Latest news on drug policy issues in the international media


  • Where calling the police isn’t the only option

    There’s a growing movement in the U.S. to hand some police duties over to social workers and alternative emergency responders
    Bloomberg CityLab (US)
    Thursday, September 3, 2020

    us defund policeSkeptics of the movement to defund or abolish police departments often invoke the threat of a 911 call in the middle of the night that goes unanswered. But a lot of 911 calls could be answered by someone who’s not an officer in a uniform with a gun: Medical concerns about unhoused people, reports about individuals in the throes of a mental health crisis, and complaints about minor nuisances like loud music dominate the 911 wires. Nationwide, an estimated 80% of 911 calls are made for nonviolent, non-property offenses, says Frankie Wunschel, a research associate at the Vera Institute. The New York Times found that the share of time officers spend handling violent crime in New Orleans, Sacramento and Montgomery County, Maryland, this year was only 4%.

  • Drone drops hundreds of bags of cannabis in Tel Aviv

    The bags were dropped by the "green drone" Telegram group, which advocates for the legalization of cannabis in Israel
    The Jerusalem Post (Israel)
    Thursday, September 3, 2020

    A drone dropped hundreds of bags of cannabis over Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, attracting dozens of confused people, who rushed to pick up as many bags as they could carry. The bags of cannabis were dropped by the "green drone" Telegram group, which advocates for the legalization of cannabis in Israel, with "free love" being the group's slogan. Before dropping the cannabis over Tel Aviv, the group published a message on Telegram, hinting at the planned operation. The operation was part of the group's celebratory launching of a new delivery system titled "rain of cannabis." "We're launching the 'rain of cannabis' project, that will include a weekly delivery to different parts of the country of 1 kilo of cannabis divided into free 2 gram bags," the message stated.

  • Mobile ‘fix room’ begins operating in Glasgow

    There are nearly 500 injecting users in Glasgow city centre
    BBC News (UK)
    Wednesday, September 2, 2020

    uk mobile dcr glasgowA drug consumption van where addicts can inject heroin has been launched in Glasgow - despite warnings it could be breaking the law. Peter Krykant, a recovering heroin addict and former drugs worker, has modified a minibus into a facility where he says addicts can safely take drugs under supervision. He hopes it will help prevent overdoses and blood-borne viruses among users. The UK government said it had no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms. It added that anyone running such a facility would be committing offences including possession of a controlled drug and being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug. (See also: 'I'll risk jail to save lives'; UK's first illegal drugs consumption room launches in Glasgow)

  • New Zealand split on legalising cannabis in 'reeferendum'

    Latest poll shows the No campaign ahead slightly among registered voters
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, September 2, 2020

    nz vote yesSupport for the Yes and No campaigns in New Zealand’s referendum on legalising and taxing cannabis is split at 49.5% each, six weeks out from voting day. The No campaign, which aims to keep the status quo, has a slight edge in the poll by news outlet Stuff when only registered voters are counted, leading 50.8% to 48.4%. Voting and being on the electoral roll is optional in New Zealand. The “reeferendum” is being held alongside a similar referendum on euthanasia at the national election on 17 October. The new poll, of 1,300 voters, shows the closeness of the debate. Previous polls linked to major TV networks have shown the No vote ahead, while most online polls show the opposite.

  • Amid spike in opioid overdoses, momentum for reform wavers

    Overdose deaths are surging during the pandemic, but proposals to prevent fatalities through supervised drug use are facing new obstacles
    Bloomberg CityLab (US)
    Monday, August 31, 2020

    us philly overdose prevention siteU.S. states and cities are seeing increases in opioid-related overdose deaths A paper issued by the American Medical Association this summer found that 41 states had reported spikes in overdose deaths during the pandemic. As of mid-July, for example, more than 1,100 residents in the Chicago area had died from opioid-related overdoses in 2020, about double the number during the same period in 2019, according to ProPublica. By August, opioid overdoses in South Carolina had increased 50% over the same period last year. In some cities, current estimates are that these deaths could far exceed those from Covid-19. But despite these increasing death tolls, much of the recent political momentum behind calls for safe injection sites in the U.S. has faded as public health priorities shift.

  • BC’s grey market is thriving

    Starting a legal business in a highly regulated market can be very daunting
    Stratcann (Canada)
    Friday, August 28, 2020

    cannabis topsThings haven’t been this good in the illicit cannabis industry in British Columbia in many years. Factors such as increased wholesale prices on the black market, a low level of enforcement, and too many challenges for legal players from all levels of government are helping to encourage people to not transition into the legal market. As BC works to create a thriving legal cannabis industry alongside what is arguably one of the most robust illicit cannabis industries on the planet, the appeal of staying in the black market is strong. Even as many former black market growers and retailers do successfully make the transition to the legal industry, many others continue operating as they have for years. (See also: StatsCan: Legal pot spending beat black market for first time in Q2)

  • 'So much sadness': more British Columbians dying from overdoses than Covid

    900 British Columbians died of an overdose this year, more than four times the number killed by coronavirus
    The Guardian (UK)
    Friday, August 28, 2020

    canada od covidA growing number of drug policy experts, users and advocates argue that dramatically expanding access to pharmaceutical-grade heroin is the only meaningful way to save lives. At a press conference this week announcing the latest deaths, those calls grew louder. Flanked by the province’s top doctor and its chief coroner, longtime harm reduction advocate Guy Felicella pleaded for the government to create a legal, regulated safe supply of heroin, and possibly even powdered fentanyl in controlled doses. “With the [fentanyl] concentration levels here in BC, we have this contaminated drug market that can kill you in one hit. That’s why we need a regulated drug market,” Felicella said. (See also: Expand safe supply options for people who use drugs, Ontario advocates say)

  • Cannabis research database shows how U.S. funding focuses on harms of the drug

    The data confirm “word on the street” that government grants go to research that focuses on harms
    Live Science (US)
    Thursday, August 27, 2020

    cannabis pharmaA new analysis of cannabis research funding in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom has found that $1.56 billion was directed to the topic between 2000 and 2018—with about half of the money spent on understanding the potential harms of the recreational drug. Just over $1 billion came from the biggest funder, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which doled out far more money to research cannabis misuse and its negative effects than on using cannabis as a therapeutic drug. However, overall cannabis research funding in the United States is rising steadily, from less than $30.2 million in 2000 to more than $143 million in 2018, and money to explore cannabis medical treatments is growing—although not as fast as funding for research on harms.

  • Expand safe supply options for people who use drugs, Ontario advocates say

    'We can't get the attention and the response we need now,' Guelph's Adrienne Crowder says
    CBC News (Canada)
    Thursday, August 27, 2020

    canada safe heroin dcrAll levels of government responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic, and harm reduction advocates are wondering why the same hasn't happened for the opioid crisis. "It has been so frustrating and I have often had very intense anger because there are people literally dying in our community and we can't get the attention and the response we need now," said Adrienne Crowder, manager of the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy. "One of the things the pandemic is showing is [the different levels of government] can act together when they need to and they can do so pretty quickly when they need to," Crowder added. "I've been beside myself because of the inability to capture the attention of the decision makers."

  • Federal prosecutors told to avoid drug possession charges when possible in new directive

    Criminal Code charges should be sought only in 'most serious cases,' says director of public prosecutions
    CBC News (Canada)
    Wednesday, August 19, 2020

    handcuffsFederal lawyers are being asked to avoid prosecuting simple drug possession cases unless major public safety concerns are at play — a move that comes amid a push on the federal government to reconsider decriminalization. The directive, which was issued earlier this week, revises the Public Prosecution Service of Canada's (PPSC) approach to simple possession offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel is now asking her team of lawyers to focus on seeking charges only in "the most serious cases" and to otherwise ask for alternative measures, such as restorative justice and Indigenous approaches to divert simple possession cases away from the criminal justice system.

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