(Visit last week's Week Online)
The October Issue of The Web magazine (on newsstands now) features a review of DRCNet's Drug Library web site. The Web rates sites from 1 to 5 (with 1 meaning "skip it" and 5 meaning "bookmark it") in three categories; content, design and links, plus an overall rating. The Drug Library got a perfect 5 for content and links and a 4 ("browse it") for design, with an overall rating of 5. (Just think what we could do if we could afford to hire a webmaster!)
Much of the credit for this terrific site (if we do say so ourselves, but wait, we don't have to, The Web just did) goes to DRCNet board member Cliff Schaffer, whose tireless efforts will have astonished us all for several years now. This one's for you, Cliff! (Cliff can be reached at [email protected].)
Accolades of this sort only serve to highlight how much has been accomplished even on DRCNet's small budget. We would love to hire a real webmaster to continuously update and improve DRCNet's web presence as well as to promote the site online. If you haven't yet donated to DRCNet, (or if you have but you find yourself with a couple of extra bucks in your pocket) this is a great time to do so. You won't find a more cost-effective investment in reform.
Checks can be sent to DRCNet, 4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008. Or visit our web site and enter your credit card donation on our secure, encrypted form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html. If all else fails, you can call the office directly at (202) 362-0030, and, as an added bonus, you'll get to speak to either Dave or Adam, who'll try not to sound too pathetically grateful for your contribution. And hey, thanks in advance!
You can find The Web online at http://www.webmagazine.com. Go to October '97 reviews, politics/law, Washingtoons section to read the review, or pick up a copy at your local newstand. You can find DRCNet's Drug Library site at http://www.druglibrary.org of course!
If you were thinking of attending the 11th International Conference on Drug Policy Reform, but haven't yet made plans, now is the time to do so. The Drug Policy Foundation's annual conference will convene on the evening of Wednesday, October 15, running through Saturday, with a special "town forum" for beginners on Wednesday afternoon introducing the basics of drug policy reform and harm reduction. For further info, call Whitney Taylor at (202) 537-5005, e-mail [email protected], or visit http://www.dpf.org/html/the_conference.html on the web.
Having recently completed an opiate maintenance trial in which 1,100 long-term addicts were provided with heroin in a successful effort to reduce their criminality, joblessness and alienation from society, Switzerland last week faced an electoral challenge to their emerging harm reduction-based drug policy. But in a landslide which surprised even the most ardent of Swiss reformers, over 70% of voters supported the current humanitarian trend over the slickly-named but intellectually and morally bankrupt "Youth Without Drugs" initiative.
The initiative, which was opposed by the Swiss government as well as most mainstream churches, youth workers and substance abuse professionals, would have outlawed any further heroin maintenance programs as well as methadone and needle exchange programs, and allowed only abstinence-based treatment modalities. With only 29% of voters supporting this Drug War proposal, the initiative was handily defeated even in Switzerland's conservative rural districts.
Ethan Nadelmann, Director of The Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think tank, said, "It's very exciting, the Swiss vote will send a positive message to the United States and the rest of the world about more tolerant drug policy."
On October 1, proponents and opponents of medical marijuana testified before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime. Reportedly, attendance by the Subcommittee members was poor, and the event did not receive extensive media coverage.
According to the NORML Foundation, medical marijuana proponents testifying at the hearing included Dennis Peron, Director of the San Francisco Cultivators' Club, Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School, and Roger Pilon, Ph.D., J.D., Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies. Subcommittee members Bob Barr (R- GA) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) opposed government sponsored research on medical marijuana.
Dr. Grinspoon's testimony can be found on the NORML web site at http://www.norml.org/medical/grin1097.hr1782.shtml. Roger Pilon's testimony can be found at http://www.cato.org/testimony/ct-rp100197.html on the Cato Institute's web site.
HOT OFF THE PRESS: The revised, expanded edition of Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, by Lester Grinspoon and James Bakaler, is now available. Visit your local bookstore and ask them to stock and display it.
Issue #10 of The Activist Guide reported that billionaire George Soros has donated $1,000,000 to the San Francisco- based Tides Foundation to fund needle exchange programs (http://www.drcnet.org/guide8-97/needlewars.html). The George Williams Fund will make grants to needle exchange programs with annual budgets of $50,000 or more. PROPOSALS MUST BE RECEIVED BY OCTOBER 17, 1997. Do not fax or e-mail applications. Grant recipients will be announced on or before December 19, 1997. For a copy of the RFP, call the Tides Foundation at (415) 561-6323.
Smaller programs may be eligible for funding from the North American Syringe Exchange Network during their next grant cycle. To be added to the mailing list for their 1998-99 RFP, contact: NASEN, 535 Dock Street, Suite 112, Tacoma, WA 98402, (206) 272 4857, [email protected]. (Visit NASEN's web site at http://www.nasen.org.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest private funder of work related to substance abuse, has issued a call for research proposals. Persons interested in applying for such grants can find more information online at http://www.phs.bgsm.edu/sshp/rwj/rwj.htm. Though RWJF is a thoroughly mainstream, even slightly conservative foundation, they have recently taken an interest in seeing increased research into harm reduction strategies.
