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Dutch drug policy, once considered pragmatic and lenient and rooted in a generally tolerant attitude toward drug use, has slowly but surely shifted from a primarily public health focus to an increasing focus on law enforcement. The “coffee shop” policy and the policy toward MDMA/ecstasy are illustrations. Both were initiated from a public health perspective but were attacked because of unintended side effects relating to supply markets, crime, and nuisance. Coffee shops became the subject of increasing restrictions and MDMA/ecstasy production became the target of a comprehensive enforcement program. It took some time before the tougher strategies were applied. The health-oriented approach and the conviction that drug problems can be contained, but not eradicated, are deeply rooted. This led to acknowledgment of the adverse consequences of increased law enforcement and tempered its application. Research showed effectiveness in some regards but also unintended consequences. The expansion of illegal cannabis consumer markets after restrictions on coffee shops is one example. The use of alternative chemical ingredients for ecstasy production is another. Changes in drug policy have an effect on supply markets, but drug use seems largely unaffected.
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Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Drug Policy:
The Dutch Model
Dutch drug policy, once considered pragmatic and lenient and rooted in a
generally tolerant attitude toward drug use, has slowly but surely shifted from
a primarily public health focus to an increasing focus on law enforcement. The
coffee shoppolicy and the policy toward MDMA/ecstasy are illustrations.
Both were initiated from a public health perspective but were attacked because
of unintended side effects relating to supply markets, crime, and nuisance.
Coffee shops became the subject of increasing restrictions and MDMA/
ecstasy production became the target of a comprehensive enforcement pro-
gram. It took some time before the tougher strategies were applied. The
health-oriented approach and the conviction that drug problems can be
contained, but not eradicated, are deeply rooted. This led to acknowledgment
of the adverse consequences of increased law enforcement and tempered its
application. Research showed effectiveness in some regards but also unin-
tended consequences. The expansion of illegal cannabis consumer markets
after restrictions on coffee shops is one example. The use of alternative
chemical ingredients for ecstasy production is another. Changes in drug
policy have an effect on supply markets, but drug use seems largely unaffected.
Dutch tolerancewas the driving force in the emergence of the much-
debated alternativeDutch drug policy of the 1970s. Ed Leuw in a clas-
sic Crime and Justice essay characterized Dutch drug policy as normaliz-
ing, pragmatic, and nonmoralistic: It accepts the existence of the use of
Electronically published July 30, 2015
Marianne van Ooyen-Houben is a research manager with the Research and Documen-
tation Centre (WODC), Ministry of Security and Justice, Netherlands. Edward Kleemans
is full professor at the VU School of Criminology, Faculty of Law, VU University Am-
q2015 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
illegal drugs as inevitable in modern society. Ofcial reactions are di-
rected at a reduction of social and personal harm. . . . It focuses law en-
forcement efforts on the higher levels of the supply system. Retail trade
is tolerated in numerous coffee shops.The use of hard drugs is primar-
ily considered a public health problem(1991, p. 229). Leuw observed
that drug policy was based on the central notion that the drug problem
is primarily a public health and welfare issue and that risk reduction is its
core concept (pp. 248, 258).
The Dutch drug tolerance policy was implemented in 1976, when the
Opium Act was revised. A basic principle was that marginalization and
criminalization of drug users should be avoided. The Opium Act as a
result did not dene use of drugs as an offense. Possession of small
amounts for personal use is an offense, but the expediency principle
allows the public prosecutor to refrain from prosecution if this is in
the general interest. In practice, this means that drugs are seized, but
possession of small amounts for personal use is not actively investigated
and in principle does not lead to arrest or prosecution (Staatscourant
A two-schedule distinction was made in the Opium Act, on the basis
of drugsrisks to the users health. Schedule I deals with drugs with un-
acceptable risks.These are the so-called hard drugs, of which in 1976
heroin stood out as most problematic. Schedule II deals with soft
drugsconsidered less harmful. The main drug in this schedule is can-
nabis. Law enforcement concerning hard drug offenses was more vigor-
ous than for soft drug offenses.
The distinction between cannabis and other illegal drugs should be
viewed within the historical context of the sudden increase in the
1970s of the problematic use of heroin, with very high health risks but
concentrated in marginalized groups, versus the much broader use of
less addictive and less harmful cannabis by young people from a variety
of backgrounds. The distinction between hard and soft drugs served a
purpose, as the substances and target populations were quite distinct.
By introducing separate schedules, a less strict enforcement regime for
cannabis could be maintained while a stricter one for hard drugs could
be implemented.
After reviewing the situation in 1991, Leuw concluded: Dutch expe-
rience with de-escalation of risks and rewards of drug problems indi-
cates that a pragmatic approach may be a viable alternative to approaches
that rely mainly on law-enforcement strategies(1991, pp. 27172).
166 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
A lot has happened, however, since 1991. Dutch drug policy became
more focused on controlling crime and drug-related disorder, usually
referred to as nuisance.The Dutch cannabis policy came under attack.
An expectation that other countries would soon follow the rational
Dutch approach did not materialize in the short run. New drugs, such
as MDMA/ecstasy, of which the Netherlands became a major producer,
came on the scene in the 1990s. Unintended consequences and interna-
tional criticism led to a more stringent approach. There was a shift in
perspective from containment and risk reduction to the control of nui-
sance and crime as a goal in itself. This control element plays a role in
contemporary drug policy almost equal to the health element (Blom
2006; van der Stel 2006; van Laar and van Ooyen-Houben 2009). The
shift occurred gradually and in a subtle way and can be illustrated by
comparing ofcial denitions of drug policy goals over time, as table 1
The drug situation has changed since Leuw wrote his 1991 essay. Be-
low we summarize major topics regarding drug use, coffee shops, drug-
related organized crime, cannabis cultivation, the emergence of new
synthetic drugs, and nuisance and crime caused by hard drug users that
have emerged since then. The main issues are summarized in table 2.
These issues gave rise to discussions and debates andnallya shift
Ofcial Denitions of Drug Policy Goals in the Netherlands
Year Denition Source
1976 Prevention and reduction of societal and individual risks
caused by the use of drugs
Tweede Kamer*
1975, p. 5
1985 The drug policy has three aims: protection of (public)
health, public order, and the health and welfare of drug
ISAD 1985, p. 12
1995 Prevention and containment of the societal and individual
risks that result from the use of drugs
Tweede Kamer
1995, p. 4
2007 The primary aims of the Dutch drug policy are: protection
of (public) health, counteracting of nuisance and the
control of (drug-related) crime
Tweede Kamer
2007, p. 3919
2011 The Dutch drug policy has two pillars: one for the protec-
tion of public health on the one hand and the control of
nuisance and crime on the other
Tweede Kamer
* The Lower House of Parliament.
Cited in van der Stel, Everhardt, and van Laar (2009), p. 66.
The Dutch Model 167
Important Developments Concerning Drug Policy
Early 1990s Mid-1990s 201014
Drug use:
Use of traditionaldrugs
(heroin, cocaine,
amphetamines, canna-
bis) and MDMA/ecstasy
Increase in use and produc-
tion of MDMA /ecstasy;
increase in drug use in
MDMA /ecstasy still on the
market and popular
among users; trends in use
among youths stable or
Coffee shops:
Increased share of retail
market by coffee shops;
commercialization of
coffee shops; coffee
shops sell mainly
hashish from abroad
High number of coffee
shops (estimate: 1,100
1,500); emergence of
large-scale coffee shops;
increasing complaints of
nuisance around coffee
shops; increasing drug
tourismrelated to coffee
shops; Nederwiet on the
Decreasing number of cof-
fee shops (614 in 2013);
less drug tourism since
2012; closure of some
large-scale coffee shops in
border regions; Nederwiet
most popular product sold
in coffee shops, high levels
of THC
Drug-related organized
The Netherlands is a ma-
jor transit point in in-
ternational drug trade,
crossroads for hashish
(smuggled by organized
Dutch networks), her-
oin, cocaine, produc-
tion of amphetamines
Increase of drug-related or-
ganized crime, interna-
tional drug trade, pro-
duction of Nederwiet,
amphetamines, ecstasy
Organized crime still in-
volved in international
drug trade and production
of Nederwiet,
amphetamines, ecstasy
Supply of cannabis:
Import of hashish from
abroad, Nederwiet in
Growth of indoor cultiva-
tion of Nederwiet;
Nederwiet and hashish
from abroad both cover
about half of the domestic
cannabis market; rst
signs of export of
Nederwiet cultivation is
widespread and profes-
sional, and there exists a
mature cannabis cultiva-
tion industry; high levels
of export; Nederwiet
dominates hashish on do-
mestic market
Problematic users of opiates
and cocaine:
Nuisance and crime
caused by problematic
users of opiates and co-
caine; start of (lenient)
treatment for hard drug
users with high rates of
Continuing nuisance and
crime by problematic hard
drug users; local programs
against nuisance; broad-
ening of quasi-compulsory
treatment in judicial sys-
tem; increase of harm-
Signs of decreasing nuisance
and crime by hard drug
users; more compulsive
quasi-compulsory treat-
ment; structural
embeddedness of harm-
reduction approaches; de-
in focus toward law enforcement, while at the same time the health per-
spective remained important.
There was a major shift in the direction of law enforcement:
More law enforcement tools were introduced to combat drug-related
crime and nuisance (van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, et al. 2009; van
Ooyen-Houben, Meijer, et al. 2009; Centrum voor Criminali-
teitspreventie en Veiligheid 2014).
Some municipalities introduced blowing bansin public places and
schools (Centrum voor Criminaliteitspreventie en Veiligheid 2014).
Azero-tolerancepolicy for drug possession has been applied at
large dance events and festivals, implying that partygoers who carry
drugs with them may be arrested (Nabben 2010; Tweede Kamer
Sanctions for Opium Act offenses were raised (van Ooyen-Houben,
Meijer, et al. 2009).
High enforcement priority is given to combat organized crime in re-
lation to drugs (Tweede Kamer 2008, 2013a). The share of police
investigations of more serious forms of organized crimethat con-
cern drugs increased from 53 percent in 2000 to more than 70 per-
cent since 2005 (g. 1). There appears to have been a substantial in-
crease in cases related to soft drugs (mainly cannabis).
Another important change is that investigations and dismantlements
of indoor cannabis cultivation sites were intensied (Tweede Kamer
2004). In 1993 and 1994, 237 and 323 (mainly indoor) cultivation sites
were dismantled (Tweede Kamer 1995). During 200413, between
5,000 and 6,000 sites were dismantled each year (van Laar et al. 2014).
The dismantling process is well structured and organized (Wouters,
TABLE 2 (Continued)
Early 1990s Mid-1990s 201014
crime; harm-reduction
approaches; 528,000
problematic hard drug
users (estimate)*
reduction approaches;
stabilization of numbers
(estimate 25,00029,000)*
creasing numbers (17,700;
range 17,30018,100)*
* Van Laar et al. (2002, 2013).
The Dutch Model 169
Korf, and Kroeske 2007; Tweede Kamer 2014g).
Yet another change is
that entrance into coffee shops was increasingly restricted, and criteria
concerning tolerance of them became more restrictive (van Laar, van
Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer 2009; van Ooyen-Houben, Biele-
man, and Korf 2014).
The shift toward law enforcement can also be illustrated by the in-
creasing number of police arrests for Opium Act offenses, for both hard
and soft drugs (g. 2). Since 1996, Opium Act offenses form 58 percent
of all criminal offenses, with an increasing trend since 2009 (van Ooyen-
Houben, Meijer, et al. 2009; van Laar et al. 2014). The high number in
2004 can be attributed to increased arrests of cocaine ball swallowers and
body packers at Schiphol Airport. In 2013, they comprised 8.3 percent.
Figures on prosecutions and sentencing show similar trends.
The shift is also evident in estimated public expenditures for Opium
Act offenses (g. 3), rising from 275 million in 1995 to 717 million
in 2007 (prices 2007). The percentage of all public expenditures related
to crime rose from 7 percent in 1995 to 10 percent in 20027. Moolenaar
et al. (2014) report different calculations for 200512 (not comparable
FIG.1.Criminal investigations into more serious forms of organized crime, 20002012. Be-
tween 2002 and 2003, 2004 and 2005, 2005 and 2006, and 2011 and 2012 changes were made in
recording. Figures for 2005 cover JanuaryNovember. Source: National police, unit of national
information organization; reported in van Ooyen-Houben, Meijer, et al. (2009); van Laar et al.
(2013). Figures for 2012 are based on manual calculations of national police data.
Figures on seizures of drugs are not reported because they are incomplete and cannot
be compared over time (van Ooyen-Houben, Meijer, et al. 2009; van Laar et al. 2014).
170 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
FIG.2.Suspects of Opium Act offenses arrested by the police, 19962013. Source: National police registration of suspects; reported in van Ooyen-Houben,
Meijer, et al. (2009) and van Laar et al. (2014).
with g. 3) and show that there was an increase until 2009 and a de-
crease in 201012, with 2012 being slightly higher than 2006.
Finally, there was a shift toward law enforcement in relation to hard
drug users. Leuw observed: The hard-drug problem . . . is treated as
a public health problem in which law enforcement plays a restricted
and secondary role(1991, p. 230). Over time, the hard drug problem
increasingly involved criminal elements, which led to an increased role
for law enforcement. Hard drug addicts committed numerous thefts
and burglaries and became a continuous source of public nuisance.
The approach toward hard drug offenders, however, retains an im-
portant element of harm reduction. Methadone substitution programs
and heroin prescription programs are ofcial approaches in addiction
health care. Police and prosecutors formally tolerate consumption
rooms for hard drug users.
However, policies have also moved in the direction of intensied use
of pressure and compelled treatment. The Netherlands has used treat-
ment as an alternative to imprisonment for many years, since the begin-
ning of the 1990s. Quasi-compulsory treatment is used in response to
offenses of addicts, mainly users of heroin and cocaine (Stevens et al.
2005; van Ooyen-Houben 2013). The idea is that addicts need treatment
and that imprisonment is not effective in reducing the crime and addic-
tion problems. Many addicts who are arrested, prosecuted, or detained
can choose to participate in treatment outside prison in place of impris-
FIG.3.Estimated annual public expenditure for Opium Act offenses, national government,
19952007, in millions of euros (prices 2007). Source: Research and Documentation Centre
2009; reported in van Ooyen-Houben, Meijer, et al. (2009).
172 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
onment or as part of their sanction (van Ooyen-Houben et al. 2008;
Eerste Kamer 2014).
Treatment is not ofcially compulsory, but there
is judicial pressure: if participants do not adhere to the conditions or
drop out of the treatment, they will be imprisoned.
Court-ordered treatment of drug-dependent offenders (Strafrechte-
lijke Opvang Verslaafden, or SOV) was introduced in 2001. In 2004,
SOV was replaced by court-ordered placement in an institution for
recurring offenders (Inrichting voor Stelselmatige Daders, or ISD;
Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden 2001, 2004). These
measureswhich retain treatment as a crucial element (van Ooyen-
Houben and Goderie 2009)were a break from the earlier softer ap-
proaches; they can be applied for up to 2 years and have a three strikes
and youre outcharacter (for ISD the criterion is arrests for more than
10 offenses in 5 years with at least one in the last year).
