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Quarterly News

APR – JUL 2020

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the on-going global pandemic curtailed somewhat GDPO activities over the past quarter. Nonetheless, the team was still busy writing, pursing desk based research and engaging with a range of activities on planet Zoom. 

While alas forced into the virtual realm, a key event of the past three months was the official launch in June of the University of West Indies’ Interdisciplinary Centre for Cannabis Research (ICCR) website. A partnership with the GDPO, the Centre was established with an Observatory grant received from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Among a range of initial ICCR activities, some involving GDPO and project partner TNI’s Drugs and Democracy Programme, was a Virtual Workshop on ‘Learning the lessons from the Caribbean: The Possibilities for Inter Se Agreement in the Cannabis Industry’. A related report will be published in the following months. In terms of ICCR publications, the Centre’s first publication was released in April. Co-authored by Axel Klein and Vicki Hanson, ICCR Coordinator, Ganja licensing in Jamaica: Learning lessons and setting standards built upon Axel’s research in Jamaica earlier in the year. A brief overview of the report including his discussions with some of those interviewed for the research can be found here 

Screen shot of video explainers

Relating to his ongoing research into drug cryptomarkets, April also saw the publication of Martin Horton-Eddison’s GDPO Working Paper, Seoul Searching: South Korea’s AI counter-cryptomarket capacity. This is accompanied by a video-explainer. The Observatory’s work on drug policy metrics was also supplemented by a video-explainer, ‘Improving Drug Policy Metrics: Supplementing the UNODC Annual Report Questionnaire.’ This built upon the GDPO’s activities around the CND in March. Reflecting Axel’s research into various facets of illicit drug markets in Africa, the GDPO published in May the Policy Brief, The Uruguay – West Africa Trafficking Connection. An Urgent need for Closer Cooperation and Policy Exchange. And in June, we published the blog ‘Drugs, Prisons and ‘Unintended Consequences’ -Does drug related interdiction drive-drug related harms?’ This was written by GDPO Senior Research Associate and Swansea University Associate Professor of Criminology and Human Rights, Rick Lines, and two of his undergraduate students, Olivia Howells and Daniel Webb. Very much in keeping with the GDPO’s ethos of assisting in the development of the next generation of drug policy scholars, the blog was based on research conducted as part of the Swansea Paid Internship Network programme, a scheme enabling School of Law students to obtain experience working on an active research project under the guidance of an academic supervisor. On a related point, Dave once again contributed drug policy focused classes to both undergraduate (Dr Luca Trenta’s ‘Shadow Wars: US Presidents and covert action from the Cold War to Obama) and postgraduate (Dr Dion Curry’s Comparative Governance in Complex Systems) courses within the Department of Political and Cultural Studies.

Away from Swansea, Khalid Tinasti was busy publishing several Op-Eds; Le Temps Afrique (Switzerland): La gestion du coronavirus au Maroc: transformation durable ou parenthèse, (14 May), Les Echos (France): Quand le Covid-19 dope l'industrie du cannabis légal, (5 June); L‘Obs (France): Après la crise du Covid-19, il faut légaliser le cannabis, vite (18 June). Also on the publishing front, in Bogota, Ross co-authored a report on Coca: COCA: del estigma a la oportunidad (Coca; From Stigma to Opportunity) and in May, Dave published a short piece on the 2020 CND, ‘International divisions sharpen over cannabis regulation’ in Janes Intelligence Review .

Despite the travel restrictions, Khalid had a productive June and was engaged with a range of online seminars and meetings. These included the session ‘Drugs after prohibition – Paving the way to regulation’ at KOSMICARE’s (Portugal) virtual roundtable on the 5 June; the session ‘Overcoming the UN Deadlock’ at Prohibition Partners LIVE Virtual Conference, 22 June and the webinar ‘The Rights of PWUD in the COVID-19 times in Morocco’ by ALCS Morocco on the 26 June. Meanwhile, Axel ‘attended’ the panel on ‘The West African Opioid Crisis’ at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy annual conference on 2 May.

JAN-MAR 2020

The year started with the delivery of a long-planned event, the OSF supported “Human Security and Drug Policy in Afghanistan” Executive Programme.  Taking place in New Delhi, 27-31 January 2020, this was part of a trilateral initiative involving the GDPO, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU, Kabul, Afghanistan) and the TERI School of Advanced Studies (TERI-SAS, New Delhi, India).

Delivered at the TERI-SAS campus, the Programme brought together nearly 30 Afghan women and men working in vital areas on drug policy. In addition to Dave, academic director and overall project lead, the Executive Programme faculty team included AREU Deputy Director Dr Nishank Motwani, Dr Chandan Kumar (TERI-SAS), Dr David Mansfield (Private Consultant), Ross Eventon (University of Rosario, Colombia & GDPO research associate), Sai Lone (Myanmar Opium Farmers’ Forum), Tripti Tandon (Lawyers Collective, New Delhi), Dr Ravindra Rao (National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, New Delhi), and Dr Kasia Malinowska (Global Drug Policy Program, Open Society Foundations & The New School, USA). Visit the AREU website for a full account of the week, but in brief we’re pleased to report that the Programme was a great success with all participants leaving India enthused by what they had learned, discussed and shared.  Indeed, framed deliberately a knowledge exchange rather than knowledge transfer initiative – the Programme enabled participants and faculty to learn a great deal beyond their own specialisms with Afghan colleagues keen to apply aspects of the course when they returned to their various roles in Kabul and beyond.   

Group shot of delagates

Men sitting at table

Board room

In early March, several members of the GDPO team attended the 63rd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna with everyone – to varying degrees – presenting Observatory related research. On Thursday 5th March Dave was a panellist on a side-event, Next Steps for Data Collection on Drugs: Experiences from United Nations Agencies.  Organized by the Governments of Mexico and Switzerland, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, the European Union, the GDPO, IDPC, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Health Organization, other speakers included Zaved Mahmood, (OHCHR), Vladimir Poznyak, (WHO), and Angela Me (UNODC).  The session was chaired wonderfully by H.E. Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro Massieu, Permanent Mission of Mexico to the International Organisations in Vienna.  Relating directly to the GDPO Metrics project, the side event highlighted the ways in which the new version of the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ), adopted by the CND in March 2020, can be complemented with datasets from other stakeholders, including other UN agencies, UN human rights bodies and civil society.  As with all the side-events mentioned here, for a short account see the UNODC’s new CND side-events report and the CND blog

people sitting at table table

In the afternoon, attending the CND for both PhD research purposes and as a representative of the Vienna NGO Committee, Swansea University-GDPO doctoral candidate Heloisa Broggiato spoke on work related to her thesis at a side event titled, Accelerating support for increasing access to controlled medicines while preventing diversion and non-medical use.  This comprised a distinguished panel, with other speakers including the Australian and Belgian  Ambassadors to Vienna, a member of the INCB, the Deputy Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, a representative from the WHO as well as speakers from the Union for International Cancer Control and the IAEA.  The event highlighted the importance of a balanced global approach to the issue and appealed to member states to support the UNODC-WHO-UICC Joint Global Programme.

 people sitting at table

The following morning Martin Horton-Eddison, along with Manchester University colleagues and friends of the Observatory, Prof. Judith Aldridge and Patrick Shortis, spoke at a side event on drug crypto-markets. Joined by Energy Control's inimitable Fernando Caudevilla (aka Silk Road's 'Doctor X'), Drug CryptoMarkets Beyond 2020: Policy, Enforcement, Harm, and Resilience was sponsored and chaired by the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and co-sponsored by Energy Control, together with the IDPC and the GDPO. The presentations and Q&A augmented the knowledge-base of attendees in a fast moving and dynamic area of concern for the international community. Moreover, showcasing ongoing research from the GDPO’s crypto drug markets project, the event went some way to increasing awareness that there are unintended consequences of law enforcement approaches that aim to take all markets offline, and suggested that enforcing against only the most injurious of substances and vendors whilst also acknowledging the potential harm reducing nature of some online markets may be a useful first step toward an (otherwise absent) internationally agreed approach.

peope talking

people at desk

computer screen

And last but not least, Chris spoke at a side event on Friday 6th March, Heroin and Ibogaine Assisted Treatments in the Era of the Opioids Crisis, which was organized by Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty (Transnational Radical Party). Presenting together with Professor Carla Rossi, his analysis was focused on the Heroin Assisted Treatment aspect of the event. Carla, an epidemiologist, argued that governments are under an ethical obligation to provide HAT as a second treatment option directed at those who do not benefit from the conventional substitution therapies using methadone and buprenorphine. Chris’ remarks provided a social and historical context for the treatment, beginning with the so-called ‘British System’ and moving on to the open drug scenes of 1990s Europe, which prompted the Swiss authorities to reconceptualise the prescribing of heroin and to offer a pragmatic, harm-reduction treatment system based at clinics where drug users could inject their prescribed dosage under medical supervision The event was well attended and prompted much interesting discussion.  Part of the GDPO’s UN project, Chris’s presentation was linked to the research underpinning a forthcoming Policy Brief on HAT and its reception on the international policy scene, with a special emphasis on the response to the treatment of the UN drug control agencies.

people at desk

While not in Vienna this year, Axel was also travelling during the quarter.  This involved completing some fieldwork for the GDPO GCRF funded project, ‘Cultivating Change,’ in Jamaica in January.  Engaging with issues relating to the Observatory’s Africa project, in March he also gave a  presentation to officers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja on the need for research and knowledge generation in the fight against organised crime and illicit trafficking.

In terms of publications, members of the team also had a productive quarter.  Within the academic realm, Khalid published ‘International drug control governance: Is a joint UN programme on drugs relevant?’ in the International Journal of Drug Policy  Chris had a chapter published in a collection edited by Professors Susanne MacGregor and Betsy Thom, Risk and Substance Use: Framing Dangerous People and Dangerous Places, Routledge 2020. This brings together historical and sociological analyses of the risks associated with the spaces and groups involved in psychoactive drug markets and the policies intended to mitigate them. Chris’ chapter entitled ‘Dangerous Drugs, Dangerous Women: Declassé women, drugs and sapphic sexuality in 1930s London’, concentrates on the experience of modernity in interwar London, and ways in which drugs and their consumers became symbolic of the anxieties and alarm deriving from the rapid social change accompanying the emergence of the modern world. It explores this symbolic role in the formation of both domestic and international drug policy. Axel (with Gary Potter) also had a chapter published in the same book, this one titled ‘Coming out of the Closet: Risk Management Strategies of Illegal Cannabis Growers’. Additionally, Axel co-published (with Sudhanshu Patwardhan, Maria Goretti and Ane Loglo) ‘Divergences and commonalities between the US opioid crisis and prescription medicine mis/use in West Africa,’ in the International Journal of Drug Policy, and (with Ann Ukachi Madukwe) "Tramadol as a pain relieving and physical work performance enhancement medication" in Drugs and Alcohol Today.

Book cover

In relation to press outputs, Khalid published a couple of articles in the international media: L’Orient-Le Jour (Lebanon), ‘Les conséquences de la classification dépassée des drogues’, and L’Economiste (Morocco), ‘Une autre victime du Covid-19: La politique multilatérale en santé.’ 

