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Comparing cannabis control: convergence and divergence in England & Wales and the Netherlands

Brewster, David ORCID: 2015. Comparing cannabis control: convergence and divergence in England & Wales and the Netherlands. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores the nature and extent of convergence and divergence in cannabis control in England & Wales and the Netherlands through an examination of the policy-making process. Over the past couple of decades a number of sociological theories of crime control have pointed towards converging tendencies in the growth of ‘punitiveness’ across advanced Western countries. One of the most influential accounts put forth has been David Garland’s The Culture of Control which suggests that the transition to late-modernity has brought with it new and reconstructed risks and threats, and ambivalent strategies of responding to issues of crime and security. However, despite the usefulness of such bodies of work which attempted to map the ‘master patterns’ of crime control, there is a need to empirically examine how a culture of control unfolds across different national and subnational spheres. An under-examined area of criminological research is the very nature of policy development and negotiation, with tendencies to read off policy outcomes without a deeper exploration of how such responses come into being and unfold across different national and subnational spaces. The area of drugs policy, and specifically regarding cannabis, provided an interesting focus in which to test and build upon The Culture of Control, and particularly so in England & Wales and the Netherlands who have traditionally exhibited differences in their approaches to cannabis policy. Recent policy changes regarding cannabis suggest a toughening of approaches in both jurisdictions, with the reclassification from Class C to Class B in England & Wales in 2009, and the modifications to the ‘coffeeshop’ gedoogbeleid (‘tolerance policy’) in the Netherlands in 2012/13. A thematic analysis was conducted on empirical data from ‘elite’ semi-structured interviews (n=62) as well as key policy documents. The findings suggest that there have been convergent patterns in the way in which problems and policy alternatives have been constructed and molded to fit particular political agendas which shifted policy in a more repressive direction; but there are crucial differences in institutional and political cultures which still generate significant points of divergence across and within these jurisdictions. Consequentially, although ‘contrasts in tolerance’ may not be as marked as once described before (Downes 1988), there are still key components of the policy process in the Netherlands which more readily enable resistance against overly punitive policy movements, and foster the potential for a more pragmatic approach towards cannabis control.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2023 15:44

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