News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly

INCB Encourages Abolition of Death Penalty for Drug Offences

Speaking at the launch of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) annual report, President Raymond Yans of the INCB said ‘The INCB, taking into account the relevant international conventions on human rights, the various protocols, the various resolutions of the General Assembly, of the ECOSOC, and of UN human rights bodies concerning the death penalty, we encourage state parties, part of the conventions, that still provide for the death penalty for drug-related offences in their national legislation and practice it, to consider the abolishing of the death penalty for drug-related offences.’ This marks the first time the INCB has spoken out against the death penalty and other human rights violations around criminal sanctions for drug offences. The 2013 INCB annual report raises the INCB's concern with ‘misguided initiatives’ on cannabis legalisation in Uruguay and Colorado and Washington. In the foreword to the report Raymond Yans says these moves ‘would pose a grave danger to public health and well-being, the very things the States, in designing the conventions, intended to protect.’ The report includes a thematic chapter on the economic consequences of drug abuse which also outlines its counter arguments against the potential cost benefits of alternative drug control policies. The INCB observes that ‘Emerging data from the State of Colorado of the United States suggest that since the introduction of a widely commercialized ‘medical’ cannabis programme (poorly implemented and not in conformity with the 1961 Convention), car accidents involving drivers testing positive for cannabis, adolescent cannabis-related treatment admissions and drug tests revealing cannabis use have all increased.’ The INCB is also concerned about illicit opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, which in 2013 reached 209,000 hectares, a 36% increase compared with 154,000 hectares in 2012.


More Alcohol and Violence Legislation for NSW

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the New South Wales (NSW) government has introduced legislation for another six mandatory minimum sentences, including reckless grievous bodily harm (four years minimum) and reckless wounding (three years minimum), where the perpetrator is intoxicated or appears affected by drugs or alcohol. These new proposals follow the legislation passed in January that created a minimum mandatory sentence of eight years for assault causing death, where alcohol or drugs were a factor. The government decided against introducing mandatory minimum prison terms for lesser charges, including assaulting police, after criticisms from civil liberties groups and concern about the cost to the prison system if there was a dramatic increase in convictions. The Sydney Morning Herald also reports poll findings that a majority of NSW voters (58%) said they wanted courts to have discretion in sentencing, depending on the circumstances, and 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds, the group most likely to feel the impact of the initiatives, believed courts should have discretion in sentencing.


Central America Still Main Trafficking Route to USA

InSight Crime reports that statistics from the US State Department's annual drug control report demonstrate that Mexico and Central America are still the most common drug trafficking routes to the United States. InSight Crime had earlier reported that drug traffickers in the Dominican Republic had paid local police over $100,000 in bribes each month. Such cases had led commentators to suggest that the Caribbean had become a prime drug transit route. However, the State Department report estimated that approximately 86% of the cocaine trafficked to the United States in the first half of 2013 first moved through the Mexico/Central America corridor, an increase from 80% in 2012. The drug control report also records that Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela were designated by the US President as having ‘failed demonstrably’ during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international agreements. The president determined that continued support for bilateral programmes in Burma and Venezuela is vital to the national interests of the United States.


Italian Court Abolishes 2006 Antidrug Legislation

BBC News reports that the Italian Constitutional Court has ruled that the 2006 Italian drug legislation is unconstitutional. The 1990 drug legislation, as amended by a 1993 referendum which decriminalized possession for personal use, has been restored. This decision may mean that 10,000 people may be released from prison as a result. Prison rights group Antigone said the 2006 law had caused prison overcrowding, with 40% of all inmates serving sentences for drug crimes. In January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that overcrowding in Italy's jails violates the basic rights of inmates. The Italian authorities were fined 100,000 euros and ordered to solve the overcrowding issue within a year. Under the 2006 legislation cannabis was classified as a Schedule 1 drug with heroin and cocaine, with sentences for the cultivation, sale and trafficking of cannabis from 2–6 years to 6–20 years.


US Guidelines for Banks and the Cannabis Industry

The New York Times reports that the US Treasury Department and the Justice Department have separately issued guidelines intended to give banks confidence that they will not be punished if they provide services to legitimate cannabis businesses in states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of the drug. But as cannabis is still illicit under federal law, the policy does not grant immunity from prosecution or civil penalties to banks that serve legal cannabis businesses. The guidance requires banks to monitor cannabis business customers and directs prosecutors and regulators to give priority to cases only where financial institutions have failed to adhere to the guidance. The banks responded that the guidance was not enough to meet their concern. ‘While we appreciate the efforts by the Department of Justice and FinCEN, guidance or regulation doesn't alter the underlying challenge for banks,’ Frank Keating, president of the American Bankers Association, said in a statement, referring to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Treasury unit that issued part of the guidelines. ‘As it stands, possession or distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and banks that provide support for those activities face the risk of prosecution and assorted sanctions.’ Legal marijuana/cannabis entrepreneurs say that access to banking has been their most pressing concern. Their businesses are conducted almost entirely in cash because it is difficult for them to open and maintain bank accounts, or to accept credit cards.


