NEWS

Greece stays put while Europe makes changes

Developments in the European Union with respect to illegal substances foreshadow the imminent decoupling of European countries from the destructive American war on drugs. The goals are to: – harmonize national legislation on controlled substances in EU member states; – re-examine international conditions with respect to these substances; – decriminalize cannabis and regulate its disposal on the market; – supply methadone and heroin on prescription to all drug addicts who wish it. The USA has pushed Sweden and Greece, last bastions of the American policy of suppression in Europe, to prevent such an outcome after Germany substantially overhauled its stance on drugs in 1994, followed by France in 1999. The change of heart over banning drugs by a significant segment of European public opinion was due in large part to the campaign for the decriminalization of cannabis by the British newspaper Independent on Sunday (from September 1997 until today), arguments articulated by politicians and academics in favor of decriminalization, and articles in respected medical journals (Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine), as well as reports by the British Medical Association, WHO, the British House of Lords Scientific Committee and others. Results of the ban The ban on certain mood-altering drugs has led to an increase in the number of drug addicts. The cost of a plethora of law-enforcement, judicial, penitentiary and pseudo-therapeutic mechanisms is a burden on society. It boosts organized crime, both economically and politically. Society pays the price through the strengthening of state power to the detriment of individual rights and political freedoms. It multiplies, degrades and murders addicts, forcing them into crime and prostitution, causing sickness and, all too often, death. It causes numerous individual and family tragedies. All of this is in flat contradiction to its purported aims. The solution The only answer to the artificial drugs problem is the abolition of all restrictions on narcotics and the sale of addictive mood-altering substances under the same conditions as prescription drugs. Such a policy can have three main planks: 1. The decriminalization of all mood-altering substances (and for cannabis, the decriminalization of cultivation for personal use and permitting its sale in coffee shops according to the Dutch model); 2. The sale of addictive substances (opiates or their substitutes) to those addicted to them, on a doctor’s prescription; 3. Providing society with frank information based on strict scientific data on the effect and consequences of the use of various substances (as opposed to the demonization by professionals in favor of suppression). The implementation of these measures is beneficial both to users and society, from the economic, political, health and public order standpoints. It is a direct blow to organized crime and it relieves society of the whole gaggle of therapists and law-enforcement officials who swallow up taxpayers’ money. – Kleanthis Grivas is a psychiatrist.