Iceland Tour

Well, this will be an inter­est­ing week.  On the invit­a­tion of Snar­rot­in, the Iceland­ic civil liber­ties organ­isa­tion, I’m off to Ice­land for a series of talks and inter­views on behalf of Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (www​.leap​.cc).

Ice­land is an inspir­a­tion­al and inter­est­ing coun­try.  Fol­low­ing the 2008 cred­it crash, the Icelanders bucked inter­na­tion­al trends and actu­ally held some of their rul­ing élite — the politi­cians and bankers who had brought about these fin­an­cial prob­lems — to account.  The gov­ern­ment fell, some bankers were fired and pro­sec­uted, and the Iceland­ic people are hav­ing a ser­i­ous rethink about the way their demo­cracy could and should work.

And indeed why should the people pay the price for the decisions made in their name by an unac­count­able élite?  One could spe­ciously argue that the people had a mean­ing­ful choice at the bal­lot box.… but back in the real, 21st cen­tury polit­ic­al world, Ice­land was as stitched-up as all oth­er notion­al West­ern demo­cra­cies.  The worst alleg­a­tion that can be thrown at the people was that they were dis­en­gaged, unin­volved and side­lined from how their coun­try was really run — as many of us across the West feel to this day.

But appar­ently no longer in Ice­land: since the fin­an­cial crisis the cit­izens of this small demo­cracy have re-engaged in the polit­ic­al pro­cess, and the future is look­ing rosy.

New, account­able politi­cians have been elec­ted to form a new gov­ern­ment. Cit­izens have been involved in draw­ing up a new con­sti­tu­tion, and heated debates are chal­len­ging the estab­lished shib­boleths of the cor­por­at­ist gov­ern­ing class: revolving around such issues as fin­ance, inter­net freedoms, free media, ter­ror­ism, and how a mod­ern coun­try should be run in the interest of the many. And next week, I hope, a rethink of the country’s oblig­a­tions to the inter­na­tion­al “war on drugs”.

While the issue is strenu­ously ignored by the West­ern gov­ern­ing élite, it is now widely recog­nised that the cur­rent pro­hib­i­tion strategy has failed out­right: drug traf­fick­ing and use has increased, the street price of drugs has plummeted and they are endem­ic­ally avail­able, whole com­munit­ies have been imprisoned, whole coun­tries have become narco-states and des­cen­ded into drug war viol­ence, and the only people to profit are the organ­ised crime car­tels and ter­ror­ist organ­isa­tions that reap vast profits. Oh, and of course the banks kept afloat with dirty drug money, the mil­it­ar­ised drug enforce­ment agen­cies, and the politi­cians who now, hypo­crit­ic­ally, want to look “tough on crime” des­pite alleg­a­tions that they also dabbled in their youth.….

Well, the time has come for an adult dis­cus­sion about this failed policy, using facts and not just empty rhet­or­ic.

So, a week dis­cuss­ing all my favour­ite happy top­ics: the “war” on drugs, the “war” on ter­ror, and the “war” on the inter­net.  My type of mini-break!

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UK Anonymous Radio Interview

Here’s the link to my inter­view tonight on UK Anonym­ous Radio — I had a great time and found it a fun, wide-ran­ging, and stim­u­lat­ing hour.  I hope you do too.  So, thank you Anonym­ous.

And also thank you to Kim Dot­com set­ting up the new file-shar­ing site, Mega, which replaces his illeg­ally-taken-down glob­al site, MegaUp­load.  I have some­where safe, I think, to store my inter­views!

What a sham­bol­ic dis­grace that MegaUp­load raid was, and what a clas­sic example of the glob­al cor­por­at­ist agenda that I dis­cuss in the inter­view.

I do love geeks.

The Keiser Report — my recent interview

My recent inter­view on Max Keiser’s excel­lent RT show, The Keiser Report, appar­ently now the most watched Eng­lish lan­guage news com­ment­ary show across the world.

We were dis­cuss­ing such happy sub­jects as the war on ter­ror, the war on drugs, but pre­dom­in­antly the war on the inter­net:

Interview, Czech National Radio

Here is a link to an in-depth inter­view I did recently at the Czech nation­al radio sta­tion in Prague.

As a Dir­ect­or of Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP), I was invited to Prague by the pro­gress­ive Czech Nation­al Drug Co-ordin­at­or, Jindrich Vobor­il, to speak at a drugs con­fer­ence in the Czech Par­lia­ment.

The House I Live In” — drug panel discussion

I recently rep­res­en­ted LEAP at a pan­el dis­cus­sion in Lon­don about the failed war on drugs after a screen­ing of the excel­lent film The House I Live In, along with Steve Rolles of Trans­form and Niamh East­wood of Release:

Oval Space Cinema Club: ‘The House I Live In’ — Pan­el Dis­cus­sion from Oval Space on Vimeo.

