READER REPORT:

Cannabis: Perspective of a Dutch person living in NZ

Despite popular belief cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands - it is decriminalised for personal use.
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Despite popular belief cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands - it is decriminalised for personal use.

I came to New Zealand late 2006 after being born and raised in the Netherlands.

For as long as I can remember cannabis has been tolerated. Despite popular belief it is not legal in the Netherlands – it is decriminalised for personal use and can be consumed in coffee shops.

If one does not step outside the boundaries of what is tolerated, there is no criminal charge or conviction.

As a teenager who wanted to experience the excesses of life I had access to both alcohol and cannabis.

I happily tried both of them but soon discovered I preferred alcohol over cannabis. The latter made me feel more nauseated, whereas alcohol made me feel more lightheaded.

Whenever I had a choice between cannabis and alcohol I would go for the latter. At parties some would light up, some would drink, some would do both. Because all of it was allowed, there was no impression that one was more or less cool than the other. Everyone just did what they preferred.

Jay, 29 years old from London, lights a cannabis joint in a coffee shop in Amsterdam.
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Jay, 29 years old from London, lights a cannabis joint in a coffee shop in Amsterdam.

The only times I smoked cannabis after that was when we had friends visit from the UK or Germany who wanted to experience our liberal Dutch ways. If that was the case, I either took them to a coffee shop or, if they preferred privacy, I would get some cannabis to enjoy at home.

This Dutch approach seems to work. Without the prohibition, cannabis didn't carry a 'cool' label.  

Under the Dutch drug policy, taking any drug is not illegal but possession can be. You will never be charged for taking drugs, nor if you require medical help. If you visit the Netherlands and need help after taking drugs, please do seek it.

Community healthcare providers visit festivals and parties, where you can have your drugs tested, even though they are illegal. The idea is that they know they will be used anyway, so despite it being illegal, they at least make sure it is safe. Clean needles are also provided to those who need them.

You can stick your head in the sand and think, because it is illegal, people should know better than to use it. But it is better to realise that the mere fact of it being illegal does not matter to those who have a dependency.

Provide help to those who need it by allowing them to be safe during their dependency and guide them to becoming clean.

 - Stuff Nation

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