• The United Nations is supposed to be negotiating a solution to the ‘world drug problem’, and it’s not going well

    The UNGASS is now perilously close to representing a serious systemic failure of the UN system
    Open Democracy (US)
    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    ungass2016This April, the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs will convene in New York – seen by many as a possible breaking point for the global drug control system, and the first session to be held on this theme for two decades. The UNGASS is happening two years early, because the governments of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala have called for it in advance. The UNGASS is expected to be a crucial moment in which dissenting countries could break the UN consensus over the ‘war on drugs’ and the model of prohibition, proposing alternative approaches towards harm reduction and decriminalisation instead. (See also: The UNGASS outcome document: Diplomacy or denialism?)

  • Is kratom the new bath salts?

    Kratom fans say it’s like a ‘safe opiate,’ but law enforcement paints a picture of addiction and psychosis
    The Daily Beast (US)
    Saturday, February 27, 2016

    The botanical substance is both a stimulant and a sedative. It is common and illegal in Thailand, where it grows naturally, but little-known and largely legal in the United States. The federal government is cracking down on kratom. Last month, the FDA asked U.S. Marshals to seize nearly 90,000 bottles of dietary supplements containing kratom, which is derived from tropical trees that grow throughout Southeast Asia. In 2014, the Marshals took over 25,000 pounds of raw kratom from a company in Van Nuys, California, at the FDA’s request.

  • See inside the Himalayan villages that grow cannabis

    Ganja grows wild in the Indian Himalayas, and it’s nearly impossible to curb its illegal cultivation
    National Geographic (US)
    Monday, February 1, 2016

    india-cannabis-himalayaCannabis is illegal in India, but many villagers have turned to charas manufacturing out of financial necessity. “Nearly 400 of the 640 districts in India have cannabis cultivation,” says Romesh Bhattacharji, ex-Narcotics Commissioner of India. "It's time for the Indian Government to stop being a slave of UN-backed policies: since 1985, cannabis use and cultivation has only proliferated." "The obligation to eliminate cannabis in countries with widespread traditional use is a clear example of the colonial background of the [UN] Convention," says Tom Blickman, from the Dutch think-tank Transnational Institute. "It would never pass nowadays."

  • Exploring the land-drugs nexus

    Land is one of the key factors of production in the drug economy

    Opium poppy field in Gostan valley, Nimruz Province, Afghanistan"For many communities in Myanmar who grow opium, for them opium is not the problem, it is the solution to their problems," said local project consultant, Tom Kramer, from the Transnational Institute. And therein lies one of the greatest challenges for policy makers in the fight to eradicate the scourge of drug crops in developing countries. Most drug crop cultivating areas are greatly affected by poverty, physical isolation, landlessness, insecure land rights and conflicts over natural resources. For many poor farmers, the cultivation of drug crops represents a coping mechanism to prevail in difficult environments.

  • The new drug warriors

    As one side of the world softens its line against illegal drugs, another is getting tougher—and more vocal
    The Economist (UK)
    Saturday, May 2, 2015

    The war on drugs is edging towards a truce. Half of Americans want to lift the ban on cannabis. America’s change of heart has led many to wonder if the UN conventions might be reformed to legalise some drugs and treat the use of others as a problem requiring health measures, not criminal or military ones. But as America has drawn back from prohibition, new drug warriors are stepping up to defend it. Russia is foremost among them. “The Russians have taken over the hard-line role that the US used to play,” says Martin Jelsma of the Transnational Institute.

  • Labour's 'appalling gutter politics' on drugs

    Labour now prioritises crude electioneering over reforming drug policy to save lives
    New Statesman (UK)
    Tuesday, March 31, 2015

    Campaigners for a more evidence-based drug policy are horrified. "It’s a classic and appalling example of gutter politics,” says Martin Jelsma, Director of the drugs policy programme of the Transnational Institute. “Accusing the Lib Dems of being ‘soft on drugs and thugs’ is a cheap populist slogan that tries to hide the Labour Party's own co-responsibility for destroying the future of thousands of people by giving them a criminal record for no good reason at all."

  • Report illustrates dynamics of Colombia's domestic drug trade

    InSight Crime
    Wednesday, 25 February, 2015

    Colombia-DrugOllaA recent analysis on the relationship between local drug markets and violence and crime in Colombia illustrates the dynamics driving the domestic drug trade, and provides recommendations for comprehensive government interventions designed to result in long-lasting security improvements.

  • Marijuana activists push legalization of medical cannabis in Costa Rica

    Robert Isenberg
    The Tico Times (Costa Rica)
    Wednesday, February 25, 2015

    TicoTimesPien Metaal, who follows Latin American drug law reform ... told The Tico Times ... that legalizing medical marijuana in Costa Rica “would clearly send  a message that can spark a debate in the region... Of course, the debate should not just be about medicinal use,” Metaal wrote, “since in fact recreational use is the largest actually existing phenomena, [for] which simple possession and use are being criminalized and prosecuted.”

  • Why is Europe refusing to change course on drugs?

    Politics (UK web)
    Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    Is Europe being left behind? Sometimes it feels that way. In the US, Colorado and Washington have regulated recreational cannabis use, with Oregon and Alaska following suit. Uruguay is doing the same. Latin America leaders across the continent are turning against the war on drugs. So it can be somewhat dispiriting to see such little progress in Europe. As the world changes, it feels as if Europe is in stasis. But a briefing paper by Tom Blickman of the Transnational Institute shows that below the surface there is a vibrant and optimistic push for drug law reform in Europe.

  • Myanmar returns to what sells: Heroin

    A toxic mix of civil war and poverty has driven some Burmese farmers back to poppy, satisfying a growing global hunger for heroin
    Thomas Fuller
    The New York Times (US)
    Sunday, January 4, 2015

    opium-burma-nyt030115A decade ago, Myanmar seemed on course to wipe out the opium fields and heroin jungle labs along its eastern border, the notorious Golden Triangle. Today, valley after valley in these mist-shrouded mountains is covered with resplendent opium poppies, tended by farmers who perch on steep hillsides to harvest the plant’s sticky, intoxicating sap.


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