’Regulation of cannabis in The Netherland

Discussion in 'Cannabis' started by Alfa, May 4, 2004.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    'Regulation of cannabis in The Netherlands and Europe'
    Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation (Stichting Drugsbeleid - SDB)
    Raimond Dufour, president
    Groot Heiligland 67, 2011 EP Haarlem (Nederland.)
    tel+fax: 0031-23- 5310133
    email: [email protected]


    August 2001


    Regulation of cannabis in The Netherlands and Europe


    lntroduction

    On June 27h 2000 the Dutch Parliament adopted a motion asking the govemment to regulate the growing of cannabis, to complement the existing regulation for the sale of cannabis. Purpose of the motion was the decriminalisation of the production of cannabis to be sold in the so-called "coffeeshops" (the semi-official sellingpoints for cannabis-products).


    The govemment replied that the international political climate did not allow for this. lt announced, however, its intention to organise two international conferences about cannabis. She will do this together with Belgium, Gennany and Switzerland. The first will take place coming December in Holland and is to be a conference of European cities.


    The second will be held coming spring; it will be a meeting for the 4 ministers of Health.


    The Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation (SDB, see note) hopes that these conferences will lead to concrete steps to decriminalise cannabis and provides the following background information.


    Present situation in the Netherlands.


    For longer than twenty years cannabis: leaf-top (marihuana) and resin (hash) of the hempplant is being sold and consumed with practical impunity by means of the socalled "coffeeshops",a somewhat misleading name, since their main product is not coffee! Although the current law and international treaties which The Netherlands have entered into, formally do not allow this, official Instructions of the Public Prosecution Department apply the "expediency principle" to the consumer and the coffeeshop if these comply with certain conditions. The expediency principle allows the Prosecutor to decide not to prosecute, if he or she deems this not to be "expedient".


    This policy is based on the difference in health-risks between cannabis ("softdrugs") and, for instance, heroin or cocaine ("harddrugs"). lt creates a separation between the two markets, which is beneficial for public health, prevents the imprisornnent of consumers, and leads to less crime and black money.


    The free sale of cannabis has not led to more consumption than in other comparable countries. Over a population of 15,8 million inhabitants there are app. 325.000 regular consumers of cannabis. There are app. 2.000 coffeeshops, of which app. 300 in Amsterdam.
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    "Backdoor"


    The present regulation is limited to the sale at the "frontdooi" of the coffeeshop to the consumer. The coffeeshops cannot buy their wares at the "backdoor", and the cannabis can not be grown, under a regulatory regime. The growing, handling, and buying by the coffeeshops continue being prosecuted.


    This is called the "backdoor-problem". Nobody is satisfied with it. Neither the politicians, because the system is inconsistent, nor the police and the prosecutors, because it's difficult for them to decide which trader should be prosecuted and which trader should go free. The owners of the coffeeshops are not content, for on the one hand they have to comply with various rules, but on the other they have to deal with unavoidable criminality.


    Local-governments in particular are faced with problems. The illegality renders openair growing too risky, which means the growing is practised inside private homes. This causes stench and firerisks. In some cities there are sections where criminal gangs "regulate" the growing. The high prices caused by the prohibition are so attractive that local-governments, public prosecutors and police are unable to tackle the tradeproblem.


    Regulation.


    In 1998 the SDP, with help -on a unofficial basis- from experts connected to citygovermnents, police and the justice department developed a plan to regulate the growing of cannabis.


    The plan was published by the SDB under the fitle "Coffeeshops out of the shadow". It was introduced on June 20'h 1998 at a special meeting organised by the Association of Local Governments in Holland.


    The plan proposes that the regulatory system in existence for the coffeeshops should be complemented by a regulatory system for growers, in such a way that a logistically closed system is created in which the growers will be allowed on an exclusive basis to produce for coffeeshops- which in tum are allowed to only sell cannabis produced by these growers.


    If the "backdooi" is drawn out of the shadow of criminality, society will have a grip on the entire chain of the national coffeeshop-market for cannabis. Commercial cannabis-trade outside the regulated system loses its reason for existence and will disappear automatically, or will be persecuted more effectively. The same applies to export and import. Holland will become less attractive for international cannabistraffic. Quality-control can be instituted. Taxes will bring in about EUR. 30 million yearly, which can be used for controlling the system, user-care and such.
    All in all, the system will lead to an improved control by society.


    Closed system.


