Category Archives: Drug Policy

Dana Beal: Yippie for drug treatment!

Dana Beal, one of the world’s original pot protesters, was in New Zealand recently promoting Ibogaine, a controversial treatment for drug addiction. By CHRIS FOWLIE.

In the 1960’s Dana Beal helped found the Yippies – the Youth International Party – with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and participated in the first public Smoke-In, held in New York in 1966. Decades later, Beal founded the Global Marijuana March. Known as J Day in New Zealand, this highly anticipated annual event is now held in over 200 cities around the world.

The Yippies were one of the highlights of the 60’s. They tossed money at the stock exchange, tried to levitate the Pentagon and protested at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. In the 1970’s and 80’s they held smoke-ins for marijuana legalisation, marched against Reagan’s secret wars, and took the right to burn the flag all the way to the US Supreme Court. A hard core of Yippie activists continue to this day, working on drug law reform, medical marijuana, promoting Ibogaine for treatment of substance addiction, and protesting the wars of the 21st century. Among them is Dana Beal, who visited Aotearoa in September as part of the Ibogaine Forum held at Otago University on 5 & 6 September.

Over forty people attended the forum organised by former addict Tanea Paterson, with a least 8 having already tried Ibogaine therapy. Among them was Dr Anwa Jeewa who discussed his experience treating about 300 people in his South African clinic.

Ibogaine is a medicinal extract from the inner root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant, which grows in West Africa and has long been used by the people there as a healant and ritual entheogen. It is a powerful tool for introspection, leading patients to an understanding of their addiction and showing them a path out of it. As well as this, in low doses Ibogaine acts like a stimulant, so proponents say it has the potential to be a maintenance tool for methamphetamine (P) addicts in a similar way to how methadone is given to heroin or morphine addicts.

“Ibogaine cancels out withdrawal,” says Dana Beal. “It’s legal here. It’s actually really conventional, because you’re not trying to lead them into taking more Ibogaine. Nobody does this stuff for fun – it’s a real ordeal.”

Yet Ibogaine has a remarkable success rate. “If you have legal access to Ibogaine, we could get it to about 70 or 80 percent, which is far greater than anything else.”

Ibogaine, and the separation of marijuana from hard drugs, are the same issue

Dana says the separation of marijuana from hard drugs has always driven his law reform efforts. “We did a number of Smoke-Ins in the summer of 1967. There was a situation where there was series of violent incidents, like police riots, and we distributed marijuana in order to encourage peace, and it worked: a wave of peace.”

He says that promoting Ibogaine, and the separation of marijuana from hard drugs, are “the same issue”, because if Ibogaine is available “you are able to deal with the problems that may occur because people you know may engage in problematic behaviour that is screwing up the whole scene.

“When you have Ibogaine it’s like having that “break this glass in case of fire” object, that you can deal with someone who has got completely out of control on a heroin problem. The system can’t deal with that. The system here [in New Zealand] has a lot of problems dealing with their P problem.”

It can be hard to understand why people would do such “really lousy drugs”, but Dana has one theory: “I think it’s the absence of good marijuana. Sufficient marijuana would displace the P thing almost completely, if we legalized marijuana, because it’s such a shitty high and any good pot would chase it away. You know how we got rid of speed in the 60’s? Millions of doses of LSD!”

“There was a thing involving the Vietnam War where they were importing heroin in the body bags. Me and Tom Forcade the founder of High Times did a demonstration against the CIA conspiracy to flood the marijuana scene with heroin. They had Operation Intercept and they cut off all the pot and heroin was everywhere. They were out to get us because they believed they could cripple the anti-war movement using heroin. They’d already done it to the black community.

Ed Rosenthal in 1973 introduced me to Howard Lotsoff. Over a period of time he told me the whole thing. I was very deeply impressed, but we didn’t develop [Ibogaine] right away and it was a big mistake.

“A couple of years later I’m talking to the drug czar under Jimmy Carter, Peter Borne, hanging out at the NORML party that he got in trouble for being at. I saw everything, man. They were being very discreet, you wouldn’t have really seen coke being snorted. They had these snifters there, but you could tell. He was basically a good guy, but you know, he had problems. And they ended up pulling a serious of dirty tricks and the entire movement to legalise pot crashed. And that was when we realized the agreement not to talk about psychedelics didn’t mean anything, because if these guys were going to flirt with legalising coke, all that was out the window.

“We started developing Ibogaine and the problem was it was intermittent money, it would start and stop but Howard started doing the research. The first thing he did was read through all the literature and he started finding out a lot of the places heroin is active, Ibogaine is active but in a different way.“

Dana says there is even emerging evidence Ibogaine helps with Hepatitis C. “There’s a lot of skepticism about this claim, but there were three people at the [Dunedin] conference, all of
them took Ibogaine, and all of them the Hepatitis is fine. This is with one heroic dose like what you give for heroin.”

