No tolerance policy for soft drugs on BES islands

There will be no tolerance policy for soft drugs in the Caribbean Netherlands. That is what Minister of Justice and Security YeOlgoz-Zegerius has decided.

A proposed ‘exploration’ into the harmonization of soft drug policy and regulations on the BES islands with that in the European Netherlands has been canceled because there is no support from the authorities on Bonaire, Statia, and Saba.

Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgoz-zegerius

Minister Yesilgaz-Zegerius addressed the House of Representatives:

With this letter, I respond to your request dated 9 November 2021 regarding an exploration of the harmonization of soft drug policy and regulations in the Caribbean Netherlands. You indicate that you would like the exploration to include at least:

  1. Various roundtable discussions within the community;
  2. Interviews with stakeholders such as the police, the public prosecutor’s office, employees of the office of the governor on enforcement and supervision and public order and safety, and healthcare institutions such as mental health Caribbean, the hospital, and the public health service:
  3. Discussions with the island councils of Bonaire, Saba, and Statia to see how they stand in this.

As a result of your request, a meeting took place on 15 September 2022 at the official level between employees of the Ministry of Justice and Security, the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force (KPCN), the Public Prosecution Service (OM BES), and a representative of the public entity Saba. During this meeting, it was indicated that even within the framework of the current Opium Act 1960 BES it is in principle possible to introduce a tolerance policy on Saba and thereby implement a harmonization of the soft drug policy.

The tolerance criteria as they also apply in the European Netherlands must then be included in policy rules. Subsequently, after the discussion on 15 September 2022, this topic was further discussed in the triangular consultations of the three islands.

The support on Bonaire, Saba, and St Eustatius is an important condition for the exploration. Each triangular partner (public entity Bonaire, public entity Statia, public entity Saba, KPCN, Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, and OM BES) has given a negative advice about a possible tolerance policy.

On the basis of the triangular consultations, I can only conclude that there is no support for the introduction of a tolerance policy and that full harmonization is therefore not desirable. It is therefore not reasonable for the ministry to do a further exploration or to set out an assignment for this purpose.

Incidentally, it is also not allowed or tolerated in the European Netherlands to grow cannabis at home. The cultivation of cannabis is punishable under the Opium Act. If a maximum of five plants are found by the police, then in principle no prosecution will be carried out by the Public Prosecution Service. The guidelines for the prosecution policy for the Opium Act are laid down in the Opium Act Designation of the Public Prosecution Service. However, the 5 plants found can be confiscated.

For larger quantities, the directive is that criminal action is taken. In your letter, you also refer to the bill to amend the Opium Act 1960 BES, which aims to create a power of closure for the governor, in accordance with the power that the European Dutch mayor has on the basis of Article 13b of the Opium Act. In the Opium Act 1960 BES, the relevant bill aims to create the authority for the authorities of the public entities Bonaire, Statia, and Saba to close homes, premises, or associated heirs if drugs are sold, delivered or provided in or on them, or are present for this purpose. The proposed power also covers punishable preparatory acts and has been designed in consultation with the public sector bodies.

The draft bill has been consulted and recently the advice of the Advisory Division of the Council of State has been received. This opinion is now being studied and published.

Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgoz-zegerius

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