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Fighting Stigmatization of Drug Users in Denver [FEATURE]

Drug War Chronicle - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 21:23

In many ways, ours is harsh, moralistic, and punitive society. One need only look at our world-leading incarceration rate to see the evidence. We like to punish wrongdoers, and our conception of wrongdoers often includes those who are doing no direct wrong to others, but who are doing things of which we don't approve.

[image:1 align:left]We label those people of whom we don't approve. When it comes to drugs and drug use, the labels are all too familiar: Heroin users are "fucking junkies;" alcohol abusers are "worthless drunks;" cocaine smokers are "crack heads;" stimulant users are "tweakers;" people with prescription drug habits are "pill poppers." The disdain and the labeling even extends to the use of drugs on the cusp of mainstream acceptance. Marijuana users are "stoners" or "pot heads" or "couch potatoes."

Such labeling -- or stigmatizing -- defines those people as different, not like us, capital-O Other. It dehumanizes the targeted population. And that makes it more socially and politically feasible to define them as threats to the rest of us and take harsh actions against them. It's a pattern that we've seen repeatedly in the drug panics that sweep the nation on a regular basis. Drug users are likened to disease vectors or dangerous vermin that must be repressed, eradicated, wiped out to protect the rest of us.

(It is interesting in this regard to ponder the response to the most recent wave of opiate addiction, where, for the first time, users are being seen as "our sons and daughters," not debauched decadents or scary people of color who live in inner cities. Yes, the impulse to punish still exists, but it is now attenuated, if not superseded, by calls for access to treatment.)

Never mind that such attitudes can be counterproductive. Criminalizing and punishing injection drug use has not, for example, slowed the spread of blood-borne infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. To the contrary, it has only contributed to the spread of those diseases. Likewise, criminalizing drug possession does not prevent drug overdoses, but it may well prevent an overdose victim's friends or acquaintances from seeking life-saving medical attention for him.

A recent survey from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reinforces the view that we tend to stigmatize drug users as morally decrepit. That survey found that Americans are significantly more likely to have negative attitudes about drug addiction and addicts than about mental illness.

Only one out of five said they would be willing to work closely on the job with a person addicted to drugs (as compared to 62% for mental illness), and nearly two-thirds said employers should be able to deny a job to someone with an addiction issue (as compared to 25% for mental illness). And 43% said drug addicts should be denied health insurance benefits available to the public at large.

"While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition," said study leader Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one's struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal."

"The more shame associated with drug addiction, the less likely we as a community will be in a position to change attitudes and get people the help they need," study coauthor Beth McGinty, Ph.D. said in a news release. "If you can educate the public that these are treatable conditions, we will see higher levels of support for policy changes that benefit people with mental illness and drug addiction."

As the survey suggests, the process of stigmatization is an impediment to smart, evidence-based approaches to dealing with problematic drug use. Now, the Denver-based Harm Reduction Action Center is trying to do something about it.

[image:2 align:right]In the last few days, it has rolled out a new anti-stigmatization campaign featuring the faces of injection drug users, the locations where they overdosed or suffered other bad consequences, and their individual stories in brief.

"My name is Alan," says a middle-aged man with a brushy mustache. "I overdosed on heroin. Right there in that parking lot in that picture. I know the risks of doing heroin, but drug dependency is strong."

The second part of Alan's message is repeated with each drug user pictured: "There are 11,500 injection drug users like me in Metro Denver. 73% of us carry Hepatitis C. 14% of us have HIV. The transmission of bloodborne diseases and drug overdoses are nearly 100% preventable. Support the Harm Reduction Action Center. Learn more about how our public health strategies keep you, and the people you know, safe."

"My name is Andrew," says a dreadlocked and pierced young man whose image is coupled with a photo of an empty apartment. "After a decade living as a homeless youth, the most traumatic thing that happened to me didn't happen to me at all. It happened to my best friend Val. She died of a heroin overdose. Right here in this picture. She was my friend. She was someone's daughter. Sobriety has taught me a lot about the thin line that separates us all. Val was someone you knew. She probably served you coffee. She probably even greeted you with a friendly smile."

"My name is Joanna," says a woman whose image is paired with a photo of a car parked beneath a highway overpass. "When I was diagnosed with lymphoma, I was prescribed a heavy dose of pain killers. Cancer hurts, but with treatment, it went away. My dependency on opioids did not. Two years later, this is where I live; in a car, under the interstate. I did not choose to get cancer. I did not choose to get dependent on opioids."

The images and the messages are strong and direct. That's the idea, explained HRAC executive director Lisa Raville.

[image:3 align:left]"This campaign is about bringing awareness of our work in the community, focusing on the common sense approach championed by harm reduction," she said. "Stigma, of course, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks, preventing otherwise reasonable conversation on the matter of communicable diseases and accidental overdoses. This campaign sets the scene that harm reduction is a valid and evidence-based approach to public health. Access to clean syringes, proper syringe disposal, and naloxone are key components to a comprehensive public health strategy that curbs the spread of HIV, HVC, and reduces the rate of otherwise fatal overdoses."

It's a message directed at the general public even more than drug users themselves, Raville said.

"One of the fundamental problems faced by health care advocates working with injection drug users is a generalized, public perception that the issue is isolated to people and places outside of the normal social sphere. Generally speaking, our tendency is to dissociate our ordinary experiences -- the people we know and the places we go -- from things that we consider dangerous, dark, or forbidden," she said.

"In the arena of injection drug use, the consequence of this mode of thinking has been historically devastating," she continued. "Instead of crafting public policy that works to minimize the harm caused by addiction, our trajectory tends towards amplifying consequences for anyone that wanders outside of the wire and into these foreign spaces. Rather than treating addiction as a disease, we treat it as something that is volitional and deserving of its consequences. Accordingly, our policies view the contraction of blood-borne pathogens and the risk of overdose as deterrents to the act of injecting drugs."

That cold-blooded attitude may make some people feel better about themselves and their policy prescriptions, but it hasn't proven useful in reducing deaths, disease, or other harms resulting from injection drug use. Instead, it tends to increase them.

"These 'consequences,' of course, have little impact on rates of addiction," Raville argued. "They do, however, all but ensure the continued spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Moreover, possession and distribution of naloxone, a drug that counters the effects of otherwise fatal opiate overdoses, remains criminal in many areas throughout the world."

At bottom, the campaign is not just about drug users but about better public health.

"As our campaign points out, when we drive things underground, we make them truly dangerous," Raville said. "Harm reduction is predicated on the fact that people use drugs. Those who inject drugs are among the most insular and at-risk for contracting HIV, HCV or dying of an overdose. Like a stone that falls in the water, these acute health-related events have ripples which touch all of us, regardless of whether or not we use drugs. HIV infects those who inject the same as those who do not; the best way to prevent its spread is to prevent its spread across all populations of people, not just those deemed more socially 'worthy.' By facing stigma head-on and by humanizing the people in our community who we serve, the Harm Reduction Action Center hopes to normalize the issue and bring the conversation about drug use and healthcare to a more practical level. As a public health agency that serves people who inject, we could get so much more done in our community without stigma."

Categories: Latest News

Fighting Stigmatization of Drug Users in Denver [FEATURE]

Top Stories (STDW) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 21:23

In many ways, ours is harsh, moralistic, and punitive society. One need only look at our world-leading incarceration rate to see the evidence. We like to punish wrongdoers, and our conception of wrongdoers often includes those who are doing no direct wrong to others, but who are doing things of which we don't approve.

[image:1 align:left]We label those people of whom we don't approve. When it comes to drugs and drug use, the labels are all too familiar: Heroin users are "fucking junkies;" alcohol abusers are "worthless drunks;" cocaine smokers are "crack heads;" stimulant users are "tweakers;" people with prescription drug habits are "pill poppers." The disdain and the labeling even extends to the use of drugs on the cusp of mainstream acceptance. Marijuana users are "stoners" or "pot heads" or "couch potatoes."

Such labeling -- or stigmatizing -- defines those people as different, not like us, capital-O Other. It dehumanizes the targeted population. And that makes it more socially and politically feasible to define them as threats to the rest of us and take harsh actions against them. It's a pattern that we've seen repeatedly in the drug panics that sweep the nation on a regular basis. Drug users are likened to disease vectors or dangerous vermin that must be repressed, eradicated, wiped out to protect the rest of us.

(It is interesting in this regard to ponder the response to the most recent wave of opiate addiction, where, for the first time, users are being seen as "our sons and daughters," not debauched decadents or scary people of color who live in inner cities. Yes, the impulse to punish still exists, but it is now attenuated, if not superseded, by calls for access to treatment.)

