Drugs policy needs shaking up: report

The Netherlands should raise the age limit for buying alcohol and soft drugs from 16 to 18. A government commission is set to make this recommendation on Thursday, the Volkskrant reports.

The commission, set up to investigate the country’s drugs policy, says drink and drugs should have the same age limit to reinforce the message that both are ‘extremely damaging’ to brain development in young people.
At the moment, 16-year-olds can buy wine and beer and Dutch teenagers are heavy drinkers compared with other European countries.
In addition, the policy of allowing small quantities of marijuana to be sold in cafes known as coffee shops should be revised, the commission says.
Hashish and marijuana contain far more active ingredients than they did when the policy of turning a blind eye to their use was introduced in the 1970s, the commission was quoted as saying.
At the same time, the bigger the coffee shops get, the more likely they are to be in the hands of organised crime. To that end, the commission recommends cafes must become smaller and should only sell to locals.
More efforts must also be made to reduce drugs tourism, it said.
Dutch drugs policy is coming under increasing pressure. Moves are being made in Limburg to turn coffee shops into members’ only clubs in an effort to curb the flood of Belgian and German tourists.
And in the border towns of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom all coffee shops are being closed because of the nuisance they cause.
The commission also recommends setting up a special drugs authority which would monitor policy and suggest changes.

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