Are we entering a new era of cannabis regulation? An overview of current cannabis production regimes

By Kristy Kruithof and Mafalda Pardal

Throughout the world, cannabis legalisation advocates and opponents have been following the recent debates and legalisation developments in the United States (Colorado and Washington state) and Uruguay with great interest. Although international drug treaties prohibit the production, distribution and possession of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes, several jurisdictions have implemented new laws and policies, including some that remove criminal penalties for possession of small doses of cannabis. Colorado, Washington state and Uruguay are taking these changes a few steps further by fully legalising the commercial production and sale of cannabis. In other countries, non-commercial models of production and distribution have also been developed, albeit operating in a grey or illegal zone.

In this context, the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice commissioned RAND Europe to provide a multinational overview of cannabis production regimes. With this study we aimed to improve the understanding of the current production regimes for non-medical and non-scientific purposes, and how these are shaped and/or supported by official pronouncements and/or legal decisions. Following an initial scoping review and in consultation with several drug policy experts, four countries were selected for a more in-depth review: Spain, Belgium, United States and Uruguay.


Can the influence of the alcohol industry be curtailed?

by David Miller and Claire Harkins

Reviewing the myriad of connections in ‘Under the influence’, Jonathan Gornall's account of the subversion of public health policy by the alcohol lobby, shows just how important complex 'webs of influence' are in pushing forward corporate interests. To think clearly about how the tide can be turned for public health in this area requires us to grasp the complex interactions by which policy changes are accomplished. But it also helps us to clarify what changes would be necessary to turn the tide and enable policy to combat alcohol-related harm effectively.

To do this, let's start by reviewing the main actors and actions that are arrayed against a policy based on evidence. We must start with the corporations themselves. They are of course economic actors, but it is wrong to see them only in these terms. In order to act economically as well as politically, corporate leaders need to assess the economic and political landscape, both in terms of how they can compete in the market and in terms of how they can influence politics and policy. In other words, they are sensitive both to economic and political signals as opposed to blindly following the logic of profit making. This is bad news for public health because it means that corporations act politically to pursue their assessment of their own interest which, given their huge resources, is a problem. But it is also good news, because it suggests that corporations are able to compromise and change course when the balance of forces against them becomes a significant threat.


Win-win for industry and public health – The UK alcohol industry could take French lessons.

by David Nutt, Imperial College London

(in response to ‘Under the influence’, by Jonathan Gornal )

One of the paradoxes of current UK alcohol policy is the remarkable differences between ours and that in France. In the UK we have seen the use of, and damage from, alcohol increase very significantly over the past two decades whereas in France the opposite is true, alcohol harms have been falling, and are now less than those in the UK.

Part of the reason for the difference is the behaviour of the alcohol industry in the two countries:


Revolving doors and alcohol policy: a cautionary tale

by David Miller and Claire Harkins

The latest high profile case of the revolving door in the UK raises issues about the ability of civil servants to properly do their jobs and pursue the public interest. Charities and NGOs working to reduce alcohol related harm have expressed concern at the announcement of the appointment of a senior civil servant and former British Ambassador to Denmark as the new chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The SWA, one of the alcohol industry’s most aggressive lobby groups, announced on 16 September 2013 that David Frost, currently Director of Europe Trade and International Affairs at the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will take the helm next year.

At BIS, Frost has, according to alcohol charities, been ‘part of a team responsible for the implementation of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Scotland’. Legislation to implement the MUP in Scotland has been approved by the Scottish Parliament but as Scotland is not a member of the EU independently of the UK, BIS acts as a bridge between the Scottish Government and the European Commission on trade related issues including MUP.


Adolescents as customers of addiction: how do governments address young people’s gambling?

by Angelina Brotherhood and Harry Sumnall

Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, UK

The recently published ALICE RAP policy paper on gambling highlights the gambling market as a very profitable sector of the European economy, with estimated annual revenues of around € 82 billion in 2011. This is contrasted with potential gambling-related harms. A systematic review of 39 studies in non-clinical national samples from different countries found overall prevalence rates of pathological gambling to be between 0.02% and 2.0% for the adult population [1]. Recent changes in the nature of gambling, such as the development of online gambling services, are thought to increase the likelihood of negative consequences for players [2]. Young people are identified as a special target group not only in the ALICE RAP policy paper but also in the European Commission’s recent Communication on online gambling [3]. Although international estimates of gambling behaviour in young people are not currently available [4], the surveys included in the review cited above reported prevalence estimates of pathological gambling in adolescents between 0.4% and 26.0% [5].