This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.
In a series of votes yesterday, the House voted to end the DEA's controversial bulk data collection program and also passed three amendments cutting funding from the DEA and shifting it to other federal law enforcement priorities. In more votes today, it approved three amendments aimed at blocking DEA and Justice Department interference with industrial hemp, CBD cannabis oil, and medical marijuana in states where they are legal. A fourth amendment that would have barred interference in legal marijuana states was narrowly defeated.
The votes came as the House considers the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.
Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered the amendment barring the DEA and the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to do bulk collection of Americans' communications records. It passed on a voice vote yesterday.
"Congress dealt a major blow to the DEA by ending their invasive and offensive bulk data collection programs and by cutting their budget, said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The more the DEA ignores commonsense drug policy, the more they will see their agency's power and budget come under deeper scrutiny."
Last night, members voted to slash $23 million from the DEA's budget and reallocate the money for more cost-effective programs. One amendment, from Rep. Ted Liew (D-CA) shifted $9 million from the agency's marijuana eradication program to youth programs; another, from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) shifted $4 million from the DEA budget to rape test kits; while the third, from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) shifted $9 million from the DEA to a program to try to reduce police abuse by procuring body cameras for police officers.
In today's votes, an amendment offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) would bar the DEA and Justice from interfering in medical marijuana states. It passed 242-186. Similar legislation passed Congress last year, but was set to expire.
By Peter Reynolds Sunday, 22 March 2015 10:46 AM
Charles Walker MP, Parliament’s cheerleader for the ‘skunk scaremongers’ shot himself and his hysterical campaign in the foot this week.
He had submitted a parliamentary written question asking: "How many people under 18 years of age have been treated in NHS-funded mental health units for cannabis-induced psychosis in each of the last five years?”
The answer from Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, must have gravely disappointed Mr Walker. She revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ for each of the past five years. That doesn’t necessarily mean 28 people as it could include the same person being admitted more than once.
Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, 'cannabis psychosis' (which some senior psychiatrists don’t even believe is a genuine diagnosis) is virtually unheard of.
So much for the endless newspaper columns, the endlessly repeated ‘studies’ that never reach any conclusion and the endless moralising and deceit from those who make money from this scare story – either from providing ‘therapy’ or by fleecing money from those prepared to fund so-called science that sets out to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
Of course, not only are these cases very, very few in number but they have arisen under the present policy of prohibition when the market is in the hands of criminals. How much could we reduce this number if government took a responsible approach and regulated the market? With proper quality control, age limits, better education and harm reduction surely we could make the cannabis market safer than it is in the hands of the criminal underworld?
So this is very, very bad news for Charles Walker, for his sponsor, Mary Brett of ‘Cannabis Skunk Sense’, for Peter Hitchens, David Raynes, Sarah Graham, Theresa May and hundreds of rehab clinics, therapists and charlatans who talk up the cannabis psychosis scare story. The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which systematically misrepresent and distort evidence on the subject are exposed for what they are. Even those on the reform side like Transform, who have chosen the dubious path of talking up cannabis as ‘dangerous’ in order to sell their consultancy services, are disgraced. Their credibility is destroyed. Their argument is false and it always has been.
The husband and wife team of Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta Di Fiori, have built up a family business in skunk scaremongering. Every year they release another ‘study’ which says almost exactly the same as the last one, never shows any causative effect but is relentlessly exaggerated and regurgitated for those who want to demonise cannabis and cannabis users. Their last point is always ‘more research is needed’. I wonder is there anyone stupid enough out there to continue funding this vendetta against the three million people in the UK that enjoy cannabis or use it as medicine?
Similarly in Australia, Professor Wayne Hall and his colleagues at the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, have built their careers and made a lot of money pursuing this futile goal of proof that cannabis cause mental illness. The figures prove them all wrong. They are all self-serving propagandists and deceivers, nothing more.
These figures are more than evidence, they are facts and they prove that ‘cannabis psychosis’ is such an infinitesimally small risk, that we really need to stop wasting so much time, energy and money on it. We need to get on, legalise, regulate and start bringing the market under proper control, stop wasting money on futile law enforcement and research and start generating tax revenue and providing therapeutic and financial benefits for the whole community.
Peter Reynolds is the leader of the CLEAR: Cannabis Law Reform, campaign.
The opinions in Politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.
By: Arnold M. Knightly
UNLV’s most impactful recruit this year might be nowhere near the basketball court.
