Depenalisation, diversion and decriminalization: A realist review

Alternatives to criminalization for the simple possession of illicit drugs are increasingly of interest to policy makers. But there is no existing theoretically based, empirically tested framework that can inform development and evaluation.

The European Journal of Criminology paper “Depenalisation, diversion and decriminalization: A realist review and programme theory of alternatives to criminalization for simple drug possession” presents a realist programme theory of such alternatives.

It bases this on a realist review decriminalization, which followed the Realist and Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards (RAMESES). It describes the systematic process of searching the literature in English on nine relevant countries (Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Jamaica, Netherland, Portugal, the UK, the USA) for information on alternative measures in three categories: depenalisation, diversion and.

It shows how these measures – in theory and in practice – combine with pre-existing social conditions and institutional contexts to trigger mechanisms across three causal pathways (normative, criminal justice and health and social services). It shows how some posited causal processes are more empirically supported than others.

Alternative measures can reduce harms imposed by criminal justice processes without increasing drug use or related health and crime harms, but this depends on specific combinations of contexts, mechanisms and outcomes.

To read full paper, follow this link>>>

Drug decriminalisation interactive map

TalkingDrugs, an online platforms dedicated to providing unique news and analysis on drug policy, harm reduction and related issues around the world, published an interactive map which provides an overview of decriminalisation models, offering insights into decriminalisation laws, their implementation and impact.

The criminalisation of people who use drugs compounds drug-related challenges and worsens health and welfare outcomes. The gold standard of decriminalisation is the removal of all punishment for drug use, and the availability and accessibility of evidence- and human rights-based harm reduction, health and social services on a voluntary basis.

Across the world, there is a growing number of jurisdictions where the possession of scheduled drugs for personal use has been decriminalised. Some form of decriminalisation has been adopted in 30 countries – with significant differences and levels of effectiveness. This interactive map provides an overview of these models, offering insights into decriminalisation laws, their implementation and impact. In some countries and federal states, this has been extended to the cultivation of cannabis for personal use or the sharing of substances where there is no financial gain (also known as ‘social sharing’).

The following elements are included in the map:

  • Threshold quantities used to determine whether the activity is decriminalised (if there are no thresholds other considerations used are outlined);
  • The agency responsible for determining the activity is decriminalised;
  • The activities that are decriminalised, and for which substances;
  • The applicable administrative / civil sanctions or whether no sanctions are applied.

In South East Europe, only Croatia adopted decriminalisation of possession a ‘small quantity’ of any drug. The decriminalisation of drug consumption and possession for personal use means that the person no longer has a criminal record, so the stigma associated with people who use and/or are dependent on drugs is reduced. The law also gives more flexible treatment options. Croatia’s model of decriminalisation is codified in the country’s laws through statutory reforms and was introduced in 2013.

This map has been developed in partnership with Release, the International Drug Policy Consortium, and Accountability International, thanks to the financial support of the Robert Carr Fund and Open Society Foundations. This map will be updated regularly. If you do have any comments or feedback please contact Talking Drugs.

To see the map and all data it contains, follow this link>>>

A call for decriminalization of simple possession

The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which oversees compliance with the three international drug control conventions, recently issued an alert regarding policies on drug-related offenses.

In the announcement, the Board advocates for the decriminalization of simple possession, underscoring that “There is no obligation stemming from the conventions to incarcerate drug users who commit minor offences.”

In many countries, writes the Board, the “policies to address drug-related criminality, including personal use, have continued to be rooted primarily in punitive criminal justice responses,” such as prosecution and incarceration. Meanwhile, “alternative measures such as treatment, rehabilitation and social integration remain underutilized.”

The INCB also points to the discretion that is at each country’s disposal, noting that though Member States “have an obligation under the drug control conventions to establish certain behaviours as punishable offences,” that responsibility is subject to their Constitutions. Furthermore, when it comes to “minor drug-related offences including possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use . . . the conventions do not oblige States to adopt punitive responses.”

You can read the full alert following this link>>>

Source: cannabiswire.com

Concert for decriminalisation

“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.

Police statement of support for drug policy reform

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership and the Centre for Law Enforcement and Public Health held this side event to demonstrate police support for the urgent reform of drug policies. The event can be summarised as follows: There is one sector which knows better than any other how badly a prohibitive and punitive approach to the use of illicit drugs has failed – the Police. Police daily see the harmful impact of prohibition law enforcement on individuals and communities, and recurrent failure of the system to help those suffering. But the Police voice is rarely heard in debates about drug policy, despite their first-hand and expert experience.

Photos credits Steve Rolles (https://twitter.com/SteveTransform)

This was a historic moment: the representatives of the British police and several European countries presented a milestone declaration for the reduction of risks, decriminalisation of drug use and regulation of drugs. Presenting the statement, Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham Constabulary, clearly emphasized that “Prohibition does not work”.

The two organisations call for an immediate end to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings, the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment and other human rights abuses committed by some governments in the name of the “war on drugs”.

