Summary: Singapore has executed a 45-year-old citizen, Saridewi Binte Djamani, who was caught with 31 grams of heroin, marking the first time the city-state has executed a woman in nearly 20 years. The execution has sparked international outcry, with human rights groups arguing that Singapore’s use of capital punishment for drug offences violates international law.
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Singapore Hangs Woman for Drug Offence, First in Nearly 20 Years
In a move that has sparked international outcry, Singapore has executed a 45-year-old citizen, Saridewi Binte Djamani, who was caught with 31 grams of heroin. This marks the first time the city-state has executed a woman in nearly two decades. Djamani was hanged on Friday after being convicted of trafficking “not less than 30.72 grams” of the drug in 2018, according to a statement from the Central Narcotics Bureau.
Despite protests from human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which argues that Singapore’s use of capital punishment for drug offences violates international law and does little to deter drug use, the execution proceeded. Amnesty International called on the international community to help halt this “inhumane, ineffective and discriminatory practice in Singapore.”
The execution has also been condemned by the Transformative Justice Collective, a local advocacy group, which criticized authorities for their “bloodthirsty streak.” In April, a group of United Nations experts described the rate of executions in Singapore for drug offences as “highly alarming” and called for an immediate moratorium.
Singapore’s government has defended its use of the death penalty as a deterrent against drug trafficking, citing surveys showing most citizens support the law. Since March 2022, when it resumed executions after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has hanged 15 people, including foreigners, for drug-related offences.
[Source: Al Jazeera]
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A bill proposed in Colorado would give the go-ahead to local governments to set up so-called “safe injection sites” within their jurisdictions, with advocates saying that the facilities help prevent overdoses and save lives.
The sites, also known as “overdose prevention centers,” have been authorized in other states and cities in the United States –– but rarely without controversy.
The legislation introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives would allow “localities to set up a site where people can use previously obtained controlled substance[s] in a monitored setting,” according to local news station Denver7.
The Associated Press reported that Democratic lawmakers there “pushed the controversial bill forward in committee Wednesday,” but while the party controls the state General Assembly, “the measure faces steep odds amid broad backlash from police, Republicans, and lingering questions about whether the sites are even legal in the United States.”
A year ago, the U.S. Department of Justice told the Associated Press that it was “evaluating” the sites and in discussion with regulators about implementing “appropriate guardrails.”
“It does not supply drugs by any means. And it also doesn’t force any local government in a city to establish one of these sites in their communities,” said Colorado state House Rep. Jenny Willford, a Democrat, as quoted by Denver7.
In late 2021, New York City opened the nation’s first overdose prevention center, which came a year after the city suffered from more than 2,000 drug overdose deaths, the highest number in two decades.
The city, citing a report from its Health Department, estimated that the overdose prevention centers could prevent as many as 130 deaths per year.
“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it,” said Bill de Blasio, then the mayor of New York City. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”
“Between November 30, 2021, and January 31, 2022, 613 individuals used OPC services 5975 times across 2 sites,” read the study, which was conducted by the NYC Health Department.
“During the first 2 months of OPC operation, trained staff responded 125 times to mitigate overdose risk. In response to opioid-involved symptoms of overdose, naloxone was administered 19 times and oxygen 35 times, while respiration or blood oxygen levels were monitored 26 times. In response to stimulant-involved symptoms of overdose (also known as overamping), staff intervened 45 times to provide hydration, cooling, and de-escalation as needed. Emergency medical services responded 5 times, and participants were transported to emergency departments 3 times. No fatal overdoses occurred in OPCs or among individuals transported to hospitals,” the study continued. “More than half of individuals using OPC services (52.5%) received additional support during their visit. This included, but was not limited to naloxone distribution, counseling, hepatitis C testing, medical care, and holistic services (eg, auricular acupuncture).”
It remains to be seen whether the facilities get approved in Colorado, where some Republicans have already expressed wariness.
Forget ketamine- and MDMA-assisted therapies: A psychedelics manufacturing company is moving forward with cocaine and heroin—with an end goal to fight fentanyl overdoses and drug addiction.
