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Monday, 28 March 2011

War on Drugs: Count the Costs - campaign launch

Original Source Written and Found @ Externalities

“Fifty Years of the War on Drugs; Time to Count the Costs and Explore the Alternatives
The War on Drugs: Count the Costs global campaign will be launched by NGOs from around the world at a side-event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna … [on] Wednesday 23 March. See for more details. 
The War on Drugs: Count the Costs campaign will bring together interested parties from around the world, including NGOs, policy makers and others whose work is negatively impacted by international drug enforcement. Together they will call on governments and international agencies to meaningfully evaluate the unintended consequences of the war on drugs and explore evidence-based alternatives. The results of this campaign will be presented to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2012.  Here is the full text of the call:
The War on Drugs - Count the Costs and Explore the Alternatives
The global “war on drugs” has been fought for 50 years, without preventing the long-term trend of increasing drug supply and use. Beyond this failure, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has also identified the many serious ‘unintended negative consequences’ of the drug war. These costs result not from drug use itself, but from choosing a punitive enforcement-led approach that, by its nature, places control of the trade in the hands of organised crime, and criminalises many users. In the process this:
1.      Undermines international development and security, and fuels conflict
2.      Threatens public health, spreads disease and causes death
3.      Undermines human rights
4.      Promotes stigma and discrimination
5.      Creates crime and enriches criminals
6.      Causes deforestation and pollution
7.      Wastes billions on ineffective law enforcement
The “war on drugs” is a policy choice. There are other options that, at the very least, should be debated and explored using the best possible evidence and analysis. 
We all share the same goals – a safer, healthier and more just world.  
Therefore, we the undersigned [ex: add your name!], call upon world leaders and UN agencies to quantify the unintended negative consequences of the current approach to drugs, and assess the potential costs and benefits of alternative approaches.

The War on Drugs: Count the Costs campaign launch is backed by: International Drug Policy Consortium; International Harm Reduction Association; Eurasian Harm Reduction Network; Drug Policy Alliance (US); Espolea (Mexico); Release (UK); Transform Drug Policy Foundation (UK); Hungarian Civil Liberties Union; CuPIHD (Mexico); Transnational Institute (Netherlands); International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (Canada); New Zealand Drug Policy Foundation; Washington Office on Latin America.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Evidence, Evidence, Evidence!

On Wednesday 9 March, the House of Lords held a Question For Short Debate on making the case for a Royal Commission on drug use and possession.  The debate was initiated by Lord Norton of Louth.

Lord Norton has hosted a comment section to his blog with a view to collating sources, evidence; and commentary that could be useful in the issue at hand.  Please do view the noble Lord’s blog and comments here.

The actual Question For Short Debate can be viewed here (from 19:48 onwards)

-or the written transcript here:

The debate was overwhelming in the comprehensive call for evidence evidence evidence.  In fact, at a quick count, the word evidence was used 42 times in the house, with every Lord calling for an elucidation of; and for a full evidence based policy.

Professor Nutt, of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, has long campaigned for evidenced based policy.  David Nutt has received criticism for - what some consider - his lobbying for a full utilisation of evidence in drug policy.  One can only make a fist of the frustration felt by, not only Professor Nutt, but a growing list of scientists who have resigned from the ACMD and related government roles.  Scientific evidence has been wilfully dismissed in successive governments.  The now full disengaged of science in drug policy is farcical, not to mention, a worrying conceptual blow to democratic ideals.  It can be argued that the UK has a disingenuous and opinion based policy.

The list of lords that spoke out in favour of progressive measures in current drug law shows to some degree that this issue has long been dominated by media intervention over content.  No more can this ethic be seen than by Baroness Joan Walmsley, LibDem peer, during the House of Lords debate on a Royal Commission on drugs policy, 9th March 2011

“My Government, who were elected with 60 per cent of the vote, should have the confidence to defy the tabloid newspapers. They should get the facts and act on them. We should not be afraid of ignorant, misleading and downright evil tabloid headlines. It is the right thing to do. Please let us do it!”

If The UK are serious about progressing societal wellbeing, it is hoped that this particular Question For Short Debate will go someway in ensuring more support within the houses, more support at grass roots; and an unpartisan media perhaps.  The drugs debate is not a flippant issue; thanks has to be given to Lord Norton, Baroness Meacher and the list of lords who raised their heads above the parapet in calling for the investigation of drug policy.

The government’s response from Baroness Neville-Jones is perplexing to say the very least.  Not only did the words of the noble lords fall on the deaf ears of government policy, but a skewing of facts was evident towards the end of her speech.  Baroness Meacher fully contested Baroness Neville-Jones on her perceived understanding of Portugal and drug related HIV rates.

It is furthermore puzzling, given the strenuous content of the debate, just why mainstream media has had no interest in the content of the discussion.  As ever, it falls to the word of mouth of dedicated individuals to raise much needed awareness to the fruitful dialogue in the House of Lords and to reciprocate the measured, and noble, vociferousness displayed in the house.  If nothing else, this session will go someway in securing further proceedings.

Additional: following the Royal Commission dialogue, an all party group led by Baroness Meacher, with Lord Lawson, and the former heads of the BBC, MI5 and CPS - seek an evidence based policy and conclude the 'war on drugs' has failed.  The study is in conjunction with the Beckley Foundation.  Read more here: