Cohen, Peter (2021), The earnings model for illegal drugs and the prescient view of the Hulsman Commission. A brief history of an Inquisition. Translation of Het verdienmodel drugs en de vooruiziende blik van de commisie Hulsman. Kort verhaal over een inquisitie. Tijdschrift over Cultuur & Criminaliteit, aflevering 2, 2021. English translation by Will Gibbens.
© Copyright 2021 Peter Cohen. All rights reserved.

[Italian] [Dutch]

The earnings model for illegal drugs and the prescient view of the Hulsman Commission [1]

A brief history of an Inquisition

Peter Cohen

Toute societé qui n’est pas eclairée par des philosophes est trompée par des charlatans [2]


In 1971, the report Space in the drug policy was published by a working group headed by Louk Hulsman, a criminologist living in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. [3] Hulsman was a keen thinker with modern ideas. He and his fellow commissioners were of the opinion that drug policy should be completely separated from criminal law in order to avert a never-ending and increasingly escalating conflict. The Commission observed that once criminal law was to be applied to drug policy, “the investigatory apparatus will expand into a vast, well-trained and highly ‘weaponised’ unit, which must be continually improved and expanded upon in order to maintain the pace of the never-ending escalation” (Hulsman et al., 1971, p. 49).

“If we choose to make criminal law the main means of deterring drug use, then this choice is not only inadequate, but therefore also extremely dangerous. Time and time again, it shall prove to be an inadequate means, which will lead those in favour of applying penalties to plead for even harsher measures until investigatory activities will become a hundred times more intense than they are under the current situation. [...] They will exacerbate the polarisation between various groups in society, which can result in an increase in acts of violence” (Hulsman et al., 1971, p. 51).

In 1971, the discussion still centred on “drug use,” although the argument clearly applies equally to (illegal) drug production. Today, 50 years after the publication of this controversial report, the words of Hulsman et al. remain as timely as they were in 1971. I want to show how timely these words are by comparing Hulsman’s perspective side by side with that of the authors of a recent book entitled Drugland Netherlands [Nederland Drugsland] (Tops and Tromp, 2020). More on this later.

The stone gazes of bureaucrats: UNODC, EMCDDA

In 1998, during the UNGASS Special Session, [4] the United Nations announced a new campaign under the motto “A Drug Free World: We Can Do It!” In a brief article written for the Transnational Institute (TNI) in Amsterdam in June 2008, Tom Blickman commented, “It is unclear whatever happened to this campaign. [...] It has disappeared, along with the US$4 billion budget that UNDCP proposed under its director, [Pino] Arlacchi.”

It is not so difficult to speculate on the reasons why the campaign “disappeared.” The campaign was worthless; not even usable as propaganda. What was clear at that time, and undoubtedly still is today, was that drug policy is fed by deeply entrenched fictions that are crafted into the form of slogans designed to disguise the fact that prohibitive drug policy is both a farce and a failure throughout the entire world. It is a failure not only because illegal drug use has continued to rise and make new inroads into an increasingly broad range of styles of recreation, but above all because the production of drugs, which has accordingly increased alongside these trends, is extremely lucrative. After all, drug use today is primarily found among wealthy population groups in industrialised countries of the world. [5] It would appear that local and international policies which have been in place for over 100 years, focusing on prohibiting and curbing drug use and combating the illegal market surrounding drugs, have actually done little to reduce drug consumption. For example, for the past 25 years, the “European Drug Report,” published annually by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in Lisbon, has contained the following observation (always slightly reworded from one year to the next): “Innovation and scaling-up of synthetic drug production in Europe is evident in the continued availability of high-content MDMA tablets and high-purity powders” (EMCDDA, 2020, p. 9). [6] The EMCDDA concludes each year that more “research” is needed here or there, that the “drug market is becoming more complex” and that the volume of drugs seized by law enforcement is “considerable.”

Similar reports are published year after year in the United States, Russia, Canada and Australia, produced by a fairly large number of highly paid individuals whose work is nothing more than a ritualised routine that has become ossified. It is a status quo upon which bureaucrats can build their own personal wealth rather than a drug policy that includes serious reflection on the destruction that it has caused.

