Marijuana Is In, Tobacco Is Out Under Netherlands' Smoking Ban

By Alfa · Jun 27, 2008 · ·
  1. Alfa
    Marijuana Is In, Tobacco Is Out Under Netherlands' Smoking Ban

    By Martijn van der Starre

    June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Starting July 1, marijuana will be the only leaf that can be smoked in public places in the Netherlands. Cannabis devotees aren't celebrating.

    Local pot smokers, who usually cut joints with tobacco, and owners of the ``coffee shops'' where they are allowed to light up will have to change their habits when the nation implements the indoor tobacco ban. Puffing a pure marijuana cigarette in public will still be permitted; smoking one with tobacco will merit coffee shop owners a 300-euro ($466) fine for the first offense and 2,400 euros for a fourth.

    ``Every customer will have to learn how to smoke pure,'' said Robert Kempen, co-owner of The NooN and Mellow Yellow in Amsterdam, which sell marijuana and hashish. The rule makes him ``sick to death,'' he said, rolling himself a joint.

    Coffee-shop proprietors say the ban will put some of them out of business as smokers stay away. The nation's 720 outlets that serve marijuana smokers generate a large portion of their revenue from selling drinks, food and rolling papers to their patrons. Dutch sales of cannabis alone totaled 1.2 billion euros ($1.86 billion) in 2001, according to the most recent figures available from the nation's statistics bureau.

    To permit tobacco smoking, shops will have to build separate, unstaffed rooms, and many say they don't have the space or money to do so. Others are investing in water pipes and $400 vaporizers, initially intended to aid people with lung problems inhale medicine, to help smokers light up without tobacco.

    `Times Have Changed'

    ``It's a bad year for marijuana smokers,'' said Gwydion Hydref while smoking in Coffee Shop Johnny. The Welshman works for Wickedtrips, a company that offers vacation packages, including a ```no holds barred' weekender'' to Amsterdam ahead of the smoking ban. ``Times have changed.''

    The Netherlands follows other European countries in banning tobacco. Ireland was the first country in the region to forbid smoking in public places in 2004. Sweden, Italy, Malta, France, Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal and England and others have followed, with full or partial restrictions.

    The Dutch ban, which prohibits tobacco smoking in all public places of employment to protect workers' health, is only for tobacco and makes no change to marijuana policy, said Saskia Hommes, a spokeswoman for Dutch Health MinisterAb Klink. The government will have to see if the law is enforceable, she said.

    The Netherlands decriminalized the use of marijuana in 1976, though it stopped short of fully legalizing the drug because international treaties prohibited it from doing so. The country's first coffee shop, named after Donovan's song ``Mellow Yellow,'' had opened its doors four years earlier.

    `Bloody Awful'

    Government policy toward the shops has become less lenient in recent years, with the number dropping by 39 percent in a decade as authorities cracked down on sale to young people and revoked the licenses of owners who commit crimes.

    Still, the shops have devoted patrons who are upset about the latest development.

    The ban is ``bloody awful,'' said Nima Gani, a musician smoking at The NooN. Gani plans to stop visiting The NooN and smoke his ``Blueberry'' marijuana and tobacco joints on the street.``I feel like my freedom is getting smaller and smaller,'' he said.

    To enforce the new policy, the government has more than doubled its number of food and consumer product inspectors to 200, said Bob Kiel, a spokesman for the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. The agents will make unannounced visits to bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as coffee shops. There are no guidelines to help inspectors distinguish between a mixed joint and a pure one, he said.

    Hashish and Joints

    Coffee shops sell everything from pre-rolled joints for 3.50 euros each to hashish for as much as 18 euros a gram, said Mark Jacobsen, chairman of the Amsterdam Association of Cannabis Retailers. The ban will make it even harder for the shops to stay in business as visitors and revenue will drop, said Jacobsen, who is building a wall to divide The Rookies, a shop he co-owns.

    ``Sales will definitely fall,'' said Rida Oulad, who works behind the counter at Ibiza in Amsterdam. ``Why would you go to a coffee shop where you can't smoke and the only remaining activities are sitting and watching television?''

    Gani, for one, isn't happy about the changes. He says he can't smoke at his real home because his mother would hit him ``over the head with a pan.''

    Still, he has no plans to stop rolling joints mixed with tobacco: ``Smoking pure grates my throat.''

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  1. Metomni
    SWIM has always been interested in smoking joints with marijuana and tobacco, but that is just not seen around here, just pure weed joints. While this is sad, why is it THAT bad? Is tobacco outlawed in just public? Or everywhere?

    Here in the states it's not allowed to smoke ciggarrettes in most places anymore, most people were upset about not being able to smoke in bars, but you just go outside and it's okay again. SWIM has never understood why it's a big deal.

