Friday, January 18, 2008

Dutch parliament to debate reform of UN drug conventions

As covered on the blog back in December a group of Dutch policy makers, including former and serving mayors, police chiefs, and ministers (including one former PM) have drafted and signed a resolution calling for the Dutch Government to resolve the contradictions in the Netherlands cannabis policy by discussing the restrictions that the UN conventions put on legal regulation of cannabis production and supply. An official translation of the resolution provided by the TNI website is copied below (unfortunately the more detailed discussion document is still only available in Dutch).

The resolution will be debated in the Dutch Parliament next week (details of this debate will be posted here). So whilst Dutch policy makers continue to openly and rationally explore more just and effective responses to the reality of drug use in society their UK colleagues continue to tie themselves in knots over whether or not to increase penalties for cannabis possession from two years in prison to five.


The Hague, October 31, 2007 A group of representatives from politics, public administration, the criminal justice system and police and drug policy experts gathered on October 31, 2007, in The Hague, to express the urgent need to end the negative consequences of the current policy of leniency regarding the sale of cannabis.

Participants confirmed that many countries worldwide experienced similar negative effects related to their own cannabis policy. This means that there is a shared responsibility to look for adaptations in the current system of international conventions that are an obstacle to further developments in national Dutch cannabis policies.

Participants argued that the Netherlands, in cooperation with other nations, should aim to revise the current framework of international law in order to achieve a more credible and effective alternative that is not just based on repression for the existing cannabis policy at the national level. The signatories of this resolution,

I. concluded that the current cannabis policy:

A. is based on an outdated international law framework created in the 1960s which is not appropriate to tackle contemporary problems resulting in a stagnation of the development of just and effective policies;

B. is being implemented by a policy of tolerance (“gedogen”) on the basis of a justified lenient interpretation of the current international law framework and that this policy of tolerance is a practical solution but at the same time temporary response which on the long term will discredit the credibility of public authorities;

C. is inconsistent and difficult to explain to citizens because use and sale of small quantities are not prosecuted in practice while production and large scale distribution are still prosecuted; is also inconsistent with policies regarding substances with a similar health risk such as alcohol and tobacco;

D. is ineffective in several aspects: despite positive facets such as the separation of markets between soft and hard drugs and the limited involvement of criminals in the retail market, other policy options such as legal possibilities to control the quality of cannabis (THC content and pollution) and other measures to reduce health risks are lacking in the current system, which is still facilitating significant illicit gains at the level of production and wholesale and is encouraging in-house cannabis growing;

E. is causing considerable and unbalanced administrative and judicial burdens and continuous criticism of some countries and UN drug control agencies.

II. concluded furthermore that:

A. attempts by the Dutch parliament and local authorities to address the inconsistencies in the current tolerance policy – such as proposing to tolerate production of cannabis for the supply of coffee shops – have been rejected by subsequent national governments on account of incompatibility with international agreements;

B. there is a need for an international debate to explore the possibilities for an international framework that allows more room for manoeuvre by national governments to execute a consistent policy;

C. more and more countries feel the need to reformulate their policies to achieve better protection of public health and combat organized crime;
D. cannabis is grown and commercialised worldwide and is used by over 170 million people, consequently the production and distribution is a common problem for the international community;

E. the 10-year review of the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs and the Ministerial meeting in 2009 devoted to this evaluation, offer an excellent possibility to put the issue on the international agenda.

III. urge the Dutch government to:

A. start an international debate with other likeminded countries in order to work out a credible and effective alternative for the current policy on cannabis;

B. promote actively with those likeminded countries the formulation of proposals that can be presented in the context of the upcoming UNGASS evaluation;

C. provide for human and financial resources to implement these efforts;

The Hague, 31 October 2007

signed by
  • Mr. A.A.M. van Agt, former Prime minister 1977-1982
  • Dr. E. Borst-Eilers, ex-minister of Health, Welfare and Sport
  • Drs. A. Apostolou, former member of Parliament
  • Kathalijne Buitenweg, MEP GroenLinks
  • Mr. R. Dufour, president Stichting Drugsbeleid
  • Drs. G.B.M. Leers, mayor of Maastricht
  • Dr. R.L. Vreeman, mayor of Tilburg
  • Mr. Th. C. de Graaf, mayor of Nijmegen
  • J.A.H. Lonink, mayor of Terneuzen
  • Dr. J.P. Rehwinkel, mayor of Naarden
  • W.J.M. Velings MOI, chief of police, region Limburg Zuid
  • F.J. Heeres MPSM, chief of police, region Midden- en West Brabant
  • Mr. A.D.J. Keizer, former policy official of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport
  • Mr. drs. V. Everhardt, drugs and alcohol prevention expert
  • Dr. M. Jelsma, Drugs & Democracy Programme, Transnational Institute

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How's about that for some rational thinking! It's really positive to see this debate moving forward into practical action at the international level.