Drugland Netherlands

In the summer of 2020, Pieter Tops and Jan Tromp published a book entitled Drugland Netherlands: The allure of money, the power of criminals, the need to break them (and how to do it). [7]

It is an interesting book, filled with anecdotes about drugs, money and a “lack of investigative authority,” as well as an extremely seriously professed belief: “For us, there is no doubt that the ungodly sums of money in the drug economy are the greatest threat to decent society” (Tops and Trump, 2020, p. 222). This is why the authors have argued that the “earnings model of the Dutch criminal drug economy must be destroyed.” [8]

In my discussion of the book, I will focus solely on this premise, turning my attention away from the authors’ many other interesting claims. As an alternative to their perspective on drug-related criminality, I would like to provide a different analysis which results in a prioritisation that is more realistic than “destroy[ing]” the earnings model connected to drugs.

The earnings model for drugs

There is a well-established earnings model associated with illicit drugs. It consists of hundreds of thousands of small and mid-sized enterprises established throughout the entire world. I am not referring here to the pharmaceutical corporations who produce variants of opiates, cannabis and amphetamines that have been deemed legal, [9] but exclusively to enterprises that operate in the non-medical, recreational segment of the drugs market. As three Spanish-speaking researchers recently observed with regard to cocaine production:“The prohibition of drugs does not end the problem, rather it spreads and fragments criminal subgroups” (La cocaina universal, 2020). [10] The American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can be seen as an example of the ubiquity of the illegal drug market and the earnings model associated with it. The DEA does not operate in every country of the world, as it is barred entry into some. However, it operates 91 offices in 70 countries worldwide, with countless sub-offices where it spends its budget of over US$2 billion a year. [11] Since it was founded in 1973, the DEA has employed thousands of people. Each year, it makes the case for the necessity of its further expansion. In 2003, the DEA was granted additional personnel and authorities in the Netherlands, which Uitermark and Cohen (2003) described as follows: “Now, in addition to the secret number of agents the Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] already has operating in the Netherlands, they will expand their personnel to include a special Global Issues Officer from the State Department, a special agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and a DEA analyst. These DEA employees are stationed at the embassy in the Hague, which means they are protected by [diplomatic] immunity. This bizarre construction has resulted among other things in a situation in which the Van Traa Commission has been unable to gain any clarity as to the role of the American agents.”[12], [13]

The DEA has also left its mark on Belgium where it has involved local police in investigations that are valid under American law, but not under the laws of Belgium or the Netherlands. [14], [15]

As interesting as the global expansion of the DEA is, one persistent question continues to arise: has this well-funded network of local and international criminal prosecution had any effect on the illegal segment of the drug market?

The answer to this question is unequivocally yes. After all, without prosecution of the illegal market, the market itself would not only be inconceivable, but more importantly, without prosecution, that market would hardly be lucrative. And there would no longer be any need for the far-reaching specialisation in each sub-segment and sub-sub-segment of the production, distribution and financing of that market. As an example, in a now defunct network that specialised in the production of LSD, dozens of people were active in multiple countries, obtaining prefinancing for an ongoing series of newly established laboratories, as well as for machinery, raw materials, locations and, if necessary, bribes. A (now retired) chemist who played a key role in this system of fluid networks travelled with his wife and cat by sail boat to various suitable locations. After his work was done, he immediately disappeared again. Within this entirely decentralised, extremely complex structure, the production preparations as well as the microdosing and sale of the LSD were always left to new teams of people who had nothing to do with the technicians, financiers, bribers or the chemist. Whenever he sailed to Australia, Vlissingen or Vancouver to start a new production, he would be in transit sometimes for months at a time with no trace of his work on board. [16] Now perched in his villa, the chemist can look back on a career that was unique but also exemplary of the universal characteristic of the earnings model for illegal drugs: it is immune from suppression. That immunity is not tied to any specific individuals (who can and sometimes do get caught). The immunity is assured by the ingenuity and financial power within ever-evolving collectives who buy access to advanced techniques for recruitment, communication, financing, production, transport and distribution, which is embedded in a system of logistical experience, a willingness to use violence, and insatiable demand. Despite their occasionally successful (undercover) activities, investigative authorities like the DEA are and will continue to be far behind organisations like these. Their efforts are “inadequate” in the words of Hulsman et al. (1971). For the past 100 years, every time a few tonnes of drugs are intercepted or a few criminals are arrested, the press solemnly recites its well-rehearsed jubilation, which is nothing more than an ode to the earnings model for drugs. Let us not forget that the earnings model for illegal drugs which once existed in the Dutch East India Colony when legal opium was subjected to excessive excise taxes, was not fundamentally, but merely technically different from the model that now exists a few centuries later. [17] It is possible for a state to prohibit whisky, as the United States once did, but this makes no difference either for the availability or for the earnings model of whisky. Whether the entities earning the money are legal or illegal, the drugs remain available and in abundant supply under both earnings models, with the exception of sporadic interruptions, in the case of illegal drugs. [18] Whether drugs are used widely or sparsely depends on cultures, fashions, lifestyles and preconceived notions. [19] All of these undoubtedly change over time, but the earnings model remains the same. Whether drugs are available for sale within a comprehensive system of legal distribution or, on the other extreme, only under the cloak of a tightly-knit subculture, they are attainable for those who want to use them. [20] The existence of a continually expanding international drug investigation machine has occasionally resulted in local scarcity, but, from a global perspective, the availability of drugs is never in danger. The Great Inquisition was intended to assert and/or solidify the supremacy of the Catholic Church. Its intricate investigative apparatus led to bloody side effects but ultimately did nothing to slow the steady pace of the Reformation! Yet Tops and Tromp would like us to believe that a “successful approach” (i.e., “the destruction of the earnings model”) rises and falls “with the willingness to abandon a beaten path that appears to be a dead end, and to look optimistically for a new direction.” Yet the Inquisition that targeted false religion is the archetype for the Inquisition now targeting false pharmaceuticals: it does not stand a chance.

