ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
Time to grow up
From 26 to 28 September, the Encod General Assembly of Members took place in Art Center Goricko, Slovenia. The GA was attended by 23 activists from 7 countries, all eager to promote drug policies that take into account the rights of consumers and producers, and benefit society as a whole.
The road to Goricko is long and winding, but the destination makes it all worthwhile. The Art Center is surrounded by beautiful forests and farmland, and due to the proximity of the border with Hungary – the former iron curtain – the atmosphere in the region can best be compared to that of a no man’s land; in short, the perfect environment for an Encod General Assembly.
On the first day, we listened to the reports on the situation in each country from people who follow the drug debate closely. We elected a new member of the Steering Committee, now that both David Rosse and Has Cornelissen have resigned due to personal reasons. From now on Elina Hanninen of HPP, Finland, will join Derrick Bergman, Enrico Fletzer and Janko Belin in leading the organization. The final suggestion of Has Cornelissen to increase our fundraising pleas to a selected list of large US companies and organizations working in drug policy reform was approved.
The second day started with an overview of the situation of Cannabis Social Clubs in Europe. We learned that apart from Spain and Belgium, where CSC’s are operating legally, concrete initiatives to set up Cannabis Social Clubs are well underway in Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and the Netherlands. In Austria, as in the UK and Germany, CSC’s are until now mere political initiatives meant to gather activists around a concrete perspective that could obtain public support. In France, a first effort to set up a CSC that would be legally recognized by the authorities failed in 2013, but that has not hindered activists across the country to embrace the concept as a mechanism to organize a closed, small scale distribution circuit to avoid the black market. French activists proudly presented ‘Bud revolution’ a soft ware programme to administer a CSC.
Also in Italy, various Cannabis Social Clubs operate in a clandestine way, but it seems to be a question of time before the first group will officially present itself and initiate the legal battle to trash cannabis prohibition. In Slovenia, two groups are operating publicly under the title Cannabis Social Club, but their legal status is somewhat unclear. Finally, in the Netherlands several groups have announced their intention to elaborate the CSC concept, which has obtained the support of the city governments of Utrecht and, perhaps soon, Amsterdam.
Especially the clubs that operate without permission of the government seem to benefit from the fact that a European coordination legitimates the concept. Encod can not act as an agency for certification and control of Cannabis Social Clubs, but it can empower existing and future CSCs in various ways.
First of all by organising a source of experiences, ideas, tools, as well as other items that can be useful for starting CSC’s. We aim to create and improve the legal defense of CSC’s with the help of lawyers and law students from across Europe who are willing to defend the CSC concept in court. And we plan an information campaign in order to obtain clear exposure of the Cannabis Social Club concept as it has been formulated in the Code of Conduct. Special emphasis will be given to the ‘not for profit’ character of CSC’s.
We will update the website on European CSCs that was created by Richard Rainsford, a German Encod member, some years ago. All clubs that will be listed there have to declare themselves that they follow the CSC code of conduct. We consider to offer the service of an ’(Om)budsman’ to individual members of these CSCs who can turn to Encod if they believe their club is not following the code of conduct.
Among the responsabilities of a CSC is the support of (inter-)national activism, as a recognition of the fact that without activists, this step forward would never have been possible. Encod proposes a fixed contribution of each CSC on the basis of at least 2 euro per member per year to divide between national and european activism.
But Encod is much more then only cannabis social clubs. Our eyes are fixed on the UNGASS in June 2016, where a major breakthrough is expected in the history of the UN Conventions on Drugs. In stead of insisting on tools of repression, the UN should insist on tools of enlightenment, such as respect for human rights and dignity, sustainability and health protection. It is time to grow up as a global community, the years of blind obedience have ended.
In the coming weeks, we will contact the Drug Policy Alliance and other organizations in New York and offer them our collaboration for the preparation of a public event that will put pressure on the decision-makers at the UNGASS in order to do the right thing. We hope to mobilise hundreds of activists in Europe and other continents to be part of this event. A working group will be formed to follow up on this initiative and Encods participation at the CND in Vienna in March 2015.
Meanwhile we plan to involve the 18 MEP’s who signed the Encod Manifesto for Safe and Health Drug Policies to support our request to re-consider the ten years old Catania report as the most recent recommendation on drug policy of the European Parliament to the EU. We are in contact with the secretariat of the Greens in the EP to put forward this request in an adequate way.
Finally, the French delegation offered to organize the next General Assembly in the south of France – dates and venue will be confirmed in January.
Text: Joep Oomen