- THE DUTCH DRUG POLICY
- Integrated Approach
Dutch drug policy is based on three pillars. Firstly, an active prevention and
care policy is seen as essential, to combat the demand for drugs and limit the damage
caused to health by drug use as far as possible. Secondly, high priority is given to the
fight against organised crime, to combat the supply of drugs. And thirdly, protecting
citizens and maintaining public order (nuisance reduction) is deemed vitally important.
- The experience the Netherlands has built up with this
approach over more than 20 years has shown that the drug problem can only be tackled by
adopting an approach that integrates all three pillars. This integrated approach requires
co-operation between the different ministries, local authorities, health and social
institutions, police and customs.
- Co-operation of Ministries
Given the importance of an integrated approach, responsibility for the drug policy is
borne by a number of ministries. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports (VWS) is
responsible for the overall co-ordination of the drug policy and more specifically for the
policy on prevention and care services. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for matters
falling within the scope of criminal law, the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for
matters relating to local government and the police. At municipal level the drug policy is
co-ordinated in the "tripartite consultations" between the mayor, the public
prosecutor and the chief of police.
- Key Elements of Dutch Drug Policy
The Dutch Drug policy is a typical Dutch product. It is a policy that works within the
framework of our social and cultural background . The key notions in the Dutch drug policy
are: realism, pragmatism, health protection and harm reduction.
Since the early seventies, Dutch drug policy has been based on the understanding that
drugs are and will continuously be available in an open society and that, consequently,
drug use and drug addiction are also inevitable. This understanding resulted in an active
harm reduction policy, aimed primarily at reducing the risks involved in drug use, risks
to the users themselves as well as to their immediate environment and to society as a
From the onset, the Dutch drug policy has been a pragmatic one. Since drug use is accepted
as a reality, the ideal of a drug free society has been set aside. Instead, the problem is
approached in a practical manner. Goal is to keep drug use under control as much as
possible, and to minimise the negative effects of drug use.
- One example of the pragmatism of Dutch drug policy is the
toleration of sale of small quantities of cannabis products. Separation of the markets for
soft and hard drugs can be seen as a preventive measure: it creates an environment in
which youngsters who experiment with cannabis are less likely to be confronted with
selling and use of hard drugs.
- Another pragmatic solution to a difficult subject is the
allowance of pill testing in a laboratory, for a full description of the substances it
contains. Even though XTC is a hard drug, health protection of the users is seen as the
highest priority, and the police will not interfere with pill testing under specific
- Health Protection
Users of hard drugs are regarded as patients rather than criminals. Accordingly, a
comprehensive, differentiated set of preventive measures and care facilities has been
established. The judicial authorities always followed the principle that drug addicts
should undergo medical treatment rather than serve a custodial sentence.
- Harm Reduction
The main objective of our policy is to limit the risks associated with drug use. Not only
for the drug users but also those around them and the society as a whole. This kind of
risk limitation is also referrered to, in an international context , as harm reduction.
The concept of harm reduction has different conotations. In the Netherlands, however it
refers to our integrated approach- and has nothing to do with either permissiviness or the
legalization of drugs.
- Policy of Present Dutch Government
In the coalition agreement which sets out the main policy objectives which the
proposed new coalition wishes to achieve, (signed May 2003), the following text about drug
policy was included:
- "The government intends to take strong action to deal
with the production and trafficking of hard drugs, in particular ecstasy. Airline
companies will be given responsibility for carrying out checks on passengers to prevent
drug smugglers from using their flights. Repeated failure to detect drug smuggling will
attract sanctions, including the withdrawal of landing rights. Heroin will continue to be
supplied under strict medical supervision (and subject to the observance of individual
treatment plans) to severely addicted users for whom no other treatment options remain.
This approach will be maintained at current levels for the time being but will eventually
be reviewed following an evaluation. The government will consult with municipalities with
a view to reducing the number of soft drugs outlets in the vicinity of schools and in
- The Ministry of Welfare Health and Sports
- To prevent the use of drugs and to limit the health risks:
- Emphasis concerning discouragement and limitation of drug
use is on cannabis and XTC
- Strengthening of international co-operation and exchange
regarding research, monitoring, prevention, information and treatment, with emphasis on
the United States of America (related to xtc) and France;
- Creating more support in other countries for the Dutch
approach to the drug issue
- Reduce the risks of a high contents of THC
(tetra-hydro-cannabinol) in cannabis
- Policy measures:
- In the period 2004-2006 prevention projects for specific
target groups, such as youngsters who go out, will be subsidized
- An action plan Discouragement Cannabis will be
launched in 2004. The mass media campaign Drugs, dont let them fool you,
will focus on cannabis in the next three years
- Research and monitoring will be focussed on party drugs
and cannabis. In 2004, an international research project on cannabis will start. This
project will also pay attention to high THC content of cannabis
- To ameliorate the international cooperation and exchange,
a lot of effort will be given to the new EU drugs strategy which will be implemented
during the Dutch EU presidency
- During the Dutch presidency of the Pompidougroup of the
Council of Europe, attention will be given to the amelioration of this European body.
- Care for addicts:
- An important target is the containment of the 300 places
for heroin prescription
- The Ministry of Justice
- Production of and trade in XTC will be targeted.
- The 1997 policy on coffeeshops has not yet lead to the
desired results, given the fact that drug tourism still poses public order problems in
some border areas. Also the policy to prevent coffeeshops from settling in the vicinity of
schools has not been effectively implemented in all Dutch communities. The government will
address these issues.
- In the city Venlo, project Hektor is being
carried out. This is a multidisciplinary project between local authorities, the police,
the public prosecutor and the tax agency. The project aims at low tolerance
towards drug-related public nuisance.
- Important element for the EU drugs strategy is the
European co-operation in the fight against XTC and other synthetic drugs.
- The Ministry of Justice is participating in international
bodies. After ratification of the Convention, established by the Council in accordance
with article 34 of the Treaty on European Union, on Mutual Assistance in criminal matters
between the Member States of the European Union, joint investigation teams can be
- With France experiments with parallel teams have already
been carried out. In consultation with the French, it will seen whether this activity
could continue in joint teams.