Minutes of Encod 2015 General Assembly in Amsterdam
35 activists from 11 countries took part in the 2015 General Assembly at the Proeftuin De Luwte in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from 25 to 27 September.
1) Erec Ortmann / (individual member), Legal Europe / Austria
2) Janko Belin / Areal Tribe/ Slovenia
3) Bas Tielens / individual member / Belgium
4) Markab Mattossi / Overgrow / Italy
5) Naim Naderi ASCIA, Italy
6) Kenzi Riboulet / Coordination Chanvre et Libertes / France
7) Jason Farrell MDHG / The Netherlands
8) Joel Pikkola, HPP / Finland
9) Enrico Fletzer / Radio K / Italy /
10) Alessandra Viazzi / PIC – Italy
11) Davide Corda / ASCIA / Italy
12) Alun Buffry / individual member / UK
13) Martin Steldinger /Hanfparade / Germany
14) [Derrick Bergman->firstname.lastname@example.org
] / VOC, Gonzomedia / Netherlands
15) Joep Oomen / Secretariat, Friends of the Coca Leaf / Belgium
16) Steffen Geyer /Hanfparade / Germany
17) Farid Ghehioueche / Cannabis Sans Frontieres / France
18) Ferdinand K / Hanfparade / Germany
19) Maja Kohek / individual member / Slovenia
20) Bart Behets / (individual member), Trekt Uw Plant / Belgium /
21) Florian Rister /DHV / Germany
22) Richard Rainsford / CSC.EU Website/ Germany
23 Frantisek Pisarik / individual member / Czech republic
24 Michel Degens / Mambo Social Club / Belgium
25 Fredrick Polak / SDB / The Netherlands
26 Thijs Roes / observer / The Netherlands
27 Mauro Picavet / The Stoned Society / The Netherlands
28 Ville Vettenranta / HPP / Finland
29 David / Asociación Cannábica 4.20 / Spain
30 José / Asociación Cannábica 4.20 / Spain
31 Fernando / Asociación Cannábica 4.20 / Spain
32 Dusan Dvorak / Cannabis is the Cure / Czech republic
33 Stefan Bakos / Cannabis is The Cure / Czech republic
34 Rosaria Ricci / CSC Tree of Life / The Netherlands
35 Has Cornelissen / Legalize / The Netherlands
Excused: Franco D’Agata, Isabella Controllo (COLLETTIVO INFOSHOCK, Italy), Nicola (Aroma Crew, Italy), Urki Goni (EHKEEF, Spain), Alexandra Tarragoni (Switzerland), Toni Straka (Hanfinstitut, Austria), Max Plenert (DHV, Germany), Pichi (Spain), Myranda Bruin (Colosseum, Netherlands), Pedro Quesada (Enlace, Spain)
Day 1: country reports, annual report, election of new SC members
Austria: Erec reports on the successful Hanfwandertag in Vienna (16.000 participants) and on the Cannabis Social March in September – which was criticized for being a waste of resources), on the proliferation of Cannabis Social Clubs (though none of them registered, some distribute cannabis oil and butter, police has not reacted. There is a new law in force that turn cannabis users into patients. Also the cannabis embassy in Vienna has opened its doors, is llowed to grow cannabis as long as it is destroyed.
Finland: Joel says there is not much news going on since last year. Finland will be the last country to change its drug policies, it seems. Only medicinal cannabis is available (Sativex and Bedrocan), but only few people use it. A-Klinik (harm reduction) has closed its doors.
Germany: Steffen reports there has been a lot of media coverage on the use of cristal meth, esp. in the Eastern part of the country. Also there has been problems with legal highs (first deaths have been recorde). No developments because German national government is conservative, however there is a strong underground movement, 20 cities collaborate in Global marijuana March, 8-10 thousand participants in Hanfparade in August, DHV has become stronger. There is pressure for drug testing, but it is not possible yet. They would like to know about a regulation proposal for Cannabis Social Clubs.
Florian talks about the model projects for coffeeshops (proposed by the Green Party in Berlin to solve drug dealing problems in Görlitzer Park), cities or regions can ask for an exception to the law, like they have done with heroin distribution (Frankfurt, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg and Köln have asked for this). Even the CDU spokesman on economics is positive on the issue.
