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BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.


Joined: 14 Apr 2003
Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 12:08 am    Post subject: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS Reply with quote

www.encod.org wrote:



BEHIND CLOSED DOORS


At present, drug policy and legislation across Europe is determined at the level of national governments. For a number of reasons however, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is one area in which a set of common guidelines will have to be established. Moreover, there is increasing pressure to bring such a framework into effect. This autumn, the European Union will draw up a set of guidelines which will serve as the basis for a Europe wide strategy for the coming 8 years, until 2012. The period covered by the strategy includes 2008, the year in which the ‘drug free world’ strategy announced at the UN General Assembly in 1998 is due to be evaluated.

This means the decision-making process behind the proposed new EU wide drug strategy is likely to serve as a model for the 2008 negotiations. Like the UN Conventions which have,n since 1961, repeatedly called for a ‘drug free world’, the various Action Plans implemented by the European Union since 1995 have completely failed in doing what they set out to do, namely to counter the global or European - increase of drug use and drug related problems. Whilst harm reduction programmes have served to ameliorate the most obvious consequences of the fact that users of illegal drugs (of which there are an estimated 35 million of them in the entire EU) are still dependent on an industry that is almost exclusively in the hands of organised crime: they have done nothing to address the root causes of these problems.

As with the UN meetings, there is hardly any public debate on EU drug policy. Most journalists and politicians unquestioningly adopt the official rhetoric according to which drugs (and their users) are a burden for society, without considering the implications of the fact that because their production and distribution are illegal, their quantity is unregulated and ever uncertain. The costs of maintaining prohibition in the EU are approximately 15 million euros per day and those of drug-related property crime are probably higher. On the other hand, the ongoing illegality of such crops as cannabis, opium and coca leaves prevents their consumers and producers from becoming allies in a global industry that could lead to the re-establishment of sustainable economies, both in Europe and in developing countries in which these crops are grown. Ultimately however, the wisdom of maintaining a regime of prohibition that was implemented 43 years ago in a world very different from the one in which we now live, remains, for the most part, unquestioned.

So if the EU Governments decide to stick to the familiar “reduction of demand and supply” target for the coming 8 years, ‘sexing it up’ with formulations such as “a balanced and integrated approach”, it is possible that very few people will notice. The same could then happen in 2008 at the UN, which would mean that the drug law reform movement would have to wait for probably another 10 years for its next opportunity to change the course of global drug policy.

For these, and many more, reasons, the EU debate is of supreme importance to drug policy reform activists. Not only because it will be interesting to see first, the lengths to which most EU politicians will go in order to avoid taking any responsibility for the fact that two consecutive Action Plans have failed to produce any concrete result. Second, to see how they they will avoid any debate on the fundamental basis of the new strategy by refusing to debate the crucial issue, namely that of whether drug policies should be aimed at, and motivated by, attempts to improve the health and wellbeing of people, or at increasing control held over them by political authorities and the legal apparatus. Will European drug policies continue to be governed by criminal justice of public health agendas? A further important issue to consider is that of how EU authorities will treat information coming from those directly affected by drug policies: associations of citizens and professional experts who either defend the right to practice the production and use of mind-altering substances or advocate a legal regulation of drugs as a much more effective means of reducing drug related harms than prohibition.

At a local level, where authorities are in more direct contact with citizens, and arguably more directly concerned with the impact of their policies on the lives of local people than their national counterparts, drug policies tend to be characterised by pragmatism. In practice, many, if not most, local authorities in Europe have already long abandoned the pursuit of hard line drug policies. In the Netherlands, the authorities in several major cities are openly challenging the national government’s policies on cannabis, proposing a complete legalisation of the supply chain from producer to consumer, in order to increase quality and price control, and reduce eventual harms. However, even if it wanted to, the Dutch government could not explicitly legalise cannabis without denouncing the UN Conventions, an act that would have serious diplomatic repercussion both within, and far beyond, the EU.

Therefore the challenge for those elements of civil society that want to put an end to drug prohibition is to break into the official debate and make EU authorities listen to them. And in fact, consultation of civil society is a concept that has been repeated over and over again in documents released by the various EU drug policy agencies over the past decade; indeed, it was a one of the main recommendations of the mid-term evaluation report of the current Drug Action Plan. However, such a consultation has never taken place and it will be exciting to see if 2004 can become a turning point.

Three NGO representatives, all members of ENCOD, were invited to join the 250 government delegates at the EU Drug Summit in Dublin in May of this year. Even our modest input into the discussion managed to upset several governments, amongst them the Belgian and Italian, who declared themselves “scandalised” by what they had heard and seen. On the other hand, several individual government delegates came and expressed their support for the “NGO view”, albeit in a strictly personal capacity. Some weeks later, the Dutch EU presidency announced a first draft of the new strategy, which included several positive elements: civil society consultation remained an important element, health promotion seemed much more important than law enforcement, and the concept of decriminalisation of small scale production of drugs was introduced.

