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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Legislative Options for Cannabis - Australian Government

Chapter 4.



In a variety of ways The Netherlands drug policy meets many of the criteria outlined in [48]Chapter 2.

First, Dutch policy makers have recognised the need to have different policies for different drugs. The idea of separating 'drugs of unacceptable risk' and cannabis is based on the idea that the control regime that appears to be appropriate for one illicit drug need not apply to others.

Secondly, policy makers have managed to separate arguments about the consequences of drug use from arguments about morals. In fact, Dutch policy was intended to be 'non-moralistic' ([49]Leuw 1991). It has been claimed that, in The Netherlands, drug use has never been seen as a 'moral' issue and it is argued that: Political speeches elaborating on the abhorrence of illegal drugs have seldom been staged. They would appear as quite misplaced in Dutch political culture. Consequently there are no votes to be won or positions to be conquered by rallying an anti-drug theme ([50]Leuw 1991).

Thirdly, this non-moralistic approach to drug policy has led to the development of realistic policy goals with respect to cannabis use. [51]Leuw (1991) notes that in The Netherlands there has been no pledge of 'solving the problem' of drug use. Instead of attempting to eradicate drug use Dutch authorities have adopted the more pragmatic goal of minimising the risks and damaging effects of drug use. Of concern to some observers, however, is the Dutch approach of formalising inconsistency between the provisions of legislation and its implementation. An argument can be advanced that this conveys confusing messages to the community. It is preferable, some would argue, for legislation and policy on implementation to be aligned so that both permit (or proscribe) the use of cannabis in certain circumstances. Having legislation creating an offence of cannabis use, along with policy declaring that it is inexpedient to prosecute such offences, seems to be acceptable in the Dutch context, although it would possibly be unacceptable in other cultures. We return to this apparent difficulty in the concluding chapter of this report.

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