The mayor of Amsterdam advocated regulating drugs like cocaine to fight drug trafficking

The stance has been criticized in particular by the mayor of Antwerp, Belgium, Bart de Wever, “a big supporter of the war on drugs,” Halsema says.

The port city has become a major gateway for cocaine into Europe in recent years.

Authorities in Rotterdam, another key city for trafficking, launched a campaign targeting users last year after they attacked another aspect of the chain, noting that each “line” or “pill” supported criminal networks.

“Are consumers criminals? I don't believe so,” says Halsema, “and criminalizing them has not had the desired effect on the other side of the Atlantic, where prisons are overcrowded and the health effects can be devastating.”

In the Netherlands, as in many countries, the debate is “emotional and moral. 'Drugs are bad for your health, drugs are bad, it's immoral to use them,'” says Meyer. “There is rarely an economic, very practical or financial discussion in this regard,” he adds.

Now Halsema has started an international debate saying the country's “conservative” government “doesn't want to talk about it”.

In late January, the mayor invited politicians from around the world to discuss how cities should control drugs.

According to a statement released after the conference, signed by the mayor of the Swiss city of Bern and the former mayor of the Colombian capital Bogotá, the idea is moving forward.

In all parts of the world, this former criminologist points out, “those who think for a moment about how it is possible to actually reduce the dominance of drug trafficking come to this conclusion.”

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“There is really no alternative,” adds the politician, who hopes to reach out to multilateral organizations such as the UN and EU to influence national authorities.

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