Europeans Just Say 'Maybe' 

Europeans Just Say 'Maybe' 
Posted by FoM on October 25, 1999 at 15:05:34 PT
By Carla Power, Newsweek, November 1, 1999 
Source: Newsweek
Rejecting the war on drugs, some countries are looking for a truce with users. U.S. officials think that's a big mistake.
Bill Nelles doesn't look like a drug addict. A 44-year-old graduate of the London School of Economics, he works as a senior manager in Britain's National Health Service and sings madrigals in two choirs. But as a schoolboy in Canada, he started dabbling with LSD, then moved on to morphine and became addicted to opiates by the age of 23. Detox programs didn't take, and the few times he scored heroin on the street, the experience terrified him. So in 1977, he moved to London, where sympathetic doctors could give him what he needs. He now takes 40 methadone tablets a day, prescribed by his doctor and bought at the local pharmacy. His drug habit, says Nelles, is simply a chronic medical condition—albeit one he caused himself. "I don't want to be judged because of a medication I take," he says. "One can have a normal life and take drugs."That idea is beginning to gain acceptance in Europe. While the United States wages its war on drugs, some Europeans are quietly negotiating an informal truce. Governments and courts are loosening up on drug prosecutions. Users and social workers are cooperating to develop a "safe drugs culture." Not everyone agrees with this approach. Last month British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters he was "petrified" at the thought of his children getting involved with drugs. Later he announced strong measures to fight drug-related crime. Sweden takes an even tougher line on narcotics, and polls show Europeans in general still oppose the legalization of hard drugs.But in many countries, soft drugs like marijuana are increasingly tolerated, and even users of heroin or other hard drugs are less likely to be treated as criminals. To some Europeans, the "just say no" approach seems as outdated as the American temperance movement of the early 1900s. "Prohibition didn't reduce the number of alcoholics, and lifting it didn't increase them," says Dierk-Henning Schnitzler, Bonn, Germany's police chief. "Only the Mafia got big. The same is true with drugs today."Supporters of the new approach argue that efforts to stamp out illicit drugs in Europe have failed. The use of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines continues to grow in many countries, while marijuana and ecstasy remain widely popular. Strong economies, porous borders and a nightclub culture fueled by pills have produced a flood of drugs that are cheaper and purer than ever.Critics of the European trend say a tougher stance has paid off in America. The latest report from the federal government shows that overall drug use is no longer increasing in the United States and has even declined a bit among 12- to 17-year-olds. Ironically, America's modest success has helped to make Europe a more important market for international drug dealers. "We've got a terrible problem that's getting better," Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White House's drug-policy director, told NEWSWEEK. "[The Europeans] have a terrible problem that's getting worse." This week McCaffrey visits Europe for a series of meetings. Among other things, he will lobby for European help in the fight against drugs in Latin America.But Europeans have other strategies in mind. One favorite catch phrase is "harm reduction"—coping pragmatically with the social and medical fallout of drug use, rather than trying to eradicate it. "Sure, a society without drugs would be wonderful," says Nicole Maestracci, director of France's Interministerial Mission Against Drugs and Addiction. "But nobody believes such a society can exist anymore." When German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder took office last year, he switched his government's drugs commissioner from the Interior Ministry, which deals with law enforcement, to the Health Ministry. The new commissioner, Christa Nickels, announced: "Consumers of drugs are not criminals and should be exempt from criminal prosecution. Addiction is a disease and not a crime."A 1994 law allows Germany's local governments to permit drug possession for "personal use." What that might be varies from one place to another. In law-and-order Bavaria, the possession of any amount of marijuana is a crime, while in Schleswig-Holstein, police can't prosecute for possession of anything less than a whole ounce of pot. In France, policymakers have advised judges not to imprison users who don't deal. Last June a Swiss court overturned a prison sentence given to a man convicted of selling 1,000 ecstasy pills. The court ruled that this "soft drug" is used mostly by "socially integrated people" and "doesn't lead to criminal behavior."Some governments also are funding efforts to make drug use safer by passing out information on illicit substances. In France, a self-help group for users puts out pamphlets featuring Bloodi, a cartoon junkie in a yellow Mohawk who dispenses advice on how to inject drugs hygienically. On weekends counselors from Unity, an Amsterdam-based drug-education project partly financed by the European Commission, head out to raves, the dance parties held in fields or abandoned buildings. Working under the motto "just say know," they are equipped with glow-in-the-dark pamphlet racks and psychedelic cushions for "chill out" areas, where they answer questions about uppers, downers and wideners.Drug users are increasingly welcome when they try to work within the political system. Britain's top drug official, Keith Hellawell, encourages former users to work with addicts in prisons—"something that, merely a few years ago, would have been unthinkable," he says. In Denmark, Joergen Kjaer, a middle-aged heroin addict, runs the Drug Users Union, which is funded partly by the city of Copenhagen. He also serves, along with cabinet ministers, on the national Narcotics Council. When he puts on a jacket and tie for meetings, some are shocked. "They expect me to be skinny and look like a thief, because that's the stereotype of a junkie," he says. Kjaer and his fellow activists want drugs to be legalized. Europe isn't ready for that. But it is testing the proposition that waging war may not be the only way to deal with drugs.With Scott Johnson in Paris and Stefan Theil in BerlinBy Carla PowerNewsweek, November 1, 1999 © 1999 Newsweek, Inc.Related Article:Clinton's Drug Adviser Booed in Britain - 10/25/99 
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Comment #2 posted by Tom Paine on October 27, 1999 at 04:19:40 PT
Major US news weekly magazine, NEWSWEEK. Finally!
Thank you Newsweek for helping reach the mainstream ignorant Americans! Maybe the multi-national corporations that own many media giants are finally realizing that the Reagan prison-military-industrial-complex only siphons vast resources away from the mainstream economy. European murder and incarceration rates are only a fraction of those in the USA.---*10-99. NORML. Drug Policy by Country. EUROPEAN cannabis and druglaws, penalties, policies, trends. History of decriminalization,HARM REDUCTION, Dutch tolerance, Denmark's Christiania, FrankfurtResolution, civil versus criminal penalties, etc..|---*POWER LINKS. [INTERNATIONAL. Saner Cannabis and Drug Policies worldwide.]| and go to the "research" section at:
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Comment #1 posted by Tom Paine on October 25, 1999 at 23:14:32 PT
McCaffrey, the spin-doctor, screws up again!*USA versus HOLLAND. CHARTS to expose lies of U.S. Drug Czar BarryMcCaffrey. Drug War. Many international charts, tables, links.Click table of contents (TOC) names, not TOC URLs.|---*10-99. General McCAFFREY'S History of MISINFORMATION.
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