Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, March 21: Seminar with Diederik Boomsma, Christian Democratic Appeal Party

Our last day in Amsterdam!  We were off to City Hall to get the current ruling party's official take on the current drug policy. Though national politics in the Netherlands may change substantially after the June elections, the CDA (a center-right party) has been the strongest party in the country for some years now, and their official views will likely matter in any coalition government to follow. Diederik is a CDA member of the Amsterdam City council, and explained that the party's official stance toward the coffeeshops is rather disapproving. The party believes that drug use is nearly always detrimental, and that more lenient policies are only encouragin more use. For instance, he pointed to an uptick in cannabis use in the early years of the coffeeshop era (though numbers have been stable generally, and among youth, for the last several years). He drew sharp distinctions between use of alcohol, which he called a more socially accepted drug and one that can people together, and illicit drugs, which he said tended to make people more socially isolated.

The compromise struck by the current coalition between the CDA and the Social Democrats has, in fact, meant there's been little movement - no greater liberalisation of policies (eg decriminalising coffeeshops' purchasing of cannabis to sell), but on the other hand no systematic closing of coffeeshops, or prosecuting posession of small amounts for personal use.

Photos were taken, but technical difficulties have prevented them from being uploaded from a camera that appears to have given up the ghost.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday, March 19: Visit to Mainline

I can't thank Mainline enough for their generosity with their very tight staff time. This visit was one of the most profound experiences of the trip thus far. Project Manager (and ex-Marine) Jeannot Schmidt changed the way many of us view drug use and drug users. Mainline's holistic approach shifts the focus from punishing a particular behaviour to providing the means and motivation for users to reduce harm to themselves and those around them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday, March 18: Discussion with Dirk Korf, University of Amsterdam

We were pleased to have a solid two hours with one of the most-published researchers in drug policy in the Netherlands, Dirk Korf. He heard from each of the students their particular interests and then reflected on each topic in turn. It was interesting to put a face with so much of the reading we've done. (From his bio on the University website: Dr Korf is Professor by Special Appointment in Criminology, and in particular criminal policy research, in the Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). His research is focused on the investigation of developments and patterns in recreational drug use and drug trafficking in the context of drug policy and from an international perspective. He is particularly fascinated by cultural aspects of modern-day society, such as the ways in which changing ethnic make-up of populations and the resulting shift in perspectives on substance use influence trends in recreational drug use. Besides his academic appointments, he was head of the Deviance and Social Control section in the Municipality of Amsterdam's Department for Research and Statistics, Director of the Amsterdam Ecumenical Centre (Amsterdams Oecumenisch Centrum), and a drug addiction fieldworker for the Rainbow Foundation in Amsterdam. In addition, Korf holds appointments as Chairman of the European Society for Social Drug Research, and Vice Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Dutch National Drugs Monitor.

Wednesday, March 17: Briefing and Tour At Amsterdam Public Health Service

We had a fantastic q and a session with the inspiring and knowledgeable Dr. Nelda de Grave, as well as a nurse and client of the heroin prescription program. They were boundlessly generous with their time and willingness to answer even the most difficult and personal of questions. We were also able to see the Service's safe injection and use areas, and to learn how the government vets participants in the methadone and heroin prescription programs. Patients must attempt methadone maintenance for five years before being eligible for heroin prescriptions. All use is closely supervised and bound by an extensive set of rules. As we were told, these are the patients that for one reason or another have been determined to be unlikely to ever successfully be weaned from heroin; therefore they are given ways to use that are safer and less likely to spread disease and crime.

Dr. de Grave told us, after years in the public health service, that 'methadone is cheap; heroin is more expensive but far cheaper than the costs of all the trouble [crime and secondary health problems] of obtaining heroin on the streets.'

The treatment center we visited was in a southeastern suburb, very different from the city centre where we are spending most of our time. There's a large immigrant population and the area has little pedestrian traffic, being far more industrial than the city centre where we have spent most of our time thus far.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16: Briefing and Tour with Medical Activist, Jackie Woerlee

Coming Soon!

Tuesday, March 16: Cannabis College and Museum

Coming Soon!

Tuesday, March 16: Seminar with Retired Dutch Police Union President, Hans Van Duijn

What a terrific opportunity for us to discuss the impact of drug policy on law enforcement, and the way that Mr. Van Duijn's experience has shaped his opposition to prohibition. A wonderful bookend to our meeting with Jim Geirach, also a member of LEAP, in Chicago.

