Reading list

This page will feature regular updates on publications relevant to the theme of the Challenge, including journal and newspaper articles, op-eds, reports and other useful links.

Wednesday 18th June

Not just in transit: Drugs, the state and society in West Africa – West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD)
A destructive new threat is jeopardizing West Africa’s economic and democratic progress: with local collusions, international drug cartels are undermining West African countries and communities and devastating lives. After looking at the evidence, consulting experts from the region and around the world and the West African Commissioners have reached a number of conclusions – detailed in this report – about how we should tackle the problems of drug trafficking and consumption.

Jamaica government announces major changes to drug laws – BBC
The Jamaican government has announced plans to radically reform the country's drug laws. The Justice Minister Mark Golding said the cabinet was supporting a proposal to allow possession of up to two ounces (57 grams) of marijuana, known locally as “ganja.” Golding has also said marijuana would be decriminalised for religious, medicinal and scientific purposes.

New vigor in Chicago for the war on drugs - Rob Wildeboer (WBEZ)
In Chicago, drug enforcement officials are singing an old tune with renewed vigor as they fight the war on drugs. A new strike force that involves federal and local authorities sharing information gives hope to law enforcers that headway can be made in the decades-old war on drugs.

Wednesday 11 June

Going to pot? – Josh Voorhees (Slate)
It hasn’t caused the havoc opponents predicted, but Colorado’s bold marijuana experiment is having some unexpected consequences.

Cheap crack pipes, free heroin, and free booze: The evidence for helping addicts – Maia Szalavitz (TIME)
From needle exchange programs for HIV prevention to providing heroin to addicts, and from supervised injecting rooms to “wet houses” where homeless alcoholics are given free booze, approaches that seem to “enable” users are in fact effective in helping them to survive and recover.

Iran steps up war on drugs as neighbouring Afghanistan’s opium trade booms – The National
In the face of Afghanistan’s unprecedented boom in opium production, neighbouring Iran is trying to police its border to slow down smuggling, building moats, walls and other large-scale projects. Iran spent more than US$26 million last year alone on the border projects, which also include large embankments, new border posts and lengths of barbed wire along parts of its 2,000-kilometre border with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cannabis, IQ link more than socioeconomics – Anna Salleh (ABC Australia)
Scientists have defended their study linking cannabis and a drop in IQ against claims that socio-economic factors are to blame. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in August last year, was the strongest evidence yet that teen use of cannabis could cause a drop in IQ.

4 June 2014

Going to pot: Legalised cannabis edges nearer in west after US states end ban – Sarah Boseley (Guardian)
At a meeting in Amsterdam, academics and public health experts involved in a five-year research project called Alice Rap (Addiction and Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe Reframing Addictions Project), discussed how the legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world.

Shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee in relation to the review of the 7th periodic report of the Russian Federation – Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice
In Russia, every fifth inmate is in prison for drug crime and up to two-thirds of all people who use drugs have been in custody at least once in their life. This shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee focuses on the violation of the rights and freedoms of people who use drugs in Russia.

A partial solution: The Colombian government, the FARC, and the drugs issue at the peace talks – Global Drug Policy Observatory
On May 16th the Colombian government announced that an agreement had been reached with the FARC guerrilla at the peace talks in Havana, Cuba. This blog post explains how the points agreed upon suggest positive steps away from the repressive, militarised approach which has been so disastrous for the people of Colombia and the region.

NYPD officers to carry heroin overdose antidote – BBC News
New York City police officers will carry an antidote to treat heroin overdoses, responding to an alarming spike in heroin-related deaths in recent years.

28 May 2014

2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment: Amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances – UNODC
This report provides an analysis of the global synthetic drugs market. It aims to provide an improved understanding of the problem of expanding global Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) based on scientific evidence and experiences that show the complex interplay between the demand and supply of ATS in different contexts.

Press down, pop up – The Economist
The revival in Caribbean drugs traffic is just the latest example of the “balloon effect”, in which squashing down on illicit activity in one place causes it to pop up somewhere else. Colombia’s war on drugs in the 1990s and 2000s is another: coca crops moved back to Bolivia and Peru, now the world’s biggest grower; cocaine-processing shifted next door, to Ecuador and Venezuela; Mexico’s drugs gangs grabbed market share. A subsequent bloody clampdown on Mexican gangs diverted traffickers to Central America: Honduras became the region’s largest entry point for airborne smugglers. With the shift back to the Caribbean, the trade has come full circle.

Did Colombia's war on drugs succeed? – Chris Arsenault (Al Jazeera)
Security in Colombia has improved, but critics say campaign caused human rights abuses and empowered Mexican cartels. Plan Columbia has been the biggest US military aid programme outside the Middle East, but 14 years and $9.3bn after its inception, many analysts believe that it failed to meet its stated objectives.

Data pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA is recording every cell phone call in the Bahamas –Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (The Intercept)
The NSA is using the Drug Enforcement Administration’s relationship to the Bahamas as a cover for secretly recording the entire country’s mobile phone calls. According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government.

Study: Drug testing boosts African-American employment – Bijan Stephen (TIME)
A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that because African-Americans are perceived to use more drugs, drug testing enables them to objectively prove to employers that they don’t.

21 May 2014

How can states work together to improve global drug policy? [video]  – London School of Economics
The LSE IDEAS Expert Group Report on the Economics of Drug Policy aims to design a successor strategy to the global war on drugs. In so doing it provides the academic underpinnings for a new international paradigm that promotes human security, public health and sustainable development. Watch these LSE series of interviews as experts answer the question: "How can states work together to improve global drug policy?"

What are the key questions surrounding regulatory experimentation? [video] – London School of Economics
The LSE IDEAS Expert Group Report on the Economics of Drug Policy aims to design a successor strategy to the global war on drugs. In so doing it provides the academic underpinnings for a new international paradigm that promotes human security, public health and sustainable development. Watch these LSE series of interviews as experts answer the question: "What are the key questions surrounding regulatory experimentation?”

Colombia and Farc rebels agree on drug trade plan – BBC News
Colombia's government and the Farc, the country's largest rebel group, have agreed on a plan to deal with the illegal drug trade. Both parties have agreed to eliminate all illicit drug production in Colombia should a final deal be reached. The Farc, which controls large patches of rural Colombia, is believed to be partly funded by money generated by the illegal drug trade

Mexico's drug war: Substantial changes seen in Michoacan – Tristan Reed (Forbes)
This week’s Security Weekly summarizes Forbes’ quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which they assess the most significant developments of the first quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the second quarter of the year. The report is a product of the coverage Forbes maintains through its Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that it produces throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

GDPPC Open 2013: Final Debate [video] – International Debate Education Association (IDEA)
The motion of the finals at the GDPPC Open last year was “this house believes that offenders with drug dependency should be sent into treatment rather than to prison.” Check out this video of the British Parliamentary debate to get an idea of what is in store for the Grand Finals debate at the Budapest Forum 2014.

14 May 2014

A futile war on drugs that wastes money and wrecks lives – George Soros (Financial Times)
The scale of human wreckage resulting from expensive, ineffective and repressive anti-drug efforts means nations need to look at their policies, writes George Soros.