Underneath the more repressive streams of law enforcement, there is,
however, an important continuity: the drug problem continues primarily
to be dealt with from a health perspective. The Drug Policy Letter of
2011 conrms this: The cabinet continues to approach the drug prob-
lem from a health perspective(Tweede Kamer 2011a, p. 6).
This means that there have been no fundamental changes in basic
principles since the 1970s. These basic principles, however, do not re-
ceive much attention in the 2011 policy letter. It addresses problems
such as the increased use of drugs and alcohol among youths and the
growth of coffee shops and drug-related organized crime, and it de-
scribes practical responses to them. This is a stark departure from the
Drug Policy Letter of 1995, which formulated broader perspectives and
deliberated on continuities and changes (Tweede Kamer 2011a).
The health perspective remains important. Drug use is approached
primarily from a noncriminal viewpoint. Drug users are not criminal-
ized. The harm that drug use can cause is controlled primarily through
social and medical approaches, although repressive administrative and
criminal law measures are increasingly applied. Harm reduction thus
still plays an important role. Croes and van Gageldonk (2009), in a re-
Eerste Kamer is the Upper House of the Parliament.
The cabinet adds in the same sentence that it wants to focus attention more decidedly
on the youth.The Policy Letter of 2011 is signed by the minister of health, welfare, and
sports and the minister of security and justice. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are
The Dutch Model 173
view of the Dutch literature on harm reduction, describe it as a typi-
cal characteristic of the Dutch drug policy. Some people elsewhere and
in the Netherlands sometimes nd this controversial, but it is a long-
standing tradition. Harm-reduction policies started in the 1980s with
methadone programs, low-threshold shelter facilities, needle exchange
programs, and condom distribution (Croes and van Gageldonk 2009).
In the 1990s special rooms for problematic hard drug addicts were
added to the existing facilities: user roomsin which addicts can use
drugs in a safe and clean environment and without causing nuisance
on the streets. Professionals are present. The sale of drugs is forbidden.
These user rooms are formally tolerated by the public prosecutor, as
long as they adhere to restrictions and rules (Staatscourant 2015).
Other examples of the health perspective concern pill testing, medical
heroin prescription, medical marijuana, and the coffee shop system. Pill
testing relates to the testing facilities at large-scale dance parties and is
meant for recreational users of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy. Pills
can be presented on the spot for an expert opinion and a test of their
safety. This testing facility was meant as prevention against unexpected
and dangerous ingredients. Testing on the spot was ofcially aban-
doned, but partygoers can still have pills tested at a test service,for in-
stance, at an addiction care organization.
In 1998, an experiment started with medical heroin prescriptions,
carefully monitored by expert committees and researchers (e.g., van
den Brink, Hendriks, and van Ree 1999; Hendriks et al. 2000). The pro-
gram was expanded in 2004, with a structural anchoring in the Opium
Act in 2009 (Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden 2009; van
der Stel 2010). Since 2001, cannabis can be obtained in pharmacies on
a doctors prescription. Cultivation for this use is regulated by the state
(Tweede Kamer 2000). Last but not least, the coffee shop system con-
tinues, with the objective of reducing harm to cannabis users.
An important continuity concerns the Opium Act of 1976. Its original
structure remains basically the same. It still has two schedules: one for
hard drugsand one for soft drugs.
Possession of small quantities
The two-schedule structure was discussed in Parliament in 2010. An advisory commit-
tee was established to review the evidence and judge the adequacy of the two schedules.
The committee saw no point in creating more schedules or having only one. According
to the committee, the two-schedule system is specic enough to distinguish between more
dangerous and less dangerous drugs. The committee proposed splitting cannabis into soft
and hard forms, that with a THC concentration of 15 percent or more being considered a
174 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
for private use is not actively investigated by the police and does, in prin-
ciple, not lead to a criminal justice reaction (in the case of possession of
5 grams or less of cannabis) or only prosecution for the sake of treatment
(in the case of possession of one consumption unit of a hard drug;
Staatscourant 2015).
The same is true for the small-scale noncommer-
cial cultivation for private use of up to ve cannabis plants. In principle,
drug users in the Netherlands can possess up to 5 grams of cannabis,
a half gram of a hard drug such as heroin or cocaine, or one tablet of
a synthetic drug, without fear of arrest or prosecution. If the drug is dis-
covered, however, it will be conscated.
Important developments in drug markets and drug-related crime have
occurred in recent decades, and there were major changes in the direc-
tion of law enforcement. The changes mainly concern reduction of sup-
ply and nuisance. Supply reduction has always been a priority, initially
with a focus on the combat of commercial drug trafcking (see Leuw
Yet public health remains the primary focus, and the Ministry of
Health remains the leading player. The notion that the drug problem
is primarily a health problem and that reduction of the harm caused by
drug use is a central aim of drug policy is deeply rooted. This basic con-
tinuity is as important as the changes, although these were substantial.
In Section I of this essay, we observe that drug-related nuisance, or-
ganized crime, and the high prevalence of use among youths were in-
creasingly perceived as serious problems. This led to more vigorous ap-
proaches, more law enforcement, and less tolerance. We illustrate the
changes and the continuities by looking closely at developments con-
cerning the coffee shops and the synthetic drug ecstasy.
As it is difcult to measure drug markets in a straightforward way, we
combine available evidence about prevalence of use, problematic use,
purity, prices, seizures, and nuisance. We use ndings from evaluation
studies, monitoring studies, and reviews. There are a substantial number
of studies available, mostly monitoring studies with repeated assessments
but without (quasi-)experimental designs. These studies provide good in-
hard drug (Expertcommissie Lijstensystematiek Opiumwet 2011). The government ob-
served this suggestion in its November 2012 plans (Tweede Kamer 2012). Preparation
of this amendment is ongoing at the time of writing (Tweede Kamer 2014b, 2014c, 2014d).
See the directive Aanwijzing Opiumwetat
/Aanwijzing Opiumwet (2015A003).
The Dutch Model 175
sight into developments and changes, but it is difcult to draw conclu-
sions about effectiveness.
In Section II we describe the origin of the coffee shop system and
present facts and gures on developments since the 1990s. The coffee
shops play a valuable role as tolerated outlets of cannabis for users,
but problems with nuisance and drug tourism have long existed. The
system seems to separate markets for hard and soft drugs effectively.
The prevalence of cannabis use, however, is high among young people
(1516 years old), especially among vulnerable young people, and there
have been unexpected adverse side effects regarding supply, crime, and
In Section III we describe the emergence of the synthetic drug
MDMA/ecstasy (XTC) as a popular drug and the development during
the 1990s of the Netherlands as a worldwide major producer. Ecstasy
can give a sense of intimacy and diminish anxiety; it can induce euphoria
and mild psychedelic effects. Ecstasy was initially considered to carry
low risks, which is why policy makers focused on harm reduction. In-
ternational pressure was the primary reason for more intensive efforts
against production and trafcking. Intensied law enforcement led nei-
ther to total eradication of production nor to total eradication of use.
Producers adapted their methods, and use has continued, albeit at a
lower level.
In Section IV we conclude that policies change over time and react to
shifting constellations of problem denitions, possible solutions, and po-
litical support. Policy changes are path dependent.It is difcult to
make radical changes. Past choices limit future options. In the early
1970s, a policy window opened for a different approach to cannabis
use. In contrast to the sudden increase of the problematic use of heroin,
with very high risks, the much broader use of the less addictive and less
harmful cannabis by young people from a variety of backgrounds pro-
vided backing for the idea of the separation of marketsand a toler-
ant approach. Public health concerns became the major objective. The
changes over time came about slowly and rather erratically, as a response
to problems that had been around for a longer time.
I. Changes in Drug Policy
Dutch drug policy has been debated, embraced, and criticized by sci-
entists, policy makers, politicians, and lobbying groups for many years.
176 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Behind the debates, however, major developments took place and drug-
related crime and nuisance became important public concerns.
The national government in 1995 published a comprehensive state-
ment on drug policy entitled Drug Policy in the Netherlands: Continu-
ity and Change.It described complicationsin drug policy: Despite
the fact that in international terms the situation as regards public health
is not unfavorable, the use of drugs and everything that is related to it
constitutes an acute, major social and administrative problem in the
Netherlands as elsewhere. In tackling this problem three complications
arise(Tweede Kamer 1995, p. 9).
There were several complications: nuisance and crime caused by hard
drug addicts; the nuisance from coffee shops caused by large numbers of
customers, many from abroad; an increase in organized crime involve-
ment in supply and trafcking of drugs; and erce criticisms from for-
eign governments and international organizations. The International
Narcotics Control Board in 1995 observed:
At the same time, however, the Board expresses its continued concern
at the persistence of certain practices, only slightly altered, which
call into question the Government of the Netherlandsdelity to its
treaty obligations. This includes continuing the failed policy of sep-
aration of markets,tolerating the continued cultivation of nederwiet
provided that it is of lower THC content, permitting the operation of
so-called coffee shops, many of which have fallen under the control
of criminal elements, and continuing to stockpile narcotic drugs for
non-medical purposes. . . . [We] will continue to observe closely the
progress made by the Government of the Netherlands in fullling its
treaty obligations. (INCB 1996, p. 58)
Since 1995, control of nuisance and crime has evolved. This is reected
in administrative and criminal laws and amendments to the Opium Act
aiming at improvement and facilitation of the investigation and prosecu-
tion of drug offenses (van der Stel, Everhardt, and van Laar 2009; van
Ooyen-Houben, Meijer, et al. 2009). To mention a few:
Specications for professionalismof cannabis cultivation in the
Opium Act in 1999, with more severe sanctions for professional cul-
tivation, and increased maximum sanctions for large-scale produc-
tion and trafcking of drugs, with special emphasis on large-scale
The Dutch Model 177
Enabling mayors to close drug-dealing premises in a municipality; an
article was added to the Opium Act in 1999 and broadened in scope
in 2007.
The BibobAct in 2003 empowered mayors to check criminal an-
tecedents of applicants for licenses. This law is applied increasingly
often to coffee shop owners (van Laar et al. 2013).
An article was added to the Opium Act in 2014 criminalizing prep-
aration or facilitation of cannabis cultivation (Staatsblad 2014).
These changes went hand in hand with increased law enforcement
priority concerning drug trafcking and production. The 1995 policy
letter introduced more intensive law enforcement concerning the com-
plications.In 2001, a comprehensive program entitled A combined ef-
fort against ecstasywas launched (Tweede Kamer 2001). In 2004, an
intensied control of professional cannabis cultivation was announced,
aimed in particular at indoor cultivation of Nederwiet(Tweede Ka-
mer 2004). Since 2008, organized crime in relation to drugs has been
a high priority, particularly concerning heroin, cocaine, cannabis, and
synthetic drugs (Tweede Kamer 2008, 2011a, 2013a).
A review of the research evidence in 2009 concluded that policy de-
velopments since 1995 had positive and negative effects (van Laar and
van Ooyen-Houben 2009). They achieved objectives of harm reduction
for users. The prevalence of use of highly addictive drugs such as her-
oin, crack, amphetamines, and methamphetamines remained low. Infec-
tious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C among injecting hard drug users
remained limited, and death rates were low.
However, too many youths, especially vulnerable youths who dropped
out of education or lived in institutions, used drugs, including cannabis
and alcohol. The prevalence of Dutch use of cannabis and ecstasy re-
mains high in international comparisons. Van Laar and van Ooyen-
Houben report that more cannabis users turned to addiction care be-
cause of inability to control their cannabis use. Another negative aspect
was that coffee shops, especially in border regions, caused a lot of nui-
sance because of the large number of foreign visitors they attract. They
observed that the Netherlands is intensively involved in drug crime
throughout Europe.
These ndings were conrmed by an expert advisory committee (Ad-
viescommissie Drugsbeleid 2009). It concluded that in some areas the
policy was in urgent need of changeand that the use of drugs and al-
178 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
cohol by minors should be tackled far more rigorously. Coffee shops
should return to their original purpose of selling small amounts to local
consumers, especially in areas along the border. The illegal drug mar-
kets and organized crime must be tackled more vigorously.
The government acted on this advice with a policy letter:
Dutch drug policy needs a new impulseand should initiate a deci-
sive approach against nuisance and (organized) crime(Tweede Kamer
2011a, p. 2). It announced a more restrictive policy toward coffee shops.
More intense and integrated efforts to control organized crime were ad-
vocated involving cooperation between public and private parties at a re-
gional level and administrative, scal, and criminal law authorities. Extra
efforts have been made to seize criminal proceeds. Legislation was en-
acted to increase and harmonize sanctions on large-scale cannabis culti-
vation. Finally, drug policy toward use among youths was to focus on
prevention, addiction care, and cure (Tweede Kamer 2011b). School
prevention programs were stimulated and e-health was promoted, in-
cluding a special interactive online program to help young people de-
velop protective skills in relation to drug use and addiction.
II. Coffee Shops
Coffee shops operate under national and local regulations. The system is
a regulatory regime for adults (MacCoun, Reuter, and Schelling 1996).
The sale of cannabis is tolerated in order to prevent consumers from en-
tering the more criminal and dangerous illegal drugs market and to re-
duce exposure to hard drugs. Separation of the cannabis and hard drug
consumer markets is the cornerstone of the coffee shop system. Coffee
shops also offer a safer environment to buy and consume drugs. Reve-
nues from coffee shops do not play a role in the policy (as they do else-
where; Fijnaut 2014).
United Nations conventions dene cannabis as a dangerous drug
and contemplate prohibitive, repressive, and multilayer controls. Under
these conventions, the Netherlands has applied its own policies con-
cerning cannabis, including the coffee shop system. Its origins date back
to 1976, when the enabling amendment in the Opium Act was imple-
In 2009 and 2010 there were also policy letters in reaction to the advice of the com-
mittee, but these were conceived by a cabinet under resignation (Tweede Kamer 2009,
The Dutch Model 179
mented. Since then, cannabis has been listed on Schedule II for soft
drugs. Small-scale sale of cannabis in coffee shops developed in the slip-
stream of the system, and the commercialization that resulted was un-
Both criminal and administrative law apply to coffee shops. Guide-
lines for investigation and prosecution of Opium Act offenses by the
public prosecutor, described in table 3, set out criteria for nonprose-
cution of coffee shops. The rst specications of these criteria date to
1991. Since then, the criteria were sharpened and expanded.
Apart from these criteria, a coffee shop is not allowed to sell alcohol. If
a coffee shop fails to comply with one of these criteria, the mayor can
apply administrative measures, varying from a ne to closure of the shop
for a denite or indenite period. The public prosecutor can prosecute
the coffee shop owner and staff. The severity of the sanction depends
on the violation. The presence of hard drugs and youths is punished
more severely than advertising violations, as are repeated violations (de
Bruin, Dijkstra, and Breeksema 2008). Local criteria, for instance, ban-
ning terraces outside the coffee shop or limiting opening hours, can be
applied after consultation of the mayor with the public prosecutor and
the police.
