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Italian Study Finds Whole Marijuana Plant More Than Sum of its Parts
According to an August 20, 2009 report by Canada's All Headline News, Canadian scientists who conducted a study "of 251 drug addicts in Montreal and Vancouver" found "that giving recovering addicts diacetylmorphine" - the active ingredient in heroin - "is more effective and leads to higher rates of recovery than administering oral methadone" ("NAOMI Study: Heroin Better Than Methadone for Recovering Drug Addicts"). The North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) conducted the study, providing "115 addicts with diacetylmorphine, 111 methadone and 25 hydromorphone, which is an approved opiate as a pain reliever." In the end, "medical morphine" - or diacetylmorphine - "users had an 88 percent recovery," while those receiving methadone recovered at a rate of only 54 percent. As NAOMI's principal investigator, Dr. Martin Schecter, "said in a statement, 'We now have evidence to show that heroin-assisted therapy is safe and effective treatment for people with chronic heroin addiction who have not benefited from previous treatments. A combination of optimal therapies [...] can attract those most severely addicted to heroin, keep them in treatment and more importantly, help improve their social and medical conditions."
In addition to the important aforementioned findings, the study also showed that "the participants' involvement in illegal activities and money spend on drugs fell by almost 50 percent." The full study appears in the August 20 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, and was initially released in October of 2008.
Media Misunderstands University of Texas Researchers' Claims That Marijuana May Spread and Prolong Pain
In an August 14, 2009 article, Medical News Today stated that "University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers" believe that "they've found at least part of the answer" to questions regarding how and why some severe pains "vanish so quickly" while others "torment their victimes for years." In other words, a group of researchers may be getting closer to discovering the differences between acute and chronic pain. "Believe it or not," the article states, the answer lies "in a group of compounds that includes the active ingredients in marijuana, the cannabinoids." The article further contends that "Interestingly enough, given recent interest in the medical use of marijuana for pain relief, experiments with rodents and humans described in a paper published in the current issue of Science suggest these 'endocannabinoids,' which are made within the human body, can actually amplify and prolong pain rather than damping it down." The Science article quotes researcher Volker Neugebauer as having said "To sum up, we've discovered a novel mechanism [endocannabinoids] that can transform normal pain into persistent chronic pain."
Medical News Today claims that the findings raise "questions about the efficacy of marijuana in relieving acute pain, given that endocannibinoids and the canabinoids found in marijuana are so biochemically similar" ("Discovery That Active Ingredients in Marijuana Spread and Prolong Pain Has Implications for Medical Use of Drug and Concepts of Chronic Pain"). However, the medical news outlet clearly misses Neugebauer's point. In the article's final paragraph, Neugebauer states that "If you had a toothache, you probably wouldn't want to treat it with marijuana, because you could actually make it worse." Common Sense for Drug Policy is unaware of any claims made by medical marijuana advocates that the drug should be used to treat acute pain; rather, most such researchers and activists discuss medical marijuana in relation to chronic pain, which Neugebauer addresses in the article's last lines. As he states, "Now, for more pathological conditions like neuropathic pain, where the problem is a dysfunction within the nerves themselves and a subsequent disturbance throughout the nervous system that's not confined to the pain system, marijuana may be beneficial. There are studies that seem to show that."
In other words, Medical News Today took researchers' findings regarding specific kinds of acute pain and extrapolated those findings to all kinds of pain - including chronic pain, for which - as Neugebauer confirms - studies have shown marijuana to be an effective treatment. While it's always good to have more research on cannabinoids and pain, laypeople need to be careful when interpreting researchers' findings, which - given the scientific rhetoric in which most findings are couched - can be difficult. However, this study tells us little about marijuana's efficacy as an antidote to chronic pain. Rather, it simply informs us that the drug does not relieve acute pain, something that few if any medical marijuana advocates have claimed.
As Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, posted on the organization's blog on July 30, 2009, "For some 35 years the United States federal government has been well aware that cannabis possesses potent anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties. And for the past few years, government-funded researchers have speculated that these qualities have 'protective' effects against the onset of various types of cancer in humans, including lung cancer." However, until recently, Armantento writes, "virtually no investigators [had] taken the time to assess marijuana's potential anti-cancer effects in human -- until now." Armanento goes on to cite and post a "clinical abstract just published online on the Cancer Prevention Research website," which "report[s] that marijuana use, even long-term, is associated with a 'significantly reduced risk' of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma" - or, in layperson's terms, cancers.
To read more about marijuana's cancer-preventing properties, head on over to the NORML blog post (linked above), where Armentano provides numerous links to studies and other web postings to support these claims, as well as the abstract to which both his posting and this one refer.
The United Nations' World Drugs Report 2009 should surprise readers in more ways than one. Most notably for the drug policy reform movement, UNODC head Antonia Maria Costa's preface actually acknowledges anti-prohibitionist sentiments; provides a generally positive analysis of Portugal's decriminalization efforts; and, rather than approaching drug policy from a strictly punitive viewpoint, considers global drug laws in light of health-based, economic, and public safety concerns. More peculiar surprises include Costa's comparision of drug legalization to the legalization of human trafficking and slavery and his strange ability to put together a cohesive report while simultaneously, as Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann put it to The Drug War Chronicle, "talk out of both sides of his mouth." Nadelmann elaborates, stating that "On the one hand [Costa] admits global drug prohibition is destabilizing governments, increasing violence, and destroying lives [...]. But on the other hand he offers facile arguments dismissing the need for serious debate on alternative drug policies." He adds, "The report erroneously assumes that prohibition is the ultimate form of control when in fact it represents the abdication of control."
For a more indepth analysis of the report, stop by the Chronicle's June 26 feature ("UN Drug Czar Attacks Legalizers -- Legalizers Say 'It's About Time'"). You can also view both a summary of the report and download the full text in PDF form at the UNODC's web page (UNODC Launches 2009 Annual Report).
British Study Says Drug Legalization Could Save $20 Billion Per Year
Britain's Transform Drug Policy Foundation released a report, entitled A Comparison of the Cost-effectiveness of Prohibition and Regulation, on April 7, 2009 that posited savings of up to $20 billion annually under a legal, regulated drug control system. As the April 10 edition of the Drug War Chronicle explains ("Britain Could Save $20 Billion a Year by Legalizing Drugs, Study Finds"), "Transform postulated four different legalization scenarios based on drug use levels declining by half, staying the same, increasing by half, and doubling. Even under the worst case scenario, with drug use doubling under legalization, Britain could still see annual savings of $6.7 billion. Under the best case scenario, the savings would approach $20 billion annually." As the study states, "The conclusion is that regulating the drugs market is a dramatically more cost-effective policy than prohibition and that moving from prohibition to a regulated drugs market in England and Wales would provide a new saving to taxpayers, victims of crime, communities, the criminal justice system, and drug users."
Transform hosts the study online in PDF form.
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According to a Human Rights Watch Report released in April of 2009, although "Whites and blacks engage in drug offenses at similar rates, [...] blacks were 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites in every year between 1980 and 2007," the Drug War Chronicle reports ("Blacks Arrested on Drug Charges in Wildly Disproportionate Numbers, Rights Group Charges"). Put more simply, approximately "one third of [drug arrestees since 1980] were black, although African-Americans make up only about 13% of the population and 13% of drug users." Drug law reform advocates have always been aware of massive racial disparities in the application and structure of policies prohibiting the sale and use of illicit substances, but Human Rights Watch has just statistically confirmed our claims. As the organization's senior counsel Jamie Fellner stated, "Jim Crow may be dead, but the drug war has never been color-blind. [...] Although whites and blacks use and sell drugs, the heavy hand of the law is more likely to fall on black shoulders."
The study, entitled Decades of Disparity: Drug Arrests and Race in the United States, can be viewed in PDF form here.
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Scientific researchers at the University of Milan published a cannabis study in July of 2008 that may surprise pharmaceutical companies looking to cash in on the medicinal value of the plant - and certainly the US government. As the Drug War Chronicle reported on July 25, the study showed "that whole-plant marijuana extracts provide better relief for neuropathic pain than isolated components of the plant, like THC alone" ("Medical Marijuana: Whole Plant Better Than Isolated Components, Italian Study Finds"). The article contends that the study acts as "an intervention in the ongoing debate between medical marijuana supporters and herbal and alternative medicine advocates on one side and the US government, some politicians, and the pharmaceuticalized medicine industry on the other." The study's authors write that "Collectively, [their] findings strongly support the idea that the combination of cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds, as present in extracts, provide significant advantages ... compared with pure cannibinoids alone." In layperson terms, the study essentially found that extracting certain compounds - such as THC, the compound found in Marinol - with accepted (or acceptable) medicinal uses provides pain sufferers with less relief than do the combinations of compounds found naturally in the marijuana plant.
Click here to read the study's abstract for yourself, though you'll need a PubMed subscription (or a friend in medical school) to access the entire document. To find out more about the political implications of the study, check out the Chronicle's analysis.
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Starting in 1996, the Vancouver Injection Drug User Study now demonstrates how incarceration creates more harm than benefit for injection drug users. According to The Globe and Mail October 10, 2008 article, ("Junkies Stay Hooked Behind Bars") "Injection-drug users who are incarcerated are less likely to kick their habit than those who remain in the community, new Canadian research shows. In fact, there is strong evidence that addicts who end up in jail are more likely to stay hooked longer and less likely to be treated for addiction, according to the research published in the medical journal Addiction. The study followed 1,603 intravenous drug users in Vancouver for almost a decade. During the study period, 842 of them (just over half) stopped injecting drugs for a period of at least six months. Two-thirds of the users spent time in jail at some point, mostly for drug-related crimes."
The article adds, "Researchers also tried to determine the effect of incarceration on drug use by focusing on the minority of IV drug users - one in five - who were incarcerated for the first time during the study period. Incarceration was defined as 'being in detention, prison or jail overnight or longer in the previous six months.' The paper showed that pre- and post-incarceration drug use was virtually the same. In other words, jailing drug addicts did not help them overcome addiction. Researchers found that those who were jailed were 57 per cent less likely to give up drugs for a period of six months or more, compared with those who were not jailed.The study also found that IV drug users with access to methadone programs (methadone is a drug used to wean heroin users from their addiction) were 62 per cent more likely to kick their drug habit for a period of six months or more. Methadone programs are available in the community but not in prison."
The article notes, "The study notes that drug use fell while people were in prison but it did not stop. (It is widely acknowledged that drugs like heroin, cocaine and crack are available in prison.) In fact, researchers concluded that there are no major differences in drug consumption patterns between those who were jailed and those not jailed.The big difference was that IV drug users who remained in the community were more likely to get treatment and stop using drugs, at least temporarily.There is also evidence that those who had been imprisoned engaged in more risky behaviours such as needle sharing. (There are no needle-exchange programs in Canadian prisons, though activists have been demanding them for years.) Earlier research showed that about 30 per cent of all new infections with HIV-AIDS occur in prison."
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Some scientists and psychotherapists believe that psychoactive drugs like psilocybin have a better chance than conventional treatments of successfully managing many conditions. According to an AlterNet September 10, 2008 article,("Is Doctor-Prescribed LSD and 'Shrooms on the Way?") "In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved, but not funded, a pilot study aiming to see if the euphoria and insight of a mild psychedelic 'trip' can ease the physical and emotional pain experienced by thousands of terminal cancer patients each year. Charles Grob, Professor of Psychiatry and Paediatrics at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Centre, California, and lead scientist on the cancer-psilocybin trial, said: 'There is great potential. A significant patient population may gain benefits from these treatments.' Professor Grob will be one of the first scientists in 25 years to administer psilocybin to a person in a therapeutic setting. He wants to see if people's lives can be improved if psychoactive drugs are used under carefully controlled conditions."
The article states, "In the past it seemed to work: in the 60s, cancer sufferers reported less anxiety, a reduced fear of death, better moods, and surprisingly, even less pain in the weeks after treatment with LSD, which is similar in structure and effect to psilocybin. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, Britain and many European countries were active centres of psychoactive drug research. Dr Kate Law, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: 'With full, informed consent, we have no problem with it in principle. These patients are adults and people make their own choices. It is right that we look at these chemicals with the same stringent standards as we do for other drugs.' However, Dr Law said Cancer Research UK will only support this type of research if there was an analgesic effect--and the preliminary results suggest the overall procedure did not confuse or harm the patient. Dr Ken Checinski is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and senior lecturer at St Georges Medical School, London. He says it is a question of balancing the benefits and the risks. 'In terminal care the patient has a right to be pain free, but also has a right to go about their business in the usual way during the final weeks of their lives. 'It's unacceptable to be made psychologically unwell during this period. 'But most drugs also have a medical use--amphetamine and cocaine derivatives, opiates, tranquillisers and now the cannabinols--so there is no reason why we shouldn't consider using the serotonin agonists (hallucinogens)."
The article adds, "A similar study involving psilocybin and the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is nearing completion at the University of Arizona. And an MDMA (ecstasy) trial for the counselling of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) victims is finally underway after a bureaucratic bad-trip with red tape. 'We are re-opening an area that has been shut down for 25 years,' said Professor Grob. 'A couple of groups have established credibility through the formal channels. It may take time but it's possible."
Salvia has recieved recent media and legislative attention and is becoming criminalized at a fast pace. Researchers worry as there is promising data into possible medical uses for the powerful substance. According to the New York Times September 9, 2008 article,("Hallucinogen's Popularity May Thwart Medical Use") "Pharmacologists who believe salvia could open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects. In state after state, however, including here in Texas, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. This year, Florida made possession or sale a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. California took a gentler approach by making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute to minors."
The article states, "When the federal government this year published its first estimates of salvia use, the data astonished many: some 1.8 million people had tried it in their lifetimes, including 750,000 in the previous year. Among males 18 to 25, where consumption is heaviest, nearly 3 percent reported using salvia in the previous year, making it twice as prevalent as LSD and nearly as popular as Ecstasy. Recent studies at college campuses on both coasts have yielded estimates as high as 7 percent. The herb's presence on military ships and bases has prompted enough concern about readiness that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was asked to develop the first urinalysis for salvia and is now testing 50 samples a month. Though research is young and little is known about long-term effects, there are no studies suggesting that salvia is addictive or its users prone to overdose or abuse. Reports of salvia-related emergency room admissions are virtually nonexistent, likely because its effects typically vanish in just a few minutes. In the meantime, 13 states and several local governments have banned or otherwise regulated the plant and its chemically enhanced extracts."
The article adds, "Such laws could pose a substantial burden to researchers at institutions like Harvard and the University of Kansas who are convinced that salvia's active compound, Salvinorin A, holds great promise and will aid in the development of new lines of pain and psychiatric medications. In 2002, Dr. Bryan L. Roth, now of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that Salvinorin A, perhaps uniquely, stimulates a single receptor in the brain, the kappa opioid receptor. LSD, by comparison, stimulates about 50 receptors. Dr. Roth said Salvinorin A was the strongest hallucinogen gram for gram found in nature. Though Salvinorin A, because of its debilitating effects, is unlikely to become a pharmaceutical agent itself, its chemistry may enable the discovery of valuable derivatives. 'If we can find a drug that blocks salvia's effects, there's good evidence it could treat brain disorders including depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, maybe even H.I.V.,' Dr. Roth said. Many scientists believe salvia should be regulated like alcohol or tobacco, but worry that criminalization would encumber their research before it bears fruit. 'We have this incredible new compound, the first in its class; it absolutely has potential medical use, and here we're talking about throttling it because some people get intoxicated on it,' said Dr. John Mendelson, a pharmacologist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute who, with federal financing, is studying salvia's impact on humans."
The Congressional Research Service issued a report on US international drug control strategies on June 23, 2008. The report was made available by the Open CRS Network, a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology.
According to the CRS report, "Despite apparent national resolve to address international narcotics trafficking, tensions appear between U.S. international drug control policy and other U.S. foreign policy goals and concerns. Pursuit of international drug control policies can sometimes negatively affect national interests by exacerbating political instability and economic dislocation in countries where narcotics production is entrenched economically and socially. Drug supply interdiction programs and U.S. systems to facilitate the international movement of legitimate goods, people, and wealth also are often at odds. The high priority of terrorism in U.S. foreign policy has resulted in increased attention to links between drug and terror groups; a challenge facing policy makers, however, is how to avoid diverting counterdrug resources for anti-terror ends in areas of potentially low payoff."
Regarding US involvement in Afghanistan, the report noted that "Observers remain concerned about how to break the links between the illegal narcotics industry and political instability, as conflict and regional instability have reportedly accompanied efforts to expand existing counternarcotics efforts. Further, analysts claim that U.S. counternarcotics objectives complicate counterterrorism and counterinsurgency objectives. Difficulty remains in balancing between developing "tactical coalition allies" in militia and other irregular forces who could help with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency objectives, when these same individuals have ties to the drug trade. If U.S. counterterrorism and counterinsurgency objectives are a higher priority than counternarcotics objectives, such issues could affect the feasibility and success of counternarcotics policy goals in Afghanistan."
The CRS in its report also observed that "For some countries, production of illicit narcotics and the narcotics trade have become an economic way of life that provides a subsistence level of income to large numbers of people from whom those who rule draw their legitimacy. Crop reduction campaigns seek to displace such income and those workers engaged in its production. In this regard, these campaigns may threaten real economic and political dangers for the governments of nations with marginal economic growth. Consequently, some analysts argue that crop reduction programs in low-income countries could lead to greater poverty, especially if substitute incomes are not readily available to those whose income depends on drug production."
The report was critical of the options of legalization or decriminalization of some/all illegal drugs. It is notable however that the report seemed to be supportive of the policy option "Allowing Government-Supervised Drug Use for Addicts." According to the CRS, "A major impetus for such a policy approach began with concerns about the spread of HIV/AIDS among intravenous drug users in the 1980s, which raised attention to the health issues related to drug use. According to advocates of this approach, complete eradication of drugs from society is unrealistic and a better approach would be to focus on containing the damage caused by drugs. Nevertheless, government-supervised drug use programs exist in contravention to U.N. international drug control agreements, which obligates parties to ensure that drug use and trade are limited to scientific and medical purposes only. The INCB regularly urges those countries that maintain drug injection facilities to discontinue their operation. Others remain concerned that these facilities could encourage increased levels of drug use and potentially make drug use more socially acceptable. Some studies on the effects of drug injection facilities, however, offer some tentative, but promising indications of positive results. According to one drug injection clinic trial study in Switzerland, for example, researchers reported that the crime rate and the unemployment rate among its patients dropped over the course of treatment."
An international team of top-notch researchers has analyzed the substance use results from the World Health Organization's Mental Health Surveys. According to the published findings, the United States leads the world in drug use. The study also shows that harsher drug policies do not lead to lower rates of use.
The scientific journal PLoS Medicine published the research article
"Toward a Global View of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, and Cocaine Use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys" on July 1, 2008. As noted in the Editor's Summary:
"Data on drug use were available from 54,069 survey participants in 17 countries. The 17 countries were determined by the availability of collaborators and on funding for the survey. Trained lay interviewers carried out face-to-face interviews (except in France where the interviews were done over the telephone) using a standardized, structured diagnostic interview for psychiatric conditions. Participants were asked if they had ever used (a) alcohol, (b) tobacco (cigarettes, cigars or pipes), (c) cannabis (marijuana, hashish), or (d) cocaine. If they had used any of these drugs, they were asked about the age they started using each type of drug. The age of first tobacco smoking was not assessed in New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, or Spain. The interviewers also recorded the participants' sex, age, years of education, marital status, employment, and household income.
The researchers themselves concluded:
"Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly. In general, the US had among the highest levels of use of all drugs. Much lower levels were observed in lower income countries in Africa and the Middle East, and lower levels of use were reported in the Asian locales covered.
Another study has been released demonstrating the absurd number of individuals incarcerated in the United States. According to the New York Times on February 29, 2008 ("U.S. Imprisons One in 100 Adults, Report Finds"), 'For the first time in the nation's history, more than one in 100 American adults are behind bars, according to a new report. Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million, after three decades of growth that has seen the prison population nearly triple. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars."
The Times reported that "Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 adult black men is, too, as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34. The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that one in 355 white women ages 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one in 100 black women. The report's methodology differed from that used by the Justice Department, which calculates the incarceration rate by using the total population rather than the adult population as the denominator. Using the department's methodology, about one in 130 Americans is behind bars."
The Times noted, "The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. China is second, with 1.5 million people behind bars. The gap is even wider in percentage terms. Germany imprisons 93 out of every 100,000 people, according to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College in London. The comparable number for the United States is roughly eight times that, or 750 out of 100,000."
The Times noted further that "On average, states spend almost 7 percent of their budgets on corrections, trailing only health care, education and transportation. In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 percent increase when adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the Pew report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion. It cost an average of $23,876 dollars to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available."
The Times article stated, "The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages. About one in nine state government employees works in corrections, and some states are finding it hard to fill those jobs. California spent more than $500 million on overtime alone in 2006."
A copy of the report, "One in 100," is available from the CSDP research archive.
New Zealand research shows a possible link between smoking marijuana and gum disease but notes other factors may be at play.
According to the February 6, 2008 Calgary Herald ("Pot-smoking linked to gum disease"), 'The new study, published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 903 people born in New Zealand between 1972 and 1973. The group reported their cannabis use during the previous year when they were 18, 21, 26 and 32, and had their teeth checked twice, when they were 26 and 32. Researchers assigned participants to one of three exposure groups: no exposure, some exposure (one to 40 occasions of cannabis use reported during the previous year) and high exposure (41 or more occasions of pot use)."
The Herald article stated, "Researchers found that young people who smoke cannabis 41 or more times per year -- or almost once a week -- are up to three times more likely than non-users to have serious periodontal disease by age 32. 'People lose the support around the bone, the support around their teeth and they may lose their teeth to periodontal disease,' says Dr. James Beck, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry."
The article noted, "When periodontal disease progresses, it destroys the ligament around the tooth and bone. Gum separates from the teeth, forming pockets that fill with plaque and infection, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. The amount of destruction is measured by sticking a probe between the gum and tooth to see how deep the pockets are. That's called attachment loss. After controlling for tobacco smoking, infrequent dental check-ups and plaque, compared with those who had never smoked cannabis, those in the highest using group had a 60 per cent increased risk for having one or more sites with four millimetres or greater pockets or attachment loss, and a three-times greater risk for having one or more sites with five millimetres or more attachment loss."
The article, "Cannabis Smoking and Periodontal Disease Among Young Adults," is available from the JAMA website.
Young people would not likely be deterred from trying marijuana if the penalties for possession were increased, researchers in England say.
The Independent on Sunday reported on Jan. 6, 2008 ("Reclassifying Cannabis Would Make No Difference to Young") that "Reclassifying cannabis would be pointless and therefore unlikely to make any difference to young users of the drug, according to a new report by some of the country's top criminal policy experts. Cannabis has now become such an important part of youth culture that a new generation of users are supplying each other with the drug, buying and sharing it with friends and relatives. A team of researchers from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research ( ICPR ) led by Professor Mike Hough, a senior adviser to the Home Office, has concluded that the 'social supply' of cannabis has almost entirely cut out traditional drug dealers and therefore needs a new approach. Their findings reveal that 90 per cent of young users can get hold of cannabis in under a day - with the majority able to get it within an hour."
