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Europe: Dutch Government to Review Marijuana Laws, Moves to Ban Grow Shops

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #527)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The Dutch government will undertake a review of its 30-year-old policy of pragmatic tolerance of marijuana use and possession and regulated -- although still illegal -- marijuana sales, Dutch News reported last week. Christian Democratic Health Minister Ab Klink agreed to undertake the review at the behest of parliamentarians concerned that the easy availability of the weed is leading to increases in youth drug abuse.

downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
That same day, Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin also signaled that he wants to crack down on marijuana growing and criminalize the "grow shops" that provide seeds, lights, and other specialized growing equipment to marijuana cultivators. While the Dutch tolerate marijuana possession and sales, marijuana growing remains illegal and growers are subject to arrest.

Although the Netherlands has become famous for its tolerant approach to soft drugs and other vices, such as prostitution, the conservative Christian Democratic government has been trying to reverse the situation. It has reduced the number of coffee shops that sell marijuana, particularly near schools, and it is considering various measures to limit "drug tourism," including the fingerprinting of foreign coffee house customers.

This week, the city of Maastricht failed in a bid to relocate some of its coffee shops to areas on the edge of the city. Every day, around a thousand foreigners, mainly neighboring Germans and Belgians, visit the city to buy marijuana, and the city had hoped to reduce congestion in its center by moving some of the shops to "coffee corners" on the edge of town.

But a Dutch judge ruled Tuesday that the city had not provided sufficient grounds for granting building permits for the new coffee shops. The ruling came after neighboring local councils complained that Maastricht's move would simply shift the problems of congestion and associated crime in their direction.

Still, according to reports compiled by Expatica, an English-language Dutch news service, Maastricht remains undeterred. In response to the ruling, the mayor has already placed "portocabins" near the new locations.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

.... the actual cannabis? Does the conservative Christian Democratic government seriously want to kill off the Netherlands-Tourism industry? And also whats that crap about "easy availability of the weed is leading to increases in youth drug abuse"? Did no one give any of the Netherlands politicians the study that says marijuana use in Amsterdam (especially by youth) is lower than it is in other part of the world where cannabis is illegal (eg. the United States)?

I mean seriously WTF. Every time we make a step forward it feels like people like this push us two steps back :-(

Fri, 03/14/2008 - 10:49am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Why not ban rough toilet paper for causing hemorrhoids and rectal bleeding. What about banning high heel shoes for causing foot deformities, that need surgery for correction. How about banning cars for enabling drivers to have vehicular accidents that kill people. Ultimately why not ban air, you know people that breath air eventually die! Why not outlaw antibiotics, which are now showing up in our drinking water this banning list could go on and on.

The Martians are looking down at us earthlings and have decided that there is no intelligent life on earth, they have no desire in taking the stupid planet over as their own.... we're safe from the aliens thanks to the idiots making governmental policies.

How are governments so foolish (religious) as to invading peoples lives and destroying them for victomless crimes! Look at all the horrible crap that is going on worldwide, and the imbeciles persist in prosecuting pot smokers

Fri, 03/14/2008 - 1:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

hydroponic grow equipment is used in a wide variety of agricultural products, from tomatoes to spices to green vegetables such as lettuce, peas, etc, etc.

I can't see any real way that they can ban such equipment. It would almost be like saying, only large-scale farmers of even legal agricultural produce are protected by the law. There's just no way you can ban growing equipment without being grossly unfair, or sacrificing a few ten thousand farmers who may have never even seen a hemp plant in their life. No, the concept is too ridiculous; really we're insulting the Dutch people by buying into the "seriousness" of such measures.

In the United States, hydroponic stores are raided from time to time; there's a built-in system of informants, from the shop managers to the people who come in as "customers." The European system of legal reasoning is nothing, nothing like that of the US; this measure, thus, will never be accepted by the Parliament.

Fri, 03/14/2008 - 8:42pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

how refreshing to hear from someone so intelligent! and well informed in an area I am so dependent on the sold out media for, too.

Release the BC3 NOW!

Sat, 03/15/2008 - 12:10am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The premature obituaries for the Dutch approach to cannabis in the US media is a source of annoyance to me, especially when I am told by my Dutch friends when I ask them about this stuff we've been reading, is it at all true, should I be booking plane tickets to Schipol for one last hurrah before the party's over? (This seems to have been going on since about 2003 when the Christian Democrats and that Justice Minister -- forgot his name-- that looks like a grown up Harry Potter -- began making noises about shutting down coffeeshops, banning foreign 'drogstourists' etc).

What I've been told is that this is "all politics" and smoke and mirrors (something we should be more than familiar with here in the US as well). The people making the big prohibitionist noises are at the federal level, in Parliament and the ministries, but they know full well that the regulation of the coffeeshops and drugs enforcement is at the local or municipal level, just like, say, zoning and land use is typically in the US.

So it is politically expedient for the national legislators to profess to be "shocked, shocked" and make all the right noises to please their base (they are "Christian Democrats", after all), while even their own party members who are municipal officials don't really support the policy and don't think it's ever going to happen.

In other words, it's typical of political posturing you hear from minority parties and those out of government that they can freely criticize existing policy because they are really not the ones responsible and it comes at no political price to grandstand to their base.

