ENCOD BULLETIN OF DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
PLANNING THE GREEN REVOLUTION
From 21 to 23 June, the Encod General Assembly of Members took place in Bermeo, Basque Country, Spain. The GA was attended by more than 30 activists from 10 countries, all working to defend the rights of consumers and producers, and in order to strengthen drug policies that benefit society as a whole.
The environment could hardly have been better. Bermeo is a small town at the Basque coast, kept safe with only 3 police officers on duty per night. Urjogabardea, the local Cannabis Social Club, had obtained full cooperation of local authorities to organize the Assembly in a community building on the town’s central square.
The timing played in our favour as well. On June 23d, the day after the shortest night of the year, the people of Bermeo traditionally burn the witches, the bad spirits that remain from the past. They believe that doing so enables them to start the new year afresh. We followed their advice and developed lots of ideas and concrete plans to start working on from July onwards.
First of all, we will focus on the European Parliament elections that will take place in May 2014. Given the failure of the European Commission to create a genuine forum for dialogue with civil society on drug policies, we will turn our efforts to those who genuinely represent civil society in Brussels. Later this year, we plan to organize a meeting in the European Parliament to advocate for more Public Health, Human Rights and Transparency in European drug policies. We will map the opinions of the MEP candidates on current drug policies and possible alternatives, and on the basis of the results, mobilise people to vote. The Encod website will undergo a facelift in the next few months, so it can serve as a campaign instrument.
Secondly, we will steer our energy towards Vienna. Chances are real that in 2016, when the UN will devote a Special Session of its General Assembly to the drug issue, a serious revision of the current course of drug policies may occur, allowing for more flexible interpretations of international conventions. Even without Encod doing anything, the war on drugs will reach its end. But if we want to be sure that the policies that will be adopted afterwards will take into account the interests of both consumers and small scale producers, we cannot afford to refrain from further action.
In the coming months, a team of people led by the Vienna based members of Encod will work hard to convince sponsors to support an event in Vienna during the days of the CND in March 2014. This may either be a mass demonstration or a silent action in front of the UN building. At the least, the next Encod General Assembly will take place in Vienna during the weekend before the CND.
Encod members in Bermeo
Thirdly, we will continue to promote the Cannabis Social Club as a model to organise the cannabis market in Europe. The good news is that in several countries the existence of CSC’s in Belgium and Spain serves to inspire people. Once it is not a criminal offense for an individual to grow at least one plant, logic dictates that under the right political climate you can get to a Cannabis Social Club and all the benefits it offers.
In France the CSC movement has to make a choice; either come out in the open or continue underground until enough clubs exist everywhere. France has some of the strictest cannabis laws in Europe and after intense pressure from government, five would be clubs dissolved on 20 June 2013. This left the 2nd option, to go underground.
In Slovenia, changes to the law allowed the creation of CSC’s, however, they are required to have ministry of health supervision. Currently clubs wish to remain independent.
Fredrick Polak stepped down after being Encods president for 4 years
Germany has the largest population in Europe so the stablishment of CSC’s here would be a major coup for the movement. Cultural differences come into play as German society is not one that tolerates grey areas in the law (unlike Spain, Netherlands and Belgium). There are many underground growers throughout the country but they are not likely to come out into the open. The most likely way forward is for people to build petitions and lobby their political parties. One medicinal user has recently gone through the courts and is the first person to be allowed to grow his own cannabis at home. There is a condition though, he must secure his house at a cost of 14k EURs. As per the German way progress is being made slowly and thoroughly. This will mean if laws are created that allow CSC’s to operate they will be very clear and will no doubt offer a solid framework for other countries to follow.
In the UK, many groups claim to be Cannabis Social Clubs. Around 80 such groups exist around the UK (be it mostly on Facebook). Police say cannabis is pretty much decriminalised, however “pretty much” is not enough to convince people to come out in the open with cannabis clubs. The government has said they will clamp down on such organizations. Leaving the market open for criminals instead.
Italy is a grim place to be a cannabis consumer. Italian politicians have installed one of the strictest drug laws in Europe and their prisons are well beyond capacity. You can go to jail for possession for personal use for amounts over just 5 grams. Under this climate it is impossible to open a Cannabis Social Club, though efforts to set up one for medicinal users are underway.
In Austria people are allowed to grow for their own use. This opens the door to the Cannabis Club model. The main political party wants to decriminalize cannabis. Activists are working with lawyers to cooperate with local authorities to get CSC’s running and avoid prosecution for those running the clubs.
The local council of the Dutch city of Utrecht likes the idea of Cannabis Social Clubs so much they announced their desire to start one in the near future. They are working on ways to ensure that the founders will not wind up in jail, as it is still illegal to grow in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, in Belgium and Spain, Cannabis Social Clubs flourish, as do other initiatives that make use of the legal margin created by them. During the Assembly we discussed the possibility of converting Encod into a European Federation of CSC’s, but we quickly discarded that idea. We are neither able nor willing to play the role of judge in this matter. We welcome all initiatives that wish to bring cannabis from producers to consumers in a sound, safe and transparent way, but we specifically promote the concept of the Cannabis Social Club, which we defined more concretely in a new set of principles. Among other efforts we will try to bring together European lawyers interested to elaborate a succesfull strategy to defend the CSC concept in front of a judge in their own country.
The new SC: Janko Belin, David Rosse, Has Cornelissen, Enrico Fletzer, Derrick Bergman, with Joep Oomen and Beatriz Negrety
Finally the General Assembly elected a new Steering Committee. In the coming two years it will consist of David Rosse (Austria), Derrick Bergman and Has Cornelissen (Netherlands), Enrico Fletzer (Italy) and Janko Belin (Slovenia). From now on, chairmanship of the SC will rotate every 6 months. Derrick Bergman has been appointed as the first chair.
The SC will be supported by an inner circle of Encod members – hopefully at least one per country – who will participate intensively in one of the areas Encod works in. In the coming weeks, the SC will elaborate a strategy on how to involve inner circle and all other members in next year’s plan of action. To be continued.
By Joep Oomen (with the help of Bill Griffin and Peter Webster)