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Drug Testing News
U.S. Says Dutch Need
to Fight Ecstasy
Fri Sep 26 2003
By ANTHONY DEUTSCH, Associated Press Writer
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Faced with massive smuggling of
Ecstasy, a U.S. official said Friday the Dutch government
needs to give authorities the power to use wiretaps and
infiltrate criminal gangs to crack down on its production.
The Dutch government "isn't serious enough" about closing down
laboratories that ship tons of synthetic drugs to the United
States, said John Walters, director of the White House Office
of National Drug Control Policy. Walters, attending a
conference in Rome, spoke by telephone with The Associated
The Netherlands is seen as the largest source of Ecstasy in
the United States and the rest of the world.
Speaking to reporters in Rome on Friday, Walters also took
European countries to task for their lax punishment of
marijuana use, calling their policies "fundamentally
Some officials in Europe are "very vocal about their view that
it's an appropriate policy to be more free about allowing drug
use," said Walters. This is "a fundamentally irrational health
policy and social policy," he said, insisting that they
created a new generation of drug addicts.
Many European countries follow a policy of therapy instead of
punishment for possession of drugs for personal use, with
prison a last resort for drug users. Dutch authorities have
decriminalized marijuana and concentrated police efforts on
The Dutch insist they have pulled out all the stops against
Ecstacy. But Walters' comments reflect U.S. frustration at the
continuing flow of synthetic drugs from the Netherlands and
Dutch reticence to employ the toughest tactics in the war on
Last year, the 230-member Synthetic Drugs Unit, set up in
1998, uncovered 43 production facilities, seized more than 6
million Ecstasy pills and confiscated enough chemicals to make
another 127 million pills.
But Walters called those figures misleading and was critical
of the Dutch for failing to give police greater authority to
move against drug gangs. The Dutch have been reluctant to
enact laws that could be seen as infringing on civil
"The reason you have more seizures and arrests is that the
business is growing faster than the containment of that
business," Walters told the AP. "We have had some improved
cooperation, especially with Dutch law enforcement, but there
simply have not been adequate steps taken by the government of
the Netherlands to control this," Walters said.
"There is a limited ability to use wiretap and informant
information that makes it harder when you have a criminal
conspiracy to enforce laws," he said.
"If the Dutch government would take this seriously and take
the steps necessary, this would change dramatically. The fact
that it hasn't is a failure to take the necessary steps and
persuade the people of the Netherlands that this is a
priority," he said.
Martin Witteveen, the lead Dutch prosecutor for synthetic-drug
crimes, said the criticism was not justified. "There has been
an enormous effort and we have seen a lot of results in the
past year," he said.
Witteveen acknowledged he has limits on using undercover
agents. "I have repeatedly said it would be useful to use
informants, but I have to work within the law."
The Netherlands, known for its liberal social attitudes,
distinguishes between "soft" drugs such as marijuana, and
"hard" drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Public heath campaigns
discourage the use of hard drugs, while the use of marijuana
has been decriminalized — though not legalized.
Research by the government's leading drug policy think tank
shows vastly lower rates of drug use in the Netherlands than
in the United States.
Walters called the Dutch drug model — which targets dealers
and producers rather than users — "not sustainable."
"There isn't the same kind of concern (in the Netherlands)
that when you make a dangerous addictive substance available
you get more use and more addiction. It is simply a matter of
not only common sense, but reality in these public areas. This
is a disease."