LEAP UK LAUNCH – When the Cops said we refuse to arrest drug users any more
Under the slogan “Legalise all drugs/Ask us why” Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of former & current police-officers that was founded originally in the United States in 2002, came together in Committee Room 10 of the House of Commons on February 29th 2016.Their Mission was to tell Parliament criminalising drugs users has been an expensive waste of time in every imaginable way..
Neil Woods, a former undercover drugs detective and chairman of LEAP UK, chaired the meeting. The LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Launch UK meeting came immediately after a similar gathering organised by Andria Efthimiou of the John Mordaunt Trust & Frances Sealey of the Globalnet21. Neil Woods mentioned his own drug use, particularly referring to how hard it was to disregard your duty to help as a police officer, because you are carrying out an undercover op. This meant you had to ignore people who were actually in dire need of medical and/or psychological help..
Norman Lamb (LD) MP leant his weight to the Launch and was the only MP who spoke though happily, there were several MPs and a Lord present, including Paul Flynn (L), Keith Vaz (L), Ronnie Cowan (SNP) Dr Paul Monaghan (SNP) & Benjamin Mancroft Conservative Peer, so it was non-partisan as the international drug policy reform movement is around the world. Norman Lamb said “We have managed to criminalise very many of our young people blighting their career prospects for doing something that only affects themselves. We choose to criminalise them whilst at the same time probably 50% of our current government have taken in their time but happened to get away with it, so haven’t had their lives blighted. Yet they maintain the argument that we continue to prosecute people. It is the height of hypocrisy.” This should be addressed as a health issue.
As a foreigner (Colombia) and from the formal meetings and informal interviews organized by Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, I got the general impression that drug-policy stagnation and even backwards trends in the UK are still taking reformists by surprise, particularly as the UK spearheaded Harm Reduction philosophy and practices years ago. It also became very obvious that that this backward sliding situation is closely tied to how the whole welfare system is being dismantled and de-constructed. Whatever the case might be, our UK colleagues are in there fighting and making a difference.
Among others, they are doing this by strengthening their alliances with MPs and allies in the House of Lords to bring about legislative reform in all of the areas (poverty, housing …. ) which are clearly connected to drug policy reform, impoverished people are often the ones behind bars for drug selling, and the selling of sex by students who cannot afford to pay tuition fees since the Coalition raised them, are but two examples.
The LEAP Launch meeting brought together drug policy advocates from all walks of life but mainly former and active police officers who, because of their attempts at enforcing Prohibition often have been the failures, not to mention the devastation caused.
Rosemary Humphreys, from Anyone’s Child, also gave a very touching testimony which told of how the death of her two children, one 23 years old and the other 39-year-old, could have been avoided if drugs were controlled and not in the hands of criminals who largely couldn’t care less about users. Their friends delayed calling for help incase they were blamed for the drugs use, so that by the time help arrived it was too late.
Annie Machon, a former MI5 operative, mentioned how, ever since the 1990s, we have observed an overlapping between drug money and terrorist organizations and how drug prohibition is pushing more and more people underground. Annie also pointed to the fact that what we saw in 2009 was how it was actually drug money that bailed out the crashing banking system. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12SpCIHymohQFg9LPB75DVp1SPn-A1GiJ4WV4uZjcNos/viewform?edit2=2_ABaOnueHpUv6c9Qk7mcT9VN_L2oMTvdNSAtI_FYQXRyTYCUD9e6YxqvYbU366lw
Prohibition failure is due, firstly, to the fact that you can fight criminals and criminal organizations but it is next to impossible to wage war on a thing. A second consideration is that enforcing prohibition currently implies prosecuting the most vulnerable populations and non-violent offences. Third, it seems pointless and cruel to persecute people who end up using drugs because of their mental health.
Patrick Hennessey, former British Officer Grenadier Guards, Barrister, referred to the war in Afghanistan when he served, and the way this war is tied to poppy production and the enormous amount of soldiers convicted for drug use in service…
James Duffy, former UK Police Inspector explained how the issue is that drug dealers do not ask their buyers for ID so, with drugs the way things are, anything goes. So what we have are unknown chemicals being sold by unknown salesmen to unknown buyers.
A retired Chief Constable pointed to why there is increasing violence in the UK. An example he gave was the theft of a crate of Falstaff, which can be solved by going to the police but when a kilo of cocaine is stolen, traffickers have to solve this among themselves, almost always resorting to violence.
