Thursday, 27 May 2010


Remember Van Nguyen who was hanged by the Singapore government for drug trafficking in 2005? Remember the piss weak efforts of the Australian government? Alexander Downer, Chris Ellison and John Howard have a lot to answer for and one only hopes their guilty conscious will burn a hole in their tiny, nasty, cold-hard shit encased brains. The whole sickening affair had self righteous MPs walking out rather than having a minute of silence in parliament, pro-government brain dead shock jocks seeking approval for the execution from their vile audience and attempts to use Van’s state sponsored murder to further political careers.

"I believe a lot more could been done both legally and otherwise, by that I mean politically," he[Robert Richter QC] told the Today show.

"We know that the Singapore government is susceptible to pressure, it has not been pressured at all."

Mr Richter said the US and French governments had both successfully intervened when their own citizens were about to be subjected to capital punishment in Singapore, but the Australian government had failed to apply pressure.

He also said that the federal government should have sought Nguyen's extradition from Singapore to Australia weeks ago.

And he described Justice Minister Chris Ellison's remarks that Australia was unable to intervene for extradition as "absurd".

Move forward 10 years and we have the Bali 9, Schapelle Corby etc. who receive similar treatment from the government and public. Does the government do enough for Australian citizens who are subject to inhumane treatment for drug offences from corrupt or barbaric countries? There seems to be a lot of talk from politicians but not much action.

I recently stumbled onto an article(below) and it sparked off an inner rage, built up from years of reading about a mean spirited public and nasty, greasy politicians. The usual suspects were mentioned … Downer, Howard, Rudd etc. Bureaucratic bullshit was mentioned. Breaches of human rights were mentioned. It was another stuff up, in a long list of failures by the Australian government to put the interests of it’s citizens first. 

"I thought I was going home," he said.

However, the Rudd government refused -- telling him it could not reissue the passport because he did not have the required points of identification with him to prove his identity.

"I said, `Hang on a minute, you know who I am, you were the ones who ripped up my passport'," he said.

Why hadn’t I heard of Peter Gray? Where was the public outrage and the marauding media? Five years of his life was taken from him for trumped up heroin charges yet there was hardly a mention of him anywhere. Luckily we have some brave journalists like Nicola Berkovic and Nicolas Perpitch who were prepared to write these revealing articles otherwise we may have never got to read about it. 

Is this one the worst cases of government neglect you have encountered?

Aussie To Return From Mauritius After Heroin Charges Dropped
By Nicolas Perpitch
May 2010

AUSTRALIAN man Peter Gray, who has been held in Mauritius on heroin trafficking charges since 2005, is set to come home after authorities dropped the case against him.

"The euphoria is still there - it hasn't waned yet," Mr Gray, 49, told The Australian from Mauritius, where he has been living on bail after initially spending 16 months in prison.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Mr Gray had agreed to testify in another case as part of a deal to drop the charges. "All charges against Mr Gray have been dropped in the Mauritian Intermediate Court," a DFAT spokesman said.

"Mr Gray will remain in Mauritius to testify as a witness in another court case. He has agreed to this as a condition of his release.

"His lawyers advise the other case may take six weeks or more to be heard."

DFAT said it was not known why the charges were dropped.

Mr Gray has always denied importing heroin. He was arrested in August 2005 on suspicion of heroin trafficking after flying into Mauritius from Bangkok. He had given his telephone number to a woman sitting next to him on the plane, who was later convicted for carrying heroin in the false bottom of a suitcase.

Mauritian police initially put him in solitary confinement for 86 days, with a light burning 24 hours a day, until he was transferred to a maximum security jail, which he has described as "totally disgusting". In December 2006, he was released on bail, but was not allowed to work and depended on money sent by his Perth-based family to survive.

Eighteen months later, he was charged with importing heroin, although that was downgraded to conspiracy to import heroin after the female trafficker admitted in court that police had told her to implicate him.

Mr Gray's family lobbied the federal government to expedite the court hearings, but DFAT said it could not interfere in another country's judicial processes.

Mr Gray's brother, Tony Gray, yesterday cautioned that Peter was not home yet.

"Five years of his life have been taken off him, but he's still over there - anything could happen," he said.

Drug-Accused Aussie Peter Gray Marooned After Being Cut Adrift
By Nicola Berkovic
March 2010

AUSTRALIAN Peter Gray has spent 86 days in solitary confinement, 16 months in jail and almost five years trapped in Mauritius on what he says are trumped-up drug charges.

In a case that has drawn comparisons to those of former Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks and the Bali Nine, the Australian government has been accused of putting the wars on terror and drugs above the rights of its citizens.

Lawyers have condemned a decision by the Howard government to cancel Mr Gray's passport without first giving him a chance to respond and after he had been held without charge for almost four months.

