>> The Guardian
EU COMMISSIONER BACKS SOFT DRUG LEGALIZATION
It is time to experiment with legalizing drugs because prohibition has not worked, according to Emma Bonino, an Italian European commissioner.
She told a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday: Thanks to are now goods whose production, trade and consumption are illegal and yet they are probably the only goods which one can buy anytime and anywhere. Mc Donalds outlets occasionally close, so do gas stations, but you will always be able to buy an illegal drug, no matter where you are and whether it is Christmas Eve or Ramadan.
Should we not try to experiment with drug legalization and dissuasion, reduction of demand trough moral persuasion? My answer is clear and it is yes...I simply believe in personal responsibilities and personal choices.
The state is not there to dictate personal choices and behaviors. Any meaningful interpretation of the rule of law should lead us to hold where there is no victim, there is no crime....We can try to convince drug users that their choices are self-destructive, but we have no right to impose on them our choices.
Ms Bonino, whose responsibilities include humanitarian aid and consumer affairs but not drugs, stressed she was speaking in a personal capacity. But her call for a softer line is sure to anger most member states, many of which are trying to co-ordinate tougher sentencing policies.
The commissioner - who also admitted to being a chain smoker but not to trying anything stronger than tobacco - believes that soft drugs should be available for sale and that hard drugs could be made available, under medical supervision, by prescription.
The conference was organized by a radical anti-prohibitionist organization and attended by, among others, Danny Cohn-Bendit, the student agitator of the 1960s who now sits as a German Green MEP.
It came just days after the Netherlands infuriated member states by opposing attempts to harmonize drug laws at a meeting of justice and home affairs ministers.
The Netherlands takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency - and the lead in policy formulation - at the start of next year. But it has clashed with the other members over its liberal penal policies hust as serious attempts are under way to co-ordinate the struggle against international crime.
Drug policy is the responsibility of individual states but the Netherlands liberal laws, which permit the sale of small quantities of cannabis in regulated coffee shops, have irritated the French government in particular, which claims that the policy allows French citizens to smuggle the drug into the country.
Hedy dâ€™Ancona, a former Dutch health minister backed her countryâ€™s policy at the conference, claiming that the legalization of soft drugs had helped discourage experimentation with harder drugs and reduced trafficking. A recent report by the EUâ€™s drugs monitoring unit shows little correlation between the harshness of a states policies estimates that 20 per cent of Europeâ€™s teenagers have tried cannabis, 16 per cent solvents and 5 per cent amphetamines. But only 2 per cent have experimented with cocaine and 1 per cent with heroin.
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