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President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law in July. The measure had received consensus in the US Congress, and was passed by 92 votes to 2 in the US Senate. A supporter of the bill, Republican Senator Rob Portman, said: “This is a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress has passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery,” adding “This is also the first time that we’ve treated addiction like the disease that it is, which will help put an end to the stigma that has surrounded addiction for too long.” CARA aims to help communities develop prevention, treatment and overdose programmes. However, the Senate authorized $181 million in new spending to support CARA, while President Obama had asked Congress for more than $1 billion. The Republicans in the Senate said further funding would be addressed in the appropriations process later in the year.
Reuters reports that the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has ruled in favour of Uruguay in a suit filed by Philip Morris International which sought compensation for the country’s anti-smoking legislation. Uruguay was the first Latin American country to introduce a smoking ban in public spaces, raise taxes on tobacco products and print large warnings and graphic images on cigarette packages. Philip Morris argued that the legislation devalued its cigarette trademarks and investments in the country. The company’s suit demanded that the regulations be withdrawn, or not applied to the company, or that it be paid $22 million in damages instead. According to The Financial Times this was the first time a tobacco company had taken a country to an international court. Philip Morris argued that Uruguay had violated terms of a bilateral investment treaty with Switzerland, where the company has its headquarters. In a decision published in July, the ICSID said it had ruled to dismiss Philip Morris' demands and the ICSID ordered Philip Morris to pay Uruguay $7 million and to cover "all the fees and expenses of the Tribunal and ICSID's administrative fees and expenses.” "The Uruguayan state has emerged victorious and the tobacco company's claims have been roundly rejected," President Tabara Vasquez said in a televised address.
A report from the UK Institute of Alcohol Studies, Youthful Abandon, examines the main theories that have sought to explain the recent decline in drinking rates among the under 18 year-olds in the UK. The report concludes that the decline is most likely due to improvements in parenting and the reduced affordability of alcohol, with little evidence that better legal enforcement or the increase in the use of new technology has had a significant impact.
A proposal to regulate tobacco advertising further in the country was rejected by the Health Committee of the Swiss senate in April. Currently Switzerland has very weak legislation on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The proposed federal law, while phasing out traditional methods of advertising such as cinema ads, also sought to allow tobacco companies to use more contemporary marketing techniques like social media to promote their products. In rejecting the government’s draft law, the Health Committee said it “interferes with the principles of a free market economy” and that “there is no evidence as of today that a general ban of tobacco advertising would reduce tobacco consumption.”
The Economist reports that the approximate value of online drug sales rose from around $15-17 million in 2012 to $150-180 million in 2015. The data for The Economist study was gathered by a researcher with the alias Gwern Branwen, who captured around 360,000 transactions from three different markets on the hidden web, Silk Road 2, Agora, and Alphabay, between December 2013 and July 2015. MDMA (ecstasy) had the greatest market share by value of all drugs sold over these cryptomarkets. Cannabis products were the most popular products sold, with oxycodone and Valium also popular. The study also found that drugs bought over the hidden web tended to be more expensive than those bought in street markets. For example, a gram of heroin bought online was twice as expensive as on the street. The Economist speculates that a major factor appears to be that drugs bought online tend to be of a higher quality with fewer impurities. Online dealers who sell poor quality products are likely to garner poor reviews and lose customers.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has joined the Institute for Research, Education, and Training in Addictions (IRETA) to create a free online course based on NIDA Notes content. The course content describes and presents research evidence supporting digital technologies to treat patients with substance use problems. The course is aimed at those involved in screening, brief interventions and referral to treatment as well as counsellors, social workers, health professionals and education professionals. The electronic tools covered in the course include BSTAD, a rapid electronic screening tool for teens, and CBT4CBT, a web-based cognitive behavioural therapy tool. The course also includes videos, informative graphics, quizzes, and practice scenarios.
Pharmacies were designated as one of the three points for acquiring cannabis under Uruguay’s 2013 law legalizing the recreational use of the drug. Under the law, registering with the Uruguayan Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) enables individuals to grow up to six plants at home and harvest up to 40 grams per month. Uruguayan citizens can also join registered cannabis clubs, which have a minimum of 15 members and a maximum of 45. Cannabis clubs can grow a total of 99 plants at specific registered locations, but can only supply each member with a maximum of 480 grams per year. Finally, cannabis can be sold in pharmacies that have been issued a permit by the Uruguayan government. Pharmacies will obtain their cannabis from private companies that have been approved by the government to grow the plant. The government planned to start selling cannabis through pharmacies in 2016 but according to The Cannabist only 50 out of Uruguay’s 1,200 pharmacies had registered for the scheme by July. Among the reasons given for not registering are security concerns, increased paperwork, cost increases and opposition from pharmacy customers to selling legalized cannabis. Government officials said off the record that having only 50 pharmacies enrolled might work in the government’s favour because it would make the scheme easier to control, adding “We’re not ruling out using other networks or even vending machines in the future.”
