Kategoriarkiv: Internationalt Nyt

Colombia: A War Without End?


Colombia: A War Without End?

By Sanho Tree

Reprinted from the Razor Wire a publication of the November Coalition

Drugs today are cheaper and more available than ever before.

Will escalating a failed drug control policy produce a different result?

Our drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey, seems to think so.

In January, General McCaffrey unveiled the administration’s aid package for

Our militarized drug strategy overwhelmingly emphasizes drug eradication, interdiction and
law enforcement when studies show that these are the least effective means of reducing
illicit drug use.

A landmark study of cocaine markets by the conservative RAND Corporation found that, dollar
for dollar, providing treatment to cocaine users is 10 times more effective than drug interdiction
schemes and 23 times more cost effective than eradicating coca at its source.

According to the General Accounting Office, Colombian officials “seized a record amount of coca
products in 1998 almost 57 metric tons and had also destroyed 185 cocaine laboratories…
[However] there has not been a net reduction in processing or exporting refined cocaine from
Colombia or in cocaine availability within the United States.”

After $625 million in US counter narcotics assistance to Colombia between 1990-98, Colombia
actually surpassed Peru and Bolivia to become the world’s largest coca producer.

If decreasing drug use is the ultimate goal, why aren’t we putting more resources into domestic
demand reduction where each dollar spent is 23 times more effective than eradication?

General McCaffrey’s drug control budget is simply upside down two thirds of the budget still
focuses on law enforcement and “supply reduction” while one third is expected to cover drug
treatment, education and prevention.

Our drug czar has staked his reputation on a futile “supply reduction” strategy, and now we are
militarizing the entire region in a last ditch attempt to salvage a failed policy.

Colombia’s conflict is driven by social, political, and economic forces sending guns and helicopters
will not remedy poverty and hunger.

The region is in desperate need of a mini Marshall Plan, but General McCaffrey’s response is to
send them Desert Storm.

We can help Colombia address issues of poverty and inequality, but not by sending them more

In order to justify more than a billion dollars in military aid, our drug warriors are now invoking
the specter of a leftist insurgency that has been making advances in the four decade old
Colombian civil war.

Although all parties in the Colombian conflict have been involved in drug trafficking, General
McCaffrey is promoting only the “narcoguerilla” as the bogeyman.

He told reporters last July that it is “silly at this point” to try to differentiate between antidrug
efforts and the war against insurgent groups. Compare that statement with what McCaffrey told
reporters two years before:

“Let there be no doubt: We are not taking part in counter guerrilla operations.” Thanks to mission
creep, our counter narcotics policy has now drawn us into the Colombian civil war.

The potential for a Vietnam style quagmire in Colombia is alarming.

Once again, there is no definition of “victory”, no clear articulation of objectives, and no exit strategy.

Are we aiming for a 20%, 50% or 100% reduction in drug production?

Or are we trying to push the guerrillas south of the equator or are we trying to “degrade” their
military capability?

Or will the war end when US drug use completely disappears?

There is no capital city to occupy, no enemy flag to seize, and no geographic high ground to

How many Colombians are we prepared to sacrifice for such undefined objectives?

Americans have a right to know what goals we must achieve before we can declare success
and go home. This military assistance is the first in a series of blank checks in a war that
has no endgame.

General Charles Wilhelm, the head of US military forces in Latin America, told Congress the
Colombian military must gain some battlefield victories in order to bargain with the rebels
from a position of strength.

Isn’t this the kind of fuzzy, flexible objective that kept us in the Vietnam quagmire?

And, if the Colombian military begins to win some victories, the hawks may abandon peace
Negotiations completely in the illusory hope of defeating the rebels.

Do our elected representatives think it ethical for the US to escalate the vicious civil war in
Colombia, risking the lives of peasants and indigenous people caught in the crossfire, to
stop Americans from buying drugs? If so, they need a reality check.

How can we eliminate drugs from the Andes when we can’t even keep them out of our own

It is simply wishful thinking and political scapegoating to believe poor countries such as
Colombia and Mexico can remedy the US demand for illicit drugs.

Until we provide adequate resources for drug treatment, rehabilitation and prevention,
the US will continue to consume billions of dollars worth of drugs and impoverished peasants
will continue to grow them.

If the drug war was evaluated like most other federal programs, we would have tried different
strategies long ago. But our current policy seems to follow its own unique logic.

A decline in drug use becomes evidence that we should invest more money and resources in
the National Drug Control Strategy because it is working.

A rise in drug use becomes proof that we are not doing enough to fight drugs, and must redouble
our efforts and funding.

Under this unsustainable dynamic, funding and incarceration rates can only rachet upward.

Our so called War on Drugs has become an unending war against our own citizens and against
our neighbors in this hemisphere.

It is time to consider alternative policies that reduce the harm caused by drug abuse as well as
reduce the harm caused by the drug war it self.

Holland: Trio May Have Been Murdered For Informing

Media Awareness ProjectThe Irish Times 05 May 2000

Holland: Trio May Have Been Murdered For Informing

Author: Jim Cusack

TRIO MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED FOR INFORMINGPositive identification of the three Irishmen who are believed to have been brutally murdered in the Netherlands may not be established for some time, according to officials here.

One of the theories police are investigating is that the three, from the west of Ireland, were killed by major drug-dealers who suspected one or other of them of passing information to police about drugs shipments.

A number of major drugs shipments have been intercepted by Dutch police and the Garda in the past two to three years, and it has been clear for some time that the police have been acting on good “inside” information.

One of the last major drugs shipments bound for Ireland, which was intercepted in the Netherlands two months ago, contained a large amount of the synthetic drugs, ecstasy and amphetamine.

According to Dutch police sources quantities of amphetamine were discovered at the apartment in the seaside resort of Scheveningen where the three were killed last Saturday. It is also understood police recovered a tablet press, which was being used for manufacturing either ecstasy or amphetamine tablets, or both.

It also appeared yesterday that the investigation into the murders is being stepped up after behind-the-scenes diplomatic and Garda representations. There were concerns earlier in the week that the investigation was being given a low priority because the victims were foreign nationals and apparently involved in the drug trade.

However, the Dutch public prosecutor in charge of the case, Ms Hannele Ehelmans, said yesterday that 18 police officers were now involved in the investigation and that it was being given a “very high priority”.

