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03/11/2003 | THE RADICAL MEPíS WRITE TO THE MEMBERS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE SEVEN RECOMMENDATION OF THE JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT'S NATIONAL COMMISSION ON GANJA
|To the attention of:|
MPs Members of the Parliamentary Committee to review the Seven recommendation of the Jamaican Government's National Commission on Ganja.
The Clerk of Houses
Houses of Parliament
81 Duke Street, Kingston
Brussels, 3 November 2003
The Transnational Radical Party (TRP) presents his compliments to the members of the Parliamentary Committee to review the Seven recommendation of the Jamaican Government's National Commission on Ganja.
We are pleased to submit our contribution to your ongoing efforts vis-ŗ-vis drug-related issues. Before addressing the subject of your deliberations, we would like to commend the Jamaican Government for its decision to initiate a process of evaluation of the possible impact that reformed drug policies and laws could have on the Jamaican society. Moreover, we salute the decision to proceed through a political dialogue within and outside State's institutions. Your reaching out to the general public, both nationally and internationally, should serve as an example of how political democracy should work.
In 1993, the TRP - then an Italian political party, which eventually evolved into a international non-governmental organization which today enjoys a consultative status with the United Nations - promoted a referendum in Italy to de-penalize the personal consumption of all narcotics prohibited by the three UN Conventions on drugs. Over 55% of the electorate (some 20 million people) supported our reform; and administrative sanctions substituted penal ones.
It was the first time, after the entry into force of the three UN Conventions, that a country was choosing to reform its drug laws through a public process. That effort received a significant popular support and represented the first example of how the public, often ahead of its politicians on crucial issues such as narcotics, can have an impact when it comes to decision making. For the last 10 years, the Italian Government has sanctioned narcotic consumers with administrative sanctions limiting penal ones only to large quantities, and of course to activities related to production and trafficking, alleviating the work of the police, the judiciary and giving a possibility to citizens to face a warning rather than a period in jail.
The change in the penalties was not sufficient, and after the reform we worked to develop and implement other measures promoting a health-based approach to face the problem. Recent studies have demonstrated, for instance, that deaths by heroin over-doses have dropped by 50% over the last decade. A dramatic reduction if one thinks that heroin consumption has remained stable in the same period. The same type of impact was registered concerning cannabis use, which, we believe, should not be considered as a hazard to individual, let alone public, health. At the same time we stressed the need to launch public awareness campaigns to inform the public on the implications of the use, and indeed abuse, of certain substances.
Over the last few years, several countries in Europe, but also Canada and Australia, have chosen different approaches to the drug question. Their progressive reforms and concrete pilot projects, which have been thoroughly documented by their Ministries of Health, should serve as additional evidence that alternative drug policies cannot only be more effective, but also address the question of how an individual should be left free to take care of himself in an legally controlled context.
The right to freely chose should be enjoyed in an environment that facilitates knowledge. We salute your decision to consider an education campaign as one of the pillars of a possible reform. If thoroughly informed people choose what they believe is best for them, it is highly unlikely that they will choose deadly or disruptive habits.
Over the last three decades, Radicals in Italy have always struggled to counter the failures of prohibition on drugs that have not been able to contain the spread of the production, consumption and sale of narcotic substances. We firmly believe that if drugs have become increasingly dangerous, it is because of the highly lucrative value that was added by prohibition to natural and chemical products. Moreover, drug prohibition also poses problems to traditional and religious practices that belong to millenary cultures. We believe that, despite the fact that the UN Conventions allow some consumption for certain ethnic groups, culture and religion cannot be identified merely with ethnicity, and the issue should be considered in a wider context of full enjoyment of individual rights.
Lastly, we urge the Jamaican Parliament to look into the seven recommendations with particular attention to the one that urges "that as a matter of great urgency Jamaica embark on diplomatic initiatives with its CARICOM partners and other countries outside the Region, in particular members of the European Union, with a view (a) to elicit support for its internal position, and (b) to influence the international community to re-examine the status of cannabis"
Drug laws reform is an exercise that cannot be carried out alone: international cooperation and synergies, both with regional and international partners, and non-State actors, should be pursued continuously. You can count on our support within the European Parliament.
Lastly, we would like to take this opportunity to bring to your attention a debate we held at the beginning of the year along the lines of the one that you are currently starting. That discussion was triggered by a recommendation introduced by one of us on December 2002, and which we are pleased to attach to this letter (http://www.antiprohibitionist.org/documents/documents02/486051EN.doc).
As you can see, the document, which eventually became an international petition to the Secretary-General and the Members States of the United Nations, addresses several of the issues that you have included in your current debate urging the opening of an international assessment of the world drug control regime that has proven to be extremely ineffective.
We also take this opportunity to invite you to read the study released by the International Antiprohibitionist League last April on the occasion of the 46th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (http://www.radicalparty.org/antiprohibition/report_2003/RAPPORTO.pdf). The book provides a critical reading of the data produced by the United Nations. Those figures document the increase in the production and consumption of all drugs but lack a critical reading of the possible ways to face those failures.
We need to establish a coalition of those who have resolved to address strict prohibition in a non ideological way, and want to initiate an international effort to reform drug control in a more pragmatic and effective manner. You can count on us as an allies in Europe and we are looking forward to the outcome of your deliberations.
With our best wishes for your work
Benedetto della Vedova