Coronavirus: latest information
Laptop

The GDPO Situation Analysis provides the diversity of stakeholders within the drug policy arena with concise, cutting edge assessment of key topics, enabling informed engagement with pertinent developments and debates. Presented in a focused and standardised format, the SA flags risks, opportunities and future trends in crucial issue areas, delivering to readers actionable information and evidence based insight. 

All GDPO material published on this website is licensed under a CC-BY Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


UK General Election 2019: Where do the parties stand on drug policy?

GDPO Situation Analysis, December 2019

Martin Horton-Eddison & Joe Whittaker

On the 12th December 2019, the United Kingdom goes to the polls for a third general election in four years. Building on the GDPO’s popular appraisal of party drug policy during the 2017 campaign, this Situation Analysis presents the party manifesto positions for 2019, including comparison of party policy shifts during the past three elections, and analysis of party positions in relation to punitive versus public health approaches.

Read the full analysis here GDPO Situation Analysis; Where the Parties Stand 2019


Opioid Analgesics in India

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis December 2018

Áron Suba  & Sebastián Soto

Rising cancer rates in the second most populated country on earth evidences that while the disease is no longer specific to the developed world, the availability of World Health Organization recommended medicines that can treat extreme pain nevertheless remains confined to the Global North. Despite India’s position as a leading global producer of medical opioids, hundreds of thousands of patients in the country suffer unnecessary pain; access to opioid analgesics remains low and uneven across the country. Multiple factors account for this, including India’s regulatory regime, the lack of implementation of positive legislative changes, and training issues and stigma associated with opioids. In spite of these barriers, the Indian state of Kerala provides positive examples which may present lessons for broader nationwide reform.

Read the full analysis here: Opioid Analgesics in India: Low Access and Hope for Change


Drug Policy in East Africa

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis November 2018

Apondi Bernice Auma

Traditionally, East African countries have followed punitive drug policies and criminalised drug use. For People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) there is limited access to health care services. Many policy makers in this region are yet to understand the shift toward public health approaches; a shift that encourages drug users to access health care to prevent and reduce the risk of HIV infection. The East Africa Community in collaboration with KANCO (Kenya Aids NGO Consortium) is working to develop a regional policy targeting people who use drugs. If approved, the document will act as blueprint for the region in service delivery for people who inject drugs.

Read the full analysis here: Drug Policy in East Africa


Hungary's NPS 'Problem'?

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis, November 2018

Anna Maria Dzunic

Hungarian drug laws are set out in the 2012 Penal Code. They are among the harshest in the EU. The country did not have a comprehensive national drug strategy between 2010 and 2015, with the Penal Code serving as the primary drug strategy of the country. The lack of strategy was particularly problematic in the light of new psychoactive substances (NPS) that reached the country in 2010. Thus, no nation-wide data collection has taken place that could be used to evaluate the effects of NPS consumption on public health. Coupling this limited information with macro-economic indices - specifically the economic decline of the rural poor (who are assumed to be the primary consumers of NPS) - a grim picture can be portrayed where some experts expect a whole generation to be lost due to NPS consumption.

Read the full analysis here: GDPO Situation Analysis, November 2018 


Narrative & Regulatory Norms Surrounding Drug Users in Video Games

GDPO Situation Analysis, October 2018

Nicholas Sertich

Both regulations and depictions of drug use in gaming contribute to the suppression regime around drugs. Drug users and dealers are portrayed as violent, destabilising forces that are rightly met with violence. Regulators and creators contribute to the stigmatisation of drug users by encouraging drug use to be in the most of violent games. Taken together, this helps to legitimise the use of punitive and securitised measures against dealers especially.

In particular, this Situation Analysis uses Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) as a case study as it encompasses many common trends, while also being the 3rd top-selling game of all time with over 85 million copies in circulation.