National Criteria Governing Coffee Shops, 2014
No advertising No advertising, apart from a minor reference (on the shop)
No hard drugs It is forbidden to have or sell hard drugs in the shop
No nuisance Nuisance may consist of parking problems around coffee shops,
noise, litter, or customers who loiter in front of or in the neigh-
borhood of the coffee shop
No young people No selling to and no access by young people under age 18; strict
enforcement focuses on customers younger than 18 years
No large quantities No selling of large quantities per transaction, which means quantities
larger than suitable for personal use (5 grams); a transaction
comprises all buying and selling in one coffee shop on the same
day by one same customer; furthermore, the maximum selling
stock is 500 grams
No nonresidents Access to residents of the Netherlands only*
SOURCE.Staatscourant (2015), Directive Opium Act 2015.
* This criterion has been applied since May 2012 in the southern Netherlands and was
extended in a revised version to the whole country in 2013. Enforcement is a local matter.
180 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Compliance is checked periodically by municipalities, local police,
and other agencies such as tax authorities. Customer IDs and the stock
of cannabis on the premises are checked. The mayor, the public pros-
ecutor, and the police agree on enforcement actions. Bieleman et al.
(2013) in 2012 surveyed all 671 coffee shops in municipalities that per-
mit them. Fifty-six violations were recorded (compared with 51 in 2011),
mainly for the maximum stock criterion (13 municipalities), the youth
criterion (seven municipalities), and the residence criterion (seven mu-
These regulations concern the front doorpolicy relating to the sale
of cannabis. The back doorproblem is that there are no regulations to
establish an ofcial authorized system for coffee shops to obtain canna-
bis. The police turn a blind eye to its purchase, as long as this is done
discreetly and in small quantities. This makes the system vulnerable.
Tijhuis (2006) points out that coffee shops are in a complicated inter-
face position between the illegal production market and the tolerated
sale of cannabis to consumers. Mayors call this a balancing actand de-
mand further regulation (Gemeente Utrecht 2014). The minister of se-
curity and justice, however, has consistently refused (e.g., Tweede Ka-
mer 2013c, 2013e, 2013f, 2014f):
Member of Parliament of the Socialist Party: We can sell weed. Why
does the Minister not choose to make an exception concerning the
cultivation of weed?
Minister: No, for one thing I am unable to do it and besides that I
dont want to do it. I cant put it more clearly or concise than that.
(Tweede Kamer 2013, p. 29)
Governmental regulation of cannabis cultivation is incompatible with
international treaties (T. M. C. Asser Instituut 2005; van Kempen and
Fedorova 2014). Van Kempen and Fedorova (2014, p. 242) conclude
that legalization, decriminalization, policy-based tolerance and/or other
forms of regulating cannabis cultivation for the recreational user market
The Netherlands imposed a limitation concerning art. 3, subsec. 6, of the UN Illicit
Trafc Convention of 1988. This limitation is a basis for toleration of coffee shops (e.g.,
Brouwer and Schilder 2012; van Kempen and Fedorova 2014).
The Dutch Model 181
is not permissible under the UN Narcotic Drugs Conventions or Euro-
pean Law.
The Dutch government has also concluded that formal regulation of
cannabis cultivation would violate international treaties and would not
solve existing problems; most Dutch-cultivated cannabis is exported
( Jansen 2012; Tweede Kamer 2013c, 2014e, 2014f, 2014h; van der Gies-
sen, Moolenaar, and van Ooyen-Houben 2014). Twenty-ve mayors,
however, developed a Manifest Joint Regulationin 2013 that pleaded
for regulation of cannabis cultivation for supply of coffee shops. The city
of Utrecht announced a noncommercial social cannabis clubin 2013.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports and the Ministry of Secu-
rity and Justice both forbade this initiative.
Coffee shops need a license from the mayor to sell coffee and other
legal products but also to sell cannabis. The decision to tolerate coffee
shops is made at a municipal level, by the mayor in consultation with
the public prosecutor and the police and with approval by the citycouncil.
Seventy-six percent of municipalities (312 of 415) in 2012 did not per-
mit coffee shops. The number has remained more or less the same over
the years (Bieleman et al. 2013). Shops are scattered throughout the
country but concentrated in the most populated regions and in medium-
sized cities. Amsterdam had the highest number in 2012 (208) and the
highest concentration: one per 3,513 inhabitants. Rotterdam had 41 cof-
fee shops, and The Hague, 37.
Developments concerning coffee shops and cannabis use are closely
Since 1997 the National Prevalence Study, a periodic survey of use of
all drugs, not only cannabis, has been conducted every 4 years among
a sample of the population age 1564 (e.g., van Rooij, Schoenmakers,
and van de Mheen 2011).
Since 1988 a school survey of use of all drugs has been conducted ev-
ery 4 years among 1218-year-olds in regular secondary education
(e.g., Verdurmen et al. 2012).
Since 1999, the number of coffee shops, violations of tolerance cri-
teria, and coffee shop policies at a local level have been regularly
monitored (e.g., Bieleman et al. 2013).
Since 2000, the THC content and prices of cannabis sold by coffee
shops have been regularly monitored by buying samples of cannabis,
which are then chemically analyzed (e.g., Rigter and Niesink 2014).
182 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Since 1986, addiction care agencies have continuously monitored and
reported annually on treatment demand (e.g., Wisselink, Kuijpers,
and Mol 2013).
Health incidents in relation to drugs are monitored and reported an-
nually (e.g., Vogels and Croes 2013).
Finally, tens of reports on new measures are released at national and
local levels.
The annual National Drug Monitor contains a comprehensive chapter
on cannabis (e.g., van Laar et al. 2013, 2014). The monitor is sent to
Parliament with an accompanying letter from the secretary of state of
health, welfare, and sports (Tweede Kamer 2013d).
A. Coffee Shops: Facts and Figures
Most users buy their cannabis in a coffee shop: 70 percent according
to Korf et al. (2005); 5667 percent according to van Laar, van Ooyen-
Houben, and Monshouwer (2009); 8294 percent according to Korf,
Benschop, and Wouters (2013, 2014; in municipalities with coffee
shops). According to van der Giessen, Moolenaar, and van Ooyen-
Houben (2014) the market share of coffee shops is an estimated 62
85 percent. Table 4 shows data from Korf, Benschop, and Wouters
(2013). They are based on a MarchApril 2012 street survey of 942 can-
nabis users in 14 municipalities with coffee shops. Results distinguish be-
tween users in the southern provinces and elsewhere. This was before
more restrictive measures came into force in the southern provinces
(see below).
Those surveyed were between ages 18 and 66; the mean
was 24.3 years. Most users (94.4 percent in both groups) bought their
cannabis in the past 3 months mostly in a coffee shop. In 2013, this pro-
portion was somewhat lower as a consequence of more restrictive mea-
sures adopted in May 2012 (Korf et al. 2014). Korf et al. (2013) identi-
ed other sources: mobile phone dealers, self-growers, home dealers,
street dealers, under-the-counter dealers, and other dealers. Some users
cultivated cannabis themselves.
Figures from March to April 2012 provide the best approximation. The percentages
decreased after adoption of restrictions on coffee shops in the three southern provinces
in May 2012 (Korf et al. 2013) but increased when restrictions were loosened in 2013
(van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, and Korf 2014). In 2013, the situation was not stable
The Dutch Model 183
Nijkamp and Bieleman (2013) and Nijkamp, Mennes, and Bieleman
(2014) asked 1,045 and 720 visitors to coffee shops, respectively, how
easy it was to buy cannabis in the Netherlands. Perceived availability
was high: 9.09.3 in 2012 on a 110 scale and 9.09.2 in 2013.
Rigter and Niesink (2014) monitored raw prices and percentages of
THC in cannabis bought from coffee shops. As gure 4 shows, prices
of the most popular Dutch cannabis (Netherweedor Nederwiet)
steadily increased. Without controlling for ination, prices rose from
a mean of 5.85 in 2000 to 9.50–€9.60 in 201314, roughly 64 percent.
Between 2000 and 2004, the percentage of THC doubled from 9 to
20 percent and then fell until 2009. Between 2010 and 2013, the average
concentration decreased again from 17.8 to 13.5 percent. In 2014 it was
15 percent.
The absence of sharp troughs in the percentage of THC (the retail
purity) in combination with the absence of uctuations in raw prices
may indicate that there were no robust market disruptions in supply of
Nederwiet to coffee shops after 2000 (at least until 2013). So suggested
Sources of Cannabis, Last 3 Months, Numbers
and Percentages, MarchApril 2012
Southern Provinces
Number Percent Number Percent
Where did users obtain their cannabis:
Bought in a coffee shop 403 94.4 486 94.4
Bought from a mobile phone dealer 35 8.2 25 4.9
Bought from a self-grower 22 5.2 34 6.6
Bought from a home dealer 34 8.0 44 8.6
Bought from a street dealer 42 9.9 25 4.9
Bought from an under-the-counter dealer 5 1.2 5 1.0
Bought from a home dealer at a usual
meeting place
Bought elsewhere 2 .5 5 1.0
Bought from friends who live in the
35 8.2 26 5.1
Self-cultivated 21 4.9 19 3.7
Provided free of charge 84 19.7 121 23.5
N427 515
SOURCE.Korf, Benschop, and Wouters (2013).
184 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Caulkins, Rajderkar, and Vasudev (2010) in an analysis of purity-adjusted
Characteristics of coffee shop customers have often been studied
(Surmont 2005, 2007; Bieleman and Naayer 2007; Korf, Doekhie, and
Wouters 2011; Nijkamp and Bieleman 2013):
Over 80 percent are male with a mean age of 2432 years.
The majority are students or employed.
Many take cannabis with them for use at home. Around half do not
smoke cannabis on the premises.
The majority use cannabis daily or several times a week. In one study,
64 percent were daily users and 20 percent used two to three times a
Visits reect the amounts used.
Coffee shops have a substantial proportion of regular customers.
The quality and reliability of the cannabis is important; if cannabis in
a shop is good and of constant quality, customers will continue to
purchase there.
Friendly attitudes of staff, a cozyatmosphere, and the presence of
friends and acquaintances play important roles.
Price and accessibility (close to home or en route to school or work)
play less important roles.
FIG.4.Percentage THC content and mean price per gram, most popular Nederwiet in cof-
fee shops, 20002014. Source: THC-monitor Trimbos Institute; Rigter and Niesink (2014).
The Dutch Model 185
About one-third of respondents bought in more than one coffee
shop per day; they traveled farther.
Trends in use among 1218-year-olds in regular secondary education
are shown in gure 5. Use peaked in 1996, with 22 percent being life-
time users (lifetime prevalence) and 11 percent current users (last month
prevalence), and later decreased to approximately 17 percent (lifetime)
and 8 percent (current) in 2007 and 2011. Numbers have more or less
stabilized since 2003. Use among youths in (residential) youth care
and judicial institutions and among school dropouts is much higher,
ranging from 29 to 65 percent current use in studies between 2006
and 2009 (van Laar et al. 2013, 2014).
The lifetime prevalence of cannabis use among the general popula-
tion age 1564 in 1997 was around 19 percent; in 2005, 23 percent. Re-
cent use (last year prevalence) was around 5 percent and current use
around 3 percent (van Rooij, Schoenmakers, and van de Mheen 2011).
The prevalence gures were stable during 19972005. In 2009 they
were higher: 26 percent lifetime use, 7 percent recent use, and 4 per-
cent current use. There is, however, a problem with comparability of
data since 2009 due to a change in data collection methods (van Rooij,
Schoenmakers, and van de Mheen 2011).
Making international comparisons is difcult because of differences in
method and years of assessment. Also, the validity of self-reported use is
not known. Van Laar et al. (2013, 2014) report international compari-
sons concerning cannabis in the general population age 1564 for Euro-
pean Union countries and Norway. The Netherlands level is near the
average. Romania, Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, Estonia, Bulgaria, Swe-
den, and Greece rank lowest (1 percent or less current use). Spain and
the United States rank highest (7 percent current use). The Netherlands
gure is 4 percent (van Laar et al. 2013, 2014; see also EMCDDA 2012).
Better international comparisons are possible for 1516-year-olds
who attend regular secondary schools (because the studies use compa-
rable methods).
Current use was highest in France (24 percent) and
the United States (18 percent) in 2011 and lowest in Norway, Sweden,
In 2009 respondents lled out the questionnaire themselves. More anonymous and
privacy-protecting methods, such as in 2009, appear to produce higher prevalence gures
(van Laar et al. 2013, p. 60).
See the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD).
186 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
and Finland (23 percent).
Dutch adolescents ranked fourth highest
(14 percent; van Laar et al. 2013, 2014; see table 5).
B. Does the Coffee Shop System Work?
1. Separating Soft and Hard Drugs Markets. Coffee shops dominate
the consumer market for cannabis, thereby keeping usersfor the most
partaway from illegal drug markets (van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben,
and Monshouwer 2009). Research indicates that consumer markets for
cannabis and for hard drugs like heroin, crack, cocaine, and amphet-
amines are more separate in the Netherlands than in other European
countries and the United States. It would appear that the coffee shop
system contributes to separation of the markets and weakens links to
hard drug markets (MacCoun and Reuter 2001). From a health perspec-
tive, this is a good result. Pertinent research ndings are as follows.
Coffee shops are the most important direct or indirect source for the
purchase of cannabis. The likelihood of nding hard drugs in a cof-
fee shop is low (Korf et al. 2005; de Bruin, Dijkstra, and Breeksema
2008; van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer 2009; Mon-
shouwer, van Laar, and Vollebergh 2011; Bieleman et al. 2013; Korf
et al. 2013).
The surveys in the United States are comparable to ESPAD.
FIG.5.Cannabis use prevalence among 1218-year-olds in regular secondary education.
Source: Peilstationsonderzoek, Trimbos Institute; Verdurmen et al. (2012).
The Dutch Model 187
Away from coffee shops there is a lively trade in cannabis and other
(party) drugs (Korf et al. 2005; Blokker et al. 2011; Snippe and
Bieleman 2012). The risk of mixing hard drugs and soft drugs is
higher (Korf et al. 2005; van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben, and Mon-
shouwer 2009; Monshouwer, van Laar, and Vollebergh 2011).
The higher the coffee shop density in an area, the lower the likeli-
hood that users buy cannabis outside the coffee shop system (Wou-
ters 2012).
Separation of markets seems to have decreased the correlation be-
tween cannabis use and use of cocaine and amphetamines (MacCoun
Cannabis Consumption, 15- and 16-Year-Old Secondary School
Students: European Union Member States, Norway, and
the United States, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011 (%)
Lifetime Use Current Use
Country 1999 2003 2007 2011 1999 2003 2007 2011
France 35 38 31 39 22 22 15 24
United States* 41 36 31 35 19 17 14 18
Netherlands 28 28 28 27 14 13 15 14
. . . 36 36 26 . . . 22 20 15
. . . 32 24 24 . . . 17 12 11
Italy 25 27 23 21 14 15 13 12
... 27 20 19 ... 12 7 7
Ireland 32 39 20 18 15 17 9 7
24 23 25 18 8 8 10 6
Portugal 8 15 13 16 5869
Finland 10 11 8 11 2323
Sweden 8 7 792123
Greece 9 6 684234
Norway 12 9 654322
Switzerland . . . 40 33 . . . . . . 20 15 . . .
