THE ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICY IN EUROPE
NR. 33. SEPTEMBER 2007
Is drug prohibition based on some sort of mental disorder? Why do politicians and civil servants continue to maintain a policy in spite of the enormous amount of evidence that proves it to be a total failure? For some it might just be a reflex based on ignorance, but for those who have studied the issue, this can no longer be the case. The irrational and almost desperate fixation on prohibiting drugs might lead one to suspect that there is a somewhat traumatic aspect to this behaviour. And as it happens with traumas, you try to hide them as long as you can, but only if you are prepared to see them in the eyes, a cure is possible.
At the various sessions of ENCODs improvised “Summer University” that took place between 19 and 26 August at the farm of Chanvre-Info in Murten, Switzerland, activists from Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Switzerland gathered to discuss our plans for “Vienna 2008”. In March next year, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) will meet in Vienna, Austria, to review the results of a 10-year strategy agreed upon by the UN in 1998 to eliminate or significantly reduce the supply and demand of illegal drugs by 2008.
The campaign for Vienna 2008 gets off in Switzerland, where in August, actions have started to appeal the 29-month sentence that Chanvre Infos owner André Fürst was condemned to in July, for producing hemp. The sentence against André Fürst is an expression of the discouraging turnaround that Swiss drug policies have taken since 2004, when the policy of tolerance regarding the sale of cannabis for personal consumption came to an end. Almost all 300 Swiss hemp shops have been closed since then, most of their owners retired. Those like André Fürst who continued to promote the beneficial use of this plant have been singled out by the authorities. We are calling upon everyone to send the public letter to Swiss authorities on the case of André Fürst.
From the heart of Europe, the campaign will spread throughout Europe. In the coming months, several ENCOD members around Europe plan initiatives to promote the establishment of a Cannabis Social Club in their area, in order to provide local authorities with a healthy option to allow their citizens to continue an age-old tradition without having to break the law. In October a multi-language flyer will be printed to promote the CSC proposal. On the ENCOD website, useful information to set up a club will be made available. Meanwhile, the UK-based Legalise Cannabis Alliance has started an International Petition in support of the proposal that will run until the Vienna meeting.
Before the end of 2007, the European Commission is expected to organise the first session of the “Civil Society Forum on Drug Policy” – an exclusive meeting between drug policy officials of EU Member States and Commission on one side and 30 representatives of European civil society organisations on the other. In August, several ENCOD members applied to this forum. If one of us is invited, he/she will be able to find out quite soon the true value of this new dialogue: its potential impact on the preparation of the official EU position in Vienna 2008 will be a good test case.
Several lobby organisations of policy experts and harm reduction institutions like the International Drug Policy Consortium, International Harm Reduction Association and Senlis Council are preparing for Vienna 2008 as well. They will try to persuade the government delegates inside the UN buildings to change the focus of their efforts. In September, we will participate in a meeting with some of these organisations to find out if any co-ordinated action would be possible.
It should not be too difficult to explain to the delegates that their strategy has become a failure. Drug supply and demand are rising systematically, sometimes even spectacularly as in the case of Afghanistan. A United Nations report stated in the end of August that in 2007, 8.200 tonnes of opium will be harvested in that country, which is more than 10 times as much as before the Western invasion in 2001.
The real problem will be to make the governments understand that continuing this policy is the worst decision they can take, and that ending it would create significant perspectives to improve human and planetary welfare. In view of the current ecological, economic and social challenges of the world, the war on drugs can without doubt be considered as one of humankind’s biggest follies.
Therefore, our best bet is to go to Vienna in an effort to open up the trauma and heal it. In the coming weeks, ENCOD will launch a large and worldwide appeal to all those who are willing to contribute to an end to the war on drugs to collaborate with us in the organisation of a 3 day event during the UN Meeting in Vienna in 2008.
The main goal would be to organise a “Global Village” in Vienna, where we would organise an exposition on the culture and beneficial use of plants that are prohibited by the UN Drug Conventions, an interactive conference with the purpose of making a psychoanalysis of global drug policies, and a demonstration towards the UN building where these policies are decided upon.
If we obtain enough support, this would be our plan A. If not, a plan B is already in the making. All will depend on the situation as it develops.
By Joep Oomen, ENCOD-coordinator (with the help of Peter Webster)