• U.S. has been quietly helping Mexico with new, high-tech ways to fight opium

    The Drug Enforcement Administration said in a report last year that Mexico supplies 93 percent of all heroin consumed in the United States
    The Washington Post (US)
    Sunday, April 15, 2018

    In the past few opiate-soaked years, U.S. officials say, nearly all the heroin coursing through American cities has come from one place: Mexico. “There are still a lot of question marks around the figures,” said Martin Jelsma, director of the drug program at the Transnational Institute, a research organization based in Amsterdam, and the co-author of a forthcoming study on Mexican and Colombian poppy production. Equally challenging, Jelsma said, is identifying the source country of a heroin sample. He doubts that the DEA can always tell whether heroin is made from Mexican or Colombian poppy, given that Mexican drug traffickers in some cases have hired Colombians to teach heroin-production techniques, so the product is similar.

  • Canada’s next steps on cannabis and the UN drug treaties

    Canada’s proposed approach to cannabis will result in Canada being in contravention of certain obligations related to cannabis under the UN drug conventions
    Dave Bewley-Taylor, Tom Blickman, Martin Jelsma, and John Walsh
    Ipolitics (Canada)
    Thursday, March 29, 2018

    Ever since the introduction of Bill C-45, questions have been swirling concerning Canada’s position relative to the UN drug control conventions: conventions to which Canada is a party and that, crucially, prohibit the creation of regulated markets for the recreational use of cannabis. Amidst debates and discussion over the past few months on how best to manage the impending mismatch between Canada’s domestic cannabis policy and international commitments, various options have been proffered and examples from elsewhere sought. One possible avenue to explore is a mechanism called modification inter se, as outlined in ‘Balancing Treaty Stability and Change: Inter se modification of the UN drug control conventions to facilitate cannabis regulation.’

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  • Yes, legalizing marijuana breaks treaties. We can deal with that

    Dave Bewley-Taylor Martin Jelsma Tom Blickman John Walsh
    Ipolitics (Canada)
    Monday, December 11, 2017

    Buzzing in the background of Canada’s debate on cannabis legalization is the issue of the three UN drug control treaties, and what to do with them. The issue arose during the House of Commons’ consideration of Bill C-45, and may well come up again now that the bill is coming under Senate scrutiny. There is no doubt that legalizing and regulating cannabis markets for non-medical use will mean Canada is no longer in compliance with the obligation under the treaties to restrict cannabis to “medical and scientific” purposes. And Canada will need to address those treaties — in due time.

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  • Why Indonesia’s drugs problem is getting worse despite ‘shoot on sight’ orders and draconian laws

    President Joko Widodo has given authorities wider powers, drug laws have been tightened and the death penalty for drugs reinstated
    South China Morning Post (China)
    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    In the eyes of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, drug use is a serious problem. Inspired by his Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, authorities have been granted shoot-on-sight orders for dealers and traffickers, while lawmakers are introducing increasingly tougher regulations. Yet the world’s fourth most populated country remains awash with drugs. According to Sulistiandriatmoko, the chief representative of the National Anti-Narcotics Agency, official data shows there are nearly six million drug users across the sprawling archipelago. A 2016 report by international research and advocacy group the Transnational Institute found that between 2009 and 2012, about 37,000 Indonesians were sentenced to jail terms for using cannabis.

  • Some Arab governments are rethinking harsh cannabis laws

    Others use them to lock up restless young men
    The Economist (UK)
    Wednesday, April 12, 2017

    The Moroccan authorities look at the issue from the other direction. Though the government bans the production of cannabis, its growth is tolerated in the Rif, a northern region that supplies Europe. “Travel around in some areas and you see the plants all over the place,” says Tom Blickman of the Transnational Institute, a research group. Ironically, a draft law that would legalise cannabis production countrywide for medical and industrial uses has worried the region’s growers. They fear that rich landowners or the government, which would collect the entire crop, could push them out of business. (See also Haaretz)

  • Criminalizing cannabis in Indonesia might do more harm than good

    Synthetic cannabinoids will continue to spread as long as cannabis remains illegal
    Tom Blickman Dania Putri &
    The Jakarta Post (Indonesia)
    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

    Indonesia’s National Narcotics Board (BNN) together with the Health Ministry recently made a swift move to criminalize synthetic cannabinoids called “super tobacco”, also known as “Gorilla tobacco”, as part of their anti-narcotics efforts. However, synthetic cannabinoids will continue to spread as long as cannabis remains illegal. A better approach would be to develop a regulatory framework for the use and production of natural cannabis.

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  • The DEA wants to ban another plant

    Researchers say the plan is 'insane'
    The Washington Post (US)
    Thursday, September 15, 2016

    The Drug Enforcement Administration has received a torrent of backlash from patients with chronic pain and former opiate users after announcing plans to ban kratom, a plant gaining popularity across the United States for its opiate-like effects. A DEA spokesman said that the agency has received a surprising number of comments about the ban and could ease the restrictions after further research. Kratom has been used in the Southeast Asia for recreational and medical purposes for centuries, according to a 2011 report from the Transnational Institute.

  • Will Myanmar’s economy ever kick its opium habit?

    Poppy fields are here to stay; "if we don’t grow it, we don’t eat", say its impoverished farmers
    South China Morning Post (China)
    Saturday, August 27, 2016

    A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates Myanmar had 55,000 hectares of poppies under cultivation in 2015, most of it in Shan State. Some say that is a conservative estimate and place the figure at closer to 160,000 hectares. "Most farmers grow it because of poverty," says Tom Kramer, a researcher for the Netherlands’ Transnational Institute who has been visiting Myanmar regularly since 1993. "They grow poppy as a cash crop to address food shortages and to access health and education." (See also: Bouncing Back - Relapse in the Golden Triangle)

  • The opium bulbs of Myanmar: drug crop or lifeline for poor farmers?

    Rural development to wean poppy farmers off their illicit crop contend with lack of roads, water and power in remote areas plagued by militias
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    An estimated 133,000 households in Myanmar, mainly found in impoverished, remote regions, last year grew poppies across 55,500 hectares (about 137,000 acres) of land, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Myanmar is the second largest producer of opium after Afghanistan. The trade in opium and its derivative heroin is controlled by many rebel groups and pro-government militias who use it to fund a long-running civil war. The opiates, along with methamphetamine, end up in China and across south-east Asia. (See also: Poppylands: Understanding Myanmar's addiction to heroin)

  • Drugs in Europe: Not mind-stretching enough

    Liberal drug policies have spread across Europe. But some early adopters are slipping behind
    The Economist (UK)
    Saturday, June 18, 2016

    European countries’ reforms have lost momentum, or even slipped backwards. Most drug-policy experts consider this a shame. The reformist countries’ experiences not only show how well liberal drug policies work; they suggest they need to go further. One of the problems is complacency – meaning that politicians in countries with harm-reduction policies often think the drug problem has been solved. In Europe “everyone is keeping each other in check,” says Tom Blickman. Europe is no longer a place where policymakers can take risks.

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