NL Amsterdam Mayor: Selling & using cocaine should no longer be a criminal offense

Femke Halsema, Amsterdam Mayor

The sale and use of cocaine and other drugs should no longer be a punishable offense, said Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema in an interview in the Financieele Dagblad (FD). According to the mayor, the fight against drugs is “perverse and counterproductive.” She wants drug markets to be regulated to undermine the revenue model of “unscrupulous criminals,” she told FD. Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz responded, saying Halsema’s proposal is without merit.

Halsema does not advocate for the “rash legalization” of cocaine, but for regulating the drug, her spokesperson said. This would cut off the reason for criminals to take part in drug trafficking. The spokesperson noted this is already happening in the Dutch government’s cannabis cultivation pilot project, where cannabis is legally supplied to coffeeshops.

It is not the first time that Halsema has advocated for a new approach to drug policy. For example, during a conference on organized crime in October 2022, she said that “the war on drugs is not working.” She also expressed the hope that countries would consider drug use differently and that an “alternative strategy” should be formulated.

At the beginning of this month, the mayor warned in an opinion piece in The Guardian that the Netherlands is at risk of becoming a narco-state. “We’re proud of our health-led drugs policy, but the rise of the global illegal drugs trade means we need international solutions,” Halsema wrote. She also recently told City Council members that she expects drug-related crime to rise in the coming decade.

In the FD interview published on Thursday, she said that there is a market for stimulant drugs, and that hundreds of years of discouragement and and attempts to quash use of such drugs have achieved “damned little.” Halsema said, “About 80 percent of our police capacity is spent on drug-related crime. In the Netherlands and Belgium, street prices for coke have been exactly the same for years. So you can only conclude that the incredible amount of effort has had no effect on the market.”

It would be better to overthrow the criminals’ revenue model instead of continuing a futile approach to suppress drug trafficking and drug use. “I am part of a growing group of scientists and administrators who say that the international war on drugs is having such perverse effects that we are now suffering more from it than from the drugs themselves.”

On Friday, the international conference Dealing with Drugs will take place in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. The conference will examine drug crime and how the drug market can be regulated. Halsema will give a keynote address, and will be one of several mayors and experts from other countries in attendance.

Yeşilgöz thinks “regulating” the cocaine trade is nonsense

The “regulation” of the sale of cocaine and other drugs “is not an issue,” said caretaker Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz. She has succeeded Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the leader of liberal right-wing political party VVD.

Yeşilgöz pointed out that the Netherlands, as an important transit country for drugs, suffers enormously from organized crime and how it has creeped its way into other areas of life. “We are dealing with major violent crimes; with journalists, judges and lawyers who are threatened. That is my priority.”

According to the minister, regulation makes no sense as long as the Netherlands is the only country to do so. “We know that most drugs leave our country. So does the money,” she said.

“The violence remains here.”

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