Never mind that such attitudes can be counterproductive. Criminalizing and punishing injection drug use has not, for example, slowed the spread of blood-borne infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. To the contrary, it has only contributed to the spread of those diseases. Likewise, criminalizing drug possession does not prevent drug overdoses, but it may well prevent an overdose victim's friends or acquaintances from seeking life-saving medical attention for him.

A recent survey from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reinforces the view that we tend to stigmatize drug users as morally decrepit. That survey found that Americans are significantly more likely to have negative attitudes about drug addiction and addicts than about mental illness.

Only one out of five said they would be willing to work closely on the job with a person addicted to drugs (as compared to 62% for mental illness), and nearly two-thirds said employers should be able to deny a job to someone with an addiction issue (as compared to 25% for mental illness). And 43% said drug addicts should be denied health insurance benefits available to the public at large.

"While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition," said study leader Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one's struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal."

"The more shame associated with drug addiction, the less likely we as a community will be in a position to change attitudes and get people the help they need," study coauthor Beth McGinty, Ph.D. said in a news release. "If you can educate the public that these are treatable conditions, we will see higher levels of support for policy changes that benefit people with mental illness and drug addiction."

As the survey suggests, the process of stigmatization is an impediment to smart, evidence-based approaches to dealing with problematic drug use. Now, the Denver-based Harm Reduction Action Center is trying to do something about it.

[image:2 align:right]In the last few days, it has rolled out a new anti-stigmatization campaign featuring the faces of injection drug users, the locations where they overdosed or suffered other bad consequences, and their individual stories in brief.

"My name is Alan," says a middle-aged man with a brushy mustache. "I overdosed on heroin. Right there in that parking lot in that picture. I know the risks of doing heroin, but drug dependency is strong."

The second part of Alan's message is repeated with each drug user pictured: "There are 11,500 injection drug users like me in Metro Denver. 73% of us carry Hepatitis C. 14% of us have HIV. The transmission of bloodborne diseases and drug overdoses are nearly 100% preventable. Support the Harm Reduction Action Center. Learn more about how our public health strategies keep you, and the people you know, safe."

"My name is Andrew," says a dreadlocked and pierced young man whose image is coupled with a photo of an empty apartment. "After a decade living as a homeless youth, the most traumatic thing that happened to me didn't happen to me at all. It happened to my best friend Val. She died of a heroin overdose. Right here in this picture. She was my friend. She was someone's daughter. Sobriety has taught me a lot about the thin line that separates us all. Val was someone you knew. She probably served you coffee. She probably even greeted you with a friendly smile."

"My name is Joanna," says a woman whose image is paired with a photo of a car parked beneath a highway overpass. "When I was diagnosed with lymphoma, I was prescribed a heavy dose of pain killers. Cancer hurts, but with treatment, it went away. My dependency on opioids did not. Two years later, this is where I live; in a car, under the interstate. I did not choose to get cancer. I did not choose to get dependent on opioids."

The images and the messages are strong and direct. That's the idea, explained HRAC executive director Lisa Raville.

[image:3 align:left]"This campaign is about bringing awareness of our work in the community, focusing on the common sense approach championed by harm reduction," she said. "Stigma, of course, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks, preventing otherwise reasonable conversation on the matter of communicable diseases and accidental overdoses. This campaign sets the scene that harm reduction is a valid and evidence-based approach to public health. Access to clean syringes, proper syringe disposal, and naloxone are key components to a comprehensive public health strategy that curbs the spread of HIV, HVC, and reduces the rate of otherwise fatal overdoses."

It's a message directed at the general public even more than drug users themselves, Raville said.

"One of the fundamental problems faced by health care advocates working with injection drug users is a generalized, public perception that the issue is isolated to people and places outside of the normal social sphere. Generally speaking, our tendency is to dissociate our ordinary experiences -- the people we know and the places we go -- from things that we consider dangerous, dark, or forbidden," she said.

"In the arena of injection drug use, the consequence of this mode of thinking has been historically devastating," she continued. "Instead of crafting public policy that works to minimize the harm caused by addiction, our trajectory tends towards amplifying consequences for anyone that wanders outside of the wire and into these foreign spaces. Rather than treating addiction as a disease, we treat it as something that is volitional and deserving of its consequences. Accordingly, our policies view the contraction of blood-borne pathogens and the risk of overdose as deterrents to the act of injecting drugs."

