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USA. Court rejects murder conviction for dealer in overdose death

A Mississippi appeals court has rejected a test case of whether drug dealers can be prosecuted for murder under state law when a drug user dies. (The State, USA, 08.09.2018)

https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article218054925.html

USA. Florida ‘Pill Mill’ Doctor, Staff Sentenced After 1.2 Million Doses

A South Florida doctor was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for conspiring to prescribe more than a million doses of addictive opioid-based painkillers such as Percocet and OxyContin in exchange for cash. (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), USA, 07.09.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/8571-florida-pill-mill-doctor-staff-sentenced-after-1-2-million-doses

USA. Bad Weather Take Home Doses for Opioid Treatment Program Patients

We’ve had some snowy days in my area, and this means administrators at our opioid treatment program must decide if we should provide extra take home doses to patients for the days when travel will be treacherous.

Because take home doses are closely regulated at opioid treatment programs, both for methadone and buprenorphine, we must get special permission from state and federal regulatory agencies to give extra take home doses. We do this by submitting what’s called an “exception request.” This is an online form where we describe why we are requesting an extra take home, and for whom it will apply. Part of our job is assuring the authorities we won’t give extra take homes to patients who can’t manage them safely.

Ultimately, it’s up to me, the medical director, to decide the risk level of each patient. Which is more dangerous, driving on snowy roads to get to the opioid treatment program to dose, or having an extra take home bottle of medication? I need input from the staff to make the best decisions, so this can be time consuming.

Admittedly, my program failed our patients this last week. (Janaburson’s Blog, 22.01.2018)

https://janaburson.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/bad-weather-take-home-doses-for-opioid-treatment-program-patients/

Kolumbien. Colombia plans to rewind liberal drug possession laws

Colombian president Ivan Duque on Sunday announced measures that will see police be given the powers to confiscate minimum doses of drugs that were previously legalized for personal use.

Duque declared that he is keeping “one of the promises I made to Colombians in the campaign” by rolling back measures introduced by his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos that aimed to decriminalize the consumer. (Colombia Reports, 03.09.2018)

https://colombiareports.com/colombias-president-duque-to-introduce-measures-to-again-criminalize-personal-drug-possession/

Frankreich. France To Consider Decriminalising All Drug Use, Following Government-Commissioned Report

A new parliamentary report has recommended several options for modernising France’s penal process, including the decriminalisation of all drug use, but the government has yet to decide on the matter.

Two assembly members (AM) – Eric Poulliat AM from the governing centrist party En Marche, and Robin Reda AM from the centre-right Republicans party – were commissioned by the government through the National Assembly Laws Commission to study France’s drug policies, and recommend changes that could alleviate strain on the country’s criminal justice system. Unusually, despite authoring the report together, the two AMs diverged on their recommendations for legislative reform; thus, they settled on suggesting the government choose between two options for responding to personal drug use and possession.

AM Poulliat proposed that someone found possessing drugs must face a fixed fine of between 150 and 200 EUR (£132 – £176). If a person does not pay the fine within an allotted time, they will face criminal prosecution. This approach would also leave it to the individual police officer's discretion to decide whether to criminally prosecute someone.

AM Reda proposed that personal drug use and possession should be legally downgraded to a non-criminal offence (“la contravention”), thereby ending the possibility of prosecution. Someone found in possession of drugs would face a fine, and the amount they would be required to pay may increase upon subsequent possession offences, but criminalisation would never be an outcome; in other words, the decriminalisation of personal drug use and possession. (Talking Drugs, UK, 22.01.2018)

https://www.talkingdrugs.org/france-consider-decriminalisation-all-drug-use

USA. California lawmakers vote to wipe out old pot convictions

When California voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016, they OK'd more than the legalization of recreational marijuana. They authorized allowing people to petition the judicial system to have their old pot convictions expunged. (CNN, 23.08.2018)

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/23/politics/california-marijuana-convictions-trnd/index.html

USA. Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Now Eligible to Prescribe Buprenorphine

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will now be eligible to prescribe and dispense the opioid addiction treatment buprenorphine from their office, Reuters reports.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the change will make it easier for residents of underserved areas to receive treatment for opioid addiction. (Partnership for Drug-free Kids, USA, 25.01.2018)

https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/nurse-practitioners-physician-assistants-now-eligible-prescribe-buprenorphine

USA. Prosecuting Dealers for Opioid Deaths Called ‘Bad Justice Policy’

Prosecutors across the country have been expanding the use of stiff penalties targeted at drug dealers whose clients have died as a result of using their product, in efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Heavier sentences that in some cases are equated with a murder charge not only “send a message” to dealers but will prevent further drug-related deaths, supporters claim.

