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Indien/Afghanistan. Indian companies’ supply of heroin chemical helping fund Afghan Taliban: Narco body

NEW DELHI: In a severe indictment of lax drug enforcement laws in India, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has underlined the continued largescale illicit supply of acetic anhydride — a precursor chemical used for the manufacture of heroin — to Afghanistan drug lords. (Times of India, 29.02.2020)


Spanien. Workers found trapped in illegal tobacco factory in Spain

An illegal cigarette factory has been uncovered in Spain where six foreign workers were found gasping for air before being rescued, authorities said. 

Twelve British nationals suspected of running the factory were arrested.

The bunker under horse stables in the southern province of Malaga could produce up to 3,500 cigarettes an hour, according to Spain's Guardia Civil. (BBC, UK, 20.02.2020)


Drogenmarkt Europa: 30 Milliarden Euro für illegale Drogen

So viel geben Konsumierende in der Europäischen Union jährlich für Cannabis, Kokain und andere illegale Drogen aus. Der Drogenhandel gilt als eine Haupteinnahmequelle der organisierten Kriminalität. Eine Analyse zeigt auf, wie Gewalt bis hin zu Mord mit dem illegalen Drogenhandel in Verbindung stehen. (drugcom.de, Topthema März 2020)


The Global SMART Update Vol. 23: “An expanding synthetic drugs market – Implications for precursor control”

UNODC 2020, Global SMART Programme, Vienna International Centre


Myanmar/Burma. Myanmar Opium Cultivation in Decline: UN Report

CHIANG MAI, Thailand—Opium cultivation in Myanmar decreased last year, continuing the downward trend that started in 2014 due in part to the continuing shift in the regional drug market towards synthetic drugs, according to a new UN survey. (The Irrawaddy, Myanmar/Burma, 04.02.2020)


Schweiz. Der Cannabis-Markt unter der Lupe

Ein interdisziplinäres Team von Forschenden von Sucht Schweiz, dem Institut für Kriminologie der Universität Lausanne und Unisanté hat den Betäubungsmittelmarkt im Kanton Waadt untersucht. Nach Heroin und Stimulanzien lag das Interesse dieses Mal bei Cannabis. Der Cannabis-Markt ist von allen Betäubungsmitteln der grösste, doch bleibt der Umsatz hinter demjenigen beim Kokain zurück. Der konsumierte Cannabis stammt aus unterschiedlichen Quellen und weist einen grossen Import-Anteil aus, wobei der einheimische Kleinanbau eine nicht zu unterschätzende Rolle spielt. Auf dem Markt finden sich neu auch Mischungen von illegalem und legalem (CBD-)Cannabis. Mehr als die Hälfte des konsumierten Cannabis geht auf stark Konsumierende zurück, die weniger als 10 Prozent der Benutzerinnen und Benutzer ausmachen.


UK. How a boy from Vietnam became a slave on a UK cannabis farm

It was a horrifying death for the 39 Vietnamese nationals found in the back of a trailer in an industrial park in Essex, in October last year. The story shone a light on the subterranean world of people smuggling and human trafficking, reports Cat McShane, specifically the thriving route between Vietnam and the UK. (BBC, 21.01.2020)


Arzneimittelfälschungen lukrativer als Handel mit harten Drogen

Berlin – Auf das weltweite Problem des Handels mit gefälschten Arzneimitteln hat die ABDA – Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Apothekerverbände – hingewiesen. Danach ist wahrscheinlich jedes zweite Arzneimittel gefälscht, das über illegale Internetversender bezogen wird. (aerzteblatt.de, 17.01.2020)


Schweden. Drug gang violence in Sweden linked to 60% increase in bomb blasts 

Last year 257 bomb attacks were reported to police, up from 162 in 2018. (The Guardian, UK, 16.01.2020)


Rethinking the “drug dealer”

Policymakers in the United States increasingly recognize that drug use should be treated as a public health issue instead of a criminal issue. Most, however, continue to support harsh criminal sentences for people who are involved with drug selling or distribution.