British Columbia-based Lucy Scientific Discovery, a psychedelics manufacturing company focused primarily on emerging psychotropics-based medicines, announced today in a press release that it has filed an amendment to its current Dealer’s License with Health Canada. The amendment would add cocaine and heroin to its existing list of approved substances the company is authorized to manufacture.
Lucy already is authorized through Health Canada to manufacture several controlled substances, including the psychedelics psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, psilocin, N,N-DMT, mescaline, and 2C-B. Adding cocaine and heroin to the portfolio could lead to treatments to fight addiction.
“We look forward to a time when Lucy can safely supply harm reduction programs globally, aiming to reduce lethal and or negative consequences associated with adulterated drug supply, particularly considering that fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of deaths among 18 to 45-year-olds in the United States,” said Lucy CEO Chris McElvany. “It’s time to realize that the failed war on drugs has caused additional harm to the masses worldwide, and harm reduction programs will lead to less death and more treatment options in the long term.”
It reflects a sea of change in the way controlled substances are being explored for potential benefits in the field of medicine. With more focus on a public health response to the drug crisis, the company can provide more opportunities for people who use substances to gain access to more harm reduction and treatment options.
Lucy’s Dealer’s License under Part J of the Food and Drug Regulations of the Food and Drugs Act (Canada) was issued by Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances.
The license enables Lucy to develop, sell, deliver, and manufacture via extraction or synthesis certain pharmaceutical-grade ingredients. The company also works with active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that are used in controlled substances as raw material precursors.
The company works with raw materials, crude extracts, targeted formulations, single-molecule fractions, as well as white label and private label products.
Over 106,000 people in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdoses in 2021, mostly due to prescription opioids as well as illegal drugs, the CDC says, according to the latest available data.
Lucy Launches IPO
Lucy commenced trading on the Nasdaq Capital Market on Feb. 9 under LSDI. Lucy announced the closing of its IPO on Feb. 13 for gross proceeds of approximately $7.5 million. After going public with an IPO, Lucy’s leadership believes the company can impact the field of psychedelic medicine.
Lucy also announced today that McElvany, Richard Nanula, Executive Chairman of Lucy, and other members of the company’s board of directors and leadership team will ring the Nasdaq closing bell to celebrate its new IPO.
“We are excited to celebrate this victory at Nasdaq’s iconic bell ringing ceremony, as today marks an important milestone for the Company,” McElvany stated. “We are pleased to celebrate many months of hard work and team effort that led to the successful completion of our IPO. Seeing Lucy, a pioneer in psychedelics manufacturing, take the next step in its development by becoming the first psychedelics manufacturing company to be listed on NASDAQ is a huge accomplishment. This milestone marks a significant step in the company’s growth and plans for expansion. We look forward to the opportunities ahead of us to continue working on improving mental health and finding sustainable solutions for treatment.”
Stay tuned to see where Lucy goes in this latest development.
Disclaimer: High Times is an affiliate of Lucy Scientific Discovery, Inc.
Others have given their five reasons why B.C.’s decriminalization of drugs is a terrible idea. While I’m sympathetic to some of these arguments, I’ve come up with five ways for how B.C. decriminalization could work. It’s like cannabis legalization. Canada could have had a free and fair market that expunged past records and welcomed our world-renown “B.C. Bud” underground economy into the limelight. Instead, the Trudeau government continued the large producer regime set up under Stephen Harper’s government. Legalization in […]
This activity is dangerous. Full stop. On average, approximately 42,000 people in North America die of it every year. Lack of experience plays a critical role. Newcomers may not have the skills or knowledge to handle certain situations. They may not anticipate the hazards we associate with this activity. They may have difficulty navigating unfamiliar experiences. A lack of knowledge of the laws and regulations can lead to mistakes. A lack of confidence in their abilities can lead to unwise […]
Is there a case against safe supply? Lately, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has faced criticisms for his opposition to safe supply sites, also known as “safe injection sites” or “overdose prevention sites.” These are facilities where people use substances under the supervision of trained staff. These facilities aim to reduce the harm associated with drug use by providing a safe and hygienic environment and access to clean needles and other supplies, counselling, and medical care in case of overdose. With […]
I hadn’t seen David since I got sent down. He was waiting in the visitor’s room, looking like he was afraid he’d catch bad luck. We went through the preliminary how-you-beens, then I asked him if he’d brought me anything to smoke. He started. He reminded me of the many signs he’d driven by after passing the prison entrance that declared it a felony to bring alcohol, firearms or drugs onto the reservation. “And besides,” he said, “this is a prison. I mean, after all… uh, drugs? In the joint?”