According to the Independent, "Researchers conclude that 'the findings from this and other studies show that cannabis use is significantly embedded in the social world of many young people. It is unlikely a marginal change in the drug's legal status will have an impact.'"
The report is available from the ICPR website at King's College London.
The US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its report Prisoners 2006 in mid-December. According to the Bureau, "At yearend 2006 Federal and State correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,570,861 prisoners, an increase of 2.8% since yearend 2005.1 The Federal system held 12.3% of these prisoners, and States held the remaining 87.7%. The number of prisoners under Federal jurisdiction increased by 5,428 prisoners, and the number under State jurisdiction increased by 37,504 prisoners."
The Bureau reported that "At yearend 2004 (the most recent data available for estimating offense distributions by gender and race) more than half (52%) of all sentenced inmates in State prisons were sentenced for a violent offense (table 11) (See Appendix tables 9 and 10). Property offenses were the most serious charge for 21% of State prisoners, and drug offenses, 20%." They also reported that "On September 30, 2006, (the latest available data from the Federal Justice Statistics Program on offenses of Federal prisoners) drug, weapons, and immigration offenders made up more than three-quarters (78%) of the 176,268 sentenced Federal prison population (table 12). Drug offenders made up more than half (53%); weapons offenders, 14%; and immigration offenders, 11%."
The Bureau noted that "Offense distributions differed between sentenced male and female State prisoners. More than half of males (53%) were sentenced for violent offenses, compared to 34% of females. Among State prisoners, sentenced females were more likely than sentenced males to be sentenced for property (31% vs. 20%) and drug offenses (29% vs. 19%). There were also differences in offense distributions at yearend 2004 by race and Hispanic origin. A majority of black (53%) and Hispanic (54%) prisoners were sentenced for violent offenses, compared to about half (50%) of white prisoners. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be sentenced for drug offenses (23% of blacks, 21% of Hispanics, and 15% of whites). Whites were more likely (26%) than blacks (18%) or Hispanics (18%) to be sentenced for property offenses."
Research in Lausanne, Switzerland, has found that occasional use of marijuana may not be problematic for young people. The newspaper the West Australian reported on Nov. 6, 2007 (Occasional Marijuana Use 'Does Not Harm Teens': Study") that "Swiss teenagers who sometimes smoke marijuana don't appear to have higher rates of "psychosocial problems" than those who abstain, according to a study published today in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. "Those who use cannabis sometimes do better than we think," J.C. Suris, the study's author, said in an interview. Light users of marijuana "don't have great additional problems. They are kids who function well." There's no question that heavy use of marijuana does hurt, said Suris, who, along with colleagues at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, conducted surveys of 5,263 Swiss students in 2002."
The West Australian reported that "The study also found that teenagers who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes have a higher potential for problems than those who use only cannabis. A common theory is that cigarette smoking is an early indicator of cannabis use, the report said. "Among cannabis users, non smokers seem to have fewer problems than regular smokers," the report said. "Smokers were significantly more likely to be heavy cannabis users than non smokers." Most of the cannabis-only smokers used the drug only once or twice a month, compared with cigarette smokers, who often smoked marijuana 10 times or more a month, the study said."
The West Australian noted that "When teenagers who smoke only pot were compared with students who used both substances, the cannabis-only students were more likely to play sports, 86 per cent versus 67 per cent; live with both parents, 78 per cent versus 68 per cent; and have good grades, 78 per cent versus 67 per cent. Marijuana-only users, when compared with those who abstained from both vices, were more likely to be male, 72 per cent versus 48 per cent; to have good relationships with their friends; 87 per cent versus 83 per cent; and to play sports, 86 per cent versus 77 per cent. The pot-only smokers skipped school more often while saying their grades were as good as those of students who abstained, the study said. The pot-only kids were less likely to have a good relationship with their parents, 74 per cent versus 82 per cent for those who abstained. Unlike in the US, cannabis use has increased in Switzerland and other European countries, the report said. Cannabis in Switzerland is becoming equivalent to a social event where teenagers might invite friends for joints rather than beers, Suris said. "Nowadays, almost all kids will be offered cannabis," Suris said in an interview. He advises parents that if their children try marijuana, "don't make it a big fuss. It's part of their learning, maybe like alcohol or tobacco was when parents were their age.""
The article, "Some Go Without A Cigarette," was published in the AMA's Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 161, No. 11.
The US Sentencing Commission released its 2007 report to Congress titled Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy on May 14, 2007. As noted in the report's introduction, "Against a backdrop of renewed congressional interest in federal cocaine sentencing policy, the need to update the Commission's prior reports has become more important. The Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker has given rise to litigation and resulted in differences among federal courts on the issue of whether, and how, sentencing courts should consider the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio. Congressional enactment of a uniform remedy to the problems created by the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio, as opposed to the employment of varied remedies by the courts, would better promote the goals of the Sentencing Reform Act, including avoiding unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar criminal records who have been found guilty of similar criminal conduct." (pp. 1-2)
The report explains that "Because of the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio, the sentencing guideline penalties based solely on drug quantity (i.e., the base offense level provided by the Drug Quantity Table in the primary drug trafficking guideline, USSG §2D.1.1 (Unlawful Manufacturing, Importing, Exporting, or Trafficking (Including Possession with Intent to Commit These Offenses); Attempt or Conspiracy)) are three to over six times longer for crack cocaine offenders than for powder cocaine offenders with equivalent drug quantities, depending on the exact quantity of drug involved. As a result of both the statutory and guideline differentiation between the two forms of cocaine, as well as other factors examined in Chapter 2, the resulting sentences for offenses involving crack cocaine are significantly longer than those for similar offenses involving powder cocaine for any quantity of drug." (p. 3)
The report notes that
"Current data and information continue to support the core findings contained in the 2002 Commission Report, among them: (1) The current quantity-based penalties overstate the relative harmfulness of crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. (2) The current quantity-based penalties sweep too broadly and apply most
often to lower level offenders. (3) The current quantity-based penalties overstate the seriousness of most crack cocaine offenses and fail to provide adequate proportionality. (4) The current severity of crack cocaine penalties mostly impacts minorities.
The Commission recommended:
A copy of the US Sentencing Commission's report can be downloaded by clicking here.
A report from Canada revealed that the economic and social costs from alcohol use are much greater than from illegal drug use. The National Post reported on March 29, 2007 ("Alcohol Toll Badly Underestimated, Study Says") that "Days after the federal government unveiled a budget that earmarked $64-million for a national anti-drug strategy, a new report says the social and economic costs associated with alcohol are twice as high as those racked up by illegal drug use. The study says Canadians have an exaggerated view of the harm associated with illegal drugs, possibly fuelled by vivid media reports, and the emphasis given the subject by police organizations, political leaders and policy-makers. The study, released yesterday by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, suggests anti-drug strategies should include alcohol as a significant part of the equation."
According to the National Post, "The study said the economic and social costs of alcohol abuse reached $7.4-billion in 2002, more than twice the $3.6-billion associated with illicit drug use. But Canadians' perceptions of the two problems were out of proportion with those figures, the study found. It said that while only 25% of Canadians identified alcohol abuse as 'very serious' national problem, 45% felt illicit drug use was 'very serious.' 'The divergence between the perceived seriousness and actual costs points to the need to reset public misconceptions about the size and scope of illicit drug abuse in Canada, especially injection drug use, and to better educate Canadians about the significant and largely unrecognized risks of alcohol,' Rita Notarandrea, the centre's director of research and policy, said in releasing the report."
The National Post noted that "Gerald Thomas, one of the report's authors, said illicit drug use is a significant drain on the Canadian economy. But he said policy-markers should not exclude alcohol from any stepped up strategy to combat drug abuse. 'We are suggesting that given the costs that we're looking at, what the costs are to society, that alcohol should not be left out.' Mr. Thomas said a 2002 study sponsored by the centre showed that in crimes involving substance abuse, alcohol tends to have more of a correlation with violent crime than illicit drugs do. The study said 49% of murders, attempted murders and assault were attributable to drugs and/or alcohol. Five per cent were attributable to drugs only, 28% to alcohol only, and 16% were attributable to a combination of alcohol and illicit drugs."
The study, "Comparing the Perceived Seriousness and Actual Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada," is available from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse website.
An article published by the UK medical journal The Lancet provides a detailed comparison of different drugs with potential for abuse. The researchers found that alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous than cannabis or ecstasy. The Daily Telegraph reported on March 23, 2007 ("Alcohol 'Is More Dangerous Than Ecstasy'") that "Alcohol is ranked much more harmful than the Class A drug ecstasy in a controversial new classification system proposed by a team of leading scientists. The table, published today in The Lancet medical journal, was drawn up by a team of highly respected experts led by Professor David Nutt, from the University of Bristol, and Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council. advertisement The authors proposes that drugs should be classified by the amount of harm that they do, rather than the sharp A, B, and C divisions in the UK Misuse of Drugs Act. They say the basis of the Act is ill-defined, opaque, and seemingly arbitrary and overestimates the risks of ecstasy, which kills around ten people annually of the half a million people who use it every weekend, while neglecting those of alcohol, a legal substance which kills more than 300 annually by acute poisoning, and many tens of thousands by road traffic accidents, cirrhosis, gut and heart disease. In the paper, the team argues that it would make much more sense for drugs to be reclassified on a rational basis that can be updated as new evidence emerges, and more easily than the current rigid category system now in use."
According to the Daily Telegraph, "Today's call to overhaul the UK drug classification system, which will be examined by the forthcoming UK Drug Policy Commission, is likely to receive popular public support, according to research into attitudes to drugs by the Academy of Medical Sciences' DrugsFutures project. Harmful drugs are currently regulated according to classification systems that purport to relate to the harms and risks of each drug. However, 'these are generally neither specified nor transparent, which reduces confidence in their accuracy and undermines health education messages,' said Prof Blakemore. 'The most striking observation is that there is no statistical correlation between this ranking of harm of drugs and the ABC classification.' In the new system legal drugs, such as alcohol and nicotine, are ranked alongside illegal drugs. The new ranking places alcohol and tobacco in the upper half of the league table. These socially accepted drugs were judged more harmful than cannabis, and substantially more dangerous than the Class A drugs LSD, 4-methylthioamphetamine and ecstasy."
The Daily Telegraph noted that "Cannabis, the subject of much recent debate, was ranked below tobacco, despite the evidence for a link with psychotic episodes in about 7% of schizophrenics. Since the expert panels were asked to assess the harm of drugs in the form that they are currently used, this ranking took account of the widespread use of skunk, which is about twice as potent than traditional cannabis resin. Other experts still doubt there is a cause and effect relationship between cannabis and psychosis, while a study that claimed genes place some people at particular risk requires confirmation. Prof Nutt said that young people believe that the establishment lies and distorts the dangers posed by drugs and the only way to restore their confidence is to rely on hard evidence, not arbitrary classifications. 'It is a landmark paper, a real step towards evidence based classification,' commented Prof Leslie Iversen of the University of Oxford, a member of a working group of the Academy of Medical Sciences, though he added that there is still more to be done to take on board new understanding of addiction arising from neuroscience. The Academy has been asked by the Government to undertake an independent review of the issues raised in the Foresight report 'DrugsFutures 2025?' The review will take on board the opinions of many hundreds of people from across the UK who have taken part in face to face discussions and an online debate at www.drugsfutures.org.uk, which is open until end of this month."
The Lancet article, "Development of a Rational Scale to Assess the Harm of Drugs of Potential Misuse," was published March 24, 2007.
The Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report in February 2007 entitled "Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America's Prison Population 2007-2011." According to the Denver Post on Feb. 15, 2007 ("Prisons Projected To Outpace US In Population Growth"), "Prison populations will grow 13 percent in five years, triple the expected U.S. population growth rate during that time, and will cost an additional $27.5 billion, a report released Wednesday projected. The report by the Pew Charitable Trusts attributes the estimated addition of 192,000 inmates to overall demographic growth, coupled with current state policy decisions and a slowdown of parole grants. In addition to growth in the federal prison system, four states - Florida, Texas, California and Arizona - will account for about 45 percent of the total prison population increase, the study found."
According to the Post, "James Austin, a co-author of the report, placed the onus for stemming the growth on probation and parole systems. 'If we can get some kind of improvement in that area, these numbers would change radically,' he told a news conference. Imprisonment levels are expected to rise in all but four states, with those in the West, Midwest and South increasing by double-digit percentages, the study projected. In addition, the average inmate will be older and will be more likely female, with the growth of women prisoners (16 percent) projected to outpace the growth of men (12 percent), according to the report."
report itself notes:
The US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual Prisoners and Probation/Parole reports in late November 2006. According to Prisoners in 2005, "The total number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of Federal or State adult correctional authorities was 1,525,924 at yearend 2005. During the year the States added 21,534 prisoners and the Federal prison system added 7,290 prisoners. Overall, the Nation’s prison population grew 1.9%, which was less than the average annual growth of 3.1% since yearend 1995. The rate of incarceration in prison at yearend 2005 was 491 sentenced inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, up from 411 in 1995. About 1 in every 108 men and 1 in every 1,538 women were sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of State or Federal authorities. Overall, the United States incarcerated 2,320,359 persons at yearend 2005."
The Bureau estimated that "In absolute numbers an estimated 650,400 inmates in State prison at yearend 2003 (the latest available offense data) were held for violent offenses: 151,500 for murder, 176,600 for robbery, 124,200 for assault, and 148,800 for rape and other sexual assaults (table 12). In addition, 262,000 inmates were held for property offenses, 250,900 for drug offenses, and 86,400 for public-order offenses. Overall, the proportion of violent offenders increased from 47% in 1995 to 52% in 2003. Property offenders decreased from about 23% in 1995 to 21% in 2003; drug offenders decreased from 22% to 20%."
The Bureau further estimated that "Prisoners sentenced for drug offenses constitute the largest group of Federal inmates (55%) in 2003, down from 60% in 1995 (table 14). On September 30, 2003, the date of the latest available data in the Federal Justice Statistics Program, Federal prisons held 86,972 sentenced drug offenders, compared to 52,782 at yearend 1995. Between 1995 and 2003 the number of Federal inmates held for public-order offenses increased 170%, most of which was accounted for by the increase in immigration offenses (up 394%). The number of immigration offenders rose from 3,420 in 1995 to 16,903 in 2003. Immigration violators represented over 10% of Federal inmates in 2003."
The nation's overall correctional system has also been rising. According to Probation and Parole in the United States, 2005, "During 2005 the total Federal, State, and local adult correctional population — incarcerated or in the community — grew by 60,700 to over 7 million. The growth of 0.9% during the year was less than half of the average annual increase of 2.5% since 1995. About 3.2% of the U.S. adult population, or 1 in every 32 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at yearend 2005. The probation population increased 0.5% in 2005 to reach 4,162,536 on December 31. This represented an increase of 19,070 additional probationers, or the smallest increase in the last 26 years. The adult parole population reached a total of 784,408 on December 31, 2005. It grew 1.6%, or slightly more than the average annual increase of 1.4% since 1995."
In the report, the Department estimated that "Probationers convicted of a felony (50%) accounted for a larger percentage of the population than probationers convicted of a misdemeanor (49%). About 1% of probationers had been convicted of other infractions. The largest percentage of the probation population was convicted of a drug law violation (28%), followed by a DWI (15%) and larceny/theft (12%). Seven in 10 probationers were under active supervision at yearend. Probationers under active supervision are required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. The percentage of probationers required to report regularly declined steadily, from 79% in 1995 to 70% in 2005. About 1 in 10 persons still on probation had absconded at yearend 2005. Though still on probation, absconders had failed to report and could not be located. The percentage of absconders on probation increased slightly in the last 10 years (10% in 2005, up from 9% in 1995)."
The Sentencing Project has released a report which successfully deflates the hype surrounding methamphetamine use. The publication, "The Next Big Thing? Methamphetamine In The United States," "examines the development of methamphetamine as the 'next big thing' in drug threats by analyzing drug use rates through a series of different measures, investigating the role of the media in perpetuating the 'epidemic' language, and assessing the state-of-the-art in methamphetamine treatment options."
As the author says in the introduction, "The findings of this report refute the image of methamphetamine use in the United States as popularly conveyed by both the media as well as many government officials. Mischaracterizing the impact of methamphetamine by exaggerating its prevalence and consequences while downplaying its receptivity to treatment succeeds neither as a tool of prevention nor a vehicle of education. To the contrary, this combination of rhetoric and misinformation about the state of methamphetamine abuse is costly and threatening to the national drug abuse response because it results in a misallocation of resources. We urge vigilance in tempering our national response to methamphetamine, keeping the focus local and providing federal funding to augment evidence-based treatment protocols that have been demonstrated successful in a number of jurisdictions."
The number of offenders behind bars in the US continues to rise, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and women are a rapidly-growing segment of that population. The Associated Press reported on May 22, 2006 ( "Number Of US Inmates Rises 2 Percent") that "Prisons and jails added more than 1,000 inmates each week for a year, putting almost 2.2 million people, or one in every 136 U.S. residents, behind bars by last summer. The total on June 30, 2005, was 56,428 more than at the same time in 2004, the government reported Sunday. That 2.6 percent increase from mid-2004 to mid-2005 translates into a weekly rise of 1,085 inmates. Of particular note was the gain of 33,539 inmates in jails, the largest increase since 1997, researcher Allen J. Beck said. That was a 4.7 percent growth rate, compared with a 1.6 percent increase in people held in state and federal prisons. Prisons accounted for about two-thirds of all inmates, or 1.4 million, while the other third, nearly 750,000, were in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics."
A report issued a day earlier by the Women's Prison Association notes that women are the fastest-growing segment of the US inmate population. The Associated Press reported on May 21, 2006 ("Mountain States Set Pace In Imprisoning Women") that "Oklahoma, Mississippi and the Mountain states have set the pace in increasing the imprisonment of women, while several Northeastern states are curtailing the practice, according to a new report detailing sharp regional differences in the handling of female offenders. The report, to be released Sunday by the New York-based Women's Prison Association, is touted as the most comprehensive state-by-state breakdown of the huge increase in incarceration of women over the past 30 years. Overall, the number of female state inmates serving sentences of more than a year grew by 757 percent between 1977 and 2004, nearly twice the 388 percent increase for men, the report said."
According to AP, "Though the surge occurred nationwide, it was most notable in the Mountain states, where the number of incarcerated women soared by 1,600 percent, the report said. According to federal statistics cited in the report, Colorado had 72 female inmates in 1997 and 1,900 in 2004, while the comparable numbers increased from 28 to 647 in Idaho, from two to 473 in Montana, from 187 to 2,545 in Arizona and from 30 to 502 in Utah. Idaho, Wyoming and Montana were among six states, along with Oklahoma, North Dakota and Hawaii, where women comprised more than 10 percent of the prison population in 2004 -- compared to the national average of 7 percent. In Rhode Island, by contrast, only 3.2 percent of the inmates were women. Oklahoma had the highest per capita imprisonment rate for women -- 129 behind bars for every 100,000 women in its population. Mississippi was second with a rate of 107. Women in those states were roughly 10 times more likely to be imprisoned than women in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which shared the lowest rate of 11."
AP reported that "The report concurred with previous analyses attributing much of the nationwide increase in women's imprisonment to the war on drugs. The proportion of women serving time for drug offenses has risen sharply in recent years, while the proportion convicted of serious violent crimes has dropped, it said. Bob Anez, a Corrections Department spokesman in Montana, confirmed that drug offenses -- especially related to methamphetamine -- were a major factor in the high proportion of female inmates in the state. Half the women imprisoned from January through March had committed meth-related offenses, he said. Jerry Massie of Oklahoma's Corrections Department also said rising drug convictions were a factor in the high number of imprisoned women, but he noted that Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates for men as well as for women. Ann Jacobs, executive director of the Women's Prison Association, said states with high rates of women behind bars should look closely at alternative sentencing, particularly mandatory treatment as an option for drug offenders. 'It's startling to think that Oklahoma incarcerates 129 of every 100,000 women, while other states can provide public safety by incarcerating 11 of every 100,000,' she said. 'Women in Oklahoma can't possibly be 10 times worse.' K.C. Moon, executive director of the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center, said the state's high incarceration rate is linked to the types of crimes that are felonies -- including simple drug possession and relatively minor thefts. 'Those are two types of crimes that are typically committed by women,' Moon said. 'In Oklahoma, we choose to make lower-level crimes felonies, therefore we stand out like a sore thumb.'"
AP noted that "The report urged an expansion of research to identify factors that have contributed to the increase of female inmates and to develop policies which help at-risk women lead law-abiding, self-sufficient lives. Jacobs said the reduction of female inmates now occurring in some Northeast states would be worth celebrating only if coupled with investment in social programs that could reduce recidivism."
The International Centre for Prison Studies released the 6th edition of the World Prison Population List in spring 2006. The report details the number of prisoners held in 211 independent countries and dependent territories. The information is the latest available at the end of February 2005. According to ICPS, the United States has the most prisoners of any nation as well as the highest incarceration rate.
Following are key points from the report:
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced that it will try drug testing wastewater in Fairfax County, VA, to try determining the level of drug use in particular communities. The Washington Post reported on March 27, 2006 ( "Sewage Tested For Signs Of Cocaine") that "Earlier this month, the county agreed to participate in a White House pilot program to analyze wastewater from communities throughout the Potomac River Basin for the urinary byproducts of cocaine. 'It's a very strange request,' Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly ( D ) said of the White House program. 'We're ready to do anything and everything we can do to eliminate illicit drug use. But I'd want to know a lot more about what this will actually lead to.' The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it is not seeking to single out specific localities. It also is premature, officials said, to conclude that levels of metabolized cocaine in sewage offer a more accurate index of consumption than traditional survey research."
According to the Post, "County workers collected five days' worth of water samples between March 13 and March 17 at the pollution control plant in Lorton, according to a March 20 memo from County Executive Anthony H. Griffin to the Board of Supervisors. The plant, which processes about 67 million gallons of sewage a day, takes in commercial and residential waste from about half the county, including Fairfax City, Vienna and Fort Belvoir. The samples, which totaled about 500 milliliters, were shipped to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, where they will be analyzed for traces of benzoylecgonine, the main urinary metabolite byproduct of cocaine."
The Post noted that "Critics of the administration's drug policies said the effort seemed harmless enough but also wondered what it would add up to. 'It can't hurt to check,' said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group committed to ending the federal government's war on drugs. 'I'm skeptical that it can be a useful gauge for policy analysis.'"
