Pubdate: Wed, 26 May 1999
Source: Australian Financial Review (Australia)
Copyright: 1999 Australian Financial Review
Contact:  GPO Box 506, Sydney 2001
Fax: (61 2) 9282 3137
Author: Albert Nooij


I was surprised that you published Larry Collins' biased, unbalanced
and highly anecdotal article on Dutch drug policy ("Drug rules, OK?",
AFR Review, May 14).

An objective assessment of these policies demands a comparison of
different types of drug policies and their outcomes. The lack of
comparison and a substantial number of factual errors in this article
require a response.

* The cited increase in cannabis use is also present in other European
countries, therefore factors other than Dutch drug policy are
obviously relevant. In fact, figures of cannabis use in, for example,
the United States are substantially higher than those in the

* The statement that the Netherlands has in terms of percentage twice
as many heroin addicts as the United Kingdom is factually wrong. Both
countries have comparable prevalence rates of heroin use.

* The statement that the percentage of THC in "Nederwiet" is as high
as 35 per cent is factually wrong. The actual figure is around 8 per
cent (around 1 percent higher than that of foreign marijuana).

* Collins reports an increase in cannabis use among youth in major
cities in the Netherlands. He subsequently infers that the
"skyrocketing" increase (no figures are provided) in violent crimes in
those cities is due to the increase in cannabis use. Cannabis, as has
been established scientifically, does not evoke aggression, and the
suggested relation between both observations (if true) lacks a
scientific base and is at best highly questionable. A comparison with
the situation in other cities would have been more

* A comparison with other countries would also have been wore
appropriate in painting the grim picture of slum areas in Rotterdam
and Amsterdam. It is true that these areas have their problems which,
however, pale in comparison to similar areas in major cities in other
parts of the Western world.

The Netherlands drug policy has evolved over the years with the
consent of the Dutch people who are, for the most part, satisfied with
the results. While our approach may vary from that of other countries,
our goals are the same - reducing drug use and its harmful effects
upon user and society.

Albert Nooij, 
Ambassador of the Netherlands, 
Canberra, ACT
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek Rea