Global drugs war a 'billion-dollar failure' – Al Jazeera
An academic report published on Tuesday by the London School of Economics (LSE), called “Ending the Drug Wars,” pointed to violence in Afghanistan, Latin America and other regions as evidence of the need for a new approach. Nobel-prize winning economists support the report, which says global drugs policies created a $300-billion black market.

I was so high – This American Life
In this episode of American radio show This American Life, listen to stories in which drug use and daily life intersect. In Act Five, producer Brian Reed recounts one of the more riveting arguments he's ever heard about whether marijuana is dangerous or relatively benign. It takes place in Congress. On one side is a congressman who isn't even on the committee that organised the hearing. On the other side is a DEA official who says that marijuana insults America’s common values.

Ending the Drug Wars – London School of Economics Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy 
How do states work together to improve global drug policies? This report highlights two approaches. First, by drastically reallocating resources away from counterproductive and damaging policies towards proven public health policies. Second, by pursuing rigorously monitored policy and regulatory experimentation.

Anti-tumor effects of cannabis and cannabinoids – National Cancer Institute
One study in mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors.

07 May 2014

Afghan opium production explodes despite billions spent, says US report – Spencer Ackerman (Guardian)
A recent report has found that the billions spent by the US State and Defense departments on counter-narcotics since 2002 has been basically for nothing. Opium-poppy cultivation currently takes up 209,000 hectares (516,230 acres) of land in Afghanistan, a 36 percent increase since 2012.

The Battle for Medical Marijuana in Japan – VICE Japan
While the West carries on its steady course towards legalisation, Japan's cannabis laws remain resolutely harsh. However, a recently discovered loophole allows for the non-psychoactive compound, CBD, to be imported and consumed within Japan. In this documentary, VICE Japan visits terminally ill cancer patient POP – a woman who claims that CBD has helped her live years beyond her prognosis – and witnesses a family with a severely epileptic child try CBD for the first time.

How NBC and our reactionary media perpetuate the war on drugs – Maia Szalavitz (Salon)
The press may be one of the biggest obstacles to drug policy reform. Instead of asking tough questions, reporters tend to simply parrot conventional wisdom—and reinforce the idea that the drug war is the only way, even when drug warriors’ claims contradict the evidence of the writers’ own lives.

High time to end this immoral drugs war – Ian Birrell (The Independent)
In this commentary, Birrell writes that although David Cameron toyed with drug reform, he has abandoned it for fear of hostile headlines. Yet the path from prohibition is a modern, conservative and radical step which makes sense politically.

30 April 2014

US Justice Department plans clemency for thousands of drug offenders - Evan Hill (Al Jazeera America)
The Obama administration announced new criteria for clemency for drug offenders last week, sending the strongest signal yet that the US  government is serious about what could be the largest sentencing reprieve since the Vietnam War. But how ready is the US government for a flood of clemency petitions from the nearly 100,000 people currently serving federal drug sentences?

Which drugs are Americans most addicted to? The US drug problem in charts – Tom McKay (PolicyMic)
In 2010, America spent  about 109 billion dollars on just four illegal drugs— meth, marijuana, heroin and cocaine — according to rough estimates prepared by the RAND Corporation for the White House.

Colombian President Santos seeks new path on drug war – José de Córdoba (Wall Street Journal)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the war against drugs has failed, and the world must come up with new approaches to deal with a scourge that has killed thousands of Colombians.

Obama vs. Romney: Should the United States scale back the war on drugs? – IDEA
What are the main points of debate regarding legalization of drugs in the United States? This overview is a useful summary of one of the largest debates in this year’s GDPPC.

24 April 2014

'Casual marijuana use changes the brain,' researchers say – Medical News Today
Heavy marijuana use has been linked with impaired motivation, attention, learning and memory, but common beliefs maintain that casual use of the drug does not result in any negative outcomes. Now, a new study suggests young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week have altered areas of the brain involved in emotion and motivation.

The negative impact of the war on drugs on public health: the hidden hepatitis C epidemic – Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
Hepatitis C is a highly prevalent chronic viral infection which poses major public health, economic and social crises, particularly in low and middle income countries. The global hepatitis C epidemic has been described by the World Health Organization as a ‘viral time bomb’, yet continues to receive little attention. Access to preventative services is far too low, while diagnosis and treatment are prohibitively expensive and remain inaccessible for most people in need. Public awareness and political will with regard to hepatitis C are also too low, and national hepatitis surveillance is often non-existent.

Deforestation of Central America rises as Mexico's war on drugs moves south – Frederic Saliba (The Guardian Weekly)
According to Kendra McSweeney: "Drug trafficking is causing an ecological disaster in Central America." McSweeney, a geographer at Ohio State University, is the co-author of a recent report on the little-known phenomenon of "narco-deforestation" that is destroying huge tracts of rainforest that are already under threat from other quarters.

16 April 2014

Cannabis and mental health – Royal College of Psychiatrists
From a medical perspective, what is cannabis and what are its effects on mental health? This leaflet looks at the research on the effects of cannabis use and mental health and is for anyone who is concerned about the issue. We hope that this will help people to make informed choices about using – or not using – cannabis.

Drug users should be given health resources not jail time – Crystal Park (Voice of Russia US Edition)
Analysts agree that the war on drugs has been a long and costly failure. The tide, it seems, is finally turning. Both the government and the public are showing more leniencies towards decriminalizing marijuana. Even the scientific community has chimed in and said marijuana is no worse than alcohol or cigarettes.

West Africa and the war on drugs: South American mistakes repeated  – Simon Allison (The Daily Maverick)
In South America, the war on drugs has failed, judging by the trail of dead bodies and countries destabilized by the drug syndicate wars, against each other and against the police. Yet, as drug smugglers expand their horizons, West Africa is being targeted with the same old rhetoric and policies – with potentially devastating consequences.

9 April 2014

West Africa and drug trafficking  – African Economic Development Institute 
About a quarter to two-thirds of the cocaine that is on its way from South America to Europe passes through West African countries, specifically Cape Verde, Mali, Benin, Togo and Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, and Ghana. As reported by the World Drug Report, “the cocaine found in Africa originated mainly in Colombia and Peru and frequently transited through Brazil” and those who coordinate this trafficking now live in West Africa.

Hard pills to swallow – The Economist
Drug firms have new medicines and patients are desperate for them but the arguments over cost are growing, as treatment often depends on the whim of pharmaceutical firms’ philanthropic programmes.

Obama administration "willing to work" with Congress to reschedule marijuana – Drug Policy Alliance
The Obama administration has said that it would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to reschedule marijuana. Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could ease restrictions on research into marijuana's medical benefits and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.

26 March 2014

Americans Spent About A Trillion Dollars On Illegal Drugs In The Last Decade - Matt Ferner (Huffington Post)
The report, published by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, tracked the total expenditures, consumption and number of users of marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin and methamphetamine. While the demand for certain drugs varied over the course of the decade, overall spending on illegal substances remained consistent at roughly $100 billion per year. Over the same time period, the U.S. government spent between $40 billion and $50 billion each year fighting the war on drugs. Despite these efforts, Americans' spending levels on illegal drugs stayed more or less the same.