The researchers who pioneered this innovative method of estimating drug use would likely disagree on the potential impact. The Times of London reported on August 5, 2005 ( "Where Rivers Run High On Cocaine") that "Cocaine users among the five million people who live in the Po River basin in northern Italy consume the drug and excrete its metabolic by-product, benzoylecgonine (BE). This goes from sewers into the river. So a team led by Dr Ettore Zuccato, of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, estimated the use of cocaine by testing the waters of the Po for BE, and for any cocaine that had passed through the body unaltered or reached the sewers in other ways. What they found surprised them. They calculated that for every 1,000 young adults in the catchment area, about 30 must be taking a daily dose of 100 milligrams of cocaine, which greatly exceeds official national figures for cocaine use. According to official Italian statistics, 1.1 per cent of people between the ages of 15 and 34 admit to having used cocaine 'at least once in the preceding month'. Almost all cocaine use occurs in this age group. Assuming that there are 1.4 million young adults in the Po River basin, the official statistics suggest that there would be 15,000 cocaine-use events per month. But the evidence from the water suggests that the real usage is about 40,000 doses a day, a vastly greater figure."
According to The Times, "To confirm their findings, the team also sampled urban waste water from Cagliari in Sardinia, Latina in central Italy, and from Cuneo and Varese in the north — all medium-sized cities. The values they obtained from the undiluted waste water were far higher than those in the Po, as would be expected. But when translated into likely local use of the drug, they produced very similar figures — which suggests that the Po region is not exceptional in its cocaine consumption. The results cannot be explained by assuming that some drug trafficker was panicked into dumping his stash down the lavatory. If so, much more pure cocaine would have been found, and much less of its human metabolite, BE. In fact, the ratio of cocaine to BE was consistent throughout all the samples. If anything, Dr Zuccato said, the method would be expected to underestimate rather than to overestimate cocaine use, because some would be lost or absorbed in sediments. So the real consumption may be even higher. This method has previously been used by the same team to measure the by-products of widely-used prescription drugs, and has produced results consistent with known prescribing patterns. So it seems to work."
The Times noted that "The scientists say that the method needs to be tested further before being brought into general use, but suggest that it would be a more reliable and much cheaper way of tracking trends in drug use than by using population surveys."
The University of Michigan, NIDA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy released the results of the 2005 Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey on Dec. 19, 2005. According to the MTF news release, "The proportion of older teens who use illicit drugs continued to decline in 2005, according to the latest national survey in the Monitoring the Future series, the fourth consecutive year of decline among the nation’s 10th- and 12th-grade students. However, the long-term improvements that had been occurring among 8th graders since 1996 appear to have halted this year. The use of marijuana and illicit drugs other than marijuana (taken as a group) showed very modest continuing declines this year among 10th- and 12th-grade students, although none of these one-year decreases reached statistical significance."
The MTF noted that "In 2005, the proportions ever having tried any illicit drug in their lifetime are 21 percent, 38 percent, and 50 percent in grades 8, 10, and 12, respectively. In other words, exactly half of the students today have tried an illicit drug by the time they finish high school. The proportions indicating any use of an illicit drug during the 12 months immediately preceding the survey (annual prevalence rates) are 16 percent, 30 percent, and 38 percent in grades 8, 10, and 12. 'These are not what you would call low rates of drug use by any means,' Johnston said. 'There remains plenty of room for improvement.' The annual prevalence rates for using any illicit drug other than marijuana are 8 percent, 13 percent, and 20 percent in grades 8, 10, and 12, respectively. These rates are down some from the peak levels in the mid-1990s—by about four-tenths among 8th graders, and three-tenths among 10th graders, but by less than one-tenth among the 12th graders."
Indeed, according to MTF, "This year there are no statistically significant changes in prevalence for any illicit drug, marijuana, any illicit drug other than marijuana taken as a class, inhalants, hallucinogens taken as a class, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, narcotics other than heroin, sedatives, tranquilizers, Ritalin, and some others."
Copies of the MTF news release and the 2005 statistical tables are available from the MTF website.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Dec. 7, 2005 ( "Watchdog Challenges US Drug War In Colombia") that "A U.S. government report to be released next week raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-drug campaign in Colombia, despite moves by the Bush administration to extend the program. The 52-page report by the Government Accountability Office, an advance copy of which has been obtained by The Chronicle, challenges administration conclusions that the drug interdiction effort known as Plan Colombia -- a five-year program that ends this year -- has reduced the amount of cocaine available in the United States. The report was skeptical of the statistics the government relied on for its upbeat assessments, calling its information on cocaine production and use problematic. It also said the Office of National Drug Control Policy had failed to fully address previous 'recommendations for improving illicit drug data collection and analysis.'"
According to the Chronicle, "On Nov. 9 in Bogota, John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Plan Colombia had been responsible for a substantial increase in the street price of cocaine in the United States and a drop in its quality from Colombia, which supplies an estimated 90 percent of the world's cocaine, and an estimated $65 billion in illegal drugs to the U.S. market. 'There were those who did not believe it was possible to change the availability of cocaine in the United States,' Walters said. 'What we're announcing today is, there's no question that's happened.' But the GAO, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, specifically criticized those figures, saying that they reflected trends that "could reflect law enforcement patterns rather than drug availability patterns" and that the number of U.S. cocaine users remained constant at about 2 million. 'Other sources estimate the number of chronic and occasional cocaine users may be as high as 6 million,' the report stated. The GAO also found the White House assessment of the amount of cocaine entering the United States in 2004 -- 325 metric tons to 675 metric tons -- to be too varied to be 'useful for assessing interdiction efforts.'"
The Chronicle noted that "Since 2000, the United States has poured about $6 billion into Latin America to fund antidrug efforts, more than half of it earmarked for Plan Colombia. Its supporters in Colombia say the program is crucial not only for battling the drug trade but also to combat left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries involved in the nation's four-decade armed conflict that depend on financing from drug profits. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ( FARC ) -- the country's largest rebel group -- raked in as much as $1.3 billion in 2003, of which an estimated 45 percent came from cocaine, according to a report released earlier this year by the Joint Intelligence Command, the Colombian equivalent of the U.S. National Security Council. Plan Colombia 'is essential for what we do,' said Col. Yamlik Moreno of the National Police's antidrug division. 'Without the funding ... we would have to reduce our operations by 90 percent.' The U.S.-Colombia strategy, which targets cocaine production at its source, is aimed at reducing supply and driving up prices and thereby discouraging consumption in the United States. Military aid provided by Washington over the years includes combat helicopters, light weapons ranging from machine guns to rocket launchers and intelligence technology as well as advisers, chemicals and fumigation planes to spray coca fields. Just last month, Walters helped inaugurate a $12 million helicopter hanger just north of Bogota."
The US Drug Czar, John Walters, claimed in Nov. 2005 that US efforts against Colombian cocaine have met with some success. The Miami Herald reported on Nov. 18, 2005 ( "US: Plan Colombia Hampers Drug Trade") that "Declaring a key victory Thursday, U.S. drug czar John Walters said cocaine has become more expensive and less pure on U.S. streets this year -- the first sign that billions of dollars in counter-drug aid to Colombia may be having an impact. Walters' aides said the new data reverses three years of steadily declining cocaine prices, which had perplexed policymakers as Washington poured more than $4 billion into Colombia since 2000 as part of an effort to increase Bogotá's ability to curb drug production and trafficking."
The Herald noted that "While a gram of cocaine cost just over $120 this April, the price rose steadily to more than $170 in September, according to the ONDCP data. And cocaine purity -- another key indicator of availability -- fell 15 percent between February and September. The data showed similar trends in the price and purity of Colombian heroin reaching U.S. streets. The data showed, however, that in a longer-range comparison -- June 2003 to October 2005 -- current prices are only a shade lower and current purity is only a bit higher. The data is a nationwide average based on U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seizures and undercover purchases, according to ONDCP officials."
Indeed, a longer-term view of cocaine prices and purity levels shows that quarterly price fluctuations such as those touted by the Drug Czar are normal, and well in line with prices and purity levels of the last several years. A copy of ONDCP's report
"The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs:
1981 Through the Second Quarter of 2003," Nov. 2004, is
available through this website's research section as well as from
Drug Czar's PowerPoint presentation is available through the
CSDP site as well as through the Czar's own site, or you
can view copies of the individual slides as GIF images:
The Herald noted that "'This cocaine graph only shows price and purity returning to the levels they were at in late 2003 and early 2004,' said Adam Isacson, the director of programs at the Center for International Policy, a left-wing think tank generally critical of the Bush administration. 'Plan Colombia began in 2000.' John Walsh, with the left-of-center Washington Office on Latin America, also said it was still too soon to draw conclusions. 'History suggests it is unwise to make too much of a fluctuation.'"
Other critics noted that transportation costs, specifically the price of fuel, rose dramatically during 2005 (as shown by the US Dept. of Energy in its Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update), which could also have an impact on retail prices of cocaine.
An archive of significant publications in drug policy research is located here.
The Justice Department issued its "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2004" report on Nov. 2, 2005. According to it, "During 2004 the total Federal, State, and local adult correctional population incarcerated or in the community grew by 59,900 to reach nearly 7 million. The growth of 0.9% during the year was a third of the average annual increase of 2.7% since 1995. About 3.2% of the U.S. adult population, or 1 in every 31 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at yearend 2004."
The Associated Press reported on Nov. 3, 2005 ( "Number Of US Adults In Prison On Rise") that "Nearly 7 million adults were in US prisons or on probation or parole at the end of last year, 30 percent more than in 1995, the Justice Department said yesterday. That was about one in every 31 adults under correctional supervision at the end of 2004, compared with about 1 in 36 adults in 1995 and about 1 adult in every 88 in 1980, said Allan J. Beck, who oversaw the preparation of the department's annual report on probation and parole populations. Beck attributed the overall rise in the number of people under correctional supervision to sentencing changes of the 1990s. The nation's incarcerated population has been increasing for more than 30 years, with sharp growth in the last decade."
According to AP, "Whites made up 56 percent of the probation population and only 34 percent of the prison population, according to yesterday's report and another Justice Department report released last month. 'White people for whatever reason seem to have more access to community supervision than African-Americans and Hispanics,' said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, which promotes alternatives to incarceration. He called probation a cheaper, more effective form of rehabilitation. Blacks, he noted, made up 30 percent of probationers and 41 percent of prisoners at the end of 2004. Hispanics made up 12 percent of the probation population and 19 percent of the prison population."
The US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its new report on Prisoners In 2004 on Oct. 23, 2005. The Associated Press reported on Oct. 24, 2005 ( "Female Prison Population Rises") that " The number of women incarcerated in state and federal prisons in 2004 was up 4 percent compared with 2003, more than double the 1.8 percent increase among men, the study said. In 1995, women made up 6.1 percent of all inmates in those facilities. 'The number of incarcerated women has been growing ... due in large part to sentencing policies in the war in drugs,' The Sentencing Project, a group promoting alternatives to prison, said in a statement. The group said the number of drug offenders in prisons and jails has risen from 40,000 in 1980 to more than 450,000 today. According to FBI figures, law officers in 2004 made more arrests for drug violations than for any other offense - about 1.7 million arrests, or 12.5 percent of all arrests. Those sentenced for drug offenses made up 55 percent of federal inmates in 2003, the report said."
According to AP, "Harrison [Paige Harrison, report co-author] attributed some of the prison population rise to tougher sentencing policies implemented in the 1990s. She said the average time served by prisoners today is seven months longer than it was in 1995. The Sentencing Project said the continued rise in prisoners despite falling crime rates raises questions about the country's imprisonment system. The group said the incarceration rate - 724 per 100,000 - is 25 percent higher than that of any other nation. 'Policymakers would be wise to reconsider the wisdom of current sentencing and drug policies, both to avoid expensive incarceration costs and to invest in more productive prevention and treatment approaches to crime,' Marc Mauer, the group's executive director, said. Another group, The Justice Policy Institute in Washington, said the statistics show little relationship between prison population growth and the crime rate, which has been falling in recent years. 'The nation does not have to lock more people up to have safer communities,' said Jason Ziedenberg, the institute's executive director."
The FBI issued its 2004 Uniform Crime Report on Oct. 17, 2005. Like other federal agencies, the FBI tries its best to spin the figures in the most favorable way. An examination of the data however reveals the truth.
The FBI stated in its news release of Oct. 17, 2005 ( "FBI Releases Crime Statistics For 2004"), "—According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and released today, from 2003 to 2004, the estimated volume of violent crime in the Nation declined 1.2 percent, and the estimated volume of property crime declined 1.1 percent. Further, the rate of violent crime estimated at 465.5 violent offenses per 100,000 in population decreased 2.2 percent, and the rate of property crime estimated at 3,517.1 property crimes per 100,000 inhabitants decreased 2.1 percent."
These are only reported crimes. The total number of crimes estimated to have been committed in 2004 is actually much higher. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in Sept. 2005 ( "Criminal Victimization, 2004") that "In 2004 U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced an estimated 24 million violent and property victimizations, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). (See Survey methodology, page 11.) These criminal victimizations included an estimated 18.6 million property crimes (burglary, motor vehicle theft, and theft), 5.2 million violent crimes (rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault), and 224,000 personal thefts (pocket picking and purse snatching)." (p. 1) As logically murder victims cannot respond to surveys, murders have been excluded from that count.
Put another way, as BJS reported that "During 2004, 50% of all violent victimizations and 39% of all property crimes were reported to the police. The percentage of violent crime reported differed among the specific types of crime. Robbery (61%) and aggravated assault (64%) were most frequently reported to police. Thirty-six percent of victims who experienced rape/sexual assault and 45% of the victims experiencing simple assault indicated that their victimization had been reported to the police. Motor vehicle theft continued to be the property crime most frequently reported to the police (85%). Fifty-three percent of burglaries and 32% of household thefts were reported to the police in 2004." (p. 10)
The FBI in its new report tried to respond to and mollify complaints that drug enforcement and juvenile justice authorities focus too harshly on communities of color. Thus, they reported in the UCR that "This report shows that the volume of juvenile arrests for drug abuse violations involving all drug types, collectively, increased 22.9 percent from 1994 to 2003. When an individual is arrested for a drug abuse violation, the reporting agency indicates the type of drug in one of four categories: opium or cocaine and their derivatives, marijuana, synthetic narcotics, and dangerous nonnarcotic drugs. The number of arrests of juveniles for three of the four drug types increased, except for opium or cocaine, which decreased 50.9 percent. In 1994, 60.6 percent of juveniles arrested for drug abuse violations were white; however, by 2003, that number had risen to 74.9 percent."
These figures are horribly misleading. The UCR program has long been criticized for failing to account for people of Hispanic/Latin American ethnicity. It is perfectly plausible to presume that many of these so-called "white" juveniles were in fact Hispanic.
The figures which most clearly point out the failure of law enforcement policies are the so-called "clearance" rates. According to the FBI, "In the UCR Program, a law enforcement agency reports that an offense is cleared by arrest, or solved for crime reporting purposes, when at least one person is: Arrested. Charged with the commission of the offense. Turned over to the court for prosecution (whether following arrest, court summons, or police notice)." The UCR for 2004 reports that "In 2004, law enforcement agencies in the United States cleared 46.3 percent of violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and 16.5 percent of property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft) brought to their attention. In addition, law enforcement cleared 17.1 percent of arson offenses, which are reported in a slightly different manner than the other property crimes."
The Government Accountability Office ( GAO) issued a report on Sept. 26, 2005, titled " Drug Offenders: Various Factors May Limit the Impacts of Federal Laws That Provide for Denial of Selected Benefits." According to GAO, "Several provisions of federal law allow for or require certain federal benefits to be denied to individuals convicted of drug offenses in federal or state courts. These benefits include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, federally assisted housing, postsecondary education assistance, and some federal contracts and licenses. Given the sizable population of drug offenders in the United States, the number and the impacts of federal denial of benefit provisions may be particularly important if the operations of these provisions work at cross purposes with recent federal initiatives intended to ease prisoner reentry and foster prisoner reintegration into society."
GAO found that:
Below is a table from the GAO's report.
A report by the Marijuana Policy Project released in early September 2005 finds that teen marijuana use appears to have declined in those states which have enacted laws allowing medical marijuana. According to MPP's Sept. 7, 2005 news release ( "New Report: Teen Marijuana Use Down in States With Medical Marijuana Laws"), "A new report released today provides strong evidence that state medical marijuana laws have not increased adolescent marijuana use, contradicting claims made by opponents of such laws. The report -- co-authored by substance abuse researcher Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., of the University at Albany, State University of New York, and Marijuana Policy Project Legislative Analyst Karen O'Keefe, Esq. -- is the first comprehensive analysis of all available data from state and national drug use surveys to determine trends in teen marijuana use in states with medical marijuana laws."
Among the report's key findings:
As MPP observed, "Opponents of medical marijuana laws regularly claim that such measures increase teen marijuana use by 'sending the wrong message to young people.' Most recently, such arguments were cited in June by Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) when he announced his veto of medical marijuana legislation. A vote to override that veto is pending in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 'While survey data alone cannot prove cause and effect, there is no evidence whatsoever that medical marijuana laws have increased teen marijuana use,' Dr. Mitch Earleywine said. 'None of the states with medical marijuana laws have seen an overall increase in adolescent marijuana use, and some have had huge reductions.' 'Again and again, opponents of medical marijuana laws claim that such proposals are dangerous because they encourage young people to use marijuana,' Karen O'Keefe said. 'There is now a massive body of data showing that no such effect has happened, and it's time for those who want to continue arresting patients to stop making unsubstantiated claims.'"
According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute released Aug. 25, 2005, marijuana arrests in the US have had little or no impact on the actual overall level of marijuana use even though the number of marijuana arrests has skyrocketed since the early 1990s.
According to JPI ( "Arrest Rates Having Little Impact On Marijuana Use"), "[D]ata shows little relationship between growing arrest rates for marijuana offenses and the drug’s use rate, despite it surpassing heroin and cocaine as leading category of drug arrest since the mid-1990s. In 'Efficacy and Impact: The Criminal Justice Response to Marijuana Policy in the United States,' the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) measured the effectiveness and consequences of national drug control policies that have resulted in the U.S. spending 300 times what it did 35 years ago on drug control. Criminal justice responses to marijuana - including law enforcement, judicial and corrections-accounted for $5.1 billion in 2000, according to Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron. Despite this increase in spending on drug control from $65 million to currently $19 billion, and the imprisonment of 30,000 people for a marijuana offense, marijuana usage has remained relatively unchanged regardless of arrest rates going up or down."
JPI in its release notes that "'Despite billions in new spending and hundreds of thousands of new arrests, marijuana use seems to be unaffected by the huge criminal justice response to this drug,' said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of JPI, and co-author of the report. According to Ziedenberg, as law enforcement focuses marijuana, a significant number of people are suffering from the impact of policies that do not seem to be deterring drug use. The report shows that throughout the past 20 years, marijuana usage has remained relatively stable, except for a dramatic drop of 61 percent during the eighties, when arrest rates declined 24 percent. When arrest rates increased 127 percent during the 1990’s, the rate of usage remained stable climbing only 22 percent."
The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study which shows that so-called "ultra-rapid" heroin detoxification is less effective and more dangerous than other, traditional methods. The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 24, 2005 ( "Heroin Detox Using Anesthesia Limited And Risky, Study Says") that "Using general anesthesia to help detoxify heroin addicts is no more effective than other treatments and potentially much more dangerous, says a study to be published today by Columbia University researchers. The method -- going by names such as "rapid detox" and "detox in a day" -- has been promoted as a quick and easy way to relieve the stress and pain of withdrawal from heroin as well as from more easily accessible opiates, such as Vicodin and OxyContin."
According to the Times, "Dr. Eric D. Collins, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia, studied 106 addicts, who were divided into three groups. One group was put under general anesthesia for about five hours and given a high dose of naltrexone, a drug used to neutralize heroin's effects. Another was given a heroin substitute called buprenorphine and eased onto naltrexone. A third group was given the antihypertensive clonidine, which lessens withdrawal symptoms. All patients were then offered 12 weeks of additional naltrexone therapy and psychotherapy designed to prevent a relapse into heroin use. None of the methods was very successful. The results showed high relapse rates, with 11% of the patients finishing treatment and providing no more than two heroin-positive urine samples. Three patients who underwent general anesthesia nearly died. One suffered a severe buildup of fluid in the lungs and pneumonia, and another developed dangerously high blood sugar levels. A third patient entered a bipolar mental state that required hospitalization. All of the incidents were related to the use of general anesthesia. The benefits of the method "were limited to the few hours when patients were under general anesthesia, and they came with risks that should be intolerable," said Collins, lead author of the study, to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn."
A copy of the article, "Anesthesia-Assisted vs Buprenorphine- or Clonidine-Assisted Heroin Detoxification and Naltrexone Induction -- A Randomized Trial," is available from the Journal or from this site as a PDF.
The US Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics released the results of a new survey of US jail inmates. The new report focuses on substance use by offenders. According to "Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002," "In 2002 more than two-thirds of jail inmates were found to be dependent on or to abuse alcohol or drugs, based on data from the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, 2002. Two in five inmates were dependent on alcohol or drugs, while nearly 1 in 4 abused alcohol or drugs, but were not dependent on them. Estimates of substance dependence or abuse were based on criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV)."
The report notes that "By specific type of substance, 53% of jail inmates were dependent on or abused drugs, compared to 47% for alcohol. About 36% of jail inmates were found to be dependent on drugs, and 18% abused drugs. Twenty-three percent of jail inmates were dependent on alcohol, and nearly 24% abused alcohol. An estimated 32% of inmates did not meet the criteria for substance dependence or abuse."
The report also notes the relationship between substance-using
offenders and family members who have been involved with
substances and with the criminal justice system. According
to the BJS:
The report breaks down the number of offenders as follows:
A policy report on the drug war prepared by the Blair government in June 2003 but withheld from the public was leaked to the press in early July 2005.
The Guardian reported on July 5, 2005 ( "Revealed: How Drugs War Failed") that "The profit margins for major traffickers of heroin into Britain are so high they outstrip luxury goods companies such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, according to a study that Downing Street is refusing to publish under freedom of information legislation. Only the first half of the strategy unit study led by the former director general of the BBC, Lord Birt, was released last Friday. The other half was withheld but has been leaked to the Guardian."
According to the Guardian, "It says that the traffickers enjoy such high profits that seizure rates of 60-80% are needed to have any serious impact on the flow of drugs into Britain but nothing greater than 20% has been achieved. The study concludes that the estimated UK annual supply of heroin and cocaine could be transported into the country in five standard-sized shipping containers but has a value which at a conservative estimate tops [4 billion UK pounds]."
The Guardian noted that "The report was presented in its full form to Tony Blair in June 2003. Only 52 of its 105 pages were published on Friday night on the eve of the Live 8 concert, with a note saying the rest was being withheld under the Freedom of Information Act. The government yesterday defended its decision not to publish the half of the report that delivers a scathing verdict on efforts to disrupt the drugs supply chain. The first 50 pages deal with drug consumption patterns and drug-related crime. A Downing Street spokeswoman said the second half contained information supplied by law enforcement agencies dealing with security matters, it concerned the formulation of government policy and its publication would be prejudicial to the conduct of public affairs. But critics last night said much of the unpublished material was already in the public domain. Among the data suppressed because it was supplied by an agency involved in security is a table on page 12 from the National Criminal Intelligence Service showing average street prices for various drugs. It estimates the average cost for a heavy user at UKP89 a week for cannabis and UKP525 for crack cocaine - information that is presumably at the fingertips of every hardcore drug abuser and dealer in the country."
According to the
Two reports of great significance were released by United Nations agencies on June 29, 2005.
First, as Reuters reported June 29, 2005 ( "Illegal Drug Trade A World Force"), "Annual worldwide illegal drug sales are greater than the gross domestic product of 88 percent of the countries in the world, the U.N. said on Wednesday. 'This is not a small enemy against which we struggle. It is a monster,' Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in an annual report."
According to Reuters, " The UN report, issued in Stockholm, said the global drug trade generated an estimated $321.6 billion in 2003, the latest year for which figures were available. 'The size of the world's illicit drug industry is thus equivalent to 0.9 percent of the world's GDP or higher than the GDP of 88 percent of the countries in the world,' Carsten Hyttel, East African representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told a Nairobi news conference."
However, as Reuters noted, "The bulk of the money - $214 billion - was made at the retail level; drugs sold in streets and back alleys. North America was the biggest buyer, and accounted for 44 percent of all estimated sales, followed by Europe with 33 percent. Africa was in last place with only 4 percent."
Electronic copies of UNODC's World Drug Report 2005 are available from the UNODC website.
Also on June 29th, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS released a progress report on international anti-AIDS efforts. As the Guardian reported on June 28, 2005 ( "Britain Rebuffs Call To Block Anti-AIDS Needle Exchanges"), "The US is pressing the UN to block the use of needle exchange programmes in countries where drug use is driving the spread of Aids, arguing that the schemes encourage users to continue their habit. But critics, including Britain, believe that the fight against Aids in eastern Europe, central Asia and other parts of the world could be jeopardised if the US manages to water down the UN's policy. The board of UNAids, the UN agency which coordinates the fight against the pandemic, is formulating a global prevention strategy in Geneva."
According to the Guardian, "Britain opposed the US position yesterday, when Gareth Thomas, the international development minister, told the meeting in his opening statement that the UK wants to see 'efforts to intensify harm reduction strategies, including needle and syringe exchange programmes'. He said: 'We support effective harm reduction programmes, especially needle and syringe exchange and methadone substitution therapy because they have been proven to reduce HIV infection among infecting drug users and their sexual partners in many countries.' The UK, he said, had 'a different approach' from the US."
The Guardian noted that "The row is critical, because needle sharing by injecting drug users is the main cause of the soaring figures for HIV/Aids infection in many countries, and provides a gateway for the spread of infection into the heterosexual community through the partners of drug users. Drug injecting is responsible for 80% of the cases in eastern Europe and central Asia, and is also driving the epidemic in a wide range of countries in the Middle East, north Africa, south and south-east Asia and Latin America. HIV prevalence within certain populations of drug injectors exceeds 80%. Europe accepts evidence from studies which have shown needle exchanges to curb the spread of infection, but the US, which will not fund such studies domestically, does not."
This issue, of HIV/AIDS and support for needle exchanges, dramatically illustrates the gap between the UN's drug control agency and the public health & medicine sector. As the Guardian noted, "The issue has already become fraught. At a meeting in Vienna earlier this year the UN agency responsible for the policing of narcotics, the United Nations office on drugs and crime, was forced to accept the US line and oppose needle exchanges. USAid, the American development agency, is not permitted to fund or be involved with programmes that include needle exchange. Democrats are lobbying against the government's position."
(For background on the US pressure on UNODC, see UN Office On Drugs And Crime Buckles Under US Pressure.)
In expressing its support for needle exchanges, the UNAIDS report decried the lack of political will and intestinal fortitude on the part of some governments, primarily the US. According to the report, "Increased testing presents new opportunities to link people to prevention and treatment services, to supply commodities such as condoms and clean injection equipment, and to provide appropriate prevention support for people living with HIV/AIDS as part of the continuum of care."
The report continues: "Injecting drug users have specific prevention and treatment needs, including testing and counselling, needle and syringe programmes [emphasis added], drug substitution therapy and ART. While the need to implement and integrate these services for this population is becoming increasingly clear in the era of ART, political commitment is still lacking in many of the countries where these services are needed most. (p. 21)
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime on the other hand avoided reference
to needle exchanges. Instead, they chose
to focus on the strategies of convincing injectors to quit injecting
and on getting other users to quit using. As UNODC wrote:
According to the UN, cocaine production in the Andean region increased in 2004. As the Associated Press reported on June 14, 2005 ( "UN Reports Cocaine Production Increasing"), "South America's cocaine output rose by 2 percent last year, bucking a five year downward trend as increases in Peru and Bolivia outpaced Colombia's clampdown on coca cultivation, a U.N. report showed Tuesday. Cocaine production rose 35 percent in Bolivia and 23 percent in Peru from 2003 to 2004, while falling 11 percent in Colombia, according to the annual survey from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime."
The UN's estimates are dramatically lower than those produced by the US government for that same year (see US Cocaine Production Estimates Reveal Little Or No Drop In Production In Spite Of Intense Eradication Campaign ).
The US Office of National Drug Control Policy may be 'cooking the books' in their estimates of Colombian cocaine production. According to a report by John Otis in the Houston Chronicle on June 22, 2005 ( "Drug War In Colombia Is There Any Progress?"), "According to the State Department, U.S. and Latin American security forces seized a record 373 metric tons of cocaine last year. Walters' office thinks annual consumption of the narcotic in the United States alone is about 300 metric tons. Taken together, the two figures exceed the White House estimate of the total produced in 2004. Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a U.S. official familiar with anti-drug operations insisted that South America 'could easily be producing well over 800 metric tons of cocaine per year.' The Florida-based Joint Interagency Task Force South, which includes Air Force, Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement Administration officials, put the figure even higher. The task force, which has seized huge caches of cocaine on the high seas, estimated 2004 production at 1,390 metric tons."
The Chronicle reported that "Some South American officials also have their doubts. Between 2003 and 2004, for example, the CIA numbers show Peru's coca crop shrinking by 13 percent. But Peruvian drug czar Nils Ericcson claims that coca acreage increased by 36 percent. In a 2002 cable, the U.S. Embassy in Bogota complained that CIA estimates were 'very wide of the mark and the apparent result of years of chronic underestimation of the amount of coca being cultivated in Colombia.' In fact, new information prompted the CIA in 2001 to nearly triple its original estimate of Colombian cocaine production during the late 1990s."According to the Chronicle, "The debate over drug numbers matters because Congress uses the White House figures as a measuring stick when determining the best way to spend nearly $1 billion annually in counternarcotics programs in South America. Bewildered by the conflicting data, two Republican lawmakers have asked the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to evaluate the Bush administration's anti-drug policies and to double-check its cocaine-production estimates. 'We need the most credible information possible if members are going to .. continue to support' current drug-enforcement efforts in South America, said David Marin, a spokesman for the House Government Reform Committee. The panel is chaired by Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who requested the GAO review along with Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley."
The Chronicle noted that "Measuring the clandestine drug trade has always required a mix of science and educated guessing. A recent report by the Washington Office on Latin America, a liberal think tank, cautioned that any results could be off by 25 percent or more. Yet critics say that the Bush administration has presented its 2004 estimates as irrefutable evidence that its anti-drug strategy in South America has traffickers on the run. 'You donf't stop midstream on something that has been very effective,' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during an April visit to Bogota. The U.N. survey and the huge cocaine estimate from the Florida task force, however, hint at a drug-war quagmire. The task force refused to discuss the methodology behind its estimate. But Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Center for International Policy who met with the task force earlier this year, said its members were 'dismissive' of White House claims that cocaine production is falling. 'They told me: 'We haven't seen any reduction in cocaine leaving the region,'' Isacson said."
The US Drug Czar's office on June 20, 2005, released the estimates for Mexican heroin and marijuana production in 2004. According to the Czar ( "2004 Marijuana And Opium Poppy Estimates For Mexico"), "Marijuana cultivation fell 23 percent between 2003 and 2004, to an estimated 5,800 hectares, down from 7,500 hectares in 2003. The Mexican government continued intensive efforts against the marijuana crop, eradicating 30,836 hectares for the year. Marijuana potential production fell to an estimated 10,400 metric tons (down from 13,400 the previous year). Opium poppy cultivation likewise fell in 2004, declining 27 percent to an estimated 3,500 hectares from 4,800 hectares in 2003. Mexican government forces eradicated 15,925 hectares of opium poppy. Potential production of heroin fell to an estimated nine metric tons (pure heroin equivalent), down from an estimated twelve metric tons in 2003."
Yet the decline touted by ONDCP isn't significant when viewed in context. The US State Dept.'s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for 2005 reveals that production in 2003 and 2004 were alarmingly high compared to historical levels, as this chart of Mexico production statistics from the State Dept's 2005 INCSR shows.
Jeffrey Miron, a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, released his report "Costs of Marijuana Prohibition: Economic Analysis" in June 2005. As reported on Forbes.com on June 2, 2005 ( "Milton Friedman: Legalize It!"), "Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist's report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year. The report, 'The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition,' ( available at www.prohibitioncosts.org ) was written by Jeffrey A. Miron, a professor at Harvard , and largely paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project ( MPP ), a Washington, D.C., group advocating the review and liberalization of marijuana laws."
"* Government prohibition of marijuana is the subject of ongoing debate.
"* One issue in this debate is the effect of marijuana prohibition on government budgets. Prohibition entails direct enforcement costs and prevents taxation of marijuana production and sale.
"* This report examines the budgetary implications of legalizing marijuana-taxing and regulating it like other goods-in all fifty states and at the federal level.
"* The report estimates that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government.
"* The report also estimates that marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.
"* Whether marijuana legalization is a desirable policy depends on many factors other than the budgetary impacts discussed here. But these impacts should be included in a rational debate about marijuana policy."
The US war on drugs has shifted to a war on marijuana, according to a report by the Sentencing Project released in May 2005. The Washington Post reported on May 4, 2005 ( "Marijuana Becomes Focus Of Drug War") that "The focus of the drug war in the United States has shifted significantly over the past decade from hard drugs to marijuana, which now accounts for nearly half of all drug arrests nationwide, according to an analysis of federal crime statistics released yesterday. The study of FBI data by a Washington-based think tank, the Sentencing Project, found that the proportion of heroin and cocaine cases plummeted from 55 percent of all drug arrests in 1992 to less than 30 percent 10 years later. During the same period, marijuana arrests rose from 28 percent of the total to 45 percent."
According to the Post, "Coming in the wake of the focus on crack cocaine in the late 1980s, the increasing emphasis on marijuana enforcement was accompanied by a dramatic rise in overall drug arrests, from fewer than 1.1 million in 1990 to more than 1.5 million a decade later. Eighty percent of that increase came from marijuana arrests, the study found. The rapid increase has not had a significant impact on prisons, however, because just 6 percent of the arrests resulted in felony convictions, the study found. The most widely quoted household survey on the topic has shown relatively little change in the overall rate of marijuana use over the same time period, experts said. 'In reality, the war on drugs as pursued in the 1990s was to a large degree a war on marijuana,' said Ryan S. King, the study's co-author and a research associate at the Sentencing Project. 'Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance, but that doesn't explain this level of growth over time . . . The question is, is this really where we want to be spending all our money?'"
Key findings from the report, "The War On Marijuana: The Transformation of the War on Drugs in the 1990s," include:
The US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported on April 25, 2005 ( "Nation's Prison and Jail Population Grew by 932 Inmates Per Week") that "The nation's prisons and jails held 2,131,180 inmates as of June 30, 2004, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Two-thirds were in federal and state prisons, and the other third were in local jails. Jail authorities were supervising an additional 70,548 men and women in the community in work release, weekend reporting, electronic monitoring and other alternative programs. The incarcerated population grew by 48,452 inmates between midyear 2003 and midyear 2004. Jail inmates grew by 3.3 percent, state prisoners by 1.3 percent, and federal prisoners by 6.3 percent. On June 30, 2004, there were an estimated 726 persons per 100,000 U.S. residents in prison or jail."
As reported by The Southern Illinoisan on April 24, 2005 ( "US Prisons Swell By Nearly 900 Inmates Per Week In 2004"), "Malcolm Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which promotes alternatives to prison: 'We're working under the burden of laws and practices that have developed over 30 years that have focused on punishment and prison as our primary response to crime.' He said many of those incarcerated are not serious or violent offenders, but are low-level drug offenders. Young said one way to help lower the number is to introduce drug treatment programs that offer effective ways of changing behavior and to provide appropriate assistance for the mentally ill. According to the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient system of punishment, the United States has a higher rate of incarceration than any other country, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria. There were 726 inmates for every 100,000 U.S. residents by June 30, 2004, compared with a year earlier, according to the report by the Justice Department agency. In 2004, one in every 138 U.S. residents was in prison or jail; the previous year it was one in every 140."
In March 2005, several reports appeared in the news media regarding a causal link between cannabis and psychosis. The National Post of Canada reported on March 10, 2005 ( "Study Links Pot-Smoking, Psychosis") that "Daily marijuana users are 1.6 to 1.8 times more likely to develop psychosis compared to non-users, a group of New Zealand scientists reported after following the health and development of 1,200 men and women born in 1977 for 25 years. The findings, published in the March edition of the journal Addiction, make it increasingly difficult for pot advocates to dismiss a growing body of evidence linking regular cannabis use with increased risks of psychosis, an outcome mental health experts have long suspected. 'This makes it more definitive,' says Harold Kalant, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Toronto. 'Most people accept that the link has been established beyond anyone's ability to dismiss it.'"
As is often the case, there is less here than meets the eye. The article, "Tests of Causal Linkages Between Cannabis Use and Psychotic Symptoms," by David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood and Elizabeth M. Ridder, though important, has flaws which bring its findings into question.
The first point that needs to be noted is that the researchers
did not perform or review actual diagnoses of these subjects
nor did they report on actual cases of mental illness. The
study looked only at self-reports of possible symptoms.
Indeed, the authors in their Addiction article were
much less hyperbolic in their conclusion:
Yet, are even these cautious conclusions justified by the data?
The number of symptoms being reported was actually rather low: non-users reported on average a maximum of 0.69 symptoms, while the daily users reported on average a maximum of 1.95 symptoms. What also went unreported by the news media was the fact that other user groups in the study, including the weekly users, showed a decline in the number of reported symptoms over time. Data from the report is printed below.
The researchers relied on a psychological screening instrument called the Symptom Checklist-90 to measure these symptoms. (The full checklist and the psychological constructs represented by the different problems/complaints can be viewed at the Medical Algoriths Project.) The symptoms examined by the researchers were:
As noted by Bruce Mirken and Mitch Earleywine in their article
"Psychosis, Hype and Baloney"
(AlterNet, March 7, 2005):
The researchers created quite elaborate formulae to determine the risk ratio for developing symptoms, accounting for several different variables in order to isolate the impact of marijuana use. Interestingly, though a number of socio-economic and cultural differences were taken into account the researchers didn’t look at ethnicity.
In a personal email communication to CSDP Research Director Doug McVay dated March 15, lead study researcher David Fergusson indicated that "between 12-15% of our cohort were Maori (depending on definition; just over 1% were Pacific Island and less than 1% were of Asian descent." (Maori is a name for the group of peoples displaced by European settlers in the country now called New Zealand.) The data in the report "were gathered during the course of the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS). The CHDS is a longitudinal study of an unselected birth cohort of 1265 children (635 males, 630 females) born in the Christchurch (New Zealand) urban region in mid-1977." According to the City of Christchurch's website at http://www.ccc.govt.nz/publications/cityprofile/2001/Maori.asp, 6.9% of the city’s population in 2001 was Maori.
(Note: An article on this subject by CSDP's Research Director Doug McVay is online at DrugWar.com.)
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in March 2005 released a report on the number of marijuana users referred to drug treatment from 1992 through 2002. According to SAMHSA, "Admission rates for primary marijuana increased nationally by 162 percent between 1992 and 2002 (Figure 1). Rates were calculated per 100,000 persons aged 12 or older. The number of marijuana admissions per year more than tripled in this time period. In the same period, the proportion of marijuana admissions increased from 6 percent of all admissions to 15 percent of all admissions."
In addition to mounting arrests, the number of cases referred through the criminal justice system has increased greatly since 1992. The TEDS data shows that in 2002, 58.1% of those reporting marijuana as their primary substance were referred to treatment by the criminal justice system directly; only 35.8% of all those referred to treatment that year were referred by the criminal justice system. In 1992, only 47.9% of those reporting marijuana as their primary substance had been referred through the criminal justice system; 33.3% of all those entering treatment that year were referred in that manner. Altogether from 1992-2002, 53.6% of those reporting marijuana as their primary substance were referred through the criminal justice system; 34% of all those entering treatment in that period were referred in that manner.
Also in that time, the criminal justice system has enthusiastically embraced the treatment-alternative-to-incarceration/drug court approach to handling drug using offenders. The US Office of Justice Programs Drug Court Clearinghouse at American University reported in its Drug Court Activity Update of Jan. 1, 2005 that in 1992, there were a total of ten drug courts operating in the US; by 2002, that number had grown to 1,086. At the beginning of 2005, there were a total of 1,262 drug courts. In addition, in 2000 California voters approved Prop 36, a law which "allows people convicted of 1st and 2nd time nonviolent, simple drug possession to receive drug treatment instead of incarceration." Efforts are ongoing in other states to enact similar legislation.
The question is begged, is treatment appropriate for these offenders, or are they seeking treatment because they see it as a preferred alternative to a criminal record along with a fine and/or imcarceration or an extended probation? One bit of data that should help get a handle on this are the diagnoses of these offenders. The treatment data reported by SAMHSA in its report deals only with the primary substance of abuse, which is "the main substance reported at the time of admission." The data for its report came from the Treatment Episode Data Set. According to SAMHSA, "The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) is a compilation of data on the demographic and substance abuse characteristics of admissions to substance abuse treatment. Information on treatment admissions are routinely collected by State administrative systems and then submitted to SAMHSA in a standard format."
Data from the TEDS series are available for analysis at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive at the University of Michigan's Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Though the data are incomplete for DSM diagnoses, the available figures show that of those reporting cannabis as their primary substance of abuse in 1992, 24.9% were diagnosed with cannabis dependence, and an additional 19.4% were diagnosed with cannabis abuse. By 2002, the figures had climbed somewhat: 37.6% of those reporting marijuana as their primary substance at admission were actually diagnosed with cannabis dependence and 24.8% were diagnosed with cannabis abuse. Over the period studied, 1992-2002, of all those reporting marijuana as their primary substance of abuse only 35.4% were diagnosed with cannabis dependence and 24.7% were diagnosed with cannabis abuse. Again, the data is quite incomplete -- only 24.6% of the cases from 1992-2002 could be examined. This does show improvement in data quality -- 21.5% of these cases in the datafile in 1992 had valid codes compared with 29.4% in 2002.
Finally, the data regarding self-referral and referrals through drug and alcohol abuse or other health care providers should be compared. In 1992, 22.5% of those with marijuana as their primary drug were 'individual' referrals, which include self-referrals; 7.4% were referred through alcohol/drug abuse care providers, and 6.3% were referred through other health care providers. In 2002, 16.6% were individual referrals, 5.4% were referred by alcohol/drug abuse care providers, and 4.7% were referred by other health care providers. So we do see somewhat of a decline in referrals from these other non-court-related sources.
A scandal involving the manipulation of crime statistics by the Broward County Sheriff's Office has led to the resignation of some senior officers and the reassignment of several others. According to the Miami Herald on Jan. 8, 2005 ( "Sheriff Shakes Up Top Staff In Crime-Statistics Scandal"), "Sheriff Ken Jenne announced changes in the Broward Sheriff's Office Friday to rectify the underreporting of crimes and overreporting of clearance rates.
According to the Herald:
The Herald also noted that "Critics of Powertrac say the system pressured deputies into downgrading crimes, failing to take reports and "exceptionally clearing" cases by blaming them on people who could not have committed the crimes. "Exceptional clearances" are cases where an offender is found to have committed a crime but no charge is filed. In some cases, one offender would admit to dozens of crimes but be formally charged with only one or two. All of the cases would be recorded as "cleared." Critics have suggested the regular Powertrac accountability sessions resemble an inquisition. Under the existing system, district chiefs and their top aides appear before Jenne and his command staff and are grilled about their ability -- or inability -- to lower crime rates area. The questioning, with the chief at the head of the room under bright lights, could be harsh and withering. A recent report by a consultant said some BSO personnel would call in sick to avoid facing Powertrac."
The Broward case is far from the first example of official doctoring of crime statistics. The Philadelphia police department had misreported crimes for years -- including the failure to report hundreds and perhaps thousands of rape cases -- as noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer in a series of articles dating back to 1997. Indeed, though the problem of the Philadelphia Police Dept's misreporting of crime has been known for some time, the problems may persist. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 22, 2003 ( "Many Cases Still Not Reported Crimes"), "Despite skyrocketing arrests and praise for a new sensitivity to victims, Philadelphia police are still classifying a large number of rape and child-abuse complaints as something other than crimes. New figures, compiled at The Inquirer's request, show that the Special Victims Unit coded one in four complaints last year as a noncrime. Inspector Joseph M. Mooney, whose command includes the unit, said he was surprised that the tally came up with such a relatively high total of such cases. Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project, said she, too, was surprised. For two years, her group, along with Women Organized Against Rape and advocates for abused children, has been auditing the rape squad's investigations. Tracy said this random review of cases had found no sign that police were dumping real crimes. But Tracy said that advocates would now focus on the noncrime cases in their review next month. With beat police sending more cases up for investigation, the rape unit's caseload has grown dramatically. It handled 5,600 cases last year - up 2,000 from five years ago. Mooney said he was confident his officers were not using noncrime categories to "park" cases. "Because of all the things that have gone on here, we scrutinize all these jobs," Mooney said, using a common police slang for cases. Before 2000, the unit was routinely ditching cases in a statistical limbo. In 1997, it coded 894 cases, a quarter of its caseload, under the heading of "investigation of person." The year before that, it put even more there - 1,999 cases. The unit has since banned that classification, but still uses other noncrime codes."
These cases are not unique. As the UK's online magazine The Inquirer reported on April 12, 2004 ( "US Cops In Software Flop"), "POLICE IN in Atlanta, New York City, and New Orleans are being saddled with accusations of massaging crime statistics because of new performance measurement software. According to the Miami Herald, a program called "Powertrac" has changed the culture of police departments nationwide, making officers more accountable to the public and more sensitive to how numbers affect their image."
The Inquirer continues:
The problem in Broward was detected some time ago, and Sheriff Jenne claimed that steps had been taken to rectify the situation. However, as the Miami Herald reported on Sept. 21, 2004 ( "System Blamed For BSO Troubles"), "Although Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne has made widespread reforms in the way his agency reports crime, he continues to use an intense reporting system that some deputies claim pressured them into making false reports. The Broward state attorney's office launched an investigation last October. Attorneys for several deputies say they expect prosecutors to indict some low- and mid-level deputies in the coming days or weeks, on charges related to falsifying those reports. Five months ago, Jenne publicly stated some of his deputies were inaccurately clearing cases, when the cases were not solved. Critics from inside the department say the inflated numbers were done to bolster BSO's image in the eyes of the public. Jenne has initiated a number of changes that he says will block attempts to fudge numbers. But he has long stood by an accountability system called Powertrac that maps crime and holds district-level supervisors responsible for the communities they supervise. Deputies and supervisors have told The Herald that pressure from the top to keep statistics down has led to false reporting."
