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1 The Dutch drug policy: an effective policy under threat Dick Reinking Municipal Health Centre City of Utrecht San Sebastian, Oct. 26 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The Dutch drug policy: an effective policy under threat Dick Reinking Municipal Health Centre City of Utrecht San Sebastian, Oct. 26 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The Dutch drug policy: an effective policy under threat Dick Reinking Municipal Health Centre City of Utrecht San Sebastian, Oct

2 2 The Dutch policy: peculiar or above all effective? Themes addressed: Does the Dutch Drug Policy work? Indicators: cannabis use, coffeeshops to separate drug markets And in the meantime Criminal involvement, nederwiet, risks of cannabis... and an unsolved problem at the back door, Leading to: A policy shift and an initiative from Utrecht as a way out Closing remarks

3 3 Dutch Drug Policy 1976: pragmatic, tolerant and liberal Not repressive towards users Cannabis is a drug with lesser harm for the user Possession (< 30 gr, later < 5 gr) and use tolerated Coffeeshops to separate drug markets A social medical perspective on use and (problem) users Added by a repressive approach towards production and trafficking In sum: an exemplary balanced approach

4 4 Does it work? Cannabis use Cannabis use, ever: Cannabis use, actual: Cannabis use, daily Cannabis use, problematic Main conclusions: A rise followed by stabilization in use since 1997 Prevelance rates cannabis are below EU average, except for youngsters (15-16 yrs) Increase in care for problematic cannabis users yrs (main sources: Van Laar, 2010; Van Laar and Van Ooijen-Houben (eds.) 2009)

5 5 In the meantime: Changes in THC Nederwiet: A rise from av. 10 to av > 20% in 2002, Followed by a gradual decrease, averaging 15-16% in 2008/2009. Comparisons Dutch hash: fluctuating THC concentrations (26-39%) Imported hash: between % Source: Rigter et al., 2009

6 6 And an assessment of risks of cannabis Individual health:small, risk groups excluded Public health:small, risk groups excluded Public nuisance:small to average (border area) Criminality:average to considerable “Regulation of supply of cannabis for personal use can help to force back organized crime.” Source: CAM, 2008

7 7 And the ranking of harms of 20 (illicit) drugs Top 3 indiv harm: heroin, crack-cocaine, metamfetamine Top 3 harm to others: alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine Overal top 3:alcohol, heroin, crack cocaine Cannabis scores:indiv. 11, others 8, overal 9. “considering the harm it would make a great deal of sense to legalize the production of cannabis” ( Sources: Nut et al. 2010, Nutt 2011 )

8 8 Resulting in reaction from the government Cannabis with > 15% THC will be considered a hard drug Coffeeshops are forbidden to sell hard drugs Having an impact on: Enforcement + 75% of the cannabis sold in coffeeshop at the present Users mainly interested in strong cannabis The coffeeshops themselves (?) Sources: Ministery of Health, TK 2011/

9 9 Does it work? Coffeeshops to divide drug markets 1980: publication of guidelines for coffeeshops Resulting in a sharp rise of coffeeshops 1999:846 shops in 105 of 441 municipalities 2009:666 shops in 101 mun., n o still dropping Unequal distribution (f.i. Amsterdam shops) Source: Bieleman and Nijkamp, 2010

10 10 In the meantime in the Netherlands Large scale, professionalized cultivation of hard drugs, followed by high potency THC cannabis Involvement and increased market domination of criminal network in production and distribution Estimates uncertain but alarming Leading to more intensified investigation, prosecution and increased instrument for law enforcement (national and local) Main source: Van Ooyen-Houben, 2009

11 11 Resulting in the 2009 version of coffeeshop guidelines ANo advertising HNo hard drugs present or sold ONo public nuisance YNo persons under 18 GNo large quantities (> 500 grams) Additional, a.o.: no alcohol, 250 m from schools Main source: Guidelines Opium Law from the Public Prosecutor

12 12 Does it work? The coffeeshop policy Coffeeshops are the most important selling place Cannabis users seldom arrested for possession No hard drugs in coffeeshop, great compliance of coffeeshop owners Scientific proof for effects coffeeshops on combined use cannabis and hdu and cannabis prevalence rates impossible: positive effects can not be proven, nor excluded ( Source: Van Laar and Van Ooyen-Houben, 2009) NB: a good practice or ‘just’ no adverse / unintended effects

13 13 In the meantime: the back door as unsolved issue Government (2000): no regulation of back door, due to incompatibility with international treaties, enforcement problems and organizational problems in an open economy Audit Authority of parliament (2005): “taking strong actions [..] against the professional cultivation of hennep is hard to combine with the explicit tolerance of the retail trade of cannabis and the implicit tolerance of purchases made for retail trade by coffeeshop owners, because this implies a certain acceptance of cannabis.”

14 14 The back door issue: a way out? Advisory Committe on Drug Policy (2009): Return to coffeeshops as small scale selling points for local users Experimenting with user controlled closed circuits of production for own use as an option to break the ties with criminal networks Conditions: good possibilities for enforcement, clarity about legal grounds

15 15 Resulting in a reaction from the government Announcing changes in the cannabis and coffeeshop policy (Drug Policy Letter, 2010): Increase of the distance criterion to school to > 350 meters Cannabis with > 15% THC is a hard drug Introduction of a wietpass: at least for a year, for local users only, with maximized n o of passes per shop (1500 as maximum(?)).

16 16 In the meantime in Utrecht Initiative for a scientific experiment with a cannabis club for adult recreational users that produce cannabis for own use. Possible within National Law and international treaties (both UN and EU), because: 1.It is a scientific experiment 2.It wil have a closed circuit of production for own use

17 17 Reactions and expected impact of policy changes Cities doubting what local problems are solved by the new policy Large n o of coffeeshops will disappear 80% Coffeeshop visitors against wietpass or registration altogether, at most 30% will apply for a pass. Alternative routes for purchase of cannabis expected. In sum: a policy shift from public health to Justice and Safety leading to drastic changes Sources: numerous, a.o. Korf et al. 2011, Wouters and Korf, 2011)

18 18 In sum, by the vice mayor of Utrecht ”The drug policy is effective [..], all reason to continu it [...], with adjustments to face actual trends and problems. The contrary is true. In this government I see that the Min. Of Justice and Safety has taken over the lead from the Min. Of Health and I see that in policy measures a repressive, legal perspective has become dominant [...] Furthermore it seems as if scientific knowledge and expert opinions are traded for a policy based on previously taken positions and views”

19 19 Closing remarks A policy that works traded for...? The Dutch cannabis policy: from front runner to back bencher? Negative, disapproving reaction from the government about the Utrecht experiment. Support for Utrecht from national experts...

20 20 And indirect support from The UN Global committee on Drug Policy that advices to... ‘encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and safety of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis...” Source: War on drugs has failed. UN Global Committee on Drug Policy, june 2011

21 21 Final closing remarks The Utrecht model has a lot of similarities with the Spanish social clubs There is a variety of initiatives aiming at normalization of cannabis (US, the Americas, Europe), Learning us that initiatives are always possible within national and international frameworks A lot is about preparedness and determination What about a learning network?


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