What Can We Learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop System?

29 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2011

Date Written: June 10, 2011


Aims: To examine the empirical consequences of officially tolerated retail sales of cannabis in the Netherlands, and possible implications for the legalization debate.

Methods: Available Dutch data on the prevalence and patterns of use, treatment, sanctioning, prices, and purity for cannabis dating back to the 1970s are compared to similar indicators in Europe and the USA.

Results: The available evidence suggests that the commercialization of cannabis probably increased the prevalence of use, but only modestly, and it does not appear to encourage escalation into heavier use or the use of other drugs.

Conclusions: Perhaps because the Dutch maintain a prohibition at the production level, prices have remained high. This may have kept consumption lower than what might be expected in an unrestricted market. Thus, the Dutch system serves as a nuanced alternative to both full prohibition and full legalization.

Keywords: drug laws, legalization, deterrence, cannabis

JEL Classification: I18, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

MacCoun, Robert, What Can We Learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop System? (June 10, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1862363 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1862363

Robert MacCoun (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-721-7031 (Phone)

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