Call for end to distinction between soft and hard drugs

The window of a cannabis selling coffee shop in Roosendaal.
By our news staff

The Dutch government’s distinction between hard and soft drugs is “ridiculous” and has proved ineffective in keeping criminal organisations away from the production and distribution of cannabis, according to a report published on Friday by two law professors.

Cyrille Fijnaut of Tilburg University and Brice de Ruyverof Ghent University in Belgium have called for the distinction between soft and hard drugs, which is at the core of drugs policy in the Netherlands, to be scrapped.

The Dutch authorities have turned an official blind eye to the possession of up to five grams of marijuana since the 1970s, believing that tolerance of soft drugs would keep people away from potentially more harmful hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines.

Friday’s report by Fijnaut and De Ruyver was commissioned to look into drug-related problems in one of the border areas where cannabis is openly available in so-called coffee shops.

The report concludes that fewer coffee shops near the border could limit these problems. But it also points out that drug tourists who currently come to the Netherlands could still buy marijuana illegally in their own countries.

The authors of the report call for closer collaboration between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany and the formation of a special narcotics bureau in the area.

The policy of tolerating soft drugs is coming under increasing pressure within the Netherlands itself. The government announced this week that the sale of fresh hallucinogenic or “magic” mushrooms will be banned from next month.

And two towns on the border with Belgium want to close down all the coffee shops within their boundaries because of the nuisance caused by drugs tourists. Some politicians have even called for a complete ban on all coffee shops.

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