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Colombian drug cartels exporting cocaine underneath Valentine’s day flowers

The season before Valentine's Day is the busiest time of the year for Colombia's growers, when the 130,000 people employed at hundreds of flower farms work nonstop to ship some 500 million stems

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Cocaine
Powder drugs. Image source-Wikimedia Commons

Cocaine is probably the last thing most people think about when buying roses. But every year, police and growers in Colombia must work around the clock to make sure that the romance of Valentine’s Day isn’t spoiled by the drug, the nation’s other major export along with flowers.

As much as 330,000 pounds (150 metric tons) of flowers leave Colombia on 30-plus jumbo cargo planes daily starting in late January, presenting an opportunity for the country’s ingenious drug cartels to penetrate the frenzied, overworked chain of suppliers and stash drugs amid the roses.

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“Without a doubt we’re a target,” said Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian flower exporters’ association.

Security protocols that the flower industry developed with police begin the moment that refrigerated trucks carrying rose buds depart dozens of flower farms dotting the waterlogged savannah surrounding Colombia’s capital. Once the flowers are inside the airport, 100 police offices equipped with 15 drug-sniffing dogs and electronic scanners inspect each shipment.

Last year, police said they found almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of cocaine hidden in flower boxes.

“We have to guarantee that our flower exports aren’t contaminated by criminal gangs,” Col. Julio Triana said as he and his drug-sniffing Labrador retriever walked through the refrigerated warehouse where flowers are kept before being loaded onto cargo planes.

Colombia’s flower industry took off in the early 1990s when the U.S. Congress passed a law eliminating tariffs on goods from Andean drug-producing nations in a bid to encourage legal exports. That Colombia’s criminals now train their eyes on flower shipments as a way to smuggle drugs into the U.S. is a sign of just how much the industry has blossomed. It is now is the world’s second-largest cut flower exporter, after the Netherlands, and the top supplier to the U.S.

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The season before Valentine’s Day is the busiest time of the year for Colombia’s growers, when the 130,000 people employed at hundreds of flower farms work nonstop to ship some 500 million stems, mostly to the United States but other parts of the world as well.

“Right now there’s not a single rose available,” said Solano.

But with competitors from Kenya and Ecuador making inroads, the industry isn’t taking its leadership for granted and works hard to keep out smuggled drugs.

“It requires a big effort because if another country finds drugs they can ban flower imports from Colombia and that would be disastrous,” Solano said. (VOA)

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Percentage of US College Students Using Marijuana at the Highest Level in 30 Years, Claims New Study

The increasing use of marijuana among college students deserves immediate attention from college personnel as well as students and their parents

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Marijuana
Marijuana grower and activist Juan Vaz checks marijuana plants in Montevideo, Uruguay, VOA

Washington, September 12, 2017 : Percentage of US college students using marijuana was at the highest level in 2016 since the past three decades, according to a study conducted by University of Michigan researchers.

The national Monitoring the Future follow-up study, funded by the the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed in 2016, 39 per cent of full-time college students aged 19-22 indicated that they used marijuana at least once in 12 months, and 22 per cent indicated that they used at least once in 30 days, reports Xinhua news agency.

ALSO READ Substance abuse of Marijuana rises in the United States

Both of these 2016 percentages were the highest since 1987, and represented a steady increase since 2006, when they were 30 and 17 per cent, respectively.

Daily or near daily use of marijuana-defined as having used 20 or more times in the prior 30 days-was at 4.9 per cent in 2016; this is among the highest levels seen in more than 30 years, though it has not shown any further rise in the past two years.

“These continuing increases in marijuana use, particularly heavy use, among the nation’s college students deserve attention from college personnel as well as students and their parents,” John Schulenberg, the current principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future follow-up study, said on Monday.

“We know from our research and that of others that heavy marijuana use is associated with poor academic performance and non-completion of college.

In 2016, 30 per cent of those aged 19-22 perceived regular use of marijuana as carrying great risk of harm, the lowest level reached since 1980.

These findings come from the long term Monitoring the Future study, which has been tracking substance use of all kinds among American college students for the past 37 years. (IANS)

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Indonesia’s War on Drugs Follows Philippines’ Infamous Crusade to Curb Drug Use

Indonesia's Drug War by President Joko Widodo follows Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte way

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An Indonesian policeman checks crystal methamphetamine from China after a raid at Anyer beach in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia
An Indonesian policeman checks crystal methamphetamine from China after a raid at Anyer beach in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia. VOA
  • Idham Azis said he would not think twice to discharge police officers who were indecisive against drug trafficking
  • Human Rights Watch official Phelim Kline criticized the move

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is once again using the language of “emergency” to ramp up the country’s war on drugs, in a move that seems in step with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s infamous crusade in a neighboring island country.

Widodo recently ordered police to shoot foreign drug dealers who “resist arrest,” claiming the country was in a “narcotics emergency position.” Then, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights announced a plan to consolidate drug felons in four prisons. On Tuesday, Jakarta police chief Gen. Idham Azis said he would “not think twice” to discharge police officers who were indecisive against drug trafficking.

Widodo’s speech last week came on the heels of a drug-related police shooting in Jakarta, targeting a Taiwanese man who resisted arrest while trying to smuggle one ton of crystal methamphetamine into Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch official Phelim Kline criticized the move, writing in a statement that, “President Joko Widodo should send a clear and public message to the police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone’s basic rights, not demolish them.”

Meth panic

The target of President Duterte’s drug war is the cheap crystal methamphetamine known locally as shabu, and it is also the subject of Indonesian hand-wringing. The ton seized last month was the largest drug seizure in the nation’s history.

ALSO READ: What is the relation between Religion and Drug use?

