Home » Side event. Drug policy and human rights: cannabis regulation as a humanitarian measure

Side event. Drug policy and human rights: cannabis regulation as a humanitarian measure

Organised by Elternkreis Wien with the support of the Knowmad Institute, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Deutschland, the Brazilian Harm Reduction and Human Rights Network and the Cannabis Verband Bayern.

Rev. Daniela Kreher: In the framework of the 66th session of the CND our goal today is to showcase how regulating cannabis under humanitarian approach can help to achieve the UN sustainable development goals. For example number three – health for all of course. number 10 – gender equality. Number 10 – reduce inequalities. Number 16 – for peace, justice and strong institutions. And 17 – Partnerships for the goals. Cannabis regulation can be a powerful tool for humanitarian progress and the War on Drugs is clearly not the way. Thanks to the organizer the Elternkreiz Wein the parent circle of Vienna; an organization for parents and relatives of people who have problems with drugs. They transform pain into hope and they are tireless working since over 25 years in Vienna and it’s a, it’s a sign of Hope like the Baum der Hoffnung front of the gate 1, the tree of Hope for persons who died for overdose and as and, as a sign for all people who are working on this to go away on this work. We came from different latitudes from, different organizations and we are here because unjustice and human rights violations related to drugs laws are not more tolerable and we know that the responsible regulation of cannabis can be a tool to improve the rights of people in the whole world. Overcoming discrimination and criminalization because of the use of a medical plant. Cannabis regulation is a humanitarian measure when human rights are the centre of the public policies. And the death penalty, torture, jail, corruption, criminalization and stigma about the use of cannabis can have an end for the patients for the conscious adult use and for protection of the youth. I am honoured to present to you the speakers on the panel. They will share their experiences, and some are coming from the law enforcement, some from research and others being supporters of people who use drugs and their families in different ways. Our first speaker is the representative of the Elternkreiz Wein Christoph Fasching. He’s a clinical and health psychologist and psychotherapist in education under supervision. He’s the representative of the Elternkreiz Wein and he’s a LEAP member also (law enforcement against prohibition Germany) and we are very pleased that you bring today the issues of the parents to the UN and to share with us. Christoph the floor is yours thank you.

Mag. Cristoph Fasching: Thankyou Daniela, ladies and gentlemen, what I want to say is please, please take away the parents fear. Elternkreiz Wein has been or let’s say here the parent circle of Vienna is an association for promoting self-help for relatives of addicts. It was founded in 1996 and became a member of the VNGOC in 2010. Since 2021 the parents circle received the status of the ECOSOC. Due to our 27 years of activity and many experiences which affected the parents who would like to raise the voices of parents and addicted relatives in Austria and worldwide, to make them audible. Many parents who are not yet affected or impacted fear that their daughters and sons will come into contact with illegal substances and that they will slide into the criminal drug scene. This results in high health risks combined with stigmatization and Criminalization. Parents are also ashamed of their children’s addiction and including the resulting exclusion and stigmatization for the family’s concerned. Here it is clear to see that prohibition created a social taboo. This stands in the way of a competent drug education and adequate harm reduction education. Let’s tell that there’s no lobby for drug related deaths. Even in little Austria here we have more than 6 300 drug-related deaths and they have been recorded from 1968 to 2021. So that is much grief and pain for lots of families. Therefore we request that the existing International Drug policy should be evaluated and adopted to the current Social Development. What does it mean? I must tell you both. The Vienna declaration for Humane drug policy established 2019 and its basis – the Berlin declaration or the Berlin document from 2017. They agree that the current Global Drug War has turned into increasingly destructive spiral. The principles on which drug prohibition is based have proven to be a political and humanitarian Fiasco. Like the INCB president a few years ago, we too demand a review of the single convention established in 1961. This (a single convention) should be reviewed by the competent UN bodies in order to lift the drug prohibition. The current INCB president is concerned that cannabis causes psychosis. Okay this might be the case in people with a with a genetic disposition but nowadays we have to say that there are modern atypical neuroleptics that can or couldn’t be taken preventively to effectively avoid psychosis. A cancer patient with schizophrenia predisposition could also safely take THC cannabis for a chemotherapy. It would be possible. But please realize that it’s high time to end the drug war. In 2017 the then U.N General Ban KI-Moon impressively stated drug addiction is a disease, not a crime. Keep in mind there would be no change in the work for relatives or with relatives of addicts as well as the work of upcycle social professions such as doctors, psychologists and psychotherapists. The adequate treatment of an addictive disease always includes the whole person. Therefore our work would not change regardless whether there’s the actual approach or the preferred way of legalization and regulation for all drugs. Help us please. Take away the fear from parents. Thank you for your attention [Applause].