The National Post reports there were 474 drug-related overdose deaths in British Columbia (BC) in Canada in 2015, with over a third of them associated with fentanyl, according to BC’s chief health officer. With more than 200 overdose deaths in early 2016, the chief health officer declared a public health emergency in the province in April. The Shambhala Music Festival, held every August in BC, makes on-site drug testing available through the AIDS Network, Outreach and Support Society (ANKORS), providing attendees with an opportunity to confirm the contents of substances through reagent testing. In Vancouver24hrs Stacey Lock, Shambhala’s director of harm reduction for the festival, said: “But there are limitations because it doesn’t specifically test for fentanyl, and that is the biggest concern for festivals this year.” Shambhala launched a crowdfunding campaign in early June to raise some of the cost of laboratory-quality equipment that can detect fentanyl, a campaign that raised nearly $12,000 in the first month. ANKORS aims to have suitable testing equipment for the 2017 festival. “We’re really researching to find something like a mini-mass spectrometer – something that’s small and can be mobile,” said Chloe Sage of ANKORS. “We would like to see it go to festivals, but also then be available year-round in the community and may even be able to move around to different communities.”
Indonesia executed by firing squad four people convicted of drug crimes in July despite the international condemnation of two mass executions of foreign drug convicts in 2015. Indonesian Deputy Attorney General Noor Rachmad, said that a decision had not yet been made about when 10 others convicted of drug crimes and sentenced to death, mostly foreigners, would be executed. The Indonesian president Joko Widodo took office in October 2014, declaring that the country was facing a “drugs emergency” and rejected clemency appeals from more than 60 death row inmates. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, said “I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) links its latest World Drug Report with the outcome of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly held earlier in 2016. In particular, the report follows up the Special Session’s observation that "efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to effectively address the world drug problem are complementary and mutually reinforcing.” The report uses the data it has collected on the prevalence, supply of and demand for opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and new psychoactive substances (NPS) and their impact on health to explore the interaction between the world drug problem and the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UK newspaper The Guardian reports that 30 people suspected of involvement with the illicit drug trade have been shot dead by police in the week following the inauguration of the new president of the Phillipines, Rodrugo Duerte. In the evening of his inauguration day, Duerte visited a slum in Manila where he reportedly said to the crowd, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” This follows an election campaign in which Duerte threatened to kill tens of thousands of criminals to combat crime in the country and advocated extrajudicial killings.
Enterparse reports that the European Union (EU) has decided to end an agreement with Philip Morris International (PMI) which aimed to reduce trade in illicit cigarettes. The agreement was made in 2004 when the EU showed that three major tobacco companies were colluding with the black market in cigarette smuggling that was costing EU governments an estimated €10bn a year in lost revenue. Under the terms of the 2004 agreement, PMI agreed to monitor more closely cigarettes which have not had the correct duty paid on them as well as pay a contribution to the EU. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had voted earlier in 2016 to call on the European Commission not to renew the agreement with PMI, pointing out that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control calls for a general separation of governments and tobacco companies. MEPs were also angry that part of the €2bn being paid to the EU over 15 years by the big three tobacco companies had helped fund OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office that had been investigating the tobacco industry. PMI had also challenged the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive in the courts. EU officials said that the major decline in seizures of illicit cigarettes together with tougher EU anti-tobacco laws that came into force in 2016 meant that the agreement was no longer necessary.
The UK newspaper the Guardian reports that Iran is under increasing pressure to end its use of the death penalty for drug trafficking offences. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) approved a five-year country partnership programme for Iran that was aimed at providing about $20m in 2015. But a number of European countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Norway, have indicated that they are no longer willing to contribute to Iran’s anti-drug campaign. There have been indications that Iran wants to end drug-related executions, and more than 70 Iranian MPs introduced a bill to end such executions in December 2015. Iran’s chief prosecutor said in June 2016 that “we are not in favour of death penalty and we don’t think it’s appropriate.” There has been a fall in the number of executions in the first half of the year compared with 2015, but activists say it is too early to tell whether this reflects a change of policy. David Dadge, UNODC spokesperson, said: “The programme received funding in 2015 and there are pledges for 2016 from countries. It would therefore be premature to make any judgment on funding levels for the programme, especially as we are only halfway through the year.”
