Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by the Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation


  The main objective of existing drugs policy is to prevent people from taking drugs. Its main instrument is the prohibition of production, sale and consumption of drugs.

  To this objective the instrument clearly has failed. Prohibition has proven to be ineffective: notwithstanding massive efforts of the police and judiciary, more drugs are being sold than ever and for lower prices.


  The 25-year long practice with a regulated sale of cannabis in the Netherlands by way of the so-called "coffeeshops" has resulted in less people being prosecuted and locked-up in jail. It has proven not to lead to more (problematic) use of cannabis, nor of other drugs (so much for the "stepping-stone theory) than in the UK and other neighbouring countries. Neither have the regulatory measures regarding other drugs: the supply of methadone and heroine, as well as clean needles, users rooms and quality-inspection of party pills (source: 2000 Annual Report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction EMCDDA in Lisbon).


  The health-problems in the Netherlands caused by drugs pale in comparison to alcohol and tobacco:


    —  22 x more alcoholics than drug addicts;

    —  12 x more deaths caused by alcohol than drugs (not including traffic accidents by both);


    —  133 x more deaths caused by tobacco than by drugs.

  (Sources: Governmental Paper on alcohol 2001-2003, Trimbos-Institute: Mensink & Spruit, 1998).

  There seems to be no reason to suppose alcohol and tobacco problems in the Netherlands to be essentially higher than abroad.


  Crime related to drugs is caused, not so much by drugs themselves, but by their prohibition. The prohibition provides a gold-mine for criminal organisations.

  It also renders drugs costly: hence the stealing and other criminal acts committed by junks. Both aspects of drug crime have caused half of the available prison cells in the Netherlands to be occupied by producers, traffickers and users of drugs (source: personal information by high officials of the Justice Department and Police).

  This means that about half of total crime is related to the drugs prohibition. Since in the Netherlands less drug users and sellers get convicted than in the UK, the percentage of drug-related crime in your country will probably not be lower.


  The fight against terrorism will first and foremost be an intelligence war, and it will have to be met with determination and intelligence.

  An essential point to consider is, how terrorist and criminal groups all over the world finance their activities.

  There is little doubt that drugs-trafficking is one of their main sources of income. Osama Bin Laden specifically is said to be heavily involved in smuggling drugs (for an overview of research: see f.i. the article in The Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 14 by Dan Gardner: "Terrorists get cash from Drug Trade", ).

  Drugs crime and the estimated USD 400 billion illegal revenue it engenders yearly world-wide is not a natural phenomenon.

  It has a simple cause: the world-wide policy of prohibition.


  The health risks of drugs are modest compared to alcohol and tobacco. This modesty is not due to prohibition: the Dutch experiment with regulated sale of cannabis and other measures shows regulation to be at least as effective.

  As doubtful as are the benefits of the drugs prohibition, just as clear has now become the danger it creates as a gold mine for crime.

  Replacing the prohibition of drugs by a system of government regulation will be an indispensable and highly effective measure to squeeze the flow of oxygen to the many headed monster of crime and terrorism.


  Debates on cannabis are taking place in most European countries as well as in Canada, Mexico, New Zealand among others. In the U.S. more and more politicians, organisations and media, of all political colours, distance themselves from the administration's "war on drugs" and its catastrophic consequences both in their country and in the world at large.

  In Switzerland, a proposal of law to regulate the cultivation and sale of cannabis has been introduced by the Government this year.

  In the Netherlands, a majority in Parliament, urged on by a concerted action of major cities, has asked the Government to regulate the cultivation of the cannabis to be sold in the coffeeshops. As a consequence, the Dutch Government, together with the Governments of Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, will hold a pan-European conference for cities about their problems with the cannabis issue. The conference will take place coming 6/7/8 December.

  Regulation of cannabis seems a logical first step. Its health risks are small, and the experiment with regulated sale has proven the fears of greater (mis-)use to be unfounded. Other drugs carry other health hazards. Leaving the production and sale of these other drugs to organised crime clearly is the worst option to deal with these hazards.

  Time has come to shed the fear of change, and replace the failed instrument of prohibition by a system of government-regulation.

September 2001

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