LEAP Interview on The Real News Network, October 2012

I par­ti­cip­ated in the Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) board meet­ing last Octo­ber in Bal­timore. While there, I arranged for board mem­bers to do a series of inter­views about the failed glob­al “war on drugs” with the excel­lent and inde­pend­ent Real News Net­work.

The tide of his­tory is with us — more and more coun­tries are speak­ing out about the fail­ure of pro­hib­i­tion.  LEAP sup­ports and con­trib­utes to this dis­cus­sion.

LEAP has rep­res­ent­at­ives across the world with a wide range of pro­fes­sion­al expert­ise: police officers, drug czars, judges, pris­on gov­ernors, law­yers, drug enforce­ment officers, and even the occa­sion­al former spook.…

Our var­ied exper­i­ences and back­grounds have brought us to one con­clu­sion: we all assess the “war on drugs” to have been an abject fail­ure that causes more glob­al soci­et­al harm than good, as well as fund­ing organ­ised crime, ter­ror­ism and white col­lar bank crime.

We urgently need to rethink the failed UN drug con­ven­tions.

Here is the RNN inter­view I par­ti­cip­ated in, along with Brazili­an Judge Maria Lucia Karam:

Interview for the Release newsletter, “TalkingDrugs”

An inter­view I did on behalf of LEAP this week for the news­let­ter of the UK cam­paign, Release.

Release, run by the indefatig­able Niamh East­wood, does excel­lent work provid­ing leg­al advice about drug issues, and cam­paign­ing for fairer and more com­pas­sion­ate drug laws.

The inter­view appeared in the campaign’s news­let­ter, “Talk­ing­Drugs”.

Here’s the link, and here’s the text:

Q1 What led you into think­ing that cur­rent drug policies on illi­cit drugs were fail­ing?

My jour­ney began when I was work­ing as an intel­li­gence officer for MI5 in the 1990s.  One of my roles was invest­ig­at­ing ter­ror­ist logist­ics and work­ing closely with UK Cus­toms.  I learned then that try­ing to stop the flow of illi­cit mater­i­al into the UK (wheth­er drugs, weapons, or people) is like look­ing for a needle in the pro­ver­bi­al hay­stack.  Plus there is a huge over­lap between the fund­ing of organ­ised crime and ter­ror­ist groups.

Over the last dec­ade I have become a writer, com­ment­at­or and pub­lic speak­er on a vari­ety of inter-con­nec­ted issues around intel­li­gence, the war on ter­ror, whis­tleblowers, poli­cing, and civil liber­ties.  To me, the war on drugs meshes very closely with all these top­ics.  Three years ago I was approached by LEAP to become a speak­er, and then in March this year I became a mem­ber of the inter­na­tion­al board and also the Dir­ect­or of LEAP Europe in order to con­sol­id­ate the organisation’s work here.

Q2 Do you think that there are bar­ri­ers to police officers being hon­est about the effect­ive­ness of their actions to com­bat the trade in illi­cit drugs and is the great­er dis­quiet amongst those involved in law enforce­ment about cur­rent policies than is pop­ularly per­ceived ?

Yes, abso­lutely, and it’s not just amongst the police but also the wider law enforce­ment com­munity.

LEAP sup­port­ers, approach­ing 100,000 in over 90 coun­tries around the world, include judges, law­yers, pris­on gov­ernors, cus­toms and intel­li­gence officers, and former drug czars.  With­in all these pro­fes­sions there is a tacit under­stand­ing that you toe the con­ven­tion­al line.  In my exper­i­ence, most people go into this type of work hop­ing not only to have an inter­est­ing job, but also to do some good and make a dif­fer­ence.  Many then see the social fall-out, or that friends, fam­ily or com­munity are affected by the drug wars, and many serving offi­cials do ques­tion what it is all about and what it is really achiev­ing.

How­ever, they are there to do a job, which is uphold­ing and apply­ing the law.  The cul­tur­al pres­sure with­in such groups can make it extremely dif­fi­cult on many levels for them to speak out.

Any change to the inter­na­tion­al and nation­al drug laws will have to come from the politi­cians with­in the UN and nation­ally.  LEAP increas­ingly con­trib­utes to the polit­ic­al debate and is build­ing a groundswell of sup­port inter­na­tion­ally.   Most people today will know someone who has at least tried a cur­rently illeg­al drug.  They also instinct­ively know this is mere social exper­i­ment­a­tion, relax­a­tion or, at worst, a health prob­lem.  And pen­al­isa­tion, impris­on­ment and a crim­in­al record exacer­bates rather than helps the situ­ation.

Q3 Does the poli­cing of drug pos­ses­sion impact the effect­ive­ness of poli­cing gen­er­ally and what bene­fits do you think could stem from ceas­ing to use law enforce­ment to attempt to dis­cour­age drug use?

There are mul­tiple strands to this issue: the diver­sion of police resources, the addi­tion­al crime caused by pro­hib­i­tion that is not dealt with suc­cess­fully, the diver­sion of resources from harm reduc­tion pro­grammes, the crim­in­al­isa­tion of what are essen­tially health issues, and the dis­rep­ute that res­ults for law enforce­ment.

