Portland NORML News - Friday, May 1, 1998

Cannabis Control In Canada - Options Regarding Possession (The text of a new
study from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, a federally funded think
tank, proposes dropping jail as a possible punishment for marijuana
possession. Instead, the offence would become a civil violation, subject to a
fine only.)

Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 11:03:46 -0400
From: Carey Ker (carey.ker@utoronto.ca)
Subject: Cannabis Control in Canada: Options Regarding Possession
To: mattalk@islandnet.com

Here's a copy of the paper mentioned in the Ottawa Citizen



Cannabis Control in Canada: Options Regarding Possession

A Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse policy discussion
document prepared by the CCSA National Working Group on
Addictions Policy1

May 1998

1This policy discussion document was prepared by Eric
Single, Benedikt Fischer, Robin Room, Christiane Poulin, Ed
Sawka, Herb Thompson and John Topp on behalf of the Canadian
Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) National Working Group on
Addictions Policy. This paper was endorsed by the CCSA Board
of Directors in April 1998. The views expressed in this
document do not necessarily reflect those of other
organizations to which members of the National Working Group
on Addictions Policy belong. The contributions of Michael
Callaghan, Nady El-Guebaly and Diane Jacovella to the
development of this document are gratefully acknowledged.
The summary of health effects draws heavily upon the work of
William Corrigall and a recent WHO report (Cannabis: A
Health Perspective and Research Agenda, WHO Division of
Mental Health and Prevention of Substance Abuse, Document
WHO/MSA/PSA/97.4, Geneva: World Health Organization, 1997).
Communications regarding this paper should be directed to
Professor Eric Single, 6 Mervyn Avenue, Toronto, Canada M9B


This policy discussion document details the considerations
in choosing the most effective policy response to the
problems caused by cannabis use, with a
particular focus on the legislative options regarding
cannabis possession. Information is presented regarding
current trends in rates and patterns of use, and
the potential health consequences of use are summarized. The
paper then considers experiences with alternatives to
criminal prohibition and various options
regarding cannabis possession offenses.

There is little doubt that cannabis use adversely affects
the public health and safety of Canadians. Cannabis users
are subject to a variety of adverse health
consequences, summarized below, and cannabis use is
associated with poor work and school performance. While
there is little evidence that cannabis is a
causal factor in crimes of violence or crimes of
acquisition, cannabis is implicated in a small but
significant number of motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore,
recent national and provincial surveys indicate that the use
of cannabis is increasing among youth.

At the same time, the development of an effective response
to the potential problems caused by cannabis use is hampered
by funding cutbacks to prevention
programming and difficulties faced by the criminal justice
system in enforcing drug laws aimed at deterring use. The
current law prohibiting cannabis
possession and trafficking appears to have had a very
limited deterrent effect, yet it entails high social costs
and diverts limited police resources from other
pressing needs.

It should be noted from the outset that the existence of
health and safety risks per se does not dictate the
legislative response to cannabis use. The goal of
cannabis policy is not only to minimize the harm resulting
from use, but also to minimize the costs and harm that may
result from attempts to control use. This
entails a balancing of considerations. Attempts to minimize
harms of cannabis use through rigorous enforcement can
increase enforcement costs and adverse
individual consequences of criminalization. While reduced
enforcement and more lenient sanctions against users would
address the latter concerns, this could
potentially result in increases in cannabis use and the
consequent health and safety risks. Thus, the key issue
concerns selecting the legislative option which
provides the best balance between reducing levels of
cannabis-related harm and at the same time reducing
enforcement costs and adverse individual

By the same token, the existence of medical uses for
cannabis does not dictate the legislative response to
recreational cannabis use. While there is increased
evidence that cannabis has medical uses, the following paper
focuses on issues involved in how to best control
recreational cannabis use and prevent
problems associated with such use. There are mechanisms by
which THC may be made available for legitimate medical
purposes, regardless of the policies in
place regarding non-medical use. This policy discussion
document only concerns non-medical use of cannabis.

Extent and health effects of cannabis use

After caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and certain prescription
medications, cannabis is the most popular psychoactive drug
in Canada. It is the most commonly
used illicit drug in Canada. In 1994, 7% of Canadians 15
years and older reported using cannabis during the previous
year, and roughly one in four had used
it at some point in their lives. Reported rates of cannabis
use are particularly high among street youth, ranging from
66% in Halifax to 92% in a Toronto street
youth study.

The rate of cannabis use has remained relatively stable for
the past 10 years. For example, the yearly prevalence was 7%
in both of the last two national
alcohol and drug surveys in 1989 and in 1994. However,
cannabis use in the previous year increased from 6.5% in
1989 to 8.4% in 1995 in Alberta. There
are also recent indications that cannabis use is increasing
among youth. A 1997 student survey in Manitoba found rates
of use in the prior year increased from
32% in 1993 to 44% in 1997. Nova Scotia also experienced a
substantial increase, from 17% in 1991 to 32% in 1996.
Current use among students in New
Brunswick increased from 17% in 1992 to 21% in 1996. A
recent student survey conducted by the Addiction Research
Foundation in Ontario found 23% of
students reported use in the past year in 1995, up from 13%
in 1993. The trend toward increased rates of young users in
Ontario is consistent with trends in
the US and Europe.

Most use of cannabis in Canada is sporadic or experimental.
According to the 1995 Ontario student survey, less than 2%
of students had used it daily in the
previous four weeks. In a 1994 survey of Ontario adults,
less than 1% reported daily use. Even weekly use is
relatively uncommon-about 2% of the total
sample had used cannabis at least once a week in the last
year and more than 80% of users had used cannabis less than
40 times in the past year.

There is currently considerable misinformation about the
physiological consequences of cannabis use. Although
occasional use often occurs with relatively
little or no subjective negative effects for the user, it is
a myth to consider cannabis to be a benign drug. There is no
doubt that heavy cannabis use has
negative health consequences. The most important of these
are the following:

Respiratory damage

Marijuana smoke contains higher concentrations of some of
the constituents of tar than tobacco smoke, is hotter when
it contacts the lungs, and is typically
inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than
tobacco smoke. Research has shown a link between chronic
heavy marijuana use and damage to the
respiratory system similar to that caused by tobacco. The
adverse respiratory effects of cannabis are, of course,
related to smoking as a means of ingestion,
and do not occur when cannabis is eaten or otherwise

Long-term marijuana smoking is associated with epithelial
injury to the trachea and major bronchi, and with
alterations in cells mediating the immunological
response of the lungs-changes which leave the lung open to
injury and infection. Heavy, habitual consumption has been
linked with bronchitis. Although a link
between marijuana smoking and cancer has not been firmly
established, there are case reports of cancers of the
aerodigestive tract in young adults with a
history of cannabis use. These are of concern because such
malignancies rarely occur under the age of 60.

Physical co-ordination

Cannabis impairs co-ordination. This brings with it the risk
of injury and death through impaired driving and other
accidental causes. North American studies
of blood samples from drivers involved in motor vehicle
crashes have consistently found that positive results for
THC, the main psychoactive compound in
cannabis, are second only to alcohol. However, blood levels
of THC do not necessarily demonstrate that the driver was
intoxicated at the time of the
accident. In addition, many drivers with cannabis in their
blood have also been found to be intoxicated with alcohol.

Inferences drawn from the THC levels in drivers involved in
motor vehicle accidents are, however, consistent with
experimental studies of driving. These
studies have shown that cannabis can impair components of
driving behaviour such as braking time and attention to
traffic signals. However, subjects appear
to realize that they are impaired, and compensate where they
can. For example, they slow down and focus their attention
on the driving task when they know
a response will be required. Such compensation is not
possible when unexpected events occur, or if the task
requires continued attention. In many respects
the effects of cannabis on driving behaviour are similar to
those of alcohol, but there are differences. For example, in
one study alcohol was found to increase
risk-taking behaviour by drivers, while cannabis tended to
decrease it. The combined use of alcohol and cannabis is
particularly likely to cause impairment.

Pregnancy and post-natal development

Cannabis use by women who are pregnant may affect the fetus.
Maternal cannabis use has been linked to a shortened
gestation period and low-birth-weight
infants. The longer-term, post-natal consequences of
maternal cannabis use appear to be subtle. Recent research
has suggested that exposure to cannabis in
utero can affect the mental development of the child in
later years. For example, up to three years of age there
appear to be no consequences of maternal
cannabis use. By four years of age, offspring of regular
cannabis users showed reduced verbal ability and memory, and
by school age these deficits were
supplemented by decreased attentiveness and increased
impulsiveness in children of the heaviest users.

Memory and cognition

The effects of cannabis on memory appear to be variable, and
may depend on the test that is used. Overall, the effects
seem to be modest. However, the
question of whether chronic use would produce serious
impairments of memory, particularly if such use occurs
during development, is not yet answerable.
Studies of adult cannabis users, conducted several decades
ago, suggested that the drug has little effect on cognitive
function. More recent research has
demonstrated that long-term use produces deficits in the
ability to organize and integrate complex information, and
this may arise from attentional or memory

Psychiatric effects

Cannabis use has been linked to a number of psychiatric
effects. The most significant of these is the cannabis
dependence syndrome. Cannabis-dependent
individuals will continue to use the drug despite adverse
consequences to physical, social and emotional health.
Impairment of behavioural control in
dependence, and accompanying cognitive and motivational
impairments, can adversely affect productivity at work or at
school. The risk of developing
dependence increases with use; it has been reported that
one-third to one-half of those who use cannabis daily for
protracted periods of time may become

Other psychiatric disorders have been linked to cannabis.
There is clearly an association between cannabis use and
schizophrenia, but it is not yet known
whether cannabis use precipitates schizophrenia, or whether
the association reflects the increased use of drugs,
including cannabis, as a consequence of
schizophrenia. In addition, clinical observations have
identified a range of so-called "cannabis psychoses"
following heavy use of the drug, which remit within
days of abstinence. The higher the concentration of THC, the
higher the risk of psychiatric complications. However, these
disorders have not been well
defined, and it is not clear that they are different from
the effects of high doses of the drug. Some of these cases
may arise if pre-existing psychotic problems
are unmasked by drug use. Reference has also been made to
the existence of an "amotivational syndrome" resulting from
extensive cannabis use. While there
is reasonable evidence that heavy use of cannabis can affect
motivation, the production of a syndrome with identifiable
symptoms outlasting the period of drug
use and withdrawal remains to be demonstrated. This question
may have been clouded by studies of the effects of cannabis
use on educational performance
in adolescents in which individuals most likely to use the
drug may have lower motivation to succeed academically.

Other adverse health consequences

Research has shown that cannabis can also alter hormone
production, and affect both the immune system, and
cardiovascular function. The implications of
these findings for human health are unclear at present.

Law enforcement and costs

Canada's enforcement of criminal drug control laws is
relatively vigorous by international standards. In 1995,
there were a total of 63,851 drug offenses
under the Narcotic Control Act (NCA) or Food and Drug Act
(FDA), or 220 offenses per 100,000 population. Of this drug
offense total, 45,286 offenses
were cannabis offenses, and of these 31,299 were cannabis
possession offenses. In other words, 70% of all drug
offenses that occurred in Canada in 1995
were offenses involving cannabis. As many as
49%-approximately half of all drug offenses-were offenses
for the simple possession of cannabis. After a
period of decline in the 1980s in the total of all cannabis
offenses, as well as in cannabis possession offenses as a
proportion of all drug offenses, these figures
started to climb again from 1991 on. Offenses involving
cannabis are the only category of drug offenses which have
increased consistently since 1991, and
they are therefore responsible for the overall increase in
drug offense numbers since 1991 in Canada. Thus, enforcement
of laws against cannabis
possession-typically involving small amounts for personal
use-now results in half of all Canadian drug offenses. While
the enforcement costs are generally
higher for trafficking and offenses involving other illicit
drugs, clearly cannabis possession cases consume a
considerable amount of law enforcement
resources, diverting limited resources from other pressing

Cannabis possession enforcement varies considerably among
regions in Canada, and particularly with regard to urban and
rural areas within regions. For
1995, the cannabis possession offense rate per 100,000 for
British Columbia is 246, compared with 92 for Ontario and 52
for Quebec, with the rest of the
provinces somewhere around the Canadian average of 104.
Differences in rates of use would only account for a small
part of these regional variations.
Furthermore, differences in rates of use would not account
for the generally lower rates of enforcement in particular
urban areas. The cannabis possession
offense rates in Toronto (41) and in Montreal (43) are lower
than their respective provincial averages. On the other
hand, the rate in Vancouver (260)
exceeds the overall rate in British Columbia.

There is only imprecise data on the number of cannabis
possession cases which result in custodial sentences. The
most recent available data from Statistics
Canada indicate that 14% of the Canadian prison population
was in jail for drug offenses in 1991, but it is not clear
what kind of drugs and what kinds of
offenses contributed to this figure. Data on offenses,
charges and convictions are not maintained and computerized
by drug offense or drug category type, so
that justice process and outcome data are not available for
systematic large-scale analysis. When records were kept by
drug category, the data indicate that
cannabis possession offenders were infrequently sentenced to
jail or prison; however, given the high number of possession
cases, cannabis offenders
constituted a significant number of persons given custodial
sentences. In 1981, 5.2% of cannabis possession offenders
received a custodial sentence, 64.8%
received a fine and 25.3% were discharged.

More recent data suggest the same pattern may still exist.
Information from the 1993/94 Adult Criminal Court Statistics
Survey of nine Canadian jurisdictions
(not including BC, Manitoba and New Brunswick) indicates
that of 23,160 drug possession charges under Section 3 of
the Narcotic Control Act (covering
all scheduled substances including cannabis), 15% received a
prison sentence (not including one-day jail sentences), 18%
a probationary sentence, 59% a
fine, and 8.2% another disposition (including discharges) as
primary sentences. The average prison sentence for this
charge category in the nine jurisdictions
surveyed was 41 days. There is considerable provincial
variation in prison sentences for drug possession
charges-the percentage of such charges receiving a
jail sentence in Nova Scotia and PEI stands at 3%, compared
with 20% in Ontario. Similar disparities are found with
regard to the average length of prison
sentences, which is nine days in Prince Edward Island
compared with 55 days in Alberta. These figures include both
cannabis and other illicit drug offenders,
but it is likely that the same provincial and urban/rural
differences occur with regard to cannabis possession cases.

It has been estimated that approximately 2,000 Canadians are
sent to jail every year for cannabis possession. Data are
lacking regarding the nature of these
cases. It is likely that many of these cases involve more
serious charges which were reduced to simple possession
after plea-bargaining. Also, a considerable
number of these offenders are likely to have been jailed for
defaulting on payment of a fine. The potential effects of
fine defaulting are thus an important issue
to consider with cannabis possession sentences, especially
since this offense often involves individuals from the lower
socio-economic stratum or people not
capable of paying substantial fines. Apart from the adverse
consequences to the individual offenders of being jailed,
considerable costs are involved for
governments-the per-diem costs of incarceration in Canada
are approximately $150.

It has been conservatively estimated that the dollar costs
of illicit drug enforcement to Canadian police, courts and
correctional services total more than $400
million a year. The costs of police investigations, court
processing and custodial sentences are generally
considerably higher for cases involving trafficking or
illicit drugs other than cannabis. Nonetheless, as cannabis
possession accounts for approximately half of drug charges,
it is clear that cases involving
possession of cannabis for personal use account for a
substantial proportion of these costs.

In addition to costs to the justice system, cannabis
possession cases involve other social costs such as the
adverse consequences to the individual offenders.
These include employment impacts, economic impacts due to
payment of fines and lost time from work, and family discord
caused by arrest. Even in cases
involving a non-custodial sentence, there are serious and
often poorly understood criminal record consequences for the
offense. Over the past three decades,
there have been more than a million arrests under Canada's
drug laws, and there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians
who have a criminal record as a
result of a conviction for possession of small amounts of
cannabis. There is little empirical data on the impact of a
criminal record, but the list of potential
adverse consequences is extensive. Anyone with a criminal
record is at a disadvantage in subsequent criminal
proceedings: a criminal record may influence a
police officer to lay a charge; it may be grounds for
denying bail; it can influence a crown attorney to proceed
by way of indictment rather than by summary
conviction; it may be raised to impeach the suspect's
credibility as a witness; and it may result in more severe
penalties as dictated by various criminal
statutes. Entry to Canada or other countries may be denied
to persons with criminal records and a drug conviction may
prevent a landed immigrant from
obtaining Canadian citizenship. Under federal and provincial
statutes, a criminal record may be used to show a lack of
good moral character and deny an
offender employment in certain professions, such as law,
architecture, veterinary medicine, psychology, ambulance
driving, auctioneering, real estate and law

A number of attempts have been made to mitigate the
consequences of a drug offense, including the provision of
pardons and discharges for offenders.
Unfortunately, the discharge provisions of the Criminal Code
and the pardon provisions of the Criminal Records Act
provide very limited relief. A discharged
offender is legally deemed not to have been convicted and
can honestly deny a criminal conviction, but he or she would
have to answer affirmatively to any of
the following questions: "Have you ever been arrested, found
guilty of, pled guilty to, or been sentenced for a criminal
offense?" In a Toronto study of
cannabis offenders, the likelihood of being unemployed or
suffering other adverse consequences was unrelated to
whether or not the offender received a
discharge. Pardons also provide only very limited relief. A
pardoned offender cannot truthfully deny having a criminal
record-the pardon merely "vacates" a
conviction or discharge, meaning it negates legal
disabilities which automatically result under federal law.
Thus, a pardoned offender regains the right to run for
political office or apply for certain federal government
jobs. However, a pardon has no impact on local or provincial
police files or media data. In any case,
most drug offenders are unaware of the pardon provisions and
few have availed themselves of them.

International treaty obligations

Canada is a signatory to the three main international drug
treaties, namely the 1961 Single Convention, the 1971
Convention on Psychotropic Substances,
and the 1988 Vienna Convention. The fundamental principle of
the Conventions concerning the regulation of cannabis (and
other scheduled drugs) is that the
signatories are obliged to establish control systems that
prohibit the availability of and trade in such drugs, except
in specified circumstances such as for
medical purposes. However, the treaties are ambiguous on the
control of cannabis for personal or recreational use. The
key questions that remain are (a)
whether personal cannabis use and possession for such
purposes are included in the punitive requirements and
provisions, (b) whether the punishments need
to be "criminal" in nature, or if other deterrents or
diversion procedures may be used instead, and (c) whether
and how exceptions to these requirements can
be made, e.g., in response to national constitutional
principles, or for special forms of cannabis, including use
for medicinal purposes.

The parameters for personal cannabis use and possession are
set out by the 1988 Vienna Convention which says in Article

"Subject to its constitutional principles and the basic
concepts of its legal system, each Party shall adopt such
measures as may be necessary to
establish as a criminal offense under its domestic law,
when committed intentionally, the possession, purchase or
cultivation of narcotic drugs or
psychotropic substances for personal consumption
contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention...."

However, in regard to these offenses, Article 3(4)d

"The Parties may provide, either as an alternative to
conviction or punishment, or in addition to conviction or
punishment of an offense established in
accordance with paragraph 2 of this article [above],
measures for treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation
or social reintegration of the offender."

The International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) explicitly
points to the fact that in terms of use and possession of
controlled drugs, there is room for
modified or alternative measures to punishment by the
criminal law:

"None of the conventions requires a party to convict or
punish drug abusers who commit such offenses even when they
have been established as
punishable offenses. The party may deal with drug
abusers through alternative non-penal measures involving
treatment, education, after-care,
rehabilitation or social integration" (1992:4).

And a recent publication of the UN International Drug
Control Programme noted that none of the

"three international drug Conventions insist on the
establishment of drug consumption per se as a punishable
offense. Only the 1988 Convention clearly
requires parties to establish as criminal offenses
under law the possession, purchase or cultivation of
controlled drugs for the purpose of non-medical,
personal consumption, unless to do so would be contrary
to the constitutional principles and basic concepts of their
legal systems. None of the
Conventions requires a party to convict or punish those
who commit such offenses, even when they have been
established as punishable; alternative
measures may always substitute for criminal
prosecution." (UNDCP, World Drug Report, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1997:185).

These parameters, set by the International Conventions and
their executive enforcement bodies, thus imply in the
Canadian context that there is a clear
requirement to make the personal possession of cannabis a
legal offense de jure, sanctioned with a form of legal
punishment. There is also a requirement that
illicit drugs, including cannabis, be subject to seizure and
confiscation. However, the statute, procedure, or punishment
does not necessarily have to be
criminal in nature, and there is no per se exclusion of the
wide realm of sanctions (including intermediate or
conditional sanctions, such as fines, discharges,
probation, or conditional and diversion sentences) available
in contemporary legal practice. Moreover, education,
treatment or social reintegration measures
can clearly be substituted for any legal sanction.

Deterrent effects of the current law

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Bill C-8),
proclaimed in 1997, provides maximum sentences of $1,000
fine and/or six months imprisonment for
first-time cannabis possession offenders, and double the
amounts for repeat offenders under summary conviction
proceedings. The extent to which the
current law succeeds in deterring cannabis use is not clear.

With regard to the "general" deterrent effects of the law,
i.e., the impact of the law in preventing cannabis use in
the general population, it would appear that
the enforcement of current law against cannabis possession
has a very limited deterrent effect. Cannabis use remains
high despite a high level of enforcement
and there is no clear relationship between changes in
enforcement and levels of illicit drug use over the past
several decades. This is perhaps not surprising, as
general deterrence is unlikely if actual and perceived risks
of apprehension are low, as in the case of cannabis use.
Cannabis users are likely to believe that
their behaviour will go undetected and there is empirical
support for this belief. Despite the best efforts of
enforcement agencies, less than 1% of cannabis
users-and a much lower percentage of drug use incidents-are
detected in Canada every year. This doesn't necessarily
mean, however, that the current law
has not had any general deterrent effect, because rates of
cannabis use might have been even higher under a less
punitive policy. Nonetheless, the available
evidence suggests that the general deterrence has not been
substantial. In surveys, most nonusers cite health concerns
as the reason for their abstention rather
than concerns about legal sanctions.

Similarly, conclusive evidence is lacking but it appears
that the law also does not have a substantial "specific"
deterrent impact, i.e., the deterrent effect on
subsequent cannabis use by convicted offenders. The Le Dain
Commission found no evidence that the law had a significant
"specific" deterrent effect on
drug-taking behaviour following conviction, and a study of
convicted cannabis offenders in Toronto found little or no
impact on subsequent use. One year
after being found guilty of cannabis possession, 92% of the
drug users reported continuing use, typically at levels
similar to those reported at the time of
conviction. The few who ceased using were experimental or
infrequent users before being arrested.

Experience with alternatives to criminal prohibition

In light of the high costs of enforcement, the adverse
individual consequences of criminalizing users, and the lack
of evidence of a substantial deterrent effect,
a number of jurisdictions have attempted to shift the
control of cannabis possession or use away from the use of
criminal law and/or to provide less severe
punishment for users.

In the 1970s, 11 American states established a civil penalty
model for possession of small quantities of marijuana. Most
of these provisions applied to
first-time offenders only, and imposed a fine of an amount
between $100 and $250 on offenders. For example, the 1976
Moscone Act in California
converted the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis from
a felony into a misdemeanor. Enforcement was diverted to
other illicit drugs and trafficking. It
was estimated that the conversion of the cannabis offense
saved the state of California $1 billion each subsequent
year in criminal justice expenditures.
Follow-up evaluations of similar measures in other states
similarly concluded that the removal of jail as a sentencing
option reduced costs to enforcement and
the justice system without leading to increases in cannabis
use. While there were modest increases in cannabis use in
many of these states following the
change in law, there were greater increases in cannabis use
in those U.S. states which retained more severe penalties.
Thus, there was little change in the
long-term trend in cannabis use, and there were no changes
in cannabis use that could be attributed to the reduction of

Starting around the mid-1970s, the Dutch drug control system
allowed its public prosecutions department a broad
discretion not to prosecute cannabis
possession offenders in circumstances "where prosecution
would have no beneficial effect in reducing the risks
involved". The effect of this discretionary
prosecution policy has been that the possession of small
amounts of cannabis is tolerated in legal practice by Dutch
authorities, while law enforcement has
continued to concentrate on large-scale traffickers. In
recent years, most German states have followed the Dutch
model, whereby prosecutors withdraw the
majority of charges against simple cannabis possession
offenders. In none of these jurisdictions has there been
evidence of an increase in cannabis use since
these measures were put into place, and cost savings to the
government have been considerable.

In the early 1990s, two Australian jurisdictions-South
Australia and the Australian Capital Territory-converted the
simple possession of cannabis (less than
25 grams or five plants) into a civil offense through the
introduction of a "Cannabis Expiation Notice" (CEN) system.
The offenses are not criminally
prosecuted or penalized, there are no criminal consequences,
and the maximum fine is $150 (it should be noted that the
consumption of cannabis in public
places continues to be a criminal offense). However,
offenders are required to go to court if they fail to pay
the CEN fine within 60 days. From the available
evaluations of the CEN system, the following conclusions
emerge. First, there is no evidence of a differential change
in cannabis use rates in CEN
jurisdictions, as compared with rates reported from
jurisdictions where the CEN model was not in effect. Second,
the CEN system seems to have resulted in
a considerable "threshold-lowering" effect in drug
enforcement, since the CEN was procedurally easier to issue
and sustain than an arrest. Thus, despite
stable use rates, the number of offenses recorded by
enforcement authorities increased disproportionately after
the introduction of the CEN system.
Furthermore, there have been substantial changes in offender
characteristics. Enforcement under the CEN scheme seems to
focus disproportionately on the
male, and especially the lower socio-economic status and/or
aboriginal, offender. An argument can thus be made that the
conversion to civil penalty in
Australia produced a sort of a "net widening" effect with an
increased class bias. Also, a considerable number of CEN
recipients-approximately 45%-fail to
expiate (i.e., pay the fine), and thus eventually end up
before the courts.

Finally, the Australian state of Victoria recently converted
its cannabis control law so that the criminal offense
remains and a court appearance is likely, but
the court is directed to record a small fine without
recording a conviction.

Legislative options to reduce the adverse consequences of a
cannabis possession charge

Thus far, information has been presented on rates and
patterns of cannabis use, the associated health and other
adverse consequences, and the problems
involved in attempts to deter use via criminal sanctions.
There are clearly major direct and indirect costs of the
current control of cannabis possession through
the criminal law with little evidence of a substantial
benefit in reducing cannabis use. Considerable leeway is
provided regarding policy options under the
international drug control treaties and a number of other
jurisdictions have attempted to reduce penalties for
cannabis possession. In the Canadian context,
the following policy alternatives should be considered. This
is not an exhaustive list of potential legislative options.
For example, it does not include various
proposals for removal of the possession offense
(decriminalization) or the provision of a legal source of
supply of cannabis for users (legalization). It is limited
to those options involving less dramatic changes to the
current law which would retain the offense of cannabis
possession (although not necessarily as a
criminal offense) but reduce the penalties and other
consequences to offenders.

1. "Fine Only" Option under the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act

The "fine only" option refers to measures which would amend
the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to exclude jail as a
sentencing option for simple
cannabis possession, making a fine the maximum penalty for
cases involving simple possession of cannabis. This
modification would maintain simple cannabis
possession as a criminal offense so the criminal record
consequences would remain. However, the experience in other
jurisdictions which have reduced the
maximum penalty for cannabis possession to a fine indicates
that there would be considerable savings to the criminal
justice system with little, if any, impact
on rates of cannabis use. It would also be in keeping with
public opinion-in the most recent national survey, 27% of
respondents stated that possession of
cannabis should be legal and another 42% believed it should
be against the law, but subject to either no penalty or a
fine only. Only 17% favoured the current
law whereby cannabis possession offenders are subject to a
potential jail sentence, and the remaining 14% expressed no
opinion. Thus, approximately two
thirds (69%) of Canadians now favour removal of jail as a
sentencing option for cannabis possession.

2. "Civil Offense" Option

The "civil offense" option is another type of "fine only"
option. It refers to proposals to exempt the offense of
simple possession of cannabis from the criminal
law by converting it into a civil offense with a fine under
the recently enacted federal Contraventions Act. The "civil
offense" option differs from the first option
in at least two significant ways. First, the inability to
pay a fine under the Contraventions Act does not lead to
imprisonment. Second, a civil violation under
the Contraventions Act is deemed not to be a criminal
offense and a conviction for violating this Act is not
deemed to constitute a criminal record. This would
take the offense out of the criminal system, while ensuring
some uniformity in the handling of cannabis possession
offenses across Canada. It is expected that
such a reform would result in a considerable savings in
legal costs and other criminal justice system expenses, and
the criminal record consequences of a
cannabis possession offense would be ameliorated, if not
entirely eliminated. A difficulty with this option is that
some provinces have yet to agree on a
Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government
concerning the Contraventions Act, and the Controlled Drugs
and Substances Act might have to
be amended to provide an exact penalty for cannabis
possession cases that are handled in this fashion.

3. "Diversion" Option

This option refers to measures designed to specify and
encourage use of post-trial diversion mechanisms for simple
cannabis possession offenders. In
particular, Bill C-41 (the "Alternative Sentencing" law)
presents a number of such options, including "conditional
sentences". Under such provisions, the
offender's criminal sentence is suspended while the offender
complies with alternative sentencing conditions, e.g.,
community service or treatment. A variety
of concerns, however, arise with such an option. First, the
use of such diversion alternatives falls into the discretion
of the courts. Therefore, diversion in many
instances does not reduce the workload of the court system,
but rather increases it. Second, the alternative sentencing
provisions in many instances are not
proportionate to the severity of the offense; many
conditional sentences involve a lengthy period of criminal
probation. Third, all conditional sentences
automatically result in a criminal conviction and record.
Fourth, widespread diversion should only be adopted once
clear and justifiable guidelines are
developed regarding the most appropriate circumstances in
which to apply diversion, and agreements are reached with
treatment agencies regarding
workable treatment protocols that have a reasonable chance
of helping the diverted offenders. If treatment is deemed
appropriate, the treatment modality
should be determined by the agency providing the treatment.
Conditional sentences for drug offenders often involve
mandatory treatment, which is of dubious
effectiveness and may not be appropriate for the majority of
cannabis offenders who are not regular users. Concerns have
been expressed that the diversion
option would combine the worst features of both criminal and
non-criminal control, increasing costs with little or no
benefit. Diversion to treatment or
community service is certainly desirable in many cases,
particularly for heavy cannabis users and those involved
with other illicit drugs, but it does not appear
to be a solution to the problems of the current law.

