The VOC (Dutch East India Company, 1602-1789) had the monopoly to trade with ‘the East’ and it was there they found opium to bring back to the homeland. About 100 years after that first trade, a special commission was formed to regulate the use of the substance. At the urging of the US, the International Opium Conference in The Hague in the early 1900’s, created regulation. The Opium Law was enacted to regulate drugs that were deemed physically harmful, or with a high addiction or abuse factor. The apparent aim: drugs could be either recreational or medically used, but not lead to any damage of mind, body or society.
Holland learned that criminalization doesn't always do the trick.
Regulate it. Tax it.
After WWII, the United States became a superpower, a world leader in restricting the use of drugs. Around that time, the empires of European countries were diminishing as they lost many of their colonies. With that, there was a sharp downturn in the opiate trade. The Opium Law became stricter and stricter, therefore the number of criminal convictions increased.
In 1970, the Dutch ‘Woodstock’, a three-day music festival called Holland Pop, is traced as the start of the famous ‘policy of tolerance’. Undercover cops tolerated the use of cannabis. The festival was a great success, except for the pouring rain.
Through this experience, Holland learned that criminalization doesn’t always do the trick. Regulate it. Tax it. Enjoy it. Although the government did not sanction that last part. All of this at a time when the soon-to-be King, a man who knew imbibing quite well, was nick named the Prince of Pilsner. (Whereas of today, people think very highly of him and hey, he is doing a great job being King.)