Drink and Drugs News DDN July 2018 | Page 5

Read the full stories, and more, online www.drinkanddrugsnews.com HOME SECRETARY LAUNCHES MEDICINAL CANNABIS REVIEW THE GOVERNMENT IS UNDERTAKING A REVIEW of the medicinal use of cannabis, home secretary Sajid Javid has announced. The move follows headline stories about the parents of two children with epilepsy – Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell – being unable to legally access cannabis oil-based medicines that can prevent seizures. In both cases emergency licences have since been issued. ‘I have now come to the conclusion that it is time to review the scheduling of cannabis,’ Javid told the House of Commons. However, it was ‘absolutely clear’ that the move was ‘in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use,’ he stated. ‘This government has absolutely no plans to legalise cannabis, and the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.’ The first part of the review, overseen by chief medical officer Professor Sally Davies, ha s already concluded that ‘there is evidence of therapeutic benefit for some conditions’. The second part, to be carried out by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), will now assess whether cannabis-related medicinal products should be rescheduled, with a decision likely to be reached by the end of July. ‘There is clear evidence from highly respected and trusted research institutions that some cannabis-based medicinal products have therapeutic benefits for some medical conditions,’ said Davies. ‘As schedule 1 drugs by definition have little or no therapeutic potential, it is therefore now clear that from a scientific point of view keeping cannabis-based medicinal products in schedule 1 is very difficult to defend. Let me be emphatic – this report does not look at recreational cannabis use and does not endorse or condone recreational use. There is well-established evidence on the potential harm of recreational cannabis use.’ An expert panel – led by chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride – has also begun accepting applications from clinicians to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. Applications would be ‘considered and endorsed on the basis of best clinical practice in order to ensure safe and appropriate care for patients’, said McBride. The announcement of a review followed an article in STANDING IN ADFAM POLICY AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR Oliver Standing has been appointed the new director of Collective Voice, and will replace Paul Hayes in mid August. ‘I am delighted to welcome Oliver to Collective Voice,’ said chair Karen Biggs. ‘He impressed the panel with his passion for the work the sector does. The board is looking forward to working with Oliver, building on the significant achievements made over the last three years under the expert leadership of Paul Hayes.’ www.drinkanddrugsnews.com the Telegraph by former Conservative leader William Hague that called for a complete overhaul of the ‘failed’ policy on cannabis – including for recreational use – and stating that ‘official intransigence is now at odds with common sense’. The drugs policy lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales has since also stated that drug legislation is ‘outdated’ and ‘ineffective’. ‘The proliferation of drugs in this country is unchecked and the current situation is fuelling an illicit trade in not only drugs but weapons and the violence that comes with it,’ said Simon Kempton. simOn KemptOn ‘Although the police service will continue to uphold the laws passed by Parliament – a public debate is needed on the future of drugs legislation, incorporating health, education and enforcement programmes.’ Meanwhile, the Institute of Economic Affairs has become the latest think tank to publish a report on the potential financial benefits of legalising cannabis, with its Joint venture document valuing the UK’s cannabis black market at £2.6bn. Legalisation could raise £1bn a year in tax revenues, it states, ‘before considering savings to public services’. The report follows similar documents from Health Poverty Action and the Taxpayers’ Alliance (DDN, June, page 40. Joint venture: estimating the size and potential of the UK cannabis market at iea.org.uk ‘a public debate is needed on the future of drugs legislation...’ Oliver standing is new director of Collective voice SCANDALOUS STATISTICS NINE OUT OF TEN OF PEOPLE who died while sleeping rough last year ‘needed support for mental health, drug or alcohol problems’, according to research by St Mungo’s. The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen by almost 170 per cent since the start of the decade, and the charity has written to the prime minister calling for urgent action to prevent more people dying on the streets and to ensure that all parts of the public sector ‘play their part’. ‘This is nothing short of a national scandal,’ said chief executive Howard Sinclair. ‘These deaths are premature and entirely preventable.’ Dying on the streets: the case for moving quickly to end rough sleeping at www.mungos.org BANGLADESH BRUTALITY NEARLY 200 NGOS HAVE WRITTEN TO UNODC and INCB calling for urgent action to prevent further deaths and human rights violations ‘in the name of drug control’ in Bangladesh. More than 130 people have been killed and 13,000 arrested since prime minister Sheikh Hasina launched a national anti-drugs campaign in May. As is the case in the Philippines, deaths are frequently justified as the police acting in ‘self-defence’, say activists. ‘As human rights abuses in the name of a war on drugs are increasing every day around Asia and are now seemingly the “new normal”, it may have given false hope for certain political leaders that they no longer have to account for killing their own poor and vulnerable citizens,’ said coordinator of the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs, Anand Chabungbam. Open letter at idpc.net BUOYANT BUYERS COCAINE PURITY LEVELS IN EUROPE are at their highest for a decade, according to the latest EMCDDA annual report, with a ‘buoyant’ market and increased availability of the drug in a number of countries. Wastewater analysis revealed increased cocaine residues in 26 out of 31 European cities, with those showing the highest traces in Spain, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. NPS also remain a ‘considerable policy and public health challenge’, says the agency, with more than 50 reported to the EU’s early warning system for the first time in 2017, bringing the total that the EMCDDA is now monitoring to more than 670. European drug report 2018: trends and developments at www.emcdda.europa.eu July/August 2018 | drinkanddrugsnews | 5