Zero tolerance drugs policy questioned
The GreenLeft party in the Netherlands is worried about the consequences of the 'zero tolerance' policy for drugs now being enforced at dance parties.
It says such a policy may do more harm than good and refers to the findings of Novadic-Kentron, an institute in North Brabant that specialises in all kinds of addictions. Charles Dorpman, who works at the centre, says zero tolerance makes no sense and explains why.
For a start, many partygoers are now taking all their drugs in one go before they reach the checks at the entrances. Such consumption increases the number of people turning up at First Aid centres suffering from an overdose. He calls it "kamikaze use" and says that's bad enough.
Man lighting a cigarette by Marco Giardini
Scared of prosecution
But even worse, he continues, is the fact that some drug users may not even contact the emergency services at all, no matter how ill they become. They don't because they're scared that if they do, they'll find themselves facing a fine and police prosecution when they recover.
It makes more sense, he says, to bring back the policy of tolerance. This allows police to turn a blind eye to small amounts of cocaine, speed, ecstasy and marijuana for personal use in clubs and at dance events. It even led in the past to police-run booths where prospective users could check that the drugs they intended to take weren't dangerous.
No national guidelines
Adding to the controversy is the fact that local police and councils can decide the limits of their own zero tolerance policy. There are no national guidelines. This means someone could go to party in one region with a few pills and a joint and be stopped by no-one. But they could go to another party fifty kilometres away with exactly the same amount of drugs and end up paying a fine and facing a police prosecution.
So as the summer winds down and the new school and university terms begin, we may well see more overdoses - in and out of emergency centres - and a lot of very confused police officers, council officials and young partygoers.
By Nick Garlick
15 August 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands]