Refocus drug laws

Using extracts from the GCDP press release

The Global Commission on Drug Policy presented their report “Enforcement of Drug Laws: Refocusing on Organized Crime Elites” on 7 May 2020.

In this first report of this decade, the Commission outlines how the current international drug control regime works for the benefit of transnational organized crime. It highlights how years of repressive policies targeted at nonviolent drug offenders have resulted in mass incarceration and produced countless adverse impacts on public health, the rule of law, and social cohesion, whilst at the same time reinforcing criminal elites.

The report argues that the top layers of criminal organizations must be disempowered, through policy responses and political will. It provides implementable recommendations for the replacement of the current policy of targeting non-violent drug offenders and resorting to mass incarceration. Law enforcement must focus on the most dangerous and protected actors and primary drivers of the corruption, violence, and chaos around illegal drug markets.

The control of psychoactive substances in a rational and efficient way must be cantered on people and their needs, and on a repressive approach against criminal elites who benefit from the illegal drug markets’ proceeds and have access to high-level networks, financial and legal support as needed. Only responsible legal regulation of currently prohibited drugs, with careful implementation, has the potential to disrupt criminal organizations and deprive them of their most lucrative sources of income.

The report contains research on the prerequisites for a successful transition towards the reform of the outdated ideology-based international drug control regime, and provides cutting-edge recommendations on how to ensure that international criminal organizations are effectively disempowered by the transition towards a legally regulated drug market under the control of governments.

The overcrowding of prisons worldwide is a direct result of drug policing,” Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, told AFP. “These are young people, often only those who possess drugs for their own consumption, or non-violent criminals who are there generally due to a lack of other opportunities to make a living.

The report is available following this link>>>

Recording of the report presentation held on 7 May 2020 is available here>>>

 

COVID-19 and drug markets

UNODC press release

Measures implemented by governments to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have led to drug trafficking routes by air being disrupted, along with drastic reduction or increased interdiction in trafficking routes over land. Some drug supply chains have been interrupted and traffickers are looking for alternative routes, including maritime routes, depending on the types of drugs smuggled. These are some of the findings from a report on drug market trends during COVID-19, launched on 7 May by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine tend to be trafficked across continents by air more than other types of drugs. Restrictions on air travel are, therefore, likely to have a particularly drastic effect on this illegal cargo. The bulk of cocaine is trafficked by sea and large cargos have continued to be detected in European ports during the pandemic.

So far, heroin has mostly been trafficked by land. But due to the pandemic, maritime routes seem to be increasingly used now to traffic heroin as shown by seizures of opiates in the Indian Ocean.

Trafficking in cannabis, however, may not be affected in the same way as that of heroin or cocaine, given that its production often takes place near consumer markets and traffickers are thus less reliant on long, transregional shipments of large quantities of the drug.

 

Drug consumption trends

Several countries have reported drug shortages at the retail level. This can lead to an overall decrease in consumption, but mainly of drugs mostly consumed in recreational settings.

In the case of heroin, however, a shortage in supply can lead to the consumption of harmful, domestically produced substances – heroin shortages have been reported by countries in Europe, South West Asia and North America and some countries in Europe have warned that heroin users may even switch to fentanyl and its derivatives.

An increase in the use of pharmaceutical products such as benzodiazepines has also been reported, already doubling their price in certain areas. Another harmful pattern resulting from drug shortages is the increase in injecting drug use and the sharing of injecting equipment. All of which carry the risk of spreading diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and COVID-19 itself. The risk of drug overdose may also increase among those injecting drugs and who are infected with COVID-19.

 

Trends in drug production

Restrictions resulting from lockdown could hinder the production of opiates with the key months of harvest in Afghanistan being March to June. Due to COVID-19 labour force might not be able or willing to travel to areas where opium poppy is grown in the country, which could affect this year’s harvest.

Cocaine production also appears to be impeded in Colombia, as producers are suffering from a shortage of gasoline. While in Bolivia, COVID-19 is limiting the ability of state authorities to control coca bush cultivation, which could lead to an increase in coca production. In Peru, however, a drop in the price of cocaine suggests a reduction in trafficking opportunities. This may discourage coca bush cultivation in the short-term, although the looming economic crisis may lead more farmers to take up coca cultivation in all the major cocaine producing countries.

A decline in international trade in the current pandemic could also lead to shortages in the supply of precursors, vital for the manufacture of heroin as well as for synthetic drugs. A limited supply in Mexico, for example seems to have disrupted the manufacture of methamphetamine and fentanyl, while in Lebanon and Syria it is affecting the production of captagon. Czechia on the other hand expects a shortage of metamphetamine for the same reasons.

