SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Gary Arora, Zakia Bouachraoui, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan

News Feed Item

The Netherlands' Past Offers Lessons for Future

New Report Finds Separating Markets in Marijuana and Hard Drugs Limited Exposure to Heroin and Crack and Led to Lowest Number of Problem Drug Users in European Union

LONDON, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report published by the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program reveals the benefits of the Netherlands' alternative approach to drugs.

"Coffee Shops and Compromise: Separated Illicit Drug Markets in the Netherlands," tells the history of the Dutch approach as well as describes the ongoing success of the country's drug policy. This includes the separation of the more prevalent marijuana market from hard drug dealers. In the Netherlands, only 14 percent of cannabis users say they can get other drugs from their sources for cannabis. By contrast in Sweden, for example, 52 percent of cannabis users report that other drugs are available from cannabis dealers.

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, Director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program said, "Governments are looking to reform their drug policies in order to maximize resources, promote health and security while protecting people from damaging and unwarranted arrests. The Netherlands has been a leader in this respect. As other countries and local jurisdictions consider reforming their laws, it's possible that the Netherlands' past offers a guide for the future."

Though famous for its coffee shops, where cannabis can be purchased and consumed, the Netherlands also pioneered needle exchange and safer consumption rooms, decriminalized possession of small quantities of drugs and introduced easy-to-access treatment services. These policies, coupled with groundbreaking harm reduction interventions, have resulted in low prevalence of HIV among people who inject drugs, which has virtually disappeared in the country, as well as the lowest rate of problem drug use in Europe. Moreover, Dutch citizens have been spared the burden of criminal records for low-level, non-violent offenses.

While the Dutch approach has celebrated many notable successes, the policy has faced unanticipated problems, such as marijuana tourism, after the government opened national borders between EU member states, and, the so-called "back door problem" of marijuana supply. Dutch legislation allowed consumers to purchase their cannabis in a safe and regulated environment but did not regulate the entire supply chain.

This problem, however, may be resolved in the near future.

"Several Dutch Mayors have plans for municipal cannabis farms to supply the coffee shops and take crime out of the industry," said Dr. Jean-Paul Grund, Research Director at the Addiction Research Centre (CVO) in Utrecht and co-author of the report. "But if Dutch drug policy offers one lesson to foreign policymakers, it is that change should be comprehensive, regulating sale to consumers, wholesale supply and cultivation."

In other parts of the world, drug policy and marijuana laws are evolving rapidly. According to a recent poll, the majority of Americans (52 percent) now support legalizing marijuana. Last November, voters in two U.S. states approved the personal use of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use and the Uruguayan government has proposed a tightly regulated cannabis market. More initiatives are expected soon.  

In addition, at the request of several Latin American heads of state, the international community is due to debate the existing international drug control regime. The United Nations General Assembly will convene a special session on drugs in 2016.

Dutch Drug Policy Since 1976

  • In 1976, there was a revision to the Opium Act that categorized illicit drugs according to those with "unacceptable" risk ("hard drugs") and those with "acceptable" risk (soft drugs or cannabis) to the health of the user.
  • There are currently around 700 coffee shops in The Netherlands.
  • Coffee shops are estimated generate around €400 million ($512 million USD) in revenue. Further regulation of cannabis production and supply would reduce the pressures on law enforcement and lead to significant cost reductions—up to €160 million ($205 million USD)—and generate up to €260 million ($333 million USD) in tax revenues.
  • Revenues, however, were never the primary motivation for the Netherlands' drug policy but rather public health and social inclusion. Thus, according to most recent available estimates (2003), the Netherlands made significant investments in harm reduction (€220 million or $282 million USD) prevention (€42 million or $53 million USD) and treatment (€278 million or $356 million USD).

Lower Arrest Rates than Many Neighboring Countries

A critical objective of the legislative changes was to avoid stigmatizing people who use cannabis or damage their prospects of employment and social participation with criminal records. It was believed that arrests and prosecutions for minor drug offences would be counterproductive and damaging. As a result, the Netherlands has a much lower arrest rate than many other countries.

Arrest rates for cannabis possession per 100,000 population (2005)


Per 100,000 population

Per 1000 Users







United States









United Kingdom






From the Beckley Foundation: Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate, 2008

Marijuana use in the Netherlands: Stricter Isn't Better

Lifetime marijuana use by age and country since 2000 -- All adults (aged 15–64)[i]

  • European Average: 23.7 percent
  • Netherlands: 25.7 percent
  • UK: 30.2 percent
  • US[ii]: 41.9 percent (Ages 12-and-older)  

Protecting Marijuana Users from Exposure to Harder Drugs

A risk considered by Dutch policymakers was that people buying illicit marijuana would potentially be in contact with those selling harder drugs. For example the following comparison[iii] contrasts the percentage of cannabis users who report that other drugs are available at the location where they usually buy cannabis.

