Norway seeks to decriminalise drug use

Norway’s government has submitted a bill to Parliament to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use, a measure aimed at replacing punishment with treatment. The approach is identical to the one proposed in Portugal, for example.

The use and possession of illicit drugs will continue to be illegal, but instead of sanctions, people who are found in possession of small quantities will be referred to a mandatory municipal counselling service, where they will receive information about the risks and the negative consequences of drug use and be offered help, treatment and follow-up.

The Norwegian executive -led by the Conservative Party of current Prime Minister Erna Solberg along with the Liberal Party- argues that changing the policy is justified because several decades of criminalisation have proved unsuccessful, and prosecuting consumers only contributes to stigmatisation and social exclusion, dissuading them from seeking help for fear of being sanctioned.

According to the latest official data, in 2018, 286 people died from a drug overdose in Norway, whose rate of drug-related deaths is much higher than the European average.

Given that many drug addicts use multiple types of narcotics, the bill says that a person may have up to three different substances at any time, as long as neither exceeds the specified threshold. By contrast, the possession of higher quantities or any other type of involvement with illegal drugs, such as importation, manufacture or sale, will continue to be a punishable offence.

Norway’s debate on decriminalising drug use began in 2016; its proposal for the reform of its drug policy is based on a report prepared by an expert committee which was set up by Parliament two years ago, although the final bill reduces the permitted amounts so as not to facilitate trafficking and access. The Liberal-Conservative government only controls a minority in the Norwegian Parliament, so it will need support from the opposition to push the reform through, and, as yet, not all the parties have made their position on the matter clear. Opponents of the move include the Christian Democrats, who form part of the ruling coalition. However, they are expected to vote in favour of the bill out of loyalty.  

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The EU Council adopts new rules on the online dissemination of terrorist content

The EU is working to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalise, recruit and incite violence. The Council has adopted a regulation on the dissemination of terrorist content online.

The legislation aims to facilitate the swift removal of online terrorist content and establish one common instrument for all member states to this effect. The rules will apply to hosting service providers offering services in the EU, regardless of whether their head office is located in one of the member states or not.

Radicalisation and incitement to violence through social networks, video platforms and the live streaming of attacks have become ever more frequent factors in recent terrorist attacks. With the new rules adopted by the Council, law enforcement authorities will have an effective instrument to tackle this threat.

Voluntary cooperation with the hosting service providers will continue, but the legislation will provide additional tools for member states to enforce the rapid removal of terrorist content where necessary.

Competent authorities in the member states will have the power to issue removal orders to the service providers in order to remove terrorist content or disable access to it in all member states. The service providers will then have to remove or disable access to the content within one hour.

Hosting service providers exposed to terrorist content will need to take specific measures to address the misuse of their services and protect them from being used as a platform for disseminating terrorist content. The decision on which measure to use remains with the hosting service provider.

The legislation also provides a clear scope and a clear uniform definition of terrorist content to ensure fundamental rights are fully respected. Equally, it includes effective remedies for both users whose content has been removed and for service providers to submit a complaint.

The adoption of the Council’s position at first reading follows a provisional agreement on the text reached between the Council presidency and the European Parliament on the 10th of December 2020. The legal act now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament at second reading before being published in the EU Official Journal. The regulation will come into force on the twentieth day following its publication and start applying one year later.

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Mexico set to legalise marijuana

A few weeks ago, lawmakers in Mexico approved a bill to legalise recreational marijuana, a milestone for the country, which is in the throes of a drug war and could become the world’s largest cannabis market, leaving the United States between two marijuana-selling neighbours.

The 316-to-129 vote in the Chamber of Deputies came more than two years after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the country’s ban on recreational marijuana was unconstitutional and more than three years after the country legalised medicinal cannabis.

The measure would allow adults to smoke marijuana and, with a permit, grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. It would also grant licenses for producers — from small farmers to commercial growers — to cultivate and sell the crop.

If enacted, Mexico will join Canada and Uruguay in a small but growing list of countries that have legalised marijuana in the Americas, adding further momentum to the legalisation movement in the region. In the United States, Democrats in the Senate have also promised to scrap federal prohibition of the drug this year.

Security experts agree that the law’s practical impact on violence will likely be minimal: with 15 American states having now legalised marijuana, they argue, the crop has become a relatively small part of the Mexican drug trafficking business, with cartels focusing on more profitable products like fentanyl and methamphetamines.

Proponents of legalising marijuana contend that the bill is too limited in scope, even if it represents a symbolic breakthrough in the push to end a drug war that has cost an estimated 150,000 lives.

The bill mandates that small farmers and indigenous people be given priority in licensing, but stipulates only that these vulnerable groups can be granted more than one license.

With more than 120 million people, Mexico would represent the largest marijuana market in the world by population. The crop could become big business in Mexico, a potential financial lift for an economy badly battered by the coronavirus crisis.

Some activists fear that the law will overly favour large corporations, giving them access to the entire marijuana supply chain, from seed to sale, while leaving small-scale producers and vendors locked out of the lucrative market.

The bill in Mexico would allow individual users to carry up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow six cannabis plants at home. Cannabis could also be purchased by adults over 18 at authorised businesses and grown at a larger scale by licensed groups. Medical marijuana, which Mexico legalised in 2017, would be regulated separately by the Health Ministry.

Local activists say the restrictions on possession will limit the bill’s impact, particularly for low-income consumers, who may fall prey to extortion from the police, a regular occurrence in Mexico.

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The state of Oregon has decriminalised all drugs

Oregon became the first US state to decriminalise the possession of all drugs on the 3rd of November 2020.

Measure 110, a ballot initiative funded by the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group, passed with more than 58% of the vote. Possessing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs for personal use is no longer a criminal offence in Oregon.

These drugs are still against the law, as is selling them. But possession is now a civil – not criminal – violation that may result in a fine or court-ordered therapy, not jail. Marijuana, which Oregon legalised in 2014, remains fully legal.

There are three main arguments for this major drug policy reform.

1. Drug prohibition has failed

The ostensible rationale for harshly punishing drug users is to deter drug use. But decades of research have found the deterrent effect of strict criminal punishment to be small, if it exists at all. This is especially true among young people, who account for the majority of drug users.

The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate and among the highest rates of illegal drug use. Roughly 1 in 5 incarcerated people in the United States is serving time for a drug offence.

Because criminalising drugs does not really prevent drug use, decriminalising does not really increase it. Portugal, which decriminalised the personal possession of all drugs in 2001 in response to high illicit drug use, has much lower rates of drug use than the European average.

2. Decriminalisation puts money to better use

Arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for drug-related crimes is expensive.

The Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that total government drug prohibition-related expenditures were US$47.8 billion nationally in 2016. Oregon spent about $375 million on drug prohibition in that year.

Oregon will now divert some of the money previously used on drug enforcement to pay for a dozen new drug prevention and treatment centres statewide, which has been found to be a significantly more cost-effective strategy. Some tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales, which exceeded $100 million in 2019, will also go to addiction and recovery services.

3. The drug war targets people of colour

Another aim of decriminalisation is to mitigate the significant racial and ethnic disparities associated with drug enforcement.

Illegal drug use is roughly comparable across race in the US. But people of colour are significantly more likely to be searched, arrested and imprisoned for a drug-related offence. Drug crimes can incur long prison sentences.

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The European Council adopts conclusions on the digital future of Europe

In December 2020, the European Council approved conclusions that acknowledge the increased use of consumer products and industrial devices connected to the internet and the related risks for privacy, information security and cybersecurity.

It believes connected devices, including machines, sensors and networks that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), will play a key role in further shaping Europe’s digital future.

The conclusions set out priorities to address this crucial issue and to boost the global competitiveness of the EU’s IoT industry by ensuring the highest standards of resilience, safety and security.

They also underline the importance of assessing the need for horizontal legislation in the long term to address all relevant aspects of the cybersecurity of connected devices, such as availability, integrity and confidentiality. This would include specifying the necessary conditions for placement on the market.