Dutch police and the Garda are withholding confirmation of the identities of the murdered men until the completion of DNA analysis, fingerprint tests and dental records. They are still trying to establish the identity of a Northern Ireland woman whose passport was found in the apartment.

Ms Ehelmans, an officer in the public prosecutor’s office in The Hague, said yesterday identification had been impeded because of the extent of the “mutilation” and burns on the bodies.

According to unofficial police sources the three victims were subjected to torture, suffering broken limbs and mutilation before being shot dead. Their bodies were then piled together in the bathroom of the apartment, doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire.

Fears that five Irish people might have been killed in the incident lessened yesterday when it emerged that at least one of five passports found in the apartment was stolen.

The passport was taken in Amsterdam over a year ago from a Co Limerick man who reported the theft to the Irish Embassy in the Netherlands before returning to Ireland. Yesterday he visited gardai in Fermoy, Co Cork, near where he lives, to tell them about the theft.

The Dutch police and the Garda refused yesterday to comment on the motive for the murders.

However, it is known that at least one major Irish drug-trafficker with links to a major Dutch criminal has lost two large consignments of guns and drugs in the past 17 months.

The first of these was intercepted by gardai at the Border on December 23rd, 1998. Some 750 kg of cannabis and 25 handguns and machine pistols were seized in Castleblayney in that find. There were reports at the time that the guns were destined for the “Real IRA”, which was responsible for the Omagh bombing in August 1998.

Dutch police in Amsterdam intercepted the second consignment on March 13th last. In that seizure some 600kg of cannabis, 50kg of amphetamine and 100,000 ecstasy tablets were recovered along with 15 firearms. The guns found in two Amsterdam flats included an automatic rifle, submachine guns, machine pistols and handguns.

The similarity between the two finds indicated that the same gang was responsible, and it was clear that police in the Netherlands and in the Republic were acting on reliable intelligence, probably from a source close to the gang.

MAP posted-by: Greg

Saudi Arabia: Wire: Saudi Executed for Drug Smuggling

Media Awareness ProjectAssociated Press, 1 May 2000

Saudi Arabia: Wire: Saudi Executed for Drug Smuggling

SAUDI EXECUTED FOR DRUG SMUGGLINGRIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – A Saudi convicted of drug smuggling was beheaded Monday in northern Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry statement said.

Amer al-Roueili was executed in the province of al-Jouf, said the statement. He was convicted of smuggling hashish and other drugs to Saudi Arabia, said the statement. It said al-Roueili was also found guilty of financing drug smugglers.

It did not give any other details.

The execution, carried out with a sword in a public square, brought the number of people beheaded in the kingdom this year to 25. At least 99 people were executed last year.

Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Islamic law mandates the death penalty for murder, rape, drug trafficking, sodomy or armed robbery.

Human rights organizations complain that the accused often are denied access to lawyers and do not receive fair trials.

MAP posted-by: Richard Lake

CN ON: Officers Facing 270 Charges

Media Awareness ProjectCN ON: Officers Facing 270 Charges

06 May 2000 Toronto Star

Authors: John Duncanson and Jim Rankin, Staff Reporters

OFFICERS FACING 270 CHARGESCase Involves Skimming Cash From ‘Fink Fund’

Five veteran Toronto police officers now face more than 270 criminal charges stemming from a corruption scandal involving the theft of informant reward money, documents show.

The formal charges filed yesterday by internal affairs investigators gives a dollar figure on the money the officers are alleged to have stolen from the force.

It’s about $5,000, and involves over a dozen alleged transactions over the past six years, with seven numbered informants. Each alleged theft of money carries with it multiple charges, including breach of trust, fraud, and forgery.

The 45-page document detailing the allegations against the officers was presented – but not read out – when the five made their first appearance at College Park court in the afternoon.

The case was put over until June 8 and the accused officers were told they are not allowed to discuss their legal problems among themselves. They cannot have any contact with the police informants connected to the charges. The informants are referred to by numbers, not names, in the charges.

The internal affairs case involves the skimming of money from the force’s so-called “fink fund,” which is used to reward informants when they provide information, such as the identity of drug dealers or the whereabouts of escaped convicts.

In all, the officers face 19 counts of breach of trust, 19 counts of fraud under $5,000, 23 counts of theft under $5,000, 66 counts of forgery, and 66 counts of uttering forged documents. Each count can involve charges against more than one officer.

The brunt of the charges are against Detective Constable Gary Corbett, 41, and Detective Rod Lawrence, 43, members of a squad that tracks down escapees and parole violators.

The other three officers who appeared in court work out of police stations in North York. They are Constable Gordon Ramsay, 45, Constable Wayne Frye, 52, and Constable Rick Franklin.

Corbett, who faces more than 180 charges, worked with all of the officers. All five are suspended with pay.

Several officers and police union officials were on hand at yesterday’s court appearance to show their support. The five officers left through a back door to avoid the media after the hearing.

Outside the courthouse, lawyer Gary Clewley – one of three lawyers representing the officers – said there was no reason the officers shouldn’t be allowed to talk to each other as the court proceedings unfold.

“There is no conspiracy charge here,” said Clewley, adding the officers have been friends for years and often attend social functions together.

Clewley said he couldn’t comment on the case because he has yet to see any real disclosure from the crown detailing the allegations.

The five detectives turned themselves in to internal affairs investigators last month where they were formally processed and released pending yesterday’s court date.

At the time, the force released information showing the officers faced 136 charges. It’s unclear whether the 57 extra charges filed yesterday involve new allegations.

It was a routine internal audit of the force’s Repeat Offender Program Enforcement (ROPE) unit last fall that first revealed inconsistencies in the use of money for informants. That prompted Internal Affairs detectives to launch a criminal investigation, which is ongoing.

Corbett and Lawrence also have been charged internally with nearly 50 counts under the Police Services Act stemming from the investigation. More internal charges are expected.

The internal charges against Corbett and Lawrence are much more detailed than the criminal charges and provide a glimpse into how the alleged scheme worked. The allegations include:

Falsifying reports to make it appear as though information was obtained from informants when there had been no contact with the informants at all.

Filing follow-up paperwork that suggested informants expected payment of as much as $500 for information when no money, or in one case just a portion of the requested amount, was paid out.

Filing false reports about informants.

Forging receipts to make it appear informants were paid.

