Time to take a turn: Opening up for drugs

For years Europe has been hidebound and paternalistic about drugs legislations. Time to take the arguments under the loop and open up the debate.
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Authors: Paloma Álvarez, Derek J. W., Suzanne Vink,
Raquel Envó, Alba Montoya

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(Photo source: Indian Express)

Aside from a few countries that have partial or full decriminalization of certain types of drugs, most countries in Europe have strict prohibitions for all types of drugs. Research has shown many good reasons for reform, yet time and time again one-sided views and a special treatment are preferred.

In the Netherlands for example, back in 2007, a girl committed suicide while under the influence of mushrooms. Immediately the government banned most species of mushrooms. In perspective, worldwide 736, 000 people die of sugar and fat; 115, 000 of tobacco and 63, 000 of alcohol each week.  Time to shake up the debate and become more open-minded about how we  can truly make a healthier and safer society.

Moreover, an indispensable fact to mention is how criminalization of drugs has a negative consequence on people. In fact, as drugs are not regulated, it involves not only the use of unsafe drugs mixed with all sorts of things due to the lack of information, but also lower quality standards. Thus, by regulating drugs, the amount of people dying from overdoses will decrease since they would be knowing exactly what they are consuming and the appropriate amount to take, avoiding any risks.

An example to look at is Portugal, where drug decriminalization was approved in 2000, resulting in a decrease from 1,016 HIV infection cases to 56 in 2012, and overdose deaths have also declined from 80 on the year the law was implied to 16 in 2012.  Ricardo Fuertes, project coordinator at GAT, an organization for people living with HIV, says: “Usually the focus is on the decriminalization itself, but it worked because there were other services, and the coverage increase for needle replacement, detox, therapeutic communities, and employment options for people who use drugs”.

Besides, services among citizens would increase with the money saved in customs, legal and juridical systems.

Additionally, are different types of drugs really that addictive? It has been the favorite argument for strict regulations, but research might prove otherwise. Bruce Alexander showed addiction has more to do with social circumstances than with the actual chemicals. However, he did his experiments with rats, and rats are not people. Nevertheless, he might be onto something. Anneke Goudriaan (Professor Treatment of Addictions) explains: “Many substances are addictive for some people. How addictive a substance is depends on how strong the effect of the substance is and how long it has effect on the body”.

There is no need to immediately turn 180 degrees and overturn all existing legislation. However, we would serve ourselves and victims-to-be well if we would open up the debate. Let us take thorough research as the standard for our arguments instead of emotional statements based on fear. Making good policies is difficult, so much the more it is important to inform ourselves well.

 

The legalization of medical cannabis in Germany

The German Health Minister, Hermann Gröhe, announced early last week that Germany will legalize marijuana for medical aims from spring next year. This substance will be offered to seriously ill German patients on prescription at drug stores.

Before presenting to the German cabinet the draft legislation, the Health Minister announced the legalization of cannabis for medical uses. “Our goal is that seriously ill patients are treated in the best possible way,” said Hermann Gröhe.

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A medical marijuana dispensary in the US. Credit: AFP

According to Die Welt, the German cabinet has approved this measure but only for those seriously ill patients who satisfied two conditions: the first one is to have previously consulted a doctor and, the second one is not having other therapeutic alternatives. The Health Minister added that if patients cannot be helped in any other way, then, health insurance companies have to cover all the costs.

However, as reported by the CNN, Marlene Mortler, the Drug Commissioner of the Federal Government warned that “marijuana should not be considered completely safe”. She also said that “the use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail”, but she continued saying that since cannabis is not a harmless substance, “the aim and purpose” of it is that this substance “is intended for medical use only, not for private pleasure.” Also Gröhe recognised that marijuana “is not an inoffensive substance” and for this reason, he underlined that it would be possible to get it from “pharmacies only on prescription.”

The list of countries that allow the consumption of this substance for medical purposes includes Italy and Czech Republic. According to  the news agency Europa Press, nowadays, people in Germany affected by severe illness, such as Cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis could only have access to cannabis through a special approval, paying it themselves.