Some of the conclusions reached are:

  • That the European Union and its Member States need to ensure their digital sovereignty and strategic autonomy, while preserving an open economy.
  • That in addition to ensuring a high level of security of connected devices, it is equally important to increase consumer awareness of their potential privacy and security risks.
  • That there is a need to establish cybersecurity norms, standards or technical specifications for connected devices and efforts undertaken by European Standards Organisations in this matter should be strengthened.
  • That cybersecurity and privacy must be an essential part of product innovation, production and development processes, including the design phase, and must be guaranteed throughout a product’s entire life cycle and across its supply chain.

Lastly, cybersecurity certification, as defined under the Cybersecurity Act, will be essential for raising the level of security within the digital single market. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity, ENISA , is already working on cybersecurity certification schemes, and the conclusions invite the Commission to consider a request for candidate cybersecurity certification schemes for connected devices and related services.

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Mexico approves the National Public Security Strategy

Mexico DFThe strategy was presented by the head of the Security and Public Protection Office, Alfonso Durazo, who was responsible for presenting the document, for the first time to the Republic’s Senate, containing measures to be taken by the federal government to guarantee the security of Mexicans.

The document establishes that the objective of the strategy is to attack the structural origin of crime, organised crime, violence and, in general, all aspects that may pose a risk to public security.

This strategy aims to align efforts in terms of security, where the State’s legitimate force will be used in a framework of legality, democratic principles and respect for human rights.

The strategy consists of eight lines of action, which include the fight against corruption, the promotion of Human Rights and reformulating the debate against drugs, bearing in mind the legalisation of some of these.

It also foresees a social and pacifying focus for the country, with the creation of a Council for the Construction of Peace, to work on such issues. Among other actions, it also raises the idea of recovering and dignifying penitentiary facilities.

The strategy in the area of public and national security, anticipates the dignifying and improving of the forces of law enforcement to reinforce state coordination – municipalities, along with the formation and use of the National Guard with a conception of civil command affiliated to the Security and Public Protection Office. This could reinforce attention in those municipalities where there are situations of imminent violence or risk.

With the opposition of PAN and PRI senators, the verdict passed by the majority states that political and social violence can only be resolved with dialogue, rationality, transparency and with public decisions that respond to social demands.

Moreover, it recognises that the emergency situation being experienced by the country requires commitment and responsibility on the part of the Mexican state, with the participation and coordination of the three government levels and authorities.

They also present the idea of having a better institutional coordination between those responsible for applying it, imposing order on the government to put an end to corruption, impunity and influence peddling.

It also foresees improvements in the area of Civil Protection, which will take action to recover and support the population in disaster-related situations, and strengthen the area of intelligence, seeking to preserve social cohesion and to strengthen government institutions.

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The Brexit agreement draft: how will this affect legal and police cooperation between the United Kingdom and the member states?

On 14 November 2018, the European Commission published the first agreement draft that the British government led by Theresa May has managed to reach, regarding the Brexit question. May appeared at 10 Downing Street to announce support for the agreement on behalf of her cabinet, a task that was by no means easy for the Prime Minister, due to the division that the Brexit negotiations have caused the British government. The Prime Minister defined it as “the best agreement that could have been negotiated”. Now, with the blessing of the two main protagonists, the text must be passed by the leaders of the 27 member states, who received the text on the day of its publication, and by the British Parliament, a step that is expected to be even more complicated than the previous ones.

The draft resolves some of the main uncertainties that arose with the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union: the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the status of European citizens resident in the UK and of British citizens living on the continent, control of Gibraltar, the United Kingdom’s financial obligations and the commercial agreement. Apart from these subjects of great relevance and general interest, the agreement also devotes some pages to determine the disconnection of the United Kingdom in the area of police and legal collaboration.

Article 62 of the agreement establishes the continuity of collaboration in legal cases of judicial processes between the European Union and the United Kingdom during the transition period of withdrawal from the Union. Therefore, the process of execution of European arrest warrants will continue to be the same as present, until at least 31st December 2021, when the withdrawal transition period from the Union by the United Kingdom is expected to be completed. In such a way, the agreements established by the Council of Justice and Interior of the European Union will be upheld.

Similarly, during the transition period, the process of exchange of information referring to police records and penal records will continue to be the same as before the application of the Brexit initiative, via the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), in order to streamline court proceedings in penal terms for the different member states of the Union. Once the transition period is completed, the ECRIS will stop functioning as a mechanism of information exchange between the United Kingdom and the remaining member states.

