An alliance of influential charities has condemned a key government drugs strategy document, calling it an "ideological attack" on proven addiction treatments and "dangerously and deeply flawed". It warns that ministers will be putting lives at risk if proposed plans to push through "abstinence-based" approaches go ahead.
Rio de Janeiro’s Pacification Police Units (UPP) are celebrating their fifth year in 2013. They do so with generally positive approval ratings from the media and society as a whole. A recent study by Instituto Data Favela indicates that 75% of favelas inhabitants approve of the UPPs. Notwithstanding major crises and criticism, the UPP constitute the single most important public security initiative in the state. And yet the persistent informality of the UPP may eventually undermine its sustainability. (See also: Rio slum pacification police accused of torture, murder)
The Home Affairs Select Committee in the United Kingdom report on drug policy draws on lessons from Portugal’s decriminalisation of drug possession and puts forward a case for the UK reconsidering its own policies. Alex Stevens assesses the situation in Portugal, noting that while decriminalisation has coincided with a fall in the most problematic forms of drug use, it is not the only factor. (See also: Portugal: Ten Years After Decriminalization)
Lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum unveiled a bill Thursday that would give Mainers the chance to legalize marijuana for recreational use in a statewide referendum. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, and co-sponsored by Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, would make vast changes in Maine’s drug law, ranging from making possession of up to 2.5 ounces of pot legal to imposing a tax of $50 per ounce.
The UK could become a hub for smuggling the herbal stimulant khat, European police and politicians have warned. The Netherlands is the latest country to outlaw the sale of the plant, which is now banned in sixteen EU member states and Norway. Khat is freely sold in the UK and observers say the UK's isolated stance could make it the main base for Europe's khat trade. The British government has commissioned a new review of khat use.
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.
At the annual UN General Assembly meeting held in New York, presidents from around the world have the chance to state their views on the key international issues of the day. Not surprisingly, the crisis in Syria, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Millennium Development Goals took center stage this year. Yet a careful viewing of the speeches of the Latin American presidents illustrates the growing voice of Latin American leaders calling for meaningful reform of drug control policies.
Legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world, many experts believe, following the end of prohibition in two US states. In Amsterdam, long famous for its coffee shops, international experts gathering to discuss cannabis regulation said the international conventions, once so heavily policed by the US, would now be increasingly flouted. Already many countries, most notably the Netherlands and Spain, have bypassed the rules.
No fewer than six randomised controlled trials – in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Canada, and England – concluded that heroin assisted treatment is more effective than conventional treatments in a subgroup of heroin users.
Over the past few years, local cannabis clubs have blossomed over Britain. There are now 49 around the UK, which are united by the UK Cannabis Social Club, an organisation founded in 2011 to represent cannabis users. Operating primarily through Facebook, (the LCC's page has had 39,301 likes) the clubs bring cannabis users together from all over Britain to discuss topics ranging from fertiliser to self-medication and campaigning for the decriminalisation of the drug.
One of Northern Ireland's most senior drugs workers has said that class A drugs like heroin should be decriminalised, regulated and made available on prescription. "I think the impact of decriminalising, of regulating, of taking this activity out of the hands of organised crime, is the way to improve our society right now," said Michael Foley, the head of the Belfast Trust's Drug Outreach Team.
The leafy substance khat, grown by many Kenyan farmers, is of economic and cultural significance to many Africans. The UK government has decided, against the advice of its own experts, to treat khat as a class C drug to "protect vulnerable members of our communities". In July, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said khat would be banned "at the earliest possible opportunity" but a ban has yet to be imposed. A team of Kenyan MPs lobby the UK government not to follow suit.
Although illicit drug use has been declining in the UK, long-term problem drug use and drug-related deaths are not decreasing, says the British Medical Association. Its Board of Science says evidence shows the current prohibitive approach to drug use is not working. It says doctors should inform drugs policy to put patients' needs first.
Even though, in 1998, the Home Office granted GW Pharmaceuticals a license to grow cannabis in order to develop cannabinoid-based medicines, Britain is not following suit. Norman Baker, Lib Dem minister of state for crime prevention, called for more liberalised drug laws, and specifically the legalisation of cannabis grown for medicinal use. A coalition spokesman rejected his suggestion outright. And so those seeking cannabis for medicinal purposes must continue to chase it in the same way as recreational users, through the black market.
Divisions between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over Britain's "war on drugs" emerged on Friday after the Liberal Democrat leader said that current policy was not working and accused politicians of "a conspiracy of silence". He said Cameron should have the courage to look at issues such as decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs. (See also: Nick Clegg calls for royal commission on drugs reform)
Khat, a stimulant drug, is chewed by around 90,000 people in the east African and Yemeni communities in the UK. But now the Home Office is considering banning the substance. During the last election, pro-ban activists met politicians, offering them community votes. In return, they wanted their support for the ban on khat. Some politicians accepted the offer and supported the mission.
Calls for the herbal high khat to be banned in the UK have been renewed days before a government report into its usage is due to be published. Some members of the British-Somali community have been calling for years for khat to be made illegal. But traders say a ban would not mean an end to khat in the UK as, according to them, smuggled khat is still widely available in Europe and the US, although it is more expensive.
A clash between the home secretary, Theresa May, and her expert drugs advisory group is looming after it decided against banning qat, a mild herbal stimulant, traditionally used in Britain's Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said there was insufficient evidence that Qat caused health or wider societal problems to justify a ban in Britain.