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Dutch Tolerance Persists Despite Pressure to Emulate Drug War Approach


April 1993

Dutch officials are firm in support of that nation's tolerant drug policy, and some say on the record that the United States and other, less tolerant nations, are causing harm by pursuing punitive policies (Dick Polman, "Dutch Are Feeling Pressure To Crack Down On Drugs: While Other Countries Criticize, Netherlands Says Its Way Works," Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/21/93, A15).

"We've had a realistic drug policy for 30 years in the Netherlands, and we know what works," attorney Mario Lap, a key national drug policy adviser, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We distinguish between 'soft' and 'hard' drugs, between traffickers and users. We try not to make people criminals. But what'll it take to convince the other countries about the high cost of repression? Especially America. Will we have to teach Clinton to inhale, or what? I'd never want to raise my kids in America, with those morality crazies. They probably think we're all perverts. I think they are the perverts."

The Netherlands has come under fire from the French, British, and the United Nations. UN observers reported recently that "there are between 550,000 and 600,000 regular cannabis abusers" in the Netherlands and warns that any nation that emulates Dutch policy will create a new legion of cannabis users. But reporter Dick Polman notes that "the difference between the Netherlands and the United States is simple. Here, the drug policy is above politics. There are no wild fluctuations of mood and ideology, no clashes between left and right, moralists and permissivists. In such a homogenous setting, the Dutch concede, it is easier to sustain a consensus."

[Polman's article provides an excellent update and overview of Dutch drug policy and the pressures it is under, may provide relief to worried U.S. reformers. -- RBK]