In a speech before a crowd of 600 attendees of a national conference on heroin and addiction in Washington, DC, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey came out for the first time in favor of increased access to methadone treatment.
"It seems to me -- and we've been pushing on it for about six months -- we have got to get serious about methadone maintenance programs and LAM or we cannot even hope to deal with this problem" said McCaffrey. He followed that up with what can only be regarded as a very hopeful statement for those who have fought long and hard for methadone access:
"[I]f we do this thing correctly, if we allow the dose rates to be prescribed by doctors and not by policy, if we allow it to be decentralized so that physicians who are trained and monitored are allowed to dispense the drug instead of necessarily having it only in some centralized locations, if we allow SAMSHA to be a dominant policy-making voice in this process as opposed to leaving it all on the FDA, if we fund it correctly, if we ensure that DEA appropriate concerns are taken into account, we're going to make a big difference."
David Purchase, director of the North American Syringe Exchange Network, and one of the founding fathers of harm reduction in the U.S., told The Week Online, "It's great to see Barry McCaffrey moving away from the influence of the Flat Earth Society and into the real world. Let's just hope that he continues on his journey."
Issue #11 of The Week Online featured the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates (NAMA) as our link of the week (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/9-12-1.html#link). Visit NAMA's web site at http://www.methadone.org, and be sure to visit NAMA's affiliates via their links page. Methadone info is also available at DRCNet's Methadone Topics in Depth section at http://www.drcnet.org/methadone.
The Independent on Sunday, a national British newspaper, launched a campaign last week to persuade both Britons and their government to legalize the possession of cannabis for personal use. The campaign has the backing of over 100 prominent citizens, including celebrities, business leaders, prominent physicians, former senior police officials and Sir Paul McCartney. The paper and its editors vow to continue the campaign "until the law is changed."
This very public challenge to British drug policy comes as the Labour government is preparing to announce the appointment of an American-style "drug-czar" to coordinate its war effort. The paper's editor, Rosie Boycott, told the Associated Press, "I think we can win this campaign, it may take a long time, but I believe we have right on our side. We need a more open debate about the whole drug policy issue in this country."
The British government appears to disagree, however. Home Secretary Jack Straw told independent television, "There is a profoundly pessimistic assumption behind what the Independent on Sunday says and that is that we are losing the war on drugs. It's not true."
A study released last week by the British government says that 25% of Britons aged 16-29 have used an illegal drug in the past year. Of those, the vast majority cited marijuana as the substance they had used with 21% of young people having inhaled over the previous 12 months. Amphetamines and ecstasy were distant runners-up, with only 1% of those surveyed admitting to having ever tried heroin. The survey also revealed that approximately 1 in 2 youths have at least tried an illegal drug at some time in their lives.
Contrary to Mr. Straw's assertion, Britain does indeed appear to be losing the war on drugs.
Just weeks after the Australian government did an about-face in canceling proposed heroin maintenance trials, that nation is getting a reminder of the dangers of forcing addicts and others into the uncertain black market. 20 overdoses, a number of them fatal, have been reported in the past three weeks in Canberra as a result of heroin which has tested out at 85% pure. The superintendent of Red Gum, Canberra's organized crime and drugs task force, Brian Hepworth said, "We are concerned about the heroin purity and cheapness. The danger is that the drug user doesn't know the purity of the drug they are using."
Visit the Australian group Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform at http://www.wps.com.au/druglawreform/.
Colombian President Ernesto Samper, in New York on a special visa to attend an anti-narcotics session of the U.N., angrily defended his country's efforts to deal with its illicit drug industry. Samper, whose relationship with Washington has been acrimonious ever since allegations arose that his campaign took money from known drug traffickers, said that he was determined to pass a bill allowing the extradition of drug traffickers to the U.S., but that the U.S. and other nations were not doing their share by cutting demand for Colombia's most lucrative export.
Citing his nation's successes, for which, we would point out, many of his citizens and public officials gave their lives, Samper said, "The Medellin cartel and the Cali cartel, which at one point supplied 80 percent of theworld's cocaine, at this moment are completely destroyed.
(Hmm, so we guess that cocaine must be pretty hard to come by in the U.S. these days. A couple more successes like that and this whole thing should be over. -Ed.)
The Washington Post reports (9/30/97) that Russian organized crime syndicates have begun to form alliances with Colombian drug traffickers. The arrangements provide the traffickers with sophisticated Russian weaponry and a new market for their products, and the mob with a supply of drugs to market in the former Soviet Union.
The Post reports that the weapons offered to the traffickers by the Russians have included a helicopter, a submarine and surface to air missiles.
The Week Online has been following the drug war situation in Colombia for the last several weeks, and we intend to continue covering this side of the issue. The Latin American drug war is one of the most arrogant manifestations of U.S. ignorance on drug policy, and has had a devastating impact on political stability and human rights. Of course, the situation in Colombia is extremely complex, and many factors in addition to drug policy have contributed to the nation's seemingly intractable problems.