MAP posted-by: Richard Lake

US CA: US Prepared To Sue To Force LAPD Reforms

Media Awareness ProjectLos Angeles Times 06 May 2000

US CA: US Prepared To Sue To Force LAPD Reforms

Author: Jim Newton, Scott Glover, Matt Lait

U.S. PREPARED TO SUE TO FORCE LAPD REFORMS*Police: Sources say Justice Department will brief local officials on whether violations fall into a pattern of abuse.

Meanwhile, officers’ homes are searched.

As search warrants were served on the homes of more than a dozen Los Angeles police officers linked to an ongoing criminal corruption probe, sources said Friday that federal authorities are prepared to bring a civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD unless the city and the department agree to a host of reforms.

U.S. Department of Justice officials have concluded after a four-year investigation that they have enough evidence of alleged civil rights violations at the hands of Los Angeles Police Department officers to file a so-called pattern and practice lawsuit against the entire department.

According to sources familiar with the federal government’s approach to the case, Civil Rights Division Chief Bill Lann Lee will come to Los Angeles on Monday to meet with city officials and brief them on the Justice Department’s intentions. Federal authorities are offering the city an opportunity to enter into a consent decree rather than face a lawsuit.

Since 1996, Justice Department officials have been monitoring the LAPD to determine whether incidents involving excessive force fall into any recognizable pattern.

The purpose of such reviews, authorized by federal law in 1994, is to ensure proper management and oversight of local police departments.

More recently, the Justice Department has concerned itself with the allegations that officers from the LAPD’s Rampart Division were involved in beatings, unjustified shootings, false arrests, evidence plantings and perjury, matters that go well beyond the issues the federal government previously had been examining.

City Atty. James K. Hahn, Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, Police Commission President Gerald L. Chaleff and representatives of the mayor’s office all have been summoned to the meeting Monday afternoon.

Inspector General Jeff Eglash and council members Cindy Miscikowski and Mike Feuer also are expected to attend.

Several local officials said they were not told what would be discussed at the 4 p.m. session.

The threat of litigation would vastly raise the stakes for local officials, and it would represent a clear vote of no confidence in Los Angeles’ political leadership, particularly its civilian Police Commission.

Based on the government’s actions in previous pattern and practice consent decrees, the proposal in Los Angeles could have broad ramifications. If enacted, a consent decree could, in effect, strip final authority over many matters relating to the Police Department from the mayor, the Police Commission and the City Council. In other cities and states, responsibilities such as internal investigations and even some budget matters have been placed under the jurisdiction of a federal judge.

Los Angeles could, of course, choose to fight it out in court with the Justice Department, but that would be a risky course, both politically and legally.

Civilian Overseer

Although sources would not detail what reforms the Justice Department expects to seek at the LAPD, federal authorities in all previous cases have insisted on the appointment of an outside auditor or monitor.

When the federal government took action against the city of Pittsburgh in 1997 and its police bureau, for instance, an auditor was appointed and given authority to review all incidents in which the police use force, searches and traffic stops, among other things.

Any time the auditor concludes that there is something amiss with an investigation in Pittsburgh, he can order the case reopened and issue written instructions as to how the matter should be investigated. Local officials are obligated to comply under the terms of the decree.

What that means in Pittsburgh, the first and largest such city to be placed under such an order so far, is that a civilian overseer essentially is the last word on internal police bureau investigations.

In Pittsburgh, federal authorities also required the city’s police bureau to collect a range of data and to install an officer-tracking system that would alert officials to employees with potential problems.

Officer tracking has been a particularly sore spot in Los Angeles. Several years ago, the city pledged to upgrade its rudimentary tracking system, and based on that promise, the Justice Department not only backed off but went so far as to make money available to the city to build a system.

Los Angeles officials failed to carry out that promise, however, bogging down in bureaucratic details and letting the system languish.

When Justice Department officials recently discovered that the money they had allocated for the project still was not used, they were furious.

When the Justice Department started its civil rights probe, former Chief Willie L. Williams was in office and the Police Commission was headed by lawyer Raymond Fisher, a well-regarded police reformer, who later went on to work for the Justice Department. In that period, federal investigators promptly received documents relating to excessive force complaints and other matters.

Additional requests in 1998–by which time Parks had been named chief and attorney Edith Perez was the acting commission president–were not responded to in such a timely manner, federal officials said.

“We got a quicker response to our first request,” one official familiar with the federal civil rights investigation said shortly before Justice officials met with Los Angeles leaders in March. “Whether that was because of the people who were in charge, I can’t say.”

As federal authorities prepared to address systemic problems within the department on Friday, local prosecutors and LAPD detectives were pressing ahead with their own criminal probe.

Authorities served search warrants on 17 current and former LAPD officers, most of whom once worked in the same anti-gang CRASH unit as Rafael Perez, the man at the center of what has become known as the Rampart corruption scandal.

Law enforcement sources said investigators were looking for further evidence that would bolster a criminal conspiracy prosecution.

Among the items investigators sought were plaques awarded to anti-gang officers involved in shootings who injured or killed suspects, according to attorneys for suspended officers.

The plaques were distributed to officers at boozy celebrations, occasionally held at the Los Angeles Police Academy, several former Rampart officers have told The Times.

Investigators also were looking for additional artifacts of the quasi-gang culture that allegedly existed within the division’s CRASH unit. Such items included shirts that bore a grinning skull wearing a cowboy hat in front of the so-called dead man’s poker hand.

At some residences investigators looked for photographs, financial records and officers’ notebooks pertaining to certain dates that investigators would not disclose.

The early morning searches, which took officers and their families by surprise, created yet another rift between the LAPD and the district attorney’s office, sources said.

Some officers whose homes were searched and their lawyers said the LAPD investigators were apologetic, insisting that the operation was not their idea and that they were not in favor of it.

A police union official said a deputy chief even placed an early morning call, warning him of the impending searches.

Department officials confirmed privately that they saw little reason for the searches eight months after the scandal broke and presumably after any incriminating evidence would have been discarded.

Ted Hunt, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, charged that the searches were a campaign stunt by Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, who faces a runoff election in November.

“This was the result of a desperate politician who is trying to breathe life into his nearly extinct campaign,” Hunt said. “He’s using our police officers–these good decent human beings–as political cannon fodder.”

Raids Staged at Officers’ Homes

In one instance, Hunt said, an officer responded to a knock on his door about 7:30 a.m. to find several plainclothes district attorney’s investigators crouched at the entrance to his home, their guns drawn.