4. "Devolution to Provinces" Option

This option refers to measures which would devolve the
jurisdiction of the control of cannabis possession to the
provinces. The federal government could
legislatively concede jurisdiction over the control of
cannabis possession to the provinces, and put the onus on
them to establish suitable control schemes (as,
for example, have been devised for various drinking and
driving offenses) in their own jurisdictions. Such a
devolution could be justified by emphasizing the
primary nature of drug use control as a health-and thus a
provincial-task, as implied in a Supreme Court decision in
the early 1980s. On the one hand, this
devolution model might lead to locally more acceptable
solutions (e.g., the provinces might allow for municipal
control schemes in the form of by-laws, as for
tobacco smoking restrictions), as is currently discussed for
the control of street prostitution. On the other hand, such
a model would potentially undermine the
equity and consistency principles of the law in Canada, due
to discrepancies among provincial or local regulations. In
particular, it could lead to jurisdictional
disputes and problems regarding international treaty
obligations if a province interpreted this measure as
enabling it to remove all cannabis possession offenses
and/or provide a legal source of supply. Without knowing the
nature of the control systems that would replace the current
arrangements, it is not possible to
judge the relative merits of this option. However, it is
clear that this option should only be adopted with the full
agreement of the provinces and once the
provinces have developed a coordinated strategy to take on
this responsibility, including legislation that would be
required for implementation.


1. The severity of punishment for a cannabis possession
charge should be reduced. Specifically, cannabis possession
should be converted to a civil violation under the
Contraventions Act.

The current law involves considerable enforcement and other
criminal justice costs, as well as adverse consequences to
individual drug offenders, with little
evidence of a substantial deterrent impact on cannabis use,
and at best marginal benefits to the public health and
safety of Canadians. As a minimal measure,
jail should be removed as a sentencing option for cannabis
possession. The available evidence indicates that removal of
jail as a sentencing option would lead
to considerable cost savings without leading to increases in
rates of cannabis use. Punishing cannabis possession with a
fine only would be consistent with
current practices and prevailing public opinion. The vast
majority of Canadians no longer favour jail sentences for
simple possession of cannabis. Among the
various options aimed at reducing the severity of a cannabis
possession offense, discussed above, the civil violation
option offers the best opportunity to
achieve the most appropriate balance between the need to
reduce the harms associated with cannabis use and the need
to restrain the costs and harms
involved in attempts to control use. Consistent with
international treaty obligations, this option would retain a
cannabis possession offense, albeit subject to a
fine only. At the same time, it would remove cannabis
possession from the criminal law, preclude imprisonment due
to failure to pay fines, and eliminate the
criminal record consequences of a conviction. However, this
option will be limited to those Canadian provinces which
have agreed on a Memorandum of
Understanding with the federal government concerning the
Contraventions Act. These provinces might serve as pilot
jurisdictions to test the effectiveness of a
civil violation option for cannabis offenders.

2. Diversion of cannabis offenders to treatment or community
service should be available, particularly for heavy users and
those experiencing problems from the use of other illicit
drugs, but diversion will not resolve the difficulties involved in
cannabis enforcement.

The widespread diversion of cannabis offenders would do
little, if anything, to reduce the burden that cannabis
cases place on Canadian courts, nor would it
have any impact on the criminal record consequences for
offenders. Diversion is clearly desirable in many cases and
should be available, but it is not the
solution to the difficulties caused by cannabis cases.
Accused persons should only be diverted to mandatory
treatment following a complete assessment, and
if treatment is deemed appropriate, the treatment modality
should be determined by the agency providing the treatment.

3. Any change in law should be subject to systematic
evaluation of its impact on cannabis use and indicators of cannabis
related harm, as well as impacts on criminal justice
practices and costs.

A well designed, comprehensive study should be implemented
to evaluate the impact of any policy or legislative change,
in order to assess the need for
further action and inform future policy directions.

4. Any change in law which reduces the consequences for a
cannabis offense should be accompanied by a strong message
that this does not signal less concern with the potential
problems caused by cannabis use.

In particular, the change in law should be coupled with
prevention programmes to address potential problems that may
arise, and to indicate the government's
continuing concern with the prevention of cannabis use and
problems associated with it.

Re: Reader's Digest May cover story, "Australia's Methadone Mess" (An
Australian physician specializing in drug treatment who has authored a book
on methadone criticizes the biased American publication's "poor quality,
sensational journalism, riddled with inaccuracies and misconceptions.")

Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 13:02:48 EDT
Originator: drctalk@drcnet.org
Sender: drctalk@drcnet.org
From: adbryan@onramp.net
To: Multiple recipients of list (drctalk@drcnet.org)
Subject: FWD: UPDATE - Reader's Digest May cover story
"Australia's methadone mess".

-- Begin Included Message --

Date: Sun, 03 May 1998 09:42:11 +1100
From: Andrew Byrne (ajbyrne@ozemail.com.au)
To: ADCA Listserve (update@adca.org.au)
Subject: UPDATE - Reader's Digest May cover story
"Australia's methadone mess".
Sender: owner-update@wilma.netinfo.com.au

Dear Colleagues,

This month's Reader's Digest has as its leading cover story "Australia's
Methadone Mess". It is poor quality, sensational journalism, riddled with
inaccuracies and misconceptions. The header states that methadone is
"condemning many to a life of misery and even death".

The message seems to be that tired old notion that 'methadone is just replacing
one bad drug with another bad drug and that must be bad'. It ignores the 30
years of research which consistently shows reduced mortality, fewer serious
viral infections, improved employment, better family life and other benefits.

It also ignores the large numbers of patients who successfully complete
methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) each year.

The very case history they choose to start and finish with almost certainly
owes his life to his methadone treatment after 20 years of addiction. Very
few heroin addicts live that long without treatment.

Salvation Army spokesman, Brian Watters is quoted as saying that methadone
for a heroin addict is 'just like a bandaid'. He advises an 8 month
rehabilitation program in preference which he states has a 12 month abstinence
rate of 33%. He does not explain how tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of
young Australians could be accommodated in such treatment which currently only
takes small numbers. Neither does he tell us what we should do with the other
66% who continue to use drugs.

His 'bandaid' analogy may not be so bad - methadone is also familiar, cheap and
readily available. It covers a nasty injury and it enables the person to be
functional while natural healing occurs.

Specialist Dr Aidan Foy and pharmacist John Malouf also state their unsupported
opinions that methadone treatment has been over-rated and problematic. By whom
and compared to what? I wonder if the very many young Australians who are
alive today thanks to MMT would agree with them? Or those who have avoided HIV
and/or hepatitis(?) Do they have any better ideas to reduce the rising death
toll from heroin? So why does Dr Foy prescribe methadone and why did Mr Malouf
dispense it? They represent extremely small minorities in their professions.

This article is real 'terrorist' journalism ... with the same potential to
kill and maim. Based upon a few negative observations amongst the
multitude of documented benefits from this treatment, it is a biased piece
of writing, possibly emanating from some boardroom in middle America. No
objective or informed person could see methadone in such an unfavourable
light. All independent reviews of methadone (including 2 recent ones in
NSW) have found that the treatment is successful and should be more widely
available. It does not suit every heroin addict and, like other treatments,
is not 100% successful.

To suggest that there is a massive methadone industry is ludicrous. It is
probably one of the smallest and most carefully scrutinised 'businesses' in
the country.

Confusingly, the author also advises Australia to drop the 'harm
minimisation' approach to drug use and 'follow the lead of the Northern
Territory'!! She quotes 'Drug Watch International' (whoever they may be) as
saying Australia is isolated in this policy. [We may also be unique in
having a rate of HIV among injectors as low as 1% compared to over 40%
in many other countries.] The author also omits to mention that in recent
years, MMT has been introduced into almost every country in the western world
as well as much of the eastern and third world. France has made buprenorphine
(an effective alternative) available on prescription from any doctor.

We are told that MMT costs taxpayers millions, but not how it saves much, much
more as shown by every study which has been done. We are also not told that
most patients (at least in NSW) pay up to $40 per week for their own

Author Siobhan McMahon and research editor Elizabeth Craig should not sleep
soundly until they have redressed some of the harm their work may do. Ms
Craig, who called me prior to publication to check some 'facts', said that
their company policy was 'zero tolerance' and that it did not approve of
methadone treatment. It is unfortunate that there was no statement to this
effect in their article which purports to be a genuine assessment of the
treatment. It must be unusual for a publishing company to have a policy about
a life-saving medical treatment, especially a traditional one that has been
thoroughly researched over 30 years.

Most of my dependency patients will recognise that this is a work of no
substance, driven by a misguided loathing of addicts, drugs, doctors or some
other factor. It is unfortunate that more impressionable people, including
parents of heroin addicts may be persuaded that this proven treatment is
actually a fizzer.

You will not find the Reader's Digest in my waiting room!

Comment by Dr Andrew Byrne ..


Dr Andrew Byrne,
General Practitioner, Drug and Alcohol,
75 Redfern Street,
New South Wales, 2016,
Tel (61 - 2) 9319 5524 Fax 9318 0631
Email ajbyrne@ozemail.com.au


author of: "Methadone in the Treatment of
Narcotic Addiction" and "Addict in the Family".


Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 14:07:10 EDT
Originator: drctalk@drcnet.org
Sender: drctalk@drcnet.org
From: "Barrington Daltrey" (basd@fastbk.com)
To: Multiple recipients of list (drctalk@drcnet.org)
Subject: Re: FWD: UPDATE> Reader's Digest May cover story "Australia's me

I am a bit puzzled by the support for methadone programs on this list. I
don't know the specifics, but here are two things that trouble me: First,
there is a good article from Libertarian Party (UK) that goes into detail
about heroin, and indicates that heroin itself has few side effects and
little long-term effects for its users. (I don't know if it is true, just
parroting what I read).

The second point is that a friend's daughter-in-law recently had a heroin
addicted baby. The mother was given methadone and the baby was given
maintenance heroin until it was withdrawn from the substance.

When I inquired why the baby would be given heroin, the answer was that
heroin was safer for the baby and it was easier to get the baby "off" heroin.
The methadone was less safe and more addictive.

Based on that information, methadone seems to me to be a political solution
and not a medical one. (The mother, by the way, used both -- methadone from
the clinic and heroin from wherever, when she could get it.)

Drug Users Blamed For Crime Surge (The Sydney Morning Herald, in Australia,
quotes Police Commissioner Peter Ryan saying the big increase in robberies
involving knives and firearms in New South Wales, revealed in official
figures released Thursday, is being fuelled by increased "heroin use and drug
use generally.")

Date: Fri, 01 May 1998 23:52:41 -0500
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: trikydik@inil.com (trikydik)
Subject: MN: AUS: Drug Users Blamed For Crime Surge
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Ken Russell
Pubdate: Fri, 1 May 1998
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Contact: letters@smh.com.au
Website: http://www.smh.com.au/
Author: Bernard Lagan and Les Kennedy
Subject: AUS: Drug Users Blamed For Crime Surge


The big increase in robberies involving knives and firearms in NSW,
revealed in official figures yesterday, is being fuelled by the rising
numbers of drug users, the Police Commissioner, Mr Peter Ryan, said.