Readthe full analysis here: Narrative and Regulatory Norms Surrounding Drug Users in Video Games


Pakistan’s HIV Epidemic and the Need for Prison-Based Harm Reduction Programmes

GDPO Situation Analysis, October 2018

Faryal Sajjad

Pakistan is advancing towards a public health crisis with an estimated 133,529 people having contracted HIV/AIDS. Problematically, ‘the primary mode of HIV [and Hepatitis B and C] transmission in Pakistan continues to be the use of contaminated injection equipment among people who inject drugs’ (PWID) with prison inmates being one of the most vulnerable populations. Needle-based harm reduction programmes are non-existent in Pakistan’s prisons, in contrast to neighbouring Iran, which following a surge in prison-based HIV infections, introduced harm reduction programmes in 2003. Iran’s approach holds important lessons for Pakistan, not only because the two countries have been religiously and ideologically close, but also because the success of Iran’s harm reduction programme has been achieved through attitudinal changes by policymakers. 

Read the full analysis here: Pakistan’s HIV Epidemic and the Need for Prison-Based Harm Reduction Programmes


The Environmental Impacts of the Legalization of Cannabis in California

GDPO Situation Analysis, July 2018

Jasmin Gamez

In November 2016, Proposition 64 was passed in California allowing for the legalization of recreational cannabis use. The measure came into effect on January 1, 2018 with California joining 28 other US states that have legislated for the medical and/or recreational use of cannabis. Cannabis legalization in California is expected to generate $3.7 billion in sales in 2018, but requires policy initiatives to mitigate potential negative environmental impacts. California is in a unique position to create a sustainable cannabis industry...

Read the full analysis here: Environmental Impacts of the Legalization of Cannabis in California


Gender and Drugs in Myanmar

GDPO Situation Analysis, June 2018

Mai Hla Aye

In February 2018, Myanmar launched the National Drug Policy Control (NDPC) with the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The NDPC aims to promote evidence-based and public health and human-centred approaches to drug issues. It includes programmes and interventions for women through integrating gender sensitivity, in line with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This policy reorientation comes after decades of punitive approaches to drug users that negatively impacted women...

Read the full report here: Gender and Drugs in Myanmar


GHANA STRIVES FOR A MORE HUMANE DRUG POLICY

analysis coverGDPO Situation Analysis, June 2018

Maria-Goretti Ane

Recently, the government of Ghana proposed the Narcotics Control Commission Bill of 2017 (NCC) to replace the current Narcotic Drugs (Control, Enforcement, and Sanctions) Law of 1990 (PNDCL 236) that criminalizes all drug-related activities including drug use, possession, trade, and production. NCC aims to decriminalise drug consumption in Ghana. The initiative is a recognition of the grave impact on public health of the country’s current drug legislation, which imposes punitive sanctions on those engaged in the consumption, production, and trafficking. However, the ramifications of legal change could be felt beyond the country as Ghana could become a norm entrepreneur in the region for harm reduction policies....

Read the fullanalysis here:Ghana Strives for a More Humane Drug Policy


Crypto-Market Enforcement - New Strategy and Tactics

GDPO Situation Analysis, June 2018

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis

Between June and July 2017, two law enforcement actions targeted the cryptomarkets AlphaBay and Hansa Market, closed them, and arrested their operators, seizing millions of dollars in assets in the process. These operations, dubbed ‘Operation Bayonet’ (AlphaBay) and ‘Operation GraveSac’ (Hansa) saw a shift in the strategy and tactics that law enforcement agencies are using to target cryptomarket activity on the Tor network.4 By deconstructing the operation, this situational analysis aims to provide pertinent lessons on how law enforcement agencies have adapted their approach towards tackling cryptomarkets.

Read the full analysis here: Crypto Market Enforcemnet New Strategy and Tactics


Cannabis and the Drug Law in Tunisia: A Reform Rooted in Social Justice Claims

GDPO Situation Analysis April 2018

Khalid Tinasti

Drug control policies in Tunisia are guided by the 1992 Narcotics Act (Act 92-52), adopted under the dictatorship following the 1987 Coup d’Etat. Until April 2017, the Act was one of the most punitive drug control laws in the world, sentencing people convicted of drug use or possession of small amounts to a mandatory minimum of one year in prison, and a monetary fine of 1000 Tunisian Dinars (400 USD). The specificity of this law has been the mandatory nature of its sentences, and the incapacity of judges to take into account mitigating circumstances, making it the only law in the Tunisian criminal code depriving judges of their discretion. This specific legal provision, as dictated by article 12 of the Act, was amended by the Tunisian Parliament in April 2017 to address prison overcrowding...