He said the officer’s child watched in horror as the investigators, along with LAPD detectives, barged into the house.

“The kid was in tears. . . . What need is there to point a gun [in the direction of] a 5-year-old kid?” Hunt said.

“This shouldn’t happen in America.”

Aruna Patel, the wife of Kulin Patel, an officer under investigation whose house was searched, broke into tears as she recalled the incident in an interview Friday afternoon. “I am so humiliated,” she said between sobs. “He is a police officer not for the money, not for the fame. He is there to help people.

And this is how they repay him.”

Lawyers for several other officers who had their homes searched said district attorney’s investigators and LAPD detectives were professional, even courteous.

District attorney’s officials defended the searches as a necessary part of what Garcetti has vowed would be a thorough investigation of the alleged corruption centered on the LAPD’s Rampart Division.

One district attorney’s source said the LAPD investigators’ recalcitrance offered more evidence of what prosecutors increasingly see as the LAPD’s unwillingness and inability to police itself.

“They just don’t have the stomach for it,” the district attorney’s source said.

To date, at least 31 officers, including three sergeants, have been suspended or fired or have quit in the wake of the scandal.

More than 70 officers officers are under investigation for committing crimes or misconduct or for knowing about such activities and helping to cover them up.

In addition, at least 73 criminal cases have been thrown out of court amid allegations of officer misconduct.

MAP posted-by: Jo-D

France: OPED: Crime, The World’s Biggest Free Enterprise

Media Awareness Project01 Apr 2000 Le Monde Diplomatique


France: OPED: Crime, The World’s Biggest Free Enterprise

Author: Jean De Maillard

Note: Jean De Maillard, Judge, author of Un Monde sans loi, Stock,
Paris, 1998, and L’Avenir du crime, Flammarion, Paris, 1997.


By linking scarcity to price, the universal gospel of liberal thought teaches that exploiting scarcity is the fountain of all wealth.

It follows that the foundation of any righteous economy is the market players’ ability to get hold of the scarce commodities that will make them rich. But what is scarce in a world where the development of new technologies makes distance a thing of the past and “niches” of scarcity in the tightest nooks and crannies accessible for exploitation?

This new ability raises an important question: is it really right to produce particular goods or services and trade in them? The free marketeers tend to forget that, while the laws of the market do entail a degree of self-regulation, this does not mean that society has no right, through its elected representatives, to set the rules of the game and say what may be traded and what may not. Without that, the only law that remains is the law of the jungle where man is reduced to an object that can be turned into money and marketed at will.

Sadly, the deregulation that is so much a feature of today’s globalisation has not learned any of this. Quite the reverse, it has opened up a new market on a planetary scale, the depths of which have hardly yet been plumbed and which people would rather not admit exists.

It is in fact the dark side of economic and financial globalisation, the constant reminder of a truth the horrors of which people would prefer to conceal.

It is the market in law, exploited by crime.

Since crime is a phenomenon inseparable from any human community, every society, therefore, not only has the crimes it deserves, but also those that resemble it and make it what it is. A global society claiming to be built on the ruins of national laws without trying to rebuild social standards on another level, changes the agora into a vast bazaar where even governments rush to sell their regulations to the highest bidder.

The scarce thing is not, of course, crime, but what it exploits: the law, which three developments have transformed into a market.

First of all, countries have opened their borders wider to criminal trades more than to any other kind. Doubtless they had little choice, since the real pioneers of globalisation, the 1960s drugs traffickers, obviously did not ask anyone’s permission before organising trade in the world’s most expensive and profitable commodity on a global scale.

But history is not without its irony, as the American authorities have found to their cost. Worried about the revival of the heroin market in the early 1970s, which they blamed entirely on French chemists and traffickers, they demanded that the government of the day root out the famous French Connection, then based in Marseilles, which it did. But the only concrete result of its elimination was to encourage secondary outbreaks all over the world, as trafficking was taken over by the Sicilian and North American mafias. The networks’ centre of gravity then shifted to the United States, that great trading nation and apologist of free trade.

The rest we know.

What are we to learn from this? Crime has become one of the most flourishing economic activities, run by professionals who have taken on board all the rules of modern management. Capable of a flexibility unmatched in the formal economy, they are able to exploit all the scarce resources offered by economic, political and social instability anywhere in the world.

They have made it the substance of their activity and the source of their tremendous profits.

If we were asked for a brief definition of today’s serious crime, it is the ability to take advantage of the differentials produced by the deficiencies in political, economic and social regulation anywhere in the world and at any time.

An exodus of refugees fleeing a war-torn country is held to ransom by the mafia-organised clandestine emigration networks.

A country whose underprivileged resort to the synthetic paradise of drugs for a few moments’ oblivion makes its thousands and millions of addicts easy prey for the world’s fortune hunters.

What country is not so affected?

A country where the gap between rich and poor and social disparities are so great that the most wretched have only their bodies to sell is swooped upon by networks of traffickers doing a most profitable trade in human beings, be they women, children, workers or sources of organs for transplant.

The list of social ills has become endless.

Some societies are rich but have their poor to exploit; others are poor, but have their rich to exploit them, poverty having become the choice raw material with which to manufacture a commodity made valuable by society’s taboos.

Because they are banned by laws they are powerless to enforce.

The two other developments that have made the law a thriving market for those whose trade is to break it both follow from the first.

They, too, are now ever present.

Finding themselves unable to control the internationalisation of the economy, governments began by doing what wily tacticians have always done: pretend to be behind what is beyond their grasp. Like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, whose pragmatism rarely worried about scruples, governments were quick to lower the barriers to trade and the movement of goods and capital.

Once they saw it paid in hard cash, they cared little for what they were really letting loose.

They simply forgot, or perhaps they were unaware, that the first internationalised economy was already that of crime, with a considerable lead over every other sector when it came to exploiting scarce commodities.

But in so doing they crossed a threshold, the dreadful import of which is only just beginning to be recognised. Not content with no longer being able to control the flows of trade in goods, services, and especially capital, governments embarked on a mad race to harness financial flows and draw the most profitable activities to themselves. To that end, they removed the last constraints on cross-border movements and trade.

For the criminals who had, very quickly and unaided, learned to exploit all the resources of world disorder, this was the opportunity not only to entrench their lawless trade in our crisis-ridden societies, but to profit from them even more, ploughing their ill-gotten gains back into an obliging economic and financial system always greedy for fresh capital and increasingly careless of its origin as deregulation progressed.

