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.
The recent report ‘The Netherlands and Synthetic Drugs: An Inconvenient Truth’ argues for increasing resources to expand anti-drug efforts in the Netherlands. In a topical opinion piece, Tom Blickman addresses the crucial issues at hand.
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.
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.
As the world prepares for the 2016 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016), an increasing number of countries around the world now find the regime’s emphasis on punitive approaches to illicit drugs to be problematic and are asking for reform. In this moment of global disagreement, the Brookings project on Improving Global Drug Policy provides a unique comparative evaluation of the effectiveness and costs of international counternarcotics policies and best approaches to reform.
When Mayor Muriel E. Bowser delivered her legalized marijuana guidelines, she tried to ease concerns of naysayers with promises that there are enough provisions to prevent things from getting out of hand.
Between 78% and 91% of marijuana grown in the Netherlands is exported, according to new justice ministry research. This makes it pointless to regulate marijuana production for sale in licenced cannabis cafes within the Netherlands because illegal growing will continue, Justice minister Opstelten said in a briefing to Parliament. (See for a critical view: The 80% myth revisited)
Last week, NBC’s Today Show giddily announced an exclusive: Privateer Holdings, the Seattle marijuana company long acclaimed locally for its straight, corporate image and Ivy-League-educated bosses, was launching “the first global pot brand” based on the legacy of Bob Marley. The company is likely to start selling pot overseas, says Privateer public-relations director Zack Hutson, previously a spokesperson for Starbucks. “We’re in discussions with a distributor in Israel” – a country with a federally legal medical-marijuana system. Hutson also cites Uruguay and the Netherlands as potential early markets.
Ministers should sanction experiments to legally grow marijuana under licence and the city should make preparations to do so, according to a majority of Amsterdam city councillors. All VVD councillors in the city back the move. The VVD's position in Amsterdam is notable because VVD justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said repeatedly he does not favour regulated production and refused to sanction experiments. Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament came a step nearer to approving legislation which will make people who have helped illegal marijuana growers guilty of a criminal act. (See also: Coffeeshops want say in Amsterdam marijuana production)
A Dutch court refused to punish two cannabis growers, criticising a government policy that criminalises production while allowing its sale in coffee shops. In its judgment, the court found the suspects guilty but "no punishment will be applied". "Given that the sale of soft drugs in coffee shops is tolerated, this means that these coffee shops must supply themselves and so cultivation must be done to satisfy these demands," the court said. "The law does not state how this supply should be done." The ruling is groundbreaking; it might open up the back door of the coffeeshops. (See also: No jail or fines for 'idealistic' marijuana growing couple)
The owner of the coffeeshop Checkpoint has been found not guilty of most of the charges against him by Amsterdam’s appeal court. The court said the prosecution had not proved Checkpoint had knowingly broken the rules. Checkpoint is guilty of having too much cannabis on the premises but this does not merit a prison sentence, the court said in a statement, since the authorities had encouraged the coffeeshop's growth and must have understood that it needed large volumes of drugs to meet demand. This is the second ruling this month in which judges have refused to jail coffeeshop owners for breaking guidelines.
The Dutch government's cannabis policy has created a monster whose tentacles are spreading throughout the country, according to Paul Depla the mayor of Heerlen. Depla, one of 35 mayors who want production of marijuana to be legalised, said that government policy is making it far too easy for people to become criminals. 'Under the current policy, all you need is an attic and you can start growing marijuana,' Depla said. 'This has created a monster with tentacles that reach everywhere.'
Labour senators are refusing to cooperate with the Dutch government's tough line on marijuana and want to sanction regulated production trials. Senator Guusje ter Horst told television show Nieuwsuur that the entire soft drugs strategy needs to be overhauled. In particular, efforts need to be made to remove marijuana from organised crime. Justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said he will not give in to pressure to allow controlled marijuana growing, despite calls for change from dozens of mayors.
Local councils in the Netherlands do have the power to ban people who do not live in their area from visiting cannabis cafes, the Council of State ruled. Preventing drugs tourism and combating organised crime are legitimate aims to allow selection on the basis of nationality, the country's highest legal body said. 'The residence criterion is a proportionate measure for combating drugs tourism and this legitimate objective cannot be achieved by other, less radical means,’ the council said in a statement. (See also: Most Dutch councils ignore ban on marijuana sales to tourists)