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Coffeeshops Fight For Your Right To Party

Dutch coffeeshop owners went to court last week in a last-ditch bid to block a government plan to stop foreigners from buying marijuana in the Netherlands.

Lawyers representing the coffeeshops oppose what would be the most significant change in decades to the country’s famed soft drug tolerance: turning marijuana cafes into ‘members-only’ clubs open solely to Dutch residents. Members would only be able to get into the coffee shops by registering for a ‘weed pass’, and the shops would only be allowed a maximum of 2,000 members.

The move comes into force in the south of the country on May 1 and is scheduled to roll out nationwide on Jan. 1, 2013. Whether it will be enforced in Amsterdam remains to be seen. The city has strongly opposed the pass idea and Mayor Eberhard van der Laan says he wants to negotiate a workable compromise with the country’s Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten.

Lawyers for the cafe owners told a judge at The Hague District Court that the move — aimed at reining in problems caused by foreign ‘drug tourists’ who buy marijuana in the Netherlands and resell it in neighboring countries — is “clearly discriminatory”.

Lawyer Ilonka Kamans argued that Dutch drug policy gives citizens “the fundamental right to the stimulant of their choosing” and should not deprive visiting foreigners of the same right.

Government lawyer Eric Daalder defended the measures. “Fighting criminality and drug tourism is a reasonable justification” for the crackdown, Daalder told the court. He said the government wants to bring coffeeshops back to what they were originally intended to be: “small local stores selling to local people.”

Marc Josemans of the Easy Going coffee shop in Maastricht said that if the courts April 27 ruling goes against them, the local coffee shops plan to disregard the ruling, forcing the government to prosecute one of them in a test case.

Though the weed pass policy was designed to resolve traffic problems facing southern cities, later studies have predicted that the result of the system would be a return to street dealing and an increase in petty crime — which was the reason the tolerance policy came into being in the 1970s in the first place.

Marijuana cafes are a major tourist draw for Amsterdam, with some estimates saying a third of visitors try the drug, perhaps in between visiting the Van Gogh Museum and other major attractions.
According to U.N. data, the use of marijuana by Dutch nationals is in the mid-range of norms for developed countries — higher than in Sweden or Japan but lower than in Britain, France, or the United States.

The Latest Chapter In The Dutch Cannabis Saga: A New Hope

After current Prime Minister of the Netherlands Marke Rutte handed in his governments resignation to Queen Beatrix this April, the general election has been moved forward to 12 September this year.
It is Rutte’s administration that introduced the widely criticised ‘weed pass’ in the southern three provinces in the Netherlands.

With less than a month to go until the elections, the Dutch Socialist Party (SP), lead by Emile Roemer, is ahead in the polls by seven seats of Mark Rutte’s Conservative Liberal Party (VVD).

The SP campaign program states that they want to legalize and regulate the cannabis industry, with the view that there is more merit in prevention by educating and informing the public of the effects of alcohol and drug use.

Just a few of their promises to the Dutch voter:

Better information on the effects of alcohol and drug use for youth and their parents.
The cultivation and sale of soft drugs for the Dutch market legalized and regulated to reduce nuisance and crime. Quality controle and education need to be improved. We do not need a ‘weed pass’. Sales and production of hard drugs remain illegal.
There needs to be a greater awareness of the consequences of alcohol and drug use for youth and their parents. Clinics offer aftercare to young people hospitalized with alcohol poisoning.

The gap between these two parties and all their opponents is growing, and predictions are being made of a race to the finish by these two extremes of cannabis legislators.

In less than a month the future of cannabis in the Netherlands may well be determined!

Civil Disobedience Marks First Day New Coffeeshop Policy In South Of Netherlands

Starting today, May 1st, Coffeeshops in the Southern three provinces of The Netherlands are supposed to ban foreign customers and register their Dutch costumers by ‘allowing’ them to apply for a co-called ‘weed pass’.
By 11:00 am this morning, Coffeeshop Easy Going in Maastricht (located in the country’s most Southern province, Limburg) began serving non-Dutch again.

Coffeeshop holder Marc Josemans had started the day refusing entry to about ten foreigners. He did this in compliance with the new rules. Upon refusal the foreigners went to the police station to report discrimination.
By deliberately serving tourist Josemans is committing an act of civil disobedience, which he hopes will lead to a legal procedure. “The Minister requires us to discriminate, and that is a violation of Article 1 of the Constitution.” he said.
Most other coffeeshops in Maastricht decided to keep their doors shut today.

In the neighboring province of Brabant, police raided coffeeshop Tourmaline in Tilburg this morning. Owner William Vugs refuses to register customers and sees no merit in a weed pass.

“Think of it as a protest”, Vugs told press, “Now that the police has been by to check, a trial process will follow.”
Tourmaline has closed its doors for the remainder of the day.

“Our point has been made”, Vught stated. “Now we’re going home to consider the new situation”.

Mayor Of Rotterdam Speaks Out Against New Pot Policy

The mayor of Rotterdam has spoken out against the planned ‘wietpas’ policy, stating that the new system will lead to a rise in illegal drug dealing and make the streets less safe. Ahmed Aboutaleb says the wietpas is flawed and will create more problems than it solves. With this statement mayor Aboutaleb joins in skepticism with his counterparts in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Eindhoven, Breda, Maastricht and most other Dutch cities that allow coffeeshops within their borders; all of which have stated earlier that they do not see any merit in the planned new policy.

Mayor Aboutaleb told reporters that the wietpas would undo decades of investment and planning in developing communities; he encouraged the new government to scrap the planned policy. ‘It doesn’t work and it’s not going to work. It leads in practice to more problems in the community.’ Aboutaleb also pointed out that, “Very few people want to co-operate with the wietpas. They don’t want to register. I can understand why a lot of people are concerned, they wonder what their details will be used for. It’s logical.”

City of Eindhoven joins opposition to cannabis pass system

Eindhoven city council has come out against government plans to introduce a registration for cannabis users to make sure tourists are kept out of ‘coffee shops’ where small quantities of soft drugs are sold.

Den Bosch and Maastricht city councils have already voted against the plan and the four big cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht have also pledged to campaign against it.

The new government has not yet given any more details on its plans to turn coffee shops into closed clubs. However, opponents of the scheme say it will lead to an increase in street dealing.
Full story: DutchNews.nl

Hope for Future of Coffeeshops After Collapse of Conservative Dutch Government

Since the 1970s, the Netherlands’ legendary cannabis coffeeshops have been officially ‘tolerated’ by the government, meaning that while technically illegal, they’ve nonetheless operated openly, with hundreds of locations in Amsterdam alone selling limited amounts of marijuana to the public.

Despite their being tightly regulated and contributing considerably to the nation’s tourism industry, however, the conservative government has been steadily working to curtail or eliminate the coffeeshops, specifically by proposing a ‘Weed Pass’ plan that would restrict access to only citizens of the Netherlands willing to register as a member of a private club, with each coffeeshop allowed just 2,000 members.

The Weed Pass plan was passed into law in 2011 and was set to take effect starting with several locations in the south of the Netherlands on May 1 of this year. But this week several important developments have thrown the future of the law into doubt. Most notably, the coalition forming the Dutch government dissolved on April 23, amid an internal argument over budgetary priorities.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his cabinet have since officially resigned in advance of national elections to be held in the near future, with the possibility of a new government taking power that’s opposed to the Weed Pass. While at the same time, a group of Dutch coffeeshop owners and their allies have been fighting the Weed Pass in court, charging that the proposed new restrictions are in violation of the nation’s constitution.

According to Arjan Roskam, head of the Green House Coffeeshop and a driving force behind the lawsuit, “Clause I of the Dutch constitution states that all that are in The Netherlands will be treated equally, and that discriminating based on religion, lifestyle, political views, race, or gender on any ground is not allowed. For this reason, the national ban on tourists visiting coffeeshops would violate our constitutional rights here in the Netherlands by discriminating against foreigners.”

A ruling on that lawsuit is expected this Friday, April 27, just a few days before the new policy is set to go into effect. Meanwhile, opponents of the Weed Pass may have gotten a huge boost to their cause last week, when the Netherlands’ College for the Protection of Personal Data weighed in on the issue by writing to the Minister of Security and Justice, who created the new law.

The Dutch government’s privacy watchdog’s sternly worded letter challenged the “necessity, proportionality and subsidiary of the verifiable membership list.” and suggested that by collecting personal information from proposed members, the coffeeshops will be forced to unduly violate their privacy.

In the meantime, please rest assured that the proposed new law will not impact the upcoming 25th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup, to be held this November 18-22, just weeks before the ‘Weed Pass’ would go into effect in Amsterdam.

Source: High Times

Breda Welcomes 50 Percent More Coffeeshop Visitors

The city of Breda in the Southern province Brabant has seen the number of coffeeshops visitors rise by 50 percent since the shops in the neighboring towns Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal closed their doors.

According to a city ordered “Area Crime and Nuisance Scan”, the closure of the coffeeshops in January of 2010 led to a 30 percent increase in the number of visitors to Breda coffeeshops. This has now risen to a 50 percent increase.

The data shows that over the last year, the rise in the number of visitors did not lead to an increase in reports of drug-related nuisance or crime.

Amsterdam: “The coffeeshops should remain open for everyone”

The city of Amsterdam is not happy with intention of the new Dutch government to close coffeeshops for tourist and only allow cannabis sales to Dutch citizens who have a registration card.

Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan thinks that problems will arise if this new system would be introduced. Unlike the towns and small cities in the South of the Netherlands, Amsterdam has no problems with the millions of cannabis-loving tourists visiting every year. But the mayor is afraid that closing the coffeeshops nationwide would drive the trade underground. “It would turn the clock back 30 years when people bought their weed in the streets and there was no control on public safety or public health”, the mayor said.

Three Coffeeshops punished for advertising

The Dutch opium law does not allow advertising for ‘drugs’ (as long as it’s not regulated). Earlier reports showed prosecutor Frits Posthumus demanded repercussions for 5 Coffeeshops. However only three of them were fined (according to the Dutch Parool).

Outcome of the judges’ decision was, (about as vague as 10 years ago) that they are allowed to advertise in a way. Just not in combination of any contact information, they allowed to show/ display them in their establishment, nor are they allowed to distribute/ give them away.. Main motivation behind this outcome was that Coffeeshops- and their business are illegal.