    What's the big deal about having to roll joints made of only cannabis? Custom? Do people feel it's infringing upon their habits? SWIM sees where the indoor bans are sensible, what if someone in the place of business doesn't like the tobacco, but has to deal with it? Is it not easier to go outside than inconvenience the other patrons?

    Sorry if SWIM doesn't make sense or is playing too much of a devil's advocate, he's been drinking.:p
  2. Bajeda
    Its all personal preference really, but the day my panda can't smoke spliffs is probably the day he outright quits cannabis, or at least smoking joints.

    They are dealing with weed + tobacco and not just tobacco for the most part, and its pretty stupid for them to be in a smoking devoted establishment if they have that much trouble with a particular type of smoke.

    Not exactly sure about the Netherlands, but in other parts of Europe and Asia my panda knew practically no one would didn't smoke spliffs (or wouldn't).

    I don't think an indoor ban on tobacco is such a bad thing, but shouldn't they make allowances for 'smoking establishments' in general? They can just get a special permit or something. For instance cannabis cafes and shisha bars. If you are going to a place that specializes in smoking and where people intend to smoke and know there will be a smoky environment, who cares? If you are going to a restaurant to eat and people are sitting around smoking, thats a different story.

    And does this mean they will be getting rid of the smoking sections at the Schipol airport?
  3. Nature Boy
    Although Bajeda makes a valid point about specialised smoking venues, I don't actually see this as that bad a thing. Smoking pure isn't a nightmare or anything. The break from tobacco might actually be beneficial. It all seems a little ridiculous though. Will we now see government officials poking through the ashtrays of coffeeshops looking for remnants of tobacco?
  4. purplehaze
    How are they going to know?

    I'm not completely sure, but does the tobacco make that much of a difference in the smell of the smoke?
  5. psyche
    I'm also suprpised that it'd be such a big deal for anyone. But I'm amused by the fact that they are banning the tobacco and not weed. It almost makes a ban of a drug look cool. I guess this could be a good thing also; there are many studies that neglect the fact that many people smoke their weed mixed with tobacco while assessing the harm cannabis causes. Though it's not like we are taking an ace off of the governments propaganda machinery.
  6. Burnt
    I think owners of the establishment have a right to decide what gets smoke on their property. Its that simple. I dont smoke tobacco so I prefer to be in places where people smoke outside. As far as smoking pure cannabis it is a habit in europe most people smoke with tobacco which is something again I dont prefer. However yes its kind of stupid to ban one type of smoke in a place where people go specifically to smoke stuff.
  7. Woodman
    Amsterdam Coffeeshops Ban Tobacco.

    [que music: "Twilight Zone" opening theme]

    Tobacco ban wafts into Amsterdam pot shops

    By Jeffrey Stinson, USA TODAY

    AMSTERDAM — Starting next week, you'll still be able to legally smoke a joint in the famously relaxed coffee shops of Amsterdam — but for a cigarette, you'll have to step outside.
    A tobacco ban that goes into effect Tuesday in the Netherlands has both tourists and shop owners, like, totally confused, man.

    "It's crazy," says Jon Foster, 36, an American who owns the popular Grey Area coffee shop in the gentrified Jordaan area of central Amsterdam. "It seems totally illogical to have a business that specializes in smoking and you ban tobacco."

    POLICY PRIMER: Understanding Amsterdam's policy on cannabis
    The new law prohibits smoking in bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs to protect people from secondhand tobacco smoke. It is similar to bans that have swept across Europe since Ireland made pubs smoke-free in 2004, as well as restrictions across the USA.

    FIND MORE STORIES IN: Europe | Netherlands | Netherlands | Rhode Island | Ireland | Wales | Willie Nelson | Woody Harrelson | North Kingstown | Jon Foster | Paradox | Jordaan
    The contradiction here, however, is it extends to coffee shops in the Netherlands that are renowned since 1976 for letting people buy and smoke marijuana or hashish without being arrested.

    Starting Tuesday, customers can still legally buy up to 5 grams of cannabis a day at a coffee shop and smoke it on the premises. But they cannot smoke a regular cigarette — or mix the pot with tobacco, as many Europeans prefer — without risk of being cited by Dutch health inspectors.

    "I will have to ask, 'What's in that joint?' " says Ludo Bossaert, 49, owner of the Paradox, another well-known shop. "What's the difference if there's a little bit of tobacco in there? It's going to make it pretty difficult to enforce."

    Saskia Hommes, a spokeswoman for the Dutch health ministry, acknowledges that banning tobacco smoking and allowing dope smoking may seem "a bit odd."

    "Under our system, these are two different things," she says.

