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  1. shroooom
    The famous cannabis-selling coffee shops of the Netherlands are facing new tighter restrictions.

    The Dutch government is reclassifying high-strength cannabis to put it in the same category as hard drugs.

    It says the amount of the main active chemical in the drug, THC, has gone up, making it far more potent than a generation ago.

    It means the coffee shops will be forced to take the popular, high-strength varieties off their shelves.

    Dutch politicians say high-strength cannabis, known as "skunk", is more dangerous than it was before.

    In the future, anything containing more than 15% THC will be treated the same way as hard drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy.

    The move is a big blow to the coffee shops - and means they will have to replace about 80% of their stock with weaker varieties.

    Marc Josemans, who runs a cafe in Maastricht, says he believes that the new tough approach is being driven by the increasingly influential far-right in Dutch politics.

    "You immediately can taste the difference. Everything which is considered unusual for them - they call it 'left hobbies' and under this name they want to ban all 'left hobbies', like using cannabis," he told the BBC.

    The move means that the Netherlands' traditional tolerance of soft drugs is to become a thing of the past.

    The ban on the high-strength "skunk" is expected to be introduced next year, when police will start doing random checks in the cafes.

    From next year, the Dutch government also plans to ban tourists from entering coffee shops across the country.




    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15225270


    note: sorry for poor copy & paste. I'm on an iPhone

Comments

  1. Alfa
    Its important to know that the coffeeshops have no way of analyzing cannabis for THC content. As cannabis is a controlled substance, labs may not analyze it without a license. There is only 1 lab who has such license: the state forensic lab. Coffeeshops have no access to this. So it seems the coffeeshops are sitting ducks in this scheme. I would not be surprised if the government use this to close 80% of the coffeeshops. The only good news is that the state has limited money for police raids and police will not be enthusiastic to spend their precious time on making the underground drug market richer by going after coffeeshops.
  2. shroooom
    That's pretty messed up. I just don't understand it. Politicians are supposedly intelligent people who went to university and should have enough brain cells to realise what they're doing will not only kill tourism but also as you said, give more money to criminals. They know cannabis is not that harmful, even skunk, so where's the logic? Is there a greater plan we don't know about?
  3. Smeg
    Perhaps it is important to remember that politicians are not always the most emotionally intelligent of individuals. History is littered with the inept, ill informed and sometimes downright catasrophic decisions made by various political elites throughout the ages.

    I'm sure it has been oft expressed on this forum that it would be more than preferable that drug policy be informed by science, not ideology, hokum, ignorance and prejudice.

    A more rational approach could be to make it the responsibility of coffee shop proprietors to educate their clientele on the risks of using cannabis in general, and the stronger strains in particular. This could be achieved through patrons being issued with pamphlets being given with a view to educating customers of the potential risks involved. This is just a suggestion, and if it has already been done then I apologise. I had a google around and couldn't find any references to it.

    Perhaps a little colour coded cannabis leaf emblem from, say green through to red next to the description of each strain sold could denote it's potency/risk. This might be apposite and eye-catching for customers.
  4. Alfa
    The background is that The Netherlands is ruled by a coalition of:

    - The Christian Party (anti-drug hardliners. They have been in power since 2003 and have already reduced the number of Dutch coffeeshops with 50%)
    - Right wing liberals
    - Anti-Islamic/pro Israel Fascist party. (no joke) (anti-drug hardliners)
    - Christian Union. (extremist Christian party with a few seats)

    Read more about it here:
    Dutch government: Making coffeeshop private clubs is just a step to total closure.
    Crime researcher: “Dutch drug pass scheme won’t work”
    Dutch government wants to ban strong cannabis
    Dutch drug policy shaken by regional closure of all coffeeshops
  5. C.D.rose
    I'm not really sure how to evaluate the domestic political situation in the Netherlands. I try to keep myself up to date by watching Dutch television news and reading newspapers like the Volkskrant, but I am still not sure where the majority of the Dutch population stand on this issue. My personal guess is that cannabis policy is a priority for only a minority of PVV voters, and that other issues, namely immigration policy, are of bigger concern to those voters.

    Lately, there has been a tendency in Europe for center-left parties to gain some ground: several state elections in Germany, legislative elections in Denmark, a referendum in Italy and a general dissatisfaction with Berlusconi's PdL, and good projections for a success in 2012 of the French social-democratic party until the DSK affair reduced their momentum to near-zero. I would not be surprised if this development was to continue and eventually reach the Netherlands as well - the Dutch configuration of Parliament is very similar to the pre-Thorning-Schmidt configuration in the Danish parliament. Then again, a prolonged economic stagnation might reverse that tendency, but for now, there has been progress made in a handful of European countries.

