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The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has sent letters to cannabidiol (CBD) producers and distributors in the UK telling them that they must cease to sell, supply, promote, advertise or process orders for CBD products within 28 days. In a statement released on 7 October the MHRA said, "we have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are a medicine. Products for therapeutic use must have a medicines’ licence before they can be legally sold or supplied in the UK. Products will have to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards to protect public health.” CBD has been increasing in popularity to help with a range of medical conditions but there have been concerns about the unregulated CBD market for some time. Volteface reports that until now CBD products could be sold so long as they did not make any medical claims about the product, but there have been examples of suppliers breaching this condition as well as providing poor quality products. Peter Carroll of the End our Pain campaign, a UK medical cannabis patient advocacy group, said “we agree that there is a need for more control in the CBD market to protect people from unscrupulous suppliers and to make sure that people understand what they are taking.” He added that “we fear that today’s sudden move will cause huge distress to people who rely on these products. It will drive many people to look for CBD on the black market. It is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.” The MHRA’s definition of CBD as a medicinal product makes CBD an exception to The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, which says that cannabis has no medicinal value.
While Colombia’s government and the country’s second largest left-wing rebel group, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), have announced the date for formal peace talks to begin, InSight Crime reports increased ELN activity in coca growing areas of Colombia. InSight Crime suggests that ELN is moving into the coca growing areas of the country relinquished by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as part of the peace-seeking process in the country. According to InSight Crime, locals in the department of Cordoba say the ELN is offering to buy up farmers' supply of coca leaves at a higher price than was paid by the FARC. The Colombian Attorney General’s office has said that ELN is increasing its presence in the department of Nariño, an area that had been under control of a FARC unit with links to the illicit drug trade. This follows reports earlier in 2016 that the ELN has already occupied FARC territory in the departments of Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Chocó.
Plain packaging of cigarette and tobacco products will come into effect in Ireland in May 2017. The Irish Times reports that the Irish Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has introduced the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in the Irish parliament. This bill amends sections of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 relating to the regulation of the appearance of tobacco packaging. The Bill will allow the Minister to prescribe “the colour of the outer and inner surfaces of tobacco packaging, the form and manner of barcodes and the manner in which a name may be printed on tobacco products.” Mr Harris said that health warnings with graphic images of the consequences of smoking will feature prominently on the new packaging.
Findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey 2015 found that three quarters of the public supported minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol products. Forty-six percent of people think that MUP would be effective in reducing young people’s drinking, while 36% think MUP would be effective in reducing heavy drinking. Over three-quarters of people believe that the amount of alcohol drivers are allowed to drink should be reduced. The Telegraph reports that the government has said there are no plans to lower the current limit for drivers in England and Wales of 80mg per 100ml of blood.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report provides a comprehensive picture of alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable mortality in the WHO European Region during the period 1990–2014. The data presented show that, although alcohol consumption has been decreasing in the WHO European Region as a whole over the period, it continues to be a major risk factor for mortality. The overall alcohol-attributable mortality burden has increased slightly since 1990, largely as a result of the increased mortality burden in eastern European countries. The report outlines a range of evidence-based policy responses but concludes that “despite the existence and promotion of traditional evidence-based and cost-effective interventions, some rethinking seems necessary on introducing additional alcohol policies.”
Public consultation on legalizing e-cigarette sales in New Zealand began in August and closed in September. The sale of e-cigarettes is currently illegal in the country if they are used to vape nicotine derived from tobacco or if they were sold on the basis that vaping would help someone quit smoking. The Ministry of Health said there is "emerging evidence that e‑cigarette use may substantially reduce the burden of disease caused by smoking." The government proposals would restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to people aged 18 years and over, prevent e-cigarettes being advertised, and ban their use in smoke-free areas.
A paper published in Addiction in 2015 has been given a European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Scientific Award. The paper, “Design and baseline findings of a large-scale rapid response to an HIV outbreak in people who inject drugs in Athens, Greece: The ARISTOTLE programme”, was judged to rate highly on the award’s criteria: scientific significance; EU policy relevance; originality and creativity; and clarity and quality of writing. The lead author of the paper, Angelos Hatzakis, received a prize in Lisbon in November.
In May the German Health Minister, Hermann Groehe, announced that Germany is to legalise cannabis for medical purposes early in 2017. Groehe said that the provisions of the draft bill he was introducing in the German parliament would make cannabis available from pharmacies and the medication would be covered by public health insurance. Supplies of medical cannabis will be imported until specially supervised plantations have been established in Germany. Volteface describes the background to this decision, in particular the role of cannabis advocacy and drug law reform organisations, and the importance of the court decision in April upholding the right of a multiple sclerosis patient, Michael Fischer, to grow his own cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The UK Department of Health has published the results of its consultation on whether people found the new UK Chief Medical Officers’ drinking guidelines clear and easy to use. The guidelines, which came into effect in January 2016, aim to inform the public about known health risks from drinking and provide the most up to date scientific information. The report also describes how the wording of the final guidelines has changed as a result of the consultation. In particular, it was agreed that the guidelines should recognise the context in which the low risk guidelines exist and that “while some people do not drink, for many alcohol is a part of their social lives and as with most activities, this carries a degree of risk.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian Department of Health body that regulates therapeutic products, announced in August that both cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinols, including their extracts, are to be moved from Schedule 9 in the national Poisons Standard to Schedule 8. This amendment enables the therapeutic use of cannabis products. The Age reports that medical cannabis campaigner and United in Compassion co-founder Lucy Haslam said campaigners and patients waiting to obtain medicinal cannabis legally were in a "holding pattern" while the proposed regulatory system was being set up, adding her concern that the proposed legal cannabis industry could be "so bound up in red tape" that its products will be too expensive for patients.
