SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Courtney Abud

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)

Country

Per 100,000 population

Per 1000 Users

Austria

333

44

Australia

276

24

United States

269

31

Germany

237

34

France

225

26

United Kingdom

206

20

Netherlands

19

3

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

[i]

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': http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/stats12#display:/stats12/gpstab1b.

[ii]

National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drugs of Abuse: Marijuana: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana.

[iii]

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
Here to help unpack insights into the new era of using containers to gain ease with multi-cloud deployments are our panelists: Matt Baldwin, Founder and CEO at StackPointCloud, based in Seattle; Nic Jackson, Developer Advocate at HashiCorp, based in San Francisco, and Reynold Harbin, Director of Product Marketing at DigitalOcean, based in New York. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Skeuomorphism usually means retaining existing design cues in something new that doesn’t actually need them. However, the concept of skeuomorphism can be thought of as relating more broadly to applying existing patterns to new technologies that, in fact, cry out for new approaches. In his session at DevOps Summit, Gordon Haff, Senior Cloud Strategy Marketing and Evangelism Manager at Red Hat, discussed why containers should be paired with new architectural practices such as microservices rathe...
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
Using serverless computing has a number of obvious benefits over traditional application infrastructure - you pay only for what you use, scale up or down immediately to match supply with demand, and avoid operating any server infrastructure at all. However, implementing maintainable and scalable applications using serverless computing services like AWS Lambda poses a number of challenges. The absence of long-lived, user-managed servers means that states cannot be maintained by the service. Lo...
With the new Kubernetes offering, ClearDATA solves one of the largest challenges in healthcare IT around time-to-deployment. Using ClearDATA's Automated Safeguards for Kubernetes, healthcare organizations have access to the container orchestration to dynamically deploy new containers on demand, monitor the health of each container for threats and seamlessly roll back faulty application updates to a previous version, avoid system-wide downtime and ensure secure continuous access to patient data.
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...
With the rise of Docker, Kubernetes, and other container technologies, the growth of microservices has skyrocketed among dev teams looking to innovate on a faster release cycle. This has enabled teams to finally realize their DevOps goals to ship and iterate quickly in a continuous delivery model. Why containers are growing in popularity is no surprise — they’re extremely easy to spin up or down, but come with an unforeseen issue. However, without the right foresight, DevOps and IT teams may lo...
Platform9, the open-source-as-a-service company making cloud infrastructure easy, today announced the general availability of its Managed Kubernetes service, the industry's first infrastructure-agnostic, SaaS-managed offering. Unlike legacy software distribution models, Managed Kubernetes is deployed and managed entirely as a SaaS solution, across on-premises and public cloud infrastructure. The company also introduced Fission, a new, open source, serverless framework built on Kubernetes. These ...
Emil Sayegh is an early pioneer of cloud computing and is recognized as one of the industry's true veterans. A cloud visionary, he is credited with launching and leading the cloud computing and hosting businesses for HP, Rackspace, and Codero. Emil built the Rackspace cloud business while serving as the company's GM of the Cloud Computing Division. Earlier at Rackspace he served as VP of the Product Group and launched the company's private cloud and hosted exchange services. He later moved o...
As you know, enterprise IT conversation over the past year have often centered upon the open-source Kubernetes container orchestration system. In fact, Kubernetes has emerged as the key technology -- and even primary platform -- of cloud migrations for a wide variety of organizations. Kubernetes is critical to forward-looking enterprises that continue to push their IT infrastructures toward maximum functionality, scalability, and flexibility. As they do so, IT professionals are also embr...
Kubernetes is a new and revolutionary open-sourced system for managing containers across multiple hosts in a cluster. Ansible is a simple IT automation tool for just about any requirement for reproducible environments. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Patrick Galbraith, a principal engineer at HPE, will discuss how to build a fully functional Kubernetes cluster on a number of virtual machines or bare-metal hosts. Also included will be a brief demonstration of running a Galer...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
Cloud-Native thinking and Serverless Computing are now the norm in financial services, manufacturing, telco, healthcare, transportation, energy, media, entertainment, retail and other consumer industries, as well as the public sector. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that pro...
Docker is sweeping across startups and enterprises alike, changing the way we build and ship applications. It's the most prominent and widely known software container platform, and it's particularly useful for eliminating common challenges when collaborating on code (like the "it works on my machine" phenomenon that most devs know all too well). With Docker, you can run and manage apps side-by-side - in isolated containers - resulting in better compute density. It's something that many developer...
Technology has changed tremendously in the last 20 years. From onion architectures to APIs to microservices to cloud and containers, the technology artifacts shipped by teams has changed. And that's not all - roles have changed too. Functional silos have been replaced by cross-functional teams, the skill sets people need to have has been redefined and the tools and approaches for how software is developed and delivered has transformed. When we move from highly defined rigid roles and systems to ...