The poli­cing of drug pos­ses­sion takes away vast resources from invest­ig­at­ing oth­er crimes such as burg­lary, rape and murder.  Yet it is largely point­less – those with a drug depend­ency need health inter­ven­tions, and there will always be replace­ments for any low-level deal­ers who are arres­ted and imprisoned.  If you arrest and con­vict a rap­ist, he will not be on the streets com­mit­ting more rapes; but if you catch a drug deal­er, you just cre­ate a job vacancy for which many will com­pete in ever more viol­ent ways for a slice of an incred­ibly luc­rat­ive mar­ket.

The UK anti-pro­hib­i­tion advocacy group, Trans­form, estim­ates that even if just can­nabis were leg­al­ised in the UK, an addi­tion­al $1.6 bil­lion would flow into the Brit­ish eco­nomy every year.  While tax raised on a con­trolled and reg­u­lated can­nabis trade is pre­dicted to provide the bulk of this ($1.2 bil­lion), $170 mil­lion would be saved from law enforce­ment, $155 mil­lion from the justice sys­tem, and $135 mil­lion from the pris­on sys­tem.

In the cur­rent eco­nom­ic situ­ation, can the UK afford not to con­sider altern­at­ives to the cur­rent drug war?

Also, as we have seen since the decrim­in­al­is­tion laws in Por­tugal since 2001 and Switzer­land since 1994, the “peace dividend” by end­ing the war on drugs would not only see a drop in prop­erty crimes (about 50% of which are com­mit­ted to fund drug depend­en­cies), it could also be used to fin­ance and extend harm reduc­tion pro­grammes.  As we have seen in the case of tobacco across the West, we do not need to ban a sub­stance to reduce its use; edu­ca­tion and treat­ment are far more effect­ive.

Finally, illeg­al drugs are avail­able to any­one who wants to buy them on the streets of the UK.  The increas­ing mil­it­ar­isa­tion of the police to fight the war on drugs, the break­down of civil liber­ties for the same reas­on (mir­ror­ing the war on ter­ror), and the wide­spread flag­rant flout­ing of the drug laws by large num­bers of the pop­u­la­tion, thereby “mak­ing an ass of the law”, has led to a break­down of trust and respect between the police and the policed. One of LEAP’s aims is to rebuild this trust, this social con­tract.

Q4 The impact on the safety of law enforce­ment per­son­nel of the ‘war on drugs’ should be an issue for oth­er mem­ber­ship organ­isa­tions rep­res­ent­ing the sec­tor, will you be reach­ing out to them to encour­age cam­paign­ing on the issue?

Safety is cer­tainly an issue, although we have been more for­tu­nate in Europe than our col­leagues in the USA, where the more pre­val­ent gun cul­ture leads to many more law enforce­ment deaths.  That said, gang viol­ence is on the rise across Europe where organ­ised crime gangs fight increas­ingly viol­ent turf battles.

Mex­ico has been one of the worst hit coun­tries in the world.  Since the ramp­ing up of the war on drugs  almost six years ago, over 62,000 men women and chil­dren have been tor­tured and murdered in that coun­try, and many of them had no involve­ment what­so­ever in the drugs trade.  In fact, LEAP USA has just suc­cess­fully par­ti­cip­ated in the Mex­ic­an Cara­van for Peace, a group of act­iv­ists and fam­il­ies high­light­ing the tragedy, that toured across the USA for a month to raise aware­ness and fin­ished with a rally in Wash­ing­ton last week.

The increas­ing viol­ence of the drugs trade and the mil­it­ar­isa­tion of the response should be of con­cern to all law enfor­cers, mem­ber­ship organ­isa­tions and allied groups work­ing in the drugs sec­tor.  We need to think urgently about how to avoid a sim­il­ar spir­al of viol­ence in Europe.   LEAP is happy to reach out to such organ­isa­tions to devel­op a more humane solu­tion.

Q5 How would you like to see LEAP in Europe devel­op and will you be look­ing to lobby European policy makers in Brus­sels?

There are already LEAP speak­ers across most European coun­tries.  We in LEAP see the organisation’s primary goal as edu­ca­tion­al.  We shall be work­ing to build up speak­ing engage­ments for a wide vari­ety of groups and audi­ences, includ­ing the polit­ic­al sec­tor, as well as strength­en­ing our media expos­ure.  We recog­nise the valu­able work Release and oth­er NGOs and advocacy groups are already doing across Europe, and hope that you will see that we offer a unique voice and pool of expert­ise that can be used to strengthen your work.

It is won­der­ful that so many organ­isa­tions and indeed gov­ern­ments around the world (par­tic­u­larly in Europe and Lat­in Amer­ica) are now focus­ing on explor­ing altern­at­ives such as decrim­in­al­is­tion and harm reduc­tion pro­grammes.  Based on our pro­fes­sion­al exper­i­ence, LEAP argues that we need, at very least, to con­sider the next logic­al step in the chain: con­trolled reg­u­la­tion of the drug mar­ket as we cur­rently do with alco­hol and tobacco.

