Summary of Drugs & Democracy Activities, October - December 2014

Marijuna_USAIn November 2014 we saw another historic step towards ending the war on drugs. Two new states, Oregon and  Alaska, and Washington D.C., the capital of the US, voted in favour of legalisation and regulation of cannabis. Today in the US, 13 states have decriminalised possession, 23 have legalised its medical use, and four have legalised production, sales and consumption. Which means that  half of the country no longer treat simple possession of marijuana as a criminal offence.

Although these are highly positive changes, the rapid shift towards regulation in the US has drawn attention to the incompatibility of these legal policy developments with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the legal bedrock of the global drug control system.  the legal bedrock of the global drug control system. While ostensibly 'welcoming' the international drug policy reform debate, the US federal government seems determined to block efforts to reform  long-standing international agreements.

"The shift to regulated cannabis markets in the US should open the space for a much-needed discussion of treaty reform... The problem is the drug control treaty system itself." Martin Jelsma


Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in Santa Marta (Colombia), 11-13 December 2014. Organised by WOLA and TNI,  hosted by the Colombian government and attended by Pien Metaal and Martin Jelsma, the debates at this meeting focused on  preparations for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 2016. The meeting was attended by many government officials from Latin America and Europe.

Peasants Forum Meeting in Colombia, 11 December 2014. With a view to convene a Second Global Farmers forum in 2015, TNI met with some key players from the Andean region to discuss plans.

CND Intersessional Meeting in Vienna, 1-5 December 2014. TNI participated in the intersessional meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna devoted to preparations for the 2016 UNGASS on drugs. With the broken 'Vienna consensus' about how to move forward on international drug control, countries had a hard time agreeing on the preparatory procedure and who would take the lead. To be continued in March 2015.

BarcelonaTNI / Energy Control Expert seminar on Policy Responses to Changing Markets of New Psychoactive Substance and Mild Stimulants in Barcelona, Spain, 28 November 2014. The meeting was part of a series of expert seminars organised  on New Approaches in Drug Policy and Interventions (NADPI). It was a follow-up to the TNI/IDPC expert seminar on Herbal Stimulants and Legal Highs organised in Amsterdam in October 2011 and aimed to take stock of the lessons drawn from different national and international responses. Aimed at forging  new policy perspectives, we discussed strategies to diminish the dominance of concentrated and more harmful stimulant substances and ways to steer the market towards milder, often plant-based, substances. The seminar was chaired by Ernestien Jensema; Martin Jelsma provided input in the session on international drug control responses.

Has the US' War on Drugs Been Lost and What Lessons Should Europe Heed?  Brussels, 26 November 2014. Martin Jelsma took part in a Discussion  organised by Madariaga College of Europe Foundation, talking on the US War on Drugs.

Burma, 25 November 2014. Tom Kramer organised and participated in briefings on drug-related problems in Myanmar at the UK Embassy in Yangon for UK ambassador and other staff.

Berlin Expert Meeting, 19 – 20 November 2014 – Tom Kramer participated in the Joint BMZ-UNODC Expert Meeting: “Alternative Development in the Framework of the UNGASS 2016 Preparation and the Post-MDG Debate”.

Cannabis Conference, Frankfurt 17 November 2014. Local authorities of the city of Frankfurt organised a conference about international and national developments in cannabis policy reforms, meant to provide expert inputs for a local initiative currently under consideration of the municipal drug coordinator. Martin Jelsma gave a key-note speech about the different models of cannabis decriminalisation and regulation worldwide.

GanjaMeeting_JamaicaJamaica Conference, 10 - 15 November 2014. The Centre for Leadership and Governance of the University of the West Indies, Mona, in collaboration with the Open Society Institute organised a Round Table Discussion on the Road to UNGASS and the International War on Drugs, which was attended by Pien Metaal. During this visit she visited a Ganja Growers meeting in Saint Thomas, and had lunch with the Jamaican Minister of Justice.

Modernising Drug Law EnforcementLondon, 5-6 November 2014. Tom Blickman attended the conference organised by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).

Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in San Sebastian (Spain)  23-25 October 2014. Organized with the Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC) and the Municipality of San Sebastian,  the meeting examined options for regulating the cannabis market in Spain. Activists, government officials, politicians and experts (from Spain, Europe, the US and Latin America) discussed sensible solutions for the situation.

