Article

Farmability and pharmability: Transforming the drug market to a health-and human rights-centred approach from self-cultivation to safe supply of controlled substances

Authors:
  • International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service (ICEERS)
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Abstract

Background The supply chains addressing the global demand for major recreational drugs are hardly addressed due to international contracts, particularly the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Currently applied regulatory changes have several disadvantages ranging from political tensions to the neglect of ecological aspects. The aim of this study is to show some implications associated with a transformation of the recreational drug market that is focused on self-supply of different categories of drugs. The concepts of "farmability", the feasibility to cultivate relevant plants and fungi, and "pharmability", the feasibility to refine materials to drugs by chemical synthesis, purification etc., are addressed. Methods 68 drug experts were invited to fill out an online survey on the feasibility of self-supply of different categories of drugs. The online survey was a five-point Likert scale and had seven questions. Results 26 experts (38.2%) responded to the online questionnaire. Cannabinoids were considered easy to cultivate/manufacture, depressants and psychedelics were ranked with moderate difficulty, opioids and stimulants were regarded as difficult to cultivate/manufacture, and empathogens/entactogens and dissociatives were ranked very difficult. The study found that some controlled substances, in particular cannabis, could be decriminalised without the need for a commercial market. However, some drug categories, such as dissociatives and empathogens/entactogens, would require the establishment of professional manufacturers. Psychedelics and depressants are ranked in between. Conclusion Different drugs are associated with different cultivation and/or manufacturing steps with contrasting difficulty levels. Those differences are likely to shape use prevalence to more accessible and safer drug markets which also decrease the involvement of organised crime groups. Hence, when decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use, it is therefore recommended to allow also for personal cultivation or cultivation within social clubs. This is particularly relevant for drugs with moderate to high farmability but also if pharmability is sufficiently high.

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For over a decade the media have been reporting in alarmist tones that 'crystal meth is coming' to the UK. Using clichéd discourse ('crazed', 'epidemic', 'horror', etc.) and visual images of deformed and disfigured faces, the meanings attached to the drug are clear: crystal meth creates dangerous 'others'. Yet an identifiable crystal meth problem has hitherto failed to materialise, and press reporting of the issue appears to constitute an exemplary case of what Stuart Hall has described as a double movement within ideological discourse: a movement towards propaganda and a movement towards myth. This article examines how the threat of 'ice', as it is commonly known, has been symbolically, aesthetically and textually constructed in the British media, and how this representation has created its own hyper-reality, influencing political debate, drug policy and public reaction. The analysis places particular emphasis on the importance of visual images as a sensory expression of cultural meaning, an aspect of media representation that has too often been theoretically and pragmatically neglected within mainstream criminology.
Book
Drug use represents a significant burden to public health, through disease, disability and social problems, and policy makers are becoming increasingly interested in how to develop evidence-based drug policy. It is therefore crucial to strengthen the links between addiction science and drug policy. Drug Policy and the Public Good is collaboratively written by an international group of career scientists, to provide an analytical basis on which to build relevant global drug policies, and to inform policy makers who have direct responsibility for public health and social welfare. Drug Policy and the Public Good presents the accumulated scientific knowledge on illicit drugs that has direct relevance to the development of drug policy on local, national, and international levels. The authors describe the conceptual basis for a rational drug policy, and present new epidemiological data on the global dimensions of drug misuse. The core of the book is a critical review of the cumulative scientific evidence in five general areas of drug policy: primary prevention programs in schools and other settings; supply reduction approaches, including drug interdiction and legal enforcement; treatment interventions and harm reduction approaches; criminal sanctions and decriminalization; and control of the legal market through prescription drug regimes. The final chapters discuss the current state of drug policy in different parts of the world, and describe the need for a new approach to drug policy that is evidence-based, realistic, and coordinated.
