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Country reports: The Netherlands.

A. Introduction

The Netherlands is a significant production and transit country for narcotics. Although drug use is not a criminal offense, the Dutch Opium Act prohibits the possession, commercial distribution, production, import, and export of all illicit drugs. The Dutch government places a high priority on combating the illegal drug trade and it has seen considerable success. The Netherlands is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

Cultivation of Dutch-grown cannabis ('Nederwiet") is extensive. In July 2008, the Justice and Interior Ministers established the National Taskforce on Organized Hemp Cultivation to focus on fighting criminal organizations behind cannabis plantations. The special focus resulted from the 2008 National Threat Assessment (NDB), which labeled organized hemp cultivation as a main threat to Dutch society.

The country remains an important producer of ecstasy (MDMA) although a sizeable amount of production appears to have shifted to other countries. According to the 2009 report by the Expertise Center for Synthetic Drugs and Precursors (ESDP), no reports of ecstasy tablet seizures in the United States linked to the Netherlands were received in 2009. There is also production of amphetamines and other synthetic drugs in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has a large (legal) chemical sector, making it an opportune location for criminals to obtain or produce precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs.

With its extensive transportation infrastructure and the busiest maritime port in Europe, the Netherlands continues to be a major distribution point for illicit drugs to and from Europe. A sizeable percentage of the cocaine consumed in Europe enters through the Netherlands. Cocaine trafficking is combated through the successful 100 percent checks on inbound flights from the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname and West African countries. Trafficking in "hard" drugs is prosecuted vigorously and dealers are subject to a prison sentence of up to 12 years. When trafficking takes place on a systematic, organized scale, the sentence is increased by one-third (up to 16 years). It should be noted, however, that under Dutch law, prisoners typically are released after serving 2/3 of their sentence.

The Government of the Netherlands and the Dutch public view domestic drug use as a public health issue first and a law enforcement issue second. The Dutch Opium Act distinguishes between "hard" drugs that have "unacceptable" risks (e.g., heroin, cocaine, ecstasy), and "soft" drugs (cannabis products). Sales of small amounts of cannabis products (under five grams) are "tolerated" (i.e., not prosecuted, even though technically illegal). Sales of this sort take place in "coffee shops" operating under regulated conditions (no minors on premises, no alcohol sales, no hard drug sales, no advertising, and not creating a public nuisance).

The Health Ministry coordinates drug policy, while the newly created Ministry of Public Security and Justice is responsible for law enforcement, including the police. Matters relating to local government are the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. At the municipal level, dangerous drug policy is coordinated in tripartite consultations among the mayor, the chief public prosecutor and the police.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

In September 2009, the former Dutch Cabinet submitted a letter to Parliament that was to form the basis for a new policy document on drugs. The letter expressed the Cabinet's desire to maintain the policy of tolerating cannabis sales in coffee shops, but to further restrict their operations in order to address related criminal activity and public nuisances more effectively. However, due to the fall of the Cabinet in February 2010, the drafting of the new drug policy paper was left to the next Cabinet.

In anticipation of this new policy paper, the former Cabinet earmarked 3.3 million Euros to fund pilot projects in several Dutch cities to combat public nuisances caused by coffee shops. The pilot projects include scaling down the size of coffee shops, intensifying controls and enforcement by local governments, restricting access to local residents, and reaching out to foreign drug tourists to discourage travel to the Netherlands for marijuana. The pilot projects will begin at the end of 2010 and will be assessed after two years. The most successful projects will then be duplicated in other cities. The former Cabinet also decided to set up an expert committee to review the classification system in the Dutch Opium Act, which distinguishes between "hard" drugs (Schedule I drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy and heroin), and "soft" drugs (Schedule II drugs, such as cannabis). The committee will study various new classification scenarios, including the option of merging the two lists into one.

