Drug Policies in a Changing Europe

CC Summer 1995: Drug Policies in a Changing Europe

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Europe has seen many interesting developments in drug policies on a variety
of political levels. The most active levels of government have been
municipal, as many European cities have joined inter-city organizations
like the European Cities on Drug Policy (ECDP). The ECDP is an organization
which was created in 1991 by European cities at the centre of the drug
trade that wanted to work together to develop new strategies in dealing
with the problems of illegal drugs.

The European Cities on Drug Policy held a meeting of their General Assembly
in Amsterdam on June 23. The meeting focussed on political discussions
about the current situations within the member cities. We will include more
information on the results of this meeting in our next issue.

Spanish Judges for Democracy

In Spain, a conference of “Judges for Democracy” proposed a revision of
drug laws and undoing repressive international conventions on narcotics and
psychotropic substances. The association recommended that “soft drugs” be
regulated like alcohol and tobacco, while “hard drugs” should be classified
as medication and therefore distributed in the same manner as any other.

This point of view was taken up more recently by the Director of Spain’s
National Drugs Plan, who proposed to the national parliament that a
decriminalization of cannabis should be considered, stating that “the great
hypocrisy in all this is that alcohol is the drug which does the most

Ecstasy in Berlin & Amsterdam

The cities of Berlin and Amsterdam have both seen an increase in the use of
dance party drugs such as “ecstasy”. Although Holland classified MDMA as a
“hard drug” in 1980, this was primarily through pressure from other
nations, and real criminalization remains limited. Amsterdam has
established regulations for rave events such as air-conditioning, cheap
soft drinks and chill-out rooms. Ravers get information about the effects
and safer use of ecstasy and other synthetic drugs when they buy their
ticket for the event, and pills can be sent by mail to a free testing
centre for analysis. A service is also provided at rave events where little
parts of pills can be tested quickly to give consumers an idea if the pill
contains MDMA and other substances like amphetamines.

Berlin has not gone as far as Amsterdam in promoting a rational drug
policy, instead they have only established a program called Eve &
Rave. This program is aimed at educating young people about “excessive
party-going combined with taking synthetic and psychedelic drugs,” and to
provide “alternative perspectives to help them change their lifestyles,
step by step”.

Consumer Rooms in Frankfurt

Frankfurt has been the first German city to open a “Konsumraume” (consumer
room) where drug users are allowed to consume drugs under hygienic and
stress-free conditions. A maximum of eight persons can use the room at one
time, and two senior drug care workers are always present to assist in an
emergency. Clean needles and syringes are handed out at the door, along
with other necessary paraphernalia.

The room is open from 2pm to 9pm every day. Because it is not in an area
which is easy for most of the target group of users to reach, a bus runs
from the main station and the facility every day between 3:30pm and 9:30pm.

The number of clients has risen from ten persons a day in December 1994
when it opened, to about sixty persons a day now. In spite of the
decentralized location, the clients seem accepting of the clean space where
mirrors, tables, and sufficient lighting are provided. Criticisms include
the short hours the facility is open and the commute, as well as the fact
that methadone patients are not allowed on the program.

A second Konsumraume was opened in February, closer to the Main
Station. They have only reported a similar experience to the first, with a
promise for more detailed information in the immediate future.

Coca Conference

Frankfurt was also home to a meeting called “Coca is no Cocaine” on March
16. The meeting was between experts and guests from Peru and Bolivia and
was organized by various agencies, including the Observatoire Geopolitique
des Drogues and the European Cities on Drug Policy. The meeting was about
the “decriminalization and integral development of coca”.

According to the UN Convention of 1961, not only cocaine, but even the coca
leaf is a forbidden substance. This fact provides the justification for a
“War on Drugs” waged against the poorest regions of the Earth, where the
people are highly dependent on growing coca despite the illegality and
constant prosecution. The meeting initiated an unbiased debate, and
discussed the possibilities of legally grown coca for teas, medical uses,
and cosmetics.


The information in this column was adapted from the newsletter of the
European Cities on Drug Policy.

Their address is: ECDP Coordination Bureau
Niddastrasse 64
D-60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
tel: 49-69-23-31-90
fax: 49-69-23-94-78
email: [email protected]

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