The European Parliament in Strasbourg welcomed this week the President of Peru, Mr. Ollanta Moises Humala Tasso, who addressed the Plenary on 13 June, 2012.
In his speech, Mr. Humala Tasso including emphasized how problematic it is for the South American countries to fight against drug trafficking.
This theme was also one of the main issues raised during the recent summit of countries in North America and South America. Then the president of Colombia Mr. Juan Manuel Santos offered then to fight the drug war by “decriminalization of use, the exact enforcement of prosecution of the production and distribution on a large scale”.
He saw no need to choose one of the two extreme solutions (such as imprisoning all drug users or fully legalizing all drugs), in his opinion the best compromise would be just above.
Similar opinions are held by over 300 economists in the United States (including three Nobel laureates), who signed an open letter to the President, Congress and the Governors, in which they ask for an honest and fair debate on legalizing marijuana.
Signatories of the letter refer to the recently published report by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron of Harvard University, who says that legalizing marijuana could save $ 7.7 billion spent annually on law enforcement related to prohibition. Furthermore he adds that legalizing private use of marijuana can generate $ 6.2 billion tax profits per year if marijuana is taxed just like alcohol or tobacco.
Professor Jeffrey acknowledges, however, that the legalization of marijuana depends on many factors, not only on economic aspects, that should also be taken into account.
Discussions on the question of decriminalization of marijuana have also taken place many European countries. On 2 April, newly appointed Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico, announced his intentions to decriminalize the possession of marijuana on personal use.
This announcement caught my interest for several reasons. First, it was made after the elections therefore the intention was not to attract young voters. Second, it symbolizes a trend in which more EU countries are beginning to decriminalize personal use of small quantities of marijuana.
In Poland, my home country, the possession of even the smallest amount of marijuana is still subjects to high penalties and even imprisonment. Such severe punishment, in my view, creates an ever bigger problem.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands, a liberal country in this respect, the government has approved provisions to limit foreigners from buying at the famous coffee shops. In the southern provinces of the new regulations will become effective from 1 May. In the north – will from next year.
According to the regulations coffee shops will be transformed into private associations, with membership only open to Dutch residents.
Contrary to the opinions that I found in some of the Polish media, this new policy has nothing in common with retreat from the liberal Dutch drug policy. The reason for change is more pragmatic – inhabitants of large cities such as Maastricht complain against traffic jams caused by the so called “drug tourists from neighbouring countries, especially Belgium and Germany, to the Netherlands.
The Dutch are divided as to these regulations; Representatives of the Dutch government claim that the coffee shops transformation will allow local residents to buy soft drugs without having to go through dealers.
Yet owners of coffee shops and the tourism industry are unhappy with the new regulations as they estimate a decrease of 20% in related revenues.
Maybe those happy with the new law are the Belgian and German dealers who are certain to enjoy the new customers.
What will be the finale of the case will be better known after the Dutch elections of 12 September.
Greetings from the European Parliament
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg
PS. I wrote earlier on problems concerning criminalization of possession of certain drugs, their effects and approaches to this issue by some governments (Only in Polish):
http://2009.salon24.pl/409588, unusual post-election-promise-
The report by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron, “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition:
An open letter signed by 300 economists, including three Nobel laureates (Milton Friedman, George A. Akerlof, Vernon L. Smith):
The blog post from Prime Minister Robert Fico