And Mr Gray's family has blamed the Rudd government's refusal to reissue the passport for blocking a tiny window of opportunity for him to leave the country.

Mr Gray was arrested by Mauritian police in August 2005 after flying into the country from Bangkok. At the time, he had been living in Johannesburg, South Africa, operating a business creating artificial environments for zoos and other projects around the world. He said the trip had been part of these business dealings. During the flight, he gave a woman he had been sitting next to his telephone number.

Mr Gray, 48, said he later discovered she had been carrying heroin in the false bottom of a suitcase and was eventually convicted and jailed for 12 years.

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer cancelled Mr Gray's passport under the Australian Passports Act 2005, which gives the minister powers to cancel or refuse to reissue a passport where an Australian overseas is accused of a serious offence attracting a penalty of imprisonment for more than 12 months.

In its place, the government gave Mr Gray, who is facing up to 10 years in jail, an A4 piece of paper to use as identification. At the time, he had been moved from solitary confinement to a jail cell about 900mm wide, infested with blood-sucking insects.

"It was a real kick in the teeth," Mr Gray told The Australian in Mauritius. "It's as alone as I've ever felt."

Barrister Stephen Keim SC, who represented Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, said he could see no justification for cancelling the passport of an Australian citizen.

But given such a power existed, it was one that should be exercised "very, very cautiously".

Mr Keim said there were analogies to the cases of former Guantanamo inmates Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, and the Bali Nine, who were caught by Indonesian police for drug offences with the help of the Australian government.

"There have been a number of incidents in which the duty of us as a country to our citizens who are in some kind of trouble has not been given the priority that it should be," he said. "Rightly or wrongly, international security or the war on drugs has been given priority.

"Mamdouh Habib, David Hicks, the Bali Nine -- in all of these cases the rights of Australian citizens were placed at the bottom of the priority list."

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law deputy director Adam McBeth said Mr Gray could challenge the decision to cancel his passport under administrative law because he appeared to have been denied procedural fairness.

Dr McBeth said Australia could also have violated its international law obligations.

He said the Mauritian government appeared to have breached his human rights by holding Mr Gray without trial for so long and by exposing him to double jeopardy.

Australia could have, in turn, breached its human rights obligations by being complicit in those acts.

"There's certainly an argument to say that it has," he said. "But it's a grey area."

Dr McBeth said before taking such a dramatic step as cancelling a passport, the government should have taken into account the impact on human rights -- and if Australian had a human rights act this would be one way of forcing it to do so in future.

"It doesn't mean they should never cancel a passport to co-operate with international investigations," he said.

"But they need to take into account the human rights consequences of doing so and negotiate a better outcome like, in this case, an expedited trial or insisting that he be charged first."

Mr Gray was finally charged three years after arriving with preparing outside Mauritius to traffic heroin into the country.

However, in February last year the case collapsed after the woman refused to testify against Mr Gray, telling the court she had been urged by police to implicate him but he was not involved.

Mr Gray said his lawyer had advised Australian authorities it was best if they did not intervene in his case.

But at this point, he had begged for help and urged officials to reissue his passport.

"I thought I was going home," he said.

However, the Rudd government refused -- telling him it could not reissue the passport because he did not have the required points of identification with him to prove his identity.

"I said, `Hang on a minute, you know who I am, you were the ones who ripped up my passport'," he said.

But Australian officials in Mauritius said they could not help him.

"I was hung out to dry," he said.

Mauritian police then brought fresh charges against him, in what appears to be a clear breach of the rule against double jeopardy. The rule, which is seen as a key human right, protects individuals from being tried or punished twice for the same crime.

Mr Gray now faces charges of conspiring to import heroin with a man he is convinced does not exist. He will face trial on April 7.

However, he said even if he is acquitted, police will have an opportunity to bring fresh charges against him.

Mr Gray's cousin, Carolyn Gray, has been negotiating with the office of Attorney-General Robert McClelland for a loan to pay for better legal representation.

"It's only in the last two weeks that DFAT actually advised us this was available," she said. "I don't know why it's never been suggested."

Mr Gray has been released on bail, but is not allowed to work to support himself. His family in Perth has been sending money to pay for food, rent and other costs, but are now almost broke.

Ms Gray said she blamed the Rudd government for the fact her cousin was still trapped in Mauritius.

"There was this small window where the charges had been dropped and we thought if he had his passport we could've got him out of the country," she said.

"But it vanished. The next charge came in and it felt like we were back at square one. It was devastating."

Mr Gray said he was less confident there had been an opportunity for him to leave. But regardless, he said it was time for the government to do what it could to expedite the case and he was angry it had not done so already. Issuing a personal plea to the Prime Minister to take up the case with his Mauritian counterpart, he said: "Kevin Rudd, please help me get out of here. I'm shocked that I'm still here after four and a half years. I'm an Australian citizen and I'm innocent. I'm here on trumped-up charges. Please, please help me."