The Colombia Support Network offers a wealth of information on our southern neighbor, including a section on drug policy at http://www.igc.apc.org/csn/war.html, discussing the impact and hypocrisy of the U.S. mandated Colombian drug war, the possible role of the CIA in drug trafficking, and more.
"I am not in charge of America... I'll provide information for the debate, leaning heavily on the scientific-medical community. I'll inform them of federal law. I'm not America's nanny. The American people are perfectly capable, when they are exposed to the facts, of making up their own mind."
- Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, 9/30, testifying to a congressional subcommittee on medical marijuana.
We were just wondering, does Mr. McCaffrey mean to say that patients, given the facts, should be permitted to make up their own minds?
Several weeks ago in this space we discussed the effects of international events, specifically the steadily growing rejection of punitive Prohibition by other peoples and governments, on the future tenability of the American Drug War. This week, the Swiss people, perhaps not unmindful of their history, sent a clear message to both their leaders and to the world that they do not consider war to be in their best interests. In rejecting the zero-tolerance "Youth Against Drugs" initiative by a remarkable 71% to 29%, the Swiss embraced harm reduction, including heroin maintenance for hard-core addicts, as their official policy in dealing with substance abuse. And let us say that this people, famous for their tight-lipped bankers and precision watchmakers, did not act without ample information concerning the alternative. Having seen a world full of nations clinging to a system of violence and repression, they have chosen to continue on their radical course of pragmatism and compassion.
The American Drug Warriors, self-proclaimed models of intolerance, cannot be too happy. The Warriors have spent a good deal of time and effort making sure that the rest of the world remains in lock-step behind them. They lead both by force, through a certification process which leaves entire economies vulnerable to Washington's whim, through diplomatic pressure and out and out blackmail, by supplying arms and trampling on the sovereignty of other nations; and they lead by example, condemning thousands to death with state and federal policies on needle exchange, arresting and incarcerating the sick and dying for their medical use of a forbidden plant, imprisoning huge percentages of the Black and Latino populations, and gleefully authorizing the entry of children into the nightmare they call a criminal justice system. But the Swiss, in an act that doesn't bode well for the future of the war, have nonetheless refused march.
For years now, the Drug Warriors have lied about the policies and experiences of other nations in an effort to quiet the voices of reform. In a recent Washington Post op- ed, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey told the nation that even the Dutch, radically tolerant though they are, had "forbidden" medical marijuana, thus proving its uselessness. In fact, the Dutch government is well aware that patients currently buy cannabis at the coffee shops, and therefore found no reason to debate and implement a medical distribution system. The Dutch are also currently conducting major research into the medical uses of marijuana, while the U.S. government is in federal court fighting for it's right to destroy the careers of physicians who so much as discuss the plant with their patients.
And if we believed the Drug Warriors, we would be shocked that Switzerland, home of Zurich's infamous "Needle Park," would consider even questioning the dogma. After all, we've been told repeatedly that their "experiment with legalization," was such a failure that the Swiss people had seen the errors of their ways and had put an end to the nonsense. In fact, Needle Park was a failed attempt at coping with an unworkable Prohibition by pushing Zurich's entire, otherwise illegal drug scene into a confined area. In a rather predictable outcome, addicts flocked from all over Europe as did the unregulated black market dealers, many of whom behaved, to say the least, unprofessionally. In the end, it was a disaster, but it was not the microcosm of reform that the Drug Warriors so often label it. Last week, Robert McGinnis, Director of the Family Resarch Council, testified in a congressional hearing that "Needle Park" was illustrative of the inevitable failure of needle exchange. This week those same Swiss voted in favor of a full slate of harm reduction principles.
So what does the Swiss vote mean for American drug policy? It means no less than the crumbling of the wall. And the Drug Warriors know it. For as the voices of reform have gained momentum in America, the Warriors have repeated a mantra that despite their dishonest rhetorical spin, contained a kernel of prescience: that "harm reduction" was the precursor of a more dramatic change in policy. Oh, they were much more likely to say that it was a "Trojan horse" for the ominous, but never-defined bogeyman of "legalization," but even so, they had predicted the demise of their precious war, and in that, there was much truth.
The ripple effects of the Swiss action will be felt first in Europe, where the voices of reform, from the press and celebrities to police chiefs and public officials, are gaining strength and credibility with each passing day. And they will be felt in Australia where the government came ever-so-close to authorizing heroin maintenance modeled on the Swiss trials, until American pressure, and political cold feet, caused a last minute reprieve for intolerance amid an electorate that was said to be about equally split. But in the end, despite what is likely to be a very unseemly display of bullying and last-ditch offensives, America, home of Drug War Inc., will be forced to admit its lies in the face of a more honest world, and will ultimately bend to a movement bolstered by the growing number of demonstrable successes of its paradigm.
So take a moment this week to rejoice, and to thank the Swiss. For they have stood up courageously to the forces of evil. Early in this century they opted out of a war. Now, as the most warring century in the history of mankind draws to a close, they just might have voted to end one.
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