UN Report Calls for Drug Policies That Protect Human Rights, Reduce Harm

On Sept. 20, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council published the UN Human Rights Office Report regarding human rights issues that have developed due to the War on Drugs. This report was created by request of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in April 2023, and was introduced during the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, which lasts between Sept. 11-Oct. 13.

“UN report urges [member] states to end overreliance on punitive measures to address drugs problem & shift to interventions grounded in #humanrights & public health. It is essential that laws, policies & practices deployed to address drug use must not exacerbate human suffering,” UN Human Rights posted on X.

The report suggests that decriminalizing drug possession for personal use should be a priority. “If effectively designed and implemented, decriminalization can be a powerful instrument to ensure that the rights of people who use drugs are protected,” a UN press release stated.

According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, global change is sorely needed. “Laws, policies, and practices deployed to address drug use must not end up exacerbating human suffering. The drug problem remains very concerning, but treating people who use drugs as criminals is not the solution,” Türk said in a press release. “States should move away from the current dominant focus on prohibition, repression and punishment and instead embrace laws, policies and practices anchored in human rights and aimed at harm reduction.”

Ultimately, the report gathers that “disproportionate use of criminal penalties” lead drug users away from seeking out a treatment. Statistics gathered from the 2023 World Drug Report show that 660,000 people die from drug-related causes annually, and 10% of new HIV infections in 2021 were related to people who injected drugs.

The report calls the effects of the War on Drugs as “profound and far-reaching.” “Militarization of law enforcement in the so-called War on Drugs contributes to severe human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings. And disproportionate use of criminal penalties contributes significantly to prison overcrowding,” the UN press release said.

The UN also stated that the people who are most negatively affected by current drug policies are Black women, women in general, indigenous people, and youths who come from poor backgrounds. “Today’s drugs policies have the greatest impact on those who are poorest and most vulnerable,” Türk added.

Due to an increase in people receiving the death penalty for drug-related convictions, many people have suffered at the hands of these policies. An estimated 37% of global executions were related to drug convictions, and those offenses doubled in 2022 compared to data provided in 2021.

Particularly in Singapore in recent years, the death penalty has been issued to people trafficking cannabis. In July 2022, Singapore executed a 49-year-old man for cannabis trafficking. In May 2023, the country hung a 37-year-old man for trafficking cannabis in the amount of three pounds, in addition to another individual who was hanged just a few weeks prior.

“The current overemphasis on coercion and control to counter drugs is fanning an increase in human rights violations despite mounting evidence that decades of criminalization and the so-called War on Drugs have neither protected the welfare of people nor deterred drug-related crime,” Türk concluded.

The press release for the report ends by applauding the countries that have worked to adopt policies that protect the public and defend humans rights, through “evidence-based, gender-sensitive and harm reduction approaches.”

The UN report includes a multi-point list of recommendations on how to reapproach drug policies and step back from harmful, punitive models. This includes suggestions such as implementing decriminalization, and adopting drug policies that “advance the rights of people who use drugs” and offer medical care to treat drug related conditions (such as viral hepatitis or HIV by way of injection). It also suggests policies that don’t lead to parents having their child removed from their care, or punishing pregnant people. The report also recommends abolishing the death penalty for all crimes, not just drug-related offenses, among many other strong proposals to put people first. 

The UN will review the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, which is an ongoing multi-year work plan to keep track of drug policy commitments made by member states, in 2024. That review will lead to the development of drug policies that need to be addressed by 2029, with the goal of having protected human rights by the 2039 UN Agenda.

In December 2020, a U.N. Commission for Narcotic Drugs panel voted to reclassify cannabis. While this recommendation didn’t guarantee that any member states would immediately legalize cannabis possession and use, it was still a monumental announcement. “This is a huge, historic victory for us, we couldn’t hope for more,” said independent drug policy researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli. Many advocates applauded the decision and hoped that it would empower other countries to implement regulatory frameworks for cannabis. 

It’s safe to say that over the past three years, many countries have begun to reevaluate their drug policies and embrace cannabis legalization. 

The country of Malta became the first in the European Union to legalize cannabis in December 2021. Earlier this year in July, Luxembourg became the second EU country to legalize. Thailand also removed weed from its list of banned substances in June 2022.

Other countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, are working on cannabis pilot programs to test how legal cannabis would work in their respective regions.

The post UN Report Calls for Drug Policies That Protect Human Rights, Reduce Harm appeared first on High Times.

Woman Arrested for Flying Drone with Drugs, Porn into Australian Prison

A Brisbane woman pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from an incident in Spring of last year when a drone containing drugs and pornography crash-landed into the recreation yard of a correctional facility in Queensland.

According to information originally disseminated by the Australian Associated Press, 27-year-old Cheyenne Anniki Petryszyn was on parole when a drone containing Buprenorphine strips, methamphetamine, and a USB thumb drive containing pornography was found in an exercise yard where it crash-landed.

Prison staff said they found the drone on April 1, 2022 at around 10:47 a.m. on the ground near a baggie containing 79 strips of Buprenorphine which is a drug used to treat opioid dependence, 0.94 grams of methamphetamine and the USB drive containing an undisclosed amount of pornographic material. A barcode on the drone was later tied to a purchase made by Petryszyn about a month prior to the incident in question. Petryszyn has since returned to prison to serve an 11-year sentence on an unrelated drug trafficking charge and was also charged with murder in another unrelated matter in October of 2022.