Knife-point robberies, the majority in Sydney, have increased by 77
per cent and gunpoint robberies by more than 33 per cent over the two
years to December 1997, the figures show.

Sydney had about 3,000 robberies last year involving a weapon other
than a gun - mostly knives - compared with fewer than 1,700 the year
before. There were about 1,000 armed robberies compared with about 700
in 1996.

Commenting on the figures, Mr Ryan said: "I think there is an increase
in heroin use and drug use generally and the only way people can
manage to buy drugs is to steal, break into houses, break into cars
and to rob people in the street.

"The root cause of the majority of crimes of this nature are drugs and
drug abuse and we need to be tackling that as an issue as well."

Mr Ryan's remarks on heroin users were echoed by Dr Don Weatherburn,
director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, which
compiled the statistics from crimes reported to police.

"Given a lot of involvement by heroin users in robbery, I think the
best bet is that it is heroin which is driving it," he said.

Mr Ryan said the increase in knife-related crime was not because it
was now harder to get guns, but because there was a "determination
among many people just to carry knives" - not for offensive purposes
but because they thought they were going to be robbed.

The media's portrayal of violence was at least partly to blame for the
crime levels, he said. "What really worries me is the way that
violence is portrayed on our televisions.

"The way that the media portray the solving of disputes with violence
- use this knife, use the gun - the hero is the man who uses the gun
and there's no questions asked."

Dr Weatherburn said the rising numbers of fatal heroin overdoses and
increases in the numbers of people seeking treatment for heroin
addition pointed to an increase in the number of users.

The surge in knifepoint and firearm robberies was "an abrupt and
dramatic change" because from the beginning of the decade to 1994 the
number of robberies had been stable.

The figures were released as the State Government is introducing new
measures to combat knife attacks, including wider search powers for
police, increased penalties for carrying prohibited knives and a ban,
from today, on the sale of knives to those under 16.

But Dr Weatherburn had doubts about whether these measures would deter
drug users with knives. "Somebody who is desperate for a fix of heroin
is not necessarily going to be deflected by the thought that someone
might search them."

He said knifepoint robberies could be reduced by police concentrating
on known hot spots - a move Mr Ryan said later would be

The Minister for Police, Mr Whelan, said the figures showed fewer
crimes were on the increase and it was clear that under Mr Ryan "the
police service is getting back to basics - fighting crime".

Experts Will Speed Up Work On Cannabis (The British Medical Journal notes
physicians in the UK will continue their alchemical quest for a way to
separate beneficial cannabinoids from herbal cannabis.)

Date: Fri, 1 May 1998 16:15:21 -0800
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: Olafur Brentmar (olafur@cdsnet.net)
Subject: MN: UK: BMJ: UK Experts Will Speed Up Work On Cannabis
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: rdwinthrop@mail.arrownet.com (R D Winthrop)
Pubdate: Fri, 01 May 1998
Source: British Medical Journal (UK)
Contact: bmj@bmj.com
Website: http://www.bmj.com/
Author: John Warden, parliamentary correspondent


Research into the clinical use of cannabinoids is to be put on to a new
basis in Britain with the formation of a committee of experts who will draw
up guidelines for good practice. The working party on the therapeutic uses
of cannabinoids is being set up by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of
Great Britain and will be headed by Sir William Asscher, a former chairman
of the government Committee on Safety of Medicines.

The aim is that the guidelines will encourage the Home Office to approve
research licences which are currently being delayed. The development was
reported by BMA witnesses to a House of Lords subcommittee inquiring into
the use of cannabis and its derivatives for medical and recreational
purposes and into whether any relaxation of the law is appropriate.

Last year the BMA report Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis concluded that
cannabis is unsuitable for medicinal use but that cannabinoid derivatives
should be considered. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the BMA's professional
resources and research group, and Professor Heather Ashton, consultant
writer for the BMA report, gave evidence to the Lords subcommittee last

They reported a meeting last month with the chief medical officer at the
Department of Health to discuss further action in moving forward clinical
trials of cannabinoids. It was agreed that a new independent body to
conduct such trials was required. Dr Nathanson welcomed the Royal
Pharmaceutical Society's working party as a means of producing better
research and development of cannabinoids so that the least possible delay
occurs before clinical trials are started.

Concern had been expressed, she said, over Home Office delays in issuing
research licences, with about 14 applications pending. The new research
protocols might help the Home Office to compare licence applications with a
set of guidelines and decide which should be licensed.

In a written submission, the BMA said that individual cannabinoids have a
therapeutic potential in several medical conditions in which present drugs
are not fully adequate. The long term effects have not been studied, but
present evidence indicates that cannabinoids are remarkably safe. The
accumulation of scientific evidence has been hampered by regulations
restricting the use of cannabinoids to one clinical indication--as
antiemetics in chemotherapy for cancer.

The BMA wants a high priority given to carefully controlled trials of
cannabinoids in patients with chronic spastic disorders that have not
responded to other drugs. In the meantime there was a case for the
extension of the indications for nabilone and -9-tetrahydrocannabinol for
use in chronic spastic disorders unresponsive to standard drugs.

Turkey and Drug Traffic (A letter to the editor of the Irish Times from a
Turkish diplomat disputes the newspaper's claim that his country is a main
producer of illicit drugs. He says Turkey is just a transit country.)

Date: Sun, 03 May 1998 10:44:25 -0400
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: Melodi Cornett (mrhorse@kih.net)
Subject: MN: Ireland: LTE: Turkey and Drug Traffic
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: mjc1947@cyberclub.iol.ie ((Zosimos) Martin Cooke)
Pubdate: Fri, 1 May 1998
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Contact: lettersed@irish-times.ie


Sir, - I read Jim Cusack's report on illicit drug trafficking (The Irish
Times, March 10th) with keen interest. However, I think it needs some comments.

As he rightly puts it, the heroin travelling to Europe is produced in
refineries in many countries, but not mainly in Turkey. The local production
and consumption of drugs in Turkey is negligible. Turkey is actually a
transit country on the route from Far East-Central Asia to Europe.

Regarding the production sites, as there exists no country as "Kurdistan", I
think he was referring to the production places controlled by the Kurdish
terror organisation PKK (namely as Kurdistan Workers' Party). This
organisation, which fights against the territorial integrity of Turkey, has
many production facilities in Northern Iraq and the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon
(under effective Syrian control).

Let me also give some figures to complement Mr Cusack's report. The amount
of heroin seized in Turkey in 1996 makes up 64 per cent of the total seized
in Europe and 40 per cent of the global total. In other words, 4.5 tonnes of
the total 11 tonnes of the heroin seized in the world and of the 7 tonnes
seized in a total of 28 European countries have been captured solely by the
Turkish police forces.

That is why the Turkish drug enforcement agencies have gained a praiseworthy
reputation. They are currently hosting 21 drugs liaison officers from
various European countries and have many of their own in Europe. However,
even though Turkey has successfully carried out many joint drug or
drug-related money-laundering operations with the US, Italian, Spanish,
Danish and Dutch drug enforcement agencies (a total of more than a dozen in
1996), it cannot be argued that it is receiving full international co-operation.

There are many examples of this. But worst of all is the chemicals route,
which, just like the one between the Golden Triangle and Europe, never
stops. The crucial chemical substances such as acidic anhyditrin vital for
heroin production are mainly produced in European Union countries. Although
the production of those materials are strictly prohibited under the relevant
UN charters, the production and transportation of those materials stemming
from Western Europe fuel the vicious circle. Furthermore, there are some
European Union countries still not willing to put a stop to PKK activities
in their territory. -

Yours, etc.,
Third secretary
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey

World Cities Against Drugs - A Global Perspective, May 12-13 in Stockholm,
Sweden (A list subscriber says the conference sponsored by European Cities
Against Drugs, ECAD, is expected to attract representatives from 500 cities
around the world who will hear about the "success" of Swedish narconazism.)

Date: Fri, 01 May 1998 23:01:14 +0200
To: press@drugtext.nl
From: mario lap (mario@lap.nl)
Subject: CAD publicity blurb

ECAD publicity blurb:

The City of Stockholm has the honour to invite you to take part in
the global conference, 'World Cities Against Drugs - A Global
Perspective', May 12-13, 1998. The conference is hosted and arranged
by the City of Stockholm in cooperation with the European Cities Against
Drugs (ECAD).

At the conference, a 'Global Declaration on Drugs' will be launched,
agreed upon in advance by signatories to the Declaration. The Declaration
will be presented to the Secretary General of the United Nations at the
UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June 1998.


[John Yates writes:]

Representatives from 500 towns and cities from across the world will be
gathering in Stockholm to hear of the 'success' of Swedish narconazism.
They will regail foreign journalists with propaganda about 'The Swedish
Model' to be dutifully reported around the world.

What they will not say is that their repressive policy is collapsing as
drugs and drug related crime escalate out of control.

>From Swedish TV news today, May 1:

"A Stockholm man was was gunned down today in what police described as
a settlement between drug gangs. The 27 year old man was shot in the
stomach in front of his family while playing football. He is in a
critical condition in Karolinska hospital. His assailant was overpowered
and arrested. Stockholm police spokesman Evald Wigger said the hitman was
sent by a drug gang to collect drug debts"

Yeah, prohibition works.

John Yates


The drugtext press list.
News on substance use related issues, drugs and drug policy

The Development of Drug Abuse in Sweden (A translation of an article by Leif
Lenke, a lecturer in criminology at Stockholm University, in Oberoende, the
official magazine for the Swedish National Organization For Help to Narcotics
and Drug Addicts, critically examines the official version of the history of
drug abuse in Sweden.)

Date: Sat, 30 May 1998 11:20:01 -0800
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: Sweden: The Development Of Drug Abuse In Sweden
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Jan G. Quarfordt (jan.quarfordt@mailbox.swipnet.se)
Pubdate: May 1998
Source: Oberoende (Sweden)
Contact: info@rfhl.se
Website: http://www.rfhl.se
Translation: Jonas Thorell and John Yates
Author: Leif Lenke, Lecturer in criminology, Stockholm University
Note: The "Oberoende" is the official magazine for RFHL (National
Organization for Help to Narcotics and Drug Addicts).


Drug abuse in the form we observe it in society today began in earnest
during the 1960's. Sweden was actually one of the first countries in
Europe to develop an epidemic of intravenous drug abuse. The rest of
Europe has since followed suit.

Drug abuse has played a major role in the control policy debate and
has had great effect upon criminal statistics and criminal policy.
Narcotics are also the most common reason given for intensifying
police co-operation in Europe.

