ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
Legalization in the USA: Brave New World?
On November 4th, a majority of the voters in the American states of Alaska and Oregon voted for legalization of cannabis. Four US states have now legalized cannabis. It’s generally expected that Europe will follow the American example, especially now that it’s becoming clear how much money can be made with the plant. But big profits may well pose a threat to cannabis culture.
The annual High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam was in many ways symbolic for the growing gap between the old and the new world. For the first time in 27 years it proved impossible to organize the traditional expo. The 44 vendors who were ready to set up their booths on November 23rd were told to pack up again. The city of Amsterdam had made it clear there would be a massive police raid if the expo carried on. Most of the vendors had traveled thousands of miles to participate.
Among those turned away was the Dutch organization VOC (Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition), but they put up a protest booth during the final ceremonies night in De Melkweg. The VOC activists talked to countless participants and journalists during the week of the Cannabis Cup, who couldn’t understand why Dutch drug policy has gotten so strict and repressive, just as the United States are opting for legalization. On the very same day that voters in Alaska and Oregon legalized cannabis, the Dutch Eerste Kamer (Senate) approved a new law that bans any kind of preparation of or assistance to cannabis production.
Last month, the Dutch TV program ‘Tegenlicht‘ showed that it is exactly this assistance that is a fast growing market in Colorado. Hundreds of cannabis related businesses have sprung up over the last years and they are growing explosively. In the Colorado report, Ty Hubbard of Greenlabs explains: ‘Most of the people don’t necessarily grow or sell, but they deal in the peripheral businesses, whether it be marketing or like Adam, who is upstairs, who does hemp clothing.’ What irony: Adam Dunn fled from the United States to Amsterdam in the nineties. Back in his native land he now predicts that within three years eighty percent of the states will have legalized cannabis, after which the federal government will lift the ban.
The times when the US threatened countries who wanted to legalize or even decriminalize cannabis with sanctions has gone for good. European countries have plenty of space to end the senseless ‘war on weed’. That’s the good news: the green revolution is unstoppable. The question is how we can prevent the revolution from eating its own children, in the famous words of Wolfgang Leonard. In the Colorado report Denver city council member Chris Nevett states:
‘It’s interesting, we saw early on, when only medical marijuana was legal, we saw a lot, sort of, people you might think of as, you know, stereotypical marijuana people. People, you know, with long hair and tie-dyed shirts, sort of countercultural, getting into this business. Many of them quickly went by the wayside. The cannabis business in Colorado now is dominated by people in suits, with short hair, with business degrees. It’s a legitimate business like any other.’
Ty Hubbard of Greenlabs estimates that real estate prices in Denver have tripled since legalization. The ‘green rush’ in Colorado and the other states that have legalized cannabis is being compared to the internet boom of the nineties and the gold rushes of the nineteenth century. This is where the irony gets sour: the country that obliged the whole world to ban and fight cannabis is now a pioneer and big earner of a legal cannabis industry. A quote from council man Nevett shows how fast Europe, and especially the Netherlands, is lagging behind and missing out: ‘Not only are we creating new jobs, not only are we creating tax revenue, but we are also creating intellectual capital, which is really important. So this is a brave new world. I think there are enormous benefits, enormous intellectual capital, that comes with being the first ones out of the chute.’
The sight of American cannabis and hemp entrepreneurs being chased from the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam under police threat is characteristic for this bizarre turn of events. While Holland is slaughtering the chicken with the golden eggs, America is building a battery cage of chickens. And whereas legal cannabis and broad appliance of hemp could lift Europe out of the crisis, our politicians linger in drug war rhetoric or hesitant experiments at best.
For Encod the economical potential of cannabis and other as yet illegal drugs is a minor issue. The major issues are the right to self-determination, freedom and independence of every citizen. That’s why the freedom to farm is so crucial. Any monopoly, whether it’s held by the state, the pharmaceutical industry or commercial parties, should be ruled out. Of course all these parties play their own part: governments oversee, check and collects taxes, pharmaceutical companies can re-introduce the plants in all kinds of forms and entrepreneurs can make a lot of money and create jobs. But the citizen must be free to grow his own plants if he or she wants to.
The Cannabis Social Club model can be an excellent European alternative for the hyper-commercial American model. Transparent, democratic and with emphasis on the social aspect of cannabis culture. Encod will continue to promote this model and to support new and existing CSC’s wherever we can. But we will also keep insisting on the freedom to farm and the right to self-determination for every adult citizen. This message will only get more important in the years to come. So please support us and become a member of Encod. Or try to make other people member if you are an Encod member already. For a lasting peace on drugs.
Text & photos: Derrick Bergman
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
From 3 to 5 December, a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs will be held in Vienna. This meeting will prepare the yearly session of the UN CND that will take place from 9 to 17 March 2015. Encod delegate Janko Belin will participate and present a challenge to the governments of the world, to prepare their position at the UNGASS in 2016 based on a serious debate with affected civil society on the impact of current policies and possible alternatives.
This month we expect to announce the date of an event in the European Parliament in Brussels early next year. This event will unite various Members of the European Parliament who wish to take concrete initiatives to create this debate inside the European Union.
Finally in December we will start an inventarisation of all Cannabis Social Clubs in Europe, starting with the members of Encod who identify themselves as a CSC in line with the code of conduct that was agreed upon in 2011.