The Liberal Policy Approach to Cannabis in the Netherlands and Some States in the USA

While looking at the liberal approach of cannabis in Netherlands and some States in the
United states, care should not be taken not to hold the misconception that weed has been made
legal in these countries. The point should be made clear that it is illegal to produce, supply and to
be in possession of cannabis. The only part of the law that makes the policy liberal is because
sale of the commodity in small quantities by licensed vendors has been decriminalized. There is
a need to understand this issue if one has to come up with a concrete discussion and avoid the
pragmatic discussion that has been taking place stating that Netherlands has allowed the free use,
production and sale of cannabis in the country (Isralowitz & ebrary, 2002) . The permission to
sell this commodity in small, quantities in these countries and particularly Netherlands has been
characterized by the availability of several “coffee shops” where the consumption and the sale of
cannabis is tolerated but under certain regulations.
With this issue in mind, then there is the question of what really has the policy
decriminalized. The policy on cannabis in Netherlands has effectively decriminalized the use and
personal possession of cannabis by the adults. However, unlike the other decriminalization
approaches that have been carried out in other places, the policy has additionally tolerated
existence of outlets for low volume sales of cannabis. These outlets that are famously refereed to
as the “coffee shops” are regulated by strict licensing conditions that encompass restriction to the
admission to the shops on the basis of age, a ban for the sale of other drugs, and a control on the
external appearance of the shop, the marketing and the signage (Hilland, 2013) .
This liberal policy has been successful in containing the illegal use if this drug in
Netherlands. It has been reported that just fourteen percent of the cannabis users in Netherlands
has stated that there is availability of other drugs from their usual cannabis source as compared to

the fifty two percent of the people who reported in Sweden (Rolles, 2014) . This comparison
makes it clear that the legalization of the sale of small quantities of the cannabis drug has led to
the decreased chances of there being people who can venture into the illegal drugs business. This
is because the people will fear to be caught in the illegal act and therefore they will only be
involved in the legal business (Lee, 2013) . Another success of the coffee shops is that they have
assisted in containing the rates of use of cannabis. Studies have revealed that the rates of use of
the drug are equivalent to or lower than those of the neighbouring countries. The rates have also
been shown to be lower when compared to the United States (Reinarman, 2000) . The fact that
the usage of the drug in the country is the same as that in other countries reveals the fact that the
coffee shops pose no danger of increased usage of the drugs.
One of the successes that the government of Netherland has been able to achieve out of
this legalization process is the prohibition of access of the money used to buy these drugs by
criminal profiteers. Because of the process of legalization of small usage of the substance
coupled up with the fact that the people who are caught producing or selling cannabis without the
permit are prosecuted, the people have resulted to going to the coffee shops every time they are
in need of the drug. This money is then channelled to the government revenues. T is estimated
that the government generates an estimated 400 million Euros in form of tax from the coffee
shop business. In case the business could have been prohibited, these funds could land to the
hands of the criminals who would indulge in the illegal business of drug trafficking. Though the
coffee shops and the policy have enjoyed this success, there have been some problems that have
been associated with the use of these coffee shops (Hilland, 2013) . One of the problems that have
been experienced in the Southern borders has been the over flocking into the coffee shops by
many visitors from the neighbouring countries. Again, with the prohibition of legal production of

the cannabis, there has been a lot of concern that these coffee shops have been supplied through
an illegal production unit. This illegal production unit could involve organized criminal groups.
The UK policy approach to the issue of cannabis is firmly prohibitionist. In the U.K it is
illegal to be in possession of, supply or produce a “controlled” drug. The distinction in the laws
held in Netherlands and those held in UK is the classification of drugs and the penal code. In the
United Kingdom, cannabis is classified as a class B drug whose possession can be punished with
an unlimited fine and an imprisonment of up to five or seven years. In Netherlands, drugs are
classified either as hard or soft drugs (Bewley-Taylor, 2012) . Hard drugs are defined as the drugs
that pose an unacceptable risk to the public health. Cannabis is classified as a soft drug and
therefore is not seen as a major health risk to the people. This government ahs tried to evade the
stigmatization of the people who use soft drugs through the process of limiting the damage
associated with the drug. This ensures that the users of the soft drugs and particularly cannabis
are not exposed to the dangers that are posed by the access to the hard drugs. For many people,
the prohibition of the drugs causes only more damage as the people will try to illegally acquire
the drug to satisfy their needs (Baggott, 2010) . Once they get the supply, they will be free to buy
any quantity that they desire to. On the other and, when the people are allowed to have access to
some little cannabis at a regulated level that ensures that there is no damage, the people are saved
form the danger where they could otherwise be able to access other dangerous drugs through the
chains that they would develop to acquire these drugs.



Baggott, R. (2010). Public Health: Policy and Politics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bewley-Taylor, D. R. (2012). International drug control : consensus fractured. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Hilland, J. (2013). Going Dutch? Drugs Policy in the UK and the Netherlands. Retrieved July 3,
2015, from
Isralowitz, R., & ebrary, I. (2002). Drug use, policy, and management. Westport, Conn.: Auburn
Lee, M. A. ( 2013). Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and
Scientific. United Kingdom: Simon and Schuster.
Reinarman, C. (2000). The Dutch example shows that liberal drug laws can be beneficial. Drug
Legalization: Current Controversies. , 102-108.
Rolles, S. (2014). Cannabis policy in the Netherlands: moving forwards not backwards.
Retrieved July 3, 2015, from

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