In the long-run, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to lead to a lasting and profound transformation of the drug markets, which can be fully understood only after more research is done. The economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 may affect people who are already in position of socioeconomic disadvantage harder than others.

The COVID-19 and drug markets Report is available online here >>>

Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus

Did organized crime groups continue with their activity at the time of Coronavirus, which trends in the criminal activities in the Western Balkans can be noticed in the first six weeks of the pandemic and which scenarios can be envisaged for the future?

Saša Đorđević

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy published a report on criminal activities in the Western Balkans during the COVID-19 outbreak – Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings. The report was prepared by their researcher Saša Đorđević.

The report states that “The region has experienced a small increase in the price of marijuana, which is still very much present on the market. The same applies to stimulant drugs” and that “People with drug and alcohol problems, persons living with HIV, those who are susceptible to stress, citizens with mental health problems, pensioners, the poor, the homeless and recently released prisoners are the biggest potential victims of crime during this pandemic crisis.”

Scenarios envisaged for the future include the one that “There will be a decline in the supply and quality of illegal drugs. The price of heroin substitutes is expected to increase. It is certain that criminal groups will find alternative ways of distributing narcotics and other illegal products in urban areas, using mobile technologies and couriers, but also corruption of law enforcement. It is possible that criminal groups will shift their manufacturing and logistics activities to smaller towns and rural areas, where they will be less visible.

With information we received from our member organisations from around the region, DPNSEE provided significant contribution to the report section that deals with Narcotics, but also general comments and proposals for recommendations.

Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) is an independent think-tank publicly advocating human, national, regional and international security based on democracy and respect for human rights.

The report is available in English (Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings) or in Serbian (Kriminal na Zapadnom Balkanu u doba korone: prva zapažanja).

2019 International Overdose Awareness Day Report published

The International Overdose Awareness Day, originated in Melbourne, Australia in 2001, has grown into a global campaign aimed to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It is also an opportunity to stimulate discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and drug policy.

The campaign in2019 was the most successful yet. Their 2019 IOAD Partners’ Report shows that 874 events were organised in 39 participating countries worldwide. This is a new record, surpassing the previous high of 747 set last year. This year’s campaign brought more than 273,000 visitors to the IOAD website. Visitors to the website downloaded our online resources – posters, fact sheets, and event support kits – more than 20,000 times.

We have promoted the campaign in our news and reported about the press release we published and the activities during the IOA day held in Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia. Unfortunately, only those from Montenegro and Slovenia were mentioned in the report.

To read the report follow 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>>>

First Civil Society Monitoring Report

Taken from the Correlation website

The Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN) published the first monitoring report covering certain areas of drug policy and practice. The purpose of this report is to enrich the information and knowledge base of harm reduction interventions in Europe from the viewpoint of civil society organisations, meaning organisations that directly work for, and with, people who use drugs. Correlation believe that this approach is a necessary, and useful, contribution to the development of drug policy in the region.

Correlation plan to repeat this reporting on an annual basis to identify developments and changes over time. A lot is being learned in this first pilot phase and adaptations to the focus and questions will be made, accordingly, as well as a recognition of certain limitations with regards to coverage and validation which we cannot easily overcome. Consequently, the information provided in this report is sometimes anecdotal and represents the situation in a particular city or region and informs us as to the experiences of a specific organisation in the field. Such ‘real life’ information can contribute significantly to an understanding of the advantages, barriers and challenges of drug policy.

Correlation will use the insights and information collected in this report within their advocate efforts to strengthen harm reduction policies in Europe and, hopefully, their partners and contributors will do the same in their environment at a regional and national level.

More than one hundred organisations and individuals from 35 European countries have contributed to the collection of data with an amazingly high response rate. All contributors deserve tanks for their great work and commitment. Without their engagement, this work would never have been undertaken at all.

To read the report, 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>>>

Rethinking the drug dealer

The Drug Policy Alliance released a new report making the case for rethinking the way the United States responds to the “drug dealer.” Beyond being merely ineffective, the harsh criminalization of supply-side drug market activity may actually make drug use more dangerous, increasing overdose deaths and leading to more violence in communities.

Drug prohibition and the criminalization of people who sell or distribute drugs does not reduce the harms of drug use or improve public safety. Our current approach is built on a foundation of stigma, ignorance and fear rather than evidence and creates new problems while doing nothing to solve those that already exist. Such approach to drug sales has failed. We should address drug-involvement, including most sales, outside of the failed apparatus of criminalization. We should also reduce the harms of drug distribution and repair the harm of the criminal legal system’s discriminatory response to the drug trade.