Petryszyn pleaded guilty in court Friday to two counts of aggravated supply of dangerous drugs in a correctional facility. She also had two accomplices, 33-year-old Cory Jay Sinclair Keleher, and 37-year old Bradley William Knudson who both pleaded guilty to the same charges, though Knudson only received one count. 

The article said the three conspired to have Petryszyn acquire the contraband and use information about the prison’s layout given to her by Keleher, who was released the very same day, to ensure the drone’s safe arrival on the other side of the prison walls. Knudson planned to distribute the drugs once they had made it inside the correctional facility. According to the article, it is not known who actually piloted the drone that day, but the cargo never made it to its intended recipient. 

“Officers monitored calls from nearby [cell blocks] and identified conversations between Knudson and Petryszyn making arrangements for the offending,” the crown prosecutor in the case said in court, detailing how code language about a fishing trip was used to plan the operation. 

Prosecutors said a phone conversation also took place after the drone was discovered during which Petryszyn said that “everything crashed and burned.”

The defense barrister (fancy word meaning “advocacy lawyer”) for Keleher asked Justice Wilson for leniency because their client struggled with substance abuse as well as a history of childhood abuse and mental health disorders.

“He is working on his drug addictions … he has turned a corner,” Defense Barrister Gavin Webber said. 

Defense Barrister Michael Connolly said on behalf of Knudson that his client had suffered through a traumatic childhood and had thus far been cooperative with the court.

“That shows he has remorse and recognises his behavior,” Connolly said, referring to his client’s offer to plead guilty months prior to the court proceedings.

Petryszyn’s defense barrister argued that it would be too harsh to add a “crushing” consecutive prison stint onto the 11-year-sentence Petryszyn was already serving and asked Justice Wilson to consider that laws requiring new sentences incurred while in prison to be served consecutively of one another be taken into account before sentencing.

Justice Wilson was reported to have recognized all the defendants’ respective requests for leniency given that Knudson and Keleher had made attempts at rehabilitation and Petryszyn was already serving a long sentence. All of this was taken into account during Justice Wilson’s deliberations, but she also made note that all three defendants had attempted to supply a large amount of drugs into a place where people were attempting to rehabilitate their lives and recover from drug and alcohol dependence.

Knudson was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and Keleher and Petryszyn were sentenced to 16 months but all three were eligible for parole from Friday. The crown prosecutor in this case said the value of the drugs and contraband seized ranged as high as $119,000 given the extremely high prices drugs are able to command in prison settings.

The post Woman Arrested for Flying Drone with Drugs, Porn into Australian Prison appeared first on High Times.

The Netherlands Government Announced a Start Date for Cannabis Pilot Program

The Netherlands government recently confirmed that it plans to start its pilot program on December 15 later this year. “The most recent planning shows that two legal growers are expected to be ready for delivery to coffee shops in the fourth quarter of 2023,” the Dutch government wrote. “This is sufficient to start the start-up phase of the experiment in Breda and Tilburg. In this phase, participating coffee shops from these municipalities may offer both legally grown and tolerated products. The next two growers are expected to start supplying coffee shops in Breda and Tilburg in February 2024.” Breda and Tilburg are located in the southern part of the country, near the border of Belgium.

The timeline for this program begins with a “start-up phase” that will last up to six months. “The initiative for the start-up phase was introduced by the mayors of Breda and Tilburg and embraced by Minister Ernst Kuipers of Health, Welfare and Sport and Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius of Justice and Security as an opportunity to start the experiment on a small scale around a legalized production and sales chain,” the government wrote.

The start-up phase is described as a sort of warm up time frame for businesses to adjust to the program, however the government notes that if “public order or safety is seriously threatened,” then they will stop the program prematurely. “The insights will be shared with all participating municipalities and used to improve processes and systems for a smooth transition phase,” the government stated.

After the start-up period ends, then the “transition phase” begins. “It is expected that all participating municipalities will be able to start the transition phase at the earliest at the end of the first quarter of 2024,” the government wrote. “In this transition phase, coffee shops in the participating municipalities may offer regulated products in addition to tolerated products.”

According to Forbes, there will be a six-week period where coffee shops can continue to obtain their cannabis products from illegal sources “while the new legal suppliers are phased in.” Following the transition phase, the experimental phase will begin. “From that moment on, participating coffee shop owners may only sell regulated cannabis,” the government added.

The Netherlands announced its plans for the pilot program years ago, and was intended to begin in 2020, but was delayed until 2022. In March 2022, the program received another delay, expecting the program to begin in Q2 2023. “Unfortunately, it has now become apparent that starting in 2022 is no longer realistic,” the letter stated last year. “The selection procedure of the remaining growers is taking longer than expected, and some growers are having trouble securing a location.”

Breda Mayor Paul Depla explained his disappointment that the program continued to be delayed. “It is clear that everyone who is in favor of the cannabis test is disappointed,” said Depla. Tilburg Mayor Theo Weterings also echoed his frustration. “Again delay—how much more can you delay. We expect that some MPs will now be scratching their heads, wondering: what is happening here?”

The Netherlands has never legalized cannabis, although it has long been associated with its “soft drugs” policy, called gedoogbeleid, which allows cannabis business owners to sell their product at coffee shops without being prosecuted. “Dutch coffeeshop policy has long been a subject of public debate. At the heart of the debate is the ambiguous status of cannabis: while the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes are tolerated, production and distribution are strictly prohibited,” the Netherlands government stated. “Under the current policy of toleration, selling and using are still criminal offences under Dutch law, but the authorities choose not to pursue or prosecute lawbreakers.”

Due to this policy, the number of coffee shops increased drastically. In 2007, data from Statista shared that an estimated 229 coffee shops were operating within the city of Amsterdam. The most recent data shows that 166 shops were operating, as of 2020. The Netherland government estimates that 570 coffee shops operate across the country’s 102 municipalities.

Amsterdam banned public consumption of cannabis in April 2018, and more recently a ban was also implemented in the Red Light District in May. The Amsterdam City Council approved the ban earlier in 2023. “Residents of the old town suffer a lot from mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse in the streets,” the city council explained. “Tourists also attract street dealers who in turn cause crime and insecurity. The atmosphere can get grim especially at night. People who are under the influence hang around for a long time. Residents cannot sleep well and the neighborhood becomes unsafe and unlivable.” The city council added that the ban would “reduce nuisance.”

The Netherlands isn’t the only country to start implementing cannabis pilot programs. Fellow European Union (EU) country of Luxembourg, which recently legalized cannabis for personal use in June, began a pilot program to test out legal access to cannabis. Switzerland, which is not a part of the EU, began its own cannabis pilot program in January 2023.

The post The Netherlands Government Announced a Start Date for Cannabis Pilot Program appeared first on High Times.

Denmark Parliament Inquiry Shows That 320,862 Pounds of Cannabis Have Been Destroyed

The Danish Parliament’s Health Committee recently stated that it has destroyed more than 145,541 kilograms (or approximately 320,862 pounds) of cannabis, measured in dry weight. According to a parliamentary inquiry response, the committee has also issued 303 permits to undergo the destruction of the plant material.

According to an email obtained by MJBizDaily, the destroyed cannabis all comes from companies who are permitted to cultivate in Denmark through its pilot program. Any cannabis cultivated after the growers received approval to participate in the pilot program.

The pilot program, “Act on a Medical Cannabis Pilot Programme,” was approved by the Danish government passed in 2017 and it went into effect starting on January 1, 2018. “The purpose of the pilot programme is to offer patients a lawful way of testing treatment with medicinal cannabis if they have experienced no benefits from authorised medicines. That is the intention with the programme,” the Danish government states on its website. It also states that the pilot program has an end date of December 31, 2025.

The country has approved 11 companies to manufacture cannabis products in Denmark: Aurora Nordic Cannabis A/S, DanCann Pharma A/S, Little Green Pharma Denmark ApS, MEDICAN A/S, Movianto Nordic ApS, Schroll Medical ApS, Sterigenics Denmark A/S, Tetra Pharm Technologies ApS, Valcon Medical A/S, Valeos Pharma A/S, and Vertanical Denmark ApS. Each is authorized to cultivate or manufacture cannabis through one of four permits, including approval for the pilot program, pharmaceutical manufacturing, propagating plants, and the “development authorization.”

The development authorization “scheme,” as it’s referred to on the Denmark government website, also began on January 1, 2018. “Under this scheme, companies can apply for an authorisation to cultivate and handle cannabis with a view to producing cannabis suitable for medicinal use,” the government states. “Cannabis developed under the development scheme cannot be used in the pilot programme or for other medicinal purposes.”

The government explains that the development authorization permit was created “…to give companies the opportunity to develop cultivation and production methods so that they could be ready to apply for a permit in the pilot scheme,” the government states in an official document that was translated.

According to MJBizDaily, a Danish Medicines Agency spokesperson explained that the 145,541 kilograms of destroyed cannabis is a combined total of cannabis that comes from any of the four permit types, and that there’s no way to confirm how much of it was made for the pilot program specifically.

The Danish government agency didn’t confirm exactly why the cannabis was destroyed. The parliamentary inquiry only partially stated that it was due to “faulty productions, discarded products including imported products and all cannabis cultivated in the development scheme are also included in the stated quantity.” All of the cannabis contained more than 0.2% THC.

The amount of cannabis destroyed in Denmark was at an all time high in 2023, compared to previous years. In 2022, the Danish Medicines Agency described “lost or destroyed cannabis” specifically not related to the pilot program amounted to 10,753 kilograms (23,706 pounds).

Alternatively, in 2019 Denmark medical cannabis pilot program approved companies produced 2,112 kg (4,656 pounds) in 2019, 6,587 kg (14,521 pounds) in 2020, and 32,433 kg (71,502 pounds) in 2021, with numbers not yet released for 2022.

Cannabis sales in Denmark have continued to grow as well, with about $30.8 million kroner (~US$2.8 million) in 2020, $64.3 million kroner (~US$5.9 million) in 2021, and $62.5 million kroner (~US$5.8 million) in 2022.

