Dries van Agt receives the Koos Zwart Award. The former Prime Minister has been singled out for his key role in the Dutch policy on drugs. It was he who, in 1976, introduced the policy of cannabis tolerance and paved the way for the first Coffee Shops.
The Netherlands is famous for being open-minded and pragmatic. Wherever there is a problem, there must be a solution.
One was urgently needed in the 1970s. The drug scene had shed the happy hippie image of the 1960s. This had been replaced by hard drugs, especially heroin. A public drug scene, social misery and criminal supply lines were the result. Politicians reacted with a totally inflexible zero tolerance policy. With zero success.
But Dries van Agt had an idea. By separating soft and hard drugs, the police would be less overloaded and the scene would be more relaxed.
Possession of and dealing in cannabis remained a crime, but was tolerated within legally defined guidelines (“policy of tolerance”). In the Coffee Shops, customers could buy and consume cannabis. Even if the problems did not vanish overnight, Dries van Agt’s tolerance policy is regarded today as a successful model.