ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NR. 52 JUNE 2009
WINDS OF CHANGE
Many people think and hope that the Obama era may indeed lead to change
in the drug policies of the United States. This would surely have
repercussions at the international level. Not only in the consumer
countries, but also and above all in those countries defined as
producers. Not only the hundreds of million persons who would like to
smoke their joint in peace think this way. Many more are starting to understand that drug prohibition has failed.
The goal that
was announced in 1998 during the UNGASS session in New York, and then repeated ten years later, i.e. a drugs
free world, will never be realized. It has become obvious that this
goal cannot be maintained, as appeared from the discussions in the
last CND meeting in March in Vienna.
In recent months, several events that occurred on the other side of the
ocean have been received with moderate optimism by the associations and
organizations that are promoting a different policy on drugs in the USA,
such as NORML and DPA. Of these signals, we remind the following:
the announcement to end the DEA raids against the medical cannabis
dispensaries for patients by Eric Holder, Attorney-General and head of the Justice Department, in those states where the law allows this. Rhode Island, California and New Mexico have installed a regulation on dispensaries, while the number of states where the therapeutic use of cannabis is allowed equals 13;
the declarations of Gil Kerlikowske, the new head of the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy, who has spoken about a radical
change of perspective in the efforts of the nation to fight drugs,
beginning with the elimination of the term “War on Drugs”;
the proposal to legalize cannabis for recreational use in California
and the open minded declarations of governor Schwarzenegger on this possibility. Economic calculations as the subsequent taxation would bring several millions of dollars to the treasury of the State start to appear; but it would also halt the advancing violence in the southern states of the U.S. as a result of the wars between the Mexican drug trafficking cartels, and above all, it would empty the crowded American jails.
The appeal to legalization was reiterated by the hundreds of thousands
of persons who participated in the Worldwide Marijuana Marches that took place in more than 250 cities all over the world in the first weeks of May. Also in the international press and on TV, voices were heard of those
who explained that the end of prohibition will enable better approaches for dealing with the drug phenomenon worldwide.
From South America, the Presidents of some of the states that are most
involved in coca production and cocaine traffic — such as Morales from
Bolivia, Chavez from Venezuela, Correa from Ecuador and Lugo from
Paraguay — have appropriated the coca leaf as the symbol of their campaign to save the planet and the “mother earth” through a radical change of the current models for production and development.
International Conventions must be revised, the dialogue must be opened to look into fundamental issues such as the respect of human rights and cultural diversity, and in this process of change the citizens of all countries must be permitted to play a fundamental role — citizens both of those
countries that are involved in drug production as well as those where
mostly consumption takes place.
Today Europe, far distant from the high ideals that inspired those who
started to build the Union in remote times, is reduced to a gigantic
bureaucratic apparatus that exists to the advantage of the rich and powerful.
On 26 June, the European Commission will present its next initiative on the issue, a “European Action on Drugs”. When this initiative was presented at the last session of the “Civil Society Forum on Drug Policies in the EU” , a meeting of 35 representatives from several civil society organisations, it was rejected by all except the Foundation for a Drug Free Europe.
This European Union that only protects financial interests but does not have a heart, where decisions are taken by a narrow elite, is about to renew its Parliament, a perfect symbol of its false democracy. Giusto Catania, a young
Italian Member of the European Parliament, at least was successful in the five year period that is about to finish, in obtaining a majority of the MEPs
regarding a set of clearly antiprohibitionist proposals. Nevertheless,
these recommendations were completely ignored by the governors of the Member States and by the European Commission.
And rather precisely from Italy itself, perhaps due to the vicinity of
the European and administrative elections, alarming news on real
censorship arrives. The “New World” Fair, that also hosts the [Cannabis
Tipo Forte->http://www.cannabistipoforte.com/] stands (a hemp fair that reached its 5th edition in 2009),
did not receive authorisation to take place during the planned dates in the end of May. The veto against the Fair by the municipality of
Faenza was raised by the Democratic Party (in theory, left-wing), after pressure by exponents of the U.D.C (Catholic Party) and with the
support of the central government in the person of undersecretary in
charge of drug issues, Giovanardi. Satisfied with the ban, Giovanardi
thanked the local Prefect and Mayor for “demonstrated sensibility in
face of the issue”.
Some months before, the municipality of Bologna had
denied the organisers the access to the “Palanord-center”, where the
Fair was carried out since 3 years. Here security reasons were invoked. By
“mere coincidence”, the start of the renovation activities had been established 4 days before the planned dates of the fair. Still the organisers remain confident, that there still exists a freedom of
expression in Italy and the Fair will be held in September.
We hope that this summer, which coincides with the beginning of a new
cycle for Encod that will renew its Steering Committee, will contribute
its light and heat to produce an autumn full of good fruits and new
perspectives. We also hope that the winds of change that come from across the ocean can be felt in the old continent. That the European Union
begins a new phase in which not only economic interests and strong
powers will determine its policies. Where citizens and civil society
organisations will achieve a central role in decision making. We hope that the
rulers of various countries start as soon as possible to come to terms with a new international reality.
Also therefore, Encod must continue its work, trying to unite the
realities that work in Europe for just and effective policies on drugs.
Concrete proposals should be developed that sooner or
later will have a role in the change that is about to happen. During the forthcoming General Assembly in Barcelona, we will plan a continuation of campaigns and actions that were promoted in recent years, such as the Cannabis Social Clubs. And in the near future Encod hopes to carry out a first experiment of fair trade coca tea that will be ecologically produced in Bolivia and commercialised in Europe, based on a direct contact between producers
and consumers, through completely legal channels.
By Alessandra Viazzi