Dutch drug policy is often misunderstood and misrepresented. Beginning in the 1970s, the Netherlands embarked on a
pragmatic harm reduction approach to drugs that has resulted in a system in
which priority is given to health care and prevention while, simultaneously,
strong enforcement measures are directed against organized crime.
This paper provides a brief historical overview of the development of
Dutch drug policy, a summary of the current law, and a selection of related
statistical data. A synopsis of
reports from significant commissions of inquiry is also presented.
This paper is part of a series of country reports prepared by the
Parliamentary Research Branch of the Library of Parliament for the Senate
Special Committee on Illegal Drugs.
The Netherlands’ experience with drugs in the 19th century
was in some ways unique. Although
it was certainly not a drug-free nation, it differed from the United States
and other Western European nations in that it did not have the problem of
addicted soldiers and there was little scientific research or public concern
regarding addiction. Two key
factors shaped the evolution of the Dutch policy on drugs during this period:
the development of the modern medical profession, and the immense
profitability of Dutch colonial drug operations.
During the last decades of the 19th century, conflict
between “primitive-traditional” healing and “rational-scientific”
medicine led physicians to see the unrestrained sale and use of opiates and
cocaine as a threat to their profession.
In essence, the professionalization of the medical occupations resulted
in attempts by physicians and pharmacists to monopolize the administration and
supply of drugs in the country. As
for drug use in Dutch colonies, both opium and cocaine made substantial
contributions to the state treasury. By
the early 20th century, the Netherlands was the world’s largest
cocaine producer; huge profits were made first from opium leases – the
practice by which the government leased the right to sell opium to local
colonial populations – and then later via state monopoly on the sale of
In 1909, on the initiative of the United States, a conference on opium
was convened in Shanghai. The
U.S. delegation had hoped for official measures restricting opium sales and
use; however, the Dutch – along with Great Britain – resisted and a set of
recommendations was all that resulted from the meeting.
The U.S. crusade continued, however, and another opium conference took
place in The Hague in 1911, resulting in the Hague Opium Convention of 1912.
Article 9 of the Convention required state parties to enact legislation
restricting the production and sale of drugs to medicinal purposes only.
Ratification in the Netherlands took some time and it was not until the
Opium Act was enacted in 1919 that Article 9 was given effect.
This Act remains the legislative basis for Dutch drug policy today.
Prior to the Second World War when it began to lose its colonies, the
Netherlands’ drug enforcement measures were, some suggest, less than
genuine. Internationally, the
Dutch had economic interests to protect; a government monopoly on opium in the
Dutch Indies proved very lucrative until the Japanese army invaded in 1942.
Internally, while the Opium Act was selectively enforced, for
the most part it was simply not considered a law enforcement priority.
Some authors, such as de Kort, suggest that unlike the United States,
Holland did not have identifiable recreational user groups that were
considered problematic. In the
United States, three user groups – Chinese, Blacks and Mexicans – were
identified with, respectively, opium, cocaine and marijuana; these groups
provided crusading law enforcement officials with useful targets.
Although Holland had a Chinese community, it was fairly small and
isolated; however, it should be noted that when prosecutions did take place in
the Netherlands, they were mainly directed at Chinese opium smokers.
Following WWII, marijuana use became detectable in the Netherlands and
a 1953 amendment to the Opium Act added cannabis to the list of illegal
substances. Prosecution for
marijuana offences began, but experts and official agencies soon started to
call for a reconsideration of prosecution policies.
The excessive use of force by Amsterdam police in response to student
riots in 1966 made law enforcement highly sensitive to public opinion and led
to more relaxed attitudes towards social issues such as the peace movement and
drug use. Policies de-emphasizing
marijuana possession arrests resulted.
The changing views of law enforcement with respect to some drugs
coincided with a new drug problem in the early 1970s: a violently competitive
heroin market. The Dutch
government established a Working Party on Drugs which came to be known as the
Baan Commission. Its
recommendations largely determined the course of the Netherlands’ drug
policy and resulted in an overhaul of the Opium Act in 1976.
The core features of the Dutch system were established by the Baan
Commission and are rooted in the concept of harm reduction, i.e., the
minimization of the risks and hazards of drug use rather than the suppression
of all drugs. Using this
pragmatic approach, the government sets clear priorities based on the
perceived risks of particular drugs; public health is the main concern.
The key elements as established in the 1976 parliamentary debate are
summarized by Grapendaal et al. as:()
central aim is the prevention or alleviation of social and individual risks
caused by drug use;
be a rational relation between those risks and policy measures;
differentiation of policy measures must also take into account the risks of
legal recreational and medical drugs;
measures against drug trafficking (other than trafficking of cannabis) is a
inadequacy of criminal law with respect to other aspects (i.e., apart from
trafficking) of the drug problem is recognized.
The literature also makes reference to the policy of
control is achieved through depolarization and integration of deviant
behaviour rather than isolation and removal, as is typical of the deterrence
model. This paradigm also suggests that drug problems should be seen
as normal social problems rather than unusual concerns requiring extraordinary
Another key aspect is the notion of market separation.
By classifying drugs according to the risks posed and then pursuing
policies that serve to isolate each market, it is felt that users of soft
drugs are less likely to come into contact with users of hard drugs.
Thus, the theory goes, users of soft drugs are less likely to try hard
In essence, Dutch drug policy – with respect to the supply side
of the drug market – in many ways reflects the international repressive
norm. On the demand side
of the equation, however, a unique approach is evident; the Dutch policy
approach recognizes that drug use may often just be a youthful dalliance but
emphasizes compassion and treatment for those who develop drug use problems.
As noted, the Opium Act – also referred to as the Narcotics
Act – is the Netherlands’ main drug legislation.
The Act criminalizes possession, cultivation, trafficking and importing
or exporting. The 1976 Amendments
established two classes of drugs: Schedule
I drugs are deemed to present an unacceptable risk to Dutch society and
include heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and LSD; Schedule II drugs include
“traditional hemp products” such as marijuana and hashish.
Further amendments were made following a major government drug policy
study in 1995, and a summary of the current state of the law follows.
The possession of all scheduled drugs is an offence, but possession of
a small quantity of “soft” drugs for personal use is a minor offence.
Generally, it is tolerated by law enforcement, particularly within the
regulated coffee shop system, discussed in the following section.
Importing and exporting are the most serious offences under the Act.
The maximum penalty for importing or exporting hard drugs is 12
years’ imprisonment and a fine of Dfl. 100,000 (guilders).()
Anyone found in possession of a quantity of hard drugs for personal use
is liable to a penalty of one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 10,000
guilders. The maximum penalty for
importing or exporting soft drugs is four years’ imprisonment and a fine of
100,000 guilders. Habitual
offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of 16 years’ imprisonment and a
fine of 1,000,000 guilders. Moreover,
offenders may be deprived of any money or property gained from their offence.
The Netherlands also has guidelines for sanctions that the Public
Prosecutor is directed to seek, based on:
the type of drug involved, the amount of the drug, and the specific
offence. The following tables set
out the current (1996) guidelines.()
Possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use has been
decriminalized in Holland. The
sale of cannabis is technically an offence under the Opium Act, but
prosecutorial guidelines provide that proceedings will only be instituted in
certain situations. An operator
or owner of a coffee shop (which is not permitted to sell alcohol) will avoid
prosecution if he/she meets the following criteria:
than 5 grams per person may be sold in any one transaction;
drugs may be sold;
not be advertised;
shop must not cause any nuisance;
can be sold to minors (under age 18), nor may minors enter the premises; and
municipality has not ordered the establishment closed.
It is common for municipalities to have a coffee shop policy to prevent
or combat the nuisance sometimes associated with these establishments.
For example, suspicion of selling hard drugs or locating a coffee shop
near a school or in a residential district may result in closure.
In April 1999, the “Damocles Bill” amended the Narcotics Act
by expanding municipal powers regarding coffee shops and permitting local
mayors to close such places if they contravene local coffee shop rules, even
if no nuisance is being caused. As
a result of strict enforcement and various administrative and judicial
measures, the number of coffee shops decreased from nearly 1,200 in 1995 to
846 in November 1999.()
The risks associated with these drugs have been deemed unacceptable.