The head of Indonesia’s narcotics agency, Gen. Budi Waseso, has been calling for a Philippines-style war on drugs as early as September 2016.

“The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance,” Budi told Australia’s ABC News.

Indonesia enforces capital punishment for drug trafficking, which makes it an offense on par with murder and terrorism. It is estimated that about 70 percent of Indonesia’s prison population are low-level drug offenders.

“For me, there is a question mark over President Jokowi’s narcotics policy,” said Erasmus Napitupulu of Jakarta’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. “He always talks about the death penalty as a way to protect the nation’s children.” But in fact, he said, “the death penalty targets small drug couriers, which in many cases leads to unfair trials. Indonesian law has not been able to bear the burden of a fair trial,” he said.

Calls for leniency

“Of course we are concerned with the president’s rhetoric … to justify the war on drugs,” said Edo Nasution, national coordinator of the nonprofit Solidarity for Indonesian Drug Victims.

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“Evidence-based drug policy is what we need, not a policy that is only based on moral values or ideology,” said Edo, a one-time drug user who spent 13 years in Indonesian jails. “For example, there has been harm reduction programs in Indonesia for a long time and there is much scientific evidence as to the success of this approach.”

Harm-reduction refers to the practice of managing the risks of drug use, such as providing sterile needles, rather than trying to eradicate drug use.

Southeast Asia has long resisted trends toward leniency for drug users or traffickers, with countries like Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines resolutely maintaining harsh penalties that they say deters a major societal problem. As of last year, Thailand seemed like it might rethink the criminalization of methamphetamine because of overcrowded prisons, but there are no such signs in Indonesia.

Widodo’s last big anti-drug push was in 2015, two months after he was sworn into office when he executed 14 people for drug offenses.

“Far from having a deterrent effect, the number of drug-related crimes in Indonesia increased in the months after the executions were carried out in January and April 2015,” according to Claudia Stoicescu, an Oxford University researcher.

The increased resources devoted to drug-related arrests have drawn money away from rehabilitation centers that some say would better serve Indonesia’s nearly 1 million (according to the National Narcotics Agency) drug addicts. In the absence of such treatment, many poor addicts are turning to dubious herbal and faith-based cures that do nothing at best.

Erasmus wishes Indonesia would learn from the experience of the United States, which has gradually softened its approach to marijuana.

“American narcotics policy that criminally prosecuted drug users failed even without the death penalty. The result? The U.S. gradually changed the direction of policy toward decriminalization [of marijuana],” he said. “If Indonesia retains capital punishment as the main solution for drug issues, then I believe it is a political decision to preserve [politicians’] image, not to protect actual narcotics victims.” (VOA)

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Women-Centric Drug Rehabilitation Centers in Hyderabad is Saving Young Girls from Recreational Drugs like LSD

One of the main reasons the gender gets hooked is personality disorders. Normally, it begins around the age of 16 years to 24.”

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Women-Centric Drug Rehabilitation Centers in Hyderabad. Pixabay

Hyderabad, July 31, 2017: Recent drug busts across the city brought to light the dark underbelly of sellers providing recreational drugs including LSD to young girls at schools in exchange for their obscene pictures. Frightening as it is, that’s probably the tip of the iceberg.

In an interaction with The Hans India, Dr K Jyothirmayi, Consultant Psychiatrist, Care Hospital, Gachibowli shares, “Females who take drugs are normally less. One of the main reasons the gender gets hooked is personality disorders. Normally, it begins around the age of 16 years to 24.”

Highlight the severity of the issue, she tells, “Borderline Personality is a kind of disorder where the patient is emotionally unstable, impulsive and depressed all at once. There will be some individuals who have Histrionic personality. These people want limelight, attention and we can see such examples in the media and film industry. So, they mostly seek drugs out of compulsion.”

“These types of personalities are called cluster-B,” she adds. “Using drugs begins due to peer pressure. It’s the same for boys and girls,” she reveals.

“Statements like ‘have a sip of alcohol and be part of our group’, or ‘have a puff of this and you’re one of us’ is the usual sentiment and everyone wants to ‘belong’ to something at that budding age,” states the doctor.

The friendships might break and groups scatter away but what remains is the ‘kick’ of the drugs. She warns that the information about narcotics and other recreational drugs is easily accessible with the click of a button. Even after moving being separated from bad friends, one becomes habituated to using drugs and will do anything to get it.

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“What is needed is that our education system must have topics on psychological issues and drugs; such subjects are less and lack of information drives children towards wrong habits,” she says. Another bigger problem is the stigma surrounding drugs.

Elaborating on it, DrJyothirmayi says, “Sometimes when parents talk about drugs, children may know more about it. If parents are thinking that it’s better to avoid such topics lest their ward gets curious about using it, then that is the most incorrect line of thought,” she warns.

“Kids will find out from one or other sources. It’s better to educate them from home or in school and explain these are the drugs available and these will be the ill effects when used,” she adds.

One cannot forget that women are increasingly abusing drugs. According to the doctor, it is because of “equal opportunities” for both genders. “Most working women stay alone these days. There is a cultural shift, job pressure and what have you. Most of the times women resort to drinking and drugs to ‘fit in’ with the men and be seen as their ‘equal’,” opines the doctor.

“Being single for a long time can be another frustrating reason for them to resort to abusing drugs; they are trying to release sexual tension in some way,” she explains. Surprisingly, the rate of women taking drugs is increasing but, no one has statistics about their de-addiction and use.

“The main reason is that there are no centers specifically for women in Hyderabad that deal with the issue,” she said and adds, “Most of the women are uncomfortable going to regular de-addiction centers. They feel unsafe and fear that they will be labeled as an addict. They are afraid of their marital future as well.”

– prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94