Nevada’s state and federal lawmakers have been working to bring medical marijuana researcher Dr. Sue Sisley to the university to conduct a pilot study on the safety and efficacy of marijuana on veterans with chronic and treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder.
While the study would be financially supported by sponsors and not receive any federal money, it has received all the federal approvals, said Sisley, who has been working on securing the study since 2011. She is hoping the university will provide the research space.
“That was a miracle in itself,” said Sisley of the potential early-phase drug development trial. “We had to hurdle four different obstacles to get to a point where we could actually research. It was a big achievement, and we were really close to getting implemented.”
She would study five different strains of marijuana that would be smoked or vaporized and inhaled by 70 veterans. The goal is to develop a marijuana drug in plant form approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It would be the first and only randomized controlled trial in the country looking at marijuana in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sisley’s desire to study medical marijuana’s impact grew out of her daily physician work with veterans suffering from PTSD at the University of Arizona’s medical school in Phoenix.
The study could be in association with the University of Denver and Johns Hopkins University medical schools through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas psychology department’s community health clinic program.
UNLV OKS REQUIRED
UNLV College of Liberal Arts Dean Christopher C. Hudgins said the health clinic program provides research and services to the community in collaboration with the College of Education’s counseling and educational psychology program.
“This would fit well within that if the psychology department agrees that this would be a good appointment,” said Hudgins, adding that the position would not receive any state money.
Sisley gave a presentation Sept. 22 to the psychology department’s faculty board about joining as a research faculty member.
The board will give its recommendation to Thomas Piechota, UNLV’s vice president for research and economic development.
Piechota said the university might take a little longer to review any potential offer because of its connection to medical marijuana.
“This type of research is certainly good research to be looking at inside the university,” Piechota said. “There’s so much unknown in terms of the effects of medical marijuana on these types of issues.”
Sisley has secured study approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Public Health Service and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The institute would sell her the marijuana study plants out of the government’s grow facility in Mississippi.
Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Page said he was not familiar with the recruitment of Sisley or her work. However, her appointment would have to come before the board because of the relationship to medical marijuana.
“Normally, we don’t get involved in hires,” Page said. “But this one, because of medical marijuana not being approved federally, it becomes a much more touchy situation.”
CAMPUS POT RULES
The regents reaffirmed Sept. 4 the Nevada System of Higher Education’s ban on pot use on campus to include medical marijuana.
Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug with no medical benefit, similar to heroin and Ecstasy, making it a federal crime to grow, sell and use. The categorization puts tight restrictions on studying medical marijuana and brings concern that the federal government might pull federal funding from schools involved with pot use and research.
However, the regents left the door open for medical marijuana research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine based in Reno.
Sisley also met with Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, an outspoken advocate for loosening the federal restrictions for medical marijuana research and business.
“Her credentials are most impressive, and she seems like she would be an asset to have,” the Nevada Democrat said. “Our medical marijuana industry is just taking off; we just got a new (Veterans Affairs) hospital. That’s why I was really interested in her work because of the PTSD connection.”
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said the research is perfect for UNLV despite the rejections in Arizona and potential concerns by Nevada regents.
“First off, we’re Nevada, so we’re used to rolling the dice,” Segerblom said. “Secondly, it’s FDA-approved. The marijuana comes from a government farm. You couldn’t have a more federally approved plan than this.
“No one’s going to take (UNLV’s) money away, and this is a golden opportunity to get out of this fear, this fog and move forward.”
Titus said she doesn’t see any legal hurdles to bringing Sisley’s research to UNLV.
“If you’ve got a state senator, you’ve got a U.S. congressperson all giving you cover. If you’re the university, you’d think that would be some sense of relief that you wouldn’t have to worry about losing those federal grants,” Titus said.
SISLEY’S SALES TALK
Sisley promoted her research plan Tuesday during the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association luncheon, which was attended by industry advocates as well as Segerblom, Hudgins and Piechota.
Sisley told the audience she was set to do the study at the University of Arizona, where she had been since 2006 as an associate professor of internal medicine and psychiatry at the College of Medicine-Phoenix and Scottsdale. However, she was fired for her vocal stance on medical marijuana research.
According to the New York Times, money from the state’s medical marijuana fees allocated for her study by the Arizona House died when a powerful state senator refused to put the legislation before the Education Committee.
