Saba’s request for an assessment of the possibilities to harmonise the soft drugs policy and regulations in the Caribbean Netherlands has been denied.
The Island Council of Saba in November 2021 had asked the minister of Justice and Security to arrange an assessment of the harmonisation of the soft drugs (cannabis) policy and regulations in the Caribbean Netherlands.
A harmonisation of this policy and legislation with the Netherlands would allow Saba to implement a tolerance policy where it concerns the use of cannabis, just as in the Netherlands.
In the November 2021 letter, Saba’s Island Council explained that the opium law for the Caribbean Netherlands, the Opium Act BES, was an old law dating back to the 1960s which was never modernised, neither after Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became part of the Netherlands in 2010.
This outdated law forms the basis of several prosecution and criminal guidelines, and results in considerably higher penalties for soft drugs on the three islands compared to the Netherlands. The law leaves no room for tolerance policy with regard to the cultivation and sale of hemp and weed.
Saba residents, under the impression that when they became part of the Netherlands, they too would enjoy more relaxed rules with regard to hemp and weed, started to grow hemp plants at home. But they were mistaken: hemp plants are confiscated and people are prosecuted.
The Island Council asked for three parts to be part of the assessment: to hold round table discussions with the community, to arrange meetings with the Island Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, and to interview stakeholders such as police, the Prosecutor’s Office, the island governors and healthcare entities.
Hearing the call of Saba’s Island Council, the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament asked the minister of Justice and Security to respond. Finally on December 19, 2022, the minister did.
In a letter to Saba’s Island Council, a copy of which was sent to the Second Chamber, Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius explained that representatives of her ministry met with the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN, the Prosecutor’s Office and a representative of the public entity Saba on September 15, 2022.
During this meeting, it was indicated that within the framework of the current Opium Act it was, in principle, possible to implement a tolerance policy in Saba and to give content to the harmonisation of the soft drugs policy.
But in follow-up talks with justice partners of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba afterwards, a negative advice was given about a possible tolerance policy. The minister clarified that the support of Bonaire and St. Eustatius was an important condition to carry out an assessment of the possibilities to harmonise the soft drugs policy in the Caribbean Netherlands.
“Based on the three-party consultations, I cannot conclude other than that the support for a tolerance policy is lacking and that a complete harmonisation is thus not desired,” stated Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, who confirmed that for this reason there would be no further assessment.
The minister clarified that in the Netherlands too it was not allowed to grow cannabis plants at home, and that this was prohibited based on the Dutch Opium Act. A person is usually not prosecuted when authorities find fewer than five plants at home, but these plants can be confiscated. If a person grows more than five cannabis plants at home, he or she is usually prosecuted in the Netherlands.
The Daily Herald.