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Party Drugs in Sport … The New Frontier for Moralists and Morons

The 2009 results from the AFL’s out-of-competition illicit drug testing scheme has shown that less than 1% of players has used recreational drugs compared to 4% in 2008. Although the total number of positive results was 14 in 2009, 2 more than 2008, it came from 348 more tests than the previous year. For those who favour drug testing players for non-performance enhancing drugs, it must be music to their ears. You would think so anyway but reducing drug use and the players welfare is not always the main motive behind a tough approach as we found out last week.

It's One Set Of Rules
By Rebecca Wilson
May 2010

IF I am arrested for drug use or possession, I will more than likely be charged, face a court hearing, a fine and a possible jail sentence. My work contract will dictate that I am sacked upon conviction and face a lengthy time without employment because of my crime.

If I am an AFL player, my first and second positive drug tests will be kept a secret from everyone except me, including my club boss. I will not face charges or public humiliation. I will get away with it and never face a set of consequences like the rest of the general public.

For a football organisation that prides itself on progressive policies, the AFL's persistence with its morally indefensible drugs policy is inexcusable. This week, the AFL's operations manager Adrian Anderson announced that 14 players had tested positive to illicit drugs in 2009. These included ice, ecstasy and cocaine. Anderson did not name a single player. Two players recorded second strikes but their identities have also been protected. It is only when a player records his third strike that he is named (this has never happened because strikes are cancelled from the player's records after four years). 

According to the AFL's chief medic, Dr Peter Harcourt, cocaine was the dominant drug of choice. Cocaine is viewed as both recreational and performance-enhancing. It triggers a two-year ban if it is detected on match day. But even though AFL administrators know it is becoming a big problem, they steadfastly refuse to name and shame the players who return positive tests.

The AFL defends its privacy policy because Anderson and co believe that a player deserves a chance to reform himself before he is publicly shamed. The mere fact that there are two players on a second strike in one year of testing should be enough for the AFL to realise that the molly-coddle approach does not work. Dr Harcourt admitted the two players were a concern but Anderson believes "only" 14 positive tests is a "phenomenal" result.

He cannot be serious. The law dictates that all cocaine use is illegal, whether it is a first offence or not. Police force those caught with the drug to go through the law courts and face the consequences.

At the AFL, even when a player is caught red-handed by the police, and tried through the legal system, he is quickly re-admitted to the fold. Geelong star Matthew Stokes was arrested for drug trafficking in February this year. His charge was later downgraded to possession of one gram of cocaine, which he says was "silly, stupid and senseless". That, it seems, is enough for the AFL. Stokes was convicted and will unbelievably take to the field for the Cats this weekend in Brisbane. He has been given a second chance that normal punters could only ever dream of. Cocaine, ice and ecstasy are a scourge. There is no good that can come from their use.

That is what we teach our kids, pleading with them to think twice before they try any form of illicit drugs. But a football body that claims to produce more role models than any other sport in Australia thumbs its nose at those general principles and parenting theories. The AFL is saying to young people that drugs are OK - that if you become an elite athlete you will be granted special favours that do not apply to anyone else. Furthermore, and most importantly, the policy also says that you can break the law three times before anyone will know your name.

Hawthorn boss Jeff Kennett believes club bosses should be told if their players return positive tests.

"It is my preference that as head of the family, if one of my children got into trouble I would like to know about it. Not to reprimand but to assist the child to pursue a drug-free lifestyle," Kennett said. He is mostly right. Reprimanding should be in there too. How players are expected to reform themselves after one positive test, without any help from their club or peers, is beyond me.

Fourteen players should have been outed by the AFL this week and reported to police. It is a conservative line but it is the only way anyone will ever get the message about drugs - they are illegal and very, very damaging to an athlete's health. When it comes to cocaine, ice and ecstasy, the AFL is living in a dreamland. Not a single gram of any of it is performance-enhancing in the long term.

Adrian Anderson's "phenomenal" result is a sham. There are 14 players out there who would be beside themselves with delight that they are allowed to exist in a cocoon that is completely devoid of reality checks and normal rules.

I must first declare that testing for recreational drugs in sport is wrong. Just as delving into a players sexual behaviour or their religious beliefs has nothing to do with sporting competition, neither does their use of alcohol or drugs. It might make sense if the off-field activities of sportspeople caused harm to others or threatened the security of the nation but whether someone simply choses to be intoxicated, is frankly their business. If it unfairly enhances their performance, then penalise them. If it will alter the outcome of a game, ban them. If taking a recreational drug causes terrorist activities, then send them to jail. If they are caught with drugs, then call the cops. But don’t demand a sportsperson meet someone else’s moral standards … especially off the field and out-of-season. More importantly, drug testing for recreational drugs has never provided any positive outcomes in any situation. Whether it’s drug testing school students, workers or sportspeople … it has never proved to be effective. If the pro-testing pundits had actually spent just 30 minutes researching the issue instead of promoting their own misguided opinion, then they might have noticed this fact. One classic fallout from drug testing is the shift away from soft drugs that linger in your system for weeks to other much more dangerous drugs that clear the blood system much quicker e.g. cocaine, heroin etc. I fail to see any benefits of a shift from pot to cocaine as the drug of choice for players.

Remember Little Johnny Howard having a go at the AFL and NRL for not introducing a Zero Tolerance drug policy? His demands were contrary to all advice from drug and medical experts and rightfully the AFL rejected his repeated "Tough on Drugs" rhetoric. But Howard wasn’t the only critic of the AFL’s drug policy. There was the usual assortment of anti-drug pundits, self righteous opinion writers and other ignorant, chest pounding protecters of public morals. The real experts hardly got a mention except when the AFL had to laboriously repeat their sound reasoning to those who disagreed with them. Move forward a few years and it appears that not much has changed. The AFL keep applying evidence based drug policies that put the welfare of the player first and self righteous twats keep opposing them.

What is the urgency to punish players who use recreational drugs? Party drugs and excessive alcohol do not help with a players performance so why is it necessary to name and shame them? Research shows that the behaviour of sports heroes doesn’t influence their young fans to take up alcohol or drugs. And there is a fundamental difference between voluntary testing and being caught with drugs. Those players caught by police with drugs are treated like anyone else and charged but what the critics failed to get through their thick heads is that there is no law against testing positive for drugs. It’s these obvious flaws in their argument that expose the critics as either having an ulterior motive or simply being too stupid and caught up in drug hysteria to understand the policy. 

From the outside it would appear the police are doing more to stop drug use in the AFL than the league itself. At least the police are seen to be doing something where the AFL actually conceals players it knows use drugs.

The critics of AFL’s drug policy sound remarkably like the critics of Harm Minimisation. The usual calls for tougher penalties, exaggerating the harms and classing drug use as evil whilst the highly additive and often more dangerous drug called alcohol is given the green light. Face it, these critics are basing their arguments purely on personal feelings or misinformation. Exactly the same conditions and mentality that drive the failed "War on Drugs”. Drug use is a medical and social issue and has nothing to do with playing a ball game like footy. Unfortunately there are too many loud mouth critics who have drank the "Tough on Drugs" Kool-Aid, pushing aside expert advice and historical reality for the popular but misguided, “lock ‘em” mentality. 

Steve Price, local Melbourne drunkard and morning DJ on MTR radio station recently teamed up with fellow moralist Andrew Bolt to discuss the AFL drug policy. This was never going to be a rational discussion and as expected, harm minimisation was put up as public enemy number one.

You could just see that coming down the corridor, couldn’t you … harm minimisation.

It was the usual chest beating and finger pointing from self opinionated fuckwits with very little research and distorted facts. Ironically, Bolt tripped up Price repeatedly for making a false claim which had Price pathetically trying to save some face. After repeating his assumption as fact several times, Bolt then buried Price with this cracker:

Because I looked it up and you didn’t … research will always save you Steve.

It was a clear reminder of how little depth that critics like Price really have. Steve Price is notorious for spectacular assumptions with no basis and his agenda is simply to cause outrage. It’s must be embarrassing when they get so caught up in their own importance, they forget what is fabricated and what is not.

Later that morning, Steve Price interviewed John Rogerson – CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation.  It was one of the worst prepared interviews I have ever heard. After John Rogerson repeated the fact that research and evidence clearly shows that naming and shaming doesn’t work, Price lost it. He tried to write off the AFLs statistics are not being reality based, cried out about sending the wrong message to children and then asked, what is the Australian Drug Foundation?

What the Australian Drug Foundation? … A marketing arm for drug dealers?

The issue that critics can’t seem to comprehend is that all the harsh penalties, strict enforcement and warnings in the world will not stop drug use. It never has and never will. Only this week, Ben Cousins explained how he got around being drug tested for so long. He simply adapted to the guidelines and worked out a way around them. In his whole career, he was never tested even once until his spectacular fall from grace. If we can’t stop prisoners from using drugs, what chance do we have with highly paid, very sociable young men? 