United Kingdom
35 38 29 . . . 16 20 11 . . .
Austria . . . 21 17 . . . . . . 10 6 . . .
SOURCE.European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD),
reported in van Laar et al. (2014).
* The United States did not participate in ESPAD but conducted comparable surveys.
Data are less representative.
In 2007 and 2011, only Flanders.
In 2007 for six and in 2011 for ve of the 16 states.
No data for 2011 because of too low response rate (only six of the schools).
188 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
2011). Separating soft and hard drugs markets may have reduced the
gatewayto hard drug use (MacCoun 2010).
Dutch cannabis users use relatively little heroin or crack but rela-
tively more ecstasy (van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer
2009; Monshouwer, van Laar, and Vollebergh 2011).
2. The Commercialization Hypothesis. Acommercialization hypothe-
sishas been the subject of debate. MacCoun and Reuter (1997) exam-
ined the effects of the Dutch cannabis policy since 1976. They analyzed
the prevalence of use in the Netherlands and observed that commercial
promotion and sales by coffee shops between 1984 and 1992 paralleled
an increase in use by youths in the Netherlands that was not observed in
other nations. They argued that the rapid proliferation of commercial
retail cannabis outlets is a plausible explanation for the increase in prev-
alence of use.
What does the evidence show?
Korf (1995) also observed a correlation in the 1980s between preva-
lence of cannabis use and the rising number of coffee shops. He com-
pared trends in Amsterdam with trends in Hamburg. He concluded
that the increase in use is attributable to increased availability of
cannabis associated with the coffee shops.
De Zwart and van Laar (2001) observed that causal conclusions can-
not be based on correlations and that MacCoun and Reuters com-
parisons of prevalence rates were unconvincing because of differ-
ences in samples and methods. The increase in cannabis use seemed
to have taken place much earlier in the United States than in Europe.
De Zwart and van Laar rejected the commercialization hypothesis
and argued that trends in drug use result from a complex interplay
of factors.
Van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer (2009) and Mon-
shouwer, van Laar, and Vollebergh (2011) observed trends in the use
of cannabis and found that they paralleled the number of coffee
shops. There was a clear increase in the 1980s and the rst half of
the 1990s in both, followed by stabilization in use and then a decrease
when the number of coffee shops decreased. They observed, how-
ever, that the increase in cannabis use was not an isolated phenom-
enon but also occurred in other countries without coffee shops. It
seemed therefore not plausible to attribute the Netherlands increase
The Dutch Model 189
to the coffee shops. Besides, the prevalence of cannabis use in the
Netherlands did not show excessive trends upward when compared
to other countries, whereas the age of onset of cannabis use is rela-
tively low in the Netherlands.
Palali and van Ours (2013) conducted exploratory analysis on the age
of onset of cannabis use, using data from a 2008 survey with a retro-
spective question on the age of onset. They report indications that
youngsters who live more than 20 kilometers from a municipality
with a coffee shop have a lower starting rate of cannabis use, and
youngsters living closer to coffee shops are more likely to start using
cannabis earlier on. The overall welfare effect, however, also de-
pends on how the closeness of coffee shops affects the intensity of
use, total cannabis consumption, and the uptake of other drugs.
MacCoun (2011) correlated trends in use with trends in the number
of coffee shops over a longer period. Like others, he compared use
patterns in the general population and coffee shops numbers and
concluded there was only a modest correlation. He also concluded
that the coffee shops did not appear to encourage escalation into
heavier use or lengthier using careers, although cannabis treatment
rates are higher than elsewhere in Europe. MacCoun observed that
Netherlands use patterns are typical for Europe but that Dutch
youths report higher-than-average availability of cannabis. He calcu-
lated that cannabis use is lower than would be expected in a free mar-
ket and concluded that the coffee shops did not cause an escalation in
heavy cannabis use. MacCoun (2010) observed that the increase in
cannabis use in the 1980s and early 1990s occurred in a hybrid sys-
tem, in which high-level enforcement probably kept prices higher
than they would have been in a fully legalized scheme.
Cannabis users nd other suppliers in illegal retail markets when
there are no coffee shops or when the entrance to coffee shops is
restricted (Korf et al. 2005; Korf, Benschop, and Wouters 2013;
Nijkamp and Bieleman 2013; Korf et al. 2014; Nijkamp, Mennes,
and Bieleman 2014). Displacement to illegal retail markets after
the introduction of restrictions on coffee shops was conrmed by lo-
cal experts (van Ooyen-Houben and van der Giessen 2013).
It seems that coffee shops and the decriminalization policy thus con-
tributed at most modestly to an increase in cannabis use, despite the pos-
sible inuence of proximity of coffee shops on age of onset of use. Van t
190 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Loo et al. (2003) conclude that the evidence does not support a strong
connection between the coffee shop policy and the prevalence of can-
nabis use. Nor does it disprove a connection. The deciding factor for
changes in cannabis use in the Netherlands is not depenalization but
the form it takes (van t Loo et al. 2003, p. 39). Other factors, such as
the perceived benets or harmfulness of cannabis, availability and price,
severity of sanctions, chances of getting caught, and characteristics of
the youth culture, seem to play major roles (e.g., Korf 1995; de Zwart
and van Laar 2001; van t Loo et al. 2003; Monshouwer 2008; Mon-
shouwer, van Laar, and Vollebergh 2011; Wouters 2012). These factors
are probably inuenced by the policy and the presence of coffee shops,
but they also seem to play a role independently from the presence of cof-
fee shops.
The commercialization hypothesis may have been valid in the 1980s,
when there was an exponential growth of coffee shops (Korf 1995; Korf
et al. 2001). For later periods, the story is more complicated. Our al-
ternative hypothesis is that neither depenalization nor the coffee shop
model is decisive and that other factors, partly mediated by the coffee
shop system, play more prominent roles. This would explain why the
prevalence of cannabis use is high in countries without coffee shops
and even higher in the United States, Spain, and France. It also explains
why restrictions on coffee shops have not substantially inuenced canna-
bis use. Enough cannabis is available on the domestic market, and it can
be obtained through other channels (van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman,
and Korf 2014).
That the coffee shops operate in a regulated system may also play a
role. Commercialization was limited after the early 1990s (at least within
a certain range) by restrictive criteria for toleration (see table 3; de Zwart
and van Laar 2001). The license system and the local constraints on the
number of coffee shops led to a controlled number of coffee shops. Lo-
cal authorities have effective instruments to control the coffee shop sit-
uation (van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, and Korf 2014).
Pessimistic assessments, however, have been offered. Van Laar, van
Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer (2009) and van Laar et al. (2013,
2014) report that the prevalence of cannabis use among Dutch ado-
lescents in regular secondary schools is relatively high compared with
other countries. Young people perceive cannabis as easily available and
the associated risks to be lower than do young people in other coun-
tries. The high level of use was identied as a problem by experts and
The Dutch Model 191
policy makers (Adviescommissie Drugsbeleid 2009; Tweede Kamer
2011a). Van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer (2009) report
that users of cannabis use more hard drugs than do nonusers. Use is
higher among vulnerable young people and young people who suffer
from aggression, problems at school, and psychological problems (van
Laar et al. 2013). For some users, cannabis can trigger psychotic symp-
toms or addiction (e.g., van den Brink 2006; de Graaf et al. 2012; van der
Pol 2014). Van der Pol (2014) assessed a group of frequent userscoffee
shop customers, mean age at rst assessment 22 yearsover a 3-year pe-
riod. Thirty-seven percent showed the rst symptoms of cannabis de-
pendence during the 3 years.
Cannabis seems not to be as harmless for all users as was rst thought
in the 1970s. The number of admissions to addiction care facilities for
cannabis-related problems has increased (van Laar et al. 2013). The rel-
atively high levels of THC in Dutch cannabis make homegrown Ne-
derwiet potentially more harmful (according to the Expertcommissie
Lijstensystematiek Opiumwet 2011; see also g. 4). However, cannabis
was ranked as a low-risk drug by the Coordination Point for the Assess-
ment and Monitoring of Drugs in 2009 (van Amsterdam et al. 2009).
3. Unintended Side Effects. The lenient policy toward cannabis pro-
duced several unwanted side effects. They were to a large extent unfore-
seen and were not taken into account by policy makers in the early 1970s.
Van de Bunt (2006) reviewed policy documents preceding the changes
in the Opium Law (1976) and highlights the one-sided focus on users and
risks to users. Important arguments for changes were that the state
should not interfere with the individual choices of citizens, that risks
to users were much less than from heroin, and that a separation of
marketswould insulate cannabis users from hard drug consumption.
This one-sided focus on health risks for users was paralleled by a gen-
eral neglect of the processes associated with tolerated use of soft drugs
and a naive view of the commercial attractiveness of soft drugs markets
(van de Bunt 2006). The dominant ideas for the inuential Hulsman
Committee were that youths would buy soft drugs from reliable home
dealersin a youth activity center, that tradewas not an issue, and that
the Netherlands was too small and uninteresting to attract international
organized drug traders. Van de Bunt (2006, p. 15) quotes the com-
mittees proposition that in the Netherlands not many people will
get richfrom the cannabis trade.These blind spots, he suggests, ex-
192 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
plain why the emergence and exponential growth of coffee shops af-
ter the 1980sin the mid-1990s there were an estimated 1,1001,500
(Tweede Kamer 1995; Korf 2011)came as such a surprise. That is also
true of other unintended side effects.
One involved drug tourism.The Netherlands is close to Germany,
Belgium, and France, which makes coffee shops easily accessible. In
some cities 7090 percent of coffee shop customers were from abroad
(Surmont 2005, 2007; Rovers and Fijnaut 2011; Snippe, Nijkamp, and
Bieleman 2012; Mein and van Ooyen 2013). There were at times thou-
sands of visitors per day, adding up to a few million a year. In Maastricht,
close to the German and Belgian borders, the annual number of foreign
visitors was estimated at 23 million (COT Instituut voor Veiligheids-
en Crisismanagement 2011). Some coffee shops became large commer-
cial enterprises. One called Checkpoint in Terneuzen, a border city close
to Belgium, in 2006 attracted 2,0002,500 foreign customers per day,
200 per hour, mostly Belgians and French (Surmont 2005, 2007).
Citizens complained about nuisances. This involved double parking,
youths hanging around, noise and music from cars, loud talking, smok-
ing joints in porches, the smell of cannabis, trafc, and parking problems
(van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, et al. 2009).
Other unintended consequences included the emergence of major
cannabis trafcking by organized crime groups and indoor cultivation
in the Netherlands (e.g., de Kort 1995; Fijnaut et al. 1998; Bovenkerk
and Hogewind 2003; Korf et al. 2006; Kleemans 2007; Spapens, van
de Bunt, and Rastovac 2007; Decorte et al. 2011).
In both political and practical terms, it is impossible to combine tol-
erance of cannabis supply in coffee shops with strict enforcement of laws
forbidding sales to coffee shops (which are illegal). As a result, the illegal
supply of coffee shops was for long a very low law enforcement priority.
Cross-border trafcking of hard drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine,
was a much higher priority and involved much higher sentences than
cannabis trafcking. The trafcking of cannabis ourished under the
low enforcement priority (de Kort 1995). Fijnaut et al. (1998) describe
how Dutch seamen, engaged in the early 1970s in hydraulic engineering
Recent research has shown that in 2011 and 2012 nuisances experienced by people in
the direct vicinity of coffee shops were not that serious in many places (De Hoog et al.
2012) and restricted to a some municipalities in border regions (van Ooyen-Houben,
Bieleman, and Korf 2013, 2014).
The Dutch Model 193
projects near Dubai, came into contact with Pakistani hashish exporters.
Dutch criminal entrepreneurs funded large shipments of hashish from
Pakistan to the Netherlands and to other European countries and North
America (Fijnaut et al. 1998, p. 74). Access to the condoned Dutch retail
market and lenient law enforcement facilitated the growth of these
criminal networks. The presence of a substantial Moroccan immigrant
population also facilitated import of cannabis from Morocco in later
years. In recent decades, the cultivation of homegrown indoor Dutch
cannabis has made an appearance. Dutch cannabis has largely replaced
imported cannabis (Korf et al. 2006). Bovenkerk and Hogewind (2003)
analyzed police les and found that cultivation was widespread. They
suggested that criminal networks were involved that compelled people
to join cannabis cultivation networks. This prompted a government
cannabis letterthat included a range of measures aimed at curbing
professional cannabis cultivation (Tweede Kamer 2004).
Spapens, van de Bunt, and Rastovac (2007) analyzed 19 closed large-
scale criminal investigations and interviewed 16 professional cannabis
growers. They describe the production process and the organization
of cannabis cultivation and paint a different picture than did Bovenkerk
and Hogewind. They deny the existence of substantial coercion and de-
scribe a logistic process that is strongly democratized.Many people
have the necessary knowledge and skills, and most of the required ma-
terials are widely used and could easily be acquired at so-called grow-
shops: They usually supply all the necessary legal cultivation equip-
ment and they also give advice to growers. None of these activities are
currently punishable by law.
However, there are also a number of
mala de grow shops that will refer prospective cannabis growers to
sellers of cuttings, wholesale cannabis buyers and service providers
such as electricians or grow room builders.They also collect hemp waste
from cannabis growers(Spapens, van de Bunt, and Rastovac 2007,
pp. 14344).
Criminal groups are involved in cannabis cultivation but are part of
a wider landscape involving four categories. Small-scale independent
growers, operating at their own risk and using their own nancial re-
sources, typically grow 1001,000 plants on their own premises. Large-
scale independent growers, operating plantations in (rented) commercial
Since 2014, these activities are punishable.
194 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
properties, grow 1,000 or more plants. Smallest-scale operators install
ve to 10 plants in other peoples houses (mostly acquaintances). Crim-
inal groups, the fourth category,
are involved in buying, processing and selling cannabis products on
a large scale and, in addition, often run their own sizeable plantations.
They have one or more grow shops at their disposal, or a less visible
address where independent growers or operators can deliver their
harvests. . . . A turnover of 100 to 200 kilos per week is not unusual. . . .
Criminal cooperatives play an important role in the world behind
the cultivation of cannabis, not because they force people into in-
stalling plantations in their homes, but because they provide an as-
sured market to independent growers and operators. They offer
growers and operators an opportunity to cultivate cannabis in the
knowledge that they will have no difculty selling their harvest.
(Spapens, van de Bunt, and Rastovac 2007, pp. 14445)
Negative aspects of indoor cannabis cultivation relate to criminal in-
volvement, criminal revenues, and its assumed export orientation. Re-
cent estimates by the national police of the rate of export range from
48 to 97 percent, with 85 percent being the most plausible ( Jansen
2012). A new study was conducted (van der Giessen, Moolenaar, and
van Ooyen-Houben 2014), which reports its most plausible estimate
of the Netherlands export as 7891 percent of the domestic production
when consumption by nonresidents is dened as domestic consump-
tionand 8695 percent when consumption by nonresidents is dened
as export.Apart from this, indoor cultivation uses large amounts of
electricity and water that are often illegally obtained (e.g., by diverting
electricity) and present dangers to neighbors and premises (Gemeente
Utrecht 2014).