Veterans who had been treated by Sisley called Arizona state Senate leaders expressing concerns leading to allegations that the doctor was “aggressively and inappropriately” behind the veterans’ calls. Three months ago, she received a university letter saying her annual employment contract, which expired Friday, would not be renewed.
“I had three different contracts there, and they were stripped from me,” she said of her telemedicine research, assistant professorship and a $300,000 medical marijuana law education grant.
Although Segerblom contacted Sisley about coming to UNLV earlier this year, the doctor was hoping to remain in Arizona, where she graduated from the University of Arizona and has lived for 30 years.
However, her research proposal was rejected by all the academic institutions and 11 hospitals she approached.
She has been contacted by other states interested in bringing her research there, but she likes the proximity to her home in Phoenix.
She said she is not some pro-marijuana activist looking to fit research to a pre-ordained thesis, but she “desperately hopes” it proves to be helpful to veterans suffering from PTSD.
“I have a healthy skepticism on anything I hear as subjective accounts from patients,” Sisley said. “This randomized control trial would give the whole plant marijuana the opportunity to go through the rigors of serious testing to collect some objective data so we’re just not going off patients’ reports.”
Titus, who taught political science at UNLV for 30 years, said what is needed is research with rigorous oversight and peer reviews on potential positive effects of medical marijuana.
“So far, most of the testing they’ve done is to look for the negative effect,” Titus said. “Let’s look for the positive effects. If they’re there, great. If they’re not, then we’ll know that, too. You’ll know something about dosage, illness and all the science that has gone into researching any other kind of chemical compound.”
The congresswoman added that it could position UNLV as the leading research institution for medical marijuana, attracting more studies and dollars to the university.
The recruitment of Sisley comes as Nevada has received 520 applications for medical marijuana establishments, including dispensaries, cultivation facilities, testing labs and manufacturing of edibles.
By: Tom Shroder
Acid Test follows the converging life stories of three men, Nicholas Blackston, a Marine who suffered terribly in heavy and relentless combat in the Iraq war and developed life-threatening Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome; Dr. Michael Mithoefer, a compassionate psychiatrist who believed in the healing potential implicit in altered states of consciousness and was willing to risk his professional reputation to test this idea in clinical trials; and Rick Doblin, a self-invented crusader for bringing psychedelic medicine out of the highly stigmatized deep freeze where it had been stuck ever since widespread popular abuse in the 1960s overshadowed two decades of earlier clinical success. Rick, who had dropped out of college to explore his psyche with repeated LSD experiences, more or less appointed himself — against all conventional logic — as the point man for bringing psychedelic therapy back into the mainstream, and began a decades-long struggle that continues today. He is currently the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit research and educational organization that, according to its mission, “develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.” The following chapter picks up as Rick begins to prepare himself for the battles ahead.
If Rick was going to run an organization dedicated to providing “rigorous scientific evaluation of the risks and benefits” of MDMA, he was going to have to learn how to do rigorous science. He set out to teach himself, beginning with his senior thesis at New College. It was an evaluation, twenty-five years after the fact, of what many considered to be one of the most rigorous early studies on the effects of a psychedelic. On Good Friday, 1962, in Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, Walter Pahnke, a physician, psychiatrist, ordained minister, and Harvard PhD candidate, administered capsules of white powder to twenty Protestant divinity students just prior to the holiday service.
Ten of the capsules contained nicotinic acid, a stimulant. The other ten contained psilocybin. The thesis was that spiritually inclined individuals engaged in a sacred ritual might react to the psychedelic drug by having a full-blown religious experience. It was an attempt to re‑create in a contemporary Western context the religious visions obtained in the peyote rituals of Native Americans and to assess their impact on individuals’ lives. The stimulant administered to half the group was meant to serve as an “active” placebo, because clearly a sugar pill wasn’t going to make anyone think he had been given a psychedelic drug.
True, the effects of nicotinic acid—a warm flush sensation created by dilation of the blood vessels and a systemic feeling of relaxation—bore little resemblance to a psychedelic trip, but what did? Pahnke had chosen subjects who had never taken psychedelics, hoping that they would be more easily fooled by the stimulant. This was important, because in trying to assess purely subjective effects—and little was more purely subjective than a mystical experience—the expectation in the minds of both subject and observer could easily create a false positive. This lack of a double-blind aspect—which left both the researchers and subjects uncertain of who got the good stuff—was a flaw common to the early psychedelic studies, and a key reason why they were so often dismissed.
