After an only-in-the-Netherlands legal reverse, the city of Amsterdam will likely have to stub out the "no toking" signs it introduced in a crackdown on marijuana-smoking youth. The Dutch government's top legal adviser ruled that the city had no right to establish official zones where smoking weed is banned, since it's already theoretically illegal in the Netherlands. In practice, possession of small amounts of the drug is allowed, and it is sold openly in designated shops.
Na een lange periode van pragmatisme en gedurfde vernieuwingen van het drugsbeleid, waarmee Nederland ook internationaal een pioniersrol innam, is er – zoals de Commissie Van de Donk constateerde – al jarenlang sprake van beleidsverwaarlozing. Die feitelijke stilstand dreigt met de huidige kabinetsplannen om te slaan naar achteruitgang. Er zijn een aantal goede redenen om daarover ernstig bezorgd te zijn, niet alleen ten behoeve van de verworvenheden hier in Nederland, maar ook bezien vanuit recente internationale ontwikkelingen.
Under legislation spearheaded by the conservative government, only Dutch residents will be allowed to enter cannabis-selling coffeeshops. The Dutch government announced on Friday, 27 May, that it will push ahead with plans requiring those purchasing marijuana in the country’s coffeeshops to first obtain an official pass — a move designed to curtail tourists from buying the drug. The announcement hit the international headlines.
New legislation to ban non-Dutch residents from cannabis-selling coffee shops in southern Netherlands should be enforced no later than May 1 next year. "The law will be amended on January 1, but there will be a kind of grace period until May 1," Justice ministry spokeswoman Charlotte Menten told AFP. The centre-right government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has since September 2010 been weighing a "cannabis card", reserved for residents only and obligatory when visiting one of the country's 670 licensed coffee shops.
In 1976 the Netherlands adopted a formal written policy of non-enforcement for violations involving possession or sale of up to 30 g of cannabis. The ‘gateway theory’ has long been seen as an argument for being tough on cannabis, but interestingly, the Dutch saw that concept as a rationale for allowing retail outlets to sell small quantities. Rather than seeing an inexorable psychopharmacological link between marijuana and hard drugs, the Dutch hypothesized that the gateway mechanism reflected social and economic networks, so that separating the markets would keep cannabis users out of contact with hard-drug users and sellers.
The municipality of the Dutch city of Utrecht recently announced two scientific experiments on cannabis policy. One experiment will be to set up a closed club model for adult recreational cannabis users. Cannabis smokers will grow their own marijuana in a cooperative, a move which would go against the government's drive to discourage coffee shops. The other experiment concerns treatment for people who are vulnerable to psychotic disorders.
The Netherlands is embarking on a crusade against its multi-billion-euro marijuana industry, with significant implications both for its economy and its famously liberal approach to life. A measure expected to be passed in parliament by the end of this year will have coffee shops operate as members-only clubs, meaning that only local residents will be eligible to register for "weed passes," effectively barring foreigners from buying soft drugs.
Foreign visitors will no longer be welcome to purchase cannabis in the coffee shops of Dutch border city Maastricht, unless they can prove that they are from the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany. All other clients have to return to the illegal circuit in their own country, which will create problems in those countries, according Marc Josemans, chairman of the association of Maastricht coffee shops. "It's also partly the governments' fault in these countries. Never did the Belgian, French, German or Italian, for example, governments take their responsibilities by creating a system like we did in Holland - a safe system where people can buy their cannabis products without being approached for hard drugs and without being contacted by criminals."
Accessibility has made most Dutch indifferent to smoking weed, and ironically, the Netherlands has one of Europe's lowest rates of cannabis usage. A coalition government, with minority parties wielding disproportional power have targeted coffee shops for reform. While they won't eradicate the tolerance policy, they have proposed a restrictive reform called the Weed Pass, which aims to make coffee shops work on a membership system.
In a rolling process, Dutch "coffee shops", where cannabis is freely sold for private consumption, could soon become closed clubs. New government rules may force some 660 coffee shops that now sell cannabis over the counter to become members-only clubs with strict registration procedures, accessible only to Dutch residents. The government says the new policy is a bid to curb the "nuisance" of drug tourists and to fight organised crime.
