The Netherlands has long been considered a leader of progressive drug policy, but it is increasingly being left behind by policy innovations outside Europe. Nonetheless Dutch cities are leading the way towards more progressive and locally adapted cannabis policies. Produced as part of a the "New Approaches in Harm Reduction Policies and Practices" project, this Country Report seeks to understand the drivers of Dutch cannabis policy today, and the possibilities for its future.
Policy changes over the past five years or so have dramatically reshaped the global cannabis market. Not only has there been an unprecedented boom in medical markets, but following policy shifts in several jurisdictions a growing number of countries are also preparing for legal regulation of non-medical use. Such moves look set to bring a clear range of benefits in terms of health and human rights. As this groundbreaking Report, highlights, however, there are also serious concerns about the unfolding market dynamics.
TNI's Prof. Dave Bewley-Taylor recently delivered a statement on how states can reconcile treaty obligations with democratically mandated policy shifts at the national level to a legally regulated cannabis market, with due regard for international law, and what role the International Narcotics Control Board can play in this process.
Cannabis (or marihuana) is one of the most widely consumed psychoactive substances in the world. According to the United Nations World Drug Report, 183 million people, or 3.8% of the world’s population, used cannabis in 2014. Its cultivation was also reported by 129 countries. Cannabis is subject to the United Nations System for International Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (hereafter “drugs”) and is the most widely consumed of all the drugs. According to that control system, cannabis is among the substances with the strictest legal status; they are the most prohibited, supposedly because of the harm they cause and their lack of medical usefulness.
Italy took a first step toward legalization of pot, leading Europe in what would be a groundbreaking change. The Intergrupo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, a cross-party committee, agreed on a provisional text to legalize the consumption, growing, production and sale of cannabis under certain conditions. The text was signed by 218 members of parliament, and not just by the usual suspects. The proposal would allow growing cannabis at home or as members of "cannabis clubs" where a maximum of 50 people could cultivate and then share the product, with a strict prohibition on selling to the general public. (See also: Bill would legalize marijuana)
Traditional small ganja farmers in Jamaica, accustomed to clandestinely working their fields, will now have to adhere to strict regulations in order to supply research institutions that have been granted licences.
Australians should be able to buy a pure form of ecstasy from their local pharmacy to curtail the harm caused by contaminated blackmarket pills. Melbourne pharmacist Joshua Donelly and leading doctor Professor David Penington say many Australians taking the drug were probably swallowing contaminated versions that put them at greater risk of harm. In the Journal of Law and Medicine, Donelly said although no drug was completely risk-free, compared to other drugs MDMA caused "negligible" harm to users and people around them.
Up and down the Western Hemisphere, marijuana policy is a growing topic of discussion, and laws are starting to change. In 2014, retail marijuana stores opened in the states of Colorado and Washington, where anyone over 21 years old can purchase a wide variety of marijuana products.
Vancouver has approved new rules to license and regulate illegal marijuana stores, making it the first city in Canada to attempt to control the burgeoning market – and setting it on a collision course with the country’s federal government.
In their op-ed article against cannabis legalization, former drug czar William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn yearn for a time when fear-mongering, not facts, drove the marijuana policy debate in America.
Dozens of government officials and researchers from a half-dozen U.S. states and a few countries that have legalized marijuana or are at least thinking about it are gathering in Washington state this week for meetings focused largely on one question: How do we know if it’s working? Organizers say it’s crucial to get a better handle on what data are being collected about the impacts of legalization and to consider what further research is needed.
A narrow majority in the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament in the Netherlands, supported a motion to not allow municipalities to experiment with cannabis cultivation: 75 parliamentarians voted for, 70 voted against.