    My impression of the Dutch people is that it is a rather deliberative democracy, and that parties are somewhat more connected to reality than in other countries. It is obvious that a capping of THC content at 15% will give rise to a new black market. It is very well possible that Alfa is correct and this is some form of a trap to close down more and more coffeeshops, but maybe in the end more reasonable heads will prevail. Maybe a failure of a more repressive cannabis policy is what's needed to finally get to a full legalization? You know, making one step backward before making two steps forward. It's very hard to say really. But for now, I'm not willing to give up the hope.
  6. CaptainTripps
    If the coffeeshops can find a way to measure the THC content this could actually help save the coffeeshops. The best defense that the coffeeshops have is their contrast to the black market. It can be assured that the black market will fill the gap for high test varieties. One selling point to keep them open would be the prohibition of super high test strains.

    In the U.S. one of the big arguments the prohibitionists use is that the marijuana today is not your 60's era smoke. It is not the same stuff that the baby boomers experimented with in college. It is so much stronger that it no longer deserves it's "soft drug" status. Of course this totally ignores the fact that if marijuana were legal and regulated the government could make the THC content pretty much what they wanted to.

    When the black market steps in to fill this gap, it will create problems. As it gains market share these will become more clear. So an argument could be made that if the coffeeshops are closed, that not only will taxes be lost, the only marijuana available will be the super high test stains, the same ones they compare to "hard drugs". I am not sure how the Dutch deal with the severity of marijuana charges, but in the U.S. it is almost exclusively based on weight. This is one reason why the quality has increased so much. It was not so much people wanted stronger smoke, but if the penalties are based on weight, you may as well pack as much THC into the weight as possible. The typical ounce of today's basement grown weed, has more THC that a pound of the 60's era Mexican commercial weed. The difference is that a pound of weed is a felony everywhere in the U.S.(except for medical cannabis) and an ounce is a misdemeanor if not decriminalized with a small fine. As I recall back in the 70's most smokers were very happy with Colombian pot that was below 5% THC.

    If they are really concerned with the THC content, keeping the coffeeshops open would be the best solution. Also they should provide the coffeeshops with a way to test the product and comply with the law. Sadly, this probably is just a ploy to close the shops, rather than an actual concern with THC content.
  7. Synaps
    I think the Dutch politicians have a point about cannabis becoming stronger, and I reckon they are better at evaluating what is best for the Netherlands than foreign stoners. I hope that this will prompt more studies on the possible dangers of high-strength cannabis.

    People on cannabis forums tend to believe that cannabis is much more important to the Dutch economy than it actually is. It might be important for Amsterdam tourism, but the cannabis policy of the Netherlands has more to do with its liberal culture than economy.
  8. C.D.rose
    The question is whether Dutch stoners are inherently different from foreign stoners. I would think not. Of course, Dutch consumers of cannabis are more diverse (for example in their consumption habits) than foreign stoners who go to the Netherlands for weed, but I think you'll find the same "types" of users in the Netherlands that you will find everywhere else. That means that at least a part of Dutch users will be unsatisfied with the products they can buy in coffeeshops.

    I have always wanted to look up under what exact circumstances the Dutch policy on cannabis was introduced. Was the idea behind it that cannabis is a more or less harmless substance, or that it's better to have a "semi-regulated" open market than an unregulated black market? Because if the second is the case, then nothing has changed about that general argument, and the statistics about Dutch drug use corroborate it. Cannabis strength is then obviously just a cover to introduce policies that dismantle the Dutch system of cannabis regulation.

    Recently, the CDA/VVD government has had a pretty good cooperation with opposition parties (such as the social-democratic PvdA) on questions concerning the European Financial Stability Fund and the financial assistance to Greece. Maybe the PVV demanded at least modest concessions on some social issues (such as regarding the coffeeshops) in return for their continued support for the minority government.

    What's true though is that there are consumers who complain that coffeeshop weed has become too strong. I have no idea about the numbers, but I have talked to one person who expressed that opinion. This, however, is a problem that a "free" market would solve. The situation in Amsterdam, as I see it, is extremely static, since new coffeeshops cannot be opened. I totally support the idea that the business practices of coffeeshops (advertisements, minimum age and its enforcement,...) should be tightly regulated and supervised, but not the THC content of the product itself.