Although Ibogaine is legal in New Zealand, in order to be marketed as a treatment it would need to be approved by MedSafe, an agency of the Ministry of Health. Even if it is not approved by MedSafe, it is still legal to use.*

Treatments are available in the Netherlands, Britain, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and some have already been done in Dunedin (“for opiates”). After a comprehensive medical check up, patients are given an oral dose of Ibogaine of up to 20mg per kg of body weight, with effects lasting for 24 to 48 hours, during which the patient lies down and experiences a vivid dream state while awake. This can be an extremely intense experience; aspects can be arduous as well as deeply emotional. During the treatment, symptoms of narcotic withdrawal virtually disappear, while patients afterward report almost none of the insatiable cravings associated with methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol or nicotine withdrawal.

Ibogaine has also been found to switch on a growth hormone called GDNF that not only regenerates dopamine neurons fried by substance abuse, but also back-signals to cell nuclei to express even more GDNF.

“Ibogaine turns on the growth factor that rebuilds the dopamine neurons. That’s specifically what’s involved with methamphetamine, because it’s a big dopamine releaser. That’s the reason people are completely burned out after they quit doing it. Their dopamine receptors are all wilted. So what we’re thinking is a low dose product where we give really low doses to methamphetamine addicts as a kind of replacement. It should still turn on the growth factor.”

An Ibogaine trip is not fun, so there is little potential for abuse. Undesirable side-effects include ataxia, nausea and (rarely) bradycardia (dangerous slowing of the breathing and heart rate), which is why patients must be screened for existing health conditions. Ibogaine can be risky, but in a controlled setting such as a clinic it has been shown to be a safe treatment for addiction, with some patients undergoing profound transformation. “Think of it like pulling a tooth. It really hurts but you’ll feel so much better later.”

“Everyone says there should be a clinical trial. I was thinking we should do the P here in Auckland, because it’s the biggest place where P is, and do the heroin down in Christchurch. We should go to the main places where the problem is.”

Sufficient marijuana would displace P almost completely… You know how we got rid of speed in the 60’s? Millions of doses of LSD!

“You’ve got to judge society by how it treats the most vulnerable people. The people who are sick and dying, the people in terrible pain. One of the things about the prohibitionist paradigm is that they like to inflict pain on people a lot.”

When asked how the medical marijuana movement is progressing in the US, Beal replies “it’s spreading like an inexorable tide.” The New York resident is pushing for a citizen’s initiated referendum, which unlike other states, New York doesn’t have – “or we’d have had legal medical marijuana twenty years ago.”

In the mean time, this tireless campaigner is concentrating on organizing the 2010 Global Marijuana March, which continues to grow. “We got Kathmandu and Istanbul this year – the more the merrier. We’ve got to go to India, and find the activist Sadhu’s or something. Just explain to them we finally see what they were talking about, and we need them to have processions through the streets on a certain day…”

More info: see these links:

[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]

* Since this article was written, Medsafe have confirmed the status of Ibogaine as a medicine under the Medicines Act. A clinical trial is currently underway in Northland and Otago, led by Dr Geoff Noller. Meanwhile, shortly after this interview Dana Beal was arrested in October 2009 for shifting medical marijuana across state lines.

Drug Warriors invade the classroom

As well as being ineffective, drug testing school children is a draconian invasion of privacy, writes CHRIS FOWLIE

A recent conference held by the School Trustees Association has raised the ugly spectre
of drug testing extending even into primary schools.

Trustees and principals claimed that children as young as 5 had been caught taking drugs including cannabis to school, and some – including Otamatea High School principal Haydn Hutching – said testing the entire school population was the answer.

Some principals even said they would not seek the permission of – or even inform – parents before testing their children, claiming it was purely an educational or disciplinary matter.

Several schools are even sending drug-sniffing dogs on patrol in the classrooms. Palmerston North Boys’ High School conducts up to seven sniffer-dog searches a year, at a cost of $1500 each time. They receive no additional funding for this, so the money is taken from somewhere else – perhaps education resources or teacher’s wages.

The Ministry of Education doesn’t endorse drug searches in schools, spokesman Vince Cholewa told the Manawatu Evening Standard. He advises schools to seek legal advice if they do decide on searches. Mr Cholewa said only police have a right to search a school if drugs are suspected.

“Teachers aren’t above the law,” he said.