Destroying cannabis products aren’t uncommon in other countries either. Between January and December 2021, Canadian companies destroyed 425,325 kilograms (~937,681 pounds) of dried cannabis, as well as 40,454 kilograms (89,185 pounds) of extracts, 97,959 kilograms (21,5962 pounds) in edibles, and 3,940 kilograms (8,686 pounds) worth of topicals—all of which was categorized as “unpackaged.” Packaged cannabis destroyed in the same time frame amounted to 3,576,232 units of dried cannabis, 1,118,148 units of extracts, 2,421,823 units of edibles, and 15,359 units of topicals, according to Health Canada.

For Canada, reasons for destroying product “include, but are not limited to: crop losses; post-harvest disposal of unusable plant material (e.g., stalks); recalled products; and elimination of unsold or returned products,” a Health Canada spokesperson told High Times.

In the U.S., destroyed cannabis data relates to the seizure and destruction of illegal cannabis. In May, the Drug Enforcement Administration stated that it had seized more than 5,581,839 cannabis plants—90% of which were from California.

Earlier this month in Christiana, Denmark, a neighborhood commune that has long been associated with soft drug use, Copenhagen Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen urged tourists to stop buying cannabis in the area to deter violence. “The spiral of violence at Christiania is deeply worrying,” Andersen said, asking “the hundreds of thousands of visiting tourists and the many new foreign students who have just moved to Copenhagen to stay away and refrain from buying weed or other drugs at Pusher Street.” This response was due to a shootout that occurred in the area on Aug. 26, which resulted in the death of a 30-year-old man.

The post Denmark Parliament Inquiry Shows That 320,862 Pounds of Cannabis Have Been Destroyed appeared first on High Times.

Bitcoin Mining Farm Discovered During Chile Drug Raid

A police raid in Santiago, Chile resulted in the seizure of multiple narcotics as well as the discovery of a Bitcoin mining operation, which local authorities said marked the first time such a glaring link between organized crime and cryptocurrency had been found in Chile.

According to an article in El Mostrador, a Chilean newspaper, the raid in which the mining computers were found was the third in a series of police actions against a drug trafficking group headed by Kevin Piña Catalán. Chilean Police say Piña has been operating as the de facto leader of a group that trafficked cannabis suspected to be purchased from gangs growing it in the Quilimarí Valley; as well as ketamine, cocaine, Ecstasy and other drugs. Police said the group conducted their illegal activities using multiple different houses in the area which is why multiple raids were necessary. 

The mining equipment was found at a raid conducted at a house in the La Cisterna commune of Santiago on September 6 and resulted in the arrest of seven suspects as well as the seizure of 43 kilograms of cannabis and 43 grams of ketamine. Ecstasy powder, ecstasy tablets and a pill press for making more tablets were also seized. Police said they found the Bitcoin mining operation in one of the bedrooms with 19 computers set up for cryptocurrency mining, only 10 of which were running due to the limitations of the local power grid.

“It is the first time that drug trafficking is so directly linked to the virtual data mining of cryptocurrencies,” said Subprefect Eduardo Gatica, head of the Southern Anti-Narcotics Brigade to local media. “It had not happened before in the country.”

Piña was not arrested at the house with the cryptocurrency equipment, but at a different location about a week prior on August 30. According to the El Mostrador article, Piña was in possession of 13 kilograms of cannabis, 71 grams of cocaine hydrochloride, two firearms and ammunition at the time of his arrest. A previous raid on August 5 also resulted in four arrests and the seizure of 1.3 kilograms of cannabis as well as vehicles. Subprefect Gatica said the operation “was divided into three phases, in order to achieve the total dismantling of this criminal group.”

“Our investigation was aimed at dismantling a group of violent crimes dedicated to drug trafficking that operated in the southern area of ​​the capital, which had links with different communes, such as La Cisterna, San Miguel, Buin, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, Cerrillos and Lampa,” Subprefect Gatica said.

Police said they have no way of knowing whether the cryptocurrency mining equipment was paid for with legitimate or illegal money and they also have no way of knowing whether or not the group was somehow laundering illegal drug money through cryptocurrency, but finding both in the same house certainly may indicate the two were at the very least related. Due to the anonymous and multi-layered nature of Bitcoin transactions, it is very difficult if not impossible for law enforcement agencies to prove criminal activity, or even to quantify how much criminal activity is taking place.

“Verifying the criminal origin of wealth held in or laundered via cryptocurrencies is very challenging. As such, the extent of the use of cryptocurrencies to launder funds obtained from conventional offline criminal activities is hard to determine,” said a 2023 report on cryptocurrency by Transparency International. “This is because in such cases, the cryptocurrency is not transferred from addresses that have previously been linked to criminal activities.”

To that end, cryptocurrency has been used more and more in recent years to launder money obtained through illegal methods. The report said it is often as simple as exchanging cash for Bitcoin at any Bitcoin ATM.

“…proceeds of crime in fiat currency are initially transferred into cryptocurrencies with no immediate indicators pointing to the criminal origin being visible on the blockchain,” the report said. “Consequently, the unlawful use of cryptocurrencies is now no longer restricted to ‘on-chain’ crimes such as blackmail scams or ransomware attacks carried out by cybercriminals who demand payment in cryptocurrencies. Nor is it restricted to use for money laundering. Rather, cryptocurrencies are now used to perpetrate all manner of offenses that entail the exchange of monetary value.”

As for Kevin Piña Catalán and his gang of drug traffickers, police told El Mostrador that the whole matter is still under investigation, including the cryptocurrency aspect and how it may or may not have been related to the other illegal activities. Authorities said those arrested faced a plethora of different charges including drug trafficking, money laundering and ammunition trafficking.

The post Bitcoin Mining Farm Discovered During Chile Drug Raid appeared first on High Times.

Orbiting Space Drug Factory Denied Re-Entry to Earth

The United States Air Force has denied re-entry and landing permission for a floating drug factory that has apparently been orbiting the Earth producing zero-gravity pharmaceuticals since June.

Originally reported by TechCrunch, the in-space drug production capsule owned and operated by Varda Space Industries has been experimenting with making a certain kind of HIV medication in low-gravity environments. Varda announced on June 30 they had successfully synthesized a vial of Ritonavir crystals, a drug used to treat HIV.

“Over the last day, for the first time ever, orbital drug processing happened outside of a government-run space station,” Varda said in a post to their X account. “Our crystallization of Ritonavir appears to have been nominal.”

The capsule was originally slated to come back down to Earth on July 17 to bolster its newly-synthesized crystals of Ritonavir, a drug used to treat HIV, but their plans were delayed until early September for reasons they somewhat danced around in a post to their X account.

“Our original reentry date of July 17th was pushed back, as we work [with] our government partners to ensure everyone is fully ready,” Varda said in July. “The pharma crystals onboard are ready to come home!”

Courtesy Varda Space

Varda was subsequently denied permission to land at an Air Force training area in Utah for reasons the company chose not to disclose, though a spokesperson for the Air Force provided the following statement on the matter to TechCrunch:

“September 5 and 7 were their primary targets. The request to use the Utah Test and Training Range for the landing location was not granted at this time due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis. In a separate process, the FAA has not granted a reentry license. All organizations continue working to explore recovery options,” the statement said.

Varda also chose not to comment on why their September re-entry dates were denied, posting only a brief update to their X account saying the capsule had enough resources to stay in space much longer if need be.

“As a quick update, we’re pleased to report that our spacecraft is healthy across all systems. It was originally designed for a full year on orbit if needed,” Varda said. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate [with] our gov partners to bring our capsule back to Earth as soon as possible.”

Varda applied for a reconsideration to the FAA decision on September 8 but the FAA had only a brief statement for TechCrunch about the matter, saying ““On September 8, Varda formally requested that the FAA reconsider its decision. The request for reconsideration is pending.”

Ritonavir is not a new drug. It was first synthesized in 1989 and can be made on Earth. The novel part of what Varda is doing appears to be the way in which they conduct their crystallization process.

“Conducting polymorph, salt and cocrystal screens in microgravity can lead to novel form discovery,” said an excerpt from the Varda website. “Reduced crystal growth rates result in the formation of high quality single crystals that can be used for X-ray structure determination.”

The benefits of producing drugs in low gravity compared to producing them on Earth are a bit beyond my simple journalism powers of understanding, though Varda does offer an explanation of the process on their website:

“Processing materials in microgravity, or the near-weightless conditions found in space, offers a unique environment not available through terrestrial processing. These benefits primarily stem from the lack of convection and sedimentation.These effects are ‘locked’ into the material, typically through material crystallization, before being brought back to Earth.”

The Air Force said they will continue to work with Varda and the FAA to safely bring the capsule back home to Earth but they could not provide an estimated re-entry date.

“Our objective at the Utah Test and Training Range remains working with customers requesting reentry missions in a safe, secure, and sustainable fashion, upon which Varda (and potentially future partners) can model their investments, engagement, and activities,” an Air Force spokesperson said to TechCrunch. “We also stress this is a whole-of-government and interagency process to set the correct precedents for future activities such as these.”

Now while I may not personally need any Ritonavir, I sincerely hope that we as a people can get our collective scientific shit together and safely bring these space drugs back home to Earth. Doing so would be one small step for man, one giant leap toward me getting to try “Martian LSD” or whatever the hell it ends up being sometime in the near future. Just let me dream.

The post Orbiting Space Drug Factory Denied Re-Entry to Earth appeared first on High Times.

Wealthy Countries Gave Over $1 Billion to Global Drug War, Shows New Report

A recent report from Harm Reduction International (HRI) sheds light on how richer countries like the United States and Europe continue to provide substantial foreign aid for the global War on Drugs. However, rather than addressing issues like poverty, hunger, healthcare, and education, this money is primarily allocated to law enforcement and military efforts. As anyone familiar with the War on Drugs knows, the police and feds rarely make things better, especially when given firearms. 

As a result, the HRI is calling upon governments, including the U.S., to “stop using money from their limited aid budgets” to endorse policies that adversely affect individuals who use drugs. Doing so is inflicting more harm than good; the money could go towards other things, and it’s just plain expensive. 

The “Aid for the War on Drugs” report reveals that between 2012 and 2021, 30 donor countries allocated $974 million in international aid for “narcotics control.” 

