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Americans Warn Europe of ‘Tidal Wave’ of Cocaine

April 10, 1990

LONDON (AP) _ U.S. officials told European nations Tuesday that the American market for illegal drugs is nearly saturated and dealers will soon be bombarding this side of the Atlantic with huge amounts of cocaine.

However, British and Dutch officials said it’s too early to predict such a cocaine epidemic in Europe.

The comments were exchanged during the World Ministerial Drugs Summit, sponsored by Britain and the United Nations. More than 800 delegates from 112 countries have focused on ways to reduce the demand for drugs and to combat cocaine. The three-day conference ends Wednesday.

Dr. Herbert D. Kleber, an official with the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said he expects cocaine use to increase sharply in Europe because there is little room for growth in American sales and the drug cartels are thus looking across the ocean.

″I think ... that cocaine is really beginning to hit Europe and England,″ he said, adding that ″my fear is that there basically is a tidal wave of cocaine coming your way.″

Douglas Tweddle, chief investigator for Britain’s Customs and Excise department, acknowledged that more cocaine will undoubtedly come to Europe ″because we have the ability to pay for it.″ However, he added that to talk of a tidal wave ″seems somewhat emotive.″

″We are trying our best to contain the cocaine problem before it gets to American proportions,″ he told a news conference. ″I don’t think it will be as bad as it has been in the United States.″

Dr. Eddy L. Engelsman, an official of the Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Cultural Affairs in the Netherlands, said an explosion in cocaine use should not be predicted in Europe.

″We can talk about threats, but that’s what we’ve done over 10 years now and the level of cannabis use, for instance, in America has reached much higher peaks than it ever has done in Europe,″ he said.

U.S. Secretary of Health Dr. Louis Sullivan said the United States has alerted European nations to take action to reduce the demand for cocaine and to block shipments.

″The major source of wealth beyond the United States is Europe and Japan, and data from our sources say the European market is looked on by the cartels as a growth market,″ he said.

Italy’s Interior Minister Antonio Gava, quoting figures from the international police agency Interpol, said Monday that cocaine seizures in Europe have increased from 3,300 pounds in 1986 to 13,860 pounds in 1989. In the first three months of 1990, he said, authorities seized 8,800 pounds.

In his comments, Kleber said stripping drugs of glamour and holding users accountable for their actions had helped cut casual use of cocaine by 37 percent over the last three years in the United States.

He said drug users know the consequences of indulging range from suspending a pilot’s license to expulsion from school or imprisonment.

However, Engelsman of the Netherlands said treating drug users like smokers or alcoholics has worked in his country.

Even though marijuana is sold in coffee bars, he said, Dutch youngsters understand the message that drugs are unhealthy. He said only 2 percent of those up to 19 years old used marijuana during the last month and less than 0.5 percent used heroin and cocaine.

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