A group of drug policy reformers from Italy, France and possibly Belgium is working on the text of a European Citizens Initiative concerning a comprehensive reform of cannabis regulations at the EU level. The Initiative aims at making the EU adopt a common policy on the control and legal regulation of cannabis production, adult use and sale.
There is currently a heterogeneous legal map as regards cannabis policies in the EU. The question of coherence and discrimination is primordial. A common policy on the control and legal regulation of cannabis production, adult use and sale would: (a) ensure equality before the law and non-discrimination of all EU citizens; (b) protect consumers and monitor health security; (c) end cannabis illicit trafficking. Let’s leap toward the legalization of cannabis and the harmonization of national legislation across the EU.
Slovenian National Institute of Biology and University Medical Centre Ljubljana, with MGC Pharma Research and Development Division, conducted the study about the treatment of high-grade brain tumours, i.e. glioblastoma with cannabinoids. The general aim of the research was to develop formulations to define the protocols for the treatment.
Study evaluated cannabinoid receptor proteins that may add to identify the most effective cytotoxic cannabinoids, known so far, e.g. CBD and THC ratios and further their possible synergistic effects with chemotherapeutic Temozolomide (‘TMZ’) with regards to the treatment of glioblastoma patients.
Conclusions of the study
Cannabinoids, especially at increasing THC concentrations, reduce the viability of glioblastoma cells.
Targeting glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) that are more resistant to chemotherapy. GSC has so far proved to be more vulnerable to cannabinoids than were differentiated cell (publication in preparation).
At optimal concentration for each patient, the defined cannabinoids composition represents promising tool to reduce tumour burden.
Research collaboration is part of MGC Pharma’s strategy of partnering with leading research institutions to examine opportunities to develop new pharma products based on proven cannabinoid formulations in pre-and clinical studies.
The study results can be viewed on the Company’s website and will be presented by the National Institute of Biology at the 2nd International Annual Congress on Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicines in Barcelona, Spain on 23-24 May 2019.
“The initiative to change the cannabis legislation” – Association IRKA, together with the Social cannabis club Beograd and cannabis vlog Domaćica, organised the Concert for Cannabis Decriminalisation on 4 May 2019, if front of the National Parliament in Belgrade, Serbia. The concert was dedicated to celebration of the International day for cannabis-related protests and events, known around the World as the “Weed Day”.
IRKA is the first official association advocating cannabis legalization in Serbia, founded in August 2013. Members are patients, their family members and all the citizens who want to help them achieve the ability to legally obtain and use cannabis and the extract of cannabis flowers in order to treat their conditions.
A selection of musicians, mainly reggae and rock musicians, performed from late afternoon to the midnight for hundreds of fans and much more people passing by.
The 62 Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs ended on Friday 22 March. It was a large event, with 2.400 participants, more than 130 Member States and representatives of over 90 civil society organisations and over 20 intergovernmental organisations. The CND 2019 was chaired by Ambassador Mirghani Abbaker Altayeb Bakhet of Sudan.
The meeting began with a ministerial segment on 14 and 15 March aimed at taking stock of the implementation of the commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem.
The regular segment, which lasted for the full working week, agreed on 8 resolutions on various topics including strengthening forensic detection capability for synthetic drugs, promoting alternative development and measures to prevent transmission of HIV for women who use drugs.
Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, underlined that “We need to enhance our efforts to bridge the gaps in addressing the persistent and emerging trends and challenges through the implementation of balanced, integrated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary and scientific evidence-based responses to the world drug problem.”
The civil society was not so happy with the event. Even though it was clear and based on evidence that the target to “eliminate or significantly reduce” drug use and trafficking in 10 years is far from achieving, the declaration adopted at the ministerial segment doesn’t include a significant shift and genuine re-orientation of drug policies which is so much needed. The civil society strongly recommend ending punitive approaches towards vulnerable groups and individuals. Ann Fordham, the Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, speaking in the name of a global network of more than 180 NGOs including DPNSEE and several our member organisations, emphasized that “Ending punitive approaches towards those most vulnerable will require that global drug control going forward puts people and communities at the centre, and seeks to improve their living conditions, address their situations of vulnerability and protect their human rights, in line with the SDG vision of ‘leaving no one behind’.”