C. Coffee Shops under Attack
The 1995 policy letter already touched on most of these problems. It
announced measures but maintained a strong focus on the primarily
health-oriented strategy (Tweede Kamer 1995). In 2009, the Advisory
Committee Drug Policy characterized the situation with coffee shops
as urgent(Adviescommissie Drugsbeleid 2009). They have since be-
come a recurring subject of debate in municipalities and in Parliament.
Several policy changes have been implemented at national and local
levels. The system has become more restrictive.
The Dutch Model 195
The rst coffee shops opened in the beginning of the 1980s, after
which the number rose sharply. The 1995 policy letter observed that
the in themselves valuable coffee shops did, however, increase in num-
ber and burden(Tweede Kamer 1995, p. 37). It was estimated that there
were then 1,1001,200 coffee shops (1,500 according to Korf [2011]).
The policy letter supported local initiatives to rationalizethe coffee
shop policy and decrease their number. As gure 6 shows, the number
fell 27 percent from 846 in 1999 to 614 in April 2013.
The reduction has several causes, among which is the implementation
of municipal policies aimed at the eradicationof coffee shops, imply-
ing that no new ones will be authorized once an existing shop closes or
violates regulations. In some cases, local ordinances forbidding coffee
shops within a certain distance from schools led to the closure of several.
The city of Rotterdam, for example, in 2009 closed 16 coffee shops lo-
cated within 250 meters from schools (Bieleman, Nijkamp, and Sijtstra
2011; Nijkamp and Bieleman 2012).
D. Constraints on Criteria for Tolerance at a National Level
The national criteria for toleration of coffee shops, described in the
Directive Opium Act for the public prosecutor in 1991, have been sub-
ject to restrictions and specications since 1995:
The maximum transaction per customer per day was reduced from
30 to 5 grams (Staatscourant 1996).
Access was restricted to persons over age 18 (Staatscourant 1996).
The maximum amount of cannabis in stock was limited to 500 grams
(Staatscourant 1996).
Coffee shops are required to be alcohol-free premises (Staatscourant
Limits on advertising were established in 2006.
In 2011, further restrictions were announced:
Coffee shops had to become private clubs with access limited to
Netherlands residents in 2012 (Staatscourant 2011).
In 2013 no coffee shop could be located within 350 meters from
schools for secondary education and secondary vocational education
(Tweede Kamer 2011a).
196 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
FIG.6.Coffee shops, the Netherlands, 1999April 2013. Source: Bieleman et al. (2013)
The government initiated the procedure to transfer cannabis with a
THC level of 15 percent or more to Schedule I of the Opium Act
(Tweede Kamer 2012, 2014b, 2014c, 2014d). Coffee shops will only
be allowed to sell cannabis with a THC level lower than 15 percent.
The introduction of the private club requirement and the rule deny-
ing entrance to persons living outside the Netherlands are substantial
changes. Enforcement started as a pilot in May 2012 in three provinces
where the problems of nuisance and drug tourism were most urgent.
The remaining provinces were supposed to follow in January 2013.
The introduction of these measures was evaluated in 14 municipali-
ties, seven in the southern provinces where they were implemented
and seven in other provinces where they were not. The researchers as-
sessed nuisances around coffee shops, the number of coffee shop visits,
characteristics of visitors, and developments on the illegal market. They
also assessed implementation (van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, and Korf
2013). There were three assessments: a baseline, one after 6 months, and
another after 18 months. One conclusion was that drug tourists stayed
away after introduction of the residence criterion (Korf et al. 2013;
Nijkamp and Bieleman 2013). In this respect, it was successful.
The private club criterion, however, was not successful. It had a num-
ber of adverse side effects. Some former customers, Netherlands resi-
dents, turned away from the coffee shops and started buying cannabis
on the illegal market, thus fostering nuisance from street dealers. These
people did not want to register as a club member (van Ooyen-Houben,
Bieleman, and Korf 2013).
There was a substantial increase in the ille-
gal cannabis consumer market. Young customers age 1824 in particular
turned away. The growing illegal market attracted young dealers with a
vulnerable background (Korf et al. 2014; Nijkamp, Mennes, and Biele-
man 2014; van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, and Korf 2014).
Instances of nuisance in the vicinities of the coffee shops were not
signicantly reduced but changed in nature. Initially, neighbors were
This procedure was underway at the time of writing. There was opposition from
some parties in the Lower House. Most political parties support the measure, so it will
probably be approved. If so, some observers anticipate risks of displacement to illegal
markets and issues concerning the control of the THC level by coffee shops and police.
Registration was controlled by the police and the local authorities. Coffee shops often
themselves use a passsystem to control the 5 grams per person limit, but this is not con-
trolled by ofcial authorities.
198 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
bothered by nuisances associated with the coffee shop. After the new
measures were implemented, neighbors were bothered by illegal street
dealers (Snippe and Bieleman 2013). The new criteria had no inu-
ence on the use of cannabis among Netherlands residents (Korf et al.
The government rescinded the private club criterion in November
2012. The planned national distance criterion of 350 meters was also
rescinded. The residence criterion remained in force but was adapted:
local authorities can decide whether to enforce it (Tweede Kamer 2012).
After the removal of the private club criterion, residents returned to
the coffee shops, but not all. The illegal market decreased but remained
bigger than it had been before the policy change.
Drug tourism decreased. However, 10 of the 15 municipalities in the
study sample did not enforce the residence criterion. This makes it less
effective but nonetheless reduces the role of the illegal markets to which
users turned.
The radical entry restrictions were only partly successful. They were
also responsible for a number of serious unintended consequences in re-
lation to fundamental policy goals, notably separation of cannabis and
hard drug consumer markets and creation of safe places to buy and use
cannabis. Too many Dutch customers turned to the illegal market to
avoid registration and police control of coffee shop membership. The
negative side effects especially affected youths, who turned to the illegal
market and were attracted to it as dealers.
E. Constraints on Criteria at a Local Level
Regulations for coffee shops were also tightened at the local level.
Municipal criteria for coffee shops became more numerous and restric-
tive (Bieleman et al. 2013). One municipality limited the maximum
amount per transaction to 2 grams. Others restricted opening hours or
forbade coffee shops to use a terrace. Some obligated coffee shops to
introduce a pass system for their customers or to hire staff to help reduce
noise and litter.
Coffee shops in general adhere to all these criteria (de Bruin, Dijkstra,
and Breeksema 2008; van Ooyen-Houben and van der Giessen 2013).
The number of violations is low (Bieleman et al. 2013). One explana-
tion is that coffee shops are lucrative businesses that their owners do
not want to compromise (van Ooyen-Houben and van der Giessen
The Dutch Model 199
F. Relocation and Dispersion of Coffee Shops
Relocating a coffee shop in case of nuisance is difcult (Bootsma
2012). The new location must be selected with care. Residents can ini-
tiate judicial procedures and request compensation for expected losses.
Some municipalities, such as Rotterdam, refuse to permit relocations.
Others, such as Amsterdam, will consider relocation only if the coffee
shop can demonstrate that it has done all it could to prevent nuisance
at its old location.
One municipality that managed successfully to relocate coffee shops is
Venlo, a city close to the German border. It has had to deal with large
numbers of German drug tourists since the 1980s (Snippe et al. 2005).
By the end of the 1980s, there were 39 coffee shops. In 1995, there were
only ve. Problems with drug tourists, street dealing, drug runners, and
drug-dealing premises led to the decline of the city center at the end of
the 1990s. In response, Project Hektor was implemented in 2001. One
aim was relocation of two coffee shops away from the city center and to-
ward the German border. It occurred in 2004, in combination with in-
tensive police enforcement against related nuisances and a program to
regenerate the city center.
The initiative was a success. Cases of nuisance in the inner city de-
creased, and German customers found their way to the new location.
Thanks to police efforts and active cooperation from the coffee shop,
instances of nuisance at the new location stayed within limits. Displace-
ment to other locations was not observed (Snippe, Nijkamp, and Biele-
man 2012).
In 2012 and 2013, the situation changed because the two coffee shops
near the German border closed. This was at the initiative of the shops
themselves but was inuenced by the introduction of the residence cri-
terion. After May 2012, drug-related nuisances increased because Ger-
man customers started buying cannabis from street dealers and friends
more often. Local youths became involved in street dealing (Snippe,
Nijkamp, and Bieleman 2013). As a consequence, Venlo in 2013 toler-
ated small numbers of German customers in its coffee shops despite the
residence criterion (Snippe, Nijkamp, and Bieleman 2013; van Ooyen-
Houben and van der Giessen 2013). The drug-related nuisance decreased
but was higher than before.
The municipality of Maastricht also considered relocating coffee
shops from the city center to the periphery. However, there was op-
200 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
position from municipalities, businesses, and individuals in the envis-
aged new locations. In August 2013, an administrative court (Raad van
State) ruled that relocation of coffee shops is a legal option (ECLI:
NL:RVS:2013:696). It is unclear what will happen. For coffee shop own-
ers, relocation closer to the border is no longer an attractive option
since the residence criterion is enforced.
The city of Terneuzen, located close to the Belgian border, also con-
sidered relocation in 2006. Agreement, however, could not be reached.
The public prosecutor declared that he could not be held responsible for
relocation to the border region. The mayor saw relocation as a solution
for the citys nuisance problems (Mein and van Ooyen 2013).
G. Closure of Coffee Shops
Closure is another option. Municipalities are wary, however, as they
fear that former customers will turn to the illegal market, thus increasing
nuisances by street dealers. Even so, coffee shops have been closed by
the mayor. The most prominent example occurred in Bergen op Zoom
and Roosendaal, near the Belgian border.
Thousands of Belgian and French drug tourists visited these cities
each week, resulting in parking problems, noise, litter, and citizenscom-
plaints. In 20089 the mayor, in consultation with the public prosecutor
and the local police chief, decided to close all eight coffee shops. The
closures in 2009 were a component of a broader project entitled Cour-
age.It included intensive reinforcement, a targeted communication
campaign aimed at drug tourists, and swift responses to nuisance com-
plaints by citizens. Evaluations showed that drug tourism and nuisance
were reduced substantially and that there were only limited visible dis-
placement effects on Breda, a neighboring town (Berghuis and de Waard
2010, 2011; van der Torre, Lagendijk, and Bervoets 2010; van der Torre
et al. 2013).
The city of Terneuzen, near the Belgian border, provides a second
example of coffee shop closure. Terneuzen had a very large coffee shop
(Checkpoint) and a smaller one (Miami). Checkpoint attracted many
foreign visitors; it was well organized and successful. The constant
See Braga (2007), Bowers et al. (2011), and Braga, Papachristos, and Hureau (2012)
for systematic reviews of research on displacement, which conrms the ndings reported
The Dutch Model 201
stream of customers, however, caused incidents of nuisance. Relocation
was not an option. The municipality tried to regulate the trafc and
parking problems, but this did not stop drug tourism.
In 2007, the police raided Checkpoint. It was suspected of violating
the coffee shop criteria. The police discovered much too much stock,
96 kilos (500 grams is the maximum allowed). In another raid in 2008,
130 kilos were conscated. The owner and some staff were prosecuted.
The violations were reason enough to close the coffee shop, initially for
6 months and later permanently. The closure did not result in increased
incidents of nuisance in the streets as was expected; the municipality had
always feared that street dealing would occur and nuisances would in-
crease. This was why the municipality had long been lenient. The city
had even facilitated the growth of the coffee shop, by regulating trafc
ow from abroad and providing Checkpoint opportunity to expand.
Nuisance associated with the closure was managed by intensive law en-
forcement (Mein and van Ooyen 2013). Displacement occurred in near-
by towns such as Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal but was limited
(Bieleman, Nijkamp, and Buit-Minnema 2009).
Rotterdam, which is not a border city, closed 16 coffee shops on the
basis of a new local ordinance that forbade coffee shops to be located
within 250 meters from secondary schools. Here also, there were no
substantial side effects. The situation was easily managed (Nijkamp and
Bieleman 2012).
H. Restrictions and Interventions within an Accepted System
Despite the increased restrictions on running coffee shops, the system
as such is not under attack. Local authorities want to maintain coffee
shops so as to prevent users turning to illegal markets. As a result, the
system is treated with care. Rotterdam wanted to decrease the number
of coffee shops but decided to do this slowly and gradually, in order
to prevent customers turning to the illegal market (Gemeente Rotter-
dam 2013). Lelystad, a provincial town, opened a new coffee shop in
2013, to offer its citizens an alternative to the illegal market and to coffee
shops farther away (Korf et al. 2013). The mayor of Maastricht sanc-
tioned 13 of the 14 coffee shops in the city with temporary closures
for rule violations but did so in phases to ensure that enough coffee
shops remained open at any time (van Ooyen-Houben, Bieleman, and
Korf 2014).
202 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
I. Controlling Cannabis Cultivation
Large-scale professional cultivation of cannabis in the Netherlands
has been subject to intensied law enforcement since 2004 (Tweede
Kamer 2004). The problem was addressed in the 1995 policy letter
but was placed high on the policy agenda only after a study by Boven-
kerk and Hogewind (2003), who examined case les and observed police
raids of cultivation sites. They concluded that indoor cannabis culti-
vation was widespread and that criminal networks forced people to be-
come involved. They observed that investigation and prosecution of
cannabis cultivation were not law enforcement priorities. This was later
conrmed by the Court of Audit (Algemene Rekenkamer), which de-
scribed a lack in law enforcement (Tweede Kamer 2005). Bovenkerk
and Hogewind raised the alarm for policy makers (Tweede Kamer
Cultivation has been tackled since 2004 by a combination of adminis-
trative and nancial measures and criminal law. A special task force was
created, which resulted in annual dismantling of 5,0006,000 cultivation
sites (van Laar et al. 2013, 2014). Little is known about the scale of cul-
tivation and whether intensied law enforcement reduced it. Some re-
searchers, such as Wouters, Korf, and Kroeske (2007), observed dis-
placement to other less detectable locations, increases in cultivation,
and improvements in technology. Police researchers observed a tran-
sition to professional commercial cultivators and criminal networks
(Korps Landelijke Politiediensten 2008) and to locations abroad (Korps
Landelijke Politiediensten 2008; Jansen 2012). As it is difcult to mea-
sure cannabis cultivation, these ndings are merely observations and
J. Conclusion
Coffee shops function as reliable and safe places for the sale of canna-
bis to Dutch adults. The system contributes to the separation of con-
sumer markets for cannabis and hard drugs and therefore to achieve-
ment of the health and harm-reduction goals of drug policy. Adult
users do not have to turn to illegal markets. The system, however, strug-
gled with persistent nuisance and drug tourism problems and ourish-
ing cultivation. Only in 2004 was this tackled by intensied law enforce-
ment. In addition, coffee shops became large-scale, lucrative enterprises.
