"United States war on drug and international leadership"

Thank you Marco,

for me it is an honour to address you as a member of the US delegation to this important conference.

I'd like to begin by a brief telling you a little bit more about my organisation "The drug reform coordination network" also known as "Stop the drug war".

DRCNET was founded in late 1993 initially as an internet based organisation providing support and information to all those organisations working on all the different corners of drug policies, marijuana reform, syringe exchange, etc.

We began simply by building up an e-mail list and today we have over 3.000 subscribers, about 85% in the US and the remain of it from other parts of the world, a good number in Italy after the Geneva Congress of the Radical Party.

One of the issues we work on is the campaign we initiated in late 1998 in US to overturn the law that strips financial aids for students with drug connection. This campaign continues to these days.

That issue has advanced part of the drug former legislation in the US far behind any other drug reforms that are currently in Congress.

There are 67 calls from people in House of Representatives to repeal the law, 10 of them have actually came out to speak at the press conference we organized last May, which is maybe a precedent to turn out for drug reform in the US.

We administrated scholarship from the Jhon W. Fund to provide scholarships to these students.

As Marco Cappato discussed, late last year we proposed the “Out from the shadow” conference with a serious campaign on full legalisation.

One of the circumstances that lead to this was that in the US many of the drug reform groups are doing good work but a lots of them have choosen not to commit formally to legalisation or to minimize the discussion on it and we decided rather be a group that does have that position. In fact, we would initiate this project on the model of a global coalition to help like minded parties in organisations, in politics and in civil society to organize their efforts and to recruit support.

That is how “Out from the shadow” was born.

In February we are holding a Latin American Conference in Mexico. We plan to sponsor the travels of former legalisation advocacies from all America. We hope to be joined by Europeans and certainly Americans and Canadians.

So, that's all about us.

The best way to understand drug policy in the US is to think about the “wild west”.

I think that the drug war is today like the wild west in the sense of violence and lawless, both from the criminals and the lawmen. The difference has been that there are many more gun-fighters and much better funded and the weapons are far more powerful than they were in the old west. We don’t simply have drug proibition in the US, we have the drug war.

Today approximately 8.000 people in the US would be arrested for no violent drug offences. The 700.000 are arrested each year for marjuana alone and twice the number for all drugs combined. We have half a million of no violent drug offenders in our prisons and jails and in that sense our drug policy has most in common with criminal justice in Russia.

That number exceeds the total number of prisoners in the EU for all crimes. We see home and property confiscated without trial much less conviction. We have a paramilitarised police team, elicopters, drug dogs searching for marjuana fields in trains, busses, and airports. We even have police and sometimes military teaching drug education.

One example is offered by an event happened in Florida few years ago. The governer George Bush participated to cerimoniously graduation during which he signed a new mandatory minimum sentency law and than police and military from different agencies stage a fight between drug enforces and drug dealers which comminated in shooting people on both sides.

We have a problem with television violence in the US but emphasis of the violence specifically for elementary school children and chaired by the governer seemed to be ok, a little more that wild west there.

Even if this thing change, there is the possibility of arrest, and it does happen all the time and in many places. Fortunally we don’t have a federal ban on syringe exchange.

In the capital cities we can’t even vote to express if we would like to make medical marijuana legal due to the district law. I took personally signatures for this initiative and I take them personally to Congress. This is anything about what we do for policy reinforce in other countries in our drug law.

So in the mist of the drug war, taking about legalisation in the US is a different game that it is here in Europe.

Nine years ago, rather on in the same time, our secretary general suggested having a study on legalisation.Lots of criticism raised and two weeks later his son was arrested for cocain. He could not face 8 years in prison and fortunally was given a less sentence. Nevertheless, things have progressed. In 1998 there were no governers of any US States who were speaking seriously about legalisation. In 1999 there were only two of them in Mexico and in Minnesota. Both of them are unfortunally retairing at the end of this year. The National Review of the Leading Conservative Magazine came out for legalisation of all drug about several years ago. The ACO soon came out for drug legalisation officially about the same time. Many of these groups outside the drug reform movement itself have hold position and many of their own groups raised support. The dialogue has very much changed. I heard that people who voted liberal or conservative were used to be against middle exchange but they are convinced now. These were groups that several years ago would not have considerated such stances, while now they are taking them quite strongly. In fact, one Member of the Congress delegated in Washington called for the drug recognition. So things have changed.

