Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Dutch Smoke Less Pot

One of those inconvenient truths.

Government drug policy experts don’t like the numbers, which is one of the reasons why you probably haven’t seen them. Among the nations of Europe, the Netherlands is famous, or infamous, for its lenient policy toward cannabis use—so it may come as a surprise to discover that Dutch adults smoke considerably less cannabis, on average, than citizens of almost any other European country.

A recent report by Reed Stevenson for Reuters highlights figures from the annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which shows the Dutch to be at the low end for marijuana usage, compared to their European counterparts. The report pegs adult marijuana usage in the Netherlands at 5.4 %. Also at the low end of the scale, along with the Netherlands, were Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria.

Leading the pack was Italy, at 14.6 %, followed closely by Spain, the Czech Republic, and France.

While cannabis use rose steady in Europe throughout the 1990s, the survey this year says that the data “point to a stabilising or even decreasing situation.” The study by the European Monitoring Centre did not include figures for countries outside Europe.

According to the Dutch government, Amsterdam is scheduled to close almost 20 per cent of its existing coffee shops—roughly 50 outlets--because of their proximity to schools. However, some local coffee shop proprietors maintain that far fewer shops, perhaps no more than 10 or 20, will actually be required to close.

What are the Dutch doing right? Are coffee shops the answer? It may be prove to be the case that cannabis coffee shops can’t be made to work everywhere—that the Dutch approach is, well, Dutch. However, the fact that it works reasonably well, if not perfectly, in the Netherlands is strong testimony on behalf of the idea of harm reduction.
Here are some excerpts from a flyer given out at some Dutch coffee shops by a group of owners known as the BCD, or Union of Cannabis Shop Owners:

--Do not smoke cannabis every day.
--There are different kinds of cannabis with different strengths, so be well informed.
--The action of alcohol and cannabis can amplify each other, so be careful when smoking and drinking at the same time.
--Do not use cannabis during pregnancy!

--Consult your doctor before using cannabis in combination with any medications you may be taking.

--Note that smoking is bad for your health anyway.
--Do not buy your drugs on the street, just look for a coffeeshop.

Customers must be over the age of 18, and in most coffee shops, as in bars and restaurants in the Netherlands and elsewhere, cigarette smoking is no longer allowed.

Photo Credit:


Frugal Dougal said...

Fair point, but I would put the Dutch success on drugs down to education, rather than the legality or otherwise of specific drugs.

Anonymous said...

Nice artikel, thanks for sharing.

Andrew Coral said...

Thanks for post, hope i can see nice artikel next times.

EECOLOR said...

I am from the Netherlands and I am very surprised about these statistics. It does make sense though, almost everyone I know smoked some cannabis back in the days. Underlying thought here is that if something is illegal, it will taste that much better. Here we all know what it tastes like and what the effects are (might make it less attractive). Also, when we get older (at least in my case) some form of social control kicks in. You will be frowned upon by your friends if you are still a regular cannabis smoker when you are getting towards 30. The cause for this might be that smoking cannabis regularly seems to stop a person from evolving his or her personality and world views.

Dirk Hanson said...

I've lived in Amsterdam on a few occasions, and it does seem like pot smoking is largely the hobby of the young. Adult Dutchies seem happy with their beer and cigarettes...

Anonymous said...

Other than the well known consumption methods of smoking/vaporizing/eating/drinking cannabis, would gumming THC crystals lead to any feeling/sensation of high, of any sort? Something well known and strongly associated with cocaine, does THC have any similar or significant effects when rubbed on to the gums? I'm not familiar with the chemistry of either substance, so sorry in case my question is a naive or absurd one. Thank you.


Dirk Hanson said...

Good question--and one to which I have no answer.

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