Decriminalizing cannabis in the Netherlands and regulating the back-door of the coffee-shops and cultivation of cannabis would save 160 million euro on expenses by the police and the criminal justice system and bring in 260 million euro in tax revenues. The Dutch government is already earning some 400 million euros a year in corporate taxes from cannabis-selling coffee-shops.
Cannabis is the cutting-edge drug for reform, the only politically plausible candidate for major legal change, at least decriminalisation (removal of criminal penalties for possession) and perhaps even outright legalisation (permitting production and sale). Compared with other drugs, the harms, physiological or behavioural, are less severe and the drug is better integrated into the culture. Throughout Western Europe and in the Antipodes there is pressure for reductions in the punitiveness of the marijuana regime.
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.
Robin Room, Peter Reuter (RAND), Wayne Hall, Benedikt Fischer, Simon Lenton, Amanda Fielding
01 September 2008
Despite cannabis being the most widely used illegal drug, and therefore the mainstay of the ‘war on drugs’, it has only ever held a relatively marginal position in international drug policy discussions. Amanda Fielding of the Beckley Foundation decided to convene a team of the world’s leading drug policy analysts to prepare an overview of the latest scientific evidence surrounding cannabis and the policies that control its use. The report of the Beckley Foundation's Global Cannabis Commission is aimed at bringing cannabis to the attention of policymakers and guide decision making.
The 2012 Dutch elections were hailed as decisive for the future of the coffeeshops, where the sale of small amounts of cannabis is tolerated. The result is inconclusive. The parties in favour of restricting the coffeeshops or outright abolishing them got 77 of the 150 seats, while those against the recently introduced 'cannabis pass' and/or in favour of regulating the supply of cannabis to the coffeeshops got 73. However, the issue is not that straightforward given that in the Netherlands no single party has an absolute majority and a coalition government has to be formed.
In "Has the time come to legalize drugs?" Andres Oppenheimer, the influential opinion maker about Latin American affairs at the Miami Herald, describes how the debate about cannabis regulation "is rapidly moving to the mainstream in Latin America." He quotes White House drug czar Kerlikowske who argues that The Netherlands proves that relaxation of cannabis laws increases consumption, and that the Dutch government is now reversing its strategy. That requires some rectification.
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.
State-run hash and marijuana dispensaries won't be popping up in Copenhagen any time soon after the Justice Ministry this weekend turned down Copenhagen City Council's request to experiment with legalising cannabis in the city. In a letter to the council, the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), wrote that the government could not permit the experiment as they believed that legalising hash and marijuana would likely increase both availability and use, which was unwise given the range of side effects that cannabis has been linked to.
TNI co-signed a letter that was sent to the Dutch Prime Minister and relevant parliamentary commissions, stressing the need for an active Dutch involvement in the UNGASS review process and specifically to use the moment to open the discussion about the UN conventions that are an obstacle to further developments in Dutch cannabis policy.
Almost a decade after extensive police raids in 2004 that were intended to clear out the drug dealers in Christiania, police estimate that the trade in cannabis is as strong as it was before. Residents explain that while the trade might have returned, the atmosphere is quite different from the days before the 2004 invasion by police, with greater levels of violence and intimidation. “The hash trade today is just as open as it was in 2004 and up on the same level. We believe that a billion kroner is sold every year,” according to Lau Thygesen, of the Copenhagen Police’s department for organised crime.
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.
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
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.
Copenhagen just got a lot closer to legalizing the sale of pot. If approved by the Danish parliament, next year the city could grant licenses to individual marijuana growers. City-owned shops would then sell their crop to the public. “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,” Mikkel Warming, the mayor in charge of social affairs in Copenhagen. “We don’t want an Amsterdam model," Warming said. "We want a way to make it legal to import or grow marijuana."
Legally buying a few grams of marijuana might soon become reality in Berlin. Kreuzberg district's new mayor, Monika Herrmann, has plans to open Germany's first cannabis coffee shop. She sees pot legalization as a means to tackle the growing drug problem in Kreuzberg's Görlitzer Park, which has developed into one of the city's central drug-dealing hubs. "If we want to gain control of the dealers and their products, we must manage the distribution," the Green-party politician said. (See also: Greens push weed legalization in park)
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.