UN delegates met in Vienna for delegations and negotiations of an outcome document to be adopted by the general assembly in New York at the special session in 19-21 april - THE UNGASS. 

ECAD organized a side event on Cannabis legalization along with partners. The key message of the event was to highlight the birth of a new legal and commercialized cannabis industry that targets youngsters, fights regulation and promotes drug use to gain consumers in the US and beyond. The negative health effects for developing countries mirrors those from tobacco and alcohol industries aggressively seeking new markets. There is also a clear breach of international obligations since the conventions require signatories to restrict use of narcotic drugs to medical and scientific purposes only. Denying cannabis legalization is not to deny that there are no room for improvement of global drug policy however. ECAD secretary general concluded the side event with his view on how to best progress international drug control into the 21th century. 

A statement was read to the CND delegates by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) President Kevin Sabet which can be read here

The World Health Organization recently published a comprehensive report on non-medical use of cannabis which is a must read for anyone interested in the subject

The speech by ECAD Secretary General can be read down below

Read more: ECAD at 59th Session of Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now more important than ever to maintain and expand upon drug control. But that can be done in smart way. There are as many ways to control drugs as there are member states in the UN but what all of them (should) have in common is the recognition that use of illicit drugs should be limited to medical and scientific purposes only. The current framework of drug control allow states flexibility to adjust their responses according to local specifies.

What must be pointed out however is that we have seen the effects of commercialization and non-medical drug use before drug control both in present times, in Colorado and before. The level of opiate consumption in the 19th century is unprecedented by today’s levels. In fact for all other drugs except cannabis the prevalence is not even one per cent. The drug control system is in this regards highly successful in containing the world drug problem.

Challenges to the international community blamed on drug control can and should be addressed within the current drug control system: 

- Criminal Justice Reforms in many countries have enabled alternative and smarter sanctions for criminal offenders with underlying substance abuse. Short term (harm reduction) measures to improve the health of those with substance abuse can be efficient but should not replace a strong commitment to recovery from addition.

- Prevention of initiation of drug use should be a primary goal of sound drug policy. Environmental prevention which aims to create sound and drug –free communities that prevent – don’t promote drug use.

- For countries plagued by drug traffickers and organized crime there is no shortcut. Institutions need to be strengthened, rule of law implemented, corruption addressed and development and/or alternative development facilitated.

All these actions are perfectly possible to take within the current framework of drug control. What is not in conformity with the spirit of the conventions is the simplistic call for (re)legalization of drugs, in this case Cannabis, which constitutes a regression (not progression) towards international cooperation and public health of mankind.

Let us expand upon and not discard the current regulatory system. Only thus can drug control be advanced in the 21th century. 

Erik Leijonmarck, Secretary General ECAD

The Fifth World Forum Against Drugs was held 12-13 March in Vienna in conjunction with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. ECAD Secretary General participated and moderated a panel discussion on the future of the world drug policy titled UNGASS and Beyond. 

WFAD president Sven Olof Carlsson held a speech titled Drug policies should prevent the initiation of drugs use.
The forum also adopted a statement calling for an end to non-medical use of cannabis. 

Photo by Slim Lidén
Read more: ECAD Participates at the fifth World Forum Against Drugs

Rehabilitation and Educational Centre Jegersberg i Kristiansand, Norway, slings its doors open for ECAD study visit early this summer. 

Read more: Study visit to Rehabilitation centre Jegersberg

It is a wonderful opportunity for ECAD members to visit a Rehabilitation centre that ECAD has been observing the formation of from the very beginning. Jegersberg has been influenced by San Patrignano Recovery community methodology but the Centre is very much adapted to the Norwegian style of life and culture.

Save 1st and 2nd of June in your calendar and join us at Jegersberg!

To take part in the study visit, please fill in the Booking Form here and send it back to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download Invitation to visit Jegersberg (PDF) here


A mixture of various perspectives (from the police and European Monitoring Agency to a user`s and NGO`s viewpoints) were given at ECAD organized conference in Riga to explain the popularity of new psychoactive substances in the Baltic Sea region. ECAD thanks Riga Stradins University for the smooth cooperation and advanced conference premises.

