Dutch prohibition lesson is unlearned

In 2007, a French teenager jumped off a bridge in Amsterdam. Because he was high on hallucinogens, the Dutch government worked diligently to try and reverse their lax policies on drugs, and as now made ‘magic mushrooms’ illegal. Selling the drug was already illegal, but now growing it for personal use carries serious penalties.

I think the move is both ludicrous and a giant waste of time. The Dutch government had been wise to take on a laissez faire¬†policy on drugs, since it’s been proven time and time again that prohibition does little to affect consumption. Instead, it fuels powerful black markets, which breed violence and more criminality.

I’m not going to debate the relative health hazards of magic mushrooms. They are obviously dangerous if overused, not because of their toxicity, but rather because they can trigger dormant psychological conditions such as schizophrenia. There are rare occasions when some individuals harm themselves when high, but for the most part, these are rare.

What angers me is how people mistakenly believe laws can avert tragedy. Sadly, our attempts at legislating others for their ‘own good’ often causes far more harm than good. Drug abusers are treated as victims, and because the drugs are illegally obtained, the relative safety of the product is questionable. Drug dealers are not obliged to provide untempered products. They follow a different code of conduct from legitimate business, and their victims suffer from often intolerable lifestyles as a consequence.

Human beings engage in destructive behavior regardless of the legal repercussions. We cannot prevent other human beings from doing what they please with their own bodies, even if we feel it is our moral obligation to do so. By making drugs illegal, we only fuel crime and make violence and death profitable. Drug use is a personal choice, not a societal one. The experiment of prohibitionism has continued to fail, and yet, the war on drugs prevails. How many more deaths can we tolerate? How many incarcerated junkies, wealthy drug lords, and overly strained law enforcement officers are enough before we say ‘no more’?

The Dutch government has now reversed a policy that has made their society a positive beacon of hope. The low instances of drug abusers, lower crime rates, and higher standard of living were positive proofs that prohibition is a failure. Now, because some tragically stupid individual plunges themselves into a river and dies, this is being reversed. If the same outrage was placed in the proper direction, we would not allow fellow human beings to suffer at the hands of ineffective legislation.

Comments (3)

  • avatar

    Josh Nankivel

    Excellent post. We need more reason-driven pragmatism like this.

    This is also linked to the general theme of emotional reaction without requiring efficacy. A shoe bomber gets caught and so we all have to take our shoes off to have them checked when flying. (Someone said, “I’m glad he wasn’t an underwear-bomber!)

    This along with all the other constraints on flying have made it undesirable. At least some percentage of people drive instead of fly…guess what, that is statically much more risky than flying!

    So much else is subject to over-zealous risk prevention for things that are not nearly as likely as others which happen all the time.

    A pragmatic approach to decision-making requires an analysis of the statistical probability and impact, not just the impact. In addition, it should be done prior to a catastrophe, instead of reacting to one that has already occurred.

    Josh Nankivel

  • avatar


    Comedian Bill Hicks addressed this issue about 15 years ago, saying something along the lines of “Fuck him, he’s an idiot. If he thought he could fly he should have tried taking off from the ground! You don’t see birds going up elevators to fly south!”

    I think the government should try and see things from this perspective. Maybe put out a P.S.A. on the issue.

  • avatar

    Reverend Clint

    this applies to not only drugs but really anything people get some kind of satisfaction from like the internet in China or even guns in America. A total or even partial prohibition on anything never works as you stated which is why the Prohibition of Alcohol in America failed and any legislation to ban guns like the Assault Weapons Ban will always fail. Not only are they pointless and lead to black markets that actually make it easier to get the prohibited substance/object it’s a blatant restriction of civil freedoms. I live in an area where marijuana is probably the most lucrative product, especially since the timber in the area is either completely logged or protected… Julia Butterfly lived in her tree literally 20 miles from where I live. I know for a fact that if the government taxed pot it would make billions of dollars but instead they chose to keep it illegal which makes it actually pretty cheap and easy to acquire.
    The big problem is the people who make the law for the most part neither know anything about the subjects they are legislating nor do they really care beyond getting votes to be re-elected so if they believe opposing said substance/object will get them votes they are all for it. living in Cali I know all about retarded prohibitions when it comes to guns. they will allow you to have a semi-auto M1a, basically an M14, but I can’t get a G3 which is basically the same style of weapon but since it has a pistol grip it’s an evil Assault Rifle. Or since Cali is run by idiots I can’t buy a new Diesel VW Jetta that can get better fuel economy than a Hybrid, 50+ mpg but I can go out and buy a huge F-350 that gets 8 mpg.

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