In a maddening show of spineless backsliding after 35 years of tolerance, the conservative government of the Netherlands seems hellbent on turning the clock back to a darker time in Dutch history -- a time when the cannabis trade was driven underground and people had to access the black market for marijuana.
And, of course, in our interconnected world, such a failure of leadership would reverberate internationally, according to expert observers.
"If tolerance ends or gets limited in the Netherlands, then politicians all over the world will say things like 'Tolerance failed in Holland,' and use that as an excuse to enforce their anti-cannabis propaganda, opinions and laws," well-known Dutch cannabis blogger Peter Lunk told Toke of the Town.
The battle currently has two major fronts: the "Weed Pass," [Wietpas], which would ban foreigners from Dutch "coffee shops" which sell cannabis and hashish; and the recently announced ban on cannabis with more than 15 percent THC, which the conservative government nonsensically and inexplicable decided to start treating as a "hard drug."
According to Lunk, the two actions taken together -- besides being spectacularly stupid, each on their own merits -- will be self-defeating and completely futile.
The onerous new Weed Pass policy banning foreigners from the coffee shops is slated to go into effect in the southern part of the Netherlands on May 1, 2012. The rest of the country -- including cannabis tourist destination Amsterdam -- is scheduled to follow on January 1, 2013.
"The Weed Pass plus a ban on cannabis with over 15 percent THC, classifying it as a hard drug, makes it so that nobody will register for a Weed Pass anyway -- because who wants to register with all their private information and social security numbers for a 'private cannabis club' where one can only buy shitty, low-grade, no-good, crappy weed?" Lunk told Toke of the Town.
"The Dutch 'tolerance policy' originally had one stronghold, one pillar upon which it was based," Lunk told us. "That was 'protecting public health.' This was because a separation of soft and hard drug markets created by the coffee shops -- where no hard drugs were allowed, and the cannabis was of controlled quality -- would keep youth and elder users of the harmless herb from coming into contact with hard drugs through street- and house-dealers.
"This hard-drug dealers, of course, would gladly sell cannabis consumers stronger stuff," Lunk pointed out. "The Weed Pass goes straight against this foundation of the tolerance policy."
If, as the Dutch government proposes, the coffee shops become "private cannabis clubs" with a maximum of 2,000 members per shop -- Dutch residency required -- "the first-time cannabis user or unregistered, very casual user will most probably not be able to walk into a coffee shop to experience the herb in this protective environment," Lunk told me.
"They will, instead, turn back to the street and house dealers -- exactly the opposite effect of what the tolerance policy is supposed to do," Lunk said. "The new 'private cannabis clubs' that the coffee shops have to be turned into will NOT allow ANYONE who is not a Dutch citizen to buy weed in the coffee shops. This is what bothers me the most besides the careless registration of cannabis users."
Lunk isn't just complaining about the Weed Pass -- he's organizing a massive Amsterdam protest against the policy on April 20, 2012.
The WeedPass SmokeOut Protest is, according to NL Coffeeshop & Cannabis Nieuws, "A PROTEST against the DISCRIMINATING WIETPAS [Weed Pass] rules that will only allow Dutch/Netherlands Citizens to enter and buy cannabis in Dutch coffeeshops. This is DISCRIMINATION based on place of birth / origin / nationality!"
Lunk told me he's already getting some comments from Dutch advocates such as "Is this a wise approach? Don't you think you will aggravate the municipality and politicians and they will use this protest counterproductive to your honorable intentions?"
Lunk's answer? "If we cannot make a difference and get the discriminating Weed Pass laws to change -- then at least we can say we had the best FINAL Amsterdam 420 SmokeOut anyone could ever have imagined!"
For more information about the 420 Amsterdam WeedPass SmokeOut Protest, you can join the main discussion group, the Event Page, and the Traveller Hookup Bus Group, all on Facebook.
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Cannabis Tolerance Endangered In Netherlands; Protest Planned