Human rights at the heart of drug policies

The Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (Pompidou Group) is an inter-governmental body formed in 1971 at the initiative of the late French President Georges Pompidou. The Group’s core mission is to contribute to the development of effective and evidence-based drug policies in its member states.

This year, the Pompidou Group celebrates its 50th anniversary. It grew from 7 founding states to 41 members today, including 3 non-European countries. Under the motto “Human rights at the heart of drug policies“, the Anniversary will be celebrated throughout the year, in a series of events taking place in Europe and beyond.

The Portuguese Presidency of the Group issued a statement highlighting the main features of the Anniversary programme. The organisation’s President João Castel-Branco Goulão emphasized that “The most important feature of the Anniversary is the expected adoption of a revised statute by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. By strenghtening the identity of the Pompidou Group as a Council of Europe entity, including a strong focus on human rights, extending its mandate beyond the field of illicit drugs, fostering synergies with other international organisations and Council of Europe bodies, the new statute will give a fresh political impetus and open new legal avenues to the Pompidou Group.

A commemorative event will be held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris on 28 October 2021. The commemoration will provide an opportunity to highlight the main achievements as well as contributions of some eminent personalities in the history of the Pompidou Group. A travelling exhibition and a publication on the history of the Pompidou Group will also be produced and presented during the events organized as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.

To read more about the celebration and see the full list of events, please visit the webpage dedicated to the 50th anniversary>>>.

 

‘Cannabis’ and cannabinoids terminology issues

Our friend, independent researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, published article addressing conceptual issues with the terminology of Cannabis and cannabinoids on the last days of 2020.

The article presents results of the research undertaken in parallel to the three-year assessment of Cannabis derivatives by the World Health Organisation. The scope is limited to Cannabis products intended for human incorporation (internal and topical consumption). Primarily embedded in pharmacognosy, the study incorporates a wide range of scholarly and grey literature, folk knowledge, archives, pharmacopœias, international law, field pharmacy, clinical and herbal medicine data, under a philosophical scrutiny. Generic and Cannabis-specific nomenclatural frames are compared to determine the extent to which they coincide or conflict.

Article ‘Cannabis’ ontologies I: Conceptual issues with Cannabis and cannabinoids terminology is available following this link>>>.

Kenzi announced that the part II of the study (‘Cannabis’ ontologies II) will follow this year with a series of more practical, concrete outputs and a proposed evidence-based nomenclature of Cannabis sativa products and cannabinoid compounds.

 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is not ‘narcotic drug’ under European law

From the EMCDDA website

In November 2020, the European Court of Justice published a judgement stating that cannabidiol extracted from the cannabis plant should not be considered a drug under the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The 1961 UN Convention is the basis for national drug control laws controlling cannabis. It states that unauthorised sale of ‘cannabis flowers’ and ‘extracts and tinctures of cannabis’ should be subject to criminal penalties, and this was subsequently reflected in the EU Council Framework Decision 2004/757 on drug trafficking penalties. These flowers and extracts contain several different cannabinoids, whose concentrations can vary greatly by plant variety and by growing technique. The two most extensively studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC is known to be the main psychoactive component of cannabis, the recent review by the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence found that CBD ‘has no potential for abuse and no potential to produce dependence’.

The European Court ruling resulted from a case referred from the French courts. In 2017, a French court convicted the seller of e-cigarette cartridges containing CBD that had been legally extracted from the whole hemp plant in Czechia, because in France only fibre and seeds are legal hemp. This case was referred to the European Court of Justice (case C-663/18), and on 19 November 2020 the court published its judgement). The court stated that, while evidence of the risk to health from CBD was still limited but may justify precautionary restrictive measures, it was inconsistent to apply the marketing ban only to organic, and not synthetic, CBD. Examining the legality of these measures that restricted the free movement of goods within the EU, the court also stated that CBD extracted from cannabis was not a drug within the meaning of the 1961 Convention; and that the EU industrial hemp regulations were not applicable to the CBD extract, as it is not an agricultural product within those regulations’ definitions.

Following this decision, the European Commission has noted in a recent press briefing that cannabidiol should not be considered as a drug within the meaning of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and cannabidiol can be qualified as food, provided that the other conditions of the EU Food Safety Regulation are also met.

 

HepHIV 2021 Lisbon & Virtual Conference

The next HepHIV conference will take place 5-7 May 2021 in a mixed face-to-face and virtual format involving participants from across community, public health and the health system.

The conference will focus on the latest evidence, best practices, achievements and challenges in the field of viral hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) prevention, testing and care, highlighting progress achieved in testing policy implementation since the ECDC integrated testing guidance was released in 2018. The conference will also specifically address the impact of and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic on the availability and provision of testing and other health services.