The third stage, and doubtless the most perverse, is only the continuation of the first two. Without it, global economic and financial deregulation could not have taken off in the way it has. It is, in fact, the development of offshore financial centres.

Better known as banking and tax havens, as time has gone on, they have in particular become police and legal havens where all the world’s laws are conscientiously bypassed.

Paradoxically, they use the rules of a disappearing world, where sovereignty was defined in terms of territorial control, to make world economics and finance completely virtual.

If these obliging centres of international liberalism were used only for tax evasion, the wrong they did to an honest economy, while no doubt great, would nonetheless be kept within bounds.

It is even conceivable that the governments of the industrialised nations, being directly affected by the loss of resources, would easily have found ways to limit the damage.

But the problem is of a completely different nature, and it is because governments’ direct interests are not affected, or because they gain much more than they lose, that the practices of these offshore centres have been allowed to prosper.

They have completed a further stage in the process of “desovereignisation” by using their very sovereignty as a factor in the most thriving world trade.

They enact laws whose only purpose is to escape the legal requirements of other countries, whatever the motive.

It is strange to note that the last sovereign territories, that is those capable of pitting their own laws against the international community with impunity are either microstates, whose international sovereignty is often vague or legally doubtful, or parts of the territory of a country that has been admitted to the family of nations but which protects the activities that come there to hide for that very reason.

While the right to interfere is claimed in order to settle certain local conflicts, the sacred principle of national sovereignty it still invoked to prevent anyone having any influence over countries that sell their sovereignty and their laws to the highest bidder.

Those who, by simple accounting tricks, are able to export or expatriate their wealth or their activities to these black holes of world economics and finance do so only with the complicity of their own countries of origin. Why have they been so ready to accept the worst of perversions of a principle of sovereignty made a mockery by cynical “hooligan countries” or “bandit territories”? Because they are so good at invoking the rules of a sovereignty that is still the foundation of international relations, even if completely obsolete in practice.

It is a fiction that suits everyone, since it avoids having to take up the terrible challenge thrown down to the short-sighted fools of globalisation. This globalisation has been built on a frenzy of deregulation, and to turn back the tide would mean venturing to build a new world order the very mention of which provokes a shudder.

All the rest is only for show. Intoned like a litany at every international summit, the declarations of heads of state and government come to nought because no-one is willing to raise the key issues.

The results of the battle against money laundering, corruption, fraud and international trafficking are derisory.

They represent only a tiny fraction of a lawlessness that is exploding everywhere. International crime amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars every year, all of it quietly recycled in the formal economic and financial systems without anyone really worrying about it.

Governments and police obviously state the contrary, hailing as so many victories the adoption of a few documents like the recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials, or the acceptance by a growing number of countries of the 40 recommendations of the Task Force for International Financial Action (FATF). But such imperceptible progress is up against the brick wall of an iron logic: there is no point in banning what we lack the means to prevent, unless we only want to give the impression of acting while doing nothing.

The measures absent-mindedly taken against practices encouraged elsewhere result at best in the sentencing of a few random scapegoats who, while doubtless fully deserving their fate, are merely alibis for all the rest, who will never be troubled.

This does not mean that we should stop pursuing criminals, but it does mean that we are not doing so today because we lack the necessary resources. What we must do is to draw the conclusions from globalisation and recognise that the international community is entitled to impose the minimum standards of the rule of law on the gangster states and their private and public accomplices. But then we would have to go without the enormous profits from the shameless exploitation of the law market.

Translated by Malcolm Greenwood

MAP posted-by: Derek Rea

UK: Confiscated Drugs Cash To Fund Jobs For Addicts

Media Awareness Project25 May 2000 The Independent, The (UK)

UK: Confiscated Drugs Cash To Fund Jobs For Addicts

Author: Ian Burrell, Home Affairs Correspondent

CONFISCATED DRUGS CASH TO FUND JOBS FOR ADDICTSSmall-time drug dealers are to be found jobs under a controversial government scheme being funded out of the confiscated assets of drug barons.

The “street-level” dealers are among heroin and cocaine users who are to be helped to break the cycle of addiction and crime by redistributing the profits of the drugs trade.

Keith Hellawell, the anti-drugs co-ordinator, said yesterday that the programme would give employment to 150 drug addicts for two years.

Mr Hellawell admitted that many of those being helped would be small-time dealers but said it was a “nice irony” that their reintegration into society was being funded by major players in the drug trade.

“Most of the people we are talking about are involved in criminality because they don’t have any money,” Mr Hellawell said. “A large proportion will be user-dealers but they are only doing that to pay off debts or support their own habits.”

The A3500,000 scheme will be paid for out of the seized assets fund, which is worth A35m this year, made up of wealth confiscated from drug suppliers.

Mr Hellawell, who has powers to distribute the money to projects dedicated to reducing demand for illicit drugs, said big-time dealers were unlikely to find themselves on the job scheme. “The dealers who have assets worth seizing are rarely addicted themselves. The people we are looking at helping here are unlikely to have any assets worth anything,” he said.

The drugs “czar” said the job scheme – which will only be available to people who have graduated from drug treatment programmes – would have long-term benefits in reducing levels of crime.

He said: “Some addicts have never worked in their lives. If we cannot get them into stable employment and accommodation, then the likelihood is that they will be back addicted and committing crime. It’s important that we provide stability to get people back as productive members of the community.”

Mr Hellawell will today distribute A3185,000 from the fund to projects in Wales designed to reduce drug use, particularly by young people and women.

One of these schemes will pay for addicts to be given counselling in village pharmacies in rural Dyfed-Powys. And A3500,000 will fund projects to divert drug users into sport.

A further A3500,000 will be used to recruit 600 new drug workers to remedy the severe shortage of treatment facilities for drug users in Britain.

Later this summer, Mr Hellawell will be flying to Eastern Europe to visit prospective member states of the European Union and advise them on their drug-fighting strategies.

He said that he would be paying special attention to banking systems and border controls in the applicant nations. “These countries are potentially going to be our outer borders,” he said.

MAP posted-by: Derek Rea


Media Awareness Project12 Feb 2000

Author: Michael A. Hadden

HEROIN: DUTCH MODEL MERITS A CLOSER LOOKDutch heroin statistics need to be taken more seriously.