According to the Herald, ""If you put enough pressure on the commanders and you make it consequential, you introduce a level of fear," said Stephen D. Mastrofski, a professor at George Mason University in Manassas, Va. "And this is what happens, the numbers change." Mastrofski has co-authored articles and books about CompStat -- an accountability program similar to Powertrac -- for the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit agency that works to improve policing methods. Mastrofski and a team of researchers studied three police departments that used CompStat. They found a common thread in the study released in 2003: CompStat puts pressure on middle managers and commanders. "Ideally, when [commanders] feel the heat, they bring the crime down, but water always finds the easiest path and so do people," Mastrofski said. "If you put enough pressure on them, you will find that some will cheat.""
Times have changed for Broward Sheriff Jenne, and for PowerTrac, as these articles from before the scandal broke indicate: "CompStat, Version 2.0," from The Blueprint, April 15, 2003, and this laudatory article from Sheriff Times, Summer 2000, "Sheriffs' Offices Go For Accountability."
The US Dept. of Health and Human Services released its 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (formerly known as the National Household Survey) on Sept. 9, 2004. According to HHS ("Nation's Youth Turning Away From Marijuana, As Perceptions Of Risk Rise; Most Adults With Substance Abuse Problems Are Employed"), "The findings, released by HHSâ€™ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), show that while overall, the change in the category 'current use of any illicit drug'€ť was not statistically significant, the use of some drugs decreased sharply. For youth, 12-17, past year use of Ecstasy and LSD dropped precipitously, by 41 percent for Ecstasy and 54 percent for LSD. Overall, 19.5 million Americans ages 12 and older, 8 percent of this population, currently use illicit drugs. The data indicate that of the 16.7 million adult users (18 and older) of illicit drugs in 2003, about 74 percent were employed either full time or part time."
According to HHS, "The survey reported 21.6 million Americans in 2003 classified with dependence on drugs, alcohol, or both (9.1 percent of the population ages 12 and older). Over 20 million persons needed but did not receive treatment for an alcohol or drug problem in 2002 and 2003, but the number receiving specialized substance abuse treatment declined from 2.3 million in 2002 to 1.9 million in 2003. Of the 20 million people in need of treatment in 2003 who did not receive it, about 1 million recognized that need. Only 273,000 tried to obtain treatment and were unable to access it. The other 764,000 made no effort to get treatment."
To deal with this huge perceived need for treatment services, HHS says that "President Bushâ€™s fiscal year 2005 budget request includes a 5 percent increase for substance abuse treatment, prevention and research, including a doubling of the funding for the Access to Recovery treatment program. President Bush is requesting $200 million for Access to Recovery, which provides vouchers to individuals to access drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment programs. With the doubling of the budget, Access to Recovery would help 100,000 people who want to obtain drug and alcohol treatment services but canâ€™t afford them."
A report by the European Union's drugs monitoring agency, the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, in June 2004 released a report on cannabis potency. As reported by The Guardian newspaper of London, England ( "Extra-High Cannabis Theory Goes Up In Smoke"), "The effective strength of cannabis consumed in Britain has remained stable for the past 30 years, according to a European Union study published today. The research says there is no evidence for claims that most cannabis consumed in Britain and the rest of Europe is now 10 times or more stronger than it was in the 70s. The US drugs "tsar" John Walters and toxicologist John Henry of St Mary's hospital in Paddington, west London, are among those who have warned that the cannabis available now bears little resemblance to that on the market 30 years ago, with serious health dangers for regular users. The EU study says that the strength of the active ingredient - THC - has remained unchanged at about 6% for most of the cannabis smoked in Britain. It says the amount of cannabis put in the typical British joint has also remained constant for 20 years at about 200mg for marijuana and 150mg for resin."
According to The Guardian, "The research, published by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction, is the first European review of the potency of cannabis. 'There has been much speculation on the strength of cannabis available today, but little in the way of hard evidence,' said its director, Georges Estievenart. He said the concerns that had been raised were worrying as cannabis was the most commonly used illicit drug in the EU, with many countries reporting that more than 20% of people had used it at some time in their lives. The study was complicated by the fact that not only do different types of cannabis such as resin or hash have different strengths, but potency also depends on the individual plant and on how and where it was grown. The vintage can also have an impact on its strength with THC breaking down at a rate of 17% a year if it is kept at room temperature. The report shows that the effective potency of cannabis in nearly all EU countries, including Britain, has remained at about 6%-8% THC in the last 30 years, with the only exception being the Netherlands, where by two years ago the strength of the average cannabis consumed had reached 16%. This is mainly due to the increasing availability of intensively produced home-grown cannabis in Holland."
The report, "EMCDDA Insights 6: An Overview Of Cannabis Potency In Europe," is available in PDF from the CSDP website or through the EMCDDA website. Following are a couple of interesting passages from the report.
"Statements in the popular media that the potency of cannabis has increased by ten times or more in recent decades are not supported by the limited data that are available from either the USA or Europe. The greatest long-term changes in potency appear to have occurred in the USA. It should be noted here that before 1980 herbal cannabis potency in the USA was very low by European standards." (p. 14)
"The natural variation in the THC content between and within samples of herbal cannabis or cannabis resin at any one time and place far exceeds any long-term changes that may have occurred either in Europe or the USA. This natural variation is even greater when material from different geographical locations is examined." (p. 15)
"The conclusion of this report is that there have been modest changes in THC levels that are largely confined to the relatively recent appearance on the market of intensively cultivated domestically produced cannabis. Cannabis of this type is typically more potent, although it is also clear that the THC content of cannabis products in general is extremely variable and that there have always been some samples that have had a high potency." (p. 16)
Researchers are suing the federal government over its marijuana research policies. The San Jose Mercury News reported on July 21, 2004 ( "US Scientists Sue Over Marijuana Studies) that "In lawsuits to be filed today, researchers assert that Washington is refusing to act on legitimate research projects and delaying studies that could lead to marijuana's use as a prescription drug. 'There is an urgent need for an alternative supply of marijuana for medical research,' said Lyle Craker, director of the Medicinal Plant Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the main force behind the lawsuits. The National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA ), part of the Health and Human Services Department, 'maintains a monopoly on research marijuana. Many researchers believe that NIDA's monopoly is an obstacle to getting needed studies done on a timely basis,' Craker said in a statement. The lawsuits, which target the Drug Enforcement Administration, HHS, NIDA and the National Institutes of Health, are being filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia."
The Mercury News noted that "Joining Craker in filing the suit are Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and Valerie Corral, co-founder of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, who uses marijuana to control epileptic seizures."
A study performed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, found that there is no association between marijuana use and incidence of oral cancer. The Hutch reported on June 1, 2004 ( "Association Between Marijuana Use And Incidence Of Oral Cancer"), that "Contrary to previous research findings that have suggested a link, marijuana use does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of developing oral cancer, according to a large, population-based study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Their findings, the result of the most comprehensive evaluation to date regarding the association between marijuana use and the incidence of oral squamous-cell carcinoma, appear in the June issue of Cancer Research, a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research."
According to the Hutch's release, "The study, conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Seattle's Center for Health Studies, Group Health Cooperative, found no association between marijuana use and increased oral-cancer risk, regardless of how long, how much or how often a person has used marijuana. The study also found no increased risk among marijuana users who had other underlying risk factors for oral cancer, such as a history of tobacco use or heavy alcohol use. "When asking whether any marijuana use puts you at increased risk of oral cancer, our study is pretty solid in saying there's nothing going on there," said Stephen M. Schwartz, Ph.D., a member of Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division and the senior author of the study. The study also found that marijuana smokers with certain common genetic variations that are known to interfere with the body's detoxification process are at no greater risk of oral cancer than those who carry normal copies of such genes."
According to the study, "Marijuana Use And Risk Of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma" (Cancer Research 64, 4049-4054, June 1, 2004), "There were no trends in risk observed with increasing duration or average frequency of use or time since first or last use. No subgroup defined by known or suspected OSCC [oral squamous cell carcinoma] risk factors (age, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and genetic polymorphisms) showed an increased risk. Marijuana use was not associated with OSCC risk in this large, population-based study." This is notable particularly because, as the authors noted, "Previous laboratory investigations, case reports, and a hospital-based case-control study have suggested that marijuana use may be a risk factor for squamous cell head and neck cancer."
Researchers have found that home environment and upbringing have a greater impact than prenatal drug use in several areas of a child's development, but that prenatal cocaine exposure does have some affect. According to results the study ( "Cognitive Outcomes Of Preschool Children With Prenatal Cocaine Exposure"), published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 26, 2004, "After controlling for confounding variables, prenatal cocaine exposure was not associated with lower full-scale, verbal, or performance IQ scores at age 4 years, but did predict significant deficits in specific cognitive skills underlying intellectual functioning and attenuated the incidence of IQ scores above the normative mean, even for children in better home environments. Further, higher concentrations of cocaine metabolites in infant meconium were significantly related to lower verbal IQ and arithmetic scores. Importantly, however, the quality of the caregiving environment appeared to have substantial compensatory effects on cocaine-exposed children placed in adoptive or foster care. Cocaine-exposed children placed in adoptive care achieved performance similar to nonexposed children living in less stimulating, lower socioeconomic status home environments. Indeed, environmental intervention through foster or adoptive care was associated with a lower likelihood of mental retardation among cocaine-exposed children, despite heavier drug exposure."
The policy implications of this research are unclear. The authors however in their conclusion suggest that "In addition, our findings underscore the beneficial effects of environmental intervention in the prevention of mental retardation for cocaine-exposed children. Drug treatment and education for this population of pregnant women, along with intensive intervention for their offspring, are essential to help maximize the future well-being of these families."
The US Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its Prison & Jail Inmates at Midyear 2003 report in late May, 2004. According to the report, "At midyear 2003 the Nation's prisons and jails incarcerated 2,078,570 persons. Prisoners in the custody of the 50 States and the Federal Government accounted for two-thirds of the incarcerated population (1,380,776 inmates). The other third were held in local jails (691,301)."
The report notes that
"Between yearend 1995 and midyear 2003, the incarcerated
population grew an average of 3.7% annually.
The researchers further report that:
Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on May 11, 2004 ( "Displacement of Canada's largest public illicit drug market in response to a police crackdown") shows that a police crackdown on one of Canada's largest illicit drug markets has had unintended negative consequences and very few positive benefits.
According to the report, "In April 2003 the Vancouver Police Department embarked on a large-scale enforcement operation aimed at illicit drug users (IDUs) in the city's Downtown Eastside (DTES). The stated goals of the "crackdown" involved "disrupting the open drug market and interrupting the cycle of crime and drug use that marks the streets of the Downtown Eastside." The estimated cost of the crackdown to taxpayers was an additional $2.3 million. In the first several weeks of the operation an additional 236 trafficking charges against 162 individuals were reported."
The researchers note that "In an effort to identify effects of the crackdown, we investigated whether there were changes in the reported drug prices, patterns of drug use and general perceptions of the effect of police activities on the drug market. We also examined drug use in the community by evaluating statistics from the needle-exchange program, which is based in the DTES. Using statistics compiled by the City of Vancouver, we examined changes in the use of outdoor public boxes for the safe disposal of syringes and in unsafe syringe disposal. Since public injection drug use and dealing have historically been concentrated on the corner of the DTES's Main and Hastings streets, we defined the area within a 1-block radius of the corner of Main and Hastings as "the core" and peripheral areas in the DTES as "outside the core." Exchange and disposal data are available on only a monthly basis; therefore, we compared the 3 months before Apr. 1, 2003, with the 3 months after this date."
The researchers concluded that, far from being success, the increased law enforcement activity had a negative impact: "In summary, we detected no reduction in drug-use frequency or drug price in response to a large-scale police crackdown in Vancouver's DTES. Our results support anecdotal reports of increased public drug use and displacement of drug users,27 and they probably explain increases in drug-related sex-trade activity28 and crime in areas outside the DTES. The crackdown also increased the rates of unsafe syringe disposal and significantly reduced the proportion of syringes being returned to the city's largest needle exchange. The displacement of the drug market to new areas has substantial public-health implications, including the potential for an increased risk of new initiates into injection drug use."
Researchers from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) published an article on marijuana dependence and abuse in the May 5, 2004 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The article, "Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002," is available by clicking here.
According to the authors, "The results of this study show that marijuana use in the total adult population has remained substantially unchanged over the decade from 1991-1992 to 2001-2002. However, significant increases in use among some subgroups are important to note, for instance, young black and Hispanic women. In contrast to the results for use among the overall population, rates of abuse or dependence increased from 1991-1992 to 2001-2002. What is perhaps even more significant is that marijuana abuse or dependence increased among marijuana users by 18% from 30.2% in 1991-1992 to 35.6% in 2001-2002."
The authors further noted that "Past-year marijuana use was reported by 4.0% of the respondents in the 1991-1992 NLAES and 4.1% of the respondents in the 2001-2002 NESARC (TABLE 1). Marijuana use did not significantly increase in the full sample or among males or females, or among whites, blacks, or Hispanics overall." (Note: NLAES = National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, NESARC = National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.) According to the article, "The target population for each survey was the civilian noninstitutionalized population, 18 years and older, residing in the United States. The fieldwork for both studies was conducted by the US Census Bureau, under the direction of NIAAA staff."
Questions about the quality of the survey data are raised because of the unexplained, surprisingly low reported use rates. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2002 estimated that 11% of Americans over age 12 had used marijuana in the previous year. Looking only at those 18+, the nsDUH02 survey shows a rate of roughly 10.3% past year users -- a figure 150% higher than that found by the NESARC. Interestingly, the Household Survey has been frequently criticized by drug policy researchers and reformers for under-reporting true rates of use.
In addition, unlike the NESARC data covered in the JAMA article,
the NHSDA and nsDUH data show a marked rise in use rates from
1992 to 2002. According to the NHSDA Main Findings 1998 report,
in 1992, marijuana use was reported by:
According to the nsDUH report, following marijuana use rates had risen by 2002:
The nsDUH02 report is available from the SAMHSA website. You can also view view a summary of the nsDUH results by clicking here. You can also directly download a PDF copy of the Overview, a PDF copy of the Results, and a PDF copy of the Detailed Tables.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has released what may be its final evaluation of ONDCP's Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The evaluations have been conducted by Westat and the Annenberg School of Communications under a grant from NIDA. According to Advertising Age on Jan. 19, 2004 ( "Study Faults White House Anti-Drug Ads"), "A study commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA ) has concluded that the advertising program of the White House anti-drug office has had little impact on its primary target: America's teenagers. Conducted jointly by the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Westat, a 30-year-old research firm in Rockville, Md., the analysis concluded that "there is little evidence of direct favorable [advertising] campaign effects on youth.""
The report noted "The drug office spends $150 million a year on advertising, and those expenditures have been the subject of ongoing controversy in Congress. The NIDA report covers the advertising campaign's start in September 1999 through June 2003. Entitled "Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign: 2003 Report of Findings," the report issued by NIDA notes that the advertising campaigns have had a "favorable effect" on parents but not on the children, whose illicit drug use is the focus of the ads."
Copies of the evaluation, as well as previous evaluations, can be downloaded from NIDA's website at www.nida.nih.gov/despr/westat/.
The following are some pertinent quotes from the report. For more information on the ONDCP ad campaign and on other prevention efforts, see Drug War Facts: Adolescents / Education & Prevention of Substance Abuse.
"The NSPY [National Survey of Parents and Youth] did not find significant reductions in marijuana us either leading up to or
after the Marijuana campaign for youth 12 to 18 years old
between 2002 and 2003. Indeed there was evidence for an increase
in past month and past year use among the target audience of
14- to 16-year-olds, although it appears that the increase was
already in place in the last half of 2002, before the launch of
the Marijuana Initiative. It will be worthwhile to track whether
the nonsignificant decline from the second half of 2002 through
the first half of 2003 is the beginning of a true trend. There
was a significant decrease in lifetime marijuana use among youth
16 to 18 years of age from 2002 to 2003; however, since this
significant decrease was not replicated in either the
directly relevant past year or past month time periods, it
is difficult to ascribe the change to the campaign."
Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor released data for their 2003 Monitoring The Future survey of teenage drug use in late December 2003. (See, for example, "Fewer Teens Report They Abuse Drugs," from the Dec. 20, 2003 Washington (DC) Post.)
Data on "Trends in 30-Day Prevalence of Daily Use of Various Drugs for Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth Graders" in Table 3, available at http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/03data/pr03t3.pdf shows that among 12th graders, daily use of marijuana or hashish remained steady at 6.0%, the highest reported level of use in over a decade. Eighth and 10th graders did show declines from 2003 to 2002, but the change was small: 1.0% in 2003 from 1.2% in 2002 for 8th graders, 3.6% in 2002 from 3.9% in 2003 for 10th graders. These rates are dramatically higher than those which had been reported in the early 1990s.
Though 10th and 12th graders showed some decline in daily use of alcohol in 2003 -- 1.5% of 10th graders reporting daily use of alcohol in 2003, down from 1.8% in 2002, and 3.2% of 12th graders using daily compared with 3.5% in 2002 -- the number of 8th graders admitting to daily use of alcohol went up slightly: 0.8% in 2003, compared with 0.7% in 2002. The number of students admitting to being drunk daily remained level for 8th and 10th graders for 2003, while the number of 12th graders admitting to being drunk daily went up in 2003, to 1.6%, from 1.2% in 2002.
The surveys, conducted among 12th graders since 1975 and among 8th and 10th graders since 1991, are funded by the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse. Copies of the news releases and data tables and figures are available from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/03data.html. The overview of survey results was not yet available electronically when this was written on 12/22/03 at 1pm. It will be available from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs.html or http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/new.html when it is released.
The agency which tracks drug use in the EU, the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, released its two major annual reports on Oct. 22, 2003.
The first, "The State of the Drugs Problem in the European Union and Norway," deals with the current member states of the EU, while the second, as the title indicates, focuses on "The State of the Drugs Problem in the Acceding and Candidate Countries to the European Union."
According to EMCDDA's
"Agency chief Georges Estievenart said today:
'Although there are some grounds for cautious optimism
when examining the European drugs problem, these are outweighed
by concern that we are not having sufficient impact on severe,
long-term drug use or on regular drug use by a worrying number
of young people in many EU countries. What is more, our
indicators suggest that, overall, the drug-use trend remains
upwards and new problems are emerging, such as growing cocaine
use in some big cities.'
Some selected highlights follow:
"Surveys conducted between 2000 and 2002 estimate that, at least one in five (20%) adult Europeans have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime. Figures for young people between 15 and 34 years are generally even higher, ranging to up to 44% - Spain (35%), France (40%), the UK (42%) and Denmark (44%). Estimates of recent (previous year) use among this age group range in most countries from 5-20%. At the higher end of the scale are Spain (17%), Ireland (17%), the UK (19%) and France (20%), while at the lower end are Sweden (1%), Finland (5%), Portugal (6%) and Norway (8%)."
"The total number of cocaine seizures in the EU has risen steadily since the 1980s with a marked increase noted in 2001. Street prices have stabilised or decreased in all countries in recent years, although they increased in Norway. Cocaine purity remains generally stable in every Member State, although increases were reported in 2001 by Denmark, Germany, Portugal and the UK."
"In most countries, problem drug use is characterised by chronic opiate use, except in Sweden and Finland where amphetamines play a key role. National estimates of problem drug use vary from 2-10 cases per 1 000 adults: some 1-1.5 million Europeans. The highest rates are reported in Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and the UK (6-10 cases per 1,000 adults). Rates are lowest in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria (3 cases per 1,000 adults)." Further, the EMCDDA notes that though estimates of problem drug use are difficult and must be read with caution, "available data suggest a rise since the mid-1990s in at least half of the 16 reporting countries. Of these, eight report higher estimates of problem drug use: Germany, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden and for injecting drug use Belgium and Norway."
"Countries continue to modify legislation to facilitate the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users and addicts (e.g. Germany, Greece, Luxembourg and Finland)."
"The prevention and reduction of health-related harm
associated with drug dependence has become an integral part of
the response to drugs across Europe.
The situation in the candidate countries is markedly different. As the EMCDDA noted in a news release on the candidate countries report, "Presenting the report, Agency chief Georges Estievenart said: 'EU enlargement throws up an array of public concerns that cannot be ignored. Among these are increased drug trafficking, escalating drug use in the new Member States and the spread of infectious diseases. But enlargement also offers countries a unique opportunity to benefit from closer collaboration. This report hits a positive note on how progress can be achieved by new and old Member States' working together to respond to this shared problem through sound analysis and better-informed action.'"
Particular highlights follow:
"Today’s report warns that some east European countries are
'threatened by the most rapidly developing HIV epidemic in
the world'. In particular it cites recent and sudden increases
in HIV infection among injecting drug users (IDUs) in two of the
Baltic States - Estonia and Latvia - where infection has spread at
an 'alarming rate', with prevalence rates at up to 13%
and 12% respectively in national samples of IDUs. Figures from
2001 show a 41% local prevalence rate among IDUs in the
Estonian capital Tallinn. And data from the same year point to a
282% rise in newly diagnosed HIV infections among IDUs in Estonia
and a 67% rise in Latvia. These rises might be due to the
increased availability of heroin in the region in the late
1990s, combined with low risk-awareness among users and high-risk injecting behaviour.
"Reducing drug-related harm, especially infectious diseases
and overdose deaths, is one of the six objectives of the EU
action plan on drugs (2000-2004) and a clear priority in most
EU countries. Associated public health measures include:
providing access to clean injecting equipment; distributing
condoms; testing and counselling for infectious diseases;
risk-awareness education for drug users; low-threshold
drop-in centres; HBV vaccination and HIV/AIDS treatment.
"Where legal attitudes to drugs are concerned, some
countries have tended to criminalise the possession of drugs
for personal use and/or drug use per se since 1990. This
contrasts with more recent drug law modifications in some
EU countries, which have addressed this question quite
The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released its 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse) on Sept. 5, 2003. According to SAMHSA ( "22 Million In US Suffer From Substance Dependence Or Abuse"), "In 2002, an estimated 22 million Americans suffered from substance dependence or abuse due to drugs, alcohol or both, according to the newest results of the Household Survey released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). There were 19.5 million Americans, 8.3 percent of the population ages 12 or older, who currently used illicit drugs, 54 million who participated in binge drinking in the previous 30 days, and 15.9 million who were heavy drinkers."
SAMHSA also notes that
"The report highlights that 7.7 million people, 3.3
percent of the total population ages 12 and older, needed treatment
for a diagnosable drug problem and 18.6 million, 7.9 per cent of
the population, needed treatment for a serious alcohol problem.
