Latest news on drug policy issues in the international media


  • Spain’s cannabis patients in lockdown lockhold

    Cannabis clubs are “more or less” legalised and between 200,000 and 500,000 people currently use them for medicinal purposes
    Euro Weekly (Spain)
    Wednesday, April 8, 2020

    Thousands of patients who use cannabis for medicinal reasons no longer have access to this remedy. During Spain’s lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic the cannabis clubs where they obtained supplies have closed, leaving the black market as their only solution. The Union of Patients for the Regulation of Cannabis (UPRC) has now asked the government to authorise the controlled re-opening of Spain’s 1,600 users’ clubs. Before they closed, the clubs provided an essential service for patients with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and fibromyalgia. Cannabis can also help to alleviate the adverse effects of chemotherapy. The Podemos Cannabis Circle is asking the Unidas Podemos party, to which it belongs, to raise the issue in the national parliament in Madrid. 

  • Advocates call safe drug supply a victory but worry about logistics in pandemic

    Pandemic contributes to scarce supply, advocates worried about potential impact on the streets
    Victoria News (Canada)
    Monday, April 6, 2020

    canada homeless streetAdvocates say it took a pandemic for steps forward in the call for a safe supply of drugs for people dealing with substance use problems and there’s no guarantee progress will continue. On March 26, the provincial government of British Columbia introduced new clinical guidelines after the federal government announced a number of exemptions that would be made to the Controlled Substances Act. The changes would allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to prescribe a safe supply of medication to people dealing with substance use disorder in support of social distancing in the face of two public health emergencies. “Prices are going up and supply is going down. People are getting desperate, it’s really scary.”

  • Stoners cheered when Canada legalised cannabis. How did it go so wrong?

    Growers have gone bust, and the black market is still thriving
    The Observer (UK)
    Sunday, April 5, 2020

    canada cannabis stock broker2Two years on, the Canadian cannabis legalisation experiment hasn’t quite turned out as we reformers had hoped. The black market is still vibrant while cannabis stocks have crashed, medical patients say they can’t get hold of essential medicines, and thousands of jobs have been lost. So what went wrong – and what went right? Alastair Moore, co-founder of Hanway Associates, a London-based cannabis consultancy, says the Canadian industry has been driven by vulture capitalism and wishful thinking. “A mix of greed and naivety led this industry to great heights – and has left it on its knees. While some made lots of money, others lost their investments and now many others have lost their jobs.”

  • Amid the crisis, marijuana legalization in New York will have to wait again

    Marijuana legalization is an incredibly contentious and complicated issue for legislators even under normal circumstances
    Filter (US)
    Friday, April 3, 2020

    us ny liberty statueDuring New York’s worst health crisis in a lifetime, a deadline came up to put forth a provision to legalize adult-use marijuana. With other concerns to address, lawmakers are passing on legalization. Advocates are understanding of this. “While legalizing cannabis is necessary to reduce the decades of unjust, racist targeting of communities of color in New York, our state faces a public health crisis right now and efforts to contain COVID-19 demand legislators’ full attention,” said Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance. The new year started with high hopes that the state would finally pass a legalization bill. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) placed it among his top priorities in his State of the State address in January, after convening a meeting with other Northeast governors.

  • Missed earnings, misdirection put Canadian cannabis executives in hot seat

    Some of the founders of today’s large cannabis companies were good at raising money but not good at making money
    Marijuana Business Daily (US)
    Wednesday, April 1, 2020

    The exodus of cannabis executives in Canada is in full swing after their companies raked up collective net losses exceeding CA$6 billion ($4.4 billion) in 2019, the first calendar year recreational products were allowed to be sold. Most of Canada’s top cannabis producers have replaced their chief executives or chief financial officers after failing to meet customer and investor expectations. Experts say the CEOs spent too much money on greenhouses, were too focused on investors and did not pay enough attention to customers, real markets or quality control. Many simply lacked the professional toolkit necessary to steer a cannabis company and ended up chasing too many opportunities in far-flung areas of the world where actual marijuana markets remain years away.

