Submitted by the Netherlands Drug Policy
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
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
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
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
It has a simple cause: the world-wide policy
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
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.