OCT - DEC 2019

Members of the GDPO team were busy during the quarter attending meetings and making presentations at various events and foras. October saw Axel at Lisbon Addictions.  Here he was on panellist on ‘Focus on the EU borders,’ gave a key note lecture, ‘Framing the non-medical use of tramadol in Africa: Global opioid crises, medicrime or inadequate healthcare systems?’ and also took part in the ‘Big debate: Industry friend of foe? Can industry contribute to better addiction science, policy, and actions?’ Later in the month Khalid co-organised an authors’ workshop at the Graduate Institute, Geneva,  for a special issue of International Development Policy on drugs and development, co-edited with the GDPO’s Julia Buxton and Mary Chinery Hesse, international civil servant and first woman chancellor of the University of Ghana.  The special issue, featuring articles by Dave and Martin Jelsma, will be published in October 2020. In November, Khalid was also a panelist on ‘Kicking the habit: Rethinking the war on drugs’ at the Paris Peace Forum.  Meanwhile, closer to home, Dave gave a guest lecture to Rick Lines’ MA class, ‘Advanced Issues in Drugs, Alcohol and the Criminal Law’, in the Hilary Rodham Clinton (HRC) School of Law at Swansea University. The following month in Geneva, Khalid gave a briefing on drug policy to the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

People sitting on a panel

Discussion panel on a stage

Man speaking at podium

Axel and his incredible hair in Lisbon

In terms of publications, members of the team were also involved with a range of outputs, including both academic and peer reviewed grey literature.  Khalid co-authored ‘Regulation of Illegal Drugs: State Control and Fragile Institutional Capacity’ in the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, while Axel co-authored ‘Divergences and commonalities between the US opioid crisis and prescription medicine mis/use in West Africa,’ in the International Journal of Drug Policy, and ‘Tramadol as a pain relieving and physical work performance enhancement medication, in Drugs and Alcohol Today.  Regarding in-house publications, Martin Horton-Eddison co-authored with Joe Whittaker, Researcher and PhD candidate, Swansea University, HRC School of Law and Leiden University, a timely GDPO Situation Analysis, UK General Election 2019: Where do the Parties Stand on Drug Policy?  From a more global perspective, Dave authored a co-produced report with the International Drug Policy Consortium, The World Drug Report 2019: Perspectives on Protecting Public Health  

In November the GDPO received news of its successful application to the HEFCW awarded Global Challenges Research Fund to continue work with partners at the University of West Indies, Mona, on the ‘Cultivating Change: Cannabis and Sustainable Development within the Caribbean’ project.  And finally, it’s important to note that in the space of two weeks in September Martin Horton-Eddison not only (finally 😉) submitted his PhD Thesis, Dealing with the 'Darknet': International Drug Control and Crypto Drug Markets, 2010-2019, but also secured a fixed-term post as lecturer of International Relations in the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University. Congratulation Martin! We look forward to continuing our work with you and developing research links with Cardiff.

JUL - OCT 2019

The relatively quiet summer period was punctuated by a few teaching related activities.  In August Dave was honoured once again to be involved as faculty with the ‘Drug Policy, Practice and Society in Asia’ workshop organised by the Centre for Criminology, HKU, and this year hosted by the University of Macau’s Department of Sociology. Mindful of the ongoing pursuit of a brutal ‘war on drugs’ within the country, the workshop focused predominantly on drug policy within the Philippines. Meanwhile in Geneva a few weeks later, Khalid began teaching a seminar titled, ‘Drug Policy and Global Health’ as part of the Master of Science in Global Health programme, at the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute.  Helping to embed drug policy related content into the Institute’s curriculum, this will be repeated for the next two years.   

man teaching class Dave teaching in Macau

The GDPO had a busy quarter in relation to publications.  In terms of academic work, Axel published ‘Lutte contre le crime organisé en Afrique de l’Ouest financée par les donateurs – modestes propositions visant à rendre efficace le développement de la justice pénale in Africa Connection, edited by Laurent Guillaume. (Paris: la manufacture des livres) while both Dave and Khalid both had chapters published in The Blue Book on International Drug Control and Security, (David F. Musto Center for Drugs and National Security Studies, University of Shanghai). Dave’s co-edited chapter - with Martin Jelsma, ‘Drugs and Crime’, was also published in The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Treaties.

Book Cover Book coverIn terms of ‘Grey Literature, Ross contributed to a Christian Aid policy report, Peace, illicit drugs and the SDGs – a development gap, Axel authored a chapter in the Alternative Drug report published by Akzept and Deutsche Aids Hilfe, 'United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs 2016 and High Level Review 2019' while Dave had an article published in Jane’s Intelligence Review: ‘Drug Diplomacy: Russia promotes hard-line global drugs regime.’ The GDPO team were also active in relation to the media.  Ross contributed a piece for Al Jazeera titled ‘Guatemala’s state corruption and the heirs of colonial privilege’, while Khalid wrote two OP-Eds: L’Economiste, Morocco, ‘Drogues: Ce que la classification erronée coûte au Maroc’, and EUobserver, ‘Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity.’ Finally, regarding the GDPO’s own publications and related outputs, the Observatory was – with a range of other concerned organisations -  part of a Joint Position Statement on the Decision by WHO to Withdraw Guidance Documents, and was pleased to see the publication of a Spanish Version of the major policy report, Fair(er) Trade Options for the Cannabis Market; an output from the Cannabis Innovate project

APR – JUL 2019

As part of the Cannabis Innovate initiative, late April saw Martin, Dave and others associated with the project attend a workshop hosted by GDPO-Swansea University partner the Institute Scientifique, Université Mohammed-V de Rabat, Morocco. Back in Swansea in May, Dave lectured on ‘Drug Wars: From Reagan to Trump’ on PCS colleague Dr Luca Trenta’s module, Shadow Wars: US Presidents and Covert Action from the Cold War to Obama.  As part of his work on the GDPO’s metrics project and as a member of a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights delegation later that month he was also in Vienna to attend a UNODC hosted meeting on the ongoing review of the Annual Report Questionnaire; a UN tool designed to collect drug related data from member states.  In June Martin was an invited panel speaker (‘The Politics of Spliffs and Butts’), at The Economist Cannabis Summit in Toronto and, on a closely related theme, Axel, Branwen and WOLA’s John Walsh visited the Caribbean. This was part of the GDPO’s ‘Cultivating Change: UN Treaties, Cannabis Regulation and Options for Sustainable Development in the Caribbean’ project. Supported by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund, the aim of the scoping trip was to develop closer ties with the GDPO’s new partner, the University of the West Indies, Mona, discuss future collaboration and learn more about the situation in the country following the decriminalisation of cannabis and amidst rapidly changing policy and market landscapes. The team met with UWI staff from the Department of Government, including Vicki Hanson, to whom we are grateful for her work in organising the itinerary, government officials and visited the Alternative Development programme in Accompong. They also spent some time talking to cannabis growers in Westmorland discussing the impact of the Cannabis Licensing Authority regulations on the farming community and their efforts to transition to licit medical markets. Meanwhile, Dave attended The Stockholm Criminology Symposium. Speaking on the history of criminalisation within the international drug control system, he was privileged to be part of a panel marking the award of the Stockholm Prize in Criminology to Madam Ruth Dreifuss, Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, former President of Switzerland and GDPO patron. The same month also saw Khalid lecture on the international drug control regime at the Geneva Summer School course, ‘Drugs, Health and Human Rights’ run by the Global Health Institute at the University of Geneva.

 Dave in Stockholm

Dave in Stockholm with Madam Ruth Dreifuss and Pavel Bem

Team in Jamaica

The GDPO team in Jamaica with Vicki Hansen

In terms of publications and media engagement, Khalid had a particularly busy quarter. In addition to OP-Eds in Al HuffPost Maghreb (North Africa), Cannabis, banlieues et stigmatisation en France, and Le Monde (France), La politique publique sur la consommation de stupéfiants devrait être évaluée de manière indépendante, he was also quoted among other places in Le Monde Afrique (francophone Africa), La légalisation du cannabis, une opportunité pour l’Afrique. His peer reviewed publications appeared in The Lancet, ‘The international drug control system: the need for guiding principles for public health’ (with Kronig-Romero N, Goulão J, Stoltenberg C, Kazatchkine M, Clark H) and the Brown Journal of World Affairs, ‘Towards the End of the Global War on Drugs’. In-house, and following on from the CND, April saw the publication of Axel’s of ‘What have the Russians done for us in the international drug policy field? A timely reminder to take back control’ on the GDPO blog.

Read the previous quater's news here


Read previous Quarterly News below.

Quarterly News Archive

JAN – APR 2019

Early in February Khalid was busy attending a number of conferences and meetings, including Cannabis Europa in Paris and the 4th Brandenburg Forum on Drugs and Development Policies, in Liebenberg (Germany), as well as lecturing on the international drug control regime to a group of students from the state universities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow visiting Geneva as part of the programme of the Alexander Griboyedov Foundation. The beginning of the month also saw  the first formal event organised by Cannabis Innovate, a new initiative built on a partnership between GDPO and Equinox International, with some activities undertaken in collaboration with the Transnational Institute.  The Chatham House Rule workshop, ‘Fair Trade Options for the Cannabis Market’, was held in London 4-5th February and brought together about 25 academics and practitioners from the fields of international drug policy, fair trade and agrarian justice, and included colleagues from the Caribbean.  From the equally tropical Swansea, the very successful and productive event was attended by Dave, Branwen Lloyd, our recently appointed project coordinator, and Martin Jelsma, GDPO Senior Research Associate and Director of the TNI Drugs and Democracy Programme.   Later in the month, the focus of GDPO activity shifted to another important core project, Crypto Drug Markets. As part of the Department of Political and Cultural Studies seminar series, Martin Horton-Eddison presented ideas from his current research, ‘Regime Theory, Crypto-Drug Markets, & the ‘Post-State Concept: A Theoretical Discussion.’


Poster for Regime Theory, Crypto-Drug Markets, & the ‘Post-State Concept: A Theoretical Discussion

As is normally the case, activities in March were dominated by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at the UN in Vienna, and this year, its High Level Ministerial Segment.  The GDPO was active on several fronts.  Along with the governments of Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, the International Drug Policy Consortium and  the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation, it co-organised a side-event on metrics: ‘Aligning Data Collection and the UNGASS Implementation and the Sustainable Development Goals: Recommendations  for a Review of the Annual Report Questionnaire. Featuring speakers from the Governments of Switzerland, Canada and Mexico as well as the EMCDDA and IDPC, the well-attended event raised important and timely issues regarding the ARQ review process.  As part of the Cannabis Innovate initiative, GDPO was also involved with a side-event organised by TNI and the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  Including presentations  from representatives from CARICOM and the government of Jamaica, the event saw Dave launch a new Cannabis Innovate Policy Report, Fair(er) Trade Options for the Cannabis Marketauthored by Martin Jelsma, Sylvia Kay (TNI Agrarian and Environmental Justice project) and Dave.  Meanwhile, Axel presented some of his own current research, ‘Tramadol: drug problem or medicrime’, at a side event titled ‘Researching Drugs and Development Policies: Understanding the Development Implications if Illicit Economies’ organised by the Government of Germany, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage.


The panellists at the CARICOM Marijuana Commission and fair-trade options for the cannabis market side event.

The quarter was relatively busy in terms of publications, including newspaper OP-Eds of which Khalid authored three: Le Temps (Switzerland): Pour en finir avec la guerre contre les drogues,  L’Economiste (Morocco): Cannabis: Le commerce international s’organise… sauf au Maroc Der Standard (Austria): Zukunft internationaler Drogenpolitik: Koordination oder Irrelevanz?

Martin continued his association with Jane’s Intelligence Review, with his February article Response to Fentanyl Crisis Reflects Evolutions in Dark Web Policing (paywall) which highlighted an evolving law enforcment approach that increasingly prioritises intelligence-gathering and market management strategies.

Within the academic realm, Axel published, with Ernst Yorke, Folaju O. Oyebola and Samuel Anaja Otene, ‘Tramadol: a valuable treatment for pain in Ghana and Nigeria’, in  Current Medical Research and Opinion and as sole author ‘Drug Problem or Medicrime? Distribution and Use of Falsified Tramadol Medication in Egypt and West Africa’ in the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development.  The latter being the first edition of an excellent new open access journal from the LSE and guested edited by the GDPO’s Julia Buxton. In addition to the Fair(er) Trade Options for the Cannabis Market Policy Report mentioned above, the Observatory was also involved in the publication of a timely policy brief with WOLA and TNI, The WHO’s First-Ever Critical Review of Cannabis, as well as  - with IDPC, SSRC, the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation and the International Peace Institute - the submission of a written contribution to the 50th session of the UN Statistical Commission.