I figured I’d have to show him how it was done. I indicated another prisoner a dozen yards away busily chatting with a pretty young woman. “Keep your eye on him,” I told him. “He’s about to go with something.” And sure enough, not ten minutes later, we watched him shove his arm down the back of his pants and rummage around. The second time this happened Dave asked me what was going on.
“See, he palms the balloons out of his ol’ lady’s bra, picks his shot when The Man isn’t lookin’, and keesters ’em, one at a time.”
Balloons? Keesters? “Yup” I grinned. “Up the ol’ rooty-poop chute, quick as a wink. No muss, no fuss, Burma Shave.”
Still tentative, Dave asked what the guy’s chances were. Did this happen often, or was it a one-shot deal?
“Just business as usual,” I assured him. “It’s probably weed, ‘cuz that’s the biggest seller. But that guy—I nodded at another inmate a bare ten feet away—he’ll be bringin’ in smack. Rougher crowd, y’know.”
Almost any high you can buy on the street is for sale in the yard too: pot and hash and ludes and smack and booze and glue and speed. Sometimes even a bit o’ the blow. LSD, too, if you’re of a mind. What’s more, The Man knows it. I was initially leery of writing about prison traffic, fearful I would be treated as an informer—by both inmates and authorities. And this article is definitely not intended to teach prison officials how to more effectively impede the flow of drugs into their institutions. But very few schemes escape the notice of prison officials for very long anyway usually due to the widespread use of informants. What is so heartening to the schemers, and frustrating to the officials, is that, short of a complete overhaul of the security systems in most prisons, there is little or nothing that can be done to stop this.
Most prisons in the United States follow a basic order of priorities: House the offender securely (which is to say “lock his ass up tight so society can sleep at night”); offer training for the offender so that he can return to society as a “productive member,” though oftentimes training programs are merely a guise to secure ever-larger budgets; and—more important to the prison officials than anything else—never ever allow the offender to use drugs to escape the tedium and monotony of his imprisonment.
About half of the drugs that enter most prisons come in through the visiting room. It should logically follow, therefore, that where there is no physical contact between the prisoner and his visitor, the likelihood of drugs being introduced into that prison is severely reduced.
The procedure at the Texas Department of Corrections, for example, prevents physical contact—but not smuggling. There inmates sit on one side of a room-length table and their visitors sit on the other. Guards sit on elevated platforms at each end of this table. Partitions above and below the table ensure that nothing is surreptitiously passed from visitor to con. The only time this restriction may be breeched is when the visitor buys a soft drink or some fruit juice for the prisoner. The visitor who is sharp eyed and nimble fingered may be able to slip something into the opened can without being seen before handing it to the guard to pass to the prisoner. If so, the “lucky” convict in Texas may go back to his cell having drunk a couple of ‘ludes or maybe some acid. Plainly though, the circumstances hardly conduce to a good high.
Thankfully most prisons are not afflicted with so great a degree of paranoia as the TDC. In New Hampshire, for instance, the visiting policy permits “limited contact”: Inmates and their visitors are separated by an ordinary table, fingertips touching; an embrace is allowed at the beginning and at the end of the visiting period. At the end of the visit the prisoner is not skin-searched—but merely frisked—and his shoes are inspected. Prisons in Washington State conduct visiting in much the same manner, except there is no separation by a table; the prisoner and visitor sit facing each other, holding hands if desired. Again, only a pat-search at the end of the visit.
All California prisons have contact visiting. The word contact is here given a very wide latitude. As one prisoner at the California Men’s Colony near San Luis Obispo (site of Timothy Leary‘s Weathermen-abetted escape) tells me: “Hell, man, babies have been conceived in the visiting room here.” That’s close contact.