Article
Background: Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs) are private organizations or clubs of users that produce cannabis for non-profit distribution to adult members to meet their personal needs without having to turn to the black market. CSCs can be found in many countries, but the term often covers very different empirical realities. Inspired by the Spanish CSCs and similarly taking advantage of a grey area in the Belgian cannabis legislation, Belgian cannabis activists set up the first Belgian CSC in 2006, and there are now at least 5 Belgian CSCs. The paper's main objective is to analyse the (internal) strengths and weaknesses and the (external) opportunities and threats of the model, as it exists today. Methods: The paper draws on a review of international literature and qualitative data on the Belgian cannabis social clubs. Field visits and interviews were conducted with each club. We analysed membership application forms, cultivation protocols and contracts with growers, cannabis ownership certificates of members, information leaflets, the clubs' websites, and all media articles and documentaries on the clubs in the Belgian media. Results: The paper describes the membership criteria and house rules, the members' profile, the organization and protocols for cannabis production, the distribution of cannabis through 'exchange fairs', the administrative features of the clubs and their contacts with other CSCs and with local authorities, the drug sector and the media. Belgian CSCs seem not profit-driven, and operate as a system in which cannabis is not too easily available. The clubs have fairly direct control over the quality and the potency of the cannabis they distribute. The model offers important potential opportunities, in terms of economic advantages and monitoring consumption patterns. The main threats to Belgian CSCs consist of attempts to criminalize the model, the emergence of profit-driven clubs and systemic violence from criminal entrepreneurs. Weaknesses of the model relate to the unstable or transient nature of the clubs, the transparency of their operational procedures, the superficiality of their quality control strategies, and the risk of morphing into marketing enterprises. Conclusions: The CSC model could be a safe and feasible option for policymakers to move a meaningful distance along the spectrum towards legally regulated cannabis markets without crossing over to full commercial availability. Governmental regulation could convert weaknesses and threats to the model into strengths and opportunities to ensure best practice. If authorities refrain from action, the model might dilute and evolve in a similar way as the Spanish CSCs did recently, with the establishment of large, commercial clubs.
Article
I believe that the original aims of (almost full) prohibition of substance use, as it is applied according to the NY Single Convention of 1961, are unattainable. Instead, I want to present some arguments and ways of looking at drug use that support a far reaching revision of the current aims of drug control. Drug policy goals should shift, from suppression of use to regulation of use.1 In this article I will present drug use data collected in Amsterdam that in my view support such a shift. Ten years of drug use data in the population of Amsterdam show a remarkable level of control and stability in drug use patterns in a policy environment that allows relatively easy access to drugs. Internal controls on drug use can be expected to play a much larger part in structuring these patterns than classic drug policy theory allows for.
Article
This paper explores the socio-political construction of drug-related crime; a concept that has dominated recent developments in UK drug policy. It has been assumed that the perceived overlap between known offenders and drug users is also present among the much larger groups of unknown offenders and drug users. This assumption has led to inflated claims of scale, precision and causality in political discussions of the drug-crime link. The discourse coalition approach is used to analyse how such methodologically suspect knowledge has been translated into policy since 1997. It is argued that the concept of drug-related crime has been influential because it is tactically and structurally useful to powerful groups in discursive struggle.
Article
Needle Park in Zürich existed as an open air drug scene from 1986 until February 1992. Within this six year period the City Government, City Parliament, governmental and non-governmental organizations implemented a wide range of permissive and restrictive drug policies, from extensive harm reduction to closing the park. Police statistics and several studies suggest that tolerating an open air drug scene can have unforeseen and unfortunate consequences. Low drug prices, lack of law enforcement and lack of social control seem to attract drug users towards the open drug scene and the increase in problems appears to have been more rapid than the increase in the population of addicts.
Article
Quantitative data is reported from a study of 68 South Australians who had received an infringement notice or ‘cannabis expiation notice’ (CEN) and 68 West Australians who received a criminal conviction for a minor cannabis offence not more than 10 years ago to compare impact of the infringement notice and the conviction on their lives. The majority of both groups saw themselves as largely law-abiding, had respect for the law in general and had positive views regarding cannabis. However, more of the convicted group, compared to the infringement notice group, reported negative employment consequences (32% vs. 2%), further problems with the law (32% vs. 0%), negative relationship consequences (20% vs. 5%)and accommodation consequences (16%vs. 0%)as a result of their apprehension. While neither conviction nor infringement deterred subsequent cannabis use for the vast majority, the negative social impacts of conviction were far greater than those resulting from an infringement notice. The findings have implications for the legislative options for regulation of cannabis possesssion and use.
