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Chapter 20 - Public Policy In Other Countries - The Netherlands
In 1919, the Netherlands passed its first law on opium under the influence of the international conventions, including the Hague Convention in 1912. That legislation prohibited the manufacture, sale, processing, transportation, supply, import, export and possession of cocaine, opium and its derivatives. The law was amended in 1928 to include cocaine derivatives and cannabis in the list of controlled substances. However, only the import, expert and transfer of those substances were prohibited. The offences of possession and producing cannabis and cannabis derivatives were not punishable until 1953.
The Opium Act–also referred to as the Narcotics Act–is the Netherlands' main drug legislation. The Act criminalizes possession, cultivation, trafficking and importing or exporting. The 1976 Amendments establishes two classes of drugs: Schedule I drugs are deemed to present an unacceptable risk to Dutch society and include heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and LSD; Schedule II drugs include "traditional hemp products" such as marijuana and hashish.
The Act has three characteristic features:
· it criminalizes possession, trafficking, cultivation, transportation, manufacturing, import and export of drugs, including cannabis and cannabis derivatives;
· it draws a clear distinction between suppliers and users; the act punishes possession for the purpose of use, not use as such;
· differentiated penalties based on the substances involved.
The possession of all scheduled drugs is an offence, but possession of a small quantity of "soft" drugs for personal use is a minor offence. Generally, it is tolerated by law enforcement, particularly within the regulated coffee shop system, discussed in the following section. Importing and exporting are the most serious offences under the Act.
The maximum penalty for importing or exporting hard drugs is 12 years' imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Dutch florins.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Anyone found in possession of a quantity of hard drugs for personal use is liable to a penalty of one year's imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 florins. The maximum penalty for importing or exporting soft drugs is four years' imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 florins. Repeat offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of 16 years' imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 florins. Offenders may also be deprived of any money or property gained from their offence. The Netherlands also has guidelines for sanctions that the Public Prosecutor is directed to seek, based on: the type of drug involved, the amount of the drug and the specific offence. The following tables set out the current guidelines (1996).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> 100,000 Dutch florins =
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Source: Staatscourant
(1996) in D.J. Korf and H. Riper, "Windmills in Their Minds?
Drug Policy and Drug Research in the Netherlands", Journal of Drug Issues , Vol. 29, No. 3, 1999,
page 451, Table 2.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In addition to
imprisonment, penalties sometimes include fines and property seizures (except
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For repeat offences within five years, the required
penalty is increased by one-quarter. As to sales to "vulnerable
groups" (that is to say to minors, psychiatric patients), a minimum fine
of approximately Cdn $475 is also levied.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Quantities greater than 1 kg are considered as
suggesting drug trafficking.
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