Dutch want drugs legalised
Amsterdam - A group of reputable politicians and academics have called for all drugs to be legalised in the Netherlands, breathing new life on Wednesday into the run-up to parliamentary elections in the northern European country.
Regulating the growing of dagga and the dealing of cocaine or even heroin could inject millions in taxes into state coffers, the group argued in an open letter.
At the same time, the operators of hashish-selling coffee shops called on their clients to vote on June 9 and to throw their support behind those political parties who pledge liberal drug policies.
Crimes related to drug prohibition are costing the Netherlands more than $18bn per year, former minister of defence Frederik Bolkestein, former minister of health Else Borst-Eilers and criminal law Professor Theo de Roos argued.
"If the drug market is regulated by the government, gangs can't earn money anymore," their letter, which was published in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper, reads. "Society becomes safer and on top of that, substantial savings fall in its lap."
Borst-Eilers is a member of the Democrats 66 party, which largely supports her position. But the letter was immediately opposed by Bolkestein's party, the conservative-liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, which currently tops opinion polls.
The Christian Democratic Appeal, led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, also opposes a further liberalisation of drug policies.
It has been polling in third place, behind the Labour Party, whose top candidate Job Cohen supports the legalisation of hashish and other soft drugs.
Much like the authors of the open letter, Cohen argues that the current tolerance of the possession and use of hashish by small groups of people in the Netherlands' world-famous coffee shops does not go far enough in undermining drug crimes.