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Here are some Political aspects of the Arubian Government:
1) To What Extent Can Aruba Engage in Marijuana Law Reform Free from Dutch Judicial and/or Parliamentary Interference?
Project “LegalizeCannabis” in Aruba
- I. Introduction about Aruba and Cannabis Law Reform
Aruba appears to have sufficient independence from Dutch parliamentary or judicial processes such that it would be free to engage in meaningful marijuana law reform. Ifand to what extent Dutch authorities may voice displeasure at such reforms is a different matter and is not discussed furtherhere. Since Aruba has its own governmental system and is not subject to oversight by authorities in the Netherlands on matters of internal concern, it appears that the Parliament of Aruba would be free to pass legislation for marijuana reform without Dutch interference and without regard to Dutch law. Furthermore, courts in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including the Supreme Court, are barred from assessing the constitutionality of Aruban laws– so such legislation, if enacted, would not be subject to review by Dutch courts asto its constitutionality.However, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands may evaluate an act of Aruba’s Parliament for compliance with higher law, such as international treaties. There are strong arguments that international drug conventions do not compel marijuana criminalization, nor that theywouldprohibit meaningful marijuana law reform on Aruba.
i. Aruba’s Political System-Brief Background
Aruba is one of four constituent countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1986 Aruba separated from the Netherlands and established its own constitution, thereby gaining autonomy for internal affairs, although the Netherlands retains responsibility for Aruba in defense and foreign affairs. See Hannah M.T. Gutierrez, Guam’s Future Political Status: An Argument for Free Association with U.S. Citizenship, 4 Asian-Pac. L. &Pol’y J. 122, 144 (2003). The relationship between the two is similar to a commonwealth relationship, governed by the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
ii. International Treaties
International treaties are signed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands on behalf of its constituent countries, including Aruba. However, the individual constituent countries may vote whether or not that treaty applies to its own territory. A list of approximately 1400 treaties that apply to Aruba at the present time can be found under “Treaty information” on this page, although it is written in Dutch and is not available in English:
As noted above there are strong legal arguments that the drug conventions do not “per se require a de facto criminalization of personal drug consumption or minor cases of drug offenses,”as described inDaniel Heilmann, The International Control of Illegal Drugs and the U.N. Treaty Regime: Preventing or Causing Human Rights Violations?, 19 Cardozo J. Int’l & Comp. L. 237, 278 (2011). Accordingly, there is good reason to believe that Aruba would be free to engage in meaningfulmarijuana law reform regardless of the treaties it has adopted.
iii. Executive and Legislative Power
Aruba is a parliamentary democracy, in which the Queen of the Netherlands is the head of state, represented by a Governor appointed for six-year terms. An eight member Council of Ministers is headed by the Prime Minister andisvested with executive powers. This Council answers to a 21-member Parliament. These entities operate independently from the Netherlands on matters of internal concern.SeeHannah M.T. Gutierrez, Guam’s Future Political Status: An Argument for Free Association with U.S. Citizenship, 4 Asian-Pac. L. &Pol’y J. 122, 144 (2003); http://www.visitaruba.com/about-aruba/general-aruba-facts/government-and-politics/.
iv. Judicial System
Legal jurisdiction in Aruba lies with three courts: the Court of First Instance on Aruba, the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, and the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.
There is no constitutional court in the Netherlands, as the judiciary is barred from reviewing acts of Parliament for constitutionalityperGW § 120. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands, therefore, only has authority to overturn lower court decisions when the law was incorrectly applied or if the ruling lacked sufficient reasoning. Whetheror not proposed legislation is constitutional is considered by the Advisory Division of the Council of State, although its decisions are not binding. See Jurgen C.A. de Poorter, Constitutional Review in the Netherlands: A Joint Responsibility, 9 Utrecht Law Review, 89, 93, (2013). The Court may, however, consider whether laws are in accordance with higher laws, such as international treaties and agreements. Id. at 93. This power of review is limited, as the Court may only rule that the Dutch law may not be applied in case at hand, as opposed to denying the legal effect of the law entirely. Id. at 101.See
v. Dutch Drug Policy
Dutch drug policy has, since the 1970’s, been relatively lax towards “soft drugs,” including marijuana, in an effort to deter use of more dangerous drugs such as heroin. See Henk Jan van Vliet, The Uneasy Decriminalization: A Perspective on Dutch Drug Policy, 18 Hofstra L. Rev. 717, 723 (1990). Recently, however, there has been a tightening of Dutch policy regarding marijuana, leading to somewhat unsettled legal and political environs. Southern provinces of the Netherlands that border Germany and Belgium have seen a large number of Germans and Belgians buying marijuana to sell abroad. In response to the traffic and public order problems these so-called “drug tourists” cause, theDutchgovernment passed a law turning coffee shops into private clubsandrequiring their membershiptobe open only to Dutch citizens. In April 2012 a Dutch court upheld this law. The law was scheduled to apply nationwide beginning on January 1, 2013. However, a new government, elected later in 2012, issued an order indicating that local authorities could decide whether to enforce the ban on selling marijuana to foreigners. The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, said he would not be enforcing the ban in Amsterdam due to concerns of declining tourism, quality control, and increased street trafficking. See
- II. Introduction about the Foundation Elsa Coffi
The Foundation Elsa Coffi (F.E.C.) was founded in 2007 and is officially registered at the Chamber of Commerce in Aruba. The Foundation is named after Elsa Coffi, who was born in 1953 and died in 2006. She was the first ergo therapist of Aruba, she was socially very committed to the most vulnerable of society,andwas politically active within the political party ‘Red Democratico,’working hardto make a difference as a woman. Unfortunately she developedcancer, andwas then looking for alternative treatments of this disease, from which she died. Acting in her memory, the main goal of the FEC is educational, to advance the knowledge of the population of Aruba on themes of common interest and values. The Foundation is linked to the political party ‘Red Democratico,’ which is proposing a new drug policy for Aruba that is more in accordance with that of the Netherlands.
