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Wednesday, 02 June 2010 00:00

Robin Room is a sociologist who is a Professor at the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, and the director of the AER Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. He is also a professor at and was the founding director of the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs at Stockholm University. He had previously directed research at the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario (1991-1998) and the Alcohol Research Group in Berkeley, California (1977-1991). Room has studied effects of alcohol, drug and gambling policies. He is a coauthor of a number of books on alcohol policy, including Young Men and Drugs (NIDA, 1975), Alcohol in Developing Societies (Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, 2002), and Alcohol – No Ordinary Commodity (Oxford UP, 2003). His research interests include historical, cultural and social epidemiological studies of alcohol and other drugs, including comparative research across psychoactive substances.
Peter Reuter is an economist and public policy researcher who is a Professor in the School of Public Policy and in the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland. He is the Director of the Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy at the University and also Senior Economist at RAND. Reuter founded and directed RAND’s mutlidisciplinary Drug Policy Research Center from 1989-1993. His early research focused on the organization of illegal markets and resulted in the publication of Disorganized Crime: The Economics of the Visible Hand (MIT Press, 1983). Since 1985 most of his research has dealt with alternative approaches to controlling drug problems, both in the United States and Western Europe. His other books are (with Robert MacCoun) Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Places, Times and Vices (Cambridge UP, 2001 and (with Edwin Truman) Chasing Dirty Money: The Fight Against Money Laundering (Institute for International Economics, 2004). He is
currently finishing a project on global heroin markets. He has served as a consultant to numerous US government agencies and to organizations elsewhere, including the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Abuse, the United Nations Drug Control Program and the British Department of Health.
Wayne Hall is Professor of Public Health Policy in the School of Population Health, University of Queensland. He was formerly Director of the Office of Public Policy and Ethics at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, UQ (2001-2005) and Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW (1994-2001). With Rosalie Pakula, he is the author of Cannabis Use and Dependence: Public Health and Public Policy (Cambridge UP, 2003). He has advised the World Health Organization on: the health effects of cannabis use; the effectiveness of drug substitution treatment; the scientific quality of the Swiss heroin trials; the contribution of illicit drug use to the global burden of disease; and the ethical implications of genetic and neuroscience research on addiction. He is currently researching: the policy and ethical implications of research on the genetics and neurobiology of nicotine dependence, biological interventions that purport to extend human life expectancy, and the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs.
Benedikt Fischer is Professor and CIHR/PHAC Chair in Applied Public Health at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and the Director of Illicit Drugs, Public Health and Policy Unit at the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia (CAR-BC). He is also affiliated as a Research Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and as adjunct faculty to the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Criminology at the University of Toronto. He has published several articles on Canadian cannabis and other drug policies, and has contributed to substance use policy development in Canada at local and national levels. In 1998, he led the writing of a study by a pan-Canadian working group for options for cannabis use control reform in Canada. Originally trained as a criminologist, Fischer’s research focuses primarily on illicit substance use, marginalized populations, infectious disease,
criminal justice and public health, with a strong interest in policy and program development.
Simon Lenton is an associate professor and Deputy Director at the National Drug Research Institute, Perth, Western Australia, and he works as a Clinical Psychologist in private practice. He has published more than 30 scientific articles, book chapters and reports on cannabis, health and the law and presented on the topic at numerous national and international conferences. He is first author of Cannabis Possession, Use and Supply, a monograph published in 2000. Lenton was a former member of the Ministerial Working Party on Drug Law Reform which advised the Western Australian Government on the design and implementation of the Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme which came into effect in March 2004. He is currently heading a large pre-post evaluation of that scheme. Lenton’s research interests include illicit drug use and harm reduction, impact of legislative options for cannabis, and drink and drug driving.
Amanda Feilding, founder and director of the Beckley Foundation, has long advocated an evidence-based approach to drug policy that seeks to minimise the harms associated with drug use. Out of concern that international drug policy lacked a sound scientific evidence base, she set up the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme to develop research in drug policy analysis, and provide a rigorous, independent review of global drug policy. This programme aims to establish how we can manage the use of psychoactive substances in the future to the best advantage for both the individual and society. She has hosted 7 seminars on International Drug Policy issues, entitled ‘Society and Drugs: A Rational Perspective’, which have brought together leading academics, experts and policymakers from around the world and have helped broaden the global drug policy debate. In 2006, it was her awareness of the lack of attention paid to cannabis in international drug policy discussions, despite cannabis being the most widely used illegal substance and the mainstay of the war on drugs, that led her to convene the Global Cannabis Commission Report.
The Beckley Foundation is an ECOSOC-accredited NGO, whose Drug Policy Programme was set up to develop a scientifically-evaluated evidence base. It aims to cast light on the current dilemmas facing policy-makers within governments and international agencies, and to work with them in order to promote objective and open debate on the effectiveness, direction and content of future drug policies. Underlying our policy research programme are a number of observations:
•    That the current global drug control mechanism (as enshrined in the three United Nations Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988), is not achieving the core objective of significantly reducing the scale of the market for controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis.
•    That the negative side-effects of the implementation of this system may themselves be creating significant social problems.
•    That reducing the harm faced by the many individuals who use drugs, including the risk of infections, such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, does not hold a sufficiently high priority in international policies and programmes.
•    That there is a growing body of evidence regarding which policies and activities are (and are not) effective in reducing drug use and associated health and social problems, and that this evidence is not sufficiently taken into account in current policy discussions, which continue to be dominated by ideological considerations.
•    That the current dilemmas in international drug policy can only be resolved through an honest review of progress so far, a better understanding of the complex factors that create widespread drug use, and a commitment to pursue policies that are effective.
•    That analysis of future policy options is unlikely to produce a clear 'correct' policy - what may be appropriate in one setting or culture may be less so in another. In addition, there are likely to be trade-offs between policy objectives
(e.g. to reduce overall drug use or to reduce drug-related crime) that may be viewed differently in different countries.
That future policy should be grounded on a scientifically-based scale of harm for all social drugs, both legal and illegal. This should involve a continuous review of scientific and sociological evidence of their biological harms, toxicity, mortality and dependency; of their relation to violent behaviour; of their relation to crime; of their costs to the health services; of their general impact on the community; and of the total economic impact of the use of each individual drug on society.
The Foundation has produced over thirty reports, proceedings documents and briefing papers on key policy questions and recent policy initiatives. It has founded two sister organisations, now both independent: the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy and the International Drug Policy Consortium.
The Foundation also runs a parallel scientific programme, which promotes the investigation of consciousness and its changing states from a multidisciplinary perspective. It initiates and directs research into the neurophysiology underlying the full range of conscious states, and is particularly interested in scientific research that has practical implications for improving health and wellbeing.

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