ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
LET US NOT LIVE LIKE SLAVES
Since its launch in 1999 the Global Marijuana March has become popular with the international anti-prohibitionist movement as a response to the barbaric developments in the war on drugs in North America. Although still predominantly white and western, the Global Marijuana March is actually held almost everywhere in North, South and Central America, in most of Europe, Oceania, and to a lesser extent in Asia and Africa.
The message has reached the world: the beginning of May marks the global effort to end cannabis prohibition. This year over 150.000 people marched in Buenos Aires on May 2nd, and other huge demonstrations were reported around the world. Change is in the air. Even though in Europe’s capital cities this year’s numbers were somewhat disappointing, there are many signs indicating a possible turn-around in global drug policies.
In New York, despite the official decriminalization of an ounce of cannabis in 1977, the Police Department is known to make tens of thousands of cannabis arrests per year including the participants of pro pot rallies. Even for this year’s event, local organizers posted a disclaimer about the fact that people might possibly be harassed by the local police
On Saturday, May 2nd, the March paraded down Broadway with the request of establishing a legal market for cannabis and an end to the use of drug laws as a tool for social control and mass incarceration. NYC has a tradition of cannabis demonstrations that goes back to 1967. It was always a town that was able to partially resist both alcohol and drug prohibition. One of its leading personalities, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, contrasting the Reefer Madness that was spreading in the 1930’s, commissioned a famous research project that concluded that cannabis is a relatively benign substance and no big problem for the city.
In another important site affected by the flawed UN drug control policies, the city of Vienna, 16.000 people joined together for the traditional Hanfwandertag, the hemp wandering day strolling the streets with the request to take cannabis out of the list of illegal substances. In Austria the government is planning a law reform that should turn cannabis consumers from criminals into sick persons in a country where cannabis use is considered quite normal by most citizens. The initiative of the government, disguised as progressive reform, perpetuates many of the existing flaws.
In Vienna the singer Hans Soellner participated. A native of Bavaria, one of the European regions that most opposes drug reform, Soellner is very popular in Germany for his social engagement in the Bavarian dialect and also represents a peculiar sort of endangered population: the Bavarian Kiffer, those who love cannabis. Also in Germany there were many small demonstrations: the ice is definitely broken there.
On the following Saturday it was the turn of Athens and Rome. On May 9th, the 15th edition of the Roman MMM was hosted for the first time in the premises of the Market of the Other Economy, the former Slaughterhouse of Rome. The organizers had promoted the formula of the “humanopoly”, the resistance to private and state monopoly that gives the black and white mafia peddlers the right to sell alcohol, cannabis and other drugs to the very conspicuous crowds attending the initiative. The event was crowned by hemp food, speeches and music.
In Greece, probably one of the most neuralgic spots of Europe, this year’s Protestival took place in the center of Athens, in the very interesting situation of a small country facing the big sharks of international capitalism. The square was crowded with almost 20.000 people but it was the alliance of different groups that made this whole evening of concerts and speeches quite important for the development of just and effective drug policies in Greece, where the new government has been called upon to play an avant-garde role in Europe. If it does not, the Greek people seem already quite prepared not to wait for big changes from above.
That is for instance the case of Iliosporoi, the young Greens of Michalis Theodoropoulos, the producers of the documentary on self-organization in Greece “Let’s not live like slaves“. The Youth Section of the ruling Syriza coalition, the Cannabis Social Club initiative of Thessaloniki, the OKANA, a group of substitute users and many more groups from the civil society were also present. The feeling on the square was enthusiastic and there were many information points and some speeches on a square that until few months ago was heavily militarized and that now was occupied by the request to liberate cannabis and radically change Greek drug policies.
The documentary “Let us not live like slaves” presents a timely anticipation of the common task of doing the right thing. It describes the problems of modern societies where people try to take back their lives instead of living in misery and fear in a world and in a region like Western Europe, that seems headed in the wrong direction of austerity followed by destruction of welfare and representation.
Other interesting events lured cannabis lovers to demonstrate in Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium. Approximately 2.500 people responded to the appeal of Chanvre & Liberté, Cannabis Sans Frontières, the Human Rights League and other organisations to come to Paris and call for reform. Among them senator Esther Benbassa, lawyer Françis Caballero, social scientist Anne Coppel and hundreds of activists from around the country. Unlike previous years, French media showed a real interest in the event. It led to an encouraging view of the masses shouting under the Paris sunshine the main objectives of the March: Depenalisation of consumption, possession and homegrowing, reform of the drug law of 1970, experiments with the model of Cannabis Social Clubs allowing consumers to organise a non-profit circuit of production and distribution.
Meanwhile in Antwerp, Belgium, the 10th edition of Cannabis Liberation Day was a cheerful event, not only because of the unusually sunny weather. In the home town of Bart de Wever, leader of the Flemish nationalist party who in 2014 re-installed a policy of zero tolerance on drug use in the public domain, 600 people gathered to attend a manifestation with music and speeches. As the evening fell, a large part of the audience openly challenged the new policy, and the 25 policemen present did not interfere. Finally, even Bart de Wever has understood that the organisation of the Liberation Day, Trekt Uw Plant, the first Belgian Cannabis Social Club, is not an enemy but an ally in the struggle against the illegal drug trade. By organising a non-profit circuit to enable their members to access biological cannabis for a fair price, the Belgian Cannabis Social Clubs are a living proof that it is not cannabis that is the problem, but the practices of the illegal market that endanger public health, safety and human dignity.
The true sense of legalization is to do away with these practices, and that works best if everybody grows his own. Granting the right to every adult to posses at least one female cannabis plant, which the Belgian State has done in a ministerial guideline of 2005, represents a simple but effective guarantee against the risk of cannabis consumers falling into the hands of moneymakers for whom enough is never enough. It enables its citizens to practice a responsible and safe use of cannabis that annoys no one. And it creates the possibility to share knowledge and experience on the effective use of cannabis for medicinal reasons.
According to Joep Oomen, president of Trekt Uw Plant, legalization should aim at obtaining a balance between freedom and control based on human rights. “Those who control the production and distribution of cannabis should be directly accountable to consumers. When either Big Pharma or the state is in control, people will end up paying high prices for something they could grow better themselves, and the illegal market will remain. We have seen legalization schemes where politicians invent all kinds of strange measures such as putting a limit on the percentage of THC that can be sold in a coffeeshop (Netherlands), establishing genetic markers on the seeds that will be authorised to grow (Uruguay), or setting a minimal distance between a school or hospital and a cannabis association that is anyway closed to the public (Spain). The real rationale of these limitations is not public health or safety, it is to prepare the path for monopolies. And monopolies, no matter if they are legal or illegal, care neither about people nor plants.”
Next year during UNGASS on April 19, 20 and 21st, the local dynamics in all the world may join again the concept of a global march to free plants and people who produce or consume them. ENCOD is preparing to send an appeal throughout the world to convene in New York on the 20th of April 2016, at 4.20 pm. We will not live like slaves! We will not give up the fight! Freedom to farm!
By Enrico Fletzer
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
Herewith we announce that the Encod General Assembly 2015 will be organised on 24,25 and 26 September in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
More news will follow soon.
In the coming month, the Encod secretariat will be closed due to the Route of the Coca Leaf in South America.