  • Sweden: 52 percent
  • Czech Republic: 26 percent
  • Netherlands: 14 percent


European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, The State of the Drug Problem in Europe: Annual Report 2012, (2012); See also: EMCDDA, General Population Surveys, 'Lifetime prevalence of drug use by age and country, most recent national general population survey available since 2000':


National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drugs of Abuse: Marijuana:


European Commission- Directorate-General for Justice, Further insights into aspects of the EU illicit drugs market: summaries and key findings, 2013

SOURCE Open Society Foundations

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
While a hybrid cloud can ease that transition, designing and deploy that hybrid cloud still offers challenges for organizations concerned about lack of available cloud skillsets within their organization. Managed service providers offer a unique opportunity to fill those gaps and get organizations of all sizes on a hybrid cloud that meets their comfort level, while delivering enhanced benefits for cost, efficiency, agility, mobility, and elasticity.
Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simplicity and reach of the open web. With staff in 10 timezones, Isomorphic provides a global network of services related to our technology, with offerings ranging from turnkey application development to SLA-backed enterprise support. Leadin...
DevOps has long focused on reinventing the SDLC (e.g. with CI/CD, ARA, pipeline automation etc.), while reinvention of IT Ops has lagged. However, new approaches like Site Reliability Engineering, Observability, Containerization, Operations Analytics, and ML/AI are driving a resurgence of IT Ops. In this session our expert panel will focus on how these new ideas are [putting the Ops back in DevOps orbringing modern IT Ops to DevOps].
Darktrace is the world's leading AI company for cyber security. Created by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System is the first non-consumer application of machine learning to work at scale, across all network types, from physical, virtualized, and cloud, through to IoT and industrial control systems. Installed as a self-configuring cyber defense platform, Darktrace continuously learns what is ‘normal' for all devices and users, updating its understa...
Enterprises are striving to become digital businesses for differentiated innovation and customer-centricity. Traditionally, they focused on digitizing processes and paper workflow. To be a disruptor and compete against new players, they need to gain insight into business data and innovate at scale. Cloud and cognitive technologies can help them leverage hidden data in SAP/ERP systems to fuel their businesses to accelerate digital transformation success.
Concerns about security, downtime and latency, budgets, and general unfamiliarity with cloud technologies continue to create hesitation for many organizations that truly need to be developing a cloud strategy. Hybrid cloud solutions are helping to elevate those concerns by enabling the combination or orchestration of two or more platforms, including on-premise infrastructure, private clouds and/or third-party, public cloud services. This gives organizations more comfort to begin their digital tr...
Most organizations are awash today in data and IT systems, yet they're still struggling mightily to use these invaluable assets to meet the rising demand for new digital solutions and customer experiences that drive innovation and growth. What's lacking are potent and effective ways to rapidly combine together on-premises IT and the numerous commercial clouds that the average organization has in place today into effective new business solutions.
Keeping an application running at scale can be a daunting task. When do you need to add more capacity? Larger databases? Additional servers? These questions get harder as the complexity of your application grows. Microservice based architectures and cloud-based dynamic infrastructures are technologies that help you keep your application running with high availability, even during times of extreme scaling. But real cloud success, at scale, requires much more than a basic lift-and-shift migrati...
David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi, the hot cloud storage company that delivers fast, low-cost, and reliable cloud storage. Prior to Wasabi, David co-founded Carbonite, one of the world's leading cloud backup companies. A successful tech entrepreneur for more than 30 years, David got his start at ARP Instruments, a manufacturer of synthesizers for rock bands, where he worked with leading musicians of the day like Stevie Wonder, Pete Townsend of The Who, and Led Zeppelin. David has ...
Darktrace is the world's leading AI company for cyber security. Created by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System is the first non-consumer application of machine learning to work at scale, across all network types, from physical, virtualized, and cloud, through to IoT and industrial control systems. Installed as a self-configuring cyber defense platform, Darktrace continuously learns what is ‘normal' for all devices and users, updating its understa...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Addteq is a leader in providing business solutions to Enterprise clients. Addteq has been in the business for more than 10 years. Through the use of DevOps automation, Addteq strives on creating innovative solutions to solve business processes. Clients depend on Addteq to modernize the software delivery process by providing Atlassian solutions, create custom add-ons, conduct training, offer hosting, perform DevOps services, and provide overall support services.
Contino is a global technical consultancy that helps highly-regulated enterprises transform faster, modernizing their way of working through DevOps and cloud computing. They focus on building capability and assisting our clients to in-source strategic technology capability so they get to market quickly and build their own innovation engine.
When applications are hosted on servers, they produce immense quantities of logging data. Quality engineers should verify that apps are producing log data that is existent, correct, consumable, and complete. Otherwise, apps in production are not easily monitored, have issues that are difficult to detect, and cannot be corrected quickly. Tom Chavez presents the four steps that quality engineers should include in every test plan for apps that produce log output or other machine data. Learn the ste...
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...