Chemically produced synthetic cannabinoid mixes under a generic name of Spice are widely known in Latvia as well as in Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Lithuania. These new psychoactive substances are not controlled by the UN Conventions and European law enforcement agencies had to fight with wind mills for almost a decade, chasing small dealers. At the same time, drug experts are warning about the unknown pharmacology and toxicology of the products starting the end of 2000-ies until today.Read more: ECAD takes up Spice issue in Riga
Many synthetic cannabinoid mixes were nothing new but unsuccessful pharmacological probes, taken in order to study certain receptors in the brain: CB1 and CB2, which are very important for chemical research, according to Rita Jorge, EMCDDA scientific analyst (Download conference presentation - UPDATED).

Already in 2009, EMCDDA listed Latvia along with the UK (biggest share, 42%), Romania and Ireland, as having the highest number of the online retailers selling spice mixtures. These substances became new to the retail market in Latvia, but were actually for sale in European webshops since 2007- 2008 and were strikingly cheap.
As its notorious popularity grew, numerous trading points got opened in Riga and its suburbs, selling small packages of mixes labelled “Spice”, “Yucatan Fire” etc., bearing no legal responsibility for the items that were available for anyone because of the low prices. Anyone, from young teenagers with no family support, coming from an orphanage, to well-off youngsters from the most prestigious high schools, could be the user. Students were selling to their peers at schools and person-to-person techniques proved to be more “efficient” for spread rather than selling via the webshops. On the top of that, aggressive marketing techniques were used, advertising intentionally misleading and mislabelled products (no mark of synthetic compounds in the ingredients of the packages).
The combination of these factors made synthetic cannabinoids popular and it reached the acme in Riga in the middle of 2013.
Estonian colleagues registered first spice intoxications in 2009 but were never really troubled by it to any notable extent. In Sweden, 2014 saw the occurrence of over 300 overdoses attributed to Spice (according to the data published by the Institute for Security and Development Policy).

In 2013, Riga had 59 officially registered small stores dealing with spice and its impact on the market was huge, the vast majority of the clients were underage, shared Andrejs Aronovs, Read more: ECAD takes up Spice issue in Riga Riga Municipal police Vice Chief, with the conference (picture). The practice of cooperating with the civil society, using You-Tube accounts and radio programmes to launch a warning campaign for the young, was a truly successful combination, admitted both the Police and Riga City Council representatives. Finally, rapid amendments in the criminal law system resulted in closing the Spice shops. After 6 months of counteracting, new administrative fines were introduced for very small amounts of synthetic mixes for consumption; while selling, dealing, producing and consuming in larger quantities turned into criminal offences overnight (on April 8, 2014).

Riga City Council Executive Director Juris Radzevics underlined the capacity of every society to draw its own drug policy. The Spice issue for Latvian citizens became a catalyst for change, sharpening prevention techniques as the issue of Spice-related intoxications and fatal outcomes for the young shocked Latvians and the society responded acutely.

The case of society mobilization in front of an epidemic of fatal drug intoxications in Latvia proved to be a classic case for applying risk and protection factors in prevention, said Anders Eriksson, one of the community prevention experts invited to the conference (Download conference presentation).

A striking user`s perspective was provided by Martin Dahlander, now free from Spice and other drugs for 696 days at the conference time. The near-to-death effects of Spice intoxication, the length of the “afterglow” and the types of synthetic cannabinoid mixtures one could buy using the dark web, were of special value for the EMCDDA`s scientific analyst present. After 11 years with Spice, the importance of a helping hand (CRIS; a powerful NGO assisting former addicts to return to a sober and crime-free life) and of someone who was totally dependent on Martin, was difficult to underestimate.

Latvian NGOs (www.StopDrugs.lv) admitted that it was mostly important to identify the dealers, but also to stand against the normalisation of drug use, as it seemed that everyone was using the mixes. In fact, one in six 15-16 year olds actually experimented, that made up to 5 users in each school class of 25-30 persons. One fact in common for all of the dealers was a defying demeanour, being outrageously shameless in order to smart out the law system. In that case, meeting the loathsome behaviour of the teenagers, many social workers chose to act out on the non-violent resistance parenting principles (to watch, to reflect, to support and to encourage), shared Inga Dreimane, the head of the Youth Centre “Pardaugava” (Download conference presentation).