Legal highs new front in drug war - Nick Spicer (Al Jazeera)
New psychoactive drugs have become popular as legal and easily obtained alternatives to existing illegal drugs. It’s a race between back-room chemists and politicians, with millions getting high and possibly risking their lives along the way. In Germany alone it’s estimated that more than 100 new recreational drugs have emerged in the past eight years - and many are not covered by law.
Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer reports from Berlin on the growth of "designer" drugs.

Regional drug strategies across the world - EMCDDA, Lisbon, March 2014
This paper explores the drug strategies and action plans adopted over the last five years by six intergovernmental organizations, engaging 148 countries in four continents. ‘When seen in the light of the current international drugs policy debate’, states the paper, ‘regional drug strategies may provide an important contribution for assessing the drugs problem at international level’.

19 March 2014

Jamaica's marijuana growers split on legalisation - Nick Davis (BBC)
The Jamaican government has said it is planning to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by the end of this year. However, the responses from those who are currently growing the crop illegally reveal that their cohort is divided.

Pro pot Republicans meet this weekend in Houston - Kevin Reece (WFAA)
In the Republican state of Texas, a number of hardline conservatives are lobbying for the legalization of marijuana in their state. The fundamentally Republican principle of small government with minimal impact upon private life provides a pivot point in their argument, which claims that legalization is not simply a left-wing liberal idea. 

El Chapo and the Faceless Future of Mexico's Drug War - Keegan Hamilton (The Atlantic)
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington has spurred current and former presidents in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Uruguay to push for an end to prohibitionist drug policies. With the capture of the world’s most wanted man, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán last month, The Atlantic’s Keegan Hamilton debates whether or not we will ever bear witness to the arrest of another king pin quite like him.

12 March 2014

Perry and Norquist use CPAC to talk tough on appropriating liberal policies -  Jim Newell, (The Guardian)
Conservative politics within the United States has, to date, struggled to confront liberal approaches to drug regulation. Now, at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, adapting their approach by developing more fluid, modern drug policy without losing characteristically conservative “toughness” is high on the political agenda.

United Nations Report Calls Moves To Legalise Cannabis 'Grave Danger To Public Health And Well-Being' -  Paul Vale, (Huffington Post UK)
The United Nations has highlighted serious concerns for public health in the intensifying international debate regarding the legalization of illicit drugs. The reforms received a nod from the U.S state of Colorado and the government of Uruguay which both recently legalized cannabis sale and consumption; however the UNs International Narcotics Control Board has raised some serious doubts.

Colorado Has Made A LOT Of Money From Cannabis This Month – Collects $2m Taxes - Huffington Post UK
An enormous influx of monthly government revenue was received by the US state of Colorado after introducing its liberal cannabis policy on January 1 of this year. Two million US dollars was received by the Department of Revenue this month; whether or not this is purely due to its novelty factor will be revealed in the coming months. 

03 March 2014

The Soaring Cost of the Opioid Economy – Barry Meier and Bill Marsh (New York Times)
The use of narcotic painkillers, or opioids, has boomed over the past decade as drug makers and doctors have promoted them for treating long-term pain from back injuries, headaches, arthritis and conditions like fibromyalgia. There is increasing evidence, however, that such drugs, along with being widely abused, are often ineffective in treating long-term pain and can have serious consequences, particularly when used in high doses.

Growing Alternatives – Russell Brown (NZ Drug Foundation)
The United Nations has been encouraging development of alternative crops in poorer drug-producing countries for more than a decade and a half as a way to reduce global supply. Results have been very much mixed, unfortunately, and Russell Brown looks at why.

Drug Recovery Wings: set up, delivery and lessons learned – Ministry of Justice, United Kingdom
The British government is seeking new ways to help rehabilitate offenders from drug dependency to live drug and crime-free lives. As part of this, wing-based, abstinence-focused, drug recovery services were launched in five adult prisons in June 2011.

Not regulating 'legal highs' condemns drug users to playing Russian roulette – Max Daly (The Guardian)
The United Kingdom should follow New Zealand’s footsteps in passing a law to ensure synthetic drugs are safe, argues Daly in this commentary, but political cowardice in the UK means this may never be viable.

26 February 2014

The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business – World Economic Forum
A polarizing debate over whether legalizing drugs is holding back progress on one of the world's most prominent health and security issues. How can government, business and civil society work together to ensure that innovative and alternative policies are considered at the national and international level? Speakers: Juan Manuel Santos, Kofi Annan, Kenneth Roth, Rick Perry, Enrique Acevedo

Mexico City Could Be Home to the Most Important Marijuana Decriminalization Effort Yet – Mike Riggs (The Atlantic Cities)
Reformers in Mexico took a big step last Thursday to overhaul the country's drug possession and marijuana laws, allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. The question is: Will Mexico City's mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera, guarantee the passage of the bill?

For Mexico, legalization is freedom – Vicente Fox (The Globe and Mail)
Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox speaks out against prohibitionist drug policy and argues for the legalization of not just marijuana, but all drugs.

Estimating public expenditure on drug-law offenders in prison in Europe –  European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
This new EMCDDA report provides estimates of how much Europe spends on maintaining drug offenders in prison.

France's 'invisible disaster': how heroin devastated the banlieues in the 1980s – Sylvia Zappi (The Guardian)
Health authorities failed to track the deadly toll of Aids and drug addiction in Paris, Marseille and Lyon, a new history shows. France's National Research Agency (ANR) has just awarded funding to Anne Coppel and Michel Kokoreff, two sociologists specialising in drug addiction. Their mission is to write a history of heroin, in order to obtain a clear picture of what they describe as an "invisible disaster", which they started investigating several years ago.

19 February 2014

New 'Legal Highs' Pose Challenges and Risks – BBC Inside Out
Scientists testing "legal highs" say they are coming across new mind-altering psychoactive substances that are taking the place of banned substances.

Stoned Kids – VICE
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, but there are still use cases that are very controversial, like medical marijuana for children. VICE went to visit an eight-year-old leukemia patient in Oregon who takes large quantities of weed to treat her illness.

After the War on Drugs: Tools for the Debate – Transform Drug Policy Foundation
The ideas in this handy guide provide the tools and facts to conceptualise and articulate the arguments for drug policy reform in such a way that they are unassailable.

War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy – Global Commission on Drug Policy
Following the “lack of leadership on drug policy,” this report outlines the principles and recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. 

The UN Drug Control Conventions: The Limits of Latitude – Dave Bewley-Taylor and Martin Jelsma (International Drug Policy Consortium)
This briefing paper outlines the international legal drug control obligations, the room for manoeuvre the regime leaves open to national policy makers and the clear limits of latitude that cannot be crossed without violating the treaties.

Police Support for Harm Reduction Policies and Practices towards People Who Inject Drugs – Geoffrey Monaghan and Dave Bewley-Taylor (International Drug Policy Consortium)
This report argues that embedding harm reduction principles within police service training curricula can bring about positive and beneficial change in policing attitudes towards people who inject drugs.

Perspectives of US Drug Policy: Observations and Advice From Drug Policy Administrators in Emerging Democracies in Central and Eastern Europe – Dessa Bergen-Cico (World Medical & Health Policy)
This study gives voice to policy administrators from Central and Eastern European countries that received drug enforcement and drug policy training from the US.

