News in brief

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Green future

Transform has launched a new publication on regulating legal markets for non-medical use of cannabis. How to regulate cannabis: a practical guide looks at the challenges of developing and implementing an effective approach, with the regulation debate now firmly part of the mainstream according to co-author Steve Rolles. ‘With so many countries leading the way, it is likely that the rest of the world will follow within the next ten years,’ he said. Uruguay approved a bill to legalise the growing, sale and consumption of cannabis in December, with the law expected to come into force in the spring, a decision UNODC called ‘unfortunate’.

Available at www.tdpf.org.uk

 

Stark choices

US drug defendants are ‘routinely’ threatened with ‘extraordinarily severe’ prison sentences by prosecutors to make them plead guilty and waive their right to trial, according to report from Human Rights Watch. The average sentence for federal drug offenders who pled guilty was just under five and a half years compared to 16 years for those convicted after trial, the report found. ‘Prosecutors give drug defendants a so-called choice – in the most egregious cases, the choice can be to plead guilty to 10 years or risk life without parole by going to trial,’ said the report’s author Jamie Fellner. ‘This is coercion pure and simple.’

An offer you can’t refuse: how US federal prosecutors force drug defendants to plead guilty at www.hrw.org

 

The road ahead

The Home Office has published its second review of the drug strategy, highlighting the priorities of ‘reducing demand, restricting supply and building recovery’. Meanwhile, PHE has issued a new guide to reviewing treatment, based on supplementary evidence from Professor John Strang’s recovery-orientated drug treatment expert group.

Delivering within a new landscape and Medications in recovery: best practice in reviewing treatment at www.gov.uk

 

Life begins at 50

Substance misuse charity Blenheim is celebrating its 50th anniversary by releasing 50 first-person stories from people who have turned their lives around. A new story will be available every Monday throughout 2014 at www.blenheim50.wordpress.com

 

Deadly drinking

Alcohol-related mortality in Scotland was 80 per cent higher than in England and Wales in 2011, according to figures from NHS Health Scotland and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Around 23 per cent more alcohol than south of the border was sold in the country during the year. ‘We must tackle the toll that Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society,’ said health secretary Alex Neil.

A comparison of alcohol sales and alcohol-related mortality in Scotland and Northern England at www.healthscotland.com

 

Recovery cash

Recovery-orientated drug and alcohol treatment centres are set to receive £10m in new capital funding, PHE has announced. The money will be distributed via local authorities to NHS and voluntary sector providers, with all recovery-focused adult services eligible to bid. ‘We are delighted to announce this additional investment which will provide valuable support for ambitious and creative recovery-focused initiatives across the country,’ said director of alcohol and drugs, Rosanna O’Connor. The applications process will be managed via PHE’s regional centres, with awards to be announced in March 2014.

 

Access all areas

The government’s decision to abandon minimum unit pricing for alcohol was partly the result of the ‘extraordinary access granted to companies and industry groups by individual MPs and many government departments’, according to a report published in the BMJ, with 130 meetings taking place with lobbyists, few of which were publicly documented. 

www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7646

 

Paul Goggins

Former drugs minister Paul Goggins has died aged 60, after collapsing while jogging. Labour leader Ed Miliband called him a ‘dignified, humane, wise and loyal’ politician.

 

Infections toolkit

A new toolkit on monitoring infectious diseases among people who inject drugs has been launched by EMCDDA, including study methods and example questionnaires as well as a comprehensive overview of the key issues. The organisation has also published a guide to the civil society organisations engaged in drug policy advocacy in Europe.

Drug-related infectious diseases and Drug policy advocacy organisations in Europe at www.emcdda.europa.eu