Italy: Enrico reports about the decision of the Italian army to start growing cannabis for medicinal users, whereas only state institutions are allowed to produce cannabis and this is cheaper than the import of Bedrocan; large demonstrations took place in Rome and Pisa. In February 2015 the government organizes a large conference on UNGASS, there is a group of MP’s that wants to make a law proposal to enable a weakened monopoly on cannabis, with commercial shops, CSC’s, still not sure if it will be discussed.
Naim speaks about the legal situation on cannabis: former law Gionavardi-Fini has been declared unconstitional by the Supreme Court, but policy continues to criminalise, there has been an attempt to put cannabis again in schedule 1.
Alessandra comments the initiative of the Italian army, is only about a small quantity, the perspective is 30 grams per patient per year, in Toscany a doctor has collected 800 patients giving them 20 milligrams a day, so this will not work. Last month the IACM Conference took place in Italy, PIC has denounced this practice, tried to involve Bedrocan in this discussion, in order to justify an increase of the dosis.
France: Farid explains that a large informal coalition of groups has been formed vis a vis UNGASS, the Pro cannabis Lobby has become a member of the NY NGO Committee, they also participate in the international medical cannabis users coalition, and collaborate with IDPC’s ‘Support Don’t Punish Day’ and the Spanish ‘Regulacion Responsible’ campaign.
There has been some attention in the media about the medical user Bertrand Rambeau. Only Greens are in favour of law reform. Justice Minister Taubirat has been quoted for anti-prohibitionist views, but the discussion was soon closed. The French senate has opened the door for injection rooms, but only in hospitals and only in 6 cities, maybe 3 more. MMM in May was well covered in the media, one MP asked for prosecution of the organisers, Health minister defended the right to demonstrate. Saliva test for drivers will be voted soon.
Belgium: Michel reports about the process of Mambo Social club, appeal case will be on 19 november, so final decision is expected before Christmas. The worst that can happen is a condemnation without punishment. This is unacceptable because there needs to be a regulation for CSC’s, already now people show up who put up fake clubs – they are only in it for the money. It is important to safeguard the social model. Meanwhile behind the scenes conversations are going on with politicians. Contacts with media are unreliable, some of them are in favour first but when they change personnel they change sides.
Czech Republic: Frantisek explains that according to the law people can grow 5 plants – this is administrative offence, more plants is jail – and possess 20 grammes weed, 5 grammes hash. Activists have tried to set up a CSC for medical purposes, have been raided 6 times, now the idea (of Dusan and NGO ‘Cannabis is The Cure’) is to set up a Cannabis Church (freedom of religion). The idea is to obtain acquittance by European Court of Human Rights. Working since 1990 to strengthen harm reduction, then from 2012 they have analysed the substances, then problems with police came, showing that CSC is not possible yet in Czech republic. Official medicinal cannabis is very expensive, the official system enables corruption. Doctors tell patients they should smoke – no oils or creams available. Patients are poorly informed. On national level there is no real debate going on. We would like to set up a European Citizen Initiative.
Slovenia: Maya reports on research presentation on the IACM conference. Though there is a notable increase in police action against cannabis users, political support for regulation is growing, but politicians do not always understand it. Next week tals with the authorities should start on establishing a second CSC, this time in Ljubljana. There is also an idea for a poppy social club, and for opening up a injection room. In other Balkan countries there is quite some discussion on regulation/legalization at least for medical use.
Netherlands: Jason explains mission of MDHG, which is to represent drug users in dialogue with the government, mostly on other drugs than cannabis. Last year there have been few problems with injection rooms. We want decriminalization of all drug use, we want a legal framework for drug testing and harm reduction.
Derrick describes the work of VOC (Union for Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition) that came about thanks to Encod active involvement since 2008. Lots of negative developments in Dutch cannabis policies but also some lighting points: judges have sentenced positive of cannabis growers who tried to do things transparently, delivering to coffeeshops – they received no or very little punishment. Lots of city governments with coffeeshops want regulation of the backdoor, so they can distinguish between legal and illegal. Important objective is to ensure there is no monopoly on medical cannabis (of pharmaceutical company) or commercial cannabis (law proposal from left liberals to legalise backdoor, but maintain ban on homegrowing).