The World Health Organization has published an analysis of the experience of nine countries (Botswana, Egypt, Iceland, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Thailand and Vietnam) that have introduced laws for earmarking tobacco tax revenues for spending on public health programmes. While the analysis finds that there is no single formula for establishing an earmarked fund, the report identifies a number of common lessons to help policy-makers and tobacco control advocates who are considering establishing sustainable funding for health programmes in general or for tobacco control programmes specifically from earmarked tobacco tax revenues.
VnExpress reports that Vietnam's northern border has become a hub for synthetic drug trafficking. A bilateral meeting on drug control between Vietnam and China in July noted that traffickers were colluding with officials to get drugs through border controls. The article claims that 983 kg of drugs were seized in 2015, a threefold increase on the previous year’s seizures. The "Golden Triangle" of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia were identified as the source of these drugs at the meeting. In an article in Customs News, the Director of Drug Crime Investigation Department in Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, said: “In recent years, Vietnam-China border has always been identified as a key route for complex criminal activities, especially trafficking and transporting of synthetic drugs. In practice, drugs which are mainly heroin are transferred from Laos to Vietnam for consumption or are transported to China through the provinces of Quang Ninh, Lang Son and Lao Cai. Meanwhile, most of synthetic drugs which come from China are transported back to Vietnam.” At the July meeting An Guojun, deputy secretary-general of China's National Narcotics Control Commission, said: “The two nations need to strengthen and improve anti-drug cooperation to detect and stamp out multi-national gangs, gangs especially in the border areas.”
Up until now the University of Mississippi has had an exclusive licence with the US government to grow cannabis for federally sanctioned research. The US Drug and Enforcement Agency (DEA) now wants other cannabis growers to help expand the supply and variety of cannabis available for research. According to Statnews, a DEA spokesperson said that the DEA “would require manufacturers to obtain their seeds from a lawful source, and the DEA would assist the new manufacturers in this regard.” The agency has set no deadline to select growers. To register with the agency, applicants will need to show that they will have security measures in place to protect the cannabis as well as being willing to comply with a large range of other requirements. Statnews found little enthusiasm for the DEA call among potential applicants at US agricultural schools. “I think everybody is just thinking about how to approach this,” said Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, adding “What will it really take to get one of these DEA licenses?”
The Drug Policy Modelling Program at Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has published a briefing paper on decriminalization. The briefing is supported by an annotated bibliography of the main research reports and analyses of drug law reform options. Dr Caitlin Hughes, one of the authors of the briefing, said “Decriminalisation removes criminal penalties for use and possession by law or in practice. It does not provide a legal avenue to obtain drugs,” adding “It is a sound and pragmatic policy, supported by research evidence, that can save public money and offer a more effective and humane response to drug use.”
The Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice commissioned RAND Europe to assess the size and scope of the internet-facilitated drugs trade, the role of the Netherlands in online markets and how law enforcement agencies might detect and intervene. The RAND study used a mixed methods methodology, with a review of the literature, in-depth interviews with experts and law enforcement representatives, the collection and analysis of cryptomarket data and a review of police case files. Cannabis, stimulants and ecstasy accounted for 70 per cent of all revenues on cryptomarkets. The majority of drugs sold were transactions under $100, which the researchers believed were mostly for personal use. “Wholesale” level transactions (those greater than $1,000), which the researchers thought were for re-distribution through offline markets, accounted for 25 percent of the transactions. Total cryptomarket drug revenues for January 2016 were estimated to be worth between $12.0 million and $21.1 million, which compares with Europe's estimated €2.3 billion monthly offline drug revenues. Revenues from vendors operating from the Netherlands were by far the largest on a per capita basis.
Reuters reports that a bill was introduced in the Italian parliament in July and proposed by an inter-party group of 220 deputies and 80 senators, mainly from the Prime Minister’s Democratic Party (PD) and the 5-Star Movement. The proposed legislation would decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis for recreational use at home and possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis for recreational use outside of the home. The cultivation of up to five cannabis plants at home would be allowed. The government would allow the creation of cannabis clubs, which could include up to 50 members allowed to smoke and distribute cannabis up to a specified limit, and license certain companies to produce and sell cannabis.
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.”
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