ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
There is something rotten in Scandinavia
Apart from Copenhagen’s relatively tolerant cannabis policy, most of Scandinavia seems to be among the last strongholds of the failed zero tolerance approach in Europe. But quite paradoxically, the ancient Scandinavian tradition of allmansrätten (everyman’s rights) that allows each human to roam around the country, to camp everywhere for the night, to set a fire and to fish for personal use, is an important sign of a pre-capitalist culture based on the commons. This principle coincides quite well with the essential non profit essence of the Freedom to Farm campaign establishing Cannabis Social Clubs launched by Encod. And even Sweden’s harsh drug policies paradoxically have something in common with the support of the coca leaf culture of Bolivian indigenous peoples when it comes down to defending the traditional use of snus, the local chewing tobacco which has been supposedly banned for health reasons in the European Union.
Regulations have also limited the use of the world’s smelliest food called surstrőmming, a kind of rotten herring traditionally canned by some Swedish fisheries. Carrying this fermented herring on an airplane is illegal, since it could easily explode. Apart from the way they taste, once open, these typical Swedish products according to many people might easily disrupt most normal human activities.
Last but not least, long before modern alcohol and drug prohibition was initiated, most of Scandinavia, with the exception of Iceland where the heathen culture has always been very strong, experienced a general ban on the consumption of horse meat. In order to attract followers of different cultures the Catholic church disliked any prohibition. But in 732, the very year of the important Battle of Tours opposing Christians and Muslims in southern France, the ban on horse meat consumption was considered very urgent, so as to protect horses meant for the defense of Christianity as a whole.
Consequently, the battle for the defense of western civilisation seems to recur in the modern Swedish war on drugs and the zero tolerance policies that were relaunched by Silvia, the Queen of Sweden.
In May 2014 Stockholm was turned into a safe haven of the last Mohicans by the local Mayor who hosted the World Forum Against Drugs together with the European Cities Against Drugs Mayors’ conference. The meeting became the major world event in support of drug prohibition and in the opposition to the regulation of cannabis. The Forum was arranged under the high patronage of Queen Silvia and ended up in a grand finale with Raymond Yans, the president of the INCB. Pippi Langstrumpf and her rebellious friends were not invited.
Many prohibitionists flocked to Sweden with the objective of maintaining the status quo at the oncoming UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs due to be held in New York, 2016. Be it representatives from Uganda, Malawi, Pakistan or Russia, the prohibitionist faction operates under the advice of some academics, judges, psychiatrists and treatment specialists who possibly feel threatened by regulatory drug policies.
Why is a highly civilized country like Sweden so fiercely opposed to drug regulation? Why is it trying to enforce a coalition with mostly undemocratic and disqualified opponents of a much needed paradigm shift in drug policies?
According the Swedish criminologist Henrik Tham, since the eighties Sweden ceased to be a ‘paradise on earth’ and the liberal ideas coming from southern and central Europe were rejected as they were considered alien to Swedish culture.
As a matter of fact, a similar development took place in some regions of North America when the temperance movement brought about a shift in the balance of political power in the eternal competition between the different elements of the Democratic and Republican Parties. It was also a time when women’s votes started to count. During the period of alcohol prohibition both in Scandinavia and North America, the female voters were slightly more oriented in favor of the temperance movement.
According to Hendrik Tham there has been “a generalized tendency in all EU states to enforce a harder line on criminal issues, although one could wonder why Sweden, known to be a relatively liberal country with regard to the approach to prison inmates and particularly to the containment of the imprisoned population, could develop such a draconian policy on drugs.”
One reason is due to the fact that historically, in Sweden and in general in the Scandinavian countries, there has always been a strong temperance movement that finally was able to achieve the total prohibition of alcohol consumption. The policy on drugs has inherited these tendencies. Alcohol laws are very tough and so are those on drugs.
But there is also another aspect to consider: in the eighties the myth of Sweden being a paradise on earth collapsed and in some way, it was considered necessary to re-establish a consensus on the drug issue, based upon what different approaches and different interests could agree upon. These efforts became an onslaught on the liberal political ideals, perceived as phenomena not belonging to Swedish culture, coming from the outside world.
At this point prohibitionists started to use several arguments in order to demonstrate that the drugs phenomenon was alien to Sweden. Furthermore in Sweden the concept of the social safety net is very strong, according to the social engineering of social democratic imprinting.
This is a policy that enjoys an important consensus and it is directed even against the harm reduction policies, since at the beginning of the third millennium there has supposedly been a higher number of drug related casualties than in other countries, albeit with harsher drug policies.
In Sweden it is actually impossible to express a liberal opinion or intention without risking one’s job…But the most telling thing about Sweden is the fact that the rhetorical aspect of prohibition is very strongly present. The slogan of “zero tolerance” dominates. Very indicative of the trend has been the case of the prohibition of the acquirement of sexual relations and the ensuing criminalization of the clients of prostitutes.
Of course Scandinavia is neither a paradise nor a political desert and its citizens have demonstrated recently to be more open to reform and also open to alternative approaches to prohibition. That ‘s the case of some legalization efforts in Denmark but also of many harm reduction groups that operate throughout the different countries. But in the North, the way to a true peace on drugs is still definitely a quite steep slope.
By Enrico Fletzer, with the help of Peter Webster
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
The Manifesto for Safe and Healthy Drug Policies in the EU has been signed by 20 Members of the European Parliament. We are planning to unite them in an event soon to discuss initiatives to put drug policy reform on the EU agenda.
Cannabis Social Clubs are surging everywhere in Europe, as more and more people are convinced this concept could be a useful step on the road to the Freedom to Farm. At the same time some confusion remains on what can be considered a Cannabis Social Club. We are planning to create clarity on the issue.
More information will follow soon.
In November Encod will participate at the 5th Cannafest hemp fair in Prague, from 7 to 9 November.