Decrim­in­al­isa­tion may help to reduce the harm for the drug users, but leaves the drug trade in the hands of increas­ingly viol­ent glob­al organ­ised crime net­works.  Only by remov­ing the profit motive from this illi­cit trade can we end the involve­ment of the crim­in­al ele­ment and all the attend­ant viol­ence, and work to make the world safer for all.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) UK Conference

Last month, in my new role as Dir­ect­or of LEAP Europe, I was invited to do a talk at the SSDP con­fer­ence in Lon­don.  It was great to meet the key SSDP organ­isers, and also share a plat­form with Jason Reed, the co-ordin­at­or of LEAP UK.

The stu­dent act­iv­ists of SSDP are demand­ing that our polit­ic­al classes instig­ate a mature, fact-based dis­cus­sion about the “war on drugs”.

Sorry to rehash all the well-known art­icles about why this “war” is such a fail­ure on every con­ceiv­able front, but just let me reit­er­ate three key points: pro­hib­i­tion will always fail (as this clas­sic “Yes Min­is­ter” scene depicts), and the reg­u­la­tion and tax­a­tion of recre­ation­al drugs (in the same way as alco­hol and tobacco) would be good for soci­ety and for the eco­nomy; it would decap­it­ate organ­ised crime and, in some cases, the fund­ing of ter­ror­ism; and it would make the use and pos­sible abuse of recre­ation­al drugs a health issue rather than a crim­in­al mat­ter.

The stu­dents get this — why can’t our politi­cians?

Jason and I had a warm wel­come from the SSDP. They can see the value of law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­als — police, judges, law­yers, and cus­toms and intel­li­gence officers — using their exper­i­ence to con­trib­ute to the debate. I look for­ward to LEAP work­ing more closely with the SSDP.

And do drop me an email if you would like to help LEAP in Europe.

Just Say No — the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Just back from the annu­al United Nations happy-clappy ses­sion about drug pro­hib­i­tion in Vienna, the Com­mis­sion on Nar­cot­ic Drugs.  I was there as part of the del­eg­a­tion from Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP), a glob­al cam­paign of serving and former police officers, law­yers, judges, intel­li­gence officers, cus­toms officers and pris­on gov­ernors, all with years of exper­i­ence on the front line of the drug war, and all of whom cam­paign against pro­hib­i­tion.

Why do they do this? Pre­cisely because they have, dur­ing their pro­fes­sion­al lives, wit­nessed the ter­rible fail­ure of the drug pro­hib­i­tion laws.

LEAP’s mes­sage is simple, logic­al and power­ful, and its mem­ber­ship cred­ible and exper­i­enced — have a look at the web­site.

The UN del­eg­a­tion con­sisted of former US drug pro­sec­utor Jim Gier­ach, retired Brazili­an judge Maria Lucia Pereira Karam, award-win­ning US pris­on super­in­tend­ent Rick Van Wick­ler, and myself.

Need­less to say, LEAP and all this breadth of rel­ev­ant expert­ise was mar­gin­al­ised at the UN.

Un_system_chart_colourThe UN is the sine qua non of bur­eau­cra­cies, an organ­isa­tion of such Byz­antine com­plex­ity it makes your eyes bleed to look at it.

Each coun­try around the world funds the UN via vol­un­tary dona­tions. Once they have coughed up, they are allowed to send nation­al del­eg­ates to rep­res­ent “their” interests at shindigs such as the CND. Those del­eg­ates are pre-briefed by their bur­eau­crats about the line they must take, and no dis­sent is allowed.

NGOs are notion­ally able to feed in their views to their del­eg­ates, although access is lim­ited, and over the last few years the lan­guage of the CND has indeed moved towards harm reduc­tion and children’s rights.  But this merely propag­ates the basic, flawed premise that “drugs” are bad, not that the “war on drugs” has com­pre­hens­ively failed, is ill-thought out, and act­ively dam­ages soci­ety.

3_wise_monkeysUN decisions on drug policy are made by con­sensus, which means that there is no real demo­crat­ic debate and that the res­ol­u­tions are so bland as to be mean­ing­less.  At no point what­so­ever are evid­ence-based altern­at­ive solu­tions, such as reg­u­lated leg­al­isa­tion, even whispered in the cor­ridors of power.

The CND’s key achieve­ment this year was to get all the nations to reaf­firm their com­mit­ment to the 100-year old Inter­na­tion­al Hag­ue Con­ven­tion, the first drug pro­hib­i­tion law in a long and escal­at­ing leg­al lit­any of fail­ure and harm.  And this in the teeth of all evid­ence provided by the suc­cess­ful decrim­in­al­isa­tion exper­i­ments in Por­tugal, Switzer­land and the Neth­er­lands.

