ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
VIEWS OF AN APPARENT LAYMAN
I thought I was reasonably well informed on the national and international political comings and goings in the field of cannabis after 30 years of personal experience with recreational and, later on, medicinal use.
Poor me, when becoming a member of TUP (Trekt Uw Plant, the Belgian Cannabis Social Club) and learning all about ENCOD, whose Steering Comittee I had the chance to join, I had to admit that I truly was naïve and somewhat ignorant about what really was going on.
But I also realised that this was the same for millions of the world’s citizens.
Being a freshman in the organisation I’d like to touch on some points one might not expect to find in the monthly bulletin.
First, I would like to express my great admiration and respect for the thousands or tens of thousands of people and organisations that have been working wholeheartedly for years to stand up for their own interests and, moreover, for their rights and the rights of their fellow man. Every one of them in their own way.
Our common interests are related to the notion of ‘drugs’, particularly to the victims of the ‘war on drugs’: those who are incarcerated, those who survive with HIV/AIDS, those criminalised by drug prohibition, …
During the past month I drowned myself in reports and files to clarify my insights into what is happening in the field of official drug policy, not only in Europe, but globally.
In quite a few drug related reports, ‘public health’ keeps popping up as a recurring theme. Proponents of prohibition often justify their position by pointing out that the damage to ‘public health’ would skyrocket ‘if the reins are loosened’. Experience, however, has taught us that it is the illegality of drugs that has produced a most damaging factor to everyone’s health and thereby to ‘public health’. Obvious remedies for public health problems are obstructed by prohibition.
Many people and organisations have been communicating and debating the global strategy to convince national and international authorities to consider legalisation and stop criminalising, stigmatising and marginalising those who users and small scale producers/distributors. In other words: to end the war on drugs.
These people try to propose a just and effective drug policy with proportionate attention to prevention, information, transparency and control (to mention only a few characteristics). This civil effort has been sustained for many years, and, again, hats off to that.
To convince politicians of the necessity of a different drug policy one could presume that it would suffice to analyse and summarize all press-releases, statements and reports of the last few months in a clear, presentable text adressed to them, and that this would lead them to the obvious conclusion that a change of policy is urgently needed. Internet blogs, forums and social networking sites indicate that the public is ready.
But then again, we would only be barking up the same tree all over again.
As I discovered in my month-long study of the current situation, for 20 years high-ranking members of our society have been making statements, even on camera, warning society of the dangers of continued prohibition and the ‘war on drugs’. These statements may have been newsworthy, but they never led to any change.
The point is that dialogue has to happen. Each viewpoint should remain respected, but any dialogue ultimately has to lead to concrete action, sooner or later.
Every time we think that a step towards a modern drug policy has been taken, every time we see the sparkle of light at the end of the tunnel, a last minute adjustment forces new policies to serve some ideologically tainted interest of certain organisations or interest groups, resulting in a factual nullification of the change in attitude we hope for. Often we have to start all over again.
I do not have a ready solution for these setbacks, apart from my conviction that not all actions have to be put on hold while negotiating.
As these 20-years of negotiating have shown that politicians’ determination and courage to make progress in ending the war of drugs is and will be largely insufficient, it seems obvious to me that the citizenry must take control of the matter.
It is understandable but also a pity that it remains difficult to mobilise more cannabis consumers in different European countries in Cannabis Social Clubs (CSC) as a way to give a voice to the viewpoints of involved citizens, showing their solution to regulate and accept drug use in society.
In my opinion these organised grass-roots associations are an important spearhead to achieve peace in the ‘war on drugs’.
By Louis Everaerts (with the help of Peter Webster)