The Netherlands is a significant transit country for narcotics and has traditionally been a producer of synthetic drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy). 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.
Production. The government has made the fight against organized cannabis cultivation a top priority. In addition to the National Taskforce on Organized Hemp Cultivation established in July 2008, the Justice and Security Minister in December 2010 set up a special taskforce to combat drug-related organized crime, particularly illegal cannabis cultivation, in Brabant province, where the country's cannabis plantations are concentrated.
The country has traditionally been a major producer of ecstasy, although a sizeable amount of production appears to have shifted to other countries. During 2010 Dutch Police (KLPD) reporting indicated an increase in ecstasy production in the Netherlands. Although there were no reports of ecstasy laboratory seizures in 2010, there have been numerous indications of lab activity. These include significant seizures of "pre-precursor chemicals," which can be converted easily into the traditional precursors needed for production. In January 2011 the Trimbos Institute reported that more and better quality ecstasy had emerged on the Dutch market. There is also production of amphetamines and other synthetic drugs. The Netherlands has a large (legal) chemical sector, making it a convenient location for criminals to obtain or produce precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs.
Trafficking/Transit. 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 100-percent checks on inbound flights from the Netherlands Antilles, 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 an organized scale, the sentence is increased by one-third (up to 16 years).
Illegal Drug Use. 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) in "coffeeshops" operating under regulated conditions (no minors on premises, no alcohol sales, no hard drug sales, no advertising, and no creating a public nuisance).
The Health Ministry coordinates drug policy, while the Ministry of 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, 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 May 2011, the Dutch Cabinet agreed to measures to reduce drug-related nuisance and drug tourism as proposed by the previous government. Under the plans, coffeeshops are to become private clubs for the local markets, only accessible to Dutch citizens upon display of valid proof of identity. Coffeeshops must be at least 350 meters away from schools or face closure. According to a study by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), this would lead to closure of 58 of the 650 coffeeshops in the Netherlands.
The measure to turn coffeeshops into private clubs has been criticized by a number of local governments and drug experts fearing the plan will lead to more illegal street dealing and more public nuisance. Moreover, a study by the Amsterdam city council showed that 70 percent of cannabis users in Amsterdam do not want to be registered as club members. Meanwhile, coffeeshops in Maastricht started banning all foreign customers, except for Germans and Belgians, in September. The action is a strategic initiative by coffeeshop operators who want to see whether the measure will lead to more public nuisance, illegal street sales, and crime.
In June 2011, the Cabinet submitted a bill to parliament penalizing all preparations by persons and companies that facilitate illegal cannabis cultivation, even if they do not grow the plants themselves. The bill not only targets legal "grow shops," which sell seeds, lamps, fertilizers, and other supplies, but transport and distribution companies and landlords and electricians who help with illegal cannabis production. The offense will carry a maximum prison term of three years.
In August the Cabinet presented a bill to ban driving under the influence of cannabis.
In September, the Health Ministry announced that the GHB party drug will be placed on Schedule I of the Dutch Opium Act, which means that it will become a "hard" drug like cocaine and heroin. A recent assessment by the Coordination Center on the Assessment and Monitoring of New Drugs (CAM) determined that GHB may pose serious health risks, particularly when used in combination with alcohol or other drugs.
In October, the Cabinet agreed to categorize cannabis with a THC content of 15 percent or more as a "hard" drug and to place it on Schedule I of the Dutch Opium Act. Penalties on trade, import and export of high-THC cannabis will also be raised. If Parliament accepts the plan, a large part of "Nederwiet" (Dutch-grown cannabis) will be banned. The Trimbos Institute for Mental Health and Addiction recently concluded that 74 percent of Dutch cannabis contains more than 15 percent THC. In 2010 the average THC content in "Nederwiet" was 17.8 percent. The Cabinet also decided to keep the current drug classification system (Schedule I "hard" drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and heroin, and Schedule II "soft" drugs) in place.
The Netherlands is party to all of the UN Drug Conventions, and the 1972 Protocol. It 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 (MLAT) agreements, including the 2004 U.S.-Netherlands Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Agreements, which entered into force in 2010.
Operational cooperation between U.S. and Dutch law enforcement agencies is excellent, despite some differences in approach and tactics. In August 2010 the Kingdom of the Netherlands acceded to the Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement, a treaty that enhances cooperation in combating drug trafficking in the region. They are also a member of the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre-Narcotics (MAOC-N), which is an intelligence exchange and coordination platform for maritime operations among European countries.
2. Supply Reduction
The Netherlands is a major producer of cannabis. The 2008 National Threat Assessment (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 between 2.5 billion to 5 billion Euros. In December 2010 the Security and Justice Minister set up a special taskforce to combat organized crime in Brabant province. Between December 2010 and October 2011, the taskforce arrested more than 1,200 suspects, dismantled 800 cannabis plantations and seized more than four million Euros in criminal assets.
According to the 2010 report by the ESDP, the amount of amphetamine (powder, paste and oil) seized in the Netherlands in 2010 dropped 67 percent from 2009 to 544 kilos. A total of 1,734 kilos of Dutch amphetamine was seized abroad, which was 10 percent up from 2009. Most Dutch amphetamine is exported to the UK, the Scandinavian countries, Spain, and Germany. MDMA seizures in the Netherlands rose significantly in 2010, but the number of Dutch MDMA tablets seized abroad dropped slightly. According to the ESDP, no reports of MDMA tablet seizures in the U.S. linked to the Netherlands were received in 2010. Most Dutch MDMA tablets were seized in France. The number of dismantled synthetic drug production sites dropped to 19 in 2010 from 24 in 2009. Of these 19 sites, 9 were involved in amphetamine production. Mephedrone, or "Miaow Miaow," and GHB are becoming increasingly popular in the Dutch party scene.
