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DRUG CONTROL THROUGH LEGALISATION
A PLAN FOR REGULATION OF THE DRUG PROBLEM
IN THE NETHERLANDS
This paper was compiled by the following people:
1. R. Dufour Bureau Ecostad Ltd., editor
2. J. van der Haar General Secretary of ARTA (Centre for Addict Care).
Vice-president of NeVIV (Dutch Association of Addict Care
and Treatment Centres).
3. R. van der Hoeven District attorney in Rotterdam.
4. M.L.S. Lap Internet consultant.
Drug policy adviser.
5. F. Polak Psychiatrist, Department of drugs of the GG&GD (Municipal Health Service)
6. T. Reitsma Police Commissioner.
7. R. Steinbuch Senior staff member multinational company
(retired). Treasurer of MDHG (Interestgroup of
Drug users) in Amsterdam.
8. G.J. Verhoef Deputy director of NeVIV (Dutch Association
of Addict Care and Treatment Centres).
Each member takes part in a private capacity.
Haarlem, November 1996
Copies available at:
Dutch Drug Policy Foundation - J. van der Haar
7951 KN Hamingen
Tel.: ** 31 (0)522 263.994
Fax.: ** 31 (0)522 256.779
Text available on Internet: http: // www.drugtext.nl / reports / nlplan /
Summary p. 1
Chapter 1 The urgency of legalisation p. 3
Chapter 2 The Netherlands can legalise independently p. 7
Chapter 3 Distribution of soft drugs p. 10
Chapter 4 Distribution of other drugs p. 12
Chapter 5 Drug use after legalisation p. 15
Chapter 6 Crime after legalisation p. 20
Conclusion p. 24
Appendix A Drugs:
- What are they and what effects do they have ?
- How addictive are they?
- Addiction in the Netherlands, compared
to other European countries p. 25
Appendix B Drug prohibition:
-The costs of penalization.
-The costs according to the government
compared to our estimate. p. 29
Appendix C Distribution: The medical alternative. p. 32
Appendix D Help services: The consequences of legalisation. p. 33
Appendix E Distribution: A model of costs and
prices. p. 35
Chapter 1: The urgency of legalisation.
Drug addiction extends to only 7% of alcoholism. Crime that
results from drug prohibition, however, is enormous: 50% of prison cells are occupied by
drug offenders. The growing crime rate threatens to overflow society. Fighting crime in
the traditional way can be seen as swimming against the tide, or to use a Dutch
expression: 'mopping the floor with the tap open'. The open tap is the drug prohibition:
Goldmine and driving force of crime.
Chapter 2: The Netherlands can legalise independently.
Neither international treaties nor international political
pressure need to refrain the Netherlands from introducing de facto legalisation by
applying the Dutch expediency principle. This principle allows the Public Prosecution
Department to decide whether or not to prosecute. With our plan the Netherlands would not
become a magnet for drugs tourists, and the remaining illegal export of drugs would be
easier to fight.
Chapter 3: Distribution of soft drugs.
The Netherlands has 20 years of experience with the semi-legal sale of soft drugs. This hasn't brought an invasion of drug tourists, nor has it led to an increase in drug use or more problematic drug use than abroad. Legalisation requires only a small step.
A National Drug Agency should be established that will
regulate and monitor the production and sale through approximately 1500 legal
"coffeeshops". Purchase will be allowed to everyone from the age of 16 or 18.
Prices will go down only slightly.
Chapter 4: Distribution of other drugs.
The National Drug Agency would set up approximately 150 shops where the other drugs could be purchased. The staff would receive a fixed income from the Agency, and the shops would be non-profit organisations. For each type of drug there would be a stipulated maximum one could buy, within a certain time frame, f.i. a week. If someone requires more than that, he/she would be referred to the services for addict care. They would examine the risk of resale, advise on safe(r) use and determine the higher maximum desired.
Every resident could obtain a drug pass, with which he/she
can buy drugs up to the fixed maximum. This pass will be a non-transferable chipcard,
which registers the use of drugs (in accordance with the regulations on the protection of
privacy). The drug pass prevents an inflow of drug tourists. Prices will go down to a
regular economic level: an amount of NLG 10-20 will set up addicts for the day. As a
result, the drug use connected crime (junkie-crime) will disappear.
Chapter 5: Drug use after legalisation.
Characteristics of the present market: - consumer's impulse (market pressure)
- unreliability of the product
- high prices
Scenario A: Legalisation of soft drugs only.
Scenario B: In addition to scenario A, the distribution of hard drugs to the registered 25.000 addicts.
Scenario C: Complete legalisation of both soft and hard
- Complete legalisation according to our proposed system will have little influence on consumption. The health of users will improve. Information will be more accessible.
- Excise and VAT will generate at least 150 million Dutch guilders a year (at a conservative estimate) for the government.
- This money could finance a campaign to promote less and
safer drug use. A similar campaign helped to reduce smoking by half.
Chapter 6: The crime picture after legalisation.
Drug crime is related to the production, trade and the use of drugs. The immediate consequences of legalisation are examined for the scenarios A, B and C.
Complete legalisation will bring the following results:
- Prison cells now occupied by dealers and junkies will become available.
- This puts an end to the present shortage of cells. As a result, other types of crime will decrease with 10-20%.
- The crime-fighting capacity of the police and the administration of justice will double, and result in a further reduction.
- The total crime rate will decrease by 50-80%.
Annual health gain:
- At present 200-300 murders are committed every year, 30-50% of which are related to the drug trade; a reduction of 50% results in 100-150 violent deaths per year less.
- At present there occur 3000 acts of serious violence per
year, of which 1500-2000 are gang related; a reduction of 50% results in 1500 crimes of
serious violence per year less.
Annual alleviation of the financial burden on society: a minimum of NLG 4 - 6 billion.
Chapter I - THE URGENCY TO LEGALISE
About 21 years ago the report from the BAAN-Committee
(government advisors for the revision of the 1976 Dutch Opium Law) cleared the way for the
present Dutch drug policy. The most characteristic features of this policy are the
semi-legal sale and consumption of soft drugs and the prosecution of hard drugs. Two
conclusions can be drawn:
Drug addiction has remained more or less stable, and is lower than in most other European countries.
Addiction to soft drugs is a relatively rare phenomenon: on
a total of 675.000 regular soft drug users in the Netherlands, there are about 2.500
problematic users. About 25.000 people are addicted to hard drugs. The number of deaths
due to accidental and other poisoning by opiates and related narcotics fluctuates around
60 per year. Compared to alcoholism: 350.000 addicts and almost 1.600 deaths per year,
drug addiction is a problem of modest proportions.
The crime aspect as a result of this policy is a fiasco,
just as in comparable countries. About half of the prison population in Holland is serving
a sentence because of a drug related offence. These include offences committed by addicts
in order to procure the money they need to buy drugs, as well as offences connected to
production, trafficking and sale of drugs. A proportionate amount of all criminal
proceedings by the police and the administration of justice involves drugs. This costs the
government more than NLG 2,5 billion per year. The damage of the committed crimes is
estimated at about NLG 4 billion per year.
