ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
From Vienna to New York on the path of Sigmund Freud
At the 58th United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs of Vienna a small group of Encod activists did a great job protesting the drug related executions in Indonesia, organizing two international side-events on cannabis criminalization with patients and activists from the Western Hemisphere, and trying to connect with other groups that are fighting for a real change of global drug policies.
We might feel a bit frustrated since many things are not yet accomplished. But a great thing about grass-roots engagement is the fact that one single person can be an intellectual, a militant and also an affable person at the same time. This will for enjoyment is the real soul of social movements and this factor can become an incredible source of energy, especially when politics and daily life coincide. This is also a powerful combination because the war on drugs represents a war waged on nearly all of us.
We might feel a bit nervous about the limited forces that can be engaged in the struggle to end the whole set of flawed drug policies imposed on the world population that will be on the agenda next year at the UNGASS in New York.
Sigmund Freud wrote “The Future of an Illusion” after a trial in Tennessee in which a biology teacher was found guilty of teaching evolution. “The Americans who conducted the monkey trial in Dayton are the only ones who have shown consistency. Usually, the inevitable transition takes place through the medium of half-truths and insincerities”. This remark is quite inspiring in light of the fact that the White House seems to have slightly changed course by adopting the doctrine of Mr. William Brownfield, former US ambassador in some Latin American countries. Brownfield has been trying to square the circle by reconciling the US Constitution on cannabis regulation in the single states with the UN Treaties on Narcotic Drugs. As a matter of fact the Obama administration is currently suggesting to the UN member states that there should be a degree of latitude in the UN Treaties, after decades in which the US did everything to remind the rest of the world that there should not.
But Freud made another interesting point about the genesis of prohibition in America:
“There, an attempt is currently being made, clearly under the influence of matriarchy, to deprive people of all stimulants, drugs and semi-luxuries and sate them, by way of recompense, with the fear of God. The outcome of this experiment is another thing over which we need squander no curiosity.”
Freud had been stressing the role of women as a crucial factor at the beginning of prohibitionism. However the same factor turned out to be very important for its repeal too.
The same thing happened at the CND at the side-event of the Students for a Sensitive Drug Policy, which highlighted how drug policies jeopardize the lives of young people. Protecting Youth from Drug Policy was the eloquent title of this SSDP initiative. A postcard from the Transform Foundation was distributed at the meeting showing a young girl who died as unintended consequence of the US Anti-rave legislation while stating ”Making drugs illegal didn’t protect me. I wanted to get high. I didn’t want to die”.
Throughout the Building of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the rather scary location of the CND in Vienna, we were exposed for days to calls for more balanced approaches, shared responsibilities, defending the rights of children and women and several pleas for the right to access to controlled substances for legitimate reasons.
Curiously enough most of these claims were out of touch with reality. For instance where in the US, Nora Volkow’s NIDA allows only four veteran survivors to get federal medical cannabis, the Italian army is going to grow it for medical reasons in a place that is not much larger than a bathroom. Not to forget that the world budget for criminalization is estimated to be over US$100 billion dollars a year, an overdose compared with the miserable sums invested in public health measures globally.
We saw paradoxical scenes, like the postcard of a dumb looking guy representing Smart Approaches to Marijuana asking the audience “to help him fight the new Big Marijuana industry” evoked by some reefer madness people.
But in some cases the fear of changes provoked some Freudian slips within the highest ranks of the UN. That was most probably the case of Mr. Lochan Naidoo, president of the International Narcotics Control Board, who at an opening session had pathetically insisted on the need of partner states to pledge total allegiance to the Single Convention. Curiously enough, Mr Naidoo had just received an amendment proposal to the Single Convention from James Gierach of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Mr Naidoo’s speech sounded like the utterance of a panicking man just capable of being negative.
Although the system is clearly falling apart, most participants weren’t so outspoken as LEAP in the request of a repeal of the Conventions. Was it because of the US backed pressure on the countries that could eventually dare to tackle the UN Treaties or might there have been some other considerations as well?
It’s difficult to answer this question.
For instance, Leap co-founder Howard “Cowboy” Woolridge told me that some people might prefer to act like the German Army, which rather than attack on the Maginot Line decided to cross over Belgium in order to invade France.
It is quite strange to compare small groups of activists or countries like the Czech Republic with the German army of the first WW. Also because, differently from the still operating army of prohibitionists and fundamentalists, none of alternative subjects wants to force a solution ‘one-fits-all’ using tanks and grenades.
The debate is open around one main point. Will the UNGASS in New York end up with a compromise solution founded on the perpetuation of the status quo with the exclusion of drug users and of the concerned civil society? Will the UN favor top down solutions or will there be the real change we are striving for? We are looking forward to see.
By Enrico Fletzer
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
Normally we would have announced the dates of the next General Assembly of Members in July in France, but the preparations of this Assembly have not yet concluded. We will therefore delay the GA with three months, to the end of September. Dates and venue will be announced in the course of April.
Besides, the Encod secretariat is occupied ensuring that enough funds are collected to ensure this year’s budget. These efforts include the presence in the forthcoming hemp fairs Vinagrow from 30 April to 2 May and Expocanamo on 16 and 17 may, in Spain.