Rev. Daniela Kreher: Thank you very much for this clear words. In this framework we want to mention that in 2020 2021 with the Knowmad Institute and support of Law enforcement against prohibition, we did a survey about drug policy and human rights in Germany. And the general aim was to raise data and opinions on human rights and drug policy issues in the country where Knowmad institutes based and live and the Cannabis Verband Bayen. And question on General data, drug consumption in general, political and social perceptions were asked, and additionally there was some section for habitual cannabis users. 2070 people individuals over all Germany participated and the resulting perceptions and opinions were interpreted and analyzed by our international team. And the report with some contributions of experts on cannabis in Germany. As you all know cannabis is medicine allowed in Germany and some of the speakers here participate on the on the survey too with the analyst for example Joge Paladines or Natasha. Hubert too. And the service particularly relevant today as many people are concerned about the regulation of cannabis for adult use. It is part of the process in Germany seeking what is the best way to end the prohibition of cannabis. To make the results more accessible, we create a page with Graphics that illustrate the data on the survey and the page uses an interactive data visualization format allowing users to navigate and explore the results of the participant. You can access to them through the QR code I don’t know, yes. One is the report and one is the survey and the questions and the answers. In conclusion this survey shows that discrimination and stigmatization are present even in Germany even if they have a law for cannabis as medicine. Six years now. And please we invite you to go in and to explore the data. The goal to reach is that you can discover new perspectives and how harmful is the consequences of the prohibition. Where there are more evidence and the shows that reform is really needed and really urgent. Our next speaker is Natasha Barnes. She’s a speaker from LEAP Germany (law enforcement against prohibition), and she is a mother, she’s a police officer in Germany, and she is a cannabis patient. Natasha thank you very much for being here to share your experience with us, the floor is yours.

Natascha Barz (LEAP Germany): Thank you for your introduction. Good morning. As a proud woman, devoted mother to six children, active police officer and a cannabis patient, I am honoured to share my experiences and personal testimony with you today. In 2020 my life drastically changed when I was diagnosed with cancer. After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation I had multiple side effects like nausea, hair loss,  fatigue and so on. When all the medicaments against nausea didn’t help anymore I talked to my doctor about the prescription of cannabis. With this herbal medicament my life quality began to raise again. Since my chemotherapy I kept adebilitating side effect – polyneuropathy. This condition causes missed feelings, numbness and excruciating pain in my legs and feet which still persists today. However thanks to cannabis I am one of the two hundred thousand legal patients in my country with access to this life-changing plant-based medicine. Cannabis has transformed my life, allowing me to enjoy a wonderful quality of life with my family, practice karate with my husband and children, work efficiently 24 hours a week and even stand before you today to speak. I have a fulfilling life thanks to this miraculous plant, however my experiences have not been without challenges. The stigmatization, discrimination and criminalization of cannabis patients and users have been particularly difficult, despite working as a responsible police officer for the past 30 years and being a mother for 18 years, I have been denigrated and humiliated and even told that I could no longer teach children about traffic and Street rules, all because of outdated laws and misguided meds about cannabis. I have witnessed first hand how the medical system discriminates against cannabis patients and how bureaucratic hurdles make it difficult for patients to access the needed medicine. This must changes. As a mother I know that protecting our children is of utmost importance, but we must ask ourselves what are we protecting them from? Is it a plant that has been proven to have medicinal benefits or from the criminalization that often comes with it. It is time to prioritize the well-being of our loved ones and the unfair stigmatization and criminalization of cannabis patients and users. I understand that some of my colleagues may have reservations about cannabis, particularly regarding the psychoactive effects of THC. However as someone who has experienced the benefits of cannabis as a medicine, I cannot stand by and support the stigmatization of that plant any longer. Based on my experience I firmly believe that the potential of the medical cannabis industry is still in its early stages. and the current laws are insufficient. It is crucial to regulate the market responsibly as the black market lacks safety quality control, youth protection and funds organized crime. Millions of people including responsible and irresponsible adults and youth use cannabis and leaving this market in the hands of criminals cannot be the best solution. As a cannabis patient and activist I often feel that my advocacy for legalization and better access to cannabis for patients is met with skepticism. However as one of the 200 000 cannabis patients in my country I am grateful for the benefits of this plant and excited about the upcoming changes in the law. The current laws do not benefit women, youth, family, health or community security. As a speaker for LEAP (law enforcement against prohibition), I hope the government will soon legalize adult use, allowing people to buy cannabis legally. I also wish that police officers could focus on security and community work instead of medicine and abuse prevention which are not their specialties. I call on everyone to speak up, raise concerns and find solutions to move toward a drug policy that respects patients and promotes justice, dignity and security instead of fear and punity policies. Education not criminalization is what we all need. Only then can we achieve deep social tolerance and destigmatize cannabis use. Thank you for listening [Applause].