Forms Of Abuse In Sweden

Characteristic of heavy drug abuse in Sweden is the large scale
injection of amphetamine that began amongst Swedish abusers. This is
in contrast to other countries where heroin became the dominant drug
of heavy abuse. Amphetamine differs from heroin in that it is a
stimulating and activating drug and not numbing and sleep inducing.
Another difference is that heroin, but not amphetamine, cause strong
withdrawal symptoms. This has the effect of making heroin more
dominant in the lifestyles of its abusers as they need maintenance
doses approximately every four hours. Amphetamine addicts on the other
hand must stop their abuse after a few days as the drug no longer has
any effect and tiredness begins to take over.

Why amphetamine became so dominant amongst Swedish abusers has not
been thoroughly investigated. Abuse began amongst bohemians and
artists in Stockholm during the 1950's and spread from there to the
criminal underworld. As a result, new recruits to drug abuse were
persons connected with institutions such as prisons and juvenile
delinquent reform schools.

From the middle of the 1970's, heroin abuse enters into the picture
but has so far not constituted more than one third of the total of
heavy drug abuse. Heroin abuse seems however to be increasing its
share of heavy abuse over time. During the whole period since the
beginning of the 1960's the most common form of drug abuse has been
the smoking of cannabis. This is still so today despite the
introduction of newer drugs like ecstasy and cocaine during the

The Official Picture Of The Development Of Drug Abuse

The overall picture of the development of Swedish drug abuse has long
been unclear. The official version can be summed up by saying that the
liberal narcotics policies of the 1960's and 70's resulted in steadily
increasing problems until a shift in policy in the direction of
tougher laws around 1980 pushed back drug abuse on a scale that lacked
precedent in Europe. The figures quoted are based upon two types of
statistics. The first and most important concern the frequency with
which young people have tried drugs. Statistics from the Institute of
Public Health (1993) which have been presented to the rest of the
world show that experimentation with drugs amongst young people
dropped drastically with the policy shift of 1979-80.

From the assumption that reduced experimentation with drugs
automatically leads to a reduction in the development of heavy drug
abuse, the conclusion has been drawn that recruitment to heavy abuse
has decreased along with the reduction in drug experimentation. This
hypothesis is also said to have support in the fact that the
proportion of younger heavy abusers was lower when statistics of the
heavy abusers of 1992 were compared with those of 1979

A critical examination of the official version of the development of

In Swedish drug policy there are differing opinions on two crucial
points. These differences concern cause and effect in regard to policy
and the development of abuse. There are different opinions regarding
time context, that is to say, when developments went in one direction
or the other and to what extent this can be linked to differences in
policy between the different periods.

Some facts are clear. For instance the peak in the Swedish drug
epidemic, according to all sources, occurred at the beginning of the
70's. That is 5-10 years before the new policy, which took all the
credit for the dramatic decrease even though drug abuse was decreasing
before the new policy had time to take effect.

Another fact is that the decline that is used as evidence of reduced
new recruitment to heavy drug abuse occurred abruptly at the end of
the 1980's. That is more than five years after the new policy achieved
full effect. This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that it is
only amongst the absolute youngest that a reduction can be seen to
have occurred in the statistics of 1992 compared with those of 1979.

One question that needs to be asked is that if there are not other
explanatory factors at work than an increase in law enforcement
involvement in narcotics policy. It has been possible to show that not
only a reduction in experimentation with narcotics occurred in the
1980's. There was also a decrease in alcohol consumption and that
cannot be attributed to the police or to the effects of narcotics
policy. This is even more true of sniffing which also shows a similar
downward trend.

Regarding the reduced proportion of young heavy drug abusers in the
figures for 1992, two factors are worth taking into consideration. One
is that youth unemployment in Sweden during the 1980's was at its
lowest ever at around 2 %. Compare that number with the average for
the European Union at the same time of around 10-30 %. The connection
between youth unemployment and the level of drug abuse, especially
regarding heroin, has been shown in a comparative study between
several member states of the European Union.

The fact that the decline occurred during the last years of the 80's
also indicates that the HIV epidemic, which was given much attention
around 1985, can have had an effect upon the prevalence of abusers. It
has been shown that this epidemic caused panic among swedish abusers.
A similar decline can also be found in the development of heavy drug
abuse in Norway at around this time

Epidemic Vs Trend

The founding father of "The drug free society", Nils Bejerot,
introduced the term epidemic as a way to illustrate how drug abuse
develops. This was met with some justifiable criticism, since the
introduction of this medical term implied that abusers infected
innocent people and especially young people with their abuse.

The epidemic model is accepted within the social sciences to describe
fads and other social phenomenon. Characteristic for such "epidemics"
is that they tend to rise sharply then decline and not uncommonly to
more or less die out. The development of the Swedish amphetamine
epidemic could be interpreted as such a phenomenon since abuse and
especially new recruitment diminished to only a fraction of its
original size within just a couple of years and with only
comparatively modest measures taken by the authorities.

On the other hand, when the authorities at the end of the 1980s and
beginning of the 90's turned the thumbscrews on drug abusers, no
noticeable positive effect on abuse was observed. Drug use was
criminalised in 1988 and was intended to give "clear signals" to young
people that experimenting with drugs was not only unacceptable and
deplorable but criminal as well. As can be seen in diagram 3, this did
not accomplish anything. Nor was anything accomplished when the law
was tightened in 1993 by introducing prison into the scale of
punishments as well as carrying out tens of thousands of urine tests
in order to detect drug abusers early and either frighten them or
force them into compulsory treatment programmes.

If we examine another side of the "new" Swedish drug policy, forced
treatment has not either been able to show positive results. Instead,
Sweden has what is perhaps the highest mortality rate in the western
world amongst heroin addicts. Narcotics related deaths are also
continuing to rise in Sweden.

It is also significant that now, as the figures for drug
experimentation amongst young people have risen dramatically for five
successive years, this is suddenly no longer regarded by the
authorities as an indication that hard drug use is also rising.
Instead this abuse is attributed to "party drugs" and fads etc. The
fact is however that the greatest increase is in cannabis abuse and
this is still most commonly found amongst young persons of low
education living in larger cities.

It is a bad omen that behind the increasing drug use, in which smoking
heroin is beginning to play an increasing role, there are again rising
trends of alcohol abuse and sniffing amongst young people. And not
least a persistent and alarmingly high rate of unemployment.

Abolish the Slogan "A Drug Free Society" (A translation of an article by
Henrik Tham, a professor of criminology at Stockholm University, in
Oberoende, the official magazine for the Swedish National Organization For
Help to Narcotics and Drug Addicts, criticizes Sweden's fanatical war on some
drug users.)

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 16:54:58 -0800
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: Sweden: Abolish The Slogan "A Drug Free Society"
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Jan G. Quarfordt (jan.quarfordt@mailbox.swipnet.se)
Pubdate: May 1998
Source: Oberoende (Sweden)
Contact: info@rfhl.se
Website: http://www.rfhl.se
Translation: John Yates (bobo@personal.eunet.fi)
Author: Henrik Tham Prof. Criminology University of Stockholm
Note: The "Oberoende" is the official magazine for RFHL (National
Organization for Help to Narcotics and Drug Addicts).


A couple of years ago, Swedish Television showed a film about South Africa.
The film was about the love affair between a white man and a coloured
woman. The couple knew of course about their country's laws against this
type of relationship, and they did everything they could to conceal it.
They never went out together, they only met at night, she used the backdoor
to his house and was very careful not to keep her possessions in his

But the police were onto them. During a raid on his apartment the police
found, at the bottom of his laundry basket, a pair of panties which were
sent to a laboratory for forensic analysis. In the final scene the woman
is seen lying in the gynaecologist's chair with her legs apart while a male
doctor puts on his plastic gloves. The final evidence of their crime would
be found inside the woman's vaginal canal.

The crime the couple committed against South African law did not have any
actual victims. Therefore the crime was difficult to prove, no one had
reported anything, no one was hurt (beside the couple), no one risked
getting hurt. And yet at the same time the government insisted that
whatever the cost - measures were to be taken against this crime. The
consequences were inevitable, the state literally had to penetrate this
woman in order to determine through her bodily fluids if she was a criminal.

This South African administration of justice shocks us and yet at the same
time, the same way of thinking has become part of Swedish narcotics policy.
Consumption of narcotics is illegal and punishable in Sweden. Surreptitious
use, which is not directly visible through harmful actions, is seen as a
particular danger to society. Evidence can only be secured when the
government uses force to take blood and urine samples from its citizens and
thereby determine if any crime has been committed.

It has not always been like this in Sweden. During the 1970's Swedish drug
policy had a relatively humane attitude towards drug users. At the
beginning of the 1980s this policy changed direction. The abuser was now
regarded as the only irreplaceable link in the drug supply chain and if he
could only be stopped from using drugs then inevitably the whole chain
would collapse. Efforts were concentrated on the user in the form of
criminalisation of consumption, frequent raids and forced treatment. The
was to be, according to the official slogan, "a drug free society".

Well, it might be objected, hard drug abuse is a problem both for the
individual and for society, and a harder and more repressive drug policy
could be accepted if such a policy resulted in a decrease in the damage
caused by drugs. However any such result is difficult to ascertain. The
number of drug users increased by 40% between the late 1970s and early
1990s. And even if there was a fall in the numbers of those being recruited
to drug use in the 1980s, the numbers dropped even more during the so
called "piss-liberal" 1970s.

The costs of the harder drug policy however are obvious and include
disregard for principles of justice, introduction of forced treatment and
increased use of imprisonment. A rise in drug related deaths cannot be
excluded either. Sweden criminalised, in contradiction with Swedish legal
practice, the actual use of narcotics in 1988. In an internal investigation
by the Department of Justice of the introduction of punishment for personal
drug use, it was stressed that "it is in principle wrong to criminalise
acts which are directed towards ones own person". The same investigation
maintained that blood and urine tests are "deep violations of the integrity
of the person". Despite this, in 1993 the police were given authority to
perform these tests and up to the end of 1997 39.000 blood and urine tests
have been taken.

During the 1980's special laws were passed in Sweden allowing forced
treatment for adult abusers. Such treatment has never been shown to have
any positive effect on drug abuse. On the other hand Sweden is relatively
unique from an European perspective in having such laws. Imprisonments for
narcotics related offences have tripled since the late '70s. The long
prison sentences together with application harder narcotics laws has
contributed to the worsened situation in prisons.

The number of drug related deaths are high seen from an European
perspective. This is particularly notable as the higher mortality rates are
mainly found amongst heroin addicts and this group is limited in Sweden
compared with other countries. The high and rising death toll should be
considered alongside the official Swedish claim of a successful narcotics
policy. Against this background the question must be asked if the Swedish
restrictive narcotics policy, by neglecting harm reduction, is not actually
contributing to the high death toll.