Organised crime now constitutes a major sector in the Dutch
economy. Crime and criminal money inundate our society. Branches of industry such as hotel
and catering are threatened. Banks, lawyers, tax consultants, notaries and accountants are
forced to protect themselves from infiltration by criminals . Local authorities are warned
by the government to verify the integrity of the companies they do business with. Crime
statistics have been going up year after year. From 1978-1992 crimes registered with the
police have risen with 136 % for property offences and with 160 % for acts of violence.
The political answer to this has been to build more prison cells and to grant more power to the police and the justice department at the expense of the legal protection of the individual citizen. This is "mopping up with the tap open". The open tap is the prohibition of the production and the trade of drugs. It is not actually the drugs that make the user a criminal, they only give the user a kick or a feeling of well-being. Goldmine and driving force of crime is the ban on drugs.
However, drugs do not disappear as a result of the ban.
Prohibition has failed in the USA with their "War on
Drugs", as well as in Singapore, where people are hanged if they are caught with
drugs. In the Netherlands with its open borders, the largest port in the world: Rotterdam,
and less centralised power for the police and the administration of justice, prohibition
won't succeed either. We can't even keep drugs out of our prisons.
Drug prohibition is:
- Ineffective: At present 6 times more cocaine is being confiscated than some years ago, but this has had no effect on its price or availability.
- Unfair: Drug users only harm themselves at the very most and the prohibition discriminates them compared to drinkers, smokers and gamblers.
- It undermines society: The police and the administration of justice lack time and resources to fight common crime, and criminal money inundates the economy.
- Unnecessary: Drug use can be better controlled
Time has come to eliminate the crime resulting from the ban
on drugs, and instead to control the drug problem through a sensible regulation of the
production, trade and use of all drugs.
In the following chapters we present how soft drugs could be distributed within a legal system, how this could be arranged for the other drugs, and what the effects will be on drug use and crime. But the first question is: can the Netherlands do this on their own, or could this only be done within a European framework at the very least? Would the Netherlands then become a free haven for drug traders and a magnet for drug tourists?
Chapter 2 - THE NETHERLANDS CAN LEGALISE INDEPENDENTLY
The question of whether legalisation of drugs would be desirable is often cut short by the idea that legalisation solely in the Netherlands is impossible because international treaties stand in the way. This is a misconception. First of all, the Netherlands could withdraw from these treaties. But this is not even necessary.
The drug treaties which the Netherlands have entered into
constitute no impediment to the "expediency principle" that applies in our
country. This principle entails that the Public Prosecution Department is not obliged to
prosecute criminal offences if it does not deem such to be "expedient" or
useful. On the basis of this principle the Dutch policy of tolerating the sale and use of
soft drugs has been able to develop. At first this policy caused opposition. However, in
recent years the appreciation is growing, and in some countries even further steps have
Some recent developments:
- Germany: The Constitutional Court decided on April 28, 1994 that the possession of soft drugs for personal use need no longer be prosecuted. Since then, most German regional governments now tolerate the sale and use of soft drugs.
- Colombia: on May 5, 1994 the Court of Constitutional Law passed the motion that possession of cannabis and cocaine are considered, in constitutional terms, to be protected by the right to individual freedom.
- Switzerland: several cities, including Zurich, dispense hard drugs to addicts already for a year.
- France: The advisory commission-Henrion, set up by the former government under president Mitterand, advised to depenalize the use of soft drugs and to do the same at a later stage with the production and sale. The largest possible minority of this committee was in favour of applying the same to hard drugs.
- Secretary-general Raymond Kendall from Interpol has
proposed to no longer penalise the possession of drugs. He considers drugs to be a health
and social problem rather than a judicial issue.
In our opinion the most "expedient" way of
regulating the drug problem in the short term is to expand the application of the present
"expediency principle" to all drugs in accordance with the system that will be
explained in the following chapters. It is remarkable that our system is more in keeping
with the treaties than the present Dutch policy of tolerance.
The umbrella treaty concerning drugs is the "Single
Convention on Narcotic Drugs" of New York, signed in 1961. It received its
name because it encompassed all miscellaneous agreements up until that time. Later
treaties, such as the Protocol of Geneva of 1972 and the Convention on drug and
psychotropic substances signed in Vienna in 1988, do not infringe on its scope and
The preamble of the "Single Convention" states that the members are committed to combat the evil of drug addiction (.." Conscious of their duty to prevent and combat this evil"..).
Article 22 reads: "Whenever the prevailing conditions in the country or a territory of a Party render the prohibition of the cultivation of the opium poppy, the coca bush or the cannabis plant the most suitable measure, in its opinion, for protecting the public health and welfare and preventing the diversion of drugs into the illicit traffic, the Party concerned shall prohibit cultivation".
In other words one could read this as follows: if, on the other hand, a country considers legalisation to be a better option for protecting the public health and the fight against the illegal drug trade, that country need not ban production.
In such a case, what should be done is stated in article 23 on poppies (= opium and heroin): the country should then establish a National Opium agency.
Art. 23 sub 1: A Party that permits the cultivation of the opium poppy for the production of opium shall establish, if it has not already done so, and maintain, one or more government agencies (hereafter in this article referred to as the Agency) to carry out the functions required under this article.
Art. 23 sub 2: Each such Party shall apply the following provisions to the cultivation of the opium poppy for the production of opium and to opium:
a: The agency shall designate the areas in which, and the plots of land on which, cultivation of the opium poppy for the purpose of producing opium shall be permitted.
b: Only cultivators licensed by the Agency shall be authorised to engage in such cultivation.
d: All cultivators of the opium poppy shall be required to deliver their total crops of opium to the Agency (....).
e: The Agency shall, in respect of opium, have the
exclusive right of importing, exporting, wholesale, trading and maintaining stocks other
than those held by manufacturers of opium alkaloids, medicinal opium, or opium
preparations (....). Article 28 stipulates the same for cannabis (marihuana and hash).
Similar regulations apply to cocaine and other drugs.
The semi-legal production and distribution of soft drugs that has existed in the Netherlands already for more than 20 years does not comply with the condition that there should be a government controlled agency. Our proposal includes the foundation of such a national drug agency.
Legalisation will serve public health in a much better way, and it makes it easier for the police and the public prosecutions department to fight the remaining drug trade, which will mainly be export.
Withdrawal from international agreements or negotiations with treaty partners are therefore not necessary. When the Dutch approach receives international support and recognition, one could consider to amend the treaties to legalise the regulation. Only then will legalisation become formal. Since with our plan drugs would become legal in actual fact, we further refer to this "actual legalisation" as simply: legalisation.
Drug prohibition is increasingly under attack
internationally. If the Netherlands switch to legalisation, other countries will not
necessarily disapprove. It may well be that amazement abroad will change into interest,
just as has happened with the Dutch policy on soft drugs.
