European Cities Explore Harm Reduction

What is the Frankfurt Resolution?
In 1990, representatives from the four European cities of Amsterdam, Zurich, Hamburg and Frankfurt gathered together in Frankfurt, Germany, to create and put their names to a document which came to be known as the Frankfurt Resolution. This resolution expressed the views of these cities as to how the problems caused by the use of illegal drugs could best be dealt with. The basis of their conclusions was that “the present system of criminally prohibiting the use of certain drugs has failed,” and that “drug related problems are not only caused by the effects of the drugs themselves, but are primarily the result of the illegality of drug consumption.” As a result of these views, and of the combined experience of these cities in dealing with the problems caused by the illegal drug trade, the Frankfurt Resolution makes a number of recommendations.

The text of the Frankfurt Resolution document
The resolution recommends that “purchase, possession and consumption of cannabis no longer constitute a criminal offense,” and further, that “users of other illegal drugs are not punished for the purchase, possession and consumption of small quantities of drugs for their own personal needs.” The Frankfurt Resolution also supports the distribution of sterile syringes to IV drug users, and the establishment of “shooting galleries” where drugs can be consumed under supervision. Although these recommendations represent a radical departure from the drug policies which most of us are familiar, the cities that created the Frankfurt Resolution had been successfully implementing these types of “harm reduction” measures for some time. Every year since the signing of the resolution there has been another conference of concerned European cities, and more cities have added their names to the resolution.

The Cities of the Frankfurt Resolution

Belgium
Charleroi
Croatia
Zagreb
Greece
Kallithea
Germany
Frankfurt
Hamburg
Dortmund
Hannover
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Holland
Amsterdam
Rotterdam
Venio
Arnhem
Italy
Province of Rome
Province of Terramo
Province of Forli
Catania
Switzerland
Zurich
Basel
Bern
Luzern

DEVELOPMENTS WITHIN THE FRANKFURT RESOLUTION
In April 1992, the executive board of the signatories to the Frankfurt Resolution decided to build a formal structure to organize future conferences and coordinate the exchange of information between the cities. This group was called the European Cities on Drug Policy (ECDP).

A few months after this a third conference of European cities was held. This conference was attended by the representatives of fifty-eight cities from fourteen European countries. Thirty-four of these cities agreed to follow the progress of the Frankfurt Resolution, and joined the network of the ECDP in order to participate in a continuous exchange of information and experience. Representatives of a number of other national and international organizations have also joined the network, including the International Anti-Prohibitionist League, the European Forum for Urban Safety, and the European Drugs Monitoring Centre.

In November of 1993 representatives from the ECDP and American, Canadian and Australian cities met in Baltimore to discuss drug policy and the Frankfurt Resolution. This meeting was organized in cooperation with the Drug Policy Foundation and the International Anti-Prohibitionist League. A cooperation between cities at an international level was agreed upon at the conference.

THE FUTURE OF THE FRANKFURT RESOLUTION

Since the creation of the Frankfurt Resolution, a number of other positive events have occurred in Europe. In April of 1994 the Constitutional Court of Germany decided that the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use should generally be decriminalized. The court ruled that the various German states have the task of deciding what is to be considered a “small quantity” within their territory. In Hessen, the state where Frankfurt is situated, the amount is to be 30 grams. Other states, like Bavaria, are reluctant to support this tolerant attitude and have declared a small quantity to be very close to zero.

In mid-October a court in the Schleswig-Holstein town of Luebeck ruled that possession of between two and four kilos of hashish should be treated as a misdemeanor rather than as a crime. This reduces the maximum sentence to five years from fifteen. The judges’ decision read in part that

“after hearing extensive testimony from experts, the court came to the conclusion that there are practically no objections to the consumption of hashish if it is somewhat orderly.”
A week after the decision, the Social Minister for the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Heide Moser, told a Hamburg newspaper that Germany should allow soft drugs like hashish to be sold in cafes. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose right of centre coalition was reelected a few days before the decision, had campaigned on a law and order platform with a strong stand against drugs. He strongly denounced the decision, his Minister of Youth calling it “an invitation to drug dealing.”

European cities are also experimenting with alternative ways of legally providing drugs to drug users. In Zurich, for example, a program to prescribe heroin, morphine and injectable methadone to 700 users has been in operation since 1993. This project is being evaluated with the possibility of expansion if it proves successful.

THE EUROPEAN CITIES AGAINST DRUGS
There are however, those who feel that the tolerant perspective of the Frankfurt Resolution is dangerously misguided. In April of this year a conference of the European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD) was held in Stockholm. A resolution was passed at this conference which clearly aims against any form of legalization or decriminalization of drugs. The “Stockholm Resolution” was signed by mayors or other municipal officials from the following twenty-one European cities: In a press release given after the conference, the European Cities Against Drugs openly attacked the policies of the Frankfurt Resolution:

“We also give a clear and distinct message to cities such as Amsterdam, Zurich, Hamburg and Frankfurt- the lax politics of those cities cause even more young people to ruin their lives by drugs. Such politics is completely irresponsible- both towards the inhabitants of those cities and towards other Europeans.”
In response to this, the European Cities on Drug Policy wrote a letter to the members of ECAD in which they invited the ECAD member cities to attend the next conference of the ECDP, and to offer their views there rather than through the press.

The European Cities Against Drugs

Berlin
Paris
London
Helsinki
Budapest
Oslo
Dublin
Madrid
Warsaw
Gdansk
Reykjavik
Gothenburg
Malmo
Tallinn
Valetta
Prague
Lugano
Moscow
St. Petersburg
Riga

AND VANCOUVER?

Earlier this year the Chief Coroner of British Columbia, Vince Cain, was ordered to conduct an investigation into the large number of drug-related deaths in the province. He concluded his public meetings in June, and was scheduled to release his report in September. This report has recently been released and recommends the decriminalization of the personal possession of drugs. The provincial government has expressed their general agreement with this recommendation and are expected to broach the issue with the federal departments of health and justice.

The Vancouver City Council has also been made aware of the Frankfurt Resolution, but it has not been officially discussed within the council chambers. If you think that the Frankfurt Resolution is something that the Vancouver municipal government should support, or at least debate, then please contact them and let the councillors know how you feel.

The Mayor of Vancouver is Philip Owen. There are ten councillors, as follows:

  • Lynne Kennedy
  • Don Bellamy
  • Gordon Price
  • George Puil
  • Maggie Ip
  • Jennifer Clarke
  • Sam Sullivan
  • Nancy Chiavario
  • Craig Hemer
  • Jenny Kwan.

The address of Vancouver City Hall is 453 W. 12th, V5Y 1V4.

To contact the European Cities on Drug Policy, email Susanne Schardt of the ECDP Coordination Bureau at [email protected].

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