Despite this control policy, Sweden has not become "drug free". Quite the
opposite, developments during the 1990's point in the other direction, at
least in regards to occasional drug use. But what then, are the reactions?
Proposals for even more of the same medicine. Telephone tapping has been
introduced and used previously mainly in regards to narcotics related
crime. Now proposals for the use of bugging are foremost in the
investigative process. Once again narcotics legitimise the introduction of
"unorthodox measures".

The thousands of blood and urine tests taken by the police to prevent
narcotics use are not considered enough. Organisations and employers now
demand compulsory tests in schools and workplaces. The police want the
power to give drug users emetics in order to prove narcotics crimes. And
the countries largest opposition party now demands life imprisonment for
serious drug crimes.

To these existing and planned control costs should be added the direction
the policy debate is taking. Swedes cause friction with their European
neighbours by conceitedly marketing the superiority of their narcotics
policy while at the same time avoiding listening to the experiences of
other countries. EU parliamentarians from other countries who propose
decriminalisation of cannabis are described as narcotics Mafia in Sweden's
largest evening paper.

Legal heroin and clean needle distribution programmes that could reduce the
suffering of addicts are dismissed from the debate by pointing out that
"society has to underline its rejection of drugs". Young people are
alienated from adult society when the rave culture is defined as a
narcotics problem that the police have to solve with top priority. And the
Prime Minister's adviser in criminal and drug political questions, member of
parliament Widar Andersson can, without any politic criticism say: "The
freedom of speech should be limited for those who overtly or covertly
spread drug propaganda".

The slogan "a drug free society" is a fundamentalist slogan. It is an
expression that means we have to eliminate something whatever the price.
The demand for a drug free Sweden becomes the demand for a drug user free
Sweden. Every addict becomes one addict too many and the costs to achieve
this goal never become too high.

Drug Wars and the Open or Closed Society (A translation of an article by Leif
Lenke, a doctor of criminology at the University of Stockholm, in Oberoende,
the official magazine for the Swedish National Organization For Help to
Narcotics and Drug Addicts, criticizes Sweden's unsuccessful war on some drug
users as the vehicle for bringing about a repressive, close-minded society
where an open and honest discussion is impossible.)

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 16:50:01 -0800
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: Sweden: Drug Wars and the Open or Closed Society
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Jan G. Quarfordt (jan.quarfordt@mailbox.swipnet.se)
Pubdate: May 1998
Source: Oberoende (Sweden)
Contact: info@rfhl.se
Website: http://www.rfhl.se
Translation: John Yates (bobo@personal.eunet.fi)
Author: Leif Lenke, Doctor of Criminology at the University of Stockholm.
Note: The "Oberoende" is the official magazine for RFHL (National
Organization for Help to Narcotics and Drug Addicts).


In 1984 Nils Christie and Kettil Bruun published the book "The Good Enemy".
In it they describe how a powerless group of drug addicts were singled out
as enemies by a society in need of scapegoats. The war on drugs and drug
users was presented as a ritual and collective purification process in
which society drove out evil symbolised by drug addicts. Fourteen years
later the war continues with unabated enthusiasm, although, judging from
available statistics, without any success.

The authors, Christie and Bruun, limit themselves in their description of
the drug war to drug users, but they are not the only ones who have been
defined as enemies. The other enemies are dissenters in the drug-political
debate. They seem to constitute nearly as great a threat to society as the
actual drug addicts. Dissenters are regarded as traitors to the well being
of the nation, sometimes they are decried as advocates of the devil.

In war, descriptions of the enemy must be simplified and derogatory so that
hate and the will to fight can be mobilised. There is no room for nuances,
everything is either black or white, good or evil. Drug addicts are
described as "drug fixated crime machines" while dissenters are maligned as
"drug liberals" or "the apologists of legalisation". In the political
debate surrounding Swedish narcotics policy the war is ever present: "Are
you for or against the Swedish model? Are you with us or against us? Are
you friend or enemy?"

Politically Correct

A body of politically correct perceptions has developed around drug
questions. The politically correct perception is built upon a moral order
where narcotics are singled out as the evil drugs and where the lifestyle
of drug users is seen as a threat to conventional society. From a
scientific perspective we can see that cigarettes and alcohol are a much
greater threat to health than narcotics. However, the politically correct
position is not built upon knowledge and rational argument, but upon
morality and dogma.

There are many risks involved in not identifying with the politically
correct position in narcotics policy. For politicians it means reduced
credibility and less votes. Civil servants in national and local government
risk losing their jobs or seeing their careers go down the drain if they
express ideas contrary to the official policy. In the same way the careers
and subsidies of researchers are threatened if they publish reports or
articles that contain criticism of the politically correct position.

Vaccination Campaign

The authorities often speak of the importance of "vaccinating" young people
and parents against drug misuse. According to available statistics, this
vaccination has not been particularly successful, at least not in the way
that was intended. The vaccination campaign has however "succeeded" in
another area. It has got politicians and officials to think nearly
identically in a very complicated and composite question. In the name of
the drug war, the controlled society has been imprinted into its citizens
and made them resistant to their own freedom of thought. This resistance
can result in an unwillingness to know of other models than the self proclaimed
successful Swedish model of limiting abuse and treating addicts.

Is the drug wars threat to freedom of thought and expression a sign that we
are distancing ourselves from what Carl Popper called the open society? In
the open society it is permitted to publicly propose and to criticize
proposals for solutions to social problems. Open and critical discussion
then lays the ground for the implementation of reforms. Open and critical
discussion is also necessary for citizens to control authority. But in
order for public discussions to take place, says Popper, there must be
institutions that guarantee freedom of thought, speech and demonstration as
well as there being a certain level of education.

The Closed Society

What happens to democracy and open and critical discussion when
researchers, politicians and officials are silenced? According to the
newspaper Kommun-Aktuellt, civil servants dare not criticize their
employers or side with the 'wrong' opinions. They are scared of losing
their jobs. Is the drug war an indication that we are moving towards a more
closed society where there is no room for doubt or critical opinion?

The closed society is characterised by a magical and irrational clinging to
traditions and habits instead of a rationally guided and critical
questioning. But Popper warns us that the more we try to suppress
rationality and truth and instead strive for the ideals of the closed
society, all the easier it is to create inquisitions and secret police. In
this context it can be mentioned that Sweden's own 'Drug Czar', Widar
Andersson, has written a document together with K-A Westerberg where he
says that "Limits should be placed on the freedom of speech of those who
covertly or overtly spread drug propaganda". But who is it in the end who
profits from the suppression of open and free discussion of narcotics
questions? One thing is sure, it doesn't favour the clients.

In sociology it is said that the old political opposites of left and right,
capitalism and communism have been dissolved and that we need new opposites
and areas of contention if history is not to end. The open or closed
society where pluralism is opposed to fundamentalism is such a new pair of
opposites. The German sociologist Sebastian Scheerer wonders if not the
drug war is the cultural arena for that developing conflict. So at a basic
level the drug war is about what sort of society we are to have - a
pluralistic and open society or a fundamentalist and closed.

Closing Ranks, the Lost Opportunity of UNGASS (A translation of an article in
Italy's Narcomafie about the United Nations General Assembly Special Session
June 8-10 in New York, dedicated to promoting the world war on some drug
users, says a commercial will soon appear on televisions around the world in
an attempt to rally public support.)

Date: Wed, 03 Jun 1998 00:58:16 -0400
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: GE Italy: Closing Ranks, The Lost Opportunity Of Ungass
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Martin Jelsma
Pubdate: May 1998
Source: Narcomafie - N. 5, Anno VI (Torino, Italy)
Contact: abele@arpnet.it
Website: http://www.arpnet.it/abele
Author: Martin Jelsma
Note: Published in Italian under title: "Serrare i ranghi!"


An elderly cleaning lady enters the huge empty UN aula in New York with her
polishing cart, to get the venue spic-and-span for an important upcoming
meeting. A voice in the background explains: `here, in this room, on the 8,
9 and 10 of June world leaders will join forces to confront the drug
problem.' As the lady dusts off a globe, in the swaying movement, a roaring
helicopter appears spraying herbicides, followed by a fast sequence of other
images like burning drug crops, heavily armed soldiers and a farmer
processing coffee. The voice ends with the slogan: "A drug free world - We
can do it!"

The commercial will soon appear on national television around the world in
an attempt to rally public support for the "United Nations General Assembly
Special Session to Counter the World Drug Problem Together". Advertising
agencies are experts in capturing in a nutshell the content of a message,
and the commercial makes perfectly clear what the UNDCP (United Nations
International Drug Control Programme) hopes will be the outcome of UNGASS.
In 60 seconds the proclaimed "balanced approach" is rapidly turned into what
it really comes down to: a global attempt to close ranks in support of a
"war on drugs". Although UN agencies usually carefully avoid using
controversial military metaphors in articulating their anti-drug strategies,
Mr Pino Arlacchi, UNDCP's Executive Director, didn't hesitate to invoke the
image at a press conference in Vienna at the end of a week of preparatory
meetings for UNGASS. "The `war on drugs' has not been fought and lost," he
said. "It has never started."


The original impetus for convening a global meeting on drugs came from
Mexico back in 1993, when she proposed to hold a real Summit on the issue.
The idea was to facilitate a world-wide reflection on the efficiency and
viability of anti-drug strategies over the past decade, in order to improve
and adapt them with a view to strategies for the next century. After many
deliberations and conflicts, the initial idea has since been narrowed down
to a Special Session on the issue. The focus is on how to strengthen and
expand current drug control policies ten years after the adoption of the
1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances.

In November 1996, the General Assembly formally decided to convene a special
session, which should "be devoted to assessing the existing situation within
the framework of a comprehensive and balanced approach that includes all
aspects of the problem, with a view to strengthening international
cooperation to address the problem of illicit drugs". It assigned the task
of preparing the session to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, with its seat
in Vienna, Austria. Acting as preparatory body for UNGASS, the commission
met five times over the past year.

A battle that was more or less lost at the very first `PrepCom' meeting
(March 1997) centred on the proposal to have an "independent evaluation" of
the efficiency of existing conventions. The idea was to commission
independent experts to conduct such a study and prepare a document on the
basis of which 'new strategies' could be proposed for the next century. The
US, Great Britain and some others objected to an "independent" evaluation,
with the result that the recently installed committee consists of the full
chairing bureau of the PrepCom itself, plus some national delegates. "The
main aim of their work will be to recommend how to strengthen future
international cooperation against illicit drugs, and to identify measures
aimed at reinforcing UNDCP's activities in the field of drug control."
Independant evaluation is nowhere to be found.

