ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NR 68 OCTOBER 2010
DRUGS FROM A LEGAL POINT OF VIEW
The concept of drugs from a legal point of view is no peaceful issue. Surging from the economic and social interests that throughout modern history have produced a biased interpretation of reality, in which certain substances are legally promoted, while others have been declared ilegal and thus form part of a clandestine and underground economy.
The origin of the “War Against Drugs” lies in the start of the 20th Century when the USA initiates its particular crusade against marihuana. From that moment onwards, International Conventions and Treaties have designed a panorama of persecution and criminalisation that continue until the day of today.
In order to carry out these policies a entire apparatus of repression is needed that is fundamentally dedicated to the persecution of the production, commercialisation and consumption of certain drugs. Following these policies that have been internationally determined, each country is using large parts of its public funds to persecute and criminalise, which deteriorates the development of effective policies in the area of prevention, treatment and harm reduction. Nevertheless, all this investment in efforts meant to stop this substance, has not obtained any evident results in the protection of public health, through the reduction of the supply and demand of certain drugs; very much on the contrary, only small percentages of the drugs that circulate in the black market have been seized.
A direct consequence of this situation is the fact that in the past 20 years, our prisons are filled with persons who are dependent of ilegal drugs or persons who have committed crimes that are related with these substances. And nevertheless, the offical data on the consumption and trafficking of drugs do not produce results that show we should continue in this direction. One could say without fear to make mistakes, that the current drug policy has failed and has not done more than worsening the existing problems, due to the stigmatisation and marginalisation it generates.
We have to be coherent and propose alternatives. In order to avoid that the current consumption of drugs continues to cause suffering among consumers, their families and their neighbourhoods, we need to control this consumption from a pluralistic perspective. The establishment of low threshold centers for care, which include safe consumption rooms, controlled distribution and quality control of the used substances, education in the knowledge and prevention of drugs. These are all necessary means to reduce drug problems.
In spite of putting at stake legal principles and individual rights that are a fundamental part of the State of Law, the repressive form of drug control does not benefit people who are dependent on illegal drugs nor people who use them for the first time. For we know that the clandestine character of the substance brings the consumers in contact with a criminal environment. It exposes them to maffia networks without any scrupules, and deprives them of the most minimal health measures that exist in the case of other legal substances, which causes many other health problems that are publically known.
In order to avoid sanctions, a consumer needs to submit himself to treatment. With regards to treatment, we conclude the following:
1.- Treatment can consist of “regular and concerted visits to a determined center or service”. It does not have to be treatment in a closed regime, it can be done in an ambulatory regime. In practice, this does not produce any problems at all.
2.- The duration of the treatment should be established according to the indications of the professional specialists in the issue, and not unilaterally by the competent administration, ignoring the experts.
The consumption and/or possession of drugs should not be persecuted, not as a criminal nor as an administrative offense. In case it is persecuted we believe it is adequate to offer the possibility to avoid putting sanctions to those consumers who commit themselves to abandon their consumption. The goal of the suspensión of the sanction should clearly be to resocialize the person, through a flexible application of the law, for the benefit of him or her who consumes certain substances that are dangerous for his or her own health.
Nevertheless we call for the abolition of this law, so that people who are simply consuming ilegal drugs will not be persecuted anymore, because possessing substances for personal consumption or consuming them without causing any nuisance to other citizens does not deserve the least disdain.
By: Federation Enlace
This bulletin is a summary of an article that can be read in Spanish on the website of Federation Enlace