The Drug Policy Digest

Monday, July 28, 2003
New Justice Department Report Highlights Growth of U.S. Inmate Population
Mandatory sentences, especially for nonviolent drug offenders, are a major cause of increase despite crime drop

CNN reported yesterday that America's prison population grew again in 2002, despite a decrease in the crime rate. Some 2.1 million Americans were inmates in Federal, State, or local prison or jail facilities at the end of 2002 -- a 2.6 percent increase over the previous year. The Bureau of Justice Statistics released the report Prisoners in 2002 -- the latest in a series of reports on the nation's penal system. Preliminary FBI statistics showed a 0.2 percent drop in overall crime during the same period.

About 1 in 143 Americans was incarcerated on December 31, 2002. The prison system remained overloaded -- with state prisons operating at between 1 and 16 percent over capacity at year end. Some observers stated that the growth was due, in part, to mandatory sentences given to nonviolent drug offenders, while others attributed the increase to tough "three strikes" sentencing requirements. The Justice Department, for example, this year ordered the Bureau of Prisons to stop sending nonviolent and white-collar offenders to halfway houses.

More detailed analysis of prisoner characteristics is still pending, but drug offenders accounted for 20.4 percent of state inmates in 2001 and 55 percent of federal inmates that year. Violent offenders account for the largest increase in both jurisdictions. Blacks at 45.1 percent are the most represented group, while Whites at 34.2 percent and Hispanics at 18.1 percent accounted for all but 2.6 percent ("other") of the racial composition of the inmate population.

Read the entire report at the Bureau of Justice Statistics site. Detailed tables are also available for download.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
UCLA Report Shows Proposition 36 Saving of $275 Million in First Year of Operation
Most Participants are White and Report Methamphetamine Use

UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP), part of UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, has released its first report on California's "Treatment Alternative to Incarceration" or Proposition 36 and the first reports are encouraging.

In the first year of operation, almost 54,000 California residents were determined to be eligible for participation in Proposition 36 after an arrest for drug use or possession. Of the total, about 44,000 (82 percent) chose to take the treatment alternative under SACPA ("The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act" or Proposition 36). The rest either wound up in traditional drug court or "opted for routine criminal justice processing," according to the report.

Among those who chose SACPA, 85 percent (37,495) completed assessment and 81 percent (30,469) entered treatment. Overall, 69 percent of those who chose the treatment option in court entered treatment. The report states that this "show" rate compares favorably with other studies of those entering treatment from criminal justice or other avenues.

About 50 percent of those who participated in the program reported methamphetamine as their primary drug of abuse - reflecting the drug's increasing popularity. Primary users of heroin and marijuana users were 11 percent and 12 percent of the entire group. About 50 percent of those in the program were non-Hispanic Whites.

For the entire report, see ISAP's UCLA web site for the report: "Evaluation of the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act - 2002 Report."

"How to Get a Security Clearance Despite a History of Drug Use" ... Well, Some Marijuana Use, Anyway.
Washington Post Column Describes Process in Detail

An article in today's Washington Post describes the process for obtaining a security clearance and suggests that marijuana use, if infrequent and not recent, may not be an absolute disqualifier for a Top Secret clearance. Financial problems may disqualify an applicant, but the article states: "It is important to remember that many financially motivated crimes are committed out of simple greed, not need, and that most people with financial difficulties are not inclined to commit illegal acts at all. Financial need is the norm for a large segment of the population."

For insight into why certain factors weigh more heavily than others, the article suggests: "Of recent spies who betrayed their country for financial gain, about half were motivated by some real or perceived urgent financial need, and about half by personal greed."

On the other hand, dual-citizenship (United States/Irish or United States/Israel, for example) may be a problem due to "questions of loyalty." See the complete article for more information or click here for a list of web sites that contain information on seeking employment in the defense or security sectors.