The WHO’s First-Ever Critical Review of Cannabis

Read the previous quater's news here

Jan - Jul 2018


While keeping busy with a range of ‘low noise’ impact related activities, the Quarter was relatively quiet in terms of public facing work.  That said, September saw the results of a long-planned research expedition to India by Dave and TNI’s Tom Blickman come to fruition.  There they liaised closely with GDPO Technical Advisor Romesh Bhattacharji on a range of activities relating to the cannabis policy reform project, and specifically ongoing work  on the updated version of the 2014 TNI-GDPO publication, rise and decline of cannabis prohibition pdf. In addition to meetings and interviews with parliamentarians in New Delhi, fieldwork included a return trip to the Himachal Pradesh to examine changes within the cannabis market since a first visit in 2014 (See QN below) and an excursion into the largely unstudied cannabis producing regions of Uttarakhand. Relating some initial impressions from this fieldwork to broader policy discussions, Tom was interviewed by the Delhi Post which subsequently published a story titled Seek drug reform within international law.

Cannabis in Uttarakhand

The Quarter proved to be productive regarding GDPO and GDPO related publications.  July saw the publication of a Situation Analysis by Jasmin Gamez (MA student at Central European University,  2017-18), Environmental Impacts of the Legalization of Cannabis in California.  Another product of the Observatory’s collaboration with the School of Public Policy at CEU, in August GDPO published a timely Working Paper by Shaun Shelly and Simon Howell (University of Pretoria and Research Director, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum respectively)  titled South Africa’s National Drug Master Plan Influenced & Ignored  The following month, after over a year’s research and drafting, we were pleased to publish a Working Paper by young scholar and former University of Bradford  Rotary Peace Fellow, Kari Williams: Crime, Drugs, and Power in Honduras  Also in September Khalid published an article in Les, ‘Vers une coalition mondiale de commerce du cannabis?’ while the GDPO’s submission on drug policy metrics to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was reference its significant report countering the world drug problem with regard to human rights  September also saw the release of the Spanish edition of the GDPO, TNI, WOLA joint publication on Inter Se treaty modification El equilibrio entre la estabilidad y el cambio La modificación inter se de los.  Towards  the end of the month, Axel’s co-edited collection, Collapse of the Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs: From UNGASS 2016 to Review 2019was published by Emerald while Christopher’s first monograph, based on his excellent PhD dissertation, White Drug Cultures and Regulation in London, 1916-1960 was published by Palgrave.

Book Covers: White Drug Cultures and Regulation in London & Collapse of the Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs 


April saw Dave visit Vienna and present at the first ever International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Civil Society Hearing, an event organised by the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs.  Wearing his Transnational Institute Associate Fellow’s hat and as one of ten selected NGO representatives, he presented on Balancing Treaty Stability and Change: Inter se modification and the UN drug control conventions.  

Dave was also briefly in London to meet with Jasmin Gamez, Mai Hla Aye and Anna Dzunic from Central European University’s School of Public Policy Applied Policy Programme.  The meeting was a final discussion of commissioned publications and videos from the GDPO-APP joint project, some of which are listed below.  April also saw Martin Horton-Eddison present his research on the Dark Net via video link to the 3rd Semana Psicoactiva in Bogota, Colombia.

giving a lecture

In May, the GDPO was delighted to welcome to Swansea Alex Stevens, Professor in Criminal Justice in the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and Observatory Technical Advisor.  Alex not only spoke to MA students on the Department of Political and Cultural Studies (PCS) Public Policy Module but also gave an excellent presentation on ‘Being Human and the “Moral Sidestep”: Explaining government inaction on drug related deaths in the UK’ at a GDPO organised seminar. We hope Alex will be able to get across to Swansea again next year.

In June we were thrilled to welcome as a Swansea University colleague Dr Rick Lines.  While a GDPO Senior Research Associate for some time, Rick was appointed as Associate Professor within Swansea’s Hillary Clinton School of Law.  We look forward to developing various exciting projects when Rick is based in Swansea from September.  Coincidently, in June both Rick and Dave were invited participants at an OHCHR expert consultation meeting in Geneva.  This focused on the Implementation of Joint Commitments of UNGASS 2016 in addressing and countering the World Drug Problem about human rights.   Back in Swansea, June also saw Martin Horton-Eddison give a presentation on Participant Observation at a PGR Methods Workshop.  Here he spoke about his experiences at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March.       

The quarter was relatively busy in terms of publications.  These included  - as part of the Africa project  - Cannabis and the Drug Law in Tunisia A Reform Rooted in Social Justice Claims(GDPO Situation Analysis) by Khalid and Ghana Strives for a More Humane Drug Policy (GDPO Situation Analysis) by Maria-Goretti Ane.  Contributing to ongoing work on crypto-drug markets, Alois Afilipoaie  and Patrick Shortis authored another Situation Analysis, Crypto Market Enforcemnet New Strategy and Tactics while Mai Hla Aye wrote on Gender and Drugs in Myanmar(GDPO Situation Analysis).  The result of many months hard work by GDPO research associate Constanza Sanchez and Michael Collins (Drug Policy Alliance), GDPO was pleased to publish in June a Policy Brief Better to Ask Forgiveness Than Permission Spain’s Sub-national Approach to Drug It is the expectation that a Spanish language version will be available later in the year.  A result of the GDPO-APP project, we were also pleased to post a number of videosexamining various aspects of drug policy: Niamh Eastwood (Release), ‘A Quite Revolution: Drug Decriminalization Across the Globe’; Marie Nougier (IDPC), ‘Measuring the “World the “World Drug Problem”: ARQ Revision, beyond traditional indicators’; Julia Buxton (CEU & GDPO), ‘Dealing with Synthetics: Time to reframe the narrative’.  Finally Dave published a short piece in Addiction‘Canada, Cannabis Legalization and Uncertainty around the United Nations Drug Control Conventions.’


The new year started on a happy note with the graduation to Doctor of Philosophy in Politics of GDPO PhD student Joe Dixon.  We look forward to the publication of Joe’s research on ‘Afghanistan’s Wicked problems: COIN & CN in Afghanistan 2002-11’.

Doctor of Philosophy in Politics of GDPO PhD student Joe Dixon and Dave

Continuing with the doctoral theme, January also saw Dave serve as a member of a PhD external examinations committee at the University of Kent.  The thesis, ‘Regulating Cannabis Market: The Construction of an Innovative Drug Policy in Uruguay’ by Clara Musto, was submitted to the University of Kent and the University of Utrecht in partial fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy after following the Erasmus Mundus Doctoral Programme in Cultural and Global Criminology. The second part of the examination process is due to take place later in the year in Utrecht. We wish Clara all the best for that viva and in her post-doctoral career. Still on the issue of cannabis, but from a slightly different perspective, Axel presented a paper on medical cannabis cultivation in the UK at the Northern Irish Medical Cannabis Summit.  The following month Dave was in New York at the International Peace Institute (IPI) for a panel presentation around the launch of a new report Aligning Agendas - the drive for policy coherence. Published by IPI, the report was the result of over a year’s work by the Institute convened International Expert Group on Drug Policy Metrics of which he is a member.  February also saw Khalid participate in several events, including the 3rd Brandenburg Forum on drug and development policies, Lubennau, and the Santa Marta Dialogue on the present and future of global drug policies, Santa Marta.

Dave in Vienna

In March the GDPO was once again busy in Vienna at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  Among other things, this involved co-sponsorship of a side-event on drug policy metrics and the European launch of Aligning Agendas as well as an event titled ‘Regulating Cannabis in Accord with International Law’.  Co-sponsored by GDPO, the Transnational Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America, this marked the launch of a major new publication, Modernization of Treaty Regimesa Report coming out of the TNI-GDPO-WOLA Expert Seminar in Amsterdam in October 2017.   Moderated by John Walsh (WOLA), the well-attended session involved a panel comprising Dave, Martin Jelsma, Annette Henry (Cannabis Licencing Authority, Jamaica) and Allyn Taylor (University of Washington School of Law). Prof. Taylor’s remarks can be found here.

In addition to Balancing Treaty Stability and Change the quarter saw several other GDPO related publications.  These included Dave Bewley-Taylor & Marie Nougier Measuring the ‘world drug problem’ ARQ Revision (GDPO Working Paper) Dave Bewley-Taylor and Malgosia Fitzmaurice, Modernization of Treaty Regimes(GDPO Working Paper)andDave Bewley-Taylor, Tom Blickman, Martin Jelsma and John Walsh, ‘Canada’s Next Steps on Cannabis and the UN Drug Treaties’, in iPolitics. Khalid also published a Commentary in the Journal of the International Aids Society‘HIV and AIDS among adolescents who use drugs’  with Axel co-authoring with Gary Potter, ‘The three betrayals of the medical cannabis growing activist’ in the International Journal of Drug Policy. In terms of newspapers, Khalid had an article, ‘Cannabis : importer le modèle californien dans nos quartiers,’ published in Les Echos

OCT – DEC 2018

As part of an OSF Global Drug Policy Program funded research project that is examining the gendered impacts of drug policy enforcement, Julia organised a workshop in Accra, Ghana in October that brought together 15 experts from East and West Africa including from the prison service (Kenya), drug policy reform NGOs (Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia), harm reduction organisations (Senegal and Kenya), drug user organisations (Tanzania), and sex workers unions and support organisations (Nigeria, Ghana). The workshop addressed the impacts of punitive enforcement policies on women and girls both directly as drug users and indirectly as partners of drug users. Ahead of the Ghana trip, Julia also delivered sessions on gendered enforcement impacts to colleagues from the region attending the University of Hong Kong’s Human Rights and Drug Policy in East and Southeast Asia workshop. As in Ghana, issues around social and cultural stigma of female drug users were addressed, and the importance of gender-sensitive drug policy research and reform emphasised.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, October saw Martin work with Michala Kowalski, Monica Barratt, and Adam R Winstock to produce the dark net section of Global Drug Survey 2019Are You Privacy Minded.  More details on this can be found here.   This was part of a productive month for Martin with him also giving a presentation  - as a Civil Society Task Force on Drugs selected speaker  - at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs Fourth Intersessional meeting on research into the impact of recent law enforcement operations against crypto drug markets (CDMs) and seeing publication of his contributions on CDMs within the IDPCs’ landmark civil society report Taking Stock: A Decade of Drug Policy

Martin presenting at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Vienna, October 2018.

With work on the GDPO’s Africa project progressing in what might be described as a slow and steady fashion, as part of an international initiative organised by the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care Advocacy Program, the Observatory was one of a range of organisations to submit a formal letter in October to the 41st Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.  In it, as with the submissions of other organisations, the GDPO noted with concern yet another critical review of tramadol, a widely used analgesic for the relief of moderate to severe pain in countries where other opioid analgesics are largely unavailable.

During a hectic trip to Australia, Khalid took part (with Sir Richard Branson) in the launch of The Fair Treatment Campaign in Sydney and gave a presentation on the International Drug Control System to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, as part of the Canberra Drug Policy Series.

Slightly nearer to home, in November Dave and Martin Jelsma spent time in Rabat, Morocco, working with the GDPO’s new partners at the Institut Scientifique of the University of Mohammad V on the development of a number of exciting projects with Dave’s time in the country also including research in the Rif for the forthcoming second edition of The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition.