The same article also foresees the participation of the competent UK authorities in those investigation teams already in operation before the end of the transition process, with the same aim of consolidating cooperation between member states of the Union in penal cases. In order to finalise ongoing legal proceedings, Eurojust can continue to provide the UK with information and vice versa.

The agreement also foresees mechanisms for police activities and cooperation in United Kingdom territory and that of state members that the United Kingdom is involved with. These are established in article 63 of the draft.

Apart from the agreements in terms of police and judicial cooperation already mentioned, article 156 of the draft of the agreement establishes that the United Kingdom is obliged to continue to contribute, until the end of the transition period in December 2021, to the financing in accordance with Gross National Income (GNI) of different European agencies dedicated to security and defence issues: the European Defence Agency, the Institute of Security Studies of the European Union, the Centre of Satellites of the European Union. It will also have to continue to meet the proportional part of costs, in accordance with its Gross National Product (GNP) of the EU’s Common Policy operations of Security and Defence.

These contributions will have to be made in accordance with the principle of complete cooperation and good faith, established by article 5 of the draft. Both parts must take the necessary measures to ensure obligations arising from the Brexit agreement are fulfilled.

In the following link you can find the complete draft of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland withdrawal agreement from the European Union and from the European Atomic Energy Union, published on 14 November 2018:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/betapolitical/files/draft_withdrawal_agreement_0.pdf

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Some measures against terrorism become permanent in France

The President of the French Republic passed, last 30 October 2017, Law 2017-1510, to reinforce internal security and fight against terrorism. The norm took effect the following day, when it was published in the Official Journal. The immediate consequence was the conclusion of the state of emergency in which France had lived since 13 November 2015. The new law makes some measures applied during the state of emergency permanent and specifies others to reduce their effects on civil rights.


The most noteworthy measures are:

  • To establish perimeters of protection to give support to events or venues with a high level of exposure (sports, cultural events…).
  • To allow for the closure of places of worship that incite or advocate terrorism or incite hatred and discrimination.
  • To allow the administrative authority to implement controls and measures for individual monitoring of persons who may be a particularly serious threat.
  • To allow government delegates to order, with prior legal authorisation, the monitoring of places frequented by persons linked to terrorism.
  • To allow for administrative investigations to be carried out on civil servants at risk of being radicalised.
  • To carry out identity checks in border areas and at a perimeter of 10 Kms from airports and international railway stations.
  • To adapt French law to the Passenger Name Record (PNR)[1].
  • To extend the length and the perimeter of control of border areas.
  • To introduce a new system to monitor communications.
  • To create a new penal offence: parents who incite their children to commit terrorist acts or to travel abroad for this reason will incur a sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of 225,000€. They may also lose parental power.

According to official sources of the French government, this legal reform is motivated by the necessity to adapt the legal corpus to fight effectively against terrorism within the framework of common law and end the state of emergency the country was exposed to. It is important to remember that the state of emergency in France was conceived as a way of addressing exceptional circumstances when need be; limiting the exercise of certain public freedoms like freedom of assembly and demonstration; finally, it gave the administration special powers over common law.

Links of interest:

http://www.gouvernement.fr/action/renforcer-la-securite-interieure-et-la-lutte-contre-le-terrorisme

http://www.gouvernement.fr/lutte-contre-le-terrorisme-le-passenger-name-record-pnr-c-est-quoi-4433

http://www.gouvernement.fr/action/renforcer-la-securite-interieure-et-la-lutte-contre-le-terrorisme

[1] A record of the names of passengers who enter or leave French territory by sea or by air in order to allow for a better monitoring of risk-related movements.

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The long-awaited public security law arrives in Italy

After over fifteen years of having contrasted the need to regulate in the area of public safety, last 20 February the Decree law num.14 was passed with urgent public security provisions. The new regulations apply to the whole country; indeed, it is passed as an instrument of cooperation between the state, regions and localities. It seems to organise a kind of governance of public security to ensure that different territorial levels have to abide by cooperation agreements in this area. It is based on the concept of a considerably wide scope of “public security”, which reflects contributions from the latest related literature, which insists on mainstreaming security.

