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Dutch Christian Party (CU): No More Weed for Tourists!

CU en wiet

If political party the ChristenUnie  (CU) has her way, customers of Dutch coffeeshops will have to show an extract from their Personal Records Database records (BRP) before they can buy any weed. This proposed measure aims to ban tourists from coffeeshops and limit the acces to weed to Dutch residents only.

The idea is not new. The Dutch central government already gave municipalies the option to ban non-Dutch from their coffeeshops, but municipalities are allowed to determine whether they want to implement this rule. Many towns and cities, such as Amsterdam choose not to implement the ban and still allow tourists and other visitors of the Netherlands to buy and enjoy weed at its coffeeshops. The ChristenUnie wants to change that now. The party wants Justice and Security, minister Dutch to discuss the issue with the municipalities.
“At the moment, the Netherlands is known as the country where you go to get off and use drugs,” says MP Stieneke van der Graaf (CU). “That is horrible and shameful and I want to do everything to break that image as a drug country.”

Drugs and drug tourists cause too much trouble in our country, the politician believes. “Keeping tourists away from coffeeshops is a good start to tackle that nuisance.” Van der Graaf also considers it important that all municipalities apply the same criteria. “Otherwise you are only moving the problem.”

Illegal circuit

Ferry de Boer from the BCD, a branch organization for coffeeshop entrepreneurs, does not think that keeping tourists out of coffeeshops is a good idea. According to de Boer, the demand for cannabis does not disappear and this way you only chase consumers into the street. “This has already been happened in the city of Maastricht, where [after the ban] the number of illegal outlets has increased enormously.” An increase in illegal trade is not desirable for anyone, De Boer says. It would only aggravate the nuisance.

The coffeeshops were created to separate drug markets [to separate hard drugs from soft drugs consumption], he says. De Boer sees the refusal of tourists as a step back. It dates back to the time when there were hardly any coffeeshops. Then everything was sold from the illegal circuit and the Netherlands faced a major heroin problem. “There were parts of Amsterdam where you couldn’t walk as an ordinary citizen,” he says. With the arrival of the first tolerated cannabis, the situation changed. “The tolerance policy displaced the hard drug trade” with the coffeeshop as “safe haven”.

According to Van der Graaf, the increase in street trafficking of cannabis in Maastricht was not so disproportionate that it is a reason not to maintain the resident criterion. “The police were prepared for this and the illegal trade was quickly suppressed. Of course we have to take this into account, but it is not an argument for the long term. ”

Lots of police work

De Boer believes that closing the coffeeshops for tourists, and the associated growth of the illegal market, will cause major problems. “Maintaining something like this is going to require a huge amount of police work, and there is already a shortage of thieves.” In addition, making it mandatory to show a BRP would raise the threshold to go to a coffeeshop. This could also force the Dutch on to the illegal market.

It is not yet clear whether the minister will respond to the call of the ChristenUnie.

Coalition Agrees on Experiment with Legal Weed

The Dutch coalition parties have reached an agreement about an experiment with legal, government controlled cannabis. As planned earlier, six to ten municipalities will be conducting trials, but an additional six to ten municipalities are used as a ‘control group’. Moreover, the test can be extended if it proves successful.

During the trial, the coffeeshops involved will be allowed to have a larger trade stock (of marijuana cultivated by the state) than the current maximum of 500 grams. There will be a choice of different types of weed for customers to choose from and there will be no limit to the amount of THC, the active substance in cannabis. Should the experiment be a success, it can be extended.

A control group has also been added to the experiment. It consists of tolerated coffeeshops in the vicinity of the municipalities involved. The same measurements are made at these shops. On the basis of this so-called zero measurement, it can then be concluded whether the test with state weed was successful.

The decision is politically sensitive. The two christian democratic parties that are part of the current coalition agreed with a limited variant, which ten municipalities would participate in. But a research committee headed by Professor André Knottnerus ruled that this group would be too small for a ‘sufficiently representative survey’. The government should keep the experiment in ‘considerably more’ municipalities than the coalition agreement says.

The Committee also concluded that if the trial is a success, a national introduction of ‘state cannabis’ should be considered. The government does not want to do so for the time being, but the possibility to extend the trial does leave the door wide open.

Amsterdam Mayor: “Medical Marijuana Should Be Easier To Get.”

In a letter addressed to the Dutch senate, the Mayor of Amsterdam, Van Der Laan, reiterated that medical cannabis should be easier to get for patients.

Last September, Van der Laan notably lent his support to Rudolf Hillebrand, an Amsterdam AIDS patients who uses medical cannabis, and who’s house and medical garden is threatened by the housing corporation, Eigenhaard.

The Mayor suggests that consultation should take place between the parties involved, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, with aim to make a clear and sensible policy, obviously beneficial for the patients.

The new Dutch coalition government is currently under reformation, and considering the details of policies that will effect regulation of medical cannabis cultivation, and the coffeeshop supply chain, among other issues.

Coffeeshops Legal or Permitted?

Amsterdam is known to be a liberal city. Although many people exaggerate the freedom here, the Amsterdammers and Dutch in general do have a few liberties that are unique in the world. Still, whenever you visit a city in a foreign country it is always a good idea to inform yourself about the local laws and rules. In Amsterdam’s case this can be a difficult task, therefore this article will try to inform you about the basics of the Dutch legislation and specific things you should know about Amsterdam and its Coffeeshops.

In the Netherlands we distinguish between two types of drugs: soft and hard drugs. By law both of them are illegal, but the use and possession of small amounts of soft drugs is decriminalized and regulated. This led the Dutch to having a unique drugs policy in the world. Although the use of addictives in general is discouraged, the Dutch politics reasoned that cannabis does not have physically addictive qualities, and are not more harmful than, say, alcohol. Therefore the Netherlands allow limited forms of possession and trade in soft-drugs.

The specific rules are as follows:
• You are allowed to purchase and possess up to five grams of cannabis. Possessing more is interpreted as if you want to trade it, which is illegal.
• Only specially permitted “Coffeeshops” are allowed to sell soft drugs, and never more than five grams per person per day. You have to be 18 or over to access a Coffeeshop.

The paradox in the Dutch drugs policy is that the growing and trading of large amounts of soft drugs is illegal and not allowed, yet Coffeeshops still need to buy their stock. This phenomenon is referred to as the “back door/ front door” paradox: Coffeeshops are allowed to sell (and pay taxes for it), but can not legally buy stock.

It is not illegal to smoke outside the Coffeeshop, but things have changed over the past few years, and it is no longer acceptable to smoke cannabis just everywhere.

Restricted areas around Central Station and the Red Light District have a “zero tolerance” policy. In other areas in Amsterdam where it is forbidden to smoke Marijuana, official “no-pot-smoking” street signs will indicate this clearly.

Although you are not expected to know local regulations, you might very well risk a fine when smoking in these areas.