These are the impressions I got of the cannabis (and drug) situations and activism in several countries around Europe represented by people at the ENCOD conference in Prague on June 24th.
20 Years ago the law became more severe against hard drugs - previous to that small scale possession was not prosecuted. In 2000, drug users once again raised their voices against Government policy and harm reduction became an issue. But government resist campaigners and prohibition momentum is still building – there is little sympathy for drug users.
Cannabis is available as a medicine but few people are able to get it from The Netherlands due to expense. Press reports about medicinal cannabis are mostly limited to Sativex, otherwise it is blocked.. Recently a pro-cannabis petition raised 20,000 signatures, the largest mobilisation for 10 years – and people are now waiting for a response. Parliament presently calling for intrusive drug testing procedures. There has been no political comment on the Global Commission on Drugs report..
In public surveys, 35% of people want on-the-spot fines for small-scale possession and 60% want the law changed. In reply to a question on which is more dangerous, alcohol or cannabis, 60% said alcohol and of those 30% , 90% want no change to the law. There is a strong correlation between what people think on dangers and what they think on changing the law.
On usage of cannabis, 24% of 18 to 60 year-olds admit lifetime consumption but only 4% admit consumption within the last year.
80% voted to legalise medical marijuana (the plant) and 20% say health insurance should pay
In 2008 there were 2 votes re drug law. 100,000 people signed to support an initiative to legalise cannabis but this was rejected by the Government although proposals to make heroin available to “addicts” was approved. Now some medicinal use of drugs is accepted, small-scale possession is decriminalised although one has to pay a fine if caught outside of home.
THC will be limited to 1% from July although this is uncertain and may be delayed – on farms producing essential oils..
Cantons outside the big cities want legalisation and some cities want legal distribution. Activists are hoping that some plants may be allowed within the home under new regulations.
The situation is unclear after the election of a right-wing government that wants to limit consumption – hence the government minister proposal to introduce the “weed pass”, and increase in limit allowed for distance of a Coffeeshop from a school (from 250 to 350 metres). There is a call to review the classification of drugs and to raise the classification of cannabis, or some forms. This is due for debate in the autumn and consultation with users and Coffeeshops is planned for September.
At the moment there is no general weed pass but proof of age is requested at many Coffeeshops.
Trek Uw Plant is developing and expanding based upon the Cannabis Social Clubs proposals and structure for shared cultivation. - there have been major articles in mainstream magazines with 200,000 readers. The present idea is 1 plant per adult with 20 grams collected at the end of the growing season, and Trek Uw Plant has 48 members.
There has been an increase in public debate, also a big increase in cultivation and prosecutions.
New policing has put a limit on the quantity possessed before prosecution – this stands at 5 plants or 15 grams – above that there will be a fine.
There were two cannabis fairs last year with a lot of interest generated, in Prague.
Possession of drugs is decriminalised but police formalities often mean attending a Commission at a drug counselling centre – then usually nothing happens..
But the future is uncertain after the election of a right-wing Government.
The Government says it has no intention of changing the law – they admit to knowing about Cannabis Social Clubs but they have no proposals to do anything. Elections are due soon.. The successful scheme to prescribe heroin has been forgotten.
There has been an “invasion” of big-money people into the Cannabis Social Club concept leading to the construction of “fake CSC's) – it is claimed tat some seed companies are trying to create a façade to sell. For example, in Barcelona a CSC had 20 members but after one month had 5000 members so it can no longer be said to be a “closed circle”.
So genuine CSC's have been trying to promote official regulations to, for example, increase transparency and bring the produce under police control, introduce taxes and limits on production and membership.
About 50% of the Basque Government support CSC's and there exists a possibility to create a working group within the Government to introduce regulations.
The actual number of CSC's in Spain is unknown, it may be in the hundreds, but there are only 30 in the Federation of CSC's as many are false. In Catalonia there are many fake clubs openly breaking the rules and the law. This has created some alarm amongst activists that there may be a public outcry. Police reaction varies from region to region.
Activists feel that there is a need to control clubs and check they are staying within regulations.
Recently there has been much more debate on drug policy and an effort to promote safe injecting rooms, but the Government shows little concern. Cities like Bordeaux and Marseilles have shown an interest in experimenting with changes.
In the Million Marijuana March 15 groups participated this year, in 10 cities.
In January 2011, France showed a TV documentary “If we legalised cannabis” based upon the situations in USA, Portugal and The Netherlands.
Several new political parties are stating their positions and there are many calls for access to medicinal marijuana..
It is hoped that we can introduce some debate during the run up to the 2012 elections.
Media has shown little interest in the Cannabis Social clubs proposals and nobody seems to want to talk about home growing or excluding cannabis from drugs policy.
But although 5 years ago there was no public debate about cannabis or hemp allowed, this is changing and there have been several major articles in the popular press
Cannabis Social Clubs Proposal Petition http://www.petitiononline.com/CSC2011/petition.html
Cannabis Social Clubs group on Facebook
Cannabis Campaigner's Guide