The chief drugs adviser to the government has given his strongest warning yet on legal highs in Britain, saying there are now more than 200 synthetic psychoactive drugs being sold outside existing laws. He rejected a new approach in New Zealand, which tests and licenses the sale of these new psychoactive substances, as unworkable in Britain, but said a solution might be found by tweaking the Medicines Act or using consumer protection laws.
Martha Fernback, 15, died from taking 91% pure ecstasy. The response of her mother, Anne-Marie Cockburn was unusual. She refused to blame her daughter, her friends, or the dealer or the manufacturer. Cockburn, a single mother, focused on a greater target: the government. "It quickly became obvious that prohibition had had its chance but failed," she said. "Martha is a sacrificial lamb under prohibition. The question is: how many more Marthas have to die before we change our approach? It's not acceptable to allow the risks to remain."
The all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform undertook an inquiry into the implications of the arrival of "legal highs" – a new substance appeared on the UK market every week in 2012. The prime minister says the current policy is working. I wish it were. But as the use of cannabis has declined by a few percentage points over the past few years, the use of "legal highs" has soared. The position for drugs users is therefore more dangerous than it was a few years ago.
Legalising and taxing cannabis could be worth as much as £1.25bn a year to the government, a study suggests. The report Licensing and regulation of the cannabis market in England and Wales: towards a cost-benefit analysis, quantifies the revenue to be gained from the regulation and taxation of the cannabis market in England and Wales. It estimates that reduced enforcement costs, such as police, court and prison time and community sentences, could save £300m or more alone, with the remaining three-quarters of the net benefit come from tax revenue.
It's never been easier, or cheaper, to buy drugs online – but no one knows what's in them, or how dangerous they are. For most of the last decade, an average of four or five new legal drugs came on to the market each year. Then mephedrone appeared on the scene: cheap, legal and available online. By 2010, the drug had become the fourth most popular drug, after marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. It was banned in April of that year, but not before a new market had emerged for online legal highs. In 2011, EU researchers found 49 new legal drugs for sale online. In 2012, 73 were identified; hundreds more were banned.
The local pro-ganja lobby in Jamaica is welcoming the vote for the legalisation of ganja in the American states of Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC. "One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been the fear about how the United States would react to what we are doing and what we seeing happening is a clear indication that the United States people are moving in favour of legalising ganja on a wider and wider basis, whilst Jamaica continues to stall and not be bold enough to do what we need to do," Delano Seiveright, director of the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Taskforce said. (See also: Jamaica urged to keep ganja debate going)
The United States must not turn a blind eye to the recreational use of cannabis in states that liberalize drug laws, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said, urging the country to live up to its treaty commitments. Raymond Yans, president of the INCB, said assurances from the U.S. government in December that growing, selling or possessing the drug remained illegal under federal law were "good, but insufficient".
Latin American countries are turning to Europe for lessons on fighting drugs after souring on the prohibition-style approach of the violent and costly U.S.-led war on drugs. Until recently, most Latin American countries had zero-tolerance rules on drugs inspired by the United States. But now countries from Brazil to Guatemala are exploring relaxing penalties for personal use of narcotics, following examples such as Spain and Portugal that have channeled resources to prevention rather than clogging jails.
Uruguay's President Mujica shot back at the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, a U.N. agency, for saying that his administration refused to meet with the agency’s officials before legalizing marijuana. Mujica batted down the criticism, insisting that his administration is open to discussing the law and accusing the INCB President Raymond Yans of applying a double standard by criticizing Uruguay, even as U.S. states pass laws to legalize recreational marijuana consumption. "Tell this old guy not to lie," Mujica said.
The city of Copenhagen wants to legalize cannabis and, if possible, get supplies of the drug from the United States. Following a Europe-wide trend, Denmark’s capital has been planning a three-year experiment that would aim to wrest the city’s soft drugs trade away from criminal gangs and place it under direct municipal control. But while city officials overwhelmingly support the move, the Danish national government may not let them proceed. Last year the national government rejected more tentative plans that Copenhagen city councillors had approved by 39 votes to 9.
Argentina has given the first sign that Uruguay’s groundbreaking cannabis reform just may have started a domino effect across Latin America. Following the momentous vote by its smaller neighbor’s senate this month — making it the first nation in the world to completely legalize the cannabis — Argentina’s anti-drug czar Juan Carlos Molina has called for a public discussion in his country about emulating the measure. His comments are the clearest sign yet that Uruguay’s strategy has kicked off a trend in the region.
Some 20 years ago, a Spanish official in favor of lifting the ban on drugs such as marijuana mentioned at a UN meeting that there "might be a more humane option" in the fight against trafficking. She was immediately taken aside by a senior diplomat, who told her in no uncertain terms: "Don't say things like that round here, not even in the washroom." Today, the same official says that internal documents are now circulating within the UN that openly admit to the failure of prohibition.