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BBC News reports that the Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said the start of legal cannabis sales in his country will be delayed until next year due to "practical difficulties". Sales of cannabis in state-owned pharmacies were planned to begin at the end of 2014 but Mr Mujica said that "If we want to get this right we are going to have to do it slowly". "We are not just going to say, 'hands off and let the market take care of it,' because if the market is in charge, it is going to seek to sell the greatest possible amount," he added.
Reuters reports that WHO's director-general, Dr Margaret Chan, said she had advised China's tobacco monopoly to separate the government agency functions from the state tobacco firm. Dr Chan said that the government must separate the conflicting promotion and prevention roles of its state tobacco monopoly to reduce smoking-related deaths. China's State Tobacco Monopoly Administration controls the world's single largest manufacturer of tobacco products, China National Tobacco Corporation, but also has a major role in policymaking on tobacco control and enforcement. "I believe the Chinese government will implement [this change] step by step, according to their procedure," Chan told a news conference at the end of an official visit to China.
In July, as part of a ‘Responsibility Deal’, UK ministers and alcohol industry representatives agreed a series of pledges that they argue will reduce drink-related harm. The pledges include producers ending the production of super-strength products in large cans, retailers committing to the responsible display and promotion of alcohol in shops and supermarkets, and pubs and bars ensuring they stock house wines below 12.5% ABV and promote lower-alcohol products to customers. The alcohol industry will also expand partnership schemes to the Local Alcohol Action Areas, which were launched by the government in February, and there will be a new initiative to address street drinking. The alcohol industry will also provide £250,000 for alcohol education programmes in schools. Voluntary agreements of this kind have historically not led to significant mitigation of public harm and the measures being proposed in this case are untested whereas interventions to increase price and reduce availability have a strong evidence base. In June 2011 we noted that six health organisations decided not to sign up to the Responsibility Deal. They had reservations about proposed alcohol pledges and thought the Responsibility Deal prioritised alcohol industry views. The Guardian reports that officials at one of the government departments involved with the new agreement were told by the Prime Minister’s office to delay placing details of it on the department’s website until the day after the meeting was held. A source said that the Prime Minister’s office was following the main governing party’s strategy for 2015 to focus on the ‘long-term economic plan’ and downplay policies and projects that distract from the core message. The source said: ‘No. 10 seems reticent to do anything publicly on tackling alcohol problems’.
The US National Drug Control Strategy 2014 continues the approach of the Obama administration’s earlier strategies with an emphasis on early intervention, treatment, recovery support, criminal justice reform, effective law enforcement, and international cooperation. While the overall framework, goals, and agency responsibilities set out in Obama’s first Strategy remain in effect, the 2014 Strategy attempts to address issues such as declining perceptions of harm and increases of use of cannabis among young people, problem opioid use disorders and new synthetic drugs. The strategy has goals to be attained by 2015 including a decrease in the 30-day prevalence of drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds by 15 percent and a reduction of drug-induced deaths by 15 percent.
The Washington Post reports that a bill signed into law by the Republican Governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam in April explicitly criminalizes drug abuse while pregnant. The law came into effect in July and will remain in effect until 1 July 2016. While other US states, such as Alabama and South Carolina, have used fetal harm laws to charge drug-using pregnant women, Tennessee is the first state to adopt this criminalization approach. The new law allows women to be criminally charged with an "assaultive offense for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug or for criminal homicide if her child dies as a result of her illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant". Supporters of the new law say its aim is to protect babies but a coalition of medical, public health, women's rights, and social justice groups worked to oppose the bill as it made its way through the Tennessee legislature. US drug czar Michael Botticelli commented during a visit to Nashville: "Under the Obama administration, we've really tried to reframe drug policy not as a crime but as a public health-related issue, and that our response on the national level is that we not criminalize addiction", and added, "We want to make sure our response and our national strategy is based on the fact that addiction is a disease. What's important is that we create environments where we're really diminishing the stigma and the barriers, particularly for pregnant women, who often have a lot of shame and guilt about their substance abuse disorders". State health officials have said they interpret the law to mean that a pregnant woman on methadone or buprenorphine maintenance would not be in violation of it, but treatment experts have pointed out that there is no language in the law that explicitly says that.
