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.
The D66 Liberal party, currently the second biggest party in The Netherlands in recent polls, is drawing up draft legislation for the regulated production of marijuana. At the moment it is illegal to grow marijuana. This means there is a grey area between the official policy of turning a blind eye towards possessing small amounts of marijuana and the supply to coffee shops. (See also: Majority of the Dutch favour cannabis legalisation)
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.
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 owner and several employees of the biggest coffee shop in the Netherlands are being prosecuted for membership of a criminal organisation. The outcome of the trial can have a huge impact on soft drugs policy in the Netherlands. If Meddy Willemsen, the owner of the mega coffee shop Checkpoint in Terneuzen, is convicted of encouraging illegal cannabis cultivation and running an organised supply chain, more proprietors of coffee shops could face prosecution as gang leaders. (See also: Owner of massive cannabis café cleared of most charges on appeal)
A Dutch city has banned foreigners from its cannabis selling coffee shops. A European court will now decide whether this is legal. The continuing struggle of Dutch border towns against drug tourism could soon take a new turn, as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) prepares to hand down a ruling regarding one of the most severe measures employed in this battle so far. The ECJ heard arguments in Josemans v. Maastricht. (See also: Court backs Dutch ruling on coffee shops)
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)
Last week, NBC’s Today Show giddily announced an exclusive: Privateer Holdings, the Seattle marijuana company long acclaimed locally for its straight, corporate image and Ivy-League-educated bosses, was launching “the first global pot brand” based on the legacy of Bob Marley. The company is likely to start selling pot overseas, says Privateer public-relations director Zack Hutson, previously a spokesperson for Starbucks. “We’re in discussions with a distributor in Israel” – a country with a federally legal medical-marijuana system. Hutson also cites Uruguay and the Netherlands as potential early markets.
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.
Barely a week after an opinion poll showed that 65% of the Dutch are in favour of regulating cannabis production just as in Uruguay, the minister of Justice and Security of The Netherlands, Ivo Opstelten, told parliament that he will not allow regulated cannabis cultivation to supply the coffeeshops in the country. Two in three large municipal councils back regulated cannabis cultivation, but the minister will probably not allow a single one of the 25 proposals to experiment with regulated cultivation that have been submitted.
There is no reliable evidence that tougher criminal sanctions deter drug use or offending. On the contrary, criminalisation worsens the health and wellbeing of drug users, increases risk behaviours, drives the spread of HIV, encourages other crime and discourages drug users from seeking treatment. A report by Australia21, Alternatives to Prohibition, subtitled Illicit drugs: how we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians, sets out the lessons learnt about the failed war on drugs from other countries, especially Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Portugal.
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.
A small Dutch city less than 20 kilometres from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport has become the hub of Europe's sales of khat, a plant chewed for its stimulant qualities, soon to be banned in the Netherlands. In a discreet warehouse tucked away in the city of Uithoorn, around a hundred Somalis and Yemenis were haggling over the latest delivery: a tonne of khat. But 15 of the European Union's 27 states and Norway have already listed khat as an illegal narcotic and the Netherlands too announced earlier this month it would ban khat.
The UK could become a hub for smuggling the herbal stimulant khat, European police and politicians have warned. The Netherlands is the latest country to outlaw the sale of the plant, which is now banned in sixteen EU member states and Norway. Khat is freely sold in the UK and observers say the UK's isolated stance could make it the main base for Europe's khat trade. The British government has commissioned a new review of khat use.
According to figures released by the French Customs, seizures of khat are soaring, up from 1.8 tonnes in 2011 to 4.5 tonnes in 2012, putting it on a par with cocaine (4.6 tonnes) but still far behind cannabis (24 tonnes). The rising interception rate does not mean consumption in France is increasing. Half of last month's haul was found in the freight zone of Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. "France is a transit country," says Sébastien Tiran, general-secretary at the CDG Customs headquarters. The Netherlands ban has driven prices in Paris sharply upwards.
Locals in Maastricht should no longer have to formally register as marijuana users to buy soft drugs from the city’s cannabis cafes, mayor Onno Hoes said in a letter to councillors. Since May 1, cannabis cafes in the south of the country have been turned into member-only clubs in an effort to keep out foreigners. Only locals, who can prove they live in the area, are allowed to sign up for membership. Hoes says the number of foreigners trying to buy soft drugs has fallen so sharply that the membership cards are no longer necessary.
The Dutch government should licence the growing and supply of marijuana to the country’s 700 or so coffee shops that sell cannabis, according to a group of around 30 Dutch mayors. This is the conclusion of the ‘cannabis summit’ at which the mayors discussed the country’s policy on soft drugs. The mayor of Eindhoven, Rob van Gijzel, said his city is prepared to run a ‘monitored pilot scheme’ to assess if a system of licenced growers reduces drugs-related crime.