As it turned out, Pahnke’s double-blind attempt failed. After brief confusion among those given the nicotinic acid when its effects began to be felt, the overwhelming perceptual changes brought on by the psilocybin were so obvious to all that the study participants, who were in the church together, might as well have worn labels.
The crumbling of the double-blind procedure would have been “quite damaging” to the credibility of the results, Rick wrote, if the experiment had been purely intended to measure psilocybin’s ability to produce mystical experience in isolation, regardless of set and setting.
But in this case the religious context of the Good Friday service and the spiritual bent of divinity students were all part of the exercise. Pahnke had chosen the participants and location precisely because he wanted to observe the effect of the drug administered in a spiritual set and setting.
However, Rick wrote, “restraint should be used in attributing the experiences of the experimental group entirely to psilocybin.”
In Rick’s critique it is possible to see the beginning of a transformation: a “Tim Leary for the ’80s” attempting to remake himself into someone who could research psychedelic medicine with the sober caution that would be required if it had any chance of ever winning FDA approval.
Pahnke’s paper on his experiment stressed the positive results. Nobody suffered any apparent physical harm or long-term psychological harm, and an overwhelming majority of those who took the psilocybin felt the experience had been profound and had made a positive impact on their lives, even six months after the fact. One subject said that he had vividly experienced the passion of Christ, identifying with it completely. Another said that after first going through a period of paranoia and feeling imprisoned in the church (which had bars on the windows and a guard at the door to keep the subjects from going outside during the experiment), he began to experience “the dropping away of the external world,” followed by “the sudden sense of singleness, oneness” that made “the rest of normal waking consciousness” seem like a mere illusion.
Pahnke died in a scuba diving accident in 1971. Fifteen years later, Rick reinterviewed most of the participants of the study, who still believed taking psilocybin that day had fortified their spirit and improved their lives. But he found flaws in the experiment. His thesis assessment, which was ultimately accepted for publication, indicates the distance he had come:
Pahnke failed to report the administration of the tranquilizer thorazine to one of the subjects who received psilocybin [and had an acute anxiety reaction]. There is no justification for this omission. . . . In addition, Pahnke underemphasized the difficult psychological struggles experienced by most of the psilocybin subjects. These very serious omissions point to an important incompleteness in Pahnke’s interpretation of the effects of psilocybin.
Some of the backlash that swept the psychedelics out of the research labs and out of the hands of physicians and therapists can be traced in part to the thousands of cases of people who took psychedelics in non-research settings, were unprepared for the frightening aspects of their psychedelic experiences and ended up in hospital emergency rooms. These unfortunate instances of panic reaction have many causes, yet some of them stem from the way in which the cautionary elements of the Good Friday experiment were inadequately discussed in Pahnke’s thesis, in subsequent scholarly reports and in the popular media.
[The] optimism regarding the inherent safety of the psychedelic experience did not fully acknowledge the complexity and profundity of the psychological issues associated with psychedelic experiences. With some proponents of psychedelics exaggerating the benefits and minimizing the risks, a back-lash against these substances was predictable.
Rick graduated from New College in 1987, sixteen years after he had begun as a freshman. He aced his Graduate Record Exams, putting him in the top one-tenth of 1 percent—enough to get him interviews at some of the highly competitive clinical psychology programs. In each case, Rick says, “I had these great talks and usually most of them would be clearly super excited about what I was doing.”
But at the end of each interview, Rick would say, “I want to do MDMA therapy research for my dissertation. And I know that’s five years away or whatever and it’s still illegal, but I don’t want to get in a position where I don’t mention that to you and that when I get there after I’ve done all this work you tell me no. So I’d rather tell you now.”
When the last “We regret to inform you . . .” notice arrived in his mailbox, he went to a secluded room in his house—technically now his parents’ house. “I smoked some pot and I started thinking. And I was, like, I feel like there’s a pattern here and the pattern is that I want too much too soon. I want to do this psychedelic psychotherapy research, but the world is not ready for it. It’s like relationships with women: a lot of times I want too much too soon. So then it was just, like, all right, well, if the politics is in the way of science, maybe I should study the politics.”
And if he was going to study the politics of psychedelics, he figured, he needed to do it in a way that would give him the best mainstream credential possible. That, he decided, would be the world-renowned John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Rick remembered a magazine interview with a professor there named Mark A. R. Kleiman who had mentioned the MDMA lawsuit. It wasn’t much of a connection, but Rick called him anyway.
