Learning from the Netherlands: Colorado and Washington Lay Out Rules for Legal Toking

If you want to get stoned legally — at least under state law— in Washington or Colorado next year, you’ll have to do it at home.

Amsterdam-style “coffee shops”— where the Dutch typically smoke weed— were banned by both states in their draft regulations released last week. But that doesn’t mean that the Dutch model, which separates marijuana from other illegal drugs, won’t still provide lessons for what these states can expect when their new laws on recreational toking take effect next year.

While the Netherlands has never formally legalized any type of sales or growing, since 1976, it has allowed marijuana “coffee shops” to sell small amounts that can be smoked on the premises, as long as no sales of other drugs or public nuisance occurred. And, according to a report from the Open Society Foundation, to be released next week, the policy has been highly successful. Marijuana consumption in Holland is about average for Europe — and far less than that in the U.S.

In 2011, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 23% of Dutch people aged 15 to 64 had ever tried marijuana and 7% had used it recently. In the U.S., those rates are 42% and 24%— nearly double Holland’s for lifetime use and more than triple for recent use.


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