News from EU4Monitoring Drugs, an EMCDDA technical cooperation project

This content was published in the EU4MD update released on 30.06.2021. This update also presents a section on partnerships, annoucements, studies, upcoming events, and a research corner.

Focus on: European Drug Report 2021 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected drug use and supply in Europe? Which drugs are causing the most concern today? What are the latest trends in drug production and trafficking? Find out more in the European Drug Report 2021: Trends and Developments.

The report is based on data from 29 countries (EU 27, Turkey and Norway) and delivers the latest overview of the drug situation in Europe

This year, the publication takes a new, concise format, opening with sections on: lessons to be learnt from the report, the COVID-19 pandemic and Europe’s drug phenomenon at a glance. These are followed by chapters organised primarily by drug type, offering the latest insights into drug supply, illicit drug use and associated public health challenges. National data sets are also provided across these themes and on key harm-reduction interventions.

Available in 24 languages, the publication is an essential resource for developing evidence-based policies and responses. Accompanying the report is the 2021 Statistical Bulletin and a study on new benzodiazepines in Europe.

Spotlight on Algeria

In April 2021, the Algerian Ministry of Justice organised ‘virtual meetings’ which brought together the EMCDDA staff and national experts from various ministries, law enforcement and health institutions. On the table were discussions on drug policy, responses to prevent trafficking of drugs, ongoing prevention and harm reduction programmes, and the most recent drug-related trends.

Ms Nora Benabbas, Research and Synthesis Officer at the Ministry of Justice, is sharing her views about the drug situation in Algeria, highlighting the main challenges and threats the country faces whilst reflecting on successful national efforts and her views on future cooperation with the EU4MD project.

What are the main drug-related challenges facing Algeria?

In Algeria, drug-related challenges are evolving rapidly. That is why we are reaching out and looking for approaches which allow us to be prepared and to deal effectively with these challenges.

Several factors contribute to the complex situation we are facing, such as the country’s geographical location, the security crisis affecting the region, the interlinks between different kinds of transnational organised crime and illegal immigration. 

The response measures to reduce drug supply and drug demand as well as the associated risks in Algeria require a significant amount of human and financial resources.

What are the current health and security threats related to drugs?

Algeria is facing an increasing number of threats to security, public health and sustainable development.
The data from law enforcement give us an idea of the type of criminal organisations involved in the drugs trade, the amount of revenue generated from these illicit activities, and drug-related crime rates'.
In terms of public health, the number of users arrested and the number of people seeking treatment in specialised centres indicates an increase in drug use.

What has been done to address the challenges posed by drugs?

The National Office for the Fight against Drugs and Drug Addiction (Office National de Lutte Contre la Drogue et la Toxicomanie, ONLCDT) has developed a National Strategy for the Fight against Drugs. This five-year document sets the objectives and actions that need to be implemented. The strategy addresses the reduction of drug supply by bringing together all the relevant law enforcement actors of the country. It further develops on drug demand reduction by relying on the 14 ministerial departments that are involved in the action. And finally, under harm reduction, the strategy encourages actions by the Ministry of Health and the non-governmental partners.

Where and how can the EU4MD project make a difference?

The EU4MD project can greatly contribute to achieving our objectives. We welcome training sessions on drug prevention and on the drug supply measures for all our national partners, such as the Ministries of Justice, Health and National Education, ONLCDT, the National Gendarmerie and the National Security and Customs. We are looking forward to receiving technical assistance from the EU4MD project with the implementation of wastewater analysis, the creation of an early warning system and data collection and analysis.  

Moroccco: The Government proposes draft law to regulate cannabis for industrial and medical purposes

In December 2020, at the UN’s Commission for Narcotic Drugs (CND), countries voted to change aspects of the UN drug control framework. As a result, cannabis and cannabis resin have now been removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 convention that declared it to be particularly dangerous and have no significant therapeutic properties. Morocco had voted in favour of this change.

Following this, in April 2021 the Interior Minister of Morocco presented draft law number 13-21 to Parliament, that would establish a national agency to regulate cannabis and the farmers’ cooperatives in the sector (applicants for production permits must be Moroccan nationals and belong to a cooperative). This is strictly aimed at production for industrial and medicinal purposes, there is no intent for recreational purposes here. Most of the draft law appears to focus on producing and selling to foreign medical cannabis consumers; there is little detail on possible domestic medical cannabis consumers.

The draft law states that cooperatives could only sell to approved clients, and that any production greater than agreed contracted amounts should be destroyed immediately. It would allow growers to diversify into other products. The draft also establishes several areas for which details would need to be specified by later decrees, such as the areas where production is permitted, annual production quotas, THC limits for industrial cannabis, the varieties of cannabis approved for growing, the specifications of the contracts between cooperatives and buyers. Various offences and penalties are also established for breaches of regulations, up to two years in prison.

Some experts have observed the potential economic benefits of producing cannabis for medicinal purposes when an increasing number of EU countries are permitting prescription of such products.

Professor Jallal Toufiq, the Head of the National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention and Research, Director of the Moroccan National Observatory on Drugs and Addictions, Director of the Ar-razi University Psychiatric Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry at the Rabat Faculty of Medicine, who was involved in the revision of the draft law, comments: 'The draft law is about regulating the culture of cannabis exclusive edical, medicinal, scientific and industrial purposes. The cannabis agency will be established, which will bg licences, dispensing authorisations, monitoring seeds import, culture, harvest, stocks, distribution, export among other things.'

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