ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
Altruism vs. greed
Prohibition of plants and their derivatives has been with us for so long that sometimes it looks as if it is something as natural as the light of the sun, the sound of the wind or a baby crying for more milk.
Prohibition is presented to us as something good, not just for the people but for whole nations; as something liberating, as an instrument to defend good from bad. Prohibition even has its followers and true believers. People who sincerely think that a drug free world is possible and desirable, and that prohibition is the only right answer to deal with drug problems.
However, prohibition was not born as a concept to solve problems, but to control people and to generate profits from a harsh regulation. Banning traditional ethnobotanical plants and their extracts in the name of the protection of human health and community safety is cynicism par excellence and utterly wrong; it is protectionism, and it is the kind of protectionism that is implemented in the name of pure greed.
In order to understand why this approach has been able to survive so long the following question should be answered: Who is gaining from prohibition and who is on the losing side?
It is clear that one of the motors of Prohibition is the state, as an actor by itself. The state is interested in a regular flow of taxes and money generated by the economic growth of an industry, whether illegal or legal, an industry that is driven by prohibition.
On the one hand, prohibition ensures the massive growth of a shadow empire. This empire can provide services to any group – related to a government or not – that needs funding for activities that will never be approved by any parliament.
On the other, many branches of the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries are dependent on prohibitive measures that ensure that their products will have no competition.
At the dawn of the consumer society, some 100 years ago, petrochemical concerns began to grow. With the rapid modernization of communications industrial products arrived if not in all parts of the world then surely throughout North America and Europe. Products of the Big Pharma industry have become accessible everywhere.
Their lobbyists, along with greedy politicians, have made sure in the past 50 years that the world as we knew it has changed irreversibly. UN conventions and international treaties replaced age old knowledge on the traditional use of psychoactive plants for beneficial purposes.
Now nobody really cares anymore what is going on with the people who want to enjoy the forbidden fruits.
Instead a new paradigm of “health” has been developed. Medical experts define drug addiction as a social deviance from the standards of socially acceptable behavior. Numerous NGO’s are reproducing this theory and carry out the task of ‘changing the drug user’s bad habits‘.
Harm Reduction organizations are now reproducing this medical dogma and thus justifying their co-existence with prohibition, spreading the patronizing truth about the need to care for the harmful life of drug users worldwide. With the support of governments and the financial elite – generated among others by pharmaceutical companies – various ‘NGO’s’ have now converted harm reduction, a simple instrument to reduce health risks related to drug use, into a major goal for drug policies, jeopardizing the original claim of civil society organizations which was an end to prohibition.
Even the recent wave of liberalization of cannabis in the US is driven not only by altruistic intentions. Here also, dollars are in the mind. It is again up to civil activists to make sure liberalization does not lead to monopolies.
The truth was and still is the main victim of the War on Drugs. The problem with all alternatives coming from above is that their range does not exceed prohibition. Is prohibition still justified? Numerous studies, data, facts, reports, qualitative assessments are telling us that it is causing much more harm than the drugs themselves: the truth is in the eyes of the beholder.
By Janko Belin
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
Encod is preparing its participation at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting in Vienna, from 9 to 17 March. The Encod delegation (Alberto Sciolari – Italy, Andrej Kurnik – Slovenia, Derrick Bergman – Netherlands, Enrico Fletzer – Italy, Maja Kohek – Slovenia and Toni Straka – Austria) is preparing two side events at this meeting: one on the stigmatisation of drug users and one on the medicinal values of natural cannabis.
From February 20 to 22, Encod will participate at the Canapa Mundi Hemp Fair in Rome, Italy.
All Encod members are invited to participate in the Route of the Coca Leaf that is organised by the Friends of the Coca Leaf in June 2015.