In Budapest Julia convened an executive short course delivered to 23 participants from 18 different countries, with the teaching team including Ian Hamilton (University of York), Fiona Macaulay (University of Bradford), Corina Giacomello (University of Oaxaca) and Giavana Margo (Central European University). The interactive sessions covered the historical foundations of current drug policy and, drawing on the outcomes of the earlier workshop in Ghana introduced the concepts of “gender” and “feminism” in addition to the ways in which these relate to drug policy. The violences faced by women and girls in the drug trade were also discussed as well as tools and processes for mainstreaming gender within drug policy.  In Swansea, November also saw Martin guest-lecture on the topic of CDMs for Rick Lines’ undergraduate and MA’s modules on drugs and crime.  Towards the end of term in December, Dave also ventured across campus to give a lecture on ‘the War on Drugs’ to Rick’s excellent MA class.  At the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute, Khalid gave a presentation titled ‘Quel avenir pour les politiques internationales de contrôle des drogues?’ as part of ‘Les Midis de la Recherche’ Series

Dave with Rick’s MA class in December 2018.

Over the course of the Quarter GDPO was involved in a good number of publications, in terms of both Observatory outputs and team authored publications elsewhere. As part of the ongoing work with CEU’s School of Public Policy, October saw the publication of two Situation Analyses: Faryal Sajjad’s, Pakistan’s HIV Epidemic and the Need for Prison-Based Harm Reduction Programmes, and Nicholas Sertich’s, Villainous, Alien, Killable: Narrative and Regulatory Norms Surrounding Drug Users in Video Games.  The same month Khalid’s co-authored chapter, ‘Drug Policy in the Russian Federation: Do Control Policies Produce More Harm than Drugs?’ was published in Axel’s co-edited collection Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs: From UNGASS 2016 to Review 2019, as was Dave’s co-authored chapter, ‘Measuring the “World Drug Problem”: 2019 and Beyond’. Axel also published ‘Poly and Tricky Dick: The drug war origins of the term “polydrug use”’ in Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.   In December Martin published the first of a series of pieces for Jane’s Intelligence Review’s new section OSINT Snapshots, ‘US STOP law aims to tackle postal deliveries from dark web drug sales’, while Ross’s Opinion Piece, ‘How revolutionary-minded is Mexico’s new president really?’ was published online by Al Jazeera.  Khalid was also busy writing pieces for or being interviewed by news outlets.  Activity included ‘Africa’s Time To Shape International Drug Policy’ (OP-ED), Modern Ghana (Ghana), 'Drug policies should be first of all concerned with preserving public health' (interview, Daily Star (Bangladesh) and  ‘Légalisation du cannabis au Luxembourg : quelles conséquences pour la France?’ (OP-ED), Les Echos (France).

Martin’s piece for JIR, December 2018

Read the previous quater's news here

Apr - Dec 2017

GDPO Quarterly News: October 2017 - December 2017

October saw Dave participate once again as visiting faculty to the Human Rights and Drug Policy in East and South East Asia workshop run by the Centre for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong.  Later that month he presented joint research with Professor Malgosia Fitzmaurice into treaty reform at a GDPO co-organised event – with the Transnational Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America) - in Amsterdam.  The expert seminar, ‘Cannabis Regulation and the UN Drug Control Treaties’ brought together a group of international lawyers and drug policy analyst to explore various aspects of this increasingly pressing issue.  The GDPO’s ongoing research into drug policy metrics also resulted in Dave being invited to present at a briefing on human rights and drug policy at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.  Moderated by Executive Secretary of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and Swansea University Honorary Research Associate, Dr. Khalid Tinasti, the event was hosted by the Missions of Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Guatemala, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay, together with Penal Reform International, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales and the Quaker UN Office and Humanas.  

In October Khalid was also engaged in a number of events including presenting evidence to the Information Mission of the Committee of Laws of the French National Assembly on the use of monetary fines to punish drug use (Paris), lecturing at the Executive Course, ‘Drug Policy, Diplomacy and Global Public Health’, (the Graduate Institute, Geneva) and presenting on ‘International Drug Policy: What Challenges?’ at an event hosted by the Swiss-UN Association (Bern). In November Dave visited Central European University for the initial meeting of the GDPO’s collaboration with students from the Applied Policy Project. Meanwhile, back in Swansea Martin Horton-Eddison presented a paper based on his PhD research, ‘The enforcement – innovation paradox: Site takedown strategies and 2nd generation crypto-drug markets,’ at one of the weekly Department of Political and Cultural Studies seminars.  Building upon Martin’s work and other collaborative research into CDMs, this was followed a few weeks later by a visit to Swansea by members of the Home Office Strategic Centre for Organised Crime.  The CHERISH-DE funded ‘away day’ provided a productive opportunity for GDPO to share research findings and discuss future avenues of enquiry, particularly the use of Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies. 

man pointing at screenDr. Matteo Di Cristofaro speaks about the application of Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies for research into crypto-drug markets at GDPO - CHERISH-DE 'away day' for Home Office officials from the Strategic Centre for Organised Crime

In terms of GDPO related publications, in November we were thrilled to see Observatory Research Associate Constanza Sanchez publish a version of her PhD dissertation, Drug Control: International Norms, National Challenges.  The case of drug policy in Spain.  Later that month Khalid published ‘Fentanyl et autres drogues synthétiques : Un défi émergent auquel il faut faire face’ in Lemonde. Along with John Walsh (WOLA), Martin Jelsma (TNI and GDPO Senior Research Associate) and Tom Blickman (TNI), in December Dave published a short article in the Canadian online magazine iPolitics, ‘Yes, legalizing marijuana breaks treaties.  We can deal with that.’ Also in December, Khalid was co-author of an academic article, ‘Addressing deprivation of liberty, human mobility and tuberculosis in 2018,’ in Public Health Action

GDPO Quarterly News: July 2017 - October 2017

The beginning of 2017’s third quarter saw the GDPO welcome Allan Gillies, GDPO Research Associate, to Swansea University. In an event co-hosted by GDPO and the Department of Political Studies’ International Studies, Conflict and Security (ISCAS) research group, he presented a research paper drawing on his PhD thesis titled ‘Theorising State-Narco Relations in the Global South: Governance, Order and Bolivia’s Political Transition (1982-1993)’.  Allan’s visit was hot on the heels of Dave’s brief visit to Africa.  This was part of the development of the ‘Barriers to Access’ project and involved interviews with medical professionals directly engaged with palliative care as well as officials within the Botswanan police service and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.  The following month, Axel attended the 'Making sense of Poly drug use' workshop organised by the Finnish National Institute for health and welfare, where he gave a paper called ‘Poly is a joker - the political construction of mono drug use as anti-norm’.  Please contact Alex directly if you want him to explain the title.  August also saw Martin Horton-Eddison filming the Crypto-Drug Markets expert session for a forthcoming Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on drug policy, hosted by the Graduate Institute in Geneva

 man in front of screen in classroomAllan Gillies presents his research

September saw Axel busy once again, this time giving a series of papers.  At the Drugscience Conference in Berlin he gave a paper titled ‘Global phenomenon, national policy – costs and benefits of the international drug control system’.  This was quickly followed by a presentation on ‘Regulated cannabis markets: A precondition for healthy cities’ at the City Health Conference in Basel.  Axel’s frenetic month then came to a close with his paper on ‘Researching cannabis cultivation in the UK’ in Birmingham at the United Patients Alliance.  September also saw Christopher present a paper on the UN conventions and ketamine at the World Congress for freedom of scientific research, Right to Science and Freedom of Research on Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances held in Turin. Meanwhile, in Budapest Julia and colleagues at the School of Public Policy ran a hugely successful three-day workshop on the Gendered Impacts of Drug Policy.  The workshop covered a wide range of topics with contributions from 30 international experts from around the world.  The workshop programme can be found here with a must watch video on the event also available online.  Later in the month in relatively nearby Vienna, IDPC hosted, with the government of Mexico, a well-attended launch event in the margins of the intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the co-produced report (IDPC, WOLA and GDPO), Edging Forward: How the UN’s Language on Drugs has Advanced since 1990.  Back in Swansea, Martin chaired a panel, and also presented on ‘Crypto-Drug Markets 2.0: What closing Alphabay & HansaMarket might mean for the evolution of darknet drug markets’ at the Cyber Network Conference (CNC17)

400 x 225Martin discusses Crypto-Drug Markets 2.0

September was also noteworthy in that Julia was made a Regional Head on Latin America at Oxford Analytica and, crucially for the ongoing development of the GDPO, the team had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Rick Lines as a Senior Research Associate.  We look forward to working with Rick and drawing particularly on his expertise in human rights, international law and harm reduction in future projects.  Similarly, the team was also pleased to welcome Dr Renaud Colson as a Research Associate.  An Associate Professor at the Law & Political Science Faculty of the University of Nantes, Renaud strengthens the Observatory’s expertise on European drug policy.

In addition to the aforementioned Edging Forward report, co-authored by Jamie Bridge (IDPC), Christopher Hallam (IDPC & GDPO), Marie Nougier (IDPC), Miguel Herrero Cangas (IDPC), Martin Jelsma (TNI), Tom Blickman (TNI), & Dave Bewley-Taylor (GDPO), in September the Observatory published a substantive Policy Report, Dealing with Synthetics: Time to Reframe the Narrative. Joint authored by Julia, Dave and Christopher, the Report critiques the history of and current challenges facing the UN’s efforts to control synthetic drugs. Other GDPO publications in the quarter included a Policy Brief from the crypto-drug markets project, Hard Interventions and Innovation in Crypto-Drug Markets: The escrow examplewritten by Martin Horton-Eddison and our colleague from the College of Law and criminology, Matteo Di Cristofaro.  Also in July, Khalid authored a new View from the Ground blog for the Africa project; Harm reduction, drug policy and the law in the Maghreb: focus on Tunisia and Mauritania.  In terms of academic publications, September saw Allan publish an article, 'Theorising State-Narco Relations in Bolivia's Nascent Democracy (1982-1993): Governance, Order and Political Transition', in Third World Quarterly

GDPO Quarterly News: April 2017 – July 2017

GDPO Quarterly News: April 2017 – July 2017

The second quarter of 2017 was once again a busy period for the GDPO team, particularly in terms of conference attendance and research presentations. April saw Julia attend the Society for Latin American Studies conference where she moderated a panel on drug economies in South America.   Among the presentations was one by Alan Gillies, University of Glasgow and recently appointed GDPO Research Associate, on rent seeking (cocaine revenues) and political transition in Bolivia.  The panel also included Lucia Pol (CELS Argentina), who presented on the human rights dimensions of drug policy enforcement with reference to Argentina.  During the quarter Julia also became a member of the board of YODA (Youth Organisations for Drug Action), a network of youth and student based organisations first established in 2011 to enhance the voice of young people in drug policy deliberations. 

April also saw Dave, Martin and Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, Professor of English Language and Applied Linguistics and Swansea University’s Language Research Centre, travel to London to present at a roundtable co-organised by GDPO, IDPC and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).  Generously hosted by IISS, the Roundtable on Cyber-Trust in Crypto-Drug Markets: Implications for Policy and Policing was an opportunity to share and discuss research funded at Swansea University by CHERISH-DE.  Chaired by Virginia Comolli, IISS Senior Fellow in Security and Development, the Chatham House rules session, which included presentations on Dealing with Crypto-Drug Markets, Trust and Self-Regulation and How Policing Impels Innovation: The Escrow Example, generated interesting debate and ideas for future work. For an overview of the roundtable see IDPC’s Juan Fernandez Ochoa’s blog here

4 pictures of workshopIISS Event. (C/W from TL, Dave, Nuria, Martin)

In May Axel, Allan and Christopher all attended the tenth annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, hosted by the Centre for Alcohol and Drugs Research at Aarhus University, Denmark.  Here Axel gave a talk about his research on domestic cannabis cultivation in the UK, entitled ‘The three betrayals of the medical cannabis grower: from multiple victimhood to reconstruction, redemption and agency’.  Christopher presented a working draft of a co-authored (with Jamie Bridge, IDPC, Marie Nougier, IDPC, Martin Jelsma, TNI, and Dave) soon to be co-published (IDPC, TNI and GDPO) titled ‘Edging forward: How the UN's language on drugs has advanced since 1990.’ And drawing on his PhD research, Allan gave a paper on ‘The Evolution of State-Narco Networks in Post-Transition Bolivia (1982-1993): Governance, political order and processes of transition’. Later in the month, and on a different continent, linking with some of his GDPO research, Khalid presented on ‘Drug Policy and the Law in Arab Countries’ at the twenty-fifth International Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal.

