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>>>.

 

62nd CND Session – Day 2

The second day of the 62th CND was full of side events and sharing with participants.

An overviews of the side events we participated in today includes:

Psychoactive substances and the Sustainable Development Goals – Towards a comprehensive approach in the era of the 2030 Agenda

Organized by the Government of Slovenia, Utrip Institute for Research and Development, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and IOGT International. Jože Hren started his presentation reminding that for 20 years already the approach in Slovenia is that drug use is primarily a health problem and that possession of small quantities is a misdemeanour also since 1999. Those who are caught in possession of drugs get a fine of 40 Euro, but there is a process to change it to an oral warning or referral to treatment in more complex situations. Representative of the Pompidou Group spoke about the bi-annual prize the Group awards to innovative prevention programmes created by young people for young people. Another Slovenian representative presented their work emphasizing the need to invest in mental health programmes for adolescents. Cost of mental health disorders in Europe take 3 to 5 percent of GDP. There is a need for a reallocation of resources for more sustainable and impactful outcomes in tackling harmful substances and behaviours. Medical help is not enough – it has to be combined with comprehensive and long lasting prevention. They have a programme called “This is me”, which is in line with the Goal 3 of the SDGs. Kristina Sperkova, president of the IOGT International (international network of Templar organisations) works on prevention of alcohol and other drugs harm world-wide. Sanela from Utrip Institute advocated for a community approach to prevention. Notes from the side event are available at the CND Blog following this address>>>.

Leaving no one behind: People at the centre of a harm reduction, human rights and public health approach to drug use

Organized by the Netherlands and Norway, UNODC, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, IDPC, AFEW International, Harm Reduction International, INPUD, Open Society Foundations, Aidsfonds and Frontline AIDS. Ann Fordham from IDPC highlighted that the new UNADIS report indicates that 99% of people who use drugs doesn’t have a proper access to health services. WHO representative reminded that half a million people worldwide die of drug related deaths, mainly overdose and blood borne diseases HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. People also suffer because they can’t access the medicines they need. The Netherlands has “put people first” in their approach to harm reduction. The right to health is fundamental to all people irrespective of whether they are using drugs. Drug policies should seek to reduce violence, promote the rule of law, support the most marginalized and vulnerable, lift up human rights. Prohibition and criminalization means a continuation of armed conflict supported by disproportionate spending. Naomi Burke-Shyne from HRI reminded that funding for harm reduction has flat lined from 2007 to 2016, which stands in shocking contrast to the estimated funding need by UNAIDS: existing funding represents only 13% of this estimated need. Judy Chang from INPUD stated that “Existing drug policies threaten security, democracy and the well-being of all, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable. The war on drugs and drug-free agenda undermines the SDG agenda.” Zaved Mahmood from ‎UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that People who use drugs are not just left behind, they are kept out. The right to life includes the obligation to take measures where peoples’ lives might be threatened, including in relation to the use of drugs and HIV and hepatitis.

Drug prevention approaches that make a difference

Organized by the Governments of Iceland and Serbia, and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe. Serbian representative to the OSC made an introduction speech. The same like the Minister of Health on Thursday 14 at the Ministerial Segment, he said that the Drug Strategy has 5 chapters instead of 7, avoiding to say that Harm Reduction is one of them. Jelena Janković from the Ministry of Health presented the latest developments, including information about overdose deaths in 2018 and creation of the Ministerial Commission (for fighting narcomania in schools). She also presented the project the Ministry did with experiences and support from Israel. Iceland presented their project with are seen as the flagship project on prevention. Almost 2% of the alcohol and tobacco taxes go to prevention programmes! They see as the main risks and protective factors family factors, peer group effect, general well-being and extra-curricular activities and sports. Their learning is that the multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to success. The change thy achieved is different attitude of parents and society – don’t buy alcohol for children. It is not OK for adolescents to be drunk in public. It is not the amount of time that parents spend with their children – it is the quality of time. There are no unsupervised parties. Pompidou Group emphasised the role of police in prevention. Interventions from the floor were on offering more than just sports and having campaigns that cover illicit but also legal substances.

Other side events held today that may be of interest are:

Other events

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held regular Annual General Assembly. The Committee welcomed new members, reviewed and approved the VNGOC annual report and reflected on activities for 2018/19 including those of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), got information about the annual accounts for 2018, the latest financial status and audited accounts for 2018, Strategic Plan 2019-21 and Budget for 2019 and Voluntary Code of Conduct for NGOs at the CND and received an update on developments within UNODC. The Committee discussed the future organisation of the VNGOC, based on the background paper presented by the Board.

Following a governance review process undertaken in 2017, VNGOC agreed to stagger the elections for the VNGOC Board to ensure greater stability and continuity. In order to do this, three of the positions elected last year were given one-year terms, the other three positions were given the standard two-year terms. This year, the following three positions were up for re-election: Chairperson, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy Secretary. Our friend fro International Drug Policy Consortium Jamie Bridge was re-elected for the Chairperson. Congratulations!