There seems to be enough room in international politics for legalisation within the Netherlands, provided that:
- illegal export from the Netherlands could be fought at least as strongly as at present, and
- legalisation in the Netherlands should not become a
magnet for foreign drug tourists.
If the conditions can be fulfilled, the Netherlands will also comply with the 1990 Schengen Agreement, which leaves the way in which drugs are dealt with to each participating country, but also demands that the policies of the other countries should not be impeded. Our plan satisfies both conditions, as we will show in the following chapters. Our proposal builds on the existing distinction between the distribution of soft drugs and that of other drugs.
Chapter 3 - DISTRIBUTION OF SOFT DRUGS
We define soft drugs as the intoxicants which are made from the cannabis plant (hemp). As mentioned earlier, the "Baan"-committee paved the way for the semi-legal distribution of soft drugs more than 20 years ago. Since then ample experience has been gained with its effects. As it turned out, the semi-legal availability has not led to a higher use compared to surrounding countries. On a total of 675.000 regular users of cannabis, the number of problematic users does not even amount to 2.500. Nor has the semi-legal availability caused an alarming invasion of foreign soft drug users and addicts. Apart from trouble in border communities, there are few problems.
At present, the Netherlands has over 1.500 cannabis outlets
that are actually tolerated. Most of these places are so called "coffeeshops", a
somewhat hypocritical name because what they sell is not just coffee. These coffeeshops
sell soft drugs, such as hash (cannabis resin) and weed (the ground leafs). The hash comes
from many countries and is not really cultivated domestically, which is mainly due to
costs and labour intensity. The "nederwiet", home-grown hemp, is cultivated on
both a small scale and on a larger semi-professional scale.
The current situation has given rise to the following problems:
- Aside from the coffeeshops there are still about 1.500 to 3.000 dealers who cannot be controlled.
- Local authorities want a better regulation of the coffeeshops in regards to quality as well as quantity and location.
- Coffeeshops cannot be obliged to assist in preventive and informative activities.
- Quality control is impossible.
- The general public as well as fellow businessmen think of the coffeeshops as very
profitable, and the freedom from taxation the coffeeshops enjoy as a result of their illegal nature is increasingly being felt as unfair.
- Intensified judicial attention for the coffeeshop
suppliers threatens to force the coffee-shops into criminal circles. Many coffeeshops
don't want to be drawn into these, and their owners would prefer to have a normal legal
status, including the fiscal payments this would involve, but given the current
legislation this cannot be realised. The same applies to the many Dutch growers of hemp.
All of these drawbacks will disappear if we legalise. The
obvious choice would be to use the existing infrastructure.
We suggest the following arrangement:
1) A "National Drug Agency" is to be established, which will grant licenses to bona fide coffeeshops or other distribution outlets, and which will set sales conditions.
2) The Agency will consult the local authorities before it makes decisions. The local authorities can stipulate conditions in regards to the location, opening hours, etc. similar to the way licenses for alcohol are regulated in the "Drank-Horecawet" (the Dutch law which sets conditions for the sale of alcoholic beverages in bars, restaurants, liquor stores, etc.).
3) In its licensing conditions the Agency can include the obligation to provide information to consumers, in order to educate them on the harm of frequent use as well as on a sensible consumer pattern.
4) The sale of soft drugs is free from age 18 (or 16, the age-limit for light alcoholic drinks).
5) The Agency carries out quality checks on soft drugs and sets standards for packaging. On the packing the amount of the active ingredient (THC) it contains will be stated, as well as other product information.
6) The Agency sets the prices. These need to be only slightly lower than at present in order to undercut the black market. Crime connected to drug use (junkie crime) is hardly an issue here, because there is little addiction and the current prices of soft drugs are already low as a result of their semi-legal status.
7) Production: The police and the administration of justice are already quite well informed about the "bona fide" cultivators of cannabis. This information could be used to grant licenses to cultivators. If they are licensed only to supply to certified coffeeshops and are obliged to accurate bookkeeping, the remaining export will be easier to combat than at present.
8) Production for personal use: it would be sensible to exclude the cultivation of cannabis for personal use from these regulations. This can be achieved by allowing people to own up to five plants before it is ruled by the licensing system.
9. Cultivators and coffeeshops should be included in the
normal fiscal regime of VAT, excise and income tax. Out of the increased revenues for the
government the Agency and the information/education can be financed. Appendix A will show
the immediate income which could be generated for the government. The figures indicate
that at minimum prices the government will receive NLG 70 million annually from excises
and VAT of coffeeshops alone. At the higher prices which we favour (as we stated, prices
need only be slightly lower than the present "illegal" ones) the return from
taxes will increase accordingly.
A second flow of income can be derived from the legalised sale of other drugs, for which we have developed another distribution system which will be explained in the next chapter.
Chapter 4 - DISTRIBUTION OF OTHER DRUGS
The regulation we propose in this chapter includes all drugs other than marihuana and hash. There are a large number of substances. In the Netherlands this concerns mainly cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and ecstasy (XTC).
We consider it important to separate the distribution of these other drugs from the sales system of soft drugs for the following reasons:
-The distribution circuits have been separate for many years.
-The semi-legal distribution of soft drugs has already led to some sort of infrastructure
which could serve as a basis.
-Soft drugs constitute a lesser risk of drug tourism and foreign objections.
-In the present situation there is a greater risk of
problematic use of hard drugs.
The rules of distribution for hard drugs need to be so
flexible that the drugs won't be sold illegally, but they must also set standards for the
protection of the general health of the population and for the suppression of illegal
We suggest the following:
1) Drugs other than soft drugs can legally be sold only to Dutch citizens from the age of 18 (same age limit as for spirits).
2) Just like with casinos, potential buyers will have to submit to identification and registration.
3) This registration will comply with the Act on Protection of Privacy.
4) The National Drug Agency will provide the buyer with a "drug-pass". This pass contains a code with personal data. Any purchase of drugs will be registered with a central database. The drug pass would be similar to an ATM (Automated Teller Machine) card and is non-transferable.
5) The drug pass will allow the user a predetermined amount of a certain drug for a certain period of time, f.i. a week, or will allow a combination of several drugs for multi-drug users.
6) The Agency will determine on general maximal for non-problematical use after the advice of experts from the health sector and from users.
7) If the user should want more drugs than the regular drug pass will allow, he can buy them with a special permit, to be issued by institutions for health or addict care, or general practitioners. In such cases conditions can be made, but only to prevent resale. Such a condition may be that the user can only buy a certain amount a day, or that he may only consume the drugs in a user room. The exceptional user could be given extra guidance and counseling, but only on the basis of persuasion not compulsion. After all, the goal is to prevent the user from obtaining the drugs illegally.
8) The Agency will determine the points of sale: the drug shops, just as it does for coffeeshops. It can also establish user rooms if so required.
9) The Agency will set the prices. The drug shops would be a part of the Agency, which pays the salaries of the employees. Consequently the drug shops will not be independent profit organisations. There will be no advertising.
10) The drug pass (for citizens only) will discourage an invasion from foreign hard drug users, as well as objections from abroad against the Dutch policy.
11) The future: when experience has been gained with this
method of supply, and if the surrounding countries should also decide to legalise, the
production and sale of these other drugs could gradually become more normalised and be
brought in line with the system for the sale of soft drugs.
Note: The proposed system is not watertight. Resale
by Dutch citizens or residents with a drug pass to foreigners or others will occur
incidentally. However, this will only involve small amounts: limited to the maximum amount
per pass. Essential is that our system will make it easier to fight the remaining illegal
export than at present, because the police and the public prosecutions department will
have their hands freed (see chapter 6).
What effects will this legalisation have on the use of drugs and the addiction? Will consumption rise sharply if drugs are "permitted"? Will it become as widespread as the alcohol problem? We will look at these issues in the next chapter.
DISTRIBUTION AFTER LEGALISATION
-SOFT DRUGS - -OTHER DRUGS -
Hemp producer Producer
Local government Local government
Coffeeshop Drug shop
Buyer : > 16 or 18 years of age Buyer : - > 18 years of age
- drug pass - maximum amounts
VAT - excise - income tax
Chapter 5 - DRUG USE AFTER LEGALISATION
Drug use can be divided into:
a) Problematic use: consumers who as a result of their drug use encounter such health or social problems that they come into contact with the justice department or social services. For reasons of simplicity we generally call this group "addicts", although strictly speaking a problematic user need not be an addict, and an addict is not necessarily a problematic user.
b) Non-problematic use.
Ref. a) As mentioned in chapter 1, there are at
present 25.000 hard drug addicts in our country, and 2.500 problematic users of soft
drugs. The number of people who die of a drug overdose in the Netherlands has been
fluctuating around 60 a year.
Ref. b) Approximately 675.000 Dutchmen of 12 years and over regularly take soft drugs. The numbers for other drugs are more difficult to estimate. Therefore, the following numbers are rough estimates:
Cocaine - 60.000
Heroin - 40.000
Ecstasy - 30.000
Amphetamines - 30.000
Total: -160.000 (see Appendix E)
The present illegal market has the following characteristics:
1) Consumer's impulse/Market pressure.
- Free product advertisement for drugs in the shape of tv-series about fights between the police and the druglords, newspaper articles about drug catches, police abuse, drug runners etc.;
- The romantic aura of the forbidden, which renders drugs appealing to vulnerable young-sters;
- For hard drugs in particular: an intricate and highly motivated sales structure of thousands of dealers who often finance their own drug use this way and make some easy money on the side;
- Uncertain availability which leads to a 'grab what you
can get' attitude. This stimulates excessive and unsafe use.
- No quality control
- Bad information, because dealers serve their own motives.
3) High and fluctuating prices
Legalisation would change all this. We will look at the changes by means of three scenarios:
Scenario A: Legalisation of soft drugs only.
Scenario B: The scenario above, plus the distribution of hard drugs to addicts under medical supervision.
Scenario C: Legalisation of all drugs, along the lines
of the two distribution systems.
chart LEGALISATION : EFFECTS ON DRUG USE
The most important effect of the legalisation of soft drugs would be the possibility of a price-reduction. The present prohibition causes a risk premium to be included in the price. This premium will fall away with legalisation.
After legalisation the prices will fluctuate between a minimum and a maximum. The minimum would consist of the cost of production plus the producer's margin plus the retailer's margin plus VAT and excise. The maximum price would be the current price on the illegal market. The legal price would have to be below this price in order to eradicate the black market.
Appendix E provides an overview of the minimum and maximum levels of what the legal price should be. It shows that the price of cannabis could decrease to approximately 60% of the current price. In order to prevent this possible fall in price, we suggest that the Agency will determine the prices. This will also keep the coffeeshops from price competition. To make the illegal trade unprofitable the fixed prices need only to be slightly lower than at present. Because prices are fixed and advertising will not be allowed, coffeeshops will occupy a modest place in the food and beverage market. The price reduction will also cause most of the illegal dealers to disappear, which will more than half the number of outlets.
In all, legalisation will change the present market
situation for the consumer so little that there is no reason why drug use would increase,
while problematic use will be better prevented and fought.
The legalisation of cannabis products is urgently required and would not cause any major problems. However, a policy which is limited to this can produce adverse effects, in particular for hard drug use and the accompanying problems. It would be quite possible that:
- Dealers who lose their income from soft drugs would try to compensate this by turning to the sale of hard drugs.
- The fight against hard drugs would harden, with its
negative effects on crime, drug use and public health.
For this reason, it may be considered to supplement scenario A with scenario B: The medically supervised dispensation of hard drugs to addicts, which several Dutch cities want to experiment with.
Drug treatment and social services can now only supply methadone (an opiate with long term effects) to addicts, but would then be able to supply other (hard) drugs to users. Scenario B will eliminate a great deal of the crime connected to drug use, since this is mostly to blame on the hard drug addicts.
Nevertheless, medical dispensation has its drawbacks, which we will examine more closely in appendix C. The physician will have a conflict: he will either fail as a healer or as a dealer. Consequently, the addict would probably not get everything he wants, he will find the way back to the illegal market with its high prices, and the drug use connected crime would not disappear altogether.
Scenario B cannot change the situation for hard drug users who are nót addicted. Medical supply of drugs to registered addicts would have little effect on the illegal market, since most of the users there will not fit the standards for medical dispensation.
Scenario B also carries the danger, like scenario A, that
dealers will increase their efforts to push hard drugs.
Only legalisation of all drugs will put an end to the market pressure. Only then will drugs disappear from the news and become a part of everyday life. The romantic attraction of the forbidden will vanish, just like the distribution network of the thousands of dealers. This will be replaced by approximately 150 drugs shops, staffed by personnel who do not depend on sales. The drug pass will allow every customer to buy a fixed quantity of the drug he wants. The heavy user can get even more after consulting with the appropriate care institution. People can consume their drug of choice whenever and wherever they want.
The drug shop will provide objective and expert advice aimed at safer use, f.i. opium instead of heroin, and smoking rather than injecting. By their pricing policy the shop can influence these choices. The Agency will monitor the quality and the information on the packing.
The disappearance of the market pressure will in itself tend to reduce drug consumption and addiction. The number of deaths by overdose will be reduced as a result of the quality control and improved information and counseling.
Now, it could be argued that legalisation would signal
"permission" to drug use, and thus encourage it. In our view this possible
effect will be more than compensated for by the disappearance of a forbidden fruit, which
nowadays makes drugs so alluring to youngsters.
The question remains whether the consumption-reducing
factors will be overshadowed by the consumption-increasing factor of the fall in prices.
