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 by persons aged 18 years or older is not a criminal offence in the Netherlands. But to prevent nuisance, municipal authorities may include a provision in their general municipal bye-laws prohibiting drug use in designated areas. If you use soft 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, it will be assumed that there is no question of any professional trade or business being conducted.

This situation is treated in the same way as one in which only a small quantity of cannabis is present, intended for personal consumption. If plants are discovered, the grower will be required to relinquish them and, in most cases,  will not be prosecuted.

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, selling or dealing in soft and hard drugs

Possession of soft drugs is a criminal offence in the Netherlands, but in practice, small quantities for personal consumption are permitted (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 purchase or possess soft drugs.

It is against the law to possess, sell, produce or deal in hard drugs at any time. If you are in possession of hard drugs, deal in 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).