Drugs to be regulated around Europe

This year started with a few interesting news about actions to regulate drugs. Here is a glimpse from the news from three European Union countries.

Icelandic Government Proposes Drug Decriminalisation

In the second part of January, the Icelandic government has proposed the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use by adults and launched a consultation exercise to gauge public opinion on the matter. The public consultation is open until 31 January.

The initiative, led by Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir, is intended as a harm-prevention measure. It includes the provision of additional resources to support users, with particular focus on more marginalised members of society.

This new approach is based on regarding users as patients rather than criminals and follows the minister’s successful introduction last year of a bill to provide safe spaces for drug injection.

The original article is available following this link>>>.

Malta will allow users to grow cannabis plants for personal use

Prime Minister on Malta Robert Abela, on 18 February when speaking to journalists, announced that cannabis users should not go to jail and will be able to grow a limited amount of plants as he fleshes out some aspects of government’s proposed reform. Abela said Cabinet will shortly be discussing a White Paper that will be published for public consultation. The reform is being piloted by Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar.

He said the reform will end police arrests for people caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis and hinted that the current limit of 3.5g allowed at law would increase.

It was a Labour Party electoral pledge to initiate a discussion on the legalisation of cannabis but so far, no formal proposals have been put forward despite ongoing consultations.

The original article is available following this link>>>.

Norway to Decriminalize Personal Drug Use in ‘Historic’ Shift

Norway plans to decriminalize the personal use of illegal drugs in small quantities, citing recommendations from the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

The Nordic country will abolish criminal liability “for the use of drugs and the acquisition and possession of a small amount of drugs for own use,” according to legal proposals by the health-care ministry to lawmakers, published on Friday. The acts will be illegal, but not punishable.

Norway, along with its Nordic neighbours, has some of Europe’s highest drug-induced mortality rates. In contrast, the region’s welfare systems rank among the best globally. Norway had 66 cases of drug-related deaths per million adults in 2017, compared with an average of 23.7 for the European Union, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The police will confiscate the below-threshold drugs found on any person, who will then be ordered to appear at a municipal advisory unit.

The original article is available following this link>>>.

 

Cannabis – narcotic drug or/and medicine

As part of the Serbian Visions Multicongress, organised by the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (AHK) from 1 to 5 February 2021, DPNSEE will hosted an online discussion “Cannabis – narcotic drug or/and medicine” on Friday 5 February.

Despite a very unfavourable time (Friday evening), 18 participants from Serbia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia joined. Most of them were from civil society organisations, but also we had those from the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia and the Institute for Public Health in Serbia.

List of speakers included:

  • Milutin Milošević, DPNSEE
  • Nebojša Đurasović, Prevent, Serbia
  • Vlatko Dekov, HOPS, North Macedonia
  • Tomaž Koren, konoplja.org, Slovenia

The discussion was led around three main topics: how to regulate cannabis, medical value of cannabis (in the light of the new decision of the UN Committee on Drugs and Narcotics) and the latest developments in the region. Participants actively contributed with their positions and questions.

Recording of the discussion is available at the Serbian Visions Youtube channel.

 

DPNSEE again at the Serbia Visions multicongress

As part of the Serbia Visions Multicongress, organised by the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce from 1 to 5 February 2021, DPNSEE will organise online discussion “Cannabis – narcotic drug or/and medicine“.

The discussion will be held in Serbian via Microsoft Teams application on Friday 5 February from 20:00 to 21:30 PM. You may join the event following this link>>>.

List of speakers include:

  • Milutin Milošević, DPNSEE
  • Nebojša Đurasović, Prevent, Serbia
  • Vlatko Dekov, HOPS, North Macedonia
  • Tomaž Koren, konoplja.org, Slovenia

Programme of the event is as follows

 

‘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.

 

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>>>.

 

Changes in cannabis policies: insights from the Americas

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) just published a new report “Monitoring and evaluating changes in cannabis policies: insights from the Americas“. This report provides an overview of the changes in cannabis policies in the Americas and the evidence emerging from evaluations of their impact. The focus of the report is shifted to recent changes to regulatory systems in the Americas that permit the consumption of cannabis by adults for non-medical, recreational purposes.

Over the past 50 years, several jurisdictions in Europe, Australia and the Americas have reduced the penalties associated with using or possessing small amounts of cannabis. As of December 2019, Canada, Uruguay and 10 US states have gone further and passed laws that license the production and retail sale of cannabis, mostly by private companies, to adults for non-medical – sometimes referred to as recreational – purposes. With discussions about alternatives to cannabis prohibition becoming more common in some parts of the world, there is a growing interest in learning from the cannabis policy changes in the Americas.