Only 1.4 million received specialized substance abuse treatment
for an illicit drug problem and 1.5 million received treatment for
alcohol problems. Over 94 percent of people with substance use
disorders who did not receive treatment did not believe
they needed treatment.
The nsDUH02 report is available from the SAMHSA website. You can also view view a summary of the nsDUH results by clicking here. You can also directly download a PDF copy of the Overview, a PDF copy of the Results, and a PDF copy of the Detailed Tables.
Research published in the respected medical journal The Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that marijuana use does not impair the immune systems of individuals with HIV, and may even lead to improvements. The Reuters news service reported on Aug. 18, 2003 ( "Marijuana Use Does Not Accelerate HIV Infection"), that "Dr. Donald I. Abrams, from the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues assessed the outcomes of 67 HIV-infected patients who were randomly assigned to use marijuana cigarettes, cannabinoid capsules, or sugar pills ( placebo ) three times daily for 21 days. All of the patients had been receiving the same antiretroviral regimen, which included indinavir or nelfinavir, for at least 8 weeks before the study began. More than half of the subjects in each group had undetectable viral loads throughout the study, the researchers note. Although not statistically significant, marijuana and cannabinoid use were actually associated with a slight drop in viral load compared with placebo use. Marijuana and cannabinoid use did not produce a drop in CD4+ or CD8+ cell counts. In fact, compared with placebo use, treatment with these agents was actually associated with a slight increase in cell counts. The results suggest that short-term cannabinoid use is not unsafe for patients with HIV infection, the authors note. "Further studies investigating the therapeutic potential of marijuana and other cannabinoids in patients with HIV infection and other populations are ongoing and should provide additional safety information over longer exposure periods," they write."
A copy of the study, "Short Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection," is available online.
The US Justice Dept.'s Bureau of Justice Statistics released its Prisoners In 2002 report on July 27, 2003. The annual survey of state and federal prison populations in the US revealed that "The country's prisons, jails and juvenile facilities held 2,166,260 persons at the end of last year," according to the BJS news release. According to BJS, "During 2002 the 2.6 percent growth in the number of inmates under state and federal jurisdiction was more than twice the 2001 growth (1.1 percent) but less than the average annual growth of 3.6 percent since year-end 1995. The 2002 prisoner increase was equal to an additional 700 more inmates every week during the year. At the end of last year there were 476 inmates serving sentences of at least one year in federal or state prisons per 100,000 U.S. residents -- up from 411 inmates in 1995. About 1 in every 143 U.S. residents were in state or federal prison or a local jail, as of last December 31."
According to BJS, the federal prison system is now larger than any state prison system. Much of that growth has been driven by the drug war: "Growth in the federal system from 1995 to 2001 (up 61 percent) is attributed largely to the increase in drug offenders (accounting for 48 percent of the total growth) and immigration offenders (21 percent of the increase)." According to the report, 55% of inmates in federal prisons are drug offenders.
The cost of imprisoning so many drug offenders is enormous.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy, in its annual
drug strategy budget report released in 2002 estimated that the
Feds spend about $3 billion a year on incarcerating
drug offenders (2002 enacted: $2.5 billion by the Bureau
of Prisons, $429 million by Federal Prisoner Detention).
For more information on the cost of incarceration and the drug war
in general, see:
In a meta-analysis published by the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society in July, researchers from the University of California - San Diego report that cannabis use does not cause permanent brain damage. As reported by Reuters Health Information on June 27, 2003 ( "Study: Pot Doesn't Cause Permanent Brain Damage"), "Smoking marijuana will certainly affect perception, but it does not cause permanent brain damage, researchers from the University of California at San Diego said on Friday in a study. 'The findings were kind of a surprise. One might have expected to see more impairment of higher mental function,' said Dr. Igor Grant, a UCSD professor of psychiatry and the study's lead author. Other illegal drugs, or even alcohol, can cause brain damage. His team analyzed data from 15 previously published, controlled studies into the impact of long-term, recreational cannabis use on the neurocognitive ability of adults. The studies tested the mental functions of routine pot smokers, but not while they were actually high, Grant said. The results, published in the July issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, show that marijuana has only a marginally harmful long-term effect on learning and memory."
A copy of the published article is available as a PDF from the Center for Medical Cannabis Research or from the CSDP Research Section, also in PDF. For additional information, check out UCSD's Center for Medical Cannabis Research.
According to the study,
"Non-Acute (Residual) Neurocognitive Effects Of
Cannabis Use: A Meta-Analytic Study":
Research sponsored by NIDA on drug testing in the schools has finally been released, and the results are not surprising: Drug testing fails to have any impact on drug use by students in general, and also fails to deter drug use by male student athletes. (This finding is in stark contrast to the advance reports of this research, leaked to the NY Times in late 2002. See Federal Study: Urine Testing May Keep Student Athletes Off Easily-Detected Drugs, below for more info.)
The report, "Relationship Between Student Illicit Drug Use and School Drug-Testing Policies,", is published in the Journal of School Health in its April 2003 edition (Vol. 73, No. 4) (not the Journal of Adolescent Health, as reported by the Times in 2002). The Journal is the peer-reviewed publication of the American School Health Association.
According to the researchers:
Copies of the article are available free through the Monitoring The Future website, or directly as a PDF by clicking here. For more information on drug testing, see the Drug Testing section of Drug War Facts.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics announced on Sunday, April 6, 2003 that US prisons and jails now hold more than two million inmates. According to the BJS report, Prison and Jail Inmates 2002, US prisons and jails held more than 2.1 million inmates as of June 30, 2002. According to an Associated Press report in the Sun News on April 7, 2003 ( "US Prisoners Top 2 Million For First Time"), "The number of people in U.S. prisons and jails last year topped 2 million for the first time, driven by get-tough sentencing policies that mandate long terms for drug offenders and other criminals, the government reported Sunday. The federal government accounted for more inmates than any state, with almost 162,000, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. That includes the transfer of about 8,900 District of Columbia prisoners to the federal system. California, Texas, Florida and New York were the four biggest state prison systems, mirroring their status as the most populous states."
This continues a long-term trend in US corrections. According to the AP, "Malcolm Young, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said the increase continues a prison growth trend stemming from tough penalties meted out to drug abusers and traffickers, as well as 'three strikes' laws that can mandate life sentences for repeat offenders. 'It's part of the get-tough scheme. It's been going on for 30 years,' said Young, whose nonprofit organization advocates alternatives to incarceration, such as drug courts and treatment programs."
Some states, facing severe budget problems, are working to get a handle on prison populations growth, adopting innovative ideas such as probation for nonviolent offenders such as that mandated by California's Proposition 36. "But Texas, California, New York, Illinois and five other states saw their inmate populations drop compared with the year before, as prison releases outpaced admissions. Some states modified parole rules to deal with steep budget shortfalls, leading to an overall growth rate in state prison populations of just less than 1 percent from June 2001 to June 2002."
The National Institute on Drug Abuse released the Fifth Semiannual Evaluation of the Antidrug Media Campaign in Jan. 2003. The report, prepared in November 2002, like the previous evaluations, found that the campaign has had little or no positive impacts on young people, and in some respects may be counterproductive.
Although the evaluation notes that parents report better parenting behaviors after exposure to the ads, there is reason to doubt the parents: their kids report little or no change in the parents' behavior.
The Fifth evaluation, along with earlier reports, may be downloaded from http://www.nida.nih.gov/despr/westat/ . The full report is a large (17 megs) file. (Ed. Note: The meatiest bits are to be found in the 5th and 6th chapters.)
According to the Fifth Evaluation:
"There is no statistically significant change for the full
12- to 18-year-old sample in intentions to use marijuana once
or twice over the five waves of measurement among prior
nonusers. There is, however, a small trend, unfavorable to the
Campaign, on marijuana intentions among 14- to 18-year-old
nonusers. The downward trend appears to be statistically equivalent
among both the 14- to 15-year-olds and 16- to 18-year-olds."
The Journal of the American Medical Association features an article on 'gateway theory' in its Jan. 22/29, 2003 edition. According to the article, "Early Onset of Drug Use in Early-Onset Cannabis Users vs. Co-twin Controls," " While the findings of this study indicate that early cannabis use is associated with increased risks of progression to other illicit drug use and drug abuse/dependence, it is not possible to draw strong causal conclusions solely on the basis of the associations shown in this study."
Indeed, according to the study's authors:
Indeed, rather than cannabis, the research seems to point to early use of tobacco or alcohol as more of a predictor of later use of other drugs and of later problem drug use. The report notes that "While covariates differed between equations, early regular use of tobacco and alcohol emerged as the 2 factors most consistently associated with later illicit drug use and abuse/dependence. While early regular alcohol use did not emerge as a significant independent predictor of alcohol dependence, this finding should be treated with considerable caution, as our study did not provide an optimal strategy for assessing the effects of early alcohol use."
Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, this research is being misreported in the popular press, see for example this article from the Boston Globe on Jan. 22, 2003, "Study On Twins Supports View Of Marijuana As A Gateway Drug." Fortunately, the article itself is available free online, and also a PDF of the full article is stored in the CSDP research section, along with a PDF of an accompanying editorial.
Tired of the inaccurate reporting of misinterpreted research in the popular media? Want a way to debunk the myths of the drug war? Check out this new Common Sense website, DrugWarDistortions.org, and get the straight scoop.
Research in Canada into the effects of law enforcement on illegal drug use has found that such policies have little impact. The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported on Jan. 21, 2003 ( "Impact of supply-side policies for control of illicit drugs in the face of the AIDS and overdose epidemics: investigation of a massive heroin seizure") that "The data presented here indicate that the record seizure of heroin in autumn 2000 appeared to have no impact on injection use of heroin or on perceived availability of heroin. Furthermore, we detected no difference in the extent to which drug users reported that enforcement had affected their drug source, the types of drugs available or their pattern of drug use."
The report notes further that:
For convenience, here is a PDF copy of this article.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has announced the results of research to be published in 2003 on urine drug testing of student athletes. As the New York Times reported on Dec. 30, 2002 ( "Random Tests May Reduce Drug Use By School Athletes"), "Student athletes subject to random drug testing at an Oregon high school were about a fourth as likely to report using drugs as their counterparts at a similar school who were not tested, a study to be published next month in the Journal of Adolescent Health has found." According to the Times, "The yearlong study by researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University compared Wahtonka High School, where athletes were subject to random testing, and Warrenton High School, a demographically similar school near Astoria, where they were not. By the end of the school year at Wahtonka, only 5.3 percent of the 135 athletes said they were using illegal drugs, compared with 19.4 percent of the 141 athletes at Warrenton. The Wahtonka students were also only a third as likely to use performance-enhancing substances like steroids, the survey responses, which were confidential, indicated."
Problems with the testing policy, as well as with the research, have been noted. First, the Times reports that the Merry Holland, principal of Wahtonka High School, "said she believed the program had helped curb drug use. But the drug testing has also led some students to switch to substances not tracked, she said. 'There are a lot of parties with alcohol,' Ms. Holland said. 'If they want to stay with sports, and participate, they might switch to something they think is harder to detect.'"
This pilot study was the forerunner of a 3-year study involving 13 high schools. Earlier research was suspended because of serious problems. As the Times noted, "The larger study was to examine whether the threat of testing keeps students from drugs. It was suspended in its third year after a federal agency expressed concern about some methods used in its latter two years. The agency, the Office of Human Research Policy, said the study violated federal regulations by not properly obtaining informed consent from children and not protecting research subjects from coercive environments. The survey results used in the published study were not affected. The researchers responded this month with offers to ensure student confidentiality, to stop using principals and coaches to solicit participation and to end financial incentives for schools to participate. Dr. Goldberg said researchers are waiting to hear whether the study may be resumed." (Dr. Linn Goldberg, a lead researcher.)
Notably, none of the articles in the popular press about this yet-to-be-published research indicates how many positive test results the drug testing program found during the year. Since no urine tests were performed at the control school, the only data on drug use is self-reported, in response to surveys. For what it is worth, a survey of the general school population in these two schools shows that students at non-testing Warrenton were somewhat more willing to admit use of illegal drugs than were students at the urine testing school, Wahtonka: "Students who were not athletes were not subject to drug tests but did fill out questionnaires that indicated similar levels of drug use at the two schools - 32.2 percent at Warrenton and 26.6 percent at Wahtonka."
The European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction released its 2002 Annual Report on Oct. 3, 2002. The report is available in its entirety from from here, or can be downloaded from here. In addition to the EU report, there are National Reports from member nations and Norway. Also, EMCDDA has issued a report on the drugs situation in Central and Eastern European countries which are candidates for membership in the EU.
Highlights from the reports follow. Generally, EMCDDA reports:
Regarding drug use in prisons, EMCDDA reports:
Regarding the candidate Central and Eastern European countries
(CEECs), the EMCDDA reports:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services released the 2001 National Household Survey on September 5, 2002. As SAMHSA reported in its news release ( "Annual Household Survey Finds Millions Of Americans In Denial About Drug Abuse"), "Overall, the Household Survey found that 15.9 million Americans age 12 and older used an illicit drug in the month immediately prior to the survey interview. This represents an estimated 7.1 percent of the population in 2001, compared to an estimated 6.3 percent the previous year." What is unknown is how much of this increase is due to more honest responses from those interviewed.
According to SAMHSA,
"The report highlights that 10.8 percent of youths 12 to 17 were
current drug users in 2001 compared with 9.7 percent in 2000.
Youth cigarette use in 2001 was slightly below the rate for 2000,
continuing a downward trend since 1999.
The report further found that:
The 2001 NHSDA is available through the SAMHSA website. You can also go directly to the Table of Contents by clicking here. Currently only two volumes are available. A third, containing detailed tables discussing the data indepth, is to be made available later.
The Canadian Senate's Special Committee on Illegal Drugs issued its long-awaited report on Canadian cannabis policy on September 4, 2002. According to the Committee's news release of Sept. 4, 2002 ( "Senate Committee recommends legalization of cannabis"), "In an exhaustive and comprehensive two-year study of public policy related to marijuana, the Special Committee found that the drug should be legalized. The 600 plus page Senate report is a result of rigorous research, analysis and extensive public hearings in Ottawa and communities throughout Canada with experts and citizens. 'Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue', said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chair of the Special Committee, in a news conference today in Ottawa. 'Indeed, domestic and international experts and Canadians from every walk of life told us loud and clear that we should not be imposing criminal records on users or unduly prohibiting personal use of cannabis. At the same time, make no mistake, we are not endorsing cannabis use for recreational consumption. Whether or not an individual uses marijuana should be a personal choice that is not subject to criminal penalties. But we have come to the conclusion that, as a drug, it should be regulated by the State much as we do for wine and beer, hence our preference for legalization over decriminalization.'"
A great deal more information about this historic report can be found at the Committee's website. The Committee news conference is available online in Real format by clicking here. The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy is a also terrific resource.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the US correctional population continues to grow at an alarming pace. An AP story in the Athens Banner-Herald ("System's Recent Growth 'Unprecedented') reported that "One in every 32 adults in the United States was behind bars or on probation or parole by the end of last year, according to a government report Sunday that found a record 6.6 million people in the nation's correctional system. The number of adults under supervision by the criminal justice system rose by 147,700, or 2.3 percent, between 2000 and 2001, the Justice Department reported. In 1990, almost 4.4 million adults were incarcerated or being supervised."
According to the report, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2001, "25% of probationers had a drug law violation." Probationers were more likely to be white (55%) than African-American (31%) or Hispanic (12%). Ultimately, 62% of the adults leaving probation during 2001 did so successfully.
As the system has grown, the number of probationers under active supervision has declined. According to the report, "Approximately 3 of every 4 probationers were under active supervision and were required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail, or by telephone. The percent of probationers required to report regularly has dropped steadily, from 83% in 1990 to 79% in 1995 and to 74% in 2001." Further, the report notes, "At yearend 2001 at least 1 in 10 probationers had absconded -- though still on probation, they had failed to report and could not be located. Among all persons on probation, absconders have increased from 6% in 1990 to 10% in 2001."
The probation and parole report comes a month after the report Prisoners In 2001, which details the numbers of prisoners in state and Federal prisons. According to that report, "The total number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of Federal or State adult correctional authorities was 1,406,031 at yearend 2001. During the year States added 3,193 prisoners, and the Federal prison system added 11,577 prisoners. Overall, the Nation's prison population grew 1.1%, which was less than the average annual growth of 3.8% since yearend 1995. During 2001 the prison population rose at the lowest rate since 1972 and had the smallest absolute increase since 1979."
The report notes that "When incarceration rates are estimated separately by age group, black males in their twenties and thirties are found to have high rates relative to other groups. Expressed in terms of percentages, 10.0% of black non-Hispanic males age 25 to 29 were in prison on December 31, 2001, compared to 2.9% of Hispanic males and about 1.2% of white males in the same age group. Although incarceration rates drop with age, the percentage of black males age 45 to 54 in prison in 2001 was still nearly 2.7% -- only slightly lower than the highest rate (2.9%) among Hispanic males (age 25 to 29) and more than twice the highest rate (1.3%) among white males (age 30 to 34)." Further, "The sources of population growth also differed among white, black, and Hispanic prisoners. Overall, the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates."
Also according to BJS, "Prisoners sentenced for drug offenses constitute the largest group of Federal inmates (57%) in 2000, up from 53% in 1990. On September 30, 2000, the date of the latest available data in the Federal Justice Statistics Program, Federal prisons held 73,389 sentenced drug offenders, compared to 30,470 at yearend 1990." In comparison, in 1990, Federal prisons held a total of 56,989 sentenced inmates altogether.
The international human rights organization
Human Rights Watch issued a report on impact of the Rockefeller
drug laws on June 18, 2002. The report,
Collateral Casualties: Children of Incarcerated Drug
Offenders in New York, presents a statistical analysis
of the hidden costs of New York's harsh Rockefeller laws.
Among the findings:
In a news release dated June 18, 2002, Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program, said "Disproportionately harsh drug sentences have not only led to the unnecessary incarceration of tens of thousands of low-level drug offenders, but also deprived thousands of children of their parents." Fellner continued: "Safeguarding communities and protecting families from drug trafficking and drug abuse are important public interests. But the means chosen to combat drugs should neither violate human rights nor inflict unnecessary collateral harm."
A copy of the full report is available as a PDF from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usany/USA0602.pdf . The web version of the report is available from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usany/ . For more information, check out this 1997 report by HRW on the Rockefeller laws, "Cruel and Unusual: Disproportionate Sentences for New York Drug Offenders." Also, HRW has this Focus Page on Reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse released the Fourth Semi-Annual Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign in mid-June 2002. The report presents the results of an ongoing analysis of the ONDCP-coordinated anti-drug advertising campaign. Copies of the evaluation, and of the previous reports, can be downloaded from http://www.nida.nih.gov/despr/westat/index.html . Researchers were able to find no positive results for youth, and in fact found some negative results. According to the Executive Summary , "There is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth. There is no statistically significant decline in marijuana use or improvements in beliefs and attitudes about marijuana use between 2000 and 2001, and no tendency for those reporting more exposure to Campaign messages to hold more desirable beliefs. For some outcomes, and for some subgroups of respondents, analysis raises the possibility that those with more exposure to the specific Campaign ads at the start of Phase III of the Campaign had less favorable outcomes over the following 18 months. This was true for the youth respondents who were nonusers and aged 10 to 12 at the start of this phase, with regard to their intentions to use marijuana in the future and for all youth 12 to 18 for their perceived social norms about marijuana use. Girls with the highest exposure to Campaign ads at the start were more likely than less exposed girls to initiate marijuana use. This effect was not seen for boys. This unfavorable association with initiation was also significant for the youngest respondents and for the low risk respondents. Further analysis is required before any firm conclusion can be reached to support these unlikely outcomes."
In addition, the media campaign's National Survey of Parents and Youth (NSPY) found that some young people exposed to the campaign may have increased their marijuana use. According to the summary, "NSPY also examined rates of change in three other measures of marijuana use - ever use, regular use (almost every month), and use in the previous 30 days. For all ages and for all of those measures, use was unchanging between 2000 and 2001, with two exceptions. Reports of regular use and last 30 days use, while still rare, were significantly increasing among youth who were 14- to 15-years-old. Reports of past month use increased from 3.6% to 7.2%, and regular use (defined as use every month or almost every month) increased from 2.2% to 5.4%."
Some positive results regarding parental behaviors were noted in the survey, though they were of questionable significant. "Overall, there are trends and cross-sectional associations consistent with Campaign effects on parent outcomes, including talking behavior and cognitions, and monitoring cognitions. These associations are most consistent for fathers. The longitudinal data do not as yet provide the hoped for additional evidence to rule out reverse causation as an explanation for the observed cross-sectional associations. Also, the evidence does not as yet support an effect of parent exposure on youth behavior." Ultimately, "There was no cross-sectional associational evidence for any group that parent exposure was associated with lower marijuana consumption among youth."
Other data in the evaluation
raises questions about the parental responses. According to
A full copy of the report can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here, or it can be downloaded in chunks from this webpage. Also, a copy of the most recent National Survey of Parents and Youth can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here.
Background: As noted in the evaluation, "Under the Treasury-Postal Appropriations Act of 1998, Congress approved funding (P.L. 105-61) for 'a national media campaign to reduce and prevent drug use among young Americans.' Pursuant to this act, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) launched the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (the Media Campaign). The Media Campaign has progressed through three phases of increasing complexity and intensity. Phases I and II are not discussed in this report. ONDCP has available other reports that evaluate those phases. This report focuses on Phase III, which began in September 1999 and is planned to run at least through spring 2003. An evaluation of Phase III is being conducted under contract to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) by Westat and its subcontractor, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Funding of the evaluation is provided by ONDCP from the appropriation for the Media Campaign itself."
The media campaign is run by ONDCP along with
A study by the Charlotte, NC-based organization Grassroots Leadership reveals that in the state of Mississippi, prisons consistently win out over education in the fight for state budget dollars. According to the report "Education vs. Incarceration: A Mississippi Case Study:"
Grassroots Leadership is a 20-year-old Charlotte, NC-based organization that works to strengthen community organizing throughout the South. For more information on the group, check out the group's website.
The Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs issued a report on Canadian drug policy on May 2, 2002. The Toronto Star reported on May 3, 2002 ( "Prohibition Has Little Effect On Pot-Smoking: Report") that "Efforts to prevent marijuana use are having little impact, and young Canadians are smoking up in greater numbers than ever, a Senate report says. An estimated 30 to 50 per cent of people 15 to 24 years old have used cannabis despite its illegality, the report, released Thursday by the Senate committee on illegal drugs, says. 'When you examine cannabis usage among youth, you realize that public policy has absolutely no effect,' Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, committee chairman, told a news conference."
