Here's the promised side by side comparison of the United States where marijuana is illegal and the Netherlands where it's legal. Note also the homicide and incarceration rates. They must be doing something right and/or, we must be doing something wrong. What an eye opener!
For basic Netherlands drug use data and information on Dutch drug policies, see The Netherlands section of the Drug War Facts International Chapter.
(Drug Use and Crime Indicators - Comparison Between The US and The Netherlands)
Social Indicator Comparison Year USA Netherlands Lifetime prevalence of marijuana use 2005 40.6% (ages 12 and up)1 22.6% (ages 15-64)2 Past year prevalence of marijuana use 2005 10.3% (ages 12 and up)1 5.4% (ages 15-64)2 Lifetime prevalence of heroin use 2005 1.5% (ages 12 and up)1 0.6% (ages 15-64)2 Incarceration Rate per 100,000 population 2008 756 3 100 4 Per capita spending on criminal justice system (in Euros) 1998 €379 5 €223 5 Homicide rate per 100,000 population 2009 5.06 1.16Source:1: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009
National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume II. Technical Appendices and Selected
Prevalence Tables (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38B, HHS Publication No.
SMA 10-4586Appendices). Rockville, MD, p. 99, Table G.2, and p. 101, Table G.4.
2: "The Netherlands Drug Situation 2010: Report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point" (Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction and the Ministry of Security and Justice Research and Documentation Centre, Dec. 22, 2010), p. 29, Table 2.1.1.
3: Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List" (eighth edition) (London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, Kings College - London), Dec. 2008, p. 3, Table 2.
4: Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List" (eighth edition) (London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, Kings College - London), Dec. 2008, p. 5, Table 4.
5: van Dijk, Frans & Jaap de Waard, "Legal infrastructure of the Netherlands in international perspective: Crime control" (Netherlands: Ministry of Justice, June 2000), p. 9, Table S.13.
6: UN Office on Drugs and Crime, "Global Study on Homicide," 2011, Table 9.1, p. 107 and p. 112
(Alcohol and Cannabis Use by Youth) "Results—Laws regarding alcohol and cannabis were found to be strictest in the United States, somewhat less strict in Canada, and least strict in the Netherlands. On most measures of drinking, rates were lower in the United States than in Canada or the Netherlands. With United States as the referent, relative risks (RR) for monthly drinking were 1.30 (1.11–1.53) for Canadian boys and 1.55 (1.31–1.83) for girls, and 2.0 (1.73–2.31) for Dutch boys and 1.92 (1.62–2.27) for Dutch girls. Drunkenness was also higher among Canadian boys and girls and Dutch boys. However, rates of cannabis use did not differ between the countries, except that Dutch girls were less likely to use cannabis in the past year (RR= .67; 0.46–0.96)."Source:Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH, William Pickett, PhD, Will Boyce, PhD, Tom F.M. ter Bogt, PhD, and Wilma Vollebergh, PhD, "Cross-National Comparison of Adolescent Drinking and Cannabis Use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands," International Journal of Drug Policy, Jan. 2010; 21(1):64-69. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.02.003, p. 1.
(Alcohol Prevalence and Drunkenness) "The HBSC survey results indicated that drinking prevalence and drunkenness were lower on all measures among both boys and girls in the United States compared with boys and girls in Canada and boys in the Netherlands, but there was no difference in drunkenness or age of first drunkenness between American and Dutch girls. The prevalence reported by youth in the United States, with monthly use of 34.0% for males and 29.3% for females, is consistent with other reports (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006; Johnston et al., 2007), and significantly lower than the prevalence reported by Canadian youth of about 45% for both boys and girls and Dutch youth of 67.9% for boys and 56.2% of girls. Of course, 10th grade Dutch students are close in age to the legal drinking age of 16 in the Netherlands. Also, despite higher drinking prevalence, Dutch girls were less likely to report having been drunk by age 14 suggesting that adolescent drinking and drunkenness do not correspond in all population groups. Overall, these cross-national differences in drinking prevalence are somewhat consistent with the hypothesis that higher legal age, more difficult access, and greater penalties for use may have discouraged adolescent drinking in the United States."Source:Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH, William Pickett, PhD, Will Boyce, PhD, Tom F.M. ter Bogt, PhD, and Wilma Vollebergh, PhD, "Cross-National Comparison of Adolescent Drinking and Cannabis Use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands," International Journal of Drug Policy, Jan. 2010; 21(1):64-69. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.02.003, p. 6.
(Drugs Information and Monitoring Services) "During its nearly twenty years of existence, the Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS) has monitored the chemical content of more than 100,000 samples of illicit drugs. These drugs are collected directly on the user's level and there is information exchange between the personnel at the testing facilities and the users. The anonymity of the drug user is guaranteed in order to keep DIMS trustworthy. This enables the collection of data on personal adverse effects and adverse effects experienced by friends, regional origin, date, source of purchase, price and reason for testing. The results of two studies suggest that testing drug users are broadly similar to non-testing users (Benschop, 2002; Korf, 2003). Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the DIMS target group is a reflection of all recreational drug users. While DIMS in a strict sense is only a market monitor, the data are fed back to the local organisations of its network to support their activities targeting the prevention of health threatening situations. In 2010, 8,898 drug samples were delivered to DIMS (DIMS, 2011; see § 10.3)."Source:Van Laar, Margriet, et al., (2011). The Netherlands drug situation 2011: report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point. (Utrecht: Trimbos Institute, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction), pp. 52-53.
(1997-1999) "The figures for cannabis use among the general population reveal the same pictures. The Netherlands does not differ greatly from other European countries. In contrast, a comparison with the US shows a striking difference in this area: 32.9% of Americans aged 12 and above have experience with cannabis and 5.1% have used in the past month. These figures are twice as high as those in the Netherlands."Source:Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Drug Policy in the Netherlands: Progress Report September 1997-September 1999, (The Hague: Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, November 1999), pp. 7-8.
Law and Policy
The Netherlands follows a policy of separating the market for illicit drugs. Cannabis is primarily purchased through coffee shops. Coffee shops offer no or few possibilities for purchasing illicit drugs other than cannabis. Thus The Netherlands achieve a separation of the soft drug market from the hard drugs market - and separation of the 'acceptable risk' drug user from the 'unacceptable risk' drug user.Source:Abraham, Manja D., University of Amsterdam, Centre for Drug Research, Places of Drug Purchase in The Netherlands (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, September 1999), pp. 1-5.
Sec. 844. Penalties for simple possession [of Controlled Substances in the United States]
(a) Unlawful acts; penalties
It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless such substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while cting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter."
"Any person who violates this subsection may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 1 year ....."
"if he commits such offense after a prior conviction under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter, or a prior conviction for any drug, narcotic, or chemical offense chargeable under the law of any State, has become final, he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than 15 days but not more than 2 years, and shall be fined a minimum of $2,500 ...."
"if he commits such offense after two or more prior convictions under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter, or two or more prior convictions for any drug, narcotic, or chemical offense chargeable under the law of any State, or a combination of two or more such offenses have become final, he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than 90 days but not more than 3 years, and shall be fined a minimum of $5,000."