Read the full analysis here: Cannabis and the Drug Law in Tunisia A Reform Rooted in Social Justice Claims


Updating Escrow: Demystifying the CDM multisig process

GDPO Situation Analysis, July 2017

Martin Horton-Eddison

Until now, the Crypto-Drug Market (CDM) escrow process has been described according to a historic centralised escrow system.  However, centralised escrow is fast becoming obsolete, with four of the five most popular current CDMs now offering a form of decentralised escrow, known as multisignature (multisig). Multisig is therefore rapidly becoming the industry standard for ameliorating financial risk in CDM transactions. This Situation Analysis is intended to clarify the multisig process. It presents an analysis of the background to the shift toward decentralisation, a description of the new process, and a diagrammatic representation of the multisig escrow model.

Read the full analysis here: Updating Escrow Demystifying the CDM multisig process


Corpus Linguistics Methodology on the Silk Road(s): The Escrow Example

GDPO Situation Analysis June 2017

Matteo Di Cristofaro & Martin Horton-Eddison

This Situation Analysis is a methodological paper intended to supplement the research findings presented in GDPO Policy Brief 11, Horton-Eddison, M. & Di Cristofaro, M., Hard Interventions and Innovation in Crypto-Drug Markets

The application of Corpus Linguistics to the concept of innovation in crypto-drug markets.  This analysis shows the application of Corpus Linguistics methodology and of CADS (Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies) approach to data extracted from Crypto-Drug Market (CDM) communities. The aim is twofold: First, to demonstrate how the analysis of textual data created by CDM users can help pin-point  the impact that ‘real-life’ events (in this case, the FBI’s seizure and closure of Silk Road, and the theft of a substantial amount of Bitcoin on Silk Road 2) have on online crypto-communities.  Second, to illustrate how linguistics theories and methodologies may be used to investigate how ‘trust’ is established/reinforced in online CDM communities.

Read the full analysis here: Corpus Linguistics Methodology on the Silk Road The Escrow Example


UK General Election 2017: Where do the parties stand on drug policy?

GDPO Situation Analysis June 2017

Martin Horton-Eddison and Joe Whittaker

On the 8th June, the United Kingdom goes to the polls for a second general election in under two years.  Following the EU referendum last June, the issue of Brexit continues to dominate the campaign discourse, with security also front and centre since the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.  Important - yet less eye-catching - issues have taken a back seat in the campaign, including the issue of drugs policy.  That said, most of the major national parties have included some kind of manifesto pledge regarding their approach to illicit drug markets, and an evaluation of the differing positions is therefore warranted.  This Situation Analysis has crawled the 2015 and 2017 manifesto pledges of all of the major national parties, and presents an evaluative summary of the explicit and implicit policy pledges, and direction of policy travel, of each.... 

Read the full analysis here: UK General Election 2017 - Where do the parties stand on drug policy


Ganja in the English-speaking Caribbean

GDPO Situation Analysis October 2016

Axel Klein

In 2015 Jamaica implemented substantial reforms to its Dangerous Drugs Act. Cannabis possession of up to two ounces was made a ticketable offence and cannabis cultivation up to five plants, cannabis use in private homes is no longer an offence, and consumption by persons of the Rastafarian faith, for medical, therapeutic and scientific purposes is permitted. Future developments depend partly on decisions in the US, including the referenda on cannabis legalisation in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. Small, developing island states like Jamaica are exposed to policy shifts by the regional hegemon. Less attention is paid to the European Commission which is the largest development donor in the Caribbean region and has been active in drugs policy for decades. There is a ready opportunity for switching towards a development oriented policy.

