Europe Shifts Out of Drug-War Mode

  Europe Shifts Out of Drug-War Mode

Posted by FoM on March 11, 2001 at 18:17:30 PT
By Peter Ford, Staff Writer of The CSM 
Source: Christian Science Monitor  

On a winter afternoon, Udi Aviaz strolls into Kadinsky's coffee shop just off one of Amsterdam's famed canals and asks to see the menu. But the pages of the purple-ring binder do not list drinks. They list drugs. Mr. Aviaz, an Israeli living in Holland, selects a joint of locally grown marijuana, orders a Coke, and sits down to listen to B.B. King while he gets high. "What I like about Holland is that the sense of paranoia is gone," he says. "I can totally enjoy smoking, and I feel quite safe." 
Holland, which has allowed the possession of small amounts of marijuana, or cannabis, for the past 25 years, was once alone in its permissive stance. But more and more European countries are following its lead and turning their backs on Washington's war on drugs. The trend is bolstered by figures showing that Holland's radical approach has not led to greater drug use, and has improved addicts' health. Drug consumption is generally far lower in Europe than in the US. Eighteen percent of Dutch people have smoked marijuana at least once, for example, compared with 33 percent of Americans. "Where the American slogan is 'Just Say No,' the European policy is 'Just Say Know,' " explains Danilo Ballotta, an expert with the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the European Union's drug agency. "Our policies are completely different, and our messages are completely different." The Dutch government is growing less defensive about its pioneering focus on reducing the risks that go with taking drugs: While drug possession is technically against the law, the government has chosen not to prosecute over small-scale consumption and to go after wholesale dealers and producers instead. Other countries are changing their focus, too. The Belgian government announced last month that it will formally decriminalize personal use of marijuana, and a similar bill is before the Luxembourg parliament. The Swiss parliament will soon debate a law permitting people to smoke cannabis, and in July a new Portuguese law comes into effect that will decriminalize the personal use of all drugs, hard and soft. The British government announced recently it would draw up new guidelines for police, recommending that they do nothing when small quantities of cannabis are found; French authorities do not prosecute 95 percent of cannabis-possession cases, and in Spain, Italy, and most German regions the police turn a blind eye. Only in Sweden and Greece have authorities still fixed their goal on a drug-free society. European drug officials insist that their policies do not mean they have surrendered to drugs. Dutch police regularly cooperate with their Belgian, German, and French counterparts in seizing large quantities of cannabis and other illicit substances in operations to control roads and trains. Instead of an all-out war on drugs, European governments are increasingly turning to what they call "harm reduction" policies. "We don't want to chase drug users," says Nicoline van der Arend, an adviser to the Dutch Minister of Justice. "If we don't arrest them and put them in prison, perhaps they will be willing to have treatment." "We treat them as addicts, not as criminals. The fundamental point is that this is a public-health problem more than a law-and-order problem," argues Peter Pennekamp, director general of the Dutch Health Ministry. "If you are aware that risks are being taken, you can either ignore it, or do something to reduce the risks." That approach has spurred the creation of needle-exchange programs throughout Western Europe, giving addicts clean syringes so as to lower the chances they will be infected with HIV or hepatitis. Germany and Spain have recently followed Holland's example and opened "shooting rooms," where drugs can be consumed under hygienic and supervised conditions. All 15 EU members run substitution programs, offering heroin addicts methadone instead. And Dutch voluntary organizations take mobile pill-testing labs to rave parties, checking the quality of the Ecstasy often sold to dancers. All European governments run widespread campaigns to persuade young people not to take drugs. They say this realism pays off. In Holland, for example, the number of cannabis users is about average for Europe, and the number of "problematic" hard-drug users is among the lowest on the Continent. Holland has the lowest overdose death rate in Europe, except for France. The Dutch are alone, however, in permitting coffee shops to sell as much as five grams of hashish or marijuana per customer. This is a bid to keep young people who want to smoke marijuana out of hard-drug circles, which they might fall into if they frequented illegal dealers. But the policy is full of ambiguities and paradoxes: Coffee shops may sell to customers, for example, but their suppliers are breaking the law. "We pay taxes on everything we sell," says Vijay Shamdas, the barman at Kadinsky's. "But they don't know what we bought or what it cost because they turn a blind eye." Few of Holland's neighbors are expected to go as far as The Hague has gone. Belgium is going half-way, decriminalizing cannabis and boosting government funds for programs that educate young people to stay away from drugs, or help rehabilitate drug addicts. "Prevention is better than cure, and a cure is better than punishment," the ministries of Health and Justice said in a joint statement. "We want to avoid making cannabis use seem normal, but we don't want to dramatize it either," said a government announcement. "We will put the emphasis on prevention, and the authorities should intervene only when consumption [of cannabis] gives rise to problems." Portugal has taken a wider approach, decriminalizing the use of all drugs as part of a new public-health strategy to be launched in July. There, says Mr. Ballotta, "decriminalization is a tool to improve the treatment option. You keep the user out of prison, so that you can try to start a treatment and rehabilitation process." After years of vilification from neighboring governments for running a "narco-state," Dutch officials are quietly pleased to see their policies copied. "We say that our policy suits The Netherlands, that people should take the information here and fit it to their countries," says Mr. Pennekamp. "Slowly people are getting inspired." Note: Belgium, Britain, France, and Portugal are among those moving toward the Dutch model of treatment, not arrest. Newshawk: Avraam J. Dectis Source: Christian Science Monitor (US)Author: Peter Ford, Staff Writer of The Christian Science Monitor Published: Monday, March 12, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Christian Science Publishing Society.Address: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115Fax: (617) 450-2031Contact: oped csps.comWebsite: Articles:Swiss To Allow Use of Cannabis: Agrees To Legalize Cannabis:'s Smokin Coffee Shops: Legalises Drug Use:

