Last week, several studies showed that the measures around corona also have effectn on the use of alcohol and drugs. More than half of people who drink alcohol have started to drink alcohol less often in recent months. Many of these people also drank less alcohol at a time.
By far the most (79,7%) mentioned reason for drinking less often or less alcohol is not being able to go out or seeing friends less (73,6%). This picture is confirmed by the alcohol industry. The sale of beer in the catering and event industry was by more than a third in August 2020 (36,5%) decreased compared to August 2019. In July 2020 there was a comparable decrease of 33,1 percent. For many brewers, the catering and events sector is an important sales market and these sectors have been hit hard by the measures concerning corona.
The Trimbos research also shows that half of all cannabis users have been in recent months more often cannabis started using. Of the people who have started using cannabis more often, more than half also use more cannabis at a time. For the other substances, the use of psychedelics (such as LSD, 2C-B and truffles) has increased in recent months and that the use of stimulants (such as XTC, cocaine and amphetamine) has decreased. According to the researchers, this has to do with the context in which these drugs are used. Drugs with psychedelic properties are relatively more commonly used at home, while stimulants are more commonly used in a nightlife setting, such as a club or festival. For people who have started using drugs less often or less often in recent months, not being able to go out is the most frequently mentioned reason (45%).
So people started drinking less often and less alcohol, because there were fewer events and the catering industry was partly closed. People have also started to use stimulants less often, often for the same reason. In contrast, relatively more people have started to use psychedelic substances more often in recent months. This shows that the setting (the physical and social environment) in which people find themselves influences the resources they (want to) use. The theory about set and setting is not new, but it has been shown in recent months that the choice of certain products partly depends on the environment in which these products are used.
Minister Grapperhaus got his way after all via a detour. In the summer of 2019 he held a plea for fewer festivals in its fight against drug crime. A year later, all festivals have been canceled due to the measures surrounding corona most clubs closed and many people, partly because of this, have started to use fewer stimulants. My expectation is that this will only be temporary and that drug use will increase again when the clubs open and the festival season begins.
That is why now would be a good time to think about Dutch drug policy. Do we continue on the same footing or do we recognize that some people consciously choose to use drugs in a particular setting? Are we going to make sure these people can use drugs in the safest possible way or are we going to continue to scare, ban and punish more and more severely?
The same approach turned out not to work with corona either. Initially, people were given heavy fines and a criminal record for not complying with the measures, but this gradually changed, especially after the marriage of Minister Grapperhaus, who proved unable to comply with his own measures. He got into political trouble for this, he had to pay a fine and he received a criminal record. That criminal record is now deleted by the cabinet, partly at the request of the House of Representatives, because of course it does not look attractive: a Minister of Justice with a criminal record.
More and more people are now recognizing, including Diederik Gommers (NVIC), that “of sowing fear and strict measures only the heels go into the sand. I really didn't like the whole thing with those heavy corona fines and having a criminal record. That is not the way it will work in the Netherlands. ”
I wonder what would have happened if Minister Grapperhaus had been photographed taking a good sniff of coke. Would he have resigned as Minister of Justice and Security? In that case he would still credible are regarded as a member of government who is jointly responsible for drug policy? Or would one reluctantly admit that the current approach is not working?
It is time for a new drug policy that reduces public health threats, curbs the costs of drug enforcement and does justice to people's freedom of choice. It is time to increase the pressure on political The Hague and send a strong signal. Only together can we get the government under control.