Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Guest Post: Report slams ‘unscientific’ war on drugs

By Tania Rabesandratana

Global policies to control illegal drug use tend to ignore scientific evidence and can undermine development efforts, global experts warn.

Repressive policies meant to protect people from the damage caused by drugs have caused disease, deadly violence and discrimination, says the Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health, drawing on decades of research.

They say that efforts to clamp down on drug use have helped spread HIV and other infectious diseases, as users are forced to take drugs in secret and struggle to access sterile equipment such as syringe needles.

The report also highlights a spike of homicides in countries where governments use military forces against drug traffickers, which, in turn, causes drug gangs to arm themselves.

“Alternative development programmes really haven’t addressed the underlying factors that lead people to cultivate drugs.”

Rebecca Schleifer, Yale University

Ahead of a special UN meeting on the subject in New York, United States, on 19-21 April, the commission urges governments to focus on reducing harm from drug use rather than on punishment.

“The war on drugs and zero-tolerance policies that grew out of the prohibitionist consensus are now being challenged on multiple fronts, including their health, human rights and development impact,” the researchers explain in a paper published in medical journal The Lancet on 2 April.

The report highlights “aggressive and harmful practices” against farmers who grow drug crops such as coca, cannabis and opium poppies. This includes the forcible destruction of coca fields in the Andes through large-scale herbicide spraying, which causes health problems and environmental damage among affected communities and can force farmers to abandon their land.

Meanwhile, “alternative development” programmes to encourage farmers to switch to other crops have largely failed through poor design, says an appendix to the report.

“Alternative development programmes really haven’t addressed the underlying factors that lead people to cultivate drugs,” says Rebecca Schleifer, who studies drugs and human rights issues and is a fellow at Yale University in the United States. For example, she says, some programmes require farmers to destroy their crops before they can get aid.

“But if you do that before alternatives [are in place] you just undermine these farmers’ livelihoods,” Schleifer says.

The Lancet paper argues that minor, non-violent drug offences should be decriminalised. It recommends focusing on harm reduction services, such as providing supervised injection sites and prescribing replacement drugs for those addicted to opioids such as heroin, instead of aggressive drug policing.

The authors also endorse a gradual move towards regulated legal drug markets — as Uruguay has done with cannabis, for example — and for this change to be assessed scientifically.

In addition, they “call to broaden the research agenda around drug use [beyond] brain pathology” to include economic and social science, says commission co-chair Adeeba Kamarulzaman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Malaya in Malaysia.
On a practical level, the indicators used to evaluate drug policies should change, the paper suggests. “Success has been measured in hectares [of drug crops] eradicated, in kilos [seized], numbers of people arrested, convicted, incarcerated,” Schleifer explains. “These don’t really measure anything apart from scale of effort.”

The paper references the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and related promises for governments “to rely on the best scientific evidence” as they seek to ensure the “wellbeing of all people”.

But drug policy discussions are still far from adopting the language of SDGs, says Kamarulzaman. “Most countries are still stuck on criminalisation and zero tolerance,” she says.

Schleifer is more optimistic. While drug control policies and development efforts used to be completely separate, links between the two have been increasing in recent years, she says.

The same people who adopted the SDGs last September are returning later this month for the high-level UN meeting on drugs, she says. “It’s a tough road ahead, but even controversial subjects such as decriminalisation are on the table.”


Joanne Csete and others Public health and international drug policy (The Lancet, 2 April 2016)

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Radio News: Vote for Rick Sincere

This past July, I had the pleasurable opportunity to sit in for radio host Coy Barefoot on WCHV-FM 107.5 in Charlottesville, while he was on vacation.

More recently, Coy left the show to pursue other fascinating opportunities, making the host's chair vacant. WCHV program director Joe Thomas announced he was looking for a permanent host for the afternoon drive time show (it runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Monday through Friday).  I put my name in the hopper.

Over on SoundCloud, Monticello Media is hosting an "American Idol"-like contest among the three contenders for the WCHV gig.  The "votes" consist not only of direct emails to the program director, but numbers of plays, downloads, and "likes" on each of the three audition hours.

I encourage you to visit WCHV Afternoon Auditions: Rick Sincere and say something supportive.

