A regulatory take on cannabis and cannabinoids for medicinal use in the European Union

The new review published by the Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, takes a quick look at the current legal framework in the European Union which regulates cannabis use and cultivation for medicinal purposes. The document was prepared by Slovene Metoda Lipnik-Štangelj from the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Toxicology, Ljubljana and Barbara Razinger from the Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices of the Republic of Slovenia.

From the abstract

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has raised public interest in the medicinal use of cannabis, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids, which has always been closely regulated due to their psychotropic effects and potential abuse. The review takes a quick look at the current legal framework in the European Union, which regulates cannabis use and cultivation for medicinal purposes in line with the United Nations Conventions on the production, trade, and use of cannabis, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids. And while the EU legislation precisely defines requirements and marketing authorisation procedures for medicinal products for all EU member states, there is no common regulatory framework for magistral and officinal preparations containing cannabinoids, as they are exempt from marketing authorisation. Instead, their regulation is left to each member state, and it is quite uneven at this point, mainly due to cultural and historical differences between the countries, leading to different access to non-authorised medicinal products. Therefore, to meet great public interest, harmonised approaches on cannabinoid-containing products without marketing authorisation would be welcome to level the playing field in the EU.

To read/download the review, follow this link>>>.


COVID-19 and HIV

Decades of investment in the HIV response have created platforms that are proving useful in battling COVID-19 – just as they were in responding to the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in western and central Africa.

The new report by UNAIDS examines how the experience of tackling HIV can help inform and guide effective, efficient, people-centred and sustainable COVID-19 responses.

This report focuses on three key issues: (1) how key lessons learned from the HIV response should inform COVID-19 responses; (2) how the HIV infrastructure is already driving COVID-19 responses and has the potential to catalyse accelerated progress through strategic action; and (3) how the COVID-19 response, informed by the history of responding to HIV, offers a historic opportunity to build a bridge to adaptable results-driven systems for health that work for people.

Key recommendations for the COVID-19 response include:

  • COVID-19 responses should benefit from learning from the HIV experience
  • Communities must be at the centre of COVID-19 responses
  • COVID-19 responses should be guided by human rights principles and practices
  • COVID-19 responses should be gender-sensitive and transformative
  • COVID-19 demands a multi-sectorial, all-of-government, all-of-society response
  • COVID-19 responses should leverage the HIV infrastructure
  • COVID-19 strategic information data must be used to guide action, increase accountability and improve programme performance
  • COVID-19 responses will require strong political leadership
  • We must use COVID-19 to reimagine systems for health

To read and download the report, follow this link>>>.


European Drug Report 2020

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) launched today the European Drug Report 2020: Trends and Developments. In its latest annual review – marking 25 years of monitoring – the agency describes the drug situation at the end of 2019, along with recent changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

High availability across all drug types, drug production within Europe and highly potent substances are among the concerns addressed today. New developments highlighted in the report include: record cocaine, and large heroin, seizures; a scaling up of synthetic drug production; and concerns around high-potency cannabis, new synthetic opioids and ecstasy tablets containing high levels of MDMA. Drawing on new EMCDDA rapid studies (Spring 2020), the report also reviews COVID-19 disruption to drug use and the market, which could have long-term implications for Europe’s drug services and law enforcement agencies. There are fears that innovative drug distribution models developed during lockdown, along with the economic impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities, will add to the challenges already posed by an abundant supply of drugs.

The following ‘Key issues’ have been identified in this year’s analysis:

  • Large drug shipments are increasingly intercepted
  • Cocaine’s role in Europe’s drug problem is increasing
  • Potential for increased heroin use and existing harms raise concerns
  • Understanding the public health impact of high-potency cannabis and new products
  • Increased and diverse drug production within Europe
  • Continuing availability of high-strength MDMA products highlights need for greater user awareness
  • Growing complexity in the drug market poses regulatory challenges and health risks
  • Need for new tools and innovative strategies to support the scaling-up of hepatitis C treatment
  • Drug overdose is increasingly associated with an ageing population
  • New psychoactive substances (NPS) have become a more persistent problem
  • Appearance of novel synthetic opioids is a worrying example of continuing market adaptability

To read the Report and get more information, follow this link>>>.