The Dutch Government claims that young people have virtually stopped using heroin. Only one in 333 secondary students in Amsterdam have tried heroin, while almost one in 20 have tried it in Australia. And a major drug treatment program has recently closed in Amsterdam because of falling demand.

Dutch drugs policy tries to convert cannabis from the main risk factor for heroin use to a major protective factor against heroin use. Doing so also facilitates a return to cannabis use by heroin users.

Treating their policy and practice as trivial or coincidental is contemptuous of the mortality, morbidity and crime that epidemic heroin use causes. Dutch heroin statistics suggest that what we do is push young cannabis users towards heroin and injecting.

Ignoring the only modern policy to work against today’s dirt-cheap heroin facilitates death, disease and crime.


McDowall, Qld.

MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson

GOING DUTCH Can America learn from the Netherlands’ drug policy of tolerance and ambiguity?

Media Awareness ProjectUS: Web: Going Dutch

13 Mar 2000Salon.com (US Web)

Author: David Downie

GOING DUTCHCan America learn from the Netherlands’ drug policy of tolerance and ambiguity?

The pungent perfume of grass wafts down the Amsterdam street where you walk, under shade trees on a curving canal fronted by landmark brick buildings. You look up, nostrils flaring. Neon lights wink from the facades of cafes with names like the Grasshopper, Dutch Flowers or the Bulldog.

Better known as “smoking coffee shops,” these Dutch dope dens dispense soft drugs, marijuana and hashish, to a mixed bag of customers. Tourists and locals saunter in then stagger out in a cloud of smoke. Inside the air is blue. People puff and joke, some of them laughing crazily, others digging into snacks while lounging in armchairs. Seventies rock alternates with cool jazz and house music. Soft-drug menus are passed from behind the bar, where an “ethical dealer” has just delivered half a kilo of “skunk nederwiet” — the Netherlands’ prized, domestically grown high-THC power weed.

A couple of bucks buys you a joint of it. Even if you don’t light up your head begins to spin from a contact high. You glance around nervously, expecting the cops to show up. But they don’t. And they won’t. As long as the coffee shop plays by the rules.

That’s where the confusion comes in. Popular misconceptions about the Dutch approach to consuming and regulating drugs have remained firmly rooted across Europe and America since the Dutch began liberalizing drug-use policies in 1975.

It’s true that you can still smoke grass or even shoot up without fear of punishment in Holland. But drugs, even marijuana and hash, have never been legal, are not legal now and are unlikely ever to be legalized in the Netherlands. Like Americans, most Dutch want drugs to remain illegal; unlike Americans, the Dutch are realistic about who should go to jail.

The Dutch are progressively tightening the screws: The number of drug-related arrests in Holland — many involving the booming synthetic drugs trade — has more than doubled since 1995. Lately the Dutch Ministry of Justice has even begun using the outdated and inaccurate American nomenclature “war on drugs” in reference to their efforts to fight international drug trafficking. That’s in part because the Netherlands has become not only Europe’s cannabis and cannabis-seed capital, but also a major production, warehousing and shipping center for ecstasy (and related synthetic drugs), as well as a transit country for heroin and cocaine.

The popular misconception about the Netherlands’ drug policy — that anything goes — stems from two quintessentially Dutch attitudes that have underpinned Dutch society for the last 400 years: tolerance and ambiguity. Tolerance, which the Dutch call “gedogen,” has been a way of life since the Catholic-Protestant religious strife of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Drugs — alcohol, tobacco and opiates — have been tolerated at least that long. Scholars now point out that the merrymakers in the fanciful Golden Age paintings of Jan Steen (1626-1679) and Adriaen Brouwer (active 1620s-30s) appear to be more than merely drunk as they stagger, swoon and grope through atmospheric inns and taverns.

They may well be tripping, too. Indeed, historians wonder whether the Golden Age Dutch mixed narcotics with their tobacco. The institution of the Brown Cafe — so called because the walls of such places haven’t been scrubbed since the Golden Age — is still going strong, booze and cigarettes being the demons of choice.

And demons they are: In its November 1999 report, “Drug Policy in the Netherlands,” the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (MHWS) clearly states that “the social and health damage that results from alcohol abuse and alcoholism [in the Netherlands] is many times greater than the damage resulting from drug use.”

As it relates to narcotics today, the Dutch sense of tolerance means that use of small quantities (5 grams or less) of “soft drugs” — marijuana and hashish — is not a criminal offence. Use of even smaller quantities (0.5 grams) of “hard drugs” — cocaine, heroin, ecstasy — is also tolerated, though users will be referred to rehabilitation centers, and repeat offenders can be forced to choose between long-term detoxification or prison.

Here’s where the ambiguity comes in: Use is not a crime but possession of any drugs, hard or soft, is. More ambiguity: Possession of small quantities for personal use (5 grams and 0.5 grams, as per above) is generally tolerated, unless the user is a repeat offender or a troublemaker (i.e., causes a public nuisance). In any event, all illicit drugs, no matter how small the quantity, found during police searches of persons or places are systematically confiscated. The number of searches and seizures continues to rise dramatically. Importing, exporting, selling, trafficking, manufacturing or growing any illicit drugs is also a crime subject to fines (5,000 to 1 million Dfl, or $2,500 to $500,000) and/or imprisonment (four to 16 years).

Related to this is another series of ambiguous facts to put in your pipe and smoke. The country’s 861 “smoking coffee shops” (290 in Amsterdam alone) are allowed to sell adult clients (18 and over) small amounts (5 grams per person per transaction) of soft drugs. But in theory they can’t advertise the drugs, can’t sell alcohol on the same premises, can’t allow clients to cause a public nuisance, can’t sell drugs for take-out use or have more soft drugs on hand than the coffee shop conceivably needs to supply clients’ daily demands (500 grams, just over a pound).

But if importing or growing dope is illegal, you might ask, how do these legitimate establishments get their supplies? The question makes Dutch government officials queasy. “This is the inherent paradox of the Dutch drug policy,” says Frank Kuitenbrouwer, a legal commentator and member of the editorial board of the NRC Handelsblad, a leading centrist Dutch newspaper. “It’s known as the front-door/back-door problem: if the Dutch government tolerates people going in the front door of the coffee shop, what about the back door, the supply?”