Coffee Shops and Compromise: Separated Illicit Drug Markets in the Netherlands – Open Society Foundations
While Dutch drug policy may be most renowned for its coffee shops, where cannabis is openly sold and consumed, the reasons behind this policy are less understood. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the Dutch model and the reasons behind its design. 

12 February 2014

The lesson from Latin America: we need to rethink the drugs war – Nick Clegg (The Guardian) 
After a visit to Colombia, which is altering the way it tackles the drugs problem, British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg openly argues in this commentary that the UK must join the debate on a new approach to the war on drugs, dragging the issue into the centre ground of British politics.

The US war on drugs and its legacy in Latin America – David Huey (The Guardian)
Since the 1970s, the US has spent more than a trillion dollars attempting to dismantle drug cartels in Latin America. As the US softens its stance on drugs at home, David Huey reviews the effects of its tactics to dismantle cartels in Latin America and the implications for policymakers.

Russell Brand: Philip Seymour Hoffman is another victim of extremely stupid drug laws – Russell Brand (The Guardian)
As more evidence of renowned actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s drug addiction comes to light, British actor and recovering drug addict Russell Brand responds scathingly to the hypocritical pop culture narrative in mainstream media when it comes to drug use and argues that prohibitionist drug control laws are at the root of the problem.

The rise of drug overdoses in the US – Ben Carter (BBC)
In 2010, prescription drugs killed more than 22,100 people in the US, more than twice as many as cocaine and heroin combined. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people that died from drug overdoses more than doubled from 17,000 to 38,000. What is causing this epidemic?

5 February 2014

The other China boom – Stephen McDonell  (Al Jazeera English)
China's youth are driving a booming trade in recreational drugs, turning neighbouring Myanmar into a meth lab. In this 25-minute documentary, reporter Stephen McDonell takes us right into the heart of the trade, on patrol with China's drug police who work to stem the tide of illicit drugs often carried by poor Myanmar mules prepared to risk everything for a couple of hundred dollars.

Leaders get smart on drug policy in Davos – Ilona Szabo de Carvalho and Robert Muggah (
Following discussions on the future of drug policy at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Ilona Szabo de Carvalho and Robert Muggah of the Igarapé Institute single out five take-away messages. They remark that a rare consensus is emerging about the future direction of drug policy reform.

Medical marijuana could save my daughter's life – Margaret Storey (The Guardian)
Margaret Storey’s daughter has a severe seizure disorder that has resisted all attempts at treatment until last year, when a unique strain of marijuana was found to dramatically reduce life-threatening symptoms. Yet because of rigid state and federal laws, this strain of marijuana is currently only available in Colorado and it is illegal to transport it to another state. Storey argues that it is unconscionable that marijuana continues to be federally classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

Big Cannabis: will legal weed grow to be America's next corporate titan? – Rory Carroll (The Guardian)
With Washington state poised to follow Colorado later this year, and activists in a dozen other states preparing to fight for wider legalisation, a once-illicit plant is now breeding a big, legitimate industry replete with advocates, interest groups and lobbyists. Will legal weed, like alcohol and tobacco, grow to be America’s next corporate titan?

Drug Trafficking Poses Surprising Threats to Rain Forests, Scientists Find – Brian Clark Howard (National Geographic)
Illegal drugs have a surprising new victim: ecologically important lands in Central America, where criminal activities associated with the drug trade are wreaking havoc, reveals a new paper. In this piece, Kendra McSweeney, lead author of the paper, says that "natural scientists have for a long time felt that drug policy has nothing to do with them, but we need them to join the conversation."

29 January 2014

Innocent Bystanders: Developing Countries and the War on Drugs – World Bank
Most efforts to understand the internal, domestic consequences of different policies typically consider the issues from the perspective and interests of developed countries. Drug markets are international, however, and domestic drug policies in wealthy countries can have profound effects on economic development and political stability in less wealthy, more vulnerable ones. These effects, which are often not analysed or taken into account, are the focus of this book.

How Iran Derailed a Health Crisis – Tina Rosenberg (The New York Times)
In 2010, Iran started to treat its massive epidemic of injecting drug use mainly as a health problem.  With this strategy, it effectively managed to lower HIV rates among drug users and keep the disease from spreading.  How did a conservative theocracy decide to deal with its drug addicts as if it were Canada? Pulitzer-winning journalist Tina Rosenberg lays out the key lessons we can take away from the political strategy behind Iran’s harm reduction.

HIV and Islam: Responsible Religious Response to HIV and AIDS in Malaysia – Malaysian AIDS Council
In Malaysia, injecting drug use is the main driver of the spread of HIV and AIDS, which hits the predominantly Malay Muslim population the hardest. This brochure points out how prohibitive legal, religious and socio-cultural environments negatively impact on access to appropriate HIV and AIDS education and treatment, and reviews some key policies to reduce the stigma.

Reflections on Human Rights and International Drug Control – Damon Barrett (LSE Ideas)
Human rights in international drug control have traditionally been absent, and are viewed as a nuisance by many governments and UN agencies. In this piece, Damon Barrett argues that human rights abuses related to drug control as systemic at the international level and that there must be an urgent effort to address the institutional weaknesses and normative gaps in the international drug control regime itself.

Overhauling Oversight: Human Rights at the INCB – Joanne Csete (LSE Ideas)
Reform of the UN drug conventions, however desirable it may be, is probably not imminent, argues drug policy expert Joanne Csete. Governments are likely to have to live with the conventions as they are for some time. Yet, argues Csete, there is room for varied interpretations of fundamental provisions of the drug conventions.

22 January 2014

Mexico steps up efforts to fight war on drugs – Al Jazeera (Reuters)
Mexican federal forces have increased efforts to take control of the violent western state of Michoacan, as masked vigilantes and members of one of the country's most powerful cartels fight for control of the state's lawless regions.

The Uruguay Experiment – Marguerite Ward (World Policy Blog)
Although there is an increasing number of countries who have done something new and interesting with their drug policies, many of these are “all sitting very quietly” and not sharing the lessons learned with the international community for fear of the political consequences.

Afghanistan seeks help in drugs fight after opium crop hits record – Reuters
Afghanistan needs more financial assistance for its anti-narcotics fight after opium cultivation hit a record high last year.

Rethinking Thailand’s war on meth – Sean Kimmons (IRIN News)
Despite an aggressive crackdown on drugs, activists say that Thailand’s drug trade has not been deterred by strict tactics and that these have in fact led to staggering arrest figures, stiffer penalties for drug offences, heightened stigma for drug users, and an upsurge in compulsory drug treatment.

Drug Strategy 2010 Evaluation Framework – evaluating costs and benefits – UK Home Office
The 2010 Drug Strategy sets out the British coalition government’s vision for tackling drugs, using evaluation framework to assess its effectiveness and value for money.

15 January 2014

Insight: War turns Syria into major amphetamines producer, consumer – Stephen Kalin (Reuters)
Syria has become a major amphetamines exporter and consumer as the trauma of the country's brutal civil war fuels demand and the breakdown in order creates opportunity for producers.

A Mission Gone Wrong: Why are we still fighting the drug war? – Mattathias Schwartz (New Yorker)
This long-form investigation reveals the absurdity of how many times the US has tried militarized counter-narcotics programs and how long it has been apparent how little they amount to.