Presentations from the launch are available at Youtube:

Here is the video with a quick overview of the key issues covered in the European Drug Report 2020.

The Robert Carr Fund Fund’s 2020-2024 Strategy

The Robert Carr Fund has adopted the Fund’s strategy 2020 – 2024. The strategy was developed in a participatory process in 2019 and was officially launched at the AIDS2020 conference in July 2020.

The strategy will chart the Fund’s course through 2024. It is rooted in the strategic approaches of fostering a culture of learning and nurturing partnerships that benefit ISPs and advances three strategic priorities:

  • Movement leadership
  • Financial health and resilience
  • Innovation and creativity

To learn more about the Robert Carr Fund’s strategic priorities and approaches, please read the Strategic Plan 2020-2024 follow this link>>>.

You can also listen to the strategy presentation delivered during the AIDS2020, where it was discussed by the members of the civil society, International Steering Committee, and RCF Funders.

Craig McClure, the Chair of the ISC, emphasized that “The strategy builds on and amplifies the original vision for the Robert Carr Fund.  It aspires to a brighter future for civil society networks, while being grounded in a response to the unique challenges of our times“.


Collection of models of good practice

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Guidance Prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs identifies good practice for prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs. This guidance aims to support policy makers in Europe to plan adequate, evidence-based, pragmatic, and rationally designed public health responses for the prevention and control of infections among people who inject drugs. It aims at public health programme planners and decision makers working in the fields of infectious diseases, general public health, addiction and mental healthcare, social services, and drug control at national and regional levels.

Published n 2011, the Guidance is currently being updated. In addition to ongoing systematic reviews of peer-reviewed literature, a collection of models of good practice has been initiated by the two agencies, that should add practice-based evidence derived from interventions implemented in real-life, European settings.

The two EU agencies are inviting applications to report models of good practice targeting PWID population aiming to:

  • improve community-based testing
  • increase linkage to care
  • increase adherence to treatment of infection interventions
  • prevention or reduction of infections through successful health promotion approaches

The infections of interest are hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), HIV and tuberculosis (TB).

Should you or your organisation be interested in reporting a model of good practice that fits the scope of this call, please express your interest following this link>>>.

ESSD 2020 Conference Online

The 31st Annual Conference of the European Society for Social Drug Research (ESSD) in 2020 will be held online. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, the ESSD Board and Organising Committee decided to hold this year’s conference as a virtual event. This decision is based on the strong and positive responses received from ESSD members participating in the recent online survey.

The ESSD 2020 online conference will take place from Thursday, 24 September to Friday, 25 September, 2020 and is organised by the Department of Political Science of the University of Vienna.

The 31st Annual Conference of the ESSD will focus on a variety of themes including drug related implications of COVID-19, new trends in drug use and digitisation of drug markets. Additionally, there will be presentations on theories and concepts for drug policy. Lastly, methods in drug research and ethical challenges in drug research will be discussed. Presentations should preferably include a European dimension, and/or theoretical analysis that draws inferences from the local to the global.

Online registration is free of charge but required for presenting and non-presenting participants. Registration is now open and closes on September 20, 2020. No conference fees apply.

To get more information and register for the Conference, follow this link>>>.


European Drug Report 2020 to be released on 22 September

The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) launches its European Drug Report 2020: Trends and Developments in a live online media event on 22 September.

In this latest annual review – marking 25 years of monitoring – the EMCDDA describes the drug situation at the end of 2019, along with recent changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

The report provides a comprehensive analysis of patterns emerging across the EU, Turkey and Norway in the areas of drug supply, illicit drug use and associated public health problems. National data sets are also provided across these themes and on key harm-reduction interventions. In a new format, chapters are organised primarily by drug type and by related harms.

