Another country’s perspective on drug use, social tolerance differs from contemporary American view

By Annick de Graaf 2003

Through the years the Netherlands have always been famous for their tolerance. Centuries ago they were known for their religious tolerance, and the Dutch people are still tolerant about a lot of things. By law many things are accepted and legal that aren’t accepted and illegal in a lot of other countries. An example is the euthanasia law, which is legal and accepted in the Netherlands.

Another difference is how Dutch people look toward alcohol; it is legal to drink alcohol when people are 16 or older in the Netherlands. The Dutch are also very tolerant about drugs.

The Dutch people are proud of and know for their tolerance. A lot of other countries always talk about the Netherlands and their abuse, but it fact most things Dutch people are tolerant about aren’t abused at all.

The Dutch tolerance attitude toward drug use is maybe as famous as our tulips and wooden shoes.

To tell you the truth, the most active areaas are in the big cities; there is relatively little activity in villages and the countryside.

In Amsterdam, it is not very strange to sometimes see marijuana plants growing in a public park. The people in the Netherlands, especially the local people in the big cities, think nothing of smoking a “joint” in public.

People who are 18 or older (adults) can buy marijuana at “cannabis cafes” or coffee shops. Those shops have marijuana leaves painted on the front window or an outside sign.

These days the coffee shops sell a lot of different kinds of drugs. Not only are there a lot of different kinds of marijuana, but also pills made of mushrooms and other psychedelic substances such as herbal ecstasy and ginseng-like tea. And, of course, if you use those things, most of them have a different effect on people.

But keep in mind, I’m talking out the “soft drugs.” The “hard drugs” are a different matter.

The existence of soft drug establishments relies on the national obsession with social tolerance being a greater force than the law.

The 1976 Opium Act prohibits the importing, trafficking and possession of “soft” smoking substances. However, possession and selling of less than five grams is tolerated.

In The UnDutchables by Colin White and Laurie Boucke, the Dutch Ministry of Justice said: “We see no harm in possessing or using soft drugs. Users stop after a certain age. We hope people who want to try soft drugs don’t go to people who sell hard drugs.”

From the Dutch medical point of view, soft drugs are considered harmless when compared with the more socially accepted alcoholic indulgence.

P.C., M.D. by Dr. Satel says, “In the Netherlands, addict activists believe that drug abuse is a human right and the government has a responsibility to make it safer to be an addict.” In such scenarios, “Addicts represent a class of oppressed citizens.”

A lot of countries can criticize my country, but relatively fewer people use drugs in the Netherlands than here in the United States, even though the Netherlands have a very open policy concerning drugs, alcohol and other things. Other countries have big problems with drugs and the crime that comes with it, but in the Netherlands there is again relatively less crime related to drugs and less crime overall.

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