The production of stimulants. What do we know?

UNODC occasionally issues a report on the global situation with regard to the production of stimulants (i.e., amphetamine-type stimulants, or ATS, including MDMA). [21] Since 2011, it has identified the following countries, among others, as production locations: Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Purported to be the largest ATS producer by far, Indonesia has garnered specific attention: “In 2009, drug law enforcement authorities in Indonesia dismantled a total of 37 ATS manufacturing operations. The continuing high levels of ecstasy manufacture in Indonesia raise concern that the country could replace Europe as the source of MDMA in the region.” [22]

No one knows the exact volume of stimulants produced in each of these countries. Another complicating factor is that the proportions between the countries with regard to their ranking on the list of production volumes changes without notice. An American report on production in Myanmar notes: “While there is no reliable methodology to estimate ATS production, information derived from local and regional seizures indicates that ATS production and trafficking is increasing.” [23]

The question that Tops and Tromp pose (“Why is the Netherlands the international market leader in the production of synthetic drugs?” [24]) cannot be answered for many reasons. Nobody knows whether the Netherlands is the “market leader” in drug production, because, although we know that drugs are produced in the Netherlands, we do not know the volume of this production. The same can be said of other drug-producing countries in the EU, such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Spain, [25] to name a few. In the lack of actual statistics on national production levels, it is impossible to create a ranking of who the “market leader” for drug production is, and no data exists that would allow for any serious attempt at estimating production volumes. Secondly, even if relevant data were to exist at some point, thus enabling one country to be labelled as the “market leader,” would it make any sense to do so? [26] Cash flows and changes in production techniques, demand and transport ensure that, for many types of drugs, this label would hardly remain valid for longer than a year or two, let alone ten. All the commotion about the “importance” of the Netherlands when it comes to the illegal production of synthetic drugs is a circus, not a scientific analysis. It is not a case of a lack of will power to conduct such a scientific analysis, but rather that such an analysis is fundamentally impossible under current legislative regimes. Any discussion that arises over the role of the Netherlands exists merely for the purpose of exerting political influence. To this day, the Dutch Ministry of Justice has yet to scrutinise whether production within the Netherlands is relevant whatsoever to the existence and activities of illegal drug traffickers, and thus to the creation of “illegal wealth.” After all, Dutch citizens play a significant role in the trade of legal tobacco, cocoa and coffee, without a single leaf or bean being grown inside the Netherlands. Local production is not a prerequisite for capitalising on the talents and expertise of Dutch (and thus) internationally-focused entrepreneurs.

