A momentous day in US drug policy reform

Tuesday 3 November 2020 was the Election Day in the United States of America. The tensions of this important election threw into a shade some important decisions that were at the vote in several federal states. Important state-level votes took place on decriminalising all drugs, legalising cannabis and decriminalising psychedelics.

ALL of the key votes have passed, including:

  • Oregon decriminalisation of all drugs. The measures outlined would see people found in possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use given the option of paying a $100 fine or attending a free “drug addiction treatment and recovery program”, which would be funded in part out of the state’s cannabis tax revenue fund.
  • Arizona, South Dakota, Montana, New Jersey legalising cannabis. Cannabis is already legally regulated for non-medical purposes in 11 US states, although it remains illegal at a federal level.
  • Mississippi, South Dakota legalising medical cannabis. Medical cannabis is already legal in 33 US states, with many medical markets now well established.
  • Oregon legalising medical use of psilocybin. The measure allow Oregonians over the age of 21 to purchase and consume psilocybin at a ‘psilocybin service centre’ under the supervision and guidance of trained facilitators. It would be the first-of-its-kind in the US, and hopefully move the debate forward on psychedelic treatment worldwide.
  • Washington, DC decriminalising psychedelics. While not technically fully decriminalising psychedelics, the measure would clearly drastically reduce the scope for the criminal law to intervene in personal activities. Criminal laws would nominally remain on the books, but be unlikely to be used, effectively a form of de facto decriminalisation.

These developments are part of a broader effort to scale back the war on drugs. The new measures may be the beginning of a broader push in the next few years, similar to what the US has already seen with marijuana.

 

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>>>

US Senate plans increasing the contribution to the Global Fund by 15.6%

One month before the Replenishment Conference to be hosted in Lyon, France, good news came from the US.  Their Senate plans increasing the contribution of this single largest donor of the Global Fund by 15.6%! This is the first increase in six years and the third largest increase since the Global Fund was founded. The Senate included language affirming it anticipates funding at this level through the Global Fund’s 6th Replenishment cycle.

Excerpts from the media release of the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Today the Senate Appropriations Committee posted the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs fiscal year 2020 funding bill, increasing funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) to $1.56 billion in fiscal year 2020, a 15.6 percent increase from the previous year. The bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate.

The report accompanying the appropriations bill also specified that the Senate Committee anticipates maintaining this appropriation level in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, coinciding with the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment cycle:

“The Committee recommends $1,560,000,000 for a U.S. contribution to the Global Fund. In advance of the Global Fund Replenishment Conference in 2019, the Committee anticipates that the United States will pledge not less than this amount for each of the three fiscal years pertaining to the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment. The Committee does not support the administration’s proposal to amend the longstanding matching rates for U.S. contributions to the Global Fund and expects the United States to continue to match other donor contributions at a rate of $1 for every $2 received from other donors.”

A $1.56 billion annual appropriation would translate to a $4.68 billion U.S. contribution over the three-year Replenishment cycle, helping the Global Fund meet its goal of at least $14 billion.

Congress has firmly rejected the President’s proposed cuts and affirmed America’s support for the Global Fund and dedication to ending the world’s deadliest infectious diseases.

Over the summer, several countries announced their pledges for the next three years – Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the European Union, Italy, Japan, UK, South Korea, even India. All will increase their contributions. The European countries (and the EU together with the individual countries are the largest contributor to the Global Fund!) in average increase by 15%.

The impact of legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults in USA

The legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults is associated with a drastic reduction in overall arrests, increased tax revenue, and is not adversely impacting public health or safety, according to a comprehensive report issued by the Drug Policy Alliance.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • Marijuana arrests are down. Arrests for marijuana in all legal marijuana states and Washington, D.C. have plummeted, saving states hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing thousands of people from being branded with lifelong criminal records.
  • Youth marijuana use is stable. Youth marijuana use rates have remained stable in states that have legalized marijuana for adults age 21 and older.
  • Marijuana legalization is linked to lower rates of opioid-related harm. Increased access to legal marijuana has been associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioids, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders.
  • Calls to poison control centres and visits to emergency departments for marijuana exposure remain relatively uncommon.
  • Legalization has not made the roads less safe. DUI arrests are down in Colorado and Washington. The total number of arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, has declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to regulate marijuana for adult use. There is no correlation between marijuana legalization and crash rates. The crash rates in both states are statistically similar to comparable states without legal marijuana laws.
  • Marijuana tax revenues are exceeding initial estimates.
  • The marijuana industry is creating jobs. Preliminary estimates suggest that the legal marijuana industry employs between 165,000 to 230,000 full and part-time workers across the country.

The full report is available online following this link>>>.

The report proposes several recommendations for the future, including the one that the tax revenues collected from marijuana sales must be reinvested in the communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization. These monies are essential to help rebuild communities most devastated by mass incarceration and the decades-long drug war by investing in programs that offer people a new start.

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2017

The U.S. State Department has published its annual two volume report consisting of Volume 1, Drugs and Chemical Control and Volume 2, Money Laundering. The report identifies countries which are either major illicit drug producers, drug-transit countries, sources of precursor chemicals used in illicit drug production, or where drug controls are an important part of the national policy. These countries are evaluated to determine the extent to which they are fulfilling the objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The report also identifies countries at the nexus of the illicit drug trade and money laundering activities, present within the countries’ financial institutions. The report discusses synthetic drug trends which are of significant concern for the U.S.

The impact of synthetic opioids is described by the report’s findings, “Specifically in the United States, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the first half of 2017 jumped 70 percent over the same six-month period in 2016.

INSCR is a valuable tool when assessing the risks relating to geography and jurisdiction. It highlights the most significant steps countries and jurisdictions categorized as “Major Money Laundering Countries”, defined by statute as one “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking”. Countries of South East Europe which were categorised as such in 2017 are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Turkey.

The report also includes country files for most of the SEE countries.

The report may be downloaded from the US Department of State website following this LINK>>>

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

The Department of State’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the US Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. The report for 2016 was published in March this year.

The INCSR is the United States Government’s country-by-country two volume report that describes the efforts to attack all aspects of the international drug trade, chemical control, money laundering and financial crimes. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in Calendar Year 2016. Volume I covers drug and chemical control activities. Volume II covers money laundering and financial crimes.

INSCR is a valuable tool when assessing the risks relating to geography and jurisdiction. It highlights the most significant steps countries and jurisdictions categorized as “Major Money Laundering Countries”, defined by statute as one “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking”. Countries of South East Europe which were categorise as such in 2016 are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Turkey.

The report also includes country files for most of the SEE countries.

The report may be downloaded from the US Department of State website following this LINK>>>