Courtesy Reuters

Dazed and Confused: Smoke and Mirrors over Dutch Drug Policy


By Joris Vos

Informed debate and analysis require reliable data and information, so I was disappointed to read Larry Collins' biased, unbalanced, and highly anecdotal article on Dutch drug policy ("Holland's Half-Baked Drug Experiment," May/June 1999). Not only does Collins not compare different types of drug policies and their outcomes, he makes many factual errors. To name a few:

The increase in cannabis use that Collins cites is also present in other European countries, so factors other than Dutch drug policy are obviously relevant. Cannabis use in the United States, for example, is much higher than in the Netherlands.

Collins' assertion that the Netherlands has twice as many heroin addicts as the United Kingdom is wrong. They have comparable rates of heroin use.

Also incorrect is Collins' statement that the percentage of THC (the substance that gives a pot-smoker a high) in the Dutch-grown marijuana known as Nederwiet is as high as 35 percent. The actual figure is 8 percent -- only around 1 percent higher than that of foreign marijuana.

Collins reports an increase in cannabis use among youth in major Dutch cities, from which he infers that the "skyrocketing" rise (for which no figures are provided) in violent crime in those cities is due to increased cannabis use. But it has been scientifically established that cannabis does not evoke aggression, making Collins' linking of both (possibly untrue) observations highly questionable.

The description of slums in Rotterdam and Amsterdam should have included a comparison with such areas in other countries. Although some problems do exist in these places, they pale in comparison to those in the major cities of the Western world.

The drug policy of the Netherlands has evolved over the years with the consent of the Dutch people, who are, for the most part, satisfied with the results. Although our approach may differ from other countries', our goals are the same: reducing drug use and the harm it causes both the user and society. Any sober analysis of Dutch

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