The generation of significant wealth through trafficking in psychotropic substances, regardless of where those substances are produced or cultivated, is a norm that has a centuries-old history in the Netherlands. Whether Mr A. becomes wealthy and powerful selling opium and tobacco from Indonesia or ecstasy from Poland is irrelevant. The rich use their wealth to become wealthier. If the source of that wealth is (partly) legal or not, does it make any difference to a construction company hired to build a villa in Bergen? Or to the mayor of the town? Or to a stockbroker in New York? In the Netherlands, the influence of capital earned through illegal drug trafficking is called “subversion” (“ondermijning” in Dutch). But did anyone in the Netherlands talk about “subversion” when Rabobank earned billions by illegally manipulating both the Libor and Euribor interest rates through its branches in London and Tokyo [27] — a highly secretive but blatantly illegal manipulation that was so lucrative that Rabobank rewarded the traders involved with lavish bonuses. Rabobank earned illegally obtained capital which, including the fine they were subjected to, reached the entire law-abiding world, or the “bovenwereld” as it is called in modern Dutch: the “overworld,” as opposed to the “underworld.” Why then is capital obtained illegally through drug trafficking called “subversion”? The Dutch bank ING illegally profited by allowing criminals to launder money through their accounts, resulting in a settlement of over €750 million (around US$ 900 million) paid to the Dutch Ministry of Justice. Yet, just as in the case of Rabobank, no one (to date) has been convicted of any crime. The profits earned by ING, even those that originated from illegal transactions, were never referred to as “subversive.” Thus, it is clear that the term “subversion” is applied selectively and wholly without regard to the criterion of being “illegally earned.” Whether legal or illegal, there are billions to be made in the banking and pharmaceuticals sectors if you know how—and that is exactly what happens. Whether the profits are called “subversive” is not determined by their lack of legality but by the societal status of the underlying activity.

To a politician in Saudi Arabia, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken’s wealth stems from the production of an illegal drug. Does this concern Tops, Tromp or any of the dignitaries in The Hague? No, of course not. The illegality of alcohol in Saudi Arabia has never deterred Ms. Heineken from deploying highly skilled, influential lobbyists to buy access to markets, tax privileges and licensing schemes. The legislative systems of every EU member state are easily within reach for her in Brussels. These activities, usually taking place behind closed doors, are never referred to as a “subversion” of the democratic process. [28] Whether her products also play a role in illegal markets makes no difference to her revenue, nor to that of her shareholders or the Dutch Tax Authority. Nor to Mr B., who is earning his living off the illegal production of amphetamines in America and Serbia. He lacks the lawyer power and the specialised lobbying firms to grant him access to markets and licenses. Instead, he is practically always buying all the influence he needs by means of corruption or, if all else fails, by force. The (still) illegal status of the amphetamines he produces does not allow him the possible scale of influence that billions in profits from the legal segment of amphetamine production or other pharmaceuticals and stimulants do. The illegal status of his production condemns him to pay a high price, because corruption comes at a great cost, a cost even greater than violence. At the same time, the illegal status of his production also insures his high tax-free earnings. As a result, the carefree financing of corruption is a gift that the system of suppressing that illegality continually throws into his lap. Such corruption too is called “subversion,” a term that ignores the obsolete, primitive Drug Inquisition that is responsible for it.

“For us, there is no doubt that the ungodly sums of money in the drug economy are the greatest threat to decent society.” [29] So, the ungodly sums of money earned in the banking sector, fashion, on the stock market, in real estate or in the sale of tobacco and pharmaceuticals are not a threat?

Permanent escalation

Yet, we must place an even greater question mark on what Tops and Tromp purport to be the exit path away from the “earnings model.” “It is the path that has predominantly been ignored by governments thus far: investigation and prosecution. To put it bluntly, the earnings model of the Dutch criminal drug industry must be destroyed.” [30]

Serious authors like Tops and Tromp ought to know that this recommendation is not made in good faith. It is a harmful recommendation not only because it is impossible to execute but, above all, because any attempt to implement it would constitute a mortal hollowing out of the rule of law. The means that the Dutch Ministry of Justice had to deploy in the 1990s in its attempts to track down a few suspected drug kingpins leave no doubt about this. Of course, the report by the Van Traa Commission of Inquiry has not made things any better or more transparent. [31] What it has succeeded at is to create an uncontrollable Judiciary monster.