Unofficially, police authorities allow “ethical dealers” — individual small-scale suppliers untainted by international trafficking rings — to handle transactions. But an Amsterdam city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me he believes that 90 percent of smoking coffee shops in the city are controlled by organized crime.

This is where tolerance and ambiguity become dangerous. “The front-door/back-door policy has created an enormous amount of organized crime in Holland,” confirms reporter Kurt van Es, a drug specialist at Amsterdam’s top daily Het Parool, and pro-legalization author of a book on smoking coffee shops and soft drugs. “The Dutch have become the Colombians of marijuana and hash trafficking in Europe.”

The Netherlands is a major marijuana growing country (of plants and, especially, seeds for export). Estimates are that if they were allowed to, Dutch growers could supply about 75 percent of domestic demand, thereby undercutting organized crime. But Dutch anti-drug squads systematically root out hemp plantations, and growing will probably remain illegal due partly to pressure from the E.U. and America. “This is a very bizarre situation,” adds van Es, “but somehow we don’t dare take the further step of legalizing the trade of soft drugs at coffee shops or other points of sale — bars or pharmacies.” – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – Curiously, at the perfumed floating Flower Market in central Amsterdam you can tiptoe through tulips and buy blooms in any season — and marijuana starter kits. They sell for about 15 Dfl, around $7.50. Follow instructions and you get smokeable, albeit weedy, plants in about 10 days. You see pot plants on cozy barges along picturesque canals, and on the window sills of old brick houses. Illegal? Yes, but tolerated. The Dutch officially call their confusing brand of ambiguity regarding drugs “The Expediency Principle.” That means officers and officials can decide case-by-case whether it’s in the public interest to arrest or detain drug users, growers and suppliers.

In recent years another recreational substance has sprung up in the forest of Dutch ambiguity: magic mushrooms. The Dutch call them “paddos” or “smart drugs.” They are sold dried, powdered or as spore starter kits at dozens of New Agey stores (they’re most popular in Amsterdam). Many smart drug boutiques also sell mescaline, and boast pause-for-thought names like “Conscious Dreams.” Attempts to regulate them are under study (they may soon become illegal, but tolerated). The Dutch MWHS concedes that “no reliable data is available on the scale of [their] use.”

The ultimate stated goal of the Dutch government’s drug policies is to “protect the health of individual users, the people around them and society as a whole,” according to the Ministry of Justice. In concrete terms that translates into decriminalizing — while actively discouraging — personal drug use; separating the markets and use-patterns of “soft” and “hard” drugs; keeping all drug users out of jail; rehabilitating and reintegrating addicts rather than repressing and punishing them; controlling the trafficking, import, export, manufacturing and growing of illicit drugs.

This approach is markedly different from America’s $18 billion a year war on drugs, better known to many in Holland as “the John Wayne” approach. Of the 2 million U.S. prison population, 500,000 are non-violent drug offenders (though the classification is itself ambiguous). The prevailing view in the U.S. appears to be that there should be no distinction between soft and hard drugs, that “use is abuse” and that tolerance leads to increased use of drugs of all kinds.

The Dutch have been applying their imperfect methods — like other countries they seem unable to control organized crime or ecstasy/amphetamine production and use — to fighting narcotics for about 25 years. By a variety of measures (notably habitual use and addiction rates) they appear to be working. For example, it’s estimated Dutch authorities reach 75-80 percent of heroin users. After rising sharply from 10,000 in 1979 their number has hovered between 25,000-28,000 for years and is falling as addicts’ average age (currently 36) increases. Dutch rehab efforts are applauded by European, and even American, drug-control agencies.

The Dutch argue that there is no statistical evidence to suggest tolerance has spawned a “drug culture,” or that soft drugs dispensed by smoking coffee shops are a “gateway” leading to hard drugs. But U.S. officials disagree. “I don’t think the argument is premised on, is marijuana a gateway drug?” says Rob Housman, assistant director of strategic planning at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in Washington.

“I’m insisting that marijuana on its own is not benign. That marijuana has dramatic, terrible consequences for large numbers of the youths that use it and independent of any other impact on any other drug, those are risks that are unacceptable for America’s kids. Separate from that, does societal acceptance of drugs, hard or soft, create an attitude that in turn leads to other drug use?”

The answer, according to the ONDCP, is yes. However, according to the November Dutch MHWS report, the percentage of Dutch adults (age 12 and over) that have used cocaine is 2.1 percent in the Netherlands, compared to 10.5 percent in the U.S. — five times as high. Cannabis has been used by 15.6 percent of Dutch (age 12 and over) while the U.S. figure is 32.9 percent for the same age group.

The U.S. contests the validity of these data, citing incomparable survey methods. “I don’t think we ought to worry about whether there is a bigger Dutch problem or a bigger U.S. drug problem,” notes Housman of the ONDCP. “The problem is we all have a problem. We have different approaches. What is acceptable, what is workable within one society, may not be the right solution for another society.”

Data from the E.U.’s nonpartisan European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) show that in many other European countries (which do not have Dutch smoking coffee shops) consistently higher rates of drug use prevail (especially in Spain, the U.K. and Denmark), compared to the Netherlands.

Rates of problem drug use (defined by the EMCDDA as “intravenous or long duration/regular use of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines”) are lower in the Netherlands than in Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the U.K. and Norway, and almost on a par with those reported in Germany, Austria, Finland and Sweden.

“I wouldn’t say drugs are banal,” notes Frank Kuitenbrouwer of the NRC Handelsblad. “They’re normal, we talk about them with our kids. The idea is not to criminalize or demonize drugs. Everyone agrees that tolerance has worked, but coffee shops are a nuisance and there has been a backlash.”

In fact hundreds of operating licenses have been pulled from smoking coffee shops in the last five years because of complaints about public nuisance. Drug tourism in Dutch border cities routinely “disgusts” and “revolts” locals. “Amsterdam is not only the marijuana and marijuana seed capital of Europe,” says Kuitenbrouwer, “it’s also the ecstasy capital of Europe and that’s something that really worries the Dutch and gives rise to public revulsion.”

Is the sleaze — the noise, the smell and the cat-and-mouse presence of organized crime — engendered by smoking coffee shops worth it? Ultimately most Dutch seem to feel it is, though they are troubled by it and are the first to see its flaws. Kurt van Es of Het Parool cautions, however, that “The most disturbing thing for neighbors living around coffee shops is young people gathering outside, parking their cars or leaving the engine running to dash in and buy their stuff then go away again. But if you live near normal bars and pubs you have similar problems and I don’t know whether you can say this is specific to coffee shops.”