But a new study says such prosecutions for “drug-induced homicides” have the opposite effect. (thecrimereport.org, USA. 20.08.2018)

https://thecrimereport.org/2018/08/20/prosecuting-dealers-for-opioid-deaths-called-bad-justice-policy/#

Frankreich. France will slash fines for cannabis use

The French government announced on Thursday that it will slash fines as part of a new policy on cannabis use but that it will not pursue decriminalisation of the drug.

Cannabis use is on the rise in France, with around 700,000 people estimated to use the drug every day. (afp, 25.01.2018)

https://www.afp.com/en/news/23/france-will-slash-fines-cannabis-use-doc-xt08o3

USA. Surgeon Gets Life in Prison for Role in Opioid Death

Johnny Clyde Benjamin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Florida, was sentenced to life in prison on July 6 in a federal district court in Fort Lauderdale for his role in the overdose death of a 34-year-old woman, according to the US Department of Justice. (Medscape, 13.07.2018)

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/899317

USA. Endocrinologist Allegedly Ran Pill Mill With Bike Gang, Murdered His Wife

A New Jersey endocrinologist, James Kauffman, MD, has been charged with arranging the murder of his wife, April Kauffman, who was a local radio host. She was shot dead aged 47 at their home five and a half years ago, in May 2012, and Dr Kauffman had been the subject of much speculation regarding her death, with her family long suspecting him of playing a role.

Prosecutors, who charged Dr Kauffman on Tuesday, outlined a lurid tale that they say led him to hire someone to kill his wife. This involved him running an opioid 'pill mill' together with a motorcycle gang called Pagan Outlaw according to a report on Philly.com. (Medscape, 11.01.2018)

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/891192

USA. It’s time for methadone to be prescribed as part of primary care

Opioid use disorder, which claims 115 lives a day by overdose in the United States, is a complex, chronic medical condition, but one that can be successfully treated with proven medications. And yet, one of the oldest and most effective medications to treat this disorder — methadone — is out of reach for many people, largely due to outdated federal laws.

Of the three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid use disorder, federal law relegates only methadone to be dispensed in separate clinics apart from the general health care system. It’s not unusual for methadone clinics to be in out-of-the-way locations and often inaccessible by public transportation, especially in rural and suburban communities. When individuals trying to break an addiction to opioids can’t get to a methadone clinic on a daily basis, they can’t get treatment. (STAT, USA, 05.07.2018)

https://www.statnews.com/2018/07/05/methadone-prescribed-primary-care/

USA. Preventing Opioid Overdose: Understanding Good Samaritan Laws

Overdose Good Samaritan laws are policies that provide legal protections for individuals who call for emergency assistance (such as 9-1-1) in the event of a drug overdose. This may include protection from arrest and/or prosecution for crimes related to drug possession, drug paraphernalia possession, and other crimes. These laws are designed to encourage people to summon emergency assistance if they experience or witness a drug overdose. (SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, USA, 08.11.2017)

https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/sites/default/files/resources/good-samaritan-law-tool.pdf

USA. The Feds Are Raiding the Offices of Doctors Who Prescribe Addiction Medication

Addiction doctors are worried about federal retribution against their treatment programs, and they're terrified for their patients, whose lives are at risk from overdose. (tonic.vice.com, USA, 06.06.2018)

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/8xevwb/dea-raids-addiction-doctors

Bolivien. Morales' Controversial Coca Law Backed by Bolivian Court

Coca has a unique history in Bolivia: considered a medicinal and religious plant by Indigenous communities, it's often used in teas and to combat altitude sickness.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has welcomed the decision of the country's highest court to declare as constitutional a controversial coca law that will boost legal cultivation. (telesur, 11.11.2017)

