Drug policy 2.0

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Drug Policy 2.0 - by Kaj Hollemans, KHLA

The Netherlands - by Mr. Kaj Hollemans (KH Legal Advice) (columns KHLA).

Since the parliamentary elections on March 17, a lot has happened in political The Hague. The result itself was good news for those advocating a different drug policy, as the Christian parties have lost seats and the progressive parties have won seats. This resulted, among other things, that Minister Grapperhaus (CDA) and State Secretary Blokhuis (CU) inquired that they leave the decision on establishing regulations in the field of NPS (the substance groups ban) and the intended nitrous oxide ban to a new cabinet, in view of the cabinet's caretaker status and the enforcement costs. It is likely that no amended regulations will be introduced for both proposals before 2022.

The standing committee for Justice and Security of the House of Representatives will meet on April 14, 2021 private to put this letter on the agenda for the committee debate on drugs policy on June 2, 2021. During this committee debate The coffee shop policy will also be discussed and letters from 2018, 2019 and 2020 from, among others, Minister Bruins (who retired as minister in March 2020) and Minister Van Rijn (who retired as minister in July 2020).

On the same day, the standing committee for VWS of the House of Representatives private to declare the letter from State Secretary Blokhuis of 9 March 2021 on drug prevention controversial. Declaring certain subjects controversial prevents the cabinet from 'ruling over its grave'. In itself this is good news, because now a new cabinet has its hands free to give substance to drug policy itself, but the House is not consistent in this.

Apparently drug prevention is a controversial topic, but repression is not. I find it extremely worrying that a debate on drug policy will soon be held in the Justice and Security Committee, instead of the VWS Committee. That is a trend that I have been seeing for some time. The debate about drug policy is increasingly shifting from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to Justice and Security. That is not a good development.

There are several reasons why a debate about drug policy does not belong in the Justice and Security Committee. Firstly, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport is responsible for the Opium Act, not the Minister of Justice and Security. Secondly, MPs in the Justice and Security Committee consider the problems surrounding drugs mainly from a criminal law context. Less attention is paid to prevention and protecting public health. This one-sided focus on repression does not bode well, because punishment and prohibition alone does not solve the complex drug problem. Drug policy demands one more balanced approach. That is why it would be good if it was indicated from various quarters that it is time for a thorough rethink of drug policy. After all, current policy has not led to a substantial decrease in the use of drugs and the associated problems.

State Commission for proposals for Dutch drug policy

This is the ideal time to inform the informateur and the various political parties that during the negotiations on a new coalition agreement, consideration is being given to setting up a state commission, which will be instructed, on the basis of scientific research and in consultation with those involved organizations, experts and users, to think about a new drug policy that poses less danger to public health, curbs the costs of drug enforcement, does justice to people's freedom of choice and does not play into (organized) crime. This state commission can make proposals to reform the Dutch drug policy. The starting point is to keep the health risks of drugs as low as possible and to guarantee the health, safety and welfare of society as a whole as well as possible. 

Start Better Drug Policy of the Beter Beleid Foundation, for a more realistic drug policy (fig.)
Start Better Drug Policy of the Beter Beleid Foundation, for a more realistic drug policy (afb.)

At the beginning of 2020, the manifest for a realistic drug policy. Another initiative that calls for this is the petition of the Beter Beleid Foundation. Especially now that D66 has won so many seats, you can expect this party to submit the proposal to appoint a state commission to the negotiating table, but it is also important if other political parties support this proposal.

Politicians could better use the coming period to thoroughly review drug policy and to look for solutions to the risks associated with the use of drugs and to the problems associated with the (illegal) drug trade, instead of the to continue a senseless war on drugs.

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