Scenario A shows that a small drop in prices will be sufficient in order to undercut the
black market for soft drugs. However, in the case of hard drugs only a steep price
reduction can eradicate the crime connected to drug use ("junkie-crime" as
opposed to organised drug crime).
Appendix E states that prices of the most popular hard
drugs (cocaine and heroin) may go down to about to 40% of the present streetprices. As
opposed to soft drugs where there is hardly any "junkie-crime", the price of
hard drugs needs to be reduced to this economically normal level. Only then will
"junkie-crime" disappear. Maintaining a drug habit will cost about 10-20
guilders a day. Will this fall in price lead to increased consumption? That is not
probable. In recent years sharp price reductions have already occurred without resulting
in a significantly increased number of addicts. It is to be expected that price decreases
as a result of legalisation will not have this effect either, especially since they come
combined with a fall in market pressure as explained. Legalisation will have a positive
effect on the methods of use and will reduce the number of deaths through overdose.
Legalisation will have an impact on the contents and the size of drug treatment and social services, which will be discussed in appendix D.
We recommend that simultaneously with legalisation a drug
education and prevention programme be started, aimed at reducing excessive drug use. This
programme can be financed with the hundreds of millions of guilders which the government
will receive out of taxation after legalisation. It would be a good idea to aim the
campaign at the use of alcohol and tobacco as well, which at present cause much more
danger to public health. The possible effectiveness of such a campaign can be illustrated
by the result of the anti-smoking campaigns which were held in our country in the
seventies. They have contributed to a significant reduction of the number of smokers. In
1967, some 60% of the Dutch population were smokers. This was reduced to one third in 1988
and has remained stable since.
* +: favourable; -: unfavourable
Legalisation of drugs combined with a powerful campaign against the excessive use of drugs and other intoxicants is the pre-eminent way to curb the drug problem and keep it low. A radical change in drug use and addiction is not to be expected.
In contrast, the picture for drug crime will alter dramatically.
Chapter 6 - CRIME AFTER LEGALISATION
What will the effects of legalisation be on crime?
Drug crime can be divided into three components, related
to: Production, trade and consumption.
A few facts:
Production: Production of drugs in the Netherlands
for domestic use mainly concerns hemp cultivating stations and laboratories for ecstasy
and amphetamines. The total turnover is substantial, but there are no reliable estimates.
Trade: - The turnover from illegal drug trade for domestic consumption can be estimated at 1,135 million guilders per year. This consists of 405 million guilders from hemp products and 730 million guilders from other drugs (see appendix E).
- About 50% of prison space for prisoners serving long
sentences (more than a year) are currently occupied by dealers, including offenders of
other drug related crimes, such as briberies, acts of violence, hired killings, etc.
Consumption: Using drugs in the Netherlands is not actually being prosecuted. Crime connected to drug use in our country, therefore, is limited to crimes committed by junkies in order to procure the money to buy their own drugs. These crimes are mostly crimes against property (breaking into cars, burglaries) and violent acts such as robberies and muggings. About half of these crimes are committed by drug addicts.
The three components of drug crime lay claim to more than
half of the available prisonspace.
We will take a look at the effects of legalisation along
the lines of the three scenarios:
A: Legalisation of soft drugs only.
B: The above scenario plus the dispensation of hard
drugs to addicts under medical supervision.
C: Legalisation of all drugs.
chart LEGALISATION : CONSEQUENCES FOR
Note: The different consequences for crime in the scenarios A, B and C are shown statistically. In reality we will see a dynamic development:
- As pointed out earlier, it is quite possible that, if only soft drugs are legalised and when in addition hard drugs would be dispensed to addicts, the illegal trade would concentrate on the sale of hard drugs more intensely, which in its turn would lead to more use and crime. That is the reason why it would be best by far to legalise all drugs, not only from the viewpoints of health, costs and personal freedom, but also from the point of view of fighting crime.
- In the second place, the dynamics of reality will make
the consequences of total legalisation, according to scenario C more far reaching than
represented in the diagram. It is to be expected that the capacity that will become
available for the prison authorities, police and the administration of justice will not
gradually be discharged, but will be directed towards reducing crime in other areas.
All of this means that scenario C will have the following effects on total crime:
Criminal money: more than 1 billion Dutch guilders will disappear from the undisclosed money circuit.
Trade: dealers who are presently serving a sentence will have to be released and can no longer be arrested for this trade again, except in the case of transit dealing.
If drug gangs are not able or do not wish to participate in the domestic legal drug trade, they will focus their attention on trade abroad. The Netherlands will remain a major country of transit, just as it is for other goods. Transit and export will remain illegal, but are easier to fight than at present as a result of the increased capacity with the police and the administration of justice, and of the new regulation system.
The critical remark that is often heard, namely that legalisation will not lead to a reduction of organised crime because other types of criminal activities will be chosen (as a former minister of justice once said: these criminals will not, all of a sudden, turn to playing backgammon), is only partly correct. There are actually only a restricted number of criminal areas or black markets which can be exploited by these organisations, and these do not offer the same profits as the drug trade. Otherwise the gangs would not have chosen the drug trade in the first place. Possible other areas of crime are the illegal arms trade, trade in women, trade in human organs for transplantation, and contraband such as cigarettes, alcohol, stolen goods etc.
A number of organisations will attempt to expand their activities in these areas, particularly towards Eastern Europe. Drugs could be an important trade object. However, drug gangs exist there already, and these will not readily allow newcomers to step in. Newcomers also won't have the necessary network at their disposal. Therefore, a radical switch of Dutch organised crime towards these markets will not take place. Furthermore, the loss of the drug profits will also make it more difficult to invest in other criminal activities: drugs will disappear as a 'multipliers of crime'. As a result, a number of gangs will probably disintegrate and fade away.
Prison capacity: As a result of legalisation a large amount of prisoncells will become available, and thus put an end to the present shortage of cells. They can be used to imprison offenders of 'common' violent and other crime.
We expect that this simple fact already will cause a reduction of 10-20% of these crimes. The reduction is caused partly because multiple offenders can be locked up sooner and partly because of the fact that rehabilitation during detention has a better chance of succeeding.
Crime connected to drug use: "junkie-crime": We stated above that this will disappear completely, but that does not mean that problematic drug users will not commit crimes anymore. After all, 40% of them were already criminally active before they were addicted. The criminal activities of this group will decrease because they will not have to commit crimes to fund their addiction. On balance, it seems realistic to expect that the number of property and violent crime committed by addicts will decrease by about 50%. This is a conservative estimate because addicts who remain criminally active (the 40% mentioned earlier) will also find themselves in detention more often, as a result of the increased capacity of the prisons, the police and the administration of justice.
Police: At present, half of their crime-fighting capacity is being spent on drug offences. After legalisation this figure will be reduced to less than 10%: mainly combating illegal transit and export. So the capacity of the police to fight the other crimes will almost double. This will lead to a further decline of crime.
The same goes for the Public Prosecution and the Judges:
their capacity to deal with crime will also nearly double: more criminal investigation
and faster trials.
Adding up the factors mentioned above, a general
legalisation of drugs in the Netherlands will result in a reduction of the criminal money
circuit by about 1 billion Dutch guilders and of total crime by about 50 - 80%.
This unprecedented decrease will reduce the crime rate back
to the level of the late seventies. This illustrates that the ever-increasing rate of
crime has not been merely a natural phenomenon, to be attributed to factors that are hard
to influence, such as the disintegration of traditional religious and socio-political
organisations, divorces, tv-violence, immigration, unemployment etc. The rise of crime
appears to have a clear and rectifiable cause: The prohibition of drugs.
People who fear that legalisation will lead to more drug use, and therefore, to more health damage (as we have set out there appears to be little reason for this fear), should think of the tremendous gains for public and private health when 50-80% of total crime disappears:
- At present, violent criminal offences cause 200 to 300 deaths per year. 30-50% of these deaths are connected to drug trade. This number would, for the most part, disappear immediately. A decrease of 50% means 100 to 150 less deaths caused by violence per year.
- Currently 3000 severe, life-threatening crimes are
committed each year. With 1500 to 2000 of this number organised crime is involved. When
drugs are no longer the driving force and Goldmine of organised crime, a considerable
amount of these crimes will cease to occur. A decrease of 50% would mean 1500 less
life-threatening criminal acts each year.
Along with this reduction in numbers, the following should be considered. Simply put: a drug addict who does damage to his health has only himself to blame. In contrast, victims of violent crimes are victims through no fault of their own (if we leave aside acts of violence within the criminal world itself).
The health gain as a result of avoiding violent crimes is, therefore, of a higher quality than if -theoretically- the same number of drug-casualties would occur as a result of legalisation.
Controlling the drug problem is possible along the lines of "de-facto" or actual legalisation, and can be effectuated on a short term. Legalisation can take place without infringing on international treaties and without causing a flood of foreign drug tourists. The remaining illegal transit and export will be easier to fight than at present.
Concern about an increased use of drugs is unfounded. Drugs will become common, not very interesting intoxicants, used by a minority whose health can be better served than at present.
Legalisation will generate a yearly flow of money from VAT and excise duties from the coffeeshops and drug shops of at least 150 million Dutch guilders. In addition, the government will save at least 2 billion guilders a year on prisons, police and the administration of justice. We assume that this money will be used for combating the remaining crime. The reduction of costs for society as a whole as a result from the decrease of crime will amount to 4 - 6 billion guilders annually.
Finally, legalisation of drug provides the cure for the ever-rising crime rate. Half of the prison capacity will become available instantly. As a result, and also because the capacity of the police and the administration of justice will double, total crime will decrease by 50-80%.
If countries abroad would also switch to legalisation, the decrease will be even larger because the illegal transit and export would cease to exist.
With the remaining crime amounting to only 50-20% of the
present figure, the Netherlands will once again become a safe country, like it was in the
late seventies, when the prohibition of drugs began to exert its disastrous effects.
Legalisation of drugs according to our proposal is a
blessing to society.
Appendix A - DRUGS: What are they and what effects do
they have ?
DRUGS: How addictive are they ?
It is important to differentiate between use and abuse. The question is not whether consumption is legal or illegal, therapeutic or recreational, prescribed or not, but what are the dangers for the user or others as a result of the doses or the circumstances. For example, the domestic consumption of three glasses of alcohol can be regarded as "use", but it becomes 'abuse' when it is taken shortly before driving a car. It is "use" if the desired effect is brought about with a minimum risk. If the result causes danger, it constitutes "abuse".
For each intoxicating substance we should know how many people "use" and how many "abuse". However, as a direct result of the illegality of drugs it is impossible to acquire sufficient reliable data on these qualitative aspects. The available figures show a wide spread and have been collected in various ways.
Purely quantitative figures turn out to be more reliable. A large-scale screening of the population in the USA has shown that 21 million Americans have ever used cocaine (or crack), of which 8 million in the previous year. A total number of 3 million stated to have used it during the last month, of which 300.000 stated to have used cocaine daily. Converted to the Netherlands with roughly 1/20 of the U.S. population, this would mean that 1 million people would have "ever" used cocaine , 400.000 in the past year, 150.000 in the last month and 15.000 people on a daily basis. These numbers show that of the recent users (in the last month), no more than 10% use cocaine daily, and from those who have ever used it, this figure is 1,5%. These figures are significantly lower than for alcohol or nicotine. In spite of these findings almost everybody continues to believe that cocaine is much more addictive!
The opinions on what constitutes the most addictive substance vary from country to country. In the USA people consider it to be crack, in the Netherlands heroin and in Sweden amphetamines.
Lee Robins' famous research on American Vietnam veterans
has shown that from those veterans who became addicted to heroin in Vietnam, 88% no longer
used the drug after three years. Research on cocaine users has shown that only a minority
uses heavily, and also that most of the problematic users succeed in controlling their
habit without outside treatment.
DRUGS: Addiction in the Netherlands, compared to other
Appendix B - DRUG PROHIBITION: The costs of penalization.
In this day and age of government deficits it seems
appropriate to take a look at the costs of the prohibition of drugs for the government and
society as a whole. The fact that about half of the Dutch prison population is in prison
because of offences connected to drugs, makes it possible to estimate the costs.
A) Police and the administration of justice.
Costs for the government:
- Prison: As can be deduced from the above, the costs amount to half of the total prison costs.
- Police: If we assume that the police spends about 70% of the time preventing and fighting criminal offences, then half of this figure, 35%, is the amount of time which the police spends on drug crimes.
- Judicial procedure: About a quarter of the costs of the
Dutch judicial procedures is spent on criminal justice, so 12,5% is connected with drugs.
Therefore, the penalization of drugs results in the following costs for the government with respect to the police and the administration of justice:
50% Penal Institutions NLG 672 million
35% Police NLG 1.786 million
12,5% Judicial procedure NLG 183 million
Total: NLG 2.641 million
The total cost for the police and administration of justice as a result of the
penalization of drugs is around 2,6 billion guilders.
B) Damage as a result of drug crimes.
The total amount of damages for the victim or their
insurance companies as a result of frequently occurring crimes (not including fraud or
severe crime) are estimated by the Department of Justice to be 8,4 billion guilders per
year. From this, 4 billion are damages to businesses, 3 billion to individual citizens and
1,4 billion guilders to the government. Again, we assume here that half of the offences
committed are drug related, because half of the prison population are detained on a drug
related offence. The damages caused by offences as a result of the penalization of drugs
can be argued to amount to 4,2 billion guilders annually.
C) Other costs for society.
For example: - private security services.
- trauma's caused by crime.
- fraud and grave crimes, and
- the corruptive influence of the annual turnover from drugs for the domestic market of about 1 billion guilders.