Read the full article: Ganja in the English-speaking Caribbean


US Drug Policy: Clinton Vs. Trump

GDPO Situation Analysis October 2016

Benoît Gomis

On 8th November, the United States will select their next President. Although drug policy will not be a key deciding factor in the election, it has occupied a far more central role than in previous cycles. An analysis of the proposals put forward by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump points to a chasm between the two main candidates – in both their vision and understanding of the issues at hand. On the same day, five states - Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – will also vote on whether to legalize and regulate the production, distribution and use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Once again, local policy experimentation will have a significant impact on the country’s drugs landscape...

Read the full analysis here: US drug policy - Clinton vs Trump


Colombia: Drugs and the Peace Agreement.

GDPO Situation Analysis September 2016

Ross Eventon

On August 24th, after more than four years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement that will, pending a referendum on October 2nd, bring to an end more than sixty years of armed conflict. Colombia is the world’s second largest cultivator of coca and its primary producer of cocaine. The peace agreement could significantly alter the government’s approach to illicit drugs, and the demobilisation of the FARC guerrilla will have implications for the dynamics of the local drug trade. The government is now, in principle, committed to a new national drug policy and to significant new initiatives in rural areas where illicit crops are cultivated.

Read the full analysis here: Colombia - Drugs and the Peace Agreement


Reforms in Reverse; Colombia Goes Back to Glyphosate

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis June 2016

Ross Eventon

In May 2015 the Colombian government suspended the aerial fumigation of coca crops using the herbicide glyphosate. Six months on, the government has said it will continue to use the chemical but will change the method of delivery: illicit crops will now be ‘fogged’ by operators on the ground. The move has been widely criticised in Colombia, and it has dashed nascent hopes of a new approach to illicit cultivation in the wake of last year’s suspension.

Read the full analysis here: Reforms in Reverse; Colombia goes back to Glyphosate 


Vulnerable Youth and Drug Trafficking in Rosario, Argentina

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis February 2016

Mauro Testa and Ross Eventon

The local drug trade and the rising levels of violence in the city of Rosario were forced on to the public agenda on New Years day 2012, when three social activists were killed by members of a gang involved in drug trafficking. Protests followed the murders, as did media and, later, political attention. Since then, the situation for poor and vulnerable young people living in the peripheral neighbourhoods of the city known as the villas has become ever more complicated. As elsewhere in Latin America, the teenaged gang member involved in trafficking, the lowest and most visible link in the chain, has become the focus of a general panic over ‘insecurity’. The provincial and national government face a dilemma already familiar to a number of other countries in the region: how to respond to teenage gang members involved in drug trafficking?

Read the fulla anaylisis here: Vulnerable Youth and Drug Trafficking in Rosario, Argentina 


The ‘War on Data’ in Africa, or how to provide an alternative discourse

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis November 2015

Anaïs Auvray

Over the last decade, the United Nations (UN) has shown concerns regarding the proliferation of illegal drug trafficking in Africa, defining it as a threat for both the international security and the development of African countries. However, when examining more closely the data used by the UN to assess the drug situation in Africa and justify its alarmist discourse, it is unclear whether the UN uses this data to fully assess the real issues at stake in Africa or simply to replicate a semblance of the ‘War on Drugs’ on the continent. Therefore, this Situation Analysis invites the readers to take part in a ‘War on Data’ in Africa.

Read the full analysis here: The ‘War on Data’ in Africa: Alternative discourses to the ‘War on Drugs’ 


From Dealer to Doorstep – How Drugs Are Sold On the Dark Net

GDPO Situation Analysis June 2015

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis 

The growing trade in narcotics being sold over the Tor Dark Net is causing academics, law enforcement and policy makers to reassess the impact of ICT technology on real-world crime. Despite growing media attention there are many misconceptions about the difficulty involved and technical knowledge required to participate in these markets and successfully make a sale or purchase. This Situation Analysis aims to explain some of the common practices that vendors and customers alike undertake in order to conduct a secure purchase or sale.

