27 June 2001
Social consequences of and responses to drug misuse in member states1
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mr Dick Marty, Switzerland, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
1. The committee’s conclusions
1. The committee supports the draft recommendation set out in the report submitted by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee. It wishes to propose the following amendments:
In the draft recommendation, delete paragraph 5.
In the draft recommendation, after paragraph 6, add the following new paragraph:
“The Assembly recognises and supports the efforts undertaken by the Pompidou Group since its creation in 1971 and its integration into the Council of Europe in 1980.”
In the draft recommendation, in paragraph 7, after the words “its appropriate committees”, add the words “, and invites the Pompidou Group,”.
2. The analysis of the problem by the Rapporteur, Mr Flynn, is innovatory. It makes a clean sweep of prejudices and preconceived ideas and is to be commended for considering not only criminal law solutions but all aspects of the problem.
3. The Committee fully endorses the pragmatic and objective approach which the Rapporteur recommends when policies for combating drug misuse are implemented. This approach could yield results which will be of interest to States determined both to understand and gain control of the problem of drugs and of addictive substances in general.
II. Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Marty, Rapporteur
1. Mr Flynn’s report highlights the absence of reliable tools for comparing data that would make it possible to assess the results obtained in the different member states.
2. Although interesting indicators do exist and protocols for the collection of data are available at European level2, it is not always possible to provide an overall European picture. Governments therefore usually have to compare and assess data collected at national level to measure the effects of national policies. A comparison of such data shows that hard-line criminal policies have by no means been successful.
3. Indeed, the consequence of strict prohibition, which is in itself very costly, seems to have been to increase the price of illicit substances, thus indirectly providing huge profits for organised crime. At the same time, strict prohibition has not resulted in a significant reduction in consumption and, because it is a costly policy, it is often implemented to the detriment of preventive measures.
4. More often than not, punitive measures, especially in the field of drug consumption, are applied only incompletely or arbitrarily. Even closely supervised environments such as prisons are affected by drug misuse. This significantly damages the credibility of the law.
5. The criminalisation of drug consumption appears in most cases to be an obstacle to rapid and effective prevention. Young people who take drugs will, for example, be reluctant to confess to a relative or to a person of confidence, for they must first acknowledge that they have committed an offence.
6. The argument that punishing drug consumers made it possible to track down the source of the traffic has not been proved.
7. The criminalisation of drug consumption is in fact contrary to the principles of criminal law which is based on the weighing of the legal merits, distinguishing between the object of legal protection and the perpetrator of the crime. Excessive consumption of alcohol, for example, is only punished if the resulting behaviour of the person concerned endangers other people, not for the abuse of alcoholic beverage alone3.
8. Combating drugs is all too often a subject of electoral battles, which necessarily leads to priority being given to the emotional aspects rather than to open, objective discussion of the problem. Anti-drugs policy should not be subject to the currently prevailing Manichean view of two opposing worlds: an ideal world where there is no drug misuse and the world as we know it, affected by a phenomenon which is both universal and lasting. Society must recognise that it will not be easy to eradicate drug consumption and that it is better to introduce preventive measures and at the same time to rehabilitate those affected by the problem than to reject and exclude those who have been tempted by drugs by making them criminals.
9. As the Rapporteur of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee rightly recommends, governments must respond to the problem objectively and critically by conducting a statistical, medical, psychological and sociological investigation of the phenomenon and by objectively evaluating the two present approaches, the one based on an artificial distinction between hard drugs and soft drugs and the other on the prohibition and criminalisation of drug consumption. Moreover, the drugs problem should not exclude a strategy which embraces all addictive substances.
Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Reference to committee: Order No.528 (1996)
Opinion approved by the committee on 26 June 2001
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Plate, Ms Coin, Ms Kleinsorge and Mr Cupina
1 See Doc 8989.
2 The Pompidou Group, which is interested in statistics and drug research, is compiling the different methods already used in member states to obtain comparable and reliable data (see on the Internet site http://pompidou.coe.int/epidemio/epid_presentation.html).
In Switzerland 200 deaths per year are linked to the use of drugs whereas between 3000 and 4000 are caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol and 8000 by smoking.