While you're on SoundCloud, visit my own page to listen to some of those interviews from July, including:
Science journalist Maryn McKenna
United States Sports Academy president T.J. Rosandich
Lawyer and ethics blogger Jack Marshall
Philosophy professor (and "Gay Moralist") John Corvino
New World University president Steve Foerster
In addition to those radio interviews, I have also posted audio of my recent interview with political scientist Larry Sabato about a new documentary from the UVa Center for Politics about the 1968 presidential election, called "Ball of Confusion" (after The Temptations' song of the same name).

Remember to go to the auditions page to vote yes for Rick Sincere to host the still nameless afternoon talk show on WCHV-AM and FM.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On the Radio This Week: Guest Hosting 'Inside Charlottesville'

At the invitation of regular host Coy Barefoot, I will be substituting for him two days this week (Thursday and Friday) and two days next week (also Thursday and Friday).

Coy's show is called "Inside Charlottesville" and it is heard Monday through Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on 107.5 WCHV-FM.  There is also a live stream on line (scroll down for more information).

I have already lined up a good group of guests who, I expect, will provoke an interesting conversation.  We'll be talking about sex offenders, Austrian economics, capital punishment, local politics, libertarianism, poet and Civil War nurse Walt Whitman, ethics, theatre, and the state of the law and litigation -- and that's just in the first four hours this week!

Tomorrow's guests (Thursday, July 23) will be:
Andrew Extein, executive director, Center for Sexual Justice (4:00 p.m. -- all times EDT)
Jimmy Morrison, documentary film maker, “The Bubble” (4:30 p.m.)
Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (5:00 p.m.)
Anson Parker, candidate for Charlottesville City Council (5:30 p.m.)

Friday's guests (July 24) will be:
David Boaz, executive vice president at the Cato Institute and author, The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom (4:00 p.m. EDT)
Garrett Peck, historian and author, Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C. (4:30 p.m.)
Jack Marshall, lawyer/ethicist, and co-founder and artistic director, The American Century Theater (5:00 p.m.)
Walter Olson, editor and publisher of Overlawyered.com and author of Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America (5:30 p.m.)
The schedule for next week is not completely filled out, but my guests on Thursday, July 30, and Friday, July 31, will include Wayne State University philosophy professor John Corvino; Steve Foerster, president of New World University; Will Hammer, Libertarian candidate for the Virginia General Assembly; and Thomas P. Rosandich, president of the United States Sports Academy.

I'll have more details about next week's shows as we draw closer to those dates and I've had a chance to flesh out the schedule.

In the meantime, tune in to WCHV-FM 107.5 in Charlottesville or listen to the livestream at www.insidecville.com.  That's where you'll be able to hear the podcasts if you miss the live broadcast.  If you want to call in to join the conversation, the number is 434-964-1075.  (I'll be repeating that a lot when we go on the air.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Grammar Quiz for Father's Day

Courtesy of grammarly.com/grammar-check and just in time for Father's Day, we have this test of grammar acumen. Check your skills and be sure to share the results on social media!

Remember, Father's Day is the third Sunday in June each year -- Sunday, June 21, in 2015!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Recent Articles from Bearing Drift: free speech, marijuana, & domestic spying

As many readers know already, I am a contributor to Bearing Drift, which uses the tagline "Virginia's Conservative Voice."  When I appear on Coy Barefoot's radio show on WCHV-FM, he identifies me as a writer for Bearing Drift as well as for this web site.

I have not previously done a round-up of my Bearing Drift articles but, seeing how I have done the same for Examiner.com, it may be worthwhile to start doing that periodically.

Here are my recent contributions to Bearing Drift, in reverse chronological order, dating to December 2014, with brief excerpts from each.

In Virginia, what's the difference between a barber and a rent-a-cop? (April 30, 2015)

Virginia lawmakers and regulators should be embarrassed.

According to a 2012 report from the Arlington County-based Institute for Justice,
Virginia is the 11th most broadly and onerously licensed state. It has the eighth most burdensome licensing laws, requiring aspiring practitioners to pay $153 in fees, lose 462 days — more than 15 months — to education and experience and take one exam. Sixteen of the 46 low- to moderate-income occupations Virginia licenses are commercial construction contractors and account for much of the state’s ranking.
A 2015 study from the liberal Brookings Institution notes that more than 20 percent of Virginia jobs require either licenses or certifications by the state...