Rev. Daniela Kreher: Thank you Natasha it’s clear that the fight for legal cannabis recognition and acceptance of cannabis as medicine has been ongoing for decades. The suffering of patients and users cannot be ignored and it’s important that state delegations take notice to become aware of these issues. Currently in Germany only a small percentage of the patients are receiving cannabis based medications but the need for sufficient health care with cannabis medicine is much greater. We hear that the stigmatization is really hard stuff for persons who are needing the medicine. Our next speaker is Hubert Wimber. I am very happy that you are here. He is the chair of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in Germany and founder in 2017, and he is a former police chief with almost 18 years of experience. He bring us his insights on the upcoming cannabis regulation law and how is the position of the law enforcement officers in Germany on this issue. The floor is yours.

Hubert Wimber (LEAP Germany): Okay thank you very much Daniela. Also good morning from my side ladies and gentlemen. You have said everything to my person what is important – chief of police for around about 18 years in Germany and that’s my professional experience. What’s the problem we have? What’s the problem we have and why do we need to change drug policies? That is my point. The problem is in the field of narcotic crime they are currently around 350 000 police investigations and around 65 000 convictions by the criminal justice system each year in the federal republic. 65 000 convictions. What is so remarkable about these figures is that around 80 percent of the investigations and 80 percent of the convictions concerned drug users for acquiring and possessing these substances and only 20 percent of all relate to the supply side of the drug market for manufacturing, trafficking and illegal impartation. That’s a fact. The global war and the prohibitive system on drugs has failed. This finding is not new but it needs to be emphasized once again from the point of view of a criminal prosecution authority. Nowhere in the world do the security authorities have control over the drug market and ensure that elementary human rights are observed. Nowhere in the world. In the knowledge of this discussion, the current federal government decided in its Coalition agreement to allow the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational use in licensed specialty shops during this legislative period which goes to 2024. In contrast to the currently prevailing prohibition regime this is intended to control the quality of cannabis, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and ensures the protection of minors. This should significantly reduce the previous black market and noticeably reduce the health risks for consumers. As Law Enforcement against Prohibition Germany we welcome and support these legislative project. We want the previously non-existent use and consumer protection through state control from cultivation to sale and the consistent decriminalization of consumers. However the complexity of the legal issues associated with the plant regulation are delaying the legislative process. The question of compatibility with European and international law, especially the single conventions of the United Nations is currently the subject of a heated debate in Germany. I am convinced that implementation that conforms with European and international law is possible but it all takes time. In view of this and the fact that the federal government has not yet provided a binding timetable for the implementation of the legal reform, we have concrete demands to the further legislative process which we decided at our general meeting of LEAP Germany last autumn. In the first step the immediate decriminalization of consumers through the unpunished possession of up to 30 grams for personal use, the permitted own or community cultivation of three flowering plants per adult. In addition there is a need for the immediate introduction of a scientifically valid limit value for cannabis consumption in driving license law, and a regulation for the legal use of industrial hemp. In a second legislative step the supply side of the cannabis market must be considered. Applying the principle that drug policy is part of health policy and that the previous criminal liability of all forms of dealing with cannabis has proven to be counterproductive. We want a state control the value from cultivation to sale in licensed specialty shops. With all this we also want to relieve the police and judiciary of harmful and unnecessary work. We expect that with a change in drug policies the influence of organized crime in particular will be reduced and that this will result in a significant Improvement in the general human rights situation. Thank you very much for your attention [Applause].

