Over 200 Dutch municipalities banned drug use on he street: report

While the use of drugs is not punishable in the Netherlands under the Opium Act, more and more municipalities are banning drug use in public spaces. So far 218 of the 355 Dutch municipalities implemented a total ban on drug use in public space such as parks, streets and public buildings, by adding the ban to their General Local Regulations, NOS reports based on its own research. 

Some municipalities only banned drug use in certain places, usually places where nuisance is a problem like the Mercatorplein in Amsterdam or the Scheveningen boulevard. Experts told NOS that such a specific area ban is more effective. But 60 percent of the Dutch municipalities have now banned drug use in the entire public space. This largely involves smaller municipalities. Rotterdam is the only one of the four large cities to have a general ban. 

The municipalities with a general ban are not overly focused on enforcing it. Many told NOS that they implemented the ban to possibly do more with it later. "To be able to intervene in case of excesses", the municipality of Almelo said to the broadcaster. 

Professors Jon Schilder and Jan Brouwer, experts in the field of the Dutch drug policy, told the broadcaster that the municipalities are deliberately not complying with Dutch law with these general drug use bans. The Opium Act explicitly states that the use of soft and hard drugs is not punishable, only the trade and production thereof.

"With a ban on use,municipalities cross out the nationally applicable Opium Act, in which the use of drugs is deliberately not punishable", Jan Brouwer, professor of General Law at the University of Groningen, said to the broadcaster. Jon Schilder, professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, added: "It is absolutely not desirable that 'lower governments' make something punishable which the higher law does not want to make punishable."