Legalising cocaine is “an option that people need to dare to consider,” according to the mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever (N-VA).
De Wever, whose port city is one of the European continent’s major entry points for illegal drugs including cocaine, was interviewed by the authors of a new Dutch book, Nederland, Drugsland, published today.
The book, by Volkskrant journalist Jan Tromp and Pieter Tops, a lecturer at Leiden university and at the Dutch police academy, looks at the shadowy side of the drugs trade, and suggests ways it may be tackled.
In the book, De Volkskrant reports, De Wever – whose N-VA is the main opposition party in the federal parliament and the largest party in the Flemish government – says he has given up on the illusion that the war against drugs can be won.
“The battle against alcohol and nicotine has also been abandoned,” he says. “Those products are legalised. We accept the social consequences.”
He makes it clear, the paper reports, that it would be “horrific” for other substances to follow the same path.
“But it is of course a solution. I cannot deny that. The only thing I would plead for then is: do it completely, don't do it half-heartedly. Because then you give the criminal-capitalist system a legal back door. Experience shows that criminals only use semi-legal solutions to get stronger.”
De Wever has some experience of the problem. In 2017 he announced a plan for the city services to work more closely on a new repressive drugs policy. The plan was trailed as a test of whether the city could cope with a problem that has local, national and international aspects.
However an evaluation carried out by the university of Ghent suggested that the plan showed few signs of life.
“If there is less good will to cooperate, there is always a legal wall to hide behind,” he said, responding to allegations in the evaluation that the city services taking part had trouble cooperating with each other.
“I have long realised that I did something to myself by saying No, I am going to take the drugs problem on myself, because otherwise the a part of the city will be confronted more and more and the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to get a grip again. But I have lost any illusion that day will ever come.”
The Brussels Times