New York state governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law in June a range of measures to address the opioid crisis in the state that included limiting opioid drug prescriptions for acute pain to seven days of painkillers following a patient's initial visit to a doctor. Refills or renewals can be made after further consultations and there are exceptions for chronic pain and hospice and palliative care. The law also requires insurers to cover initial inpatient drug treatment without prior approval provided the insurance company is notified within 48 hours of admission; extends from 48 to 72 hours the time someone can be held for emergency treatment; and adds 270 more beds and 2,335 addiction treatment slots state-wide. Opioid-related emergency rooms visits in the state increased by 73 percent during the years 2010 to 2014, with 952 deaths in 2013, according to state health officials.
The Mental Health Research Programme, a UK-based collaboration between the Forces in Mind Trust, the Centre for Mental Health and King's Centre for Military Health Research, has launched a 5 year multi-million pound research programme with the aim of encouraging high quality research in the field of veterans' and their families' mental health. The programme encourages applications for research funding that propose innovative ways to understand and address substance misuse and addiction amongst UK ex-Service personnel and their families.
In a leading article, “Breaking Good,” the major British newspaper The Times has supported a call on the government by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) to decriminalise both the possession and use of all illegal drugs. A report from the RSPH and the Faculty of Public Health on illegal drugs concludes that drug use should be regarded as a health problem rather than a crime. The Times editorial adds that: “The government should be encouraged to think of decriminalisation not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalising and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco.”
InSight Crime reports that Colombia's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia: FARC) agreed in June on a voluntary programme to replace coca crops in ten communities surrounding the municipality of Briceño in Colombia. This is Colombia's first coca substitution programme involving FARC and the pilot project aims to help around 450 families who currently grow coca move to alternative crops, such as coffee and passion fruit. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Office for Migration and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization will be involved in the project. InSight Crime notes that there is relatively good infrastructure and alternative sources of income in Briceño compared with the rest of the country. InSight Crime also observes that in other less well-placed parts of Colombia it will be much more difficult to persuade farmers to switch to crops that are not guaranteed to bring in the same earnings as coca and that there is no guarantee that the FARC will put their full weight behind the agreement. In addition there are other illegal armed groups who would want to take control of Colombia's illicit drug production. Displacement is on the rise in Colombia, a trend InSight Crime suggests is probably linked to clashes between armed groups seeking to exploit the criminal opportunities created by the expected demobilization FARC, Colombia's biggest guerrilla force.
Uniform packaging regulations for tobacco were introduced in the UK in May after a legal challenge against the new law was dismissed by the UK High Court. Four large tobacco companies had challenged the regulations which the UK government was introducing in line with the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive. The directive stipulates that graphic health warnings with photos, text and cessation information must cover 65% of the front and the back of cigarette and roll-your-own tobacco packs and is in furtherance of the policy laid down by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The EU’s directive also allowed the UK to introduce its own regulations, requiring all tobacco products to be sold in uniformly olive green packaging with large images designed to act as health warnings, a move that had received a large parliamentary majority in its favour. According to Mr Justice Green’s ruling the tobacco companies had attacked the EU regulations, and the UK parliamentary process that had adopted them, “deploying the full gamut of challenges ranging from international law through EU law and human rights law right down to domestic common law.” Among their arguments, the companies claimed that the government had acted unlawfully because it attributed only “limited” weight to the evidence the companies had presented against plain packaging “upon the (erroneous) basis that it lacked independence and otherwise failed to meet ‘best practice’ standards for the preparation of evidence.” Mr Justice Green dismissed all their grounds of challenge, saying, "The essence of the case is about whether it is lawful for states to prevent the tobacco industry from continuing to make profits by using their trade marks and other rights to further what the World Health Organisation describes as a health crisis of epidemic proportions and which imposes an immense clean-up cost on the public purse," and that "In my judgment the regulations are valid and lawful in all respects."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its regulations on e-cigarettes and vaping products in May. The FDA first announced its intent to regulate e-cigarettes in 2011. In April 2014 the FDA first proposed bringing e-cigarettes and other non-traditional tobacco products, including cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, under its authority but the timetable to finalise the proposal by June 2015 slipped due to resistance from the tobacco industry. The new rules bring e-cigarettes under federal oversight for the first time and will subject all manufacturers, importers and/or retailers of the newly-regulated tobacco products to any applicable provisions, and bring them into line with other tobacco products the FDA has regulated under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) since 2009. Under the new rules manufacturing companies must seek marketing authorization for any tobacco product introduced after 15 Feb 2007. E-cigarette brands will have to undergo a federal review to assess their impact on public health in order to stay in the market. Manufacturers have two years to submit product applications to the FDA for review, and the FDA has another year to finish the evaluation. Products already on the market are allowed to remain on sale during this period.The FDA review process will evaluate new products by assessing factors such as “ingredients, product design and health risks, as well as their appeal to youth and non-users.” Those e-cigarette manufacturers that do not submit the required information or do not meet federal standards would have their products removed from the market. The new rules will also limit e-cigarette sales to over-18s, although this ban will only affect Michigan and Pennsylvania as the other 48 states already ban sales of e-cigarettes to under-18s. E-cigarettes must carry warnings that they contain nicotine from May 2018. In Vox Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products said: “as a regulatory agency, we have to make decisions at the population level. That's where it gets complicated. E-cigarettes have a positive and negative impact. In the US, that kids' use of e-cigarettes is way [up] is a negative. When it comes to adults, we have a disproportionate percentage of adults using e-cigarettes and cigarettes together.”
