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ID: HR23-949
Presenting author: Adria Cots Fernandez

Imminent danger: building harm reduction responses to prevent corporate capture in regulated drug markets

Adria Cots Fernandez, Marie Nougier, Martin Jelsma, Ann Fordham
Regulated adult markets for non-medical purposes have become a reality in the case of cannabis, and are entering the realm of mainstream policy discussions for other substances. These developments trigger concerns regarding how for-profit actors will capitalise on new business opportunities, what are the implications for public health and social justice , and what should be the response of communities that have mobilised for decades under the banner of harm reduction. To respond to this emerging challenge, lessons can be learned from irresponsible corporate behaviour in the pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol markets, and assessing the effectiveness of initial attempts to reduce the harms of corporate capture in cannabis markets.

Building on previous work by the authors (IDPC’s “Principles for responsible legal regulation” and TNI’s "fair(er) trade" options for the cannabis market), we will assess recent developments regarding corporate capture in regulated cannabis markets by leveraging the authors’ direct engagement in policy-making forums, complemented with a series of interviews with stakeholders (community representatives, policymakers, and industry actors). Desk research will be used to reflect on experiences in other industries.

This presentation will analyse the emerging dangers of corporate capture in regulated drug markets, and will evaluate how this has been addressed in other industries. By outlining possible harm reduction responses to this threat, it will seek to grow the conversation on how to ensure that regulated markets contribute to the principles of social justice, community-building, and public health that ground the harm reduction movement.

Drug policy reform has traditionally focused on a strong critique of the failures of prohibitive polices. While this remains valid, the harm reduction movement needs to also ensure that regulated drug markets do not perpetuate harmful practices prevalent in other legal markets, entrench the marginalisation of oppressed communities, and harm public health.