Based on the Dutch experience with the liberalization of drugs, the United States should not legalize illegal drugs: Amsterdam has become a major hub for drug trafficking, and organized crime is on the rise. People mistakenly believe that drugs are legal in Holland. They are not. However, in 1976, the government essentially decriminalized the use of marijuana, introducing a policy of tolerance towards its use and shifting the focus of Dutch drug enforcement to heroin, which was becoming a growing problem throughout Europe.
Some four years later, coffee shops began selling soft drugs in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, and then in most large or mid-sized Dutch cities. Coffee shops are regulated. They are only allowed to sell so-called soft drugs and not more than five grams of cannabis per person daily. They are not allowed to sell to minors or to advertise drugs.
Some of the benefits of the Dutch policy include that the Netherlands consistently ranks low in terms of HIV among drug users and even in terms of per capita cannabis use. When the tolerance policy led to a significant increase in drug tourism (people coming to the Netherlands expressly to purchase soft drugs), in 2011 regulations over coffee shops were tightened. Interestingly, subsequent studies concluded that grades of students who could no longer legally buy cannabis improved.
Some of the problems related to the Dutch drug policy is that organized crime is on the rise and that there have been several high-profile, violent crimes associated with the drug trade. Amsterdam has become a key hub for drug trafficking. For instance, the majority of ecstasy sold in Europe and the US comes from labs in the south of the Netherlands, which are increasingly run by organized drug gangs. According to the Globe and Mail, “Amsterdam is the global capital of ecstasy production.” Europol estimates that about fifty percent of the €5.7 billion of cocaine sold in Europe annually goes through Rotterdam.
Moreover, according to recent publications, crime is underreported, and a seemingly falling reported crime rate belies a larger problem. While there has been a twenty-five percent drop in the number of recorded crimes over the past nine years, public officials in Amsterdam believe that many victims have stopped reporting crimes. There is a growing problem of crimes against vulnerable people, including the elderly.
Concurrently, violent crime in Amsterdam may be escalating, as low-level criminals engaged in the drug trade often escalate to more violent offenses, including offering murder as a service, according to trade publications.