Student drug testing is not without its opponents, who insist research does not show drug testing policies make any difference to whether young people use drugs. A 2003 study sponsored by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse that included 94,000 students in 900 American schools, half with a drug testing policy and half without, found there was no difference in illegal drug use among students.

Drug tests violate students’ privacy, and could wrongly turn students into suspects if they refuse. As the programs expand, children may find their ability to object to the tests eroded. Tests could open the door to lawsuits. Most tests are imprecise and can show “false positives” as well as “false negatives”.

Only the GCMS test is truly accurate, but at a cost of at least $100 per test this is unlikely to be used by many schools, who will likely use the cheaper and less accurate screening cards (similar to a home pregnancy test).

Advocates of testing do not appear to have considered the consequences of violating the privacy of a child as young as 5 by forcing them to pee into a cup. At the very least, it could raise awareness of drugs in a child who until then had never thought about them.

What happens after a positive result is another concern. Many schools simply expel the student, which creates additional problems with alienation, delinquency and crime. Then again, these outcomes must by now be familiar to all prohibitionists.

(NORML News Winter/Spring 2006)

Drug policy review – have your say

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

The Government has announced a review of the National Drug Policy and this means it is your chance to have your say.

The current policy is harm minimisation, which means policies and government agencies should
seek to reduce overall harm even if it means people continue to use drugs. One example is the
needle exchange and methadone network. Another example is NORML’s tips for safer cannabis
use.

The NDP review is to:

  • assess the effectiveness of the current policy

  • review the impact of the NDP in terms of stakeholder support and its contribution to reduction of drug related harm

  • identify options for future drug policy directions

  • determine the best approach for a future National Drug Policy including the relative focus on strategic versus action oriented approaches

  • develop a draft Strategy for endorsement by Government, including a process for evaluating the effectiveness of that

New Zealand led the world in introducing this policy, and although evidence shows harm minimisation is the most effective policy, it is not without it’s critics including many politicians who campaign on “tough on crime” platforms. This includes United Future’s Peter Dunne, who has tried to get the wording of the policy changed so that it is more orientated around abstinence.

The document outlines areas of supply control, demand reduction and problem limitation. Proposals range from toughening law enforcement, better drug education, more work on pricing
and tax policy for alcohol and tobacco, and improving access to treatment. It also said more
needed to be done on collecting data.

Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said the policy tried to take a more economic view of the harms caused by drugs, rather than just the health effects. He emphasised legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco caused far more harm than illegal drugs — between 70-90 per cent of criminal activity related to alcohol use and 4700 deaths a year were from tobacco use.

Five regional meetings will be held in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Separate hui, with a focus on issues for Maori, will be held in Auckland, Wellington,
Christchurch, Whangarei, Gisborne and Rotorua. Written or emailed submissions can also be made. The cannabis inquiry held from 1999-2003 was greatly promising until the evidence was overridden by the politics and grandstanding. Don’t let it happen again. Have your say and help make New Zealand’s drug policy evidence-based.

Other law changes in the pipeline include:

  • Sale of Liquor Act – review of the drinking age and advertising
  • Tobacco – Hone Harawira’s bill to extend cannabis prohibition to tobacco will be similarly disastrous.
  • Proceeds of Crime Act – oppose Phil Goff’s bill to increase police powers and reverse the burden of proof when seizing assets from suspects.

We encourage you to get involved in the political process for these bills. Write a submission and have your say. Make your views known. The draft document is available at www.ndp.govt.nz and you have until 26 May to make a submission.

(NORML News Autumn 2006)

Coroner’s support for War on Drugs wrong, say health professionals

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

A coroner’s call to escalate the “War on Drugs” received a lot of media coverage, but was condemned by health professionals including the Drug Foundation and the Public Health Association.

In calling for a return to “just say no” education, Wellington coroner Garry Evans had ignored best practice and a wealth of international evidence in his attack on the current policy of harm minimisation, said the Drug Foundation.

“It sounds really sensible to take a tough approach … but what that ignores is the reality of human nature,” said New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell. “Human beings have been finding ways of altering their state of mind for thousands of years. In spite all of that law enforcement people are still using drugs.”

“The drug-war approach has seen drug use rise significantly for 20 years in the US, while it locks away more citizens than any other developed nation. New Zealand per capita sits second in that statistic; we need policies that ensure we at least rise no higher.”

Mr Bell also questioned whether the coroner’s recommendations can be supported by his findings into the deaths of six young people.

“Mr Evans has drawn a very long bow by recommending a major overhaul of New Zealand’s drug policy and education based on the findings of six tragic deaths from gas inhaling. Indeed, his recommendation for a national drug education campaign ignores all the evidence about how to most effectively deal with inhalant abuse, which actually warns against publicising the issue because it can lead to increased inhalant abuse.”

