Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Junky's Christmas by William Burroughs

In the spirit of the holiday season, we would like to wish all of our members and supporters a very Merry Christmas!

When you sit down during the holiday season, and reflect on the recent successes towards a sensible drugs policy and the many steps that must be treaded, take some time to watch William Burrough's narration of the Junky's Christmas with claymation.

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Thursday, 15 December 2011

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Find out more about sex worker rights at the Sex Workers Open University

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Monday, 28 November 2011

How long would it take you to score drugs?

Our friends at ask Londoners how easily they could score cannabis and cocaine.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Letter writing campaign: HIV in Russia

This World Aids Day, SSDP is supporting the International Network of People who Use Drugs'campaign for harm reduction policies to be implemented in Russia.

Russia has about 1.7 million injecting drug users with only 70 needle exchanges. In 2008, UNAIDS estimated that just 7% of injecting drug users had access to these services. Learn more about the situation in Russia here.

We are asking SSDP activists to take the time around World Aids Day to write to the Russian embassy to call for change. There is a model letter below, but feel free to change it if you like. Maybe your chapter could run an Amnesty International style letter writing session? Let us know if you get any interesting replies, by emailing education[at]

Dear Ambassador,

In most of the developed world, HIV/AIDS is successfully fought using a variety of harm-reduction and health-led approaches, as recommended by UNAIDS, the WHO and the UNODC. On average, countries adopting such approaches have HIV rates among 5% amongst injecting drug users.

However, over a third of Russia’s 1.7million injecting drug users are HIV positive, a number which continues to rise through the lack of access clean needles or opioid substitution therapy.

I request that Russia considers the implementation of the following measures:

· Increase the provision of life-saving programmes such as opiod substitution treatment and needle exchange programme

· Provide free access to antiviral therapy for all HIV positive people, including those who inject drugs.

· Cease persecuting Russian activists and organisations that are calling for the introduction of harm reduction programmes and for a drug policies based on scientific evidence and human rights.

· Recognise that people who use drugs must be at the forefront of designing drug policies and programmes.

· Cease criminalising the possession and use of drugs, which is a major barrier for people who inject drugs to access the harm reduction services available.

I trust that you will take action to reduce the harms associated with drug use in Russia.

Believe me, My Dear Ambassador,

Yours sincerely,

[SSDP Chapter or Area]

Send your letters to: His Excellency Alexander Vladimirovich Yakavenko, The Russian Ambassador, 6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP. Call +44 (0) 20 7229 6412, + 44 (0) 20 7229 7281 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7727 8625. Email:

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Friday, 18 November 2011

What are you doing for World Aids Day?

World Aids Day on December 1st is a chance to remember those we have lost to HIV/Aids and to mobilise around harm reduction campaigns. Drug users as a group continue to be effected by HIV/Aids and its important that grassroots organisations like SSDP get involved in organising events and campaigns to support those living with HIV/Aids and to campaign for harm reductionist policies. There are plenty of things that SSDP activists can do on their campuses and in their communities to observe the occasion, we have come up with a short list of ideas of things to do but it is in no way exhaustive. We have also tried to ensure that we have ideas that both activists in chapters and without chapter support can organise.

1. Run an event!
Run an event which highlights some of the issues around HIV/Aids on your campuses and in your communities. Perhaps join up with other groups and societies who might also be interested (charity groups, LGBT Societies, human rights groups, etc.) Many student unions now have groups like Universities Allied for Essential Medicines or Student Stop Aids who do a lot of work on advocating for increased access to HIV/Aids medicines, and who are usually very informed and might be up for a joint event. Perhaps you can get an external speaker from a charity or campaign in during the week around World Aids Day, or read up about the situation in Russia where about 60% of new cases of HIV are IV drug related and give a presentation or run a discussion group about the issue. If you can, film it and send us a copy of the video!

2. Write an article for this blog / your student paper / your local paper
For the week around World Aids Day we will be trying to get articles specifically focused on HIV/Aids out to you via this blog - if you want to write something please get in touch by emailing education[at] Writing articles for your local student/community paper is also really important in raising the profile of SSDP and creating awareness around not just how drug users are effected by HIV/Aids, but some of the past activism and solutions the drug using community have developed, such as community ran needle exchanges.

3. Run an event to a local HIV/Aids vigil
Nearly every city will have a local candlelit vigil to commemorate those we have lost. Why not bring your chapter along to one? Think about bringing a banner, placard or flyers to raise awareness of how HIV/Aids affect drug users, but make sure you get in contact with the organisers of the vigil for permission first as it might not be seen as appropriate. And if you don't have a local vigil - create one! Get in touch with other groups who might be interested (charity societies on campuses and in communities, LGBT societies, etc. ) and get something going!

4. Run an SSDP stall which fundraises for a local HIV/Aids campaign/charity
Running a stall on campus or in your communities is a great way to improve the profile of SSDP, and to recruit new members. Why not use the opportunity to fundraise for a local HIV/Aids campaign or charity as well? Make sure you check out our guide to running a stall before you set out!

5. Write a letter to the Russian Embassy
This year SSDP will be running a letter-writing campaign all throughout December in solidarity with people who inject drugs in Russia, where the rates of HIV infection within this community is shockingly high. We will be supporting the International Network of People who Use Drugs campaign on the issue, and launching a letter writing campaign a few days before World Aids Day. Perhaps you could hand out copies of letters to the Russian embassy at any events you organise or take people along to, or organise a letter writing session on your campuses or communities.

