The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

DRUGS

Dutch politicians clash over hard drug policy proposals

The Dutch social-liberal party D66 released a new drug manifesto Monday calling for the legalization of prohibited drugs – such as LSD, cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy, and mushrooms – and the appointment of a state committee to propose reforms to the existing Netherlands drug policy.

The manifesto was initiated by members of D66 together with Floor van Bakkum, manager of the addiction clinic Jellinek and Dr. Ton Nabben, a drug researcher, and signed by current and former politicians such as former VVD leader Frits Bolkestein, as well as addiction specialists, lawyers, scientists, and well-known Dutch artists like the writer Saskia Noort and performers MEROL, Sef, and DJ Eelke Kleijn.

D66 forwards that “People use drugs. Treaty or no treaty. Law or no law. Today, governments still seem blind to that insight.” Therefore, the party claims that “the desire to come to a drug-free world through repression” is “a helpless way.” Instead, the D66 manifesto suggests “a regulated drug market” which varies its approach to regulation by distinguishing between the harmfulness of the drugs. The manifesto claims that “A government that takes control of a controversial market deserves praise.”

Additionally, D66 proposes limiting damage “by not stigmatizing and criminalizing people who use drugs, but by increasing and improving the accessibility and quality of information and assistance, with a particular focus on young people and other vulnerable people,” as well as working together internationally, because “for a realistic drug policy, we also have to look beyond the borders.”

The Telegraaf reports that parties ChristenUnie and CDA reacted “indignantly” to the manifesto. Stieneke van de Graaf of the CU says “That D66 – the party that says it is important to consider ‘health’ and ‘prevention’ – is now proposing to find a harmful, criminal and dangerous practice ‘normal’ from now on, is really incomprehensible.” Van der Graaf adds, “We must not reward crime by making ecstasy legal, we must punish it severely.”

CDA representative Madeleine van Toorenburg calls the policy “naive”, suggesting that legalizing hard drugs will normalize their use which is “very bad for public health,” therefore her party will “strongly oppose the further legalization and normalization of drugs.”

Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom (PVV) tweeted “Junkies66” in response to the manifesto.

Even the signatories to the manifesto “disagree about drugs.” The document explains, “Some of us disapprove of the use of drugs. Others believe that people should be free to use stimulants. But together we believe that the government’s approach should be aimed at limiting both the harmful effects of drug use and the fight against drugs on the basis of policies that work.”

D66 presents the manifesto as a mere starting point to a long-overdue conversation about drug policy, occurring at the centennial of the 1919 adoption of the Opium Act. The manifesto is also timely in that it provides a meaningful talking point before the Dutch parliamentary elections in March 2021.