Cocaine is viewed as both recreational and performance-enhancing. It triggers a two-year ban if it is detected on match day. But even though AFL administrators know it is becoming a big problem, they steadfastly refuse to name and shame the players who return positive tests.
-- Rebecca Wilson - The Daily Telegraph

Ah … Rebecca Wilson. Wilson is well known for her often silly and inane articles but is probably better known for her rabid attacks on issues or people that irk her. Her recent article in The Daily Telegraph titled, It's One Set Of Rules is a classic example of how hysterical some people will get over the issue of drugs. From the opening sentence that confuses being arrested with voluntarily submitting a hair sample for drug testing, Wilson is on a witch-hunt. But it’s the bending of the facts and wild assumptions by WIlson that are really on show here as her reasons just wouldn’t make sense without them. Like indicating that for drug policies to be progressive, they must resort to the old drug war rhetoric which is the opposite of what progressive drug policies actually are. Or the bizarre reasoning that an AFL player should face public humiliation because a member of the public would suffer the same fate if caught using drugs. Except that nobody would give two shits if some stranger from another state was caught with a few pills or a tiny bag of grass/cocaine/speed etc. It’s this distortion between sports and moral imperatives that make Wilson and other critics look silly. Maybe if she was reporting on school football then drug use would have some relevance but the fact is, adult sportspeople have no obligation to be a moral compass for the public and any recreational drug use is their business. 

For a football organisation that prides itself on progressive policies, the AFL's persistence with its morally indefensible drugs policy is inexcusable. 
-- Rebecca Wilson - The Daily Telegraph

Surprisingly, the argument over role models for children gets very little mention in Wilson’s article. But no self respecting moralist would write an article like this without at least one cry of, “For God’s sake … won’t someone think of the children!!!”. 

That is what we teach our kids, pleading with them to think twice before they try any form of illicit drugs. But a football body that claims to produce more role models than any other sport in Australia thumbs its nose at those general principles and parenting theories. The AFL is saying to young people that drugs are OK - that if you become an elite athlete you will be granted special favours that do not apply to anyone else. Furthermore, and most importantly, the policy also says that you can break the law three times before anyone will know your name.
-- Rebecca Wilson - The Daily Telegraph

I am always curious why sportspeople are put forward by some as role models for children. Sure, it’s fine to admire their skills but allowing your kids to look up to a 20 something year old stranger is not my idea of positive parenting. I would be inclined to suggest my father to my kids for admiration or a well known philanthropist.

The main point of this article appears to be the treatment AFL players get for drug use compared to everyone else. The numerous mentions of drugs being illegal and the consequences of being caught by police is harped on again and again but WIlson misses one important point - police do not arrest you for having previously used drugs. The 14 positive results are from voluntary tests which have nothing to do with the police. Wilson writes, “Furthermore, and most importantly, the policy also says that you can break the law three times before anyone will know your name”. This is where any rational person should be asking themselves - is this really about what’s best for the game or how far Rebecca Wilson will go to push her own conservative ideology. 

Maybe this might shed some light.

Rebecca Wilson - How Does She Get A Gig Writing Opinion Pieces?
Forum started by ‘fairdinkum’

So I have read two Rebecca Wilson 'opinion' pieces lately and both have been, IMO, absolute garbage. Unfortunately, they don't seem to publish comments on her pieces on (wonder why), so I thought I would discuss her rubbishness here.

What I basically want to know is this: How do flogs like Rebecca Wilson get a gig writing opinion pieces in widely-circulated newspapers?

Last week's article was about teenage drinking, and the perils thereof. Wilson basically tried to say that she is a model parent because she lets her son have a beer every now and then, but doesn't let him out of her sight to drink any more than the solitary beer (i.e. she drives him to and from friends' houses, no parties, etc.). Lots of trust she has for her kids, there (and how do you reckon the poor kid went at school the day after that piece went to print?). Anyway, it was all rather silly given that she is a multi-convicted drink-driver. Where does she get off lecturing others on responsible alcohol consumption? Kids might go around getting drunk at mates places but until they get behind the wheel their chances of doing somebody damage pales in comparison to what Wilson has done more than once.

This week she got on her high-horse regarding the group-sex 'issue' with which the media is so wound up at the moment. Her contention? She isn't a 'wowser', but consensual sex between more than two people is just plain 'shameful and sad'. Her justification? Well, her teenaged son reckons group-sex is weird, and if a teenaged boy reckons group-sex is weird, it must be wrong, right? She even argues that sex is wrong wherever the parties involved do not 'deeply care' for one another.

Related Articles

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Cannabis Laws Relaxed … Except Australia

I keep hearing how Australia was once the leader in Harm Minimisation worldwide. And it was true until John Howard rejected the wishes of a rare bipartisan political unity, health experts, the AOD sector etc. - and ignored evidence from overseas by vetoing the proposed ACT heroin trials. Howard went on to claim that harm minimisation was not Australia’s drug policy although it was clearly stated on the government’s own website. Since then, Australia has bumbled through it’s commitment to harm minimisation with fierce opposition from conservatives trying to send Australia back to the 1950s.