Rev. Daniela Kreher: Thank you Hubert. We appreciate your advocacy for evidence-based drug policy reform and hope the German government will consider LEAP recommendations. For example today now is an expert audience in the Health commission on decriminalization of cannabis in in the parliament in Germany, so we have a person there too, and we hope these recommendations can be helpful for the decisions. I am glad to introduce you to Professor Jorge Paladines who is a distinguished lawyer and expert in constitutional and criminal law. He is a member of the Ethics Committee of The Knowmad Institute and with his large experience in promoting strategic litigation against the criminalization of drug users and his work in designing drug law reforms, Jorge is uniquely qualified to offer his insights on the current drug policy situation in Ecuador and the challenges facing cannabis regulation in Germany too, and in international law. Thank you for being here.

Professor Jorge Paladines: Thank you very much for the invitation – what a great organization. I would like to return to the idea of the subtitle of our side event, especially when we speak of humanitarian measures. In drug policy as in criminal law, deter measures is often used to refer to mandates or orders that are applied administratively. The reflection on norms and measures came from one of the most important jurists of the pre and post-war period. This was Ernst Fraenkel – a Jewish jurist and Social Democrat who was persecuted during the National Socialist dictatorship and who was to write one of the most controversial works of law – the Dual State published in 1941. In short for Fraenkel, the legal order that results from the ‘measures’ is not a legal order, but an arbitrary legal regime where the ‘measures’ eat the norms. Specifically drug provision is full of measures. Such measures are now recorded in the three conventions that make up global drugs prohibition. For example, ‘measures’ to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppy plants, coca bush and cannabis, as well as actions that fall under the abstract and problematic definition of trafficking. Measures that prohibit or deny international drug consumption and trade are complemented by other measures that fall within the scope of criminal law. Thus, police or judicial measures to combat organized crime such as extradition or guidelines to combat money laundering. On the other side are the ‘norms’ which give the outline to the legal principle that we know under the name of fundamental rights. Instead the sentence discussed the factuality and validity of the right to use illegal drugs. Thus the discussion is reified not around the individual but around the mild, medium or a high harmfulness of these substances. As a consequence a pendulum is produced in which human rights are trapped: the greater the lethality of the substance, the lower the presumption of innocence. Nearly 30 years ago, the German constitutional court issued the famous Cannabis Decision – the constitutional justice confirmed the compatibility of international drug law. Of course, for Germany’s highest court of Justice, of all conventions was not its main task, but only of the articles concerning the criminalization of actions rooted in the internal jurisdiction. Although this decision made it possible to focus the principle of opportunity that prosecutors have through article 153 of the criminal procedures called cannabis procedure code, cannabis users in Germany – people who should legally be deemed innocent, have to sidestep state-maintained mathematics, since like the USA, Germany is a federal country and Bayern’s Threshold Quantities for example are less generous than those of Bremen or Berlin. According to the criminal investigation directorate, more than 50% for investigation for drug-related crimes are related with the cannabis possession. After the current Coalition agreement, the parties that govern Germany decided to start the debate for the decriminalization of cannabis. Germany is asking the European Commission for an interpretative solution of what would be a new law. The German government feels trapped in two normative dimensions. On the one hand the normative dimension of the European Union. Namely: a) Article 2 of the Decision 757 on Illicit drug trafficking (2004), and b) article 71 of the Convention for the application of the Schengen Agreement (1985); and on the other hand, of International Drug Law, in particular article 3 of the Vienna Convention. But all of these rules are ‘measures’ to prevent and combat the demand for cannabis. The spirit of these ‘measures’ disguised as norms is to maintain a legal regime of repression and punishment. What the commission decides and a possible interpretation by the European Court of justice may postpone the implementation of a law that regulates the cannabis market in Germany. All the more so since the European Commission is not the competent body to interpret International drug law. In any case the important thing to mention is that the discussion that Germany has decided to start with the European Commission is not about ‘norms’ but about real ‘measures’ that should not be weighed and put on the same level as the presumption of innocence and the free development of the personality. Thank you so much [Applause].