The essence of the statement is that “eliminating this “war on drugs” approach would mean: less drug-related crime; less violence in the community; drastically reduced criminal profits and funds for other criminal activities; reduced prison populations and less pressure on criminal justice systems; less stigma and discrimination; and improved health outcomes for people who use drugs.

The statement was signed by an international collective of Law Enforcement professionals.

The statement is available following this link>>>>

UN Agencies endorsed decriminalisation of people who use drugs-test

The Chief Executives Board of the UN, representing 31 UN agencies, has adopted a common position on drug policy that endorses decriminalisation of possession and use. A new position statement on drug policy from the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB), chaired by the UN Secretary General and representing 31 UN agencies, has expressed strong and unanimous support for the decriminalisation of possession and use of drugs. The statement calls on member states to “promote alternatives to conviction and punishment in appropriate cases, including the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use”.

While a number of UN agencies have made similar calls in the past, this CEB statement means it is now the common position for the entire UN family of agencies. Crucially, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – the lead UN agency on drug policy – has also endorsed the position; finally clarifying their previously ambiguous position on decriminalisation.

The statement also supports the development and implementation of policies that put people, health and human rights at the centre, by providing a scientific evidence-based, available, accessible and affordable recovery-oriented continuum of care based upon prevention, treatment and support.

It welcomes and significant step towards ‘system wide coherence’ within the UN system on drug policy. This has been a key call of civil society groups long frustrated by the lack of coherence across the UN and the marginalisation of health, rights and development agendas by UN drug agencies whose historic orientation has been towards punishment, law enforcement and eradication.

The statement is especially important as it comes in the run-up to a ministerial-level meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs this week, which will review the 10-year UN global drug strategy and agree plans for the next one. The utopian goal to achieve a drug free world by 2019 was obviously not realistic and possible with outdated strategies and approaches. It will be interesting to see if a new approach will be taken.

To read full report from the meeting, including the position statement on drug policy, follow this link>>>>

UN Agencies endorsed decriminalisation of people who use drugs

The Chief Executives Board of the UN, representing 31 UN agencies, has adopted a common position on drug policy that endorses decriminalisation of possession and use. A new position statement on drug policy from the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB), chaired by the UN Secretary General and representing 31 UN agencies, has expressed strong and unanimous support for the decriminalisation of possession and use of drugs. The statement calls on member states to “promote alternatives to conviction and punishment in appropriate cases, including the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use”.

While a number of UN agencies have made similar calls in the past, this CEB statement means it is now the common position for the entire UN family of agencies. Crucially, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – the lead UN agency on drug policy – has also endorsed the position; finally clarifying their previously ambiguous position on decriminalisation.

The statement also supports the development and implementation of policies that put people, health and human rights at the centre, by providing a scientific evidence-based, available, accessible and affordable recovery-oriented continuum of care based upon prevention, treatment and support.

It welcomes and significant step towards ‘system wide coherence’ within the UN system on drug policy. This has been a key call of civil society groups long frustrated by the lack of coherence across the UN and the marginalisation of health, rights and development agendas by UN drug agencies whose historic orientation has been towards punishment, law enforcement and eradication.

The statement is especially important as it comes in the run-up to a ministerial-level meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs this week, which will review the 10-year UN global drug strategy and agree plans for the next one. The utopian goal to achieve a drug free world by 2019 was obviously not realistic and possible with outdated strategies and approaches. It will be interesting to see if a new approach will be taken.

To read full report from the meeting, including the position statement on drug policy, follow this link>>>>

Consultations in the Office for Combating Drugs

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia held a meeting with civil society organisations on 25 February 2019. Besides 11 organisations which signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Office in 2018 (including DPNSEE and 3 of its member organisations), 4 new organisations which established formal cooperation with the Office also joined the meeting.

Most of the meeting was dedicated to the proposals for amendments to the Criminal Law related to drug-related offenses. DPNSEE sent a formal proposal to the Ministry of Justice, the Working group for changes of the Criminal Law it created, The Office for Combating Drugs and the Office for support to the civil society organisations proposing decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal use and protection of civil society organisations providing services to drug users. The proposal is available in Serbian following this link>>>.

The proposal was appraised as a very good, clear, concise and evidence based, but concerns were expressed that it may not be supported due to current situation in the country and increased conservatism in relation to the drug use. The participants emphasized the need to establish a system of accreditation of civil society organisations services. It should include all elements of their work, from prevention, harm reduction, treatment to social services and rehabilitation.

The Office will, through their representative, present civil society proposals to the Working group for changes of the Criminal Law.

The participation of civil society organisations representatives in the Working group to prepare the new Action plan for implementing the National Drug Strategy was appraised as a very good example of partnership. The Office will propose full involvement of the civil society in designing the new Strategy.

The participants at the meeting also got acquainted with the current activities of the Office on Drugs Policy, exchanged experiences on the previous cooperation defined in the Memorandum and made suggestions for improving it.