In early September at the first meeting of the EU Horizontal Drug Group (the forum for negotiations between the Member States and the European Commission) those concepts were seriously attacked, especially by the French and Italian delegations. On 1 October, a further meeting was held, but as yet no information has filtered out. It is impossible to say what the final text will look like, as these discussions take place behind closed doors. Since Dublin, ENCOD has persisted in its efforts to propose a further process of dialogue with the HDG, but thus far the answer is negative.

Still, there are signs that things may be moving. Not so much the fact that the European Commission has unveiled a website where citizens can send their comments on the new drug strategy, although that is a start. However the consistent lack of transparency in EU drug policy making seems to have attracted the attention of the European Parliament. The Parliaments’ Committee on Civil Liberties, not the Commission’s best friend after it refused to approve Rucco Buttiglione as its new Commissioner for Justice, will have to make recommendations to the new strategy in November. According to the first draft that was written by the Italian Giusto Catania, these recommendations move in the direction of a complete change of course in EU drug policy. Besides, several government delegates told ENCOD that its pressure for an end to prohibition actually helps them to elaborate a reform strategy that is less radical than ours, but suddenly becomes more acceptable to radical opponents of reform.

Our only hope lies in the future. According to the new EU Constitution, that will be signed in the end of October and ratified by all member states during the coming two years, “participatory democracy” should be considered as important as “representative democracy”. According to this Constitution, "citizens and representative associations should have opportunities to publicly advocate their political opinions", and authorities should "engage in an open and transparent dialogue with civil society, and conduct hearings with affected groups".

Maybe some EU governments are relieved that the EU Constitution is not in force yet.

By Joep Oomen, ENCOD

To comment on the new EU Drug Strategy visit
http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/whatsnew_en.htm

EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen
Belgium
Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436
Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225
E-mail:encod@glo.be
Website: www.encod.org


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Fyrefly1
Cannabis Sacrament Minister
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Joined: 07 Sep 2004
Posts: 478
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ferre,

Is this article just rhetoric or are these people and this offer for 'participitory democracy' a real thing because if it is then it's a great chance to make our total voices heard.....
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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
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Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's the real thing brother, and we are working on a letter to send them 'officially' in behalf of our ministry (also via normal mail) but we also encourage everyone to go to this EU website and write them an email. Let them know cannabis is used religiously in Europe and the rest of the world.

They ask for the public to speak out, so guys, go here:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/whatsnew_en.htm
And send them an email. Let your voice be heard. Very Happy
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Fyrefly1
Cannabis Sacrament Minister
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Location: Kingdom of Hawaii

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 3:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good as done...

Here's the e-mail address for all you folks at home.... Wink

jai-drugs-coordination@cec.eu.int
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Ferre
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have corrected the email address if you don't mind brother.

Do not send emails to ENCOD, send them to the European commission on drugs strategy:

Quote:
The Commission has launched this informal public consultation on the Action Plan to ensure that civil society and experts in the drugs field have an opportunity to feed in their ideas . These will be reflected in the Commission Communication on the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005 - 2008 that will be published early in 2005. The Communication will form the basis for discussions, after which the final Action Plan will be endorsed by the Council.

The ideas resulting from this informal public consultation will be taken into account throughout the Commission drafting process. The Action Plan will be based on the results of the evaluation of the present Action Plan and Strategy as well as on the principle that balanced efforts are needed to reduce both the demand and supply of drugs. Actions proposed at the EU level should be designed to add value to actions at the Member State, regional and local level.

The Commission welcomes any ideas on the priorities and actions to be included in the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005 - 2008. Please send your comments to the mailbox: JAI COORD ANTI-DROGUE(jai-drugs-coordination@cec.eu.int). All the comments will be treated as confidential. The deadline for sending comments is 8 November 2004.

Email to: (Mailbox: JAI COORD ANTI-DOGUE)
jai-drugs-coordination@cec.eu.int


Website with the information:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/news/consulting_public/drugs/news_consulting_drugs_en.htm

Online Contact form:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/contact_us2_en.htm


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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.


Joined: 14 Apr 2003
Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2004 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have just used their online contact form to send this little message:

Ferre wrote:
Since centuries the use of cannabis in religious rituals has been practised by millions of people on our planet. Today there are still millions of Europeans who use cannabis as a religious sacrament. THC Ministry is only one of the global religions with thousends of members in European countries and thousends more in the rest of the world and so are rastafarians and many other religions, all with thousends of members each. please provide legal protection for these Europeans in the new drugs strategy.