Fifty years ago, Hulsman and his colleagues foretold of a never-ending escalation if we were to continue along the path of suppression by means of criminal law. This is indeed the point that we have reached in every country in the world in which international drug treaties have been incorporated into local law. It has brought us vast prosecutorial structures in the form of an Inquisition designed not to root out heretics, but to track down “drug offenders.” Yet in the eyes of Tops and Tromp, we have yet to establish a serious system of criminal prosecution in the Netherlands! They claim that this lack has enabled the illegal drug economy in the Netherlands to grow. Would it be any smaller in scale if we had in fact established a “serious system”? Perhaps one as serious as that of the United States [32], with its agents at home and around the world who are protected by diplomatic immunity to catch and incarcerate bands of drug criminals and who have been so “successful” that in Mexico the earnings model of the drug economy now makes it possible to bribe police, politicians and military officers at the highest levels? Just like in Brazil, Myanmar, Surinam and the Congo? Or Thailand? [33] And who have made it possible for thousands of people, whether they sustain the drug economy or work against it, to be murdered year after year? Have the efforts and billion-dollar budgets of the DEA achieved anything at all that can serve as an example to the Netherlands when it comes to “destroying” the earnings model? I am simply asking, because Tops and Tromp (2020) neglect to ask this question, let alone answer it. Their recommendation of “destroy[ing] the earnings model for drugs” has its place in a book of faerie tales, but it has no place in the drug-consuming world in which we live.

Experience teaches us that we cannot use the criminal justice system to suppress drug use, the risks associated with it or the economy behind it, let alone to end it (“destroy” it). This is something we have known for a very long time, especially in the Netherlands, where Hulsman and his colleagues foretold of this already 50 years ago.

On the contrary, criminal law creates, perpetuates and perfects the illegal drug economy, prevents a regulated system of drug production and makes quality monitoring impossible. When it comes to drug policy, criminal law is inflicting endless and irreversible societal damage on the basis of culturally anchored fictions, with no prospect for change whatsoever. It is undoubtedly true that drugs have the potential to cause some form of harm in the private lives of those who partake of them. [34] Yet the exact same can be said of sports, travel by car or plane, or of any romantic relationship. The key is to apply wisdom, knowledge and sensible rules of conduct to reduce the damage to the lowest degree possible. While the damage can never be eliminated entirely, it can be reduced. This means that drug policy must be disentangled from criminal law to the greatest possible extent. Make a legal and nuanced handling of drugs possible for adults and introduce a flexible, inclusive system to mitigate the inevitable damage of this, exactly as we have done for alcohol or aspirin. If necessary, manufacture some recreational drugs outside the commercial system of profit maximisation. Establish the same principle which (only) since the French Revolution has been viewed as correct for speech and religion, and only since the 1960s for sexual orientation—freedoms which for centuries had been considered extremely dangerous or even unthinkable within the cultures in which they were invented. Freedom of drug choice! Just like freedom of speech, religion or sexual orientation, this too is entirely possible. It is within our reach to create a world with less drug-related violence and corruption. [35] But not if we follow the formula of Tops and Tromp. Because the days of flat-earth thinking are over.


Biezen, A. van der (2017). Drugsdoorlaten en de IRT-affaire.

Blickman, T. (2008). Refreshing Costa’s memory.

Cohen, P. (1994). The case of the two Dutch drug policy commissions. An exercise in harm reduction 1968-1976. Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug related Harm, 7-11 March 1994, Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto.

Cohen, P. (2017). De emancipatie van afhankelijkheid. Angst voor ‘verslaving’ kan verminderen. In F. Polak (Red.), Het middel is erger dan de kwaal. Over de noodzaak van legalisering van drugs. Amsterdam: Gibbon.

de Volkskrant (10 oktober 2020). Drugsbazen wanen zich in Nederland onaantastbaar, dat moet stoppen. onaantastbaar-dat-moet-stoppen~b1cf3bc3/.

Decorte, T., Laethem, W. van & Outrive, L. van (1997). La police grise en Belgique: résultats d’une recherche. Déviance et Société, 21(4), 365-382.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (2019).

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) (2019). EU Drug Markets Report.

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) (2020). Europees Drugsrapport belangrijkste aandachtspunten.