Rosaria speaks about the situation of CSC Amsterdam, which is an effort to promote a possible model that is acceptable for authorities, the idea is now t present an application for licence to grow (exemption of the opium law)
Has presents a new idea to establish a university lecture series on drug policies.
United Kingdom: Alun describes UK drug policy as ‘totally crazy’. No party in government ever considers flexibilisation of the law. , meanwhile GW Pharmaceuticals produces cannabis, and sativex, and export it around the world. But when you grow your own: fines, community service, prison.. CBD oil is permitted and available for 50 pounds a gramme. An online petition to speak about cannabis legalization in the parliament was a big success: more than 200.000 signatures , will be debated in parliament on October 12, but expectations are it will be dismissed quickly: last time there was a drug debate, very few MP’s turned up. The argument is always: legalization leads to more drug use and more problems. New Labour leader is favourable for medical cannabis, just the problem is everyone will have to fake an illness. UK CSC’s are just on facebook, none is growing really. There have been cannabis picknicks in the park, police threatened to react but did not do it.
The Annual report was approved and the members of the Steering Committee were released of their responsibilities for the financial report. A short version of the report will be published soon. It was noted that three Encod members: Andre Fuerst, Joachim Eul and Lucie Therese Faure.
Discussion on internal structure
It is clear that many organizations and networks have been set up the past years to realize lobby for harm reduction and policy reform at international level. Most of these organizations are well funded (be it by only one source, the Soros Open Society Foundation) and are more capable of making a professional presentation than Encod will ever be. What can we do so our message does not drown, do we still have a plusvalue at all?
Jason: Encod should dedicate a specific working group to the topic of harm reduction.
Erec proposes we seek alliances among human right organizations. Mich believes this would make us dependent – and that it is exactly Encods force to be independent.
Erec: but we cannot do anything against the power of pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps we should think of making theatrical actions, using the force of actors and other artists willing to speak out against prohibition.
Derrick: of course Encod has a role to play, exactly because we are not backed by millions of euros. In the US it may be possible to ‘buy’ legal changes, in Europe bureacucracy works different. We should gather the support of more individual citizens. Erec: but we should make it attractive for them to become a member, set up a legal defense fund for people who get busted for instance for homegrowing.
Maja: Encod can play a role that most national organizations cannot play, it has a European legitimation: it can organize workshops on growing, on how to use vaporizers, on how to make derivates.
Mauro: let young people do the legwork, accompanied by senior activists, this wxay they can learn the basic tools of activism.
Steffen: Encod should not be an agency for cannabis social clubs, our scope is broader, and in our world there will always be a commercial scene, so best if this is included in our regulation proposal.
Ferdinand: and what about MDMA? Do we lobby for the freedom to buy pills?
Farid: at the UN level Encod should ask for a rescheduling of substances. And we could reconstruct the Drug Peace House in Amsterdam, or maybe start up a CSC in Spain just to make money for activism, or a clone selling operation in Austria.
Maja: to gain more from our presence at hempfairs we could sell products. But what? Spores to grow mushrooms? Nepal hemp textile?
Markab: there is a role to play for Encod at the political level in EU, some Italian MEPs are willing to collaborate.
Janko: Also in Slovenian parliament there is openness to Encods message, without the presence of Encod at UN we would not have been invited by Slovenian government.
Kenzi: it would be a good idea to make a full questionnaire to all Encod members asking them how they could co-operate with Encod, on several campaigns.
We discuss shortly the proposal to make a European Citizens Initiative. One needs 1 million signatures from 7 different countries – and when this is reached, the European parliament has to discuss it (probably to dismiss it after 5 minutes). Such a campaign needs a huge effort to convince both activists and potential signers, without a clear perspective of success this is going to be very difficult. Therefore we decide that Encod should not put its energy into this instrument. If others start it up, we can always refer to it on our website, but not more..
Conclusion: We need to do more to make Encod membership attractive to more people, and increase our recognizeability. Therefore we should set out a double strategy: a political one to campaign for drug peace at UN level (UNGASS April 2016) and EU (hearing in European parliament in Autumn 2016), as well as a legal one to encourage and defend every individual citizen who wants to grow plants for own use or obtain them through not for profit models like CSC’s for cannabis. Title: Let’s grow together, Think inside the box..)
All SC members resign. Enrico, Janko and Joep pose their candidature for a renewed mandate. Steffen and Maja put theirs as well.