The use of “recreational and medical cannabis” is a controversial topic in many countries. On the one hand, there are opponents who “fear crime connected to drug abuse and addiction” and, on the other hand, others claim that its use “could lead to dependence on harder drugs”, says The Telegraph. From its side, the German Hemp Association, a lobby group advocating for cannabis legalization, considered the compulsory participation of the cannabis patients in the research as a condition for reimbursement, suggested by the German Health Ministry,  as “unprecedent and difficult to accept”.

As reported by Reuters,  the German government “is to set up specially supervised plantations to grow cannabis and will import what it needs for now”. Gröhe also stated that “until the government-controlled cultivation in Germany is established, which presupposes cannabis agency, the medical cannabis will be covered by import”.

According to a survey conducted by Infratest Dimap, a German institute and company, the 82 percent of Germans is in favour of the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes. Of this 82 percent, only the 30 percent is completely in favour of the legalization of marijuana, both for simple enjoyment and for medical use.

 

All Europe looks at Spain

On monday 1st of June and after four decades of reign, the Spanish King, Rey Juan Carlos I, abdicated. It was shocking when the Spanish first priminister, Mariano Rajoy, called a press conference which he did not give any hint of what he was going to announce. When everyone was paying him attention he stated that the King gave him the responsability to announce to the population that he was going to abdicate. When that happened, all Europe looked at Spain.

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When Angela Merkel got told that the Spanish King abdicated, she couldn’t stop giving good comments about him. She stated the importance of the King in the transition to democracy and the good relations with Germany due to very constructive and deep conversations with the monarch. Hours before, her speaker, Steffen Seibert, stated that Merkel appreciated the King alot and hopes the best for him.

French newspapers have, as well, been following the latest news about the Spanish king’s abdication. Le Monde has reported in an objective way the facts and the reasons that made it happen. It also announced that Hollande and the King maintained a conversation the same day, in which the French President showed his support to him and the rest of the royal family defining King Juan Carlos as the “personification of the Spanish democracy process, who guided his country through the way of civil and political rights” (François Hollande, 2 Jun.) Some French opinion articles suggest that Spanish population reaction has been of surprise by the new but then, quickly assimilated and defined as a “normal decision” due to the king’s age and royal family’ scandals and they show their support to his son, Prince Felipe, next Spanish King.

The day after the abdication, the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, called the King to show his personal best wishes and to remember him his “deep and ancient” relations with Italy, the country where the King was born. As Merkel also did, he stated the great importance that he had in the Spanish transition.

The English prime minister, David Cameron, stated that the Spanish King has and always will be a very good friend of England. In addition, the British population are convinced that the Queen will not give up and abdicate eventhough a part of the population would be in favour of it. Some assurements about the the continuing reign of Elizabeth were made by the Queen’s cousin, the Hon Margaret Rhodes or even David Cameron, who said that he is sure that she will not abdicate in favour of his son Charles.

Diversity within ‘The Six’

European Elections have brought some shocking results; the increase in popularity of far-right parties in many countries and the uncertain future and direction of the EU.

The first few European Parliament elections Germany‘s voter participation reached good results: in 1979 it reached up to 65,7% turnout – while it decreased strongly in the last two elections: 2004 only 43% and 2009 up to 43,27%.
In the European elections (25th of May 2014) the German turnout increased up to 47,9% and the CDU won again in cooperation with the CSU reaching 36,3%, followed by SPD with 27,4% and GRÜNE with 10,5%.

The critical AfD party also reached 7%, achieving 7 seats in the European Parliament.

The right-wing and radical parties in Germany gathered a few votes, obtaining only 1 seat, however in some other European countries like France and UK it seems to be a big day for them.

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Picture retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/lkwk2pa

The latest results made in France about the next 2014 european elections showed that only 39% of the population was going to participate. Due to the economic crisis, the number of eurosceptics is increasing in this country, bringing for the first time, a victory for far-right parties in the elections. The National Fron (NF) leaded by Marine Le Pen, described as an anti-immigration and eurosceptic party won with a 25,4% of votes while the other two important ones, UMP a centre-right party achieved 21% and the Socialist party (PS) 14,5%.