Read the full anaylisis here: From Dealer to Doorstep – How Drugs Are Sold On the Dark Net


The Booming Market of Alternative Cryptocurrencies

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis March 2015

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis

Since its creation in 2009, Bitcoin1 has risen to be the first and most popular cryptocurrency in the world and has led to the development of many other alternative cryptocurrencies (or Altcoins) looking to stake their claim in a new and fast-moving financial market. It has also been the most popular currency of choice for users of Dark Net markets due to its semianonymous qualities, lack of regulation and effectiveness in laundering the profits made from the sales of contraband online. However, Bitcoin has been criticised by users of the Dark Net as lacking genuine anonymity and providing a trail of evidence for law enforcement to trace payments via its blockchain. This has led to an increase in the development of alternative cryptocurrencies (Altcoins) in which anonymity and security is prioritised in order to make the tracing of payments and laundering of proceeds almost impossible.

Read the full analysis here: The Booming Market of Alternative Cryptocurrencies


Assessment of the first year of the legally regulated cannabis market in Uruguay

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis January 2015

Jonas von Hoffman, MPhil (Can)

On December 23rd, 2013, President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica signed bill 19.172 into law. Thus, Uruguay became the first country in the world with a legally regulated recreational cannabis market. The drug policy reform process in Uruguay did not end with the passing of law 19.172. Rather, it entered a distinct phase marked by new endogenous and exogenous challenges. Regulation had to be written, a new regulatory body set up, an evaluation framework conceptualized, large-scale cannabis production organized and the effects of a national election weathered. All this occurred within the first year after the passage of the law. Therefore, it is high time to take stock and assess the progress of drug policy reform in Uruguay. As this analysis of the first year of legally regulated cannabis in Uruguay shows, as in other places, one does not simply ‘legalise’ cannabis.

Read the full analysis here: Assessment of the first year of the legally regulated cannabis market in Uruguay


Operation Onymous:International law enforcement agencies target the Dark Net

analysis cover 

GDPO Situation Analysis January 2015

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis

On the 6th of November 2014 the FBI and Europol working with other international law enforcement agencies declared that they had succeeded in a joint operation against several hidden services on the Tor Dark Net. The investigation, dubbed ‘Operation Onymous’ saw the successful closure of 267 ‘.onion’ webpages making up 27 separate sites. Law enforcement agencies also made 17 arrests and seizures of $1 million in Bitcoin as well as assorted amounts of cash, drugs, weapons and computers.

Readthe full analysis here: Operation Onymous


The Growing Industry of Darknet Marketing

Analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis January 2015

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis

Tor’s hidden services have allowed a new form of low-risk high-profit drug dealing to emerge and grow quickly over the last four years. Vendors of narcotics are utilising innovative marketing techniques that mirror those used by legal, ‘real-world’ and web-based businesses to promote and sell goods and services. These range from offers of free samples and discounts, to the use of banner adverts and brand management. Drug marketing is becoming increasingly sophisticated as more users and buyers flock to the Tor network and as hidden markets become more diversified and competitive.

Read the full analysis here: The Growing Industry of Darknet Marketing


A year since the closure of Silk Road

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis January 2015

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis 

Over the year since the original Silk Road Marketplace closed as a result of law enforcement activity, the ‘hidden’ marketplaces operating over the Tor Network have fragmented and overcome a loss of trust due to scams, hacking attempts and interdiction operations. Dark Net markets are enjoying renewed growth, spurred by enhanced security features and information exchanges that make it easier for new users to participate, and which have renewed consumer and seller confidence in hidden market transactions.

Read the full analysis here: A year since the closure of Silk Road Snapshot of evolved Dark Net drug markets


Silk Road: After being closed twice, can the brand ever ‘rise again?’

analysis cover 

GDPO Situation Analysis January 2015

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis

Since 2011 the Silk Road marketplace has been known as the flagship brand of Dark Net markets. For a long time it was the cornerstone of illicit trade over the Dark Net, despite being shut down by the FBI in October 2013 its successor Silk Road 2.0 was created in a month and quickly outgrew its predecessor. On November 6th 2014, the Silk Road 2.0 was closed in an international law enforcement operation dubbed ‘Operation Onymous’. Despite being taken down twice by law enforcement, the Silk Road was both a pathfinder and a trend-setter in the world of Dark Net markets. As a brand it will never be forgotten and may possibly continue to rise repeatedly as a hidden service on the Tor network, however as a marketplace the damage done by two busts may have finally put an end to its viability as a popular destination for those looking to engage in illicit trade.

Read the full analyis here: Silk Road After being closed twice, can the brand ever ‘rise again’


Not so FAST; The Rise and Rise of the DEA’s Commando Squads

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis October 2014

The US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Foreign-Deployed Advisory Support Teams (FAST) are made up of heavily armed DEA special agents trained in Special Forces-style tactics, and their official objective is to build criminal cases against drug traffickers and undertake interdiction operations. The first team began operating in Afghanistan in 2005. After 2009 the programme expanded and reports suggest five teams are currently active, one of which remains stationed permanently in Afghanistan, the others based in Virginia and operating in the Western Hemisphere - in Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. It seems likely, given the statements of officials, that their remit will at some point be expanded to include West Africa.2 US officials justify the teams as an important part of “counter narco-terrorism” operations. In Afghanistan officials have made clear that FAST members target insurgency-linked traffickers exclusively; they are consequently a funding-focused counter-insurgency force, not a counternarcotics force. In Central America, FAST is a component of the remilitarisation of the region by Washington justified on grounds of ‘counter narco-terrorism’ and disrupting ‘cartels’ trafficking drugs. On investigation it is clear that the FAST programme is one aspect of a wider effort to militarise allied governments; ensure the continuation of preferred approaches to the drug issue; and deepen US military influence overseas. The programme risks generating greater confrontations in regions often beset by violence; emboldening security forces with dire records of human rights abuse; and contributing to the continued shift of trafficking routes, while the issues at the core of the problem remain unaddressed, if not exacerbated by broader US policies.

Read the full analysis here: Not so FAST; The Rise and Rise of the DEA's Commando Squads


Developing drug policy: gender matters

analysis cover 

GDPO Situation Analysis August 2014

Camille Stengel, PhD (Can) and Jennifer Fleetwood, PhD

Patterns of drug use, sales and trafficking are profoundly gendered. Most users, dealers and traffickers are men, so women suffer from their “Cinderella status” whereby interventions are aimed at the majority, and neglect to seriously consider their impact on women. Responses to women involved with illicit drugs must take gender into account to produce fair outcomes that ensure international human rights obligations and meet the reality of women’s lives.

Read the full analysis here: Developing drug policy: gender matters


A Change of Heart? The Peruvian Government Adopts Alternative Development

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis July 2014

In early 2014, coming off the back of record levels of illicit crops destroyed over the previous year, the Peruvian government announced that it would be increasing eradication targets for the forthcoming year by around 30%. Assisted by significant funding from Washington D.C., the plan included a militarised eradication offensive in a region where Shining Path insurgents were present — the Apurimac and Ene river valley, sometimes referred to by the Spanish acronym VRAE (see map below) — and where, the government says, just over half of Peru’s cocaine is produced. The programme ran for five months. Then, in a surprise move, the country’s drug czar was fired and replaced by a former defence minister, and the President, Ollanta Humala, made a televised appearance to declare the suspension of forced eradication operations in the region. Crop destruction would continue elsewhere, he said, but in the Apurimac and Ene river valley the government would instead rely, for now, on alternative development programmes. The change in personnel and the temporary suspension of eradication do not seem to be indicative of a fundamental change of direction. The government approach remains predominantly prohibition-oriented and militarised, and counter-insurgency considerations - the threat of violence and of pushing local peasants towards the Shining Path guerillas — seems to be behind the decision to opt for alternative development over forced eradication. While preferable to eradication, drug crop focused alternative development has numerous problems and cannot be substituted for what is desperately needed in these marginalised and impoverished areas of the country: genuine economic development.

Read the full analysis here:A Change of Heart? The Peruvian Government Adopts Alternative Development


Law enforcement is currently not the greatest threat to the survival of Darknet

analysis cover 

GDPO Situation Analysis May 2014

Since the arrest of the alleged administrator of the Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, by the FBI and the closure of the Utopia market place earlier this year, law enforcement agencies have made very little progress in stopping the activities of online drug markets. The pending implementation of new technological and organisational structures by market administrators will continue to cause significant challenges to enforcement agencies. At present the greatest risk to the survival of individual drug markets comes not from law enforcement agencies but from within their own communities.

