Majority of Dutch councils ban drug use in public

No cannabis in public? Photo:

Although foreign visitors might think it’s the country where the rules go up in smoke, a new survey shows that almost two-thirds of Dutch towns ban drug use in public.

A survey by the NOS broadcaster shows that despite the national policy of ‘tolerance’ to certain soft drug use, municipalities are clamping down, especially where there is nuisance.

It reports that 218 of the 355 council areas ban drug use places like parks, streets and public buildings – sometimes across a whole area, and sometimes in particular problem spots. As a nation, the Dutch tolerate the personal use of drugs such as cannabis, and the ‘opium’ law makes it clear that selling weed through coffee shops is tolerated under strict conditions (although growing it commercially is not).

The NOS, which mapped the permissiveness of areas across the country, found that places like Amsterdam ban drug use in specific public places such as the Mercatorplein, while The Hague does the same for the beachfront Scheveningen walkway. But places like Rotterdam ban drug use in public entirely.

However, figures from the CJIB body, which sends out fines, show that in 2018 only 151 penalties were issued for drug use in public, totalling €31,000 – almost half of which were doled out in Rotterdam.

Several experts told the NOS that the ban appeared to contradict freedoms laid out in the opium law, but could probably be justified in court for controlling potential nuisance. Jon Schilder, professor of constitutional and administrative law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, reportedly said: ‘It is completely undesirable that “lower” governmental organisations make something prosecutable that the higher laws did not want to punish.’

Earlier this week, the CDA Christian democratic party, called for a national ban on laughing gas too.

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