Am I committing a criminal offence if I possess, produce or deal in drugs?
It is a criminal offence in the Netherlands to possess, produce or deal in drugs. This applies to soft drugs as well as hard drugs.
The use of drugs
The use of drugs by persons aged 18 years or older is not a criminal offence in the Netherlands. But to prevent nuisance, municipal authorities can include a provision in their general municipal bye-laws prohibiting drug use in designated areas. If you use drugs in one of these designated areas, you may be arrested or ordered to pay a fine.
Growing cannabis or marijuana plants at home
It is not permitted to grow cannabis or marijuana plants at home or anywhere else. If no more than 5 plants are present, the Public Prosecution Service will assume that there is no professional trade or business being conducted. It treats this situation in the same way as one in which only a small quantity of cannabis for personal use is present. If 5 or fewer plants are discovered, the grower will be required to relinquish them and, in most cases, will not be prosecuted. The Public Prosecution Service will prosecute individuals for growing more than 5 plants.
The sale of soft drugs in coffee shops
Businesses known as ‘coffee shops’ in the Netherlands are cafés that do not serve alcohol, and where customers can purchase and consume soft drugs. Although the sale of soft drugs is a criminal offence, coffee shops selling small quantities of soft drugs will not be prosecuted. However, they must comply with a number of conditions.
Prosecution for possessing and selling or producing soft drugs
Possession of soft drugs is a criminal offence in the Netherlands. In practice, the possession of small quantities for personal consumption is tolerated (under the policy of toleration). If you are in possession of no more than 5 grams of cannabis (marijuana or hash) or no more than 5 cannabis plants, the police will seize the drugs and the plants and, as a rule, you will not be prosecuted. If you have more than 5 grams of cannabis or more than 5 cannabis plants in your possession, you will be prosecuted.
The policy of toleration does not apply to people under the age of 18. It is against the law for minors to possess or purchase soft drugs.
The sale of small quantities of cannabis (hash and marijuana) in coffee shops is tolerated, if coffee shops stick to the prescribed rules. The sale of soft drugs outside coffee shops is not tolerated and may be prosecuted.
Prosecution for possessing, selling or producing hard drugs
It is against the law to possess, sell or produce hard drugs at any time. If you are in possession of hard drugs, or sell them or produce them, you may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment and/or the payment of a fine.
Sentences for substances on Schedule I (hard drugs) of the Opium Act are heavier than for those on Schedule II (soft drugs).