The World Health Organisation proposal to reschedule cannabis from schedule IV (same class as heroin, with high abuse potential and no recognised medical value) to schedule I was not discussed with the explanation that it would “allow more time for Member States’ delegations to consider such a potentially radical decision”. But, it is clear that there is no consensus to adopt it and most probably it won’t be reached in a near future.
At the regular meeting, countries mainly glorify their results in fighting drug problem, and civil society organisations mainly appear only on side events so we started discussing if our presence there has a significant effect. As Péter Sárosi, Editor in Chief of the Drugreporter, well noted “Several member states still consider NGOs hostile forces who disturb the business-as-usual operation of the UN“. So, “Tons of expertise and knowledge is channelled to the sometimes rather dull conversations.”
Two DPNSEE Board members, the Executive Director and a few representatives of member organisations participated in both segments the CND. It was a good opportunity to exchange with our partners, make new and build new contacts, present our work and learn about new developments. Most of the benefit was achieved at the side events and in informal contacts.
The side events held on 21 March you may be interested to hear about:
FAAAT – International think & do tank launched at the Ministerial segment of the 62nd UN Committee for Narcotic Drugs the final version of their report “Cannabis & Sustainable Development. Paving the way for the next decade in Cannabis and hemp policies“. A side event with this purpose was held on 15 March 2019.
This discussion paper highlights important research and experiential outcomes from scholars, civil society organizations, affected populations, and market stakeholders. It seeks to show the potential of the Cannabis plant in appropriately regulated settings as transformative for our societies – so long as ethical practices and sustainable approaches are kept central.
This document is not intended to be an exhaustive guide. It is designed as a valuable resource to contribute to post-prohibition studies, and help understand, from diverse public policy perspectives, the links between the policies of Cannabis and the Sustainable Development Goals and the impact of the former on the latter.
“Decriminalization of the use of cannabis can have economic benefits for citizens, for agriculture and for the state,” is the general conclusion of the hearing “The economic and health benefits of legalization of cannabis in the Republic of Macedonia”. The debate was organised in the Economic Affairs Committee of the Assembly of the Republic of Northern Macedonia on 22 February 2019..
Various opinions on the economic and health benefits of cannabis, its use in agriculture and industry, the need for appropriate legal changes for better regulation of this matter, recommendations and appropriate education of the necessary personnel were highlighted at the public debate.
John Ilija Apelgrin and Janaki Mitrovski, founders of the NGO Bilka addressed the public debate. Representatives of Neuromedica Medical Center, Clinic for Pediatric Diseases, civil sector, Clinic for Toxicology, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food, Faculty of Pharmacy, NGO Bivium and several parliamentarians participated in the debate.
Global health experts at the United Nations are recommending that marijuana and its key components be formally rescheduled under international drug treaties.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for whole-plant marijuana, as well as cannabis resin, to be removed from Schedule IV—the most restrictive category of a 1961 drug convention signed by countries from around the world.
The body also wants delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its isomers to be completely removed from a separate 1971 drug treaty and instead added to Schedule I of the 1961 convention, according to a WHO document that has not yet been formally released but was circulated by cannabis reform advocates.
Marijuana and cannabis resin would also remain in Schedule I of the 1961 treaty—they are currently dual-designated in Schedules I and IV, with IV being reserved for those substances that are seen as particularly harmful with limited medical benefits. (That’s different from the U.S. federal system, under which Schedule I is where the supposedly most dangerous and restricted drugs—like marijuana, heroin and LSD—are classified.)
WHO is also moving to make clear that cannabidiol and CBD-focused preparations containing no more than 0.2 percent THC are “not under international control” at all. It had previously been the case that CBD wasn’t scheduled under the international conventions, but the new recommendation is to make that even more clear.
Cannabis extracts and tinctures would be removed from Schedule I of the 1961 treaty under the recommendations, and compounded pharmaceutical preparations containing THC would be placed in Schedule III of that convention.
A number of countries that have historically opposed drug policy reforms, such as Russia and China, are expected to oppose the change in cannabis’s classification.
Other nations like Canada and Uruguay, which have legalize marijuana in contravention of the current treaties, are likely to back the reform, as are a number of European and South American nations that allow medical cannabis.
Also, while some experts state that this is a step forward towards serious independent researches on use of cannabis, others think that the news is still not good enough for consumers and those using cannabis for medical purpose.
