Minutes of Encod General Assembly 2014 – by Derrick Bergman
26 – 28 September 2014
23 activists from seven countries took part in the 2014 General Assembly at the Art Center in Goricko, Slovenia, from 26 to 28 September.
1) Erec Ortmann / (individual member), Legal Europe / Austria
2) Janko Belin / Areal / Slovenia
3) Alberto Sciolari / PIC / Italy
4) Giorgio Gatti / ASCIA / Italy
5) Gabriele Castorina candidate member Italy
6) Kenzi Riboulet / Coordination Chanvre et Libertes / France
7) Matteo Scalvenzi individual member / Italy
8) Elina Hanninen, HPP / Finland
9) Enrico Fletzer / Radio K / Italy /
10) Alessandra Viazzi / PIC – Italy
11) Davide Corda / ASCIA / Italy
12) [Franco D’Agata->firstname.lastname@example.org
] / COLLETTIVO INFOSHOCK / Italy
13) [Isabella Controllo->email@example.com
] / COLLETTIVO INFOSHOCK / Italy
14) [Derrick Bergman->firstname.lastname@example.org
] / VOC, Gonzomedia / Netherlands
15) Joep Oomen / Secretariat, Friends of the Coca Leaf / Belgium
16) [Olivier Bertrand->email@example.com
] / Coordination Chanvre et Libertes / France
17) Farid Ghehioueche / Cannabis Sans Frontieres / France
18) Niçcola Farina / candidate member / Italy
19) Maja Kohek / individual member / Slovenia
20) Bart Behets / (individual member), Trekt Uw Plant / Belgium /
Not on picture:
21) Markab Giorgini / ASCIA / Italy
Excused: Roberto Ververka (Legalizace.cz), Frantisek Pisarik / Czech Republic, Javier (Casa Maria) , Jean Michel Rodriguez, Urki Goni (EHKEEF), Josechu (Acmefuer), Angel (Club Kali, FEDCAC) / Spain, Mambo Social Club / Belgium, Meres pour la Marijuana (France), Alexandra Tarragoni / Switzerland, Patti Cirino (Forum Droghe) / Italy
Through skype, several members who could not attend the assembly followed and commented the proceedings.
Day 1: country reports, house rules proposal, election of new SC member
Netherlands: Derrick reports that repressive policies and plans still threaten Dutch cannabis culture. The ban on foreign visitors to coffeeshops, known as the weedpass, is by now only enforced in about 15% of all coffeeshops, most of them in the three Southern provinces. Government wants to ban all cannabis products with more than 15% thc and move them to schedule I of the Opium Law. An new growshop law is ready to pass the senate that will make any sale of a product illegal if the seller suspects it will be used to grow cannabis with. Better news: the first Dutch Cannabis Social Club is up and running in Amsterdam.
Finland: Eline introduces herself, she is member of the Humane Drugpolicy Organization (HPP) in Finland, promoting harm reduction and an end to criminalization of drug use. Most drug users are not problematic users; this should be stressed more. In Finland it’s not yet possible to go beyond decriminalization of cannabis for medicinal use, Eline thinks. There are no CSC initiatives because the law leaves no space. There is one organization just focusing on cannabis, but HPP has not really cooperated with them. There are no injecting rooms, only needle exchange programs.
Belgium: Bart explains that Belgium has five Cannabis Social Clubs, with the three in the French speaking part encountering problems with the police and/or are not functioning according to the CSC code of conduct. Mambo Social Club recently had to go to civil court after a raid in December 2013. The case is postponed because there is also a criminal case pending (coming up in November). Trekt Uw Plant (TUP) CSC now has 340 members and was acquitted twice. Belgium will soon have a right wing government that could withdraw the one plant per adult police directive, which would mean the end of the CSC’s. Media has been very positive and supportive of Mambo and TUP.
Slovenia: Maja reports on a medical cannabis seminar in Slovenia last March. Rick Simpson oil is a big thing, a lot of people know about it. Maja’s organization is working on a report about the criminilization of cannabis in Slovenia. In court cases so called experts are heard, but they usually say they are not experts in medical cannabis. One of the reasons we want to promote scientific research. Cannabis is the only drug that is debated: all other ones are seen as a huge threat. Janko explains how almost all NGO’s are either founded of funded by the government or big parties like Soros.