To learn more about these new cannabis regimes and their consequences, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) commissioned a review of the changes governing recreational cannabis policies in the Americas and an overview of preliminary evaluations. Findings from this research are intended to inform discussions about the development of a framework for monitoring and evaluating policy developments related to cannabis regulatory reform.

To download the report, follow this link>>>

Cannabis legalisation in the United States – Towards a regulated market?

The French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) published a memo which describes the regulatory models that have been implemented since 2014 in the American states that have legalised cannabis, highlighting their differences and similarities. It also discusses the reform processes and common features of states that have legalised cannabis for medical and recreational use.

Author of the memorandum is Ivana Obradovic, OFDT Deputy Director.

After five full years of reform in Colorado and Washington State (2014 – 2018), first outcomes can be reported – although it is not clear whether they are directly attributable to cannabis being legalised. The most significant effects relate to the quick and large-scale industrial expansion of the cannabis supply chain. However, this economic boom has also seen the emergence of three public health concerns:

  • The substance is now aimed at all population profiles, from people who have never tried it to regular users and from young people to seniors. The increase in supply and its diversification have increased the incentives to use it, which is only made worse by marketing strategies emphasising cannabis’ “therapeutic virtues” or its dimension of socialisation.
  • The increase in the number of emergency calls and hospitalisations following acute intoxication highlights the difficulty of effectively regulating substances put on the market (particularly in terms of the concentration of active ingredients). At the same time, cannabis-related treatment demands have declined.
  • The decline in both the perceived dangerousness of cannabis and retail prices have led to it becoming more accessible and the substance being “normalised” which, according to public health stakeholders, could ultimately increase the risks and harm associated with its use (particularly among the younger generation).

To read the memo, follow this link>>>

European Cannabis Report

The European Cannabis Report™: Edition 4, published by Prohibition Partners, is the most extensive review to date of the European cannabis industry. It examines legislation, regulation, market size and market opportunities in 33 European countries, analysing myriad data points.

Home to more than 740 million people, a population more than double that of the United States and Canada combined, Europe is set to become the world’s largest legal cannabis market over the next five years. In the last 12 months alone, the European cannabis industry has grown more than in the last six years. Six countries have announced new legislation and over €500million has been invested in European cannabis businesses and as our exclusive research shows, Europe’s cannabis market is estimated to be worth up to €123 billion by 2028.

The European Cannabis Report™ 4th Edition examines:

  • Commercial and business opportunities in 33 European markets
  • Changing legislation and new regulatory guidelines across the region
  • Emerging trends, market forecasts and industry insights

Founded in 2017, Prohibition Partners specialise in explaining the latest legislative developments and key trends in the cannabis industry aiming to help understand the cannabis industry and its increasingly segmented sectors through authoritative research and unique strategic advice on licensing, regulatory and business opportunities. Their reports provide the most in-depth coverage of the international cannabis industry.

To obtain the report, follow this link>>>

Growing like weeds?

The cultivation of cannabis in Albania goes back several decades, but experienced a peak around 2016, at which point the police undertook an eradication operation in an attempt to curtail the country’s widespread cannabis production industry. A more recent resurgence in cannabis cultivation, however, points to the fact that the underlying drivers of this illicit economy are still in place. Without a concerted effort to address collusion in the cannabis market and the country’s structural conditions, which entice many young people to seek a livelihood in cannabis production, the conditions that enable the market are unlikely to be disrupted.

Key points of the brief on this issue “Growing like weeds? Rethinking Albania’s culture of cannabis cultivation“, published by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South-Eastern Europe, include:

  • The conditions that enable cannabis cultivation in Albania have been in place for many years.
  • Despite police crackdowns on cultivation, the phenomenon continues to be pervasive.
  • Cultivating cannabis is seen as a source of income for many, particularly the young.
  • Colluding state officials are among the drivers of the Albanian cannabis economy.
  • A new approach is needed to break the cycle of reliance that the cannabis economy provides and attract young people into legitimate work.

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of prominent law enforcement, governance and development practitioners who are dedicated to seeking new and innovative strategies and responses to organized crime.

Policy briefs on current issues in the Western Balkans are published on a regular basis by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South-Eastern Europe which operates under The Global Initiative.  The Observatory is a platform that connects and empowers civil-society actors in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The Observatory aims to enable civil society to identify, analyse and map criminal trends, and their impact on illicit flows, governance, development, interethnic relations, security and the rule of law, and supports them in their monitoring of national dynamics and wider regional and international organized-crime trends.

The briefs draw on the expertise of a local civil-society network who provide new data and contextualize trends related to organized criminal activities and state responses to them.

To read this brief, follow this link>>>