So here’s where the fun kicks in, but I stress that this is my highly per­son­al take on what it was like to attend the CND last week:

.….….

WARNING: CND appears to be a potent psy­cho­trop­ic drug which has unknown and poten­tially dam­aging effects on the human brain.  Expos­ure to CND for even so short a peri­od as a week can lead to dis­or­i­ent­a­tion, numb­ness, depres­sion and a dis­lo­ca­tion from real­ity.  No data exists about the long-term psy­cho­lo­gic­al effects of pro­longed expos­ure, but some sub­jects can dis­play unchar­ac­ter­ist­ic aggres­sion after only a couple of days’ exper­i­ence of CND.

CND appears to be highly addict­ive lead­ing to rap­id depend­ency, and del­eg­ates return year after year for anoth­er hit. For a week, it’s party time, but then comes the crash­ing low, as they have to push CND on their own coun­tries for anoth­er long year, against all com­mon notions of decency, human­ity and com­munity.

CND is con­tinu­ally presen­ted to vul­ner­able del­eg­ates as the only life­style choice.  Those who ques­tion its effic­acy are out­cast from the gang.  But what of the del­eg­ates’ rights to live a CND-free life, away from the peer pres­sure, bul­ly­ing and viol­ence?  What about redu­cing the harm that CND increas­ingly causes to com­munit­ies across the world?

As the god­fath­ers of CND push the line of harm reduc­tion pro­grammes, devel­op­ing coun­tries are increas­ingly drawn into a life of sor­did “money depend­ency”, even pros­ti­tut­ing them­selves polit­ic­ally to enable their con­tin­ued reli­ance on CND.

The organ­isa­tions con­trolling CND garner huge profits, and there is little polit­ic­al will to change the cur­rent set-up.

.….….

So, a win-win for the drug car­tels, ter­ror­ists, enforce­ment agen­cies, gov­ern­ments, bur­eau­crats and the wider glob­al “drug war” infra­struc­ture.

Not so good for the rest of us.

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Cops Take Pro-Legalization Message to UN War on Drugs Meeting

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Law Enfor­cers Say End­ing Pro­hib­i­tion Will Improve Glob­al Secur­ity & Human Rights

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – Judges, pro­sec­utors and jail­ers who sup­port leg­al­iz­ing drugs are bring­ing their mes­sage to the United Nations Com­mis­sion on Nar­cot­ic Drugs meet­ing next week in Vienna. At the U.N. ses­sion, which comes just days after the Obama admin­is­tra­tion stepped-up its attempts to coun­ter­act the emer­ging anti-pro­hib­i­tion sen­ti­ment among sit­ting pres­id­ents in Lat­in Amer­ica, the pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion law enforce­ment offi­cials will work to embolden nation­al del­eg­a­tions from around the world to push back against the U.S.-led failed “war on drugs.”

VanwicklerRichard Van Wick­ler, a cur­rently-serving jail super­in­tend­ent who will be rep­res­ent­ing Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) in Vienna, says, “World lead­ers who believe we could bet­ter handle drug prob­lems by repla­cing crim­in­al­iz­a­tion with leg­al con­trol are becom­ing less and less afraid of U.S. repris­al for speak­ing out or reform­ing their nations’ policies. And for good reas­on.”

Van Wick­ler, who has was named 2011’s Cor­rec­tions Super­in­tend­ent of the Year by the New Hamp­shire Asso­ci­ation of Counties, explains, “Voters in at least two U.S. states will be decid­ing on meas­ures to leg­al­ize marijuana this Novem­ber. It would be pure hypo­crisy for the Amer­ic­an fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to con­tin­ue force­fully push­ing a rad­ic­al pro­hib­i­tion­ist agenda on the rest of the world.”

In recent weeks, Pres­id­ents Otto Perez Molina of Guatem­ala, Juan Manuel San­tos of Colom­bia, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Felipe Cal­der­on of Mex­ico have added their voices to the call for a ser­i­ous con­ver­sa­tion on altern­at­ives to drug pro­hib­i­tion, caus­ing U.S. Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden to travel to Lat­in Amer­ica this week in an unsuc­cess­ful attempt to quash the debate.

GierachFormer Chica­go drug pro­sec­utor James Gier­ach, recently a fea­tured speak­er at a con­fer­ence in Mex­ico City last month atten­ded by the first lady of Mex­ico and the former pres­id­ents of Colom­bia and Brazil, says, “The unend­ing cycle of car­tel viol­ence caused by the pro­hib­i­tion mar­ket has turned a steady trickle of former elec­ted offi­cials cri­ti­ciz­ing pro­hib­i­tion into a flood of sit­ting pres­id­ents, busi­ness lead­ers and law enforce­ment offi­cials call­ing for an out­right dis­cus­sion about leg­al­iz­a­tion. It’s time for the U.S. and the U.N. to acknow­ledge that leg­al con­trol, rather than crim­in­al­iz­a­tion, is a much bet­ter way to man­age our drug prob­lems. The world can have either drug pro­hib­i­tion, viol­ence and cor­rup­tion or it can have con­trolled drug leg­al­iz­a­tion with safe streets and mor­al fab­ric, but it can’t have both.”

The UN meet­ing in Vienna is an annu­al oppor­tun­ity for nations around the world to re-eval­u­ate drug con­trol strategies and treat­ies. More inform­a­tion about the meet­ing is here

In recent years, coun­tries like Por­tugal and Mex­ico have made moves to sig­ni­fic­antly trans­form crim­in­al­iz­a­tion-focused drug policies into health approaches by fully decrim­in­al­iz­ing pos­ses­sion of small amounts of all drugs. Still, no coun­try has yet to leg­al­ize and reg­u­late the sale of any of these drugs. Doing so, the pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion law enfor­cers point out, would be the only way to pre­vent viol­ent transna­tion­al crim­in­al organ­iz­a­tions from profit­ing in the drug trade.

Maria.KaramAlso attend­ing the con­fer­ence on behalf of LEAP will be former Brazili­an judge Maria Lucia Karam and former UK MI5 intel­li­gence officer Annie Machon.

Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) rep­res­ents police, pro­sec­utors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and oth­ers who sup­port leg­al­iz­a­tion after fight­ing on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and learn­ing firsthand that pro­hib­i­tion only serves to worsen addic­tion and viol­ence. More info can be found here.

CONTACT:

Tom Angell: 001 202 557‑4979 or media@leap.cc

Shaleen Title: 001 617 955‑9638 or speakers@leap.cc

DoubleThink Disorder — a new pathology

An update is appar­ently due of the 1994 edi­tion of the “Dia­gnost­ic and Stat­ist­ic­al Manu­al of Men­tal Dis­orders”, the psy­chi­at­rists’ bible that allows them to tick-box their patients into a dis­order, and then, no doubt, pre­scribe Big Pharma industry drugs or an expens­ive form of ther­apy.  Any­one who has ever watched Adam Curtis’s excel­lent “Cen­tury of Self” will be aware of the patho­lo­gising of soci­ety to the bene­fit of the psy­chi­at­ric pro­fes­sions and far bey­ond.

I am not mak­ing light of ser­i­ous men­tal ill­nesses requir­ing spe­cial­ised and long term treat­ment such as bipolar, schizo­phrenia or chron­ic depres­sion.  These are crip­pling and soul-des­troy­ing con­di­tions and many fam­il­ies, includ­ing my own, have been touched by them.

RitalinBut I am con­cerned by the appalling Pharma-creep that has been going on over the last few dec­ades where, for example, increas­ing num­bers of chil­dren are labeled with ADHD and ladled full of Rital­in (which can also lead to a thriv­ing black mar­ket in the onward sale of said drug). And we are appar­ently about to see ever more divar­ic­at­ing dis­orders added to the shrinks’ bible.  

Kevin_and_PerryAs this recent art­icle in The Inde­pend­ent states, stroppy teens will now have “oppos­i­tion­al defi­ance dis­order”, and adults who think of sex more than every 20 minutes are suf­fer­ing from “hyper­sexu­al dis­order”. (How on earth will this be dia­gnosed — will poten­tial suf­fer­ers have to keep a thought crime diary as they go about their daily lives? Man­age­ment meet­ings could be so much more divert­ing as people break off to write an update every so often — although they might have to pre­tend they’re play­ing buzzword bingo.)   And those suf­fer­ing from shy­ness or loneli­ness will suf­fer from “dys­thy­mia”.  Well, as a clas­si­cist, I’m glad to see that ancient Greek still has a role to play in today’s lex­icon.

I know that such beha­vi­our­al traits can be debil­it­at­ing, but to patho­lo­gise them seems rather extreme — enough to give a per­son a com­plex.….

Ivory_tower2On anoth­er some­what facetious note I was intrigued to see this doing the inter­net rounds recently.  It appeared to sug­gest that hav­ing a robust dis­trust of your gov­ern­ment was also about to be patho­lo­gised as Anti-Gov­ern­ment Pho­bia, which I pre­sume would mean that vast swathes of the world’s pop­u­la­tion were men­tally ill.  How­ever, I think the clue to the legit­im­acy of the piece was in the name of the sup­posed author: Ivor E. Tower MD.….

How­ever, back to the point of this art­icle. This was the para­graph in the Indie report that really got my goat:

More wor­ry­ing, accord­ing to some experts, are attempts to redefine crimes as ill­nesses, such as “para­ph­il­ic coer­cive dis­order”, applied to men engaged in sexu­al rela­tion­ships involving the use of force. They are more com­monly known as rap­ists.”

So it appears that crime will now be explained away as a dis­order.  

LEAP_logoBut, but, but.… the key point LEAP­ing out at me, if you’ll for­give the clumsy link, is that this seems to be in dir­ect, sharp con­trast to how we deal with an immense and ongo­ing prob­lem in the world today: namely the 50 year old failed “war on drugs”.  In this phoney war mil­lions of people across the world have been, and against all expert advice, con­tin­ue to be treated as crim­in­als rather than as patients.