The Netherlands plans to ban foreign visitors from pot shops in a move that opponents have labeled "tourism suicide." The Dutch government is trying to stop drug tourism in the country, according to a recent announcement. Under the plan, the "coffee shops" that sell marijuana will become private clubs limited to adult Dutch citizens who have to show proof of ID and become a member to buy marijuana.
Coffee shops in the Dutch city of Maastricht have banned foreign tourists, except those from Germany and Belgium, from entering their premises. "A number of people will leave disappointed, and we are not very proud of refusing entry to visitors who have come to our shops for the last 28 years and never caused a problem," said Marc Josemans, president of the Society of United Coffeeshops and owner of the Easy Going coffee shop. "The question now will be if they instead buy from the illegal drug runners here or if they buy illegally in their own countries."
A Dutch city has lost income worth £26 million a year to its economy after banning French drug tourists from buying marijuana in legal cannabis cafés. The reduction in turnover in the popular "coffee shops", where cannabis can legally be purchased and smoked, is equivalent to the loss of 345 full-time jobs. As from October 1 this year the city's cannabis cafés have only been allowed to serve Dutch, Belgian and German customers in a bid to drive away millions of French drug tourists. The Association of Licensed Maastricht Coffee Shops has warned that cannabis users are being driven onto the streets, where marijuana smoking is a criminal offence, after getting Dutch people to buy drugs for them.
A committee has now been established to determine the best way to legalise the sale of hashish, with special stores owned by the council presenting itself as the preferred candidate. The sale, consumption and cultivation of marijuana is illegal in Denmark, all of which can be punished with warnings, fines or jail time. Despite this there is a strong black market for the drug generating 1.5 billion kroner a year and controlled entirely by criminal gangs.
Dutch Minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten has announced an official ban on non-residents from coffee shops not just in Maastricht, but in the nearby cities of Tilburg and Eindhoven as well, beginning January 1, 2012. Dutch residents will need carry a “weed pass” to enter. Dutch authorities say the rest of the country will follow a year later. It’s possible that a broader ban will never come to pass, because Amsterdam is too politically powerful for any elected official to take a stance against it.
The conservative Dutch government said it is delaying plans to ban tourists from buying marijuana until at least May 2012, though it still intends to curtail the country’s famed tolerance policy. The Cabinet wants to introduce a “weed pass” system that will allow only legal residents of the Netherlands to buy marijuana. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said a test rollout in southern cities planned for January will now be delayed until May because of practical difficulties.
A new study, What Can We Learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop System?, published in the journal Addiction earlier this month challenged the United States' "provincial" drug policy, especially as it relates to youth. The study compared cannabis use among US teens to newly available data on usage rates in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. The results: The Dutch have about 700 adults-only clubs that sell 50 to 150 metric tons of cannabis per year, yet Dutch teens report lower levels of weed usage than youth in the United States.
The Dutch government has said it will move to classify high-potency cannabis alongside hard drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, the latest step in the country's ongoing reversal of its liberal policies. The decision means most of the cannabis now sold in Dutch coffee shops would have to be replaced by milder variants. But sceptics said the move would be difficult to enforce, and that it could simply lead many users to smoke more of the less potent weed.
Legalising pot, we wrote in this space back in July 2009, would have two obvious benefits: generating revenue and dragging a shady business out into the light. Nearly three years later those arguments remain stronger than ever – the state is running at a deficit and the flare-ups between the gangsters that deal the stuff have become routine. Unfortunately, despite the change in government, the message coming from parliament also remains the same: no.
Marijuana could soon be legalised in Copenhagen, after the city voted overwhelmingly in favour of a scheme that would see the drug sold through a network of state-run shops and cafes. The scheme, if approved by the Danish parliament at the start of next year, could make the city the first to fully legalise, rather than simply tolerate, marijuana consumption. "We are thinking of perhaps 30 to 40 public sales houses, where the people aren't interested in selling you more, they're interested in you," said Mikkel Warming, the Mayor in charge of Social Affairs at Copenhagen City Council