The failure of the German drug policy must finally be countered by acknowledging scientific findings and social reality. Death and suffering caused by drug use can be avoided with a proper drug policy. We call on the Federal Government’s persons in charge to engage a transdisciplinary and independent commission to draw up a concept for a modern drug policy and to implement it immediately.
The damaging drug policy design of the recent decades is drastically illustrated in the Corona pandemic. The lack of assistance concerning the needs of drug users and the extraordinarily tense conditions of illicit trafficking leave people with addiction diseases unprotected. Those affected are exposed to life-threatening risks such as unaccompanied withdrawal or switching to substitutes unknown to them. This demonstrates: Harm reduction facilities must be supported urgently and finally be expanded across the country.
The increased number of drug-related deaths announced in March also proves that there is an acute need for action. In 2019, 1,398 people died as a result of the consumption of illegal drugs. This corresponds to an increase of 9.6 percent compared to the previous year. However, the death of long-term users, who are forced into precarious living and consumption situations due to ongoing criminal prosecution, could be avoided. The same applies to the deaths of occasional consumers who dose incorrectly due to a lack of easily accessible information and advice.
The Federal Commissioner for Drugs, Daniela Ludwig, has assessed the current developments as „unacceptable“ and has acknowledge the positive effects of drug consumption sites and drug checking. However, in view of the long-standing demands of scientists, harm reduction workers, and those affected, insights like these come late and are far from sufficient. By explicitly stating that she supports the criminalization of consumers, Ludwig reinforces the core problem of the existing drug policy.
We demand: No suffering and no drug-related deaths due to a scientifically outdated and failed drug policy that is motivated by party ideology!
Since 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy – with high-level members such as Kofi Annan †, Ruth Dreifuss and Louise Arbour – has published reports that evaluate drug policy strategies and make recommendations. The Commission continues to call on national policy makers to decriminalize the possession of illegal drugs for personal use, as the prosecution of users creates alarming social and health problems worldwide. Strategies focusing on the protection of health and human rights are therefore necessary. The fact that even the president of the supervisory body of those international UN conventions that German drug policy is based on, is calling for the guidelines to be examined for their effectiveness and to consider alternative approaches, confirms the need for action.
The German drug law (Betäubungsmittelgesetz, BtMG) is neither proportional nor up to date!
In 2015, more than 120 German professors of criminal law stated in their joint resolution that „from the point of view of criminal law and on the basis of empirical research results, there is an urgent need to review the suitability, necessity and normative adequacy of criminal law on narcotics“ and addressed the Bundestag. „In accordance with the general principle of proportionality of the constitution [the legislator has] an obligation to review existing laws and to react to significant changes in social reality and in science“. A proposal of the Green and the Left Party to the Health Committee in 2016 derived from this was rejected by SPD and CDU/CSU.
An evaluation of intended and unintended effects of the BtMG has not been conducted since its introduction in 1972. In other words: never!
Mr. Spahn, Ms. Ludwig, as Minister of Health and as Federal Drug Commissioner, we call on you to convene an independent and transdisciplinary commission immediately. This commission should draw up a concept for a modern German drug policy. In this context, a roadmap must be developed on how current scientific knowledge can be translated into policy measures to reduce the suffering and death rates associated with legal and illegal drug use. Drug and drug policy research is conducted in various scientific fields. Accordingly, the knowledge and experience of experts in harm reduction, social work, social and cultural sciences, criminology, law, educational sciences, psychology and medicine must be integrated. Drug use exists in all parts of society. It is essential that the perspectives of people with addiction and consumption experiences are given equal weight in a holistic approach. Drug policy can only be shaped in a positive rather than stigmatizing way if all fields of expertise and perspectives of those affected are united. And only with cooperation between the various disciplines a youth protection strategy can be developed that ideally protects children and young people from harmful drug use. With an independent and transdisciplinary commission, the demand for a comprehensive reconception of German drug policy can be guaranteed.
Between 1999 and 2002, an independent commission on drugs and addiction had already been engaged to draw up recommendations for action to improve prevention. The experts recommended a fundamental reconception of prevention strategies and pointed out the need to review the BtMG. After the presentation of the results by the then Drug Commissioner, the findings went unnoticed and the previous strategies were continued.
Ms. Ludwig, as Drug Commissioner, we call on you to make the general revision of German drug policy your priority and to immediately organize a process for implementing the concept drawn up by the commission in cooperation with the states.
Recommendations made by the experts must not be ignored again. They must be incorporated consistently and transparently into a new, science-based and modern drug policy that will reduce the suffering and death associated with drug use.
Philine Edbauer: email@example.com
More info (in German):
First signatories: Individuals
Lukas A. Basedow, Psychologe
Korbinian Baumer, #mybrainmychoice Initiative
Nils Biedermann, #mybrainmychoice Initiative
Patrick Burden, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Berlin
Hans Cousto, Freie Arbeitsgemeinschaft Drogengenusskultur drogenkult.net
Claus Hirsch, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Berlin
Michael Kleim, Theologe
Philipp Kreicarek, KnowDrugs
Ruby Rose Lawlor, Youth RISE
Niema Movassat, Drogenpolitischer Sprecher im Bundestag, DIE LINKE
Ailish Ní Bhraonáin, Youth RISE
Smiljana Plöderl, #mybrainmychoice Initiative
Amy Romanello, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Berlin
Melissa Scharwey, #mybrainmychoice Initiative
Prof. Dr. Henning Schmidt-Semisch, Kriminologe & Soziologe, Universität Bremen
Nikolaus Sendker, #mybrainmychoice Initiative
Dr. Fabian Steinmetz, Toxikologe
Dr. Rainer Ullmann, Substitutionsarzt
Martin Weiß, AIDS-Hilfe Frankfurt e.V. La Strada
Dr. Bernd Werse, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt und European Society for Social Drug Research
Hubert Wimber, Polizeipräsident a.D.
First signatories: Groups/organizations/parties
AG Drogen- und Suchtpolitik der Piratenpartei
Demokratie in Europa
LAG Drogenpolitik Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Berlin
Partei der Humanisten
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Berlin