Article
The primary response to the harms associated with illicit injection drug use in most settings has involved intensifying law enforcement in an effort to limit the supply and use of drugs. Policing approaches have been increasingly applied within illicit drug markets since the 1980s despite limited scientific confirmation of their efficacy. On the contrary, a growing body of research indicates that these approaches have substantial potential to produce harmful health and social impacts, including disrupting the provision of health care to injection drug users (IDU), increasing risk behaviour associated with infectious disease transmission and overdose, and exposing previously unaffected communities to the harms associated illicit with drug use. There are, however, alternatives to traditional targeted enforcement approaches that may have substantially less potential for negative health and social consequences and greater potential for net community benefit. Some of these approaches involve modifying policing practices, fostering partnerships between policing and public health agencies, and developing systems to monitor policing practices. Other alternatives involve the provision of harm reduction services, such as safer injecting facilities, that help to minimize drug-related harms, and addiction treatment services which ultimately help to reduce the demand for illicit drugs.
Article
Violence is amongst the primary concerns of communities around the world and research has demonstrated links between violence and the illicit drug trade, particularly in urban settings. Given the growing emphasis on evidence-based policy-making, and the ongoing severe drug market violence in Mexico and other settings, we conducted a systematic review to examine the impacts of drug law enforcement on drug market violence. We conducted a systematic review using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Specifically, we undertook a search of English language electronic databases (Academic Search Complete, PubMed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science, Sociological Abstracts, Social Service Abstracts, PAIS International and Lexis-Nexis), the Internet (Google, Google Scholar), and article reference lists, from database inception to January 24, 2011. Overall, 15 studies were identified that evaluated the impact of drug law enforcement on drug market violence, including 11 (73%) longitudinal analyses using linear regression, 2 (13%) mathematical drug market models, and 2 (13%) qualitative studies. Fourteen (93%) studies reported an adverse impact of drug law enforcement on levels of violence. Ten of the 11 (91%) studies employing longitudinal qualitative analyses found a significant association between drug law enforcement and drug market violence. Our findings suggest that increasing drug law enforcement is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead, the existing evidence base suggests that gun violence and high homicide rates may be an inevitable consequence of drug prohibition and that disrupting drug markets can paradoxically increase violence. In this context, and since drug prohibition has not meaningfully reduced drug supply, alternative regulatory models will be required if drug supply and drug market violence are to be meaningfully reduced.
Article
HIV can spread rapidly between people who inject drugs (through injections and sexual transmission), and potentially the virus can pass to the wider community (by sexual transmission). Here, we summarise evidence on the effectiveness of individual-level approaches to prevention of HIV infection; review global and regional coverage of opioid substitution treatment, needle and syringe programmes, and antiretroviral treatment; model the effect of increased coverage and a combination of these three approaches on HIV transmission and prevalence in injecting drug users; and discuss evidence for structural-level interventions. Each intervention alone will achieve modest reductions in HIV transmission, and prevention of HIV transmission necessitates high-coverage and combined approaches. Social and structural changes are potentially beneficial components in a combined-intervention strategy, especially when scale-up is difficult or reductions in HIV transmission and injection risk are difficult to achieve. Although further evidence is needed on how to optimise combinations of interventions in different settings and epidemics, we know enough now about which actions are effective: the challenge is to deliver these well and to scale.
Article
HIV-infected drug users have increased age-matched morbidity and mortality compared with HIV-infected people who do not use drugs. Substance-use disorders negatively affect the health of HIV-infected drug users, who also have frequent medical and psychiatric comorbidities that complicate HIV treatment and prevention. Evidence-based treatments are available for the management of substance-use disorders, mental illness, HIV and other infectious complications such as viral hepatitis and tuberculosis, and many non-HIV-associated comorbidities. Tuberculosis co-infection in HIV-infected drug users, including disease caused by drug-resistant strains, is acquired and transmitted as a consequence of inadequate prescription of antiretroviral therapy, poor adherence, and repeated interfaces with congregate settings such as prisons. Medication-assisted therapies provide the strongest evidence for HIV treatment and prevention efforts, yet are often not available where they are needed most. Antiretroviral therapy, when prescribed and adherence is at an optimum, improves health-related outcomes for HIV infection and many of its comorbidities, including tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, and renal and cardiovascular disease. Simultaneous clinical management of multiple comorbidities in HIV-infected drug users might result in complex pharmacokinetic drug interactions that must be adequately addressed. Moreover, interventions to improve adherence to treatment, including integration of health services delivery, are needed. Multifaceted, interdisciplinary approaches are urgently needed to achieve parity in health outcomes in HIV-infected drug users.
Article
The shift to (inter)regional production, trade and domestic cultivation has become an irreversible international trend. Until now, the focus of most empirical work has been on large-scale, commercially oriented and professionally organized segments of the cannabis industry, often based on police data and on the perspective of law enforcement agencies. This paper offers a review of recent Dutch-language research that focuses on cannabis cultivation. Empirical studies were identified through literature searches using relevant search terms and Web of Science, Elin, Social Science Research Network and Elsevier ScienceDirect. The paper presents the main findings of Dutch and Belgian empirical work on the factors that stimulated the import substitution process on the cannabis market, aspects related to quality and potency issues, typologies of cannabis growers, and (unintended) effects of pursued policies. In the light of this (selective) review the author offers some commentary and analysis concerning the claims made by different stakeholders, and concludes with some reflections on future research and on policy implications. The author outlines the importance of small-scale, independent or ideologically oriented cannabis cultivation as an under-researched market segment. The author also makes a case for greater toleration of small-scale cannabis cultivation, to secure the least worst of cannabis markets.
Article
Male and female rats were raised from weaning either in isolation or in a large colony. At 65 days of age, half the rats in each environment were moved to the other. At 80 days, the animals were given continuous access to water and to a sequence of 7 solutions: 3 sweet or bitter-sweet control solutions and 4 different concentrations of morphine hydrochloride (MHCl) in 10% sucrose solution. Rats housed in the colony at the time of testing drank less MHCl solution than isolated rats, but no less of the control solutions. Colony-dwelling rats previously housed in isolation tended to drink more MHCl solution than those housed in the colony since weaning, but this effect reached statistical significance only at the lowest concentration of MHCl. These data were related to the hypothesis that colony rats avoid morphine because it interferes with complex, species-specific behavior.
Article
Needle Park in Zürich existed as an open air drug scene from 1986 until February 1992. Within this six year period the City Government, City Parliament, governmental and non-governmental organizations implemented a wide range of permissive and restrictive drug policies, from extensive harm reduction to closing the park. Police statistics and several studies suggest that tolerating an open air drug scene can have unforeseen and unfortunate consequences. Low drug prices, lack of law enforcement and lack of social control seem to attract drug users towards the open drug scene and the increase in problems appears to have been more rapid than the increase in the population of addicts.
Article
Oral substitution treatment for injecting opioid users reduces drug-related behaviours with a high risk of HIV transmission, but has little effect on sex-related risk behaviours. Injecting drug users are vulnerable to infection with HIV and other blood borne viruses as a result of collective use of injecting equipment as well as sexual behaviour. This review looks at original studies that reported the frequency or prevalence of risk behaviours, or the prevalence of HIV infection related to substitution treatment of opioid dependence to assess the extent to which oral substitution treatment prevents the transmission of HIV infection. It was not possible to accurately estimate the extent of reduction, but it is clear that oral substitution treatment reduces risk behaviours and also actual cases of HIV infection amongst injecting drug users in substitution treatment.
Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (2020) European Guidelines for Cannabis Social Clubs: A Regulatory Model for Cannabis Access
  • Encod -European
ENCOD -European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (2020) European Guidelines for Cannabis Social Clubs: A Regulatory Model for Cannabis Access. Antwerpen: Belgium. Retrieved 12th July 2021 from https://encod.org/ the-european-guidelines-for-cannabis-social-clubs/.
Prevention of psychoactive substance use: a Selected Review of What Works in the Area of Prevention. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved 17th
  • D Hawks
  • Scott K Mcbride
Hawks D, Scott K and McBride N (2002) Prevention of psychoactive substance use: a Selected Review of What Works in the Area of Prevention. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved 17th July 2021 from https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/en/ prevention_intro.pdf.