“Listen more to users”

“When creating drug policy, the voice of drug users should be listened to more,” said Gemma Blok, professor of the history of mental health and culture, at the National Drug Congress 2024. “Previously, the Netherlands had a pioneering role, but we are now being overtaken on all fronts. Where initially a humane and pragmatic approach was central, with help and support instead of criminalization, the emphasis of the current policy is on preventing the normalization of drugs. Within the current policy, the users themselves aren’t listened to enough. The voice of the user should be heard more.”

The National Drug Congress was organized by ZonMw in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport. Besides Gemma Blok, speakers included Margriet van Laar from the Trimbos Institute and criminology professor Emile Kolthoff, and there were several parallel sessions. It was striking that there was also a lot of talk about the topic that had been the theme of a conference initiated by Mayor Femke Halsema a few days earlier: “Do we want to regulate, and if so, how?” This seems to indicate that even at this kind of conference, the drug debate is finally heading in the right direction again.