In Georgia, on 30 July, the Constitutional Court decided that punishment of use of cannabis in private without a doctor’s prescription was in breach of Article 12 of the Constitution, which states ‘Everyone has the right to the free development of their personality’. The court found that the aims of protecting public health or public security could not justify state punishment of cannabis use in private. Penalising cultivation and possession for personal use were not contested in this case and therefore not considered.
In South Africa, on 18 September, 10 judges of the Constitutional Court ruled that it was not reasonable to penalise an adult who cultivates, or uses, or possesses cannabis for personal consumption in private. The laws were incompatible with Article 14 of the Constitution, which states that ‘Everyone has the right to privacy which includes the right not to have […] their possessions seized’.
In Mexico, on 31 October, the Supreme Court gave its fifth judgement since 2015 stating that penalising private cultivation, possession and use of cannabis (and tetrahydrocannabinol) was unconstitutional, against the principle of free development of the personality. Other courts are obliged to follow Supreme Court judgments once five similar rulings have been delivered.
All three courts emphasised that any private use of cannabis should not be in the presence of children.
The courts also commented on trends in international developments in cannabis policy and use. The Georgian court noted the increasing application of human rights law in modern legal standards, and the South African court ruled that such state interference is not justified ‘in open and democratic societies’.
The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8(1), states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’, with limits, and the ‘private life’ has been interpreted to include the right to develop one’s own personality.”
The findings show that for herbal cannabis, concentrations of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (‘THC’ – the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis) increased by a similar amount each year, from 5% in 2006 to 10% in 2016.
For cannabis resin, THC concentrations were relatively stable from 2006 to 2011 (from 8% to 10%) but then increased rapidly from 2011 to 2016 (from 10% to 17%). The price of cannabis resin also increased, but to a lesser extent than for herbal cannabis.
Cannabis resin typically contains cannabidiol (CBD) in addition to THC. CBD has recently attracted considerable interest due to its potential to treat several medical conditions including childhood epilepsy syndromes, psychosis and anxiety. But, when present in cannabis, CBD may offset some of the harmful effects of THC such as paranoia and memory impairment.
Cannabis-containing higher levels of THC and/or lower levels of CBD has been linked to greater long-term harms such as the development of cannabis dependence, and an increased risk of psychotic illness. New resin production techniques in Morocco and Europe have increased levels of THC, but not CBD.
Leader of the research team Dr Tom Freeman indicates that “CBD has the potential to make cannabis safer, without limiting the positive effects users seek. What we are seeing in Europe is an increase in THC and either stable or decreasing levels of CBD, potentially making cannabis more harmful. These changes in the illicit market are largely hidden from scientific investigation and are difficult to target by policy-makers. An alternative option could be to attempt to control THC and CBD content through regulation.”
What is the evidence base for the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids? What is the difference between cannabis preparations and medicinal products and why is this important? How is this issue regulated in the EU? These and other questions are explored in a new report published today by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA): Medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids: questions and answers for policymaking. The report responds to growing interest in this topic as more European countries develop policies and practice in this area.
ʻMany EU countries now allow, or are considering allowing, the medical use of cannabis or cannabinoids in some formʼ, states the report. But approaches vary widely between countries, both in terms of the products permitted and the regulatory frameworks governing their provision. Understanding this variety of national approaches is important for an informed policy debate in this area in the EU.
The report aims to explore current practice in the EU regarding the provision of these substances for medical purposes and clarify some of the complex issues in this area in order to support science, policy and practice. The report notes that the terms ʻmedical use of cannabis and cannabinoidsʼ can refer to a wide variety of products and preparations that may contain different active ingredients and use different routes of administration.
The publication provides a state-of-the-art overview of evidence for the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids. It concludes that more research and clinical studies are needed to fill ʻimportant gaps in the evidenceʼ.
The report highlights the challenges of decision-making in this area and summarises the multiple issues that governments may consider when deciding whether to make cannabis or cannabinoids available for medical use. These include: the types of product that patients will be allowed to use; the medical conditions for which such products can be used; and the type of medical and regulatory supervision under which patients are allowed to use them.
EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel says: ‘In most countries, the provision of cannabis and cannabinoid products and preparations for medical purposes has evolved over time, often in response to patient demand or product development. This report seeks to provide an objective look at current evidence, practice and experience in this very fast-moving field and describe the complex patchwork of approaches adopted in the EU and beyond. Lastly, it points to the importance of developing a common language on this issue to help build a base for evaluation and assessmentʼ.