Cannabis competition in Malaga, Spain:

European Conference on Drugs and Youth. Congress Palace, Malaga – Spain. Oct. 30 & 31.

Jose Molina called me on Thursday evening, October 29, to inform me about the European Drugs Conference that was to be held the next two days, in Malaga! Jose had just found that out, through a press publication he happened to read, he did not know anything about this event so far. He suggested it might be interesting to be there, to cover the conference for Yerba magazine. I immediately volunteered to be the photographer, in case he needed one.

Jose said he would call Yerba to get us into the conference, as members of the press, representing Yerba, the voice of the Spanish cannabis culture. The plan worked, Yerba made arrangements to get us into the Conference, as Jose told me early the next morning, so we rushed over to the newly opened Palacio de Congresos y Ferias in Malaga.

We went to the reception desk to check in, and to get our press cards, to be recognised as such.

We were on the list indeed, so we were handed our press cards and a folder with information about the Conference.

I thought I had done practically all in the cannabis culture, but this was a welcome extension of my CV, being an official representative of the cannabis-orientated press. We managed to get into the Lion’s Lair, where rules and regulations about drugs and drugs-consumption are being created and presented. As Jose already predicted, we were the only representatives of the cannabis press, as this Conference was not really announced very openly.
I was only the photographer, Jose made loads of notes of every speaker, while I only listened and took some pictures. Jose’s extensive report will come out in Yerba magazine, I do not know in which issue yet. Jose will also translate his report in English, which will be available through Yerba’s website. www.megamultimedia.com/yerba Keep yourself updated there.
This report is my personal view on this event, the view of a coffeeshop entrepreneur and anti-prohibitionist.

We rushed over to the press conference, which had already started, only just in time to witness the last few minutes. Our entry and presence on the press conference caused a shock, we were not quite fitting the obvious dress code these people are used to. We were really looked down on, but that could not bother us, we were high, they were just awake.
If this report were to have a title, I would call it this:

“Two hippies, two hundred penguins and loads of Drug Problems on Malaga Conference”

We were tolerated, because we had the passes, but that was it, we were noted to be ignored by the 200 participants of the Conference, all dressed in black suits and ties. There were Drugs Experts from almost every European countries, researchers, politicians of all levels, Members of European Parliament and Anti-Drugs Institutes. It is sad that the people that are supposed to represent us, do not really wish to be confronted with the people they represent, only for not fitting their dress code. We were clearly identified as the ‘enemy’, and from that moment on treated as such. We were not allowed an interview with mister Robles, who is the head-prohibitionist of the Andalusian Government. His Secretary, Pablo, told us he would give it a try, but the only thing he did was keep us away from his superior. He was good….

Pablo, fast as lightning, must have reported our status to his boss, Senor Robles, and two other delegates, after we had talked to him.

From the press conference, we went on to the Conference room. We had more strange looks in our direction, while we managed to find some free seats in the back row. The translation system was great, making it possible for me to ingest all information in English.

Jose found a good place to do his work, he started making notes, and only stopped doing that at the end of the long sessions. The speakers were only allowed 10 minutes each, which made the chairman just cut them off when their time was up, no matter if they could make their point or not. Researchers, who had probably spent years and loads of money on their projects, were shut up like kids in school, to be replaced by the next speaker, who would then speed through his results. That amazed me, but there was no protest, the protocol was well respected by all participants.

All researchers came up with their statistics and the way they gathered the figures displayed.
I saw the results of the French Drugs strategy, the UK Drugs Approach, the Spanish Drugs Policy, the German Drugs Plan and even the Hungarian Drugs Report, representing all Baltic and former East-Block newcomers to the EU. There was no representation from the Netherlands, so the Dutch Model was not represented and explained, strange, the Dutch figures look way better than the ones I saw of the other countries. Makes me think that a positive approach to drugs consumption and the connecting positive results were not to be mentioned, the talk was of drugs problems, prevention and the evaluations of those.

This is a slide from the presentation of Dr. Fabrizio Schifano, from St. George’s Hospital Medical School, who did research into the availability of drugs through the Internet. He came up with this slide, and more info about drugs being offered on the World Wide Web.
He announced a study into 4000 drug related websites, after he told the audience that it was hard to put a finger on the people running these websites. I had a little talk with Dr. Schifano during a break, informing him about my website. I gave him one of my lighters with our web address. I told him my site was informative, showing everything we can about cannabis. He seemed to be disappointed to hear that we do not sell cannabis online. He did give me his card, as he wants to know more about coffeeshops. He did not even know that the visitors can consume their purchased cannabis in the coffeeshops, with a cup of coffee…

I visited the stands of the Organising parties; this is the display of the EMCDDA, the European Monitor Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction. www.emcdda.eu.int
You can find their stats, facts and figures here in all European languages. Interesting!

Here are the latest figures, up to 2003, available in print in every language, I took the Dutch, English and Spanish version, as they were for up for grabs.

I also took a copy of these, curious as I am.

This is the stand of the Junta of Andalucia. They had even more info material than the European Monitor. In Spain, alcohol and tobacco are included in the Drugs list, as they are the biggest killers amongst all other drugs. I asked the people from the Andalusian Community were they spread their preventive material, to prevent young people to get in touch with drugs.
They give their folders and flyers out in bars, disco’s and other places where young people get together. I asked them how that could work preventive, as the young people in bars usually already drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes? They could not answer that question.
One of the Spanish speakers in the Conference mentioned another way to distribute drugs prevention material, through the pharmacies, where the youth can pick it up when (in case?) they come to buy their condoms there. Sex and drugs and state control…

The huge amount of preventive material of the Andalusian Government. Spain is Europe’s first in cocaine consumption, and world leader, together with the USA.

