You still have time until the second half of November to sign the petition for EU-wide marijuana legalisation. The Weed like to talk initiative aims to make the European Union adopt a common policy on the control and regulation of cannabis production, use and sale.
A common policy would: (a) ensure equality before the law and non-discrimination of all EU citizens; (b) protect consumers and monitor health security; (c) end cannabis trafficking. In short: Weed Like to Talk proposes to legalise the consumption, production, and selling of cannabis, and to trigger a general reassessment of drugs policy in Europe.
More than 50,000 Polish citizens have signed a petition, within the framework of the European Citizens' Initiative, calling on the European Commission to examine the possibility of legalising marijuana. In Europe, Poland got the most signatures, out of all EU member states, and is the only jurisdiction so far that qualified the country to count its signatures based on proportionality. Signature collection is open until 20th of November 2014; that’s why it still makes sense to involve other countries and urge the whole European community to mobilise their citizens.
The European Citizens' Initiative is a relatively new tool that gives European citizens the opportunity to call directly for the institutions of the EU to act on different political and regulatory agendas. The commitment of at least seven countries, in the form of 1 million signatures, is needed to ensure that a petition is considered by the European Union. Once a European Citizens' Initiative earns the required numer of signatures, the European Commission is obliged to hold a debate on the issue in the European Parliament, and discuss the possibility of preparing a legislative proposal in the area. If all institutions are willing to deal with the issue, it can drive the European Council – European Parliament – European Commission trinity to act.
How many people use cannabis in Poland?
According to a recent report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), it is estimated that approximately 2-3 million Poles use marijuana. One in four Polish students aged 15-16 has tried cannabis at least once in his/her life. In this age group, Poland is at the forefront, together with France, Spain and the Czech Republic. Poland is ranked second in Europe (after France) in the category of marijuana consumption. According to the annual national report from 2013, 13.7 % of respondents had used drugs in their lifetime. Recent and current use prevalence rates stood at 4.8 % and 2.5 % respectively. The most popular drug among respondents was cannabis (with a lifetime prevalence rate of 12.2 %). 17.9 % of men had used cannabis at one time or another, while the rate for women stood at 7.8 %.
Data from the National Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction are even more alarming: every third teenager aged 17-18 admitted to using marijuana or hashish. While in Europe, consumption of these drugs is decreasing, in Poland, by contrast, it continues to grow. EMCDDA experts note that Polish smokers are the largest (after heroin users) group of people with addictions who decide to turn to treatment.
According to recent studies concerning the ease of obtaining drugs, the easiest proved to be marijuana and hashish. Almost one third of respondents (27.9 percent) described getting marijuana as an easy task. In general, young people aged 15 to 24 years declared the easiest access to marijuana.
It is worth recalling that Polish drug law is the second most repressive in Europe, after the drug law in Belarus. Possession of any quanty of drugs is punishable by up to three years' inprisonment. The Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction stands in urgent need of reform. Based on the current legal provisions, every three minutes, someone is detained on suspicion of possession of illegal drugs. Annually, this number exceeds 30,000 people – not just compromising those citizens' private and professional lives, but also putting a huge extra burden on the Polish justice system.
Agnieszka Sieniawska/Polish Drug Policy Network/Warsaw