ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
WHEN POLITICIANS REFUSE TO CHANGE BAD POLICIES, IT’S TIME TO CHANGE THE POLITICIANS
As I contemplate writing this bulletin I cannot avoid thinking about the immense changes in our society. On the one hand, Internet technology is empowering people in formerly isolated and distant parts of this world so new ideas are spreading with a speed that was unimaginable 20 years ago when ENCOD emerged as a political and activist platform in Europe. On the other hand there are still societies that are rigid and threatening to people who live in accordance with their beliefs and use of illicit substances.
In the past few years we have been witnessing in both North and South America big changes in policies and legislation – but what is the true value of these changes? Are they producing more sensible policies regarding human rights and freedoms? As we know from history, changes in legislation in America have most often been promoted by business interests, and more rarely do public interest groups achieve their goals. When campaigning for the medical use of cannabis, I cannot help but feel that something serious is missing: a serious neglect of the underlying and fundamental issue – a basic commitment to advocate the freedom to self determination without government interference. And here we encounter the essence. All (currently) illicit substances or drugs affect the body and mind in different ways and most of them can also be used for their medicinal properties. Is the struggle for the recognition of the medical value of cannabis more a struggle for legal profits than about human rights?
In California in 2007, the “Oaksterdam University” was created, an institution which is not dedicated to the research of cannabis as a medicine, but mostly to the cultivation of cannabis in an industrial manner. In general, flirting with medicine is dangerous if you are not a scientist or a doctor. Fortunately, in Jamaica, two Universities (University of the West Indies -UWI and University of Technology-UTECH) opened a research institute to value the medical effects of cannabis for conditions such as Glaucoma, as pain relief, etc.
Looking at Latin America, we see a clear trend towards liberation from the yoke of large corporate interests – people in this part of the world perceive quite differently the existing regime of drug policy too. It seems like they see on the other side of the wall of Prohibition a better, and above all, a more just world for all people. In 2014 Uruguayans will be allowed to cultivate a maximum of six plants in their homes, while Cannabis Social Clubs, of 45 members or less, will be allowed to grow up to 99 plants for their own use. The pungent aroma of legalization is in the air.
In Europe 12 years have passed since drug use was decriminalized in Portugal. The results are excellent. In ten years, there is evidence that the model proved to be successful. Less crime, better social status of the drug war victims (in embellished words, »drug users«) and better health among them. Youngsters in Portugal are no longer living in the world as it was 10 years ago (if we ignore the current economic crisis).
In Croatia and Slovenia we are witnessing some kind of renaissance of values. On the one hand this is a response to the social crisis, on the other, it is the result of several years of networking and exchange of ideas. In Slovenia, there are now various groups trying to establish Cannabis Social Clubs and for the second time in a year or so, there is an initiative for the introduction of a Law on Cannabis. What is missing is a common desire to end all kinds of Prohibition and not only those that are unjust because of the prevention of “medical use” (of cannabis, coca or other substances).
Much remains to be done: building connections between all different and dispersed groups, carrying out mutual support, self-criticism, questioning our own practice and operating strategies, building communities from the bottom and at the very same time facilitating the path to achieve the goals.
Soon the presentation of the new candidates for the elections for the European Parliament will take place. These elections will be conducted in May 2014. This opportunity should not be missed. Firstly we should ask the candidates what are their views on punitive drug policy in our countries. Secondly, we can identify candidates that we support or even produce our own candidates: in Slovenia one only needs 3.000 verified (signed) declarations of support to become an EP candidate. We look forward to try to choose the candidates who agree with our ideas and aims, and in countries where it is possible to get enough support we should be able to elect at least one. Even if the candidate does not win, we will somehow achieve our goal: the more politicians speak out against the war on drugs, the better.
Janko Belin, društvo AREAL
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
On Friday 6 December 2013, Encod will organise a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels. All Encod members are welcome to assist. The goal will be to elaborate a concrete strategy to support those candidates for the EP elections who present themselves as a supporter of just and effective drug policies, and willing to work for this issue once elected.
All are very welcome to participate in this meeting. It is accessible to all but you must reserve, please use the reservation formular. If you want to receive reimbursement for your travel costs or help with finding accomodation, please let us know as soon as possible but at least before 15 november.
If you have any questions please let us know.