Rev. Daniela Kreher: Thank you Jorge for your contributions. We will continue to monitor the progress of Germany’s regulation of adult use and hope that we will it will reduce the repression, the discrimination, and the violence against patients and users. Now I am pleased to introduce Angelica Gomez. Welcome Angelica. She’s a clinical psychologist and expert in sociology of drug abuse from Brazil. With her extensive experience as a former public policy advisor on alcohol and drugs and current advocacy coordinator at E de Lei Drop-in Center, she will provide us with a first-hand update of the current situation in Brazil. As one of the emerging powers in this multipolar world and one of the largest economies in Latin America, Brazil’s perspective is important to understand the global drug policy landscape.

Angelica Gomez: Good morning. I would like to thank you for the invitation to compose this side event. The regulation of cannabis in Brazil allows the importation of some herbal medicines but prohibits the production and cultivation in Brazilian soil. Medicine today is not accessible to all patients in Brazil. The number of prescribing physicians has been multiplied every year and in the last six years there has been an average growth of 124 percent per year. According to data from the national health surveillance agency. A recent survey carried out by the federal senate in March 2022 showed that 78 percent of Brazilians are in favour of cannabis for medicinal use and 79 percent in favour of its free distribution by the unified Health System. In economic terms after the the United Health System authorized the importation of cannabis-based products for medicinal use in 2013, it grew more than 15 times. Between 2015 and 2021 the United Health System cost more than 9 million dollars in marijuana cannabis based medicines as a result of judicialization.  Previously cannabis based products for medicinal purpose were only available through importation but now there are some products available in pharmacies across the country which can be can be purchased with a prescription. We have four bills in the Senate today – the legislative commission on the subject generates several controverses involving their trade and cultivation on the plant. It’s up to the judiciary to decide on what is allowed or prohibit. It’s possible to highlight relevant decisions in favour of several requests related to cannabis products. 1: planting of marijuana, the superior court of justice has already pacified the understanding that the home cultivation of cannabis is allowed for a strictly medicinal purpose, provided the limits of medical prescriptions and prior judicial authorization are observed. Importation of seeds for the planting and trade of marijuana, there are decisions authorizing the sale of marijuana and cannabis in pharmacies. Large corporations headquartered in rich countries are establishing partnerships with national companies. This dynamic diminishes the potential social gains of medical cannabis regulation. First it creates unequal access to medical cannabis products based on income so the poorest benefit least. Second it tends to relegate Latin American Caribbean countries to subordinate position as exporters of cannabis raw materials. This new market stands to exclude traditional cannabis producers and other vulnerable social groups historically relating to the illicit market  while at the same time favoring large corporations. Medical cannabis regulation is a humanitarian issue and should not reinforce the inequalities and violence historically associated with the prohibitionist approach, but should allow the majority to access health care,  especially the most vulnerable people. Countries must make effective provisions in their regulatory mechanisms that emphasize fair trade principles that protects these groups, especially traditional producers, as well as expand access to the range of cannabis products for medicinal purposes. A key step in this direction is to prevent corporate capture of the new Latin American Caribbean medicinal cannabis market. And for conclusion, we cannot allow an issue that concerns access to health, science, medicine and the economy to become an ideological agenda in which trafficking drugs are discussed, when that’s not the subject. As long as we don’t have the regulation system, we will have legal instability and distrust of market share in the sector. Thank you [Applause]

Rev. Daniela Kreher: Thank you Angelica for your contributions from Latin America. Our next panelist is Reverend Martin Diaz, he’s from El Salvador. He’s the CEO of The Knowmad Institute and ambassador of One Young World with over 12 years of experience in drug policy and research. Wide knowledge of drug policy reform and the international drug control system, he will share insights on the global movement towards humanitarian drug policy reform and how cannabis regulation plays a crucial role on this process.