Rather than rehash (sorry) all the well-known art­icles about why this war is such a fail­ure on every con­ceiv­able front, let me just make three key points: pro­hib­i­tion will always fail (as this clas­sic “Yes Min­is­ter” scene depicts), and the reg­u­la­tion and tax­a­tion of recre­ation­al drugs (in the same way as alco­hol and tobacco) would be good for soci­ety and for the eco­nomy; it would decap­it­ate organ­ised crime and, in some cases, the fund­ing of ter­ror­ism; and, most per­tin­ently for the pur­poses of this art­icle, it would make the use and pos­sible abuse of recre­ation­al drugs a health issue rather than a crim­in­al mat­ter.

Many people at some point in their lives exper­i­ment with drugs such as dope, E, coke, or whatever and have fun doing so, just as many like to have a drink to unwind after work.  A small per­cent­age will go on to devel­op med­ic­al prob­lems.  

That is the crux of the argu­ment here. Excess­ive abuse of drugs, both licit and illi­cit, is mani­festly a health issue and yet some people are crim­in­al­ised.  Com­pare and con­trast the pro­posed new shrinks’ bible, where what were formerly deemed to be crimes will now be seen as med­ic­al dis­orders.

Tony_BlairI would call this rank hypo­crisy, but per­haps the shrinks can come up with a more high-brow name?  I pro­pose Soci­et­al Double­Think Dis­order.  

The Bankers’ Bonus being that it would con­veni­ently (psycho)pathologise all our “peace-speak­ing” war-mon­ger­ing politi­cians, “free mar­ket” mono­pol­ist­ic big busi­nesses, and “pub­licly owned but private profit” banks.

Praise the Gov­ern­ment and pass the Rital­in.…

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

LEAP_logo

Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP).

Pro­hib­i­tion has nev­er worked, as proven through­out his­tory. 

Around the world many judges, law­yers, officers from the police, cus­toms, and intel­li­gence organ­isa­tions, as well as many oth­er experts, are chal­len­ging the failed concept of the “war on drugs”.   This policy, in place for dec­ades now in many coun­tries des­pite its mani­fest, abject and repeated fail­ure, crim­in­al­ises great swathes of our pop­u­la­tions, causes health prob­lems, social prob­lems and untold suf­fer­ing, and funds organ­ised crime and ter­ror­ist groups, rather than provid­ing poten­tially enorm­ous tax rev­en­ue to the state. 

It is time for a mature, calm debate about the issue, rather than hys­ter­ic­al, tabloid head­lines.

I am hon­oured to be one of this group speak­ing out.


 

LEAP State­ment of Prin­ciples

1. LEAP does not pro­mote the use of drugs and is deeply con­cerned about the extent of drug abuse world­wide. LEAP is also deeply con­cerned with the destruct­ive impact of viol­ent drug gangs and car­tels every­where in the world. Neither prob­lem is remedied by the cur­rent policy of drug pro­hib­i­tion. Indeed, drug abuse and gang viol­ence flour­ish in a drug pro­hib­i­tion envir­on­ment, just as they did dur­ing alco­hol pro­hib­i­tion.

2. LEAP advoc­ates the elim­in­a­tion of the policy of drug pro­hib­i­tion and the inaug­ur­a­tion of a replace­ment policy of drug con­trol and reg­u­la­tion, includ­ing reg­u­la­tions impos­ing appro­pri­ate age restric­tions on drug sales and use, just as there are age restric­tions on mar­riage, sign­ing con­tracts, alco­hol, tobacco, oper­at­ing vehicles and heavy equip­ment, vot­ing and so on.

3. LEAP believes that adult drug abuse is a health prob­lem and not a law-enforce­ment mat­ter, provided that the abuse does not harm oth­er people or the prop­erty of oth­ers.

4. LEAP believes that adult drug use, how­ever dan­ger­ous, is a mat­ter of per­son­al free­dom as long as it does not impinge on the free­dom or safety of oth­ers.

5. LEAP speak­ers come from a wide diver­gence of polit­ic­al thought and social con­science and recog­nize that in a post-pro­hib­i­tion world it will take time to strike a prop­er reg­u­lat­ory bal­ance, blend­ing private, pub­lic and med­ic­al mod­els to best con­trol and reg­u­late “illi­cit drugs.” LEAP speak­ers are free to advoc­ate their view of bet­ter post-pro­hib­i­tion stratagems without toe­ing a LEAP “party line.”

6. LEAP recog­nizes that even in a post-pro­hib­i­tion world, still, drugs can be dan­ger­ous and poten­tially addict­ive, requir­ing appro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tion and con­trol. Even in a free-mar­ket eco­nomy, reas­on­able reg­u­la­tion for the pur­poses of pub­lic health is a long-stand­ing, accep­ted prin­ciple. Such reg­u­la­tion must not allow cas­u­al, unfettered or indis­crim­in­ate drug sales.