According to Paul Whitehouse, a retired Police Constable of Sussex, what the police are proposing in practice is taking a social and holistic approach: looking into the reasons behind the user’s consumption, their living circumstances, family issues and to try to help them solve his pressing issues. Then money, which had previously been used to enforce the MDA, could, for example, be allocated to helping drug users find gainful employment. This is a more positive approach as opposed to prosecuting people who are already hard up financially.
From the director of LEAP Germany, Hubert Wimber we learnt that there is ongoing and comprehensive access to Needle Exchange services, aside from in Bavaria. What is commonplace is that 75% of drug arrests are for possession for personal use, which means that people who are not doing any harm except maybe to themselves, are being detained.
The fact is that an enormous amount of money is invested in drug prohibition approximately 11 billion pounds a year with 33% of this going to prosecuting fraud tied to crack, cocaine and opiate deals. Meanwhile, one of the worst “unintended” consequences of the drugwar prevails, that is the disenfranchisement of mostly poor communities (though not exclusively), due to drug policy. Officers who are routinely and frequently on the front-line, could make a real difference that does not infer punishment unless there behaviour affects others in a serious way.
We’ll give the last word to a woman X Undercover cop, who sounded repentant:
Suzanne Sharkey (pictured above): Former Constable and Undercover Officer at Northumbria Constabulary
“When I look back at my time in the police I feel ashamed, I feel a sense of failure. I feel ashamed that I wasn’t arresting career criminals. I was arresting people from poor socially deprived areas with little or no hope whose crime was non-violent drug possession, a complete failure of the war on drugs. I believe that one of the biggest barriers for people with problematic substance misuse to seeking help and treatment is the current drug policy. It does nothing, it achieves nothing except creating more harm for individuals, families and society as a whole. All of us know the problems and what we need to do but rather than be united by the problems let’s be united by the solutions. Solutions based in health, education and compassion rather than criminalisation.”
Pic by Katherine Rohan of the GlobalNet21
Maria Mercedes Moreno (left) @ the “Need for Drug Law Reform UK” – Mar 25th with Leigh
So yesterday, I met an X Undercover Drug Cop! I was afraid and very nervous but I kept remembering the X bit and the fact that he himself had also got messed up on drugs for a bit after the inevitable stress of trying to be many different people finally caught up with him…
This is Peter Bleksley and he also hates the so-called drug war.
We met very close to the Shard – cherished memories of “OCCUPY the Media Billionaires” slightly distracting me – hoping that his unique status as now writer and public-speaker, would be another cut in the toxic-tail of punitive prohibition, a term coined by social research friend, Peter McDermott
Peter B had a restless childhood by all accounts, involved with petty crime and truanting from school. So when he got to 16, and it was time to choose a career, his Mum pro-actively invited a Police Officer round to speak with him! That is, to chat about a possible career in the force… He soon became a police cadet and found himself being taught by former military men and taking them very seriously..”I relished the discipline and boundaries they gave that I had never had,” he said. In 1978, Peter was posted to Peckham Police Station and “to my shame found myself victimising and brutalising young black drugs users and other petty criminals.”
A few years later, Peter was promoted to Detective and posted in Kensington, a very different neighbourhood, where many moneyed people lived. There was still crime, lots of it, murder, fraud and some high-end drug dealing. Peter worked hard and was dedicated to his job, “I loved nicking people and sending them to prison.”
“I had come to prominence as a successful young detective and Scotland Yard heard about me. I could see where the money was going in the Force, what with Thatcher and Reagan, in international collaboration calling for an all out war on enemy No 1: Drugs!” He was transferred to Scotland Yard and soon after he became an undercover officer. From arresting lots of drug dealers and living in South London he knew the industry well and was good at ” the high-octane adrenaline-pumping gangster act” as he put it. Still only 26 years old, this was an exciting and interesting part of his journey, so was perfectly happy to go off in some ones car into “enemy” territory. If a criminal was being met in a hotel lobby, it became known that the rendezvous was likely to be with an undercover cop, and so there was a change of strategy.
“I did this job for ten years and eventually negotiated with someone about a 15Kg heroin deal going down in a hotel in Gatwick. The sellers got arrested and were working on the theory that if they killed me, they would kill the evidence so they tried to hire an assassin” to have him murdered.. Then a report detailing his involvement in this case mysteriously disappeared from the back of a Police Car and that report, contrary to force instructions, contained his real name, so “the threat to my life was increased substantially” he comments calmly! He’s told this Hollywood epic before..
