Europe: Dutch Political Parties Call for Regulated Pilot Program to Supply Marijuana to Coffee Shops 12/9/05

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Two weeks ago, John Calvin Jones reported in Drug War Chronicle that Dutch parliamentarians were pondering a pilot program to allow regulated marijuana grows to supply the country's famous coffee houses. Last Friday, the political parties involved reached agreement on the details. The conservative government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is balking, but the legislators have warned that if the program is not in operation by December 14, they will pass a bill designed to force it to act.

The Bulldog coffeeshop, Amsterdam
courtesy www.amsterdam.info
The trial approach to regulated pot production would address what the Dutch call the problem of "the back door." Under Holland's pragmatic approach to soft drugs, marijuana and hashish remain illegal, but possession of less than an ounce is not bothered with and retail sales through regulated coffee houses are allowed. But marijuana growing remains a crime, so coffee house owners are forced to obtain their product in the illicit market -- through the back door.

Under the pilot program, which will take place in the southern border city of Maastricht, growers will no longer be subject to arrest or prosecution, but they will have to comply with existing health and safety standards. Participating coffee shops will have to keep records of where they obtained their supply and they will be required to provide customers with information about the chemical content of their product and the health risks of inhaling smoke.

While the pilot program is supported by more liberal members of the Dutch parliament, it has also picked up defectors like conservative lawmaker Frans Weekers. "It will be possible to trace where cannabis is grown, and where it's sold," Weekers said. Current policy is "leading to increasing problems," he told the Associated Press. "There comes a moment when you say, 'Now we have to take the next step,'" he said. "If this pilot program works, and we can show to everyone that it's an improvement, then you have a good argument to take to foreign governments."

But Balkenende and his Christian Democrats have opposed further liberalization of Dutch drug laws (or practices), arguing that it would open the door to complete legalization and it would be in violation of the United Nation anti-drug conventions. "The experiment would be at odds with Dutch law, and there's a legal problem internationally," Balkenende told the AP.

Anti-cannabis Justice Minister Piet Donner announced he had ordered an investigation into whether the program would violate the conventions. Findings are expected within days. That is probably a good thing, because the Dutch parties have made it clear they are going to wait no longer on the government.

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Issue #414 -- 12/9/05

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Update and Appeal: DRCNet in 2006 | Feature: Vancouver Keeps Leading the Way on Drug Reform, Despite Bumps in the Road | Feature: Seattle Conference on Drug War Exit Strategies Gets Down to Nuts and Bolts | Feature: Washington Legislature to Consider Bill to Examine Alternatives to Prohibition | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Marijuana: Denver Man to Challenge Pot Arrest After Legalization Ordinance in Effect | Chronic Pain: South Carolina Pain Doctors Lose Appeal, But Get New Sentencing Hearings | Medical Marijuana: Judges Growls at More Possible Prosecution Misconduct in Bryan Epis Resentencing Hearings | Medical Marijuana: San Diego County to Sue to Overturn California Law | Latin America: Prison Sentence for Dying Woman, 79, Sparks International Appeal | Australia: Australian Government Goes After Rave Ecstasy Testing Group | Europe: Czech Lower House Passes Drug Reform Measure, Including Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession and Personal Grows | Canada: With Elections Looming, Conservatives Talk Tough on Drugs | Europe: Dutch Political Parties Call for Regulated Pilot Program to Supply Marijuana to Coffee Shops | Web Scan: After I-75 in Seattle, re-launched web site from Bolivia's coca country | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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