The Council of Europe reiterates the need to adopt drug policies based on human rights

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A new approach to drugs in the 27 member states of the European Union should serve as the basis for cannabis reform at the continental level.

Earlier this month, the Council of the European Union (EU) adopted a guidance document entitled “Council conclusions on a human rights-based approach to drug policy”.

Under the impetus of the Czech Republic, which presided over the European Union for six months, this document provides immediate support for the initiatives of this country and Germany in favor of regulated cannabis markets for adults.

While acknowledging the right of countries to decriminalize personal possession and protect the health of their citizens, the document ticks all the boxes for diversity, equality and inclusion, while taking a new and tougher approach. drug policy and human rights.

National priorities and needs

One of the most significant points is the articulation, for the first time, of the possibility for nation states “to design and implement national drug policies according to their priorities and needs “.

Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, an international drug policy researcher based in Barcelona, ​​said: “It is great to have this new policy document which will reinforce the positions that have developed over the past few years. It will provide an important structural platform for gradual reform over the medium to long term. »

While the EU has already set out these positions orally, for example before the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, this is the first time that they have been formulated in EU Council policy.

The Council of the EU, which is made up of representatives of the governments of each of the member states, is the main legislative body of the EU.

Kenzi added: “It is the result of negotiations between the 27 governments of the EU and, by representing the many discussions and shared knowledge of its members, it is a sign of significant progress in the reform of the EU. dope. »

“This represents real progress across Europe and signifies the dawn of a more enlightened approach to drugs. »

Council of Europe and cannabis

Council of Europe and cannabis

In Germany, the new guidance document is already being welcomed as a boost to its proposal to legalize cannabis.

Kai-Friedrich Niermann, a German cannabis lawyer, said: “It is well known that the EU, including the Council, has long called for a new drug policy which takes into account the protection of health and human rights. Now comes the decisive test. »

“The fact that the European Council once again remembers these principles is certainly useful. In its reform, Germany will therefore be able to refer precisely to these principles of European drug policy, which have been debated for years. »

“In this respect, the publication of this document at this precise moment is certainly useful. »

EU Council Policy

The nine-page document includes some 13 action points and around 30 basic principles. He explains his point of view by stating:

“(We) call on EU Member States to further support the development and implementation of evidence-based policies and interventions that put human rights at the center of the fight against drugs , while fighting crime and ensuring public safety and security, sustainable and viable livelihoods and the health of individuals, families and communities across the EU. »

With regard to the independence of the Member States, the text says this: NOTING also that the United Nations System Common Position on Drug Policy recognizes that the United Nations Drug Control Conventions enable countries to design and implement national drug policies according to priorities and needs, in accordance with the principle of common and shared responsibility and applicable international law. »

She goes on to highlight issues related to human rights, decriminalization, de-stigmatization and international cooperation, among others.

Pan-European movements for reform

Germany was due to publish its adult cannabis bill by the end of the year, but now it looks like it will be delayed until spring.

In recent months, the Czech Republic, Malta and Luxembourg have worked closely with Germany to develop more liberal EU cannabis legislation.

And, while it has been shown that nation states can develop their own drug policies in line with international conventions, there is still much discussion about the possibility of the EU hindering or delaying these goals.

Mr. Niermann added: “The EU has been talking about a new and healthy approach to drug policy on several occasions. »

“But interestingly, the Council of the EU reiterates this approach, which could indicate that the issue of cannabis legalization is now on the desks of EU member state governments. »

However, he sounded a bit cautious and issued a call to arms, adding: “But, so far, these are just words, governments that intend to legalize must be bold and start the process by adopting a respective law, which legalizes the entire supply chain. »

“Otherwise, we will never know which interpretation of ‘international obligations’ should be favoured. »

In 2020, the Council of the EU adopted a drug policy until 2025. It is also working on a new policy for the last part of the decade, which will be unveiled in two years.

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