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Morales-Controversial-Coca-Law-Backed-by-Bolivian-Court-20171111-0022.html

Portugal. How Portugal Is Kicking its Heroin Habit (Video)

Back in the 1990s, Portugal faced a heroin crisis. Most people knew someone affected by the lethal drug. Just two decades later, the country has one of the lowest drug-related death rates in the world. This dramatic turnaround isn't credited to a hard-line approach, but instead by decriminalizing all drugs. (Bloomberg, 24.05.2018, Video, 03:42)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lba9nkK-DDY

USA. An Overdose Death Is Not Murder: Why Drug-Induced Homicide Laws Are Counterproductive and Inhumane

We are in the middle of a tragic increase in drug overdose deaths. Countless lives have been lost – each one leaving an irreparable rift in the hearts and lives of their families and friends. These tragedies are best honored by implementing evidence-based solutions that help individuals, families, and communities heal and that prevent additional avoidable deaths.

This report examines one strategy – “drug-induced homicide” – that the evidence suggests is intensifying, rather than helping, the problem and calls for leaders to turn toward proven measures to address rapidly increasing rates of overdose deaths.

What is “drug-induced homicide”?

Drug-induced homicide refers to the crime of delivering drugs that result in a death. (DPA, 06.11.2017)

http://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/DIH

Schweiz. Bedingte Geldstrafe für Psychiater wegen fahrlässiger Tötung

Das Bundesgericht hat die Verurteilung eines Psychiaters wegen fahrlässiger Tötung bestätigt, der einem Gefängnisinsassen Methadon und Valium verschrieben hatte. Das Zusammenwirken der Substanzen führte zum Tod des Gefangenen. (Luzerner Zeitung, Schweiz, 01.06.2018)

https://www.luzernerzeitung.ch/newsticker/schweiz/bedingte-geldstrafe-fur-psychiater-wegen-fahrlassiger-totung-ld.1025400

Italien. Italian court rules its 'okay for Rastafarians to smoke marijuana when meditating'

Lawyer successfully argues cannabis regarded as sacred to religion. (The Inedependent, UK, 02.11.2017)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/marijuana-smoking-meditating-italian-court-rastafarian-cannabis-possession-a8033891.html

Schottland. Minor drug users 'should not be charged'

A Scottish government adviser has said people caught with small amounts of illegal substances should no longer be prosecuted. 

Dr Roy Robertson wants the country's forthcoming substance misuse strategy to "support rather than penalise". 

He warned of a drug death "epidemic" and called for radical changes to how the country tackles drug abuse. 

His call was backed by Police Scotland's substance misuse lead, Ch Insp Allan Elderbrant. 

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell agreed that there needed to be "innovative solutions to meet the challenges that Scotland has" with substance abuse. (BBC, 20.05.2018)

https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/uk-scotland-44140440

USA. Advocates Denounce White House Opioid Commission’s Emphasis on Drug Courts and Proposed Increase in Drug Sentences

Advocates Question How Opioid Commission’s Health-Focused Recommendations Fit With President Trump’s Escalation of War on Drugs. (drugpolicy.org, 01.11.2017)

http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/advocates-denounce-white-house-opioid-commissions-emphasis-drug-courts-and

USA. This algorithm is quickly clearing old marijuana convictions in San Francisco

Now that weed is legal in California, people with old marijuana arrests can have their records cleared. Code for America, working with the SF District Attorney’s office, built a system to quickly find which people were eligible, and fill out their paperwork for them. (fastcompany.com, USA, 15.05.2018)

https://www.fastcompany.com/40572854/this-algorithm-is-quickly-clearing-old-marijuana-convictions-in-san-francisco

This report analyzes the sentence commutations granted under the 2014 Clemency Initiative. It provides data concerning the offenders who received a sentence commutation under the initiative and the offenses for which they were incarcerated. It examines the extent of the sentence reductions resulting from the commutations and the conditions placed on commutations. It also provides an analysis of the extent to which these offenders appear to have met the announced criteria for the initiative. Finally, it provides an analysis of the number of offenders incarcerated at the time the initiative was announced who appear to have met the eligibility criteria for the initiative and the number of those offenders who received a sentence commutation. (United States Sentencing Commission, Published September 5, 2017)

https://www.ussc.gov/research/research-reports/analysis-implementation-2014-clemency-initiative

Finnland. Finland Health Experts Call for Decriminalisation of All Drug Use, Igniting Public Debate

Experts from the Finnish government’s leading health agency have called for the decriminalisation of all drug use, igniting a debate that has drawn in top politicians and police authorities.