As noted by the Star, "After studying the pros and cons of pot use for 14 months, the committee also concludes that scientific evidence suggests marijuana isn't a so-called gateway drug that leads to the use of harder drugs. The discussion paper, intended to guide public consultation on the marijuana issues, indicates that millions of dollars in public money being spent to combat pot is wasted. The arguments in the paper are far from new - many were made in the Le Dain report of 1973. Yet the federal government has been reluctant to change the law and Health Minister Anne McLellan has backtracked from a plan to give severely ill patients access to government-grown marijuana. There's a widespread perception that the federal government is reluctant to decriminalize pot because of opposition from the United States, which remains committed to prohibition."
The Committee will hold several meetings around Canada to get
citizen input. According to the Committee's news release (
"Senate Committee discussion paper sets agenda for public
meetings across Canada"):
According to the Committee's news release, "'Our Committee has reached a stage in our deliberations where preliminary conclusions are becoming more apparent to us. For example scientific evidence seems to indicate that cannabis is not a gateway drug. It may be appropriate to treat it more like alcohol or tobacco than like the harder drugs,' said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Special Committee Chair. 'We now need to add the views of Canadians to expert testimony and evidence we've received to date to see where we should go from here. In fact we're trying out some non-traditional approaches such as this interim discussion paper and town hall meetings to establish a more effective dialogue with Canadians.' Details will be provided in advance of each meeting in each community. Further Special Committee hearings will also take place in Ottawa later in June before the Committee writes its report."
Copies of the Committee report as well as other documents and research from the Committee's work can be downloaded from the Senate Special Committee's website. The report itself can be downloaded as a PDF directly by clicking here, or a summary of the report is available by clicking here.
The General Accounting Office on April 22, 2002, issued a new report on drug courts, "Drug Courts: Better DOJ Data Collection and Evaluation Efforts Needed to Measure Impact of Drug Court Programs." The report is available as a PDF from http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02434.pdf
GAO finds that there is insufficient data on drug courts
to measure long-term program benefits or assess the impact
of federally funded drug court programs on criminal behavior
of substance abuse offenders. In part, this is because in 2000,
the DOJ's Drug Court Program Office stopped collecting
important follow-up data on offenders. According to the GAO:
A national impact evaluation was scheduled to be completed on June 30, 2001, but when GAO fell behind the effort was abandoned. GAO reports that DOJ is not expected to provide information on the impact of federally funded drug court programs until year 2007. The GAO concludes that "Despite a significant increase in the number of drug court programs funded by DCPO since 1997 that are required to collect and maintain performance and outcome data, DOJ continues to lack vital information on the overall impact of federally funded drug court programs. Furthermore, the agency's alternative plan for addressing the impact of federally funded drug court programs will not offer near-term answers on the overall impact of these programs. Improvements in DCPO's management of the collection and utilization of performance and outcome data from federally funded drug court programs are needed. Additionally, more immediate steps from NIJ and DCPO to carry out a methodologically sound national impact evaluation could better enable DOJ to provide Congress and other drug court program stakeholders with more timely information on the overall impact of federally funded drug court programs. Until DOJ takes such actions, the Congress, public, and other stakeholders will continue to lack sufficient information to (1) measure long-term program benefits, if any; (2) assess the impact of federally funded drug court programs on the criminal behavior of substance abuse offenders; or (3) assess whether drug court programs are an effective use of federal funds." (pp. 18-19)
"Drug Courts: Better DOJ Data Collection and Evaluation Efforts Needed to Measure Impact of Drug Court Programs" (GAO-02-434, April 22, 2002) is available as a PDF from http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02434.pdf or from the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov/.
A study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examining the effect of cannabis on the IQ and cognitive abilities of young adults. The article, "Current and Former Marijuana Use: Preliminary Findings of a Longitudinal Study of Effects on IQ in Young Adults," by Peter Fried, Barbara Watkinson, Deborah James, and Robert Gray was published April 2, 2002.
The study was reported in quite different ways in the media. According to some, such as the article in the Halifax Herald of April 2, 2002, "Dope, After All, Appears To Be An Appropriate Name." According to others, such as the Halifax Daily News of April 7, 2002, "Light Pot Smoking Can Enhance IQ, Study Says." The Toronto Globe & Mail reported on April 2, 2002, that "Smoking Pot No Risk To IQ, Study Says." The CMAJ article itself is available by clicking here. Below are some quotes.
"Current marijuana use had a negative effect on global IQ score only in subjects who smoked 5 or more joints per week. A negative effect was not observed among subjects who had previously been heavy users but were no longer using the substance. We conclude that marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence. Whether the absence of a residual marijuana effect would also be evident in more specific cognitive domains such as memory and attention remains to be ascertained." (p. 887)
"For comparison, an IQ decrement of 5 points has been observed in children exposed prenatally to 3 alcoholic drinks per day, of 3.75 points in offspring exposed prenatally to cocaine and of 2.6 points after low lead exposure." (p. 890)
"Although the heavy current users experienced a decrease in IQ score, their scores were still above average at the young adult assessment (mean 105.1). If we had not assessed preteen IQ, these subjects would have appeared to be functioning normally. Only with knowledge of the change in IQ score does the negative impact of current heavy use become apparent." (p. 890)
The US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its Prisoners and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2001 report on April 10, 2002. A PDF copy of the report can also be downloaded from the CSDP website by clicking here.
According to BJS (
"Federal Prison Population Increases A Record Amount;
State And Local Inmate Growth Moderates"),
"During the first six months of 2001 the federal prison
system added 7,372 inmates, the Justice Department’s Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. It
was the largest ever six-month growth in the federal system.
At the same time, the number of state prison inmates increased
by a relatively modest 7,048. Between July 1, 2000, and June
30, 2001, the federal prison population rose 7.2 percent,
the state prison population rose 0.4 percent and local jail
populations rose 1.6 percent. During the period state prison
populations grew at their slowest rate in 28 years, while
local jails rose at their slowest rate since 1982, when BJS
started collecting such data."
As the Justice Policy Institute noted in its news release
"New Justice Department Study: As Some State
Prison Populations Decline, Federal Prison Population
"States headed by Republican administrations, including
Texas, Louisiana and Ohio recently reconsidered their
correctional policies, replacing mandatory sentencing laws,
reforming drug sentencing statutes and parole practices and
creating alternatives to incarceration. In sharp contrast,
the Bush administration's 2002 budget proposed to increase
the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget by $300 million next
year and build and fill 26 prisons over the next 4 years at
a cost in excess of $100 million per prison.
Racial disparities in incarceration rates persist.
As BJS notes,
"Among young adult U.S. residents in their 20s and early
30s, 12 percent of black males, 4 percent of Hispanic males
and 1.8 percent of white males were behind bars." According
to a statement by the National Council of La Raza (
"NCLR Urges Action To Reduce Federal Prison
The US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics in late March 2002 released a report on drivers stopped by police, "Characteristics of Drivers Stopped by Police, 1999." The report "Provides data on the nature and characteristics of traffic stops, as collected in the 1999 Police-Public Contact Survey. Tables present detailed demographic characteristics of the 19.3 million drivers stopped by police in 1999. Drivers stopped one time over a 12-month period and drivers stopped two or more times are compared across categories of gender, age, and race/ethnicity. The report also examines driver responses regarding the traffic stop, speeding, searches conducted by police, arrest, and use of force."
Some highlights from the report:
Two studies were released in March 2002 on the success of a pilot program in Lambeth, England, in which cannabis offenders are given a warning only. The Times of London reported on March 22, 2002 ( "Softer Line Against Cannabis Saves 1,300 Police Hours"), that "A pilot scheme in which people caught in possession of cannabis are let off with a warning saved more than 1,300 hours of police time in its first six months, according to a report published yesterday. The scheme also won the support of residents in Lambeth, South London, but the Metropolitan Police say that similar action might not work in other boroughs. The force gave a cautious welcome to an internal study of the project, which had been launched in Lambeth by Commander Brian Paddick, but said that further work was needed to consider the impact for the rest of London."
According to the Times, "During the pilot scheme there was a 35 per cent increase in recorded offences of possession and an 11 per cent rise in drug trafficking offences recorded by police. In adjoining boroughs recorded cannabis possession offences fell by 4 per cent and trafficking by 34 per cent. But the study said that Lambeth increased its activity in focusing on the use, possession and trafficking of Class A drugs." A summary of the study by the Metropolitan Police, "Evaluation of Lambeth's Pilot of Warnings For Possession Of Cannabis," is available as a PDF, or as a Word document, from this URL: http://www.met.police.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2002_0010.
The Times also reported that "A separate study by MORI, the polling organisation for the Police Foundation, found that 83 per cent of Lambeth residents supported the scheme. It said that 36 per cent supported the project outright, and that 47 per cent gave it conditional support. Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: 'A larger percentage of white residents than black or Asian residents supported the scheme.' The figures show that it was backed by 41 per cent of white residents, 28 per cent of black residents and 25 per cent of Asians." The level of support is quite high given the relative lack of awareness of the particulars of the program. According to the Times, "The survey, conducted in November and December among 2,055 residents, found that 56 per cent said that they knew at least a little about the scheme, while 41 per cent knew nothing at all. Of the 56 per cent who knew something, only 38 per cent knew correctly that police would give warnings instead of formal cautions, 14 per cent knew that cannabis would be confiscated and 6 per cent incorrectly said that it had been legalised. A national survey about the scheme earlier this year found 76 per cent of 1,952 adults questioned approved of it." The Police Foundation survey of Lambeth residents can be downloaded from the Police Foundation at http://www.police-foundation.org.uk/site/Reports.asp or directly as a PDF from http://www.police-foundation.org.uk/site/Publications/REPORT%20ON%20POLICING%20THE%20POSSESSION%20OF%20CANNABIS.pdf.
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity based in the UK, estimates that "David Blunkett's plan to downgrade cannabis to the same category as tranquillisers such as valium could save police at least UKP38 million a year," and possibly as much as 350 Million pounds. According to the Daily Telegraph on March 13, 2002 ( "Drug Move Could Save Police Millions"), "The independent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also says the move could also vastly improve police officers' relations with the public." According to the Daily Telegraph, "Co-author Professor Mike Hough said the Lambeth experiment - in which Metropolitan Police officers have dealt with cannabis users by confiscating the drug and giving an informal warning - should be extended across Britain. 'It would make sense to reclassify cannabis to Class C,' he said. 'There would be significant gains all round.'"
The report, "Times They Are A-Changing: Policing Of Cannabis," "by South Bank University's Criminal Policy Research Unit, represents the first, detailed study of the policing of cannabis in England and Wales. It has taken place against a backdrop of intensive media and political debate on the issue and the prospect of imminent legislative reform." According to the Rowntree Foundation ( "Study Reveals Widespread Inconsistencies In Policing Of Cannabis on The Streets"), "Many police officers have effectively decriminalised possession of cannabis by turning a blind eye to the offence, or issuing informal warnings. But a small minority of patrol officers 'specialise' in cannabis offences, accounting for a disproportionate number of arrests for possession. The picture of widespread inconsistencies in the treatment of cannabis possession offences emerges from a unique street-level study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, based on hours of observing what happens 'on the beat' as well as interviews with police and those they arrest. It finds that the chances of being arrested depend on the force areas where an offence is discovered and on the experience and attitudes of individual officers."
According to a
summary prepared by the Rowntree Foundation of the report:
The researchers conclude that:
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 6, 2002, "Cognitive Functioning of Long-Term Heavy Cannabis Users Seeking Treatment," purports to "examine the effects of duration of cannabis use on specific areas of cognitive functioning among users seeking treatment for cannabis dependence." The authors tested longterm marijuana users who had voluntarily entered treatment for marijuana use because of difficulty concentrating and problems with memory, and compared the results with those from non-users who had answered a classified ad. As the study reported, "Sixty-five of the 102 cannabis users were delayed-treatment participants from the Marijuana Treatment Project, a multisite US study (Seattle, Wash; Farmington, Conn; and Miami, Fla) conducted between 1997 and 2000 of the effectiveness of brief treatments for cannabis dependence. The remainder were recruited through the Marijuana Treatment Project specifically for this study. Participants provided written informed consent as approved by the ethics committees of the participating institutions and were paid $75 for completing the cognitive assessments. Controls (n = 33) were recruited from the general population through media advertisements at only 1 site. The controls were told that the researchers were studying the effects of exposure to drugs and alcohol on cognitive functioning, and that at present only individuals at the lighter end of the spectrum of drug experience were required. The aim was to minimize cannabis use among controls while approximating the other characteristics of the cannabis-using sample. Assessors were not blinded with regard to group assignment." Elsewhere in the report, the authors note that "The majority of the sample (82.4% long-term, 88.2% shorter-term users) reported experiencing problems with memory, attention, or concentration, which they attributed to their use of cannabis."
Although worth noting, the authors admit that their results may not be applicable to the general population. The authors note that "it is possible that long-term cannabis users in the community who are not seeking treatment may not experience impairments to the same degree as those assessed in this study." In a related editorial in the same issue, "Cannabis, Cognition, and Residual Confounding," Harrison G. Pope, Jr., MD, notes that "Previous data from Solowij favor the possibility of persistent deficits associated with lifetime duration of cannabis exposure. However, the weight of evidence from other studies seems tilted in the opposite direction. For example, a recent meta-analysis of neuropsychological studies of long-term marijuana users found no significant evidence for deficits in 7 of 8 neuropsychological ability areas and only a small effect size (ie, 0.23 SD units; 99% confidence interval, 0.03-0.43) for the remaining area of learning. Another recent study from our laboratory, published subsequent to this meta-analysis, found virtually no significant differences between 108 heavy cannabis users and 72 controls -- screened to exclude those with current psychiatric disorders, medication use, or any history of significant use of other drugs or alcohol -- on a battery of 10 neuropsychological tests after 28 days of supervised abstinence from the drug. In addition, no significant associations were found between the number of episodes of lifetime cannabis use and any of the test scores at day 28 even though the heavy users had smoked a median of about 15 000 times over periods ranging from 10 to 33 years. Further analysis of these data for associations between lifetime use and performance at day 0 and day 1 of abstinence revealed trends that were almost always in the same direction as those reported by Solowij et al, but the effect sizes were much smaller (unpublished data)."
Pope mentions a few possible reasons for the different results. "Therefore, the most likely remaining explanation would seem to be lack of comparability between the exposed and nonexposed groups within one or both studies with respect to factors associated with the outcomes of interest (ie, residual confounding). For example, cannabis users in the study by Solowij et al were seeking treatment for cannabis dependence, whereas controls were recruited from the general population by advertisement. Individuals seeking clinical treatment for cannabis dependence might exhibit higher levels of depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder than other cannabis users, and all of these psychiatric syndromes produce deficits on neuropsychological testing. Some cannabis users seek treatment because they have gotten into trouble with the law and so might have higher levels of antisocial behavior than other users. Antisocial behavior is also linked to neuropsychological deficits. Although Solowij and colleagues excluded subjects with psychotic disorders or current drug or alcohol dependence (other than cannabis), subjects with depression, anxiety disorders, or other psychiatric conditions were not excluded. Also, subjects receiving prescription psychiatric medications, such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants, that can impair cognitive function were also not excluded."
As Pope observed, "Confounders associated with treatment seeking represent only 1 of the many problems that threaten naturalistic studies of substance abusers. Another is the problem of adjustment for premorbid differences between groups. Lacking a historical measure of cognitive function, which is based on testing subjects before they were first exposed to cannabis, leads to the question of whether current differences observed between groups are due to cannabis use or to some difference in premorbid cognitive ability for which adjustment was not made. By matching groups on measures of intellectual functioning that are relatively resilient to brain injury, Solowij and colleagues have done their best to equalize the groups on premorbid cognitive abilities. But since the 33 controls were recruited at 1 site and the 102 cannabis users at 3 sites in different geographic settings, the possibility of residual confounding due to subtle sociodemographic differences between groups cannot be entirely dismissed."
The US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its report on "Traffic Stop Data Collection Policies For State Police, 2001 in December 2001. The report presents findings from the 2001 State Police Traffic Stop Data Collection Procedures. State police agencies were asked to report on their policies and procedures for collecting race and ethnicity data regarding motorists involved in traffic stops.
According to the report, "As of March 2001, 16 of the Nation's 49 State law enforcement agencies whose primary duties include highway patrol required all their officers with traffic patrol duties to record the motorists' race and ethnicity for each traffic stop. The 16 State police agencies collecting these data represent an increase of 7 States since 1999." (The Bureau collected similar data in 1999.) Further, "An additional 23 State police agencies required their officers to collect race and ethnicity data under more limited circumstances, such as if an arrest occurred, or if force was used. Ten State police agencies did not require traffic patrol officers to collect race data for any stops."
The report also notes that "In addition to the increase in the number of States that required State law enforcement agencies to collect race and ethnicity statistics during traffic stops, States have recently enacted statutes that prohibit law enforcement officers from engaging in racial profiling (California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island). These statutes generally defined racial profiling as stopping a person based solely on race or ethnicity instead of an individualized suspicion arising from the person's behavior."
A report released February 15, 2002 details the wide variation in state statutory drug laws across the United States. State law matters because the majority of drug offenders are tried in state courts. The report, Illicit Drug Policies: Selected Laws from the 50 States, was authored by the ImpacTeen Illicit Drug Team, a collaborative research group with investigators from Andrews University, The MayaTech Corporation, and RAND. The ImpacTeen Project is a policy research partnership established to reduce youth substance use. It is supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The report is available online at www.andrews.edu/BHSC/impacteen-illicitdrugteam.
Drug offenders are subject to very different penalties depending on the state in which they are prosecuted, the substance, and the offense. For instance, from state to state a first time offender may be subject to anywhere from one year to lifetime imprisonment and $5,000 to $1 million in fines for the sale of one ecstasy pill. The report also shows that, as of January 1, 2000, 24 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite the federal government's position against it.
Illicit Drug Policies: Selected Laws from the 50 States is the first comprehensive reference guide to illicit drug laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It documents on a state by state basis each state's scheduling and penalty provisions for selected drugs, as well as medical marijuana. It also identifies disparities in federal and state controlled substance scheduling.
"This report illustrates that states play an important role in the war on drugs. State legislatures have taken varied approaches to addressing the drug problem," says Dr. Jamie Chriqui, Vice-President of the Health Policy and Legislative Analysis Program at The MayaTech Corporation and lead author on the report, in a news release from Impacteen dated February 15, 2002. "States have a history of drug policy experimentation that has, at times, differed from federal policy," says Dr. Duane McBride, Director of the Institute for the Prevention of Addiction at Andrews University and Principal Investigator. "This report highlights that this tradition continues today." Dr. Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, an economist with the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and Co-Principal Investigator, adds "This reference guide is a critical first step in evaluating the impact of specific drug policies on drug using behavior and its consequences within the states."
State penalties for violating sale and possession laws vary by substance, by the quantity of the substance sold or possessed, and by the type of offense. This variation is particularly noticeable in the range of penalties for the sale and possession of standard retail amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy. For instance, in North Carolina, a drug offender charged with selling 1 gram of cocaine could be subject to a maximum imprisonment term of one year. The same sales offense in Montana could be met with a maximum fine of $50,000 and a lifetime sentence. Similarly, an offender caught possessing 10 grams of methamphetamine in Minnesota could be subject to a $500,000 fine and 25 years in Minnesota. The same offender in Virginia, however, would face statutory fines of only $1000 and maximum imprisonment of only 6 months.
There is surprisingly less variation in penalties associated with possession of marijuana across states. For example, only two states statutorily impose more than a year of imprisonment for possession of 10 grams of marijuana.
Data in the report also detail how state policies for illicit drug punishments share similarities yet differ from federal policy. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the sentencing disparity between the possession or sale of powder and crack cocaine. At the federal level, it takes 100 times the amount of powder cocaine to equal the same sentence as crack cocaine. The report reveals that only eleven states specify separate statutory penalties for the possession and/or sale of crack and powder cocaine. The data suggests that distinctions between crack and powder forms of cocaine may be of less importance at the state level, where the majority of prosecutions take place.
Although the 1996 California and Arizona initiatives are generally considered the first state laws to enable the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, these laws actually represent the beginning of a second wave of state laws addressing this issue. The report notes that prior to 1996, twenty states provided for the medicinal use of marijuana; however, most of these early laws were narrow in scope, requiring federal sanctioning and oversight of research protocols. The states to have enacted laws between January 1996 and January 2000 were more likely to create an environment where both physicians and patients are protected from state prosecution. Two of the states with earlier laws expanded existing laws to incorporate the physician prescription and/or medical necessity defense provisions.
Report: Lifetime Ban On Welfare For Offenders Hits At Least 135,000 Innocent Children
A new report by The Sentencing Project examines the impact of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act's lifetime ban on the receipt of welfare benefits for felony drug offenders. The study reveals that an estimated 92,000 women and 135,000 children are affected by the ban, placing these families at increased risk of meeting basic needs of rent, food, and employment, and contributing to higher incidences of family dissolution and delinquency. According to the Sentencing Project's news release, "The report, Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits to Women Convicted of Drug Offenses, is being released as Congress begins consideration of the reauthorization of welfare reform legislation."
A summary of the report is also available. According to it, "legislative action in the areas of welfare reform and the war on drugs have combined to produce negative consequences for many low-income women, with a disparate impact on African American and Latina women." The report notes that "Section 115 of the welfare reform act provides that persons convicted of a state or federal felony offense fo using or selling drugs are subject to a lifetime ban on receiving cash assistance and food stamps. No other offenses result in losing benefits. 42 states impose the ban in part or in full - 22 states deny all benefits, 10 have partial bans, 10 require drug treatment as a condition of receiving benefits - and eight states and the District of Columbia have opted out of the ban. The growing trend among states to modify or opt out of the ban reflects mounting recognition that a complete lifetime welfare ban is unsound public policy."
The report finds that:
The Sentencing Project report makes the following
The Justice Policy Institute on February 7, 2002, released its study "Cutting Correctly: New Prison Policies For Times Of Fiscal Crisis." According to a news release from JPI announcing the release, "highlights states that are responding to fiscal crises by closing prisons or downsizing correctional systems, and outlines strategies that budget-strapped states can employ to reduce correctional costs while maintaining public safety. The report shows that the public is shifting away from support for imprisonment for non-violent offenders, and now embraces a wide array of prevention, rehabilitation and alternative sentencing approaches. 'Rather than slashing school budgets and closing hospitals, some states are finding ways to cut spending on corrections, reducing the number of people imprisoned, without compromising public safety,' says Vincent Schiraldi, President of the DC-based Justice Policy Institute. 'In a time of declining prison populations and falling crime rates, this report recommends many new ways to reign in mushrooming state correctional populations and costs.'"
The report notes that "the massive growth in state prisoners over the past two decades has meant that one out of every 14 general fund dollars spent in 2000 was spent on prisons." According to JPI, this growth is composed largely of nonviolent offenders. "The expansion of America's prisons has been largely driven by the incarceration of nonviolent offenders. The percentage of violent offenders held in state prisons declined from 57 percent in 1978 to 48 percent in 1999. From 1980 to 1997, the number of violent offenders committed to state prison nearly doubled (up 82 percent), the number of nonviolent offenders tripled (up 207 percent) while the number of drug offenders increased 11-fold (up 1040 percent). Nonviolent offenders accounted for 77 percent of the growth in intake to America's state and federal prisons between 1978 and 1996. Based on the latest prison statistics, it is estimated that, at yearend 2001, there were 1,240,000 nonviolent prisoners in the United States."