Thank you for keeping us up to date and "truth squadding" these periodic gloom and doom stories out of the Netherlands that suddenly they have adopted the US and Swedish prohibitionist worldview, the wishful thinking or "alternate reality" of most US drug warriors and our free press.


Sat, 03/15/2008 - 11:50am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

thanks for the replies. Of course it worries me, summer is coming and a lot of the tourists are young. probably they would be confused, that of course could cause trouble on the streets, something which would nicely slake prohibition's throat.

it's confusing, i admit it. lufthansa, for example, frequently features ads for cheap flights to amsterdam, showing in their pictures happy young couples, usually early twenties. amsterdam is advertised by lots of travel agencies and airlines to young people--it's ideal; it has a lot of history and it's a beautiful city known for having more freedom. i worry about these motions because they can confuse young people into thinking that no one is on their side and that they'll have to accept a colder, less free world as a consequence of, well, whatever it is the politicians are thinking.

but I can guarantee that the "proposals" are not "widely accepted" by dutch people. i don't, for example, foresee another Christiania. The Dutch soft drugs policy is a well-established barometer of Netherlands law and Netherlands social attitudes; it has survived Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton, and Bush Jr. Sometimes, CDA tables these bills, and encourages newspapers to print articles about the "change"; newspapers that are significant, including UK's The Daily Guardian and USA's Washington Post. But whenever one reads the articles, they state the following:

The government HAS DECIDED to change its policy. Meaning: it's basically already done; no vote from parliament, who makes the laws, is required because basically it's done. Translation: The Dutch Cabinet rules by decree.

Second: There's all this pressure from other countries to force the Dutch to change. In reality: drugs law is at a watershed in Europe, with legal challenges and changes in our favor a frequency. And: The countries that "complain"--or rather, the few politicians who do the complaining, are usually of large countries that are losing some of their tourist $$$ to the Dutch! No Eiffel Tower this year, no walk down to Buckingham Palace. The Dutch are making money--let's stop them before our overdeveloped sense of national pride is affected! I mean, they don't have as many racial problems, riots, delinquent youths...why should they enjoy any success when our society is so strife-torn and miserable? Why should one enjoy the relatively inexpensive Amsterdam when I've got a dump hotel room in London for only $400/a night? They can't be allowed to make money, I won't let them!

Third: The views of the Dutch themselves have changed. Now this is an INSULT to them: Holland is a country that was the FIRST modern country in Europe. They see no real reason to change because they were and are enormously successful. And: As if they imagined a country with no problems, no wrongs??? No, the Dutch approach is a PRAGMATIC one.

Now, I am also not saying that the Ministry of Justice doesn't take their work seriously. No, if anything, they've walked a fine line between authoritarianism and liberalism for some time. They provide many services to disadvantaged people. But the people in Holland are not like in the US: they don't buy in to our concept of an ever-present catastrophe that will destroy their way of life. They don't sensationalize, like we do. They don't believe that they've been selected by a dangerous enemy for extinction. That's not the Dutch way; trust me, I know.

Sun, 03/16/2008 - 3:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It is LEGAL to grow marijuana. Each household is allowed to grow upto 3 marijuana plants if desired.
This is permitted by law. I have done it, and I know many people who do it.

From the Netherlands,


Sun, 07/20/2008 - 4:19am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Is the previous post about how "retarded" "weed" is is either a joke (poor one) or a reflection of something like the lumpen-rethug mentality that thinks of Sarah Palin as a legitimate political choice and believes propaganda easily. weed is "fuckin up someones head"? Then, what is the posters excuse?

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 3:34pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If they were to close down the coffee shops it would mean they would be all out of controling the pot
So there for we will have to build more jails to lock the people up who realy isnt going to stop cuss you say so ..
Youl have no control on who is buying it so for a underage person is alot easier to buy now
Instead of having the weed sold behind a bar under the glass show,
Gues what it will be sold by Thugs with guns now cuss the value just went up.
So cost wise money wise ....very bad idea ....your taxes will pay more , and thats just the social disturbance that it will cause
Havent started with the tourism part of it . (not going to either)
And good thing for us pod heads money turns the weels so i think that was one of the first reason why weed or Henneb was banned from the US cuss (cough ) (cough) cotton indusrty wanna to take over the ship rope the 1800 ish
Had nothing to do with thc so its all a Lie of a cause.
So as long as the people has some comonsence weed will stay the same there.
Closing down coffee shops will not stop people from selling or buying ....
Laws of buisness ....Suply and Demand
So go ahead close em all up, wel try too atleast, i gues our tax money gets waisted anyways one way or a nother in something pointless regardless . Meh

Fri, 01/02/2009 - 7:59pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I noticed that this review became some kind of argument in the mouth of the pro-prohibition.
Saying things like "Tolerance regarding soft drugs generates social issues and increase the criminality to such a point that the Dutch parliament asked for a review on the 30 years of this policy"
So far all the figures and numbers available go against this theory but I wonder what happen with this review? Was it done? Are the results available? Any updates?

Hope this won't be a "forgotten topic"



Fri, 04/17/2009 - 4:44am Permalink

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