The Dutch Model 203
Authorities reacted through enforcement of rules and criteria in the
1990s. When the problems persisted, more radical policies were adopted,
including relocations, closures, introduction of the private club system,
and exclusion of nonresidents.
Some of these policies had considerable consequences. The private
club criterion led many Dutch customers to turn to the illegal retail mar-
ket. The residence criterion resulted in an enormous reduction of drug
tourism in the south of the country. Relocation of coffee shops has
resulted in large reductions in the number of nuisance cases. Complete
closures of coffee shops can result in substantial reductions in the num-
ber of drug tourists and in nuisances they cause. However, to achieve
these goals intensive police involvement is needed. Targeted commu-
nication toward drug tourists about closures is also helpful.
These measures inuenced only the supply side. The effects of law
enforcement efforts on cannabis use prevalence are negligible: there is
a continuing demand. After the introduction of the private club crite-
rion, 17 percent of 79 current users in a random street survey cohort
stopped their (current) use (Korf, Benschop, and Wouters 2013). How-
ever, the decrease also occurred in a comparison group that was inter-
viewed in municipalities where the new policy did not apply. The same
trend was visible in the cross-sectional street survey (np907). The
amount of use did not change. Korf, Benschop, and Wouters conclude
that the policy had no inuence on the prevalence of cannabis use.
The case of the coffee shops illustrates the shift toward law enforce-
ment and repression over time. The problems have long existed and
measures have been taken, but this happened gradually. Important mea-
sures were implemented, only in reaction to the urgency of the prob-
lems. The shift was tempered by fear of side effects and the policy focus
on public health.
III. Ecstasy
The synthetic drug ecstasy, or XTC, is a special case. The Netherlands
became a major worldwide producer during the 1990s. Ecstasy can give a
sense of intimacy and diminish anxiety; it can induce euphoria and mild
psychedelic effects. It is called a hug drug(Spapens 2006). Policy con-
cerning ecstasy has had a strong international dimension (Spapens 2006;
Neve et al. 2007). It fueled international criticisms of Dutch drug policy,
particularly by the United States (Neve et al. 2007).
204 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
A. The Rise of Ecstasy
The Netherlands classied ecstasy as a hard drug in 1988. It took
some time to decide to do so. Experts could not agree. The main reasons
for hard drug classication were signs that preparations for large-scale
production and export were occurring (Tweede Kamer 1994). The clas-
sication allowed tough enforcement and sanctioning. At the time, how-
ever, there were no signicant problems with the use or abuse of ecstasy.
The Netherlands was relatively late in criminalizing ecstasy. The
United Nations placed it on its drug list in 1986. This delay may partly
explain why large-scale production occurred. Producers had more time
to settle in than in other countries. Criminal network infrastructure was
already in place in the southern Netherlands, which had a tradition of
smuggling liquors and amphetamines to Scandinavian countries (Spa-
pens 2006). Chemicals were readily available, thanks to the chemical in-
dustries and the harbors of Rotterdam and Antwerp (Spapens 2006).
Criminal entrepreneurs in the Netherlands are said to be used to oper-
ating in networks, and new groups can easily enter the market (Neve
et al. 2007).
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, ecstasy use was mainly incidental
and risks were considered low. Korf, Blanken, and Nabben (1991) con-
ducted the rst study of use and users. Users appeared to be a heteroge-
neous group of well-integrated people who attended school or were
employed. There were few indications of abuse or adverse consequences.
During the 1990s, use increased, especially among young people at
large-scale parties and dance events. Nabben (2010) conducted long-
term ethnographic research in the Amsterdam party scene. He describes
the sudden emergence of electronic dance music, also known as house,
techno,”“trance,and other terms connected to specic electronic
music styles, and how it coincided with large-scale parties and dance
events that lasted into the early hours. Ecstasy became increasingly pop-
ular as a party drug,gaining the reputation of a love drugbecause of
its affection-stimulating effects. In 1992, 3.4 percent of young people
age 1218 had used ecstasy, and 1 percent had taken it within the last
month. As gure 7 shows, these numbers rose in the early 1990s.
The rst policy document was formulated by the minister of welfare,
health and culture in 1994 (Tweede Kamer 1994). It mainly concerned
Belgium was also an important producer of ecstacy (Neve et al. 2007).
The Dutch Model 205
prevention of possible health problems. The risks were considered low.
Policy makers were reluctant to introduce law enforcement approaches,
as it was assumed this would lead to the production of a lower quality of
the drug and create greater health risks for users. This assumption was
based on evidence from research on users (Korf, Doekhie, and Wouters
2011). This reaction comported with the main objective of Dutch drug
policy: prevention and management of risks to individuals and society. A
decision was made to monitor the purity and composition of tablets on
the consumer market by the Drug Information and Monitoring System.
Pill testing at large-scale dance parties became a common occurrence.
Other harm-reduction measures were also encouraged, such as provid-
ing sufcient supplies of water and areas where people could cool down
(Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport 1995).
Production of synthetic drugs ourished in the 1990s. The police
published a report on large-scale production as early as 1993 (Korps
Landelijke Politiediensten 1993). It was mainly about amphetamines
but mentioned ecstasy. There were signals from Belgium and Germany
that the Netherlands was becoming a production country (Spapens
2006). Until the mid-1990s, however, ecstasy production did not receive
special priority.
In 1995, policy makers acknowledged that the Netherlands had be-
come an important production country, announced a strengthening of
FIG.7.Ecstasy use prevalence (in percentages), 1218-year-old secondary school students.
Source: Peilstationsonderzoek, Trimbos Institute; Verdurmen et al. (2012).
206 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
law enforcement on production and trafcking, and established a national
police squad to control synthetic drugs (Tweede Kamer 1995). They also
used new legislation that facilitated prevention of the abuse of chemicals
(such as precursor chemicals, the basic chemical ingredients for the pro-
duction of synthetic drugs) and conscation of criminal proceeds. There
was no sense of urgency in the 1995 policy paper (Spapens 2006). Existing
efforts seemed sufcient. Ofcials hoped that production could be reduced
and that this would counteract international criticism.
Spapens (2006) describes how all this changed in 1996. It became clear
that ecstasy tablets produced in the Netherlands found their way into
neighboring countries (Interregionaal Rechercheteam 1996). Dutch or-
ganizations appeared to play a key role in smuggling. Neighboring coun-
tries such as France and Germany urged the Netherlands to adopt new
policies. The governments initial reaction was one of reluctance. It re-
sponded by saying that labs had already been dismantled and that the po-
lice were actively pursuing the situation. Spapens quotes the minister of
justice: I think that this in itself is enough for the moment and that we
should not also install a ying brigade, as this would focus too much on
ecstasy, while there are other matters to focus on(Tweede Kamer 1996,
p. 82).
On the basis of research, it was feared that imposing repressive mea-
sures would lead to the production of contaminated or poor-quality tab-
lets, which would increase health risks for users. Dutch policy makers,
however, soon decided to opt for a stronger focus on law enforcement.
External pressure played a decisive role.
B. Vigorous Law Enforcement and Decline of Ecstasy Production
In 1997, a special police squad was established. The Unit Synthetic
Drugs aimed to ght synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals.
It be-
came operational in 1998 and developed into a center of expertise. It
gathered and coordinated information and cooperated with agencies
abroad and in national and international investigations. Production fa-
cilities were dismantled, and there were many seizures: 1.16 million
tablets, 54.3 kilograms of MDMA powder, and 60 liters of base in
1998 and 3.66 million tablets, 406 kilograms of MDMA powder, and
40 liters of base in 1999.
The name in 2004 became the Expertise Centre Synthetic Drugs and Precursor
The Dutch Model 207
The efforts seemed to pay off. Ecstasy use appeared to wane: the prev-
alence of use declined and it became less popular among partygoers (see
g. 7). The Drug Monitoring and Information System, installed in 1992
at the Trimbos Institute to monitor recreational drugs on the consumer
market, observed a disruption of the ecstasy market in 1997 and 1998
(van der Gouwe 2013). Tablets sold to consumers as ecstasycontained
less MDMA, sometimes none at all. The ght began to focus on inter-
ception of precursor chemicals and tableting machines for production
(Spapens 2006; Neve et al. 2007).
The optimism was short-lived. The ecstasy problem was globalizing.
The trafcking of ecstasy pills to other countries continued. Seizures in
the Netherlands in 2000 included 5.5 million tablets and 632 kilograms
of MDMA powder. Even more tablets, linked to the Netherlands, were
seized abroad, one-third in the United States. Dutch policy makers
came under increasing pressure to intensify the ght. The United States
threatened to place the Netherlands on the Majors Drug Transit List,a
digest of countries involved in drug trafcking into the United States
(Spapens 2006).
The Dutch government launched a comprehensive program in 2001:
a combined effort against ecstasy(Tweede Kamer 2001). Ninety mil-
lion euros, from the Dutch perspective a considerable sum, were made
available. The program aimed primarily to reduce production and traf-
cking, although prevention of use also received attention. The Unit
Synthetic Drugs continued and intensied its cooperation with other
agencies and with law enforcement agencies abroad. The approach fo-
cused on all aspects of the production chain, from the ght on PMK,
the precursor chemical, and hardware (e.g., glass instruments and pres-
sure vessels), to consumer sale and use.
This approach seemed to work. Several indications pointed to a re-
duction in production. Neve et al. (2007) conducted an evaluation of
the combined efforts against ecstasy.The number of exposed produc-
tion sites decreased, as did the number of warehouses for chemicals and
hardware. This is conrmed by Spapens (2006) and was reported to Par-
liament (Tweede Kamer 2003a). The dumping of waste materials also
decreased. Figure 8 presents some gures concerning synthetic drugs
in general; ecstasy is not shown separately.
These gures are a result
The gures appear in Expertise Centre on Synthetic Drugs and Precursor Chemicals
annual reports. They may be incomplete. It is not mandatory for regional police forces to
208 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
of the combined law enforcement efforts and the presence of production
locations, warehouses, and dumping sites but provide some indication of
the results of the intensied efforts. The number of dismantled produc-
tion sites abroad where Dutch criminal groups were involved seemed to
have dropped. There was also a drop in the number of arrests of ecstasy
couriers (Neve et al. 2007).
The drop in production and dismantlements was good news. Actions
continued despite a slackening of efforts in 2004, due to a decrease in
capacity as a consequence of a police reorganization (Spapens 2006;
Neve et al. 2007). Since 2006, the ght on synthetic drugs has been a
well-functioning focal area of the national police. It has been a priority
for law enforcement since 2008 (Tweede Kamer 2013a, 2013b).
Production of synthetic drugs, however, has not ceased. Neve et al.
(2007) observed indications of continued production. During the rst
half of 2006, the quantity of ecstasy seized in the Netherlands equaled
that seized in 2004. The number of waste-dumping sites remained small
but increased in size. Very large production sites were discovered. Prices
for tablets remained relatively low, and purity remained relatively high.
Ecstasy was still readily available. Spapens (2006) concluded that the or-
ganization and methods of ecstasy producers had not changed.
report to the center. The gures are probably relatively valid because of the centers close
involvement in cases with synthetic drugs.
FIG.8.Dismantled production locations and warehouses and registered chemical waste-
dumping sites for production of synthetic drugs, 20002011. Source: Expertise Centre on Syn-
thetic Drugs and Precursor Chemicals annual reports, 2010 and 2012.
The Dutch Model 209
In 2008 and 2009, however, ecstasy production nally seemed to be
falling. The number of dismantlements and dumping sites continued
to decrease (see g. 8). The quantity of seized PMK decreased consid-
erably. In 2008, 2010, and 2011 there were no PMK seizures in the
Netherlands. The police reported that PMK was difcult to obtain in
2008 and was becoming more expensive. The total percentage of ecstasy
tablets containing MDMA or MDMA-like substances, such as MDEA
and MDA also decreased (van der Gouwe 2013). It was relatively low
in 2009.
C. Resilience
Ecstasy production, however, only appeared to have been contained.
Vijlbrief (2012) reviewed the actions of the Dutch authorities with re-
gard to precursor chemicals such as PMK (for ecstasy production) and
BMK (for amphetamines). He concluded that, from 2008 onward, It
was observed that the same perpetrators who dominated the produc-
tion and trade of ecstacy and amphetamine in the Netherlands were try-
ing to obtain other precursor chemicals in order to produce the neces-
sary PMK and BMK themselves(p. 207).
Instead of smuggling precursor chemicals from China and elsewhere,
criminal groups started producing them in the Netherlands, using
chemicals such as safrole (for PMK) and APAAN (for BMK). In theory,
blocking access to precursor chemicals was a viable prevention option,
but displacement effects were observed: The rst conversion lab was
discovered in 2009, with a further two in 2010; by 2011, however, the
number of conversion laboratories dismantled had already increased
to eight(Vijlbrief 2012, p. 208). Producers had hardware for the con-
version process at their disposal. Another pre-precursor chemical, used
since 2009, is PMK-glycidate. It is not under international control at the
time of writing.
The national police conclude that production of ecstasy (MDMA)
recovered in 2011. There no longer seemed to be a shortage of precur-
sor chemicals (Korps Landelijke Politiediensten 2012). There was in-
creased dismantling of production locations, as gure 8 shows. The po-
lice report more seizures of pre-precursors, more dumping of chemicals,
and more dismantlements of production laboratories in 2012, 2013, and
the rst half of 2014 (van Rijn 2014).
The Drug Information and Monitoring System reported that the per-
centage of ecstasy tablets containing genuine MDMA or an MDMA-like
210 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
substance decreased in 2008 and 2009 but increased in 2012 and 2013
(van der Gouwe 2013; van Laar et al. 2014). As gure 9 shows, the av-
erage concentration of MDMA in tablets sold as ecstasy (containing at
least 1 milligram MDMA) also increased. In 2012, it was 107 milligrams,
and in 2013 it was 111 milligrams.
The median consumer price for a
tablet of ecstasy decreased in 2012 to 2; it had been 3 (van Laar et al.
2013). Trends suggest that MDMA and the necessary production chem-
icals are readily available after a decrease in 2009 (van Laar et al. 2014).
Production processes seem to have adapted, and production seems to
be increasing (van Rijn 2014). This indicates that there has been a strong
recovery of the ecstasy market.
D. Conclusion
The reaction to the emergence of ecstasy in 1994 was primarily health
oriented and focused on harm reduction. Health risks were believed to
be low. Law enforcement efforts were expected to be expensive and pos-
sibly endanger the health of users. This led to initial reluctance among
policy makers to adopt a law enforcement approach. International pres-
sure was the prime reason later on for intensive law enforcement efforts
directed at production and trafcking. This was initially successful but
did not lead to the eradication of production or use of ecstasy. Producers
have adapted their methods and use has continued, albeit at a lower level
than in the 1990s.
IV. Drug Policy as a Balancing Act
Policies change over time and react to shifting constellations of problem
denition, contemplated solutions, and political support (e.g., Kingdon
1995). In the early 1970s, a policy windowemerged for a different ap-
proach to cannabis use in the Netherlands. In contrast to a sudden in-
crease in problematic use of heroin, with very high risks, widespread
use of a less addictive and harmful drug by young people from a variety
of backgrounds precipitated backing for separation of marketsand a
tolerant approach toward cannabis use. Public health concerns became
the major objective. It was generally expected that many countries would
soon follow the alternative Dutch drug policy, which was perceived as
The average concentration of MDMA in 20002004 was 7080 milligrams.
The Dutch Model 211
normalizing, pragmatic, and nonmoralistic (Leuw 1991). Primary con-
cern with public health and harm reduction was also evident when ec-
stasy emerged in the 1990s.
Policy changes are path dependent.It is difcult to make radical
changes. Choices made in the past shape future options. A primarily
public health focus and a diversied approach to hard and soft drugs
are basic elements of Dutch drug policy. Unanticipated side effects gen-
erated new policy discussions concerning the coffee shops: drug tourism,
cannabis trafcking and cultivation, and crime and nuisance. These side
effects evolved in a context of established patterns of consumption with-
out risk of arrest andover timean established system of retail supply
in the case of cannabis.
It is not easy to explain why a health-oriented and harm-reduction-
focused approach has characterized Dutch drug policies. Boekhout van
Solinge (2004) suggests that the academic and pragmatic attitudes of
a trading nation explain it. The Netherlands, he wrote, being a delta
country with lots of rivers, situated near the sea, needed an attitude of
accommodation in its enduring ght against the sea. He notes that the
Netherlands has also always had to deal with large minority groups,
which produced a problem-solving culture of deliberation and negotia-
tion. It lacks a strong centralized state; cities and harbors always were
powerful (de Kort 1995; Boekhout van Solinge 2004). Korf (1995)
mentions profound skepticismin the Netherlands about the efcacy
of repressive measures. Leuw (1991) and Boekhout van Solinge (2004)
FIG.9.Tablets sold as ecstasy, average MDMA concentration. Tablets analyzed in the lab-
oratory containing at least 1 milligram MDMA. Source: Drug Information and Monitoring Sys-
tem (van der Gouwe 2013; van Laar et al. 2014).
212 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
stress the importance of individual freedom, which has long been a core
value and gave rise to a high tide of moral pluralismin the 1970s (Leuw
1991, p. 245). This is illustrated by the conditional and regulated decrim-
inalization of abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia. Homosexuality has
been widely accepted, and same-sex marriages have been possible since
Dutch drug policy has changed since Leuw wrote his 1991 essay. Its
focus shifted more toward law enforcement. This was a reaction to per-
ceived persistence in drug-related nuisances and crime. The shift oc-
curred slowly and, as it turned out, rather erratically as a reaction to ur-
gent problems that had been around for a longer time. It was tempered
by deliberations about adverse health consequences and harmful side ef-
fects of vigorous law enforcement. This appears to reect a continuing
primarily health and harm-reduction perspective. It also reects modest
Dutch drug policy aims to containrather than solveor eradicate
the problem. Those perspectives are deeply rooted. The health-oriented
focus may have inhibited recognition of the lucrative supply side of the
market. De Kort (1995) suggests that drug policy is such a complex and
controversial issue, and so much surrounded by insecurities and ideol-
ogies, that this might slow down decision making.
The delayed decision to implement more vigorous law enforcement
approaches suggests that supply controls were applied relatively late in
the drug use cycle. Caulkins (2007), who modeled drug use as an epi-
demic, describes how new drugs spread rapidly via positive feedback
loops generated by current users, who introduce the drugs to nonusing
friends. This may have happened with cannabis and ecstasy. They were
well suited to the youth cultures of the 1960s and 1990s. According to
Caulkins, use at some point reaches critical levels, and markets supplying
that use shifttoward more efcient and resilient forms. They achieve
economies of scale that result in reduced prices, which stimulate greater
initiation and use.
This seems to t the pattern observed regarding cannabis and ecstasy
use in the Netherlands. The supply sides of both had ample opportuni-
ties to develop a solid base. Caulkinss model predicts that increased
numbers of longer-term users may over time lead to an association of
the drug with problems of chronic users. This can stie initiation and
lead to a negative feedback loop that can curb an epidemic. Caulkinss
model implies that supply control may be most effective during the ex-
plosive early growth stage of a drug epidemic. Treatment and other
The Dutch Model 213
measures to mitigate consequences of dependence and aggressive drug
markets may have comparative advantages later on. From this viewpoint,
the more intensive supply control of cannabis and particularly ecstasy in
the Netherlands came a bit late and had to deal with well-established and
resilient markets of use and supply.
Cultural and political factors apart from unintended and persistent
drug-related problems may have inuenced the shift toward law en-
forcement approaches. There was a general increase in arrests and pros-
ecutions after the mid-1990s, not only for drug offenses. Bruin (2011)
suggests that local authorities became more important in cannabis pol-
icy. This may correlate with an increasing focus on nuisance and, ac-
cording to Boekhout van Solinge (2000), more pragmatic approaches
to problems. Local authorities tend to role up their sleeves.Fijnaut
(2014) observes that within the European Union, especially since the in-
troduction of open borders, it is difcult for countries to apply policies
by themselves because of the risk of cross-border organized crime (see
also Spapens, Müller, and van de Bunt 2015). This could lead to more
consensus between member states and to adaptations in Dutch drug pol-
icy. Boekhout van Solinge (2010) argues that the policy shift is attribut-
able to critics from abroad and to right-wing governments of recent
years. The general societal climate in the Netherlands also changed,
as in other Western countries (Garland 2001), putting risk prevention
and safety high on political agendas. Brain research showed that use of
cannabis and ecstasy, long considered relatively harmless, is not without
danger. This may have laid a foundation for greater repression and less
tolerance. In the case of the Dutch drug policy, not only may crime have
changed, but society as well.
Law enforcement has had effects on supply markets, but they have
reacted exibly. Sales of cannabis in coffee shops shifted to illegal
sources when restrictions hindered access to the coffee shops. When ac-
cess to the main precursor chemical for ecstasy was blocked, produc-
ers found substitutes. This is also evident on an international level
(EMCDDA 2013). The cannabis market particularly is characterized
by pervasiveness and resilience (EMCDDA 2013).
None of the interventions in supply markets had any noticeable effect
on the use of drugs. Demand continued, and the specic drugs did not
disappear from the market. Cannabis and ecstasy remain the most pop-
ular illegal drugs in the Netherlands (see van Laar et al. 2014).
214 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
Dutch drug policy has had successes in relation to the health of users,
but it has also had to deal with unintended and unforeseen negative side
effects. The Netherlands chose a different approach to drug policy in
the 1970s and found itself on the edge of what is legally possible within
the context of international treaties. Recently, other countries and states
have gone further. Colorado and Washington state since 2012 have al-
lowed adults age 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and to
cultivate up to six plants.
Uruguay legalized cannabis production, dis-
tribution, and possession of amounts for personal use in 2013. In the
Netherlands there have been vivid debates about regulation of the sup-
ply to coffee shops, without a change in policy.
The story of the evolution of drug policy in the Netherlands shows
that the ideas behind innovative policy initiatives can be reasonable
and well intentioned but that unintended consequences can occur. It also
shows that policy changes take time and a policy windowto be effec-
tuated. Past choices often limit future options, as suppliers and users
adapt to new circumstances. Caulkins, together with the Dutch Advisory
Committee for drug policy in 2009, advocate a dynamic and exible
drug policy as the best response to drug problems in uid and fast-
moving markets. Ideological preferences for particular policy options
are strong and ercely debated. It is important to maintain an open mind
to allow for eld experiments accompanied by research in order to nd
the best possible solutions.
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226 Marianne van Ooyen-Houben and Edward Kleemans
... The content. The DDP concentrated on enforcing legislation at the highest levels of the supply chain (Ooyen-Houben & Kleemans, 2015). Its core objective lay on the notion that the use of hard drugs is a public health problem; thus, its focus was to safeguard people's health and maintain public order ("The Dutch policy on marijuana use -continuity and change", 2016). ...
... Under the 1976 policy, possession of 30 gm of cannabis or less was nonpunishable or treated as a petty offence. After 1991 the authoritative measures of controlling drug-related nuisance and disorder became more stringent (Ooyen-Houben & Kleemans, 2015). Furthermore, penalties for opium act violations were increased, cannabis cultivation sites were decommissioned, and quasicompulsory treatment via the justice system, as well as harm reduction measures, were used to stabilise and establish order. ...
... Furthermore, penalties for opium act violations were increased, cannabis cultivation sites were decommissioned, and quasicompulsory treatment via the justice system, as well as harm reduction measures, were used to stabilise and establish order. (Ooyen-Houben & Kleemans, 2015). Special drug squads were stationed at Amsterdam Schiphol airport as part of the continuity and change policy to combat drug smuggling. ...
... Поправка ввела жесткое разделение на «легкие» и «тяжелые» наркотики, заложив тем самым базовый принцип нидерландской политики [13,14]. На основании этой поправки в Нидерландах сейчас осуществляют работу «coffeeshop» -лицензированные кафе, в которых разрешена продажа конопли. ...
Full-text available
The study considers the main prerequesites for building a consistent antidrug policy of the state on the example of Western countries. The author considers Sweden's anti-drug policy in the context of Sweden's success in the context of a successful restrictive drug policy and the failure of liberal drug policy pursued in the Netherlands. The author concludes that the legitimized routine of drug consumption and open access to them seems to be the main point in the emergence of objective prerequisites for disrupting the state's anti-drug policy. The author considers anti- drug policy in the context of a conflictological paradigm that allows us to declare a drug conflict as an objective unit of reality
... The option of coffee shops (similar to Dutch coffee shops, where consumption is allowed) had the second most positive opinions and it was the second most popular personal preference. The main difference in retail sales level between other cannabis stores (for example, in Canada) is that Dutch coffee shops are designed to be safe places not only to buy but also to consume cannabis (van Ooyen-Houben and Kleemans, 2015). Previous research has shown that the vast majority of tourists in coffee shops consist of "sitters" (who visit a coffeeshop exclusively to consume cannabis) and those who want to buy and also consume it in the premise (Korf et al., 2016). ...
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it investigates the characteristics of Hanfparade 2022 – the biggest prolegalization festival in Germany – and its visitors, as well as the main reason for participation in Hanfparade. Findings are compared to those from Hanfparade 2016 to explore whether the main reason for festival attendance has changed since the legalization of medical cannabis in 2017 and since the announcement of plans for cannabis legalization. Second, this paper assesses Hanfparade participants’ views on cannabis legalization in Germany, in particular their opinions on and their preferences for retail supply options. Design/methodology/approach This study is a replication of a research conducted in 2016 at the same festival in Berlin, with a slightly adapted questionnaire. In this study, a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods was used: observation at the festival, interviews before and after the festival with the organizer and a survey among festival attendees (n = 183). Findings Protest still looks relevant for the participants at Hanfparade, and the announcement of plans for legalization does not seem to downgrade this feeling. The participants have positive opinions about self-supply through home cultivation, noncommercial supply through Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs) and commercial supply through stores similar to Dutch coffee shops. However, positive opinions do not necessarily reflect a personal preference, e.g. CSCs were very low in personal preferences. The options of home cultivation and CSCs were more popular among daily users. Originality/value This study contributes to the ongoing debate in Germany, focusing on views of cannabis users.
... Cannabis policy in The Netherlands can be characterized as the most liberal at a consumer level in the EU. Although cannabis is officially an illicit drug, there are 98 hundreds so-called coffeeshops, i.e., café-like settings where adults (18 years or older) can buy and use cannabis under strict conditions (Van Ooyen-Houben & Kleemans, 2016). Portugal, that introduced a policy of decriminalization in 2000, is probably the country with the next most liberal cannabis policy. ...
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The aim of this doctoral thesis was to better understand the role of national drug legislation and drug policies in the stigmatization and normalization of cannabis use. This study concentrated on a consumer perspective, and researched the experiences, practices, and perceptions of cannabis users. The first empirical part of the research was conducted in cannabis festivals in the capital cities of four EU Member States: the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Greece. The second empirical step was a survey in Dutch coffeeshops among users residing in one of these EU countries, as well as users from France, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Together, these countries represented maximum variation in national cannabis policy within Europe, on a continuum from relatively liberal to punitive.
... On a continuum from liberal to punitive, cannabis policy in the Netherlands can be characterized as the most liberal at the consumer level within the EU. Although cannabis is officially an illicit drug, there are hundreds of so-called coffeeshops, i.e., café-like settings where adults (aged 18 years or older) can buy and use cannabis under strict conditions (Van Ooyen-Houben & Kleemans, 2016). The latter is not the case in Portugal. ...
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Objective: This study examines the role of cannabis policy in how cannabis users obtain and purchase cannabis. Methods: A survey was conducted in the Dutch coffeeshops among current cannabis users (n = 1255) aged 18–40 from seven European countries with different cannabis policies. This study investigated whether acquisition methods and supply sources were associated with national cannabis policy, controlling for gender, age, and frequency of use. Results: Cross-national differences notwithstanding, cannabis was easily available to current cannabis users in Europe. Within and across countries, users acquired cannabis in various ways and buyers purchased it from various sources, representing a mixture of open, closed, and semi-open retail markets. Buying cannabis was the most common method of acquisition. Among participants who reported buying their cannabis (n = 929), buying from friends was the most common source of supply, followed by street dealers, home dealers, and delivery services. The vast majority of Dutch participants reported buying cannabis from coffeeshops. Contrariwise, French buyers were more likely to buy cannabis from street dealers and delivery services, and Greek buyers to buy it from home dealers and friends. Overall, the Internet played a marginal role in purchasing cannabis. Conclusion: Our findings confirm the significant role of social supply across Europe. Although cross-national differences were rather common in cannabis acquisition and supply, yet they were not unidirectionally linked with the punitiveness of national cannabis policy. Findings suggest a differentiated normalization of the cannabis retail market, with users often preferring to buy cannabis in a regulated or legal market.
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Although cannabis is the most frequent illicit drug consumed in Sweden, little is known about the situations in which cannabis trade, possession and use occur. Following a recent strand of international research on the effect of recreational drugs on crime, this study uses a unique specially tailored database, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and regression models, to investigate the situational conditions of cannabis offenses as they are detected in Stockholm, Sweden. Cannabis coincides with the location of drug markets initially delimited by the police but also extends over to locations far from the radar of the police, such as private residences (comfort places). Modeling results indicate that several land uses (convergent public places) have significant predictive value of the geography of cannabis offenses after controlling for other neighborhood characteristics. The article finishes by stating new research questions and making recommendations for practice.