Italy: Isa reads the report on Italy (see attachment). There is movement on the medical cannabis front, with the latest news that the Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Institute of Florence will start growing medicinal cannabis, instead of importing Bedrocan from Holland. Italian activists have been promoting the CSC model for three years, but there are no CSC’s functioning above ground. The initiative in Racale seems a commercial operation. A question to be answered is whether to limit a real CSC to patients or also include recreational users. A new initiative is the ‘Free Weed Board’ association that promotes a Popular Poll based on a law proposal made by a famous anti-prohibitionist lawyer. Enrico stresses that Italy has a very right wing health minister, who tried to re-introduce the infamous Fini-Giovanardi law that was declared unconstitutional in February.
France: Kenzi and Farid explain that for hard drugs there’s harm reduction in France, but for cannabis there is nothing. Last December Chanvres & Libertés was founded to create a platform where consumers scientists and lawyers can come together. There is some debate about regulation cannabis, but run by the state. C&L are lobbying for the CSC model. There’s a lot of media attention for the changes in Uruguay and the US. Farid explains how Cannabis Sans Frontières ran a quite successful flyer and poster campaign for the EU elections.
Austria: Erec explains the situation in Austria; cannabis plants are perfectly legal until they start flowering; sales of clones are enormous. Recently a story broke about a private company that is producing large amounts of cannabis for export to Germany to make Dronabinol. Six CSC’s have been formed, but are not yet growing. There are no real developments with other drugs. Drug use is seen as a bad habit but tolerated. There is a signature campaign to legalize medical cannabis, 25.000 have been collected so far. A difference between Germany and Austra is that Austrian politicians do listen closely to the population.
The Annual Report has been approved
Farid explains that NORML France and one other organization have dissolved to join forces with Chanvre & Libertés. We talk about the situation in the UK, where Encod has only three members. It would be good to reach out more to UK activists, maybe organize a meeting there. Joep explains the financial situation which is still worrisome. We need more members. There has been discussion in the Steering Committee about reaching out to big donors, especially in the US, both companies and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, the biggest funder for drug reform organizations in the world. Has Cornelissen has drawn up a list of US companies and NGO’s we could approach. We decide to try to get the support of the companies on the list, in the form of membership or donation. Getting finances from organizations usually involves a lot of paper work and bureaucracy, with a very uncertain outcome. We also want to urge Cannabis Social Clubs to start donating one euro per member to Encod. A real CSC should make a part of its profits available to activism, both on a national and European level.
Proposal for house rules and election of new Steering Committee member
We discuss the conflict that erupted this year within the Spanish cannabis movement . Encod tried to mediate in this conflict and bring the opposing parties together. Some members called for the expulsion of other members, prompting the need for a clear procedure and house rules.
New house rules are approved to determine the protocol of Encod in conflict situations and possible disciplinary actions towards members who cause damage to the association or to other Encod members.
The SC has a vacancy since David Rosse from Austria and Has Cornelissen have resigned for personal reasons. Elina Hanninen introduces herself as candidate for the SC and is voted in with unanimous votes.
Day 2: Cannabis Social Clubs
The second day of the GA was devoted entirely to CSC’s. In Austria, the UK and Germany, CSC’s are until now mere political initiatives to gather activists around a concrete perspective that could obtain public support. In France, a first effort to set up a CSC that would be legally recognized by the authorities failed in 2013, but that has not hindered activists across the country to embrace the concept. According to Farid six CSC’s have gone to the authorities to declare themselves; only one of these still exists today, with somewhat questionable practices. The ‘confrontation strategy’ seems to have backfired. There is also a medical CSC, but they do not want to cooperate with C&L or CSF. The French delegation proudly presented ‘Bud revolution’ a software program to administer a CSC. An English version is in the works. The data is encrypted an rendered anonymous.
In Italy, like in France, various CSC’s operate in a clandestine way, but it seems to be a question of time before the first group will officially present itself and start the legal battle to trash cannabis prohibition. Despite a change in the law to cater for medicinal cannabis, patients have a hard time obtaining cannabis. Media attention has been growing and quite positive. Politicians tend to contrast medical cannabis (good) with recreational (bad). The small town of Racale that claims to have created the first CSC in Italy, has recently created a Limited Liability Company with the clear intention of getting into the business of cannabis, while continuing to claim to fight for the rights of the patients. This makes the emergence of ‘real’ CSC’s even more urgent.
Austria now has five to six registered CSC according to Erec, of which the one in Salzburg looks most promising. Media are very supportive. In Slovenia, two groups are operating publicly under the title Cannabis Social Club, but their legal status is unclear. It would be good if these two groups cooperated more. According to Maya the climate is changing slowly in Slovenia. Thc was moved to schedule 2 in July. In the Netherlands, local authorities in Utrecht have been trying to set up a CSC, as an official experiment for over two years now, but the minister of justice is squarely opposed. In Amsterdam, CSC The Tree of Life has been founded this year and is now growing it’s first harvest.