Barcelona_Tom-PienCatalan Drug Forum22 October 2014. TNI was invited to participate in the 10th annual meeting of the Catalan Federation of Drug Dependances, celebrated in Barcelona. Cannabis regulation was high on this years' agenda. Pien Metaal and Tom Blickman gave a presentation on the issue of global cannabis prohibition.

Exploring the Land-Drugs-Nexus, New York, 19 - 21 October 2014. A joint GIZ-OSF Conference. Martin Jelsma chaired a panel on the integration of drugs into the post 2015 agenda, and talked on how to integrate de development agenda in the UNGASS preparation process. Drugs and land policies as development issues  - On October 20, Tom Kramer discussed  policies to address the link between drugs and development at the Open Society Foundation conference: How the International Community Can Address the Drugs–Development.

FOTO2_brookings-event-171014-largeInternational Impacts of the U.S. Trend towards Legal Marijuana, 17 October 2014, Martin Jelsma took part in the forum, International Impacts of the U.S. Trend towards Legal Marijuana, organised by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. How might a shift in US marijuana policies affect the prohibitionist drug treaty system? What debates are taking place in other countries over marijuana policy? See video of event  

Expert seminar on international law and drug policy reform17/18 October,  organised by TNI in collaboration with the Global Drug Policy Observatory (Swansea University), the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy (University of Essex) and WOLA.

Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives on Counternarcotics Regimes and UNGASS 2016. Washington D.C., 16 October 16 2014. Conference organised by the Brookings Institutions. Tom Kramer participated on the panel Trends and Policies in Asia’ with a presentation on Burma. Martin Jelsma talked on the United Nations treaties reform on the panel ‘Trends in and Perspectives of the Major Influencers of the Counternarcotics Regime’.



Fixing a broken system. Modernizing drug law enforcement in Latin America - Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies No. 29, December 2014 - In Portuguese - In Spanish

Cannabis policy reform in Europe. Bottom up rather than top down - Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies No. 28, December 2014 - This briefing in German - In Spanish 

Time for a Wake-up Call. An historical and ethnographic approach to the Regulation of Plant-based Stimulants - Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies No. 27, December 2014 - This briefing in Portuguese - In Spanish

The International Drug Control Regime and Access to Controlled Medicines, Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies No. 26, December 2014 - This Briefing in French - In Spanish

Making a mountain out of a molehill: myths on youth and crime in Saint Lucia. Briefing Series on Drug Markets and Violence, Nr 3, December 2014  - This Briefing in Spanish.

Mercados urbanos de drogas y zonas de impunidad en Colombia. Los supuestos, los hechos y las respuestas detrás del narcomenudeo. Serie mercados de drogas y violencia No. 2, Diciembre de 2014  - English version: Drug Markets and Violence. Urban drug markets and zones of impunity in Colombia

Fatal Attraction: Brownfield's Flexibility Doctrine and Global Drug Policy Reform, Huffington Post, 18 November 2014. Article co-written by Martin Jelsma.





Tom Kramer is quoted in an Irrawaddy article: Opium Cultivation Stabilizes for First Time Since 2006: Report, 8 December 2014.

Martin Jelsma is quoted in a New Statement article: Prohibition is not working: the case for sanity in the war on drugs, 30 October 2014.

Chile Kicks Off Medical Marijuana Program. 30 October 2014. Article by InSight Crime which quotes our Chile page on drug law reform in Latin America.

Cocaine gebruikers in Amsterdam zijn medeverantwoordelijk voor het geweld in Mexico, 20 November 2014. Pien Metaal was invited to participate on AT5, a Dutch TV talk show to discuss  whether there is co-responsibility of cocaine consumers for the violence in Mexico.

Martin Jelsma is quoted in a Washington Post article, How marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington is making the world a better place, 17 October  2014.

Our monthly column in Cáñamo magazine (Barcelona)

- Con los ojos puestos en la próxima UNGASS (December)

- La clasificación de las drogas en el sistema internacional de control de drogas. El sistema debería clasificar las drogas pensando en la salud de la gente no en la represión (November)

- Colombia, tres décadas de fumigaciones tóxicas a los cultivos de uso ilícito. ¡Ya basta!(October)


Coming up the next quarter


  • Southeast Asia Alternative Development Workshop in Burma
  • Drug Law Reform in Southeast Asia
  • Web Primer on cannabis
  • International meeting farmers growing illicit crops
  • CND Side events



  • Best practices and innovation approaches in law enforcement strategies
  • Impacts of the drug legislation in Burma
  • Criminalisation of ayahuasca