On 26 June 2009, the European Commission will announce the European Action on Drugs, asking citizens to join efforts to fight drugs. So far only the Foundation for a Drug Free Europe linked with the Scientology Church has reacted positively.
The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policy calls upon the European Union to take genuine action on drugs, namely to end drug prohibition.
A “European Action on Drugs”
Announcing its “European Action on Drugs“, the European Commission is inviting European citizens to take “practical and creative initiatives that positively influence drug-related behaviour in European society”.
Before taking this invitation seriously, there is something that European citizens should know.
Since 1991, when negotiations developed a common European Union policy comcerning drugs, the role that “civil society” should play in this policy has always been stressed – on paper.
In practice, Member States Governments and the European Commission have never taken this commitment seriously.
1. A sincere involvement of citizens in the development and implementation of drug policy has been sabotaged even before it ever could come into place.
Since 1993 civil society organisations have proposed the European Union to set up mechanisms to enable the involvement and participation of users of illicit substances, NGOs, the voluntary sector and the general public in discussing drug-related issues. Nothing has ever happened with those proposals.
In July 2007, the European Commission issued a call for proposals for NGOs to be included in a “Civil Society Forum on Drugs“. In this forum 26 organizations were selected by the European Commission and invited to an annual meeting (of 1,5 days) to analyse and recommend on the impact of drug policy in the European Union. Sadly, the reports of this meeting are filtered by the European Commission, so no critical comments are being published.
During the 2009 session of this Forum in March, the European Commission presented the idea of creating a European Alliance on Drugs, with the aim of obtaining “a large number of commitments of organisations, companies and individual citizens who would support a common effort to raise concern on the risks related to drugs”, and formulate their own initiative that the Commission would then endorse by publishing it on a website or giving resources.
The proposal was almost unanimously rejected at this Forum. Of all participants to the CSF only one, the Foundation For a Drug Free Europe, reacted positively on the idea. This organisation is linked to the Scientology Church, which is currently being prosecuted in France and Belgium, and which is known for having radical moral positions concerning drugs.
2. The data on drug use in the European Union indicate that drug prohibition is a failure
According to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, cannabis consumption in the Netherlands, where this substance is legally available to adults, is lower than in several EU countries (like France and the United Kingdom among others), where cannabis is totally prohibited. This indication proves that the theory that prohibition helps to reduce the level of use is wrong.
In March 2009, the European Union published an evaluation report on the results of global drug policy for the period 1998 to 2007. The evaluation did not find any evidence that the global drug problem had been reduced. On the contrary, in the past ten years, prices have fallen, and drugs have become easier to obtain, also for young people.
3. The EMCDDA estimates the drug-related public expenditure in Europe to be around 40 billion euro a year (that is 60 euro for every EU citizen, children included).
Those funds are being spent in order to stop people in the EU from using illegal drugs. However, since drugs were declared illegal, production and consumption have increased, and an enormous black market has been created for goods that could be produced legal- and safely. The United Nations has estimated the value of this market at more than 400 billion USD, or 6 percent of global trade.
Most problems related to drug use are not caused by the drugs themselves, but by the fact that they are produced and distributed in an unlawful and uncontrolled environment.
What does this mean?
It means that the European Commission is asking citizens to cooperate with a policy that in reality promotes crime and increases health risks.
Drug prohibition increases the profitability of the product. It has an adverse effect on public health, as it makes any real control of production, distribution and consumption of these products impossible. It undermines serious efforts to reduce harm related to drug use or to prevent misuse. In the current repressive climate, it is impossible to communicate openly about the issue.
In short, drug prohibition is a failed policy.
Instead, under a regime of legal but controlled drug production and distribution to adults the health and safety conditions surrounding the use of these substances could be improved considerably.
Encod calls upon the European Union to take genuine action on drugs that would effectively be supported by the greater proportion of civil society organisations that are involved in the drug issue.
At the next UN meeting on drug policies in Vienna in March 2010, European Union Member States should propose to remove the obstacles in the UN conventions to starting experiments with the legal regulation of the drug market that are not based on total prohibition. Thus several European countries could set in motion a process that will replace a costly, failed and counter-productive policy with a rational and human approach.