Minister must allow experiments with regulated cultivation of cannabis

18 October 2014

Minister must allow experiments with regulated cultivation of cannabis

Anyone who says, as Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten does, that the regulation of soft drugs – rather than an absolute ban – is in conflict with international treaties, should take a closer look at the history of how these treaties came to be, as well as treaty law and international developments.

By Michiel van Nispen

In 1924 the Egyptian delegation at an international conference came out, out of the blue, with a proposal that cannabis be banned. It was not on the agenda, there was no substantiation or scientific evidence, yet the proposal was accepted without too much deliberation, despite the Netherlands voting against. Anyone who refers to the ban on cannabis under international law misunderstands the background and history of this ban.

In order to amend this sort of treaty extremely difficult procedures apply. In addition, the widely held opinion amongst jurists is that treaties are what is termed ‘light law’. Treaties are not per se carved in stone. Progressive insight and a slightly more nuanced perspective on the matter are actually possible.

That can also be seen from the fact that various other countries have indeed taken intelligent steps in the direction of normalisation of their soft drugs policies. The international community has still not taken any action against Portugal, Uruguay, Belgium or the United States. That is perhaps the best evidence that international opinion is shifting and that the minister’s fearful standpoint is no longer tenable.

Where there’s political will, a way can be found. Opstelten should therefore no longer say that it can’t be done. The minister simply doesn’t want it.

Certainly political courage is needed if a standpoint is to be nuanced. But in any case experiments with regulated cultivation, which local authorities like Utrecht and Heerlen have proposed, must be permitted. By working in every way against this, Opstelten gives the impression of opposing it. What’s he afraid of, that it will be a success?

This opinion piece first appeared, in the original Dutch, on 18th October in the national newspaper NRC. Michiel van Nispen is a Member of Parliament for the SP.


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