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03/11/2003 | ARNOLD TREBACH’S STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE REPORT OF THE JAMAICAN NATIONAL COMMISSION ON GANJA
|Arnold S. Trebach, J.D., Ph.D. |
Department of Justice, Law and Society
The American University
Chairman, Board of Advisors
International Antiprohibitionist League
5505 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20015-2601
Tel. 301-526-1200 Fax 301-986-7815
November 3, 2003
The Clerk of Houses
Houses of Parliament
81 Duke Street
Dear Clerk of Houses:
This is my statement on the Report of the Jamaican National Commission on Ganja. The report was dated August 7, 2001.
In summary, I find the report to be a sound analysis of the basic scientific, legal and ethical facts about ganja. I also find the Seven Recommendations to be eminently sensible, moderate, and worthy of being implemented by the Jamaican Parliament and other responsible authorities in the country. Much good will come to the country and its people if the recommendations are implemented without delay. I base these conclusions upon a study of the commission report and also upon my experience gained in over three decades of research, travel, and direct observation of the drug situation in many countries. On the basis of that experience, I will make a few comments and suggestions to my Jamaican colleagues later in this statement.
0.0. Background and Qualifications
0.1. I am Arnold S. Trebach, J.D., Ph.D. I am a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Justice, Law and Society of the American University in Washington, District of Columbia. In addition, I am the founder and past president of The Drug Policy Foundation, which is also located in Washington. While at DPF I served as one of the counsels in the suit that sought to force DEA to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Federal Controlled Substances Act so that it could be used in medicine. Late in 1997 I retired from both the university and the foundation. However, I remain very active in the field of drug policy research and reform around the world. For example, I am now the Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the International Antiprohibitionist League.
0.2. I am a lawyer, teacher, medical historian, and policy expert with a special interest in the comparative history of drug control and treatment in the United States, Britain, and other countries. My method of research combines intensive analysis of original documents in medicine, addiction, and law along with interviews of participants in drug treatment and control. I find it particularly important to visit clinics, doctor's surgeries, prisons, police stations, and street drug markets -- and to talk to those involved, including addicts. I started in the drug field in 1972. On many occasions, I have visited The Netherlands and have directly observed how the system of marijuana control works. These visits involved tours of marijuana coffee shops and street drug scenes, which were guided, at various times, by local and national officials, addicts, coffee shop owners, and professors. I have received many honors from Dutch leaders and officials because of my work on the Dutch approach to dealing with drugs, especially marijuana. For example, in 1986 I was one of only three American experts invited to address the major conference in Amsterdam, which was opened by Her Royal Majesty, the Queen, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the Dutch Criminal Code. Another honor and a most surprising one occurred when I was leading the Eleventh Institute on Drugs, Crime and Justice under the auspices of the American University, which took place in Amsterdam and London for about three weeks in 1998. On June 11, while in Amsterdam, I was called to the mayor's office where the Burgemeester, S. Patjin, presented me with a coffee shop license. As I said I considered it a symbol of respect, which it was, but as a double surprise I later learned that it was a valid license that I could have used to open a marijuana coffee
shop in Amsterdam. I have the license framed on my wall but never exercised the powers it conferred upon me. However, I can say with assurance that I have a good understanding of the Dutch marijuana situation. It is full of contradictions and yet may be the best in the world.
0.3. I have developed a degree of comparative and historical knowledge about drug treatment and prescribing practices that has resulted in my being called upon to lecture on the subject before medical audiences (for example, Grand Rounds at The Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School) and before other professional organizations. I have also testified before a Congressional committee on the subject. From 1985 to 1989, I served as a member of the Working Group on Drugs and Crime of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. In 1987 I was called upon to advise the defense and to appear as an expert witness before the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom in the case of Dr. Ann Dally, who was accused of inappropriate prescribing. In 1996 I was asked to advise Dr. Patrick Hickey in a number of legal proceedings, also involving inappropriate prescribing. I appeared as an expert witness in a defamation case he brought in the High Court in London in May 1999.
0.4. I established the Institute on Drugs, Crime and Justice at the American University in 1973. A major function of the institute was to present seminars in England on the comparative operation of the drug control systems in the UK and the US. Because we were located in the UK for approximately three weeks each time, the greatest emphasis was on the UK. Between 1974 and 1989, I presented ten of these seminars.
0.5. I directed the Eleventh Institute on Drugs, Crime and Justice, through the American University, June 7-27, 1998. It took place in Amsterdam and London. The coordinator of the Amsterdam program was Ernst Buning, Director of the Bureau of International Drug Policy, Municipal Health Service, City of Amsterdam. The coordinator of the London program was Professor Gerry V. Stimson, Director of the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behavior, Imperial College of Medicine. In each city, as in past seminars, the participants and I were able to look first-hand at the leading edge of drug treatment, control, and policy development. In Amsterdam special attention was paid to marijuana.
0.6. In addition to being the professor, I have also functioned as a student at these institutes for I listened carefully to the guest speakers I invited, took thousands of pages of notes, and wrote about what I saw and heard in periodic articles and books.
0.7. My search for continuing education has taken me around the United States and also to Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, the Soviet Union, and Australia. In each of these countries I sought and obtained information about addiction, AIDS, treatment, and control, often from the people most directly involved in dealing with those issues.
0.8. In 1986 I founded The Drug Policy Foundation for the purpose of providing a respected national and international forum for exploring alternative policies for dealing with drug problems. DPF, now the Drug Policy Alliance, is an independent non-profit educational organization supported wholly by private contributions. A major thrust of the organization is support of harm reduction or public health approaches to dealing with all aspects of the drug problem. Harm reduction often involves the decriminalization of marijuana.
0.9. Since late 1997, I have created several new organizations, the most active being The Trebach Institute, a non-profit educational corporation. I am chairman of this small organization. The institute is a nascent, unique university that delves into emerging issues of drug control and treatment. An area of special interest is advancement of the health, welfare, proper medical treatment, and legal rights of drug addicts. The organization is also concerned with related issues of drug treatment. A few years ago, the institute launched a new project dealing with facilities that claim to help children and youth with drug problems but which actually cause them a great deal of emotional and physical harm. The first major public event of this new project was a conference in Bethesda, Maryland on July 21 and 22, 2001, entitled "Saving Our Children from Drug Treatment Abuse." I chaired the conference, which had as speakers leading drug treatment experts, lawyers, victims, their parents, and drug policy reform advocates.
1.0. Areas of Expert Advice and Summary of Conclusions
1.1 I refer again the Seven Recommendations of the Jamaican National Commission on Ganja. These recommendations are moderate and based upon scientific facts and, most especially, upon common sense. The recommendations could have had a much broader reach but they are a good start. The first one states that ganja or marijuana should be decriminalized for the private, personal use of small quantities by adults. At this stage of history in civilized societies, how could anyone argue seriously with that proposition? The right to privacy is a core principle that is now supported by groups across the political spectrum. In a stunning recent decision, the conservative United States Supreme Court in effect legalized homosexual sodomy between consenting adults in the privacy of the home. This was done on privacy grounds and not because the Court approved of either sodomy or homosexuality. The right of an adult to smoke marijuana alone in one's room seems pretty tame compared to that. It is not clear if that right in Jamaica is meant to be a full legal right or simply decriminalized. I would hope that the commission would clarify its stance on this issue and that the Parliament would make it clear that what happens peacefully and with mutual consent in one's home can never be the business of any government. In other words, I would hope that this right is enunciated as a full-fledged legal right based not upon approval of marijuana but upon unyielding civilized support for privacy by adults.
1.2. However, I completely agree that there must be age limits on any activity of this nature. The protection of juveniles is a power of government that should have a broad sweep even into the privacy of the home. Age limits are an integral part of most legal systems. They apply here despite the pleas of multitudes of juveniles that they must smoke ganja or marijuana to have a meaningful young life. As a university teacher for many decades, I have confronted that plea directly more times than I can count. There should and must be legal limits and also there must be realistic demand reduction campaigns, as the commission recommended. I emphasize "realistic" because so much public education about marijuana for young people is composed primarily of nothing but destructive foolishness and lies. Young people cannot be told what I term prophylactic lies because they immediately know they are lies. The full truth about marijuana must be told and this must be combined with appeals based upon reality. Among the arguments I make to my students are the following. Smoking any substance is, in my opinion, both stupid and destructive. That includes tobacco and pot. Smoking pot may lead one on to smoking tobacco, which is much more organically destructive than pot. Tobacco is truly addictive, marijuana much less so, although for some people it is actually addictive, a cold fact many juveniles do not believe. Perhaps the worst feature of marijuana is smoking while driving. Scores of my students admitted they did so. This is death waiting to happen and the young people of Jamaica must be impressed with that real fact and that real danger. Having driven on the roads of Jamaica on several occasions, I tremble at the thought of young people who have not been made to realize the danger involved in smoking ganja and driving on those wonderfully scenic roads.
1.3. Unless Jamaica is prepared to legalize drugs, there must be, as the commission recommended, continued efforts by law enforcement to interdict the work of major trafficking organizations. That is the contradiction I mentioned before in regard to Holland. The authorities allow the use of marijuana in certain circumstances but they also seek to arrest those who traffic in drugs of large quantities or who are involved with organized crime. Jamaica will have to live with this contradiction also until it is prepared to legalize drugs and regulate them under a new set of laws as legal commodities, a course of action I recommend and so does of course the International Antiprohibitionist League. However, this is a contradiction, which seems appropriate at this stage of history but the times are moving on and the evolution of history must be closely watched. This is a matter for the future, but the not too distant future, in my view.
1.4. Research was recommended for the future into all aspects of cannabis through a new agency. That is a good idea but it is a waste of good, scarce money to inquire into the use of marijuana as medicine. There are few things certain in this field but one of them is the value of marijuana as a medicine for a variety of ailments. The research agency should not study if marijuana should be available in medicine but rather when and under what circumstances. I have worked on this issue for years. Intensive analysis of the record convinces me that there are no significant questions left on this issue. Jamaican doctors should be granted the power forthwith to use marijuana in medicine as they now have the power to use a host of more powerful drugs within the laws and ethics of the medical system.
1.5. I fully agree with the need for diplomatic initiatives to elicit support for these new Jamaican initiatives in other countries. There is too much fear and irrationality at the core of most national drug policies. The good news is that this is starting to change. Jamaica can help move the process along.
1.6. The report does not deal adequately with treatment. Despite the denials of some of my best professional friends and of many young people, ganja can be addicting for some people. Good treatment programs must be developed that deal with the real problems of Jamaican addicts, whatever the drugs of abuse, whether alcohol, tobacco, heroin, or ganja.
I would be glad to provide further information.
Arnold S. Trebach