Accompanying the report this year will be a Key Issues summary (in 24 languages), presenting a selection of the main findings from the latest analysis, chosen for their policy relevance and general interest. The 2020 Statistical Bulletin, containing the European dataset underpinning the report, will also be available.

Attend the live online media event to hear the key issues and latest analysis on 22 September 2020 at 10.00 (Lisbon), 11.00 CET.

Further details will be available in the run-up to the launch at: www.emcdda.europa.eu/edr2020.


NGO Marketplace and civil society engagement at the CND

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) together with the UNODC Civil Society Team are inviting you to a joint webinar presenting the NGO Marketplace and giving guidance on how to engage effectively at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).

The webinar will include a tour through the new features of the NGO Marketplace, information on this years CND intersessional meetings and guidance on how to best apply for speaking opportunities.

To ensure a broad engagement, the webinar will be held twice:

  • Monday, 21 July 2020, 4 pm CEST, Vienna (2 pm UTC)
  • Tuesday, 22 July 2020, 10 am CEST, Vienna (8 am UTC)

To register, follow this link>>>.


Webinars on Human Rights Violations Data Gathering

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) planned to conduct a 2-day regional workshop for activists and professionals from South East Europe countries “Gathering data on human rights violations and reaction mechanisms” on 18 – 19 March 2020, in Belgrade, Serbia. Unfortunately, due to coronavirus pandemic, the workshop was postponed for better times.

The organiser finally decided not to wait for better times and provide the opportunity to take part in a series of 3 short webinars in a new exciting format.

The webinars will be organized in zoom on September 16, 23 and 31 and will last for 2 hours each from 14:00 till 16:00 (Central Europe time, GMT+2).

Goal of the workshop is to equip activists and professionals in South East Europe countries with knowledge on principles and mechanisms of data collection on human rights violations against key populations and follow-up reaction.

Facilitators of the workshop will be Mikhail Golichenko, International Legal Consultant, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Maria Plotko, Program Officer, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA).

Prior to each webinar you will be provided with 1-hour thematic videos/podcasts of experts dialogues, which you will examine beforehand, and during webinars we will jointly discuss them, answer your questions and work in interactive way.

Webinars will be open to all – number of participants is not limited!

The registration form will be published closer to the date of the first webinar. Please, follow the EHRA website for more information.


New Psychoactive Substance use in Eastern Europe

From the EHRA webpage

The phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS) started decades ago with the growth and production of drugs that replicate the effects of controlled drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and heroin) but avoid legislative control based on different chemical structures.

In recent years, the increasing use of NPS has led to new threats for health of people who use drugs (PWUD) – including overdose, psychotic reactions, high HIV risks due to multiple injections and increased number of sexual contacts. However, in many countries service providers such as harm reduction, drug treatment programs and ambulance services are not prepared to provide PWUD with quality support and counselling to reduce risks of NPS.

In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region the situation with NPS is truly alarming and has become one of the major challenges for the national public health systems, local NGOs, communities PWUD.

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) in partnership with School of Law, Swansea University undertook the project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Serbia” to generate a more accurate picture of the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to assess harm reduction and law enforcement responses to the emerging issues related to use of NPS. Results from this project will supplement scarce international data on the use of NPS in these countries, present a more accurate picture of their use, and provide information to national civil society organizations (CSOs) for political advocacy.

Irena Molnar, a researcher from the non-governmental organization Re Generation (the only CSO that conducts activities aimed at dealing with NPS in Serbia, DPNSEE member organisation), prepared the report for Serbia, the only country involved in the project from South East Europe. Here is a brief overview of it:

The appearance of NPS in Serbia is not a new phenomenon, but their market share is very small. NPS have been talked about for a whole decade, although scientific research and answers to their appearance in the form of special services aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of users, but also the whole society, have not progressed at all.

Among other things, the report examines in detail the actions taken by the state in the context of this issue and formulates recommendations for improvement. For example, in order to improve the response to problems related to the emergence and use of NPS, greater state involvement is needed in terms of adapting to rapid market changes. This means not only putting substances on the banned list, for which Serbia is very up to date, but also improving the entire system.

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