The core legislation which regulates drug use in the Netherlands is the Opium Act (also called the Narcotics Act) 1976. This was based on recommendations made by a government working party known as the Baan Commission. The Commission's recommendations and resulting legislation established that the primary goal of drug policy should be to prevent or alleviate the risks of drug use, both to society and the individual. This meant that, although action would be taken against drug traffickers (except in the case of cannabis), users would not usually be penalized. Indeed, the Commission stressed the idea of "normalization." Drug users should not be social outcasts but should be integrated into society as far as possible. The measures taken against drug use should always be proportional to the risks of the drug. Finally, where drug use is regarded as a problem, it should be tackled as a medical problem, not a criminal one. The criminal law is therefore recognized as an inadequate instrument with which to address drug use or abuse.
These measures have proved remarkably effective in the context of social and political changes in the Netherlands since the 1970s, when the most recent version of the Opium Act was passed. The principal such change has been the decline of class-based politics and traditional liberal-conservative voting patterns. The drugs policy works well in this context because class and political opinion are much less reliable indicators of attitudes to drugs in the Netherlands than they are in the United States or almost anywhere else in the world. There remains widespread cross-party support for the objectives of the drug policy.