One major issue effecting Australia is the lack of law reform for cannabis use. Several states had decriminalised personal amounts of cannabis removing the threat of jail for most users. These Australian states were taking notice of European countries that had shown the world how more rational cannabis laws did not result in societal chaos or a huge growth in drug use. In fact, these new policies reduced drug use as well as lowering crime and freeing up valuable police resources.

Enter the ultra conservative, religious, anti-drug nutters. Banning drug paraphernalia, removing successful cannabis policies, increasing penalties for pot, random drug dog operations, extending police powers to stop and search without suspicion. I want to know why Australia, who was once known as a leader of progressive, sensible drug policies and harm minimisation is going in the opposite direction to the rest of the western world? 

Berlin Set to Relax Cannabis Law
May 2010

It could soon be legal to posses up to 15 grams of cannabis in Berlin -- a street value of more than €120.

A new marijuana policy could make it legal for individuals to posses up to 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of the drug in the German capital. The regulation would make Berlin among the most cannabis-friendly in Europe.

Berliners have long enjoyed their city's soft stance on marijuana. It's not uncommon to see someone taking a deep drag on a joint in a city park or rolling one in the back of a café.

Now, though, the German capital may take a further step toward becoming one of the most weed-tolerant in Europe. The city-state's top health official told SPIEGEL that she plans to raise the amount of marijuana and hashish one can possess to 15 grams (0.5 ounces).

German federal law prohibits the possession of marijuana beyond a "small amount" but leaves it up to the states to determine exactly what that amount should be. Most states, including Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, define a "small amount" as 6 grams. Until now, Berlin has allowed the possession of 10 grams.

With the regulation set to expire, Katrin Lompscher, the city's top health administrator, is soon to sign a new regulation increasing the amount. She says the success of the 10-gram rule warrants an increase, though her office, despite repeated requests, have declined to characterize that success.

Not everyone in Berlin is pleased with the plan. Lompscher's far-left Left Party is the junior coalition partner in the Berlin city-state, paired with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). The Left Party has long advocated a legalization of cannabis, but Stephanie Winde, a spokeswoman for the Berlin SPD, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the Left Party hadn't discussed the 15-gram policy before going public. The SPD, she says, would prefer to be part of a joint decision on cannabis policy.

Easier for Dealers?

If Lompsher's new measure goes into law, it would also seemingly stand in contradiction to stepped-up efforts to combat drug-dealing in Berlin over the past year. In once instance, dozens of police officers, supported by a helicopter, combed Hasenheide, a 50-hectare (125-acre) park in central Berlin, for 13 hours in search of dealers. Other parks have likewise been targeted.

Some have wondered aloud whether Lompsher's proposal will just make it easier for drug dealers to carry their goods and be covered by the law. "Dealers will exploit the liberal regulation and carry no more than the legal amount," the Berliner Zeitung newspaper wrote in a recent editorial.

A European Leader

If the proposed measure goes into effect, Berlin's marijuana laws would be among the most liberal in Europe. In the Netherlands, individuals are allowed to possess just 5 grams for personal use without fearing prosecution. In Belgium, it is 3 grams. The Czech Republic recently passed the most liberal drug laws in Europe, allowing individuals to grow up to five cannabis plants or be in possession of as many as 20 marijuana "cigarettes."

This appeared below the article.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Will The UK Lead the World on Drug Law Reform?

The recent change of government in Britain is certainly entertaining to say the least. A new conservative government after 13 years of what many would describe as another conservative government. Labour leader, Gordon Brown taking one for the party and resigning. A coalition of the left and right … the first coalition in 75 years.  A third party shaking up the old establishment. What a hoot.

With all the talk of election and banking reform, a new type of politics and a brighter future for Britain, there’s one major issue that is being overlooked - drug policy. With Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg strongly supporting drug law reform and the public backlash from the sacking of professor David Nutt, the UK might actually be the first major nation to introduce significant changes to their drug laws. If the UK takes up even part of what Clegg wants, it should kick start the drug reform avalanche started by The Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Mexico, The Czech Republic, Poland etc.

The best way to reduce the harm drugs cause to society is to base policy on facts

The burning question though is whether Tory’s leader, David Cameron and a coalition government will give in to demands from Nick Clegg to reform drug policy … and will Clegg follow through with his demands? Cameron says he is prepared to work with Nick Clegg and said they "want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest". Luckily for Nick Clegg, David Cameron is one of the few Conservatives who may be open to drug law reform. Cameron is not the typical Tory but is open to gay rights, climate change and other so called lefty views. He has also admitted to taking drugs in his youth. 

Prescription Heroin
The UK is the only country to have never stopped prescription heroin and cocaine for addicts although it rarely happens these days. Unlike most countries that outlawed heroin under pressure from the UN/US, the UK kept prescribing heroin to addicts up until the 1960s. There was virtually no black market for heroin and drug crime was almost unheard of. In 1960, there were less than 100 heroin addicts and fewer than 500 abusers of all drugs, a stark difference to the US that had thousands of heroin addicts and ten times as many drug abusers. The UK drug problem was non existent in politics as addiction was a medical issue treated by doctors.