Shockingly, some of this aid, totaling at least $70 million, was directed to countries with the death penalty for drug-related charges. The funding allocated to 16 governments that carry out executions for drug-related convictions is especially troubling. 

As detailed in the report, in 2021, U.S. aid funds went to Indonesia to back a “counter narcotics training program.” This occurred in the same year when Indonesia imposed a record-breaking 89 death sentences for drug-related offenses. Japan gave millions to Iran to help pay for their drug-detection dog units, while Iran executed at least 131 people over drugs in 2021.

In the span of a decade, the United States emerged as the most significant contributor, accounting for more than half of the global funding for the drug war, clocking in at $550 million. Following the U.S. were the European Union ($282 million), Japan ($78 million), the United Kingdom ($22 million), Germany ($12 million), Finland ($9 million), and South Korea ($8 million), Marijuana Moment reports

The War on Drugs receives more foreign aid than school food, early childhood education, labor rights, and mental health care. In the period described by the report, 92 countries received assistance for “narcotics control.” The top recipients were Colombia ($109 million), Afghanistan ($37 million), Peru ($27 million), Mexico ($21 million), Guatemala, and Panama ($10 million each). 

“There is a long history of drug policy being used by world powers to strengthen and enforce their control over other populations, and target specific communities,” the report reads. “Racist and colonial dynamics continue to this day, with wealthier governments, led by the U.S., spending billions of taxpayer dollars around the world to bolster or expand punitive drug control regimes and related law enforcement.”

“These funding flows are out of pace with existing evidence, as well as international development, health, and human rights commitments, including the goal to end AIDS by 2030,” the report calls out. “They rely on and reinforce systems that disproportionately harm Black, Brown and Indigenous people worldwide.”

While certain countries, like the U.K., have reduced their expenditure on foreign War on Drugs initiatives, others have chosen to increase their funding. For instance, the U.S. significantly escalated its support for drug war aid at the start of President Joe Biden‘s term. 

The news of the report comes at a time when Biden, never an A+ cannabis advocate, is president as the federal government is finally seriously considering rescheduling cannabis. 

However, to meet the public where they’re at in a classic political play amid the ongoing federal cannabis scheduling review, the White House has reiterated that President Joe Biden has been unequivocal in his support for legalizing cannabis for medical use. They emphasized, “President Joe Biden has been ‘very clear’ that he’s ‘always supported the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.’”

In August, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the potential implications of reclassifying cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). She responded, “I don’t want to get ahead of the process. I was asked this question before. So just so that everybody is clear: The president asked the secretary of HHS and also the attorney general to initiate the administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled, as you just kind of laid out.”

While the United States is the world’s primary contributor to the drug war, HRI’s report highlights how these figures fluctuate, which is vital to remember. For instance, in 2021, the U.S. allocated $301 million in aid for “narcotics control,” a significant increase from the prior year’s $31 million. (However, this figure represents a fraction of what the U.S. invests in the global drug war through other initiatives). 

According to the report, Colombia emerged as the largest recipient of this aid. 

The one thing the report does not reveal is the specifics, apparently to safeguard the “health and security of implementing partners, and the national interest of the United States.”

The post Wealthy Countries Gave Over $1 Billion to Global Drug War, Shows New Report appeared first on High Times.

Man with Tourette Syndrome Pleads with NHS To Increase Cannabis Prescriptions

Conor Ryder, from Dorset, England, a man living with Tourette syndrome, is urging the government to make medicinal cannabis more accessible through the National Health Service (NHS), the BBC reports. Currently, he spends thousands on prescriptions from a private clinic as it’s the only treatment, in his experience, that effectively manages his severe tics. The NHS is the U.K.’s publicly funded healthcare system.

Medical marijuana became legal in the U.K. in 2018. But the government insists they need more research to ensure its safety before making it more widely available. 

Cannabis remains illegal on a federal level and for adult use. 

Due to the scarce availability of NHS prescriptions, Ryder pays £300 every month, which, to afford, he dips into his savings. 

“I spoke to my doctor and he said that he… didn’t want to refer me, so I went and referred myself off. I went and looked at the clinics,” Ryder told the BBC. 

Ryder’s situation isn’t unique. Private cannabis clinics across the United Kingdom have grown substantially since legalization, with statistics indicating they’ve issued over 140,000 prescriptions in the past five years. The medicine they sell just isn’t always affordable for patients like Ryder. 

As research published in June of 2023 suggests, building on additional research that also indicates cannabis for the condition, evidence backs up what Ryder says, indicating that THC and CBD can improve the side-effect profile of Tourette syndrome. These include repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that one can’t always control — and can disrupt one’s personal and professional life. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, tics usually appear between the ages of two and 15, with the average age around six. Tourette syndrome is more commonly seen in males, who are about three to four times more likely to develop it than females.

In this study, they did a double-blind, cross-over trial with people who have severe Tourette’s syndrome. Using random assignment, they gave participants an oral oil-based tincture with increasing amounts of THC and CBD for six weeks, followed by six weeks with a placebo, or the other way around, with a four-week break in between. 

The researchers used the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS) to measure their tics’ severity. They also used video assessments of tics to assess how they affected their daily life, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. 

