Letter of support for the decriminalization in Lithuania

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association asks you to help us urge the Members of the Parliament – the Seimas of Lithuania – to support the drug policy changes (decriminalization project) in Lithuania and sign the attached letter.

Until January 2017, possession of psychoactive substances in small amounts in Lithuania was considered an administrative offence, regulated by the Code of Administrative Offences and as a criminal offence, regulated by the Criminal Code. There were so-called legal collisions (conflict of laws).

In January 2017, procurement and possession of a small amount of an illicit drug with no intent to distribute became an offence punishable by community service, restraint of liberty, a fine or arrest. The same offence involving more than a defined small amount, became a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison.

Over the past 3 years alarming indicators have shown that drug policy in Lithuania is focused only on criminalization of people who use drugs and possess small amounts of drugs without intent to distribute them. For example, possession of illicit substance in small quantities without intent to supply accounted for 77% of all drug related offences committed in 2019. 63 % of the offenders were under the age of 29. Between 2014 and 2019 there was an increase by 53,9% of drug laws related offences without intent to distribute. Each year, about 750 people are serving a custodial sentence in prisons, which costs Lithuania around 10,5 million Euro per year. In 2019, 21,7% of all inmates were officially diagnosed with mental and behavioral disorders due to drug use. While in prisons there are no harm reduction services, and limited access to OST.

At the moment, the Seimas of Lithuania is considering decriminalization of small amounts of drugs without intent to distribute them. Civil society from Lithuania is looking for an international community support.

If your organisation wishes to support the letter, please fill in this form before 9th May (by midnight, Vilnius time). The letter will be sent to the Members of the Seimas before the final hearings.

Feel free to share this email with other organisations which may be interested in supporting the initiative!

In case you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact eliza@harmreductioneurasia.org.

 

Portugal’s Approach to Drug Policy – what works and what does not?

From Movendi’s website

The Swedish Drug Policy Centre (NPC) has published a new report Decriminalisation of Drugs: What can we learn from Portugal?, written by Pierre Andersson, about Portugal’s approach to drug policy and the lessons that can be learned from the country’s decriminalization of drugs.

In drug policy debates reference is often made to Portugal as an example of a country with a successful approach to drug policy. Often, the country’s good results in reducing the drug problem are attributed to the decriminalisation policy instituted in 2001. But knowledge and understanding of the exact policy and its results is not always accurate and well-informed. Therefore, Pierre Andersson has conducted a series of interviews on the ground in Lisbon and studied the reports on Portugal’s drugs policy published in scientific journals in recent years.

The report makes it clear that Portugal’s reforms in 2001 were more far-reaching than the abolition of penalties for using and possessing small quantities of drugs. Above all, they included major efforts to improve services for rapid and effective treatment, and good coordination between various healthcare interventions. This is likely to have contributed to the development that fewer people developed drug dependency, and, as a result, to a reduction in the number of drug-related deaths.

But, the report also shows that the drug-related death rate fell after the reform, when major efforts were made to expand healthcare, only to then increase again to almost the same level as before decriminalisation.

The Swedish drug policy debate often compares the figures for drug-related deaths between Portugal and Sweden. As the new report shows, these comparisons are flawed because the measurement methods differ from between countries. For example, over 75% of all deaths in Sweden that screened positive for drugs are ultimately classified as “drug-related” according to the definition by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

But the corresponding figure in Portugal is below 5%. The report also shows that Sweden undertakes twice as many post-mortem examinations and three times as many forensic analyses as Portugal. Comparisons between the figures make little sense when the methods differ as much as they do.

Concerning drug consumption trends in Portugal, the new report shows that cannabis use has increased among schoolchildren and is now at a higher level than that of the corresponding age group in Sweden.

Countries still have a lot to learn from Portugal’s drug policy, especially with regard to the short waiting time for treatment and the coordination between the various healthcare services. For example, Portugal’s Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse (CDT), which people charged with possession or use have to appear before, is quick to make referrals to addiction specialists. The quick and effective response and follow-up increase in all likelihood people’s chances of overcoming – or avoiding – drug use disorders and addiction.

The report also highlights the risk of overlooking some really good lessons from both Portugal and other countries, overshadowed by the framing that decriminalisation in itself is the solution to all drug problems.

The purpose of the report is therefore to contribute to a focused and informed drug policy debate taking into view the initiatives that hold substantial potential to reduce and prevent harm, provide adequate services to all who need it and help prevent drug use and harm among children and youth.

The analysis of Portugal’s drug policy is complemented with a broader overview of ten more European countries which have decriminalised drugs. You can read the additional report “Decriminalization in Europehere>>>.

Comparison of the developments following decriminalisation in these eleven European countries shows that drug-related deaths increased in some countries and decreased in others. It therefore does not seem to be decriminalisation in itself that is the decisive factor in the developments.

To read the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

Drug Decriminalisation: Progress or Political Red Herring?

From the INPUD website

Over the past decade there have been increasing claims that the world is moving towards a critical turning point in international drug policy, based on a growing recognition that governments must consider alternative approaches to drug policy which include decriminalisation. While this shift has been hailed as a sign of progress by many, INPUD believes there are still important and overlooked questions regarding the extent to which the needs and rights of people who use drugs are being prioritised in countries that have decriminalised drug use. In 2018, INPUD published a ground-breaking analysis of the Portuguese decriminalisation model – Is Decriminalisation Enough? Drug User Community Voices from Portugal – which for the first time assessed the impact of decriminalisation of Portugal from the perspectives of people who use drugs. The report noted how “interactions with the state and the police, and issues of violence, social exclusion, stigmatisation, and discrimination, are often entirely omitted from discussion and analysis of decriminalisation”.

INPUD is excited to present Drug Decriminalisation: Progress or Political Red Herring? This report, like our previous report on Portugal, is intended to open up the debate on decriminalisation and make clear the expectations people who use drugs have for future action on drug policy reform. Most importantly, it includes a call for full decriminalisation without sanctions as the new baseline for measuring progress on decriminalisation in the future.

Decriminalisation is often discussed as if there is only one model, leading to a view that decriminalisation anywhere equals progress. However, there are many different models of decriminalisation in operation, all with different impacts. This report was published because we believe current reforms have not gone far enough. This situation means that in the overwhelming majority of countries, people who use drugs continue to be criminalised, punished, and stigmatised despite decriminalisation. Furthermore, no existing reviews of decriminalisation models have specifically included the perspective of people who use drugs in their analysis, a glaring oversight which reflects the historical exclusion of the voices of people who use drugs within policy discussions.

INPUD believes it is time to disrupt the misconception that decriminalisation efforts unquestionably represent progress when they have been developed with little or no consultation with people who use drugs. This report amplifies the voices of people who use drugs through a series of interviews conducted with members of the community and their representatives in countries that have implemented various approaches to decriminalisation. Our hope is that this report can support peer-led advocacy efforts towards more inclusive, progressive, participatory and transparent drug policies which fully recognise the human dignity of all people who use drugs.

To read the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

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>>>.

 

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.