6. Join the online vigil
Take a photo of yourself with a candle and a sign saying "World Aids Day 2011: Remember those who we have lost, Campaigning for Harm Reduction" which can be found here (or make your own customised sign) and send it to education[at] to take part in our online vigil. Once you have made the sign, why not go round and get friends/family/members of the public to join in and send in their pictures too? Remember to take around a mailing list as you do incase anyone is interested in future events. An example of how it should look:

It is good practice at any of the events in person or on facebook events, flyers, etc. to give information to your members and members of the public about where the local places you can get tested for HIV are. You might also want to mention Sex, Drugs and HIV, a fundraising project for various charities working on aspects of HIV issues, including our friends at Release.

Finally, don't forget to tell us what you are up to, email education[at] with stories and photos of what you have done to commemorate World Aids Day.

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Friday, 28 October 2011

Viv Ahmun on Drugs and Race

Viv Ahmun, the former CEO of In-Volve speaks at SSDP London's event - No Justice, No Peace: Drugs, Race and Growing Up on the 20th October. Thanks to KnowDrugs for filming.

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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Former Mexican President holds America responsible for drug deaths

Vincente Fox, the former President of Mexico (2001-2006) has told the BBC that he holds the United States responsible for the drug-violence in his country.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My Favourite Cannabis Music

Manchester SSDP activist and blues musician Tyler Hatwell takes us on a journey through some of his favourite cannabis music.

Musicians take drugs, not all musicians obviously, but the good ones. The link between musician and drug is a relatively strong one (as Bill Hicks put it; "the musicians that made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years were real fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.").

Not only does it often act as a large influence but also, occasionally, the artist deems it necessary to write a song celebrating their love of the drug. Here I have compiled my favourite songs celebrating the usage of cannabis, and as an added bonus not one of them is by Snoop Dogg.

King of Chicago Blues and all round cool guy Muddy Waters with Champagne and Reefer

Scat-singing Goddess of Swing Ella Fitzgerald with When I get low I get high

Dancehall legend Barrington Levy with Under mi sensi

Singjay Jamaican Reggae-master Eek-A-Mouse with Ganja Smuggling

Ultimate hipster icon (if Andy Warhol is busy) Bob Dylan with Rainy Day Woman

Psychedelic sixties songstress Janis Joplin with Mary Jane

Zoot-suit wearing 30's jazz troubadour Cab Calloway with The Reefer Man

And if we haven't convinced you that songs about cannabis can be cool, we can at least convince you that some anti-cannabis songs are not. Take it away Ringo...

Tyler Hatwell is the co-host of the weekly funk, soul and blues radio show - The Mess Around.

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Liberal Youth members on Drug Policy

Liberal Youth members Cath Smith, Chris Ward and Sarah Harding explain why Liberal Democrat members should vote in favour of evidence based drug policy at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference this weekend.

When you’ve been on a diet for 40 years and haven’t lost any weight you change your diet.

The same is true of drugs policy in this country. The Global Report on Drugs Policy which included former UN Secretary Kofi Annan, concluded that the decades-old worldwide "war on drugs has failed”

On Sunday evening, Liberal Democrat conference have a golden opportunity to take the first step to righting this wrong, and introducing a fair, evidence based drugs policy. The motion proposed to conference calls for a scientific approach to drugs, drawing inspiration from best practise in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal, as well as the findings of the 2010 drugs strategy consultation.

Drugs policy has long been a taboo in the political world. Our leaders don’t talk about treatment, for fear of looking soft. They don’t talk about the negative impact of criminalisation in case they are branded too liberal. They don’t even talk about the science, because the science points out such obvious inconsistency.

Each year worldwide drug use increases, criminality linked to drugs increases and the bill for the war on drugs increases vastly. The most important part of the motion is not what it says in the text, it’s the fact that a party of government is standing up and talking about it. If this passes it opens up the debate, it asks our politicians to look again and start talking about alternatives to the failed zero tolerance policy.

Young drug users must not be punished, when often they are victims of crime and poverty. The motion calls for the priority of these people to change from punishment, to rehabilitation and education. Often young people fall into drug use, are punished and are stuck in a vicous circle, with future prospects becoming closed of to them.

Drugs policy should never be based on outdated stigma's and stereotypes. The motion calls for a new approach to drugs policy in the United Kingdom, based on science. It calls for drug users to be treated as victims, not as criminals and puts more emphasis on education and rehabilitation.

Liberal Youth is one of the movers of the motion, and has a proud record of campaigning for a sensible attitude on drugs. We are proud to be supporters of this motion.

To coincide with the motion at conference, Liberal Youth is also running campaigns on an evidence based approach to drugs policy. Literature will be going out in our Freshers packs, and up and down the country we’ll be promoting how we should be talking sense on drugs. Please click here to order this material.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Drug Policy in Portugal: The benefits of decriminalising drug use

A new report has been published by the Open Society Foundation covering the benefits of decriminalising drug use.

The report explores the last decade of drug policy reform in Portugal, where since 2001 the responsibility of reducing demand has been with the Ministry of Health, rather than with the Ministry of Justice. Defying convention, drug-dependent persons have been viewed as patients rather than criminals.

The report by award-winning journalist Artur Domoslawski, is available for download from the Open Society.

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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Ineffective, costly and counterproductive - Tom Lloyd on the Misuse of Drugs Act

Extract taken from an interview with Tom Lloyd, former Chief Constable and lead of the International Drug Policy Consortium's law enforcement project. The interview was conducted by SSDP's Education Officer Jess Bradley at our 2011 conference.

I was a police officer mainly in London for over 30 years and I have experience of the implementation of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, from the start of my service in 1974 to the end in 2005, in both urban and rural areas. I came to the conclusion over that time that our implementation of the Misuse of Drugs Act has been ineffective, very costly and counterproductive.