All these initiatives benefit from the fact that a European coordination legitimates the concept. Encod can not act as an agency for certification and control of CSC’s, but it can empower existing and future CSCs in various ways. Encod is already a source of experiences and ideas and can also be instrumental in the sharing of tools like the Bud Revolution software and even seeds. We aim to create and improve the legal defense of CSC’s with the help of lawyers and law students from across Europe who are willing to defend (or are already defending) the CSC concept in court.
We plan an information campaign to clarify and publicize the Cannabis Social Club concept as it has been formulated in the Code of Conduct. Special emphasis will be given to the ‘not for profit’ character of CSC’s. Derrick will work on creating a short video in multiple languages to explain the CSC concept in a clear and attractive fashion. We will update the www.cannabis-social-clubs.org website created by Richard Rainsford. All CSC content published on the Encod website should automatically appear on this site too. We will put every CSC on the site that has declared that they follow the CSC code of conduct (and stress this fact to make it clear that Encod has NOT certified or checked these clubs actively). We consider to offer the service of an ’(Om)budsman’ to individual members of these CSCs; they can contact Encod if they believe their club is not following the code of conduct. In the future we could organize a CSC ‘summer school’, where people learn how to set up and run a CSC.
Fixed activism contribution
Among the responsibilities of a CSC is the support of (inter-)national activism, as a recognition of the fact that without activists, this step forward would never have been possible. Encod proposes a fixed contribution of each CSC on the basis of at least 2 euro per member per year to divide between national and European activism.
Day 3: Civil society
Day three was devoted to civil society and Encod’s plans for the new European Parliament and at the United Nations in Vienna in 2015 (CND) and in new York in 2016 (UNGASS). It’s important to realize that we are a minor player on the one hand, but an important one on the other, because we unite a lot of different expertise and have been on the scene for many years, so many people know us and know we are independent.
We decide to write a letter to Ethan Nadelmann (Drug Policy Alliance) on the preparation of the 2016 UNGASS asking what are their plans and how we could cooperate with them as European NGO’s. We hope to mobilize hundreds of activists in Europe and other continents to be part of this event. One idea is to have a march from Washington to New York, about 280 kilometers. Erec proposes putting an army of a hundred Prussian soldiers on the streets of New York. Farid notes that Michael Krawitz is on the New York NGO committee on drugs (http://nyngoc.org/) for UNGASS2016. ‘UN, back off!’ could be a simple but effective slogan, conveying Encod’s message that the UN shouldn’t have any power in dictating drug policies; this is up to individual countries themselves. The UN should only defend human rights, health and sustainability in drug policy. We could also play on The Big Apple image of New York.
We decide on having a five person delegation inside. Four members want to be in this delegation: Bart, Elina, Giorgio and Janko. They will all present a plan / outline of what they want to do in Vienna. A mailing list under firstname.lastname@example.org will be established. Enrico, Derrick, Kenzi and Farid will be inside with press accreditation. We try to think of a new theatrical act to stage outside the building or maybe at the adjacent metro stop or in the metro. At Cultiva in Vienna we will check the situation in Austria about a possible cooperation with local activists for the CND 2015 activities. In February it will be clear what kind of budget we have for this Vienna campaign.
At Cultiva in Vienna we will check the situation in Austria about a possible cooperation with local activists concerning the CND 2015 activities
We will organize a meeting with the 18 MP’s that have signed the Encod Manifesto. We will contact in particular Jan Philippe Albrecht, home affair representative of the German Green Party around the Catania Report in order to gather ‘our’ 18 MP’s and get the ideas straight in order to proceed. Four of our MP’s are on the Civil Liberties committee; this could be useful. Nicola suggests making an interview with Catania, who is now a school director in Palermo. We will also try to organize a meeting in Brussels with European lawyers, LEAP representatives and law students on the defense of CSC’s .
We declare the SC responsible for the Encod Facebook, under the supervision of Janko and decide to install a division of categories, with Alan Buffry being responsible for the Cannabis section. Derrick will update the Encod logo on the Encod Twitter account. Janko will draft a letter to Russian president Putin, taking the coming legalization of medical cannabis in Serbia as a starting point. The French delegation has offered to host the next GA in the south of France: dates and venue will be confirmed in January.
Next General Assembly
The French delegation offers to consider to organize the next GA in the south of France (Toulouse) – to be confirmed in January.
Thanks to all participants and collaborators!