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October 2017
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Should having fun be a crime?


John Brouwer’s* (21) dream of working as a creative business developer in the United States has been destroyed in a single crushing blow, when what was supposed to be a sun-filled festival day turned out to be his worst nightmare. Brouwer, who is a promising business administration student at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, got arrested for carrying 3 XTC pills while entering the camping grounds of the yearly Dutch music festival Lowlands. Not only did this land him a 300 euro fine it also meant that he would have a criminal record for the next 4 years, barring him from getting into the United States or doing any jobs requiring a so called “Declaration of good behavior”. While this is just one example of a much larger problem concerning the draconian drug laws in the Netherlands, it does show that we have gone too far in the prohibition of certain substances.

To look at the problems we are currently facing regarding XTC legislation we first need to take a look at how these laws came into place. Initially a large part of the drugs which are now considered illegal were sold in pharmacies as treatment for various diseases. Right after the end of the prohibition however in the United States the anti-alcohol enforcers were at the brink of losing their jobs. A particularly well known enforcer called Harry Anslinger figured that in order to keep his job he would need to find a new substance which he could control against. By working together with a well-known newspaper magnate he managed to instill such a fear of “Marijuana” into the American public that it eventually led to the substance we all know as Weed becoming illegal. This event ultimately led to most Western countries signing the first UN convention on narcotic drugs in 1962. Since this Concention anything even remotely resembling drugs gets added to the “Illegal” list. When looking at this history it is obvious that our current drug laws stems from a decision which was made for all the wrong reasons.

So let us switch back to our current day situation in which Brouwer got sentenced, a state of affairs where according to John “everyone does XTC sometimes”. Looking at the numbers of drug usage in The Netherlands we can see that the use of XTC is in fact wide spread amongst the population. Following Jellineks numbers a whopping 800.000 people in the Netherlands reported on having used XTC at least once in their life time. That means that 7.6% of our current population should be considered a criminal on the same level as for instance burglars. It can be considered a misconception that the current prohibition of XTC is leading to a significant decrease in usage.

Another misconception is the fact that XTC is illegal to protect the general public. In a world where you can buy a beer at every corner and cigarettes are everywhere this argument just does not hold any power. In a research published by the British peer-reviewed journal Lancet researchers looked at the top 20 drugs and judged them on how damaging they were for society. Unsurprisingly Alcohol was by far the most damaging while XTC almost came in almost as last positioned at number 17. When asked about this John claimed that alcohol led him to become a “less pleasant” version of himself, while XTC made care more about his friends and everyone in general instead.



In fact the current illegality of XTC could be leading to more medical issues and deaths. Most of the current issues stem from the fact that some XTC tablets contain certain toxic substances, or in other words are not “pure”. According to Daan van der Gouwe, a Dutch researcher at the Trimbos Institute, legalization would allow the government to impose heavy regulations to ensure that the tablets would actually contain what it is supposed to leading to an increased purity. In addition he also mentions that it would take away a large part of the criminal world which is currently behind the production of XTC. At the same time it would allow the government to give better advice on the usage in a similar way this is currently done in pharmacies when handing out medicines.

Now in light of all these easily and freely available facts you are probably wondering how it can be that XTC still has not been legalized. The reason for this can be found within the political world of the Western society. When asked about the topic of drugs regulation by a news reporter the Dutch minister of Justice Aard van Steur for instance said that we could not move forward with any sort of legalization because agreements with other countries did not allow us to. This shows the same problem that led to making XTC illegal in the first place, international influence based on wrongly presented facts.

It is sad to see that the once so liberal Dutch mindset has become muddled by the influences of international relations. Even with current legalization process of weed in the United States it seems like any sort of legalization is far away in the current political climate. This means that carrying more than one XTC pill will still be illegal, and well-functioning people like John will still be labeled as criminals.


*John’s name was changed to ensure anonymity.


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