Day 2: Cannabis Social Clubs
The second day of the GA was devoted entirely to CSC’s.
In Austria (Erec): there are 6/7 CSC’s registered but none is growing cannabis, there is no control of members either. 2 of them (consisting of 1 person) are distributing buds and butter to patients thanks to befriended growers. The Green party wants to propose coffeeshops.
In Belgium (Mich, Bart): 2 clubs are operational since 2010, work along Encod code of conduct. TUP has 400 members, Mambo Social Club has 80. Soon there will be third one in Wallonia, then we can make a Belgian federation. Both have to install member stop due to lack of growers. Steffen: Belgian CSC’s should work out a policy proposal for a regulatory framework, this would be helpful in Germany too. Joep: we are working on it, are in dialogue with authorities, but they do not want to hear about regulation yet.
France (Farid): the initiative stopped after first 6 CSC’s were condemned, and judge decided not to register CSC’s. The federation of French CSC’s was dissolved. The ‘Bud revolution’ model was stopped due to internal troubles between the organizers. Now the proposed model is a different one: Espace de Consommation, in three versions. This is a proposal to install cannabis consumption rooms, social workers are interested, it will now be sent to health minister.
Germany (Steffen): Left party embraced CSC’s, mention it in their programme, but in Germany there is no grey zone, there are 25 CSC’s but only on facebook, none of them is growing, one out of two are led by people who in fact prefer a coffeeshop. No perspective on a legal change, just on local level the cities are interested but they lack good examples from abroad. There is also a specific campaign, CSCistOK, seems to be an effort to reproduce the Spanish model in Germany, but this will not work.
Italy (Markab, Naim, Alessandra): no CSC’s registered, just underground clubs, some of which use the Encod code of conduct or go even further: no money involved at all. PIC started this years ago, as a mutual self help network of patients, but then was kicked out of the network it helped to create, by people who wanted to make money. Now, CIP plays the role of spreading the cannabis culture, and is preparing for the moment when CSC’s are possible. In a small village north of Rome the municipality gave permission to grow 40 has of hemp, it is possible to make CBD oil out of that.
The Netherlands (Rosario, Mauro): Tree of Life (CSC Amsterdam) is a very small club, 25 members or so, it has just been created to defend the model, Amsterdam Lord Mayor wants to support an application to obtain permission to grow for scientific purposes (how do consumers react on the possibility of having regulated cannabis). In other cities there have been plans to mix CSC’s with coffeeshops, or create a provincial CSC, still not concrete.
Slovenia (Janko, Maja): CSC Maribor still not registered, they have a verbal agreement with lord mayor. Same in Ljubljana with a new CSC initiative, basically for medicinal users, various political parties have supported. The agenda of the CSC’s is political, not legal.
Spain (David): There are two types of clubs: coffeeshops and associations. In the first one, there are some people earning money who steer the initiative, in the second is the Board of Management controlled by the members. Of the last, a minority works without earning any money, but that is how we think it should be. Clubs with max. 100 members do not have to pay anyone. We think max. 20% of all clubs work correctly, with no or a small wage. The rest is people who seize the opportunity to make money. Still the legal situation is the same, people can be busted for homegrowing, for a small plantation. So the original movement for cannabis regulation is broken. Rasquera (village in Catalonia wanting to grow legally) has a good plan, but impossible as long as the law does not change. The campaign Regulacion Responsable is also following the money trail, we do not feel represented by them.
Debate: How to strengthen the struggle for definitive regulation while still promoting te original version of the Cannabis Social Clubs?
As we have seen in Spain but also in other countries, it is very difficult to control what people do when they use the name CSC. Therefore we should bury the ambition of wanting to be a European Umbrealla organization of CSC’s. If people interprete the concept their way and convince their authorities that this is a good way forward, chapeau to them. Encod recommends, it does not oblige. In our political lobby we will describe a good policy framework that should be based on 5 principles: Transparency, accountability, fair trade, environmentally friendly and public health oriented. In our communication to citizens, we recommend homegrowing and CSC according to the Encod code of conduct. And promise logistical and moral support when people who are doing this are busted. Thus reducing their lawyer costs.
