The Argentine Supreme court ruling that declares unconstitutional the imposition of criminal sanctions for the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use represents an important step toward distinguishing between drug use and drug trafficking.
By 1998, when the United Nations convened a special General Assembly on drugs, there was already overwhelming evidence that the current approach to global drugs control had failed miserably, given the continuing rise in consumption and production. However, the evidence was ignored and no evaluation of what was wrong with current drug policy took place. Instead, as a New York Times editorial noted, unrealistic pledges were recycled, this time aiming at eliminating all drug production by the year 2008. In mid-April this year, the mid-term review of the goals and targets set by the special session on drugs is to take place in Vienna.
In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken. A decision in the World Health Assembly banned the publication of the study. The US representative threatened that "if WHO activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programmes should be curtailed". This led to the decision to discontinue publication.
Decriminalizing cannabis in the Netherlands and regulating the back-door of the coffee-shops and cultivation of cannabis would save 160 million euro on expenses by the police and the criminal justice system and bring in 260 million euro in tax revenues. The Dutch government is already earning some 400 million euros a year in corporate taxes from cannabis-selling coffee-shops.
According to the Transform blog, it has been confirmed that the Russian diplomat Yuri V. Fedotov has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). What will be the implications? Russia has one of the worst records on drug policy and human rights: it ignores scientific evidence on effective HIV prevention among drug users and its punitive drug laws push drug users to the margins of society. Afghan opium poppy farmers could suffer from this appointment as well. The Russians hold them responsible for the 30,000 drug deaths in Russia every year.
In April 2016, representatives of the world’s nations will gather to evaluate drug policy in a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS). While prohibitionist policies are still the norm, a rising tide of voices are demanding evidence based responses that respect human rights, promote public health, and reduce crime.
The new coalition government of conservative liberals (VVD) and social-democrats (PvdA) presented its coalition agreement on Monday. They agreed to abolish the cannabis pass, but access to coffeeshops remains limited to residents of the Netherlands. Customers need to identify themselves with an identity card or a residence permit together with a certificate of residence. Non-resident foreigners are still banned. In other words, there will be no cannabis pass, but the policy continues.
Ecuador has entered a new era in drug policy and legislation. Twenty-five years after the last major legal reform, brought about by the famed Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Law (Ley de Sustancias Estupefacientes y Psicotrópicas, Law 108), which took effect on September 17, 1990, the National Assembly is about to debate—for the second and final time—the draft Law on Prevention of Drugs and Use or Consumption of Substances Classified as Subject to Oversight (Ley de Prevención de Drogas y Uso y Consumo de Sustancias Catalogadas Sujetas a Fiscalización.)
Drug control agencies have called the significant decline in opium production in Southeast Asia over the past decade a 'success story'. The latest report of the Transnational Institute (TNI). based on in-depth research in the region, casts serious doubts on this claim noting that Southeast Asia suffers from a variety of 'withdrawal symptoms' that leave little reason for optimism.
Earlier this week, 7-9 July, 300 delegates met in Vienna for the Beyond 2008 NGO Forum meant to provide civil society input for the 10-year UNGASS review. It was the culmination of a series of regional NGO consultations that took place over the past six months all across the globe. Given the wide range of views held by NGOs many – including myself – were sceptical about the outcomes of the process. Would it really be possible to agree by consensus on a joint declaration and resolutions? Well, we did it…
It is unfortunate that 35 years after the first chemical spraying in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, we are still writing about aerial sprayings in Colombia, demanding the current government – how many governments have not happened since! – to definitely defer an ecocide and incompetent policy. Throughout these years we have seen increasing national and international voices opposing the spraying of coca with the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).
Barely a week after an opinion poll showed that 65% of the Dutch are in favour of regulating cannabis production just as in Uruguay, the minister of Justice and Security of The Netherlands, Ivo Opstelten, told parliament that he will not allow regulated cannabis cultivation to supply the coffeeshops in the country. Two in three large municipal councils back regulated cannabis cultivation, but the minister will probably not allow a single one of the 25 proposals to experiment with regulated cultivation that have been submitted.
UNDCPs 1998 plan to eradicate the cultivation of both coca and opium poppy by the year 2008 was a rare opportunity to re-think current drugs efforts. Member states were asked to endorse a plan, known as SCOPE, for the eradication of drugs-linked crops by 2008. Is SCOPE viable? And what impact would it have on poor farmers who grow drugs-linked crops to survive?
The fourth informal drug policy dialogue took place in Rome in cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Social Solidarity. The two-day dialogue had seven sessions focused on (1) New developments in the field of Harm Reduction; (2) Drugs and prisons; (3) Social spending of confiscated criminal assets; (4) Access to controlled medications; (5) Evaluating the UN drug control system and the 1998 UNGASS review; (6) Towards another control model for cannabis and a reassessment of the coca leaf?; and (7) What to expect from the UNGASS review process.
The 50th Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was the last such event before the watershed year of 2008, when the international community will review progress against the objectives set at the General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), held in New York in 1998. This CND was notable for a significant improvement in civil society involvement in the proceedings – there were a record 81 civil society delegates and NGO representatives included in government delegations. On the other hand, there were repeated moves by some country delegations to marginalise NGO involvement. The global consultation with NGOs to feed in to the UNGASS review process as formally launched.
The meeting is hosted by the Orthodox Academy in Kolymbari (Crete). The thirty participants include ministerial officials from several countries, representatives from UN and European institutions, and non-governmental drug policy experts. The two-day dialogue was focused on three themes: (1) explore common ground within a set of general parameters by which 'best practice' or effective drug policy is judged not on dogma or on moral principle but on scientifically evaluated, empirical evidence; (2) the policy debate on cannabis; (3) harm reduction developments at the regional and UN level; and (4) supply reduction.
The third Informal Drug Policy Dialogue was co-hosted by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. Participants, most of whom are actively involved in policy, included over forty people from 21 countries, six inter-governmental organisations, five international NGOs and several academics. The two-day dialogue had four sessions focused on (1) the effectiveness of law enforcement in supply reduction, (2) recent developments around HIV/AIDS and harm reduction, (3) Bolivia and legal options for the coca leaf and (4) preparations for the 2008 UNGASS Review. In addition, participants were invited to visit the Bern city drug injection facility, where managers explained how the facility functioned and gave a guided tour of the premises.
The fifth informal drug policy dialogue took place in Berlin in cooperation with the German Federal Health ministry. The principal focus of the meeting was the UNGASS review process, the Political Declaration to be adopted at the next CND meeting in March 2009 and future goals in international drug policy. Discussion also took place on the outcomes of the five Working Groups held between June and September as part of the period of “global reflection” and the preparations for the high level segment to be held on the first two days of the 52nd CND session from 11-20 March 2009.
The second Informal Drug Policy Dialogue was co-hosted by the Department for Drug Strategic Affairs of the Hungarian Ministry of Youth, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. The two-day dialogue was focused on three themes: (1) harm reduction developments at the regional and UN level; (2) alternative development: dilemmas around coca and opium reduction efforts; and (3) preparations for the 2008 UNGASS review. Participants had the opportunity to exchange information and make comments from their own perspective on developments in these policy areas. The aim was to come to workable suggestions and ideas that could be used in the ongoing debate.