This is a picture of the conference on the second day, when a lot of the delegates had already left. There was a presentation by the Hungarian delegate at the end of the sessions, about drugs consumption in his country, and that of other candidate members of the EU. His statistics on drugs consumption showed that the former East Block countries have caught up with the regular EU countries in a period of 4 years. The consumption of drugs in the countries he represented went up to the level of modern Europe from 1995 to 1999. This shows that the trade in drugs is far ahead of the trade in regular goods in the EU candidate countries. Makes me think of what Dr. Schifano, the Internet researcher stated to the conference when he had his ten minutes, when he referred to the people offering drugs online:
“These drug traders are very hard to trace, these people are very inventive!”
After everybody with a report or evaluation had his turn, it was time for the discussion.
Finally, some people came up with a few useful proposals, which made the chairman state that this discussion could have better been held at the start of the conference, because now half of the delegates had already gone! During the discussion, I noticed a few remarks that made me think there were some smart people in this company after all. Carel Edwards, a member of the EU committee, had obviously been listening well. Most of the reports on cannabis consumption indicated that even though the youth already start consuming cannabis on an early age, from about 13 years, a lot of them seem to stop this around the age of 24.
This was the reason for Carel Edwards to state the following: “Now that we know that most cannabis consumers quit around their 24th, why do we keep spending so much money on upholding cannabis laws?”
Marcel Reimen, the President of the European Observatory of Drugs and Toxic substances (OEDT) mentioned that some countries did no longer have a budget for a Drugs Policy, like France, so their experts lack the funds to make a follow up on their research.
Santiago de Torres, a member of the OEDT, stated that all the results of the different researchers were all made using different age groups, in different periods of time and with different intentions, questions and ways of execution. He meant that this made the reports incomparable, so they were of little use for a realistic insight in the drugs consumption in the European Union. He suggested new researchers, executed in a similar way, covering the same time period, etc.
That was what I heard the most on this conference, we are going to do more research, make more evaluations, and have more meetings like this to discuss all that again…

George Estievenart, Director of the OEDT came with his Conclusion of the Conference:

In spite of all efforts of the European Governments, Drugs Institutes, well paid experts and researchers and thousands of preventive messages in all media, the upholding of penalties for drugs possession and consumption, the consumption of all drugs in all member states has increased significantly.
All these useless efforts consumed 100 million Euros in development and execution, but there is no insight where that money had gone.
More of these (useless) researches into drugs trends and consumption are to be conducted, so more (useless) evaluations can be made on expensive conferences like this.
The members have not managed to develop a strategy for the future of the Fight against Drugs Consumption in the European Union.
We might have to ask ourselves: Did we fail?

European Parliament Member Jorge Hernandez Mollar, President of the Committee for Liberties and Civil Rights, had the final say, I made notes of his conclusive speech:

*He mentioned the bad weather first, he would have preferred some sunshine during the Conference…
*Mollar proposed to make this EU Conference into an annual event.
*He stated this conference had reached its goal by meeting like this.
*The concerns about and the responsibility for drugs consumption have changed the perspective of the European Union.
*He felt that the conference had come to an understanding of the issues.
*The Member States should tighten the screws, to reach a better level of coordination.
*The Conference had exposed the links between licit drugs consumption (alcohol, tobacco) and illicit drugs consumption.
*Alcohol use, and particularly binge drinking lead to the use of illicit drugs. (New Gateway?)
*The major concern out of all drugs: Cannabis and cannabis consumption!
*Prevention is the key to reach our goals.
*All substances, licit and illicit, influence social life in a negative way.
*We, the politicians, should work on a Drugs Strategy for the EU.
*After the EU has accepted the ten candidate members, we will have 10 more drugs problems.
*We need more competent input from the EU.
After having said all this, Mollar closed the meeting, and left me in daze. He just heard that all preventive measurements had failed big time; yet, he wanted to do more of the same, spending more millions of Euros on useless investigations by high paid researchers and experts.

My view:
Pfff, so many figures and statistics, preventive failures, evaluations and posh people…
I think I will have to refuse to pay tax any longer, knowing that a part of my financial input is being consumed to pay the salaries of the participants of this conference, and all the people they represent. They consumed 100 million Euros to come to a sad conclusion!
My conclusion is that the EU should accept the fact that a lot of people like to consume drugs, most of them stick to tobacco, alcohol and cannabis, some of them like to use party drugs like Ecstasy, some of them consume hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and crack. The EU politicians and authorities HAVE to accept this, their own research results shows these facts.
From that logical point of view, they should look into harm and risk reduction, in order to protect the drugs consumers from bad drugs, on a dangerous black market.

Harm reduction is meant to reduce the negative effects and side effects of drugs consumption.
Many negative effects of drugs consumption have their source in the dosage and quality of the drugs ingested, not by the drugs as such. The drugs available should be of the best possible quality, controlled by laboratories and researchers.
Risk reduction is a part of harm reduction, but there are other risks involved in the consumption of drugs. Before the drugs can be consumed, they have to be purchased, from an illegal source. These transactions include a lot of risks; a criminal pretending to have drugs for sale, for instance, might rip off the buyer. The buyer could be sold bad drugs by a ruthless dealer. The buyer might buy bad drugs, which seriously endanger his health. The buyer might end up in prison, if he is present when the police act against their supplier(s).
Drugs should be made available from registered places, where quality and safety of the consumer can be guaranteed.

An anti-drugs policy does not work, as the steady increase in consumption figures show, it is time to start a with-drugs policy, and to face the facts. Prohibition failed, regulation can save the day, and a lot of people’s lives.


P.S.
After the Conference ended, Jose and me rushed to La Bella Flor, the Malaga based cannabis competition and event, which had already started, to enter two of my strains in the contest...
A report on this event will be available soon.

Cannabis competition in Malaga, Spain: