Sex, drugs and Amsterdam

By Laura Hancq
September 1, 2010

Laura Hancq

“Peace, Love and Amsterdam” reads a popular women’s T-shirt. With about eight prisons being shut down in the Netherlands because of lack of inmates, many would agree that this motto holds true.

The United States has the largest amount of documented incarcerations in the world. Many researchers, critics and citizens claim that the United States should be ashamed of this statistic. Instead of blaming the criminals, people from all over the world blame the too-strict American law. What happened to the days of world government officials looking to American government as the paramount?

Well, it all depends on the way you look at the issue. Yes, many prisons are closing in the Netherlands and yes, many prisons in the United States are overflowing. But does a lesser amount of inmates mean a safer society? After all, the point of a prison is to provide a place to keep criminals from hurting others while they repay their debt to society and can hopefully be released as better citizens.

So does the fact that the Netherlands has to close prisons mean their society is overall better and safer than ours? Is everyone walking the streets of Amsterdam as a lover, not a fighter? That would be unrealistic. There is obviously a direct correlation between the small amount of laws and the small amount of prisoners in the Netherlands. After all, an individual can only be punished for a law they have broken. If that law does not exist, they are not guilty.

As ESPN is “the worldwide leader of sports,” Amsterdam is the worldwide leader of sex and drugs. In Philadelphia, on a typical Sunday night in Oct., friends may pile into a local bar, get a round of beers and watch the Eagles. In Amsterdam, anyone can go into what they call a “coffee shop,” order up to 5 grams of marijuana and watch their favorite prostitutes get ready for a day’s work. Of course, both the drugs and prostitution are legal. At least for now.

“Peace, Love, and Amsterdam” aside, it is much more dangerous to live in a society where this behavior is typical and legal. Even though the coffee shops are allowed to sell marijuana, they have become places for underground drug trafficking. That never ends well.

Would we want our children growing up in a society where they could walk into a store and buy enough marijuana to stay high for about a week? How about them walking home from school on streets lined with prostitutes? Most parents would not want this for their child.

Obviously, American prisons are more crowded but at the same time they are crowded because we have laws that protect us from dealing with those situations. Sure, some American drug users might wish the United States could emulate the freedom to smoke whatever, whenever and wherever they’d like. However, recent news about Amsterdam leads citizens of other countries to believe that they are definitely better in a society that has drug laws in place. Dutch officials may actually take a second glance at their society and shockingly revert back to the days of looking to American law for guidance.

Most prisoners in the United States have not been locked away for drugs and drugs alone. In the Netherlands, cocaine and heroin usage is at an all-time high. Hard drugs lead to harder crime. Murder, violence, abuse and stealing, along with dropping out of school and losing a job are all common with the usage of harder drugs.

When a society does not outlaw the gateway drugs, the harder drugs follow,and hard drugs do not better a society. The Dutch may be proud of their low prison rate for now but they are not going to be proud of the amount of heroin and cocaine users that develop in the young generation.

Just about every country in the world struggles when it comes to creating drug laws. It is a constant battle on how much marijuana is legal and if it has positive or negative effects. There is no perfect answer. Drugs are part of this world and they are never going to go away, whether it is legal to possess a certain amount or not.

The Netherlands has already stated that the 5 grams sold in coffee shops may be too dangerous and that 3 grams should be the new standard. It sounds like the Dutch officials may start to further examine all of their relaxed policies. That’s not to say that their prisons may start to fill back up soon.But do not be surprised if “Peace, Love, and Amsterdam” does not last forever.

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Laura Hancq

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