The recently-formed Cabinet of conservative Liberals and center-right Christians, with the support of the anti-Islam Freedom Party, was sworn in on October 14, 2010. The "coalition accord," which forms the basis of the coalition partners' cooperation for the government's policies over the next four years, included a paragraph on drug policy. The parties highlighted the need to intensify the fight against public nuisances and drug-related crime. They proposed that:

* Coffee shops become private clubs only accessible to adult Dutch nationals and residents upon presentation of their IDs;

* Heavier penalties be imposed on (conspiring to) the import, export, cultivation and (organized) trade in drugs, including a revision of the distinction in hard and soft drugs (lists I and II); and

* The minimum distance between schools and coffee shops will be increased to at least 350 meters.

Current expectations are that the new Cabinet will take an even sharper stand toward coffee shops and cannabis cultivation than the former government. Experiments with regulated cannabis cultivation, therefore, are not likely to take place during this term of office. In this respect, new Security and Justice Minister Opstelten noted that the fight against organized cannabis cultivation would particularly focus on seizing criminal assets.

In April 2010, caretaker Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin submitted a bill calling for a major clampdown on all aspects of organized cannabis cultivation. The bill makes all preparations that facilitate illegal cannabis cultivation a criminal offense. Under the plan, all parties involved in the supply chain, from equipment suppliers ("grow shops"), dealers, and even electricians who help build illegal cannabis plantations, will face up to three years' imprisonment. Due to the fall of the former Cabinet, action on that bill has been suspended.

In July 2010, Hirsch Ballin signed a covenant with the police, the Dutch Energy Association and the Association of Dutch Insurers to step up the fight against organized cannabis cultivation. Under the pilot project, police, public prosecutors and the private sector will exchange personal data of suspects. The objective of the covenant is not only to dismantle cannabis plantations, but also to combat the criminal organizations behind the plantations

In July 2010, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Dutch municipalities in border regions may refuse to allow foreign customers in local coffee shops as part of their efforts to fight drug tourism. The ECJ stated that such a measure appeared not to be contrary to the European rules on either the free movement of persons and services or non-discrimination, because the sale of cannabis is considered an illegal activity in all member-states. The Dutch Council of State, the highest administrative court in the Netherlands, had sought the ECJ's advice after receiving an appeal from a coffee shop owner in a case against the city council of Maastricht. The coffee shop owner was forced by the city to close in 2006 after two non-Dutch nationals were found on his premises. The Council of State's ruling on the appeal is still pending.

The 100 percent security checks on inbound flights from the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname continued in 2010, despite the dramatic decline in the number of cocaine couriers arrested at Schiphol airport. The stricter controls also have been expanded to inbound flights from West Africa, in light of the emergence of that route for trafficking from Latin American cocaine-producing regions to Europe.

The Netherlands is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol. The Netherlands is a member of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs and the major donors group of the UNODC. The Netherlands is a leading member of the Dublin Group of countries coordinating drug-related assistance. The Netherlands is party to the UN Convention against Corruption, and to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling. The U. S. and the Netherlands have fully operational extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements, which were supplemented by the 2004 U.S.-Netherlands Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Agreements, which entered into force on February 1, 2010.

Operational cooperation between U.S. and Dutch law enforcement agencies is excellent, despite some differences in approach and tactics. One serious problem, however, is the classification of certain drugs or precursors as either legal or only "list II" drugs under the Dutch Opium Act. For example, GBL, an odorless liquid originally developed as an industrial solvent and engine degreaser, is also used as the primary ingredient (precursor) to clandestinely manufacture gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a powerful central nervous system depressant that is used illicitly, often for its euphoric and sedative effects, but also for the commission of drug-facilitated sexual assault-"date rape". As such, the possession, use, transportation, and importation of GBL are a strictly regulated controlled substance in the United States. There are few legitimate household uses for GBL, and thus, any amount possessed by an unlicensed person or corporation is subject to prosecution. GBL itself may be ingested as a substitute for GHB; once ingested, the body will convert it to GHB. Because of the lack of criminalization of GBL in the Netherlands, the United States has been unable to obtain assistance in a least one law enforcement investigation in which GBL was being sent to the United States specifically to make GHB; the Dutch cited lack of "dual criminality," Similarly, Cathinone, found in the plant Khat, is proscribed in the United States, and is listed as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance in the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which formed the basis for the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The Netherlands is a party to both Conventions, but Khat and its derivatives are not controlled, thus making cooperation in investigations involving Cathinone a problem. The Netherlands actively participates in DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and the DEA sponsored yearly International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC).

