Antwerp, 19 May 2008
To the members of the Dutch Parliament
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
In the near future you will have to decide your opinion regarding the proposal of Minister Klink of Public Health to prohibit the possession and sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms (the so-called paddo’s) in the Netherlands.
As European platform of non-governmental organisations that work in favour of just and effective drug policies, we wish to ask you to vote against this proposal.
A ban on paddo’s can lead to serious negative consequences for the public health of Dutch citizens and tourists. Such a decision should be based on scientific evidence, not on moral or ideological arguments, which seems to be the case here.
According to the Coordination point Assessment and Monitoring of new drugs (CAM), the main advisory body of Minister Klink, the risks of consuming paddo’s for the individual’s health and for society are so low, that a ban would be a far too extreme measure in relation with the public nuisance and damage created by the current level of consumption’. This advise is similar to those of three earlier commissions that have advised previous ministers on the legal status of paddo’s. Also the International Narcotics Control Board, which analysed information from all UN member states, reached the conclusion that there is no reason for a ban on paddo’s.
The respected British medical journal The Lancet published in March 2007 a list of twenty drugs, categorised according to their potential to cause risks to public health. Paddo’s were not considered as dangerous enough to be placed on this list.
The call for a ban on paddo’s arose last year after media reports involving incidents with tourists who while under the influence of paddo’s may have caused damage to themselves and others. An investigation of the CAM pointed out that there was no evidence in any of these incidents that the use of paddo’s had played a decisive role. The consumption of paddo’s poses few problems among Dutch citizens.
As a reason for imposing the ban, Minister Klink argues that the consumption of paddo’s can lead to unpredictable reactions in the user. Apparently, the minister has not noticed the fact that this counts for alcohol and other legal drugs too, even for the involvement in certain sports. Even more important is the question if a ban is the answer on this problem.
The ban on the production and sale of paddo’s will nave a counterproductive effect. It is highly unlikely that the demand for paddo’s or similar substances (among others driven by medical motives) will decrease. By banning the trade the Dutch authorities abandon the control on this trade completely. Consequently, criminal organisations will take hold of it, which will lead to more public nuisance and public health risks. Minors will have less difficulties in obtaining paddo’s than is the case right now. It is very well possible that a ban will lead to a strong increase in the number of incidents.
A proof of the hasty and superficial reasoning behind the proposal of the minister is the fact that the ban also affects many mushrooms that have never been sold in smartshops, but do grow in nature in the Netherlands. In this way everybody can be accused of growing a banned paddo in his or her garden. It is unthinkable that this responds to the minister’s intention.
A regulated sale of paddo’s in smartshops is a good alternative for a ban. For years, these shops have shown that by spending attention to research, information and consumer care it is possible to organise the sale of paddo’s in a responsible way. It would be incomprehensible if the Dutch parliament, ignoring all policy advises, would bury these experiences.
It appears to us that the context of the eventual ban on paddo’s is formed by the fear that the liberal drug policy in the Netherlands is not understood in Europe. This fear is based on nothing. Dutch drug policy is being considered as trendsetting by experts around Europe. The times in which this policy was despised by the neighbouring countries are far behind us. There is a simple reason for that.
The European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction in Lissabon, that collects information on the impact of drug policies in the European Union since 1993, has shown that no relation exists whatsoever between the different kinds of policies in the EU and the levels of (problematic) use or addiction to drugs. In the UK and France, the policy is considerably more repressive than in the Netherlands. Still those two countries have higher rates concerning problematic drug use than the Netherlands.
Finally: the search of teenagers and young adults to other states of consciousness will not be limited by a ban on substances that play a role in this search. On the contrary, the authorities have the responsibility to assure that this search can take place in conditions that are protected as much as possible from risks and dangers to public health and safety.
Therefore we request you to not support the ban on the production and trade in hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Netherlands, but to submit these to strict regulation in co-operation with the involved sector (smartshops).
On behalf of ENCOD,
André Fürst, Fredrick Polak, Jan Ludewig, Joep Oomen, Marina Impallomeni, Virginia Montañes
EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES
Lange Lozanastraat 14
B – 2018 Antwerpen
Tel. +32 495 122 644
Using this letter as a draft, you can also send an own letter to the main MP’s that will play a decisive role in the voting: