Dutch Marijuana Use Lower Than Previously Thought

Press Release April 14, 1998
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 x 1383

A new study with sweeping implications for marijuana policy in the United States and abroad has found the number of marijuana users in the Netherlands to be substantially lower than previously estimated. According to a study released today by the Centre for Drug Research (CEDRO) at the University of Amsterdam, only about 2 to 3 percent of the Dutch population (ages 12 years old and up) had used marijuana in the previous month. Earlier studies had put the rate at about 5.0 to 6.5 percent.

“Previous estimates were based on surveys in Amsterdam, which has a higher use rate than the rest of the country,” said Peter Cohen, one of the authors of the study. “By including the cities of Tilberg and Utrecht in our survey, the results are more representative of the Dutch population as a whole.”

These findings offer new insight into the relationship between marijuana use and marijuana policy. For the last twenty years, Dutch citizens over the age of 18 have been able to buy and use marijuana in government-regulated coffee shops. In the United States, where it is illegal under federal law to grow, purchase or use marijuana, U.S. government studies have found Americans use marijuana more often than the Dutch. According to a 1996 U.S. government study, between 4.2 and 5.3 percent of the U.S. population (ages 12 years old and up) had used marijuana in the past month. Despite fundamentally different marijuana policies, the Dutch use less marijuana than Americans.

“This study is further evidence that Dutch marijuana policy has not resulted in an explosion of marijuana use,” said Dr. John P. Morgan, co-author of the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence (The Lindesmith Center, $12.95 U.S., paperback). “Despite an overly punitive policy toward marijuana in the U.S., Americans still use more marijuana.” Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts co-author Lynn Zimmer asks, “If the Dutch are using less marijuana, what purpose was served by arresting 642,000 Americans for possessing marijuana last year?”

Based in New York, the Lindesmith Center is a drug policy research institute that concentrates on broadening the drug policy debate. The Lindesmith Center is a project of the Open Society Institute. Founded by philanthropist George Soros, the Open Society Institute promotes the development of open societies around the world through projects relating to education, media, legal reform and human rights. The founder and director of The Lindesmith Center is Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D. , author of Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement (Penn State Press, 1993) as well as numerous articles on drug control policy in leading scholarly and popular journals.

For Further Comment:

Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D.
New York

John P. Morgan, M.D.
New York

Peter Cohen, Researcher
(+31) 20-525-4278

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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