The report notes that several statewide initiatives and
public opinion polls show public support for alternatives to
traditional incarceration policies. JPI notes that:
The US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its report "Justice Expenditure and Employment in the United States, 1999" on Feb. 10, 2002. As noted in the news release announcing the report, "The United States now spends about $147 billion per year on criminal justice activities, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Spending on police protection, corrections, and judicial and legal services, has increased by about 8 percent annually over the past two decades."
Further, "between 1982 and 1999 the federal government's expenditure increased at a faster rate than state or local expenditures. Federal intergovernmental expenditure, which includes various grants to state and local governments to fund improvements in anti-crime efforts, rose from $189 million in 1982 to more than $5 billion in 1999." According to BJS, " State and local governments in 1999 spent about $442 on criminal justice activities per resident in the United States." Additionally, "the federal government spent about $97 on criminal justice per resident in the United States."
The European Union's drug agency, the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction, in November 2001 issued its Annual Report 2001 on the State of the Drugs Problem in the European Union. The report is available in electronic format free of charge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its 2000 Uniform Crime Report on Oct. 22, 2001. Generally speaking, the UCR (which has been the subject of a great deal of legitimate criticism regarding its data quality) measures reported criminal offenses in eight different major categories -- Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter, Forcible Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Larceny-Theft, Motor Vehicle Theft, and Arson -- as well as reported arrests and reported "clearances" or crimes for which a perpetrator has been arrested.
According to the FBI, there were an estimated 13,980,297 arrests for index and non-index criminal offenses in the US in 2000. Of these, 1,579,566 were for drug abuse violations. Additionally, there were 13,227 arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter; 27,469 arrests for forcible rape; 106,130 arrests for robbery; 478,417 arrests for aggravated assault; 289,844 arrests for burglary; and 1,166,362 arrests for larceny-theft. (Table 29, p. 216)
The drug arrest figure breaks down as follows:
Some disturbing figures from the UCR deal with clearance rates, that is, the number of offenses "cleared" by an arrest. Overall, the clearance rate for index offenses was only 20.5 percent. The rate for violent crime is better than that for property crime -- 47.5 percent clearance for violent crime overall, only a 16.7 percent clearance rate for property crimes. The clearance rate for murder is the highest, with an estimated 63.1 percent of those offenses being cleared with an arrest of a perpetrator, followed by aggravated assault with a clearance rate of 56.9 percent, then forcible rape with 46.9 percent clearance, followed by robbery, with only 25.7 percent of those known offenses cleared by arrest. (p. 207, Table 25)
What makes those numbers even more disturbing is the low rate at which crimes are actually reported to police. According to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, as reported by the Justice Department in its June 2001 publication "Criminal Victimization 2000," victims report violent crimes to the police about 47.9% of the time. The rate of reporting for property crimes is much lower. Overall, only 35.7% of property crimes were reported to police in 2000, up slightly from 1993's rate of 33.5% The most often reported property crime: motor vehicle theft, with 80.4% of these crimes reported to police in 2000. (p. 10, Table 7)
The US Dept. of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration released its 2000 National Household Survey of Drug Abuse in late September 2001. Following are some highlights from the report. A copy in electronic format of the full report can be obtained by clicking here.
Columbia University Study Dismisses DARE, 'Zero Tolerance' School Drug Prevention Programs As Ineffective
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released their report "Malignant Neglect: Substance Abuse and America's Schools" in September 2001. As reported by the Dallas Morning News on September 6, 2001 ( "Study Faults Popular Anti-Drug Efforts In Schools"), "Sixty-one percent of high-school and 40 percent of middle-school students say drugs are used, kept and sold on their campuses, according to a survey released Wednesday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The center, a nonprofit institute associated with Columbia University in New York, also reported that neither of the two most popular American systems for controlling drug abuse by school-age children works well. The most popular, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, shows 'little evidence ... of any extended impact,' the center concluded. Another frequently used approach -- 'zero tolerance' policies that impose harsh penalties for even minor drug abuse -- often discourages students from turning in substance abusers."
The University of Michigan's Monitoring The Future project in August 2001 released "National Results On Adolescent Drug Use: Overview Of Key Findings 2000" as well as a pair of supplemental volumes of analysis: "National Survey Results On Drug Use, 1975-2000, Volume 1: Secondary School Students" and "Volume 2: College Students & Adults Ages 19-40." Monitoring The Future at the core "is a series of large, annual surveys of nationally representative samples of students in public and private secondary schools throughout the coterminous United States. Every year since 1975 a national sample of 12th graders has been surveyed. Beginning in 1991, the study was expanded to include comparable national samples of 8th graders and 10th graders each year." Their field procedure, according to the report, is as follows: "University of Michigan staff members administer the questionnaires to students, usually in their classrooms during a regular class period. Participation is voluntary. Questionnaires are self-completed and formatted for optical scanning. In 8th and 10th grades the questionnaires are completely anonymous, and in 12th grade they are confidential (to permit the longitudinal follow-up of a subsample of participants for some years after high school in a panel study).
The study concludes that overall, "After one or two years of decline, overall illicit drug use among teens remained steady in 2000 in all three grades, as did the use of a number of important specific drugs -- marijuana, amphetamines, hallucinogens other than LSD, tranquilizers, barbiturates, and alcohol." (Emphasis in original.) The study reports that "The most important increase was observed for MDMA ("ecstasy"), although the increase in steroid use also continued among 10th graders this year and heroin use increased among 12th graders." The report also notes that "Use rates for a number of drugs are down by fair proportions at all grades from their peak levels in the mid-'90s, including inhalants, LSD, crystal methamphetamine, and Rohypnol. However, the only statistically significant declines in any of these particular drugs this year occurred for LSD use among 12th graders. The 12th graders, who have tended to be the last to decline and have shown the least decline, also showed significant declines in their use of crack cocaine and powder cocaine this year."
Data on racial demographics is explored in Volume 1. Unfortunately, that demographic is not examined in the second volume, which deals with people 19-40 years of age. The report states in Volume 1 that "First, for all drugs, licit and illicit, African American seniors reported lifetime, annual, 30-day, and daily prevalence of use rates that are lower -- sometimes dramatically lower -- than those for White or Hispanic seniors. Second, the same can be said for African American students in eighth and tenth grades; therefore, the low usage rates in twelfth grade almost certainly are not due to differential dropout rates. (The one exception occurs with eighth-grade marijuana use, where White students have slightly lower rates of use than African American students.)" (This point was also made recently in one of CSDP's Public Service Advertisements in 2001.)
The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice issued the report "Federal Drug Offenders, 1999 with Trends 1984-99" in August 2001. The following are some highlights:
New ACLU Poll Shows Americans Believe Rehabilitation Works; Strong Support Shown For Positive Alternatives For Non-Violent Offenders
A poll commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union released on July 19, 2001, reveals "strong dissatisfaction with the current state of the criminal justice system in America and a growing public confidence in rehabilitation and alternative punishments for non-violent offenders." In the news release announcing the poll's findings ( "Most Americans Don't Want To Throw Away The Key"), ACLU President Nadine Strossen says "'Contrary to popular belief, punishment and retribution are not foremost in most American's minds. In fact, this new study shows our nation to be far more concerned with rehabilitation and social reintegration than with throwing away the proverbial key.'"
Some key findings of the report:
The full results of the ACLU poll can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here.
The ACLU's poll tracks closely the results of a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press which was released in earlier in 2001. The report, "Drug War Report: 74% Say Drug War Being Lost," notes that "Nearly three-quarters of Americans say we are losing the drug war, and just as many say that insatiable demand will perpetuate the nation's drug habit."
The Pew Center poll showed "The public still gives higher priority to traditional get-tough approaches, such as interdicting drugs at the border and arresting dealers in this country, although declining numbers regard those tactics as effective." Interestingly, "In March 1994, 77% said the nation was losing ground against crime, while 62% said the same about drugs. But today, the number who are pessimistic about the struggle against crime has fallen to 38%, while far more (54%) say the nation is losing ground on drugs." Possibly, this is because, as the poll notes, "A majority of Americans (52%) believe that drug use should be treated as a disease, compared to 35% who favor treating it as a crime."
Department Of Justice Report Casts More Doubt On Gateway Theory, Contends It May Be Time To De-Emphasize 'Tough' Law Enforcement
The US Dept. of Justice's National Institute of Justice in June 2001 issued a research brief entitled "The Rise of Marijuana as the Drug of Choice Among Youthful Adult Arrestees". The report is an analysis of drug use trend data as well as urinalysis results from the Justice Dept's Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program, by Andrew Golub and Bruce D. Johnson of the Institutes for Special Populations Research at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. Following are some highlights:
The National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued its report, "Drug Use Among Racial & Ethnic Minorities" on June 29, 2001. The report shows that "African American high school seniors consistently have lower rates of licit and illicit substance use compared with whites. This finding also is true among African American youth in lower grades, where less dropping out has occurred."
This point was made in a recent Common Sense public information piece (available by clicking here). Yet, as the data shows, African-Americans are more likely than whites to be prosecuted for drug felonies and more likely to be sent to prison if convicted. For more information on racial disparities in the war on drugs, see Drug War Facts: Race and Prison.
United Nations Drug Control Program Issues 2001 Global Illicit Drug Trends Report; Estimates Of Colombian Cocaine Production Revised Drastically Upward
The United Nations Drug Control Program issued "Global Illicit Drug Trends 2001" June 26, 2001. The report, an annual estimate of worldwide illicit drug production, trafficking and consumption, has warned in the past of under-reporting of cocaine production. In this year's report, UNDCP notes that "Thanks to the new monitoring system of the Government of Colombia, new cultivation estimates are available starting in 1999 (Colombia(I#&041;). It is important to note that, due to the use of different methodologies, the resulting data cannot be compared with data for previous years derived on US surveys (Colombia(II))." In 1999, a coca was cultivated on a total of 160,119 hectares in Colombia. In 2000, the amount of land under cultivation was estimated to have risen to 163,289 hectares. By the previous, US-derived measure, Colombia was estimated to have had only 101,800 hectares of coca under cultivation in 1998.
The amount of cocaine that was produced in 2000 was estimated by the UNDCP to be 883 metric tons, down from 1999's 925 metric tons. However, in a footnote, the report notes, "The Colombian authorities recently estimated that cocaine manufacture in Colombia could potentially have been as high as 947 tonnes in 2000." The official estimate for Colombia in 2000 was only 695 metric tons. If the higher figure for Colombia is accurate, the amount of cocaine produced in 2000 adds up to at least 1,135 metric tons.
RAND Corporation Report: Plan Colombia "Predicated On A Doubtful Strategy"
The RAND Corporation has issued a new report assessing the effectiveness of Plan Colombia, as well as reviewing policy alternatives ( "US Drug Strategy In Colombia 'Flawed,'" June 9, 2001). The report, Colombian Labrynth: The Synergy of Drugs and Insurgency and its Implications for Regional Stability by Angel Rabasa and Peter Chalk, is available for $15 in paperback, or for free online as PDF files.
According to the report, "The policy problem, for both Colombia and the United States, is that, publicly at least, 'Plan Colombia,' the Bogotá government's blueprint for restoring stability, and U.S. support for it, are predicated on a doubtful strategy. The strategy gives pride of place to moving against the drug producers and traffickers, on the argument that drying up funding from drugs will undermine the guerrillas' strength. Yet it is far from certain that the strategy will succeed. The guerrillas have other sources of financing, and the illegal drug trade has demonstrated the capacity to adapt and adjust to counter-narcotics strategies. Nor, based on historical experience, is it clear that alternative sources of income for coca farmers can be developed very soon. In these circumstances, moving against the drug-producing areas could have the effect of increasing support for the guerrillas among those who stand to lose their livelihood."
New Federal Report Cites Increasing Heroin Use And Injection Drug Use Among Youth In New Jersey
The US Centers for Disease Control published a study May 18, 2001 ( "Trends In Injection Drug Use Among Persons Entering Addiction Treatment -- New Jersey, 1992-1999), which "summarizes an analysis of trends in injection drug use among persons admitted to New Jersey addiction treatment programs during 1992--1999; the findings suggest substantial increases in injection use among young adult heroin users throughout the state and an increase in heroin use among young adults who reside in suburban and rural New Jersey."
Some of this change reflects a decrease in use in urban areas as well as an increase in use in suburban and rural areas. The CDC report notes that "Decreases in heroin use in urban areas may reflect risk reduction resulting from intensive efforts to reduce the transmission of HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in these communities(2). Another possible explanation for these changes is a substantial decrease in heroin purity. Decreased injecting among heroin users in the northeastern United States during the 1980s and early 1990s has been attributed, in part, to increases in heroin purity, from <10% to >50%(3). Purer heroin allows users to maintain their addiction by inhaling (snorting), which has a lower risk for transmission of HIV and other bloodborne infections than injecting. However, during the period of increases in the proportion of young heroin users in New Jersey who reported injecting, the purity of heroin continued to be >60%*. Another explanation may be population shifts from the cities to suburban and rural areas that may have contributed to the regional changes in heroin use and injection. However, U.S. census data for 1990 through 1998 indicate that suburban growth in New Jersey resulted from increases in the number of residents aged >35 years while the number of young adults in these regions declined."
"* Among 23 US cities surveyed in 1999, Newark and Philadelphia (the two largest heroin distribution centers for the area) had the highest mean purity levels (72% in Philadelphia and 67.5% in Newark) (Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice, unpublished data, 1999)."
Syringe Exchange Update
The US Centers for Disease Control published a study titled "Update: Syringe Exchange Programs -- United States, 1998" in the May 18, 2001 edition of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study, performed by staff from New York's Beth Israel Medical Center and the North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN) is based on survey responses and telephone interviews from 110 syringe exchange programs (SEPs) around the country. According to the report, "SEPs operated in 81 cities and 31 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The largest number of SEPs were in four states: 21 in California, 14 in New York, 12 in Washington, and nine in New Mexico. SEPs were classified by the number of syringes exchanged during 1998 (Table 1); 107 reported exchanging 19,397,527 syringes. The 12 largest programs exchanged 62% of all syringes. In addition to the basic syringe exchange service, SEPs also frequently provide other health and harm reduction services:
Racial Disparities Found In Illinois Drug Prosecutions; 99% Of Cook County Youth Tried As Adults Are Non-White
A new study on sentencing of youthful offenders by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice was released on April 19, 2001 by Building Blocks for Youth, an alliance of children's advocates, researchers, law enforcement professionals and community organizers that seeks to protect minority youth in the justice system and promote rational and effective justice policies. According to the report, "Drugs and Disparity: The Racial Impact of Illinois' Practice of Transferring Young Drug Offenders to Adult Court," "Illinois' practice of automatically sending 15 and a 16-year-old youth charged with drug crimes to adult court has produced one of the most racially disparate outcomes in the nation. Of the 259 youth automatically transferred to adult court from Cook County for a drug crime last year, only one was White."
The study notes "The 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports that White youth aged 12-17 are more than a third more likely to have sold drugs than African-American youth, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse survey of high school seniors for 1998/1999 shows that White students use cocaine at 7 to 8 times the rate of African-American students, and heroin at 7 times the rate of African-American students." The news release on the report quotes former US Senator Paul Simon, who observes "The racial disparities uncovered by this report are appalling and cry out for correction."
Houston Racial Profiling Data Collection Flawed According To Newspaper's Analysis
The Houston Police Department initiated a data collection program
in August 1999. The Houston (TX) Chronicle
reported on April 15 (
Plan To Probe Racial Profiling Flawed")
that "A computer analysis
by the Chronicle shows that after nearly 20 months, the data collected
by the state's largest police force may be seriously flawed."
According to the Chronicle:
US Government Committee Says Law Enforcement Appears Ineffective At Reducing Illicit Drug Use; Recommends Research Into Alternatives
The Associated Press March 29, 2001 ( "Delay In Naming Drug Policy Director Raises Concerns") reported on a new report by the National Academy of Sciences on the effectiveness of drug policy. The study, "Informing Policy's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us" (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001), was commissioned and financed by ONDCP in 1998. The study "found drug prevention efforts are hampered by a lack of information about their effectiveness." The report also raises basic issues regarding illicit drug control, noting "In summary, existing research seems to indicate that there is little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use, and that perceived legal risk explains very little in the variance of individual drug use." (p. 193)
The report, "Informing Policy's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us" (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001) is available free on the web, or may be purchased through National Academy Press.
Study Shows News Reports Overstate Crime, Drug Use By Minorities, Argues That False Perceptions Shape Policy Debate
San Francisco (CA)
Chronicle reported April 10, 2001
Faults Coverage Of Crime") on a new study that
"contends that depictions in the media of murder and
of crimes by youths and minorities are way out of whack with reality,
giving a scary and untrue image of crime in America."
Balance: Youth, Race & Crime In The News" was issued by
the Center for Juvenile and Criminal
Justice and the Berkeley Media Studies Group of the Public
Health Institute April 10. The groups criticized news media
for "reinforcing stereotypes that inhibit society's
ability to respond effectively to the problem of crime, particularly
juvenile crime." According to the report,
US Youth More Likely To Use Drugs Than European Young People, Study Finds
The World Health Organization (WHO) held its European Ministerial Conference on Youth and Alcohol in Stockholm, Sweden in February 2001.
Highlights from the conference included a report comparing use of alcohol and other drugs by youth in Europe with use by youth in the US. The New York Times reported on February 21, 2001 ("Study Finds Teenage Drug Use Higher In US Than In Europe") that "Forty- one percent of 10th graders in the United States had tried marijuana, compared with 17 percent of those in Europe. And 23 percent of the students in the United States had used other illicit drugs, compared with 6 percent of the Europeans." The study was developed by the Council of Europe with the help of researchers at the University of Michigan's Monitoring The Future project, and compared results from the MTF with results from a European survey, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD).
(A summary report on ESPAD 1999 can be downloaded as a PDF file from http://www.csdp.org/research/ESPADsummary1.pdf. In addition, this WHO Background Brief can be downloaded from the UN World Health Organization's European HQ website. Also, a 4-page set of graphs from the ESPAD Summary volume 2 tables and charts, in which marijuana use by young people in Europe and the US is compared, is available by clicking here.
The WHO also reported that alcohol is the number one killer of young men in Europe, according to new data from their Global Burden of Disease 2000 Study. The release notes that "One in four deaths of European men in the group aged 15-29 years is related to alcohol. In parts of eastern Europe, the figure is as high as one in three."
Justice Department Tracking Police-Public Contact
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has issued a new report, "Contacts between Police & the Public." BJS cautions that the results of this survey cannot be used to establish whether racial profiling exists, because of limitations on the data. However, the results do show some disparities in treatment of people during traffic stops:
The report goes on to note that according to public opinion research, whites were more likely than blacks to have a favorable opinion of local police (85% of whites versus 58% of blacks). Additionally, whites are more likely than blacks to have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police (57% of whites versus 38% of blacks).
New Research Trials Starting On Cannabis & MS
The state of California recently announced that it is "about to fund the nation's first scientific studies to look at whether marijuana can relieve symptoms and pain associated with AIDS and multiple sclerosis," according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune Feb. 23, 2001. This research funding marks a significant turning point in cannabis science. Dr. Donald Abrams, a University of California at San Francisco researcher who will receive one of the grants, told the Union Tribune "'It is the first money earmarked for looking at cannabis as a therapeutic rather than looking at its ill effects.'"
In the UK, "The world's biggest clinical trial of the cannabis plant got under way this week at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth; the trial is looking at the control of pain and tremors in multiple sclerosis." This news is reported by the British Medical Journal. According to the report, "if all goes to plan, the trial will be slowly extended across the country, eventually taking in 660 participants in 40 centres."
Columbia University Report Shows Parenting Key To Stopping Teen Drug Use
A new study by Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that parents are the key to kids avoiding drugs. The Chicago Tribune reported Feb. 24, 2001 that "Children who live with attentive parents stand a better chance of never using drugs than do those with 'hands-off' parents" according to the center's sixth annual report on attitudes of US teens on drug use, peer pressure and parental involvement. CASA released the report in conjunction with US Council of Mayors.
RAND Corporation Research Shows Marijuana Decriminalization Does Not Increase Use
A new study by Peter Reuter and Andrew MacCoun of the RAND Corporation concludes that "Alternatives to an aggressively enforced cannabis prohibition are feasible and merit serious consideration. A model of depenalised possession and personal cultivation has many of the advantages of outright legalisation with few of its risks."
New Report Finds Most State Anti-Drug Spending Goes To Criminal Justice System
The Columbia University Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) has issued a new report entitled "Shoveling Up" which details anti-drug spending by individual states. The figures in the study are for 1998, and are the results of more than two years of number-crunching. Significantly, the report explores the cost to state budgets from the use of all drugs, including alcohol and tobacco as well as illicit drug use.
Surgeon General Releases Report on Youth Violence
Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher on January 17, 2001 released a new Report on Youth Violence.
The report, which views violence from a developmental perspective, provides an understanding of why some young people become involved in violence and why some do not. The report also identifies science-based strategies that can be implemented in the community to decrease the risk of youth violence. One of the recommendations includes facilitating the entry of youths into effective intervention programs "rather than incarcerating them."
FBI Releases Crime Data as Media Reports Raise Questions About Accuracy of FBI Statistics
The FBI has released new UCR data for the first half of 2000, showing a continuing trend of crime reduction nationwide.
A new system, called the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, is intended to make reporting more complete and accurate. At a Justice Research & Statistics Association conference in November 2000, however, a demonstration of the NIBRS data revealed that the system still "hid" the presence of Hispanic offenders in the system by mixing them into either the white or black groups. Though it could sound minor, counting Hispanic offenders as white is how statistics from some jurisdictions are made to seem more racially balanced, and has even been used to hide the practice of racial profiling.
Philadelphia Inquirer Blows Whistle On Police Statistics -- Thousands Of Previously Ignored Crimes Come To Light
The city of Philadelphia failed to report thousands of crimes in the 1990s, including hundreds and possibly thousands of rapes. More than raising doubts about statistics, this seeming attempt to improve the city's image by ignoring serious crime effectively gives violent criminals the freedom to roam the streets, threatening public safety and damaging the reputation of the police department.
The new police chief says that he has instituted reforms to make sure this does not happen again, but skeptics will keep a close eye. The lead reporter for this series, Mark Fazlolah continues to dig into justice statistics for other cities and has found similar patterns across the country. The rule of thumb, according to Fazlolah, who spoke at the JRSA conference in Minneapolis last November, is that if a city's crime rates or clearance rates are significantly better than the national average, the data may be worth checking into.
Monitoring The Future
The new Monitoring The Future Survey has been released. This survey, which critics say may underreport drug use by young people, showed another annual decline in use of most drugs. Surprisingly, the survey showed an increase in the number of young people using the drug ecstasy.
Another report, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System performed by the Centers for Disease Control using a much larger sample size, indicates that drug use by young people may in fact have increased significantly over the past eight years.