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DUTCH DRUGS POLICY IN THE YEARS TO COME
CONTINUITY AND CHANGE
foreword: The following is a brief summary of the official Netherlands Government policy document on sale, handling, transport, possession and use of drugs and some of the related problems. The unabbriviated document will be available on the net soon. A copy is available on request. This summary is strictly meant as an informative statement of the Dutch Government and the Ministry of health, welfare and sport, which is reproduced by AdvocareŽ unchanged on this page
The Dutch government has published a policy document in which it sets out
the main outlines of its policy on drugs for the years to come. No radical changes will be
made, in view of the fact that, in comparison with other countries, the Netherlands has
achieved relatively good results, especially in the field of public health. A number of
shortcomings have, however, been identified, and the necessary adjustments are to be made.
The main adjustments relate to: -
The legalisation of either hard or soft drugs is not under consideration.
The aim of Dutch drugs policy is the prevention and containment of possible risks to users, their immediate environment and society as a whole. It is based on a combination of measures geared to combating crime and ensuring addicts receive adequate care. In view of the fact that the risks are partly related to the nature of the drugs in question, since1976 the Opium Act has drawn a distinction between hard drugsand soft drugs. The possession of a quantity of soft drugs forpersonal use - up to a maximum of 30 grammes - is regarded as a summary offense (a minor offense), which will not usually lead to prosecution. This will remain unchanged. In practice, prosecution proceedings will not be initiated in cases in which soft drugs are sold for personal use, which occurs inthe cities in what are known as coffee shops, provided certain strict conditions are met.
This allows young people who might wish to experiment with soft drugs to be protected
from the criminal underworld in which the trade in hard drugs occurs (separating the
The possession of more than 30 grammes of soft drugs and the possession of hard drugs - regardless of the quantity - are regarded as indictable offenses (serious offenses). It goes without saying that the import and export, production, sale and transport of both soft drugs and hard drugs will continue to be regarded as indictable offenses.
The pragmatic approach adopted in the Netherlands has been set out in guidelines, and policy is therefore more visible than in other countries which, in practice, have adopted much the same methods. Evidence of the success of the separation of markets is to be found in the fact that only a very few of the young people in the Netherlands who use soft drugs take to using hard drugs. The decriminalisation of the possession of soft drugs has not led to a rise in their use.
Thanks to an intensive policy on prevention and care, drug addicts in the Netherlands are in better health than those living in many other countries. In this connection, attention is drawn to the fact that the HIV virus is less prevalent among Dutch addicts than among their counterparts abroad an dits incidence is, moreover, on the decrease. There are an estimated 25,000 hard drug addicts in the Netherlands, i.e. 1.6 per thousand members of the total population. This figure is below the European average, and is far lower than in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The death-rate among addicts is also very low.
Measures to combat crime play a very important role in Dutch drugs policy. Every year, large quantities of both hard and soft drugs are confiscated. The Dutch police and criminal justice authorities work very closely with their counterparts abroad. The Netherlands has posted liaison officers to a number of countries, while many drug liaison officers from other countries are stationed in the Netherlands.
Although Dutch policy has achieved relatively good results where public health is concerned, drug use and everything associated with it have given rise to great social and administrative problems. More than before, policy will therefore be geared to tackling and containing the nuicance druguse causes society.
An amendment to the Municipalities Act, for example, will make it possible to seal off homes from which drugs are being sold. Cell space in Dutch prison is to be expanded. Intensification of various measures will require the coordinated efforts of government authorities, the public prosecutions department, care institutions, the police and the aliens department.
More forceful measures to combat international drug trafficking
The emergence of criminal organizations involved in the drug trade is a source of great concern to the Dutch government. The increasing activity of these organizations and their economic strength constitute a threat to the democratic, constitutional state governed by the rule of law. Other countries rightly object to the widespread involvement of Dutch nationals in international drug trafficking and to the role of the Netherlands as a producer of amphetamine and XTC (Ecstasy). The Netherlands will step up its efforts to detect and prosecute those involved in international drug trafficking. Anational investigations unit is to be set up with special responsibility for assisting foreign investigations.
Reducing the guantities of soft drugs sold in coffee shops
Efforts will be made to address the consequences of policy on coffee shops, which had, unfortunately, led to problems in neighbouring countries. The sale of soft drugs has largely fallen into the hands of commercial operators. In the towns and cities on our borders, in particular, quantities of more than a few grammes which are sold to foreign nationals are almost certainly intended for export. It was never the intention that the coffee shops in the Netherlands should act as suppliers for other countries.
The maximum quantity of soft drugs that coffee shops may sell without facing prosecution will therefore be reduced from 30 grammes to 5 grammes and foreign visitors will find it more difficult to lay in supplies for sale at home. If they are stopped at the border with their own country with more than 5 grammes in their possession, they will no longer be able to argue that this quantity is consistent with the guidelines of the criminal justice authorities in the Netherlands.
In addition, the number of coffee shops in most of the major cities will be drastically reduced - in many cases by more than 50%. Consideration is being given to establishing clear boundaries within which coffee shop operators may perform their activities, insofar as this is possible under the terms of the international conventions to which the Netherlands is party.
A proposal has been put forward to the effect that direct investigations should not be conducted at coffee shop operators who comply with the conditions laid down by the municipality in question and the public prosecutions department and who have no more than a few hundred grammes in their possession.
Countering the production of `nederwiet'
Cannabis produced in the Netherlands - nederwiet - is becoming increasingly popular. The Netherlands is thus in danger of becoming a production and export centre for soft drugs. This would be both unacceptable and intolerable from the viewpoint of public health and would rightly give rise to strong criticism from other countries. The government has therefore decided to give high priority to the investigation and prosecution of those engaged in the large-scale production of nederwiet.
Policy on the deportation of foreign drug addicts/drug tourists
Some of the nuisance encountered in the Netherlands is caused by foreign drug addicts residing illegally in the Netherlands and drug tourists from neighbouring EU countries who enter the country in order to buy hard drugs. A more active deportation policy will be pursued in respect of foreign drug addicts residing illegally in the Netherlands who commit offenses. Investigations will be conducted, prosecution proceedings initiated and the offenders in question will be brought to trial, and proceedings transferred to the country of origin. The Municipality of Rotterdam recently launched an offensive against drug-related nuisance. Several hundred foreign drug tourists and drug runners were arrested. This policy will be continued in the next few years. Foreign addicts should receive care in their own country. Dutch society cannot continue to foot the bill for the lack of care facilities in other countries.
Heroin on prescription on medical ground small-scale pilot projects
One or more small-scale experiments will be started involving the supply of heroin on strict medical grounds to seriously ill addicts whose physical state ans social situation are beyond hope. Similar projects have been launched in Switzerland and the course of events there will be followed closely.
No legalization of drugs
The policy document states that the legalization of either hard or soft drugs is not an objective. As far as hard drugs are concerned, the serious health hazards their use entails constitutes the main argument against legalisation. As far as soft drugs are concerned the Dutch government would not expect any decrease in the criminal trade in drugs if the Netherlands were to legalise them unilaterally. Moreover, legalization would lead to even lower prices on the Dutch market, and thus to a furtner increase in drugs tourism, a development the government deems unacceptable.
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