In June, Allan was also busy back at the University of Glasgow.  Here he was involved with the organisation of a workshop hosted by the School of Social and Political Sciences and Christian Aid ‘Illicit Economies and Development: Enhancing Cross-Disciplinary Exchange’.  The aim of the day was to develop the main themes and objectives of Christian Aid’s international ‘Colloquium on Survival and Development Transformation in Drugs and Illicit Economies’ to be held later in the year.  Participants from academia, policy and the development sector came together to reflect on the state of knowledge in the field and policy challenges, as well as novel areas of research, ways of engaging different policy communities and distinct approaches to the study of illicit economies.  The day included a keynote address from Professor Alfred McCoy (University of Wisconsin), two lively roundtable discussions, and presentations from Jonathan Goodhand and Patrick Meehan (SOAS), Frances Thomson (University of Sussex), Eric Gutierrez (Christian Aid), Corinna Woellner (GIZ) and Dimitris Skleparis (University of Glasgow).  Both Allan and Axel also gave papers, with Axel presenting on ‘Development cooperation in the fight against Organised Crime - a review of the European experience.’  Anyone interested in the outputs of the workshop should contact Allan directly.  June also saw Julia present on a panel at the board meeting of the OSF Public Health Policy Program, where she provided an overview of graduate level drug policy teaching, with a focus on research skills and methods necessary to capture the views and experience of marginalised and stigmatised members of the drug user community.   Meanwhile, Christopher attended the Alcohol and Drug History Society Conference at Utrecht University, where, using material from his doctoral studies, he presented a paper titled, ‘The Quiet Times? Drug cultures and regulation in Interwar London.’

The quarter also saw the GDPO productive across a range of publications.  In terms of peer reviewed pieces, both Khalid and Dave published (or joint published) in Drugs and Alcohol Today, which Axel edits.  Their articles in the Special ‘After UNGASS’ issue were ‘The influence of global players on the drug control system: an analysis of the role of the Russian Federation’ and ‘Refocusing metrics: can the sustainable development goals help break the “metrics trap” and modernize international drug control policy?’ Khalid and Dave also published, with Ann Fordham (Executive Director, IDPC) a short piece in Drug Science, Policy and Law, ‘WHO and UNDP change in leadership: what views on drug policy and harm reduction?’  Regarding media engagement, Khalid published two opinion pieces in Moroccan newspapers, ‘Prison overcrowding and drug policy’ and ‘Regulation of Cannabis’.  On a related issue, he also signed a manifesto of humanities and social scientists of Morocco on the situation in the Rif region.  Continuing with his interest in Colombia, Ross published an article with Aljazeera, Why is coca production on the rise in Colombia?, while Dave, building upon work from the IISS Roundtable on Crypt-Drug Markets in April, published a piece in Jane’s Intelligence Review (June 2017, Vol. 29. Issue 6).  Similarly, in June Martin authored and co-authored, with Matteo Di Cristofaro of Swansea University’s LRC,  two GDPO Situation Analyses, Updating Escrow: Demystifying the CDM multisig process and Corpus Linguistics Methodology on the Silk Road(s); The Escrow Example In addition to the IISS blog mentioned above, GDPO also published a several others, including Nazlee Maghsoudi’s (ICSDP) Preparing for 2019: Drug Policy Objectives Indicators, System-wide coherence and the Sustainable Development Agenda and Chris’ British System, American Century: A short case study

Jan -April 2017

GDPO Quarterly News: January 2017 - April 2017

January saw Dave make a second visit to Gaborone, Botswana, to develop a project on access to controlled medicines and palliative care initiated during his first trip to the country almost exactly a year earlier.  During this scoping trip, he liaised with faculty from the University of Botswana who will be partners on the ‘Barriers to Access’ project.  Dave also met with the Assistant Minister for Health and Wellness to help ensure that the work package produces policy relevant research.  After a brief stop-over in the UK, Dave then headed to New York where he attended an expert meeting on drug policy metrics.  Organised and hosted by the International Peace Institute (IPI) and the Conflict and Prevention Peace Forum of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the two-day event brought together drug policy experts with an interest in metrics and indicators from Europe and North and South America.   It is the expectation that the IPI-SSRC project will produce a policy report that will be presented to officials in various parts of the UN system. Indeed, a second meeting of the group was held at the IPI Vienna office in the margins of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March.

Early in 2017 the GDPO was also pleased to learn of the success of Dr Allan Gilles’ application to the ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund, a bid with which it was involved as a partner for knowledge-exchange.  Having received his doctorate at the University of Glasgow in late 2016, with Julia acting as external examiner, Allan took up his post of ESRC-GCF Postdoctoral Fellow in January to work on his project, ‘Illicit Drug Economies, Governance and the Security-Development Nexus in the Global South: a case Study of State-Narco Networks in Post Transition Bolivia’. We look forward to collaborating with Allan over the course of his Fellowship.

In February Khalid was an invited participant at the 2nd Brandenburg Forum on Drugs and Development, in Lübbenau, Germany.  This was organised within the Framework of the Global Partnership on Drug Policies and development (GPDPD) – a programme aiming to enhance evidence based development and public-health oriented approaches to drug policy.  Meanwhile, back at Swansea University, as part of his ongoing work on metrics Dave presented a paper, ‘Measuring Morality: Drug Policy and the ‘Metrics Trap’, as part of the University’s Research Institute for Ethics and Law (RIEL) seminar series.

man teaching classRIEL seminar series 

As is usually the case, with the CND taking place mid-month, March was a particularly busy period for the GDPO.  In addition to Dave’s ongoing research into regime change, this year involving participant observation as a member of the Swiss delegation, the Observatory was involved in the organisation and delivery of two side-events.  The first, organised by GDPO, Transform, WOLA, the Canadian HIV-AIDS Legal Network and TNI was titled ‘Cannabis and the Conventions: Aftermath of UNGASS’.  Moderated by WOLA’s John Walsh, the well-attended and lively session included presentations from Dave, Alison Holcombe (Chief Executive officer, Action Now Initiative), Lisa Sanchez (Project Manager Mexico Unido Contra la Delincuencia/Transform) and Tom Blickman (TNI).  Dave was also a panellist for ‘Preparing for 2019: Drug Policy Objectives and Indicators, System-Wide Coherence and the Sustainable Development Agenda’. Although scheduled for the last day of the Commission’s session, this side-event, which was organised by CELS, ICSDP, SSRC, IDPC, Health Poverty Action, GDPO and co-sponsored by the Government of Switzerland, was also well-attended.  Moderated by Renata Segura (SSRC), the other speakers were Christian Schneider (Federal Office of Police, Bern), Natasha Horsfield (Health Poverty Action) and Luciana Pols (CELS).

people sitting in meetingCND 2017 – Cannabis side-event; A panellist’s perspective

March was also noteworthy in that one of the GDPO - Politics and International Relations PhD candidates, Joe Dixon, passed his viva.  Examined by Dr Alexander Marshall of the University of Glasgow and Dr Krijn Peters from Swansea University, Joe’s thesis, ‘Afghanistan’s Wicked Problems: Counterinsurgency and Counternarcotic, 2002-2011’, required only minor revisions.  We wish him all the best regarding the publication of his research and in his search for an academic post in the US where he now lives. Currently midway through his doctoral studies, March also saw Martin defending his thesis, which focuses on crypto-drug markets and the international drug control system.  This time, however, it was in front of faculty and fellow PhD students as part of the Department of Political and Cultural Studies seminar series.

The first quarter of 2017 saw Julia continue her supervision of a CEU-School of Social Policy Student Applied Policy Project, an eight-month piece of work conducted by a student team in collaboration with an external client, the London based Health Poverty Action.  Julia’s team are assessing the impact of restrictions on drug accessibility for health and development with a focus on ketamine and opioid analgesics. In March, having been preceded by interviews with key international specialists, including Dave, the students undertook field work in India, where they interviewed medics and patients on drug accessibility.

In terms of publications and media engagement, January saw the release of a European Parliament report, A review and assessment of EU drug policyto which Axel contributed. Early 2017 also saw the publication of an article on access to controlled medicines in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia , to which Chris and Dave contributed as co-authors.  In February Khalid published an excellent piece, ‘Drug Control Policy Fuels Social Unrest in Northern Morocco,’ in World Policy Blog,  which was also cross posted on the GDPO’s own blog and Julia contributed a chapter to the CELS annual report that examines the nexus between human rights and drug policy in Latin America. And in March Ross gave an interview on the rise of cocaine production in Colombia to the Danish Radio station, Radio24syv  Finally, having been moved from the Swansea University library store to London in late 2016, the GDPO was also pleased to see the Wellcome Library add to its catalogue in January the DrugScope library.  ‘Rescued’ by GDPO from almost certain destruction in 2013, the unique and wide-ranging collection is currently being processed by the acquisitions team, but can be accessed on a case by case basis upon request to Wellcome.

wall sign

As many readers will know, at the end of March, the Hungarian government introduced legislation directly targeting the Central European University by requiring the American university to have a home campus in its country of accreditation (the US), and imposing conditions on the hiring of faculty. In parallel new legislation was being debated that will tighten regulations on NGOs.  On behalf of the School of Public Policy and CEU, Julia extends her thanks to all colleagues within the drug policy NGO and academic community that have been pro-active in their support for academic freedom and defence of CEU including TNI, HRI, Release, IDPC, ICHRDP and GDPO. 

Jan - Dec 2016

GDPO Quarterly News: October 2016 - December 2016

In October, the GDPO welcomed two new members to the team; Dr Khalid Tinasti and Dr Christopher Hallam.  Currently based in Geneva where he is the Executive Secretary of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Khalid joins the Observatory as a Swansea University Honorary Research Associate. Having recently been awarded his doctorate from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine under the supervision of Professor Virginia Berridge, Christopher joins the team as a Research Associate.  We look forward to their involvement in developing and strengthening a range of work streams relating to their areas of expertise, including public health and UN drug control policy.   

October also saw Dave once again spend time at Hong Kong University as visiting faculty on the highly successful Human Rights and Drug Policy in East Asia Workshop.   Hosted by the Centre for Criminology, the workshop involved participants with diverse backgrounds (civil servants, government officials, journalists and NGO representatives) from a range of countries within the region (Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, and Hong Kong) interacting with faculty from HKU and other institutions, including Tom Kramer from GDPOs partner institution, the Transnational Institute.