    Pretty much true. It should not be forgotten though that the economic benefits for the state go beyond the tax revenue that sales of cannabis generate. If the Netherlands has half as many [noparse]heroin[/noparse] addicts as the US or some other developed countries, and still significantly less than some other Western European countries, then the current drug policy also creates savings on other expenditures such as health care and addiction prevention. At any rate, I don't think that now is the time to reject even modest revenues from cannabis sales, since the general economic troubles and incertainty will surely generate expenses over quite some time to come.
  9. Alfa
    The most influencial person in the CDA (Christian democrat party) once explained why they want to close all coffeeshops: Drugs are competition to God and faith. This shows their motive is not rational at all, but ideological.

    The Christian Democrats have been in rule since 2002 and ever since then coffeeshops have been reduced by a number of measures. They have vowed to closed down all coffeeshops and growshops. Their original plan(Announced on an international conference in 2001) was to have all coffeeshops close in 2011. Fortunately they have not succeeded completely yet.
  10. C.D.rose
    Who is or was that "most influential person in the CDA"? And do you know what exact international conference it was where they announced their plan to close down all coffeeshops? I would really like to read up on that subject, so if you have any links in English or Dutch, or just names or keywords I can google, that would be really cool...

    What would seem incoherent to me in an "evangelical" perspective is, why does the CDA not target much more "traditional" enemies of the Christian right, such as abortion and, in the case of the Netherlands, euthanasia. Seeing that the political development over the last ten years, that has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders to play an active role in government policy-making, was an almost Europe-wide sweep to the right (France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the UK, and most recently Finland), I think that the Netherlands may just be undergoing a more conservative episode, and cannabis may seem like an easy but highly symbolic target.
  11. Alfa
    Ernst Hirsch Ballin is considered as the most or one of the most influential persons in the CDA. At least within the party and by several other political parties.

    It was a conference in Mexico. Im not sure which conference. But there are posts about it on DF.

    They try. But drugs are much easier to ban than abortion. Abortion rights are backed by pretty much every non-christian party and most of the population. There would be a big problem if the gov would ban abortion.

    Municipal officials now have the right refuse to marry gays now. Even though thats discrimination. You can see the same salami method in this, as you see with cannabis. They can not ban gay marriage, but they can make it more difficult. Step by step.

    Its easy for the CDA to get propaganda against cannabis in the media, including the nos news. All they have to do is to put cannabis in a negative light and they can launch another ban. This has happened over and over in the last 8 years. The most remarkable example was when they reported about criminal organizations involved with cultivating cannabis, and then went on that for this reason they were going to launch the weed-pass for coffeeshop visitors. They disregarded the fact that a pass that restricts coffeeshop visitors has nothing to do with cannabis growers. The NOS news item was pure propaganda. Not only in content, but also in visuals.
  12. Plasma
    What an incredibly backwards policy. I was not aware that such measures pointed out by Alfa are needed to measure THC content, it definitely seems like they will use this to close down coffeeshops given both parties political (and religious) agenda. The current soft drug policy seems not perfect (e.g. the backdoor policy) but this will ruin what has been a fairly nice bit of income along with many other benefits. If there is a way of creating consistent lower dosage cannabis plants, people are just going to reach into the black market to get stronger strains which will be terrible for coffeeshop owners, while funneling funds into gangs.

    I wish the best of luck to the Dutch coffeeshop owners.
  13. Ravaged
    As long as religion and greed rule, we are forever doomed. None of these politicians care about the PEOPLE. They care about certain PERSONS. Stronger cannabis a problem? Less burning plant matter inhaled for more effect is bad? I think we'd better outlaw any alcohol over 80 proof because I try to drink the same amount as people who drink beer and I get super sick and almost die so everyone shouldn't be allowed to drink anything other than beer! Pfft c'mon! If people can't handle the strength of a drug, and can't reduce the dosage far enough to get desired effect, then they don't need to use the drug in the first place! It's only too obvious to see how this country is going to cause their blackmarket to boom.

    Guy goes into a shop:
    Guy: Can I get (insert strain here)?

    ShopDude: Nope, that was considered "too strong for consumption" but I've got some MexiSchwag #43 that you can try.

    Guy: Aww okay, guess I don't need to spend money here today....

    ShopDude: Wait! I know a guy, he frequents that sketchy alley like two blocks down. If you really need some kill, he's the one. Just tell him ShopDude sent you.

    Guy: Hey thanks, buddy!

    The outcomes of this scenario will be left to your imagination.
  14. Ravaged
    I see no edit button, but would like to add to my previous post that this opens the door to organized crime in another way. If there becomes a government sanctioned way to have strains tested then criminals can own a coffee shop to sell their failed/not up to limit strains and then they can sell all their best stuff through some customer loyalty/other outlet using the shop as a legitimate front.
  15. Alfa
    Ah yes, and now you are onto something.