The Drug Policy Alliance believes it is time to rethink the “drug dealer.” We must urgently assess what type of people actually fall into this category and how we as a society can respond to them in ways that will keep people and communities safer and healthier. This work has been motivated by the leadership of formerly incarcerated people and drug users unions.

Politicians of all stripes have argued that long sentences for drug sellers will reduce drug availability and make remaining drugs more expensive, driving down demand. But this is not how drug markets actually work. Research and history have shown that the vilification and criminalization of people who sell drugs does not reduce problematic drug use, reduce the availability of drugs, or keep people who use drugs safer.

With this report, the Drug Policy Alliance aims to expand the current public dialogue around drug reform, to focus on who the people now labelled “drug dealers” really are and how we, as a society, can respond to them in ways that will keep people and communities safer and healthier.

DPA has provided a set of tailored recommendations based on three broad principles:

  • First, to the maximum extent possible, society should deal with drug involvement outside the destructive apparatus of criminalization – and to the extent that the criminal justice system continues to focus on drug selling and distribution, it must do so with a commitment to proportionality and due process.
  • Second, we should focus on reducing the harms of drug distribution (for example, reducing drug market-related violence), rather than attempting to eliminate drug market activity.
  • Third, we must take seriously the criminal justice system’s discriminatory response to the drug trade and work toward reforms that both repair the harm already done while preventing further harm to communities of colour and poor communities.

To read, download or share the report follow this link>>>

 

The most dangerous thing about MDMA is that it’s illegal

The Beckley Foundation published a policy proposal which examines the acute, sub-acute, and chronic harms related to MDMA use in detail. The report examines the production, distribution, purchase and consumption of the drug; related risks and harms; and the impact prohibition has on these, as well as the potential impact of alternative policies. Crucially, their evidence shows that most harms associated with MDMA use arise from its unregulated status as an illegal drug and that any risks inherent to MDMA could be more effectively mitigated within a legally regulated market.

Authors claim that there is growing evidence to support reorienting drug policy away from an ideologically driven criminal justice-led model to one rooted in pragmatic health and harm reduction principles. Current policy is not meeting its goal of reducing harms, and greater control of MDMA production, distribution, purchase and consumption is needed in order to prevent MDMA-related emergencies.

This policy proposal rests on the following five principles which should underpin all evidence-informed drug policy and practice:

  • Promoting public health and reducing harm
  • Safeguarding vulnerable populations, including children and young people
  • Supporting human rights
  • Promoting social justice
  • Supporting participatory democracy

Roadmaps to Regulation: MDMA has two overarching interlinked objectives:

  • To highlight that the harms associated with MDMA use are predominantly related to its prohibition;
  • To propose an alternative regulatory model that would reduce the harms associated with criminalising MDMA use and minimise the risks associated with its use more generally.

The report outlines, for the first time, detailed recommendations for drug policy reform in order to better control the production, distribution, purchase, and consumption of MDMA products. Reform, and the ensuing reduction in MDMA-related harms, will not happen overnight. The changes outlined, which culminate in a strictly-regulated, legal market for MDMA, would need to be phased in gradually and closely monitored throughout, in order to ensure that health and social outcomes are properly evaluated.

More about the report is available it the video below

To read full report, follow this link>>>

Global State of Harm Reduction 2019

Harm Reduction International, a leading NGO dedicated to reducing the negative health, social and legal impacts of drug use and drug policy, just published their annual The Global State of Harm Reduction biennial report. First published in 2008, it involves a coordinated effort across practitioners, academics, advocates and activists to map global data and responses to drug-related harms. The data presented here has been gathered over the course of 2019 from publicly available sources and in cooperation with our partners around the world.

It is the only report to provide an independent analysis of the state of harm reduction in the world and has become the go-to source on global harm reduction developments for researchers and advocates in our sector and beyond.

The Report indicated that:

  • Since 2018, the total number of countries implementing needle and syringe programmes (NSP) has increased by just one, from 86 to 87.
  • The re-introduction of NSPs in Bulgaria and the first NSP opening in Sierra Leone have been countered by the closure of services in Uganda.
  • No new countries have begun implementing opioid substitution therapy (OST) programmes since 2018.

We extracted the data on the situation in countries of South East Europe:

To get full information from the report, follow this link>>>

Should you find any inaccuracies, please contact Harm Reduction International at office@hri.global