America Abandons Afghanistan to Drug Lords – Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova (Newsweek)
As Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan this year after 13 years of war, they’ll leave behind an undefeated enemy, a shaky Afghan government, and an explosion of Afghan opium production.

The real danger of Uruguay's pot legalization – Belen Fernandez (Al Jazeera America)
In the end, argues Belen Fernandez, the real danger posed by drug decriminalization is the one posed to the drug-war establishment, which can be eventually dismantled only through the accumulation of alternative models.

Is the US the Last Country Still Fighting the Drug War? – Russell Crandall (New Republic)
Recent national security aide to US president Barack Obama Russell Crandall explains why Uruguay's new marijuana law is a big blow to Washington drug policy.

The Great Marijuana Experiment: A Tale of Two Drug Wars – Bruce Barcott (Rolling Stones)
As Washington and Colorado create rules and regulations for selling legal marijuana, in many other cities across the country pot arrests are near record highs

Noam Chomsky: The drug war is the latest manifestation of a centuries-old ‘race war’ – Scott Kaufman (The Raw Story)
In a video conference with Foundation Degree students about the legacy of the American Civil Rights movement, Noam Chomsky describes the war on drugs as a “race war” against poor minorities.

18 December 2013

Heroic Uruguay deserves a Nobel peace prize for legalizing cannabis – Simon Jenkins (Guardian)
In this searing commentary, Jenkins applauds Uruguay’s courage for pushing back against the tide of UN disapproval and making the historic move to legalize not only cannabis consumption but its production and sale. 

UN Claims Uruguay Not Allowed to End Marijuana Prohibition – Alex Newman (The New American)
The United Nations (UN) is now under fire from many of its traditional allies after claiming that Uruguay’s recent decision to end marijuana prohibition violates "international law.” This article provides an overview of the UN’s reactions to Uruguay’s move to legalize cannabis.

Uruguay is right to opt out of the world war on drugs – Howard Marks (Financial Times)
The regulation of cannabis will have health and social benefits and it will reduce crime, says Marks, a graduate from Oxford and former drug trader who has spent seven years in prison. In this enlightening commentary, Marks lays out his views on the business of the drug trade and how legalization will affect long-time cannabis consumers, dealers, and growers in the countries of origin.

Can Uruguay Handle the Pot Business? – Raul Gallegos (Bloomberg)
Having sound political priorities is one thing, says Gallegos, but knowing how to control a business that's considered illegal in most of the world is something else. This article surveys the challenges ahead for Uruguay’s newly legalized marijuana economy.

Finally, a nation legalizes pot – Hannah Hetzer (CNN)
Why marijuana, why now and why Uruguay? Hannah Hetzer, the policy manager of the Americas for the Drug Policy Alliance who is based in Uruguay, writes that the world should take a lesson from this tiny country with a history of political reform.

11 December 2013

More UN States Quietly Say No to Drug War – Samuel Oakford (Inter Press Service)
First publicized by the Guardian and obtained by IPS, an internal United Nations draft document leaked last weekend has offered outsiders a rare look at longstanding disagreements between member states over the course of UN drug policy. This article provides a brief overview of the 100 specifc policy recommendations and proposals from member states.

Cambodia: Drug Centers Detain, Abuse ‘Undesirables’ – Human Rights Watch
A recently released 55-page report, “‘They Treat Us Like Animals’: Mistreatment of Drug Users and ‘Undesirables’ in Cambodia’s Drug Detention Centers,” documents how the Cambodian authorities unlawfully detain hundreds of drug users and others deemed “undesirable” in centers where they face torture, sexual violence, and forced labor.

Greece and the Myth of Self-Inflicted HIV Infection – Daniel Wolfe (London School of Economics)
The two most common stories about people who inject drugs are that they inject themselves with HIV to get government benefits and that they are intentionally leaving or using needles to infect other people. Daniel Wolfe, director of the International Harm Reduction Development Program at the Open Society Foundations, explains that neither story is true.

4 December 2013

China's work camps raise human rights concerns over drug offenders – Reuters in Kunming (Guardian)
Drug offenders in China often end up in labor camps, where they can be forced to work up to 15 hours a day. Long based on the idea of “re-education through labor,” these labor camps – known as laojiao – are being turned into compulsory drug rehabilitation centers where drug offenders can be incarcerated for two years or more without trial.  This article takes a look at the “war on drugs” in China and the challenges ahead for the country’s drug policy.

Drug policy advocacy in Asia: Challenges, opportunities and prospects – International Drug Policy Consortium
Commissioned by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), with the support of Australian Aid, this report provides a comprehensive overview of drug policy advocacy activity in 10 Asian countries: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The report identifies organizations engaged in harm reduction and drug policy advocacy as well as the gaps and challenges in this area.

Drug control and harm reduction in Thailand – International Drug Policy Consortium
The Thai government’s zero-tolerance response to drug use continues to focus on eradicating drug consumption and production with the imposition of harsh punishment for drug-related crimes, ranging from compulsory detention to the death penalty. This paper analyzes the Thai government’s policy response to drug use and drug-related risks, and provides recommendations based on international evidence and best practices.

Leaked paper reveals UN split over war on drugs – Jamie Doward (Guardian)
Major international divisions over the global "war on drugs" have been revealed in a leaked draft of a UN document that sets out the organization's long-term strategy for combating illicit narcotics. The draft shows there are serious and entrenched divisions over the longstanding US-led policy that promotes prohibition as an exclusive solution to the problem.

Drug war no more – Ioan Grillo (New York Times)
Ioan Gillo, the author of El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, asks some tough questions on the “war on drugs” in Latin America. Will people a hundred years from now look back at Latin America’s drug wars as an archaic conflict, now solved? Or will they be suffering from the same cycle of massive drug markets in the United States and Europe and brutal cartel violence south of the Rio Grande?

27 November 2013

Global Drug Survey 2014
This November sees the launch of the Global Drug Survey 2014 in the United Kingdom, an initiative that allows anyone the opportunity to freely and securely participate in un-coerced and independent studies of drugs and drug usage. Founded by consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist Dr. Adam Winstock, the Global Drug Survey is supported by researchers, harm reductionists, policy makers and clinicians from around the globe. Take the survey and check out the wealth of information on drugs and drug usage collected from the 2012 survey.

Economic and social implications of regulating alcohol availability in grocery stores – John Wihbey (Harvard Kennedy School Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy)
What can we learn from alcohol policy that we can apply to drug policy? John Wihbey provides a useful survey of the most relevant literature on alcohol regulation, pointing out that regulatory policies governing alcohol sales and distribution in the United States continue to be informed by a mixture of economic interests, regional customs and cultural norms, as well as “historical legacy ideas about consumption running from the Colonial days through Prohibition and beyond.”

Exposure to anti-drug advertising and drug-related beliefs and behaviors among U.S. youth – Margaret Weigel (Harvard Kennedy School Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy)
Millions of dollars have been spent on television and radio anti-drug campaigns in the United States — including the “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” and “Just Say No” ads from the 1980s —that warn youth about the perils of illicit substances. But have these campaigns managed to influence young people’s behavior?