    A very important aspect of drug demand is that demand always get filled. If not in a legal way, then in an illegal way. So a ban of a popular drug will lead to illegal sales. If those illegal sales are at high risk of prosecution, then only those people and organizations who can deal with high risk will carry out those sales. This often comes with violence and other problems.

    So the result of such bans is that the illegal sales of the drug become more violent and problematic.

    And thats where we come full circle: this violence and problems will be used as reasons for further bans. Politicians with an anti-drug stance, know this and use it to their benefit.

    This is why the salami method becomes more and more effective, the more mini-bans and restrictions are in place.
  16. jon-q
    Dutch fear threat to liberalism in "soft drugs" curbs


    The Netherlands is embarking on a crusade against its multi-billion-euro marijuana industry, with significant implications both for its economy and its famously liberal approach to life. Along with tighter control of legalized prostitution and a swing to the right in attitudes toward immigration and Islam in recent years, the clampdown is seen as further evidence of an erosion of tolerance in a country known for its liberal social policies.

    The push to clamp down on soft drugs has come mainly from the Christian Democrats, the junior partner in the minority government and one of the larger parties in a fragmented political landscape.

    "There's clearly a shift in the moral debate. It's all about the culture of control," said Dirk Korf, professor of criminology at the University of Amsterdam.

    Instantly recognizable from the sickly sweet, burned-leaf smell that wafts out onto the street, the Netherlands' world-renowned "coffee shops" are almost as common as supermarkets in big cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam and in certain border towns.

    Like trained sommeliers, the staff or "bud tenders" are experts on the flavors and after-effects of whatever is on the menu -- white widow, vanilla kush, or hazers like amnesia "known for its extreme, almost paranoid psychedelic high, with an unforgettable strong fruity taste and smell."

    Counter staff do a brisk trade in plastic sachets of loose grass, ready-rolled joints and chunks of hashish for those who want take-away.

    The Netherlands tolerates the sale of up to 5 grams per person per day of marijuana and hashish in the controlled environment of the coffee shops. It also tolerates the home cultivation of marijuana plants, within a limit of five plants per person, but any cultivation larger than that is illegal.

    Strong demand has spawned secret cannabis plantations that provide a so-called back-door supply to the coffee shops and are a headache for Dutch authorities who have to find and raid them.

    DRUGS TOURISTS

    On a typical Saturday evening, the coffee shops in central Amsterdam are packed with smokers. The clientele is middle class, the voices mostly foreign -- Italian, Spanish, French, German, English.

    Concerned about this influx of soft-drugs tourists, not to mention what it sees as the associated crime, nuisance and health risks, the Christian Democrat Party wants to see the country's 700 or so coffee shops shut down, but for the moment is settling for introducing restrictions on their activities.

    A measure expected to be passed in parliament by the end of this year will have coffee shops operate as members-only clubs, meaning that only local residents will be eligible to register for "weed passes," effectively barring foreigners from buying soft drugs.

    Already, some cities have introduced tighter restrictions, limiting the coffee shops' proximity to schools or relocating them to the outskirts. On October 1, coffee shops in the southeastern city of Maastricht banned all foreigners except for neighboring Germans and Belgians, as a first step toward introduction of weed passes.

    Crime expert Korf says there is little justification for the clampdown, with scant evidence that the Dutch public supports the change.

    "No serious polls have been conducted, we don't know if opinions about coffee shops have even changed," said Korf.

    "Before coffee shops we had street dealing, they were selling marijuana in the street and ripping off tourists. The whole drug problem is nothing compared to (what we had in) the 1980s, 1990s -- we don't have a heroin problem."

    The Trimbos Institute, which studies addiction and mental health, said 5 percent of Netherlands citizens smoked weed or hashish in the past year, against an EU average of 7 percent.

    GLOBAL CONFUSION

    Policymakers around the world are seeking fresh ideas on how to combat drug abuse, opening up a debate on policies on soft drugs.
    In June, a high-profile group of global leaders declared the "war on drugs" a failure and urged governments to consider decriminalizing drugs in order to cut consumption and weaken the power of organized crime.

    The Global Commission on Drug Policy -- which includes former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and British billionaire Richard Branson -- said a decades-long strategy of outlawing drugs and jailing users while battling drug cartels had not worked.

    It recommended that governments experiment with the legal regulation of drugs, especially cannabis, citing the successes in countries such as the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, where drug consumption had been reduced.