    Amsterdam has 236 of the country's 720 coffee shops, says Mark Jacobsen, chairman of the Amsterdam Union of Coffee Shops.

    Foster, from North Kingstown, R.I., who has lived here since 1996, predicts more people will take the cannabis home or outside to smoke it mixed with tobacco.

    He worries that will ruin the "excellent social atmosphere" of his coffee shop, where neighbors, students and tourists come to drink coffee, smoke, chat and read. The cozy place is decorated with street signs, bumper stickers and signed photos of country singer Willie Nelson and actor Woody Harrelson, both marijuana advocates.

    Others drop in for a quick purchase from a menu of more than a dozen varieties of cannabis that range in price from $13 a gram to $95 for 5 grams.

    Michael Veling of the Cannabis Retailers Association, says there's a risk that more people could end up smoking cannabis on the streets if they don't want to smoke at home. In the long run, he predicts, the coffee shops will continue just fine.

    "We get hundreds of thousands of Americans who come to our coffee house, and I've never seen an American smoke tobacco in my 30 years in the business," he says.

    Pat Doherty, 54, a tourist from Wales, says he hopes the shops survive the ban: "It's all cool."
  8. ChoppedandFaded
    Re: Amsterdam Coffeeshops Ban Tobacco.

    That can't be right.
  9. ShawnD
    Sure it does. I've always thought that marijuana smoke smells like spice, but tobacco really smells like burning leaves. Throw a bunch of dead leaves on a camp fire and you'll know the smell I'm talking about.

    Key word was tourists. The kind of people who make special trips to the netherlands just to get high are probably not the same people who smoke cigarettes. Not only are they not cool enough to smoke cigarettes, but they probably can't afford it these days ;)
  10. Coconut
    SWIM thinks tobacco and cannabis smoke are very much different. Cigarettes has a kind of stinging, smokey-old-pub scent that you can instantly recognise as tobacco. Cannabis is more (but still not particularly) pleasant in SWIM's opinion - the smell is closer to what you would expect from a wood fire in the winter.

    Now, enough of SWIM's ranting.

    I disagree with this ban. I think it should be up to individual coffee shop owners to decide whether smoking tobacco is to be allowed in their establishments. The smell of tobacco smoke makes me feel physically ill and sends my athsma into overdrive but I still think it should be up to owners, not the state.
  11. podge
    Gotta love that last line there.:laugh: It should be interesting too see what happens the day it comes in.....
  12. Woodman
    I don't know about the rest of you, but if I'm smoking a joint, I don't give a shit what the guy next to me is smoking.

    If he's smoking a cigarette, I would not be the little brown-shirt to report to the right-wing Nazis. He could be smoking crack or heroin for all I care. It wouldn't bother me.

    ...this causes me to wonder how they intend to enforce this measure.
  13. Alfa
    The right wing Christian government will take any excuse to close coffeeshops down. They are already halfway with closing down all coffeeshops. This is just another excuse.
  14. Alfa
    Netherlands says no to tobacco
    Amsterdam's coffee shop owners see law as a threat to marijuana

    Cox News Service

    LONDON — Starting July 1, the Netherlands will banish tobacco smoke from restaurants and all other public places. But in a bizarre twist, patrons of certain coffee shops where marijuana is sold over the counter can still light up their cannabis joints.

    Possessing cannabis is actually illegal in the Netherlands, but smoking it is tolerated.

    Owners say the tobacco ban — a trend that is becoming increasingly widespread in Europe — could be a threat to the specially licensed coffee houses, because patrons traditionally prefer their cannabis joints mixed with tobacco.

    "As this is a ban on tobacco smoke, most coffee shops will allow customers to smoke pure weed, but not tobacco, and this will be potentially really difficult to regulate," said Lorna Clay, manager of the Cannabis College in Amsterdam, a nonprofit organization that distributes information about cannabis usage.

    "Will the staff have to watch people make their joints to be sure no tobacco has been used?" she said.

    Clay said some of Amsterdam's 226 coffee shops have invested in new kinds of pipes and vaporizers to encourage pure cannabis use.

    But she said other coffee house owners have no intention of stopping customers from smoking mixed joints.

    These owners argue that the city's renowned coffee shops are one of the main reasons why so many tourists visit.

    The new law comes on the heels of another change in what's thought to be a major Dutch tourist draw — legalized prostitution. City officials announced last year that they would tighten rules in an effort to stop money laundering and trafficking in women.

    Officials began shutting the famous brothels that display lingerie-clad women in shopfront windows, and today there are 400 window brothels, down from 478 last year.

    "This is an attempt to stop criminal activity," said Bas Bruijn, a spokesman for the city of Amsterdam. "This is not an effort to end prostitution at all."
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