Este artículo analiza el tratamiento que los diarios españoles El País, El Mundo, ABC y La Razón realizan del cannabis entre el 1 de enero y 31 de diciembre de 2019. Utilizando una metodología de análisis de contenido se identifican las fuentes, la autoría de los textos y las áreas temáticas dominantes en los diarios mencionados. Las conclusiones evidencian un incremento de los géneros interpretativos (reportaje y entrevista), sobretodo en temas de investigación y el uso de fuentes especializadas (expertos, científicos e instituciones). En cuanto a la temática los diarios analizados dan prioridad a la información sobre la regulación del cannabis realizados en diferentes países, así como los sistemas de jurisdicción que afectan al uso de cannabis medicinal o recreativo. Le siguen investigación, salud/ medicina o adicciones. Asimismo, se observa la ausencia de información referente a campañas de prevención de adicciones y dependencia promovidas desde Instituciones encaminadas a retrasar la edad de inicio de consumo de cannabis.
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Berdasarkan kepada ulasan karya, mendapati negara-negara luar mempunyai set-set indikator dan metrik yang mengukur sejauh mana perancangan sesebuah negara dalam menangani isu yang berkaitan dengan penyalahgunaan dadah dari pelbagai aspek. Namun sehingga kini, Malaysia masih belum lagi mempunyai indikator yang mengukur sejauh mana tindakan dan usaha yang telah dilaksanakan selama ini. Selain itu, Malaysia juga masih tidak disenaraikan lagi dalam Laporan National Drug World Policy (2019) walaupun, Malaysia mempunyai strategi yang unik dan teratur dalam menangani dan membanteras penyalahgunaan dadah (International Drug Policy Consortium, 2017). Justeru itu, pembangunan Indeks Antidadah Kebangsaan (IADK) perlu dilakukan bagi membantu pihak AADK dalam pencegahan dan pembasmian dadah di Malaysia. Melalui IADK juga pihak Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN) dapat mengetahui sejauhmana tahap pengukuran aktitiviti penguatkuasaan dan pencegahan yang telah dilakukan oleh agensi-agensi berkaitan dadah. Metodologi kajian berbentuk lapangan yang menggunakan kaedah tinjauan (borang soal selidik) yang dijalankan terhadap 4,734 responden kajian yang terdiri daripada pelaksana AADK dan lain-lain, pelatih serta komuniti di pilih menjadi sampel kajian yang meliputi semua zon di Malaysia. Indeks Antidadah Kebangsaan yang dicatatkan secara keseluruhan adalah 4.28 pada maksimum skor min skala 5 yang bermakna majoriti responden iaitu pelaksana, komuniti dan pelatih bersetuju bahawa semua program yang telah dilaksanakan adalah berkesan. Daripada 7 indikator yang telah dikenalpasti, didapati indikator Pendekatan Spiritual dan Budaya Dalam Pemulihan mencatatkan skor min tertinggi. Justeru itu, daripada skor-skor min yang diperolehi, satu indeks telah dijana secara komposit yang dikenali sebagai Indeks Anti Dadah Kebangsaan (IADK). Oleh itu, dicadangkan IADK 2020 dipatenkan oleh AADK sebagai indeks yang menjadi hak milik AADK dan penilaian Indeks ini perlu dilakukan mengikut amalan Indeks lain setiap 3 hingga 5 tahun sekali seperti mana mengikut laporan United Nation dan penambahbaikan Indeks IADK perlu dilakukan apabila perubahan DDN atau Pelan Stategik AADK itu berubah.
Conference Paper
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Madde bağımlılığı giderek yaygınlaşan küresel bir halk sağlığı sorunudur. Madde kullanımı nedeniyle suça karışma, cezaevine girme, eğitime devam etmeme gibi ögeler bağımlıların sosyal dışlanmaya maruz kalmasına, toplumsal kaynaklardan diğer bireylerle eşit olarak faydalanamamasına, temel hak ve hürriyetlerden mahrum kalmasına neden olmaktadır. Madde bağımlılarının toplumsallaşma sürecinde karşılaşmış oldukları bu sorunlar bağımlıların dezavantajlı bir grup olarak nitelendirilmesine sebep olmaktadır. Bu çalışmanın amacı güncel veriler ışığında sorunun farklı ülkeler açısından görünümünün incelenmesi ve uygulanan politikaların irdelenmesidir. Bu bağlamda çalışmanın ilk bölümünde madde bağımlılığına kavramsal bir bakış sağlanarak ülkemiz açısından sorunun boyutu mevcut veriler ışığında ele alınacaktır. Ardından farklı ülkelerin sorun ile mücadele noktasında geliştirildiği politikalar incelenecektir. Son bölümde ise madde bağımlılığı ile mücadele sorununun çözümüne katkı sunacağı düşünülen hak temelli, sürdürülebilir sosyal politika örnekleri sunulacaktır.
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Overall, teachers' multi‐component classroom management programmes have a significant positive effect in decreasing aggressive or problematic behaviour in the classroom. Students in the treatment classrooms in all 12 studies reviewed showed less disruptive or problematic behaviours when compared to the students in control classrooms without the intervention. It is not possible to make any conclusions regarding what components of the management programmes are most effective due to small sample size and lack of information reported in the studies reviewed. STRUCTURED ABSTRACT Background One of the most common criticisms of spatially focused policing efforts (such as Problem‐Oriented Policing, police ‘crackdowns’ or hotspots policing) is that crime will simply relocate to other times and places since the “root causes” of crime were not addressed. This phenomenon—called crime displacement—has important implications for many policing projects. By far, spatial displacement (movement of crime from a treatment area to an area nearby) is the form most commonly recognized. At the extreme, widespread displacement stands to undermine the effects of geographically focused policing actions. More often, however, research suggests that crime displacement is rarely total. On the other end of the displacement continuum is the phenomenon of ‘diffusion of crime control benefits’ (a term coined by Ron Clarke and David Weisburd in 1994). Diffusion occurs when reductions of crime (or other improvements) are achieved in areas that are close to crime prevention interventions, even though those areas were not actually targeted by the intervention itself. Objectives To synthesize the evidence concerning the degree to which geographically focused policing initiatives are related to spatial displacement of crime or diffusion of the crime control benefits. Search Strategy A number of search strategies were used to retrieve relevant studies. First, we undertook a keyword search of electronic abstract databases. Second, we searched bibliographies of existing displacement reviews and reviews of the effectiveness of focused policing initiatives. Third, we did forward searches for works that had cited key displacement publications. Fourth, we reviewed research reports of professional research and policing organizations. Fifth, we undertook a hand search of pertinent journals and publications. Finally, once these searches were all completed we emailed a list of the studies that we had assessed as meeting (and a separate list of those not meeting) our criteria to a number of key scholars with knowledge of the area to identify any further studies we might have missed. Selection Criteria Eligible studies met the following criteria; (1) they evaluated a policing initiative; (2) this initiative was geographically focused to a local area; (3) the evaluation included a quantitative measure of crime for both a ‘treatment’ area and a displacement/diffusion ‘catchment’ area. This needed to be available for both a pre‐ and a post‐ (or during‐) intervention period. Other criteria specified that the study was written in English and that it reported original research findings. The studies could have been conducted at any point in time and at any location. Both published and unpublished studies were included. Data Collection and Analysis For all of our 44 eligible studies, we produced a narrative review and a summary of the author's findings, concerning the effectiveness of the policing initiative and any displacement or diffusion observed. For the 16 studies for which we were able to gain pre and post measures of crime for each of a minimum of three area types (a treatment, control and catchment area) we produced odds ratio effect sizes which were used in a meta‐analysis. For the meta‐analysis we reported the mean effect size for both the treatment areas and the catchment areas. This summarized the effectiveness of the policing interventions and the displacement/diffusion effect respectively. Because a number of studies had more than one primary outcome, we reported the largest effect and the smallest effect in each case. We also performed permutation tests using combinations in which one primary outcome was chosen from each study. Other tests assessed the effects of study design, intervention type, size of intervention and publication bias. A further quantitative analysis of these 16 studies summarised the mean Weighted Displacement Quotient (WDQ) a measure developed in earlier work by two of the study authors. Finally, a proportional change analysis looked at increases and decreases in crime in treatment and catchment areas for the 36 studies for which count data were available. This analysis did not require data to be available for a control area. Main Results The main findings of the meta‐analysis suggested that on average geographically focused policing initiatives for which data were available were (1) associated with significant reductions in crime and disorder and that (2) overall, changes in catchment areas were non‐significant but there was a trend in favour of a diffusion of benefit. For the weighted displacement quotient analyses, the weight of the evidence suggests that where changes are observed in catchment areas that exceed those that might be expected in the absence of intervention, a diffusion of crime control benefit rather than displacement appears to be the more likely outcome. The results of the proportional change analysis suggest that the majority of eligible studies experienced a decrease in crime in the treatment area indicating possible success of the scheme. The majority also experience a decrease in the catchment areas suggesting the possibility of a diffusion of benefit. These findings, which could not be statistically tested, are consistent with all others reported here, and with those from the narrative review. Conclusions In summary the message from this review is a positive one to those involved in the sort of operational policing initiatives considered, the main point being that displacement is far from inevitable as a result of such endeavor, and, in fact that the opposite, a diffusion of crime control benefits appears to be the more likely consequence.
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This Campbell systematic review examines the effects of focusing police crime prevention efforts on crime ‘hot spots’, and whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement (i.e. crime moving around the corner) or diffusion (i.e. crime reduction in surrounding areas) of crime control benefits. The review includes 19 studies covering 25 cases. Seventeen of the studies were conducted in the USA. Investing police agencies' limited resources on hot spot policing in a small number of high‐activity crime places will prevent crime in these and surrounding areas, reducing total crime. Problem oriented policing approach allows for developing tailored responses to specific recurring problems in high activity crime spots. Implementing situational prevention strategies that reduce police reliance on aggressive enforcement strategies may also have positive benefits for police‐community relations. The reactions of local communities to hot spot policing must be considered. Residents may welcome efforts to reduce crime. But if policing programmes are seen as heavy‐handed, or focus too much on particular population groups, they may end up driving a wedge between the police and those they are trying to help. Abstract BACKGROUND In recent years, crime scholars and practitioners have pointed to the potential benefits of focusing crime prevention efforts on crime places. A number of studies suggest that there is significant clustering of crime in small places, or “hot spots,” that generate half of all criminal events. A number of researchers have argued that many crime problems can be reduced more efficiently if police officers focused their attention to these deviant places. The appeal of focusing limited resources on a small number of high‐activity crime places is straightforward. If we can prevent crime at these hot spots, then we might be able to reduce total crime. OBJECTIVES To assess the effects of focused police crime prevention interventions at crime hot spots. The review also examined whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement (i.e., crime moving around the corner) or diffusion (i.e., crime reduction in surrounding areas) of crime control benefits. SEARCH STRATEGY A keyword search was performed on 15 online abstract databases. Bibliographies of past narrative and empirical reviews of literature that examined the effectiveness of police crime control programs were reviewed and forward searches for works that cited seminal hot spots policing studies were performed. Bibliographies of past completed Campbell systematic reviews of police crime prevention efforts and hand searches of leading journals in the field were performed. Experts in the field were consulted and relevant citations were obtained. SELECTION CRITERIA To be eligible for this review, interventions used to control crime hot spots were limited to police enforcement efforts. Suitable police enforcement efforts included traditional tactics such as directed patrol and heightened levels of traffic enforcement as well as alternative strategies such as aggressive disorder enforcement and problem‐oriented policing. Studies that used randomized controlled experimental or quasi‐experimental designs were selected. The units of analysis were limited to crime hot spots or high‐activity crime “places” rather than larger areas such as neighborhoods. The control group in each study received routine levels of traditional police enforcement tactics. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 19 studies containing 25 tests of hot spots policing interventions were identified and full narratives of these studies were reported. Ten of the selected studies used randomized experimental designs and nine used quasi‐experimental designs. A formal meta‐analysis was conducted to determine the crime prevention effects in the eligible studies. Random effects models were used to calculate mean effect sizes. RESULTS 20 of 25 tests of hot spots policing interventions reported noteworthy crime and disorder reductions. The meta‐analysis of key reported outcome measures revealed a small statistically significant mean effect size favoring the effects of hot spots policing in reducing citizen calls for service in treatment places relative to control places. The effect was smaller for randomized designs but still statistically significant and positive. When displacement and diffusion effects were measured, unintended crime prevention benefits were associated with the hot spots AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS The extant evaluation research provides fairly robust evidence that hot spots policing is an effective crime prevention strategy. The research also suggests that focusing police efforts on high‐activity crime places does not inevitably lead to crime displacement and crime control benefits may diffuse into the areas immediately surrounding the targeted locations.
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In this PhD study the interface between legal governments and corporations on the one hand, and transnational criminals at the other hand, is analysed in depth. In the first part of the book, a typology of interfaces is developed that can be used to describe interfaces between legal and illegal actors. Furthermore, an analytical model, the so-called lockmodel, is developed with which the ‘ laundering’ of all kinds of transnational crime can be understood. The analysis is based on the literature on transnational crime as well as a range of case-studies. The case studies include e.g. individual arms traffickers, commercial banks, intelligence agencies, charities, bank secrecy jurisdictions etc. The second part of the book discusses the results of an empirical study of the illicit art and antiquities trade that was part of the PhD project and which has hardly been studied before by criminologists. With the collected data, the use of the typology and lockmodel is looked at. It shows that the laundering of stolen art and antiquities can be understood by the lockmodel that was developed on the basis of other crimes. Finally, an extensive overview of the illicit art and antiquities trade is provided.
This Campbell systematic review synthesizes the existing published and non‐published empirical evidence on the effects of focused police crime prevention interventions at high‐activity crime places and will provide a systematic assessment of the preventive value of focused police crime prevention efforts at crime hot spots. The review also examined whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement. Studies that used randomized controlled experimental or quasi‐experimental designs were selected. Nine eligible studies were included in this review. The results of this systematic review support the assertion that focusing police efforts at high activity crime places can be effective in preventing crime. Whatever the impact, we need to know more about the effects of hot spots policing approaches on the communities that the police serve.
For the majority of its history, the cultivation of cannabis did not stand out, at least compared to the cultivation of other illegal plants. Cannabis plantations, like coca bush or opium poppy plantations, were typically large in size, grown by local farmers in a handful of developing (producing) countries, processed and then exported to industrial (consuming) nations. While cocaine and heroin are still produced in a handful of developing countries, cannabis cultivation is increasingly universal. From Europe to the Americas and Oceania, import substitution in cannabis markets has been noticed in almost every developed country around the world, with a notable aversion for discrimination. Geographical, technological, cultural and economic factors help to explain why (indoor and outdoor) domestic cultivation is well established, and why the nature and extent of cultivation varies so dramatically across the western, developed nations. As we start the second decade of the 21st century, the new cannabis industry continues to fascinate both casual and academic observers of the drug scene. Researchers around the world have become increasingly interested in the phenomenon, aiming to describe, and potentially explain, the rapid switch from importation to domestic production in their own countries. In bringing together some of the world's leading experts on cannabis cultivation this book contains sixteen chapters that take an interdisciplinary look at global trends in cannabis cultivation. It will serve as an exemplar for wider discussions of key theories and concepts relating to the spread not just of cannabis cultivation, but also of illegal markets more generally, the actors that operate within these markets and the policies and practices that are employed in response to developments within these markets. © Tom Decorte, Gary Potter and Martin Bouchard 2011. All rights reserved.