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Comment #10 posted by CannabisMythsExposed on March 12, 2001 at 07:32:49 PT:

BS I'm afraid where Britain is concerned
"The British government announced recently it would draw up new guidelines for police, recommending that they do nothing when small quantities of cannabis are found"NONSENSE - I keep a close eye on the British government and there has not been even a hint of this, just the opposite in fact - arrests and imprisonment for possession are soaring in the UK just like the US.Pedro (UK)
Cannabis Myths Exposed
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Comment #9 posted by dddd on March 12, 2001 at 01:01:55 PT

gotta agree
I was also encourage by SuperStoners comments.Keep on keepin' on...I'm about 30 years older than you SuperStoner,and I'm goingto change my name to "MegaStoner",in your honor!Sincerely...........MegaStoner...aka..dddd
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Comment #8 posted by arcturus on March 11, 2001 at 21:43:44 PT

to SuperStoner
I've been stressing lately about the future of the U.S.A., with the recent events we've experienced. It's depressing at least. But reading your comment S.S. and knowing you just turned 18 has given me a little more hope. Fight the good fight young American.
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Comment #7 posted by eco time on March 11, 2001 at 20:33:01 PT

POWER LINKS. Saner Cannabis and Drug Policies
*POWER LINKS. INTERNATIONAL. Saner Cannabis and Drug Policies worldwide. Compilation of many world press articles. Many with Green Party info. In chronological order. -latest revision. -older copy. go to the "research" section at: 
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Comment #6 posted by SuperStoner on March 11, 2001 at 20:31:41 PT:

Speak the truth
I must say ... tell every one you know even the most anti of anti about what is going on in europe .. i personal have just turned 18 and even my own family has problems with my opions. Dont let people get you wrong when you know your right. The best method i have found is statistics and examples. This story is just one of many tools of truth you can use to show people they have been lied to. The best one is your Brain. Just cause I smoke pot doesnt make me a stupid person. And when you do get in to conversations about it the best thing to do is let the other person overreact ... if they do that any one else around will see that you .. the pot smoker is more civil and collected in thought than the raveing moron across from you. Free the plant and Speak the Truth -Kottonmouth Kingspeace yall and dont let the war get yaSuperStoner
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Comment #5 posted by eco man on March 11, 2001 at 20:30:40 PT