Kicking Afghanistan's opium habit – Robbie Gramer (Foreign Policy)
The Afghanistan Opium Survey found that opium cultivation reached record levels in 2013, despite a decade of counter-narcotics activities by US and NATO forces. In this comprehensively researched piece, Robbie Gramer argues that NATO leaders have quietly acknowledged the dangerous drug trafficking problem Afghanistan faces without offering any real solutions and that the opium poppy plant may tip the scale against the full weight of NATO and a nascent Afghan democracy.

Uruguay's likely cannabis law could set tone for war on drugs in Latin America – Jonathan Watts (Guardian)
No government has put in place a structure for drugs and drug policy that is as all-encompassing and supportive as that envisaged in Uruguay.  Jonathan Watts reports on how Uruguay could set the tone for the evolving “war on drugs” in Latin America.

20 November 2013

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control – United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
This paper provides the legislative basis for the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) 2009. A comprehensive list of country reports compiles the most relevant information on how specific countries are being affected by drug cultivation, production and trading as well as the different legislative positions countries take on drugs and drug policy.

Mexico's Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored – Human Rights Watch
This 176-page report documents nearly 250 “disappearances” during the administration of former President Felipe Calderón, from December 2006 to December 2012. In 149 of those cases, Human Rights Watch found compelling evidence of enforced disappearances, involving the participation of state agents.

Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and Other Drugs: Challenges for Asia and the Pacific – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
This 2013 report provides a comprehensive overview of the drugs situation in the East and Southeast Asia region. It outlines several key issues and emerging threats throughout the region and their implications for the neighboring regions. One key finding is that methamphetamine use has continued to increase in most countries in East and Southeast Asia, with a record number of seizures in 2012.

Myanmar’s drug problem – Tim McLaughlin (Myanmar Times)
Drawing on the UNODC report “Challenges for Asia and the Pacific,” McLaughlin points out that opium production in Myanmar now accounts for about 10 percent of global output. This article elaborates on the newly liberalized country’s challenges with drugs. More on Myanmar’s drugs situation in this article “Development key to ending drug output in Myanmar, says UN” by Thin Lei Win for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

13 November 2013

Kofi Annan: Stop 'war on drugs' – Kofi Annan and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (CNN)
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso argue that despite clear evidence of failure, there is a damaging reluctance worldwide to consider a fresh approach to drug policy reform. In this op-ed, the two members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy point out that countries must have the space to define and develop progressive, open-minded policies best tailored to their own realities and needs.

As US withdraws from Afghanistan, poppy trade it spent billions fighting still flourishes – Ernesto Londoño (Washington Post)
Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, according to law enforcement officials and counternarcotics experts.

The Global Afghan Opium Trade: A Threat Assessment – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
The second such report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime research project on the topic, this report presents data on the worldwide flows of Afghan opiates, the trafficking in precursor chemicals used to turn opium into heroin and their health impact throughout the world.

Buzzkill: Washington State discovers that it’s not so easy to create a legal marijuana economy (PDF)Patrick Radden Keefe (New Yorker)
Washington’s laws gave state officials only a year to answer difficult questions: Who could grow legal pot? Who could sell it? How much would an ounce of the drug cost? This article follows Mark Kleiman, one of the United States’ most prominent and outspoken analysts of drug policy, in his journey to put together the policy framework for a legal marijuana economy.

6 November 2013

Drug rooms: Admirers eye Copenhagen model – Maddy Savage (BBC)
A senior police official in northern England is calling for safe rooms for the injection of hard drugs, pointing to an experiment in Copenhagen, which Danish police say has saved lives and helped clean up drug-ridden districts. This article takes a closer look at the Danish model of safe injection sites, with analysts pointing out that drug consumption rooms work best when police, health agencies and city authorities collaborate together, since they are usually local responses to very local problems.

Obama’s War on Pot – Mike Riggs (The Nation)
Although there has been much praise for President Obama’s “public health” approach, the White House has not relented in cracking down on cannabis. Mike Riggs writes about the disconnect between narrative and reality with regards to drug policy. The problem is not that there is ineffective messaging, argues Riggs, but that the federal government is lagging behind the rest of the country. 

The Drug Problem in the Americas – Organization of American States General Secretariat
In response to the Organization of American States’ mandate to analyze the results of the current policy in the Americas, this report is a comprehensive presentation of the “drug problem” in terms of health, crop cultivation, production, sales and distribution, crime and violence, as well as current legal and regulatory frameworks.

30 October 2013

Has drug violence in Mexico declined? – Molly Molloy (Baker Institute Blog)
In the October series of Baker Institute Viewpoints, five scholars weigh in on the question “has drug violence in Mexico declined?” to better understand drug-related violence in Mexico. In this piece, Latin America specialist Molly Molloy points out that less than half of all homicides in Mexico are being reported as a result of the government’s methodologically flawed statistical analysis. Molloy’s journal article for Small Wars Journal, The Mexican Undead: Toward a New History of the “Drug War” Killing Fields, presents her findings in further detail.

How A Drug Raid Gone Wrong Sparked A Call For Change In The Unlikeliest State In The Nation – Radley Balko (Huffington Post)
This article is the first of a 6-part series about the drug war and police reform in the United States. Balko reports the story of Matthew David Stewart, a 37-year-old army veteran in Utah who was gunned down in an armed raid on his home for growing marijuana. The “military-style attack on a small weed grower” has sparked local outrage in Utah, turning one of the most conservative states in the country into a hotbed of discussion calling for police reform.

Legalized pot would mean more addiction – Kevin A. Sabet (CNN)
In this op-ed, Kevin A. Sabet, author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, argues that “the war on drugs has failed” mantra is outdated and too simplistic to describe current drug policy and its outcomes. He claims that legalization in the United States is likely to accompany a bombardment of promotion, similar to the other existing three classes of legal drugs, leading to more addiction, suffering and costs.

Uruguay to sell legal marijuana for $1 a gram – Associated Press (The Guardian)
President José Mujica presses on with the plan to create government-run legal marijuana industry. The drug tsar says the country plans to sell legal marijuana for $ 1 per gram to combat drug trafficking. The measure would make Uruguay the first country in the world to license and enforce rules for theproduction, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.

23 October 2013

North America’s Largest City Moves to Legalize Pot – Ioan Grillo (TIME World)
Legislators in Mexico City, the largest city in North America, are preparing to push through certain measures that would decriminalize and regulate the consumption of marijuana in the Mexican capital, a move that may speed up pot legalization elsewhere on the continent. The Mexico City bills are part of a wave of marijuana proposals across the Americas following the US states of Colorado and Washington voting to legalize cannabis last November.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Carries the Torch for the War on Drugs – Lynne Lyman (Drug Policy Alliance)
California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance Lynne Lyman argues that by rejecting a bill to give misdemeanor status to small-time offenders, Governor Brown let down the people of California, the majority of whom support the bill to cut down the number of prison inmates. Lyman points out that drug use is a health issue and not a criminal justice one, and that California remains one of the worst in the country for harsh drug sentencing and overcrowded prisons.

Distorted Incentives: The Failure of the War on Drugs and a New Way Forward – Big Think Editors
The war on drugs is about to celebrate its 100th year anniversary in 2014, but there is little to celebrate, write the editors of Big Think. In this piece, they pull out highlights from the executive director of Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann’s talk at the Nantucket Project, in which he surveys an array of alternative policy options. A video of Nadelmann’s full talk can be found on this page.