Peter was put into the Witness Protection Program where in any one day he could be three different people; Firstly he would be the new to the neighbourhood man who had to be anonymous, in order to be safe within witness protection. Next he would perform whatever undercover role was required of him at work. And occasionally, just occasionally say in the car going to and from work, he could actually be himself He was cut off from his “downtime”, Sunday Lunch at Mums and beers with mates down the pub. While undercover he was often plastered up against a wall by a gun-toting paranoid dealer aggressively searching for wire-taps. “This was daily fair for me..” he states pragmatically.
“So I began drinking to cope with the stress. The constant fear of an assassin’s bullet or bomb, the undercover work and all that went with that became too much’. He had a complete breakdown, and was locked up for 24 days in a secure unit on the first admission. There he received treatment and counselling. “The NHS was brilliant” Peter is keen to acknowledge and when I ask what label he was given he replies ” oh everything from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia!” Peter was put on Stellazine, which stabilised him. His superiors decided it was time for him to leave the National Crime Squad in 1999, and he was returned to a local Police Station.
“There I felt stigmatised as my reputation – both good and bad – went before me.” Peter knew he was getting ill again and was soon medically retired. That was 16 years ago. He missed the adrenaline-rushes, status and sense of self-worth and says he didn’t choose his friends wisely. He got seriously into cannabis and problematically, Coke. He went from enjoyable usage on a Friday evening to it becoming a necessity. His wife kicked him out, rightly so he says and he sought help from a drug agency in Woolwich who were enormously helpful.
Peter’s wife, also a Police Officer and his Mother were there for him: the “door had not been slammed in my face but it was clear I had to stop using.” He was then as is now, also a Father.
“We convinced ourselves that we were Thatchers Storm-Troopers fighting the ‘war on drugs'” but as with increasing numbers of law enforcers, Peter realised there was a desperate need for a rethink..
” I’ve seen the drugs industry from all sides. I’ve nicked international kingpins through to problematic users, and faced the biggest struggle of my life in getting clean. I’ve fought the culture and been part of the culture. I’ve had an almost unique insight. And I realise that things have to change”.
Baron Brian Paddick has agreed to host a meeting in the House of Lords on the controversial question of drug reform in the UK.
Many countries across Europe and beyond are finally tackling ineffective drug policies by freeing users from the criminal implications of addiction and plenty of evidence shows the beneficial impact this has on entire communities.
Meanwhile, the UK seems to be stubbornly anchored in the past, determined to entrench the harmful divide between drug users and the rest of society.
Added to this, the portrayal of the issue in British media is weak at best and demonising at worst; tabloids in particular have reinforced harmful, dehumanizing stereotypes of drug addicts as criminals.
The evidence of the successful Canadian, Swiss and Portuguese cases for drug decriminalisation and the intention of the Irish Government to follow a similar path, highlight how stagnant the British drug debate has become.
The UK seems to be stubbornly anchored in the past, determined to entrench the harmful divide between drug users and the rest of society.
This meeting discusses why Britain is lagging behind so many other countries and why there is the need for radical reform.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Committee Room 4A
Palace of Westminster, London SW1A OAA
More information at Facebook Event Page
Athens December 2015:
It does seem outrageously unjust that depending on where you live on the planet, you will or will not be able to get medicines to stop these three illnesses/conditions from hurting your life terribly or even killing you. For example charging patients $1,000 for one pill.. In the US, for example, Hep C kills between 12 and 15,000 people a year.
I was given the opportunity to attend a meeting that was mostly about ways to campaign to make Hep, HIV and Cancer medicines affordable for the majority of people who need them, as opposed to Only those who live in India (with their own patent) or Egypt – as is the case for the Hep C drug, Sovaldi.
I was surprised and happy to meet people there from such a diversity of different organisations: from WHICH , the Consumers Association, that represents millions to a small group like Prometheus, which represents PLWHCV in Greece; they were all there. In all, there were 64 people there. Diarmid McDonald was also there from London as a Steering Committee Member of this European Alliance.
The key issue that we are confronting is that most Pharmas have financial-profiteering as a primary goal, when curing disease is what our key concern is as citizens trying to represent the many living with this three life-threatening conditions. At the very least, those medicines need to be accessible so that peoples lives are made manageable.