Richard explains about the CSC website, set up to support a coordination of CSC’s. A label for EU CSC’s has been developed, should be reviewed every year. Companies have offered to make CSC related merchandise, but difficult to integrate it in a strategy to fund the website. Derrick: we should ask all CSC’s to make a short presentation film on themselves, and publish it on this site. Collaborate with Cannabis News Network on this. Make it straight and simple a promotion site for Freedom to Farm and CSC’s. With a roadmap in each country on the possibilities to create a CSC, addresses of people to contact, descriptions on what’s happening in other countries etc.
All SC candidates present themselves and are unanimously accepted by the GA: Janko Belin (Slovenia), Enrico Fletzer (Italy), Steffen Geyer (Germany), Maja Kohek (Slovenia)and Joep Oomen (Belgium) have thus been elected for a two year period until 2017. Later, the SC decided to appoint Janko Belin as chairman, Enrico Fletzer as secretary and Joep Oomen and treasurer. In practice the chairmanship will probably be rotative.
Day 3: UNGASS
Day three was devoted to Encod’s plans for the UNGASS event in New York on April 19,20 and 21, 2016. It’s important to realize that Encod is a minor player inside the UN events. Delegates come there with pre-agreed agenda. It looks as if again the UN will maintain the consensus on not touching the conventions. Our presence should be focused on denouncing the fact that the UN is used to legitimate a global war. We can best do that outside.
Campaign to national governments
We will follow up on the Encod challenge: in the month of October write a request to all European governments and MP’s to organize a parliamentary hearing on the country’s position in UNGASS where civil society representatives should be invited. In Finland, such a hearing has already taken place. If such a hearing is not organized, the country’s delegation in UNGASS cannot be taken seriously. This request will be sent out to all members in November, asking them to spread it further or give us the mail addresses which we can use to do it directly.
We are in contact with Coalition of Anti Drug war organizations in NY and Mexican Peace Marchers to set up a picket line each day, and a 4.20 rally in the afternoon of April 20. We need a group of people prepared to make solemn and pacifist actions in New York. In the coming months we will ask all subscribers to the ICN Manifesto of 1998 (last UNGASS) to support with money or resources to make this action happen.
The picket line could take the shape of a pop up conference, where there will be speakers, we can invite UNGASS delegates there, there will be expositions on the war on drugs and proposals for a regulatory framework for all drugs..
In the evenings we will operate a media centre from New York where audio live reports will be broadcast and films can be uploaded on You Tube, with impressions and interviews with delegates.
Maja: maybe we can build a Dome there (a construction to hold the conference in), if possible.
Steffen: we need to work together with US organizations. There could be made contacts to German Left and Green Party. How many people do we need?
Fredrick: we need to go inside on the CND meeting in Vienna in March. UNGASS itself will not be important. We should limit ourselves to repeating the unanswered questions.
Kenzi: we need to send one person inside handing out flyers about what’s going on outside.
Farid: our demand to governments should be that at least one delegate is representing civil society. At UNGASS we should follow the agenda of the Civil Society task Force: Drugs nd Crime, Drugs and Health, Drugs and Gener issues, youth etc.
Derrick: contact LEAP for speakers. Netherlands will lead the EU delegation, so special attention to the Dutch government.
Conclusion: In the coming weeks, Encod will try to raise 50.000 euros to finance the trip of a delegation of 30 activists to New York, during UNGASS. Company members can be motivated to sponsor the action by offering to put their logo on the videos that will be made on the events. If we are not able of raising this amount, we will discuss a plan B in December.
The message of the action will be: there should be a UN Convention on human rights, on public health maybe, but not on drugs. Global drug prohibition is the result of the protection of a confluence of private interests maintained by governments. Global civil society needs more safety and more health. These can only be obtained by a legal framework that guarantees transparency etc.. (see above), in an ‘unconventional convention for a peaceful regulmation of drugs’.
We will put humour in the performance, and refer to the UN as a global peacekeeper. In the month prior to UNGASS, we will organize a preparatory meeting for the group of people who go there..
In the second half of 2016, we will try to organize a Public Hearing in the European Parliament to raise the need for European coordination in legal regulation of cannabis (with examples of CSC’s and coffeeshops)
Normally last weekend of June 2016 (24 to 26 June). We look for a candidate city in Eastern Europe. If there is none before February 2016, we can do it in the Encod secretariat in Antwerpen.
Thanks to Samantha and the crew of De Luwte for a wonderful hosting!