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Dysfunction - June 30

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Monbiot on drugs

George Monbiot, Guardian
It looked like the first drop of rain in the desert of drugs policy. Last week Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the UN office on drugs and crime, said what millions of liberal-minded people have been waiting to hear. "Law enforcement should shift its focus from drug users to drug traffickers … people who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution." Drug production should remain illegal, possession and use should be decriminalised. Guardian readers toasted him with bumpers of peppermint tea, and, perhaps, a celebratory spliff. I didn't.

I believe that informed adults should be allowed to inflict whatever suffering they wish – on themselves. But we are not entitled to harm other people. I know people who drink fair-trade tea and coffee, shop locally and take cocaine at parties. They are revolting hypocrites.

Every year cocaine causes some 20,000 deaths in Colombia and displaces several hundred thousand people from their homes. Children are blown up by landmines; indigenous people are enslaved; villagers are tortured and killed; rainforests are razed. You'd cause less human suffering if instead of discreetly retiring to the toilet at a media drinks party, you went into the street and mugged someone.

... We have a choice of two consistent policies. The first is to sustain global prohibition, while helping addicts and prosecuting casual users. This means that the drugs trade will remain the preserve of criminal gangs. It will keep spreading crime and instability around the world, and ensure that narcotics are still cut with contaminants

... The other possible policy is to legalise and regulate the global trade. This would undercut the criminal networks and guarantee unadulterated supplies to consumers. There might even be a market for certified fair-trade cocaine.

Costa's new report begins by rejecting this option. If it did otherwise, he would no longer be executive director of the UN office on drugs and crime.
(29 June 2009)



New book: Marijuana Is Safer

Chelsea Green book publishers

Marijuana Is Safer
So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, Mason Tvert

Nationally recognized marijuana-policy experts Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert compare and contrast the relative harms and legal status of the two most popular recreational substances in the world—marijuana and alcohol. Through an objective examination of the two drugs and the laws and social practices that steer people toward alcohol, the authors pose a simple yet rarely considered question: Why do we punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?

Marijuana Is Safer reaches for a broad audience. For those unfamiliar with marijuana, it provides an introduction to the cannabis plant and its effects on the user, and debunks some of the government's most frequently cited marijuana myths. For current and aspiring advocates of marijuana-law reform, as well as anyone else who is interested in what is becoming a major political battle, the authors spell out why the message that marijuana is safer than alcohol must be a prominent part of the public debate over legalization.

Most importantly, for the millions of Americans who want to advance the cause of marijuana-policy reform—or simply want to defend their own personal, safer choice—this book provides the talking points and detailed information needed to make persuasive arguments to friends, family, coworkers, and elected officials.

Available: July 29, 2009

(23 June 2009)
More information at the original article.

I'm a Puritan when it comes to drug use (I don't even like to take aspirin!). But the costs of enforcing the drug laws and the corruption of police forces are strong arguments for legalization, particularly when governments are strapped for funds. -BA



Production of heroin and cocaine falling

Duncan Campbell, Guardian
Worldwide production of heroin and cocaine falling, says UN drug chief
---
... Britain had the highest number of "problem" drug users – as opposed to those who use drugs occasionally – in western Europe. The UK was also seizing more amphetamines than any other country in Europe.

Antonio Maria Costa, director of the UNODC, called for universal access to drug treatment and said: "People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution."

He said that was one of the best ways of shrinking the market as people with serious drug problems provide the bulk of demand. He added that legalisation of drugs was not the answer.

According to the report, opium cultivation in Afghanistan, where 93% of the world's opium is grown, declined by 19% in 2008.
(24 June 2009)

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