With more than 68,000 people in the United States dying from accidental drug overdoses in 2018 alone, many people are searching for someone to blame and pointing the finger at people who sell drugs. This is also consistent with decades of drug policies based on the assumption that people who sell or distribute drugs are responsible for causing drug use. 

Politicians of all stripes have argued that long sentences for drug sellers will reduce drug availability and make remaining drugs more expensive, driving down demand. But this is not how drug markets actually work. Research and history have shown that the vilification and criminalization of people who sell drugs does not reduce problematic drug use, reduce the availability of drugs, or keep people who use drugs safer.

 (DPA – Drug Policy Alliance, USA, 17.12.2019)


UK. Levels of child criminal exploitation 'almost back to Victorian times' 

Exclusive: police chief says problem is at a high for modern era amid lack of youth facilities. (The Guardian, UK, 02.01.2020)


China. Want OxyContin in China? Pain pill addicts get drugs online

China has some of the strictest regulation of opioids in the world, but OxyContin and other pain pills are sold illegally online by vendors that take advantage of China's major e-commerce and social media sites, including platforms run by tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, the Associated Press found. (MedicalXpress, USA, 31.12.2019)


EMCDDA. Estimating the size of the main illicit retail drug markets in Europe: an update

This report includes estimates of the total size of the retail drug market in the European Union in 2017 for cannabis, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA. (EMCDDA, Lissabon, Dezember 2019)


Russland. Schmuggel von Drogenersatzstoff  Zoll stellt 2400 Flaschen Methadon in Flugzeug aus Köln sicher

Der russische Zoll hat 2400 Flaschen mit dem Drogenersatzstoff Methadon in einer Maschine aus Köln sichergestellt. Die Kisten mit der falsch deklarierten Flüssigkeit sind auf dem Moskauer Flughafen Wnukowo beschlagnahmt worden. (Generalanzeiger, 17.12.2019)


Journal of illicit economies - Volume 1 - Issue 3 - 2019

Open access; Hrsg.: LSE – London School of Economics, UK


On the Frontiers of Development: Illicit Poppy and the Transformation of the Deserts of Southwest Afghanistan.

Mansfield, D., 2019. 

Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, 1(3), pp.330–345. doi.org/10.31389/jied.46


The Last Harvest? From the US Fentanyl Boom to the Mexican Opium Crisis.

Le Cour Grandmaison, R., Morris, N. and Smith, B., 2019. 

Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, 1(3), pp.312–329. doi.org/10.31389/jied.45


The DARK Side of Total Synthesis: Strategies and Tactics in Psychoactive Drug Production.

Chambers SA, DeSousa JM, Huseman ED, Townsend SD.

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2018 Oct 17;9(10):2307-2330. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.7b00528. Epub 2018 Feb 1. 


EMCDDA. Drug precursor developments in the European Union


This paper describes the significant developments that have occurred in the last 5 to 10 years in the field of drug precursors related to synthetic stimulant drugs produced in the EU. This includes describing the ‘pre-precursor’ phenomenon and responses to it, both by the EU and by the drug producers themselves. The developments are complex and of a deeply technical nature. This paper will be of particular interest to forensic chemists, investigators or those involved in drug precursor control. (EMCDDA, Lissabon, November 2019)


EMCDDA. Methamphetamine in Europe: EMCDDA-Europol threat assessment


This report provides a comprehensive overview of the methamphetamine market in the European Union. It assesses the current threat situation regarding current trends in production, trafficking and distribution. (EMCDDA, Europol, Lissabon, November 2019)


EMCDDA. EU Drug Markets Report 2019 — highlights (Video)

The EU Drug Markets Report 2019 is the third comprehensive overview of illicit drug markets in the European Union by the EMCDDA and Europol. The analysis presented in this report spans numerous topics such as the links between drugs and other crimes, the licit economy and society more generally as well as the processes and players involved in the trade from production and trafficking to distribution. Taking an evidence-based approach, the report reviews the markets for heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA and new psychoactive substances. It also provides action points to inform policy development at EU and national level. This publication is an essential reference for law enforcement professionals, policymakers, the academic community and indeed for anyone seeking up-to-date information and analysis on drug markets in Europe. (EMCDDA, Lissabon, 26.11.2019, Video, 03:53)


What Will the Opioid Crisis Look Like in Five Years?