The damages caused to society with respect to these aspects
will add many hundreds of millions more guilders each year to the amount mentioned
The government can save itself 2,6 billion guilders by abolishing the drug prohibition: less strain on the police and the administration of justice, no more shortage of prison cells.
The rest of society will save 4,2 billion guilders, plus the hundreds of millions mentioned under C.
The total saving as a result of legalisation is more
than 6.8 billion guilders per year.
One could object that not all drug related crime will
disappear when drugs are legalised. On the other hand, at present drugs constitute the
driving force and goldmine of crime. If this catalyst for crime has disappeared, the gains
could easily be even higher than our estimate!
If instead a legalised system is set up, this will create a
flow of extra income for the government through excise, VAT and income taxes. This money
could pay for governmental supervision as well as for information and assistance programs.
The drug policy will then fund itself, and even a surplus for the treasury is to be
In short: good news for the Minister of Finance!
DRUG PROHIBITION: The costs according to the Government,
in comparison to our estimate.
In its Drug Policy Paper (September 1995) the Dutch government estimates the costs of drug crime at: - NLG 640 million: administration of justice, police and detention. - NLG 650 million: damages as a result of drug crime
total: - NLG 1.290 million
The figures are based on a study of the Justice Department (July 1995). This study estimates the amount of drug crimes at 10% of the total amount of crimes, and hence derives at these figures. In our view, these figures are much too low, for two reasons:
1) The study only looks at the number of criminal
offences committed. It leaves out the gravity of drug crimes. The gravity of the crimes
committed is expressed in the length of prison sentences. Our own estimate is based on the
amount of prison cells occupied by drug offenders.
On the subject of prison sentences the Policy Paper states: "The amount of prison cells has been expanded in the past 10 years from 5.000 to 12.000. It is not an exaggeration to say that the fight against the drug trade has been the most important cause of the lengthening of prison sentences".
In other words: the drug problem has been the main cause of
the more than doubling of the number of prison cells. Added to the percentage of prison
space already occupied by drug offenders prior to the building program, our conclusion
that half of the total prison space is occupied by drug offenders (junkie crime as well as
organised crime) appears to be even modest.
2) The study doesn't encompass:
- the corruptive influence of illegal money involved in drug turnover. The Policy Paper estimates total drug turnover in the Netherlands at NLG 10 billion annually, i.e. including transit and export.
- the violent crimes committed by (members of) drug gangs among themselves: 30-50% of the total number of murders committed are gang related, 30-50% of the number of violent crimes are connected to organised crime.
The Policy Paper states: "Recent research shows that of the total number of crimes against property in the major cities, 1/3 is caused by drug-addicts. With five frequently occurring types of property crimes like burglary and breaking into cars this amounts to 50%. The average for the country as a whole is somewhat lower".
This statement only refers to the crime committed by drug addicts. Added to the organised drug crime and its financial gains, our estimate that total crime caused by the drug prohibition amounts to half of the total crime in the Netherlands -again- appears to be on the modest side!
Appendix C - DISPENSATION: The medical alternative.
As an alternative for the distribution of hard drugs in particular, our group has considered dispensation along the lines of a "medical model". The existing drug market at present consists of a legal and an illegal circuit. The illegal trade mainly serves non-problematic users, as explained in chapter 4. The legal circuit consists of the medically supervised dispensation of drugs, mainly methadone. This nucleus of a legal distribution could be expanded to include more types of hard drugs to more, if not all, consumers.
We consider this not advisable for the following reasons:
1) If medical doctors would be assigned to dispense drugs, they will find themselves in a conflict of roles. Drugs are not a medicine but an intoxicant or a stimulant (you also do not buy your alcoholic drinks at the chemist).
2) For this reason the Royal Dutch Society for Medicine refused to go along with the 1984 proposal to dispense heroin in Amsterdam. They considered this to be an inappropriate use of medical services. At present certainly many physicians and pharmacists would object to the dispensation of hard drugs.
3) For those doctors who would agree to assist in dispensation, the conflict inherent in the combined roles of physician and dispenser of drugs will result in either failure as a doctor or as a drug dispenser.
4) The aim a doctor wants to achieve with a prescription is to not cause any health damage and preferably to improve the patient's state of health. Dispensation of drugs will result in conflict: hard drugs do not serve the patient 's health and can possibly do harm, just like alcohol and cigarettes.
5) It is also important to realise that physicians are not well acquainted with non-problematic drug use. They only get to know long term problematic users, and are therefore prone to draw the wrong conclusions about the dangers of drug use in general.
6) For these reasons doctors could be inclined to impose more and more restrictions on the dispensation of drugs. The prospective user would then need to have or fake an illness in order to get drugs. The distributing doctors will assume a controlling role instead of a counseling one. They will view their clients with distrust, and regulations will be rigid and inadequate. All of these phenomena are already apparent with the dispensation of methadone.
7) This would result in two undesirable consequences: the
relationship between doctor and patient will become marred, and because users can not get
what they want the illegal market will continue to flourish.
The distribution of hard drugs through the system of non-commercial drug shops with drug passes has our preference. Medical dispensation of hard drugs to non-problematic users is unnecessary, creates problems for doctors and will not eradicate the black market.
Medically supervised counseling, however, could be
appropriate for problematic users. In the system we propose, the excessive user is
referred to the drug treatment and social services. If a client can make a fair case for
extra use without any obvious risk of resale, the services will draw up an individual user
pattern by mutual agreement. This enables the user to buy larger doses with his readjusted
drug pass. That way the supervision function of the counselor will be minimal.
The character of the drug treatment and social services will change through legalisation. We will explain this in appendix D.
.Appendix D - LEGALISATION: The consequences for the
At present, the drug treatment services carry out the following tasks, per region:
2) Care: - fieldwork
- medical care and social services
- addiction treatment
3) Social rehabilitation.
The judicial sector adds to this:
5) Resettlement for addicts.
6) Intramural-care for addicts.
In the present situation, there are two "drug markets" alongside each other: A white market characterised by the medical circuit, consisting of normal medical care and specialised drug treatment services, and a black market.
Although the care function of the drug treatment and social services is primarily meant for problematic addicts, others also use these services. After all, there is no other possibility to receive opiates in a legal and regular manner. Even though methadone is not the first drug of choice for opiates users, a number of them do see the advantages of using it: it is a continuous and safe basis and there is less dependency on shorter-lasting opiates. On the other hand, there will always be addicts who do not desire to have any contact with the medical or social services (they already have experienced these institutions), even though some of them have serious social and medical problems. Just like most non-problematic users, they obtain their drugs from the illegal market. It has recently been reported that the number of problematic users who do not use the drug treatment and social services has grown. To put it simply: Both non-problematic users and problematic users buy at both the black and the white market at the moment.
As a result of legalisation, drug treatment institutions
will only have to deal with those who are motivated to quit.
Consequences for the services can be described as follows:
1) Prevention: This task will have to be expanded
considerably. Prevention is vitally important with legal distribution. This is more than
just information. It would have to include scientific research on the causes of addiction,
a redefinition of upbringing and education methods, and monitoring of groups at risk.