Heroin can result in dependency relatively quickly and thus its use is
more often associated with serious problems such as visible degeneration, poor
health and criminality. Significantly, people who lose control over their opiate use
often turn to other hard drugs, particularly cocaine and amphetamines.()
One of the key elements of assisting Dutch addicts is the free supply
of methadone, but as noted in the government’s 1995 policy report,()
this practice has had limited effect, possibly due in part to the fact that
methadone lacks the euphoric “flash” of heroin. In 1998, a number of Dutch cities started experimenting with
prescribing heroin, in combination with methadone, on medical grounds.
Approximately 750 addicts are involved in the comparison of treatment
with methadone and treatment with methadone and heroin.
The experiment is still ongoing and preliminary results have yet to be
To prevent HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C, syringe exchange programs
were developed in the 1980s; today, 130 programs are operating in 60 Dutch
cities and towns.
Ecstasy is the most widely consumed synthetic drug in the Netherlands
and is associated with the “clubbing circuit.”
According to the Trimbos Institute (an independent mental health
organization that is partially financed by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and
Sports), the drug is not highly addictive, but does present short-term side
effects, such as raised blood pressure, heart palpitations, dry mouth and
anxiety or excitement, as well as long-term risks such as damage to nerve
cells in the brain that relate to functions such as sleep, appetite, memory,
depression and aggression regulation.()
As with other drugs, Dutch policy focuses on a combination of demand
reduction and harm reduction, i.e., preventing use by educational campaigns
and preventing problems caused by its use through health measures.
Ecstasy was placed in Schedule I of the Opium Act by Ministerial
decree in 1988 and thus is among the drugs that are given highest priority in
terms of investigation and prosecution. In 1997, the Synthetic Drugs Unit was
established in response to growing concerns about the drug with the goals of
improving national coordination, providing information, initiating policy, and
supporting local prosecutions.
It must first be noted that Dutch drug legislation is not unique.
Many other nations have laws that look very much like the Opium Act,
and the Netherlands policy with respect to supply reduction is fundamentally
the same as other western countries. What sets Holland apart is its
The official Guidelines for the Investigation and Prosecution of Drug
Offences are based on the principle of expediency, i.e., authorities can
refrain from prosecution without first seeking permission from the courts.
Rather than approaching the issue on a case-by-case basis, there is a
systematic application of the expediency principle; as well, whole sections of
the penal law are deemed not to warrant judicial proceedings.
In a government publication, the nature of Dutch society is suggested
as a rationale for its approach:
In order to
appreciate the Dutch approach to the drugs problem, certain characteristics of
Dutch society must be kept in mind. The Netherlands is one of the most densely
populated, urbanized countries in the world. It has a population of 15.5
million, occupying an area of no more than 41,526 km2. The Netherlands has a
long history as a country of transit: Rotterdam is the largest seaport in the
world, while the country has a highly developed transport sector. The Dutch
firmly believe in the freedom of the individual, with the government playing
no more than a background role in religious or moral issues. A cherished
feature of Dutch society is the free and open discussion of such issues. A
high value is attached to the well-being of society as a whole, as witness the
extensive social security system and the fact that everyone has access to
health care and education.()
point to the fact that the Dutch do not have a tradition of responding to
social problems with the criminal law.()
In any event, the experience of the Netherlands is a markedly relevant
example to the world in that it represents a compromise position between the
drug war “hawks” and the legalization “doves.”()
That it is the result of culturally specific factors and not relevant
to other nations is unlikely. On
the contrary, it would appear to be the rational outcome of political
problem-solving, which cannot be said to be an exclusively Dutch trait.
Like Canada, the Netherlands is a signatory to the United Nations drug
As well, it has drug control commitments associated with the Treaty of
the European Union()
and the Schengen Agreement relating to border controls.
In the opinion of the Dutch government, the obligations arising from
these accords preclude outright legalization of cannabis or indeed any other
drug referred to in the treaties.()
By maintaining laws criminalizing the drugs enumerated in the
international agreements, the Netherlands complies with the letter of
international law. Its discretionary prosecution policy is not specifically
prohibited by the treaties. When
faced with external criticism about compliance with its international
commitments, the government states that its role is to rectify the inadequate
understanding of what is occurring in Holland.()
In 1968, the National Federation of Mental Health Organizations()
established a commission with a broad mandate to “clarify factors
associated with the use of drugs” and “to suggest proposals for a
Chaired by criminal law professor Louk Hulsman, the Commission had a
diverse membership including law enforcement officials, alcohol treatment
experts, psychiatrists, a drug use researcher and a sociologist.
The commission’s final report, presented in 1971, provided an
analysis of drug use and the social mechanisms behind drug problems.
New approaches were suggested, including:
The use of cannabis and the possession of
small quantities should be taken out of the criminal law immediately.
For the time being, production and distribution should remain within
criminal law, but as misdemeanors.
The use and possession of other drugs should
temporarily remain in the realm of criminal law, as misdemeanors, but in the
long run all should be decriminalized.
People who have problems with their drug use
should have adequate treatment facilities at their disposal.
In recommending the gradual decriminalization of all drugs, the report
noted that illicit drugs can be used in a controlled and limited way and that
marginalizing drug-using subcultures has significant negative repercussions. Specifically, becoming a member of the “drug scene” may
familiarize a cannabis user with other drugs and patterns of use.
Although the commission found no evidence of a “stepping stone”
sequence of drug use – what in other contexts has been referred to as
“gateways” – it accepted the notion that one kind of drug user (e.g.,
heroin user) will contaminate another kind of drug user (e.g., cannabis user)
when the two kinds of drug use are forced into one marginalized subculture.
With respect to the issue of law enforcement, the commission concluded
that once started, drug policing would have to be constantly enlarged to keep
pace with the never-ending escalation of drug use.
It referred to the criminal law option of opposing drug use as
inadequate and “extremely dangerous,” stating on page 51 of its report:
after time it will show that the means will fall short, upon which those who
favour punishment will plead for increase of law enforcement, until it will be
amplified a hundred fold from the present situation…This will boost
polarization between the different parts of our society and can result in
A State Commission was also established in 1968 by the Under Secretary
of Health. This commission
contained some members of the Hulsman Commission, as well as officials from
the Ministry of Justice, the Amsterdam Chief of Police, and additional
psychiatrists and sociologists. In
1970, Pieter Baan, the Chief Inspector of Mental Health, assumed the
chairmanship of the commission and a final report was presented in 1972.
The report suggested dividing drugs into those with acceptable and
those with unacceptable risks. Further
research would be needed to create a greater consensus among the experts as to
how some individual drugs should be classified, but the report described
cannabis products as relatively benign with limited health risks.
However, even for those drugs that pose unacceptable risks, the report
concluded that use of the criminal law is not an adequate approach.
The commission suggested the long-term goal of complete
decriminalization once a good treatment system has been created.
In the interim, the justice system should just be used as a tool for
manoeuvring heavy users into treatment.
Other notable findings include:
The special characteristics of youth culture
are important determinants of drug use and if so‑called deviant
behaviour is stigmatized by punitive measures, the probability of
intensification of this behaviour is a serious danger.
This will initiate a spiral that will make the return of the individual
to a socially accepted lifestyle increasingly difficult.
Much drug use is short-lasting
experimentation by young people.
Cannabis use does not lead to other drug use,
but as noted in the Hulsman report, the criminalization of cannabis promotes
contact between cannabis users and the users of “harder” drugs.
Drug users are better served by drug
information and prevention efforts than by prosecution.
The sometimes unusual behaviour of
cannabis-consuming youth is more a result of specific subculture norms and
ideologies rather than pharmacology.
Cannabis use when driving or operating
machines in factories is not responsible, and the consumption of cannabis
without risks to the individual or society can only take place during
In 1995, the Dutch government published a report entitled Drugs
Policy in the Netherlands: Continuity
and Change. This policy
document was sponsored by: the
Minister of Justice; the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport; and the
Secretary of State for the Interior.
The report begins by noting that the Netherlands has always attempted a
pragmatic approach to drug use. In
tackling markets in illegal products throughout the world, government
intervention has historically proven to have a limited effect.
Thus, the modest objective in Holland is to keep the use of dangerous
drugs, as a health and social problem, under control.
The 1972 state commission’s recommendations still form the basis of
this drugs policy in which the government’s role is seen as preventing
people – particularly young people – from starting to use drugs without
knowing enough about them, while providing treatment for those who develop
drug problems. As discussed in
previous sections, this harm reduction approach has led the Dutch government
to distinguish between “hard drugs,” i.e., those that pose an unacceptable
risk to health, and “soft drugs” such as cannabis products, which although
still considered “risky” do not present similar concerns.
The underlying assumption made in the Netherlands with respect to
cannabis is that people are more likely to make a transition from soft to hard
drugs as a result of social factors, not physiological ones.
Separating the markets by allowing people to purchase soft drugs in a
setting where they are not exposed to the criminal subculture surrounding hard
drugs is intended to create a social barrier that prevents people
experimenting with more dangerous drugs.
The report goes on to review the effects of the Dutch drug policy, the
treatment of addiction in the Netherlands, and enforcement under the Opium
Act. Key conclusions and
Decriminalization of the possession of soft
drugs for personal use and the toleration of sales in controlled circumstances
has not resulted in a worryingly high level of consumption among young people.
The extent and nature of the use of soft drugs does not differ from the
pattern in other Western countries. As
for hard drugs, the report states that the number of addicts in the
Netherlands is low compared with the rest of Europe and considerably lower
than that in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
The number of heroin users under the age of
21 has continued to fall in the Netherlands. The report speculates that is partly attributable to the
“loser” image that has come to be attached to addicts.
The presence of older addicts in a serious state of degeneration is
compelling propaganda against heroin use, and the lack of repressive action by
police against addicts prevents the lifestyle from being viewed as socially or
The use of cheaper forms of cocaine (i.e.,
crack) has not made significant inroads in Holland as had been feared as a
result of developments in the United States.
The tone of public debate in Holland is
different than in other countries because drug use is no longer seen as an
acute health threat but rather as a source of nuisance.
Policies focusing on addiction and care have resulted in less HIV
infection; in fact, levels continue to fall.
As well, the mortality rate among addicts is low and is not increasing,
as it is in other European countries.
With respect to the legalization debate, the
report concludes that with a state monopoly or licensing system, the
disadvantages would outweigh the practical advantages.
Although the role of criminal organizations would be reduced, such a
system would impose a considerable burden in implementation and monitoring,
and would probably attract even more “drug tourists” and the nuisance they
sometimes cause. Furthermore, the report suggests that this is not something
that could be done by the Netherlands in isolation.
The international conventions preclude outright legalization and would
have to be renegotiated or denounced. As
well, even if just soft drugs were legal in Holland but not in the rest of
Europe, the Dutch criminal organizations that export drugs would continue to
exist and would still require significant law enforcement activity.
Foreign concerns about the Dutch coffee shop
policy have centred not on the use of cannabis in the establishments, but on
drug tourists who take cannabis back to their home countries, something that
has been particularly easy since the abolition of border controls under the
Schengen Agreement. The report
confirms the government’s plan to reduce the purchase limit to 5 grams from
30 grams to see what impact this will have on illegal exports.()
Given the lack of sufficient scientific data,
the report endorses the 1995 recommendation of the Dutch Health Council that a
medical trial into the effectiveness of prescribing heroin to addicts be
The report also notes three negative implications that need to be
addressed: the nuisance caused by
hard and soft drug users; the increasing presence of organized crime in the
Netherlands; and the effect of Dutch policy on other countries.
The criminal and general nuisance caused by
Dutch and foreign hard drug users may have the effect of undermining public
support for the policy of social integration of addicts.
A small proportion of hard drug users commit a large number of property
offences in order to buy their drugs. Contrary
to expectations, the fact that methadone is easily obtained has scarcely
improved the situation. Drug-related
crime and anti-social behaviour, such as discarding used needles in public
places, has affected the tolerance levels of residents in some socially
disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the larger Dutch cities.
Nuisance caused by the presence of coffee shops selling soft drugs has
also been problematic in some municipalities.()
Another complication has been the rise of
criminal organizations involved in the supply and sale of drugs in Holland
which has necessitated increased criminal law measures.
The prosecution of drug traffickers will continue to be a top priority
for the Dutch police and judicial authorities.
Although the “ideological nature” of some
foreign criticism suggests a lack of understanding of Dutch policy and is
often based on purported health risks that are not supported in the scientific
literature, there are problems in the Netherlands that have international
implications. The Dutch, for
example, are responsible for more than their proportional share of trafficking
in soft drugs, and drug tourists routinely purchase soft drugs in Holland with
the intent of transporting them back to their home country.
The report suggests that combating these problems will involve
continuing and reinforcing current law enforcement activities that prioritize
trafficking. As noted, the issue
of soft drug tourists taking home their coffee shop purchases is to be
addressed by decreasing the amount permitted for sale.
Intended import, export, sale, transport,
Preparation of crimes
Producing and trading in precursors
Possession for own use
Sale, transport, production, possession of more
than 30 grams
Sale, production, possession of up to 30 grams
The maximum sentence which can be imposed for
committing more than one drug offence is a custodial sentence of 16 years
and/or a fine of Dfl. 100,000. This fine can be increased to a maximum of Dfl.
1,000,000. A bill has been presented to the Lower House of Parliament which
will increase the sentence for growing hemp professionally or commercially.
The proposal is that the custodial sentence should be raised from 2 to 4
A total of 4,228 people were convicted of an offence under the Opium
Act in 1995. Of these, 3,290
sentences were unconditional (i.e., not suspended sentences). A large
proportion of them (57%) consisted of short sentences of 0-6 months, and 14%
were sentences of between 6 months and 1 year. Sentences of 1-3 years were
passed on 23% of convicted defendants, and 3% were given a sentence of 3 years
ADDICTS IN NORMAL WINGS IN
PENAL INSTITUTIONS. SURVEY YEAR 1997
Penal Institution Over-Amstel
Addicted to drugsa)
Severely addicted to
Penal Complex Scheveningen
of inmates addicted to drugs.
Consumption of drugs on three or more days per week for at least two months in
the two years prior to the interview, plus a score of at least 4 on the
questionnaire section on drugs of the EuropASI.
Same as above, but with a score of at least 6 on the list in question. c) According to DSM-III-R (dependency can be equated to addiction).
COMMITTED OFFENCES BY DRUG ADDICTS IN THE PENAL INSTITUTION OVER-AMSTEL
AND THE ‘STREET JUNKIE PROJECT’ IN AMSTERDAM. SURVEY YEAR 1997
Number of offences in the year
prior to imprisonmenta)
placement in drug-free wing
placement in drug-free wing
a)Self-Report. Number of offences in the
year prior to detention, or prior to the interview of participants in the
‘Street Junkie Project.’
Criminal drug addicts, who voluntarily enter treatment outside the prison as
an alternative to completing their prison sentence.
OF CONFISCATED ECSTASY TABLETS,
TO THE NETHERLANDS
Confiscated outside of the
Confiscated in the Netherlands
first half of 2000, a total of 8.7 million of Dutch tablets were confiscated,
6 million of which were confiscated abroad.
Source: USD (Synthetic Drugs Unit) a) These figures were rounded down.
Criminal cases brought before court per 100,000 inhabitants aged 12-79()
- other sexual offences
- threatening behaviour
- crime against life
- imputable death and bodily injury
- theft with violence
Malicious damage and crimes
against public order
Other crimes under the Penal
and Munitions Act
acts, decrees, etc.
Criminal cases brought before court
per 100,000 inhabitants aged 12-79()
- Malicious damage and crimes against
- Other crimes under the Penal Code
and Munitions Act
acts, decrees, etc.
With a few exceptions, criminal court cases deal with crimes under the
Penal Code. First offences are tried at the district courts. The Public
Prosecutors’ Offices and the offices of the district courts of justice and
the Supreme Court of the Netherlands report information on registered and
disposed criminal court cases. The figures for the district courts are taken
from the “Compas,” computer registration.
for Drug Offences per 100,000 inhabitants, 1995/1996()
Establishment of national support office to provide information, improve
expertise and develop policy on drugs prevention.
Statutory provisions on participation in national information collection
system to monitor the addiction problem.
