Latest news on drug policy issues in the international media


  • Magic mushrooms show promise in treatment for depression, study says

    Trial suggests psilocybin combined with psychological therapy is as effective as antidepressant drug
    The Guardian (UK)
    Wednesday, April 14, 2021

    psilocybinMagic mushrooms have a long and rich history. Now scientists say they could play an important role in the future, with their active ingredient a promising treatment for depression. The results from a small, phase two clinical trial have revealed that two doses of psilocybin appears to be as effective as the common antidepressant escitalopram in treating moderate to severe major depressive disorder, at least when combined with psychological therapy. “I think it is fair to say that the results signal hope that we may be looking at a promising alternative treatment for depression,” said Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the centre for psychedelic research at Imperial College London and a co-author of the study.

  • Overdose deaths have surged during the pandemic, C.D.C. data shows

    The latest numbers surpass even the yearly tolls during the height of the opioid epidemic and mark a reversal of progress against addiction in recent years
    The New York Times (US)
    Wednesday, April 14, 2021

    us ny end overdose nowMore than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September, according to preliminary federal data, eclipsing the toll from any year since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s. The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis, one that has drawn less attention and fewer resources while the nation has battled the coronavirus pandemic. Deaths from overdoses started rising again in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic — after dropping slightly in 2018 for the first time in decades — and it is hard to gauge just how closely the two phenomena are linked. But the pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend, which grew much worse last spring.

  • Marijuana becomes legal in a third of US states as New Mexico signs off on drug

    Seven states have legalised the drug since last November alone
    The Independent (UK)
    Tuesday, April 13, 2021

    us flag cannabis capitolJust over one-third of US states have now officially legalised recreational marijuana following the passing of new legislation in New Mexico. On Monday, the state’s governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a historic adult-use cannabis legalisation bill, allowing people age 21 and over to buy and possess up to two ounces. With the passing of New Mexico’s law, 17 states and Washington, DC, have now legalised the drug for recreational purposes, amounting to just over a third of states across the US. Certain states across the country, including New York State, have made a significant push for legalisation of the drug in 2021, with seven since last November having done so.

  • This cannabis giant has European targets in its sights ahead of U.S. legalization frenzy, CEO says

    Aphria is a key player in global cannabis with a market capitalization of $5.1 billion. The group is favored among analysts for being the first Canadian cannabis company to report a net profit
    Barron's (US)
    Monday, April 12, 2021

    canada dollar cannabis2Cannabis deals in Europe will help pot giant Aphria build up a war chest ahead of an expected frenzy of mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. High-margin medical cannabis agreements in Europe represent critical waypoints on Aphria’s road to conquer the U.S., bolstering the company’s balance sheet and putting it on firm footing with European regulators, said Irwin Simon. As in the U.S., legal recreational cannabis remains on the horizon in Europe, where a combined population of more than 500 million in the U.K. and European Union makes it a lucrative proposition. Aphria is set to complete its merger with Tilray this quarter, creating the world’s largest cannabis company by revenue.

  • Generations of Albanians lived off cannabis production. Can they stop?

    A crackdown has cut back the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis in Albania. But experts say it will take more than police raids and prosecutions to address the factors that have led whole families and villages to grow weed for decades
    Balkan Insight (Bosnia)
    Monday, April 12, 2021

    albania cannabis flagLarge-scale cannabis cultivation in Albania dates to the early 1990s, not long after the fall of the country’s Communist dictatorship, when the parlous state of the Albanian economy led to widespread civil unrest in 1997. Penetrated by ever more powerful criminal gangs, the industry reached a peak in 2016, when Albania was one of the biggest producers in the world. For years, Albania has been considered the largest producer of outdoor-grown cannabis in Europe and the geographic position of Albania – its proximity to Greece and Italy – has stimulated the cultivation of cannabis over the years. With the aid of Italian aerial reconnaissance flights between 2013 and 2019, authorities identified 613 hectares of land planted with cannabis.