The call was made by two senior members of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos – THL), which operates under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. On February 13, Professor Pekka Hakkarainen – the head of THL’s Alcohol, Drugs, and Addictions Unit, and Tuukka Tammi – a senior researcher at the institute, wrote an article calling for all drug use to be decriminalised across the country. The experts said that ending criminal sanctions for drug use would reduce the marginalisation of young people, and encourage people who use drugs to engage with health and social services. (Talking Drugs, UK, 27.02.2018)

https://www.talkingdrugs.org/finland-drug-use-decriminalisation-call

Managing Increasing Liability Risks Related to Opioid Prescribing

Yang, Y. Tony et al.

The American Journal of Medicine , Volume 130 , Issue 3 , 249 - 250

http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(16)30932-9/fulltext

USA. DOJ to support lawsuits against companies selling opioids

The Justice Department says it will support local officials in hundreds of lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday. He says it's the first action by a newly formed task force that aims to more aggressively target drug makers and distributors of the medications that are fueling the nation's drug abuse epidemic. (MedicalXpress, 27.02.2018)

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-02-doj-lawsuits-companies-opioids.html

A 93-year-old physician in Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this month for illegally prescribing oxycodone and, in the words of federal prosecutors, having "contributed to the opioid epidemic that plagues this community and nation." (Medscape, 14.08.2017)

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/884241

Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Sarvet, A. L., Wall, M. M., Fink, D. S., Greene, E., Le, A., Boustead, A. E., Pacula, R. L., Keyes, K. M., Cerdá, M.,

Galea, S., and Hasin, D. S. (2018)

Addiction, doi: 10.1111/add.14136

Abstract

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.14136/abstract

When 55-year-old Sheila Bartels left her doctor's office in Oklahoma, she had a prescription for 510 painkillers.

She died the same day of an overdose.

Her doctor, Regan Nichols, is now facing five second-degree murder charges—one for each patient who overdosed after she prescribed them opioid drugs, such as Oxycontin—prescriptions that can lead to addiction. (medicalxpress.com, 10.08.2017)

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-doctors-heart-opioid-crisis.html

Want Teens To Smoke Less Pot? Legalize It - Evolutionary psychology predicted it, data now confirms it.

As of January 2018, twenty-nine U.S. states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical use. Another fourteen have decriminalized possession of the drug, and eight states have fully legalized marijuana even for recreational use. Critics of this trend, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have long argued that legalization of marijuana "will lead to more marijuana use, including among children and teens, causing all sorts of public health problems down the line." In short, those favoring strict drug laws believe that, as marijuana becomes more available and less stigmatized, teen drug use will go up. It's a straightforward and logical belief. 

The reality is that, to date, not one jurisdiction, either in the U.S. or elsewhere, has seen a marked increase in teen drug use following the relaxation of marijuana restrictions. Not one. Both Colorado and Washington, the pioneer states of marijuana legalization, have actually seen drops in teen marijuana use following legalization. The drop in Colorado was particularly dramatic. Despite the wave of legalization, nationwide, teen drug use is at a 20-year low.

Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D., in: Psychology Today, 05.02.2018

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beastly-behavior/201802/want-teens-smoke-less-pot-legalize-it

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is taking action against an increasing number of doctors for prescribing opioids to patients who overdose, according to CNN.

The DEA took action against 479 doctors in 2016, compared with 88 doctors in 2011. (Partnership News Service Staff, 03.08.2017)

https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/dea-takes-action-doctors-prescribing-opioids-patients-overdose/

USA. Endocrinologist Accused of Wife's Murder, Pill Mill, Found Dead in Jail

New Jersey endocrinologist James Kauffman, MD, who earlier this month was charged with arranging the murder of his wife five and a half years ago, as well as running an illegal pill mill, has been found dead of an apparent suicide in his cell at Hudson County jail. (medscape, USA, 29.01.2018)

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/891931