ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
SPEEDING UP THE INEVITABLE
It has been a busy three months for Encod: between September and November we were present at cannabis fairs in Spain, Austria and Czech Republic and at the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, as part of the ‘Help Us End the War on Drugs‘ campaign.
The campaign proved to be a good way to connect with activists for drug law reform from all over Europe and beyond and to get our message out to a lot of companies and citizens. Simply put: now that the end of the drug war seems to be approaching fast, we need to make sure that new ways of regulation or legalization of drugs will put the interest of ordinary citizens in first place. As far as cannabis is concerned: freedom to farm should be a part of any form of regulation. The right to “grow your own” will prevent companies and governments from obtaining a monopoly on production. It is great news that the government of Uruguay has included the right to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for personal use in their new law.
At the Expo Grow in Irun last September, Julio Calzada, head of the National Drugs Board of Uruguay, presented the ground breaking new cannabis law. Asked about the 40 gram a month limit for cannabis, he explained that medicinal users will be able to get more cannabis if they need it. He added that for non-medicinal use 40 grams was the limit to prevent Uruguayans “from staring at their bellybutton all day long”. A few weeks later Calzada announced the price at which legal cannabis will be sold in Uruguay: one US dollar per gram. As British newspaper The Guardian reported Uruguay will be “the first country in the world where the sale of cannabis will not only become legal and government-controlled, but at around $1 a gram probably also the one with the most affordable marijuana anywhere.”
Cannafest in Prague provided the opportunity to learn more about the cannabis revolution in the United States. One of the speakers was Steve de Angelo, executive director of the largest cannabis dispensary in the world, Harborside Health Center in California. In his speech, he stressed the fact that legalization of cannabis is inevitable and posed a series of interesting questions: “It’s not a question of if or when, this process is happening now in the United States. It’s a question of how and what the industry is going to look like. How are we going to describe cannabis? How are we going to market cannabis? How are we going to teach children about cannabis? What does responsible use of cannabis look like? What types of organizations should we license to sell it and how should they sell it? How should it be grown and where? What type of environmental control should be on it? What type of packaging, what type of labeling? Should it be tested and what should it be tested for? Should it be grown organically? What does that mean? All of these questions are now being worked out. We are seeing the birth of a whole new legal industry in the United States.”
Another American speaker, Doug Fine, author of the must-read book ‘Too High To Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution’, started a three week European tour at Cannafest. He too is convinced that cannabis prohibition will be a thing of the past within five years. ‘We can’t have this nonsense anymore of valuable police resources devoted to stamping out a plant that is safer than alcohol’, as he told the audience in Prague. Fine brought his message of the coming era of drug peace to five countries, speaking at nine events in the Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Discussing the setbacks in Europe, like the crackdown on growshops in the Czech Republic in the week before Cannafest, he said that these are examples ‘of the drug warriors mining the harbor as they retreat’. In other words: the last desperate measures of politicians and law enforcers who know that they have lost the war on drugs, but are trying to cause as many delays and problems as they can.
For Europe the monumental changes in the United States and Uruguay are good news for a number of reasons. First they prove that regulation and even legalization is possible, despite the international drug treaties. Second these changes will demonstrate that regulation of illegal drugs produces better results in every way, compared to prohibition. And last but not least: the United States are no longer ‘the bully’ of international drug policy. As Doug Fine put it: ‘We started the war on drugs -sorry about that- but at least we are ending it now.’ We have seen the debate over cannabis prohibition heat up in Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands recently, with more and more scientists, health professionals and (local) politicians actively supporting regulation or legalization.
At the Encod hearing in the European Parliament on December 6, activists from all over Europe will discuss the campaign for the European Elections in May next year. We will also discuss and plan the Encod action at the UNODC in Vienna in March 2014. If we want to speed up the inevitable end of the drug war, we need a healthy, growing organization. So if you’re not an Encod member yet, please consider a membership. And if you are already a member, try to get friends and colleagues on board. Together we can end the drug war and work towards just and effective drug policies in Europe.
By Derrick Bergman