  • Cannabis scientists are chasing the perfect high

    Chemists at some of the biggest legal-weed companies are after an elusive prize: a predictable, reliable product
    The New York Times Magazine (US)
    Wednesday, April 1, 2020

    us buying marijuana dispensaryThe cannabis business has arrived at a critical moment. Now that pot has become something like a regular consumer product, customers are increasingly seeking the same “proven consistency” they expect from potato chips and soap. The financial stakes are clear: Despite lingering prohibitions in 17 states, legal cannabis is already an $8 billion industry in the United States. Domestic sales of alcohol, humankind’s other favorite intoxicant, topped $200 billion last year. But to make cannabis as popular as booze requires solving that original problem: It’s hard to imagine millions of people becoming new recreational users without being able to promise them that the product they’re spending money on will give them the effect they want.

  • Dutch marijuana back on sale, but don't forget to wash your hands

    Dutch authorities wanted to avoid driving the sales underground to an unregulated black market
    Reuters (UK)
    Tuesday, March 31, 2020

    coffeeshop menuWhile most of the Netherlands struggles through the coronavirus lockdown, marijuana smokers received the welcome news that “coffee shops” selling the drug have reopened for takeaway orders. All businesses selling cannabis and hashish were ordered to shut, along with sex clubs and saunas, when the Dutch government imposed on March 15 measures to curb the COVID-19 epidemic. A limited reopening has been allowed to avoid black market drug deals and ensure supplies of medicinal cannabis. With coronavirus regulations prohibiting gatherings of people, however, buyers are no longer permitted to stay for a smoke.

  • Defaulted Lebanon hopes to pay off debts with cannabis

    McKinsey suggested that legalizing the cultivation of cannabis would bring in up to $1 billion per year in revenue for the government
    Al-Monitor (Middle East)
    Monday, March 30, 2020

    The Lebanese government is looking to cannabis cultivation for medicinal and industrial purposes to improve the country's economic situation. Lebanon is the third most indebted country in the world, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 170%. Parliamentary committees passed a draft law on Feb. 26, legalizing cannabis cultivation for medical and industrial use. The draft law will be transferred to the parliament for approval. The Lebanese Parliament closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but, the law is expected to pass after it reconvenes. The type of plant that Lebanon seeks to cultivate is specific to medical industries. The Lebanese state does not accept the use of hashish as a resource to support the economy.

  • Estonia won its war on fentanyl, then things got worse

    Fentanyls are easier to make and smuggle than heroin, and far more profitable to sell
    Associated Press (US)
    Thursday, March 26, 2020

    estonia fentanyl userFor nearly two decades Estonia battled a fentanyl epidemic so severe its overdose death rate was almost six times the European average. Once fentanyl landed, heroin disappeared. After Estonian police choked off fentanyl supply in 2017, users turned to cocktails of other kinds of synthetic drugs, including amphetamines, alpha-PVP, a dangerous stimulant also known as flakka, and prescription drugs. There are signs that the U.S. is on a similar path, tipping from plant-based drugs like heroin to synthetic ones like fentanyl and methamphetamine. That could herald big changes and cement the role of China -- an important source of illicit synthetic drugs -- as a vital link in the worldwide drug trafficking business. (See also: What we can learn from a tiny Baltic country's two-decade fentanyl crisis)

  • B.C. releases plan to provide safe supply of drugs during COVID-19 pandemic

    Substance users will be able to access virtual prescriptions and home delivery of safe drugs
    CBC News (Canada)
    Thursday, March 26, 2020

    canada opioid crisis emergencyThe provincial government says safe prescription drugs will be provided to people who use substances amid fears the illegal drug supply is becoming increasingly toxic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. B.C.'s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced new guidelines for prescribers to provide medications to patients, including home delivery and giving prescriptions through virtual visits. British Columbia currently faces two public health emergencies: one related to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the other the ongoing opioid overdose crisis declared an emergency in 2016. (See also: ‘Safe supply’ of drugs good news in Vancouver, but is it only here for the pandemic?)

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