UNDCP Executive Director Arlacchi urged member states to send government
leaders to attend the Special Session in New York. Many heads of state and
ministers will be included in the national delegations, politicizing the
debates. In the case of the drugs issue, this is generally a disadvantage.
There is a growing gap between the drug experts on the one hand, where many
of the deficiencies of the applied strategies are recognised, and the
political level on the other hand, where fear of looking "soft on drugs" is
paralyzing genuine reflection. Amongst politicians it seems to be
conventional wisdom that the reason force has not worked, is that not enough
has been applied and that the logical response, therefore, is escalation _
not re-evaluation.

Absentees in UNGASS are the people most directly affected by drug policy:
citizens of developing countries in which drugs production is taking place,
and drugs consumers. In spite of numerous declarations of good intentions
about the importance of including civil society in this global debate,
direct non-governmental participation in the official meeting will be close
to zero. However, some facilities will be available for parallel NGO
activities. Many organisations are already planning to air critical views
inside and outside the UN venue.


When the agenda-setting for UNGASS started, several delegations stressed
that the upcoming global event should mark the end of the "era of
finger-pointing" in the international drug policy controversies. The old
dichotomy between producer and consumer countries should give way to the
principle of 'shared responsibility' as the cornerstone of international
drug control. The agenda, therefore, should reflect a balanced approach
which includes all aspects of the drugs problem, and should focus on those
points which have been underexposed in the existing conventions.The agenda
is now clearly defined and does indeed reflect criticism emanating from
developing countries over the past decade. Several issues currently
emphasise the responsibility of the western world: demand reduction,
chemical precursors, amphetamines, and money laundering. The PrepCom
approved the following documents for the General Assembly in June:

1) a Political Declaration, to reaffirm and strengthen the international
community's commitment to the slogan "A Drug Free World - We can do it!".

2) a document outlining the 'Guiding Principles on Drug Demand Reduction'.
It will constitute "the very first international agreement whose sole
objective is to examine the problems, both individually and collectively,
that arise because a person might or does abuse drugs."

3) an 'Action Plan against Manufacture, Trafficking and Abuse of
Amphetamine-type stimulants' (like XTC and speed);

4) `Control of Precursors', containing measures to improve international
control of chemicals used in illegal drugs manufacture;

5) `Measures to promote international judicial cooperation', like
extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of proceedings, etc.;

6) `Countering Money-Laundering', a document that reaffirms international
commitment to the 1988 Convention provisions on proceeds of crime, and
establishes principles upon which further anti-money laundering measures
should be based;

7) a `Draft Action Plan on International Cooperation on Eradication of
Illicit Drug Crops and on Alternative Development.'


Under the item `Eradication and Alternative Development', the UNDCP is
trying to squeeze into the UNGASS agenda, its already highly controversial
`Strategy for Coca and Opium Poppy Elimination' (SCOPE). SCOPE calls for a
"balanced approach" between law enforcement, alternative development and
demand reduction, to rid the world of "the scourge of heroin and cocaine"
within 10 year. By the year 2008 the UNDCP wants to have rooted out the
problem at source - crop production. Alternative development is intended to
receive the bulk of the nearly US$ 4 billion budget: 74%. Law enforcement is
alloted 20% and demand reduction 2%. The UNDCP itself doesn't have innate
funds, so it has appealed to the international community to commit itself to
SCOPE to provide the necessary funding.

The strategy focuses on eight key countries in three regions: Bolivia,
Colombia and Peru in Latin America; the Lao People's Democratic Republic,
Myanmar (or Burma as the surpressed democratic opposition prefers to call
their nation) and Vietnam in south-east Asia; and Afghanistan and Pakistan
in south-west Asia. The supply of illicit opiates and coca derivatives today
originates in these "limited number of well-defined geographical areas",
according to the UNDCP in summing up the favourable factors for this
ambitious programme. Secondly, says the agency, "after three decades of
experience, the international community is now equipped with tested
methodologies and the know-how to tackle the problem in the producing areas.
The strengthening of the drug control mechanisms in the regions concerned
has paved the way for full-scale interventions and most producing countries
have adopted well-defined national strategies and action plans that are
ready for implementation."

"At the same time," continues the plan's summary, "it is possible to monitor
the areas at risk in order to prevent the `balloon effect' from nullifying
the overall impact of elimination programmes." The "balloon effect" is the
movement of cultivation to previously untouched areas as a result of
increased enforcement in presently cultivated zones (while you squeeze one
part of a balloon, the air simply moves to another part without reducing the
total amount of air). The last favourable factor cited is the expression of
a "clear political will and the adoption of a common agenda on the part of
the international community". The Special Session "offers a historic
opportunity for all positive forces to converge", according to the UNDCP.


The UNDCP's attempt to convince the PrepCom to recommend that the Special
Session endorse SCOPE didn't quite succeed. Delegations felt overwhelmed by
the detailed elaboration of SCOPE, received shortly before the final PrepCom
on 16-21 March. The Dutch delegation diplomatically called for "feasible
goals" both "in substance and target dates" and added that "quantative
benchmarks should not be an end in itself". Mexico sarcastically said it
expected an equally detailed plan from the US to illustrate their intention
to fully eliminate drug consumption over the same 10-year period, and
proposed 2003 as target date for substantial demand eradication.

Executive Director Arlacchi not only has to face scepticism from the
delegates, but within the UNDCP he is considered a recently appointed
outsider who overruled critical assesments of SCOPE by the agency's
specialists. In Vienna corridors, he is nicknamed "El Ni=F1o", a kind of
human equivalent of the meteorologic phenomenon which creates havoc
world-wide. But UN Secretary General Annan says that the "renowned Italian
crime fighter" has brought vitality and credibility to the UNDCP in its
fight against drugs. Observers comment that the Executive Director has
"considerable political support", which is clearly true from the US side.

Arlacchi played an important and brave role in fighting the Mafia in Italy,
but coca bush and opium poppy is something else, and the small peasants
involved in its cultivation are no criminals. In his noble drive to deny
organized crime an important source of income, he is also irresponsibly
putting the onus for the problem on the shoulders of the relatively innocent
growers of the raw material _ those who depend on these crops to survive _
who risk losing their livelihoods as the fight escalates. Although several
PrepCom draft declarations call for respect for human rights, saving the
environment, and active participation by local groups in the planning of
alternative development projects, most peasants have had very negative
experiences with drug control programs over the past decade, precisely with
these issues. With SCOPE, Arlacchi risks fueling the fire of already heated
social tensions in drug crop areas around the world. SCOPE relies heavily on
partly existing national plans for its operationalisation, while intending
to provide an integrated global framework and a multilateral legitimacy.
Colombia serves as a good example to illustrate what the consequences in
practice might be.


Currently, operations in Colombia to suppress illicit crop production
consist primarily of chemical fumigation. Last year, 48.000 hectares of coca
and poppy crop were eliminated through the aerial spraying of herbicides.
Satellite monitoring shows, however, that the total area under drug-crop
cultivation expanded 10 percent. The fields were simply moved to other areas
- the `balloon' effect. These fields will be sprayed again next year -with a
stronger granual herbicide- and cultivation (which in itself is not
particularly friendly to the ecosystem) will again move to other regions. A
vicious circle, leading to more and more health complaints among the local
population and contaminating ever-increasing areas, is set in motion. There
is grave concern about the long-term effects of the massive spreading of
these chemicals in the vulnerable ecosystem of the Colombian Amazon tropical
rainforest, where coca cultivation is concentrated.

The Guaviare and other coca growing regions of Colombia were the scene of
widespread social protest in 1996. An estimated 241,000 people participated
in massive marches and roadblocks -one of the largest peasant mobilizations
in Colombian history-to protest aerial eradication, lack of government
support for economic development and the increasing presence of the
Colombian military. In the violence that ensued, twelve people fell victim
to extrajudicial executions and seven disappeared. A number of protest
leaders subsequently received death threats and seven were later murdered.

The UNDCP - for now - does not directly support fumigation projects in
Colombia or elsewhere. The financial support and technical assistance
(helicopters and training) is provided by the United States. The agency does
support alternative development though, which, jointly with the forced
eradication programmes, shape the counter-narcotics strategy of Colombia -
the PLANTE (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Alternativo) presidential programme.
The counter-strategy of the Colombian government, says SCOPE in describing
the future country plan to eliminate illicit cultivation, "is based on two
distinct, but complementary courses of action: the carrot and the stick".
This complementarity principle also underlies Arlacchi's plan, according to
which alternative development gains in effectiveness when it is backed by
"consistently applied disincentives through law enforcement and eradication".

"As the plan progresses, the importance of eradication will grow," notes
SCOPE, both to stop cultivation attempts in new areas and resurgence in
areas where alternative development has been implemented. To complement
"tedious manual eradication", SCOPE includes a research and development plan
for "environmentally safe" herbicidal chemicals and biological control
agents. Uzbekistan is to be the site of the first experiment with a
pathogenic fungus which kills the opium poppy, an agent that "should be
safe, suitable and available for all poppy growing areas, especially in
Central Asia."


Inherent in SCOPE's underlying logic lies a risk of increased repression, in
spite of its proclaimed emphasis on alternative development methods. The
complementarity principle combined with a deadline make escalation almost
inevitable upon the year 2008 drawing closer. Without a very careful tuning
into realistic estimations of results of prevention and demand reduction
strategies, any strategies aimed at `elimination' of supply are unrealistic
and may well be even undesirable. Such perilous illusions, encapsulated in
the UNGASS slogan "A drug free world - We can do it!", might win broad and
high-level political affirmation in New York, if critical voices have not
been heard and delegations do not have the political courage to question
them publicly. So far, UNGASS seems to offer very little hope to -and in
fact is likely to heighten concerns for-the main victims the international
community should be worrying about: the problematic user groups and the
peasants caught up in the illegal economy. The world is likely to lose an
historical opportunity with this UNGASS, which should have been devoted to
evaluating the past decade and learn from its many failures, to analyse the
colateral damage wreaked by the war on drugs, and to put on the table
alternative strategies more consistent with the laudable original goals of
defending human well-being and pursuing policies which protect people rather
than cause more harm. The manifesto `for a just and effective policy on
drugs' around which many organisations worldwide are uniting, lays out the
basic principles for such an alternative strategy.

Martin Jelsma Transnational Institute (TNI - Amsterdam)
more information on UNGASS can be found on TNI's website:



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