In August 2010, the Netherlands acceded to the Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement, a treaty which will pave the way to intensified cooperation in combating sea-borne drug trafficking in the region.

2. Supply Reduction

Cannabis-related seizures, including plants, marijuana, and resin, decreased significantly from 2008 to 2009. Total MDMA seizures, including tablets seized in foreign countries that can be linked to the Netherlands, also dropped considerably in 2009. According to the ESDP, no reports of MDMA tablet seizures in the United States linked to the Netherlands were received in 2009. Most Dutch MDMA tablets were seized in Germany.

The amount of Dutch-produced amphetamine (powder and paste) seized in the Netherlands and abroad increased between 2008 and 2009, as reported by the ESDP. Most Dutch amphetamine is exported to the UK, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Other synthetic drug seizures in 2009 included 2C-B tablets and MCPP tablets, seizures of both of which increased significantly from 2008. The number of dismantled hemp plantations in the Netherlands remained constant from the previous year. The number of dismantled synthetic drug production sites rose to 24 from 21 in 2008. Of these 24 sites, 10 related to amphetamine production, compared to 3 in 2009.
Drug Seizures in the Netherlands: 2008 2009

Heroin (kg) 803 596
Cocaine (kg) 6,757 4,934
Ecstasy (tablets) 249,761 172,845
Ecstasy (powder and paste) (kg) 84 3.4
Synthetic drug labs 21 24
Amphetamine powder (kg) 1,106 1,946
Amphetamine paste (kg) 121 466
Methamphetamine (kg) 0.02 0
LSD (trips) 17,825 0
Methadone (tablets) 4,562 113
Cannabis resin (kg) 24,443 4,633
Marijuana/"Nederwiet" (kg) 42,359 5,942
Hemp plants 1,053,368 863,343
Dismantled hemp plantations 4,731 4,727
BMK (liter) 232 40
PMK (liter) 0 207
mCPP (tablets) 7,764 361,600
2C-B tablets 0 149,600
Chemical waste dumps 47 43

(Source: KLPD National Police Force)


The number of drug crime suspects registered by the Dutch police in 2007 (the latest available year) was 21,000. In 2008, more than 18,000 drug-related offenses were registered with the public prosecutor's office. Drug-related offenses constituted about eight percent of the total number of criminal cases handled by Dutch courts in 2008. The average unconditional prison sentence (unsuspended and unreduced by probation) for a drug offense in 2007 was 340 days.

The Netherlands is a major producer of cannabis and synthetic drugs. The NDB estimates there are between 30,000 and 40,000 hemp plantations in the Netherlands. More than 80 percent of Dutch-grown cannabis is exported (with illegal revenues of approximately 2.5 billion to 5 billion Euros). According to the 2009 report by the Expertise Center for Synthetic Drugs and Precursors (ESDP) of the National Crime Squad (NR), MDMA production has dropped dramatically since 2008. The National Crime Squad (NR) reported in July 2010 that synthetic drug production in the Netherlands is in the hands of a few dozen organizations, most of which come from trailer park circles and the Moroccan community. The NR explained that MDMA production is temporarily on the decline because its basic precursor material, PMK, has become more difficult to obtain due to new legislation and tightened controls in China, the largest producer.

3. Drug Abuse Awareness Demand Reduction and Treatment

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport continues to be the agency responsible for coordinating Dutch drug policy and implementation. Demand reduction and treatment policies aim to reduce the risks to drug users, their immediate surroundings and society. In meeting these goals, the Netherlands has been reasonably successful. Despite their reputation for tolerance, the number of drug users and addicts in the country is on par with the rest of Europe. The rate of drug-related deaths is the lowest in Europe: 2.4 per million inhabitants.

