencer’, which aims to treat crack addiction through the combined effort of four separate government departments, can only count half of Brazil’s states as members.
With a boom in crack use over the past decade, Brazilian authorities are struggling to stop the drug's spread, sparking a debate over the legality and efficiency of forcibly interning users. Brazil today is the world's largest consumer of both cocaine and its crack derivative, according to the Federal University of Sao Paolo. Adults can't be forced to stay in treatment, and most leave the shelters within three days. But children are kept in treatment against their will or returned to parents if they have a family.
Marcus Day of the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute believes the time has come for regional governments to legalise marijuana to counteract the spread of HIV. "We encourage the crack smokers that we work with to substitute their crack for cannabis and to smoke cannabis instead. Even though it's probably not the best thing, it's much better than crack smoking."