Between 1979 and 1984, seizures of illegal drugs went up tenfold, incarcerated drug offenders went up fourfold, and the consumption of heroin increased by 350 percent—but heroin prices decreased by 20 percent.

The growing drug culture of the 1960s and several rouge doctors who prescribed massive amounts of heroin, cocaine and other drugs started to get the attention of the government and police. This led to changes in the prescribing of maintenance drugs and methadone became the preferred treatment. Doctors now had to have special licences to prescribe heroin for addicts.

The UK has just finished a scientific trial to analyse the benefits of prescribing heroin and cocaine to long term addicts. The final results reflected the success of other trials overseas and gave legitimacy to the “British System” that has been operating since 1920. It is becoming clearer why giving long term addicts their drug of addiction, kept their drug problem in the 1960s at a fraction of what it was overseas and what it is today.

Prescription heroin for addicts has proved highly successful in every trial to date, is much more accepted than what it once was and doesn’t require the UK parliament to pass any special new laws. With pressure from Nick Clegg, it will most probably become part of the UK’s drug policy.

Future Drug Policies
The Liberal Democrats also favour the Dutch system of cannabis coffee shops. With the growing evidence that today’s extra strong, hydroponic “Skunk” is lacking the balance of cannabinoids and THC, a regulated system would bring back the less dangerous strains of cannabis. Anti-cannabis pundits keep overlooking the fact that prohibition is responsible for drug dealers producing stronger and more profitable dope.

Nick Clegg might also push for decriminalisation or legalisation of all drugs for personal use. Radical changes like this might prove a tad too much for conservatives but it is a growing trend worldwide. Germany, Italy, Spain, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Mexico and Portugal have all decriminalised or altered drug policies to let those caught with small amounts of all drugs to avoid jail or even arrest. There are many more countries on the verge of implementing similar policies including Poland, Brazil, Argentina etc.

The Government should either listen to its experts or save money by appointing a committee of tabloid newspaper editors instead.

The most important reform supported by Nick Clegg is the revamping of the drug scheduling system. The sacking of Prof. David Nutt from the The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) for simply telling the truth and suggesting a change to drug scheduling has attracted much public and academic debate about the role of science in government policy decisions. An overhaul of the scheduling system would see drugs analysed by evidence rather than the media and public drug hysteria. This will have a profound impact on the world as it brings into question the existing schedules for other countries which are not based on science or evidence but political posturing, the media and moral crusaders.

Base drugs policy on scientific evidence. 
The Liberal Democrats will always base drugs policy on the independent scientific advice of experts. This will involve making the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) completely independent of Government. We will also spend less police and court time on the unnecessary prosecution of users and addicts, with a focus instead on getting addicts the treatment they need. Police attention should focus on drug pushers, who will be made easier to prosecute by the introduction a new offence of “drug dealing”.

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Friday, 7 May 2010

Poland to Allow Personal Use of All Drugs

The dichotomy between Europe and Australia regarding drug policy is becoming greater all the time. Even our Zero Tolerance masters, the good old US of A is doing the unimaginable by decriminalising cannabis use, introducing medical marijuana and even proposing the legalisation of recreational cannabis use.

More and more countries are taking notice of the carnage caused by the "War on Drugs" and deciding to do something about it. And it’s not what most politicians expect by cracking down even further on drug users but implementing new strategies based on research, evidence and expert opinion. 

Most people don't realise that ex PM, Bob Hawke is responsible for introducing our most successful drug policy to date - Harm Minimisation. Compare that to the last 2 previous PMs who back Zero Tolerance via the "Tough on Drugs" policy? The world moves forward ... Australia moves backwards.

Will our government ever give in to evidence and facts or keep pushing the most useless and failed drug policy in Australia’s history ... "Tough on Drugs”?

Poland Set To Liberalise Drug Law
May 2010

The Ministry of Justice has prepared a draft amendment to Poland’s drug laws, allowing prosecutors to drop charges if someone is caught in possession of substances for personal use only.

According to the Rzeczpospolita daily, which claims to have seen the draft bill, prosecutors will be able to terminate criminal proceedings against someone with a small amount of drugs for personal use.

Charges can be dropped if it can be proved that no financial transaction was to occur, although this is conditional on where the arrest takes place, for instance at a school or other places where young people congregate.

Rzeczpospolita says that the term "small amount of drugs" is not defined in the draft legislation, however.

