Graham Boyd, Sarah Trumble, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky
11 April 2014
Despite a federal prohibition on marijuana possession, sale, and use, Colorado and Washington recently became the first states to enact laws legalizing the recreational use of this drug. Although the Obama Administration has taken steps to attempt to deal with this evolving situation, we believe the status quo is untenable and Congress must act to provide certainty and a framework for these states moving forward. This report explains the problem and offers a solution.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) new drug-driving laws have come under fire after a senior public servant who ate a breakfast muesli containing hemp seeds was dragged through a nine-month court battle. The 2011 laws raised immediate concerns from lawyers and civil libertarians for their zero-tolerance approach, which criminalises even the smallest trace of drugs found in a driver's system. Fears were raised that the laws, designed for road safety, ignored the actual impairment level of a driver and threatened to snare Canberrans who had accidentally or innocently ingested drugs.
The report reviews 20 years of data from US government funded surveillance systems on government drug control spending, cannabis seizures and cannabis arrests, in order to assess the impact of enforced cannabis prohibition on cannabis potency, price and availability. The report’s findings highlight the clear failure of cannabis prohibition efforts by showing that as the United States has dramatically scaled up drug law enforcement, cannabis potency has nevertheless increased, prices have dropped, and cannabis remains widely available.
Ann Fordham of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) delivered the NGO Statement to CND Plenary under Item 8: Preparations for the high-level review of the implementation by Member States of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem.
The new coalition government agreed to abolish the cannabis pass, but access to coffeeshops remains limited to residents of the Netherlands. It shows all the signs of a half-baked compromise between two diametrically opposed positions.
Ministers should sanction experiments to legally grow marijuana under licence and the city should make preparations to do so, according to a majority of Amsterdam city councillors. All VVD councillors in the city back the move. The VVD's position in Amsterdam is notable because VVD justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said repeatedly he does not favour regulated production and refused to sanction experiments. Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament came a step nearer to approving legislation which will make people who have helped illegal marijuana growers guilty of a criminal act. (See also: Coffeeshops want say in Amsterdam marijuana production)
The mayor of Bogota has recently proposed a pilot scheme with crack cocaine addicts to explore the substitution of crack made of cocaine base paste (or bazuco as it is called in Colombia) by marijuana. The substitution treatment plan will include 15 problematic users from the marginalized Bronx area who are already receiving health assistance of the CAMAD operating in that sector of the city. The treatment will last approximately eight months, after which the results will be evaluated.
The new coalition government of conservative liberals (VVD) and social-democrats (PvdA) presented its coalition agreement on Monday. They agreed to abolish the cannabis pass, but access to coffeeshops remains limited to residents of the Netherlands. Customers need to identify themselves with an identity card or a residence permit together with a certificate of residence. Non-resident foreigners are still banned. In other words, there will be no cannabis pass, but the policy continues.
As an increasing number of jurisdictions consider whether and how to legalize and regulate access to cannabis, tensions are growing between these initiatives and countries’ obligations under the UN drug control conventions. A groundbreaking new report produced by a coalition of legal and drug policy experts offers strategies for countries exploring regulatory approaches to cannabis to do so in ways that ensure that their domestic reforms align with their international legal obligations.
“Next year we hope to evaluate the implementation of a new Drug Law”. Graciela Touzé, president of Intercambios, expressed this in the closing remarks of the 10th Conference on Drug Policy that took place this past June 7th in the Senate of the Nation. Throughout the conference it was clear that the officials at the national level are in agreement over decriminalization, that the representatives have come to a consensus on a proposal, and that there exist serious weaknesses in the development of treatments for drug users.
An opinion poll in the Netherlands in August 2013 showed that 54% of the Dutch are in favour of legalising cannabis, while 38% opposes it. There is now a clear pro-legalisation majority among the voters for the parties that form the current government, the liberal conservative VVD (58% in favour) and the social-democrat labour party PvdA (55% in favour) and in the Dutch Parliament. A range of recent polls indicate that the majority of the Dutch strongly disagree with the government on current cannabis policies.
State-level cannabis reforms have exposed the inability of the United States to abide by the terms of the legal bedrock of the global drug control system. It is calls for a conversation the US federal government wishes to avoid. The result is a new official position on the UN drugs treaties that, despite its seductively progressive tone, serves only to sustain the status quo and may cause damage beyond drug policy.
State-level cannabis reforms, which gathered steam this month, have exposed the inability of the United States to abide by the terms of the legal bedrock of the global drug control system; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This is something that should force a much-needed conversation about reform to long- standing international agreements. But while ostensibly 'welcoming' the international drug policy reform debate, it is a conversation the US federal government actually wishes to avoid.
Decriminalizing cannabis in the Netherlands and regulating the back-door of the coffee-shops and cultivation of cannabis would save 160 million euro on expenses by the police and the criminal justice system and bring in 260 million euro in tax revenues. The Dutch government is already earning some 400 million euros a year in corporate taxes from cannabis-selling coffee-shops.
In recent years there has been much talk of the so-called “Portuguese model,” based on an initiative that led to the use of illicit drugs being decriminalised in 2001. In fact, it is often said that Portugal was the first country in Europe to decriminalise drug use de jure, while Spain, for example, took that step de facto for the first time in 1974, except that it was not through a specific law but rather as a result of a Supreme Court ruling.
Jorge Hernández Tinajero, president of Mexico City’s Collective for a Holistic Policy Towards Drugs (CUPIHD), shares an international perspective on the historic Senate hearings this week on marijuana law reform in this guest post.
In Australia a vicious debate on cannabis policy started when Alex Wodak, the head of the Sydney drug and alcohol clinic at St Vincent's Hospital, suggested that marijuana be regulated like alcohol or tobacco. He proposed to sell cannabis legally in post offices in packets that warn against its effects.