Few people had ever heard of fentanyl five years ago. By 2018 this synthetic opioid was implicated in more than 30,000 fatal overdoses in the United States. The next stage of the fast-changing opioid crisis may well depend on how the illegal drug markets morph in the years to come. (RAND Corporation, USA, 18.11.2019)


How money laundering works (Animation)

Following criminal cash from the streets of London to the gold markets of Dubai, BBC Panorama and the French media company Premières Lignes reveal how an international crime gang laundered millions in drug money.

This animation shows the extraordinary lengths the gang went to make their dirty drug money appear 'clean'. (BBC, 28.10.2019, Animation, 03:32)


Afghanistan. The unknown unknowns of Afghanistan’s new wave of methamphetamine production

Recent years have seen a massive upswing in the production of ephedra and methamphetamine from the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. (London School of Economic, 30.09.2019)


Süd Afrika. 'This is all we have. It’s how we raise our children', says small-scale dagga grower

(…) No one knows with confidence how many small-scale cannabis farmers there are in South Africa, but the number is large: one organisation estimates 900 000. 

Millions of people probably depend on income from cannabis. 

Here in Pondoland, these growers have been cultivating the plant for more than 200 years, with most of their harvest in more contemporary times bound for Cape Town townships and taxi ranks, as well as other South African cities.(News 24, RSA, 07.10.2019)


Narcotics traffic devastating Central American Rainforests in globally-recognized protected areas, fueling climate change; researchers say US anti-drug funds spent on wrong solution
New studies show indigenous and local communities, with strong rights and strong say in fate of forests, can resist drug cartels; other findings argue carbon-rich community forests offer region chance to quickly meet Paris climate promises
Drug trafficking and, paradoxically, efforts to slow it are rapidly driving the deforestation in Central America’s most precious tropical rainforests, according to a trio of major studies being released today at the Pre-COP, an event sponsored by the Government of Costa Rica in the lead up to the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Chile in December. (Texas State University, USA, 09.10.2019)


The ATS market ‒ 10 years after the 2009 Plan of Action. 

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019. Global SMART Update, Volume 22


UK. 'County Lines' drug supply: Exploiting the young and vulnerable; enriching organised crime

By prohibiting drugs that are increasingly in demand, an extremely lucrative market has been gifted to organised crime.This briefing exposes the exploitation of young and vulnerable people as a direct result of drug prohibition, through the ‘county lines’ drug supply phenomenon. In regulated markets for legal products, which are bound by strict legal frameworks, there is significantly less opportunity to exploit young and vulnerable people. Legal regulation would allow for governments to regain control over the drugs market, and help force unregulated suppliers out of the business.

‘County lines’ is the term used to describe a drug supply network set up by organised crime groups (OCGs) between urban and suburban locations, typically rural and coastal towns and villages. (Transform, UK, Oktober 2019)


UK. I’ve seen the child slavery of county lines up close. £20m won’t stop it

A child close to me was entrapped by criminals. Only a national strategy will stem the mafia-style takeover of our towns. 

(...) “County lines” refers to the mobile phone numbers used by criminal networks to sell and distribute drugs around the country. The term sounds kind of street and clever. But it’s a sanitisation of what county lines drug gangs really represent: the slavery of our children and young people for the purposes of making vast amounts of money. Child slaves are being recruited in our communities, under our noses, in parks, town centres and outside schools across the country. Criminals actively target communities they deem to be easy targets: those with cut-to-the-bone services, thin policing and a belief that “this sort of thing doesn’t happen here”. (The Guardian, UK, 04.10.2019)


Raising voices - Empowering female farmers in drug crop cultivation areas

GIZ – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit und OSF – Open Society Foundations

GIZ and the OSF produced, edited, and authored this report. Both organizations are responsible for this publication's content. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Bonn, 2019