On November 7th, 2006, at the Conference “The Road to Vienna 2008” that took place in the European Parliament in Brussels, the following declaration has been agreed upon with the support of Members of the European Parliament from two political groups (GUE/NGL and GREENS) and representatives of more than 50 NGO´s, as well as local and regional authorities from around Europe and beyond.
Drug policies in Europe should be aimed at reducing, not at increasing harm. A system in which drugs are illegal generates armed conflicts, the spread of diseases, repression of populations and individual citizens, organised crime, money laundering, violations of basic human rights, and ecological destruction.
In 1998, the UN General Assembly Special Session in New York called for a global strategy to obtain a drug free world by 2008. The failure of policies based on this assumption is proved every day by citizens, by the farmers living in coca and opium producing areas in South America and Asia, by people in jails, on dancefloors, in coffeeshops, in user rooms, but also in institutional corridors.
Therefore, there is a need for a different drug policy. In the future drug policies in Europe should be based on a bottom-up approach. By taking evidence as a basis for drug policies, biased and counterproductive approaches can be challenged and avoided.
Today, harm reduction is embraced by many local and regional authorities in Europe as an effective approach to the most urgent
health problems related to drug use. However, it is not yet recognized as one of the basic elements of drug policy. Still many options to apply harm reduction measures are being jeopardized by national legislation and blocked by the international legislatory framework (i.e., the UN conventions on drugs and their narrow interpretation and inappropriate application).
The European Union should promote the widest possible expansion of harm reduction programmes, which have proven their undeniable results throughout Europe. Particularly in the Eastern European countries, there is an urgent need for these programmes in order to reduce the spread of blood borne diseases.
Millions of Europeans are forced to break the laws of their country on a daily basis, in order to provide themselves with cannabis.
Today the possession of cannabis is depenalised or tolerated in most of the EU member states, as a consequence of the pragmatic attitude of most European citizens towards the use of cannabis. Nevertheless, cannabis remains an illegal drug, and the activities that are needed to provide cannabis consumers, even for therapeutic purposes, are still taking place in an illegal environment
Wherever governments try to control the cannabis market with repressive measures, this leads to a further increase of the role played by criminal organisations. Therefore, cannabis consumers in various European countries are offering an alternative option to control this market from both a public health and public safety point of view.
In countries where the cultivation of cannabis for personal use is depenalised (such as Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands, cannabis consumers are establishing Cannabis Social Clubs, which are legal associations that organise a transparant, closed circuit of cultivation, distribution and consumption of cannabis by their adult members, as a way to escape from the illegal market. These clubs could become a useful experiment with a system which aims at regulating the market, facilitating environmentally and consumer friendly ways of production and consumption. We call on local and national authorities in the European Union to cooperate with these initiatives
The call for depenalising the coca leaf, as a tool to facilitate an alternative for the illegal market to the millions of people involved in coca production in South America, has recently been adopted by the current government of Bolivia under the presidence of Evo Morales. The international depenalisation of the coca leaf could allow the export of coca tea and other benefitial coca derivates and thus contribute to the worldwide recognition of the great nutritional, medicinal and cultural value of coca. This could help to reduce the dependence of coca farmers of the illegal economy and help to establish a sustainable economy based on renewable agricultural resources. We call on all national authorities in the European Union to cooperate with the Bolivian government and others on this issue.
The efforts to reduce the cultivation of opium in Asia have not only failed, they have also had counterproductive results. Currently 40 times more opium is being produced in Afghanistan than before the US led invasion of the country in 2001. We call on the authorities of the European Union to start applying a different approach. Depenalising the cultivation of opium and allowing the use of this substance for benefitial purposes, among others as a pain killer, could become one of the options to increase the life standards of opium farmers in Afghanistan, Burma and other countries.
The meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in 2008 will be the next opportunity to evaluate the anti-drugs strategy that has been applied worldwide for the past 10 years. We call on the European Union to do whatever is possible to ensure that this evaluation process will be genuine, looking at the impact of anti-drug strategies on the lives of affected citizens as well as the financial and other consequences for the law enforcement apparatus.
Vienna 2008 should mark the start of a different drug policy. A minimum standard of tolerance should be established within the international legislatory framework , which can facilitate the legal and political space for local, regional and national authorities to apply policies that are not based on prohibition.
People who cultivate and consume drugs are not less respectable, nor less legitimate than people who don’t. Together with other citizens who are directly affected by the drugs phenomenon they should be consulted in the design of drug policies in order to make these policies more just and effective.
This Declaration is signed by:
Members of European Parliament
Mrs. Katalijne BUITENWEG, MEP, GREENS
Mr. Giusto CATANIA, MEP, GUE/NGL
Mrs. Belen BILBAO, Regional Government of Basque Country, Spain
Civil Society Organisations
European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) and participating members:
Livello 57, Italy
Radio For Peace, Italy
Trekt Uw Plant, Belgium
CLCA, United Kingdom
LCA, United Kingdom
Ligne Blanche, France
GROEN VRIJ, Netherlands
Common Sense for Drug Policy, USA
Info Chanvre, Switzerland
Forum Droghe, Italy
Drug Reform Coordination, USA
Students Against Prohibition, Slovenia
Liaisons Antiprohibitionnistes, Belgium
Amigos de Maria Vitoria, Spain
Eve & Rave, Germany
REFORM, United Kingdom