Abstract submission is now open with abstract deadline on 7 February, 2021. HepHIV abstracts should contain original material from recent work that is not yet in publication. The HepHIV conference encourages research on testing and linkage to care as well as best practice examples and lessons learned, also in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also abstracts on integrated testing and linkage to care of key populations within the fields of viral hepatitis, HIV, STIs and TB are encouraged.

The abstract categories are:

  1. Integrated testing programmes for hepatitis/HIV/TB/STI/TB
  2. Innovative testing services during the COVID-19 pandemic; lessons learned, including community engagement in COVID-19 testing
  3. New testing and sampling technologies to increase testing coverage, e.g. home-based HIV testing/sampling, finger prick, oral fluid, urine etc.; obstacles overcome
  4. Combination prevention for hepatitis/HIV/TB/STI in the COVID/post-COVID era
  5. PrEP integration with combination prevention, including PrEP for heterosexual men, women, trans people and other underserved potential PrEP users
  6. Models of testing and linkage to care for PWID and PWUD
  7. Testing implementation in prisons and other closed settings
  8. Engagement and integration of marginalised populations to develop innovative testing programmes which address multiple vulnerabilities

The overall objective of EuroTEST is to ensure that people living with HIV, viral hepatitis, STIs or TB have access to testing and enter care earlier in the course of their infection than is currently the case, as well as to study the decrease in the proportion presenting late for care. The initiative, originally named HIV in Europe, began in 2007 as way to bring attention to the importance of earlier diagnosis and care for people living with HIV. Although the initiative started with a HIV focus, the growing evidence has shown that HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C share overlaps in the modes of transmission and affect common key populations therefore, the initiative made a concerted effort in 2013 to also prioritise hepatitis. Since its initiation, HIV in Europe has built a European platform where independent experts from civil society, policy institutions, health care and European public health institutions to work toward influencing policy, knowledge sharing and building the evidence-base to support earlier diagnosis and care of HIV and viral hepatitis across Europe.

To get more information and send and abstract, please follow the Conference link>>>.

 

Building Awareness for CSO’s Work

EU TACSO 3, for the needs and in cooperation with the DG NEAR, would like to hear from civil society and make visible their efforts to the wider public through publishing success stories of their work being done in influencing (national/local) sectorial policy dialogue(s). The concept is to collect success stories that can be quoted as successful examples of cooperation between either EU, regional, national or local institutions with civil society.

The objective of publishing the success stories is to give the possibility to civil society to share stories of their work in supporting their community to the wider public. CSOs are one of the most vibrant fabrics of our societies and their continued support is essential for countries to develop and respond to the unprecedented challenges of our time.

Broad areas that can be taken into account for submitting inputs include:

  • Awareness raising for the need for policy dialogue;
  • Building awareness of CSO work;
  • Capacity building of CSO’s to engage in policy dialogue;
  • Capacity building of state actors and civil servants to engage in policy dialogue;
  • Development of civil dialogue mechanisms.

The deadline for submitting success stories is 15 January 2021.

DPNSEE invites member organisations and other civil society partners from the region to share their success stories.

To read more, follow this link>>>.

Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organisations in the Western Balkans and Turkey (TACSO) is a regional project funded by the European Union (EU) that improves capacities and strengthens the role of civil society organizations (CSOs). The project assists CSOs to actively take part in democratic processes in the region, and it also stimulates an enabling environment for civil society and pluralistic media development.

 

INCB message on Human Rights Day 2020

From the INCB press release

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has repeatedly expressed its concern over reports of grave human rights violations purportedly in furtherance of national drug control policies.

The Board reminds all States that the primary objective of the international drug control conventions is to safeguard the health and welfare of humankind, including respect for human rights.

INCB calls on States to adopt and pursue drug control policies that respect and protect human rights and that are consistent with international human rights instruments. Human rights are inherent and inalienable. The world drug problem cannot be lawfully addressed without ensuring the protection of human rights.

In addressing drug-related criminality, States must apply the principle of proportionality as a guiding principle in determining and applying criminal sanctions. The drug control conventions require governments to give special attention to the possibility of applying alternative measures to conviction, punishment and incarceration for drug-related offences, in appropriate cases of a minor nature, including education, rehabilitation or social reintegration, as well as, when the offender is affected by a drug disorder, treatment and aftercare.