The failures of Hollande’s political program and the economic crisis that Europe is suffering right now has made right-wing parties lead the first positions on the electoral lists and have strengthened population’s national and protectionist values, rejecting so, any european future project.

The rest pro-european countries suggest that if the results are these ones, an isolated France would be devastating for european economic and social prosperity.

Currently, the 3 predominant parties in Italy are Forza Italia, Partito Democratica and Five Star Movement.

According to a pole made by “Metapolls” between the 2nd the 9th of May, Forza Italia, lead by Silvio Berlusconi, would obtain between 18,2-20.5%, many less points than Partito Democratico, which the poll gives a prediction of between 30,6-33,4%. Five Star Movement, lead by Beppe Grillo, would between 25-27,6%, many more than the oldest party in Italy, Forza Italia. The Final results at the European elections in Italy have been quite similar as the polls have shown through the past days.

Partito Democratico won the elections with a remarkable difference in comparison with the rest, obtaining 40,8%, followed by Five Star Movement with 21,15% and Forza Italia with 16,8%.

These European elections are the first elections held under the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009, which in article 14 points out that the now elected European Parliament is going to elect the next President of the European Commission. [Responsible for the executive organ of the EU.]

Closing the European Parliament elections of 2014, there is only one question left:

Who is going to be the next President of the European Commission?

To Be European – Begumhan Idil Aydin

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In the world, there are different regions which have unique characteristics. Also people who live in different regions have their own cultures and customs. Of course, those differences be formed by us according to life experience and the situations.

Ozlem Ozer who is Turkish, was born in Bielefeld, Germany decided to continue her life in there. She prefers to live in Germany rather than Turkey. Despite those two countries belong to Europe, Germany has better life conditions. Of course, in the beginning it was not her decision but later on when she realizes that life is much better and easier in Germany because they have advanced human rights, so she makes sure about her decision.

Her family moved to Germany many years ago. First, her father moved to find a job. After when he got married with his wife, he took her too. At the beginning, they thought that they would move one day back to their home country, but till today they are still living in Germany.

She thought that it is easier for her to live in Germany because she was born there and also studied there. She doesn’t know the opposite way and how it feels like to live in Turkey.

After she graduated University, she moved to Frankfurt and started working in a computer programming company which called “ReadSoft”. She thought that also living in Germany is good for her because she grow up learning German which is a common and a valid language in all over the world. She told that there are some cultural differences in private and the work life but you have to be open to the other cultures and you have to show up self-confidence. Because if you show respect to the others, you will get it back too.

Being a Turkish in Germany is a complicated thing. There are some people who won’t accept you because of your origin and especially because of your religion.

She almost spent all her summer vacations in Turkey. She told that without no doubt, she loves Turkey. But somehow she feels her home is Germany. Home means for being with family and friends that’s why she feels like this. She thought that it is a special gift to have the possibility to grow up with two cultures. You grow up more open-minded and respectfully to other cultures. Also it is a good advantage to contact easily with new people from all over the world.

Living and working in Germany or other countries of Europe means that you have high standard conditions because the gap between poor and rich people is not so big as in other countries.

And also the most important reason that realize everything is “European Union” that has many meanings inside of it. The social advantage is going abroad without visa. In most of European countries except Turkey, they have many rights about workers. Many cooperations on issues of national security. They protected from exploitation, in addition consumers are granted consumer rights not seen almost anywhere else in the world. These European countries have a greater influence with world affairs, as they represent themselves and are represented by the EU. And they have many privileges in health insurance. They have a special card which called “Health Insurance Card” that if you get injured in any EU country, you can get the same medical care like the citizen of that country. Also those countries don’t have strict conflictions about politics because they are educated and they know how to respect each other.

Ozlem said that “ In every country, there are many differences of thoughts about politics. But the most important thing is to respect each other. For example, I think that Turkey is lack of this position. But in Germany, people have their own rights like freedom of speech. Of course it depends on regions but we see that it is also depends on the countries like Germany and Turkey.”

Regions have their own cultures,politics,economics and many differences. Ozlem is a member of European region and she is very lucky because Europe has many privileges more than the other regions. 