Ineffective because in that time drug use has soared from a relatively low base in the very early 70s of 2000 heroin users to what is now estimated to be a quarter to a third of a million problematic drug users - some of them multiple drug users but certainly many of them addicted to heroin and crack cocaine. By any standards that has been a failure of a stated attempt and intention to reduce drug consumption.

It has been hugely costly and I have seen that cost at first hand in terms of the number of police officers and their equipment that have been used to enforce the drug laws. That amounts to at least £10 million a year spent by the criminal justice system enforcing the Misuse of Drugs Act.

And thirdly counterproductive, many people have unnecessary criminal convictions incurred as a result of their drug use. This does not help people deal with any problems that they may have with drug use, it hinders them. The fact that drugs are subject to law enforcement under the act means that people are actually discouraged from seeking help should they need it for their drug addiction.

What also happened is that a huge criminal enterprise has grown up on the back of the so called illegal drugs market. And it is estimated that criminals in the UK are profiting to the extent of £6 billion every year, internationally the figure is estimated to be US$320 billion, it is a huge criminal trade and the criminals can use that money to corrupt law enforcement officers and anybody else they need to in order to increase their profits and make sure that they evade prosecution.

I maintain the view that we should be enforcing the law in relation to serious and organised crime, even if drugs were controlled and regulated in the future and there was no profit in them there would still be serious and organised criminals active in them, in this country and elsewhere. We should be spending our money on pursuing them, not on pursuing users of the drugs that are currently prescribed.

We also have a problem of health being very badly affected by the fact that drugs are prohibited in this country and round the world. The state of the market which is uncontrolled, other than by criminals, is such that very little attention is paid to the purity or strength of a product. Which is why, in the UK alone, we have about a thousand deaths a year from accidental overdoses or from impurities. Recently there has been Anthrax contaminating heroin which has been on UK streets. Blood borne diseases such as HIV AIDS and hepatitis B and also transmitted, often through the sharing of needles and whilst many drug users might be aware of the health risks of sharing needles they are often driven to do that by their need to take the drug before they, for example, get arrested and have the drug taken away from them by the police.

So overall we have a situation where the drug price is high leading to criminality, theft, shoplifting, robbery, and of course the activities such as prostitution to pay for one’s illegal drug habit. We have health issues, we have extreme costs to the criminal justice system, there seems to be very little in favour of maintaining the status quo.

The most common argument is that many of the drugs which are used are harmful. This is a relatively weak argument as there are many other drugs that are seriously harmful, such as alcohol and tobacco, which are not subject to law enforcement - although they are subject to some control and regulation, unlike drugs like heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

The people who support the status quo will also argue that the law has a strong deterrent effect. Whereas if we moved to a system of control and regulation then a signal would be sent out which would result in a dramatic increase in the consumption of drugs. Surveys don't support that view and studies in a number of countries have shown that the main factors associated with drug use are cultural, societal and peer pressure and at most the fact that drug use is illegal may account for something like a 20% or a fifth of any deterrent effect. It is very difficult of course to quantify that absolutely and certainly in countries like Portugal where there has been de jure decriminalisation of personal drug use there has been no surge of increase in uptake of drugs many of the nay-sayers predicted.

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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Glenn Greenwald on Drug Decriminalisation in Portugal

Salon columnist and bestselling author Glenn Greenwald is the author of a new Cato Institute policy paper on Portugal's pathbreaking and hugely successful drug decriminalization program.

Greenwald sat down with Nick Gillespie to talk about the lessons from Portugal-and Barack Obama's decidedly disappointing performance so far on drug policy, executive power, and civil liberties.

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Thursday, 18 August 2011

An Interview With a Cannabis Dealer

Mainly due to my area of study and activities with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, I spend a lot of my time writing and talking about drugs, government policies, and the effects of these on societies in general. I do this with little first hand experience, I choose to keep my personal life separate from illicit drugs. So I thought I’d actually try meeting people involved with 'illegal' drugs. After making a number of phone calls, I managed to arrange to meet a cannabis dealer at a location that was neutral to us both.

I must admit, I was a little worried as I was travelling to meet them, I didn’t really know what to expect. When I arrived at the location I was met by “Joe” (named changed to hide identity), a rather friendly individual in their early 20s. For obvious reasons, at the beginning of our conversation Joe seemed a little reserved as they tried to gauge me, but after a while they began to be more open with me.

By their own admission, Joe is not your stereotypical drug dealer. They were brought up in a middle-class family and had started dealing cannabis whilst at university due to financial difficulties. I’m told they wouldn’t have been able to finish their course if they had done the usual 20-hour a week, minimum wage job, especially after having spent time working as a non-skilled worker which they had hated.

It all started for Joe when they thought that maybe they could sell a small amount of cannabis to cover the cost of their own use, just dealing to friends. “And for a while I didn’t make any money off of it” partly from being ripped off by the people Joe bought cannabis off and partly from simple mistakes that are made by someone doing something for the first time. Within a small number of months though, things seemed to have picked up for Joe, as friends passed on Joe’s number to other friends and is now struggling to keep up with demand. From what I’m being told it appears Joe rather enjoys this job, spending most of the day travelling round chatting and smoking with the people they deal to, and whom I’m informed are generally interesting folk.

What’s apparent from talking to Joe is that dealing cannabis is something that they have done as an active choice. It’s common to talk about those individuals, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, who have become involved in the drugs trade due to lack of alternatives. I personally like to use the phrase “drug dealing is the only equal opportunities employment in some places". However Joe’s story, where someone starts dealing to fund their own use but then it grows into something bigger is not one I’m unfamiliar with. This can have terrible consequences with addictive drugs where people try to encourage other people to use so they can pay for their own addiction.

As time has gone on, the paranoia that comes from working in a black market has built up on them. “I do have nightmares about getting caught, dreams where my place gets raided or I’m in court.” Most people have a story about someone they know who used to deal drugs and they got caught by police or attacked by rival drug dealers, and I get a real feeling of worry from Joe as they tell me about these stories being recalled to them.

We also discuss the ethics of being a cannabis dealer. Despite for all intents and purposes Joe seems a good person they’re fully aware that higher up in the drug ladder some less nice people will be operating. Joe insists that cannabis is not a damaging drug like heroin or cocaine, and that they would feel awful if they were dealing drugs like those to people who were ruining their lives through drug use. “I’m not a criminal, I would consider myself a good person, I try to live my life in a good way…”

It’s at this point Joe’s phone rings, makes their excuses and leaves.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Stop Torture in Healthcare (video)

Video from The Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care. Some viewers may find this video upsetting or triggering.

Venta needed treatment for his drug problem. Instead, he was tortured.

In all corners of the world, people who use drugs are forcibly detained in "rehabilitation" centers where they may be subjected to beatings, forced labor, medical experimentation, denial of basic health care (including evidence-based drug treatment), and other severe human rights violations.

Like Venta, thousands of people throughout Southeast Asia are locked away in so-called drug rehabilitation centers where they are regularly beaten, abused, and denied access to medical care.

The Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care is working worldwide to put an end to human rights violations and abuses in health care settings.

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Friday, 12 August 2011

Job Vacancy: Volunteer Web Developer

Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK is recruiting...

Web Developer Job Description

An opportunity has arisen to help develop the web presence of a new youth driven organisation working to reform drug policy. The developer will be responsible for the creation and design of the website according to specification.

Duties and Responsibilities.

  • To design and develop the website ensuring strong functionality and optimisation.
  • To providing training to volunteers on how to update and maintain the website.
  • To help develop and evaluate our online strategy.

Skills/Attributes Required.

  • Proven Web and Database Development experience.
  • Knowledge of PHP and MySQL is desirable.
  • Web/Graphical Design skills would be desirable.
  • A flexible attitude with proven experience of working in a small team.
  • Excellent communication skills and attention to detail.
  • Dedication to ending the War on Drugs.


The opportunity to work within a developing dynamic network of drug policy reform advocates. Travel expenses and lunch will be covered when visiting the head office.

In order to apply send your CV to Levent Akbulut at

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Fiscal Significance of Drugs

Reblogged from the Beckley Foundation, with thanks.

These past ten years, the war on drugs has led to repeated demands from academics and economists (including 3 Nobel Prize winners) to change the current flawed strategy that seems to ignore the laws of supply and demand. Milton Friedman has long advocated the legalization of drugs; indeed, the world famous economist even said that “if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.” And he isn’t the only one defending this point of view: Gary Becker (Nobel-Prize economist), George Shultz, the U.S. Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989, or National Humanities Medal winner Thomas Sowell have also endorsed the liberalization approach.

It has become clear that the war on drugs is not only ineffective, but expensive too, as a lot of money spent by governments is used to catch the people who buy or sell illegal drugs, to prosecute them in court, and to send them to jail. In the US, under current rules regarding parole and probation, a positive urine test for drugs can send a parolee or probationer to prison, regardless of the original offense. Over $100 billion is spent globally each year on enforcing the war on drugs[1] – the following figures are indeed quite thought-provoking:

Between 1919 and 1933, alcohol was illegal in the United States; historians believe that the decision to end prohibition on March 23 1933 was partly fuelled by the desire to raise tax revenue in the 1930s when the depression started. Today, the risk of a double-dip recession is very high, and cuts are necessary in many parts of the world. Yet the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 Nation requests $15.5 billion to reduce drug use in the United States. This represents an increase of $521.1 million (3.5%) over the FY 2010 enacted level of $15.0 billion. In the European Union, state expenditure on the drug problem costs about €34 billion [2] – in other words, an incredible amount of money that could be saved and used to address the economic difficulties faced by Western countries nowadays.

The illicit drug market, on the other hand, seems to be doing very well. According to the UN World Drug Report (2007), the market was estimated at $322 billion, and that despite the seizures and losses, the value of drugs increase substantially as the move from producer to consumer[3]. A study of drug dealers in Washington in the 1980s concluded that they could earn up to $30/h – compared with the $7/h average from legal employment.[4] Robert Neild, a Cambridge University professor, asserts that third world states are often “undermined, sometimes destroyed” by the violence and corruption that goes with this lucrative market. Clearly the war on drugs affects not only the economy of Western countries, but the stability of many developing countries as well, especially in South America. A regulated and legal market would “fix” many of these problems.

Legalisation is now more than ever necessary, and it is important for governments to address the problem in order to avoid other long-term socio-economic risks such as the “cyclic creation of permanent underclass”, as theorized by Eric Blumenson and Eva S. Nilsens[5]. The CATO Institute’s “The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition” estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually; assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.

“A monetary tax on a legal good could cause a greater reduction in output and increase in price than would optimal enforcement, even recognizing that producers may want to go underground to try to avoid a monetary tax. This means that fighting a war on drugs by legalizing drug use and taxing consumption may be more effective than continuing to prohibit the legal use of drugs”. – Gary S. Becker, Kevin M. Murphy and Michael Grossman, “The Economic Theory of Illegal Goods: The Case of Drugs”.

It is thus clear that money is being spent excessively, ineffectively and sometimes even dangerously. The billions of dollars spent by governments each year fail to address economic realities, and ignore the exponential demand for policy change.
– Sebastien Krier, Amanda Feilding


* Annual enforcement costs based on 2008 figures by researcher Timothy J Moore.

National Drug Intelligence Center, “National Drug Threat Assessment 2010,” - ------(Johnstown, PA: February 2010), p. 1.
Jeffrey A. Miron – “Making an Economic Case for Legalizing Drugs”




[1] Transform Drug Policy Foundation estimate, 2011: cf. ‘Estimating global spending on drug enforcement’ –
[2] Annual Report 2008: “The State of the Drugs Problem in Europe,” European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2008), p. 21.
[3] Drug War Facts, 6th Ed. – Common Sense for Drug Policy
[4] The Economist, July 28th – August 3rd 2001 (The case for legalising drugs)
[5] Blumenson & Nilsen – “How to construct an underclass, or how the War on Drugs became a war on education“

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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Book: Children of the Drug War, available for free

'Children of the Drug War' is collection of original essays that investigates the impacts of the war on drugs on children, young people and their families.
It asks a series of questions, addressing production and trade; race, class and law enforcement; families and drug policy, and drug use and dependance:

What have been the costs to children and young people of the war on drugs?
Is the protection of children from drugs a solid justification for current policies?
What kinds of public fears and preconceptions exist in relation to drugs and the drug trade?
How can children and young people be placed at the forefront of drug policies?

The book is published by the International Debate Education Association (iDebate Press). It is available for purchase in hard copy from Amazon and other outlets. The book has a dedicated webpage here which includes a downloadable pdf of the full book, and pdfs of each of its four sections. It can also be read online.

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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Breaking the Taboo (video)

'Breaking the Taboo' - A film in search of solutions for the failure of the war on drugs.

"If you can't control drug use in a maximum security prison, how can you control drug use in a free society?" - Tony Papa

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Friday, 5 August 2011

Petition the Government to Discuss Drug Law Reform!

The UK government launched its new e-petition site this week to give citizens and residents a chance to petition the government to discuss certain issues. If a petition reaches 100,000 or more signatures, parliament will then discuss the issue.

We remain skeptical of whether the government will respond positively to sensible proposals for reforming drug policies through an online petition. Meanwhile, there is much media fanfare about a petition calling for the return of capital punishment, although another petition against such proposals currently has more signers.

Nonetheless, we feel that drug policy reformers should make use of this opportunity to show the government and media that the public does indeed have an appetite for reform.
We have identified two drug policy reform petitions that seem to be doing well, one calls for the legalisation and regulation of cannabis, the other calls for the decriminalisation of drug possession and supply. We hope that both will be interpreted as calling for control and regulation.

Please sign these petitions and urge others to do the same!

Legalise Cannabis

Decriminalise Recreational Drugs

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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Greek Government to move towards Decriminalisation

Proposals have been made by the Greek Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou to the Greek Committee on Social Affairs which notably include decriminalisation of personal drug use, as long as the drug use only impacts the behavior and condition of the individual drug user.

Under the reforms possession of drugs personal consumption will be classed as only misconduct so long as it is used for only private use, and the cultivation of cannabis will be tolerated if only for personal use. The bill also proposes to guarantee the right for drugs treatment to all who request it, including drug users incarcerated. The reforms will not legalise the supply or trafficking of drugs, these actions will still be considered offences under Greek law.

Currently 40% of all Greek prisoners are incarcerated in drug related offences.

See also: Bolivia to withdraw from the UN single convention

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Release launch new ThinkingDrugs Website

A new website aimed at exploring and developing opinions on the international drugs trade has recently been launched. ThinkingDrugs, a collaboration between our friends at Release and the New Economics Foundation, utilizes statistics, personal perspectives and arguments from both sides of the debate as tools to help the user develop opinions on specific aspects of the international drugs trade.

Users of the website can create argument "pathways" for 4 specific areas of interest: drug policy in the UK, the impacts of the transnational drugs trade in the US and Mexico, public health support for drug users in Russian and the effects of tolerating drugs sales in Dutch coffee houses.

Rupert George from Release said "we are really excited about ThinkingDrugs, it offers us a whole new way of engaging the public with the issues. We have really enjoyed working with the New Economics Foundation on this project, they bought something really interesting to the project with their existing work around argument maps and some fresh eyes on the issues”

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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

2500 plants, 13 bears, a dog, a pig and a raccoon (video)

A Russian news-reader has trouble keeping a straight-face in this video which shows the sometimes bizarre nature of drug prohibition.

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Russell Brand on Amy Winehouse and the Nature of Addiction

An extract from Russell Brand's blogpost about the recent, tragic death of jazz singer Amy Winehouse.

..."When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.

Frustratingly it’s not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene...

...Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call."...

Rest In Peace, Amy.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Other Side of the Coin: MS and Medical Cannabis

Clark French from Action4MS talks about his experiences with medical cannabis.

For the majority, the letters M and S next to each other has no other connotations than to remind them of a not-so-unknown British high street shop. For me, however, things couldn't be more different. I was diagnosed with MS in August 2010. My mother and late step-father both suffer/ed from the disease so I was aware of MS and its effects on people from a very early age. "But what does this have to do with SSDP?", I hear you proclaim! Well, Drug Policy Reform is of course what brought me to the table, my efforts are focused on cannabis because it is my medicine. I work with Clear - a UK political party dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis, I also help out with SSDP and I run my own small charity Action4MS.

