Dutch drug markets are extensively monitored in the long-running chemical toxicological monitor Drug Information and Monitoring System (DIMS) (drug composition) and the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) monitor (analysing cannabis from ‘coffee shops’). After a decline, the average level of THC in Dutch-grown herbal cannabis (the most popular variety of cannabis) has risen gradually since 2013. It remained at the same level in 2016 and 2017. The level of THC in imported hashish has also risen slightly in the last few years. In 2017, at 20.8 % it was more potent than Dutch-grown weed and was at the highest level since monitoring started. Dutch-grown weed contains low levels (0.3 %) of cannabidiol (CBD), which was 8.4 % in imported hashish. The average price of herbal cannabis was EUR 10.20/g and for resin EUR 9.90/g in 2017.
Most cocaine powders are cut with other substances. However, in 2016, a reduction was seen in the proportion of consumer cocaine powders that contained levamisole (an animal dewormer). Still, the purity remains high, at 69 % (percentage weight) in 2016. This was 44 % for amphetamines. In 2016, the average concentration of MDMA in ecstasy pills rose to 157 mg.
Tackling and counteracting organised crime groups involved in production and trafficking of ‘established’ illicit drugs is the key priority in the Netherlands; multidisciplinary enforcement activities primarily take place at regional level. Specialised police units and teams deal with investigative and enforcement activities related to cannabis cultivation and production of synthetic stimulants, as well as with money laundering linked to the illicit drug trade. To address international drug-related crime, the Netherlands has developed close cooperation or joint actions with all neighbouring countries.
Cannabis cultivated and synthetic drugs produced in the Netherlands are exported to foreign markets. Cannabis cultivation occurs mainly indoors, and only a small number of open-air sites have been dismantled and reported. In 2016, around 5 500 cannabis plantations were dismantled, fewer than in 2015.
The Netherlands is primarily a transit country for both heroin and cocaine. Heroin mainly originates from Afghanistan and is trafficked to the Netherlands via the Balkan route. Cocaine, originating in South America, is most commonly shipped directly from Central American countries by sea and, to a lesser extent, by air.
In recent years, drug trade over the internet has emerged as a new business model. With the amount of illicit drug trafficking on the dark net increasing, a considerable number of vendors reportedly operate from the Netherlands.
The number of production units of synthetic stimulants reported to be dismantled has increased in recent years, and a similar trend has occurred with regard to reports of storage places and dumping sites for chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs. While most of the dismantled laboratories were involved in the production of amphetamine and MDMA/ecstasy and/or the conversion of precursors for the production processes, methamphetamine and, most recently, possible new psychoactive substances production activity have also been reported, albeit on a small scale.
Data on drug seizures in the Netherlands are collected centrally by the National Police Agency. The register includes data from the regional police departments, customs, the Royal Military Police and the Synthetic Drugs Unit (part of the National Police Force). However, not all departments report their data each year, which, in conjunction with the lack of a uniform registration system, hampers data quality. The most complete reporting dates back to 2012.