Crack Pipe Vending Machines in Vancouver

The Independent reports that the Portland Hotel Society, a drug treatment centre in Vancouver, has installed vending machines that dispense newly packaged crack pipes for $0.25. Each machine holds 200 pipes and is restocked every five days. The aim is to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis among crack users. ‘We packaged a crack pipe in polka dots and people were very intrigued by it and wondered what it was,’ said Kailin See, the director of the Drug Users Resource Centre. ‘It was a hit right away.’ Kailin See also said ‘They don't run the risk of then sharing pipes, or pipes that are chipped or broken,’ adding ‘ ‘everything from flu, colds, cold sores, HIV: if you cut your lip on a pipe that someone else has been using, there are risks there.’ The initiative follows an earlier crack pipe pilot programme in 2011 which distributed 60,000 pipes per year. ‘We disagree with promoters of this initiative,’ said Steven Blaney, Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. ‘Drug use damages the health of individuals and the safety of our communities,’ Mr. Blaney added.


Finland Bans Alcohol Branded Social Media Communication

The European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM) reports that starting in 2015, existing alcohol advertising regulations in Finland, which include a prohibition of advertisements for strong alcoholic beverages in public spaces and a time ban for television, will be accompanied by a prohibition on advertising for mild alcoholic beverages with campaigns in which consumers are asked to participate in games, lotteries or contests. Content produced or shared by consumers, including social media-type posts, photos, video clips or ads, will no longer be allowed in advertising. The Finnish government said the amendments leading to further restrictions on alcohol marketing were initiated out of concern for children and young people being exposed to such advertising.


Conferences and Events

36th Annual SALIS Conference (Substance Abuse Librarians & Information Specialists), 29 April-2 May 2014, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. Website:

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 167th Annual Meeting, 3–7 May 2014, New York, New York, USA. Website:

National Council for Behavioral Health Conference, 5–7 May 2014, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

2cd European Harm Reduction Conference, 7–9 May 2014, Basel Switzerland. Website:

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) 2014 Annual Conference, 17–20 May 2014, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Website:

Society for Clinical Trials (SCT) 35th Annual Meeting, 18–21 May 2014, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Website:

8th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP), 21–23 May 2014, Rome, Italy. Website:

Europad 11th European Congress on Heroin Addiction and Related Clinical Problems, 23–25 May 2014, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Website:

2014 Annual Addictions and Mental Health Conference, 25–27 May 2014, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Website:

National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Conference 2014 (NIDAC 2014), 4–6 June 2014, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

13th CARES Conference: Novel Psychoactive Substances, 6 June 2014, Dundee, UK. Website:

International Conference on Opioids, 8–10 June 2014, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Website:

Kettil Bruun Society 40th Annual Meeting, 9–13 June 2014, Torino, Italy. Website:

2014 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, 12–13 June 2014, London, UK. Website:

College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) Annual Meeting, 14–19 June 2014, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Website:

Joint ISBRA/RSA (International Society for Biomedical Research in Alcoholism/Research Society on Alcoholism) Congress, 21–25 June 2014, Seattle, Washington, USA. Website:

37th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, 21–25 June 2014, Bellevue, Washington USA. Website:

Collegium Internationale, Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum (CINP) World Congress 2014, 22–26 June 2014, Vancouver, Canada. Website:

Global Addiction 2014 Roma: Policy, Society, Alcohol and Novelty in Addiction, 24–26 June 2014, Rome, Italy. Website:

International Narcotics Research Conference (INRC), 14–19 July 2014, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Website:

20th International AIDS Conference, 20–25 July 2014, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

3rd International Conference and Exhibition on Addiction Research and Therapy, 4–6 August 2014, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Website:

12th Biennial International Conference on Drugs, Alcohol, and Society in Africa, 21–22 August 2014, Lagos, Nigeria. Website:

National Conference on Addiction Disorders, 22–26 August 2014, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Website:

KBS Thematic meeting: Alcohol Policy Research, 8–11 September 2014, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

Canada Psychiatric Association 64th Annual Conference, 11–13 September 2014, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Website:

16th World Congress of Psychiatry, 14–18 September 2014, Madrid, Spain. Website:

NAADAC (Association for Addiction Professionals) 2014 National Conference, 27 September–1 October 2014, Seattle, Washington, USA. Website:

International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) Annual Meeting, 2–6 October 2014, Yokahama, Japan. Website:

CSAM (Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine) Annual Meeting & Scientific Conference, 16–18 October 2014, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Website:

27th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Conference, 18–21 October 2014, Berlin, Germany. Website:

AMERSA (Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse) 38th Annual National Conference, 6–8 November 2014, San Francisco, California, USA. Website:

Global Addiction 2014 Rio, 10–12 November 2014, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Website:

APHA (American Public Health Association) 2014 Annual Meeting and Exposition, 15–19 November 2014, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Website:

The Evolution of Addiction Treatment, 5–8 February 2015, Los Angeles, California, USA. Website:

American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) Conference, 28 March–1 April 2015, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Website:

Society for Clinical Trials 36th Annual Meeting, 17–20 May 2015, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Website:

9th International Conference on Nightlife, Substance Use, and Related Health Issues, 17–19 June 2015, Lisbon, Portugal. Website:

ASH Scotland Conference 2015, 18–19 June 2015, Scotland, UK. Website:

NCPIC (National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre) 3rd National Cannabis Conference, 7–9 October 2015, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

News and Notes welcomes contributions from its readers. Send your material to John Witton, News and Notes Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966; e-mail

Conference entries should be sent to Jean O'Reilly at Subject to editorial review, we will be glad to print, free of charge, details of your conference or event, up to 75 words and one entry only. Please send your notification three months before you wish the entry to appear.