7. LEAP believes that gov­ern­ment has a pub­lic health oblig­a­tion to accur­ately ascer­tain the risks asso­ci­ated with the use of each “illi­cit drug” and a duty to clearly com­mu­nic­ate that inform­a­tion to the pub­lic by means of labeling and warn­ings sim­il­ar to what is done regard­ing food, tobacco, alco­hol and medi­cine.

8. LEAP believes that an inor­din­ate num­ber of people have been mis­guidedly incar­cer­ated for viol­a­tion of zero-tol­er­ant, non­vi­ol­ent, con­sen­su­al “drug crimes.” The end of drug pro­hib­i­tion will allow those per­sons to be promptly released, to have their record of con­vic­tion expunged, and their civil rights com­pletely restored. How­ever, the repeal of drug pro­hib­i­tion does not imply the exon­er­a­tion from charges for con­nec­ted offenses, such as viol­ent crimes, gun crimes, theft, or driv­ing under the influ­ence of drugs. Fur­ther­more, LEAP believes that people using alco­hol or oth­er drugs must be held account­able for any mis­be­ha­vi­or, which harms oth­er people or prop­erty of oth­ers, while under the influ­ence of mind-alter­ing sub­stances.

9. LEAP believes that per­sons suf­fer­ing from drug abuse afflic­tions and addic­tion, who want help, should be provided with a vari­ety of help, includ­ing drug treat­ment and drug main­ten­ance, even for unin­sured addicts. LEAP believes that with an end to drug pro­hib­i­tion and regained con­trol of crim­in­al justice expendit­ures, a frac­tion of those sav­ings would be more than suf­fi­cient to pay for expan­ded addic­tion ser­vices.

10. LEAP recog­nizes that dif­fer­ent “illi­cit drugs” pose dif­fer­ing risks of harm. As such, in a post-pro­hib­i­tion world, LEAP recog­nizes that an appro­pri­ate set of reg­u­la­tions and con­trol for one sub­stance may not be a suit­able or suf­fi­cient reg­u­la­tion and con­trol for anoth­er sub­stance. LEAP believes that the nation states of the world and vari­ous states with­in the United States must be giv­en the reg­u­lat­ory lat­it­ude to try new mod­els that wisely bal­ance the notions of free­dom over one’s own body with the need for com­mon sense reg­u­la­tion of drugs to reduce death, dis­ease, addic­tion and harm.

Drug_tax_revenue

 

 

Organisations I’m involved with

 

I sup­port and work with a num­ber of organ­isa­tions that share my con­cerns about account­ab­il­ity and trans­par­ency in areas such as intel­li­gence and secur­ity, the failed war on drugs, free­dom of inform­a­tion, human rights, pri­vacy issues, civil liber­ties, and the war on ter­ror.

The Cam­paign for Press and Broad­cast­ing Free­dom, which does what it says on the tin! One of the cam­paign organ­isers, Barry White, is cur­rently on the NEC of the UK Nation­al Uni­on of Journ­al­ists, and writes a great blog: www​.fromthenecup​.org​.uk.  Here’s a link to a piece I’ve just writ­ten on my web­site.

 

200px-Piratpartiet.svg Pir­ate Party (NL).  Affil­i­ated to the Pir­ate Parties Inter­na­tion­al, this group cam­paigns around issues such (digit­al) civil liber­ties, trans­par­ency, pri­vacy and copy­right.  PPNL fielded can­did­ates in the Dutch gen­er­al elec­tion in 2010.  Shortly before the elec­tion, I was invited to provide some media train­ing to the can­did­ates.

 

Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP).

Pro­hib­i­tion has nev­er worked, as proven through­out his­tory. And now around the world many judges,lawyers, pris­on gov­ernors, and officers from police, cus­toms, and intel­li­gence organ­isa­tions, as well as many oth­er experts, are chal­len­ging the failed concept of the “war on drugs”.   This policy, in place for dec­ades now in many coun­tries des­pite its mani­fest, abject and repeated fail­ure, crim­in­al­ises great swathes of our pop­u­la­tions, causes health prob­lems, social prob­lems and untold suf­fer­ing, and funds organ­ised crime and ter­ror­ist groups.  It is time for a mature, calm debate about the issue, rather than hys­ter­ic­al, tabloid head­lines.

I am hon­oured to be one of this group speak­ing out, and now to be work­ing as the Dir­ect­or of LEAP, Europe.

 

Make Wars His­tory is a non-profit peace group that aims to end war by uphold­ing the inter­na­tion­al and nation­al laws that make war­fare illeg­al under any con­di­tion except self-defense. It spe­cific­ally seeks account­ab­il­ity for the illeg­al and dis­astrous inva­sion of Iraq and a form­al invest­ig­a­tion of the people who were instru­ment­al in start­ing it. Here’s the launch of the cam­paign in the Houses of Par­lia­ment in Janu­ary 2008.