Does smoking reefer lead to using other drugs, in daily practice usually described as cocaine and heroin? Raising the possibility that the answer to this question might be affirmative, is known as the stepping stone hypothesis. Recently this hypothesis has been raised again in slightly other terms: cannabis use as a “gateway” to other allegedly more dangerous drugs.
The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Costa, recently visited Amsterdam on 24 April. Accompanied by some officials of the Netherlands Ministry of Health and of the City of Amsterdam and UNODC staff, he dropped in on the coffeeshop De Dampkring (the Atmosphere) and a user room (for inhalation and injection of heroin and cocaine). He wrote his personal account for his blog Costa’s corner but it was never published. Apparently it proved to be too controversial with his Dutch host. It now has popped up on the Transform drug policy blog and the ENCOD website.
The Hungarian Civil Liberty Union (HCLU) produced a video on the debate on cannabis policy and the tolerated sale of small quantities of cannabis by coffee shops in the Netherlands. The debate fired up when the mayors of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, two towns near the Belgian border, decided to close their coffee shops.
Smoking without Borders An HCLU film about drug tourism in the Netherlands: is it really only the problem of the Dutch?
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.
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.
The municipality of the Dutch city of Utrecht recently announced two scientific experiments on cannabis policy. One experiment will be to set up a closed club model for adult recreational cannabis users. Cannabis smokers will grow their own marijuana in a cooperative, a move which would go against the government's drive to discourage coffee shops. The other experiment concerns treatment for people who are vulnerable to psychotic disorders.
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.
De exportcijfers van nederwiet die de Taskforce Aanpak Georganiseerde Hennepteelt veelvuldig in de media bracht, zijn sterk overdreven. Dit blijkt uit een vertrouwelijk rapport van het Korps Landelijke Politie Diensten dat openbaar wordt gemaakt door KRO Reporter International. Het rapport maakt duidelijk dat de export van nederwiet een “bescheiden omvang” heeft. “Het grootste deel van de productie is bedoeld voor de binnenlandse markt”, aldus het KLPD. Donderdag debatteert de Tweede Kamer over het drugsbeleid.
The new coalition government of conservative liberals (VVD) and social-democrats (PvdA) presented its coalition agreement on Monday. They agreed to abolish the cannabis pass, but access to coffeeshops remains limited to residents of the Netherlands. Customers need to identify themselves with an identity card or a residence permit together with a certificate of residence. Non-resident foreigners are still banned. In other words, there will be no cannabis pass, but the policy continues.
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.
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.
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?