Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia

Our member organisation HOPS published the Research report: Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia.

This research represents the first effort to assess the legal needs and paths to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia. It was conducted at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 using a mixed-methods research approach. The quantitative phase included 250 respondents chosen through stratified random sampling, out of which 169 inject/injected drugs, and 107 are/were engaged in sex work over the last three and a half years. The qualitative research phase, on the other hand, was comprised of focus group discussions with 69 respondents from both communities, as well as individual or group interviews with 7 representatives from competent institutions.

The research results showed that people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia experience ten times more non-trivial justiciable problems in comparison to the general population in the country. In addition, low level of legal literacy, lack of trust in institutions and systemic discrimination, among other factors, prevent citizens from these communities to seek protection of their rights and delivery of justice through institutional mechanisms. Such circumstances confirm the communities’ high vulnerability and underline the need for advancement of their access to information, legal advice and protection.

The findings pinpoint the necessity to educate people who inject drugs and sex workers on existing institutional mechanisms for protection of rights and delivery of justice, and motivate them to take actions towards legal resolution. Since citizens from these groups trust civil society organizations the most, CSOs are the first instance where they seek free legal advice and aid. Hence, services offered to these communities by civil society organizations need to be developed further, while also advancing the cooperation between the organizations and the competent institutions, including introduction of functional referral mechanisms.

Recommendations of the report also include that overcoming prejudices against people who inject drugs and sex workers in institutions responsible for ensuring the legal order, such as the police, Legal Needs and Access to Justice for People Who Inject Drugs and Sex Workers in Macedonia prosecutors, courts and prisons is crucial. This could be achieved with temporary measures, such as trainings, field and study visits, but also through more sustainable systemic changes in the process of professional training of employees in the aforementioned institutions. Similar measures could be useful for health and social workers

To read full report follow this link>>>>. Version of the report in Macedonian is available following this link >>>>.

Potency and price of cannabis in Europe doubled in last 11 years

The first study to investigate changes in cannabis across Europe showed that cannabis resin and herbal cannabis have significantly increased in potency and in price. The study was published on 30 December 2018 in the journal Addiction by researchers from the University of Bath and King’s College London. It draws on data collected from across 28 EU Member states, as well as Norway and Turkey by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

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.”

The research is available following this link>>>>