The legal text defines urban security as a public resource which encompasses cohabitation and decorum in cities (art. 4). In order to maintain this resource, actions aimed at the reclassification of degraded areas must be undertaken, marginalising factors and social exclusion must be eliminated, crime must be prevented, social cohesion must be promoted and the law must be respected. The state, regions and municipalities must collaborate in this type of interventions in accordance with their competences.

After this definition, the legal area would be revolutionised,[1] most measures included in the text, as some critics have stated,[2] are traditional ones, of a sanctioning nature or of situational prevention. For example, the power of mayors is increased in order to limit the timetable  for the sale of alcoholic drinks (art. 8) or it establishes the distancing of railway lines, airports, shipping and public transport from people who disrupt them or who prevent others from using them (art. 9). This measure seems to have been imported from sports regulations, which already foresaw the possibility of stopping those who have behaved violently from entering stadiums.

If this behaviour was repeated, the questor, the provincial public security authority in Italy, can ban entry into such venues for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 5 years.

The text also foresees the possibility of prohibiting certain professional activities for people who have been found guilty of certain types of crime, such as drug trafficking. The prohibition may include a ban on entering places related with these activities and parking in the neighbourhood (art. 13).

There are also specific powers attributed to the prefectes, state representatives in the province, which may give priority to vacating occupied buildings if they believe that its occupation endangers public safety. In this case, they can request the effective intervention of the police to ensure that it is vacated (art.11).

Everything suggests that the Decree Law will be validated soon by Parliament (possibly when this text is published it will have been passed), because other factors could lead to the fall of the government, bearing in mind the complicated political situation at the moment in Italy. Whether the opposition will ask for a commitment to modify it in the future remains to be seen.

[1] This is not so in the regulatory area, as ex-minister Maroni had already defined the Decree of 5 August 2008 in a similar way, a practice questioned by the Constitutional Court.

[2] See, for example, the brief article of Gian Guido Nobili in the magazine Il Mulino.

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New norms to regulate drones to guarantee safety and privacy in the European Union

Drones, small remote-controlled aircraft, can be used to take photographs from the air, film a football match from the air, spread herbicides and pesticides over crops and monitor forest fires. Despite their usefulness, they are also a risk to air safety and privacy.

The Transport Commission of the European Union gave its support to these new norms put forward by the European Commission to guarantee safety and privacy in the EU.

drone-407393_1920At present, drones weighing less than 150 kilos are regulated nationally. In the EU, the regulating framework is fragmented: different certificates and technical and safety standards, which cause a real headache for operators and transnational manufacturers. Members of the European Parliament want basic prerequisites which drones weighing less than 150 kilos have to comply with to be included in EU legislation to ensure coherence and clarity. Furthermore, they ask for an obligatory record of drones weighing more than 250 grams and demand that operators have the necessary skills to pilot a crewless plane in a public domain.

This way, most toy drones, which are currently the most commonplace, will not be affected by this prerequisite.

The present characteristics of the various national regulations concerning drones are the following:

  • Civil drones: different countries, different regulations. A drone is a crewless aircraft which is permitted as long as it is remote controlled, but it is still not authorised to operate if it is completely automated.
  • In most countries, crewless planes weighing over 20-25 kilos need special authorisation (record, flight permit, pilot’s licence and technical assessment).
  • Drones are regulated nationally if they weigh from 0 to 150 kilos, whereas if they are more than 150 kilos they are regulated by the European Union.
  • Small civil drones weighing less than 25 kilos are the most popular. In the European Union, during 2015 1.7 million were sold, 98% of which weighed less than 2 kilos.
  • At present there are over 3 millions drones in use -according to estimations made in several EU countries-, excluding “toys” and model aircraft.
  • The maximum flying capacity also differs depending on the country. The most restrictive is Belgium, with 90 metres. Spain is mid-table with a permitted height of 125 metres, and other countries like France and Italy permit a maximum of 150 metres.
  • Concerning the distance deemed to be safe as far as buildings, persons or vehicles is concerned,this is at least 50 metres.

Links of interest:

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