WORLD INCARCERATION RATES, 1985-1995. U.S. and Russian rates updated for the year 2000. At the change of the millennium, BABYLON, THE USA, BECAME NUMBER ONE! [TopLink] and Chart is in descending order according to incarceration rate for 1995. The overall incarceration rates below combine prisons and jails in a nations. The pound symbol, #, signifies a Western (long democratic traditions) nation, and the number of times higher the United States incarceration rate (in 1995) was when compared to that nation's incarceration rate.>[code]________________>Fixed_width_Courier_font_lines_up_columns.___>234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456>_____________________________________________>World_Incarceration_Rates._1985_to_1995._____>_____________________________________________>***USA_rate_on_Dec._31,_1999._______690___***>***Russian_rate_in_September_2000.__675___***>_____________________________________________>#How___________________Incarceration_________>Western________________RATE_per______________>nations________________100,000________PERCENT>compare._______________population._____CHANGE>________NATION_________1985__|__1995________%>_____________________________________________>________Russia___________________690_________>#1.0____United_States___313______600_____+92_>________Belarus__________________505_________>________Ukraine__________________390_________>________Latvia__________640______375______41->________Lithuania_______405______360______11->________Singapore________________287_________>________Moldova__________________275_________>________Estonia_________455______270______41->________South_Africa_____________265_________>________Cook_Islands_____________225_________>________Hong_Kong________________207_________>________Romania_________260______200______23->________Czech_Republic__270______190______30->________Thailand_________________181_________>________Poland__________270______170______37->________Slovakia________225______150______33->________South_Korea______________137_________>________Kiribati_________________130_________>#4.7____New_Zealand______________127_________>#4.8____Portugal_________90______125_____+39_>________Fiji_____________________123_________>________Hungary_________220______120______45->#5.2____Canada___________________115_________>#5.2____Luxembourg_______________115_________>________Brunei_Darussalam________110_________>________Bulgaria_________________110_________>#5.5____Scotland________100______110_____+10_>________Macau____________________107_________>#5.7____Northern_Ireland_________105_________>#5.7____Spain____________60______105_____+75_>________Malaysia_________________104_________>________China____________________103_________>#6.0____England/Wales____90______100_____+11_>#6.3____France___________75_______95_____+27_>#7.1____Germany__________90_______85_______6->#7.1____Austria_________120_______85______29->#7.1____Italy_____________________85_________>#7.5____Switzerland_______________80_________>________Turkey___________90_______80______11->#8.0____Belgium__________65_______75_____+15_>#9.2____Sweden___________50_______65_____+30_>#9.2____Netherlands______35_______65_____+86_>#9.2____Denmark__________65_______65_________>#10.0___Finland__________80_______60______25->#10.9___Greece___________35_______55_____+57_>#10.9___Ireland__________55_______55_________>#10.9___Norway___________45_______55_____+22_>________Croatia___________________55_________>#10.9___Malta_____________________55_________>________Solomon_Islands___________46_________>#15.0___Iceland___________________40_________>________Bangladesh________________37_________>________Japan_____________________37_________>________Slovenia_________70_______30______57->________Cyprus___________30_______30_________>________Cambodia__________________26_________>________Philippines_______________26_________>________India_____________________24_________>_______________________________[/code] # equals WESTERN (long democratic traditions) NATION, with the number of times higher the United States incarceration rate was in 1995. U.S. incarceration rate in 1995 was 5 to 15 times higher than all other Western nations. > and > and > and > ____ "... the U.S. rate of incarceration has just surpassed that of Russia and the U.S. is now the world leader in imprisonment. The [December 31, 1999] U.S. rate of 690 prisoners per 100,000 population has surpassed the Russian rate, which has declined from 730 per 100,000 in 1999 to 675 per 100,000 today [September 2000]. Russia has been facing severe overcrowding in its penal facilities for many years, with inmates in pretrial detention sometimes waiting as long as several years for their cases to come to trial. In response to this crisis, the Russian Parliament approved an amnesty that has resulted in the release of 120,000 pretrial detainees and sentenced offenders. This reduced the inmate population to 980,000 as of September 2000." --Sentencing Project, September 2000. > and > ___ 1999 rates added soon for many nations! From these sources: > --1999 stats. Also at: > 
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Comment #4 posted by eco2man on March 11, 2001 at 20:29:18 PT