    Portugal, for instance, has gone much further than the Netherlands by decriminalizing all drugs, replacing jail time with counseling and treatment.

    The Christian Democrats disagree and say the Dutch policy has had a negative effect on public health and crime.

    "In other countries there is no tolerance. The Dutch coffee shops attract a lot of foreign drug tourists, especially in the border region, causing much nuisance," according to a statement published on the Christian Democrat Party website.

    The centrist party has cast doubt on the rationale for allowing coffee shops, which was to separate the soft and hard drugs markets, and said that people who smoke cannabis often turned to other drugs.

    It also argues the active substance in cannabis is much stronger than twenty years ago, putting it on a par with harder drugs -- a reflection of years of cultivation of new varieties by growers.

    A Dutch commission earlier this year found that hashish and marijuana on sale in the Netherlands contain about 18 percent of THC, the main psychoactive substance, and said a level above 15 percent put the drugs on a par with heroin or cocaine.

    Maxime Verhagen, a Christian Democrat who is deputy prime minister, said on October 7 the government would ban the sale of cannabis whose concentration of THC exceeds 15 percent.

    The Christian Democrats also want tougher regulations on the so-called cannabis plantations.

    In addition to illegally supplying the coffee shops, "much of the illegally cultivated cannabis in the Netherlands is exported abroad. There is an extensive network illegally created in the grip of organized crime," the party said in its statement.

    Dutch authorities already devote considerable resources to tracking down these large-scale plantations.

    The police work with the local electricity company to detect unusual consumption patterns, for example round-the-clock usage in sheds and attics, and have used tiny sniffer-helicopters which can detect the smell of pot plants wafting from ventilation shafts and chimneys, according to media reports.

    Rotterdam city council recently distributed "scratch and sniff cards" to households, hoping that concerned citizens would tip off the police if they recognized the smell of illegal cannabis plantations in the neighborhood.

    PUSHBACK AT HOME

    There is plenty of opposition to the crackdown. Dutch smokers do not welcome the idea of having to register for weed passes.

    "Many of my customers are locals, artists, writers, doctors, lawyers, professionals. They don't want their name on a register -- they don't know who could see it or use it. So they may go to other sources on the street," said Paula Baten, manager of the Siberie coffee shop in central Amsterdam.

    "This government is more Christian, more right-wing. They don't want drugs but they forget about the effects of alcohol."

    Already, there's talk of how foreigners can circumvent the new rules, for example by asking Dutch citizens to buy soft drugs on their behalf to take away, and concern that dealing in soft drugs will go onto the street.

    Some politicians oppose the proposals. Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam, says restricting the activities of coffee shops would lead to greater health risks, nuisance and drug dealing on the streets. As mayor, he could simply choose not to enforce the weed pass regulations.

    "At the moment the mayor is in conference with the minister to convince him that the measures regarding coffee shops will be counterproductive for Amsterdam," the mayor's office said in a statement to Reuters.

    Others cite the likely economic impact.

    The Netherlands, like other European countries, has had to introduce austerity measures and cut spending in the wake of the credit crisis, when it pumped 40 billion euros into rescuing financial institutions.

    Tax revenue from the coffee shops is estimated at about 400 million euros a year. Studies by the finance ministry and academics estimated that if the Netherlands legalized the "back-door" supply, bringing it "above board," it could collect as much as an additional 400-850 million euros a year, including savings on the cost of law enforcement.

    Then there's the tourist revenue.

    In Maastricht, which gets a lot of day tourists because it is so close to the German and Belgian borders, a study commissioned by an association of coffee shop owners calculated that visitors to the city's coffee shops spent about 119 million euros a year, mostly on shopping and eating out.

    A study by Professor Korf of the University of Amsterdam found that tourists who visited coffee shops in central Amsterdam had similar spending habits to other tourists, and were just as likely to spend 200 euros or more on a hotel room, or splash out at smart restaurants or nightclubs.

    The Bulldog and Barney's -- the big names in the industry -- run coffee shop chains, and many coffee shop owners also make money from lodgings and related businesses.

    Hundreds of tourists attend the annual cannabis cup award for the best new strains, and the local edition of Time Out runs monthly weed reviews.

    Jackie Woerlee, who runs customized cannabis tours, said that among her recent tour guests were members of one of the Middle East royal families who rented a luxury apartment for several weeks and spent several thousand euros shopping at luxury stores.

    "Customers might easily spend 100 euros in a coffee shop, but it's not just that, it's the hotels, the eating out, renting apartments," Woerlee said. "These people spend."



    Sara webb
    Reuters 10th Oct 2011
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011...c=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=401
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