ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
What Obama should have said
When president Barrack Obama was confronted last week with a you tube film showing an Islamic fighter beheading an American journalist he missed a golden opportunity to change the course of history. He might have used this moment to show he had learned the essence of a sustainable world where conflicts and wars are avoided at all times. But he did not: he announced more bombs to eliminate the terrorists, that is, more of the same. The similarity with the war on drugs is striking: the misery that both wars cause is converted into fuel that runs the engines of the limousines of those who lead it: an elite of public and private interests. The show must go on.
Obama, the community worker from Chicago, could have said: “OK, that’s enough. Too much blood has flowed in the World, too much horror has been caused by Westerners who said they came to protect, while all they really protected was their own profits. What has happened is utterly wrong, let’s find a way to ensure nobody dies any more in this conflict.”
Compared to other disasters that are happening in the World today, drug prohibition sometimes seems a luxury problem, a tiny detail that serious people do not spend time on. It is clear that nothing is going on apart from academic debate about whether drugs should be legal or not. While in fact, the essential question is an entirely different one.
The essential question should be how we are going to deal with the issue in a sustainable way. Until now, drugs and drug wars have served to increase and maintain inequality: either as a way to “drug the poor”, or in order to recruit clients for either the prison or the health industry. The purpose of the war on drugs is to provide a permanent class of people who are either treated as criminals or as patients, but never as ordinary citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. And again the endpoint is giant industry producing profits for those who sit on top.
The main challenge is to develop a sovereign relationship with drugs – both in the sense of countries and communities deciding their own way of dealing with the issue, as well as of individual citizens who should be able to behave responsibly. The latter means investing in education, social cohesion and empowerment of the weakest – not the stuff today’s western societies are good at.
So what will a legalised drugs market look like? The experiments with regulation of cannabis in the United States, Uruguay and Spain have been underway long enough to make a first evaluation. And as we are still in a state of war, we must remain critical of all information sources whatever their source. We must consider that the main source of trustworthy information must be the people who are directly affected by drug policies, and not necessarily academics or politicians.
In Colorado, according to press reports, prices of cannabis have apparently risen so high that the black market still lingers on, fed by people who did not make it into the group of companies benefiting from the legalised cannabis industry. The resentment in the ‘hood’ goes something like: “We Latinos and African Americans were disproportionately prosecuted in the war on drugs. Now pot is legalized and who benefits? Rich people with their money to invest and their clean criminal records and 800 credit scores. And here we are again: on the outskirts of opportunity.”
And in Uruguay the recently announced legalisation scheme strengthens the impression that the plans looked better on the drawing board than the resulting reality. Many of the announced measures to register and control people and plants seem unnecessary and symbolic unless there is someone off stage who wants to monopolise the market. When Uruguay eventually rolls out cannabis sales, it will be capped at 15 percent THC, and the government will be in charge of the entire supply chain, including seeds (only 5 strains will be allowed). That could be acceptable to some point.
But with the country’s decision to allow multi-national biotech corporations to operate on its lands and grow these strains, it also opens the door to a police state monitoring its citizens who will be forced to use “cloned” cannabis from Monsanto.
And then what about the developments in Barcelona, Spain, where the city government ordered the closure of 49 cannabis clubs after having detected serious abuses and problems with public order? It is unclear at this moment if the grounds on which the clubs are being attacked are true or false, but if the rumours are true, some clubs laundered millions of euros through private enterprise, others were buying cannabis from the black market and some did the other way around: cannabis grown for clubs in Barcelona ended up in coffeeshops in Amsterdam.
However, between Colorado’s free enterprise and Uruguay’s state control model, the Catalan freedom of interpretation is still the most preferable, as it allows for small scale models to flourish. Only in that kind of situation can people’s sovereignty be safeguarded. They should be made aware of the fact that there are codes of conduct with drugs, and if you violate them there are consequences. They should also be made aware of the fact that the drug establishment, no matter if it is legal or illegal, is using them. Finally they need to understand that they themselves should be in control of their own lives, either by growing their own cannabis, insisting on a transparent framework for production and distribution of psychoactive substances, as well as by learning how to prevent stress and anxieties in a natural way.
It is the spirituality, stupid.
That’s what Obama should have said.
By: Joep Oomen (with the help of Peter Webster)
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
The season starts again in the coming month with two main events:
On 12, 13 and 14 September Encod will attend the third Expogrow fair in Irun, Basque Country, where Cannabis Social Clubs from essentially Spain and France will come together and discuss future collaboration.
And from 26 to 28 September it is the Encod General Assembly in Goricko, Slovenia. In case members are not able to attend, they can still delegate their voice and vote to one of the participating members, through a message to the secretariat before September 15.. See the list below:
Austria: Erec Ortmann (individual member)
Belgium: Trekt Uw Plant, Vrienden van het Cocablad
Czech Republic: Legalizace.cz, Frantisek Pisarik (individual member)
France: Cannabis Sans Frontières, Chanvre et Libertés
Italy: ASCIA, Colettivo Infoshock, PIC, Radio K
Slovenia: Areal Tribe, Maja Kohek (individual member)
Spain: Acmefuer, Asociación Kali, EHKEEF, Urjogabardea
The Netherlands: VOC