In the Netherlands a significant increase in demand for drugs has generally occurred after their prohibition. Domestic demand was an important impetus for the development of the supply side, but the geographical location of the Netherlands, a hub in the shipping and transport routes to Europe and around the world, facilitated the development of an illegal trade to other countries as well. Geography and the availability of transport were two crucial factors in the successful development of narcotics smuggling. The ability to utilize them was, however, dependent on social and cultural factors. Despite its lack of formal organization, narcotics smuggling on a larger scale was not the sole activity of lone individuals, but needed to be embedded in social and cultural environments. Historical research into the Dutch experience leads us to question the myths that infuse today’s drug debates and drug policies. The first of these myths is that of ‘organized crime’. The Dutch example demonstrates that the success of the illegal drug trade is based on the organizational model of criminal anarchy, rather than that of drug kingpins controlling vertical organizations. The ways of operation of smugglers and illegal drug producers were organized in fluid connecting networks. A second myth that the historical analysis of the Dutch experience dismantles is that the drug trade actually drives illegal drug consumption. The markets show themselves instead as demand-driven. Criminality only moves in when this demand can no longer be supplied by legal means. Legislation fuels criminal activity, and to be successful this takes the form of criminal anarchy.
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