The Dutch approach toward the consumption and trade of drugs has yielded the country a stereotypical image of a too liberal nation. But how did this image develop and to what extent has it influenced Dutch on drug policies? This article goes back to the 1970s to analyze these questions in the context of the first European collaboration around drug policies, with the creation of the Pompidou Group—Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs. The analysis draws on archival data and literature. Results show that the emergence of the Dutch stereotype of a “drugs paradise” was formed well before the shift in the national Opium Act in 1976 and the existence of coffee shops and was closely connected with the different national and international framing of a drug problem in the 1970s. The Dutch approach was seen as contributing to the increased availability of drugs in other European countries, while fighting the supply of drugs remained the dominant solution for the “drug problem” in the Pompidou group. Dutch policy makers perceived stereotypes as a problem and have indeed influenced the Netherlands to take more conciliatory positions regarding drug policies with the intention to protect the national image. This included trying to keep a low profile regarding their liberal cannabis policies and a high profile as a serious drug trade crime fighter. Consequently, despite the image of a drugs paradise, the Dutch political positions around drugs contained elements of both leniency and strict law enforcement.
Contemporary Drug Problems, v. 43 (3), pp. 219-240.