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The International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE) Griffith Edwards Award has been established to recognize achievements in addiction science in accordance with Griffith Edwards’ interests. The 2014 prize has been awarded to Professor Ronaldo Laranjeira, Head of Department of Clinical Psychiatry, Federal University, Sao Paolo, Brazil and General Coordinator for the National Institute of Public Policy for Alcohol and Other Drugs and Director of the Alcohol and Drug Research Unit. In the award citation the jury state that Professor Laranjeira “has had an impact as clinician, educator, articulator, promoter and implementer of public policy in the area of alcohol and drugs, not just in Brazil but also internationally.”
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has launched a new organisational policy on the legalisation of medical cannabis. In the position statement, the PHAA recommends that “Australian governments, collaboratively with members of the affected communities (including families and carers) and public health, medical and law enforcement experts, initiate careful policy work on how to introduce a compassionate, palliation-focussed, medicinal cannabis regime within their respective jurisdictions.”
In the 46thSpecial Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Guatemala City, Member States adopted the resolution "Reflections and Guidelines to Formulate and Follow Up on Comprehensive Policies to Address the World Drug Problem in the Americas." While the resolution recognises the importance of the UN conventions it also recognises the need for Member States to consider "regularly reviewing the drug policies adopted, ensuring that they are comprehensive and focused on the well-being of the individual, in order to address their national challenges and assess their impact and effectiveness."
Insight Crime reports that Mexico’s army has located and destroyed 1,639 coca plants in Chiapas state near the Guatemalan border. "We have information that this is the first plantation that has been located at a national level of this type of plant," said Sergio Ernesto Martinez Rescalvo, the commander of the 36th Military Zone. Insight Crime remarks that if the army’s claims are accurate, then the discovery could indicate a possible strategic shift on the part of Mexican traffickers who could be exploring home coca production as a viable option.
Reuters reports that a bill originally intended to introduce a complete tobacco advertising ban in China has been weakened after lobbying by China's state tobacco monopoly. The draft bill extends China’s current law which prohibits tobacco advertising on radio, film, television, newspapers and magazines, and in public areas such as theatres and sports arenas. China's parliament, the National People's Congress, agreed to extend the ban to public transport venues, electronic publications, libraries and parks but promotional activities such as cigarette product launches, and tobacco sponsorship for sporting events and schools are exempted from the planned restrictions. China's tobacco monopoly has previously blocked other measures such as the introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packages.
BBC News reports that the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oomnen Chandy, said the Congress-led state government plans to make the state "liquor free" with a series of proposed measures in the coming months. Kerala has India's highest per capita alcohol consumption. The first phase of the ban will involve the closing of 730 bars serving alcohol and the introduction of more alcohol-free days in the state. Only luxury hotels will be allowed to serve alcohol from next year and 10% of the 338 liquor shops owned by a state-run monopoly will be shut every year. "The state should be prepared to accept total prohibition within this period [of 10 years]," the Chief Minister said.
Amnesty International has drawn attention to the execution in Saudi Arabia of four members of the same extended family after they were convicted of “receiving large quantities of hashish”. The four executed men, Hadi al-Mutlaq, Awad al-Mutlaq, Mufrih al-Yami and Ali al-Yami, were arrested and detained by the interior ministry's General Directorate of Investigations on several occasions after their alleged offence in 2007, Amnesty said, and they were reportedly tortured during interrogation in order to extract false confessions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014. The report provides country profiles for alcohol consumption in the 194 WHO Member States together with assessments of the impact on public health and policy responses. ‘More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,’ said Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, who added ‘The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.’
Catalonia's public health agency has proposed new measures to regulate cannabis clubs in the region. Catalonia's cannabis clubs have around 165,000 members. According to The Guardian the proposed new measures will limit membership to Spanish residents and members will have to be 21 years of age or older and belong to the club for at least 15 days before being given access to cannabis. Clubs will be made to register their plants and undergo an annual inspection. The proposal also said that the maximum quantity of cannabis that members will be allowed to access each month has yet to be determined but is expected to be somewhere between 60 to 100 grams a month (2-3.5 ounces). The proposed regulations were welcomed by the Catalonia Federation of Cannabis Associations and a spokesman said that many of the clubs already follow similar regulations.
The European Commission has funded a 2–year project called “European-wide, Monitoring, Analysis and knowledge Dissemination on Novel/Emerging Psychoactives" or EU-MADNESS for short. The objective of the project is to develop integrated monitoring and profiling of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in Europe and inform education and prevention workers about the types of NPS emerging, their associated characteristics and potential harms.
The Foundation Youth Smoking Prevention (Rookpreventie Jeugd) is suing the Dutch government because of its relationship with the tobacco industry according to AD.nl and reported in nltimes.nl. The Foundation accuses the government of not complying with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, despite signing the treaty, by allowing the tobacco industry to have an influence on its smoking policy.
The Telegraph reports that Queensland is to become the first state in Australia to subject electronic cigarette users to the same laws as those for people who smoke traditional cigarettes. From 2015 restrictions on regular cigarettes, such as not smoking in public areas, will also apply to electronic cigarettes. The new laws will prevent electronic cigarettes being sold to children, ban their use in indoor or outdoor public places and ensure no promotion or advertisement of the products in retail outlets.
