ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
HEMPY AIR IN ITALY AND SURROUNDINGS
In Italy, as in other European countries, there is a feeling that soon, something could be changing as far as cannabis policies are concerned. Probably, this is due to the trend that is happening in the Americas, but also because of the crisis of the traditional political parties in the old continent. Europe is also the central place for the social and the civil rights movements that are fighting for a change, and the elections for the European Parliament will be a very important occasion for a possible renewal of drug policies. That might be the reason why many anti-prohibitionists perceive Encod playing a key role to ending prohibition through a process of international cooperation.
We are also seeing changes in Italy. The typical risk for Italy is that all things seem to change, but in the end, nothing changes. For instance, some superficial cleaning up of the prison system instead of getting rid of inauspicious laws, a probable strategy of the Italian executive to avoid acting on the proscriptions that it received from the EU Human Rights Court. Subsequently, the country would have an unproblematic access to the EU Presidency although the structural violations of human rights in Italian police stations and prisons would continue.
Recently there have been many declarations in favour of decriminalisation of cannabis use and cultivation coming from unexpected political players of the right wing liberals, and even from the racist ranks of the Lega Nord. The tendency is positive since the City Council of Torino voted a cannabis proposal concerning home-growing and decriminalisation that will soon be discussed in Rome, Milan and other cities. It was a quite divisive vote, splitting the Democrats but also other parties. Conservative daily papers like La Stampa and the weekly Panorama have declared that an overwhelming 90 percent of their readership is in favour of cannabis regulation. The debate is quite open, also including viewpoints from some famous intellectuals specialised in mafia stories.
In Italy, the former hemp stronghold of Western Europe, there is finally some sign of optimism. In Bologna the elders would call it the aroma of hempy air. That is particularly true for the Italian activists who are looking forward to the the 11th of February, when the Constitutional Court will decide on the constitutionality of the drug laws that were passed, contradicting the principle of proportionality as to the equalisation of cannabis with heroin. Also, the law came about under quite dubious circumstances. You could call it a juridical mess, or even worse, an outright scam since it was a process of putting different decrees into the same recipient like in a hocus pocus trick.
That is the reason the claims of unconstitutionality of many courts have been considered legitimate. This argument can actually be used by the lawyers involved in cannabis related processes. Therefore the antiprohibitionist movement has immediately declared the law illegal,
By abolishing the outrageous law based on cannabis hysteria, things would return to the regime of 2006. But further progress will have to come from the ranks of activists, such as the opening of cannabis clubs and of more decent drug policies. That will be the strategic point to stress also in the follow up of the demonstration, with the main focus on the freedom to farm and the right to a plant as a commonwealth of humankind.
The point is not only a massive participation and registration of groups and individuals on the local and international level. There is a quite significant effort going on since many buses and even airplanes have been hired to go to Rome and cannabis friends from all over Europe may well participate. But we also need to break the media censorship surrounding us. We will have to behave and act as a political giant emerging from the gutters after having long been considered as ill and criminal. So we will all have to do our best, and not permit anyone to damage future prospects. Forwards ever, backwards never.
The 8th of February march in the streets of Rome will be the first important moment of collective efforts aiming at the abolition of a drug law that goes against the European spirit. We will be mixing music with speeches, using about 12 big trucks that will visit some important sites starting at noon, from the Roman square called ‘The mouth of truth’.
According to legend, Virgil produced on the site a metal serpent that would bite all the liars that dared to put their hands in the hole. In this case the main liar, Mr. Serpelloni of the Anti-Drug Department, insists on telling the world that in Italy drug users don’t go to prison.
The same Department, directly associated with the Premiership, will probably still represent Italy’s last drug warriors at the UN CND (Commission on Narcotic Drugs) meeting in Vienna in March. Mr. Serpelloni seems to be the only Italian bureaucrat who still remains in office notwithstanding all main political changes of the last months. Almost like a religious figure, yet also pretending to be scientific, as propaganda leader but also challenging the bearded god Ocean that indicates in the old and new Rome the place where the truth is still mandatory.
The planned route of the mass demonstration will pay a visit to the ministries of Justice and Health and the old prison of Regina Coeli that lies directly on the Tiber and will involve the convicts. The route will have a very symbolic value and linger on in the collective consciousness.
The drug laws and the criminalisation of migrants have contributed to the current overcrowding of the prison population. More than 9000 of them are cannabis prisoners. In 2011 41,5 per cent of the prison population were there on drug charges: 27.947 out of 67.394. About the same amount of people that are still kept in less than 3sqm cells. That is the reason the European Court of Strasbourg ruling on the case Torreggiani vs Italy considers the country recidivist on the administering of inhuman and degrading treatments. The government is worried that is will miss the May deadline to accomplish all the promises required to make Italy look democratic. We also have to ensure that Italy does not pass the examination without having accomplished the urgently needed structural reforms on drugs and immigration policies.
In fact, the costs of this illegal law are not sustainable. MP Daniele Farina, introducing his law proposal based on decriminalization of cannabis growing, declared that in 2011 Italy spent 2 billion on repression, whereof 48,2 percent were invested in prisons, 18,7 in police actions and 32,6 in the judicial system. Yet this repression has created a black market that nets a minimum 60 billion for the illegal organizations. The Calabrian ‘ndrangheta alone is in complete control of the harbour of Gioia Tauro which is probably the main cocaine hub for Europe.
Mauro Palma, of the board of the Committee on Torture Prevention, has recently compared Italy with Germany. The latter has about 8000 convicts on drug charges compared to the 14000 Italians whereof 9000 for cannabis. Not to forget the discrepancy between the 8500 German fiscal convicts and the equivalent of 150 Italians, in a country where corruption seems to play a much bigger role.
By Enrico Fletzer
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
Outside Italy, the debate on cannabis regulation is heating up as well. In Spain, the conservative government is planning to introduce a new ‘law on public safety’ which will increase the fines for possession and cultivation of cannabis, in an effort to crush the growing movement of cannabis social clubs.
French senator Esther Benbassa of the Green Party has announced a law proposal which wants to bring the cultivation and distribution of cannabis under control of the state.
In the Netherlands, several lord mayors are promoting a ‘Joint Regulation’ on cannabis cultivation and distribution, openly challenging the stubbornness of Minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten, who continues to ignore the inevitable: the need to regulate the backdoor of the coffeeshops, after nearly 40 years of ‘gedoogbeleid’.
The common thread through Europe seems to be the fear of politicians to speak the truth about an issue that everyone has been lied about for many generations. Therefore, change has to come from the actions of citizens. We look forward to what will happen in Germany now that Georg Wurth, the director of the German Hemp Association, has won 1 million euro during a TV contest, in order to bring German cannabis activism to a higher level.
In the coming month, Encod will participate the March in Rome on 8 February, and prepare various actions during the meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, from 13 to 21 March, as well as the European election campaign on 25 May.
Working groups have been formed where this work is followed up, all Encod members are wellcome to participate, please contact us if you want to be enlisted.