"Are Drugs legal? Yes and no...." Coffee shops Tip by LolaSanFrancisco

Coffee shops, Amsterdam: 50 reviews and 40 photos

 
 

Favorite thing: The drug policy of the Netherlands is based on two principles:

Drug use is a public health issue, not a criminal matter A distinction between hard drugs and soft drugs exists It is a pragmatic policy. Most policymakers in the Netherlands believe that if a problem has proved to be unstoppable, it is better to try and control it instead of continuing to enforce laws that have shown to be unable to stop the problem.

Hard drugs/soft drugs
A distinction is drawn between hard drugs (which bear "unacceptable" risks; e.g. cocaine, heroin and Ecstasy) and soft drugs such as the cannabis products hashish and marijuana (as defined in the Dutch Opium Act). The decision is based on whether the substance is only psychologically addictive or also physically addictive. One of the main aims of this policy is to separate the markets for soft and hard drugs so that soft drug users are less likely to come into contact with hard drugs. This policy also aims to take the soft drug market out of the hands of the criminals, thus reducing crime.

So-called coffee shops are allowed to sell soft drugs openly, and to keep supplies greater than the amounts allowed by law for personal use, though they are only allowed to sell individual customers the amount allowed for personal use. The coffeeshops' wholesale suppliers, however, are still criminalized. In practice the limit of the "for personal use" clause is 5 cannabis plants per person for growing, or possession of 5 grams of hashish or marijuana per person. Example of sentence in 2004 for possession of 360 grams: confiscation and a fine of ?750. Coffeeshops pay taxes just like any other business, though there are some special exemptions for them, mostly because they cannot show receipts for their supply of marijuana.

Fondest memory: Non-enforcement
Cannabis remains a controlled substance in the Netherlands and both possession and production for personal use are still misdemeanors, punishable by fine. Coffee shops are also illegal according to the statutes. However, a policy of non-enforcement has led to a situation where reliance upon non-enforcement has become common, and because of this the courts have ruled against the government when individual cases were prosecuted. This is because the Dutch Ministry of Justice applies a gedoogbeleid (policy of tolerance) with regard to soft drugs: an official set of guidelines telling public prosecutors under which circumstances offenders should not be prosecuted. This is a more official version of the common practice in other countries, in which law enforcement sets priorities as to which offenses are important enough to spend limited resources on.

Proponents of gedoogbeleid argue that such a policy offers more consistency in legal protection in practice, than without it. Opponents of the Dutch drug policy either call for full legalization, or argue that laws should penalize morally wrong or decadent behavior, whether this is enforceable or not.

In the Dutch courts, however, it has long been determined that the institutionalized non-enforcement of statutes with well-defined limits constitutes de facto decriminalization. The statutes are kept on the books mainly due to international pressure.

Drug law enforcement
Despite the high priority given by the Dutch government to fighting narcotics trafficking, the Netherlands continue to be an important transit point for drugs entering Europe, a major producer and exporter of amphetamines and other synthetic drugs, and an important consumer of illicit drugs. The export of the synthetic drug ecstasy to the U.S. during 1999 reached epidemic proportions. The Netherlands' special synthetic drug unit, set up in 1997 to coordinate the fight against designer drugs, appears to be successful.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Was this review helpful?

  • Written Jun 13, 2005
  • Send to a Friend
  • Add to your Trip Planner
  • Report Abuse

Comments

LolaSanFrancisco

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Online Now

Female

Top 5,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 1 8 5 8

Have you been to Amsterdam?

  Share Your Travels