Thank you,

Reverend F. van Beveren

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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
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Joined: 14 Apr 2003
Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update from ENCOD:

Quote:
Dear friends,

Just to let you know that the office of the chair of the Horizontal Drug Group (at the Dutch Ministry of Health) has informed us of the fact that our proposal for a concrete moment of dialogue with policy-makers during the design process of a new drug strategy of the EU has not be discussed on their meetings yet, and it will also not be discussed on the next meeting they will have, on 26 October. In other words: they will not take this proposal into account. This decision ignores the recommendations made in December 1999, when the European Council of Ministers approved the Drug Action Plan of 2000 - 2004, it ignores the recommendations of the mid-term evaluation of the Action Plan in 2002 and, if the new European Constitution which will be signed on 29 October 2004 would be in force already, it would violate this Constitution.

So much about the democratic deficit in the European Union.

The decision leaves us with two options to comment the new strategy:

One is through the website of the European Commission, http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/whatsnew_en.htm , while we are aware of the fact that the European Commission has specifically proposed an amendment to the new strategy in order to eliminate the possibility of taking views from civil society into account when drawing up the action plans. Anyway, those who wish to comment the strategy, should do this before 8 November.

The other one is through taking contact with the members of the European Parliament (Committee of Civil Liberties) who are supposed to vote upon a report on the new strategy, written by mr. Giusto Catania. I have received a draft of this report, those who wish to receive it please contact me. I will send an update of the debate in the European Parliament very soon.

Best wishes,

Joep


EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen
Belgium
Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436
Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225
E-mail:encod@glo.be
[url]Website: www.encod.org[/url]



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Fyrefly1
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Location: Kingdom of Hawaii

PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Ferre,

Are there any EU publications, newspapers and such that we could give this story to that might publish it and let the voters know how they've been stiffed again.....?
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another update...

ENCOD wrote:
Dear friends,

Yesterday we issued an official complaint to the European Ombudsman regarding the way the Horizontal Drug Group of the EU and the European Commission has dealt with the issue of dialogue with civil society in the process that should lead to a new EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012.

And today we received an answer from the European Commission on this issue (a reply to the letter we sent last week to get some clarification on the way they will use the comments they receive on their website concerning the new strategy). I reproduce it here below, we are currently discussing in the ENCOD steering committee what will be our next step.

On the other hand, some ENCOD members (among others Akzept and TNI) have been invited to participate in a seminar on drug policy that will be held in London next Monday, 25 October, organised by the Beckley Foundation, which is supported by the Open Society Institute. One of the issues will be the new EU Strategy, and representatives from the Dutch EU Presidency as well as the EMCDDA have announced their participation. We hope to hear from the ENCOD members present at the seminar what will be discussed there.

ENCOD has also been invited to speak at a hearing of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe on 4 November, in Strasbourg, which will deal with the new EU Strategy as well. Most delegates of the EU countries at this hearing are in fact the same people who assist to the Horizontal Drug Group. For people who are not familiar with this: the Council of Europe is a bigger forum than the European Union, it includes all European countries. The Pompidou group is their drug policy working group, they meet few times a year, do not take any major decisions but function as an exchange forum. ENCOD members who live close to Strasbourg and would like to attend the hearing please contact me.

Then in November, the debate will start in the European Parliament. The draft report of the EP rapporteur on the new strategy, Giusto Catania, will first be available for everybody after 30 October, although we have seen a first text. All in all, the draft report looks very promising, although it remains to see what will be left of it after the Parliamentary discussions.


Best wishes,

Joep

www.encod.org


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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.


Joined: 14 Apr 2003
Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fyrefly1 wrote:
Hey Ferre,

Are there any EU publications, newspapers and such that we could give this story to that might publish it and let the voters know how they've been stiffed again.....?


Well, I encourage everyone to contact newspapers and every opportunity there is to get this news out. I guess any publication is ok.
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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
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Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today I received the draft version of the European Parliament Report on Drugs made by rapporteur Giusto Catania. This report has to be voted upon by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties on 25 November, and by the entire parliament on 15 December. I attach it herewith in PDF Document - It will also be put at the ENCOD website afterwards.


Click here: ReportOnDrugStrategy.pdf

This report is quite interesting. Just to give one example of one of its recommendations:

Quote:
..... propose measures totally different from those currently selected to achieve the overall EU Drugs Strategy objective of improving the wellbeing and protection of individuals by means of a balanced and integrated approach to the problem, since the relevant proposals are utterly inadequate;

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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
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Joined: 14 Apr 2003
Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Dear friends,

Just to let you know that today we sent the following letter to all members of the EU Horizontal Working Group on Drugs.

We will now focus our lobby efforts on the EU strategy towards the Commission and the Parliament.

More on that soon,

best wishes,

Joep


Quote:
Dear Members of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs,


In the past months, we contacted you on two occasions (30 August and 28 September), in order to present you a proposal for a concrete moment of dialogue between policy-makers and civil society representatives concerning the new EU Drug Strategy.

