WHAT USE IS EUROPEAN DRUG PREVENTION WEEK ?
By Jean-Luc Robert
Any initiative aimed at encouraging and improving drug prevention, however limited its impact may be, deserves to be supported. This is true of European Drug Prevention Week.
The European Commission, with the prompting of the European Parliament, has followed the principles of harm reduction policies. This aspect deserves to be underlined for, within the constraints of the present international legal framework imposed by the United Nations conventions, this strategy is certainly the most effective method of containing both the spread of drug addiction and illnesses such as Aids.
However, from the anti prohibitionist view point, it is difficult not to be sceptical when faced with the organisation of an event such as European Drug Prevention Week, which has such a publicity orientated character.
In the opinion of the International Anti- prohibitionist League (IAL) it is time to begin evaluating the efficiency of approaches and initiatives such as this which are so often portrayed as remedies. Such an evaluation has not yet been carried out at an official level but one must remain doubtful in the light of the close relationship between the steady escalation of the drug problem and the parallel increase in anti-drug law enforcement and repression budgets.
For its part the IAL has conducted a comparative statistical study on the relative efficiency of different national policies, and the conclusions are enlightening (1). The gap between official talk and the results is sometimes enormous, as are the contradictions - in the USA there are twice as many arrests for possession than for dealing, and there are many other such examples. Conversely, the Netherlands, so often decried for its so called liberal attitude, is revealed as being much more adept at containing the phenomenon than countries which continue to parade their war on drugs credentials.
In fact, faced with the aggravation of drug problems caused by prohibition not only in socio-health terms but also in respect of criminality, delinquency, corruption and its impact on democratic institutions, it is surely time to rethink this whole approach. We believe we must begin by introducing measures for the decriminalisation of drug users and the provision of general health and social programmes based on the distribution of substitute pharmacological products for addicts.
The time is equally ripe to debate the legalisation of drugs without taboo. This is the only definitive way to strike a significant blow against the black market and organised crime, and bring addicts in from the margin. It is also an indispensable condition for a really efficient drug prevention policy.
Jean-Luc Robert is a member of the Directive Council of the International Anti-Prohibition League and a paliamentary assistant to the European Parliament.
(1) Questioning prohibition - 1994 International Report on Drugs, availible on request price 30 U.S. dollars. From IAL Tel: 010 - 322 2304121 Fax: 010 - 322 2303670