Drugs in the news

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  • Rethinking drug prohibition on a global scale

    We need to improve public understanding of the concept of "harm reduction" as the primary goal of drug policy
    Vice (US)
    Monday, May 2, 2016

    ungass2016-ny-plenaryLast month, the United Nations General Assembly met for the first time in history to reconsider international drug prohibition with an eye toward policies focused on health and human rights. Facing unprecedented drug gang–related violence, Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala had insisted the global confab be moved up by two years. Yet somehow there was no sense of urgency, and no actual changes were made, in large part due to the intransigence of Russia and China.

  • Violent Christiania police action caught on video

    Pusher Street has long been a flashpoint for confrontation and controversy
    The Local (Denmark)
    Friday, April 29, 2016

    Two videos posted online by the Christiania-based documentary group Cadok show large-scale police action targeting the Copenhagen district’s cannabis market, Pusher Street. While recorded confrontations with the police in Christiania are nothing new, the violent nature of one of the videos has led to widespread sharing on social media and even an offered reward for information on the officers involved. The video shows police officers running through Christiania and hitting people with their batons amidst scenes of chaos. (See also: Danish gov snubs call to clear Pusher Street)

  • Lack of progress and transparency at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs

    The first meeting in twenty years of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) was supposed to be a game changer. It was not
    NACLA (US)
    Wednesday, April 27, 2016

    ungass2016-ny-plenaryThe first meeting of UNGASS since 1998 was supposed to be a game changer in prodding the lumbering and often draconian UN drug policy regime into serious revision. Mass incarceration of the poor, corruption, human rights abuses, public health crises and violence caused by the Drug War have been exhaustingly documented all over the world. The UN Special Session came up short in meeting the expectations of drug policy reformers from around the globe.

  • New agreement brings no end to war on drugs in ASEAN

    A global meeting on drugs failed to deliver a highly anticipated shift from a punitive approach to narcotics, disappointing Myanmar advocacy groups
    The Myanmar Times (Myanmar)
    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    opium-burmaThe outcome of the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs in New York resulted in an outcome document that brings little new to the table. Nang Pann Ei, a coordinator of the Drug Policy Advocacy Groups, called the UNGASS meeting significant because Myanmar civil society was able to speak up for opium farmers facing the constant threat of crop eradication. But she voiced disappointment about the resulting policy document, saying it has "some serious gaps". "It did not mention harm reduction specifically, and decriminalisation of drug use and abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offenses was not mentioned," she said.

  • Holness Government urged to be bold and legalise ganja

    "The reason we are being tentative is fear of our brothers from the north"
    Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    jamaica-ganja2The director general of the National Commission on Science and Technology, Professor Errol Morrison, said that while the decriminalisation of marijuana in Jamaica is a good move, it is not enough. While insisting that he is not criticising the Government, the principal of the University of the West Indies Professor Archibald McDonald joined Morrison in urging the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party Administration to be bolder than the last administration and legalise marijuana in Jamaica. He emphasised that in moving towards legalisation, Jamaica needs to regulate the industry.

  • Owner of biggest cannabis cafe faces retrial

    Coffee shops with more than 500 grammes of cannabis on the premises are not covered by the official policy of turning a blind eye to soft drugs
    Dutch News (Netherlands)
    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    The Dutch supreme court has ordered a retrial of the owner of what was the country’s biggest cannabis cafe, saying a lower court ruling clearing him of criminal charges was not properly motivated. The lower appeal court had said that even though the cafe had too much marijuana on the premises this did not merit a prison sentence. In addition, the court pointed out that the authorities had encouraged the café’s growth and must have understood that it needed large volumes of drugs to meet demand. (See also: Coffee shop trial is test for Dutch drugs policy)

  • Street opioids are getting deadlier. Overseeing drug use can reduce deaths

    Crackdowns on prescriptions are sending addicts to find a fix in the street. But drugs there are more often being made with rapidly fatal doses of fentanyl
    The Guardian (UK)
    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    heroin-useAs health officials battle increasing mortality associated with heroin and prescription opioids, an even more dangerous group of street drugs has appeared on the scene. From Seattle to Syracuse, authorities are reporting a spike in overdoses of fentanyl, an opioid 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin; in Canada, four pounds of a drug called W18, which is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, were recently seized. The problem has caught law enforcement officials and politicians off guard. But to anyone who has studied the history of drug policy, it was completely predictable. It’s known as the “iron law of prohibition” or, as activist Richard Cowan, who coined the phrase, put it: “The harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”

  • Rethinking the global war on drugs

    World leaders met at the UN in a special session to discuss saner ways to fight the drug trade. They did not get very far toward a shift in approach
    OpEd
    The New York Times (US)
    Monday, April 25, 2016

    The U.S. is in the untenable position of violating the existing treaties — now that four states have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. The Canadian government announced that it will introduce a bill next spring to decriminalize the sale of marijuana. Mexican leaders announced that their country intends to legalize medical marijuana and loosen restrictions on the amount of drugs people can possess for personal use. These new policies could render the existing drug treaties obsolete. Clearly, those accords need to be updated, heeding the experiences and lessons learned by the nations that have paid the highest price in the drug war.

  • Mexico's president proposes legalising medical marijuana

    Enrique Peña Nieto says laws would stop "criminalising consumption"
    The Guardian (UK)
    Friday, April 22, 2016

    pena-nieto-2016Following his statement at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in which he called for more prevention, partial decriminalization and a public health approach, Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto has announced plans to introduced laws to legalise medical marijuana and increase the quantity anyone can carry and consume for recreational purposes from five grams to 28 grams. His plan would also free some prisoners convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana. The initiative, which will now go to the senate for debate, signals a shift for Peña Nieto, who says he has never smoked marijuana and has openly opposed its legalisation.

  • Global Commission slams UNGASS 2016 outcome that strains the credibility of international law

    By ignoring the available science and examples of best practice on drug policy and harm reduction, the UN will become increasingly irrelevant
    The Influence (US)
    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    At a packed press conference in Manhattan, a formidable panel – including former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland, a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, a former UK deputy prime minister and entrepreneur Richard Branson – declared itself "profoundly disappointed" by the failure of the UNGASS 2016 outcome document to produce substantive change. The nine panelists represented half of the membership of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a body which unites international leaders to advocate for wide-ranging drug policy reform. (See also: Decriminalize all drugs, business and world leaders tell UN)

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Publications

UNGASS 2016: Prospects for treaty reform and UN system-wide coherence on drug policy
jelsma-brookings

This paper explores key lessons from the 1990 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Drug Abuse (UNGASS 1990) and the 1998 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 1998), and tracks subsequent policy events and trends. It discusses the wide array of increasing tensions and cracks in the "Vienna consensus," as well as systemic challenges and recent treaty breaches. Various options for treaty reform are explored.

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