On 18 October, the office of the chair of the Horizontal Drug Group (at the Dutch Ministry of Health) has informed us of the fact that our proposal will not be taken into account as it does not fit in the procedure of the meetings of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs.

This decision ignores one of the eleven aims of the EU Strategy on Drugs for 2000-2004, agreed upon in the Helsinki European Council in December 1999, which called for encouraging the involvement of civil society.

It also ignores one of the key recommendations of the mid-term evaluation of the current Action Plan in 2002, which called for a conference to be organised in 2004 to involve civil society in the future development of EU Drug Policy.

It ignores the draft version of the new strategy issued by the Dutch presidency on 30 June 2004, which mentioned that “a balanced approach to the drugs problem also requires adequate consultation with a broad group representative of the relevant NGOs and civil society”.

And finally, if the new European Constitution which will be signed on 29 October 2004 would be in force already, it would violate this Constitution, as according to this Constitution, authorities should "engage in an open and transparent dialogue with civil society, and conduct hearings with affected groups".

As you know, EU citizens are very concerned about drug problems ( drugs constantly rate highly on the ‘Eurobarometer’ public opinion survey), and are entitled to be told what progress is being achieved in reducing these problems, not just what actions have been implemented. Likewise, EU citizens who are directly or indirectly affected by drug policies are entitled to receive the opportunity to participate in the design of future policies.

ENCOD is a platform of 86 European organisations composed by citizens affected and concerned by drug policies. We defend the interests of millions of European citizens, who do not dare to use their freedom of expression and publically out themselves as users of illegal drugs, and express the opinions of many more who feel that current drug policies in the EU should be reviewed urgently.

As demonstrated by experiences on a local level, where authorities are in more direct contact with citizens and more directly concerned with the impact of drug policies on the lives of people, these policies tend to be more effective in accomplishing the objectives than EU strategies have been thus far.

Therefore, we regret this decision and hope that in the near future, a decent consultation process with civil society will form a substantial element in EU drug policies. We are convinced this consultation will contribute to the success of the Action Plan. Increasing NGO involvement in the design and implementation of drug policies is a crucial tool to make EU drug policies more transparent and more accepted among citizens.

Best wishes,

On behalf of ENCOD,

Joep Oomen

EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen
Belgium
Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436
Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225
E-mail:encod@glo.be
Website: www.encod.org

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like pushing an elephant....

All the more reason to go for the religious use defense......
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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
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Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2004 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another update...

Quote:
Dear friends,


On this website you can download the evaluation report (3 pages only) of
the current Drug Action Plan 2000-2004 of the EU that was released this week.

http://snapshot.emcdda.eu.int/

And on this link you find the Communication from the European Commission on
the new EU Drug Strategy (70 pages of exciting literature) at:

http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2004/com2004_0707en01.pdf

Best wishes,

Joep


EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen
Belgium
Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436
Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225
E-mail:encod@glo.be
Website: www.encod.org


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Ferre
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.
Cannabis Sacrament Minister.


Joined: 14 Apr 2003
Posts: 2678
Location: Amsterdam

PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Dear friends,

Herewith I wish to give you an update on our lobby efforts on the European
Union Institutions concerning the new EU Drug Strategy and Action Plan. The
text of the latest draft of this Strategy is now available on the encod
website - http://www.encod.org/EU%20Drugs%20Strategy%202005-2012.pdf

The Council of Ministers of the EU will have to present this strategy on 17
December 2004. Two days before, on 15 December, the European Parliament
will vote (in plenary session) on the report of the Civil Liberties
Committee on this strategy. The draft report (available at
www.encod.org/ReportOnDrugstrategy.pdf ) will be voted tomorrow, 2
december, at the session of this Committee.

As soon as the final Committee report will be available, we will start a
lobby action to all Members of European Parliament in order to ask them to
approve or reject the report (or parts of it).

Finally, a small delegation of ENCOD members will be present in the
European Parliament in Strassbourg on 14 and 15 December to contact the
MEP's and make them aware of the positive effects of a fundamental change
of course in EU Drug Policies. We will try to organise a media event inside
the parliament, but that still depends on some details.

In the morning of 15 December, we try to organise a public manifestation
outside the building under the slogan: IT'S TIME FOR A DIFFERENT DRUG
POLICY. You will hear more about this action soon.

After the new strategy has been approved, the European Commission has to
design a new EU Action Plan. This Plan will have to take into account the
comments that it received from civil society organisations in the past
months. The information I have at the moment is that the Commission plans
to publish a summary of all these comments on a website. As soon as this
site becomes available, I will let you know.


Best wishes,

Joep

EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen Belgium
Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436
Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225
E-mail:encod@glo.be
Website: www.encod.org


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