Monday, July 21, 2003
Rolling Stone to Retain Stephen Glass to Report on Canadian Cannabis Developments
Glass Had Previously Fabricated Story in RS on D.A.R.E. Program, Says Intelligencer

New York Magazine's Intelligencer column, written by Marc S. Malkin, says in the July 28th issue, that discredited writer Stephen Glass will write again for Jann Wenner's magazine. Before anyone heard of New York Times reporter Jason Blair, The New Republic publicly apologized for Glass's fabrications and dismissed him five years ago as one of the magazine's associate editors. Glass recently (May 2003) published The Fabulist, a novel about a character who fabricates stories for a respected journal of culture and arts.

Glass will be reporting on the revolutionary developments in Canada regarding cannabis policy - - both for medical and "recreational" purposes. Watch this site for more on Canada's policy change.

Sunday, July 20, 2003
New York Times Story Highlights Addiction Among Executives

Today's New York Times has a fairly thorough and insightful article about the perils of addiction as they apply to CEOs and CEO "wanna-be's." It is worth a look, see "Dealing With Addiction and What Comes After" by Melinda Ligos.

Thursday, July 03, 2003
More on Ephedra...
Two Firms to Pay for Deceptive Advertising

The Los Angeles Times reported today that 2 Firms will have to repay customers $370,000 to resolve a case involving commercial ephedra preparations. Ephedrine is the active constituent of ephedra preparations - although many commercial products include other ingredients, including caffeine.

Excerpted L.A. Times report: WASHINGTON: Two companies that promoted ephedra dietary supplements with promises of safe and miraculous weight loss have agreed to repay customers $370,000 to resolve federal charges of deceptive advertising, regulators said Tuesday.

The Federal Trade Commission also is taking to court an operation based in California and Canada that it says made unsupported claims for weight-loss products and arthritis cures.

Health Laboratories North America Inc. and USA Pharmacal Sales Inc. agreed to pay $370,000 to consumers to redress charges that they falsely claimed their dietary supplements would cause rapid weight loss without exercise, the FTC said. The companies also agreed to warn consumers about the health risks of ephedra, the agency said.

Read the entire story here. Or read the recently released (May 2003) RAND study on Ephedra here --> Preponderance of Evidence - Judging What to Do About Ephedra.

The actions taken above were initiated by the Federal Trade Commision (FDC), while The RAND report was commissioned for the FDA -- read the executive summary here, or see the complete report - Ephedra and Ephedrine for Weight Loss and Athletic Performance Enhancement: Clinical Efficacy and Side Effects - at the FDA site here.

Bottom line from the RAND study:

Regarding weight loss, we found enough evidence to conclude that the short-term use of either ephedrine alone, ephedrine and caffeine combined, ephedra alone, or ephedra with herbs containing caffeine all promote weight loss in selected patient populations. However, all but three of the trials lasted for less than six months. Ideally, the trials should assess not only the results of a full year of treatment but also what happens after the treatment is discontinued.

Caffeine clearly adds additional efficacy to ephedrine in promoting weight loss. The effects of ephedrine and caffeine together are roughly equal to the effects of ephedra with or without herbs containing caffeine. Each results in about two pounds per month of weight loss over four months.

To put these pounds in context, though, competing FDA-approved weight loss drugs have been shown to be about equally as effective. The drugs sibutramine (Meridia) and orlistat (Xenical) have both resulted in average weight loss of 6-10 pounds over 6-12 months, and the drug phentermine (often used in combination with fenfluramine as "phen-fen") has resulted in average weight loss of 16 pounds over 9 months.

* Regarding athletic performance, the few trials of ephedrine that we identified did not study the drug as used by the general population?—that is, repeated use. Therefore, the effect of ephedra or ephedrine to enhance athletic performance over the long term is completely unknown.

* Regarding safety, we conclude from the clinical trials that ephedrine and ephedra are associated with two to three times the odds of experiencing psychiatric symptoms, autonomic symptoms, upper gastrointestinal symptoms, and palpitations. It is not possible to separate out the effect that caffeine may contribute to these events.