Legislation to ban smoking in all cafes and bars narrowly passed in the lower house of the Dutch parliament in July. Currently, cafes and bars smaller than 70 square metres and which are run by their owners and without staff to protect from second-hand smoke are exempt from the smoking ban introduced in 2008. Junior health minster Martin van Rijn has pledged to close this loophole and hopes to introduce the change in the law in 2014.
In May, French Social Affairs and Health Minister Marisol Touraine signalled her intention to introduce legislation for plain packaging of cigarettes. The French system would follow the example set by Australia and would only allow a brand name in small lettering under a large health warning. Plain packaging would be one of a number of measures to curb smoking, including a ban on using e-cigarettes in public places. Meanwhile in the UK, The Guardian reports that the UK government is embarking on a further, short public consultation and negotiations with the European Union, which will take about six months, before plain packaging plans are enacted in the UK. This consultation is thought to be necessary to help the government defeat any legal moves to delay or outlaw plain packaging by tobacco firms.
The European Union is a signatory to the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which obliges governments to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur. The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, is to investigate the European Commission's failure to properly implement these rules following a complaint submitted by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). European Commission officials have had numerous meetings with tobacco industry lobbyists wanting to influence the EU's Tobacco Products Directive and many of these meetings were not disclosed online. The European Commission claims its approach is "compatible" with the WHO rules, but CEO's complaint argues that the Commission is violating its treaty obligations.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reports that 81 new psychoactive substances (NPS) were identified in 2013 compared with 73 in the previous 12 months. There was also “emerging new evidence” that synthetic cathinones such as mephedrone are being injected. However, although heroin initiation is in decline in Europe, most of the costs related to drug treatment relate to caring for those with problems resulting from the heroin ‘epidemics’ of the 1980s and 1990s. Online interactive analyses accompany the report providing insights into six topical issues, including cannabis markets in Europe, Internet-based drug treatment and the results of a new study which analysed waste water from the sewage system of a number of European cities for the residue of illegal drugs. The information package is completed by the European Drug Report: Data and statistics and Country overviews offering national-level data and analyses.
An open letter signed by 53 researchers and public health specialists calls on the World Health Organization (WHO) to "resist the urge to control and suppress e-cigarettes", suggesting that e-cigarettes could be a "significant health innovation". The letter is a response to a leaked document from a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) preparatory meeting indicating that the WHO considers e-cigarettes a “threat” to public health. BBC News reports that WHO said it was still deciding what recommendations to make to governments. A WHO spokesperson said that WHO is “working with national regulatory bodies to look at regulatory options, as well as toxicology experts, to understand more about the possible impact of e-cigarettes and similar devices on health."
Lithuania has banned the sale of energy drinks to anyone under 18 on the basis of health concerns. The ban will take effect in November 2014 after it was approved by parliament in May. Lithuania’s health ministry said it was setting a precedent within the European Union. "According to our survey, a majority of other nations say that they only have recommendations in place, not bans," ministry official Almantas Kranauskas said. "I think it will serve as an impetus for other countries. Many of them are still hesitating and might be influenced by the lucrative energy drinks industry."
Bloomberg News reports that it will be obligatory in September 2014 for all European Union countries to include drugs, prostitution, and other illegal and shadow economy businesses in their gross domestic product calculations. The 2010 version of the European System of Accounts states that “illegal economic actions shall be considered as transactions when all units involved enter the actions by mutual agreement. Thus, purchases, sales or barters of illegal drugs or stolen property are transactions, while theft is not.” The goal is to make European Union countries’ economic data comparable. According to the The Guardian Britain’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that illegal drugs and prostitution added £9.7bn to Britain’s economy, equal to 0.7% of gross domestic product, in 2009. Alan Clarke, a UK economist at Scotiabank, said that although the government would not feel the benefit of illegal work in terms of income tax take, there would be a spending boost. "A drug dealer or prostitute won't necessarily pay tax on that £10bn, but the government will get tax receipts when they spend their income on a pimped up car or bling phone." Steve Pudney, professor of economics at the University of Essex, said he was sceptical about the methods used by the ONS to estimate the size of the drugs market. "In my view, the ONS estimate of the size of the drug market is unlikely to be very accurate. It rests on some heroically large assumptions which would be difficult to test, and it also uses a measure of demand that is likely to understate systematically the true scale of drug use."
A British Columbia Supreme Court decision in May allows heroin addicts who were prescribed heroin as part of a clinical trial to be able to continue receiving the drug while a larger constitutional challenge is before the courts. Doctors had applied to Health Canada to continue prescribing heroin to select addicts who had moved through the trial outside the trial setting. In September Health Canada approved 21 of those applications. This was followed by federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, who saw her ministry’s approval of the trials a mistake, introducing new regulations to make prescribing heroin illegal. The injunction will exempt from the new regulations all outstanding plaintiff requests and future requests from study participants “insofar as they are for patients who are refractory to other treatments and whose physicians have made or make” an application to Health Canada. There are 202 participants in the latest trial and each must receive Health Canada approval to continue receiving the drug. Adrienne Smith, a health and drug policy lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society, called Thursday’s decision “a victory for evidence-based health care.”
Huffington Post reports that the US House of Representatives has passed legislation blocking the Department of Justice from interfering with state laws permitting medical cannabis use. 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalised cannabis for medical use. Five other states have legalised CBD oils for the treatment of epilepsy. In recent years the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and several US attorneys have raided cannabis dispensaries that complied with state laws. The DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance with "no currently accepted medical use," and has pursued a public relations campaign challenging the medical benefits of cannabis. Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat from Oregon, said. "It's time we take the federal government out of the equation so medical marijuana business owners operating under state law aren't living in constant fear of having their doors kicked down in the middle of the night." The bill next goes to the Democratic-led US Senate for approval. In another development the Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a new rule that increases the US government's production quota for medical cannabis from an annual 21 kg to 650 kg. NIDA has recently notified the DEA that it required additional supplies of cannabis to be manufactured in 2014 to provide for current and anticipated research efforts involving cannabis.
BBC News reports that as part of peace negotiations the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc), the country's largest rebel group, have agreed on a plan to deal with the illegal drug trade. Both parties have agreed to eliminate all illicit drug production in Colombia should a final peace agreement be reached. This was the third on a six-point peace agenda being negotiated in Cuba. Details of the programme to deal with the drug trade will be discussed further by special commissions. The Farc, which controls large areas of rural Colombia, is believed to be partly funded by money generated by the illegal drug trade. Farc negotiator Ivan Marquez says the agreement includes reparations for victims of coca plantation spraying.
Transform reports that Uruguay has opted for a strict system of regulation that gives government a monopoly on the cannabis trade in the country. Cannabis will be exempt from production and sales taxes as the government attempts to undercut the illicit drug market. However, InSight Crime notes that the commercial growers that will be authorised to produce cannabis will be expected to pay income tax. They will also have to pay both a fixed and variable fee to obtain a growing licence. Cannabis will be legally available via pharmacies in late November or early December 2014. The price of cannabis available through the pharmacies will be set at between 20 and 22 Uruguayan pesos (roughly 1 US dollar) per gram. The price takes into account a government tax, which will be used to fund the new regulatory body, the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), and a national campaign to educate the public about the consequences of cannabis use. Between 2 and 6 private companies will be licensed to cultivate roughly 20 tons of cannabis annually. The companies will have to bid for the production contracts.