Even if Latvian officials announce the “Spice-case” closed for the time being, the media and NGOs (www.StopDrugs.lv) still confirm the problem exists today. ECAD conclusion is that synthetic mixes need continuous monitoring in the neighbouring countries (Sweden, Norway) as it has become a legislative challenge for the drug policies in the countries of the region. Also Swedish Spice market needs to be examined for that purpose, and the project partners look forward to study visits and a conference in Stockholm to discover it this fall.

Conference Presentation materials:

"Understanding the "spice" phenomenon" (UPDATED!)  Rita Jorge, Scienttific Analyst, EMCDDA, Action on New Drugs Sector, Supply reduction and new drugs unit

"Prevention in Riga, how does it work?"  Vivita Kikule, Head of public Health Promotion and Prevention Unit, Riga City Council, Welfare Department
"An effective prevention: Stockholm city perspective and experience"  Anders Eriksson, Prevention Specialist, Prevention Centre Stockholm, Sweden

"Space up your life; what happened in Riga in 2013-2015"  Inga Dreimane, Prevention Specialist, Head of Structural Unit "Pardaugava"

"What can parents do to prevent drug and alcohol debuts?"  Jörgen Larsson, Idependent Prevention Expert

Triple R LogoECAD participates in a 2-year long EU project  (TRIPLE R) on the exchange of the best practice in the field of recovery between EU member states. The project aims at reducing recidivism and crime in regard to drug addiction and spreading the cost effective and productive models on drug Rehabilitation, social Reintegration and Reinsertion of the drug addicts.

 The project is run by San Patrignano Community, world`s largest therapeutic community for full recovery, which has been a partner for ECAD for many years.

Read more: EU Project: a visit to Ghent Drug Court

4 well-known international rehabilitation communities are involved in the project and this winter and spring all project partners will participate in 3 study visits and 2 workshops, implying mutual learning and best practice exchange. The project has a pilot phase to be implemented later in Croatia, involving 3 different NGOs helping drug addicts.

The first study visit was made to the city of Ghent in Belgium on February 1-4, 2016, in order to investigate a unique practice of drug court`s in action. The visit was hosted by a Belgian NGO Popov GGZ, a consultation platform on mental health, including addiction.

Read more: EU Project: a visit to Ghent Drug Court

We were welcome in Ghent City Hall and met the city Drug Policy Coordinator, Mr Filip De Sager, Provincial Drug Policy Coordinator, Mr. Bert Mostien and the heart of the Ghent Drug Court system, its liaison coordinator Mr. Alphonse Franssen (the three gentelmen pictured closer below from left to right).

Read more: EU Project: a visit to Ghent Drug Court

The unique concept of Ghent Drug Court system is allowing a treatment to take place before any sentence or a verdict has been stated and a crime registered. The attitude of a judge at a Drug Court is thus strict but highly motivating, approving of a personal achievement and not moralizing about an addict. Also, crimes involving the use of alcohol are a matter of drug courts.
The system has been in use for 7-8 years in East Flanders and implies efficient local communication between the drug court and treatment facilities, performed by liaison officers. The region of East Flanders has 5800 beds for outpatient treatment and 3200 beds for inpatient treatment to avail for the system. As in other Drug Court models, all prosecuted are supposed to follow the urine testing procedure every 2 weeks. The judge emphasizes the gruesomeness of the sentence if the treatment fails, which is an impetus to motivation for the treatment.

East Flanders with its 4 million inhabitants has 4 emergency centres and 5 crisis centres to offer for 300 people annually. There are 3 therapeutic communities in the area of Ghent and 5 in the whole country. The beds are often subsidized by Belgian federal government; also, 15% of the drug treatment subsidies come from the provincial government.
East Flanders uses an Integrated Treatment System, which became an evolution within the drug policy since 1998. The ITS consists of a complete set of care and treatment programmes for illicit drug users, guaranteeing customized care and its continuity, organized in a network. The therapeutic ideologies within the treatment programmes had to give way for solving concrete problems of the clients, which led to respect, shared vision and investigation of services available to make the treatment effective.

Ghent City HallThe city of Ghent
applies a bottom-up approach to the drug policy, when the work priorities are chosen by the stakeholders of the local Drug Policy Steering Committee. The Committee consists of the police representatives, drug prevention sector of the city, NGO Popov GGZ, field workers, a mayor of Ghent and 3 deputies.
Also, Ghent city seeks for a solution-oriented approach, activating drug users and stressing the importance of a correct alcohol policy. These important features however do not necessarily define that a recovered drug user is substance-free.
Addiction care has efficiently become a matter of case management, a scientific basis for breaking the boundaries between often stiff drug policy agencies. This model was born out of concern for better service in crisis and emergency situations (to link clients to the right services), when continuity and support are extremely important. Case managers establish a contact with the clients, assessing their strengths and weaknesses and connecting the court system to the treatment services.

The first encounter with local drug policy coordinators revealed differences in the definition of “recovery” for the partners of the project, meaning a sustainability of condition of a drug user, prioritizing housing for the homeless users for our Belgian partners.

(Ghent City Hall)
Flemish Ministry of Health set Recovery as a main strategy, but that was not about sobriety or control
. Recovery in Belgium is about establishing a fulfilling, meaningful life. The point of case management is also keeping people in treatment, helping them indirectly to stay sober and to sustain recovery.
Our study visit framework involved visiting a number of treatment facilities, from a Crisis Intervention Centre De Sleutel, to the low-threshold Opstap centre, a Municipal Outreach Department for highly marginalized drug users. The range of treatment services is varied and is fully verified by the local data for demand for treatment. And the treatment demands in 2013 were mostly related to cannabis (33,5%) and opioids (30,6%), less to cocaine (15,6%).

A common definition of recovery is crucial for the project and for the dissemination of the best practices that implies a substance-free full recovery from drug addiction. There is a small discrepancy to take into consideration if we are to deliver the best project outputs.
The model of case management within the drug court system in Ghent is empirical and innovative with a scientific base from Ghent University.
ECAD looks forward to publishing and introducing a manual on the Ghent Drug Court system in English (and Italian, probably in some other languages) to national and international stakeholders of our network of the member cities.


ECAD's activities from year to year culminate in the annual ECAD Mayors Conference, hosted by a distinct ECAD member city every summer. Councillors and other politicians and policymakers convene with academics and civil society organizations to participate in seminars and study visits, discussing the latest developments in drug prevention efforts throughout Europe.


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ECAD 24th Mayors` Conference materials

On June 12-13, the city of Kaunas hosted ECAD 24th Annual Mayors`s Conference 2017

Safe Cities Without Drugs. Preventing, Protecting, Policing

Key-note speakers:

David W. Spencer, Field intelligence Manager, Drug Enforcement Agency, European Region

Supply reduction and dismantling drug trafficking organizations: In what ways can local communities benefit (PDF)

Kim Nilvall, Swedish National Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence section, Organized crime

Police work in socially disadvantaged areas in Sweden: Impact of drugs on urban crime (PDF)

 Torsten Stodiek, Deputy Head, Strategic Police Matters Unit, Community Policing Advisor, Transnational Threats Department, OSCE

Preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism and radicalisation that lead to terrorism:

A community and intelligence led policing approach (PDF)

Jon Sigfusson, Director for Icelandic Centre of Social Research and Analysis, Reykjavik University, ICSRA

Youth in Europe and Planet Youth (PDF)

Laimonas Vasiliauskas, Senior Specialist, Serious and Organized Crime Department, EUROPOL

European Illicit Drug Market (PDF)

 Antonio Boscini, Health Director, San Patrignano Community, Rimini, Italy

Recovery and social reinsertion: San Patrignano Community model extended (PDF)

a wall of participants



 Conference Booking Form

@ Rokas Tenys, the Kaunas Castle

Kaunas Castle
Picture: @Rokas Tenys

Warm welcome to Kaunas, Lithuania!

Archives of ECAD's mailed newsletters from 2003 until 2013. To subscribe to ECAD's new email-based newsletter, click here.
Official ECAD mission statements in six different European languages.
The ECAD Resolution, crafted at a conference to increase cooperation between cities, provides inspiration and hope for areas with particularly difficult drug problems. The signatories to the resolution will affirm their decision to fight against the spread of drugs.