“Crucial Decision-Making for a Healthy Community.” In June 2017, HOPS - Healthy Options Project Skopje launched the campaign Crucial Decision-Making for a Healthy Community towards sustaining the harm reduction programs which have proved efficient in the efforts for HIV protection, as well as rehabilitation and re-socialization of people who use drugs. The greatest benefit was D-r Arben Taravari’s support, Minister of Health, from the very beginning of the campaign and the Ministry’s readiness to finance the harm reduction programs. HOPS initiated a petition for supporting harm reduction programs in Macedonia, under the slogan “Your Decision is Also Crucial,” opened until September, 2017.

Support. Don’t Punish. For the fifth time Macedonia participated in the campaign “Support. Don’t Punish”, held to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Every year from 2013, on 26th July, organizations and open-minded individuals throughout the world unite under the motto Support. Don’t Punish. to challenge their governments and international organizations to stop persecution of people who use drugs and introduce more humane evidence-based policies and practices tailored according to people’s needs. HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje marked the occasion with an open call for signing the petition for supporting harm reduction programs in Macedonia within the campaign Crucial Decision-Making to a Healthy Community.

Ireland commencing preparations for decriminalization of all drugs. The new National Drug Strategy of Ireland prescribes an option for decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. The initiative is based on past experiences proving that drug criminalization is counter-productive for the accused and the state. Current drug policies destroy the lives of people charged with drug possession for personal use, while the state spends huge amounts that could potentially be invested towards more efficient treatments of people addicted to drugs. (Source: The Irish Times)

Western Cape High Court, South African Republic, allowed cannabis use in private homes. In March, 2017, the Western Cape High Court, a province of South Africa, made a landmark ruling to the advantage of the right to cannabis use, i.e. popular as dagga in SAR. The Court ruled that banning cannabis use in private homes infringes on the freedom of choice adult citizens enjoy. Parliament must now make the necessary changes in the legislation to allow all adults to be able to possess, cultivate and use cannabis in their private homes. The Parliament has 24 months to implement all legal changes. (Source: News 24)
Acquittal in Spanish coca leaf use case. After several years of proceedings, on March 15, 2017 a person charged with illicit import of coca leaves in Spain was acquitted. The leaves from the coca plant are traditionally used as food, medicine and ceremonial purposes among the Andean and Amazonian people, however according to international drug treaties coca is classified as a banned substance. Supporters of coca use consider the Spanish ruling as particularly important, stressing that this is the first case where the coca plant was recognized beyond South America, thus correcting the historical mistake of prohibiting use of the coca leaf and of the folk customs impossible without the plant. (Source: IDPC)
UN urges the Philippines to reject death penalty bill. In March, 2017, the UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions and torture urged Filipino lawmakers to reject the death penalty bill. The Bill was approved on March 7, 2017 by the House of Representatives and submitted to the Senate for approval. The bill prescribes death penalty for drug-related criminal offences, however the UN warned that it will further distance the Philippines from global abolition trends and violate the country’s international legal obligations. (Source: OHCHR)

Eddie Einbinder in Skopje with “Play Safe”. On March 30, 2017, Eddie Einbinder visited Skopje for a screening of his documentary “Play Safe” on the effects and possible consequences of different drugs. Eddie Einbinder is a psychotherapist, working with people addicted to drugs, and holds lectures on harm reduction at top universities, high schools, and clinics for the homeless youth. During the break and after the projection, visitors had the opportunity to talk with the author in person and exchange experiences and knowledge.

India adopts a Law for the Protection of People Living with HIV. In March, 2017, India adopted a law guaranteeing all people living with HIV timely and proper treatment, the right to education and employment. This means that India will no longer tolerate discrimination against people living with HIV in healthcare services, education, at the work place, public institutions and insurance. The law obliges the federal units’ governments to provide antiretroviral therapy for proper and timely treatment. The measures are expected to improve HIV protection and promote the general health of the entire population. (Source: The Times of India)

LSD used to the advantage of cognitive processes research. Scientists from the University Hospital for Psychiatry in Zurich, Switzerland, confirmed that people who use LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) experience changes in the way they perceive themselves and their surroundings. The most important breakthrough in the research, however, is that LSD led towards tracing neuroreceptors supporting cognitive processes involved in changing personal beliefs and opinions. The findings are expected to contribute towards understanding the difficulties people with psychiatric disorders face and providing proper support. (Source: Science Daily)

Police in Durham County, England to give addicts heroin. Durham County is the first to introduce a practice where police officers give addicts pharmaceutical heroin to inject in specially designated drug consumption rooms. The measure resulted from the need for innovative practices as opposed to the inefficient past drug practices. The decision was largely approved and is expected to contribute towards protection of people’s health and lives and a drop in the crime rate. (Source: The Guardian)

The Global Commission on Drug Policy expresses concern over the arrest of Senator De Lima in the Philippines. The Global Commission on Drug Policy addressed a note of concern over the arrest of the Filipino senator Leila de Lima, demanding that the Filipino authorities uphold the presumption of innocence and fair treatment. Senator De Lima, a lawyer and human rights activist, was arrested by the Filipino police for alleged drug trafficking. On this occasion, the Global Commission reminded president Duterte that his war on drugs is misguided and destructive to the citizens. (Source: Global Commission on Drug Policy)

Study reveals why LSD trips last so Long. Years of research on LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) have revealed that part of the serotonin receptor folds over the LSD compound, keeping it in the brain for up to 12 hours. This is why the effects of LSD last so long. Scientists are hoping this finding will help them create a short-acting version of LSD to be clinically used for anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder. (Source: The Guardian)

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration removes inaccurate facts about cannabis. A petition filed by the non-profit advocacy group Americans for Safe Access forced the U.S. DEA to remove false facts on cannabis from their website. The DEA now admits that cannabis does not cause lung cancer, brain damage or psychosis and is not a habit-forming drug. (Source: SFGate)