Group of peopleHKU - Human Rights and Drug Policy in East Asia Workshop

Shortly after his time in Hong Kong, Dave travelled to Ottawa as part of an NGO delegation that met with Canadian government officials to discuss the forthcoming legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes. The trip also included a public event at the University of Ottawa, kindly hosted by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.  Titled Regulating Cannabis: Canada in the Global Context, Dave participated as part of a panel including Damon Barrett (International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy), Tom Blickman, Transnational Institute), Kathy-Ann Brown (Deputy Solicitor General and Director of International Affairs, Jamaica), Lisa Sanchez, (Mexico United Against Crime & Transform Drug Policy Foundation) and John Walsh (Washington Office on Latin America)  

Meanwhile, Axel was an invited speaker at a CEDLA (Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation) seminar at the University of Amsterdam.  With the event focusing on Drugs and Violence in the Caribbean, he presented a paper titled ‘Ganja as a Development Challenge’. Back in Swansea Dave contributed to the Department of Political and Cultural Studies Public Policy MA  where he lectured on international drug policy and the policy cycle.  Dave’s work on international drug policy also saw him shortlisted for a prestigious University impact award within the Research with Outstanding Global Reach category.  Congratulations go to the eventual winners from Swansea University Medical School.


 two men in tuxedospicture of podium ans screenSwansea University Impact Awards

During the quarter the GDPO continued in its publication activities. Building upon his research time in Colombia, in October Ross published an article, ‘War and Democracy in Colombia’ in NACLA Report on the Americas.  In the same month, the French language magazine produced by the Swiss NGO GREA (Groupement Romand D’Etudes des Addictions), Dépendances, published a version of the GDPO working paper, Can Sustainable Development Goals Help to Improve International Drug Control?. Titled Politique drogues internationale, the October 2016 edition of the magazine also included a French language version of Dave’s co-authored brief with Martin Jelsma on the UNGASS, ‘UNGASS 2016: consensus large ou brisé ?’  In terms of GDPO publications, the quarter also saw Axel produce a Situation Analysis, Ganja in the English-Speaking Caribbean: Security Threat to Development Opportunity, with long-standing friend of the Observatory, Benoît Gomis author a timely Analysis titled US Drug Policy: Clinton vs. Trump. Khalid also produced a View from the Ground blog on one of his areas of continuing research interest, ‘Harm reduction, drug policy and the law in the Magreb; focus on Morocco and Algeria’  

GDPO Quarterly News: July 2016 - October 2016

In July the GDPO team were delighted to learn that, having put in a solid performance in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition earlier in the year, Martin had won a prize in the University’s Research as Art competition with his entry, ‘Virtual Drug Deal in Server Alley’. With academic events picking up again after some downtime in August, during which GDPO research informed a piece in the Manila Times, September saw Axel participate in a roundtable, ‘New Drugs and the “bigger picture”’ as part of the New Drugs mini-conference at the University of Kent. A few days later, Julia led on the provision of a four-day professional development course at CEU, ‘Drug Policy Reform After UNGASS: Prospects, Proposals Constraints’. Representing another highly successful offering from CEU, teaching faculty comprised Julia, Judith Aldridge (University of Manchester), Joanne Csete (Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University, Niamh Eastwood (Executive Director, Release) and Luciana Pol (Senior Fellow, Centre for Legal and Social Studies) and included participants from 20 countries and a wide-range of backgrounds.

drug deal in alleyMartin’s ‘Virtual Drug Deal in Server Alley’

The quarter also saw a number of GDPO and Observatory related publications.  As part of his ongoing work on drug policy in Colombia, in September Ross published the Situation Analysis Colombia: Drugs and The Peace Agreement. In the same month, Dave co-authored, with Christian Schneider, a working paper based upon the GDPO’s research into metrics; Can the Sustainable Development Goals Help to Improve International Drug Control?  This second of the Observatory’s Working Paper series drew on a German language article in the Swiss magazine SuchtMagazin.  The same edition of the magazine also published a translation of the TNI-GDPO’s UNGASS 2016: A Broken or B-r-o-a-d Consensus? UN summit cannot hide growing divergence in the global drug policy landscape

GDPO Quarterly News: April 2016 - July 2016

During this busy quarter, much time and energy was devoted to preparation for and work streams resulting from the United National General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem.  This was held in New York, April 18th - 21st.  GDPO was active in the margins of the summit itself, co-organizing, presenting and disseminating research at two side events. The first of these was  ‘Getting Better Results: Aligning Drug Policy Objectives Within the Wider UN System’.  Relating to the Observatory’s ongoing work on drug policy metrics and indicators it was co-hosted by ICSDP, IDPC, TDPF and the governments of New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and Mexico. Moderated by Hon, Peter Dunne, Associate Minister of Health, New Zealand, the event included a range of excellent presentations and, in the main, constructive discussion and saw the launch of the GDPO’s policy brief, Towards Metrics that Measure Outcomes that Matter

people sitting in presentation‘Getting better Results’ side event, UNGASS, April 18th

A few days later, GDPO was also involved with another highly successful and, in UN terms, unusually lively event, ‘Cannabis and the Conventions: The UNGASS and Beyond.’  Sponsored by the government of Uruguay (Junta Nacional de Drogas), WOLA, TNI and GDPO the event saw the launch of Cannabis Regulation and the UN Drug Treaties: Strategies for Reform,.  This briefing paper was produced by a range of organisations – including GDPO -  and co-authored by Martin Jelsma (TNI), John Walsh (WOLA), Steve Rolles (TDPF) and Dave. Expertly moderated by John Walsh, speakers included Dave, presenting on the history of cannabis within the international system, Kathy-Ann Brown (Deputy Solicitor general of Jamaica), Augusto Vitale (President, Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, Uruguay) and Martin Jelsma. ‌ ‌

Board room style meeting

'Cannabis and the Conventions’ side event, 20th April.  (Big issue, small room)

With the dust having settled after UNGASS, and Dave just about surviving Hostile Environment Training with a number of his colleagues from a range of OSF funded organisations, the rest of the quarter saw GDPO continue with its research and publication programme.  In May Open Democracy published Dave’s assessment of the discussion of metrics at the UNGASS, Missed Opportunity or a Foundation for Future of Drug Reform? Measuring Success at UNGASS 2016  Moreover, in addition to an updated version of Cannabis Regulation and the UN Treaties (also available in Spanish and French), which gained some attention in the South Wales Evening Post,  GPDO joint published a reflective piece on the UNGASS with TNI;  UNGASS 2016: A Broken or B-r-o-a-d Consensus? UN summit cannot hide growing divergence in the global drug policy landscape  Building upon his ongoing work on drug policy in Colombia, in June Ross published a Situation Analysis, Reforms in Reverse: Colombia goes back to Glyphosate. And drawing on her PhD research and a conference presentation at UCL’s ‘Mexico Summit 2016: Lessons from the Global Drug Policy – Moving on from the 2016 UNGASS in June, Emily produced a blog on President Reagan’s militarization of the ‘War on Drugs’.

Other activities included a presentation on the Observatory’s work at the internal launch of SwanseaUniversity’s Research Institute for Ethics and Law (RIEL), on whose board Dave is the representative for the College of Arts and Humanities and the beginning of work into the Concept of Trust Within Dark Net Crypto-Drug-Markets (CDMs).  Based on the GDPO’s previous work on the Dark Net and funded by the University’s CHERISH-DE scheme, the project is a pan-University initiative that includes other members of faculty, principally Prof. Nuria Lorenzo-Duz (PI - Linguistics). The project also will involve Martin Horton-Eddisson, whose PhD research focuses on CDMs.

May saw Dr. Axel Klein join the GDPO as a Senior Research Associate and we look forward to his involvement in developing and strengthening a range of Observatory work packages, especially those relating to Africa and the Caribbean.  Both are areas where, among others, Axel has many years of experience and an impressive publication record.      

GDPO Quarterly News: January 2016 - April 2016

Early in the New Year, Dave travelled to East Africa where, during a multi-country trip (including Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania) linking to one of the GDPO’s key project areas, he developed contacts for further research into various aspects of the drug market within the sub-region.  Among these were access to controlled medicine for palliative care and ‘over-spill’ of opiates from the so-called ‘Southern Route’ from Afghanistan to Western markets.  While in Gaborone, Botswana, he gave a presentation titled ‘Illicit Drugs Markets and Policy Responses in Sub-Saharan Africa: An interdisciplinary Approach’, kindly hosted by Livingstone Kolobeng College, to an audience of government officials (including from the Ministry of Public Health) and members of the Botswana army and police force.  While in Tanzania Dave was also interviewed on Radio Christian Voice and spoke about drug policy research and relevance to the country and the region more broadly.  Listen here.   

people sitting in presentationPresentation to government officials at LKC, Gaborone, Botswana

In March Dave was honoured to speak at a event held at Tallinn University. Organised by the Estonian ministry of Justice and opened by Urmas Reinsau, the Minister of justice, Drugs Crime and Punishment – Where to draw the line? was aimed at law enforcement authorities as well as practitioners from the field of healthcare and social care, politicians, researchers and the representatives of civil society. With other speakers including Prof. Sir John Strang (King’s College London) and Brendan Hughes (EMCDDA) presenting on a wide range of issues, Dave’s presentation focused on the history and future of the international drug control system  

cartoon drawingPart of a cartoon storyboard drawn simultaneously during the ‘Drugs crime and punishment conference, Tallinn, March, 2016.

Later in the month, as with many of those active in the international drug policy world, the Observatory’s attention turned to Vienna and the annual meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.  Continuing its work on drug policy metrics and indicators, GDPO was involved in organising a CND side event on the issue: Improving system-wide coherence by reprioritizing metrics to evaluate illicit drug policy. Co-hosted with ICDP, IDPC, TDPF and the Governments of Mexico, Brazil and Switzerland, the event covered a range of related topics, including the European launch of the ICSDP open letter on the reprioritization of metrics. Dave presented some of the concepts from the GDPO Working Paper, GDPO Working Paper 1.0: January 2016 , that was published January.

In addition to the Working Paper, GDPO continued during the quarter to publish a number of substantive research reports focusing on issues beyond the immediate UN sphere.  Key among these was Above the Law, Under the Radar: A History of Private Contractors and Aerial Fumigation in Colombia, in February. With Ross Eventon as lead author, this co-authored report with Dave represented the fruits of research over the previous 18 months, including fieldwork in Guaviare, Colombia, in May 2015.  In March, Ross also published a significant policy report taking a holistic view of drug policy in Afghanistan;  Through a Broken Glass, Darkly; Drug Policy and the War in Afghanistan. In terms of shorter publications, February saw an output from Ross’s ongoing work into drug markets within Argentina, the Situation Analysis Vulnerable Youth and Drug Trafficking in Rosario, Argentina


Jan - Dec 2015

October 2015 - December 2015

The beginning of October saw the Observatory welcome to the team Martin Horton-Eddison as a doctoral candidate and research assistant.  With a background in International Politics and Strategic Studies (MA, Hull & BSc, Econ, Aberystwyth), Martin’s College of Arts and Humanities funded PhD focuses on the transnational crypto-drug market phenomenon and the associated challenges for drug control policy, particularly at the international level. His work for the GDPO over the next three years will include co-ordinating the GDPO Postgraduate Network and managing the Observatory’s online activities.  Continuing with the theme of Higher Education, October saw Dave spend time at Hong KongUniversity as visiting faculty on the highly successful inaugural Human Rights and Drug Policy in East Asia Workshop.   Hosted by the Centre for Criminology, the workshop involved participants with diverse backgrounds (civil servants, government officials and NGO representatives) from a range of countries within the region (Mongolia, Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand) interacting with faculty from HKU and other institutions.  Nearer to home, in November Dave visited the University of Dundee as External Examiner.  There he took part in the viva voce examination of Philip Berry’s (Department of Politics and International Relations) doctoral thesis, The US and the UK’s War on the Afghan Opium Industry: A Critical Evaluation of Anglo-American Counternarcotics Policies in Afghanistan 2001-2011.  We are pleased to say that Philip defended his work ably and we look forward to its publication as a monograph in the near future.     

In early December, Dave and Julia had the privilege of participating in an international workshop in Switzerland.  Organized by the Institute of Geography at the University of Neuchâtel this was titled ‘Toward a Global Shift in Drug Policy?’ It involved an evening public event, with Ruth Dreifuss (member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, former President of Switzerland and member of GDPO Advisory Board) as a keynote speaker, and a stimulating full day interdisciplinary workshop involving both faculty and an impressive array of doctoral students from around the world. With Dave presenting on ‘Contemporary Challenges to the International Drug Control Regime: Markets, Knowledge and Increasing Systemic Tensions’, Julia’s subject was ‘More Harm than Good: The Development Impacts of Counter Narcotic Policies’.  