“I said, ‘You have no idea who I am but I did this stuff that you know, and would you be my mentor?’ ”
Kleiman encouraged Rick to apply, and this time he got in.
“I think it was just affirmative action,” Rick says. “I was the hippie of the year.”
The hippie took two years to get his master’s degree, then applied for and got a Presidential Management Internship, a prestigious and competitive program for people interested in a career in federal government. The PMI website said it sought “the best and brightest Americans who want to make a difference in the public service” and called the program “a stepping stone to highly visible and respected leadership positions in the federal government.”
Rick didn’t really want a government career, but he did want to know how to manipulate the levers and pulleys that could move public policy on the issue of psychedelic medicine. When a team from the CIA came to recruit from the PMI recipients, Rick raised his hand. He thought, What can I do with the CIA? and the answer that came to him was: Propose a study on the national-security implications of legalizing drugs. To Rick, it was obvious that the quarter-century-old war on drugs had wreaked a long list of harms on the country, including unnecessarily swelling prison populations, wasting billions of dollars on ineffective enforcement, providing an inexhaustible source of funding for organized crime and narco-terrorists, and, of course, preventing research into the beneficial uses of marijuana and psychedelics. Would legalizing drugs and putting them under federal regulation ameliorate any or all of the above?
The Agency interviewers must have been impressed with Rick, even if they brushed aside his proposal. Would he be interested in doing psychological profiles of world leaders? they asked.
After he left, Rick thought about the distance he’d traveled: from being, basically, an outlaw, he had arrived at a place where he was exchanging ideas with the likes of the CIA. For Rick, this wasn’t just one of life’s curiosities but a question of strategic importance.
He asked himself, Am I more effective from the inside working out or the outside pressuring in? It depended, he decided. If he had persuaded the CIA to let him study the potential national security benefits of ending the war on drugs, then going inside would be worth it. “I thought, okay, I would be willing to give up drugs and wear a suit to do that.”
But that wasn’t going to happen. So what other inside job would be worth it? Rick pondered that and came up with answer: he sent an internship application to the FDA.
Once again his timing was uncanny.
For thirty years, ever since the FDA had prevented thousands of horrific birth defects in the United States by refusing to bow to corporate and consumer pressure to approve the sedative and anti–morning sickness drug thalidomide without further testing, the agency had focused primarily on stopping bad drugs from getting to market. But there was a downside to this unrelenting focus on safety: through the seventies and eighties, the time, money, and effort it took to gain FDA approval for new drugs kept escalating. Many helpful medicines were becoming available internationally long before they could be legally prescribed in the United States.
The pharmaceutical industry began to push Congress for FDA reform just as the AIDS epidemic created tens of thousands of new victims each year, all desperate for more effective medicines with the clock ticking against them. In 1987, as the pressure to change ratcheted up, a forward-thinking clinical pharmacologist named Carl Peck was appointed to head the FDA’s center for drug evaluation with a mission to make drug approval more efficient without compromising the public’s safety. Peck created a new staff within the agency, Pilot Drug Evaluation, specifically to find innovative ways to reengineer the drug approval process. To do that, the new division needed some new drug applications to experiment with. Since the FDA bureaucracy had already divvied up all drug categories among existing departments, Pilot Drug would need to wrest some categories from elsewhere.
One of the categories it ended up with—essentially because nobody else wanted it—was psychedelics and marijuana.
Since Rick had founded MAPS, he’d made applications for five small human MDMA studies, each in conjunction with researchers at prestigious universities and each backed by the required animal safety studies. All were rejected. To say that the regulators had an attitude would be no exaggeration. Rick would only learn later, when he wrote his PhD thesis on the subject, that the director of the FDA department responsible for rejecting his applications had once said of the 1960s psychedelic research at the University of Maryland institute where Stan Grof had worked: “It was just an excuse to give people LSD. . . . If I had the power, I would have put the doctor in charge in jail.”
The unlikely confluence of events—that the psychedelic portfolio was now being relinquished to a staff specifically intended to break new ground, shake things up, and find ways to help get beneficial drugs through an obstructionist system just as Rick was blindly applying for an internship—seemed like fate. Rick got a call from the head of Pilot Drug, Dr. John Harter.
“I went down there and I met with him, and he was, like, ‘You’re just what we’re looking for.’ I’m, like, ‘Fantastic.’ The thought was that I would work inside for a couple of years and then I would go back to MAPS and I would try to bring them proposals.”
Here was an opportunity to live inside the belly of the beast and learn its ways, just as he had hoped. He’d gone through all the high-level interviews, and Harter was sold. There was just one problem: when the DEA got wind that the FDA was about to hire Rick, someone senior gave Harter an earful. “They told him, ‘No way can he work on psychedelics and marijuana,’ ” Rick remembers. “So I said, ‘All right, that’s fine, I’ll work on any other drugs; I just want to see how you do stuff.’ ”
Rick was redirected to the bottom of the totem pole, a job that certainly didn’t require a master’s from Harvard Kennedy School. The only remaining interview, with the eight women who would be his coworkers, seemed a formality. Dr. Harter even invited Rick to spend the night before the interview at his house. They’d drive in together in the morning, Rick would do the pro forma interview, and then he’d be hired.
Harter had apparently forgotten to clue the women in on the plan. He introduced Rick, expressed his support, mentioned that Rick wouldn’t be working with any psychedelic drug issues, then left them alone.
“We do a lot of photocopying,” one of the women began. “Are you willing to do photocopying?”
Rick told them he practically lived at Kinko’s. Photocopying would be no problem.
“And then they said, ‘Well, how are we going to keep you away from seeing anything to do with psychedelics or marijuana?’ ” Rick tried to soothe their concerns, but he could see where things were headed. When they voted, he lost in a landslide. As it turned out, one of the innovations in Pilot Drug management involved letting the people on the floor have more say in hiring.
Harter, embarrassed about what had happened, offered Rick a consolation job helping to get a computer system up and running. In the end, they both decided Rick would be better off on the outside.
Besides, Rick thought with relief, now I can still smoke pot and I don’t have to wear a suit.
The man leading Scotland's fight against organised crime is investigating Scandinavian-style get-tough policies on drugs. Graeme Pearson, the head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said yesterday he was drawing up a detailed report on Sweden's brand of no-nonsense zero-tolerance on narcotics. Earlier this year, The Herald revealed calls from Mr Pearson to scrap Britain's system of drug classification in favour of a tougher stance. Now he and colleagues have visited Sweden to see how their policies, a combination of strict prohibition and reinforced education, have helped keep addiction at relatively low levels.
The UN has singled out Sweden for praise. The country, with twice the population of Scotland, has half as many addicts.
Mr Pearson said: "They still have a drug problem in Sweden. It's not an island of tranquillity in a sea of despair. But the UN report indicates Sweden has a number of policies which it promotes as best practice. Hence my interest. Mr Pearson and his team will report their findings to other agencies, including the Scottish Executive, Full Idea....
Michael, who is famous for his solo hits Faith and Freedom among others, was this week named as the first singer to play a concert at the new Wembley Stadium in London.
The gig, taking place on June 9th, is part of Michael's British and European stadium tour and marks the end of a near seven-year project to the build the 90,000-capacity stadium, which has been marred by delays and spiralling costs.
AFGHANISTAN: Becoming a Narco State
March 8th 2007
UN - Although fully backed by U.S. military might and support from other Western powers, the government in Kabul has failed to change Afghanistan's status as the world's leading illicit producer of opium, according to U.N. experts who monitor the worldwide trade in narcotic drugs.
Mixed with certain chemicals, opium is used to manufacture heroin, a powerful and highly addictive drug that remains popular with millions of users around the world despite years of international efforts to control illicit trafficking in narcotics.
"There is a need for drastic action in Afghanistan," Emafo told reporters, adding that unless the government takes swift measures to address the problem of corruption, there will be no progress in economic and social development.
"The illicit poppy (opium) cultivation in Afghanistan has not been contained but has instead reached a record high level," Dr. Philip Emafo told a news conference at U.N. headquarters to launch the International Narcotic Control Board's (INCB) annual report for 2006.
Describing the drug control situation in Afghanistan as "rapidly deteriorating", Emafo, who is president of the INCB, said despite local and international efforts, one-third of the Afghan economy remains dependent on the production of opium.
According to the report, in addition to the illicit cultivation, manufacture and export of narcotics, Afghanistan is also facing the problem of drug abuse at the domestic level. A recent nationwide survey found that there were at least one million drug addicts in the country, including 60,000 children under the age of 15., Full State.....
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