Being diagnosed with MS at 24 years old was a bit of a kick in the face. At the time of my most serious relapse - the one which I was diagnosed from, I was in my final year of my degree in Ancient History and Archaeology at Reading University. It really felt like my future had been taken from me, and to an extent it had. I have always been a cannabis smoker, preferring to relax with my friends than go out and get drunk, a fact confirmed with a record two nights out to the Students' Union in my whole time at University - it just wasn't my thing! Being an MS patient - I have no choice but to ingest cannabis on a regular basis, the problems with the police in this country make my life much harder to lead. Imagine if you faced being arrested, just for wanting to feel better. Cannabis gives me a life where MS took it from me.

Never have I really thought about the problems and issues I face on a daily basis more than I did on a recent trip to California. As many of you will know, in 1996 Proposition 215 was passed, giving patients with a doctor's recommendation the ability to purchase, consume and even grown their own cannabis all legally. I was instantly struck with the difference, cannabis is everywhere in California. If I was a resident I would have no problem obtaining a doctor's recommendation, and therefore would not face potential prosecution for using a plant to treat my symptoms. The British Government fobs people with chronic conditions off with the ruse which is Sativex. Make no mistake, the cannabis in Sativex is real and is grown in this country, yet our government continues with the lies that cannabis has "no known medical benefits". Meeting people involved with SSDP across the pond was a great experience, I got to share some of the horror stories printed in the Daily Mail with them. They couldn't believe the headlines such as "Cannabis kills 30,000 a Year". During my stay in California I got to visit a number of dispensaries and see the ins and outs of how this new, booming industry works.

Although it is far from perfect, the system in California means that people with serious illnesses like myself have access to the medicine we need. Cannabis prohibition on all levels is wrong, but I think medical cannabis is the first step along the road to the end of prohibition, a spear-head if you will. For me, cannabis means life, I feel morally obliged to try and spread the truth about its medical benefits and I hope that you will read this and just take a look at the amount of illness's that cannabis is proven to help with. It is unlikely that you, the person reading this, will get MS, especially if you have no family history of it, however in our lives it is almost certain that as we age we will start to develop problems, and it is also likely that some of those problems will be alleviated by using cannabis medicinally.

We need to stand together, and use every weapon at our disposal, talk about medical cannabis with people you know are "anti drugs" - you will be surprised just how many will agree once it has been explained properly!

See also: Canadian Drug User Activist on Self-medication, Harm Minimization and Pleasure Maximisation

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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hilarious look at anti-drug advertising (video)

"InfoMania," a program on American Current TV, does a funny and informative piece about the US government's "anti-drug" ad campaign which costs $100 million per year. This piece has been found via our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (US), click here for more information about their advertising campaign.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

European Commission Recommends Regulated Sale for "Legal Highs"

Duncan Scott of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform examines European Commission's recent statement on drug policy in this guest post.

Here's a statement from a press release from the European Commission (emphasis mine):
The Commission is considering various ways to make the EU rules more effective, such as alternative options to criminal sanctions, new ways of monitoring substances that cause concern, and aligning drugs control measures with those for food and product safety. In the autumn, the Commission will present a series of options in this respect.
These words are music to this drug policy reformer's ears. What is being actively considered here is a legal framework for the supply of new recreational drugs.

The problem of 'legal highs' is growing, with 115 new substances being identified in the EU over the last 5 years. Our hopeless drug laws can't keep up with criminalising more and more chemical compounds at an ever increasing rate. The drugs are typically sold as 'not for human consumption', even though they are produced with human consumption in mind. Clearly the current legislation is farcical.

No one denies that drugs can be dangerous, and each drug brings its own unique set of challenges for the health of the user and the wider effect on society. When talking of 'food safety' regulations, I hope the EC mean tighter rules than those covering, say, tinned tomatoes. The regulations should be modelled on those covering alcohol and tobacco as a bare minimum, to reflect the dangers of a drug.

The EC report also fails to consider what is causing the big increase in new pschoactive substances entering the market. The demand for legal highs is created by the illegality of more 'traditional' recreational drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. The scientific understanding of traditional drugs is also stronger, at least when compared to a brand new 'legal highs'. We therefore could have a situation where there is a proper legal framework for supplying less well understood recreational drugs, whilst well-known drugs remain criminalised. It would be more successful if legislation were designed to fit around the best understood recreational drugs.

If the EC successfully produces legal high supply regulations, I would expect that some of the first drugs to make use of the regulations will see a reasonable number of users, which could steal the recreational drug market away from both criminal dealers and the unregulated 'legal high' traders.

It is also interesting to note the language used by the EC in its press release. It promotes a non-criminal justice approach with the familiar rhetoric of populist drug policy: "tougher action", "protect our children", "rules must be strengthened", "make sure young people do not fall into the trap" etc. The communications staff at the EC may well have figured that the "tough" rhetoric will be needed to sell what is actually a pragmatic policy approach which faces up to the reality of a demand for recreational drugs. As long as the legislative outcomes are to be a success, I'm happy for the politicians to sell it to the press and public however they can.

Finally, it must be said that there's a long way to go with this yet. This is a highly emotive topic, and the EC has many political hurdles to jump. I can imagine the Daily Mail having kittens over this - EU SECRET PLOT TO PEDAL KILLER DRUGS TO OUR CHILDREN seems an inevitability. Nevertheless, we are seeing pragmatic, non-dogmatic drug policy being actively considered by governments at all levels. Reformers are slowly winning the War on Drugs Policy.

Read Duncan Stott's regular blog here
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Saturday, 9 July 2011

Steven Levitt: Why do Crack Dealers live with their Moms? (video)

Freakonomics author Steven Levitt presents new data on the finances of drug dealing. Contrary to popular myth, he says, being a street-corner crack dealer isnt lucrative: It pays below minimum wage. And your boss can kill you.

