It is a common knowledge throughout the world, that in Amsterdam you may just enter a coffee shop and buy drugs; even more – you will be handed a menu with drugs of the day, and there might be even a special on the menu. It is all accessible - for four joints you will pay the same amount as for twenty cigarettes. Nobody will arrest you, because it is all legal. So what kind of laws are these? Aren’t the Dutch concerned about the real dangers of drug abuse? Dutch drug laws evolved as the law in other countries during the past century, but the solutions taken in the Netherlands, differ from the rest of the world.
Amsterdam Coffee Shop News 2013
Frequently asked questions on coffee shops answered by independent advisors of Amsterdam.info.
The Dutch regulations change. Some of the coffee shops in Amsterdam were closed because of the proximity to schools. There are also first signs of limitations for tourists introduced in the border cities of the Netherlands. As for now, there was no essential change in the Drug Laws in Amsterdam.
Dutch drug laws
Dutch drug policy is unique in the whole world. It is directed by an idea that every human being may decide about the matters of its own health. The Dutch consider this rule as fundamental, accepting for example as the only country in the world, the possibility of the controlled suicide (voluntary euthanasia), for terminally ill patients. Another idea which guides Dutch laws in their drug policy is a conviction that hiding social negative phenomena does not make them to disappear - on the contrary makes them worse, because when concealed, they become far more difficult to influence and control.
Applying these ideas to their drug laws the Dutch try as much as possible to decriminalize the use of drugs, making it a private matter of each individual, and not a matter for the enforcement apparatus. Production, trading and stocking drugs remain a criminal offence, as in any other country.
Many legal systems all over the world do not punish people for the use of drugs, but for their possession. So the citizens are sent to jail for having a joint, not for smoking it. The Dutch see this distinction as purely formal. Statistics say that almost half of the Americans openly admit to having smoked marijuana (even if not always they admit inhaling it). So called war on drugs started by the US President Richard Nixon in the 1970’s, resulted in the state employing enormous, expensive organization enforcing strict drug policy and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of its citizens, often for just minor offences. It also made all drugs a forbidden fruit, which increases their attraction. On the contrary, a theory that the consumption of cannabis may lead to the use of more dangerous drugs (gateway theory), has yet to be confirmed by the scientific research.
The Dutch see the use of drugs as a health matter, similar to the use of tobacco and alcohol, and in fact not very distant from problems of obesity, alcoholism and tobacco smoking. They also point to the fact that prohibition of alcohol in the US in the years 1919-1933 brought more negative effects of increased criminality, than the positive social changes and had to be withdrawn.
The Dutch have divided drugs into two groups, depending on their influence on human health – soft drugs and hard drugs. Hard drugs as cocaine, LSD, morphine, heroin are forbidden in the Netherlands as in any other country.
Soft drugs as cannabis in all its forms (marijuana, hashish, hash oil) and hallucinogenic mushrooms (so called magic mushrooms or paddos – from Dutch: paddestoel - mushroom) are legal under condition of so called “personal use”. As a result smoking of cannabis even in public, is not prosecuted as well as selling it although technically illegal under still valid Opium Act (dating from 1919, cannabis added as drug in 1950), is widely tolerated provided that it happens in a limited, controlled way (in a coffee shop, small portions, 5 grams maximum transaction, not many portions on stock, sale only to adults, no minors on the premises, no advertisement of drugs, the local municipality did not give the order to close the coffee shop).
The sale of most of hallucinogenic mushrooms (also known as magic mushrooms or paddos), has been forbidden starting November 1, 2008. More than 200 different mushrooms were put on the ban list and are presently regarded by the Dutch drug law (so called Opiumwet – Opium Act) as dangerous as cocaine or heroine. Never really considered as drugs before, the paddos were previously sold by the so called smart shops along with popular natural medicines as Ginkgo Biloba, Guarana, Cola, some herbs, food additives and vitamins. The decision to stop their sale has been taken after almost a hundred cases were recorded each year, when the medical help has been required linked to the consumption of paddos in Amsterdam only, involving mainly foreign tourists. Tragically, three of these cases ended as serious accidents, one of them in the tragic death of the 17-year old French girl. Hundreds of people demonstrated in Amsterdam against the ban, before it had been introduced. Today, the hallucinogenic mushrooms are forbidden in the Netherlands, along with the hard drugs.
While several sorts of mushrooms were probably by omission not placed on the ban list, smart shops continue now and then to sell them. Also the fungus of some paddos is sometimes on sale.
We strongly advise you to never try the hallucinogenic mushrooms, as their influence on each human organism is different, and you may be exposing to a serious health risk, by using them in any form.
Strictly restricted quantities, large scale cultivation forbidden
In the Netherlands, there are strict laws limiting quantities of the admitted soft drugs, conditions of theirs sale and use. Driving under the influence of the soft drugs is equal to driving under the influence of alcohol. Large scale growing, processing and trading in marijuana is still forbidden as in any other country, but the penalties given by the courts are much lower than abroad.
Some of the municipalities in the Netherlands introduce their own additional regulations regarding specific issues related to law enforcement, prosecution and use of the soft drugs. In the spirit of pragmatism, minor offences as a small violation of the admitted quantities, are usually not prosecuted, since the prosecution and imprisonment is seen by the authorities as expensive and linked to several other negative social effects which outweigh the positive.
The Dutch did not solve the question of the controlled supply of the soft drugs. While the large scale growth and trade of marijuana is forbidden and prosecuted, the question remains how the coffee shops all over the country could be supplied with their accepted by the law small quantities. A state controlled farming in the greenhouses is being planned, but it is admitted that a large share of the cannabis sold in the coffee shops comes from the illegal sources in the Netherlands and abroad.
The Dutch do not see their tolerant policy towards limited soft drug use as some miraculous solution. They try to prevent the drug abuse through the educational measures, closely monitoring the scene of the drug abuse, fighting with the consequences of the abuse by the health measures such as the free testing of the ecstasy pills, the free syringe exchange program and the free methadone (surrogate of heroine) supply program for the heroine users. Today in 60 Dutch cities, hundreds of these programs operate om daily basis, deeply influencing life in the country. At the same time, Dutch authorities try to eliminate deadly illegal drugs by combating drug trafficking. Then again, through their tolerant policies towards soft drugs, they hope to be able to better control the social phenomena of drug abuse. For example, the statistical data certifies that among young people of medium age 28 in the Netherlands, only 16% ever smoked marijuana. Soft drugs when widely accessible seem to lose much of their appeal.
For © www.amsterdam.info by Peter Skelton. You are welcome to use the information from this page as soon as the source (http://www.amsterdam.info/drugs/) is referred.
The website www.amsterdam.info strives to provide the best possible and reliable tourist information about the amazing city of Amsterdam. We do not view any drugs as a tourist attraction, nor recommend trying them. The issue of the drug abuse is of such complexity, that the information provided in this short article may not be in our view complete. We warn our readers against the mortal dangers of drug abuse for the human health.