From Mr. Van Duijn's profile at the LEAP site: ""The fight against drug related crime has had few positive results and represents a heavy burden on police resources"

Hans van Duijn In 2006 when Hans van Duijn was president of the Dutch Police Union, one of his colleagues interviewed LEAP member Jerry Cameron who was in The Netherlands for a conference. Cameron's interview brought much media attention and acted as a catalyst to van Duijn, ultimately inciting him to add his voice to the rising tide of law enforcement speaking out against drug prohibition:
"A Constitutional State must understand that it can't control the attitudes of people regarding their basic rights or beliefs or needs through unreasonable prohibitions. It's all about awareness. Once you understand that some laws are totally false you can't close your eyes and say 'it's not about me' because I don't use drugs. In that situation we have the duty -- in the interest of the community -- to step forward and take responsibility in helping to change the situation. We have to realize that the only reason to end our efforts will be when prohibition is ended."
Van Duijn grew up in a poor part of Rotterdam, Netherlands with one brother. His father died when Hans was young and thus his hard-working mother was often gone but this provided Hans with a perspective of people, needs and service that would be the foundation for his future. He entered police work on behalf of the people, because of that basic and dynamic function of defending society from bad people.
Van Duijn served in many areas of the Rotterdam Police dept, beginning in 1967 as a "street cop" with 200 other officers and later, with the “Seaport Police Division” (Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport). These two areas provided a unique awareness of illegal sales, addiction and smuggling which many in law enforcement hardly ever experience. As his career advanced, van Duijn's know-how was put to use, as he became the head of the department of personnel and training of the entire 5000 member Amsterdam police force. His duties included responsibility for recruitment, training, work and labor conditions and in medical and psychological assistance in Human Resource Management.
Clearly respected by his colleagues, van Duijn led NPB or "Nederlandse Politiebond"--the Dutch Police Union of more than 23,000 members for 15 years until his retirement in 2008.
Van Duijn believes people need to be convinced that ending the War on Drugs will bring resources for training and increased employability for young people. He also passionately believes police officers and others must become aware of Prohibition harms so they can't avoid the issue. Van Duijn finds himself in a new roll, as a LEAP advisory board member and as someone sought out internationally for his expert opinion on drug policy reform. He enjoys time with his grand children and hopes his efforts will help to end the prohibition of drugs and make the world a better place them and others."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday, March 15: Seminar on Drug Policy in the Netherlands with Social Psychologist and Epidemiologist Janhuib Blans

   Janhuib is practically a walking encyclopedia regarding the effects of drugs and of drug policy His career has given him contact with all aspects of alcohol and drug intervention as a fieldworker, journalist, and academic. We spent two and a half hours with him but easily could have spent all day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Arrival at Amsterdam

We arrived Sunday morning at 7 into Schiphol Airport - a little silly with exhaustion, but fortunately our marvellous coordinator, Eva, was there to welcome us with open arms and a sign that read like balm to our weary eyes: "Welcome Roosevelt!"

It's a good thing that when we arrived at our hotel we were too tired to lift a single cry of protest over the (not ready) state of our rooms. Figuring we'd descend into the sleep of the dead if we sat for even a moment, we headed out to get our bearings. And pancakes.

We saw a huge swath of the city, from the Museumplein to the three great canals to the red light district before gratefully taking advantage of the city's wonderful train system to get back to the hotel in the early afternoon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

About the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project

The Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project is a unique program that engages students in policy planning and research in the field of human rights here and abroad. Each year, we address a different issue by a comparative analysis of a human rights issue as it is currently being addressed both in Chicago and in one other city abroad. We specifically analyze the structural, procedural and cultural aspects of both local and national settings that influence the current status of human rights problems and suggest routes to their amelioration. The program is very student- led, with students eventually compiling published reports that suggest comparative lessons and ways forward in the issue at hand, and students are often directly engaged in implementing the solutions they provide through advocacy activity.

Our undergraduates engage in applied human rights research through, among other things:
-discussions with local experts in particular areas of human rights; essentially our class includes a colloquium of local policy makers, activists, and academics
-reporting back on the status of those rights in a city abroad, as the students share their comparative analysis with our panel of local experts after their return (casting the students in the role of expert one specific aspects of the issue)
-the launch of the policy Plan of Action that the Project creates based on the students research
-international conferences on our focus issues that bring together the students and both local and international experts in the issue area

The Loundy Project was founded by Roosevelt alumnus Joseph Loundy. For more information, contact the Project's director, Bethany Barratt, Associate Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University