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Governmental Drug Policy in the Netherlands and Sweden Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 14th, 2022


Governmental drug policy is a significant issue, which has been the center of public controversy in the recent years. There is still no applicable solution to this problem in the global society of the 21st century. Among the most alarming issues are overdoses, death, and degenerative illnesses such as Hepatitis C. The success of the policies introduced in developed countries vary noticeably, which demonstrates the absence of a perfect solution for everyone. It is possible to assume that the choice of the governmental strategy depends on the historical past of the country, behavior patterns of its citizens, and specificities of the law system. This academic work examines two countries in terms of their drug policy framework – Sweden and the Netherlands. The approaches used in these states are contradicting; therefore, it is vital to investigate and compare them in order to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this paper is to describe and compare the crucial aspects of the drug policies in the chosen countries.

Global Overview of the Drug Strategies

In order to prevent the negative consequences of illegal use of drugs, national and local authorities control their distribution. Rogeberg et al. claim that the most noticeable problems nowadays are the poor quality of drugs and the absence of the regulation system. Thus, it is necessary to organize the process of monitoring and control. Consequently, it would be favorable for evaluating the drug quality distributed among the healthcare organizations and regulating the amount of sold items. In addition, it is necessary to point out that there is no option to minimize the production of drugs because there are patients for whom using these medicaments is the only way to stay alive.

In the majority of developed European countries, drug use is strictly prohibited. Nevertheless, as stated by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), criminalization and severe penalties are not the most effective way to stop the functioning of the illegal market. The specialists maintain that people’s safety and comfort are one of the most critical values that should not be underestimated. In this case, it is possible to suggest that hard drugs cannot be absolutely restricted, as humans with serious diseases need them to feel better. Annan et al., GCDP commissioners, also introduce an example of the US strategy where decriminalization of some drugs leads to the improvement of public health in general. The central conclusion of the specialists is that the legalization of several types of medicaments may be beneficial for society.

Despite that, the representatives of the authorities cannot introduce the management strategy that would function in an efficient way. The legal system needs to implement efficient frameworks, which would consider that humans who use drugs are already addicted and cannot control their doses in a rational way. It is evident there are various steps that are already implemented in many countries, including both decriminalization as well as restriction of drug use and distribution. The world experience is an illustration of the fact that both strategies may become successful in the case of a structured control system and effective supervision.

Analysis of the Drug Policy in the Netherlands

The government of the Netherlands introduced the innovative idea to legalize cannabis in their countries. These transformations have had a positive effect on the country’s economy and national cannabis use rate. Contrary to popular beliefs, the rates of marijuana use in the Netherlands are lower than those of neighboring European states and the US. In addition, coffee shops set up throughout the nation generate 400 million euros in tax annually. In the 1960s, the society moved from an ideological and religious path to the community where the individual approach became the most important value. The spread of the drugs was a noticeable problem, and the authorities of the state decided to decriminalize cannabis and control the market on governmental level. In 1976 the Opium Act was introduced to the citizens. Its central thesis was that it is possible to distribute only a part of the medicaments, which are less harmful than the hard drugs and only in specialized places.

To become a distributor, an organization has to apply for a license. Specific types of firms are supposed to be unique mediators. Therefore, there is a document named a Coffee Shop Criteria, which contains information about the rules of drug distribution. It includes a list of policies that everyone has to follow. For instance, it is forbidden to make advertisements or offer clients hard drugs. The legalized system has functioned successfully for many decades and questions the approach of total restriction established in Sweden.

Analysis of the Drug Policy in Sweden

The historical background of Sweden has to be examined in detail as it has a significant impact on the decisions of the government nowadays. In the 19th century, the state suffered from the problem of alcohol addiction, which was hard solve. It is possible to suggest that the decision to prohibit drug distribution is correlated to the experience from the previous centuries. Both drug use and distribution are punished in the country; the policies are specifically targeted at the young population of Sweden. Nils Bejerot introduced a zero-tolerance model, which is supposed to verify the necessity of drugs for each patient. It is necessary to mention the influence of the social workers, who support addicted individuals and provide needed aid and care. The laws concerning prescription are strict and include criminal responsibility in case of non-compliance. Moreover, the authorities restructured the budget in order to provide more financial support to addicted people. Total control and criminal responsibility are the primary factors of a successful strategy.

Comparison of the Drug Policies

The Swedish model shows that restriction is an effective method of reducing the level of drug abuse and the mortality rate caused by overdoses. The level of people affected by this type of medication decreased significantly in Sweden over the last five years and is now lower than in the 1970s. The drugs are used only as medicaments in hospitals, and the process of prescription is complicated and bureaucratic. The penalties for drug use and distribution are stiff, and the control system is efficient and well structured. As for the Netherlands, the drugs are decriminalized there, and the level of cannabis use is slightly above the average in comparison to other European countries. This fact is an illustration that the established rules for legalized drugs are beneficial for public health as it helps to control quality and amount of the provided product. Both strategies are effective for the safety of the population despite the significant differences in the approaches.


There are different approaches to implementing drug policy by governments, which is demonstrated by the examples of two diverse models incorporated by Sweden and the Netherlands. Total restriction, control, and a well-enforced system of punishments are as effective as the decriminalization of cannabis and the availability of drugs of good quality to the citizens. It is important to take into consideration the particularities of the historical aspects and behavior specificities in order to establish a policy that would be the best option for everyone.

Reference List

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2006) Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Web.

Hallam, C. (2010) , The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Program. Web.

Global Commission on Drug Policy (2014) Taking control: Pathways to drug policies that work. Geneva: Global Commission on Drug Policy. Web.

Rolles, S. (2014). Bristol: Transform Drug Policy Foundation. Web.

Chatwin, C. (2016) ‘Mixed messages from Europe on drug policy reform: the cases of Sweden and the Netherlands’, Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, 11(1). Web.

Global Commission on Drug Policy (2016) Geneva: Global Commission on Drug Policy. Web.

Grund, Jean-Paul C., and Joost J. Breeksema. (2017) ‘Drug policy in the Netherlands’, in Colson, R. and Bergeron, H. (eds.) European drug policies: the ways of reform. London: Routledge, pp. 128–148.

Rogeberg, D. B., et al. (2018) ‘A new approach to formulating and appraising drug policy: A multi-criterion decision analysis applied to alcohol and cannabis regulation’, International Journal of Drug Policy, 56, pp. 144-152. Web.

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