Read the full analysis here: Law enforcement is not the greatest threat to survival of Darknet drug markets


The Drug Control and Immigration Nexus in the US & the UK

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis May 2014

Punitive sentencing for drug related offences are a documented driver of escalating incarceration rates in Western Europe and North America. Sentencing procedures are often disproportionate and discriminatory in their application and impact, particularly as these relate to women, ethnic minorities and foreign nationals. As part of a new initiative to reduce the US prison population and address inequities in drugrelated sentencing, President Obama has instructed the US Justice Department to accelerate commutation processes for non-violent drug offenders.

Read the full analysis here: The Drug Control and Immigration Nexus in the US & the UK 


Brokering drugs: The emergence of a new breed of online dealer

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis February 2014

The advent of online black markets has given birth to a novel shadow economy dominated by technologically proficient drug dealers who pose significant challenges to law enforcement agencies.

• The Internet has enabled a new type of international drug dealer who is able to make significant profits without the risks previously associated with engaging in the trade of illicit substances. • This will alter the way in which illicit drugs are bought and sold, further complicating enforcement. • It is now possible for to sell narcotics internationally without ever needing to see or touch the product. • Detailed and innovative research is essential to understanding how to engage with this new phenomenon from both a public health and enforcement perspective.

Read the full anlaysis here: Brokering Drugs: The emergence of a new breed of online dealer


The UK khat ban: Likely adverse consequences

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis January 2014

Britain is to criminalise the distribution and consumption of the chewable leaf khat – a mild stimulant imported from Kenya and Ethiopia. This follows the Home Secretary Teresa May’s decision in July 2013 to introduce legislation classifying khat as a class C drug, with possession resulting in a maximum two year prison sentence (or fine) and up to 14 years for supply related offences under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The pending legislation will bring the UK into line with European and North American countries, and is being introduced on the basis that: a) use of khat among the Somali migrant community has detrimental impacts on health and family life; b) the UK has become an international distribution point for khat; c) khat use and the proceeds from the sale of khat contribute to criminal and terrorist activity. Adverse consequences should be anticipated from the criminalisation of the shrub.

Read the full analysis here: The UK Khat Ban: Likely adverse consequences


Untreated pain in the lower and middle-income countries

analysis cover 

GDPO Situation Analysis December 2013

Katherine Pettus, PhD.

More than 5.5 billion people (83% of the world’s population) in over 150 countries have low to non-existent access to morphine and other controlled medicines for pain relief, palliative care or opioid dependency. Although access to morphine has increased exponentially over the last two decades, global inequalities in access to pain relief are stark. Ninety per cent of the global consumption of morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone registered in 2009 occurred in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and several European countries (See Map below). All these medicines are ‘scheduled’ and controlled under the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Widespread lack of access in lower and middle-income countries (LMICs), however, underlines the serious limitations of the current regulatory regime. 

Read the full analysis here: Untreated pain in the lower and middle-income countries


Silk Road and Bitcoin

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis December 2013

The much trumpeted closure in October 2013 of the Tor-accessible illicit market known as Silk Road and arrest of its founder Robert Ulbricht struck a blow to consumer trust in the market for illicit goods and specifically narcotic drugs that are hosted on the Tor network. However, this success for the US multi-agency task force (involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, US Postal Inspection, Secret Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) does not mark the end of black markets hosted on the Tor network, or the availability of drugs anonymously bought online. Rather it spurred innovations in online illicit trading, underlining the hydra headed nature of ‘successful’ interdiction effort.

Read the full anlaysis here: Silk Road and Bitcoin


Afghanistan’s Bumper Opium Harvest

analysis cover

GDPO Situation Analysis November 2013

The year before US and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan and as security arrangements going forward remain unclear, opium poppy cultivation has reached an all-time high, rising an estimated 36% between 2012 and 2013 to over 200,000 hectares. Opium production has doubled to an estimated 5,500 tons.

Read the full analysis here: Afghanistan's Bumper Opium Harvest