Sunday, 11 September 2011

Global Commission on Drugs, don't let this fade away (Posted in June, moved from my old blog).

As the dust settles on the "coming out" of the former world leaders who make up the Commission ( it is interesting to feel the pulse of some of the world's media in relation to the idea that the drugs war has not just been lost but has made things worse, as well as the proposal that a sensible debate on regulation of drugs like cannabis is the best way forward.

If the idea has been overwhelmingly welcomed by civil society and professionals in the drugs and drug policy field, it has predictably been rejected by most governments, like the US, Russia, and other nations that have essentialy military/ideological approaches to mass sociological problems like drugs.The UK and other governments had their rejection ready but there was good coverage in most of the media in Europe. 
Some of the official reactions are almost comical. Apart from the old favourite about "sending the wrong message" there ist the World Federation against Drugs. Have a look at their website. Its headlines are an emotional rant aimed at discrediting individuals ("Russian Drugs Tsar Viktor Ivanov accused Koffi Annan of lobbying on behalf of drug traffickers"). The Russian Federal anti drugs service is a notoriously corrupt and ineffectual body, while Russia itself has a huge drugs problem that it is failing to deal with. The site goes on to name the "legalisers" and "harm producers" behind the report, which looks like a Who'sWho for evidence-based policies; surely an unintended consequence. 

Mr Ivanov was also active at Deauville, where the G8 recently looked at this (Why the G8?). He stated that we should be aware that this is "a public relations campaign in favour of drugs linked to the huge revenues they generate". He also called for a Russo-European agency to eliminate drugs in ..... Afghanistan. The French government has a way of pretending to go along with this type of initiative because it gives them international visibility but it rarely leads to much (who knows what results the 2010 Hortefeux Pact against Drugs in West Africa produced?). Fran├žois Hollande on the other hand, potential socialist candidate for the presidential elections, calls for a commission at European level to look at treatment and decriminalisation of cannabis. Let's see if he remembers if he wins. And let's hope that the European Commission is listening and will anticipate the need to support such an initiative and channel it away from ideologically induced platitudes in order to obtain EU consensus. 

Freek Polak of ENCOD gave a particularly clear and helpful interview on Dutch radio. That is now more important than it used to be as the Dutch are becoming wobbly on drug policy and are in denial about the reasons why home-grown organised crime has got into the home-grown cannabis trade, but that is another subject.. 

Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland - and member of the Global Commission - is on record as saying "I have high expectation of European action on this. Europe must put public health at the centre of the drugs problem." 

As the old joke goes in Brussels: maybe the EU should apply for membership of the Swiss Confederation. 

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