Over the course of the quarter, the GDPO published a Situation Analysis by Anaïs Auvray.  Based on her MA dissertation in African Studies at the University of Edinburgh (2014-2015), The ‘War on Data’ in Africa, or how to provide and alternative discourse to the ‘War on Drugs’ within the international drug control system explores some the practical and conceptual problems associated with data collection within Africa. In December, GDPO research into cannabis policy was cited within the Spanish language magazine eVIDA

July 2015 - October 2015

Having already participated in a United Nations University event at the end of June, while in New York in early July Dave was also an invited participant at a related invitation only roundtable on ‘Measuring success in inter-agency organized crime programming, with a particular focus on fragile contexts’.  Involving a wide range of participants, including US and UK government officials, representatives from law enforcement, RUSI and Google, once again discussions informed and were informed by GDPO research into drug policy metrics.     

July also saw Dave visit the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex as faculty on the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy Summer School course (ICHRDP).  As part of a successful programme, his contribution focused on international relations, drug policy and human rights, a topic that linked with lectures from, among others, Dr Rick Lines (HRI & ICHRDP), Damon Barrett (ICHRDP) Prof. Joanne Csete (Columbia University, Mailman School for Public Health), Julie Hannah (Human Rights Centre & ICHRDP) and Prof. Julia Buxton.  

With generous support from Swansea University’s Impact Acceleration Account, the GDPO ran in September an exploratory ‘sandpit’ event to explore the concept of developing an inter-disciplinary multi-variate Drug Policy Index; a potential project relating directly to the GDPO’s ongoing interest in drug policy metrics.  Involving colleagues from across campus, including from health science, mathematics, computer science and ‘big data’, the workshop was useful in providing a space for discussing the idea from different disciplinary perspectives.  Follow-on activities include the development of a ‘proof of concept’ funding bid.   September also saw Dave’s paper, ‘Legitimacy and modernity via policy transfer: the utility of the 2003 Afghan National Drug control Strategy’ in the International Journal of Drug Policy, shortlisted for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Scientific Paper Award.

In terms of publications, August saw Dave publish an article, ‘Drugs policy metrics under review’ in Jane’s Intelligence Review, with his ideas on metrics and other issues also receiving some attention in a World Policy piece, ‘Threading the needle - The UN and the war on drugs’.  His broader research into international drug policy was also featured in an Academy of Social Science, WISERD (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods) and Swansea University’s Research Institute for Applied Social Science (RIASS) publication ‘Making the Case for Social Science in Wales’.  This was launched in July at the BIS Conference Centre in London before an audience of policy makers, civil servants, MPs and social scientists.  In August, Dave on behalf of the GDPO was also among 37 signatories to an open letter calling for an urgent enquiry into the UK’s role in funding anti-narcotic operations abroad that involve the death penalty.  Following on from a GDPO View from the Ground blog in July, ‘Magical journalism and the chemical war’, Ross published an excellent blog for Le Monde Diplomatique.  Titled ‘Chemicals don’t Discriminate’, the piece focuses on the Colombian government’s decision to halt the use of glyphosate in the aerial eradication of coca crops; a decision that was made while the GDPO team was in Colombia in May. And last but not least, the GDPO congratulates Research Associate Constanza whose PhD thesis was awarded the prestigious Reina Sofía research award on drugs in July. Well done Constanza, we look forward to reading the translated thesis in English!

head shot of womanThe award winning Dr Sánchez Avilés

April 2015 - July 2015

With Dave Bewley-Taylor meeting up with Ross Eventon and newly appointed GDPO Research Associate, Dr Alastair Smith in Bogota, May saw members of the Observatory team conduct long planned fieldwork in Colombia.  Examining various aspects of ‘supply-side’ drug policy within the country, particularly the practice of aerial eradication, research involved hooking up with Pedro Arenas, director of the  NGO Observatory of Declared Illicit Crops and Cultivators, Indepaz (now a GDPO partner organisation), and travelling out of the city to South East Colombia and the Department of Guaviare.    


With the team staying in the Department’s capital, San José del Guaviare, Pedro generously used his connections as the town’s former mayor to organise not only a set of meetings with influential and informed individuals within the region (including the governor), but also a rare opportunity to travel out into the countryside.  Benefitting from current peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC and the related ceasefire, the team was - via a sturdy 4X4 - able to get well off the beaten track to meet with communities often ignored within discussion of drug policy (or indeed any policy) within Colombia.  As such, the team had the privilege of meeting community leaders, subsistence farmers and the members of a number of settlements deep within the Department of Guaviare. For a fuller account of the fieldwork, see Alastair’s GDPO blog, View from the Ground: Infrastructure and Coca in Guaviare, Colombia.  Research conducted during the fieldwork will be presented within a forthcoming GDPO Policy Report.  On returning to Bogota after what is best described as an interesting bus journey from San José del Guaviare, both Ross and Dave gave presentations on ongoing GDPO research projects (international drug control and the UNGASS and counter narcotics in Afghanistan) at the Department of Political Science at the University of Los Andes.   

dirt trackA road in the Guaviare countryside (on a good day) 

Meanwhile, in Budapest, in her role as Professor within the School of Public Policy at Central European University, GDPO Senior Research Associate Julia Buxton delivered a highly successful two-day professional development course, Anticipating Drug Legalisation.  Assisted by Dr Rick Lines (Executive Director of Harm Reduction International and Chair and co-founder of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy at the University of Essex), Dr Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch (OSF) and Tom Wales of Oxford Analytica, the course provided managers and strategic planners with the intellectual and analytical tools to enable predictive assessment of drug legalisation on sector-specific investments and interests in a diversity of country contexts. Back in Swansea, mid June saw the GDPO re-engage with its institutional partners, the Cyber-terrorism Project and the Language Research Centre, to develop further a collaborative research project on the Dark Net.  In so doing, this follow-on meeting to an initial exploratory event held in late 2014 involved a smaller group of participants, including colleagues from the University of Manchester and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), with the goal of putting together a major research bid on the topic of the Dark Net as an enabler of illicit activity and behaviours.    

Later in the month, Dave was also in New York to engage in a number of events organised by the United Nations University.  As part of a daylong seminar, ‘Measuring the Impacts of Security Interventions: Innovating for Success in Drugs Policy, Organized Crime and Countering Violent Extremism’, he moderated and contributed to a panel on Drug Policy Interventions. The event generated interesting discussion concerning the measurement of policy impacts across a range of domains and as such informed the GDPO’s ongoing research into drug policy metrics and indicators.

In addition to the View from the Ground blog mentioned above, a number of others were published during the quarter. Linking to Observatory fieldwork in India in late 2014, in April GDPO Technical Advisor Romesh Bhattacharji offered a fascinating insight into cannabis production in parts of India in Heading for the Hills: Cannabis in Malana.  This was followed by the reflections of Constanza Sánchez Avilés, ICEERS Foundation and GDPO Research Associate, on the ninth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy in Ghent in May; Is too much discussion on regulation making us forget prohibition?  This was part of a productive month or so for Constanza with April seeing the publication of a book she co-edited with Josep Ibáñez Muñoz .  Published by Tecnos, Mercados Ilegales y Violencia Armada: Los vínculos entre la criminalidad organizada y la conflictividad internacional, contains chapters by both Dave and Constanza. 

January 2015 – April 2015

Early February saw Julia take part in a panel discussion on drugs and development at the House of Commons.  The Health Poverty Action (HPA) and The British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) event marked the launch of an excellent HPA report calling for the development sector to rethink its approach to current prohibition oriented drug policy and coincided with the publication of GDPO’s own report on the issue, Drugs and Development: The Great Disconnect.  As such, Julia’s contribution to the discussion  - with guest speakers also including Baroness Meacher, Chair of the Drug Policy Reform All-Party Parliamentary Group, Catherine Martin, Policy Officer at Health Poverty Action, Sir Keith Morris, Former Ambassador to Colombia and  Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights All-Party Parliamentary Group  -  drew heavily upon her GDPO research.  Indeed, with the organisers kindly distributing The Great Disconnect at the event, the report received much positive feedback.   

people in a presentationJulia at the HPA-BGIPU event at the House of Commons  

Later in the month, and further afield, Dave attended the International Studies Association annual conference in New Orleans.  There he presented on the current dynamics of the international drug control system as part of a vibrant roundtable discussion entitled ‘Drug policy: Challenges and Possibilities of Reform’.  The session was expertly chaired by Renata Segura (Social Science research Council, New York – SSRC), with the other speakers including Sabrina Stein (SSRC), Alison Holcomb (American Civil Liberties Union), John Walsh (Washington Office on Latin America) and Heather Haase (Harm Reduction Coalition and International Drug Policy Consortium, IDPC).    

People posing for picture behind tableThe ISA Roundtable Panellists. (L-R: Dave, Renata, Alison, Sabrina, John and Heather) 

As is the norm at this time of the year, much energy was devoted to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) at the UN in Vienna.  With Ross relocating from Argentina to Bogotá -  as a visiting researcher in the Department of Political Science at the University of Los Andes - to research drug eradication in Colombia, Dave was involved with preparations for and participation in the CND’s annual session.  In terms of the former, this involved support for and work on a Fact Sheet/sign on ‘letter’ on the proposal to discuss the international scheduling of ketamine at the 58th CND.  At the Commission itself, GDPO co-organised an official side event with IDPC, and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the OSCE, the United Nations and the International Organizations titled, ‘Towards better measurements and improved system-wide coherence: Policy indicators, development and public health’.    With the other speakers, Mike Trace (IDPC) and Alison Crocket (UNAIDS), covering various aspects of the issue, Dave presented parts of ongoing GDPO research and focused on ‘Norms, Numbers and the Metrics Trap’.  While at the CND, he also chaired a Harm Reduction International, IDPC and Reprieve side event, ‘Drugs and the death penalty: Prioritising human rights, health and harm reduction over punitive approaches to drug policy’ and, on behalf of the ECOSOC accredited IDPC, made a statement in the Commission’s plenary discussion on supply reduction measures.

people sitting on discussion panel‌‌CND Panel, ‘Towards better measurements and improved system-wide coherence: Policy indicators, development and public health’ (L-R, Martin Matter, Permanent Mission of Switzerland, Alison Crocket, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor)

During the quarter, the GDPO continued to publish a steady stream of outputs relating to different research projects.  As part of the UNGASS work stream the Observatory published The Rise and Challenge of Dark Net Drug Marketsand, as noted above Drugs and Development: The Great Disconnect.  The latter is also available as an abridged version.  The past few months have also seen a number of new Situation Analyses, namely Assessment of the first year of the legally regulated cannabis market in Uruguayand, as part of the GDPO’s ongoing work on drugs and the Dark Net,  Silk Road: After being closed twice, can the brand ever ‘rise again?’, A year since the closure of silk roadThe growing industry of Darknet MarketingOperation Onymous: International law enforcement agencies target the Dark Net and The booming market of alternative cryptocurrencies. And, last but not least, drawing on research conducted during his time in Argentina, Ross produced an insightful and timely blog on the drug market in Rosario. This is the first in a new ‘View from the Ground’ series of blog posts that seek to complement desk based research by drawing upon GDPO fieldwork and the experiences of colleagues working within different parts of the world. 