2) Drug treatment and social services: These will undergo strong changes. Methadone distribution will be minimised. The medical system will only prescribe drugs in order to aid therapy. Degeneration as a result of expensive drugs that are difficult to obtain will occur less. Counseling will be similar to the counseling now given to alcoholics.
Treatment: Actual treatment, i.e. psycho-therapeutic
and psycho-social treatment will remain.
3) Social rehabilitation: Will require more
attention than at present. It should be directed at reintegration into society.
4) Consultation: A great deal of attention has to be
paid to consultation, especially in the initial period after the introduction of the
legalised system: Primary health care needs to consult the drug treatment experts.
5) Resettlement: The after-care and resettlement
function of discharged prisoners other than those who violated the Opium law, will remain.
The number of drug related crimes will be minimal. Disciplinary penal actions will be more
stringently enforced than at present.
6) Intramural-care for addicts: The possibilities
for intramural care in terms of availability in (psychiatric) hospitals depend, among
other things, on the agreements made with the medical insurance companies.
- It will be necessary to verify the assumptions made above. The "Delphi"-method will be a helpful tool to research this.
- Once the new situation has been realised, the real demand for the drug treatment and social services needs to be researched.
-The institutions for drug care will have to be prepared
for these possible changes.
A substantial revision of the different
tasks will be necessary:
Appendix E - DISTRIBUTION: A model of costs and prices.
1) Distribution of soft drugs (cannabis products).
This could occur via catering facilities (coffeeshops) with a cannabis license; possibly through a chemist if there is no coffeeshop in the neighbourhood.
Number of users: 675.000.
Total consumption on the basis of the streetvalue: NLG 405 million.
Streetvalue: NLG 12.- per gram, average consumption: 1 gram per week.
New situation (ceteris paribus):
Numbers of users: 675.000.
Consumption price: NLG 7.- per gram (this is a minimum price and can be raised by the Drug Agency).
This figure comprises: 30% VAT and excise: NLG 2.10 per gram.
20% retail margin: NLG 1.40 per gram.
50% wholesale price: NLG 3.50 per gram.
With 1500 coffeeshops each will have about 450 customers a
week. At an average of 1 gram per week the yearly turnover per coffeeshop will be NLG
163.800 and the retail margin NLG 32.760 per year.
2) Distribution of other drugs.
The study group proposes this to take place via outlets (drug shops) which would each supply about 1.000 users. Such a shop will employ three staff members on average. Estimated annual costs: NLG 400,000 all-in.
Number of users: 160.000 (frequently a variety of hard drugs).
Total consumption on the basis of the street value: NLG 730 million.
Average yearly consumption per user: NLG 5000.-
On the basis of the actual production and distribution costs, the price for the user can probably be reduced to about 40% from the present streetvalue.
Costs per user per year: NLG 2000.-
This figure comprises: 30% VAT and excise: NLG 600.-
20% retail margin: NLG 400.-
50% wholesale price: NLG 1000.-
With 1000 users per hard drug shop, the margin for the
distribution centre will be NLG 400,000 per year, which covers the annual costs.
3) Government revenues.
The figures above are a maximum and minimum between which
the prices are to be set after legalisation. The maximum is the current street price, the
minimum is the price based on the real production costs, where the legal coffeeshops can
receive a reasonable income from the sale of soft drugs, and were the hard drug shops can
finance themselves. The excise and VAT are set at 30% of the sale price. With a total drug
turnover of NLG 516 million, the government will receive NLG 155 million annually. On top
of this it can expect to receive income taxes. Increased excises on soft drugs, which are
well feasible, could raise the revenues for the government further.
The following estimate of drug use was compiled in
association with the research department of NIAD (Dutch Institute on Alcohol and Drugs)
and also uses figures from the Foundation for Information about Addict-care (IVV).
Estimates of present drug use and the costs involved are difficult to make, because of the
illegality of drugs. The figures of the chart only provide best guesses. The
responsibility for these results rest solely with us. An additional advantage of
legalisation is that we will be able to gain a greater insight into the number of users
and their patterns of use.
Justification for the estimated number of users in the chart:
Note: The chart represents the number of people who
have used drugs in the previous month, i.e. in general the regular users.
- Cannabis: The number of users is estimated at 675.000 in the report "The Dutch Drug Policy", Dutch government, September, 1995. We will use this figure.
We estimate that there are 2.500 problematic cannabis
users. This number was derived from the registration at the different institutions for
- Cocaine: The number of users in Amsterdam is estimated at 7.500. For the total Dutch population we apply the following distribution code:
Amsterdam, population: 0,5 million ..... - 7.500
Other major cities, population: 1,5 million,
70% of the amount of users in Amsterdam (70% x 3 x 7.500) ..... - 15.750
The rest of the Netherlands, population: 13,5 million,
10% of the amount of users in Amsterdam (10% x 27 x 7.500) ..... - 20.250
------------ Total: - 43.500
For Rotterdam the following figures are known. Research of the Interval bureau in 1992 showed that 2% of the population in Rotterdam has used cocaine at least five times in the previous half year; this amounts to about 12.000 people. This higher figure made us adjust the total number of cocaine users in the Netherlands to 60.000.
The number of problematic users is approximately 4.000.
- Opiates: Even less is certain here. As a start we take the number of 20.000 known addicts. The majority of them use heroin as well as other drugs. We presume that aside from the problematic opiate users, there is less non-problematic use than with cocaine. When we add this to the earlier calculated number of cocaine users in Rotterdam, who often also use opiates, the total number of opiate users can be estimated at 40.000.
- Other drugs: This concerns mostly ecstasy (XTC) and amphetamines.
The research carried out by NIAD in 1992 amongst 10.000 school pupils showed that 1% from 12 - 18 year olds had used ecstasy in the last month. This amounts to 15.000 users in this age group. No significant differences were found between the northern, eastern, southern and western regions or large cities. Since the category of 18 - 30 year olds also frequently use these pills, we estimate the total number of ecstasy users at 30.000.
Amphetamines are regularly used by the group of the 21.000 addicts mentioned in the paragraph on opiates. We set the number at 30.000 including the occasional users. The total number of users of other drugs will then be 60.000.
The number of problematic users of ecstasy and amphetamines
is estimated at 1.000.
- Prices: There is uncertainty about the average
prices and quantities of consumed drugs. Our calculations are based on numbers and
estimates from NIAD.
ESTIMATE OF DRUG USE IN THE NETHERLANDS.
Current illegal turnover: NLG 405 mln. soft + NLG 730 mln. hard = NLG 1.135 mln. yearly
Legalised turnover: NLG 236 mln. soft + NLG 280 mln. hard = NLG 516 mln. yearly
-------------------------- --------------------------- -------------------------------
Difference: NLG 169 mln. soft + NLG 450 mln. hard = NLG 619 mln. yearly