One key argument against the Dutch has long been that their policies are too culture-specific to be exported. However, after decades of resistance, the rest of the E.U. is now reluctantly adopting some elements of the Netherlands’ drug policies, though each country’s approach differs widely.

The EMCDDA remarks that Denmark does not prosecute for possession or supply of small quantities of cannabis, and gives users “warning” for “drugs other than cannabis.” Imprisonment is reserved for offenses “involving supply for commercial reasons or organized trafficking.”

Frank Kuitenbrower suggests that decades ago the Danes actually applied a similar “separation of hard and soft, but they didn’t preach about it, whereas we Dutch had to make noise and use ‘the lifted finger’ to tell everyone that what we were doing was right. That’s why we were reviled by the French and Germans in particular. Yet the Germans have now largely adopted the Dutch policy in big cities.”

EMCDDA data confirm that Germany no longer prosecutes for use, import, export or possession of “insignificant quantities” of drugs; ditto Austria and Luxembourg. Ireland now levies fines for cannabis use. Sweden fines or requests users to seek counseling. In the United Kingdom, proceedings are often dropped for “possession of small quantities, occasional or personal use.”

Spain and Italy apply “administrative sanctions” (fines, suspension of driver’s license, etc.) for personal use — de facto decriminalization. “There are laws under consideration to totally decriminalize drugs,” says Dr. Silvia Zanone, an Italian drug policy consultant at the Social Affairs Ministry’s Prevention and Rehabilitation Activities Coordination Unit in Rome.

Zanone, acknowledging Dutch influences on Italy, adds “there have been calls for the creation of something like the coffee shops. If drug use is completely decriminalized then logically there must be a legal way for people to get them other than the illegal trade in drugs. But all of these proposals have been held up for years in parliament.”

In France “occasional users of illicit drugs” are now warned or referred to health or social care services. Michel Bouchet, head of the French Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Commission, confirms that “the use of all drugs is illegal in France but that does not mean you’ll waste away in prison if you take them.”

He adds, however, that France rejects the notion of toleration or separating drugs into hard/soft, and is in opposition to most Dutch policies. “I do not think there are ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ drugs. It’s difficult for there to be ‘soft use’ of hard drugs, and it’s certain there is hard use of soft drugs.” As the French government pushes citizens to stop smoking cigarettes and reduce drinking, fears of Dutch-style liberalization are compounded by perceived risks of increased domestic multiple-drug abuse (tobacco and alcohol plus narcotics), as well as higher synthetic-drug consumption.

It’s tempting to wonder whether features of Dutch drug policy — decriminalization of use combined with rehabilitation — could work in America. Detractors point out that America’s Puritan heritage makes it unlikely, an argument that, if it ever made sense, becomes steadily less compelling as the U.S. goes global, multiethnic and multicultural.

Consider the Dutch: like Americans, they’re always ready to “raise the finger” and preach; their roots are in Calvinism, a Puritanical form of Protestantism. Ask the Dutch what country theirs most resembles and the overwhelming response is America. Holland, like America, is a dynamic, high-tech driven multiethnic hodgepodge of some 145 nationalities (nearly half Amsterdam’s population is of non-Dutch origin). Certainly, the Netherlands resembles America more than it does Italy or Spain (Catholic cultures with millennial traditions) yet even these hidebound societies have moved toward liberalization.

“We need to provide alternatives to incarceration for first-time non-violent drug offenders, and others who are non-violent offenders a second time, who don’t sell to kids and who aren’t using weapons,” admits Housman of the ONDCP, citing the Clinton administration’s multibillion-dollar anti-drug education and rehabilitation campaigns. “We absolutely agree that we need to refocus the efforts of the criminal justice system with respect to drugs.”

But while Congress and American law enforcement agencies contemplate whether to pursue the war on drugs or to emphasize decriminalization and rehabilitation, the Netherlands’ smoking coffee shops will continue to fill with curious Americans. As a proud proprietor once told me, “Americans are some of our best customers.”

MAP posted-by: Don Beck

UK: PUB LTE: Time To Reclassify Illegal Drugs?

Media Awareness ProjectUK: PUB LTE: Time To Reclassify Illegal Drugs? (4 items)

TIME TO RECLASSIFY ILLEGAL DRUGS?From Danny Kushlick, the Director of Transform, the Campaign for Effective Drug Policy:

Sir, Your leading article (March 29) suggests that we should refrain from making changes to the drug laws until we know the full dangers of using illegal drugs.

In fact the opposite is true. The criminalisation of drugs has led to a situation where enormous numbers of young people are buying unlicensed Ecstasy from unregulated dealers in a market in which the Government cannot intervene. We must legalise drugs because they are dangerous, not because they are safe.

Danny Kushlick, Director, Transform, Roselake House, Hudds Vale Road, Bristol BS5 7HY. March 29.

From Professor Emeritus P. B. Fellgett, FRS:

Sir, Perhaps I may remind the Home Secretary that alcohol is a drug and that in the US it was very much associated with crime from 1920 until it was decriminalised in 1933.

Peter Fellgett,

Little Brighter, St Kew Highway, Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 3DU. March 29.

From Mr Tom MacFarlane:

Sir, “Drugs ruin lives” is your leading article’s flourishing sign-off. And how true! As your cartoonist Peter Brookes makes clear, the two most damaging drugs of all are both legal.

Do you advocate prohibition in either case? If not, why not?

Tom MacFarlane

66 Rossall Road, Cleveleys, Lancashire FY5 1HQ.

From Mr Robert Sharpe of Students for Sensible Drug Policy:

Sir, I know quite a few people whose lives have been ruined by drug laws, but no one whose life has been ruined by cannabis. Indeed, I know alcoholics who have turned their lives around by putting down the bottle and picking up the cannabis pipe.

Granted, they may still have a substance abuse problem, but at least now they can get out of bed in the morning without a hangover and lead productive lives. Nor do they run the risk of drinking themselves to death.

It is not possible to consume enough marijuana to die from an overdose. Imagine how many lives would be ruined if every alcoholic in the UK were thrown in jail and given a permanent criminal record.

Robert Sharpe (Students for Sensible Drug Policy, George Washington University)

201 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Apt 701, Washington DC 20016 rsharpe@path-dc.org

MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk