A narrow majority in the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament in the Netherlands, supported a motion to not allow municipalities to experiment with cannabis cultivation: 75 parliamentarians voted for, 70 voted against.
When Mayor Muriel E. Bowser delivered her legalized marijuana guidelines, she tried to ease concerns of naysayers with promises that there are enough provisions to prevent things from getting out of hand.
Between 78% and 91% of marijuana grown in the Netherlands is exported, according to new justice ministry research. This makes it pointless to regulate marijuana production for sale in licenced cannabis cafes within the Netherlands because illegal growing will continue, Justice minister Opstelten said in a briefing to Parliament. (See for a critical view: The 80% myth revisited)
Ministers should sanction experiments to legally grow marijuana under licence and the city should make preparations to do so, according to a majority of Amsterdam city councillors. All VVD councillors in the city back the move. The VVD's position in Amsterdam is notable because VVD justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said repeatedly he does not favour regulated production and refused to sanction experiments. Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament came a step nearer to approving legislation which will make people who have helped illegal marijuana growers guilty of a criminal act. (See also: Coffeeshops want say in Amsterdam marijuana production)
A Dutch court refused to punish two cannabis growers, criticising a government policy that criminalises production while allowing its sale in coffee shops. In its judgment, the court found the suspects guilty but "no punishment will be applied". "Given that the sale of soft drugs in coffee shops is tolerated, this means that these coffee shops must supply themselves and so cultivation must be done to satisfy these demands," the court said. "The law does not state how this supply should be done." The ruling is groundbreaking; it might open up the back door of the coffeeshops. (See also: No jail or fines for 'idealistic' marijuana growing couple)
The owner of the coffeeshop Checkpoint has been found not guilty of most of the charges against him by Amsterdam’s appeal court. The court said the prosecution had not proved Checkpoint had knowingly broken the rules. Checkpoint is guilty of having too much cannabis on the premises but this does not merit a prison sentence, the court said in a statement, since the authorities had encouraged the coffeeshop's growth and must have understood that it needed large volumes of drugs to meet demand. This is the second ruling this month in which judges have refused to jail coffeeshop owners for breaking guidelines.
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.'
Three coffeeshops who had nearly 70 kilos of cannabis confiscated have avoided prosecution after a court ruled police had tacitly endorsed their activities. Officially coffeeshops are limited to a stockpile of 500 grams. The appeal court in The Hague found that the owners had co-operated throughout with police, the local council and the tax office, all of whom knew the coffeeshops had far more than the permitted amount in stock.
Labour senators are refusing to cooperate with the Dutch government's tough line on marijuana and want to sanction regulated production trials. Senator Guusje ter Horst told television show Nieuwsuur that the entire soft drugs strategy needs to be overhauled. In particular, efforts need to be made to remove marijuana from organised crime. Justice minister Ivo Opstelten has said he will not give in to pressure to allow controlled marijuana growing, despite calls for change from dozens of mayors.
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)
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.