Drug Policy: the "Dutch Model"

M.M.J. van Ooijen-Houben, E.R. Kleemans

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Dutch drug policy, once considered pragmatic and lenient and rooted in a generally tolerant attitude toward drug use, has slowly but surely shifted from a primarily public health focus to an increasing focus on law enforcement. The "coffee shop" policy and the policy toward MDMA/ecstasy are illustrations. Both were initiated from a public health perspective but were attacked because of unintended side effects relating to supply markets, crime, and nuisance. Coffee shops became the subject of increasing restrictions and MDMA/ecstasy production became the target of a comprehensive enforcement program. It took some time before the tougher strategies were applied. The health-oriented approach and the conviction that drug problems can be contained, but not eradicated, are deeply rooted. This led to acknowledgment of the adverse consequences of increased law enforcement and tempered its application. Research showed effectiveness in some regards but also unintended consequences. The expansion of illegal cannabis consumer markets after restrictions on coffee shops is one example. The use of alternative chemical ingredients for ecstasy production is another. Changes in drug policy have an effect on supply markets, but drug use seems largely unaffected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-220
JournalCrime and Justice
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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