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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
The mayors of 25 Dutch local authority areas have increased their pressure on the cabinet to allow experiments with regulated marijuana production. The initiative is being powered by the mayors of Eindhoven and Heerlen and a Utrecht alderman, the Volkskrant said. The manifesto is a reaction to justice minister Ivo Opstelten’s decision not to approve experiments with regulated growing. (See also: The Netherlands is ready to regulate cannabis)
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.
This is a guide to regulating legal markets for the non-medical use of cannabis. It is for policy makers, drug policy reform advocates and affected communities all over the world, who are witnessing the question change from, 'Should we maintain cannabis prohibition?' to 'How will legal regulation work in practice?
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)
In total 26 of the Netherlands’ 38 largest local municipalities support government licensed or organised marijuana production, NOS television says. The 12 other council area are either opposed or have not yet made up their minds. Councils are trying to remove the grey area in the law which says possession of small amounts of cannabis will not be prosecuted but the supply and cultivation is banned. (See also: The Transparent Chain)
It is time that policymakers, law enforcement, professionals and other parties involved combine their efforts to work towards the implementation of a transparent cannabis chain that is organised in a responsible and professional manner.
An opinion poll in the Netherlands in August 2013 showed that 54% of the Dutch are in favour of legalising cannabis, while 38% opposes it. There is now a clear pro-legalisation majority among the voters for the parties that form the current government, the liberal conservative VVD (58% in favour) and the social-democrat labour party PvdA (55% in favour) and in the Dutch Parliament. A range of recent polls indicate that the majority of the Dutch strongly disagree with the government on current cannabis policies.
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)
Görlitzer Park in Berlin-Kreuzberg is the latest hot topic in the local media, due to ongoing problems that come with the massive scale of drug dealing and drug use there. Residents are no longer prepared to accept the situation as it stands. Politicians are trying to defuse the situation by making some unusual decisions. It is hoped that regulated provision of cannabis in a coffee shop at Görlitzer Park will improve the situation.
Building on a long history and culture of tolerance, the Dutch responded to illicit drugs with decades of pragmatic measures free of judgment. A central element of modern Dutch drug policy was a crucial decision to establish a legal and practical separation of cannabis—judged to pose "acceptable" risks to consumers and society—from hard drugs associated with unacceptable risk. This policy effectively decriminalized possession and use of cannabis and opened the door for tolerated outlets for small-scale cannabis sales that eventually took the form of the well-known Dutch "coffee shops."