Begumhan Idil Aydin

Flood holds Germany its breath

(by Saskia Schink)

Hurricanes, tsunamis, floods – these are natural disasters, we hear regularly about from all around the world. Even in Europe there are every now and then such disasters, and even if they do not suppose the same dimensions, the suffering of those affected is as large. Germany currently struggling with heavy flooding in many areas, which let the memories come up to the ‘Elbe flood of the century’ in the year 2002. On the social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook, citizens organize themselves to help in the affected areas.

With the founder of the Facebook page “Hochwasser in Brandenburg” I have talked about the current situation and his assessment about it. Out of respect for his desire for anonymity he is appointed in the following interview just as Mister K.!

Brandenburg

Brandenburg

Mister K., according to information provided by the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) the forced evacuation of the town Mühlberg/Elbe was arranged at noon today after the Elbe crest reached the town. How is the current situation there and do you know how many people have complied with this request?

According to my information from some firefighters there, they have given up the fight. The volunteer fire departments and the German Armed Forces have ended the mission by 18 o’clock and go back to their stations. How many people complied with the request, we do not know.

Meanwhile the press published precise figures and said that about two-thirds of the inhabitants have left the city after the case of disaster was declared. The police ensure that no unauthorized persons enter the city and make plundering. The dyke systems will be backed up makeshift to avoid any major damage to the houses.

It is thus calculated with dyke breaks which will cause some damage in the city. As perhaps generally known the Household insurance usually does not cover any costs for damage caused by flood. Remain those affected now sitting alone on their costs or will there be some support? From politicians, etc.?

According to the politicians who are on the spot they have assured support to the victims, but as we know the politicians, they will not help in my opinion. Ultimately, most people will be stuck with the cost and even have to pay for themselves. But a lot of people offer to help on Facebook. So many people who want to help, I have never seen; even people sitting in a wheelchair try to help and  give information to the fire department.

So bravely fight the flood helpers: Ronald Zeiler (48) shovels sand bags in Halle.

So bravely fight the flood helpers: Ronald Zeiler (48) shovels sand bags in Halle.

Where you just broach Facebook, I am thereby become aware of you. As how important you see the role of social networks in such a time of crisis?

Due Facebook and other virtual media, it is of course very easy to share information and it is also faster than the radio and the TV. In my opinion it is the second best support you can offer; we can provide coordination and assistance there.

Some of my friends have participated in precisely these Facebook appointments and went to other cities to help in filling sandbags there. How is the current situation in other cities of Brandenburg, for example Cottbus or Frankfurt / Oder?

Cottbus currently has some problems, but there the level values ​​are stable. At the Spreewald the catastrophe alarm has been triggered and many places are impassable. The Neisse River calms down towards Guben. I can not say what it looks like in other cities currently.

The Spreewald is a protected biosphere reservation and it is one of the most popular destinations in Brandenburg. But it is currently prohibited by proclamation of case of catastrophe, to drive with all types of boats on the entire channels and Spree-branches.

In Brandenburg, there are next to Frankfurt / Oder few other cities that are close to the border with Poland and are affected. Do you have information on measures of mutual assistance and cooperation between German and Polish authorities and aid workers?

Because I live near Guben/Gubin (Note by the author: Guben / Gubin, as well as Frankfurt / Oder, is separated only by a river from Poland.) I can say that both sides, Germany and Poland, try all to keep the dams. At the moment, the level of Neisse River drops.

Then a few final questions: Mister K., how do you evaluate personally the current situation in Brandenburg? And how do you see the prospects for the next few days? Is a similar extent as the Elbe flood of the century in 2002 expected in your opinion?

In my opinion the situation in some cities is really dramatic. However, the media tell so much, that people already panic when they turn on the TV. A similar extent as in 2002 will not be in my opinion.

Brandenburg’s Minister President Matthias Platzeck admonishes to rest, there is no reason to panic, but the situation should be viewed with healthy caution.

Summing up, the German population has indeed to face with a flood disaster that already also called first deaths and damaged houses, but it will probably not have the same dimensions as 11 years ago. This is particularly due to the measures taken after this flood of the century, which for example includes the construction of protective walls and dykes, but also due to the timely interventions and meetings of precautions by the population.

(Interview performed at 07.06.2013)