Research to establish how regional non-residential care for addicts
should be financed when the Temporary Act for the Promotion of Social Renewal (TWSSV)
comes to an end.
Renewal of care for addicts:
range of residential care to be provided;
attention to be paid to prevention and “socialisation” of addicts;
involving the provision of heroin to older, untreatable addicts;
capacity in compulsion and dissuasion projects (500 places in consultation with
Public Prosecutions Department);
forensic addiction clinic (70 places).
Establishment of Inter-administrative Task Force on Public Safety and the
Care of Addicts (central government, municipalities, Association of Netherlands
Municipalities), in conjunction with the policy on the big cities.
Establishment of panel of experts to assist municipalities in tackling
the problem of nuisance using administrative powers and in pursuing a policy on
of proposals for local coffee shop policy;
where nuisance can be reported;
Strict approach to drug tourists who cause nuisance (specifically
targeted investigations and immediate deportation).
Bill on a criminal law measure allowing addicts who frequently commit
offences or cause nuisance to be taken into care compulsorily; trial using such
a measure in Rotterdam (100 places).
Amount of soft drugs whose retail sale is tolerated in regulated coffee
shops to be reduced from 30 grammes to 5 grammes; more monitoring of exports.
Inclusion in Public Prosecutions Department guidelines of the amount of
soft drugs coffee shops will be permitted to stock for sales purposes (a few
Bill to increase the maximum penalty for the cultivation of cannabis.
Priority to be given to the investigation of the large-scale cultivation
of Dutch cannabis.
No priority to be given to investigating the small-scale domestic
cultivation of Dutch cannabis within limits to be set locally.
Investigation of criminal organisations to be stepped up (national team).
More priority to be given to investigating those who control drug
trafficking at local level.
Plan of approach to tackle organised crime after completion of enquiry.
Promotion of cross-border cooperation between the judicial authorities,
the police, administrative authorities and care organisations.
Greater attention to be paid to research, monitoring and evaluation:
of preventive measures;
Sources: Marcel de Kort, “A Short History of Drugs in the
Netherlands,” in Leuw and Marshall (eds.), Between Prohibition and
Legalization: The Dutch
Experiment in Drug Policy, Amsterdam:
Kugler Publications, 1994, pp. 3-22; David F. Duncan, “Dutch Drug
Policy: A Model for America?”
(1997) 8(3) Journal of Health & Social Policy 1, available online
Dana Graham, “Decriminalization of Marijuana: An Analysis of the Laws in
the United States and the Netherlands and Suggestions for Reform” (2001)
23 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 297; Drugs Policy
in the Netherlands: Continuity
and Change (1995), Official Dutch government policy document, available
online at http://www.drugtext.org/reports/wvc/drugnota/0/Default.htm;
Robert J. MacCoun, “Does Europe Do It Better?:
Lessons from Holland, Britain and Switzerland” (1999) 269(8) Nation
M. Grapendaal, Ed Leuw and H. Nelen, A World of Opportunities:
Life-Style and Economic Behaviour of Heroin Addicts in Amsterdam,
New York: S.U.N.Y. Press, 1995, as referred to in Tim Boekhout van
Solinge, “Dutch Drug Policy in a European Context” (1999) 29(3) Journal
of Drug Issues 511, available online at: www.cedro-uva.org/lib/boekhout.dutch.html.
100,000 Dutch gilders = approximately Cdn.$63,000
Source: Staatscourant (1996) as reproduced in Dirk J. Korf and Heleen
Riper, “Windmills in their Minds? Drug
Policy and Drug Research in the Netherlands” (1999) 29(3) Journal of
Drug Issues 451, at Table 2.
In addition to imprisonment, fines and property seizure may also
result (except for possession).
In the case of recidivism within five years, the sanction requested
is increased by one-fourth. For
sales to “vulnerable groups” (i.e., minors, psychiatric patients), there
is also a minimum fine of approximately Cdn.$475.
Amounts over 1 kg are regarded as dealing.
Source: National Drug
Monitor, “Fact Sheet: Cannabis
Policy, Update 2000,” Trimbos Institute, 2000.
National Drug Monitor, “2000 Annual Report,” Bureau NDM, Utrecht,
the Netherlands, May 2001, at part 4.
