Source: Reuters
Pubdate: 17 Jul 1998


AMSTERDAM, July 17 (Reuters)- The exchange of ideas on policy with the
United States' top drugs adviser was useful, despite a diplomatic row in
the runup to General Barry McCaffrey's visit, Dutch officials said on Friday.

But they said Dutch and U.S. views on drugs remained far apart.

``There's been a huge profit-- we have been able to hold an open
dialogue... but convincing each other would be one bridge too far,'' a
health care official said after McCaffrey visited a pilot project in
Rotterdam where hardcore drug users are administered free heroin.

Els Borst, health minister in the outgoing government, had dinner with
McCaffrey on Thursday evening. She said the drugs tsar had been more
amenable to open discussion than she had expected.

But McCaffrey refused to accept some of facts on the results of Dutch drugs
policy, she said.

Borst added McCaffrey was certainly aware that the U.S. policy of harsh
repression of all kinds of drug abuse did not keep young people from

``When I say we (the Dutch authorities) prefer they only experiment with
cannabis, he just falls silent and gazes ahead,'' Borst told Dutch radio.

The Netherlands, considered a front-runner in the area of drugs tolerance,
argues there should be a strict separation between hard and soft drugs policy.

It tolerates the small-scale production and sale of soft drugs but actively
discourages the abuse of hard drugs.

Addiction to hard drugs like heroin is less common in the Netherlands than
in other countries, according to the Dutch.

McCaffrey, who said visiting coffee shops selling marijuana during his
visit seemed useless, argued the toleration of soft drugs was dangerous.

``When I'm asked what the most dangerous drug in America is, my response
is: It's a 12-year-old regularly using marijuana,'' he told reporters on

McCaffrey clashed with Dutch authorities earlier this week, calling Dutch
drugs policy a ``disaster'' and saying the murder rate in the Netherlands
outstripped that in the United States.

Although, according to the Dutch, his figures were based on incorrect data,
McCaffrey has not apologized for the error, arguing the figures came from

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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski