In an answer to a parliamentary question, Eurocommissioner Viviane Reding announces a new evaluation of drug policy in the European Union.
The question remains if its conclusions will have any impact on policymaking at all.
Question by Michail Tremopoulos (Member of European Parliament, Green Group), 2 July 2010
A recent report by Jeffrey A. Miron of Harvard University(1) has concluded that legalising drugs in the US would save some USD 48.7 billion spent in enforcement measures annually and that, if drugs were taxed as legal substances at rates comparable with alcoholic beverages and tobacco, they would generate tax revenue of USD 34.3 billion annually. A report by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy which examined 300 international studies and articles over the last 20 years has concluded that a policy of banning drugs contributes to violence, marginalisation and higher murder rates. According to the report ‘Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2008/09 British Crime Survey drawn up by J. Hoare for the Home Office Statistical Bulletin, the percentage of young people between 16 and 24 years of age who reported using cannabis during the previous year has fallen since January 2004, when the ban on cannabis in the United Kingdom was relaxed.
In view of the above, will the Commission say:
1. Does it have any data on or would it be interested in commissioning a report assessing the amount of public funds spent in the EU on enforcing the present prohibition policies and the public revenue expected to be generated by a change in policy?
2. Does it have any data at European level on the correlation between criminality and severity of the policies banning drugs?
3. Does it have any data on the impact of relaxing policies banning or repressing drugs in those Member States which have implemented such policies?
4. In view of the above, in particular the findings of the “Report on Global Illicit Drugs Markets 1998 — 2007 which was funded by the Commission itself, does it intend to re-examine European drug policies?
Answer given by Mrs Reding on behalf of the Commission, 9 August 2010
The EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-12 has the explicit aim of improving the EU’s understanding of the drugs problem. The Commission, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and experts from Member States are working together to develop analytical instruments to better assess the effectiveness and impact of drug policy, including public expenditure analysis. Some of these tools will become available over the next years. Information on public expenditure on drugs is already available on the EMCDDA website.
The EMCDDA also provides information on drug law and policies at EU and national level and on responding to drug use. The national reports from the EMCDDA Reitox Focal Points provide information e.g. on the effects of policy changes in Member States. Some of this information, compiled in the EMCDDA annual report, provides tentative answers to the Honourable Member’s second and third questions. Developing further analytical instruments will help provide better analysis both at the European and at national level.
Due to the lack of information and data on some important aspects of the drug phenomenon, the Commission has emphasised the need to enhance the knowledge base particularly on illegal drug markets and the effectiveness of supply-reduction measures. In line with Action 67 of the EU Drugs Action Plan, the Commission is currently preparing a Commission Staff Working Paper on collection of data in this field.
The ‘Report on Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998-2007’ is an independent scientific study funded by a call for tender from the Drug Prevention and Information Programme. This report makes an attempt to estimate the social costs of drug use, covering and comparing the cost of demand and supply reduction, which is an important element of a broader cost-benefit analysis of drugs policy. However, providing scientifically sound and reliable estimates that have policy relevance is difficult, because of a lack of reliable, standardised data and information covering a longer term period. Subject to funding available in 2010, the Commission intends to publish a call for tender on further analysis of the EU illicit drugs market.
Finally, in 2012 the Commission will publish the report of an independent evaluation of the implementation of the EU Drugs Strategy 2005‑12 and the EU Drugs Action Plan 2009‑12. This will provide an opportunity to take stock of eight years of drug policy in the EU. The Commission will encourage a broad debate on the results of EU drug policy, which should inspire the drafting of the future EU drugs strategy.