3 Lessons Learned from the Dutch Drug Policy
October 17th, 2013
Categories : Blog
What could the American lawmakers learn from the Netherlands? A freaking damn lot! The next question is, do they WANT to learn from countries with more liberal regulations concerning the access to soft drugs such as marijuana in particular or will they stick to their trillion dollar failure and continue the "War on Drugs" irrespectively to the consequences for their society and household budget? Sure, the Netherlands DO have more liberal laws regarding drug possession and use, but if you look at these three main questions, did their strategy fail? After decriminalization, has the use of (hard) drugs increased? Is it possible to separate the market for soft and hard drugs? Do lax drug laws have a poisonous impact on public health? No, yes and no!
A report released by the Open Society Foundations in July 2013 shows the benefits of the Dutch model of using coffee shops, where marijuana is openly sold and consumed and also how the Netherlands maintained low rates of HIV among people who inject drugs and a comparatively low rate of marijuana use among adolescents, while avoiding the cost intensive heavy enforcement measures of its neighboring countries. The report also includes the impact of the Dutch model of "separating markets," which limits people's exposure and access to hard drugs.
So, on to the three main questions ...
After decriminalization, has the use of (hard) drugs increased? - No, actually the Netherlands are a perfect example that the statements of the political concrete heads who claim more tolerant laws would open the door for even more drug abuse are absolute nonsense. A report by the Cato Institute on the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal showed that the use of drugs had LOWERED and studies regarding the drug use after the new laws had been enacted in the Netherlands in 1976 reflect the findings of the report by the Cato Institute. The conclusion is, more tolerant laws in combination with honest education have proven to be the way to go.
Is it possible to separate the markets of soft and hard drugs? - Yes, absolutely! Different drugs carry completely different risks and the Dutch government realized that the use of soft and hard drugs should be treated differently. And indeed, the coffee shops are the perfect instrument to RESTRICT people's access to harder drugs; the vast majority of marijuana users buy their supply in a coffee shop and there is ONLY marijuana on the menu. If they had to buy their weed from some shabby street dealer, the chances of being offered harder drugs would be much higher. In comparison: In Sweden, 52% of the marijuana users reported that their marijuana source also offers hard drugs - in the Netherlands, the percentage is at only 14.
Do lax drug laws have a poisonous impact on public health? No, definitely not - rather the opposite is the truth! The Netherlands consistently features low prevalence of HIV among drug users and marijuana use among young people is on par with the European average. But even better, particularly adolescents aged 13-16 use less drugs than before the decriminalization.
With those questions answered, the biggest question is yet to be answered ... are political leaders and lawmakers around the world willing to accept that their policies about drug regulations are bound to fail if they stick to what they are doing now? Only time will tell ...