9th Informal Drug Policy Dialogue 2012, Czech Republic

Prague, 26-28 January 2012

Need to reform

The ninth (9th) informal rug policy dialogue organized by the Transnational Institute and the Association DIOGENIS, drug policy dialogue in Southeast Europe, has been held from 26-28 January 2012 in Prague, Czech Republic. The dialogue in Prague focused on three main issues a. the debate on the new European Union Strategy on Drugs 2012-2020, b. the new reform policy initiatives on cannabis and c. the future of the international drug conventions.

The Drug Policy coordinator of the Czech Republic, that hosted the dialogue, presented the National Drug policy of the country. A group of participants visited a program of harm reduction in a neighborhood of Prague.

With regard to the New Drug Strategy of the EU the discussion focused on the possibilities offered by the European Treaty of Lisbon in order to achieve a more effective policy on Drugs. The Treaty provides the possibility to create binding legislation for Member States in the area of criminal justice, while health issues are the responsibility and competence of the EU Member States. The discussion on the new EU strategy will take place during 2012, it will start under the Danish Presidency and will be concluded under the EU Presidency of Cyprus. At the dialogue in Prague two key issues have been discussed in depth: The so-called “Legal Highs” and the EU policy on “harm reduction”.

At the session on “new developments in cannabis policy reform” project initiatives have been presented which are developed at the level of local governments in Utrecht (Netherlands), in Servan (France), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Zurich (Switzerland). National initiatives in Canada and Spain have also been presented. Reference was made to state initiatives in the U.S. (the State of California and 16 other states) and in countries in Latin America. The initiatives at the local level are an indication that local administrations stress the need to find solutions for the cultivation and availability of cannabis, the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world (about 170 million users).

The discussion on the future of the UN drug control conventions focused on the possibilities to reform the international treaties and adapt them to the needs of our time. Several views have been expressed and difficulties for a constructive dialogue have been identified. Differences that exist between member states of the UN are a main obstacle for an open dialogue. It is difficult to make progress without the recognition that the current drug control system contains provisions, not adequate to face the challenges of the drug situation in our world today. It is a fact that everyone is noticing the inefficiency of law enforcement measures to counter the illegal drugs market, but only hesitant initiatives of countries who try to introduce alternatives form a beginning of an expression of concern about the growing economic and political power of organized crime that controls the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. The patience of the municipal authorities of especially the big cities in the world, is running out and leads to initiatives that conflict with the existing legal regime. It is a matter of time to recognize that the current system does not meet the needs of our times and must be reformed.

Thanasis Apostolou

Read More: Report Informal Drug Policy Dialogue, 26-28 January 2012