Jan - Dec 2014

GDPO Quarterly News - October 2014 – January 2015

During October, November and December, the GDPO team were involved in a range of activities, including fieldwork and a number of seminars and workshops.  At the beginning of October, with colleagues from TNI and GDPO Technical Advisor, Romesh Bhattacharji, Dave headed to the foothills of Himalayas in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.  Here, as part of ongoing research for the second edition of the TNI-GDPO report Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition, they visited the remote village of Malana.  Isolated for much of the year due to heavy snowfall, Malana is well known for producing high quality cannabis, although cultivation of the drug is technically forbidden under Indian law.

man sitting by bushTNI's Tom Blickman amongst the cannabis and Gods in Malana

Shortly afterwards, Dave was in Amsterdam (VU University of Amsterdam) presenting on the principles of the IDPC’s Modernising Drug Law Enforcement (MDLE) project at the Second International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health.  In the midst of a busy few weeks, GDPO then teamed up with partner organisations the Washington Office on Latin America, TNI, and the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy (ICHRDP) for a co-organised expert seminar, International Law and Drug Policy Reform, inWashington D.C.  Involving a wide range of drug policy experts and international lawyers from around the world, the Chatham House rules seminar discussed various issues relating to the tensions and challenges surrounding the extant UN drug control treaties.  The seminar report is coming soon.  Among other things, discussions at the seminar led to the publication by Martin Jelsma (TNI), Damon Barrett (ICHRDP) and Dave of the Huffington Post blog, ‘Fatal Attraction: Brownfield's Flexibility Doctrine and Global Drug Policy Reform.’  Back in Swansea, the end of the month also saw Ross and Dave work with partners within the University to organise and co-host ‘The Dark Web: An Interdisciplinary Workshop’.  Linking with the Observatory’s ongoing work on crypto drug markets and organised and run with the Cyberterrorism project, the Language Research Centre, the Research Institute for Applied Social Sciences and the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities, the workshop engaged with researchers and non-University based practitioners across a range of related fields to explore research synergies.  The event saw Research Associate Tim Bingham present ongoing GDPO research into the Dark Net and Crypto-drug markets.  

In November, Dave and Tim presented on-going GDPO research on drug policy metrics and indicators and the Dark Net  at the IDPC-Chatham House-International Institute for Strategic Studies seminar on MDLE at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House. Later in the month, as in the previous two years, he was also visiting faculty at the Jodhpur NationalUniversity’s Jodhpur School of Public Health where he contributed to the delivery of its third Asian Human Rights and Drug Policy Program.  Back on campus in Wales, towards the end of the month, Ross and Dave contributed to a one-day undergraduate workshop run bySwansea University’s Criminology Department. And importantly, November saw GDPO Research Associate, Constanza Sanchez Aviles, successfully defend her doctoral dissertation on international drug control at her home University, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.  Congratulations go to Dr Sanchez.  We look forward seeing her work published as a monograph soon.   

Along with the above activities, the GDPO continued to publish a number of outputs. These were, as a complementary publication to Legally regulated cannabis markets in the US: Implications and Possibilities(Nov. 2013), the Policy Brief Selling cannabis regulation: Learning From Ballot Initiatives in the United States in 2012 and the Situation Analysis Not so FAST; The Rise and Rise of the DEA’s Commando Squads.  The latter is the first of a series of publications focusing on various aspects of drug policy in Latin America.  To this end, late December saw Ross depart for Rosario, Argentina, where he will spend time researching and conducting fieldwork. The Observatory’s research once again generated some media interest.  Selling Cannabis Regulation was picked up by the Daily Beast, while Ross was quoted in a Bloomberg News article on US –Russian relations within the context of increasing levels of opium production in Afghanistan.   

GDPO Quarterly News - July 2014 – October 2014

Between July and October, Julia, Ross and Dave were all busy with a range of activities. In July, Dave took part in an ESRC Doctoral Training Centre conference at Cardiff University where he met with postgraduate students to discuss research methodologies.  Mid-July also Julia and Dave involved with the management and delivery of a 10 day intensive Human Rights and Drug Policy summer school, at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary. Funded by the Open Society’s Global Drug Policy Programme, the summer school was attended by 24 participants from across the world. This included colleagues from Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Hungary, Jamaica, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, United States of America, Poland, Ireland and the United Kingdom.  Later that month saw the launch of the Spanish language version of the TNI-GDPO report, The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition (Auge y caída de la prohibición del cannabis. La historia del cannabis en el sistema de control de drogas de la ONU y opciones de reforma).  This was launched by TNI’s Martin Jelsma in Barcelona. During his time in the city, Martin was kept busy with an intensive round of press interviews, with 37,000 copies of the report itself being distributed within Spain as a special addition to the magazine Cañamo, who co-hosted the launch.  

 man sitting in front of microphoneMartin Jelsma – Barcelona launch of Auge y caída de la prohibición del cannabis

Over the summer, both Julia and Dave were members of the Expert Review Panel for the latest report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, which was launched in September.   Comprising prominent public figures, including numerous ex-heads of state and former UN Secretary General, Kofi Anna, the Commission’s report called for the legal regulation of drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.  Meanwhile, with the focus of activity shifting to the GDPOs on-going work on Afghanistan, September also saw Ross participate in a roundtable discussion held at Glasgow University and organised by the LINKSCH project.  Involving a number of experts and UK government officials, the meeting discussed the current state of opium cultivation in Afghanistan and the nature of US counter-narcotics operations in the country after the military ‘transition’ and partial withdrawal at the end of this year.  At the end of the month, Constanza Sanchez Aviles, GDPO Research Associate & Law, Policy & Human Rights Coordinator at ICEERS Foundation, was core to the organization and running the hugely successful World Ayahuasca Conference in Ibiza. Also at the end of September, Dave was an invited speaker at the 6th Asian Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in New Delhi, India.  An initiative of  TNI and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on belhaf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ), and incollaboration with the Indian Government, the participants at the dialogue discussed a range of issues, including the traditional use of cannabis within the region and international trends.

The quarter also saw the publication of a number of GDPO grey literature outputs. These were the policy brief From drug war to culture war: Russia’s growing role in the global drug debate and the Situation Analyses A Change of Heart? The Peruvian Government Adopts Alternative Development and Developing drug policy: gender matters.

GDPO Quarterly News - April 2014 – July 2014

During this quarter, members of the Observatory team were involved in various activities. In early May, Dave was the external PhD examiner for Luke Gibbons from the Department of History at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  Luke’s dissertation Opium, the British Empire and the Beginnings of the International Drug Control Regime ca. 1890-1910 - an excellent revisionist analysis of British attitudes towards engagement with moves to create a multinational control framework - passed with only minor corrections.  We look forward to seeing it published as a monograph in the near future. Later in the month, Julia was part of a panel at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).  ‘Rethinking counternarcotic policies in drug producing countries’ brought together scholars working on the political economy of drugs, conflict and rural issues in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  Debate was around the need of drug policy to incorporate the lessons and insights of an emerging body of research on the political economy of drugs and the role that illicit economies play in broader processes of state formation and agrarian change.  As a result of his prolonged research into drug policy in general, and more recently cannabis policy in particular, in May Dave was invited by officials from the Uruguayan government to become a member of the Advisory Scientific Committee for the evaluation and monitoring of Law 19.172, which established a legally regulated market for cannabis in 2013. In this role, he has been assisting in providing feedback on various evaluation mechanisms.    

June saw both Julia and Dave attended a meeting of the OSF Global Drug Policy Program’s academic grantees in New York.  This was a valuable opportunity to meet up with colleagues from around the world and develop research synergies.  Later that month Julia and Dave also took part in a conference organised by one of the GDPO’s partners, the EC funded LINKSCH project at Glasgow University.  Held in Brussels, ‘Grasping the Links in the Chain: Understanding the Unintended Consequence of International Counter-Narcotics Measures for the EU’ brought together a wide range of researchers with civil society and EC representatives and officials.  The Observatory was well represented with Julia, who is ethics advisor to the project, providing the keynote address and Dave giving a paper on the challenges facing international drug control regime.

In addition to these activities, the GDPO released a number of publications.  In terms of Policy Briefs, these were European policy on khat: Drug policy lessons not learnedGetting high on impact: The challenge of evaluating drug policy and When agendas collide: Combating drugs and organised crime in West AfricaThis last Brief is the write-up of a presentation made by Dr Axel Klein, University of Kent, at the GDPO -International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) round-table, ‘The Securitization of Drug Policy in West Africa’, held at the IISS in October 2013.  The Observatory also published a number of Situation Analyses, The Drug Control and Immigration Nexus in the US & the UK and, continuing the work stream on the Dark Net crypo-drug markets, Law enforcement is currently not the greatest threat to the survival of Darknet drug markets.  These publications and general GPDO activities resulted in some media engagement. Research on Khat led to Dave being quoted by and Julia participating as the drug policy expert on a somewhat feisty BBC Radio Wales phone-in. Dave was also quoted in a New York Times piece on the UNODC’s 2014 World Drug Report.

GDPO Quarterly News- Jan-April 2014

January saw both Dave and Julia contribute to a short course on Drug Policy and Human Rights run by the Legal Studies Department at the CentralEuropeanUniversity in Budapest.  Later that month Dave was also involved in a seminar at the House of Lords run by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform; a Group with which he is associated as technical advisor on international drug policy.  Directly following the House of Lords event, Dave was an invited participant at a Transnational Institute (TNI) informal Drug Policy Dialogue in Athens.  Co-hosted by the NGO Diogenis and the Greek government this focussed on policy discussion at the UN. In February, Dave contributed to a short course on Human Rights and Drug Policy run by the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy and the Department of Law at the University of Essex and, as part of Swansea University’s festival of research, the GDPO hosted a documentary screening of Raw Opium: Pain, Pleasure a Profits.  This was followed by a lively panel discussion, ‘The Dilemmas of Drug Policy: Global to Local’.  Ably chaired by Julia, in addition to Dave, panellists included Mike Trace (Chief Executive of RAPT and Chairman of the International Drug Policy Consortium), Ifor Glyn (Chief Executive of SANDS Cymru) and Baroness Molly Meacher (Chair of the APPG for Drug Policy Reform since 2011).

As with many other organisations engaged with the study of drug policy, much of the GDPO’s activities in March focused upon the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and its High-Level Segment.  In addition to giving presentations at side-events on ‘Modernising Drug Law Enforcement’ (IDPC) and ‘International Scheduling and the issues of NPS’ (IDPC & TNI), Dave presented ongoing Observatory research on drug policy metrics at a session entitled, ‘Indicators and the Future of Drug Policy’.  Sponsored by the government of Finland, this was co-organised by the GDPO, LSEIdeas, IDPC and the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy.  The CND was also the venue of the official launch of the TNI-GDPO report, The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition.  One of the report’s co-authors, TNI’s Martin Jelsma, gave an overview of the findings and conclusions at a side-event titled ‘Cannabis regulation in Uruguay and Washington and Colorado’ (sponsored by the government of Uruguay, TNI and the Washington Office on Latin America.).  The event was exceptionally well attended with over 200 hard copies of the report distributed.  It is also of note that research by Dave and Martin was referred to at length during the Uruguayan Senate discussion of the landmark bill to create a regulated cannabis market within the country. Back in the UK, Emily presented a paper relating to her doctoral research entitled ‘The Global Drug Prohibition Regime: America’s War’, at the British Association of American Studies at its annual conference in Birmingham.

GDPO activities also received some media attention.  A number of news outlets, including, reported on the Rise and Decline Report.  Dave was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme where he spoke about the impact of changing cannabis polices within the USA on US foreign policy.  He was also quoted in The Guardian and the South Wales Evening Post on various aspects of the shifting drug policy landscape. Julia spoke about drug policy reform as part of an eclectic panel discussion on the BBC’s World Service.   

In addition to the Rise and Decline report published with TNI, the GDPO has since January published a number of Situation Analyses, The UK Khat Ban: Likely Adverse Consequences and Brokering Drugs: The emergence of a new breed of online dealer. 

The Post-Graduate Network met for the second time on 24th January at the London School of Economics.  The GDPO-PGN welcomed a number of new members to the group and discussed a range of issues, including members’ research projects. The next meeting is planned for later in the year and looks set to be in London once again.