Fragen und Antworten im niederländischen Parlament (24077 NR 85, 16-01-2001)
The Following Is An Unofficial English Translation Of Excerpts From Questions Asked In Dutch Parliament And Answers Given By The Government.
Notes And Capitals By Translator (Jan van der Tas, Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation).
(SECOND CHAMBER DOCUMENT 24077 NR 85, DATED 16-01-2001)
QUESTION LABOUR PARTY (member of government coalition, moderate left)
Foreign criticism of Dutch drug-policies is not in the first place leveled at the decriminalization aspects of our policies. On the contrary, many European countries seem to be in the process of adjusting their policies in the direction of the Dutch model. These members are of the opinion, that the government does not rate this positive appreciation of dutch drugpolicies at its true value and for that reason reacts too negatively to proposals for further changes.
In a number of european countries nowadays a pragmatic approach is chosen - at the executive level - with regard to the commitment of available resources for criminal investigation and prosecution. This leads among other things to a de facto decriminalization of use and possession for own use of cannabis in such countries.
In a much smaller number of countries this pragmatic attitude finds support at the political level and can thus be considered to have become governmental policy. For the time being most European countries are opposed to official changes in policy with regard to penalization of possession of and dealing in cannabis.
QUESTION CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS (opposition, rightish) :
While trying to generate international support for the Dutch concept and policy of separating markets of hard and soft drugs, does the government also promote its policy of permitting 'coffeeshops'?
As announced in its letter to the second chamber of September 15th 2000 the government shall make an effort to generate international support for the concept of separation of markets for hard and soft drugs as applied in the Netherlands.
This is done from the perspective of 'harm reduction' (i.e. prevention and/or limitation of the risks of drug use for the user, his direct surroundings and society as a whole). In the Netherlands this has resulted in a policy of permitting coffeeshops, as an instrumental part of the policy of separation of markets, which aims at safeguarding the user of soft drugs as much as possible from contacts with the markets for more risky illicit drugs.
QUESTION « D'66 » (member of government coalition, liberal democrat left) :
...May the Chamber expect to receive a government analysis of the connections between criminality and coffeeshops and how best to combat them?...
Traffic in products or services made illegal by law, but for which a lively demand exists all the same, shall always attract organized crime. Combatting this criminality can in theory be done in either of two ways : by, at the demand side, reducing demand to zero or, on the supply side, by legalizing the product or service in question.
Reducing the demand for cannabis to zero is an illusory objective. Legalizing or regulating drugs is not an option for the time being, in view of the international treaties and arrangements to which the Netherlands are a party.
QUESTION "D'66" (member of government coalition, liberal democrat left):
.......What options does the government see, now that she refuses to follow the direction indicated by a majority in the House? Are there alternatives that have not yet been discussed and that respect the separation of markets for hard and for soft drugs, while taking into account the fact that softdrugs represent only a marginal or even no harm to public health at all?
The government is of the opinion that in the field of narcotic drugs the Netherlands can not introduce major policy changes without the consent of at least the partners in the European Union.
Mobilizing support within the Union for the concept of separation of markets, a concept inspired precisely by the lesser health-risks of the use of cannabis, is a first phase in a process that ultimately may lead to policy changes at world level.
QUESTION "GREEN LEFT" (opposition, left):
Furthermore the members of the parliamentary group of the Green Left are interested to be informed about the results of the conference of national drugs coordinators organized at the end of september 2000 by the French EU presidency. How did the discussion on this theme develop?
And what are the results of the ministerial conference held in the middle of October 2000, where the tension between the theory of the treaties and the practcal reality of their implementation was on the agenda?
Has the Netherlands delegation at this conference pleaded for a change in the rules, that are supposed to make it impossible to organize and tolerate a non-criminal supply channel to the coffeshops, whose role as a non-criminal point of sales to the consumer we tolerate?
Has the government at the moment got a clear insight in policies implemented in other European countries?
More and more indications reach the members asking this question according to which ever more European countries practice ever more progressive policies in this field. can the government confirm these indications, and if so what precisely is the content of the policies and practices of these countries?
During the meeting of national drug coordinators in Paris at the end of September 2000 three themes were dealt with : trends in member states, new measures, and coordination of drug-policies within the EU and in the member states themselves. Subjects that ran through the discussions like a continuous thread were the decriminalization of the use of drugs and 'harm reduction', i.e. the search for measures that can combat the harmful consequences of drug use. Furthermore the Netherlands have informed the partners about the application of the so-called 'expediency-principle' in Dutch law and the prioritization of tasks as applied by the Public Prosecutors.
The United Kingdom delegation formulated the question which is highly relevant for Dutch policies, namely : « how to manage a high level of our laws when a million people or even more break our drug laws each week? ».
At the ministerial conference of the so-called 'Pompidou group' which took place on October 12th and 13th 2000, the government, in conformity with its promises to the House, brought up and explained the cannabis policies pursued in the Netherlands. In this context coffeeshops have been presented as a form of 'harm reduction'. A discussion ensued about the prevalence of drugs (hard and soft drugs) in relationship with the existence of coffeeshops and the so-called 'stepping stone' theory. The so-called 'backdoor of the coffeeshop' problem was dealt with and in this context the discussion on this subject in the Netherlands' parliament was explained and the area of tension that is experienced by all countries that do not criminally prosecute use and possession for own use came under review.
Bilaterally talks were held with the Swiss, German and Belgian delegations about the cannabis conference to be organized this year.
The Netherlands' delegation came away from the conference with the impression, that - more and more - the idea is gaining ground that a pragmatic approach of this problem is effective, and that the treaties (in particular the UN treaties on this subject) can not for many years to come remain trendsetting, but rather must be seen as subject to adaptation to the practices of the present moment.