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Dutch Minister calls for cut in festivals to combat drug usage

The Netherlands’ Justice Minister has called for a cut in the number of music festivals in a bid to reduce hard drug use in the country.

Ferdinand Grapperhaus, in an interview with the De Telegraaf newspaper, cited the prevalence of music events as a significant factor in a rise in the use of hard drugs and associated crime in the country.

Grapperhaus explained that the more than 1,000 events in the Netherlands were offering an opportunity for drug dealers to build their businesses, with police unable to control the flow.

“My warning to pill users and coke users – realise that you are helping a huge criminal industry and that it is on the head of ordinary people,” he told De Telegraaf.

“The problem is: we have 1,100 festivals in the Netherlands. Do we have to deploy our police to that end?”

When asked if there should be fewer festivals, he responded: “Yes, I think you should be critical together and say: can we all handle this?”

Grapperhaus’ comments have been dismissed by the Dutch live music industry.

VVEM, the trade association for organisers, said festivals arrange and pay for security at events and added that often those caught in possession of drugs were not prosecuted by the authorities when notified.

“The VVEM thinks it is extremely disturbing that a healthy and hard-working sector is put away in this way by the minister as a source for social and criminal problems,” it said in a statement.

“The minister therefore considers the festivals as a source or cause of drug nuisance and crime to be a strange conclusion.

“Drug use is a social problem that an event site can come from outside the gates, not the other way around. The actual source is the large number of drug laboratories in the country. Apparently there is a focus on that, but apparently little happens in the area of ​​combating it.

“The trade association believes that the minister should take his responsibility in this regard and tackle this problem at the source, not fight the symptoms with symbol politics.”

Research published earlier this year shows the number of festivals has actually fallen in recent years.

The Hogeschool van Amsterdam into the festival landscape in the Netherlands for the annual Festival Atlas said the number of festivals fell from 1,155  in 2015 to 1,029 in 2018. In 2015 there were 184 new music festivals, in 2018 there were 88.

The report said: “The decrease is clearly visible in Amsterdam, where the number of music festivals decreased by a quarter in 2018 compared to 2016. Utrecht and Eindhoven also show such a decrease (17 and 16 per cent respectively).”