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Drugs in the Netherlands

If you’re new to the Netherlands, understanding the official drug policy can be confusing. Here are some key points:

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Dutch drug policy

  • Using drugs is not a crime
  • Buying and having drugs (including cannabis) is illegal, but there’s a tolerance for small amounts meant for personal use. If the police find drugs on you, they can still take it from you and you might get a criminal record depending on the officer, but it will not go to court and you won’t have to pay money or go to prison. 
  • You will not be prosecuted for having less than 5 grams of cannabis or small amounts (0,5 grams/ 1 pill) of “hard drugs”.  
  • Dealing, selling, and producing drugs are the police’s priority. 

dutch police and drugs

Dutch police are generally lenient toward people who use drugs, especially. Compared to neighboring countries. Drug use is not illegal, so you will not be arrested for use. 

  • If there’s an emergency or overdose, call 112 without fear of prosecution. According to the good Samaritan laws, police will only help you, not arrest or question you for your drug use. Be honest about your own or a friend’s drug use; this will make it easier for medical professionals to help. 
  • Using drugs in public spaces may lead to fines or being asked to leave in most Dutch cities. 
  • The police may also fine you for sleeping outside. When your fines are not paid and the amount is high enough, you may have to serve a short prison sentence.   
  • The police may assist you and direct you to available city services. People who live on the street say they usually have good experiences with the police. 

Harm reduction services

Harm reduction services in the Netherlands focus on health and social integration for drug users. 

  • These services won’t report drug use or homelessness to the police. They have a duty to care and will safeguard your privacy/identity.   
  • Harm Reduction services are free and accessible to everyone, including undocumented people or those without insurance. 
  • Some Harm Reduction services may deny you access when you aren’t formally registered. When this happens, ask them where you can go – sometimes cities have specific services for people who are undocumented. Note: access to essential harm reduction services is a human right! 
  • Services include drug consumption rooms, needle exchange, opioid substitution treatment, and drug testing. 
Photo: Mona van den Berg

Relevant services for people who live on the streets and who use drugs:  

Drug consumption rooms

  • Safe spaces to use drugs. 
  • Provides social and medical assistance. 
  • Offers clean needles and other items. 

Needle and Syringe Exchange

  • Obtain clean needles from drug consumption rooms, city health services, or pharmacies. 
  • Ask about proper disposal methods. 
  • Sharp bins are usually available at locations providing clean needles. 

Opioid Substitution Treatment (OAT)

  • Programs by city health services or addiction care centers. 
  • Can be prescribed by a general practitioner. 
  • Access may have improved, but persistence or social worker assistance may be needed. 

Drug Testing

  • Test-points across the Netherlands for anonymous drug testing. 
  • Submit a small sample and receive results within a week. 
  • Testing helps avoid contaminated drugs and provides dosing information. 
  • Recommended, especially with new dealers or untrusted batches. 
  • Here you can find a test location near you.  

For addresses of harm reduction services in your city: ask around among your friends or professionals, or search on the internet.


  • The Netherlands has day and night shelters for people living on the streets. 
  • Shelters may be full, and some services may refuse uninsured or undocumented individuals. 
  • Night shelters usually charge a fee but provide a warm meal. 
  • In winter when it is below 0°C, special winter shelters are available, including for uninsured or undocumented people. 
  • Every city is obligated to offer shelter, but many fall short of this obligation. 

useful websites and apps

Are you homeless in Amsterdam? Use the Streetlife app. Learn where you can shower, food and get clean clothes. Click here for android. Click here for Apple

Undocumented in the Netherlands? This website provides information on your rights. For example: do you have to pay for the dentist? Can you open a bank account?