This proposed new drug policy includes:
- Separation of the markets between soft- and hard drugs (so that a person who wants to buy one gram of cannabis will not be confronted with the offer of cocaine orsomething else).
- Elimination of the production and offer of cannabis from the illegal circuit.
- Protection of vulnerable groups, through education and the prohibition of cannabisshops near schools.
- Opposition against criminal organizations.
- Rehabilitation of drugaddicts, especially those living on the streets.
In the past FEC has chosen as theme of discussion ‘The culture of fear’ and has invited for that purpose Prof.dr. ValdemarMarcha of the University of Utrecht/University of Curacao.This project promoted free and fearless speech in the interest of transparency.
Another project of FEC involved the theme of ‘Corruption’, presented by dr. Michel van Hulten, co-founder of Transparency International.
This year FEC has chosen to focus on the topic “Legalize Cannabis,” based on the critical need to address the issue of drug use and misuse on the island. In February FEC invited Dr. Julie Holland, editor of “The Potbook, The Complete Guide to Cannabis, ” to deliver several lectures in Aruba. In April 2013 the keynote speaker of FEC was Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Founder and Director of Drug Policy Alliance.
- The “LegalizeCannabis”Project
Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but is an autonomouscountry with its own Parliament. The Dutch model of soft drugs policy,that is allowing coffeeshops to sell cannabis,has beena success story for four decades. That another drug policy other than the war on drugs model is possible has neverbeforebeen introduced to Aruba. Successive governments in Aruba have practicedonly the conservative approach of the United States, declaring cannabis illegalwith no alternative.
FEC wants to break the taboo surrounding the theme of cannabison Aruba through raising consciousness about the medicalvalue and other positive aspects of this plant. The aim of this project is to translate the knowledge obtained through the lectures of Dr. Holland and Dr. Nadelmann into educational material. The project is also discussing extending lecture invitations to two young PhD professionals from Aruba and Curacao who are currently doing research in the Netherlands on cannabis,in order for them to present their research findings.
The educational materials will be presented through a website and a Facebook page, a daily column in a local newspaper, flyers, posters and radio programs. Also contemplatedisa TV program andperhaps evenTV spots on cannabis. The aim is to produce new materials on drug policy to specific target groups, such as to the young andtoseniors. With this initiative, FEC wants to promote a reformof drug policy on the island by distributing information based upon proven facts andscientific research.
This project will implement activities toalsoeducate the public towards amore humane response to the problems created by drug addiction on the island. The intention is to reinforce aspects of public health and human rights on the level of public policy concerning drugs and addiction. This educational campaign will also include organizing meetingsin order to put the issue of drug reform on the political agendaon Aruba, incorporating human rights (Dr. Nadelmann’s view) and harm reduction (Dr. Holland’s view) perspectives.
Timetable and costs of the “Legalize Cannabis” Project
This project began in January 2013 and will continuethrough 2013 and 2014. During the first six months, from January to June 2013,itsexpenseshave been around $10.000 (ten thousand US Dollars),covering especially the conferences of Dr. Holland and Dr. Nadelmannandincluding the promotion of those conferences. These expenses were not for salaries, but for travel expenses of speakers, rental costs of conference rooms, media costs (radio, TV, newspapers), graphic design costs for the use of social media, and othernecessary expenses. The FEC has at present an outstanding debt,and we are busy with fundraising activities to cover the costs of the activities from in the first half of 2013, but wefind that wehave reached a limit.
For the second half of 2013 FEC needs anoutsidegrantin order to continue its activities. The media on Aruba is boycotting the issue ofcannabis, therefore we have to influence the publicto see it as a legitimate issue. Any donation,no matter how small, would be very helpful in order to continue with our media and socialcampaign in favor of legalizing cannabis.
Those responsible for the project are:
Rudolf de Kort, MA, president of the Foundation, expert in rehab-program and trainings.
Juanita de Cuba, treasurer, financial expert on foundations.
The bank account:
Bank name: Arubabank (www.arubabank.aw)
Beneficiary: Fundacion Elsa Coffi
Bank address: Camacuri 12/PO Box 192/Oranjestad/ArubaT (297)527-7777/F (297)527-7715/ email@example.com
TheFoundationproject can count onvoluntary participationby several other professionals, coordinated by Armando Lampe, PhD,aformer Member of Parliament of Aruba who currently is promotingthe introduction of bills in Parliament to reform cannabis policy. We also have a team of lawyers who are working free of charge on a test case involving several Rastafari who have been sentenced by the legal system because of possession of cannabis.
- Fundacion Elsa Coffi is an organization dedicated to educating the population of Aruba on themes of common interest.
- With the project “Legalize Cannabis“the Foundation wants to achieve more support for the reform of drug policy in Arubaso it would follow the drug policy in the Netherlands, and a more humane response to the problem of drug addiction on the island, presentingthis as a health and not a criminal issue.
- This project will involve creating educational material targetingtheyoung and senior citizens alike, as well as a variety of media campaigns, meetings and presentations of findings by professional scientists currently researching this issue in Holland.
- This project will be carried out during a two year period from 2013 through 2014.
- Any assistance will be very helpful to us and gratefully appreciated.
For more information check out ourFacebook page: Fundacion Elsa Coffi