Q. Would the Amsterdam model be a useful government response to hallucinogen and marijuana use in this country? Why or why not?
Amsterdam’s coffee shops and cafes are notorious for the tolerated exchange of hashish and marijuana. This example goes completely against the moral principles underlying the United States drug policy. The United States drug policy stands by the zero tolerance rules. Our drug culture does not believe in any such thing as a use of an illegal drug, only abuse. So, why aren’t the Dutch facing as many drug related problems as we are? Is a more laissez-faire approach to drugs the answer?
We aren’t winning the war on drugs. It is clear that the illegal drug use and drug related problems have increased in the United States. I think that the Amsterdam model may act a useful government response to hallucinogen and marijuana use in the United States. We have tried everything from stricter punishments to spending more dollars on drug prevention programs. The anti-drug law has led to the criminalization of more drugs and the imprisonment of more drug users. The cost of prohibition of drugs is getting pricier every year. Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar stated, “The arrest of more than 300,000 people a year on marijuana charges contributes the clogging of courts and the overcrowding of prisons. Federal, state, and local governments now spend nearly ten billion dollars a year on drug enforcement and hundreds of millions more to house and feed drug dealers and users in local, state and federal prisons”(80). The drug related problems are increasing rather than decreasing. Isn’t it time that we searched for a better alternative to fighting the war on drugs.
I am not saying that legalizing all drugs is the solution. I definitely don’t believe that legalizing all drugs would work in our society. I don’t think that our society is mature enough to handle the responsibilities that go along with some of the hard drugs. The Dutch policy has come to accept that people are going to use soft drugs. Why not regulate the exchange of these drugs? The Dutch policy refers to this regulation as a “house dealer” with a more controllable business instead of the dangerous “black market”. The Public Prosecutions Office has drawn up a guideline for the operation of coffee shops: no sales of cannabis over 5 grammes; no sales of hard drugs or alcohol; no sales to minors; no advertising of the use of soft drugs and no nuisance. The Dutch drug policy bases their tolerance of certain drugs by the risks associated with them. Instead we group all of the illegal drugs together, suggesting that they are all dangerous and addictive. When in fact that is not the case. Some drugs aren’t even dangerous and can be helpful with responsible use. Our culture is so uptight about the use of all drugs. We aren’t even willing to see the positive effects that they may bring.
One plausible explanation that the United States has for not following the Dutch policy is that using these softer drugs will lead to the use and addiction of harder drugs. When in fact studies have shown that despite the tolererant policies in Amsterdam, most Dutch don’t try cannabis and even those who do try it usually don’t continue using it often, much less harder drugs.
Amsterdam serves as a good role model for the United States. Amsterdam proved that a self-governing society is able to handle a drug problem in an inexpensive more practical way. Prohibition isn’t the solution to our on going battle with drugs. When are we going to search for a more practical and efficient way to handle our long overdue drug problem?
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