Organized by the DRCnet Foundation and the Foundation for Alternative Approaches to Addiction – Think & do tank.
Oscar Pares Franquero – Moderator Vice-Executive Director of the International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education:
The role of civil society is essential to launch legal regulation, but also to ensure the process is exectued effectively. A broad range of stakeholders is necessary to reflect the word nature of the subject. A heath and human rights approach to legal regulation is vital. In the 1980’s Spain had the highest rate of HIV in Europe. The government focused on prevention and abstinence. Catalonia sought to understand drug addiction through a bio-phycho-social approach. A harm reduction approach led to a decline in mortality by 70%. Drug consumption rooms have become a part of many neighbourhoods in Catalonia, and despite some backlash they have gained local support. As of 2017 Catalonia has nearly 600 cannabis social clubs (400 in Barcelona). These clubs come under certain regulations (restiction on other substances, distance between schools, age restrictions, membership approval, harm reduction measures). Spain’s national policy is more agenda based than evidence based. The relative independence of autonomous regions has led to more innovative policies such as what we have seen in Catalonia.
Agieszka Sieniawska Chairwoman of the Polish Drug Policy Network:
Polish drug law is very strict – even possessing the smallest quantities of marijuana can get you sentences after the 2nd offence. Access to treatment is better, but is limited. Access to harm reduction is limited and we don’t have drug consumption rooms. Our first conference resulted in ‘How to do effective drug policy’ guidelines. And later during our 2nd conference the ‘Warsaw Declaration’ was created containing 10 principles for effective drug policy. This can be used in advocacy work at the local and EU levels. To implement the Warsaw Declaration we have a public hearing at the Euro Parliament, a side event a the Committe of Regions, a Study visit in Copenhagen, and workshops for Polish officials in 10 Polish cities.
Jean-Felix Savary Secretary-general, GREA (French-speaking Swiss group for the research on addictions), Geneva, Switzerland:
We need innovation in drug policy. There are problems to be solved at the local and city level. The Swiss model is not pragmaitc, we just have an addiction to voting! So we need to listen to citizens, and when asked to reduce problems we are facing, we need to act on it. We know so far that prohibition doesn’t work, but we don’t know the next step. The first step we took was during the 1980’s heroin crisis – we included many stakeholders and tried open ideas like drug consumption rooms. They were crazy ideas to begin with, but we tried them and some turned out to be brilliant ideas. After testing lots of policies we developed the 4 pillars strategy. We significantly reduced health and crime problems – we tried to regulate the market but failed. We still have a black market, so we continue to think of new solutions to end the drug dealers as a security issue. We decided to test regulation in Bern (pharmacies), others tried medicalise all drugs. We plan to launch this project this year to see what is the best model and what is supported by the population. When we innovate, we learn, evaluate, we can test public support and move forward.
David Borden, Executive Director of DRCnet Foundation:
A lot of the US acton is around cannabis regulation, so thats what we’ll talk about. November 8th was a remarkable day for cannabis votes. Donald Trump has thrown the future of legalisation and the industry into question, but less so for medical. CBD bills were driven by the knowledge that it can help children with epilepsy. The progression to get 8 states to legalise cannabis shows the limits of federal power. There are disagreements over what legalisation looks like within civil society. In California legalisation was seen as a threat to the medical cannabis community who had built their own businesses and opposed to Prop 19 2 years ago. Under Trump, the medical system is probably safe but the legal industry is much more uncertain.