It’s worth noting that all of these comorbidities are also often treated with medical marijuana. 

They then checked if the results were related to the levels of cannabis compounds in the blood in addition to performing cognitive tests at the start and end of each treatment.

The results suggest that people in the active treatment group significantly reduced their tic scores more than those in the placebo group. This means that the treatment with THC and CBD helped reduce the severity of their tics. However, some people in the active treatment group reported problems with their thinking, memory, and concentration. The research indicates that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD can help people with severe Tourette syndrome by reducing their tics and improving their quality of life. 

Mr. Ryder is not surprised to learn that the private sector of the cannabis industry is booming. For him, medical marijuana has become an absolute necessity. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at age 13, he lives with various noticeable tics, from animal-like sounds and loud bangs to physical gestures like winking, blinking, and shoulder rolling.

These tics cause him significant distress and currently make him unable to hold down a job, further compounding his struggle to pay for his medicine in a vicious cycle. But he’s able to manage his symptoms with medical marijuana and a vaporizer. 

“It’s something I dreamed of as a kid, taking a small pill and it would just disappear, and now I have it basically. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to work and maybe be able to manage it because that’s the only way if it doesn’t become available on the NHS. Every medication that they’ve been able to give me, they’ve made me into basically a zombie. Cannabis is the only thing that controls the tics,” he tells the BBC. 

The Department of Health and Social Care says that medical marijuana could be paid for by the NHS where there was “clear evidence of their quality, safety and effectiveness,” the BBC reports. “It is important to carefully review evidence on unlicensed cannabis-based treatments to ensure they are proved safe and effective before they can be considered for roll-out on the NHS more widely.” 

An NHS spokesperson continued that: “While there is limited evidence on the safety of these unlicensed products, we continue to encourage manufacturers of these products to engage with the UK medicines regulator, which would provide doctors with the confidence to use the products in the same way they use other licensed medicines.”

There are currently over 300,000 kids and adults living with Tourette Syndrome in the U.K.

The post Man with Tourette Syndrome Pleads with NHS To Increase Cannabis Prescriptions appeared first on High Times.

Three-Fingered ‘Alien Corpses’ Unveiled to Mexican Congress Amid Heavy Skepticism

A journalist and UFO researcher recently testified to Mexico’s national congress that he had discovered what he believed to be two small alien corpses dating back over 1,000 years during an archaeological excavation in Cusco, Peru.

According to the Independent, the alleged corpses were presented by Jaime Maussan, a self-proclaimed ufologist who was responsible for reporting the Nazca mummies to Gaia back in 2017. Those particular mummies were unearthed near the Nazca Lines which are a group of geoglyphs in the desert sands of Peru, some of which take the shape of a humanoid being with three-fingered hands. Those mummies turned out to be the bodies of human children which only appeared to be three-fingered. I gotta say though, the mummified beings unveiled in Mexico Wednesday look far more convincing than the Nazca mummy for whatever that’s worth. 

“These specimen are not part of our terrestrial evolution… These aren’t beings that were found after a UFO wreckage,” Maussan said. “They were found in diatom (algae) mines, and were later fossilized.”

The two mummies unveiled by Maussan in glass cases were very small, with what appeared to be three-fingered hands and elongated faces. X-Ray images were also displayed of what appeared to be eggs inside the mummies. Maussan stated that researchers at the Autonomous National University of Mexico utilized radiocarbon dating to analyze the samples and found over 30% of the DNA analyzed to be of unknown origin. The bodies were shown alongside a presentation about UFO sightings, which there seem to be exponentially more of lately, not to mention congressional hearings regarding the same.

Speaking of congressional hearings, Ryan Graves, a former Navy fighter pilot who testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in July about UFOs was in attendance when Maussan showed the world the suspected aliens. 

“Unidentified objects in our airspace present an urgent and critical safety and national security issue, but pilots are not getting the support they need and the respect they deserve,” Graves said to NBC in June ahead of his testimony in the congressional hearings. “When I served, my squadron was encountering UAP nearly every day, and nothing was being done.” 

Graves, however, was not convinced of the legitimacy of Maussan’s claims to say the least. In fact, he went out of his way to call them the equivalent of utter nonsense.

“After the U.S. Congressional UFO hearing, I accepted an invitation to testify before the Mexican Congress hoping to keep up the momentum of government interest in pilot experiences with UAP.  Unfortunately, yesterday’s demonstration was a huge step backwards for this issue,” Graves said on X (formerly known as Twitter). “My testimony centered on sharing my experience and  the UAP reports I hear from commercial and military aircrew through ASA’s witness program. I will continue to raise awareness of UAP as an urgent matter of aerospace safety, national security, and science, but I am deeply disappointed by this unsubstantiated stunt.”

Doubt was raised almost immediately about Maussan’s findings, as several researchers pointed out back in 2018 that the Nazca mummies appeared to be the combination of looted body parts taken from different skeletons which were then pieced together to resemble something that looked non-human. This was never proven, but a dozen Peruvian researchers signed a sworn statement saying, in much fancier language, that it was not cool to do that to ancient skeletal remains.

