Holland's Half-Baked Attempt to Return to the Marijuana Vanguard [FEATURE]

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Holland was the world's marijuana mecca. Under the quite sensible policy of gedogen (pragmatic tolerance), Dutch authorities didn't quite legalize marijuana but instead effectively turned a blind eye, allowing licensed retail establishments -- the famous coffeeshops -- to sell five grams or less of marijuana, and to let their customers consume the products onsite despite prohibition remaining on the books.

an Amsterdam coffee shop (Creative Commons)
A generation of stoners made the pilgrimage to Amsterdam, getting wrecked on hash and primo nederwiet (Dutch weed) and musing fuzzily about why their home countries couldn't be as cool about cannabis as the Netherlands. That was then.

Oh, the stoners still come for coffeeshops like the Bulldog and Die Melkweg, especially weekend punters from more puritanical locales, such as Britain and France, where weed can still get you in trouble. This is the "drug tourism" the Dutch decry even as they pocket the Euros.

But over the years, some of the luster has rubbed away, in part because conservative Dutch governments who were never happy with the coffeeshop scene whittled it down as much as they could, but also in part because the Dutch were standing still while the relaxation of marijuana prohibition gained momentum around the world.

Uruguay legalized it. Canada legalized it. Ten American states, the nation's capital, and two US territories legalized it, with another state or two or three likely to do it this year. And this was actual legalization, not the wink-wink-nudge-nudge "it's still illegal but we'll allow it" Dutch compromise. And while no European country has completely legalized it, decriminalization is afoot in broad swathes of the continent, and Spain allows private use and cultivation, as well as "cannabis clubs," especially in Catalonia.

Now, though, the Dutch are finally considering taking the next step, and that involves fixing a chronic issue for their system: the "back door problem." That is, while it has been allowed for the coffeeshops to sell marijuana, they have had no legal source of supply. The Dutch system had no provision for the regulated provision of product to the coffeeshops. Instead, while coffeeshops could openly sell to their customers through the front door, their black market weed supplies had to sneak in the back door.

A halting and limited effort to rectify the situation is now about to get underway. The coalition government announced last week that it will move forward with a pilot program in regulated marijuana production for the coffeeshops. Under the plan, the government will issue licenses to 10 growers who will each have to produce at least 10 types of marijuana product, with THC content clearly marked on the packaging. A minimum of six and a maximum of 10 local authorities will take part in the trials, which will last four years, meaning that it will be up to the next government to decide whether the Netherlands will press ahead with state-regulated production.

But both the local authorities' association, VNG, and the government's highest advisory body, the Council of State, have already criticized the plan as too limited and stringent. The plan seeks to completely eliminate the black market as a source for coffeeshop product: "Coffeeshops in the municipalities which are taking part in the experiment can only sell legally-produced hemp products and growers can only sell to those shops," the plan says. "This means the entire chain will be closed."

The local authorities in the country's two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have complained that the goal is unworkable, especially in Amsterdam, where more than a hundred coffeeshops are doing brisk business. The Council of State, meanwhile, has complained that the pilot program is too small and will not allow useful conclusions to be drawn.

Still, the coalition government is moving forward with the plan and says it expects final decisions on which local authorities will be involved by the end of the year. The Netherlands is now poised to once again move into the marijuana vanguard with state-regulated commercial marijuana production, even if the government's plan is still half-baked. We will see in four years whether the country is ready to finally solve the "back door problem" and fully embrace the marijuana business.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School