War on drugs: U.S. v Nederlands

Tom Condit tomcondit at igc.apc.org
Fri Feb 2 11:06:21 MST 1996


This article will appear in a forthcoming issue of _The Partisan_,
newspaper of the California Peace & Freeedom Party.

****

Dutch vs. U.S. Drug Control Policy
by Diane Anshell

For the past twenty years, while the U.S. government has waged
its War on Drugs without success, the Netherlands has quietly and
unapologetically pursued its decriminalized drug control policy
with enviable results.

Those results include a reduction in the use of drugs, a
reduction in the number of new users, and a minimization of the
accompanying damage to society and individual drug abusers.

Disparities between sentencing of cocaine and crack users in the
U.S. continue to feed a racist criminal justice system in which
African-American males between the ages of 20 and 29 are around
6-1/2 times as likely to be arrested as their European-American
counterparts; and 1/3 of the same age group are caught up in some
level of the criminal justice system--in prison, on parole, or on
probation.

By basing their policy on the idea that drug abuse is a health
issue, Dutch officials have been able to focus their resources on
educational and treatment. Similar approaches toward health
problems associated with the legal use of tobacco and alcohol in
the U.S. have been far more successful in changing behaviors than
prohibitions.

Our myopic approach to education about prohibited substances
leaves young people so misinformed that they often dismiss the
whole argument against drug abuse as fallacious. DARE (Drug Abuse
and Resistance Education) is so shrouded in secrecy that students
are instructed not to bring their program materials home, and San
Diego activists recently obtained copies from the police
department only after threatening to take them to court to get
access.

Treatment on demand is a key component of Dutch drug control
policy. Our emphasis on criminalization engages limited resources
in a stalemate battle and prevents us from being able to help
drug abusers when they need treatment most--at the time they
decide they want it.

Tolerance of cannabis use has also provided an expansion of civil
liberties to Dutch citizens, while removing marijuana and hashish
products from the reach of organized crime. The coffeehouses of
Amsterdam present a stark contrast to the U.S. system, which has
recently surpassed its ten millionth marijuana arrest since 1970.

[Diane Anshell is secretary of San Diego Peace & Freedom Party
and chair of San Diego NORMaL (National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws.]

"Behind every great fortune is a great crime."
    ---Balzac


Tom Condit
<tomcondit at igc.apc.org>
1801-A Cedar Street
Berkeley, California 94703
510-845-7251


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