On 3 May 2008, Job Joris Arnold held the following speech at the Worldwide Marijuana March in New York on behalf of ENCOD
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you here today. My name is Job Joris Arnold and I represent the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies. ENCOD -for short- is a European network of currently 156 organizations and individual citizens, all affected and concerned by current drug policies. We believe future drug policies need to be just and effective, i.e. based on respect for human rights and on scientific evidence.
Now, I have been asked to talk to you about what’s going on at the UN-level. And I see some signs of hope, so I might just have some good news for you today.
In 1998 the UNGASS, which is the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Illicit Drugs, convened in that building right there around the corner and had some 180 countries sign up to this fantasy of stamping out drugs worldwide within a ten years.
Of course this is absolute nonsense and it was a very stupid thing to do. But nonetheless, let’s dwell on this prohibitive mindset for a few minutes here. The basic rationale underlying the prohibition of drugs is that:
a. drugs are bad, and
b. government should protect their citizens from them and therefore curb their prevalence, which
c. can be achieved through force of law.
Now, you and I may agree that
a. drugs are not as bad as commonly believed
b. government has no business telling citizens what we can or cannot put in our bodies and minds as long as we’re not hurting anybody else
but apparently authorities don’t give two bits about what you and I agree upon. However… They cannot avoid having to answer a simple question which as I will show, undermines the very basis of the war on drugs. How does the force of law help them achieve the goals they so desperately seek? Does prohibition reduce drug consumption?
You see, I come from The Netherlands, country of tulips, cheese, windmills and coffeeshops. Many of you may have been to Amsterdam, our capitol city. In Amsterdam, like in many other cities in The Netherlands, marijuana is openly sold to anyone over eighteen. No force of law is stopping anybody from buying or smoking. And by the way, coffeeshops pay taxes. A lot of taxes actually. Money that can be used for education, health care or a even boost to an economy in decline.
This system is in place for over thirty years now. It has not destroyed our society. Our economy is as strong as any and Dutch citizens rank among the highest on international surveys when asked if they are happy. And guess what? Here comes the big news: consumption rates of marijuana in The Netherlands are similar to those of neighboring Belgium and Germany, only half of those in the UK, let alone the US which has the highest consumer rates of all despite the highly repressive policy for marijuana you have here.
Now, what does this tell us? Does this mean, that a more tolerant attitude will lower consumption? No, not necessarily. Comparing different regimes of enforcement in different countries, scientists have come to conclude that drug policy has no significant impact on consumption. It does affect all kinds of other things, such as public health or detention rates and job and education opportunities for people convicted for simple possession, but prohibition does not deter people from drugs. Apparently, they decide for themselves what they want to use, regardless of what the authorities think is good for them and no matter how big the threat of prosecution. This is very important knowledge. Very important because it makes the prohibitive mind uneasy.
So this year, when the UN had a review of their 1998 goal of totally wiping out drugs in ten years, people from the ENCOD network went down to the UN-headquarters in Vienna. It was Dutch psychiatrist Fredrick Polak, who put the question to Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNODC, which is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Fredrick Polak said: “Why is it that in Holland, where marijuana is accessible to any adult who would choose it, marijuana use is actually lower than the surrounding nations among adults as well as among 15/16 year olds?”
Costa did not answer this question, either because he could not, or because he did not want to. But footage of that embarrassing scene ended up on YouTube three days later –you should look it up, it’s hilarious- and pretty soon, Mr. Costa’s email box was flooded with messages from people all over the world asking him the same question that ENCOD’s Fredrick Polak asked in Vienna.
Now, I’m not going to say that Mr. Costa has seen the light all of a sudden and finally discovered that his ill-advised crusade might be failing. But at least this has inspired him to pay a work visit to Amsterdam on April 22, and to visit a coffeeshop, De Dampkring. There, he was told by coffeeshop owner Paul: “Yes, you could consider me a criminal because I buy large quantities for my shop and that is still illegal, even under Dutch law. But I don’t feel I’m a criminal. I feel more like a wine seller. I am proud of what I sell to people. I am a cannabis consumer myself and want my clients to enjoy a healthy product.” At least Costa has heard these words. We will soon know if he has understood their meaning.
I think it is very important that we keep asking these simple questions that these people have such a hard time answering. Because even if Costa doesn’t get it, there’s many people within the UN, that don’t have a public or political profile. They don’t have to worry as much about what is politically desirable, they can criticize their organization from within if they care about the truth. In their report of the Vienna conference, they mentioned unintended consequences of the global drug control system, such as the huge criminal black market, the neglection of public health concerns, social exclusion of drug users and the endless displacement of illicit crop growing form one place to the next. Mr. Costa put his name under this report.
Now, this may seem little but it is in fact a landslide change from their usual rhetoric. Drug policy reform is on its way, even though it is coming in slow motion. And more cracks are appearing in the Great Wall of Prohibition.
The day after Costa’s visit another soldier in the front line of the ‘war on drugs’, the president of the largest Dutch trade union of police-officers Mr. Hans van Duijn, declared publically that he believes the war on drugs should be ended. Another small sign.
I have to admit, we’re up against some great powers and it’s is a long and difficult struggle. The vested interests in the drug war are huge, the stakes are high, but we can rise above that, get higher so to speak, and we must fight with every non-violent means at our disposal. And our main weapon is the Truth. The truth will always prevail, and that is why we will ultimately win.
Thanks for having me, I am deeply honored to be here today.
Please visit our website. It’s in many languages and you can find it at encod.org and learn all about our movement and our Freedom to Farm-campaign aiming at legalizing growing pot, coca or poppies for you own consumption. Your help is welcome and needed. We don’t receive any governmental subsidies but depend entirely on donations.
Lets end global hypocrisy! A prohibition-free world, we can do it!
Cannabis College in Amsterdam is open to public free of charge every day of the week. You can visit us and learn all there is to know about marijuana and hemp’s many purposes and visit the world’s one and only legal cannabis garden open to public where you can see plants grow.
This Fall, from November 23 – 27 in Amsterdam, at the same time of the annual High Times cup, Cannabis College organizes a WoD-film festival to celebrate it’s ten years existence. in Amsterdam, while at the same time there is the High Times Cannabis Cup. I hope to see you there.Republish