Garat, G. Budasoff, E. & Galindo, J. (13 december 2020). La cocaina universal. El Pais.

Prison Policy Initative. (2018). States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2018.

Reuters (2013). Dutch Rabobank fined $ 1 billion over Libor Scandal.

Stichting Algemeen Centraal Bureau voor de Geestelijke Volksgezondheid (1971). Ruimte in het Drugbeleid. Rapport van de werkgroep Stichting Algemeen Centraal Bureau voor de Geestelijke Volksgezondheid (Voorzitter prof. mr. L. H. G. Hulsman) (pp. 1-68). Boom.

Tromp, J. & Tops, P. (2020). Nederland drugsland. De lokroep van het geld, de macht van criminelen, de noodzaak die te breken (en hoe dat dan te doen). Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Balans.

Uitermark, J. & Cohen, P. (2003). Nederland als filiaal van de Amerikaanse opsporingsmachine? de Groene Amsterdammer, 127(31).

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (2011). Global Assessment.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (2020). Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia. Latest developments and challenges.

United States Department of State. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. (2017). International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Vol. I. Drug and Chemical Control.


  1. I have previously written on the Baan and Hulsman Commissions, which had a constitutive influence on Dutch drug policy in the 1970s, in: Cohen, P. (1994), “The case of two Dutch drug policy commissions:An exercise in harm reduction 1968–1976.” Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm, 7–11 March 1994, Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto. That article can also serve as a concise introduction to the intellectual discourse on drugs and particularly the views of Louk Hulsman. The core thesis is that cultural integration of drug consumption as opposed to a criminalising ban would provide a far better basis for mitigating damage.

  2. “Any society that is not enlightened by philosophers is deceived by charlatans.” Elisabeth and Robert Badinter used this quote from Condorcet as the epigraph for their book Condorcet, un intellectuel en politique (1988), published by Fayard. I could not resist the temptation to imitate them.

  3. Published in Dutch as Ruimte in het Drugbeleid, a report from a working group of the General Central Bureau Foundation on Public Mental Health [Stichting Algemeen Centraal Bureau voor de Geestelijke Volksgezondheid], chaired by Prof. L. H. G. Hulsman. Published by Boom, 1971, pp. 1-68.

  4. United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs

  5. Increasing use of illegal drugs still ALSO means that regular drug use is limited to small minorities of the adult population (<10%). Prevalence studies provide insights into this.


  7. Tops, P. and J. Tromp. (2020) Nederland Drugsland: De lokroep van het geld, de macht van de criminelen, de noodzaak om die te breken (en hoe dat dan te doen). Balans Publishing.

  8. Tops, P. and J. Tromp (2020, October 10). Drugsbazen wanen zich in Nederland onaantastbaar [Drug lords think they are untouchable in the Netherlands]. De Volkskrant. Retrieved from

  9. The best-known producers of amphetamines, above all methylphenidate, are Shire, Sandoz, Novartis, Janssen-Cilag, UCB Pharma, Eurocept and Mylan.

  10. Garat, G., E. Budasoff and J. Galindo (2020, December 13). The universal cocaine [La cocaina universal] El Pais. Retrieved from Another quote: “From then on, farmers, manufacturers, businessmen, transporters, customs officers, pilots, sailors, divers, policemen, soldiers, laborers and retailers form the links of a chain that, when closed, make the cocaine from the Andes reach any destination in the world. And they do it in a compartmentalized, autonomous way (own translation).”


  12. Uitermark, J. and P. Cohen. (2003). Nederland als filiaal van de Amerikaanse opsporingsmachine? [The Netherlands as an affiliate of the American investigatory machine?] De Groene Amsterdammer, 127(31).

  13. Criminal entrapment under American law might apply.

  14. Decorte, T., W. van Laethem and L. Outrive, L. (1997) La police grise en Belgique: résultats d'une recherche [The grey police in Belgium: Results of a study]. Déviance et Société 21(4), pp. 365-382.

  15. One of the possible consequences of the Americanisation of criminal investigative work related to drugs is the frequent overemphasis on the efficiency of police work (“scoring results”) at the expense of delegitimising such work. Some findings of the Van Traa Commission have pointed to the problematic influence of the American DEA on police work in the Netherlands. In Belgium, the same mechanisms have been illustrated by various police scandals: the François affair in the 1980s, the Frans Reyniers affair in the 1990s, as well as the Van Mechelen affair (the Belgian offshoot of the IRT affair in the Netherlands). (Private email correspondence with T. Decorte, May 2021).

  16. Personal correspondence.

  17. Opium was legal in the Dutch East India Colony, but the heavy taxes imposed upon its sale gave rise to distribution via illegal channels.

  18. Interruptions in the supply chain for essential pharmaceuticals due to pricing policies among legal drug manufacturers are the legal equivalent of temporary scarcity.

  19. Cannabis consumption is no higher in the Netherlands, home of the so-called “coffee shop,” than it is in France, England or Spain, where no such access to cannabis has ever existed. Usage is determined by fashion and cultural symbolism; perfect and universal access play a lesser and possibly even insignificant role.

  20. A small subculture can suddenly elevate drugs into fashion among the broader public, as occurred with cannabis in the 1960s and ecstasy (XTC) in the 1980s. Some drugs, such as freebase cocaine (crack) or intravenous opiates, never made the crossover to mainstream fashionability.


  22. https://www.unodc org/documents/southeastasiaandpacific/2011/09/global-ats-2011/ATS_Global_Assessment_2011_web.pdf


  24. Tops and Tromp, 2020, p. 30

  25. EU Drug Markets Report 2019. p. 156. Retrieved from

  26. For decades, Afghanistan has been designated as the most significant country of origin for opium, which is used to derive illegal diacetylmorphine; based on an estimate by UNODC, 90% of the world’s illegal opium is produced there, while the rest originates in Myanmar, Mexico and Colombia (Statista 2021, “Poppy cultivation based on acreage”).


  28. The millions in subsidies granted for the construction of “green” wind farms in the Netherlands turns out to have been partly used for the mass production of electricity for Google, Amazon and Microsoft, who are building data centres in the country on the basis of this subsidisation. I could rightfully argue that this perverse state-sponsorship of the richest companies in the world (which pay practically no taxes in the Netherlands) is a “subversion” of the interests of the people of the Netherlands.

  29. Tops and Tromp, 2020, p. 222

  30. Tops and Tromp, 2020, p. 223

  31. “Since the Van Traa Commission, a kind of ‘culture of secrecy’ has emerged in legal practice, supported by the case law of the Dutch Supreme Court and lower courts of law, which is unprecedented in its scope.” Drug running and the IRT affair [Drugsdoorlaten en de IRT-affaire]. A. Van der Biezen. 2017.

  32. Where drug arrests and convictions (among other things!) have led to a situation in which 698 out of 100,000 members of the population are now behind bars, compared with 59 in the Netherlands (

  33. In the Netherlands and Belgium, it is not worthwhile to bribe high-level policy-makers and officials. The scale of import, transhipment, transport and transit of goods in these countries is so large that it is enough to bribe tradespeople and workers on the local level. Bribes are paid to customs officials in Antwerp, Rotterdam, Vlissingen and Schiphol, not to the Minister of Finance. This is a major difference with countries such as Myanmar, Suriname, Mexico or Morocco, where drug trafficking and production have long been fully integrated as prime sources of income for the ruling elites. There, bribes are primarily paid to top-level officials who then (usually) bribe the lower levels themselves.

  34. With regard to one form of damage called ‘addiction’, I would like to point out here that the concept of addiction has been assigned the same legitimising effect as the concept of ‘devil’ in the days when people still persecuted witches and heretics. ‘Addiction’ is within our culture a trusted but mythical concept that has permeated our culture with disastrous policy consequences for all people, not only the ones who are called addicts. See also P. Cohen: De emancipatie van ‘afhankelijkheid’: Angst voor ‘verslaving’ kan verminderen [Emancipating ‘dependency’: Curving the fear of ‘addiction’]. In: Freek Polak (Ed.), Het middel is erger dan de kwaal: Over de noodzaak van legalisering van drugs [The cure is worse than the disease. On the need for legalisation of drugs]. Amsterdam, Gibbon.

  35. The so-called international treaties—paper tigers printed on (what else?) paper—have never stood in the way of any reform that a nation state wanted to enact. The method they apply is called: ignoring.