    The cannabis-products sold by the Dutch coffeeshops are marihuana or "weed"(app. 80%) and hash (app. 20%). The marihuana is predominantly grown in Holland
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    Marihuana and hash are sold in small plastic bags (sachets) containing Ei. V2, 1 or 2 gram. Coffeeshops mostly have in stock about 5 brands of weed and 5 brands of hash.
    Cannabis is grown in beds. The bed is planted, mostly with seedlings and harvested. After drying, and eventually processing to hash, the ready product is packed in sachets and is now ready to be sold. About 50 cannabisplants produce 750-1000 grams of marihuana.
    According to our proposal each "admitted" grower receives his own grower-code and each batch gets its own batchcode. At the moment of packing the amount, growercode and batchcode are printed on the sachet in the form of a bar-code. When it is sold the sachets are read electronically as is a common practice for many other products. The bookkeeping of the products bought, stored and sold shows the amounts that have been produced, bought, stored and sold, specified for growerscode and batchcode. These data are sent electronically by the growers and the coffeeshops to a govemment ageney. This "Cannabis-agency" administraties the entire system and sees to its remaining a closed circuit. The Agency has an inspection-unit. This unit pays visits to the growers (especially right before harvest) and incidentally to the coffeeshops. The Agency also provides quality-control, for example on the percentage of t.h.c, working-conditions and environmental aspects.
    The closed system can be installed on a communal or regional basis as well as on the national level.


    Response of local-governments and the Dutch Government
    The SDB sent the report to the govemment, who suggested to the SDB to approach the local-goveminents. The SDB then presented the report to a number of large and middle-sized cities. The report was received with enthusiasm and led to discussions in city-councils and local media. Several city-govemments drew up their own regulationplans. However, when they presented them to the local public-prosecutors these refused to cooperate because the minister of Justice strictly forbade it.
    The SDB then wrote to the govemment asking it to solve this deadloek. The letter went accompanied by 20 declarations of support signed by mayors.; this number had risen to 59 by the summer of 2000.
    After several discussions had taken place in Parliament, the socialist party PvdA, which is represented in the govemment, presented the mofion-Apostolou, asking the govemment to regulate the growing of cannabis. This motion was adopted on June 27th 2000 with a maioritv of one vote.
    On September 15'h t'he govermnent answered that it would not execute the motion. Its main arguments were that regulation would be hard to realise and would meet with strong international opposition. However, it promised to try and put on the international agenda the question whether the strict prohibition of cannabis in the U.N.treaties can still be regarded as realistic in view of the widespread consumption of cannabis in Europe and beyond. Parliament had, with a large majority, urged the govemment to do this.
    To this purpose the goveniment, together with Belgium, Gennany and Switzerland will organise two international conferences. The first, coming December, is to be a conference for cities in Europe and will discuss their practical problems with the cannabis-issue.
    The second is to be held in spring 2002; it will be a meeting for the 4 ministers of public health and will focus on the health effects of cannabis.
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    Proposed action.
    We think it is urgent to try and ensure that these conferences do not become bogged down in more or less interesting discussions, but will instead lead to concrete steps for the decriminalisation of cannabis.
    Essential facts to be taken into consideration are:
    1. prohibition has failed, since cannabis-consumption evidently is widespread;
    2. prohibition has caused a massive and pemicious criminality, and
    3. regulated sale of cannabis in Holland has shown not to lead to increased consumption.


    The coming two conferences offer possibilities to develop initiatives in Europe.
    For Holland, a very welcome result would be if international support could be given to the regulation in Holland of the production of cannabis for coffeeshops: for instance by means of a European pilot project.
    The SDB would be delighted if you could help, and would be glad to offer assistance if required.


    Developments in Switzerland
    In May 1999 the national commission for drugproblems (EKDF) published its report ("Cannabisbericht"). lt proposed to introduce a national regulatory-system for cannabis. This should be based on the expediency-principie, since a forinal legalisation is impossible because of the U.N.treaties. Regulation should encompass the growing, processing and sale. The government empowered the Home-Office to solicit the opinions of authorities and organisations on a revision of the existing laws and regulations. The results were published in September 2000. Of the 26 regions ("Kantons") 21 spoke out in favour of the recommendations of the EKDF, 6 against. On March 9th of this year the Swiss Government submitted a law-proposal to the Parliament.












    Note:
    The Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation ("Stichting Drugsbeleid "-SDB) was founded in 1996. It strivesfor a drug-policy with less health-risks and less crime. The Board consists oflocal politicians and experts. Its Advisory Board counts among its membersformer ministers of Health andjustice and members of the High Court of Justice.



    August 2001
     
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