The Amsterdam psychiatrist Frederik Polak has in recent decades developed into one of the most authoritative voices in the social and political debate on drug policy, in the Netherlands and far beyond. He has written and co-authored numerous articles and reports including Drugsbeheersing door Legalisatie (Drug Management through Legalisation), Thinking About Drug Law Reform: Some Political Dynamics of Medicalization, and American Criticism of Dutch Drug Policy Unfounded.
One of the most experienced and respected Dutch psychiatrists in the field of drug use, Frederik Polak worked as a psychiatrist in the drug department of the municipal health services (GGD) for thirteen years (1994-2003).
Polak is a prolific writer about drugs and drug policy and appeared at many conferences and public events throughout Europe as a highly informed yet down-to-earth speaker who clearly argues his point that drug prohibition is actually counterproductive to protecting the health of the general public. He is on the Board of Directors of Stichting Drugsbeleid (The Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation).
Polak is one of the driving forces behind the Drug Policy Foundation, the Association for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition and ENCOD, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies. Each year, Polak represents these organisations at the annual meeting of the UN drugs agency UNODC in Vienna.
Through a combination of fairness, tenacity and expertise on the topic, Polak has become a useful thorn in the side of the UNODC. He has on a number of occasions asked Director Antonio Maria Costa the following question: “Why, after more than 30 years of regulated availability to adults, is the use of cannabis in the Netherlands lower than in most other European countries and the U.S. - and not higher, as one would expect if the prohibition of illegal drugs had any effect?"
Neither Costa, nor his Russian successor, Yuri Fedotov, have ever been able or willing to give an answer to this question. Polak's conclusion: the unique Dutch cannabis policy has refuted the theory of prohibition and proofs that cannabis prohibition is unnecessary.
Polak is a popular guest and speaker at conferences and seminars on drugs and drug policy around the world. He tirelessly criticises the irrational and counterproductive "war on drugs" and advocates a rational approach, decriminalisation and harm reduction.
The national and international media also pay regular attention to Polak’s sober and authoritative contribution to the debate. He touched a nerve in the NRC Handelsblad in 2008 and his analysis has since only gained in topicality and urgency:
"The reasoning upon which the prohibition is based, that only prohibition can provide protection against the health risks of drugs, has proved a historic mistake. It is precisely the opposite: health risks make government regulation necessary. ( … ) The problem of harsh measures against coffee shops is that they strengthen the black market. The crackdown thereby increases the supply of cannabis to young people. As it is, there are already insufficient coffee shops to meet the demand of adult Dutch citizens. I believe that it will only be possible to limit young people’s access to cannabis when adults can legally buy cannabis."