Bugger the evidence though, coroner Evans says the current official policy of harm minimisation, which accepts that people will take drugs and tries to make it safer, just sends the wrong message. Evans cited unpublished research from Prof Richard Beasley of Wellington’s Medical Research Institute, who has been trying to see if smoking cannabis causes lung cancer. The study is incomplete and has not been peer reviewed, but Beasley speculated that because Maori have higher rates of lung cancer than non-Maori, and because Maori smoke cannabis at a higher rate, that cannabis could be the cause. This was widely reported in the media as evidence that cannabis may cause cancer. But official statistics show Maori smoke cannabis at only a slightly higher rate: 20% are current users, compared to 18% of the total sample.

In his paper, Beasley cited old research by Donald Tashkin of the USA, whose research into lung damage is often cited by drug prohibitionists. Beasley was, however, unaware of more recent research by Tashkin, which was reported in the Winter 2005 issue of Norml News. Marijuana smokers were found to have a lower rate of lung cancer than even nonsmokers. Tashkin found that marijuana is less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke and may even have some anticancer properties.

Robert Melamede, chair of biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, recently published a review of studies in the Oct. 17 issue of Harm Reduction Journal. He found that although cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke are chemically very similar, the cancer-promoting effects of smoke are increased by nicotine, while they are reduced by THC.

Anti-drug zealots Pauline Gardiner and Trevor Grice rallied round in support of Evans. Gardiner – who once said that “we’d be better off if all dope-smokers died, because then the state wouldn’t have to support them” – was proposed by Grice to be NZ’s first “drug czar”, in charge of all drug policy and enforcement. Mr Evan’s recommendations had included using specialists – such as Gardiner and Grice – to deliver drug education in schools.

However, the PHA’s Dr Keating says that evidence suggests that school drug education programmes should be taught by teachers, and there is a “question mark over the effectiveness of programmes delivered by outside agencies”.

“At the moment we have the bizarre situation of organisations like the Life Education Trust going into schools and offering programmes that include smoking prevention, even through the Trust receives funding from British American Tobacco. We should be asking why it is that tobacco manufacturers are so keen to support youth smoking prevention programmes. Could it be because they know they certain types of programmes don’t work?.”

(Norml News Summer 2006)

Death penalty shows barbaric side of the “War on Drugs”

While many of us were feeling morally superior to Singapore as Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged, remember that New Zealand is not so hot on sane drug laws either.

The use of the death penalty – which has outraged the public and been condemned by prime
ministers on both sides of the Tasman – is a brutal extension of the same law we have here.

Politicians and media have been quick to denounce the death penalty – and rightly so – but
they have ignored the fact that New Zealand also uses force to stop people using drugs. New
Zealand and Singapore both enforce a prohibitionist “War on Drugs”. They hang people, we
lock them up, but the objective is the same.

Aussie PM John Howard tried to deflect attention from the law, when he said that “I hope the
strongest message that comes out of this… is a message to the young of Australia – don’t have
anything to do with drugs”.

But drugs did not kill Nguyen Van – prohibition did.

The New Zealand Herald, in an editorial titled “Executions abhorrent and futile” (2/12/05),
said that Singapore’s use of the death penalty was an admission “it has no faith in the ability of
its citizens, or its institutional framework, to cope with illegal drugs.”

But the same could be said about drug prohibition in New Zealand.

The penalties are lower than in South East Asia, but New Zealand still arrests more people on cannabis charges per head of population than any other country. There are stories behind every one of these busts, mostly involving ordinary people but some attaining widespread notoriety through sensational media coverage.

Nguyen Van, Schapelle Corby and the “celebrity drug bust” have confirmed what ordinary New Zealanders already knew – that drug use is commonplace. Many role models and upstanding
members of the community are involved. Using marijuana is now a normal activity, with 80 percent of 21-year-olds having tried it. Most enjoy it and do not suffer any ill effects.

The question many New Zealanders will be asking is, why is it that our Government looks towards Indonesia, Singapore and the United States for its cannabis policy, and not towards Europe, Canada or several Australian states?

“De-prioritising” cannabis

The good news is that in the absence of law reform, Police are arresting fewer people on marijuana charges, according to official crime statistics for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. This continues a 3-year trend. The number of marijuana offences dropped almost 20 percent from 18,271 to 14,654.

However marijuana charges still make up 80 per cent of all drug arrests.

And despite the significant reduction, New Zealand still retains its position as the top marijuana-arresting nation on earth, with 358 arrests per year per 100,000 population.

(Norml News Summer 2006)