Holland versus the USA. 
The Netherlands (Holland) versus the USA. Drug use. Effectiveness of Holland's harm reduction drug policies. [TopLink] and  >[code]_____________________>Fixed_width_Courier_font_lines_up_columns.________ >23456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901 >__________________________________________________>Drug_Use_PERCENTAGES._____________________________>Drug_use_in_the_population_of_12_years_and________>older_in_the_U.S._and_the_Netherlands._1997.______>__________________________________________________>__________Used__________Used__________Used________>__________ever._________past_year.____past_month._>__________USA__Holland__USA__Holland__USA__Holland>__________________________________________________>tobacco___70.5*_67.9____32.7*_38.1____29.6*_34.3__>cannabis__32.9__15.6_____9_____4.5_____5.1___2.5__>cocaine___10.5___2.1_____1.9___0.6_____0.7___0.2__>inhalants__5.7___0.5_____1.1___0.1_____0.4____NM__>alcohol___81.9__90.2____64.1__82.5____51.4__73.3__>heroin_____0.9___0.3_____0.3___0.1______NM____NM__>NM_=_not_measurable.____*cigarettes_only__________>____________________________________[/code] > and > 
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Comment #3 posted by eco peace on March 11, 2001 at 20:27:31 PT

Holland versus the USA and the UK. 
The Netherlands (Holland) versus the USA and the UK. Drug use. Effectiveness of Holland's harm reduction drug policies. [TopLink] and   >[code]_______________>Fixed_width_Courier_font_lines_up_columns.__ >23456789012345678901234567890123456789012345 >____________________________________________>Issue____________________USA___Holland__U.K.>____________________________________________>============================================>Per_capita_spending_________________________>____on_drug_related_________________________>____law_enforcement._____$81_____$27________>============================================>Numbers_in_next_4_items_are_percentages.____>============================================>Last_month_use_of___________________________>____marijuana_by_high____23.7____18.1_______>____school_seniors.______1997____1996_______>============================================>Last_month_use_of___________________________>____cannabis_by_15_year_____________________>____olds_in_1995.________16______15______24_>============================================>Any_lifetime_use____________________________>____of_cannabis_by__________________________>____older_teens._1994.___38______30_________>============================================>Any_lifetime_use_of_________________________>____cannabis_by_15_year_____________________>____olds_in_1995.________34______29______41_>============================================>Next_3_items:_Rates_per_100,000_population._>============================================>1997_Incarceration_rate._645_____73_________>============================================>Heroin_addicts._1995.____430_____160________>============================================>Murder_rate._1996._______8.22____1.8________>============================================>____________________________________________>Issue____________________USA___Holland__U.K.>______________________________[/code] > and > and > and > and > and > and > and > and > and > See "Pinocchio McCaffrey" ad in link just above.
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on March 11, 2001 at 19:19:10 PT:

And this from the Christian Science Monitor?
I second Dank's observation that sanity appears to be slowly creeping into the minds of our European cousins. The Dutch have stuck to their guns, enduring the loudmouthed and pea-brained blather that passes for official pronouncements here in the States - and have shown the world that they do indeed have a better way of doing things.But what's really surprising is that the CSM, normally an anti mouthpiece, has seen fit to print this article.Any more of this and the anti will begin spewing their vomitus in the direction of the media, which heretofore has been their willing dupes. Then the fur will really start to fly, as the media drops all pretenses and begins to point out the obvious failures of the WoSD with more enthusiasm than they have previously shown. Or to paraphrase The Bard, "Hell hath no fury as a media scorned."
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Comment #1 posted by Dankhank on March 11, 2001 at 18:57:43 PT:

Wow !!!!!!
Man it is so good to hear that there is sanity creeping up on this crazy world ...I have lived in various countries in Europe for eleven or so years total thru the years and it is a pretty nice place.They have always been saner places to be.Americans are usually easy to spot. They have more obvious hangups than our distant cousins across the sea.It a terrible shame that the home of the free is so missing true freedom.Here's to hope of a better day ...Peace ...
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