Drug Seizures in the Netherlands 2008 2009 2010 Heroin (kg) 803 596 -- Cocaine (kg) 6,757 4,934 -- Ecstasy (tablets) 249,761 172,845 555,401 Ecstasy (powder)(kg) 84 3.4 66 Synthetic drug labs 21 24 19 Amphetamine powder (kg) 1,106 1,946 66 Amphetamine paste (kg) 121 466 546 Methamphetamine (kg) 0.02 0 44.6 LSD (trips) 17,825 0 6,430 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 -- MCPP (tablets) 7,764 361,600 5,200 2-PEA (tablets) 0 0 4,000 Ketamine (kg) 0 0 5 BMK (liter) 231 258 334 PMK (liter) 0 40 0 PMK-glycidate (kg) 0 0 1,200.5 Safrol(kg) 0 20 85 Ephedrine/pseudo-ephedrine (kg) 317 587 508 Chemical waste dumps 36 34 35 (Source: KLPD National Police Services Force)
The number of drug crime suspects registered by the police in 2009 (latest available statistics) was more than 16,000. In 2009 more than 17,000 drug-related offenses were registered with the public prosecutor's office. Drug-related offenses constituted 7.6 percent of the total number of criminal cases handled by Dutch courts in 2009. The average unconditional prison sentence for a drug offense in 2009 was 305 days.
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 a reputation for tolerance, the share of the population abusing drugs in the country is on a 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 Trimbos Institute each year carries out drug information campaigns, and its 24-hour national Drug Info Line has become very popular.
Below are the 2009 (latest available) statistics on percent among the general population ages 15-64 reporting lifetime (ever) use and last-month (current) use. (Note that, because of differences in research methods, statistics about drug use in 2005 and 2009 are no longer comparable.)
Lifetime use Last-month use 2009 2009 Cannabis 7.0 4.2 Cocaine 1.2 0.5 Heroin 0.1 0.1 Ecstasy 1.4 0.4 Amphetamine 0.4 0.2 (Source: National Drug Monitor (NDM) 2010, Trimbos Institute)
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 2010 NDM, in 2009 outpatient treatment centers registered 8,863 clients seeking treatment for their (primary) cannabis addiction; 9,993 for cocaine; 12,466 for opiates; 154 for ecstasy; and 1,504 for amphetamines. The number of hard-core opiate addicts has declined dramatically over the past 10 years to about 18,000; their average age has risen to 48; and the number of overdose deaths related to opiates has stabilized at between 30 and 50 a 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 where 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 among addicts has dropped and their health has improved.
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 and the production of synthetic drugs. Dutch regulations continue to restrict the use of criminal informants in drug trafficking investigations. In addition, the Dutch do not use their asset forfeiture laws in conjunction with drug related investigations to the same extent as the U.S. DEA The Hague has noted improved and expedited handling of drug-related extradition requests. The U.S. is also working with the Netherlands to assist the Caribbean part of the Kingdom in countering narcotics trafficking.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Netherlands in 2011 that formalizes a previous exchange of letters from 1994 allowing USCG law enforcement detachments (LEDET) to deploy onboard Netherland Naval vessels. The MOU is a more comprehensive agreement that allows the USCG to leverage Netherland Naval vessels as a force multiplier to enhance presence and expand maritime drug trafficking interdiction opportunities in the Western Hemisphere Transit Zone.
Both DEA and the National Crime Squad (NR) recognize the importance of money laundering investigations and joint initiatives concerning drug related "bulk" money smuggling operations.
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. This issue has not yet been resolved, and the suspension continues. DEA The Hague continues to supply the KMar at Schiphol airport with international trend information on routes being utilized by drug couriers.
All foreign law enforcement assistance requests continue to be sent to the International Network Service (IPOL), a division of the KLPD. IPOL has assigned two liaison officers to assist DEA and other U.S. law enforcement agencies. In coordination with IPOL, DEA and other liaison officers may contact the Regional Police and NR offices for requests and intelligence sharing. This policy has continued to permit better coordination during ongoing enforcement actions. Under Dutch law enforcement policy, prosecutors control most aspects of an investigation. Dutch police officers must get prosecutor concurrence to share information directly with foreign liaison officers even on a police-to-police basis. Dutch regulations regarding police-to-police information sharing are nebulous and often subject to interpretation, which can hamper the quick sharing of information; however, the pace is improving as a result of the increased access for DEA agents with NR units. Additionally, DEA has worked with Dutch counterparts at the KLPD and the National Prosecutor's Office, resulting in a reduction of the amount of time it takes to obtain approval for money pickup operations via MLAT requests. This reduction in approval time has resulted in multiple successful operations.
The use of confidential sources is heavily restricted under Dutch law. Since many DEA investigations outside of the Netherlands utilize cooperating source information, this poses a unique challenge when attempting to initiate or coordinate cases with Dutch counterparts. All matters concerning confidential sources are closely coordinated with KLPD's Criminal Intelligence Division and the National Prosecutors Office.
Despite the reality of toleration of soft drug use, the Dutch government takes the fight against drug trafficking very seriously. In particular, the fight against organized cannabis cultivation has been made a priority issue. Although the Netherlands is hampered to some degree by domestic legal restrictions on the extent to which it can cooperate bilaterally, close bilateral cooperation with the U.S. on counter-narcotics efforts has been fruitful in the past and will continue.
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|Title Annotation:||Country Reports|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2012|