This years CND took place in the shadow of the Corona virus. Many delegates did not attend the meeting and certain decision making was postponed. Nonetheless, the whole Encod Executive Committee attended the event. Hereby, we want to give you a short overview of some of the discussions that took place throughout the week.
On the 3rd of March WHO organized an informal dialogue that was well attended by many of our colleagues. Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli opened the session with a proposal to the WHO to consider and give more weight to the traditional use of psychoactive substances in its guidelines and recommendations.
Concerning addiction the WHO pointed out the importance to consider a broader, bio-psycho-social model of addiction. However, it was indicated that there is currently no system in place that would monitor it in individual countries. A call was made to report any violations of human rights or misinterpretations of the standards directly to WHO program in Geneva for evaluation. The WHO is also eager to work together with the civil society in programs of prevention of substance use, irrelevant to the substance’s legal status. In general, the tendency of drug policy should be, according to the WHO, to prevent imprisonments, especially of people with mental health problems.
With regard to cannabis, the expert committee reviewed CBD and other cannabis substances and recommended that CBD products with less than 0,2 % of THC should not be controlled. The voting was scheduled to happen in the following days, however, it got postponed to December 2020. There have been 300+ questions about this issue and a lot of exchange between the different stakeholders. WHO stated that they are available for further dialogue, but many questions have already been answered. Their position is that CBD doesn’t cause dependence per se and it is not a psychoactive substance. There are medicines produced with only traces of THC in 40 countries, which are marketed in the US and EU for treatment of resistant epilepsy and there is enough scientific data supporting that. The WHO committee pointed out that it is not in their domain to consider industrial or food use, they are looking specifically into medical use only.
On the question, if it is necessary to launch global campaign on opioid overdose deaths, the response of WHO was that even though it is not an issue in each country in the world, it still is a significant threat and deserves a global response. Availability of Naloxone was pointed out as an important and necessary intervention. Opioids remain one of the main killers when it comes to drug use and there are insufficient programs to deal with this crisis. Substitution therapy was identified as the first treatment modality.
On the question, if WHO believes that cannabis causes greater harm than legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, the reply was somehow vague. The 41st expert committee said that cannabis can have harms and it, therefore, recommends that cannabis is scheduled. According to the WHO cannabis caused thousands of traffic accident related deaths, it is definitely addicting and some illnesses have been identified as being caused by cannabis such as certain types of prostate cancer.
Particularly, the last statement on cannabis causing thousands of deaths was taken with reservation (at least by a part) of the audience. We still have a long way to go in the fight for just and effective drug policy. It is time that the civil society, including the harm reduction community, have a say about the upcoming regulation of the European cannabis market. If not, we miss an important historical opportunity to shape our future. A good example of collaboration between decision makers and the civil society was caught on tape by Drug reporter. For more information check out the video below.
Cannabis was a reoccurring topic and well attended at the side-events of the CND. We had the opportunity to listen to presentations discussing the value of cannabis in medicine as well as Cannabis social clubs, as an efficient and viable self-regulation practice, were presented.
Encod and the Nonviolent Radical Party co-organized a side-event on Friday morning on heroin and ibogaine-assisted treatments in the era of the opiods crisis. Professor Carla Rossi and Christopher Hallam were talking about heroin-assisted therapy as an effective harm reduction treatment. Maja Kohek was presenting the work and studies done in ICEERS on iboga(ine) as a treatment for substance dependence.
The “Empowering women” side-event was canceled. However, a spontaneous meeting took place after all attended by representatives of SSDP and Encod as well as other participants from South Africa, Canada, Bolivia, Austria, Myanmar, the Netherlands and USA.
Thursday evening we attended a panel discussion on “Psychedelic Science – A Paradigm Shift?” at the Medical University of Vienna organized by the Center for Addiction Research & Science and SSDP Vienna where four women were talking about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the field of psychedelic science, mental health and drug policy reform.
We invite our Spanish speaking members to check out the comment on the CND for the Marihuana Television made by Ana Afuera.