16 October 2013

The war on drugs is a costly fiasco – by Sir Richard Branson (Politico)
In this op-ed, Sir Richard Branson – founder of Virgin and board member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy – points out that the war on drugs does not make economic sense at a time of financial uncertainty and argues that acknowledge that while no country has come up with a fully satisfactory set of policies, the polarizing debate between legalization and prohibition has been blocking progress.

Latin America builds momentum against US-backed drug war – Laura Carlsen (Huffington Post)
One after another, Latin American leaders rose to the podium at the last UN General Assembly to take a stand against the United States' signature security policy in the hemisphere – the war on drugs. Carlsen writes about the positions taken by the leaders of Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Bolivia, and the challenge of US-led resistance to this onslaught of drug war opposition.

Economist Debates: Should cannabis be legal everywhere? – by The Economist
Following the recent decisions of Uruguay and the American states of Colorado and Washington to legalize the use of cannabis, the Economist Debates series reignites the debate about drug policy. Experts and policymakers debate both sides of the motion, tackling the questions: Should cannabis be legal around the world? How should such markets be regulated? What are the risks?

African Union: A New Frontier for Challenging Prohibition? – Joanne Csete (Open Society Foundations)
Africa is frequently highlighted in international media as the new frontier in the war on drugs – the region of the world that has most recently seen the establishment of drug trafficking routes and growing consumption of illicit drugs. Drug policy expert Joanne Csete tells us what the African Union is doing about it.

09 October 2013

Focused deterrence, selective targeting, drug trafficking and organized crime: Concepts and practicalities – by International Drug Consortium
Zero-tolerance approaches to crime, popular around the world since the late 1980s, have often proven problematic. This report outlines the logic and problems of zero-tolerance and undifferentiated targeting in law enforcement policies and discusses some key dilemmas in designing selective targeting and focused-deterrence strategies to fight crime.

Applying harm reduction principles to the policing of retail drug markets – by International Drug Consortium
Drug law enforcement has traditionally focused on reducing the size of the illicit drug market by seeking to eradicate drug production, distribution and retail supply, or at least by stifling these activities to the point where potential consumers are unable to get access to drugs. Yet these strategies have failed to reduce the supply of, or demand for, drugs in consumer markets. This report examines the interaction between law enforcement and harm reduction in the policing of retail drug markets.

02 October 2013

The development of international drug control: lessons learned and strategic challenges for the future – by Martin Jelsma (Global Commission on Drug Policies)
This paper describes how the foundations for the global control system were established and how this system moved toward increasingly repressive implementation, consequently leading to what is called “soft defections” and widespread de-escalation efforts.  Jelsma concludes by projecting a future for the ongoing reform process toward humanizing the control system’s international legal framework.

International Drug Control Policy: Background and US Responses – by Liana Sun Wyler (Congressional Research Service)
American involvement in international drug control is based on the premise that helping foreign governments combat the illegal drug trade abroad will ultimately curb illegal drug availability and use in the United States. This paper describes several of the key US government strategies and initiatives for combating drugs internationally and in specific regions around the world.

Spliffs and buffs: it is high time for a new debate on drug policy but politicians remain wary – by The Economist
Politicians from all Britain’s major parties continue to be worried about the harmful effects of drugs and resist legalization. Yet, argues The Economist, the evidence in favor of making pot legal is as persuasive as ever.

Why ending the war on drugs will cut crime  – by Mike Barton (The Guardian)
In a dramatic move that will reignite the debate over the so-called war on drugs, Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham in the United Kingdom, has suggested that making drugs legal – but controlling supply through the National Health Service (NHS) – would stop the flow of money to crime gangs and destroy their power.

25 September 2013

Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – by Anand Grover, United Nations Special Rapporteur (United Nations General Assembly)
The primary goal of the international drug control regime, as set forth in the preamble of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), is the “health and welfare of mankind”. Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur and health expert, argues that the current approach to controlling drug use and possession works against that aim.

Mali a “wake-up call” for drug trafficking  –  by IRIN News
Several research groups report that drug traffickers are linking up with extremist groups, who use the profits to purchase weapons and fund radical activities. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has partially funded its activities in northern Mali over the past decade through profits from drug trafficking.  The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that around 60 tons of cocaine are trafficked through West Africa each year, which brings in an estimated US$900 million per year to criminal networks.

After Kerlikowske, What’s Next for America’s ‘War on Drugs’? – by Ted Gest (The Crime Report)
In a new study that addresses drugs as a social and criminal justice problem, Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland asks why American drug policy has changed so little in 30 years. This report by Ted Gest provides a summary of Reuter’s findings on the inflexibility of American drug policy and the resulting demonization of drug users, as well as Reuter’s recommendations for the way forward.

18 September 2013

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies – by Glenn Greenwald (CATO Institute)
From the journalist who broke the NSA story, Glenn Greenwald’s 2009 report shows that Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs has not increased the country´s drug usage. Rather, drug use is now among the lowest in the EU. Yet despite this evidence, Portugal remains the only EU member state with a law explicitly declaring drugs to be “decriminalized”.

NSW Health: Further evaluation of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre – by KPMG
Many evaluations show that safe injection sites decrease drug overdose deaths, provide a gateway to drug treatment and counseling, reduce public injecting and discarded needles, and reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. This KPMG report supports this claim, using data from an Australian supervised injection center.

11 September 2013

Transnational Organized Crime in Eastern Africa: A Threat Assessment (UNODC) – by UN News Centre
According to a report on ‘Transnational Organized Crime in Eastern Africa’ by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the flow of illicit drugs, next to migrant smuggling, ivory trafficking, and maritime piracy are part of the threats the Eastern African region is facing today. The report explores how weak institutions, governance and corruption make drug trade a lucrative pursuit.

How Peru is dethroning Columbia as cocaine king – by MSN News
While Columbia undergoes policy reforms, Peru has taken the lead on coca production and became the world’s top producer of cocaine. As in many cases, large-scale coca production offers a source of income and means of social security. While Columbia received US assistance in tackling the issue, its current developments also relate back to social initiatives that support farmers replacing coca productions with other crops.

A State-building approach to the Drug Trade Problem – by The Brookings Institution
The burgeoning drug trade as well as the political and economic repercussions it inspired has increasingly captured policymaker’s attention worldwide. Large-scale drug trafficking, particularly in countries with an inadequate institutional rule of law system, can threaten the state politically and produce problematic effects on the law enforcement and justice systems of the country. Yet, since existing approaches to combat illicit drug trade have not proven very successful with regard to mitigating violent conflict, fostering good governance and promoting human rights, there is a lack of consensus among UN member states on how to restructure existing counter-narcotic policies. Policy responses vary from highly repressive measures to unifying state-building efforts in order to reinforce bonds between state institutions and those marginalized communities dependent on illicit drug trade.

4 September 2013

Mexico's war on drugs is one big lie – by The Guardian
Anabel Hernández, journalist and author, accuses the Mexican state of complicity with the cartels, and says the 'war on drugs' is a sham. She's had headless animals left at her door and her family have been threatened by gunmen. Now her courageous bestseller, extracted below, is to be published in the UK.