Clearly the opportunities to smuggle drugs in situations such as these are almost infinite.
You cannot simply arrive at a prison with a baggie full of marijuana and hope that your convict friend will be able to take it from there. Recently I spoke with a man who had just been released from [name of institution deleted to prevent any harassment of the men there upon disclosure of this information]. His wife packaged pot for him to smuggle back into prison after she visited each week. First, she cleaned all the seeds and stems out of the grass. Then she stuffed an ordinary balloon with cleaned weed until it was about an inch in diameter, making sure to pack it tightly. After tying the balloon closed, she wrapped it in still another balloon and sealed that one, too. He explained that stomach acid is sometimes strong enough to eat through one or even two layers of balloon, so whenever she brought him any substances other than pot, she always gave it at least three wraps. (His caution is understandable. Careless packaging has been responsible for the death of many cocaine and heroin smugglers outside, and the same danger lies for the unsuspecting convict who swallows or keesters a poorly wrapped balloon from an otherwise well meaning friend.) He told me of one prisoner who OD’d right in the visiting room: “Man, he just nodded out and never came back! That’s why I always emphasized to the ol’ lady how important it was to be careful. She always did good, though, God love her. She knew those little balls of pleasure would keep the frown off my face—and they did!”
Adding to the supply feeding high-hungry cons are guards who pack—though it should be stressed here that probably less than 25 percent of the drug traffic in any given prison originates thusly. The reasons a guard would hazard his livelihood, and possible prosecution if discovered, in order to introduce drugs into the place where he works are many: the need for supplementary income, the excitement of risk, and sometimes just plain friendship or compassion. Relates a former California convict: “In ’71 I was at Soledad. Yeah, George Jackson, the Soledad Brothers, the whole thing was happenin’ then. Me, I was just lookin’ to get high. About this time I got in real good with this Chicano guard. After a few weeks o’ listenin’ to him talk about all the dope he was smokin’, I hit on him to bring me somethin’ to smoke, too. At first he was hesitant, but I kept drivin’ on him till he broke down and brought me some grass. What he’d been smokin’ was shit Mexican—he only paid fifteen dollars a bag for it—so after a couple o’ weeks I offered to have my brother send him a quarter-pound of some real kickass; he’d keep an ounce and bring me the other three. Once it arrived and he got a taste of that good, rich Colombo, it was all gravy after that. Until I left the ‘Dad in ’75, ol’ Paco kept me fat. What he didn’t know was that I was selling some o’ them ounces for tall bucks. A forty-dollar bag from my brother brought almost two hundred on the yard. Hell, a balloon the size of an English pea went for five dollars; figure it out for yourself.”
Prisoners who have no family or friends depend on what they can buy or trade for inside the prison. In some institutions the medium of exchange is cigarettes or coffee. Some inmates trade hobbycraft items, such as leatherwork, or paintings. Some men receive visits only from their parents and can get only money from them. As easily as drugs can be smuggled in, green can be smuggled in also. Green will usually net you a larger amount of drugs than an equal value in cigarettes or oil paintings.
Convicts often find the U.S. Postal Service to be the most reliable courier. Most people know that postage stamps are good for more than ensuring that a letter is mailed. Similarly LSD (and in some cases, heroin) can be dissolved and stationery soaked in it prior to mailing. Green can be stashed in greeting cards. The inventiveness of the correspondent is the only limitation.
Many maximum and medium-security prisons have camps nearby for men who are approaching release. These camps seldom have fences and the men there are, in many instances, free and unsupervised. At the federal prison near Lompoc, California, the laundry for camp inmates at one time was done inside the maximum facility. Since the drug situation at the camp has always been very relaxed, the men there had ample opportunity (until the scheme was discovered) to secrete drugs for those inside in their cleaned clothing.
In every institution there are men who receive what is termed “controlled” medication, usually various forms of downers: Thorazine, Dilantin, Mellaril, Prolixin and phenobarbitol. It takes very little practice to learn to palm these pills, which can then be saved up for a real bang or sold.
However, the most ingenious system for copping inside that I’ve ever heard is used by my friend Nick, who is a prisoner in one of the larger prison systems on the East Coast. A few months ago he called me in California and asked—in an informal code we use—if I could send $50 to an address he gave me. I agreed, and as the conversation unfolded, I learned that the money would be going to the family of another convict who received regular visits. As soon as the money arrived, this man would give Nick a prearranged quantity of pot. I put the money in the mail the next day and my friend was smoking later that week. I’ve since done this three or four times for him. What did Nick get for the $50? About a quarter ounce of marijuana. Not much, to be sure, but it is, after all, a prison. And from what he told me, this is about the going rate there.
Far and away the drug of preference in the yard is pot or hash, followed next by downers, then speed, then heroin. Cocaine is almost last, not for lack of desire, but because of the corresponding problems of price and availability. Coke simply is not worth the extravagant cost to most convicts, when the same amount of goods or green will net you a much larger amount of marijuana or hash. (One of those times I mailed money for Nick, he received three grams of hash for $50. And that was a bargain! Usually hash goes for $25 to $30 a gram, he told me.) LSD is also a low-preference drug. While a bit o’ the blow heightens the senses and makes enjoyable an otherwise apathetic day, acid often sharpens the perception of being imprisoned, mutating routine mediocrity into apprehension and paranoia.
Even booze and glue, the bastard children of the drug subset, find a market inside. At any time, in most prisons, someone will have a batch of homebrew going. It’s never very strong, packing about the same alcoholic punch as wine—but in sufficient quantity even prison vintage produces one hell of a buzz. To concoct alcohol, very little is needed that cannot be obtained through regular channels inside a prison. Except yeast. Because of its scarcity many convict brewers make a starting mixture of raw-fruit and raw-vegetable pulp, which is mixed and allowed to ferment for two to three days. This kicker is then added to a premixed base of fruit pulp or juice, sugar and water. The base determines how the end product will taste; however, the choice of fruit is more often the result of availability than desire, since most batches of ”pruno” or ”raisin jack” or “orange wine” are prepared for effect more than taste. Once the kicker is added to the base mixture, the fermentation of sugar into alcohol begins. Within five to seven days, depending on the ingredients, a liquid is produced that is anywhere from 10 to 20 percent alcohol (again, depending on the base). A sizable portion is usually strained off for immediate consumption at this point, fresh fruit pulp and sugar water added, and the whole thing started over. However, neither that step nor a starting mixture is necessary if yeast is available.
The advantage to using yeast is that it cuts the time factor, often critical in a prison setting, by about one-third. In place of actual yeast, a fistful of raw dough may be dissolved in warm water and used immediately in place of a kicker. No matter how well hidden the container, though, smell is the worst enemy of convict pruno makers, who usually “cook up a batch” five gallons at a time. In some cases, a vent hose is forced behind the trap in a toilet and the fumes safely exhausted. Or a sponge soaked in a deodorant can be placed over the vent hole on the container itself, thereby masking the giveaway odor. Inventiveness and ingenuity however, are on the convict’s side. Rarely does The Man bust more wine than is drunk.
I have been told by men at several different institutions that many guards nowadays are reluctant to “beef” you—write a disciplinary report—for reefer. But the same pot-lenient guards will seldom give you a pass for alcohol. Because of its reputation for producing monsters from mild-mannered men, prison-brewed hooch is feared more by staff than any other drug. Witness the brutal bloodiest at New Mexico’s Santa Fe prison in February 1980. Documented evidence now points to a batch of raisin jack as the trigger—although not the cause—of this riot.
Way down on the list of preferences— somewhere between “Fuck that shit!” and “You must be crazy, sucker!—is glue, or any of the petroleum distillates containing toluene or carbon tetrachloride. An interesting aside, which comes from the Federal Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington (now closed), is that, of the Indian prisoners there, glue was the drug of preference. Considering its status with the general population, the reader may draw his own conclusions.
Prisons create their own drug market. Drugs bring a sense of relief—relief from boredom, escape from the “dead zone” (as Stephen King calls it) of enforced numbness that encases a man in prison like an insect embedded in amber. Of course, set and setting figure into this to an extraordinary degree in prison.
