108 Euro-Parliamentarians Call for Legal, Regulated Drug Trade, Reform of UN Conventions 12/20/02

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Nearly one out of six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are now calling for an end to drug prohibition and the revision of United Nations (UN) treaties that block the way. Some 108 MEPs (out of 624) from seven political parties or groups and 13 European Union countries have agreed on a draft resolution urging the UN and its member states to establish a "system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal."

This initiative -- headed in the European Parliament by MEPs Marco Cappato (Radicals, Italy), Chris Davies (Liberals, UK), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens, France/Germany), José Mendiluce Pereiro (Socialists, Spain) and Pernille Frahm (Communists, Denmark) -- was born out of October's "Out from the Shadows" anti-prohibition conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. That conference, which also marked the revival of the Radical-affiliated International Antiprohibitionist League (IAL), focused not only on calls to end drug prohibition, but also on proposals for efforts to reform the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 that provide the legal framework for global prohibition. The UN drug bureaucracy is set to review the organization's 10-year plan to eradicate all drugs by 2008 in April in Vienna.

But the effort in the European Parliament is not aimed directly at the UN, Cappato told DRCNet. "This is a resolution we will bring before the European Parliament. We will use it to bring pressure on European governments to make them raise their voices on reforming the UN conventions, since the EU doesn't have a mandate on drug policy," he explained. "What we want to happen in Vienna is to have governments speaking out against the 10-year plan launched by the UN. They need to speak out for reform, for change, and especially for change in the international conventions," he said.

Neither should anyone expect changes at the meeting next spring. "This is only a step, but it is an important step, these are representatives of the EU speaking," said Cappato. "This will put pressure on European governments so that one or more of them will start raising doubts in Vienna, start breaking the prohibitionist consensus. We tried to do something like this four years ago and we had 60 MEPs. Now we have 108 MEPS. Our numbers are growing."

Still, the resolution approved by the 108 MEPs for presentation to the European Parliament is a sweeping condemnation of the last century's prohibitionist impulse as embodied in the UN conventions. Given "the massive amount of police power and other resources devoted to the application of such UN Conventions, the production, consumption and trafficking of prohibited substances have increased exponentially over the last 30 years, which constitutes a genuine failure," wrote the signatories. "The long history of prohibition has conclusively demonstrated that reliance primarily on governmental action, through the criminal law and the police, has only marginal effect on the control of drug abuse." Fingering prohibition itself as the culprit behind huge black market profits, the resolution adds that "the profitability of the trade in illegal substances can only lead to an increase in the number of countries involved in drug production and generate massive investment in research into, and the production of, new chemical drugs."

Prohibition is also harmful for drug consumers, agreed the MEPs. "The clandestine nature of the consumption of illegal substances is an often insurmountable obstacle to prevention work as well as to the provision of assistance by public authorities and private organizations; current policies therefore condemn consumers to live at the edge of society, in permanent contact with the criminal underworld," they wrote. And a threat to all citizens of democratic societies: "The implementation of current drugs policies leads to the introduction into national law of rules that restrict individual freedom and civil liberties," reads the resolution.

Thus wrote the MEPs, "the drug prohibition policy stemming from the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 is the actual cause of the increasing damage which the production, trafficking, sale and consumption of illegal substances inflict on entire sections of society, the economy as well as public institutions, thus undermining health, freedom and individuals' lives."

"We cannot forget that drug policies are national," said Cappato. "We are not attempting global drug legalization through the UN. That is not the UN's mandate. But at the international level, there are institutional structures and bureaucracies of cooperation on prohibition -- funding, repressive structures and institutions that have grown over decades. Reforming the UN conventions is not the end of the process, but a means of allowing countries to try new models," he argued. "The nations of the world need to raise their voices and say 'we no longer accept that we have to follow a failed model.'"

European NGOs, working through the International Coalition of NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ICN), are also taking aim at the drug conventions. Working through the European NGO Council on Drugs, ICN is organizing a lobby campaign directed at national governments and have issued a public call asking drug reformers to come to Vienna in April to help influence the UN.

The global prohibition consensus is cracking, and the reverberations will be heard around the globe.

For further information, visit http://coranet.radicalparty.org/pressreleases/press_release.php?func=detail&par=2954.

Visit http://www.encod.org to learn more about the ICN campaign.

Read "Breaking the Impasse: Polarisation & Paralysis in UN Drug Control," Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper No. 5, from the Transnational Institute, July 2002, at http://www.tni.org/drugs/reports/debate5.htm.

Visit http://www.incb.org/e/ind_conv.htm for the drug war bureaucracy's information on the drug conventions.

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Issue #268, 12/20/02 Special Offer Continues -- DRCNet Needs Your Help! | Editorial: Expanding the Chorus | 108 Euro-Parliamentarians Call for Legal, Regulated Drug Trade, Reform of UN Conventions | Congressional Drug Warrior Having Doubts: Dan Burton's Near Epiphany | Michigan Legislature Repeals Mandatory Minimum Drug Laws | Canadian Marijuana Activists Skeptical on Decrim | Canadian Supreme Court Postpones Marijuana Cases, Cites Parliament Report, Justice Minister Statement on Decrim | DRCNet Book Review: "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington's War on Drugs" | And the Winners Are | Federal Judge Shows Keen Interest in Raich/Monson Medical Marijuana Case | Bolivia Coca Growers Announce Blockades for January 6 -- Will Continue Dialogue | DC Measure 62 Clears Hurdle, Goes to Congress 268/jeffjones Newsbrief: Oakland Cannabis Co-op Director Founded Guilty on Federal Jury Tampering Charges, Handed Out Flyer at Epis Trial | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Stop the Presses! Poor, Blacks Face Brunt of Houston Drug War | Newsbrief: Texas ACLU Report Slams Task Forces, Calls for End to $200 Million Annual Boondoogle | Newsbrief: MPP Continues "War on Drug Czar" -- More Complaints to be Filed, O'Reilly Appearance Tonight | Newsbrief: Budget Cuts Free Kentucky Drug Prisoners -- Oklahoma Next? | Newsbrief: Nickelodeon Censors Beverly Hillbillies Marijuana References | Newsbrief: Asset Forfeiture Unconstitutional in New Jersey | Media Scan: Joycelyn Elders in Globe and Mail, George McMahon in Fort Worth Weekly, Jeff and Tracy, Santa Fe New Mexican, Medscape | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar
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