Human Rights Day 2020 focuses on the need to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that human rights are central to recovery efforts. The pandemic has affected patterns of drug use and drug trafficking, and also affected access to services for the treatment of people with drug use disorders. State parties to the drug control conventions are required to give special attention to and take all practicable measures for the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons affected by drug use disorders. Such services should be accessible, evidence-based, free from discrimination and stigma and respect the human rights and dignity of clients.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – entails, among other things, access to high-quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, high-quality and affordable essential medicines, including those medicines under international control, and strengthening the prevention and treatment of drug use disorders.

***

INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial body charged with promoting and monitoring Government compliance with the three international drug control conventions.

 

Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment 2020

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented the Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment 2020. It provides an analysis of the global synthetic drugs market. This report presents a global thematic analysis of the key trends and emerging developments of the synthetic drugs market as well as the recent trends in the manufacture of synthetic drugs.

The first part of this report provides options for responses to counter the synthetic drug problem. The second part presents a global thematic analysis of the key trends and emerging developments of the synthetic drugs market as well as the recent trends in the manufacture of synthetic drugs, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The third part provides the key findings of the synthetic drug situation in the different regions of the world.

 

The report is available follow this link>>>.

The Regional overviews highlight context-specific dynamics relating to the demand and supply of synthetic drugs in Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The regional overview for Europe is available following this link>>>.

 

Open letter to UNODC Executive Director

In an open letter, with the support from more than 100 civil society organisations, the International Drug Policy Network Consortium (IDPC) invited Ms Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to mark International Human Rights Day by calling on Member States to change drug policies and practices that violate human rights, and entrench exclusion and discrimination.

My Waly was invited to issue a strong statement that underlines UNODC’s commitment to rights-based drug policies, and calls for change in the laws and practices that threaten health and human rights. The 2020 International Human Rights Day, which will be held under the title ‘Recover better: Stand Up for Human Rights’, includes a thematic focus on the need ‘to apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination’. As such, it presents a key opportunity for UNODC to highlight its commitment to the promotion of drug policies that respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, in line with the UN System Common Position.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe is one of the civil society organisations which supported the letter.

To read the letter, follow this link>>>.

 

Cannabis rescheduled!

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) today decided to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 drug Convention treaty recognizing the therapeutic value of this century-old medicinal plant and no longer considering it as “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects.” The proposal came from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which convened an independent scientific assessment undertaken by some of our world’s leading experts in 2017-2018, where evidence and testimonials from all corners of the world were reviewed. In addition to the removal from Schedule IV, beyond our expectations, WHO proposed an ambitious plan to harmonize and embed flexibility into the treaty framework for the access and availability of cannabis medicines. WHO endeavoured to create space for governments to adjust their national policies to fit their needs.

The removal from Schedule IV is a phenomenal news for millions of patients around the world and a historical victory of science over politics.

The civil society also played an important role advocating for the decision. The joint statement has been prepared and submitted by civil society organisations to the secretariat of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. DPNSEE have signed the letter along with 55 other NGOs from 33 countries. The statement is available following this link>>>.

From the countries of the region, two are members of the CND in this current mandate. Croatia voted for the decision, while Turkey voted against. From the neighbouring countries, Austria and Italy voted for, while Hungary was against.

These changes to international law will take effect after each government receives their official notification from the UN Secretary-General. In case a country contests the vote, it would only delay the entry into force of the decision to March 2021, which would only serve to reinforce the historic character of this set of decisions.

The formal CND/UNODC statement about this decision is available following this link>>>.

 

Sexism Free Night Survey

Sexism Free Night aims to reduce sexual violence and sexism in nightlife scenes by raising awareness among party goers and promoting safer and more egalitarian nightlife environments. You can read more about this project in the Manifest available following this link>>>.

The Sexism Free Night Survey was designed to research the intersections between sexual violence, nightlife environments (e.g. party spaces, going out at night) and drug use in Europe. We believe that this study will increase knowledge about sexism and the rape culture in different European regions, and inform policies and practices in nightlife.

In this web survey, we will ask some questions about your nightlife experiences. This time frame includes going out before the covid-19 outbreak and also going out during the current context of social isolation (e.g. small parties or meetings at home, in nature or public spaces with your friends, informal parties in hidden locations or video calls and live streaming events).

This study is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) and is promoted Health and Community Foundation (ES); Faculty of Education and Psychology of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (PT); Clubcommission (DE); Kanepes Cultural Center (LV); European Network NEWNET and ReGeneration (RS).

The participation in this study is voluntary. All the answers are anonymous and confidential.

To participate in the survey, follow this link>>>. The survey is available in English, Slovenian, Serbian, Latvian, Portuguese, French, German and Spanish.

For more information about the study, please contact: hello@sexismfreenight.eu.