Virtually all prisons are constructed so that the housing units consist of either multitiered rows of cells, or a dormitory. In most instances, the line officer patrols periodically checking for prohibited behavior and making his presence known to maintain order In the conflict between the desire to get high in a relaxed and comfortable setting—one’s own “house”—and the necessity for precaution in order to prevent a trip to The Hole, the very expenditure of energy to reconcile one with the other detracts from the fullness of the high. Conversely, in a situation where set and setting are complementary an otherwise meager high can blossom into something memorable. Most prisons have a yard where, even under the watchful eyes of the guards in the towers, the careful convict can easily blow a joint with little or no danger of being caught.
Another place of relative security is the auditorium or gymnasium when a movie is being shown. Rarely do guards venture into this area after the lights are dimmed and in many prisons there is a tacit understanding between staff and inmates that smoking will be condoned as long as there is no violence. In the words of one prisoner: “When you know The Man isn’t interested in busting anyone during the flick, it makes getting high there just that much sweeter.”
A good deal of the violence in most prisons is drug related, and although much of this can be attributed to the traffic in heroin, no category of drug is blameless. Because of the ridiculously inflated prices of drugs, and the corresponding scarcity of money or resources available to the average convict, conflicts inevitably arise. In the early ’60s, at the California Medical Facility near Vacaville (which presently houses Juan Corona and Charles Manson), one of the heroin dealers inside the joint was found out to be a rat, supplying information to The Man in exchange for immunity. One day shortly after a visit, he was attacked and killed in his cell. Wasting no opportunity in their bloody business, his attackers slit open his stomach and scooped out the balloons he had earlier swallowed. In 1975, a prisoner at Joliet State Prison in Illinois had his eyes gouged out by a man to whom he owed money for drugs. After he fingered his assailant and was locked up in “protective custody” he was gang-raped for becoming a snitch. Seldom, however, are methods this unusual employed. Most often the offending party is dealt with swiftly and lethally. Convicts have a name for it: steel poisoning. As recently as 1980, in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, an inmate was stabbed to death because he failed to pay for less than a half ounce of marijuana. The medical report stated that his head was “almost severed from [his] torso” because of the “number and intensity of [his] wounds.” Obviously prison is no place for the deadbeat.
The other side of this coin is that if there were no drugs available at all, the strain of living day to day with so many others in such a butthole-to-bellybutton environment would quickly breed just as much and perhaps even more violence than the drug-related kind. About the only solution that would not create more problems is for the prisons to dispense drugs on demand. Since this is hardly in the works for the near future in any U.S. prison, most inmates will have to be content with whatever schemes they are using presently.
Sometimes I can’t help but marvel at the convoluted maze set up to assure a delivery of drugs. The following story comes to me from a man who is presently incarcerated in one of the federal government’s maximum security prisons: It seems in late ’79 a guard at one of the federal correctional centers (jails) near a major metropolitan area was flashing his paycheck around, taunting the inmates with how much he was sucking up from the government teat. In revenge, one of these men was able to successfully snatch this check right out of the asshole’s shirt pocket without being seen. As soon as the loss was discovered, the entire facility was locked down and every inmate and his cubicle was searched. Nothing was turned up. A few weeks later this check was successfully spirited to the previously mentioned prison. From there it was smuggled out and mailed across the country to a major department store to be cashed. (Uncle Sam’s checks are as good as gold anywhere in the country for up to 90 days.) After being cashed, 60 percent of the original amount was sent back to the convict’s confederates, who used this money to purchase a kilo of marijuana that was then smuggled into the prison. Uncle treated all around. Justice could never have been more poetic.
The social experiment of decriminalizing drugs and providing a health-based program instead of locking up drug users is taking hold in Australia’s capital.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT)—home of capital city Canberra—passed legislation on October 20 to decriminalize small amounts of drugs, according to an announcement. It’s the first jurisdiction to do so in Australia.
The bill was approved in a 13-6 vote. There will be a 12-month transition period beginning in October 2023.
“From late October 2023, the possession of small amounts of certain illicit drugs will be decriminalised,” the announcement reads. “This means people will no longer be exposed to potential prison sentences and instead may be issued a $100 fine or referred to an illicit drug diversion program. If the matter proceeds to court, the person will face a maximum $160 fine, reduced from 50 penalty units and/or two years in prison.