Now views on the drug war by Americans are a little schizofrenic. Pool has found that half of the majority of Americans believes that drug war has failed while the other half are in favour of continuing the drug war. I think that people are a little confused, but I believe both of these statistics have shown that when Americans are offered the option of different policies, some more reasonable policies, that are communicated to them in an intelligent way they will opt for them, to give them a chance. So progress has been made even in the US.

Turning on the success of the drug war is one thing, but the objective of this conference is another: the drug proibition in the 21st century. Being the drug trade and abuse out of shadow in the criminal underground. Bringing our views and calls out of shadow of political marginalisation into the mainstream of the debate and from there to become policy and law permitted internationally, nationally or within states localities.

Is this possible? Do we have a path before us that will lead us to the end of prohibition? To me the answer is “of course it is possible”.

As the TRP pointed out before 1915, 87 years ago all drug policies were illegal. Society and mankind have able to exist in that state of beeing. Can we make it happen sooner rather than later. That’s the topic of this conference. It is a very dramatic and unprecedented objective that we have. I can only think on one major example on where state powers have been rolled back and freedom restored: the corrupt communist authoritarian governments in Eastern Europe. Drug prohibition has been marginalised in every country in the world, even in the most liberalised at certain level. So what we are attempting is quite unprecedented.

If Europe is keen on the struggle to liberalise drug policy to certain point, the US is also keen for the opposite reason. The diplomatic and economic influence on our governance is enormous, it has fundamentally affected drug policy in North America where we have existing civil war. Even here in Europe a point of influence has taken its start.

Poor nations depending on aids simply would not be able to resist Europe’s pressure, development in some frames are encouraging. Western Europe may have the strength to go on this issue but numerous parties have told me that there is a limit to how far even Europe will divert from the global consensus on any policies at the level of prohibition itself.

So in the US we often fantasise about the possibility to join from the treaties and we would recommend that to our friends that it is not certainly the lucky scenario. This leads to the topic of this conference “Reforming the Drug Convention” with an antiproibithionist objective. There are some hard realties that fundamentally affect us. The best experts on this subject have stated that it is extremely unlikely, perhaps impossible, that the Convention will be seriously debated within the official UN itself. The most we can hope is to stimulate private debate in which officials will privately participate. It is very unlikely since they say that even a vote in an official debate within the UN would even take place.

What can be accomplishing in the next following months is on a level debate. We can’t expect to officially advance to the next stage. The other hard realty is that, as to reforming the treaties in prohibition, the pressure from the US, Sweden and Japan will continue to influence drug policies in the direction of prohibitionist models. Certainly the national policy will have to be changed throw lobbing with national governments. We have a difficult political battle but all of us have enough hope for the future. Support for the drug war is a must so that we need to inform people, opinion leaders on what is really happening as well create a place for people to speak out.

All these things brought upon the time can change all of the circumstances in terms of prohibition. I have this hope but we need to keep certain things in mind moving forward. We are unlikely to get this process initiated formally to reform the Conventions, which I believe is crucial. I believe we need to keep our focus on the call against prohibition and within this contest we are seeking to have this Conventions reformed. We have to support at national level national movements for prohibition within those countries. As we target the Conventions we have to keep in mind that our goal is legalisation.

We can remember this and keep this in mind but the key idea can be the legal structures of the Conventions or it the goal of the prohibition. If you get the former and not the latter, I believe we lost an opportunity.

In conclusion, I hope that the PAA will be a along term vehicle to government officials world-wide to express their support for legalisation and recruiting new such supporters into our movement and for them to co-ordinating activities among each other.

I invite you to visit our web site and sign up for our newsletter providing for information. We would like your help to increase our reporting in other countries. We would like you to promote your events and activities.

Thank you again for this opportunity to speak here.

David BORDEN, executive director of DRCNET

(Text not revised by the author)