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See also: The impacts of prohibition on young people (video)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Drug Interactions - Are patients being put at risk?

Doctors are used to providing information on the risks and side effects of the medications they prescribe, but often patients are not informed of the interactions between their prescribed medication and any recreational drugs they are taking. Greta Friedlander and Jess Bradley investigate.

According to the 2005/06 British Crime Survey, just over a third of adults admit to using illicit drugs at somepoint in their lifetime, this figure increasing when considering just young people. Despite this, pharmaceutical companies and doctors often fail to provide information on the interactions of prescription drugs with illicit recreational drugs, where it is commonplace for information to be provided on a drugs interactions with alcohol.

We spoke to one student, Anne, who has been prescribed with a low dosage of Nortriptyline, a triclyclic anti-depressant. Anne is an occasional user of recreational drugs, and had not had any negative drug experiences prior to starting on her medication. Recently she decided to take some space cakes with a few friends and discovered an unexpected interaction with Nortriptyline, which had not been explained by her GP or within the information leaflet the medication came with. Anne describes her experiences below:

I suffered nearly 24 hours of vivid hallucinations, which were far more intense than I have previously experienced on much stronger hallucinogenic drugs. I had vivid flashbacks, synaesthesia and paranoia, none of which I have never experienced on any other drugs. I spent the entire trip being terrified, the whole world became reduced to pixels of colour and I felt like the walls were moving in to crush me. At the start of my trip I watched TV for a while and believed all of the people on screen were people who I knew and were talking directly to me. I saw my own reflection and shadow trying to murder me. I had eaten space cakes a few times before, in similar quantities, and never experienced anything like this.

“It hadn't occurred to me that my prescription drugs might interact with cannabis, although I had been avoiding alcohol on the GP's advice. I am now angry that I was not provided the information I needed by my doctor to make an informed decision about my drug use.”

Websites such as Erowid, which act as a depository for information on the interactions between different drugs and our bodies, have been created to meet the need of providing information on drug interactions in the absence of a coherent, unbiased information service by health professionals - a service which is lacking due to the drugs legal status. Many of these websites provide "trip reports", collections of experiences from drug users, which act as useful resources even though they are anecdotal in nature.

The lack of information provided to patients on the interactions between prescribed and illicit drugs is just one of many unintentional negative consequences of the drug prohibition - and one that particularly effects the most vulnerable patients.

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See also: Harm Minimisation, Self-Medication and Pleasure Maximisation (video)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

June 30th: Supporting the Strikes

On the 30th of June, thousands of education and public sector workers in four trade unions will be out on strike. Jess Bradley from Manchester SSDP argues that drug law reformers should support the strikes, demonstrations, actions and occupations happening around the 30th.

A few months ago at conference, SSDP delegates from chapters across the country voted in favour of motion calling for a national campaign against cuts to education and health services, particularly those which disproportionately effects vulnerable groups and those more likely to be harmed by the 'War on Drugs'.

Trade unions representing teachers, lecturers, and job centre workers have all voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action in response to cuts to pensions, but have made it clear that their actions are broadly oppositional to the recent agenda of cuts to frontline services.

It has long been said that the most important part of the services we access are people who deliver them, in this case the workers in the education and health sectors. In supporting the workers as they fight for better pay, conditions and pensions, we support the services themselves – because a teacher who is struggling to make ends meet is not a teacher who is fully focussed on providing the best education to those who need it.

Why is it important for drug law reformers to support the strikes on Thursday? Because drug users, both problematic and non-problematic, disproportionately rely on the services that are being defended. Valuable research on the harms of drugs, or different aspects of drug policy, may no longer be undertaken if academics in University departments are priced out of working in education institutions because the pay in industry is so much better, and the money available for funding diminishes.

Pastoral services, such as drug and sex education in schools may be overlooked as teachers struggle financially, and class sizes rise as less people are able to enter teacher training. Problematic drug users may find it harder to get back into work or education if services at Job Centres, schools and colleges are cut.

As activists aware of the spiralling cost of funding an unnecessary and harmful War on Drugs, it seems clear that, regardless of your opinion on whether the current cuts are necessary, we are wasting vast amounts of money on pursuing a failed drug policy at the expense of funding education and health services.

What can we do? Get involved in your local anti-cuts campaign by joining demonstrations and pickets at your institutions, job centres, and workplaces. Take a banner or a placard linking the rising cost of prohibition and the increasing levels of cuts to services that drug users rely on. Go to your local meetings and talk to activists about drug law reform. Remember to send pictures of you supporting demonstrations and pickets to education[at]

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Friday, 24 June 2011

Bolivia to withdraw from UN Single Convention

The Bolivian government has approved a Bill of Complaint filed by President Evo Morales’ to withdraw Bolivia from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs over its prohibition of the personal use, consumption, possession or cultivation of the native coca leaf. The withdrawal will come into effect in 2012, and although the complaint over the coca leaf ban will technically withdraw it from Convention compliance, Bolivia has stated it intends to continue complying with the drug trafficking and narcotics control sections of the Convention.

The Bolivian government has publicly stated its support for developing a legal global market for coca products, including coca-based tea, soft drinks and pharmaceuticals, which it argues would reduce demand for cocaine.

This action comes in the wake of growing support for protecting the cultural heritage of coca use amongst the Bolivian people, a popular movement which arguably lead to the election of President Evo Morales on the basis of his actions defending coca-growers against US-lead eradication programmes.