“This reform will reduce the stigma and fear for people who are using drugs to access health services,” the announcement continues. “By diverting people to a drug diversion program, people who use drugs will be offered the health services and support they need while providing a pathway away from the criminal justice system.”
That means Canberrans will no longer face potential prison sentences and instead will be given a slap on the wrist: either only a caution, an AU$100 fine (about $63 USD), or they will get referred to an illicit drug diversion program.
Over the next 12 months, the government will begin to implement oversight arrangements, deliver training to frontline workers like police, and develop public communications with police, the alcohol and drug sector, academic experts, and people with lived experience.
Maximum limits apply specifically to different drugs: Cocaine at 1.5 grams, heroin at 2 grams, MDMA at 3 grams, methamphetamine at 1.5 grams, amphetamine at 2 grams, psilocybin at 2 grams, lysergic acid at 2 milligrams, and finally LSD at 2 milligrams.
ACT officials who supported the bill believe a more health-focused approach to addiction is more effective than locking them up.
“The ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs with a focus on diversion, access to treatment and rehabilitation and reducing the stigma attached to drug use,” ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said. “This sensible reform is based on the expert advice that a health-focused, harm-reduction approach delivers the best outcome for people using drugs.”
The Guardianreports that the deputy leader of the Canberra Liberals, Jeremy Hanson, slammed the law, calling it “radical.”
“It wasn’t taken to the community. It’s going to lead to more crime. It’s going to lead to more carnage on our roads,” he told ABC. “It’s not going to change the number of people going into the criminal justice system, and it’s not going to fix the problem that we have now, which is not enough people being able to access treatment.”
Pettersson said that people who use meth are often the ones who are actually in the most need of assistance from health services.
“People that use recreational drugs are taking a risk, and certain drugs cause more harm than others,” he said. “If people are using a substance like methamphetamine, we need to make sure that we do not continue to criminalise them and make it even easier for them to come forward and access the support that they might need.”
In the ACT, weed has been decriminalized already for nearly 30 years.
A new study published this month has found that New York City’s historic safe consumption centers have helped reduce overdoses.
The study, conducted by researchers affiliated with the NYC Department of Health (which oversees the sites), covered the two months of the program across two different consumption sites.
Last November, then-New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced “that the first publicly recognized Overdose Prevention Center (OPC) services in the nation have commenced in New York City.”
OPCs, the city explained in the announcement, “are safe places where people who use drugs can receive medical care and be connected to treatment and social services.”
NYC officials touted their effectiveness, saying in the press release at the time that such services are “proven to prevent overdose deaths, and are in use in jurisdictions around the world,” and that there “has never been an overdose death in any OPC.”
A study from the city’s Department of Health found that “OPCs in New York City would save up to 130 lives a year.”
“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it,” de Blasio said in the announcement. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”
The study published this month may be seen as vindication for the advocates of the program.
“During the first 2 months of OPC operation, trained staff responded 125 times to mitigate overdose risk. In response to opioid-involved symptoms of overdose, naloxone was administered 19 times and oxygen 35 times, while respiration or blood oxygen levels were monitored 26 times,” the authors wrote. “In response to stimulant-involved symptoms of overdose (also known as overamping), staff intervened 45 times to provide hydration, cooling, and de-escalation as needed. Emergency medical services responded 5 times, and participants were transported to emergency departments 3 times. No fatal overdoses occurred in OPCs or among individuals transported to hospitals.”
“This quality improvement study found that during the first 2 months of operations, services at 2 OPCs in NYC were heavily used, with early data suggesting that supervised consumption in these settings was associated with decreased overdose risk,” they added. “Data also suggested that OPCs were associated with decreased prevalence of public drug use.”
The authors did, however, caution that the findings are “limited by the short study period and lack of a comparison group with individuals not participating in OPC services,” and that additional “evaluation may explore whether OPC services are associated with improved overall health outcomes for participants, as well as neighborhood-level outcomes, including public drug use, improperly discarded syringes, and drug-related crime.”
But the study provides hope to those who are desperate to mitigate an overdose crisis that has become a national epidemic in the United States.
