war on drugs

Canada’s historic vote in June to legalise cannabis is yet another nail in the coffin of the so-called War on Drugs, conceived in the 1970s by then US-president Richard Nixon, writes Natalie Sharples.

“So called” because it was deliberately conceived to obscure what it really was: not a war on substances at all, but on Black people and the anti-war left.

In its first year in operation, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has taken more than 13,000 lives and left the country mired in a human rights crisis.

One of the organisations at the forefront of opposing Duterte’s war is In Defence of Human Rights and Dignity Movement, iDefend, a coalition of more than 50 human rights and grassroots organisations.

The federal government has proposed a drug testing trial for new welfare recipients.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the proposed policy as being “all about love”, saying: “If you’ve got a friend who is on drugs, what do you want to do? You desperately want to get them off it.”

This needs to be examined.

A new campaign, #HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing, spearheaded by Dr Alex Wodak and GetUp!, has been launched in response to the federal government’s decision to deny income support payments to those who test positive to certain drugs.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s annual State of the Nation (SONA) address on July 24 reflected his government’s increasing trajectory towards dictatorship. Outside, protest marches converged on the parliamentary complex at Batasan, reflecting the growing grassroots opposition to the worsening dictatorial trend.

Filipino police and military forces in the small city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf criminal gang, on May 23. By the end of the day, President Rodrigo Duterte’s government had declared martial law throughout the island for 60 days and launched a military assault.

By June 2, that ongoing assault, including air strikes, had killed at least 160 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

This dramatic escalation represents the further slide of Duterte’s administration towards authoritarian rule and a betrayal of his election campaign promise to pursue a negotiated end to Mindanao’s multiple insurgencies.

The recent federal budget announced a terrible new policy — drug testing 5000 new recipients of Youth Allowance or Newstart. The drugs tested for will be cannabis, methamphetamine and MDMA.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended the policy as "aimed at stabilising the lives of people with alcohol and drug abuse problems by encouraging them to participate in treatment as part of their Job Plan". At the same time, people with diagnosed substance abuse disorders have been excluded from disability benefits.

The existence of drug markets — and the struggles around them — raise a number of important sociopolitical and structural issues for analysis.

The expansion of markets for psychoactive substances was a strategic initiative by European companies in the development of capitalism, slavery and imperialism. Initially there were no illicit markets but the licit industries included the critical sugar (and rum) industry in Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia and other countries and the tobacco industry in the US South.

On October 10, a protest was held outside the Philippines Consulate in Sydney by the NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) as part of a global week of action by the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) against recently elected Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign of extrajudicial executions of real and alleged drug users and dealers. More than 3500 such extrajudicial executions have taken place since Duterte assumed office on June 30. The statement below was released by INPUD.

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The following statement was released by the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) on September 7.

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The dangerously deteriorating situation that the country now faces, marked by the killings and bombings resulting in the meaningless death of thousands of people, is a result of the war strategy followed by the Rodrigo Duterte regime. The war strategy, which began as a “war against drugs”, has now been extended and intensified with the “war on terror” in Mindanao.

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