Dutch government wants to ban laughing gas
The Dutch government has put into motion plans to ban the sale of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, for recreational use. This follows a huge increase in its use among young people and the impact it can have on them.
Nitrous Oxide to be listed as a Class B drug
The Dutch government is moving ahead with plans to ban the sale of nitrous oxide for recreational use. The use of laughing gas as a recreational drug has skyrocketed in recent years and has seen a growing trend in the number of reported health complaints relating to the use of the drug. Furthermore, a new report by the Coordination Point Assessment and Monitoring for new drugs (CAM) described the impact of excessive use of nitrous oxide as “average to large.”
The gas is often used to inflate a balloon, from which the user will inhale. Excessive use can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, neurological problems and numbness. The use of the drug amongst drivers has also escalated. This is particularly dangerous, as the drug seriously lowers one’s reaction time and ability to drive.
In order to limit the growing use of laughing gas, the drug will be listed as a controlled substance under the Opium Law. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has released a statement saying that the drug will be added to the “List II” classification, which also includes hashish, diazepam and qat.
State secretary for the Ministry, Paul Blokhuis, said, “we can no longer accept the risks to the health of the young people.” Users will not face criminal charges, however, possession, supplying, production and importation of the drug will be illegal. Blokhuis has stated that he thinks legislation will be ready in about nine months and will have to include an exception for “actual applications” of the gas, such as its use a painkiller or in whipped cream.
Limiting the use of nitrous oxide
Blokhuis has called on local authorities to enact bylaws that prohibit the sale of laughing gas, either on the streets or in shops. Several Dutch cities, like Utrecht and Rotterdam, have already brought in bans to curb the growing use that developed around 2015. Other cities like Arnhem and Amsterdam are considering doing so.
Reaction from government parties
Coalition parties are divided over the prohibition of laughing gas for recreational use. The CDA and ChristenUnie have expressed their inclination towards the prohibition, however, the VVD and D66 are not so happy.
The Democrats want a more realistic approach instead of a blanket ban on the drug, believing that tackling the problems caused by users of laughing gas is a more prudent measure. The VVD considers the listing of nitrous oxide under the Opium Act an exaggerated measure, with MP Sophie Hermans saying, “it feels like shooting a mosquito with a cannon.”
The CDA and ChristenUnie are happy with the ban, citing the health risks, pollution to the environment and the growing use of the drug in traffic, which poses serious risks. However, the VVD and D66 argue that laughing gas is already banned in traffic and more practical solutions need to be implemented.