Between 162 million and 324 million people, or 3.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent of the world population, aged 15-64 used an illicit in 2012 according to the 2014 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). These were similar figures to 2011 and the prevalence of problem drug use also remained stable at between 16 million and 39 million people. Launching the report, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said ‘There remain serious gaps in service provision. In recent years only one in six drug users globally has had access to or received drug dependence treatment services each year’ and highlighted the estimated 183,000 drug-related deaths that had occurred in 2012.
Introducing a series of articles on cannabis, The New York Times editorial board said in its July 27, 2014 edition that the federal government should legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 years and older. The editorial board said its inspiration came from the recent moves by states to reform their cannabis legislation and that national legalization would allow states to make their own decisions about the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. The editorial compares federal cannabis policy with the failure of alcohol prohibition and draws attention to the harmful effects of the current laws ‘on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals’. The editorial continues that for cannabis ‘we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults’. In a response the White House said ‘the Obama Administration approaches substance use as a public health issue, not merely a criminal justice problem’, but ‘we as policy makers cannot ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and marijuana use has harmful consequences. Increased consumption leads to higher public health and financial costs for society’.
The Telegraph reports that the Administrative Court of Cologne has ruled that some people suffering from chronic pain should be able to cultivate their own cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Five people with chronic pain and other health problems brought the complaint to the court. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) refused the patients permission to grow cannabis at home but the court said the BfArM had to reconsider three of the requests that it had rejected. The patients all had permits to buy and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes from a pharmacy but wanted to cultivate their own because they could not afford to purchase the drug produced by the Dutch company Bedrocan and their health insurance did not cover it. Dr Franjo Grotenhermen, chairman of the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine, said ‘We have reasons to believe that the Federal Government will appeal the ruling before the Higher Administrative Court in Munster and that a final decision may only be achieved before the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig’.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published guidance on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, bringing together all existing guidance relevant to five key populations: men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and other closed settings, sex workers and transgender people. The guidelines ‘aim to: provide a comprehensive package of evidence-based HIV-related recommendations for all key populations; increase awareness of the needs of and issues important to key populations; improve access, coverage and uptake of effective and acceptable services; and catalyze greater national and global commitment to adequate funding and services’.
The Guardian reports that a jury in Florida has awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer 18 years ago record punitive damages of more than $23bn against America's second-biggest cigarette maker, RJ Reynolds. Cynthia Robinson, of Pensacola, sued RJ Reynolds in 2008 over the death of her husband, Michael Johnson, claiming the company had conspired to conceal the health dangers and addictive nature of its products. The jury also awarded a compensatory payout of $7.3 million to Robinson and $9.6 million to the couple’s son. J. Jeffery Raborn, the vice president and assistant general counsel for RJ Reynolds, said in a statement quoted by The New York Times that the company planned to challenge ‘this runaway verdict’. Robinson’s lawyer Chris Chestnut responded ‘This wasn't a runaway jury, it was a courageous one’. He said jurors appeared to have been swayed by evidence of the company's aggressive marketing of tobacco products, particularly promotions aimed at young people, and by its claims that it was Johnson's choice to smoke. “They lied to Congress, they lied to the public, they lied to smokers and tried to blame the smoker” Chestnut said.
The Guardian reports that opiate substitution programmes set up in Crimea when it was part of Ukraine have been closed following Russian annexation of Crimea earlier this year. The Russian Federation does not permit opiate substitution, leaving over 800 patients in the Crimea without treatment. One methadone user in Sevastopol, Sergei Kislov, told Associated Press ‘It is happening at such a pace that it's going to be a massacre here…they're abandoning 130 people and forcing them to fend for themselves, even if that means we'll end up stealing again and going to jail’. In an interview reported by AFP Pavlo Skala, with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine, said "According to our information, at least 20 people have already died there from various reasons, such as chronic disease, overdose, suicide, but no-one will provide us with actual death certificates".
The University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) has received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop a National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS). The system will scan social media and Web platforms to identify new trends as well as draw on national and local data resources. ‘NDEWS will generate critically needed information about new drug trends in specific locations around the country so rapid, informed, and effective public health responses can be developed precisely where needed’ said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow. Dr Volkow continued “By monitoring trends at the local level, we hope to prevent emerging drug problems from escalating or spreading to surrounding regions’.
BBC News reports that The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that new psychoactive substances that mimic the effects of cannabis cannot be classed as medicinal. The ECJ was asked by Germany's Federal Court to clarify the classification of such drugs after two German vendors were convicted for selling unsafe medicinal products. The two could not have been prosecuted under anti-drug laws because at that time synthetic cannabinoids were not illegal. The ECJ said the term ‘medicinal product’ cannot apply to ‘substances which simply have the effect of modifying physiological functions but are not such as to have any immediate or long-term beneficial effects on human health’. The case now goes back to the German courts. ECJ rulings are binding across the European Union.
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