The latest European Drug Report from the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Abuse (EMCDDA) provides an overview and summary of the European drug situation and responses to it. The statistical data in the report relate to 2014 (or the last year available) and is based on information provided to the EMCDDA by the EU Member States, the candidate country Turkey, and Norway. The report notes a resurgence in the use of ecstasy and that synthetic cannabinoids account for over 60% of the seizures of novel psychoactive substances. Twenty-five of the 98 new substances detected for the first time in 2015 and reported to the EU Early Warning System for new psychoactive substances were synthetic cannabinoids. The report also highlights new concerns about rises in deaths associated with heroin and other opioids particularly in countries in the north of Europe. In the preface to the report the Chair of the EMCDDA’s Management Board, Laura d’Arrigo, and the recently elected Director of the EMCDDA, Alexis Goosdeel, also draw attention to the demands on treatment services in Europe having to respond to the more complex health needs presented by an ageing cohort of heroin users.
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7 - 9 September 2016, Oslo, Norway.
17 - 20 September 2016, Vienna, Austria.
21 - 22 September 2016, Abuja, Nigeria.
22 - 24 September 2016, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
22 - 23 September 2016, Lausanne, Switzerland.
25 - 27 September 2016, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
29 September - 1 October 2016, Gold Coast, Australia.
2 - 4 October 2016, Venice Italy.
5 - 8 October 2016, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
7 - 11 October 2016, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
12 - 14 October 2016, Seattle, Washington, USA.
16 - 19 October 2015, Gramado, Brazil.
20 - 22 October 2016, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
29 October - 2 November 2016, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
29 October - 2 November 2016, Denver, Colorado, USA.
30 October - 2 November 2016, Sydney, Australia.
3 - 5 November 2016, Washington, DC, USA.
9 - 12 November 2016, Vienna, Austria.
10 - 11 November 2016, York, UK.
11 - 15 November 2016, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
12 November 2016, Bern, Switzerland.
12 - 16 November 2016, San Diego, California, USA.
16 - 18 November 2016, Adelaide, Australia.
16 November 2016, London, UK.
22 - 23 November 2016, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
8 - 11 December 2016, Bonita Springs, Florida, USA.
16 - 20 February 2017, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
20 - 22 February 2017, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA.
7 - 11 March 2017, Florence, Italy.
15 - 18 March 2017, Washington DC, USA.
16 - 19 March 2017, Orlando, Florida, USA.
23 - 26 March 2017, Madrid, Spain.
24 - 26 March 2017, Sydney, Australia.
6 - 9 April 2017, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
1 - 3 May 2017, London, UK.
5 - 6 May 2017, location TBD.
7 - 10 May 2017, Liverpool, UK.
15 - 17 May 2017, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
17 - 19 May 2017, Aarhus, Denmark.
16 - 19 June 2017, Montreal, Canada.
17 - 22 June 2017, Montreal, Canada.
23 - 26 July 2017, Paris, France.
2 - 5 September 2017, Paris, France.
4 - 6 October 2017, Melbourne, Australia.
23 - 28 October 2017, Milan, Italy.
24 - 26 October 2017, Lisbon, Portugal.
13 - 15 November 2017, Cape Town, South Africa.