ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Fifty five years after the city became the cradle of one of the most absurd inventions in human history, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, New York will host an event that could mean the end of it: the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem on April 19-21, 2016. UNGASS 2016 is a tremendous opportunity for the governments of the world to show they have all seen the writing on the wall.
Not that anybody expects UNGASS to answer the question of the best way to protect the global population against the risks related to drugs. It would be naive to believe that this answer can be found in a three day summit among diplomats living in hotel suites and stuffing themselves in expensive restaurants. After 55 years during which the UN has justified drug policies that cause violence, disease, crime, corruption and misery around the world, it is hard to imagine they can come up with something that will work.
To find a solution to a World Problem, you would need people who think and act on behalf of the common interest of the global population. As was demonstrated by historians, the discussions at the various summits that led to the UN Drug Conventions have always been heavily influenced by representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. There is no reason to believe that this is different today. Also a company like Coca Cola, as well as the alcohol, tobacco, arms and prison industry will want to protect the privileges conceded to them by universal drug prohibition.
The best that can happen at this UNGASS is that governments start giving themselves the space to develop and implement drug policy that fits the reality of their country and afterwards adjust it to international agreements; not the other way around. It would take a simple amendment to the existing conventions, such as the one elaborated by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, to return the responsibility for elaborating the best approach to drugs to those who are supposed to have this responsibility: national lawmakers.
In fact governments do not even need such an amendment. According to Article 2, chapter 5b) of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, ‘countries shall prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import of, trade in, possession or use of drugs if in their opinion the prevailing conditions render it the most appropriate means of protecting the public health and welfare.’
Since 1976 Dutch authorities allow the possession and sale of cannabis to consumers because in their opinion, total prohibition is not the most appropriate means. Since 2012, the government of Uruguay uses the same exit option to gradually legalize the entire chain of production to consumption. In both cases, the UN watchdog on drug policies, the International Narcotics Control Board, barked loudly, but didn’t bite, simply because it lacks teeth to bite with.
In an ideal world, countries would first take a good look at the impact of their drug laws before sending a delegation off to UNGASS. In order to have a well informed debate at the UN, governments should base their opinions on first hand witnesses of the impact of current policies as well as the perspectives of alternative approaches, including legalisation.
Therefore ENCOD presents a challenge to members of parliaments in Europe: organise public hearings with the participation of civil society affected and concerned by the drug problem before UNGASS. The question could be a simple one: are UN Conventions a useful and legitimate way to protect the population from drug related harms?
At UNGASS itself it is about presenting the bulk of evidence produced by science and daily reality that drug prohibition is counterproductive to the basic mission of the UN and in fact of all governments, which is to foster global peace, health, development, safety and human rights for all citizens.
It is an opportunity for the global elite to listen to the voice of the voiceless. Voices that speak of the lives that could be saved and improved, of the benefits for public safety, the credibility of authorities, the health of citizens and the treasury if drugs listed in the UN Conventions would be produced and distributed in a transparent way, where all involved can be held accountable, where trade is fair and environmentally friendly, and where public health is the number 1 priority.
ENCOD plans to send a peace brigade to New York to join activists from other continents in an effort to express the voice of the voiceless. You can help this brigade. How? Read more about it here.
No matter what happens at UNGASS 2016, the drug war will not be over. Even if the UN officially supports national governments to experiment with home made drug policies, it is not sure what these policies will look like. At that moment, lobbies of private interests will undoubtedly pop up around national decision-makers to ensure their slice of the cake. There will still be a considerable part of the political and legal establishment that will continue to do everything to keep drugs prohibited, while at the same time, preparing a change of course that will benefit them. Meanwhile those who oppose a monopoly on drugs, being it legal or illegal, will still be under-represented in the debate.
Therefore ENCOD is preparing a strategy that uses plants instead of words. Homegrowing one’s own psychoactive plants or establishing a non-profit way to distribute them to other adults is a far more appropriate means of protecting public health and welfare then the illegal market. A child can see that.
Therefore, from 2016 onwards, ENCOD plans to roll out a regulation scheme that is as simple as it sounds: Freedom to Farm. We will mobilise all European citizens to put in practice the best available way of protecting their public health and welfare. A model in which adults have autonomous access to substances that maintain or improve their mental and/or physical health, in absolute compliance with international human rights conventions which protect the right to health, to culture, to private life.
If governments or parliamentarians cannot figure this out, citizens will do it for them.
By Joep Oomen (with the help of Peter Webster)
Photo: Paul von Hartmann
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
Encod will participate in the Cannafest in Prague between 6 and 8 November.