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.
On February 12, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Fini-Giovanardi law setting out penalties related to the sale and possession of illegal drugs, was improperly approved, and abrogated the law. Since then, Italy has returned to previous regulations that imposed lighter sanctions on cannabis users. Prisoners' rights organisations argued that harsh drug laws have created a booming prison population in a system that is already overcrowded. Since January 2013, Italy's prisons have been under the scrutiny of the European Court of Human Rights.
In the past few weeks, the attention of the international drug policy community has been focused on the cannabis regulation bill in Uruguay. The great significance of this momentum for the drug policy reform has been supported by various civil society organisations and public opinion leaders from all around the world. This contrasts with the steps back undertaken in Spain, where a new bill – the paradoxically so-called citizen security law – was approved last 29th November by the Council of Ministers.
Cannabis is associated with psychosis (a symptom) and schizophrenia (an illness where this symptom is persistent) in complex, contradictory and mysterious ways. The evidence does demonstrate various links that we all should all be aware of, especially cannabis users and parents. However, the evidence does not support anything like the level of fear propagated in the media.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) new drug-driving laws have come under fire after a senior public servant who ate a breakfast muesli containing hemp seeds was dragged through a nine-month court battle. The 2011 laws raised immediate concerns from lawyers and civil libertarians for their zero-tolerance approach, which criminalises even the smallest trace of drugs found in a driver's system. Fears were raised that the laws, designed for road safety, ignored the actual impairment level of a driver and threatened to snare Canberrans who had accidentally or innocently ingested drugs.
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.
The decision to ban foreigners not resident in the Netherlands from the country’s cannabis cafes has led to an ‘explosion’ in drugs-related crime in the south of the country, the Algemeen Dagblad reports. The government’s decision to turn the cafes into members’ only clubs in the southern provinces in May 2012 led to a sharp rise in street dealing. The paper bases its claim on police and city council figures.
Police have raided several coffeeshops in Maastricht after their owners indicated they would revert to selling soft drugs to foreign visitors. Coffeeshops said on Sunday that German and Belgian customers would no longer be turned away, despite warnings from the city’s mayor Onno Hoes of repercussions if they let foreigners in. The police raided the Mississippi, a floating coffee shop, on Monday night. Around 15 non-Dutch residents were inside the boat at the time. Police led away the owner and confiscated the ship’s supplies. (See also: Maastricht coffee shop faces three-month closure)
Maastricht mayor Onno Hoes has warned the city's 13 cannabis cafes that he will take legal action if they go ahead with plans to sell marijuana to non-residents on Sunday. The local cannabis cafe association issued a statement earlier saying that all outlets will sell to people who do not live in the Netherlands when the Netherlands celebrates the end of World War II. (See also: Maastricht to get less strict on cannabis sales to foreigners?)
A bill calling for tougher sentences for drug possession and mandatory internment of addicts in Brazil has drawn fire from ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a strong advocate of drug decriminalization. "Treating drug use as a police case is useless and disastrous," he said in an interview with the daily O Globo. "Mandatory internment (of addicts) has been internationally condemned as inefficient, stigmatizing and a violation of human rights," said Cardoso who was in office from 1995 to 2002.
Maastricht - formerly a mecca for drug tourists from across western Europe - has called for police reinforcements to handle "aggressive" street pushers, who have taken over almost all trade in marijuana and cannabis since authorities introduced tighter controls on legal outlets. The Dutch town's Mayor Onno Hoes wants to double the number of dedicated police officers in order to control the black market, which has benefited from the region's draconian "weed pass" law.
The new rules affecting the sale of cannabis in coffeeshops in three southern Dutch provinces are having an adverse effect according to a new study. The "weed pass" was introduced in the regions on May 1 this year. The introduction of an obligatory membership card for coffeeshop customers has resulted in a sharp increase in the illegal street sale of cannabis and the emergence of a large and elusive network of telephone numbers that can be called for the supply of the drug.
For visitors to the Netherlands who enjoy the relaxing effects of marijuana, life has just become a little less easy going, particularly for those Germans living just west of the border who used to just pop over for a fresh supply. New legislation is restricting the sale of cannabis to residents of the country and banning tourists from purchasing the drug at the coffee shops, famous for selling it.
New Dutch laws to stub out the sale of cannabis to foreign dope tourists kicked in Tuesday -- and were met with defiance from southern coffee shops including in Maastricht. At least one coffee shop in the southern city continued sales to Belgian and German buyers in contravention of the new "cannabis card" rules -- and was promptly slapped with a police warning to stop sales to non-residents within 24 hours. (See also: Protestors just say no to Dutch cannabis ban)
While there are many attractions that draw visitors to Amsterdam nearly a quarter of this city’s more than four million foreign tourists a year will visit its coffee shops, where the sale of small quantities of cannabis is tolerated. But Amsterdam’s days as a destination for hazy holidays may be numbered. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing coalition government is pushing to sharply restrict the operations of the coffee shops and to prohibit the sale of the drugs to nonresidents. If the measures survive a court challenge and the opposition of local officials, the first phase would begin May 1.
Cannabis has been taking centre stage in recent weeks. Former attorneys-general and Vancouver mayors in British Columbia have called for regulation and taxation of the industry in an attempt to stop the violence of the illegal trade. At the same time, the Harper government continues to push for the passage of legislation that will mandate a six-month minimum term of imprisonment for anyone growing six plants or more.
The Netherlands moved to ban the sale of potent hashish cannabis eroding 40 years of liberal drug policy, over fears that the proceeds were flowing to organised crime gangs. A parliamentary proposal to prohibit the sale of hashish resin in the Netherlands' famous coffee shops had the backing of both parties in the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition. The sale of marijuana, the dried bud and leaves of the cannabis plant, will not be affected.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy says it’s “very weird” that Canada is taking a tougher line on marijuana when governments across the globe are reconsidering the war on drugs. In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the commission calls on Canada to stop pursuing the “destructive, expensive and ineffective” prohibition of pot. Louise Arbour, a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso, former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson are among the signatories to the letter that warns Canada is repeating “the same grave mistakes as other countries.”
In the context of a fast changing and well documented market in legal highs, the case of khat (Catha edulis) provides an interesting anomaly. It is first of all a plant-based substance that undergoes minimal transformation or processing in the journey from farm to market. Secondly, khat has been consumed for hundreds if not thousands of years in the highlands of Eastern Africa and Southern Arabia. In European countries, khat use was first observed during the 1980s, but has only attracted wider attention in recent years.