Netherlands Country Drug Report 2019

Drug markets

The Netherlands is known to be a country of domestic production (and export) of cannabis and synthetic drugs and a transit country for cocaine and heroin. Cannabis cultivation occurs mainly indoors, and only a small number of open-air sites have been dismantled and reported. In 2017, almost 4 700 cannabis plantations were dismantled, fewer than in 2016. Domestically cultivated cannabis and synthetic drugs produced in the Netherlands are exported to foreign markets.

The number of synthetic drug production labs reported to be dismantled has increased in recent years, and a similar trend has occurred with regard to 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.

In 2017, several production facilities for heroin were dismantled. The production of heroin in the Netherlands is a new phenomenon. 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 darknet increasing, a considerable number of vendors reportedly operate from the Netherlands.

Tackling and counteracting organised crime groups involved in the production and trafficking of ‘established’ illicit drugs is the key priority in the Netherlands. Specialised police units deal with investigative and enforcement activities related to cannabis cultivation and the production of synthetic drugs, 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 neighbouring countries.

Data on the purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown in the ‘Key statistics’ section.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.

Additional note for the Netherlands: Data on number and quantity of seizures do not include all relevant law enforcement units and should be considered partial, minimum figures. Data for amphetamines, heroin and MDMA include seizures by Dutch Customs and the Royal Military Police, but do not include seizures by national or regional police forces. Cocaine seizures represent the majority of large seizures, comprising data from Dutch Customs (including Rotterdam and Vlissingen harbours), the Royal Military Police and the National Police Force, but regional police force data are not included. Cannabis data are limited to police seizures of plants, cuttings and tops seized during dismantlement of cultivation sites. Data on precursors (scheduled and non-scheduled substances) are based exclusively on reports of suspicious transactions of such substances to the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Unit.