That cold-blooded attitude may make some people feel better about themselves and their policy prescriptions, but it hasn't proven useful in reducing deaths, disease, or other harms resulting from injection drug use. Instead, it tends to increase them.

"These 'consequences,' of course, have little impact on rates of addiction," Raville argued. "They do, however, all but ensure the continued spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Moreover, possession and distribution of naloxone, a drug that counters the effects of otherwise fatal opiate overdoses, remains criminal in many areas throughout the world."

At bottom, the campaign is not just about drug users but about better public health.

"As our campaign points out, when we drive things underground, we make them truly dangerous," Raville said. "Harm reduction is predicated on the fact that people use drugs. Those who inject drugs are among the most insular and at-risk for contracting HIV, HCV or dying of an overdose. Like a stone that falls in the water, these acute health-related events have ripples which touch all of us, regardless of whether or not we use drugs. HIV infects those who inject the same as those who do not; the best way to prevent its spread is to prevent its spread across all populations of people, not just those deemed more socially 'worthy.' By facing stigma head-on and by humanizing the people in our community who we serve, the Harm Reduction Action Center hopes to normalize the issue and bring the conversation about drug use and healthcare to a more practical level. As a public health agency that serves people who inject, we could get so much more done in our community without stigma."

Categories: Latest News

US FL: Editorial: Our View On The Proposed Constitutional

Top Stories (MAP) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00
Florida Times-Union, 18 Oct 2014 - Constitutional amendments should be rare. They should be saved for issues that the regular political process is unable or unwilling to handle. That is the reason that 60 percent is needed for amending the Florida Constitution. Direct democracy ought to be the exception in this republic.
Categories: Latest News

US FL: Editorial: Medicinal Pot Deserves 'Yes'

Top Stories (MAP) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00
The Palm Beach Post, 18 Oct 2014 - It's not difficult to understand the recent erosion of support for Amendment 2, the ballot initiative that would expand the use of marijuana in Florida by patients suffering from debilitating illnesses. Indeed, after polling as high as 80 percent among likely voters in the spring, most polls now have it barely hitting the 60 percent threshold needed for passage.
Categories: Latest News

US FL: Column: Pain Clinic Owner Makes Case for Pot

Top Stories (MAP) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 18 Oct 2014 - Paul Sloan's crusade has him paying for billboards and writing letters to the editor, hoping there is time to overcome what he sees as a misguided but effective disinformation campaign. Big names in law enforcement statewide are deeply involved, and not on his side.
Categories: Latest News

US MA: Editorial: Drugs And The Courts

Top Stories (MAP) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00
Boston Herald, 18 Oct 2014 - In his first major public address, the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court called for the repeal of mandatory minimum drug sentences. The case put forth Thursday by Ralph Gants, a former federal prosecutor for more than eight years, is a compelling one.
Categories: Latest News

US FL: Editorial: Pot Amendment: Vote No

Top Stories (MAP) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00
Orlando Sentinel, 18 Oct 2014 - The stories are heart wrenching. There's the heroic lifeguard who dove into disaster trying to rescue a swimmer. Now, brief respites from relentless pain and ruthless spasms come only through pot-infused edibles. Then there's the 60-ish wheelchair-user who grows her own cannabis to combat the indelicate drooling, face-numbing, and other withering dysfunction of deadly ALS. And there's the lawbreaker-turned-lawmaker. He procured pot for a dying friend who longed to stomach his last meals. The obliging friend - current Republican Senate President Don Gaetz - granted his friend a dying wish and dignity, scoring the illicit drug in obedience of a higher law - compassion.
Categories: Latest News

US WA: Washington Puts Pot Sales, Fines Online For Banks

Top Stories (MAP) - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:00
Seattle Times, 18 Oct 2014 - Banks Need Updates to Rate Client Risk 2 of State's Top-Selling Shops Are in Vancouver Banking remains a thorny issue for legal marijuana businesses, but regulators in Washington state are trying to make it easier for financial institutions to track their pot-related customers.
Categories: Latest News

Chronicle AM: OR Battle of the Moms, San Jose Dispensaries Gone, Four Pillars Revisited, More (10/17/14)

Drug War Chronicle - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 20:04

Oregon moms take stands on Measure 91, a new Delaware poll has healthy support for legalization, say goodbye to most of San Jose's dispensaries, there's an asset forfeiture reform bill in Virginia, and more. Let's get to it:

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Moms Rally For and Against Oregon Initiative. It was the battle of the moms today in Oregon as mothers for and against the Measure 91 legalization initiative held opposing rallies. The pro side met in Portland, while the anti side met in Lake Oswego. The moms for 91 included mothers who came from Colorado and Washington and spoke of the experiences there. Click the link for more detail.

Delaware Poll Has Healthy Majority for Legalization. A University of Delaware poll released Thursday has support for marijuana legalization at 56%, with only 39% opposed. Majorities in all three of the state's counties supported legalization. "I would say the numbers suggest solid support for fully legalizing marijuana in Delaware," said Paul Brewer, the political communications professor at the University of Delaware who supervised the poll. "The results also reflect what's going on in public opinion at the national level, where the trends show a growing majority favoring legalization." Click on the link for a broader discussion of pot politics in the state.

Medical Marijuana

The Bell Tolls for San Jose Dispensaries. There is about to be a dramatic decrease in access to medical marijuana in San Jose. The city had up to 80 dispensaries this summer, but only six have permits, which means that as of today, the rest must shut down. Forty-seven more have filed for permits, but 20 have been denied and 20 more remain under review. The move comes after the city passed a strict new dispensary ordinance earlier this year. An effort to challenge it with an initiative came up short.

Oregon Court Rules Local Governments Can Ban Dispensaries. In a Thursday ruling, a Josephine County Circuit Court judge has held that local governments can restrict or ban dispensaries. In a case brought by the town of Cave Junction, Judge Pat Wolke ruled that nothing in the state's dispensary law or another law enacted last year that let localities impose yearlong dispensary moratoriums bars them from instituting outright bans. State city and county associations had argued strenuously that local governments had that ability.

Asset Forfeiture

Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed in Virginia. Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg) has filed a bill that would require a criminal conviction before authorities could seize property. Under current state law, a criminal conviction is not required for asset forfeiture to take place. "While I certainly do not want to make the job of our law enforcement officials harder, I believe we need to strengthen our property protections to avoid potential abuse or the taking of property from an innocent person," he said. The bill is HB 1287. It's strange bedfellow supporters include tea party groups and the ACLU.

International

Vancouver's Four Pillar Policy: Where Is It Now? It's been 13 years since Vancouver approved a groundbreaking, progressive drug policy that explicitly included controversial harm reduction provisions, as well as treatment, prevention, and law enforcement (thus, the four pillars). Now, a new series available via broadcast or podcast, examines where Four Pillars is today, what it has achieved, and whether it can last. Click on the link for more details and to find out where and how to watch.

Categories: Latest News

Canada: Myths Trump Facts Among Young Pot Users

Top Stories (MAP) - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00
Globe and Mail, 17 Oct 2014 - Studies have found that adolescents have a big knowledge gap when it comes to the possible dangers of marijuana use Even though teens who smoke pot are at higher risk for cognitive problems, motor vehicle accidents and substance abuse, young Canadians see marijuana as a harmless herb.
Categories: Latest News

CN NS: Column: One Pill Can Kill

Top Stories (MAP) - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00
Amherst News, 17 Oct 2014 - This past summer, one of my columns was entitled, "Special training needed for drug dealers." The title came from a "tongue-in-cheek" comment made by Dr. Brian Ferguson. He was upset and angry because of the deaths of young people due to use of painkiller medications. A recent article in the Chronicle Herald has put names to two victims of a one-time use of prescription medication.
Categories: Latest News

Canada: Pot and the Teenage Brain: Understanding the Science

Top Stories (MAP) - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00
Globe and Mail, 17 Oct 2014 - Because their brains are still developing, adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of marijuana. During this crucial period, brain connections are strengthened through myelination - growth of fatty insulation around the neurons - as well as a "pruning" of inefficient neural connections. It's a lengthy process, stretching past the postsecondary years to at least 25.
Categories: Latest News

CN BC: Less Drug, Alcohol and Sexual Activity With Vancouver

Top Stories (MAP) - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00
Vancouver 24hours, 17 Oct 2014 - Survey Finds Reductions in Some Risky Behaviours Over the Last Decade, While Mental Health Concerns Grow Fewer Vancouver teens are drinking and doing drugs than they were a decade ago, shows a survey of over 2,000 local students. The percentage of Vancouver youth who have tried alcohol decreased from 45% to 33%, while those who have tried marijuana dropped 7% in the last decade, says a McCreary Centre Society survey of adolescent health.
Categories: Latest News