See the “Key Reports and Studies” section of this paper.
Trimbos Institute, “Hard Drug Policy:
XTC Update 1999,” published by the National Drug Monitor, The
Netherlands, 1999. Although the
Institute is technically not a government agency, government websites (such
as that of the Ministry of Justice) refer to the Trimbos Institute’s fact
sheets on drug policy as authoritative documents.
Boekhout van Solinge, “La Politique de Drogue aux Pays-Bas: Un Essai de
Changement” (1998) 22 Déviance et Societé 69, at 71.
CD Kaplan et al., “Is Dutch Drug Policy an Example to the
World?” in Leuw and Marshall (eds.), supra, note 1.
Specifically, the Netherlands has ratified or acceded to:
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the
Protocol of 1972; The Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971; and the
Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances, 1988. Note that
Holland has expressed a reservation with regard to the Trafficking
Convention indicating that it accepts the provisions of paragraphs 6-8 of
Article 3, which relate to prosecutions for possessing or trafficking drugs,
only insofar as the obligations under these provisions are in accordance
with Dutch policy on criminal matters.
The Maastricht Treaty provides that EU states will cooperate in the
fields of justice and home affairs, and Article K.1 states that preventing
and combating drug trafficking is an area of common interest as is combating
In Annex III of the 1995 government report entitled Drugs Policy
in the Netherlands: Continuity and Change, supra, note 1,
Professor Schutte of the Legal Service at the Council of the European Union
examines the ramifications in international law of Holland legalizing
cannabis and determines: (1) the
1961 Single Convention and the 1988 Trafficking Convention would have to be
denounced; (2) legalization would conflict with the provisions of the
Schengen Agreement and because the 1990 Convention implementing this
Agreement cannot be denounced, it would have to be amended which would
require the assent of all the EU Member States.
Drugs Policy in the Netherlands: Continuity and Change, supra,
note 1, at part 1.3.
In the Netherlands, Mental Health used to involve a mix of public and
private bodies organized along the lines of religious and political
denominations. The National
Federation of Mental Health Organizations was an umbrella organization.
Louk Hulsman, “Ruimte in het drugbeleid,” Boom Meppel, 1971, at
page 5, as quoted in Peter Cohen, “The case of the two Dutch drug policy
commissions: An exercise in harm reduction 1968-1976” (1994, revised
1996), Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on the Reduction
of Drug Related Harm, 7-11 March 1994, Addiction Research Foundation,
Toronto, available online at: www.cedro-uva.org/lib/cohen.case.html.
As quoted in Peter Cohen, “The case of the two Dutch drug policy
commissions,” supra, note 21, at 3.
As noted in the section of this paper on current legislation, this
reduced limit is now in effect.
As noted in the section of this paper on current legislation, trials
began in 1998.
This concern was addressed subsequent to the Report by the
“Damocles Bill” of 1999, discussed herein, which provides greater powers
to municipalities to shut down coffee shops that are a local nuisance.
The source of these statistics, unless otherwise noted, is:
National Drug Monitor, “2000 Annual Report,” Utrecht, The
Netherlands, May 2001. (Available
online at http://www.trimbos.nl/ndm-uk/national_drug_monitor_2000.html.)
The National Drug Monitor was established in 1999 by the Dutch
Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sports and has the support of the
Dutch Parliament. It is a
cooperative effort involving various monitoring institutes and has two
functions: (1) acting as an
umbrella group for addiction and substance abuse monitoring projects; and
(2) reporting to Dutch government authorities and various international and
national agencies on the results of such projects.
The source of these statistics, unless otherwise noted, is:
National Drug Monitor, “2000 Annual Report,” supra, note
Justice Factsheet 9: Drugs Policy: The Criminal Justice and Administrative Authorities,”
Trimbos Institute, 1997 (last updated 12/14/2000), available online at: http://www.trimbos.nl/ukfsheet/fc9uk.html.
Source: Frans van Dijk
and Jaap de Ward, “Legal Infrastructure in the Netherlands in
International Perspective: Crime
Control,” Ministry of Justice, The Netherlands, Directorate for Strategy
Development, June 2000, p. 27.