“I particularly find repulsive that anyone would [dare] to dehumanize deceased human bodies. You can’t take away the condition of human to a human being!” said Guido Lombardi, a professor of forensic sciences at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia to Live Science in 2018.

Mexico’s Congress accepting testimony on these samples of potential non-human remains is the latest in a long line of government inquiries regarding UFO sightings. The United States Pentagon reported in January that since opening up the “All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office” in 2022 they received 171 reports of aerial phenomenon which “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis.” In case all those book-learning military words confused you, that means last year Americans spotted 171 random objects hurling around our airways in a manner and speed that should not be possible according to modern science. 

Whether we’re being infiltrated by alien invaders or catching glimpses of mad human scientists with access to technology beyond our wildest dreams remains to be seen, as does the legitimacy of Maussan’s alleged extraterrestrial corpses. But we are seeing something up there in the skies. I’ve personally seen a UFO and so has an alarming percentage of the United States military. Don’t change that channel, folks! Shit’s gonna get weird!

The post Three-Fingered ‘Alien Corpses’ Unveiled to Mexican Congress Amid Heavy Skepticism appeared first on High Times.

Colombia Breaks Coca Cultivation Record, UN Report Finds

Colombia broke a new record for cultivating the coca leaf, the plant used to make cocaine, according to a United Nations report. The process involves extracting alkaloids from the leaves using solvents like gasoline. This crude extract turns into a coca base by mixing it with alkaline solutions. Then, with a bit of further refinement, thanks to chemicals like hydrochloric acid, the result is crystalline cocaine hydrochloride. The final product is dried, diluted, packaged, and ready for distribution (and likely stepped on multiple times; one can only hope not with fentanyl) before hitting the illicit market. Colombia is the world’s top coca cultivator, producing 60% of the world’s cocaine, followed by Peru and Bolivia.

On Monday, The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that 230,000 hectares, or 568,340 acres, of land, were planted with coca last year, 2022, which marks an increase of 13% since 2021. 

According to Al Jazeera, Columbia’s potential cocaine output skyrocketed by 24% to about 1.73 million kilograms (1,738 tonnes), the highest number reported since the UN began monitoring the situation in 2001. Colombia has been the world’s biggest producer of cocaine for a long time and is under pressure from the U.S. and the world at large to implement changes to cut down on production. 

However, producing coca is such a valuable profession for so many farmers that it’s been challenging to implement changes. Distanced from the harmful effects of the drug made from the crops they grow, coca farming is a means of survival and a way of life for many Colombian citizens. The government has previously promised subsidies and other incentives to move growers away from the coca plant, but so far, officials have yet to follow through.

Colombian Justice Minister Néstor Osuna said that they’re “flattening the curve” and that the increase rate was much lower than in 2021, the BBC reports. However, the UNODC’s Leonardo Correa warned of a sharp rise in potential coca production in 2022.

“The crops that were young last year have now reached maturity and are now productive. In other words, the rate of growth in hectares is decreasing. But the rate of cocaine production is increasing,” he said.

Colombian leftist President Gustavo Petro has previously called the war on drugs “irrational.” He likes to call out poor politics on the topic, such as during his first speech at the General Assembly in 2022. In it, Petro said that the world’s addiction to money, oil, and carbon is destroying the Colombian rainforest through what he described as a “hypocritical” war against drugs, the UN reports.

“The forest that should be saved is at the same time being destroyed. To destroy the coca plant, they throw poisons such as glyphosate that drips into our waters, they arrest their cultivators and then imprison them,” he said. “The jungle is burning, gentlemen, while you wage war and play with it. The jungle, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life. The great sponge that absorbs the planetary CO2 evaporates. The jungle is our savior, but it is seen in my country as the enemy to defeat, as a weed to be extinguished,” Petro continued.

He has proposed his own ideas to fight the cocaine problem, such as directing enforcement on the drug gang leadership rather than the farmers, increasing social funding in production areas, and expanding voluntary crop substitution programs in high-production areas. 

On Saturday, Petro asked for an alliance among Latin American nations to secure a united front in the fight against cocaine trafficking. Rather than continue confronting the problem with what he describes as a “failed” approach, he also proposed recognizing drug consumption as a public health problem. 

“What I propose is to have a different and unified voice that defends our society, our future and our history and stops repeating a failed discourse,” Petro said in a speech that concluded the Latin American and Caribbean Conference on Drugs, held in the Colombian city of Cali.

“It is time to rebuild hope and not repeat the bloody and ferocious wars, the ill-named ‘war on drugs’, viewing drugs as a military problem and not as a health problem for society,” Petro added. 

The recent UN report shares that almost two-thirds of Colombia’s coca farms are in the southern regions of Narino and Putumayo, which border Ecuador. There has been a 77% rise in coca cultivation in Putumayo, alone, the BBC reports. This area is currently engulfed in gang-related violence. Additionally, roughly half of the coca comes from indigenous reserves, forest reserves, and natural parks controlled by drug cartels or other armed groups such as leftist fighters and right-wing paramilitaries.

The Colombian government promises to adopt new drug policies soon directed at shutting down such criminal groups while protecting the farmers who grow the crop. 

The post Colombia Breaks Coca Cultivation Record, UN Report Finds appeared first on High Times.