Canada: Your Kid's Brain on Pot

Top Stories (MAP) - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00
Globe and Mail, 17 Oct 2014 - As the debate over legalization heats up, Adriana Barton examines the effects of marijuana on the developing brains of teenagers - our nation's most prolific users - and finds there is no such thing as a harmless habit Like it or not, your kids will probably try marijuana. So will their friends. Canadian teens are more than twice as likely as adults to smoke pot - and have the highest rate of cannabis use in the developed world. Marijuana has become as much a part of Canada's youth culture as hockey or Katy Perry.
Categories: Latest News

US CA: Federal Official Urges State to Tighten Medical

Top Stories (MAP) - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:00
Los Angeles Times, 17 Oct 2014 - California should strengthen its regulation of the medical marijuana industry if the state wants to avoid federal intervention, U.S. Deputy Atty. Gen. James M. Cole said in an interview with The Times. Cole, who announced Thursday that he is leaving the No. 2 job at the Justice Department, said he was proud of his efforts to take a softer approach to enforcing federal marijuana laws. A year ago, Cole sent a memo to all U.S. attorneys, including several in California who had aggressively targeted medical marijuana facilities, telling them to ease up on marijuana prosecutions in states where it was legal.
Categories: Latest News

Chronicle AM: ACLU Drug Reformer to Big DOJ Post, OR Init Leading, FL MMJ Init Trailing, More (10/16/14)

Drug War Chronicle - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 20:59

Polls have the Oregon initiative up, but the Florida initiative down; a marijuana march in New Jersey takes place on Saturday, Obama nominates a drug reformer to a key Justice Dept. position, a Dutch court sticks a thumb in the government's eye, and more. Let's get to it:

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Latest Poll Has Oregon Legalization Initiative Up By Nine Points. An Oct. 8-11 survey taken for Oregon Public Broadcasting has the Measure 91 legalization initiative at 52% of the vote with 41% opposed. If these numbers hold true, even if all undecided ended up voting "no," the initiative would still pass.

NJ Weedman to Lead Legalization March Saturday in Trenton. New Jersey marijuana activist Ed Forchion, also known as the NJ Weedman, is leading a legalization march this Saturday in Trenton. Click on the link for more details.

Medical Marijuana

Americans for Safe Access Launches "Vote Medical Marijuana" Campaign. The medical marijuana defense and advocacy group aims to educate voters ahead of next month's elections with a new 30-second online TV advertisement that will air on Sunday cable news programs in Detroit, Philadelphia, South Florida, and Washington state. The campaign also includes an interactive online voters' guide at VoteMedicalMarijuana.org. Check it out at the links.

Another Poll Has Florida Initiative Coming Up Short. A new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll has the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative at 48% of the vote with 44% opposed and 7% undecided. Because the initiative is a constitutional amendment, it needs 60% to win. This is just the latest in a series of polls showing the initiative failing to reach that mark. Click on the link for more poll details.

Drug Policy

Obama Nominates ACLU Attorney with Strong Drug Reform Record to Head Justice Department Civil Rights Division. The Obama administration has nominated ACLU attorney Vanita Gupta to head the Justice Department's civil rights division. Gupta has been a stalwart drug reformer, working to obtain justice for the victims of racially biased drug enforcement in Tulia, Texas, currently leading the ACLU's National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration, and speaking out frequently about drug war injustices and against mandatory minimum sentencing. "The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color," she wrote in 2011. She is also a strong supporter of marijuana law reform, including legalization.

International

Unprecedented Swarm of Overdoses at Vancouver Safe Injection Site -- But No One Died. Vancouver's InSite safe injection site has seen 31 overdoses in two days, a record for the facility. The ODs came on Sunday and Monday, and speculation is that a particularly strong batch of heroin, perhaps laced with fentanyl, is responsible. It's worth noting that no one died in the InSite overdoses, where medical attention is at hand. In fact, no one has ever died of an overdose at InSite. The batch of heroin has claimed at least one life, though -- a 20-something woman who died in a hostel on the Downtown East Side. There was no medical attention on hand for her. "Heroin overdoses don't need to be fatal," said Gavin Wilson of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which runs InSite. "They're reversible if caught in time."

