Lessons from the Dutch cannabis coffeeshop system


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An article published this week in the journal Addiction by Robert J. MacCoun — a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and the UC Berkeley School of Law — has found that teen cannabis use in the Netherlands in 15-to-24-year-olds has dropped  from 14.3 to 11.4 percent between 1997 and 2005. He also found that “Dutch youth report high rates of availability of cannabis, but not as high as rates reported in the United States and other neighbouring European countries.”

To read the full paper click here

The Dutch approach to drug policy has continued to evolve in response to internal and external political pressures. The Dutch also are not afraid to experiment with alternative approaches, with a ‘learning by doing’ attitude to drug problems.

Are the Dutch more likely to use cannabis?

First, Dutch youth report higher than average availability of cannabis, however, cannabis use in Holland is exceed by US rates, but they are roughly equivalent within sampling and measurement error.

Second, in recent years many European countries have rates of student cannabis use that either match or exceed the Dutch rate—including Italy, Belgium, Ireland,
the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland.

Dutch youth report higher than average availability of cannabis. Nevertheless, they fall well short of the levels reported in the United States and
some other countries, and the Dutch data fit right on the trend line.

Professor MacCoun concludes:

‘The best available evidence paints a nuanced picture. Dutch citizens use cannabis at more modest rates than some of their neighbors, and they do not appear to be particularly likely to escalate their use relative to their counterparts in Europe and the United States. Moreover, there are indications that rather than increasing ‘the gateway’ to hard drug use, separating the soft and hard drug markets possibly reduced the gateway.’

While the U.S. has spent one trillion dollars over forty years in a failed war on drugs, there still remains a higher availability of cannabis in the United States than in a country where cannabis  has been decriminalized.

Surely, it is time to admit that the war on drugs has failed?

The Beckley Foundations Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform, which will be launched at the House of Lords, London on 17-18th November 2011, will present the first-ever Cost/Benefit Analysis of a regulated and taxed cannabis market, and also drafted a new UN Convention on All Illegal Drugs, which would give signatory countries more freedom to form policies better suited to their individual needs, rather than the current system of “one-size-fits-all”. We hope to help generate a global call for our leaders to rethink drug policy, with a world-wide information campaign starting around the November Meeting.

To find out more about the Initiative please click here (Dutch cannabis Coffeeshop)



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