A CASE IN POINT…
Thanks to Azzi Momenghalibaf from the Open Society Foundation for this
In the USA, patients and their allies have taken to the streets in their thousands to challenge GILEAD and other multinational pharmaceutical companies about their over-priced medicines. Half of biomedical R&D is actually paid for by the public. When Gilead Sciences launched its new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi at $1,000 per pill in 2013, and then charged even more for the follow-up combination drug Harvoni, it sparked public outrage and forced unprecedented rationing of these life-saving medicines.
Early December, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee concluded that Gilead “pursued a calculated scheme for pricing and marketing its hepatitis C drugs based on one goal: maximizing revenue, regardless of the human cost.” Gilead knew that its pricing would deny access to its cure to the vast majority of the three million Americans living with hepatitis C but it didn’t care. “Let’s hold our position … no matter the headlines,” wrote Gilead’s executive vice president for commercial operations!!
Gilead (and other Pharmas) say that high prices are needed to spur innovation and recoup investment in research and development. It found that R&D costs did not factor into Gilead’s pricing at all—and neither did its $11 billion outlay to acquire Pharmasett, the company that developed the active ingredient behind the hepatitis C medicines. Rather, the company set the price based on what they thought they could get away with…
What’s most troubling, however, is that a lack of any limits on pharmaceutical profit-seeking means that the United States pays the highest prices for medicines of any country in the world. A course of Sovaldi, for example, priced at $84,000 in the United States, is available for less than $900 in India and Egypt, and between $46,000 and $53,000 in France, Germany, and the UK. The case of Sovaldi is emblematic of a much larger problem. In the build up to next year’s U.S. presidential election, voters may start to have their say. Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have responded to a worried electorate by beginning to put forward proposals for reform. The public now has an opportunity to demand approaches that rein in the pharmaceutical industry’s monopoly over who gets what medicines and at what price.
The question is, will we/they take it..
SO WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS HERE IN THE UK…..
We obviously need to increase awareness and one way we can do that is through one of ACT.UPs expertise i.e.: Non– Violent Direct Action (NVDA) which often attracts Media and so people read about it, watch it or get active on social media about it. We could mobilise thousands to demonstrate on the streets, though, apart from AIDS Activists, I have not known patients to do this in large enough numbers… Oh yeh we are AIDS Activists! Brilliant
If that still leaves people like Martin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical executive, over-pricing life-saving medicines, we need to be lobbying our national governments and multi-national institutions to stop these corporations, through changing legislation, so that monopolies cannot be the order of the day , and Patents are not international. I’ve written all that in very few words and it is a lot of work and we need to be galvanising support from ethical media and lawyers, who can advise us on this stuff
In the meantime, did y’all see the incredible action that ACT.UP did a month ago outside the GILEAD Conference? See pic here on their website: Fab!
See Yas! Xx Andria E-Mordaunt
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for allowing me to address you here today. My name is Marsha and I am a recovering addict living with HIV disease. I am a 43 year old mother of four children , two of whom are still in foster care, in the State of Vermont. I am in process of getting my children back by September. I have been drug free since 1991, [seven years] and I bring my experiences to all the activism I am involved in
These are the things I want to say to you today:
First of all, if we really care about the pain, suffering and isolation of addicted drug users, we must be willing to listen to what they say they need: it is a fact that some of the most useful strategies used to reduce or try and eliminate the death, disease and crime associated with this level of drug use were designed by drugs users themselves.
But user-participation is not possible while we are prosecuted for being users. I decided to come here today to tell you how the âWar on Drugsâ directly affects my life and the lives of countless others in the hope that we might all be willing to reconsider the repressive drug policy paradigm, which has been the norm for decades all over the world.
First of all, a basic human right is infringed, as we are persecuted for using certain arbitrarily-decreed illegal drugs. As a result of this persecution, criminalisation and isolation, it is very difficult to prioritise our health and other important matters of our lives. Even if this were not the case, policies all over the world have been so focused on getting us off drugs that some greater priorities have been overlooked. The most obvious of these is the primary prevention of Blood Borne Diseases (BBDs): needle exchange research from all over the world has proved the efficacy of the programs to reduce the spread of these infectious diseases, but for example, the U.S federal government has systematically refused for over a decade to support the establishment of these programs on the grounds that they would encourage people to use drugs. However, the result of this has been the rapid spread of HIV, Hepatitis, and other diseases, which have killed thousands of drug injectors and their children, and has placed enormous financial burdens on our public health and social services. For anybody who may be wondering, there is absolutely no evidence that the existence of needle-exchange programs have increased the number of injection drug users in any given community.