Guatemala Weighing Softer Drug Punishments. President Otto Perez Molina has told Reuters that the country is considering reducing drug sentences for small-time offenses as part of its push to liberalize its drug policy. "We have 17,000 prisoners in our jails. Many of them are linked to drug trafficking. Some of them are indeed criminals. And there are some who are in for minimal amounts of consumption or possession," Perez said. "So I think there are steps we could take time to analyze," he added, when asked about the possibility of easing sentences to lighten the strain on Guatemala's overstretched penal system. The government received an interim report from a commission studying possible drug policy changes last month, and Perez said final recommendations would be ready sometime in the first half of next year. He also said that his government is considering regulating medical marijuana and opium poppy production for medical purposes.

Dutch Court Refuses to Punish Marijuana Growers. A court in Groningen has found two people guilty of growing marijuana, but refused to punish them, instead criticizing the government's policy that criminalizes pot growing but allows its sale in the country's famous cannabis coffee shops. "The court finds the suspects guilty, but no punishment will be applied," the court said in its ruling. "Given that the sale of soft drugs in coffee shops is tolerated, this means that these coffee shops must supply themselves and so cultivation must be done to satisfy these demands. The law does not state how this supply should be done," the court said. The Groningen growers had been open about their activities, and the court found they had acted within the spirit of the marijuana laws, acting "in the interests of public health and so as to not disturb the public order."

Categories: Latest News

CN MB: Manitoba Embraces Harm Reduction Principles In Policies

Top Stories (MAP) - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00
Thompson Citizen, 16 Oct 2014 - There is a growing recognition that harm reduction policies are more effective than abstinence-based policies as Manitoba organizations embrace harm reduction principles. During the Manitoba Harm Reduction Conference, held in Thompson Sept. 29- Oct. 1, representatives from various community organizations, First Nations communities, the five regional health authorities, and government departments addressed how their organizations are evolving to incorporate harm reduction. Provincial representation covered as far south as Steinbach and as far north as Churchill. Dr. Michael Ellery, clinical specialist of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba shared how client-centred care, an integral component of the harm reduction model has been proven to be more effective at treating addictions. All five regional health authorities, including the Northern Health Region, are at various stages of recognizing harm reduction as part of its patient care model. The Safer Choices Northern Network (SCNN) based in Thompson was the host organization for the Manitoba Harm Reduction Conference. The conference organizing committee selected Thompson as it allowed participants, many of whom had travelled from southern Manitoba to better understand northern realities. The conference was hosted in partnership with the Play it Safer Network based in Flin Flon and The Pas, The 595 Prevention Team, and Ka Ni Kanichihk based in Winnipeg. SCNN provided an update of its activities during the past year and its priorities over the next year which includes a sustained public presence to increase awareness of harm reduction principles.
Categories: Latest News

US MA: Reading Group Pushes To Legalize Marijuana For Recreational

Top Stories (MAP) - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00
The Reading Advocate, 16 Oct 2014 - A Reading-based advocacy grouped is seeking to get a question on the ballot for a 2016 vote that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in Massachusetts. Bill Downing, leader of Bay State Repeal, has been advocating for the positive opportunities brought by legalizing marijuana since 1989. He thinks that the time is fast approaching where the drug will be accepted and taxed like other mind-altering substances, namely alcohol and tobacco.
Categories: Latest News

CN BC: Overdoses Underscore Need for Outreach

Top Stories (MAP) - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00
Globe and Mail, 16 Oct 2014 - A flood of drug overdoses at Vancouver's supervised injection site is being blamed on fentanyl, a highly dangerous substance that looks like heroin and which is increasingly being sold on the streets. The flurry of nearly 40 incidents since Sunday is underscoring for health officials the need not only for controlled injection sites such as Insite, but also for outreach programs that can deliver naloxone to users, wherever they are. Naloxone is a rapidly acting antidote for opioid drug overdose that users and other volunteers are being trained to administer in a pilot program run by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).
Categories: Latest News

CN ON: Review: Marc Emery Documentary Doesn't Pull Any Punches

Top Stories (MAP) - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:00
London Free Press, 16 Oct 2014 - MARC EMERY DOCUMENTARY DOESN'T PULL ANY PUNCHES CitizenMarc is no pot puff piece. The documentary on marijuana activist Marc Emery, written and produced by Canadian filmmaking couple Roger Evan Larry and Sandra Tomc, is being released Friday in 13 Canadian cities, including London at Landmark Cinemas.
Categories: Latest News
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