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.
On 28 May 2018, the Transnational Institute and the Epicurus Foundation co-hosted the second edition of the “The Transparent Chain,” a conference on transparent cannabis supply chains in Utrecht, Netherlands.
Local and regional authorities across Europe are confronted with the negative consequences of a persisting illicit cannabis market. Increasingly, local and regional authorities, non-governmental pressure groups and grassroots movements are advocating a regulation of the recreational cannabis market.
Contrariamente alle aspettative, le elezioni olandesi di settembre non sono state decisive per il futuro dei coffeeshop. I partiti a favore delle restrizioni ai coffeeshop (o addirittura per la loro abolizione) hanno ottenuto 77 seggi su 150, mentre i contrari al cannabis pass e/o a favore della fornitura legale di cannabis ai coffeeshop ne hanno ottenuti 73. E per governare c’è bisogno di una coalizione.
Some obstacles remain before the injection room, which may cost as much as 18 million kroner to set up, can become a reality - including an expected law change that will decriminalise the taking of drugs in the facility. "It will sadly take over a year to establish the injection room in Mændenes Hjem," Warming said. "That is why we have created the temporary injection room in the health centre."
The 2012 Dutch elections were hailed as decisive for the future of the coffeeshops, where the sale of small amounts of cannabis is tolerated. The result is inconclusive. The parties in favour of restricting the coffeeshops or outright abolishing them got 77 of the 150 seats, while those against the recently introduced 'cannabis pass' and/or in favour of regulating the supply of cannabis to the coffeeshops got 73. However, the issue is not that straightforward given that in the Netherlands no single party has an absolute majority and a coalition government has to be formed.
Three coffeeshops who had nearly 70 kilos of cannabis confiscated have avoided prosecution after a court ruled police had tacitly endorsed their activities. Officially coffeeshops are limited to a stockpile of 500 grams. The appeal court in The Hague found that the owners had co-operated throughout with police, the local council and the tax office, all of whom knew the coffeeshops had far more than the permitted amount in stock.
Police have raided several coffeeshops in Maastricht after their owners indicated they would revert to selling soft drugs to foreign visitors. Coffeeshops said on Sunday that German and Belgian customers would no longer be turned away, despite warnings from the city’s mayor Onno Hoes of repercussions if they let foreigners in. The police raided the Mississippi, a floating coffee shop, on Monday night. Around 15 non-Dutch residents were inside the boat at the time. Police led away the owner and confiscated the ship’s supplies. (See also: Maastricht coffee shop faces three-month closure)
Under the 1976 Law on opium (Opiumwet 1976), the possession, dealing, cultivation, transportation, production, import and export of narcotic drugs, including cannabis and its derivatives, are prohibited in the Netherlands. That Member State applies a policy of tolerance with regard to cannabis. That policy is reflected inter alia in the establishment of coffee-shops, the main activities of which are the sale and consumption of that ‘soft’ drug. The local authorities may authorise such establishments in compliance with certain criteria. In a number of coffee-shops, non-alcoholic beverages and food are also sold.
In 1976 the Netherlands adopted a formal written policy of non-enforcement for violations involving possession or sale of up to 30 g of cannabis. The ‘gateway theory’ has long been seen as an argument for being tough on cannabis, but interestingly, the Dutch saw that concept as a rationale for allowing retail outlets to sell small quantities. Rather than seeing an inexorable psychopharmacological link between marijuana and hard drugs, the Dutch hypothesized that the gateway mechanism reflected social and economic networks, so that separating the markets would keep cannabis users out of contact with hard-drug users and sellers.
The Home Office has quickly rejected a call from the government's official drug advisers to decriminalise the personal possession of all illegal drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has said it would be better if the tens of thousands of people caught with illicit drugs were sent on drug education and awareness courses rather than punished with fines and other penalties, up to imprisonment.