In the announcement of the OPC services last November, NYC officials said that “over 2,000 individuals died of a drug overdose in New York City [in 2020], the highest number since reporting began in 2000,” and that the “Centers for Disease Control projects that across the United States, more than 90,000 individuals died of a drug overdose during 2020, the worst year on record.”
Citing self-reported data, the authors of the new study said that “the drug most commonly used across 2 sites was heroin or fentanyl (73.7%) and the most frequent route of drug administration at the OPC was injection (65.0%).”
The UN has just issued a report about cannabis that will no doubt in the near future look as alarmist as it is dated. Namely, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has issued its annual world drug report.
Here are the high level takeaways—which are hard to read with a straight face.
Legalizing cannabis appears to increase regular use of the drug. No kidding. When someone can buy something legitimately rather than risking criminalization via black market purchases, chances are that they will buy more of it. That said, even the UNODC had to admit that the prevalence of cannabis use among teenagers “has not changed much.” In fact, legalization (in Canada and the U.S.) not to mention the semi-legit markets in places like Holland, have not suddenly seen an uptick in use by underage individuals.
The Pandemic (unsurprisingly) also increased usage. The world has just gone through an unprecedented shock the likes of which had not been seen in a century. It is no surprise that the use of a drug that lowers anxiety and alleviates many kinds of mental stress and illness might increase.
Cannabis is “getting stronger” with regards to THC content. This is a bugbear. Yes, there are some strains available in the new commoditized market that might have a higher level of THC than outdoor guerrilla grown skunk by hippies back in the day. There are also widely used strains of cannabis with deliberately lower levels of THC. This is another aged spectre of prohibition that long ago outlived its shelf life.
Both cocaine production and U.S.-based opioid deaths hit new records. This may be true, but it has little to do with cannabis legalization or use. In fact, the association in the UNODC report is what is alarming. Cannabis is increasingly being seen in legitimate medical circles as a gateway drug off of other, more harmful substances. Not a gateway to them.
“The proportion of people with psychiatric disorders and suicides associated with regular cannabis use has increased.” Don’t let this kind of anti-cannabis propaganda scare you, even if it is emanating from the UN. There is no link between mental illness, much less suicides from regular cannabis use. In fact, for many people suffering from both physical and psychiatric disorders, like depression and PTSD, cannabis use considerably relieves the stressors that lead to self-destructive behavior.
The most recent study to examine such issues, emanating from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last year had to concede that they could not “establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study,” and that “these associations warrant further research.” The same study also noted that cannabis use by adults more than doubled in the United States between 2008 and 2019—precisely the years that normalization became a multi-state campaign politically.
It is also worth noting that one of the most recent studies about cannabis and PTSD, which includes episodes of depression leading to suicide, found that cannabis use dramatically decreased PTSD symptoms to the point that many patients no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the condition.
Veterans are perhaps the population most at risk for suicide, even in the best of times. According to most national estimates, there are 22 veteran suicides a day in the U.S. Deployed veterans serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan had a suicide risk 41% higher than the average population. Even more intriguingly, non-deployed veterans had a 61% greater risk of committing suicide than the average person.
It is also worth noting that economic and other conditions since 2008 have actually worsened for many people—from the overhang of the global recession to a flat recovery.
COVID-19 was just a piece of icing on an already overburdened cake.
Using cannabis to help relieve some of these symptoms seems like a very sane, logical, and increasingly legal option.
Global Scare Tactics and Propaganda
While it is unsurprising that UNODC would produce this kind of report, even after the UN moved cannabis to a list of less dangerous drugs, including an apparent parroting of highly suspect U.S. government data, it is a telling development. This is the same kind of distortion and misapplied association that dragged prohibition out as long as it has.
Using a drug’s legalization combined with a disastrously disconnecting event like a global Pandemic to make unfounded associations about cannabis use is disingenuous to say the least.
To appear to parrot a U.S. national study which reached similar conclusions while being equally light on the data and association front is just another sign that the UN is still overwhelmingly influenced by U.S. policymakers—and anti-reform ones at that—who will stop at nothing to try and halt the green tide of change.