Coffee Shops and Compromise: Separated Illicit Drug Markets in the Netherlands – by Global Drug Policy Program
Coffee Shops and Compromise: Separated Illicit Drug Markets in the Netherlands tells the history of the Dutch approach and describes the ongoing success of the country’s drug policy. This includes the impact of the Dutch “separation of markets,” which potentially limits people’s exposure and access to harder drugs.

'Addict' Britain is worldwide hub for sale of legal highs – by The Observer
Britain has become an international hub for websites selling legal highs with postal workers operating as unwitting "drug mules", according to a report into the burgeoning trade.

28 August 2013

Myanmar must act fast to curb drug resistant TB: experts  - by Bangkok Post
Health officials recently called for urgent action to tackle "alarming" rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Myanmar where nearly 9,000 people catch the strain of the infectious disease each year. Treatment programmes in the impoverished nation -- where the healthcare system was left woefully underfunded during decades of military rule -- are expensive and ineffective leaving the deadly illness to spread unchecked, experts warned at a Rangoon forum on the issue.

Drugs policy: face the facts - by The Guardian
Celebrities, scientists, former South American presidents, leading EU politicians and now the government's chief medical officer make a curious alliance. That doesn't mean they're right – groupthink is a bad policy guide. But it's not always wrong.

True Tales Of The War On Drugs  - by Charles P. Pierce (Esquire)
Up here in the Commonwealth (God save it!), we've been keeping a close eye on the curious case of Annie Dookhan, Drug Avenger. Dookhan was a chemist in a laboratory in the state Department Of Public Health. Her special interest was in handling evidence for police and prosecutors involved in drug cases. Occasionally, and allegedly, Annie thought the cops and the DA's needed a little help, so she put her thumb on the scale.

21 August 2013

The Economist explains: How will Uruguay’s marijuana law work?  - by The Economist
On July 31st the lower house of Uruguay’s congress narrowly voted to legalise the production, sale and consumption of marijuana (cannabis). The bill has passed to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved with a comfortable margin. If it does, it may be legal by the end of the month to light up a joint while watching the sun set over Punta del Este. Drug-law reformers hailed the bill’s progress as “historic”. But plenty of other countries, from Portugal to the United States, have loosened up their drug laws in recent years. What makes Uruguay’s proposals different?

New Zealand’s plan to regulate designer drugs is better than trying to ban them and failing - by The Economist
An unlikely leader in legal highs is New Zealand. Conventional hard drugs are scarce in the country, because traffickers have little interest in serving 4m people far out in the South Pacific. Kiwis therefore make their own synthetic drugs, which they take in greater quantity than virtually anyone else. The government shuts down more crystal-meth labs there than anywhere bar America and Ukraine.

States lead the US toward a new era in its war on drugs  - by Peter Aldhous (New Scientist)
It isn't the end of the war on drugs. But it may be the beginning of the end for a punitive approach to sentencing that sees the US imprison more of its people than any other nation. On 12 August, when US attorney general Eric Holder announced a plan to reduce lengthy minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, it was a watershed moment. But it was also part of a wider shift towards a more nuanced approach to the US's drug problem in which individual states – rather than the federal government – are leading the way.

14 August 2013

Mexico and marijuana: A leaf out of Uruguay's book? – by Will Grant (BBC News)
Ten days ago, the lower house of Uruguay's parliament passed a law legalising marijuana, reflecting a growing sentiment in Latin America that the current prohibition on drugs should change. Could Mexico be next? Arguably, Mexico has lost the most in the war on drugs, with tens of thousands of drug-related killings every year. But there are now calls for Mexico to take a leaf out of Uruguay's book and pass similar legislation.

The Director of "How to Make Money Selling Drugs" on Ending an Embarrassingly Racist War  – by Ezekiel Edwards (ACLU)
Matthew Cooke's new film "How to Make Money Selling Drugs" breaks down the War on Drugs. In this interview, he talks with Ezekiel Edwards, lead author of the ACLU's report Marijuana in Black and White.

Colombia grew less coca in 2012, UN survey reports – by UN News Centre
Coca cultivation in Colombia, one of the world's largest producers along with Bolivia and Peru, fell by a quarter in 2012, according to a new survey presented today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government. The area under cultivation in Colombia fell to 48,000 hectares (ha), down from 64,000 ha in 2011, UNODC said in a news release about the survey.

07 August 2013

Uruguay's pot legalization could be 'tipping point' in war on drugs – by Andre Meyer (CBC News)
The decision by Uruguay lawmakers to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana could signal the beginning of the end for the increasingly unpopular U.S.-led war on drugs, experts say.

Breaking Bad, Nurse Jackie, and the Complete Inversion of '60s Drug Culture – by Tim Riley (The Atlantic)
TV's self-centered, drug-obsessed antiheroes make the flower-power promise of Owsley Stanley and the clean-and-sober promise of the War on Drugs seem like cruel jokes.

On drugs patrol at US-Mexico border  – by BBC news
Forty years after the creation of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, leaders in Latin American are calling for a new strategy for the war on drugs. The agency was set up to curb the flow of drugs across the border, into the United States. But those south of the border in Mexico have paid a heavy price for its drug industry. (VIDEO)

1 August 2013

Africa: Global Drug Policy V - Drug Policy Reform Momentum: Where Is the International Development Community? - by Markus Schultze-Kraft (
Drug policy reform advocates have some reason to be upbeat these days. Momentum for reassessing the existing prohibitionist international policy framework is gathering in different corners of the world.

Experts discuss role of drug policy in HIV, hepatitis and TB epidemics – by Liz Highleyman (
International drug policy must shift from prohibition to public health in order to reduce harms to individuals and societies, including fueling the spread of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis, experts from a range of disciplines agreed at two sessions held during the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) in Kuala Lumpur.

Joint war on drug gangs in Golden Triangle – by Amelie Bottolier-Depois (Gulf Times)
A Thai police gunboat prowls the waters of the Mekong River searching for the drug gangs. At one time this frontier region, where the remote edges of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, was awash with heroin, flooding over the border from the then world’s biggest opium producer Myanmar. Times have changed.

18 July 2013

The Narco State – by Charles Kenny (Foreign Policy)
Forty years of increasingly violent efforts to stamp out the drug trade haven't worked. And the blood and treasure lost is on a scale with America's more conventional wars. On the upside, we know that an approach based around treating drugs as a public health issue reaps benefits to both users and the rest of us.

We Must Eliminate Discrimination – by Michael Dawson (New York Times)
The war on drugs is a key component of the 21st century’s system of racial control — what I have called in my work for a number of years the racial order. Eliminating draconian drug laws, legalizing marijuana so that its use is treated as what it is —a social drug, with social and medical problems, on the order of alcohol — is a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for beginning to rectify the mass incarceration of black males and return a modicum of equity to our criminal justice system and society.

Drug War Do-Over: Can the U.S. Push Trafficking Out of Central America? – by Tim Rogers (Time)
As the crackdown on narcotics in Central America becomes increasingly messy, the best hope for success may lie in pushing drug traffic elsewhere

The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic – by Global Commission on Drug Policy
The global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risk becomes markedly elevated.