Europe: Belgium, Germany Need to Open Their Own Cannabis Coffee Shops, Says Dutch Mayor

Gerd Leers, the mayor of the Dutch border town of Maastricht, has called for neighboring Belgium and Germany to open their own cannabis coffee shops and regulate the sale of marijuana in a bid to reduce the flow of "drug tourists" pouring into his city. He also said the regulation of cannabis is a problem that should be addressed at the European level.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
"The best way out of the problem is for Europe's political leaders to sit together, listen to these problems and open their eyes for a real solution," Leers said.

The German and Belgian governments have complained for years that their citizens are going to Holland to purchase cannabis. Dutch authorities, meanwhile, complain of crime and congestion associated with foreigners at the coffee shops, and the conservative Dutch government is considering various schemes to bar foreigners from enjoying the shops. An estimated 1.5 million "drug tourists" visit Maastricht each year, according to official estimates.

Leers' comments came in an interview with EUX-TV, in which he responded to an angry letter sent by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhoftstadt to Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende. Verhoftstadt was objecting about Maastricht plans to relocate some of its coffee shops to within walking distance of the Belgian border.

While Belgium has decriminalized marijuana possession, it has no provision for the supply of cannabis. But Verhoftstadt's complaints may have more to do with a pending Belgian parliamentary election, and Belgium is part of the problem anyway, said Leers.

"Verhofstadt should first carefully read my proposals and my ideas, instead of presenting them in a simplistic way to the people during an election campaign," he said. "The point is that he does not have a clear idea about what I am doing. I invite him to discuss this. We are not bringing our coffee shops to the border... we are just trying to overcome the problems around the coffee shops, to make them manageable," he said.

Belgium should deal with its marijuana users at home, Leers said. "What he is doing, he is bringing his clients to Maastricht, and then you should be fair. Either he bans the use of drugs completely, and fights against it. Or he should give it free and organize a way of selling these drugs to the people. But he should not complain because Maastricht is trying to get rid of all these problems that are caused by the Belgians themselves," Leers complained. "They say that we are exporting our drugs problems because we have our so-called coffee shops where you can use small amounts of drugs. But it's exactly the other way round. They are causing our problems because they are sending their clients, their inhabitants because in Belgium and Germany you can't buy it."

While conservative European governments insist that the Dutch could solve the problem by shutting down their coffee shops, Leers begged to differ. "If closing them were the solution, I would be the first one to do it," he said. "But the point is -- and it's been proven -- is that if you 'say no to drugs,' it goes underground. It becomes illegal and then the problem would be even worse. I think it's better to regulate and keep your hands on it than to close your eyes. Be open for new solutions, because the way we are doing it now, we are losing, and the criminals will be the winners, the big winners. They earn a lot of money. Let's stop that. Let's organize it. Let's regulate it, so that we can clear it up for our people."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Holland is. . .

. . . the light at the end of the tunnel. 'Pity it doesn't run the UN.

Belgium activists one step closer to cannabis regulation

'De facto' acquittance in trial against association of cannabis
producers in Belgium

25 april 2007

Today the local court of Antwerpen, Belgium (Correctionele Rechtbank)
issued a verdict in the case against Trekt Uw Plant vzw (www.trektuwplant.be).

This association has the intention of organising the cultivation of cannabis,
meant for the personal consumption of her adult members, in a collective
way. Trekt Uw Plant bases itself on the the Royal Decree of 2003 and the
Ministerial Guideline of January 2005, signed by the Belgian Minister of
Justice and all 5 General Prosectors. According to this guideline the
possession of max. 3 grammes cannabis en 1 cannabisplant by adults will
not be prosecuted anymore, if there are no aggravating circumstances.

The judge has sentenced that Trekt Uw Plant is not a criminal
organisation. The request of the prosecutor to suspend the association
was therefore denied. This means explicitly that there were no
aggravating circumstances in this case, which were invoked by prosecutor
Lins to accuse us.

The judge has also sentences that the cultivation of cannabis is always
illegal, and that the ministerial guideline does not have to be
followed. She concludes that complete accquittance is impossible: of the
5 accused members, 3 members do not receive any sanctions, and 2 will
receive a fine of 15 euro each. This sanction is minimal in comparison
with the jail term of max. 5 years which we had been informally warned
for by a representative of the Antwerp prosecuter office in October 2006.

The judge has sentenced that cultivating cannabis is punishable en no
lack of clarity exists in the legislation. She refers to the
contradictory communication by politicians and media as the cause for
confusion amongst individual citizens concerning the status of this
guideline and therefore of the cultivation of cannabis as a whole.

Trekt Uw Plant did not base itself on communications from politicians or
media. We have strictly accomplished the regulation stated by the Royal
Decree of 2003 and the subsequent Ministerial Guideline of 2005 that
replaces the text on cannabis from the RD agter this text was eliminated
by a sentence of the Arbitrary Court in 2004.
At each step, we have done everything to remain within the framework of
the law. Every detail was considered extremely carefully. And besides,
we asked and obtained permission for the establishment of the plantation
from the local Antwerp authorities following positive recommendation of
the Antwerp police.

This senntence denies the political decision to stop persecuting
possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption. This
decision has been taken after 8 years of political decisions and debate
in society. This is a political sentence, which obliges political
decision makers to take a stand.

VZW Trekt Uw Plant is a legal association. Our initiative can now be
repeated in the whole country. We are satisfied with the fact that our
name has been cleared: But we do not agree with the interpretation of
the legislation on cannabis cultivation. We will therefore go into
appeal. The fact that we need to provoke this court case means that the
legal status of cannabis cultivation for personal consumption is not
clear enough. We call on the politicians to start working out a
definitive regulation after the elections on 10 June.

TREKT UW PLANT continues. We are ready for a long term struggle to
obtain our right. We call upon all people who agree with us to become a
member or support us in other ways.

On Saturday 5 May we will organise a Global Marijuana March, on the
Vrijdagmarkt in
Antwerpen

You are all wellcome

TREKT UW PLANT vzw
Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen
Tel. 03 293 0886 - GSM: 0479 982271 / 0495 122 644
E-mail: [email protected] / [email protected]
www.trektuwplant.be

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