It was no great surprise that the ongoing pandemic pushed back the main annual meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) a few weeks from its usual March date. And as such, while typically in a state of post-Vienna recovery, April saw many in the drug policy field, including the GDPO, engage with the multilateral session in a COVID-19 induced ‘hybrid’ format. The Observatory’s key activity at this year’s session was the co-hosting, with partner organisations the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Cannabis Research, The University of the West Indies, Jamaica (ICCR), of an on-line side-event. Moderated by Dave and with an audience of more than 100, ‘The Future of Cannabis in the Caribbean’ comprised a panel involving Jerrol Thompson (Executive Director Medicinal Cannabis Authority, St Vincent and the Grenadines), Faith Graham (Acting Chief Executive, Cannabis Licencing Authority Jamaica), Vicki Hanson (ICCR) and Pein Metaal (TNI).
April also saw the Observatory team involved with several other on-line events. The first of these was in relation to the Global Drug Policy Index (GDPI) project. Here, with International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) colleagues, Dave presented the GDPI to the GIZ’s Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD) team as part of their ‘Quick Academy Series’. Second, Observatory team members Dave, Luca and Dennis took part in the initial meeting of the GDPO’s ‘Drones and counter-narcotics in Latin America’ project. While ticking over for some time, this was the project’s formal kick-off with Ross Eventon and project partners from the Colombian Observatory of Organized Crime (OCCO) at the University of Rosario, Bogota. It is our pleasure to welcome to the research team Delina Goxho and Jochen Kleinschmidt. The work stream will involve several publications and related workshops and dissemination events.
During May, GDPO Research Associate Constanza Sanchez Aviles participated at the Social and Family Affairs Committee at the Malta Parliament to provide input on the cannabis decriminalization initiative that is currently underway. Constanza spoke about Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain and in so doing drew on research from her 2018 Observatory Report, Better to Ask Forgiveness Than Permission: Spain’s Sub-national Approach to Drug Policy. You can read more about the Committee session here. GDPO research was also evident in several other media stories, including Ross’s work on aerial fumigation of coca crops in Colombia and Dave’s on cannabis policy reform.
In relation to more recent research, June saw the publication of a GDPO Policy Report by Martin Horton-Eddison, Patrick Shortis, Judith Aldridge, and Fernando Caudevilla. Drug Cryptomarkets in the 2020s: Policy, Enforcement, Harm, and Resilience builds upon some of the work presented at a side-event at the 2020 CND in Vienna and represents the beginnings of stronger research collaborations with colleagues in the Department of Criminology at The University of Manchester. The Brief is also accompanied by a video explainer.
Finally, the quarter saw some restructuring and changes in personnel, both at the GDPI and among partners. Regarding the latter, in April the David F Musto Center for Drug Policy Studies (Shanghai University) became the International Center for Drug Policy Studies. The GDPO was please to send a congratulatory video for the inaugural opening ceremony. Closer to home, Axel’s formal relationship with the Observatory came to an end. We wish him all the best in his new role as Project Coordinator, Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security, ECOWAS, and thank him for all his contributions to and support for the GDPO since its establishment. However, we also welcome as a new member of the team one of Axel’s African colleagues, Ediomo-Ubong Nelson. Based in Nigeria Ediomo-Ubong (also known as Nelson) is Alcohol and Drug Policy Advocacy Officer at the International Blue Cross and, under the leadership of Prof. Isidore Obot, Associate Researcher at the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse. We look forward to working with Nelson as lead on our Africa project.