It was announced in April that the case to implement a minimum unit price of alcohol in Scotland is to be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union. This follows an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association against a 2013 court decision supporting the Scottish Government’s policy of minimum unit pricing. It is likely to take over a year to receive a judgment from the Court. Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil welcomed the referral and stressed that it was right this “precedent-setting case” was considered by the European Court of Justice. He said: “The Scottish Government has always believed that minimum unit pricing is the right thing to do and will save lives. Scotland has a difficult relationship with alcohol and we need to urgently take action to tackle this problem that puts a huge burden on our society. “
BBC News reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent a letter to stakeholders regarding its intent to "propose a regulation that would extend the Agency’s “tobacco product” authorities” in Chapter IX of the FDCA (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act). In the letter, the FDA specified electronic cigarettes and "other tobacco products" as products it intends to regulate. The proposed rule will also place cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah tobacco, dissolvable tobacco products and nicotine gels under the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products. If the rule is approved, the sale of electronic cigarettes to those under 18 years old will be banned and all products will have to be approved through the FDA. Electronic cigarettes will also be required to carry health warnings and the FDA also wants to limit vending machine sales of e-cigarettes. Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said ‘Right now for something like e-cigarettes, there are far more questions than answers’.
3 News reports that the New Zealand government has decided against introducing minimum pricing on alcohol. The decision was based on the findings of a Ministry of Justice report that examined options for minimum pricing and its possible costs and benefits. The report was part of the government’s consideration of measures to reform New Zealand’s alcohol laws. The Ministry of Justice recommended that a minimum price not be considered for introduction for five years. Justice Minister Judith Collins said the decision was made because it would have an impact on moderate drinkers when there is no "compelling evidence" the increased price was the right approach to curb alcohol abuse. The decision also follows recent changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. These changes allowed the development and implementation of Local Alcohol Policies, which are likely to take up to two years to come into full effect. Judith Collins said she thought these changes struck a good balance between reducing the harm of alcohol abuse without penalising responsible drinkers.
The ISAJE Griffith Edwards Prize has been established to recognize achievements in addiction science in accordance with Griffith Edwards’ interests. The prize will be awarded every second year and will emphasise achievements with an international impact. The 2014 Prize will be awarded to a career scientist who has worked in addiction research, or another person who has contributed significantly to addiction science or policy, or an organization that has contributed to the international advancement of addiction science or policy in accordance with the aims prioritised by Griffith Edwards. The 2014 Prize consists of a certificate acknowledging the accomplishments of the awardee as well as a book authored by Griffith Edwards. The Prize will be announced at the ISAJE (International Society of Addiction Journal Editors) Annual Meeting in Chicago and internationally through the ISAJE member journals. Nominations can be made by writing to the Chairperson of the Jury, email@example.com, by 31 July, describing how the nominee meets the criteria for the Prize and describing the nominee’s main accomplishments. Letters of support from colleagues of the nominated person are encouraged and can be submitted along with the nomination.
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4 - 6 August 2014, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
7 - 10 August 2014, Washington, DC, USA.
21 - 22 August 2014, Lagos, Nigeria.
22 - 26 August 2014, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
2 - 4 September 2014, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
8 - 11 September 2014, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.
11 - 13 September 2014, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
14 - 18 September 2014, Madrid, Spain.
14 - 16 September 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
18 - 19 September 2014, Warsaw, Poland.
26 September 2014, Vilnius, Lithuania.
27 September - 1 October 2014, Seattle, Washington, USA.
2 - 6 October 2014, Yokahama, Japan.
3 October 2014, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
5 - 8 October 2014, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
5 - 8 October 2014, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
16 - 18 October 2014, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
18 - 21 October 2014, Berlin, Germany.
6 - 8 November 2014, San Francisco, California, USA.
7 - 11 November 2014, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
9 - 12 November 2014, Adelaide, SA, Australia.
10 - 12 November 2014, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
11 November 2014, Dublin, Ireland.
15 - 19 November 2014, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
19 November 2014, London, UK.
27 - 28 November 2014, Brussels, Belgium.
5 - 7 December 2014, Aventura, Florida, USA.
5 - 8 February 2015, Los Angeles, California, USA.
5 - 6 March 2015, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.
28 March - 1 April 2015, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
14 - 17 April 2015, Barcelona, Spain.
17 - 20 May 2015, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
17 - 19 June 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
18 - 19 June 2015, Scotland, UK.
7 - 9 October 2015, Melbourne, Australia.