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Saturday, 1 May 2010

UK Royal College of Nursing Calls for Free Heroin

The call for heroin assisted treatment (HAT) around the world is growing stronger every year. As more and more evidence is brought forward showing the clear advantages for longer term addicts, the more that it becomes accepted. Even the public are warming to the idea. Of course, the big question is whether Australia will follow the lead from other successful countries or continue with it's nondescript anti-drug campaign.

If you're listening Kev and Nic ... it's time to follow the evidence.

Prescribe Heroin on NHS, says Royal College of Nursing leader
By David Rose, Health Correspondent
April 26, 2010

Heroin should be routinely prescribed on the NHS as a way of weaning drug users off their addiction, the head of the country’s top nursing union has said.

Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), also said he was in favour of “drug consumption rooms” to enable addicts to take drugs safely under medical supervision, and to cut rates of drug-related crime.

Nurses gathering at the RCN’s annual congress in Bournemouth had earlier discussed providing heroin to addicts where other attempts at treatment have failed.

Results of pilot studies in London, Brighton and Darlington suggest that allowing users to inject themselves with the Class A drug under medical supervision can cut local crime rates by two-thirds over six months. Aberdeen has been considered as a potential future pilot location in Scotland.

But some experts are concerned at the prospect of providing legitimate “shooting galleries” in publically-funded clinics, despite the increasing use of methadone, the heroin-subsitute, and a lack of abstinence-based programmes.

Amid controversy over how to treat chronic drug users, members of the RCN, the country’s largest nursing union, discussed the possibility of providing heroin on the NHS today but did not hold a vote for or against the move.

Speaking in a personal capacity after the debate, Dr Carter, the former head of Central and North West London Mental Health NHS Trust, said that he believed in providing drugs, needle exchanges and locations for users to inject substances safely.

“The fact is heroin is very addictive,” he said. “People who are addicted so often resort to crime, to steal to buy the heroin. It obviates the need for them to steal.

“It might take a few years but I think people will understand that if you are going to get people off heroin then in the initial stages we have to have proper heroin prescribing services.” Dr Carter added that more research was needed into consumption rooms, which have been tested in Sydney and Amsterdam.

Experts found the programme stopped users injecting in school playgrounds and stairwells.

“Critics say you are encouraging drug addiction but the reality is that these people are addicts and they are going to do it anyway,” he added.

Radical proposals for the most chronic drug users were first advocated in 2002 by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett. The gave rise to pilot programmes in England in which users inject themselves with pharmaceutical diamorphine imported from Switzerland, under medical supervision.

Preliminary results suggest that of 127 users involved in the pilots, three-quarters “substantially reduced” their use of street drugs, while their spending on drugs fell from £300 to £50 a week. The number of crimes they committed also fell from 1,731 in three months to 547 in six months.

Delegates at the RCN congress Claire Topham-Brown, a nurse from Cambridgeshire proposed the motion for today’s debate, saying that that medical heroin could be provided as a means of “harm-reduction” which despite initial resistance by health professionals, “has now become an accepted model of practice”.

But some nurses disagreed. Gayle Brooks, of the union’s UK safety representatives committee, said: “Where would this stop, cannabis, cocaine, crack cocaine and other illicit substances? If we do this for heroin, do we have to do this for other substances, and can the NHS afford this?”

All three main political parties in Britain have stressed the importance of alternative treatments for long-term drug addicts in the run-up to the election.

While the number of heroin addicts needing treatment has decreased in recent years, almost 200,000 people receive methadone each year.

Recent guidance from the Department of Health made clear that prisoners serving sentences of more than six months should be encouraged to become “drug-free” — of prescribed and illegal substances — while in jail.

The Times has highlighted concerns about numbers who may emerge from the criminal justice system with an addiction to methadone; almost 20,000 inmates were put on the drug last year, a rise of 57 per cent since 2008.

Harry Shapiro, a spokesman for the charity Drugscope, said it would support moves towards “a balanced treatment system, with a range of different treatment options”, including providing heroin for a minority of users who met strict criteria for treatment.

“These are people who have been using for a long time and where previous attempts including rehabilitation had failed,” he added. “The results can be encouraging in that this can help people engage in treatment and control their chaotic lives.”

Doctors could regularly prescribe reduced heroin and cocaine to recovering drug addicts until 1968, when the practise required a Home Office license.

Dr Neil McKechnie, of Glasgow University, said any national programme to increase heroin provision on the NHS was “an extraordinary risky proposal”. “Where it is tightly controlled and prescribed to a very small group of addicts — 1 per cent of users — there may be some who can benefit, but we should be wary of a creeping extension of this, as happened with methadone.

“The vast majority of people on methadone are continuing to use illegal drugs, and by definition they are failing on their treatment.

“Most people would say that treatment for drug addiction is about getting people off drugs rather than giving them easy access to drugs.”

Full results from the pilots, overseen by the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London, will be published with the next couple of months.