Drug prevention programs are organized through a network of local, regional and national institutions. Programs target schools in order to discourage drug use among students, and use national mass media campaigns to reach the broader public. The Netherlands requires school instruction on the dangers of alcohol and drugs as part of the health education curriculum. The "healthy living" project developed by the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (the Trimbos Institute) continues to run in about 60 percent of Dutch secondary schools and a third of primary schools. At the request of the Health Ministry, the Trimbos Institute carries out drug information campaigns each year. The 24-hour national Drug Info Hot Line of the Trimbos Institute has become very popular.

According to a 2009 survey of drug use in Amsterdam carried out by the Jellinek institute for addiction care among 266 coffee shop visitors, 94 percent of respondents admitted having used cannabis during the previous month. Almost 75 percent of them reported daily cannabis use, averaging just fewer than four joints per day. According to the researchers, the number of heavy users in Amsterdam has risen substantially.

Below are the latest available comprehensive statistics on drug use among the general population ages covered: 15-64, years compared: 2001 and 2005 of percent reporting life-time (ever) use and last-month/current use.
 Life-time use Last-month use

 2001 2005 2001 2005

Cannabis 19.5 22.6 3.4 3.3
Cocaine 2.1 3.4 0.1 0.3
Heroin 0.2 0.6 0.0 0.0
Amphetamine 2.0 2.1 0.0 0.2
Ecstasy 3.2 4.3 0.3 0.4

(Source: National Drug Monitor 2009, Trimbos Institute)


The party drug GHB is becoming increasingly popular. According to the Foundation for Consumer Safety, the number of people who had to be treated by Dutch hospitals for GHB-poisoning quadrupled between 2004 and 2009 from 300 to 1,200. According to the Trimbos Institute for addiction research, the number of GHB users seeking treatment for their addiction is also rising dramatically. GHB seems to be the fastest growing addiction problem in the Netherlands. Trimbos has also noted a slight increase in mephedrone, or "Miaow Miaow" use in the Netherlands.

The Health Ministry administers a wide variety of demand and harm-reduction programs, reaching about 75 percent of the country's addicts. According to the 2009 National Drug Monitor (NDM), in 2008, outpatient treatment centers registered 8,418 clients seeking treatment for their (primary) cannabis addiction, 9,686 clients for their cocaine addiction, 12,711 clients for addiction to opiates, 191 for ecstasy, and 1,446 for amphetamines. The number of opiate addicts is low compared to other EU countries (about 1.6 per 1,000 inhabitants); the number has declined dramatically over the past ten years; the average age has risen to 44; and the number of overdose deaths related to opiates has stabilized at between 30 and 50 per year.

Needle supply and exchange programs have kept the incidence of HIV infection among intravenous drug users relatively low. Of the addicts known to the addiction care organizations, 75 percent regularly use methadone. There are 17 clinics in 15 Dutch cities at which heroin is distributed to approximately 700 hard-core addicts, for whom all other forms of assistance have failed. As apparent results of this program, both the crime rate has dropped and the health of addicts has improved.

4. Corruption

The Dutch Government does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior official of the Dutch Government has been found to engage in, encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of such drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Press reports of low-level law enforcement corruption appear from time to time but the problem is not believed to be widespread or systemic.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

U.S. and Dutch law enforcement agencies maintained excellent operational cooperation, with principal attention given to South American cocaine trafficking organizations, drug related money laundering activities, and countering MDMA/ecstasy entering the United States.

Dutch regulations continue to restrict the use of "criminal infiltrates", i.e., undercover informants in investigations of drug traffickers. In addition, the Dutch do not use their asset forfeiture laws in conjunction with drug related investigations to the same extent as in the United States. Bilateral law enforcement cooperation continues to expand under the U.S.-Dutch bilateral "Agreed Steps" commitments to jointly fight drug trafficking. DEA The Hague has also noted improved and expedited handling of drug-related extradition requests.

The United States is also working with the Netherlands to assist Aruba and the former Netherlands Antilles in countering narcotics trafficking. (On October 10, 2010, Sint Maarten and Curacao became independent countries, like Aruba, with foreign affairs and military operations still within the purview of the Dutch government.) The 10-year Forward Operating Location (FOL) agreement between the U.S. and the Netherlands for the establishment of a FOL (for U.S. enforcement personnel) on Aruba and Curacao became effective in October 2001. Since 1999, the Dutch Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) has been working with the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on joint addiction research projects.