  • Cannabis should be legal but controlled in France, says MP

    France has the highest use of cannabis as a recreational drug in Europe for young people
    The Connexion (France)
    Monday, April 12, 2021

    Jean Baptiste MoreauCannabis should be legalised in France and there should be a public debate about it, says the head of a parliamentary committee after a year spent looking into its different uses. The committee’s results, which involved 250,000 submissions from citizens and interest groups, are being published soon and committee head Jean-Baptiste Moreau, a La République en Marche MP, said legalisation was the obvious conclusion. He said: “When I took up the mission, I had no preconceived ideas. But listening to all the experts and interested parties made me realise the actual situation is untenable. It is supposed to be illegal but our young find it anywhere and everywhere and consume massively which poses public health problems. So we need to legalise it, while making it illegal for under-age users."

  • ‘A lack of political courage’: New Zealand’s drug reform efforts flounder

    From the outside, the country seems like a likely candidate for progressive drug laws but internally, change is proving hard to bring
    The Guardian (UK)
    Monday, April 12, 2021

    After New Zealand’s referendum to legalise cannabis failed, social service agencies decriminalizationare seeking a new path to decriminalisation of drug use, but obstacles are plenty. A coalition of social service, advocacy and health organisations released an open letter calling on prime minister Jacinda Ardern to repeal and replace the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 “to ensure drug use is treated as a health and social issue”. Signatories include the New Zealand Medical Association, Public Health Association, Auckland and Wellington City Missions, Mental Health Foundation, and the Māori Law Society, along with 20 others. “Our laws prevent people accessing help when they need it, and they leave thousands every year with a conviction that impacts livelihoods, mental health, relationships, travel, housing and education,” the letter says.

  • Colombia’s cartels target Europe with cocaine, corruption and torture

    Europe has eclipsed the US as the Colombian cartels’ favoured market, because of higher prices and much lower risks
    The Observer (UK)
    Sunday, April 11, 2021

    cocaine seizureAt 5am on a chilly Tuesday morning last month, 1,600 police officers and balaclava-wearing special forces, bristling with arms and battering rams, were ordered into action around the Belgian port city of Antwerp. More than 200 addresses were raided in what was the largest police operation ever conducted in the country and potentially one of the most significant moves yet against the increasingly powerful narco-gangs of western Europe. There are hopes that Operation Sky will herald the downfall of a generation of local bosses, although the Belgian and Dutch “godfathers” largely now hide out in Dubai and Turkey, hoping to be out of reach of the authorities. An incredible 27 tonnes of cocaine have been seized on Antwerp’s quays, in container ships and safe houses.

  • A founding father of legal pot in Colorado reveals regrets

    No true free enterprise exists in this regulated industry, but rather a small oligopoly of crony capitalists who are given privileged government licenses
    The Denver Gazette (US)
    Friday, April 9, 2021

    colorado 2012 celebrationI helped write Amendment 64, litigated numerous cases before and after 64 to make it a reality, and also helped design implementing regulations at the state and local levels.I wish I could be proud of what we created, but I’m not. The outcome of 64 is shameful, hurts people, and Colorado is not “safer.” I have remained consistent through the years in advocating for legalization, an end to marijuana prohibition, and an end to criminal prosecution of marijuana offenses. What I have changed my mind on — applying current reality I was too naive to anticipate 10 years ago — is the wisdom of a commercialized, for-profit, elitist, government-protected, privileged, monopolistic industry that perpetuates itself and its obscene profits, to the detriment of the public good and the planet earth.

  • Are your illegal drugs pure? New Zealand will check them for you

    A law will allow controlled substances to be tested without penalty to ensure their authenticity. The goals are to reduce health risks and, perhaps, change users’ behavior
    The New York Times (US)
    Friday, April 9, 2021

    New Zealand has enshrined into law a one-year experiment allowing drug users to have illegal substances tested without penalty to ensure their authenticity and to weed out dangerous chemicals. The testers will not call the police. The drug users will not be thrown in jail. To tackle an endemic drug problem, New Zealand became what is believed to be the second country to formally legalize such drug checks, after the Netherlands. The European nation began a similar program in 1999 — though the practice is spreading around the globe. (See also: Drug-testing to be made permanent at music festivals - Health Minister Andrew Little)

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