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Dutch Drug Policy

Coffeeshop Rock-iT in Amsterdam

The drug policies of the Netherlands are often viewed as pragmatic and soft by those nations seeking to impose stricter penalties on the sale and use of illicit drugs. The pragmatic approach means that in case a problem is unsolvable, like the drug usage, it is better to control it then try to eradicate it and fail. Many individuals in the Netherlands believe that the Dutch policies are working far better than the laws in many other countries, and have actually resulted in lower rates of abuse or at least less disturbance on the streets.  Much of this could be and is in fact often debated by lawmakers from various countries seeking to find a better way to deal with the problem.  For what it’s worth, let’s take a look at the Dutch drug policies, and what they do, and do not allow.

All Drugs Are Against the Law

That pretty much sums up what the law in the Netherlands states.  Drugs are neither encouraged nor legal.  However, there are a few differences in how those laws are enforced and carried out.  One such difference is in the coffee shop model, which we will discuss a little further on. So, while many claim that drugs are accessible and not penalized in the Netherlands, it is not generally recommended to test out that theory.  They are in fact illegal, regardless of what you may have heard. There is however a tolerant policy which means you will not be prosecuted for having up to 5 grams of cannabis, they can however confiscate it.

 “Soft” Vs. “Hard” Drugs

Some of the accusations of non-enforcement come from the way lawmakers in the Netherlands view different types of drugs.  Cannabis is widely considered a “soft” drug, with very little negative effects, and is therefore not harshly pursued or prosecuted. Cannabis is not legal but it is tolerated. The Dutch view is that harshly penalizing people, including young people, for their use of cannabis, will actually push them toward harder drugs.  Therefore, the offense for smoking cannabis in small amounts is minor, and does not result in a “record”, if in fact it is prosecuted at all. Interestingly enough, the cultivation of cannabis is strictly illegal, but only selectively prosecuted.  Only the large-scale importer and exporters are generally prosecuted.

The Coffee Shop Model

Coffee shops in the Netherlands are known to be places where cannabis can be purchased and smoked in small doses: generally not more than five grams per person per day.  The shops are not allowed to advertise the sale of the so-called “soft” drug, and children under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter the coffee shops. There are actually strict laws concerning the selling of this drug by the coffee shops: which seems odd since the drug is illegal in the first place.  However, the government seems to take the view that if people are only smoking a little in a safe and regulated environment, they will not feel the need to seek out drugs from those who are also selling “hard” narcotics as well.

So…is it Working?

There seems to be some indication that a softer approach to “soft” drugs is having a positive impact on the amount of drug use. Contrary to what you might expect, there seems to be less of a problem with the purchase and smoking of cannabis in the Netherlands than in many other countries, including the ones directly surrounding them. The number of various types of drugs is no greater then in other countries but more importantly the number of drug-related deaths is the lowest in Europe. Also the pragmatic approach means that authorities can actually focus on the big criminals.

Cannabis USage