During the bilateral "Agreed Steps" law enforcement consultations in March 2010, the United States and the Netherlands discussed continued operational cooperation in international drug trafficking investigations. The discussions focused on the subject of enhanced police-to-police information sharing. In support of further cooperation, two officers from the Netherlands attended resident training with the U.S. Coast Guard in maritime law enforcement.

The Netherlands continued its maritime support to the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) operations against illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean. The Royal Netherlands Navy with attached U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDET) removed over 7,525 lbs of cocaine and 2,000 lbs of marijuana, detained 11 suspected drug smugglers, and seized 3 vessels while operating in the Caribbean in 2010. The U.S. Coast Guard embarks LEDETS on RNLN surface assets to expand interdiction opportunities and enhance law enforcement presence.

Additionally, both DEA and the Dutch National Crime Squad (NR) recognize the importance of money laundering investigations and joint initiatives concerning drug related "bulk" cash smuggling operations. This includes operational programs and bilateral discussions at DEA Headquarters. Many of these initiatives were discussed and planned during the June 2009 "Expert Meeting" between DEA and NR in The Hague.

In December 2006, the Royal military police (KMar) was instructed by the Justice Ministry to stop sharing the Schiphol "black list" of couriers intercepted at the airport with DEA The Hague for privacy reasons. The Ministry indicated that, since Dutch policy requires the names to be removed from the list after three years, entering the names into a U.S. government database without a sunset provision would be contrary to Dutch law. To date, this issue has not been resolved and the suspension continues. DEA The Hague continues to supply the KMar at Schiphol with international trend information on routes being utilized by drug couriers.

In May 2007, the Netherlands became a full member of DEA's International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) and they are expected to participate in all IDEC conferences. Most recently they participated in the 2010 IDEC held in Rio de Janeiro. Additionally, in June 2009, NR and DEA held an "Expert Meeting" regarding money laundering, synthetic drugs/precursors, drug trafficking trends in Africa and heroin trafficking out of Afghanistan.

All foreign law enforcement assistance requests continue to be sent to the International Liaison Division (IPOL), a division of the National Police Force (KLPD). The IPOL has assigned two liaison officers to assist DEA and other U.S. law enforcement agencies; DEA and other law enforcement liaison officers contact the Regional Police Forces and NR offices directly for requests and intelligence sharing. This policy has continued to permit coordination during ongoing enforcement actions.

Under Dutch law enforcement policy, prosecutors control most aspects of an investigation. Dutch police officers often must obtain prosecutor concurrence to share information directly with foreign law enforcement liaison officers even on a police-to-police basis. Dutch regulations regarding police-to-police information sharing can be ambiguous and often subject to interpretation, which can hamper the quick sharing of information. However, expeditious sharing of police-to-police information is improving as a result of the increased access for DEA agents with NR units. Additionally, DEA has continued to work with KLPD and the National Prosecutor's Office to shorten the amount of time it takes to obtain approval of MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) requests. Based on these discussions and close working relationship, Dutch officials have dramatically shortened the amount of time needed to obtain these approvals.

Additionally, the use of confidential sources is heavily restricted under Dutch law. Since many DEA investigations outside of the Netherlands utilize cooperating source information, this can pose unique challenges when attempting to initiate or coordinate cases with Dutch counterparts.

D. Conclusion

Despite the reality of toleration for soft drug use, the Dutch government takes the fight against drug trafficking very seriously. The expectation is that the new Cabinet will take an even stricter stand than its predecessor, particularly on cannabis production and use. The Netherlands has had much success with their drug policy to date, especially with prevention and treatment programs (as statistics cited in this report bear out). Although the Netherlands is hampered to some degree by domestic legal restrictions on the extent to which it can cooperate bilaterally, we have every reason to believe the Netherlands will maintain close bilateral cooperation with the United States on counter-narcotics efforts.
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Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Mar 1, 2011
Words:4002
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