This brief report outlines the links between cannabis prohibition in British Columbia (Canada) and the growth of organized crime and related violence in the province, and is the first report of a coalition of concerned citizens and experts known as Stop the Violence BC. The report also defines the public health concept “regulation” and seeks to set the stage for a much needed public conversation and action on the part of BC politicians.
It is increasingly clear that there is a fundamental lack of oversight of how international aid – provided by the US, Europe and the United Nations to poorer countries – is used to pursue anti-drug efforts. In this article Damon Barrett highlights some of the systematic human rights abuses this aid is facilitating.
Evan Wood, Patricia M. Spittal, Will Small, Thomas Kerr, Kathy Li, Robert S. Hogg, Mark W. Tyndall, Julio S.G. Montaner, Martin T. Schechter
10 May 2004
Law enforcement is often used in an effort to reduce the social, community and health-related harms of illicit drug use by injection drug users (IDUs). There are, however, few data on the benefits of such enforcement or on the potential harms. A large-scale police “crackdown” to control illicit drug use in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside provided us with an opportunity to evaluate the effect.
Harm-reduction as a policy goal implies targeting directly drug-related harms rather than drug use itself. So far it has been largely a public health sector movement, focused on harms to users, most notably from heroin overdose, injection drug use and club drugs. Harm-reduction has offered fewer solutions to the problems of drug-related crime, violence, corruption or market externalities. However, harm-reduction has potentially much broader application when applied to the entire suite of harms generated by the production, distribution, consumption and control of drugs, not just drug use.
Injecting drug users (IDUs) account for the largest share of HIV infections in China, Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, and much of Southeast Asia. Harm reduction measures such as access to clean needles and drug treatment with methadone or buprenorphine have been proven to reduce HIV risk behaviors. Yet law enforcement officials in many countries harass drug users at drug treatment clinics and needle exchange points, confiscate their medications, or arrest them for possession of clean syringes. These police practices help fuel the HIV epidemic by driving drug users away from lifesaving care while doing little to stem drug use.
Critics of the international drug control regime contend that supply-oriented policy interventions are not just ineffective, but they also produce unintended adverse consequences. Research suggests their claims have merit. Lasting local reductions in opium production are possible, albeit rare; but, unless global demand shrinks, production will shift elsewhere, with little or no effect on the aggregate supply of heroin and, potentially, at some expense to exiting and newly emerging suppliers.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) invited a group of 20 experts for a round-table discussion at the WOLA office in Washington DC . The main question on the table: can the concept of “harm reduction” be applied to supply-oriented challenges to better address the harms associated with illicit drug production and distribution, but also minimize the harms that stem from drug control itself?
Mexico has occupied the limelight when it comes to media attention focusing on drug-related violence in Latin America. However, it is actually Central America's Northern Triangle – consisting of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – currently experiencing much higher rates of violence and increasing Drug Trafficking Organization (DTOs) activity, thus providing an illustration of the 'balloon effect' previously experienced by Mexico itself after the implementation of Plan Colombia which was conceived at the end of the 90's. Together the countries of the Northern Triangle now form one of the most violent regions on earth.
Starting September 1, the police will be stepping up efforts to cull Pusher Street’s estimated one billion kroner organised cannabis trade through the creation of a new task force. Past police efforts in Christiania have failed to curtail the illegal drug trade, and renewed police efforts in Christiania are also going against current public sentiment. A newspaper poll indicated that nearly 65 percent of the public supported state-controlled cannabis distribution, while Enhedslisten (EL) commissioned a Gallop survey in early August that conveyed that 53 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the state should take over the sale of cannabis.
A money-laundering investigation as big as the bank itself ended with a deferred prosecution agreement that allowed HSBC to escape criminal charges and suffer only a fine. This while the US Department of Justice was jailing non-bankers by the dozen for laundering drug money, including cash from the Sinaloa cartel, which had been a prime HSBC co-conspirator. HSBC got a pass on helping the Sinaloa bunch acquire an airplane that was used to smuggle drugs by the ton. (See also: HSBC has form: remember Mexico and laundered drug money)
After Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use this year, violent and property crime rates in the city are actually falling. According to data from the Denver Police Department, violent crime (including homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2014. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 11.1%. A study looking at the legalization of medical marijuana nationwide, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the trend holds.
This briefing paper analyses the impact of drug policy on incarceration in São Paulo (Brazil). This research is expected to inform and assess some of the consequences of the current Brazilian drug policy, taking into account its impacts on prisoners’rights and on the criminal justice system as a whole.
Illicit drugs are easily and quickly accessible to users in Vancouver despite decades of aggressive drug law enforcement efforts aimed at suppressing drug supply, according to a new study from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Researcher Evan Wood said the easy access means current drug policies are not succeeding in stopping the availability and use of illegal drugs. "If supply reduction is the foundation of Canada's drug strategy, we really need to have an impact assessment and evaluation of what we're actually getting from that investment."
It was exactly six years ago this week that police conducted their first full-scale raid on Pusher Street, the famed road in the city’s Christiania area where people could openly buy hashish. The raids were the result of the Liberal-Conservative government’s decision to crack down hard on the area’s hash trade. But today, both police and politicians admit that the trade still thrives on the street, if in a somewhat more discreet fashion.
For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking. The Justice Department revealed in January that the DEA had collected data about calls to "designated foreign countries." The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA's intelligence arm, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime.
On June 25, 2015, the United States issued a formal request to the Mexican government for the extradition of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, who was being held at Mexico’s highest security prison. On July 11, less than three weeks later, Guzmán Loera released himself from the supposedly impregnable prison in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s home state, by means of a sixty-foot-deep tunnel that had apparently been dug from a half-built house a mile away, directly into the shower of his prison cell. (See also: Chapo saga highlights Mexico's convoluted extradition policy)
Globally, illicit drug policy is largely based on two central policy objectives. The first is to reduce the demand for illegal drugs mainly through criminalisation, drug prevention and treatment, and the second is to reduce the supply of illegal drugs primarily through law enforcement initiatives.
On 19th to 21st April 2016, there will be a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) held in New York, dedicated to the issue of drug policy. The General Assembly is the highest policy making and representative organ of the United Nations (UN), and its infrequent Special Sessions focus on pertinent topics at the request of member states. The UNGASS on drugs has the potential to be a ground-breaking, open debate about the international drug control system – but there is much work to be done to ensure that it fulfils that potential.