24th annual Jefferson Muzzle Awards announced tonight (April 20, 2015)
We all recall Thomas Jefferson’s quip: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” No doubt, if Jefferson were alive today, he would include blogs as well as newspapers — and perhaps even cheekily elevate blogs above newspapers.

Each year the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression celebrates its namesake’s birthday by awarding the Jefferson Muzzles to malevolent or stupid government officials or agencies that violate the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment by preventing or punishing speech.

Conservative movement co-founder Stan Evans passes away (March 3, 2015)
M. Stanton Evans, one of the founders of the modern conservative movement, has died at 80. Evans was a Loudoun County resident but was better known for his involvement in national politics than Virginia affairs.

Evans graduated from college in 1955, after helping organize what became known as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, still the largest conservative organization serving university students with intellectual ammunition.

For 60 years, Evans worked alongside William F. Buckley, Jr., Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and others in building the conservative movement and giving it its strength and character. He was “present at the creation” by drafting the Sharon Statement, which was the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and animated the conservative movement for 40 years or longer.

NPR interviews Del. Rich Anderson about privacy concerns (February 23, 2015)
Anderson explained his concerns about how police are able to take “thousands and thousands of photographs” of license plates “every hour.” By piecing that information together, he said, “they are certainly able to determine the whereabouts, the habit patterns, the associations, the interests, and all those sorts of personal things that, I think, most American citizens would rather be protected.”

He said the use of license plate readers “creates an ill-at-ease sort of response among the many citizens with whom I have spoken. It’s just an inherently American quality that we have an expectation of privacy.”

Anderson noted that he had patroned a bill this year that limits the period of time law enforcement can keep the data collected by license plate readers.

Poll shows majority of Virginians favor marijuana law reform (January 28, 2015)
It’s noteworthy that even “self-identified conservatives and Republicans” support legalizing medical marijuana. Question 23 of the survey, which asks about decriminalization in general, shows that 54 percent of conservatives and 52 percent of Republicans support the idea.

Four years ago, former Delegate Harvey Morgan (R-Gloucester), a retired pharmacist, introduced legislation similar to Ebbin’s bill. The effort failed but Morgan told me at the time that “almost everyone thinks it’s the right thing to do. Many people say legalize it and tax it” in addition to decriminalizing it. He added that he foresaw wider support emerging because “the cost — not only to the individual but the cost to our court system — is unbelievable with marijuana enforcement.”

Two years ago, while he was running for governor, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also expressed interest in the federalism implications of states’ decriminalization efforts.

Jim Gilmore for President? (January 25, 2015)
Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb is not the only Virginia politician exploring a possible presidential bid in 2016. Former Governor and Attorney General Jim Gilmore (also a U.S. Senate candidate in 2008) was in Iowa this weekend doing all that one expects from a potential candidate — especially seeking out opportunities to talk to national news media.

Governor McAuliffe's voting machine proposal needs rethinking (December 22, 2014)
Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch carried an op-ed piece of mine in which I take issue with Governor Terry McAuliffe’s recent proposal to provide $28 million in funding to Virginia counties and cities to buy new, up-to-date voting equipment — on the condition that all the localities buy the same hardware and software.

I argue that election security and protection against fraud is better served when each locality can purchase its own equipment, based on its own assessment of the needs of its voters and the capabilities of its election officials. A variety of voting systems is a deterrent against those who seek to alter the results of elections by hacking into the machines.

Congress votes to expand domestic spying powers (December 11, 2014)
Only two members of Virginia’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015, which includes a provision to expand the executive branch’s authority to spy on American citizens and to monitor our communications.

The two Virginia representatives who voted to protect citizens’ privacy were Dave Brat (R-VA7), the state’s newest Member of Congress, and Morgan Griffith (R-VA9, in photo).

The provision to expand communications surveillance authority was inserted by Senate Democrats and discovered at the eleventh hour through the due diligence of Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who warned his colleagues about it in a letter circulated shortly before the bill came to a vote.

For frequent updates from Bearing Drift, check out its Facebook page, here.