Just Published: European Drug Report 2019: Trends and developments

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This report provides an analysis of the latest data on the drug situation and responses to it across the European Union, Norway and Turkey. It is supported by other, online information resources, including our Statistical Bulletin, containing source data. The EDR package also includes 30 Country Drug Reports, which provide an overview of the current situation for all countries participating in the EU drug information network.

This year’s report arrives at a critical time for reflection on drug policy developments, especially given the international debate on the appropriate follow-up to the United Nations special session on the world drug problem in 2016. Next year will see the final evaluation of the current EU drugs strategy (2013-20). During this period, Europe has witnessed some dramatic changes in the challenges the drugs area presents, including the appearance of more non-controlled substances. We have also seen significant changes in the drug market and drug use; and our understanding of what constitutes effective interventions has increased. A market dominated by plant-based substances imported into Europe has evolved into one where synthetic drugs and production within Europe have grown in importance. Globalisation and technological advances have reshaped the strategic issues that European policymakers need to consider. We are proud of the EMCDDA’s international reputation for keeping pace with these changes and providing the information necessary to help support the cooperation and coordination that the EU drug strategy envisages.

Introduction – Cannabis Highlighted ( By CLR)

Cannabis: new developments for Europe’s most established drug

Cannabis is one of the longest-established drugs in Europe. It is the most commonly used illicit drug, with nearly 20 % of those in the 15-24 age group reporting having used cannabis in the last year. Internationally and within Europe, cannabis use continues to be a topic that is generating significant policy and public interest, as new developments are triggering a debate on how society should respond to this substance.

A discussion is taking place about the therapeutic value of cannabis, cannabis preparations and medicines derived from the cannabis plant. Some countries have legalized cannabis, provoking consideration of the costs and benefits of different regulatory and control options. This is a complex area. In Europe, considerable policing resources go into cannabis control, with over half of the 1.2 million use or possession for personal use offenses reported in 2017 related to cannabis. Involvement in the cannabis market can also be a driver for youth criminality and

a major source of income for organized crime. In addition, our understanding of the potential health risks from cannabis use, especially among the young, has grown. Cannabis is now the substance most often named by new entrants to specialist drug treatment services as their main reason for seeking help. This is worrying, as over the last few years the EMCDDA’s overall assessment has been that cannabis trends have remained largely stable. Now, however, this is being challenged by new data, where the number of countries is reporting increased use among younger age cohorts.

Adding to this complexity, new forms of cannabis have been developed in recent years as a result of advances in cultivation, extraction and production techniques. Hybrid multi-strain plants yielding higher-potency cannabis have begun to replace established forms of the plant both within Europe and in Morocco, where much of the cannabis resin used in Europe originates. A recent EMCDDA-supported study shows that for both cannabis resin and herb the potency has increased over the last decade. The creation of legal recreational cannabis markets where the drug has been legalized is also driving innovation, with the development of new cannabis products such as edibles, e-liquids, and concentrates. Some of these are now appearing on the European market, where they represent a new challenge for detection and drug control.

Recognizing the now dynamic and complex nature of the cannabis policy sphere, the EMCDDA has launched a new series of publications that provide evidence reviews and analysis on this area. These include an overview of the development of medicinal cannabis provision in the European Union. The informed debate in this area is inhibited by the absence of a common conceptual understanding of medicinal cannabis. This is complicated by the diversity of products available, which can range from medicinal products containing compounds from the cannabis plant to raw cannabis preparations.

Low-THC cannabis products raise regulatory issues

Another example of the rapid developments taking place concerning cannabis has been the appearance in the last 2 years of low-strength herbal cannabis and cannabis oils for sale in health food shops or specialist shops in some EU countries. Sales take place based on the claim that these products have little or no intoxicating effect and therefore are not controlled under drug laws. Cannabis contains many different chemicals, but two cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), attract the most attention. THC is the main substance found in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects. Products containing CBD are increasingly marketed with claims about their beneficial effects. The complex and evolving literature on the evidence for medicinal use of both THC and CBD has been addressed in a recent EMCDDA publication. The new products claim to have less than  0.2 % or 0.3 % THC and broadly fit within two categories of products: one aimed at cannabis users for smoking and one — formulations like oils and creams — aimed people interested in possible healthcare uses. Some EU Member States regard low-THC products as cannabis extracts subject to criminal penalties; others consider them medicines that cannot be sold without authorization; a few classify them as products that do not pose a threat to public health and so do not require any licence for trade. This development is raising issues for regulation at both EU and national level.

isbn:  978-92-9497-398-6
doi:  10.2810/191370
Language:  English
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