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Farmability and pharmability: Transforming the drug market to a health-and human rights-centred approach from self-cultivation to safe supply of controlled substances

a doctor looking for a prescription


Fabian Pitter Steinmetz, Maja Kohek


May 3, 2022


The supply chains addressing the global demand for major recreational drugs are hardly addressed due to international contracts, particularly the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Currently applied regulatory changes have several disadvantages ranging from political tensions to the neglect of ecological aspects. The aim of this study is to show some implications associated with a transformation of the recreational drug market that is focused on self-supply of different categories of drugs. The concepts of “farmability”, the feasibility to cultivate relevant plants and fungi, and “pharmability”, the feasibility to refine materials to drugs by chemical synthesis, purification etc., are addressed.


68 drug experts were invited to fill out an online survey on the feasibility of self-supply of different categories of drugs. The online survey was a five-point Likert scale and had seven questions.


26 experts (38.2%) responded to the online questionnaire. Cannabinoids were considered easy to cultivate/manufacture, depressants and psychedelics were ranked with moderate difficulty, opioids and stimulants were regarded as difficult to cultivate/manufacture, and empathogens/entactogens and dissociatives were ranked very difficult. The study found that some controlled substances, in particular cannabis, could be decriminalised without the need for a commercial market. However, some drug categories, such as dissociatives and empathogens/entactogens, would require the establishment of professional manufacturers. Psychedelics and depressants are ranked in between.


Different drugs are associated with different cultivation and/or manufacturing steps with contrasting difficulty levels. Those differences are likely to shape use prevalence to more accessible and safer drug markets which also decrease the involvement of organised crime groups. Hence, when decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use, it is therefore recommended to allow also for personal cultivation or cultivation within social clubs. This is particularly relevant for drugs with moderate to high farmability but also if pharmability is sufficiently high.

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues

For open-access to the full report of this research, see below:

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