In 2009, Bolivia began a process to amend Article 49 of the Convention, which prohibited consumption of the coca leaf from 2001. Its proposal for amendment was formally opposed by 17 other Convention signatories, including the United States, U.K., France, Japan, and Russia.
The Chinese government has been supportive of Bolivia's actions, comparing a ban on chewing coca in Bolivia to a ban on drinking tea in China.

See also: 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. Happy Birthday?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

SSDP supports SlutWalk; marching against sexual assault

Students for Sensible Drug Policy activists took to the streets to support Manchester SlutWalk on Friday 10th June. The SlutWalk protests have sprung up after a policeman in Toronto misguidedly advised a group of female students to “avoid rape by not dressing like sluts”. This caused outrage as it was seen to place the blame of rape onthe rape survivor and not on the rapist themselves.

SSDP Education Officer, Jess Bradley, was part of the organising collective behind SlutWalk Manchester; “We recognise that not everyone wants to reclaim the word 'Slut', but the central message that rape is not the fault of the survivor, whatever they are wearing or however inebriated they are, is one worth getting behind”. The marches come as Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has been widely criticised for trying to categorise some sexual crimes as “serious rape”, implying that other sexual crimes are less serious.

SlutWalk Manchester organiser Greta Friedlander said; “There is a prevailing attitude of taking sexual assaults less seriously if the survivor had been drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in sex work. This attitude is disturbing as it somehow implies that some people are more deserving of rape than others”.

See Also: Sexuality and Drug Use

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Won't Legalising Drugs Increase Use?

This series of blog posts will be discussing the social aspects of drug use. It’s taken in the main from Jock Young’s 1971 seminal work The Drugtakers: The Social Meaning of Drug Use. Each post will cover questions commonly encountered whilst campaigning for drug law reform, hopefully it’ll be useful for when you yourself are out talking to people. This post’s question is: “Won’t drug use increase if we legalise drugs?”

Now, we could argue the merits of the term “legalise drugs”, that wouldn’t address the concerns of the people posing the question. The majority of people believe that the current drug policies do stop people from using drugs, and that any attempt at “legalising” or “liberalising” drug-users would result in increased drug use. We can quote countries with punitive drug laws and high drug-use such as the USA and the UK, comparing them to countries with “liberal” drug laws and low drug-use such as Portugal and the Netherlands. Unfortunately I’ve had this simply discounted by “It might work there, but I don’t think it’ll work here”, or the prohibitionists favourite of Sweden with punitive drug laws and low drug use.

An underlying issue of the posed question is that drug use is seen in a negative light. Trying to overcome 50 years of prejudice is a difficult task, and will take more work than the few minutes you get to talk to someone. But what is commonly ignored is the extent to which drug policies or our approaches towards drugs may actually encourage use.

Last time I discussed how people of different values and cultures use different drugs for effects that are more appropriate to those factors. For those who support prohibition, it is these values and cultures that are considered so removed from social acceptability that criminal sanctions are deemed necessary. To justify such actions prohibitionists highlight these values of the drug user. By doing this they place the values they deem negative not just on the user, but also on the drug in question in an attempt to deter people from its use.

To some extent this does work, many people do not use certain drugs because they view them in a negative way or because of the punitive law surrounding them. Indeed, I know a number of people who no longer use certain drugs because of the risk of prosecution. However, this isn’t what happens in every case, for the drug user these values are, unsurprisingly, not seen as negative but actually as superior to those values to which the mainstream mass media push as socially acceptable.

In the face of society’s disfavour, the drug user may increase use of their drug of choice as a way of reaffirming their values. Some drugs may also be seen as attractive to people who wish to adopt or develop these values. Adolescents, who are at a stage of their development where experimentation with personality is common, are particularly likely to be interested in the values and cultures of drug use. The individuals who view drugs so negatively are unwittingly creating the environment to which drug use becomes appealing.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Activists will mark 40 years of British Drug War outside the Home Office.

Press Release

Contact: Levent Akbulut
Tel: 020 7324 2987
Tuesday 31st of May 2011
For Immediate Release
Another Bloody Birthday: Activists mark 40 years of British Drug War
Youth activists hold a 40th birthday party for Misuse of Drugs Act calling for a more evidence-based approach.
At 12:00PM on Thursday the 2nd of June,  a group of activists will gather outside the Home Office to call for evidence-based drugs policies to coincide with the release of a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. This week marks 40 years since the adoption of the Misuse of Drugs Act into UK legislation. The demonstrators will be holding a ‘birthday party’ to remember the impact this single piece of legislation continues to have on life in the United Kingdom. 
Activists will sing Happy Birthday to the Misuse of Drugs Act before delivering a Birthday Card to the Home Office.  
The event is a witty and comical way of mocking the government’s intransigence on this very serious issue. The group hopes that by highlighting forty years of failed drug policy, the Home Office may take the Commission’s report seriously.  
The demonstration is being called by “Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK” - a network of students and young people campaigning for better drug policies. Students for Sensible Drug Policy first came to prominence when they campaigned against the sacking of  Professor David Nutt from the drugs advisory council.
Levent Akbulut, a spokesperson for the organisation said; “In the last 40 years we have seen increased addiction, the expansion of organised crime and the complete inability of the government to control the flood of legal highs onto the market - it is clear our drug laws are not working. We call on the government to look very seriously at the findings of the Global Commission’s report and embrace evidence-based drug policy”. 

Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK cordially invites all individuals concerned about British drug policy to attend the birthday party outside the Home Office at 12-2pm on Thursday the second of June. Come and show your support for evidence-based drug policy!

12PM, Thursday the 2nd of June, Home Office, Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF.

Nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James Park. 

Please confirm your attendance on the Facebook event: