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Home > English (en) > Actions & Events > CAMPAIGNS > 2008 > UN DRUG CZAR EMBARRASSED BY A SIMPLE QUESTION
Published on 9 December 2008  by encod

UN DRUG CZAR EMBARRASSED BY A SIMPLE QUESTION

EMBARRASSMENT FOR UNITED NATIONS DRUG-CZAR COSTA



All the versions of this article: [English] [Nederlands] [italiano] [Português] [français]





Amsterdam – Antonio Maria Costa, the Italian Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, is seriously embarrassed because of a solo-action by Amsterdam psychiatrist Fredrick Polak. In an open letter published today, Polak demands an answer to a simple question. Despite earlier promises the global drug czar has been dodging the question for exactly one year.

“How do you explain the low level of cannabis use in the Netherlands compared to surrounding countries, despite its free availability in coffeeshops?”

On the internet two YouTube-videos show Costa avoiding the question time after time. To Polak the issue is of crucial importance as it falsifies the basic assumptions underlying drug prohibition. Therefore he continues to harass Costa with it.

Polak, board-member of ENCOD (European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies): “The primary objective of drug prohibition is reduction of consumption and addiction. However, the Dutch experience with coffeeshops of over thirty years has proved convincingly that without enforcement of this prohibition levels of use won’t skyrocket – which is what the drug warriors want us to believe. No wonder Costa is at a loss how to respond to the question.”

Reprimand

One year ago Polak first posed the question on a drug policy conference in New Orleans. Costa ignored it, but used the occasion to scold the Dutch government for “poisoning Europe” with amphetamines. That remark got Costa a reprimand from the Dutch government, at which he had to bite the dust and offer a letter of apology.

Nonetheless, at a second occasion in March 2008 in Vienna, Costa again avoided the question. This time he claimed that more than 2000 coffeeshops had already been closed, and that the city of Amsterdam had decided to move all coffeeshops “from the red light district to the borders with France, Belgium and Germany”. Polak: “Apparently Mr. Costa thought Holland (or Amsterdam) borders on France. And that figure was totally unfounded.”

Waste

Shortly thereafter, Costa checked in with the authorities in Amsterdam and The Hague for a “study mission” including a visit to coffeeshop De Dampkring (The Atmosphere). At the next conference in Barcelona Polak asked him about his findings. Polak: “This time Costa really went too far, claiming that Amsterdam has three times more cannabis addicts than anywhere else in Europe.” Costa promised a discussion paper with the scientific basis for this claim, to be published on his website “very soon”. Until today Costa hasn’t lived up to this promise nor has he answered Polak’s initial question. Reason for Polak to draw media attention to the affair.

Holland consistently scores low to average in Europe in drug consumption surveys. To Polak this justifies a call for the abolition of drug prohibition: “That will save us a lot of misery, and a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. What is the use of all the effort to enforce prohibition, when clearly it doesn’t diminish consumption?”

Polak concludes his open letter on a positive note, suggesting Costa (67) not to wait until after his retirement to acknowledge the failure of drug prohibition. “Doing so now would earn him eternal fame.”


The previous history to this open letter is shown in two short videos on the internet.

Silenced NGO Partner

Polaks’ Question Round 3 (with comments by dr. Alex Wodak, Sydney, Australia):





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The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, is a pan-European network of currently 160 NGO’s and individual experts involved in the drug issue on a daily base. We are the European section of an International Coalition, which consists of more than 400 NGOs from around the world that have adhered to a Manifesto for Just and Effective Drug Policies (established in 1998). Among our members are organisations of cannabis and other drug users, of health workers, researchers, grassroot activists as well as companies.


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