Cannabis is the most widely produced and consumed illicit substance globally. A significant number of states have long engaged in soft defection from the UN drug control regime in relation to tolerant policies on the personal possession, cultivation and use of cannabis. Recently, there has been growing debate within political circles on the benefits of regulated cannabis markets. This has been driven by a number of factors, including the continuing illegality of supply, the associated and often violent involvement of criminal elements and the use of finite criminal justice resources. In this section you will find an overview of our most recent blogs on the issue.
Alle 25 Nederlandse burgemeesters die verzoeken hadden ingediend om te experimenteren met gereguleerde of gedoogde aanvoer van cannabis naar de coffeeshops, kregen als Kerst cadeau van minister Opstelten van Veiligheid en Justitie (VenJ) te horen: “nee, nee en nog eens nee”. En in zijn brief aan de Tweede Kamer klinkt tussen de regels door “en hou nou toch eens op met zeuren want dat gaat echt niet gebeuren”.
Cannabis is the world’s most widely used illicit drug. But for how much longer? In a short space of time we have moved from absolute global prohibition of the drug, with the emergence of legalised and regulated production and retail not in just one nation (Uruguay) but also, surprisingly, in two US states (Colorado and Washington). Do these and other new permissive models in Spain and Belgium, for example, point to a tipping point in the debate? Could cannabis step out of the shadows and join the ranks of alcohol and tobacco, the world’s most popular legal and regulated drugs?
Between 78% and 91% of marijuana grown in the Netherlands is exported, according to new justice ministry research. This makes it pointless to regulate marijuana production for sale in licenced cannabis cafes within the Netherlands because illegal growing will continue, Justice minister Opstelten said in a briefing to Parliament. (See for a critical view: The 80% myth revisited)
Ministers should sanction experiments to legally grow marijuana under licence and the city should make preparations to do so, according to a majority of Amsterdam city councillors. All VVD councillors in the city back the move. The VVD's position in Amsterdam is notable because VVD justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said repeatedly he does not favour regulated production and refused to sanction experiments. Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament came a step nearer to approving legislation which will make people who have helped illegal marijuana growers guilty of a criminal act. (See also: Coffeeshops want say in Amsterdam marijuana production)
In a manifesto, mayors of cities including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht argue that the current laws allowing the sale but banning the cultivation of marijuana mean the nation’s cannabis cafés have to turn to illegal gangs for their supply, encouraging organised crime and wasting valuable police time dismantling unlawful plantations.
In total, 35 local authorities have signed a manifesto calling on the government to sanction official experiments with legal marijuana production. The council leaders argue regulated growing would end the grey area between semi-legalised sales in cannabis cafes and illegal supply by criminal gangs. The signatories include the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht and Groningen. 'The current situation is unsustainable,' said Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.
Labour senators are refusing to cooperate with the Dutch government's tough line on marijuana and want to sanction regulated production trials. Senator Guusje ter Horst told television show Nieuwsuur that the entire soft drugs strategy needs to be overhauled. In particular, efforts need to be made to remove marijuana from organised crime. Justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said he will not give in to pressure to allow controlled marijuana growing, despite calls for change from dozens of mayors.
Local councils in the Netherlands do have the power to ban people who do not live in their area from visiting cannabis cafes, the Council of State ruled. Preventing drugs tourism and combating organised crime are legitimate aims to allow selection on the basis of nationality, the country's highest legal body said. 'The residence criterion is a proportionate measure for combating drugs tourism and this legitimate objective cannot be achieved by other, less radical means,’ the council said in a statement. (See also: Most Dutch councils ignore ban on marijuana sales to tourists)
The owner of the coffeeshop Checkpoint has been found not guilty of most of the charges against him by Amsterdam’s appeal court. The court said the prosecution had not proved Checkpoint had knowingly broken the rules. Checkpoint is guilty of having too much cannabis on the premises but this does not merit a prison sentence, the court said in a statement, since the authorities had encouraged the coffeeshop's growth and must have understood that it needed large volumes of drugs to meet demand. This is the second ruling this month in which judges have refused to jail coffeeshop owners for breaking guidelines.
Comment régulariser le cannabis? Lancé en 2012, un groupe interpartis a élaboré un projet rendu public à la fin de 2013. Celui-ci pose les bases d’une distribution et d’une consommation contrôlées, car «il est évident que le système actuel fondé sur la répression a échoué», explique Arnaud Moreillon (PS). Six mois plus tard, les délégués remanient leurs concepts sur la base des retours enregistrés, notamment auprès des partis, de professionnels de la sécurité et de la santé, ainsi que diverses villes suisses. Les délégués ont décidé d’exclure les mineurs de toute distribution légale, le point le plus controversé du projet d’origine.
Misunderstandings and misreporting of actual and proposed changes to Dutch cannabis policy in 2011 have led some opponents of cannabis reform to suggest the country is retreating from its longstanding and pragmatic policy of tolerating the possession, use and sale of cannabis. This is not the case. In reality, most of the more regressive measures have either not been implemented, have been subsequently abandoned, or have had only marginal impacts.
A Dutch court refused to punish two cannabis growers, criticising a government policy that criminalises production while allowing its sale in coffee shops. In its judgment, the court found the suspects guilty but "no punishment will be applied". "Given that the sale of soft drugs in coffee shops is tolerated, this means that these coffee shops must supply themselves and so cultivation must be done to satisfy these demands," the court said. "The law does not state how this supply should be done." The ruling is groundbreaking; it might open up the back door of the coffeeshops. (See also: No jail or fines for 'idealistic' marijuana growing couple)
Retail marijuana sales for adults are now legal (at least at the state level) in Colorado and Washington. Next month, voters in Alaska and Oregon may decide to follow suit. It is nearly certain that marijuana legalization will make it onto the California ballot in 2016, during a presidential election season that will generate enormous interest among young voters. Robert MacCoun looks at options for designing a marijuana proposal.
The Dutch government's cannabis policy has created a monster whose tentacles are spreading throughout the country, according to Paul Depla the mayor of Heerlen. Depla, one of 35 mayors who want production of marijuana to be legalised, said that government policy is making it far too easy for people to become criminals. 'Under the current policy, all you need is an attic and you can start growing marijuana,' Depla said. 'This has created a monster with tentacles that reach everywhere.'
The Netherlands, the world pioneer in pot liberalization, has recently taken a harder line toward marijuana, with mixed results seen particularly in border towns such as Maastricht. Maastricht's street dealers are back, local residents complain. And the reason is a crackdown on coffee-shops triggered by another problem: Pot tourists who crossed the border to visit the cafes and made a nuisance of themselves.
Despite efforts to clamp down on marijuana plantations, growers in the southern province of Limburg turn over some €240m a year, according to calculations by local paper De Limburger. Last year the police dismantled 599 plantations in the province. Using the police estimate of finding one in three, this would mean there are 1,800 plantations in the province. (See also: One of Tilburg's biggest industries is marijuana)
Copenhagen city officials have tried three times to legalize cannabis within the city. All three times, the answer from the national government has been a resounding no. Nevertheless, the prominent marijuana activist Khodr ‘Cutter’ Mehrisays it is only a matter of time until cannabis is legalized not only in the capital, but throughout all of Denmark. “By 2020, you’re going to [be able to] come by my coffee shop and buy a pound of weed,” he said.
Tourists are still able to buy marijuana in 85% of the Netherlands' cannabis cafes despite the national ban on selling soft drugs to non-residents, according to Tilburg University researcher Nicole Maalsté. Most local authorities have incorporated the ban into their local bylaws but do nothing to enforce it. However, non-residents are excluded from coffee shops in 23 of the 103 local council areas with licenced cannabis cafes. These are mainly in the southern regions.