Reverend Martin Diaz: Thank you. Good morning. Dear colleagues, today we must urgently address the need for a humanitarian reform in drug policies and the inexorable importance of cannabis regulation for preserving the rule of law and promoting human dignity. It is important to note that regulating cannabis is not just about revoking driver licenses for some consumers. It involves other measures of greater relevance, so it’s good enough a significant flow of money to organized crime and ensuring the respect of human dignity of millions of people. As someone who has been forcibly displaced by the war on drugs and comes from the periphery I can say that the punitive and drug control model has been an absolute failure with deadly consequence. The strategy of reducing supply and abstinence through a state violence has proven ineffective. Drugs prohibition has only strengthened anti-democratic and repressive structures that ultimately benefit criminal organizations. Difference approaches and agendas are being debated regarding cannabis regulation in civil society, from both the global North and Global South. It is important to critically analyze these perspectives to find solutions that promote social justice and human security rather than perpetuate a failed and outdated model. While the most influential sectors from the global North focus on decriminalization or legalization of cannabis (not regulation), there is growing concern in the global South to reform the international drug control model in order to promote peace and reduce various manifestation of structural violence. Regulating cannabis from a humanitarian perspective can be a key measure to achieve the sustainable development goals in a cross-cutting manner, especially in terms of health and well-being, gender equality, reducing gaps and also strengthening the rule of law and improve access to health and ensuring human dignity. For the global south the criminalization and regulation of cannabis (not confused with legalization), not only represents the recognition of individual self-determination and traditional and agricultural practices and uses, but also a way to reduce liquidity and curb the power of drug trafficking organizations – the main culprits of violence and its deadly effects worldwide with greater exacerbation in the global South and particularly in the tropical regions. It is important to remark that the historical consequence of cannabis criminalization have disproportionality affected the global South, characterized by the bloody effects of direct violence materialized in the well-known War on Drugs. In contrast in the global North the drug trafficking organizations have fueled an illegal economy  for decades laundering large sum of money and perpetuating violence in producing countries. According to the UNODC, black money from criminal organizations represent 1.87 trillion euros and is estimated that between two percent and five percent of the global GDP is laundered each year. Based on this information we cannot rule out that we all have money in our wallets that come from organized crime. This reaffirms the need to transcend drug policy reform from mere cosmetic measures to effective strategies that help limit the exercise the power of criminal organizations and more importantly restore the dignity of millions of people. The time has come to make a clear distinction and strongly oppose both cannabis fundamentalism and also the counterproductive corporate neo-colonialism that undermine the efforts to promote a humanitarian drug policy reform. For example we suggest adopting Rome Consensus 2.0 as a practical and effective tool to promote humanitarian reform in the drug policies and promote human dignity as its main driver. Because the reform is most likely only cannabis. Thank you [Applause]

Rev. Daniela Kreher: Thank you so much Martin. Now we have time for one or two questions. Are there questions from the public? Yes please explain.

Thank you. I really like when you are talking about human dignity. I really like when you are talking about changing the criminal system but please give me one example because there has been a number of states in New York in U.S for example that have regulated this market in a way that is freely regulated. We have free market when it comes to alcohol and if you say that the market of alcohol is better than the illegal market for cannabis please give me some evidence, thank you.

Hubert Wimber (LEAP Germany): Yes I try to answer your question. I think we have a better situation. What means human rights for example? It is a free decision of all person to decide what psychoactive substance they use. That’s a part of the human rights, but we must improve them to find for them a decision which is based on experience and what scientific told about. We want, I said drug policy is a part of health policy. That is the truth and it is no progress in any case when we make it as a part of a prohibitional regime. You know what happened with human rights in the countries where the organized crime has come to uh, that there are failed States example from Mexico. That is a consequence of prohibition and I don’t want to say alcohol is not problematic. Alcohol is problematic and it is more worse than cannabis for example. But we must inform the person to use their experience to find a decision for him what they use and in which circumstances they use it. And so I think it is it is a progress when we finish the prohibitional system.


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