The new right wing Dutch government (headed by “Liberals” and kept in power by the far-right neo-nazi “Freedom Party” headed by Geert Wilders) has been trying it best to reverse the highly successful “coffee shop” policy that allows people to buy and use cannabis in properly run cafes. As recently as 11th June this year, just over two weeks ago, the “weed pass” plan was still being touted as a definite firm plan by the Dutch government. Radio Netherlands reported
Dutch Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten recently announced the nationwide introduction of the weed pass. Under the government plan, coffeeshops will be allowed to issue a maxiumum of 1,000 to 1,500 weed passes, and only to Dutch nationals.
And on June 23rd The Economist reported
New government rules may force some 660 coffee shops that now sell cannabis over the counter to become members-only clubs with strict registration procedures, accessible only to Dutch residents.
Needless to say the prohibition campaigners this side of the North Sea have been keen to tell the world how the Dutch are planning to close down the coffeeshops and are keen to reverse the policy of tolerance. Sadly for them it looks like it isn’t going to happen.
As The Economist also reported, there was a lot of opposition to the idea
According to Derrick Bergman, head of VOC, a lobby group that fights for the legalisation of marijuana, approval of the guidelines could mean the “end of the coffee shop as we know it.” This will affect more than the country’s desirability as a destination for backpackers or the turnover of a cannabis market worth hundreds of millions of euros. Mr Bergman fears the emergence of a new criminality, such as illegal trade in membership passes or street dealing, which could increase exposure to hard drugs.
Earlier today Transform tweeted
apparently the mooted Netherlands ‘locals only’ membership coffeeshop plan has been shelved as national policy (awaiting confirmation)
…although membership only access could still be brought in by municipalities, likely to be border towns where ‘tourist’ problems arose
The basic reasons for scrapping this half-baked scheme are really simple, first the coffeeshop system works and it brings in a hell of a lot of money, especially to Amsterdam. But more to the point the Dutch aren’t stupid, even if their government is. They know what will happen if they close the coffeeshops; it seemed that the Dutch cannabis consumers had decided not to register with any such scheme and they will get all the problems of street dealing we have as a result.
The Dutch have rightly been proud of their drugs policy over the years and it looks like they’ve come to their senses before the politicians were allowed to wreck havock on it.
Interestingly it looks like the prohibition lobby has shot itself in the foot in another more subtle way as well. The prohibition campaigners have for some time now been claiming that high potency cannabis leads to mental illness and that this is a reason to keep cannabis illegal. However, there are now calls from some sections of the Dutch media for high potency cannabis to be restricted, the Health Minister Edith Schippers told public broadcaster NOS.
“I’ve been very worried for years about the THC concentration, especially if it is so high. We will take a serious look at it,”
Now of course we’ve heard all this before, but if there is a genuine concern about high potency cannabis then the Coffeeshop system allows at least some of the controls needed to regulate the cannabis trade to be imposed. If they close down the shops, they’ll be left with the uncontrolled mess we have and, like us, the Dutch will have no way to influence what cannabis users are buying. In short, if they really are worried about the types of cannabis on sale, they need the coffeeshop system and the prohibition lobby has given us the strongest argument for keeping them open.
It is worth pointing out however that the Dutch regime isn’t perfect by a long way. The Coffeeshops may be legal and regulated, but they are supplied – like all of the multi billion Euro cannabis trade throughout Europe – by an uncontrolled and unregulated illegal supply industry. Perhaps this weed pass fiasco will be the long awaited last gasp of the prohibition lobby in Holland and common sense will at last prevail. The only way to go is to fully legalise, properly control and regulate the whole cannabis trade. Not just the shops, but the whole supply side. That is the only way they will be able to do anything about the problem of high potency cannabis they claim to be so worried about.
Anyway, it’s looking like all those people who were worrying about their next holiday to The Dam can start making their plans again. Fingers crossed.