Simon Howell

The National Drug Master Plan: More bark than bite?

In August of last year the department of social development released the latest incarnation of South Africa’s National Drug Master Plan, the NDMP 2013-2017. The national press responded with deafening silence. Considering, however, that it will play a central role in both defining and guiding the South African government’s responses to the production, distribution, and…

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Has the legalisation of cannabis finally become a reality?

The festive season has indeed been a happy one for supporters of the legalisation of cannabis. Uruguay has become the first state to make the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis entirely legal. In the US, home to the “war on drugs”, the states of Colorado and Washington State have followed suit, putting in place…

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A reply to those that doubt South Africa’s future

I recently had a conversation/argument with someone who, I am only just discovering, shares the belief with many South Africans that now that Nelson Mandela has died the future of the country is in jeopardy. They believe that the metaphorical “night of the long knives” will come to pass, that the spirit of reconciliation will…

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“Tik” and transformation: Shooting up the wrong tree?

Co-authored by Kirsten Harris Richard Nixon declared the “war on drugs” in 1971. However it was Reagan who took the “war” to “the streets” by implementing a number of detrimental economic and social policies that further divided America along racial lines. Under Reagan’s leadership, Nancy Reagan implored nice middle-class white kids to “just say no”…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 6)

For part five of the series, please click here. History has a number of valuable lessons to teach us not only about drugs, but also about ourselves. Problematically however, we still have yet to learn many of those lessons. While the “war on drugs” has begun to fade from view, at least in official rhetoric,…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 5)

For part four of the series, please click here. While some of the most interesting anecdotes and stories of cocaine’s convoluted history originate in the US and UK, Africa has its own tale to tell. While recent documents, reports, and sensationalist articles have reported an “explosion” of drugs on the continent, this is simply not…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 4)

For the part three of the series, please click here. In 1906 the US passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act that formally began the regulation of cocaine and the opiates, limiting their use to the medical sphere. In 1914 the Harrison Act was passed, which can usefully be seen as the beginning of the…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 3)

For part two of this series, click here. In the previous two articles in this series, I briefly documented how cocaine became seen as a “medical miracle” and how the rise of the first habitué’s revealed to medical science cocaine’s addictive potential. These first “addicts” where not however seen as innately criminal or diseased, an…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 2)

For part one of this series click here. As I noted in the last part of this series, cocaine became a “medical miracle” at the same time as medical science was legitimating itself as a modern form of enquiry. At first cocaine was lauded, especially between 1884 and 1899, as the first real topical anaesthetic…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 1)

The use of drugs, such as cocaine, continue to feature regularly in the news. Drug users, moreover, continue to be condemned by the general media, being regarded as dirty, defiled, and criminal. However, very few people realise that for over 20 years cocaine was completely legal. Indeed, it was at one point described as a…

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