In a Harm Reduction model of Public Health, we accept that people use drugs:moreover there has never been a time in history when they didn’t. Therefore, the most compassionate and pragmatic way to deal with this is to focus on minimizing the harms especially for those whose drug use has gotten out of control, and it is very important to remember that the vast majority of people do not become drug-dependent..it is especially important to remember this when the fear of our loved ones using drugs destructively overwhelms us. In fact, millions of people regularly use drugs and are leading normal, healthy law-abiding lives. We therefore wonder why they are punished by the law…
Another big problem of this âwarâ is the fact that black market supplies of drugs are very expensive and therefore some drug-dependents have resorted to all manner of opportunistic crime to fund their drug addictions. This is not because we are evil or sociopathic, as many appear to assume. No! It is because the criminalisation that comes to bear on our lives pushes us into the periphery of society where crime is a constant, and where there may be no other alternative. Besides, known drug users are hardly likely to get jobs easily unless they are privileged in some other social or economic way. Ergo, our involvement in petty crime to fund the monster-addiction inside.
The apparent desire for a drug-free world is unrealistic. Our thinking/attitude is not about defeatism or capitulation; it is simply about facing facts. We have never had totally drug-free societies. Moreover, would any of us be happy if alcohol was on a total licit ban?
So as an ex-user myself living with AIDS, I would appeal to you to reconsider your current drug policies. Is Universal needle-exchange really a lot to ask for, given the fact that we would be preventing so much decimating illness amongst us, and also not burdening our societies with enormous public health bills? Is it really so much to ask?
Before I end, I want to say this. We are not asking you to condone drug use. We are simply saying that current policies are not working for the good of ALL humanity and therefore we would ask you to be open to a more thorough debate on the subject matter. Is it really OK in your heart if we sacrifice the lives of millions of people at the alter of economic and military interests?
I would like to thank my colleagues Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt and Martin Barriuso â European advocates â for helping with the preparation of this speech
Thank you for listening
Marsha B (RIP)
My story – by Clark French
The last year my life has changed dramatically, like no other year before it. Life has changed to the extent that I’m no longer really the same person I was a year ago – I’ve had the hardest time of my life, by a long shot, but I’ve come out the other side a much stronger and more mature person. This is most definitely not meant to be a Sad story – I hope it will come across as the Opposite.
On the 19th of February this year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and soon after I formed a new MS non profit organisation called Action4MS.
I wanted to help other young people living with MS who have been diagnosed, I was lucky when it came to knowing where to find the help I needed after I was diagnosed, mainly though family history as my Mother and Late step father both have/had the disease. I decided to set up my own group as I believe there is a huge demographic of people in the UK that are under the age of 40 and do live in silence with their symptoms, maybe a few close friends and family know but they do not feel able to let the world at large know, which in turn means they are much less likely to to have treatments to help their symptoms. So I recognised a need for an on the ground approach to help other young People who have the same problems as me. Because I grew up around my mothers and step fathers MS I know how difficult it can be seeing someone you love struggle with such an awful disease. Action4MS aims to help all young people effected by MS, not just those who have been diagnosed themselves. this up Action4MS partly down to the illegality of the medicine, that makes me able to achieve my life goals, dispute my diagnosis.
As an illness hepatitis C can take a long time to become symptomatic, however, when it does it can affect people in many different ways, how each person reacts to this will be different. In fact everything could differ from one person to another and what they do to manage their illness will be different. However, in saying that there are some broad steps to maintaining a quality of life, says Grant McNally, as well as mental health and preventing decline from setting in. Being positive may sound a cliche and also an effort but, research bears out the difference it can make to prolonging life.
So much so that without it illnesses such as HCV, may speed up in their progression.
So much so that without it illnesses such as HCV, may speed up in their progression.
1. Take Control of Your Illness. You may think you’re helpless, but you’re not. Take control of your life back with a combination of information and attitude. Be a part of every decision about your treatment. Resist the urge to leave it all in your doctor’s hands.
2. Insist on Options. Forget about second opinions. Look instead for second options. There are no absolutes in medicine, no inevitabilities. There are multiple solutions to every problem. You just have to find them. Don’t be afraid of choices; embrace them.