Political momentum to legalise and reform cannabis laws gathers pace around the world. North America and South America are pushing forward faster than many parts of Europe at the moment, but European political thinking is showing signs of catching up.
Although not widely reported in the mainstream media, the Dutch Government (Department of Security and Justice) has just published a significant report, researched by the
The report was commissioned by the Dutch Government who wanted an impartial review of the recent groundbreaking decisions to legalize cannabis in Uruguay as well as the ongoing state-wide legalizations in USA, and the ‘cannabis social clubs’ in Spain and Belgium.
Although the Dutch Government has been widely applauded for their regulation of cannabis (coffee shops etc) over the last few decades, there is a growing political appetite amongst Dutch politicians to further remove all aspects of criminality from the cannabis industry. For example, in a Dutch Coffee Shop, the sale of cannabis is regulated but the original production of the cannabis still remains illegal and is often in criminal hands. Further refinement of Dutch cannabis laws could allow a fully legalized and taxed cannabis supply chain which would exclude all elements of criminality, a system which would follow the USA and Uruguay legalization models.
The RAND report paints an attractive picture of how such pot-law improvements benefit society, the health and well being of its citizens and stimulate the local economy. The report also notes how the only losers would be the organised criminals who have been gifted the tax-free cannabis revenues by successive Governments who have chosen not to regulate the cannabis supply chain in the belief that they could persuade people not to use cannabis. Cannabis use remains at, or near, an all-time high with citizens of all countries recognising that
a) Cannabis has significant medical uses, many of which are only being brought to public attention following many years of international ‘denial’ of the medical value of cannabis.
b) Cannabis is not anywhere near as dangerous as it has been made out to be during the time of its prohibition. When used appropriately by responsible adults cannabis is far safer than alcohol or tobacco.
The full report is 60 pages long, but will be of special interest to any European activists looking for an insight into current political thinking and the advice on which they are basing their thinking. The RAND report will be reviewed by other European Governments as well as the Dutch. Of particular interest is the authoritative detailed discussion of the legal positions (and how they evolved) in USA, Uruguay, Belgium and Spain.
One theme running through the report is that many nations are now over-riding the international agreements made through the United Nations, even though such agreements were originally intended to be binding and non-negotiable. However, there have been no repercussions for either Uruguay or USA since they decided to take matters into their own democratic systems and legalize cannabis. This has set a clear precedent for other countries to adapt their own laws. It has also caused many to ask whether the 1988 United Nations ‘Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs’ has any remaining credibility or relevance, given that it is now being routinely ignored. The graph, below, shows how USA public opinion has shifted from a point where 84% of citizens opposed recreational cannabis in 1969. Today just 39% oppose recreational cannabis, the trend towards accepting cannabis is felt to be entirely due to the general public firmly rejecting the biased anti-cannabis government rhetoric. Furthermore, the support for legal cannabis continues to accelerate as people see that there are no negative consequences to the legalization of cannabis in states where it has already taken place.
One interesting quote from the International Narcotics Control Board: “non-compliance by any party with the provisions of the international drug control treaties could have far-reaching negative consequences for the functioning of the entire international drug control system” (International Narcotics Control Board, 2013, p. 36). That is exactly what has happened when Uruguay, Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis. The United Nations has been unable to act or respond as recent events have unfolded in Uruguay, USA, Spain, Belgium and elsewhere.
Conclusions. It was a brave step for the Dutch Government to commission such a report in the first place. Many Governments have avoided the issue of cannabis and left it for someone else to deal with. The RAND group do their best to remain impartial and unbiased throughout the report, but it is clear that the report offers no significant reasons why cannabis should remain prohibited. Nor does the report show any findings that prohibition of cannabis has ever reduced consumption. The report certainly does recognise the emerging international consensus that cannabis has important medical qualities that are being recognised and commercially exploited. Perhaps the saddest part of the report is the amount of time dedicated to the legal arguments about how countries such as USA & Uruguay have successfully flouted internationally agreed UN drug treaties. Clearly there is no easy way out of this for the UN, and it is likely that the UN official cannabis policy will have to change and the easiest and least painful way for them to do this is by recognising that their original policy was wrong.
Above, Dutch Passion Think Different by BamBud
If the biggest concern of European politicians are the obligations to outdated United Nation agreements then the prohibition of cannabis does not have long left. Dutch Passion believes that cannabis consumption is the right of any responsible adult, whether for medical or recreational reasons. We welcome the political debate and wonder what 2014 has in store for cannabis campaigners in Europe and the rest of the world. 2013 saw remarkable progress for cannabis laws and that momentum will continue this year. Cannabis prohibition is coming to an end, that’s something to celebrate.