ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
A GREEN TSUNAMI
According to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction the number of regular cannabis users in Europe lies between 12 and 24 million. If, as some observers have stated, their average consumption amounts to 1 gramme a day, the yearly demand for cannabis or derivates in Europe fluctuates between 4 and 8 thousand tonnes. However, taking into account the figures produced by Dutch economist Adriaan Jansen who has studied the legal sector involved in the production and distribution of seeds and other materials used for the growing of cannabis, the annual production of cannabis in Europe lies between 300 and 560 tons. This means that the greater part of cannabis consumed in Europe is still imported from elsewhere.
In past years the legislation or at least the political practice concerning drug consumption has become more flexible in a number of countries. The experience of countries where such policy moderation was defined through a concrete modification of the law (Netherlands in 1976 and Portugal in 2001) shows that the moderate approach has not caused an explosion in the levels of consumption. Thus, the moderate approach has falsified the theory according to which prohibition is necessary to minimise levels of drug use.
In most parts of Europe, cannabis consumption is no longer a criminal offense. However, growing the plant continues to be illegal. This means the market is still primarily provided by imports. In the long run, this is an unsustainable situation. Every economist will be able to explain that domestic production of a commodity, especially when it can take place in a regulated context, will always be cheaper, easier and therefore more attractive than import. Therefore, sooner or later, the green tsunami will spread over Europe, overgrowing the prohibition on cultivation of cannabis, at least for personal use.
In the past 18 years, Encod and its members have tried to set up dialogues on the course of drug policies with authorities at both local, national and international level. The hope was to make the process of decisions on drug policy more democratic and transparent, but in fact the opposite has happened: over the past decade various networks of elite specialists have materialised each of whom profit, either financially or in terms of prestige or personal ego, from the scarce margin for dialogue with “civil society” that some governments and international bureaucracies (like the EU and the UN) have created.
Most of these networks say they work for the reduction of harms and risks related to drugs, but what they do not mention is that these harms are created primarily by authorities. In an environment where drugs are prohibited, most harm reduction measures can best be described as sending in a nurse after a having completed a bombardment. To plea for harm reduction without referring to the root cause of that harm seems naïve, to say the least. It could also be that behind this plea, there is another agenda.
One of the most important sponsors of the movement for harm reduction, drug policy reform and even for legalisation of cannabis is George Soros, one of the richest people in the world. Soros has gained his fortune speculating against the economies and currencies of entire countries. It would be somewhat naive to think that his interest in drug policy has to do purely with humanitarian motives.
As so often seems to happen when an individual or a company accumulates vast wealth, the general welfare of the public can often be compromised in the pursuit of maintaining and expanding that wealth. The motives of those who hold vast wealth must therefore be closely monitored if we are to protect the interests of the people.
Lately it has become known that Soros has invested a considerable sum in Monsanto, one of the largest multinational agroindustrial companies in the world. Monsanto has brought us things as Agent Orange (used to defoliate the forests in Vietnam during the war), Glyphosate (used to spray coca and cannabis fields in Colombia, Mexico and Morocco) as well as Terminator Seeds (that produce plants whose seeds are sterile, so farmers have to buy new seeds every time) or Traitor Seeds (that produce plants with diseases that can only be cured with Monsanto products).
In the past years Monsanto has become interested in the efforts of pharmaceutical companies like Bayer and GW Pharmaceuticals in the pursuit of patenting cannabis species that are used in the production of pharmaceutical products (such as Sativex, which costs 100 euro for a bottle containing 10 doses) or of genetically modifying cannabis plants in order to reduce THC levels and heaven knows what more.
It is the combination of greed and genetic modification technology inside actors like Monsanto that may produce a very unfavourable result if they can exert control over the cannabis market. A scenario is possible in which the products of the black market, of unknown origin and quality, will be replaced by expensive pharmaceutical products that may produce all kind of genetically engineered effects that have nothing to do with the substance as such. As long as George Soros does not publically withdraw his money from these activities, his support for drug policy reform should be considered with scepticism.
Our true problem is not prohibition. It is the philosophy that ignores the direct relationship between humans and nature because its goal is to control both humans and nature. Our struggle must be towards repairing this necessary relationship between person and plant, without the interference of intermediaries who do not act in the best interest of the citizen. Commercial aims must of course exist, but they should be transparent at all times. Citizens must be able to see on what basis prices are calculated and how decisions are prepared and taken.
Due to the distorted reality created by universal drug prohibition in 1961, it is very unlikely that the current political establishment will promote any kind of legalisation on its own. And if it does, we have to be very careful in embracing the move, because it may well be a Trojan horse for large financial interests hidden behind the medical establishment. Therefore we need to fight from the local reality, creating islands of resistance that benefit optimally from the margins of tolerance for cultivation for personal use.
Those islands, be it the coffeeshops in the Netherlands or the Cannabis Social Clubs in other countries, may become a model for all those who wish to end drug prohibition from below, under control of citizens themselves, and not of governments or other actors that may become instruments in the hands of entrepreneurs who intend to dominate the world market for food and medicines. That is to monopolise the relationship between men and nature.
By Joep Oomen (with the help of Peter Webster)
This bulletin has been written on personal title and does not count with the approval of all Steering Committee members.