Holland has been an iconic symbol of cannabis tolerance ever since the first coffee shops started selling cannabis in the 1970’s. Amsterdam in particular has been a major tourist destination and has attracted people from all over the world keen to enjoy the relaxed cannabis laws. But behind the scenes there have been plenty of politicians keen to reverse the liberal approach to cannabis.
The city of Amstelveen (close to Amsterdam) recently sent out a leaflet to all the landlords of rented properties, urging them to be vigilant about people growing cannabis in rented accommodation. A copy of the leaflet (in Dutch) is below.
The leaflet shows the ridiculous hypocrisy which exists in political thinking on cannabis. On one hand the Mayors of the major cities are calling on the Dutch Government to legalize commercial scale cannabis growing in order to eliminate organised crime from the supply of cannabis to coffeeshops. In total some 57 Dutch cities are now openly calling for some common sense regulation of commercial cannabis growing. Yet at the same time the city of Amstelveen is trying to warn landlords about tenants who may be growing a few cannabis plants for their own use. The leaflet even tries to make landlords feel responsible for the tenants activities and asks them to check and report any suspicious activities even though there are plenty of coffeeshops openly selling cannabis in nearby Amsterdam.
Above, CBD SkunkHaze
In our recent blog the confused political thinking on the coffee shops was explained, the coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis to customers. However, due to outdated laws the coffee shops are forced to buy cannabis from the black market. This has gifted a thriving cannabis market in unregulated (and un-taxed) cannabis supply to a very grateful criminal network. And the recent ‘Dutch Grow Shop’ law, introduced by Minister Ivo Opstelten, forbids the sale of grow equipment to anyone suspected of growing cannabis in commercial quantities. The first result of this law has been to create a new black market (again, tax-free) in grow room equipment as well as boosting imports of grow room equipment from neighbouring countries. Many grow shops remain in business but have re-branded themselves as ‘traditional’ Garden Centres, others have easily got around the new law by explaining they supply equipment to people growing peppers, chillies and other legal crops.
Above, Frisian Dew
But there is also a lot of recent good news regarding the Dutch political cannabis situation. The ‘D66’ political party has formally proposed an American style system of taxed and regulated industrial-scale cannabis growing. This would allow special commercial cannabis growing licenses to be granted which would allow the first fully regulated mass-production of cannabis in Europe. Not only would it end criminal involvement in cannabis supply, it would also raise €500 million in annual taxes. It would also improve cannabis quality, create thousands of good quality jobs and free-up time wasted by the Police and Judicial system. It would also create a sensible example to the rest of Europe on how to regulate cannabis supply in modern and controlled system.
Above, Think Different by Organic Jim
In the USA around half of the states have now legalized medical/recreational cannabis and many more states are expected to pass their own legalisation laws soon. This has created thousands of jobs and largely wiped out criminal involvement in cannabis supply. The Colorado State report in marijuana consumption gives some interesting data. Just 6-7% of the marijuana is bought by non-residents, this disproves the fears that Colorado would become the USA’s cannabis distribution centre. Official data shows that around 9% of the Colorado population uses cannabis at least once a month, this is not significantly different to states without legal cannabis. This shows that legalizing cannabis does not increase consumption. All the available data indicates that legalizing cannabis has no negative impact on society and plenty of positive aspects. Thousands of jobs have been created, tax revenues are up, police are free to fight real crime and a whole generation of young people are not being scarred with pointless criminal records.
Above Skunk#11 (by Captain Beefheart)
One of the most important advances in Dutch cannabis politics happened recently when Ivo Opstelten was forced to resign. While the rest of the world was moving towards progressive thinking on cannabis laws, Opstelten has introduced the Dutch Grow Shop law and banned foreigners from coffee shops in some parts of Holland (although his ideas were firmly rejected in Amsterdam). Ironically Opstelten was forced to resign in a drugs scandal when it emerged that he had overseen €2.4 million paid tax-free to a known drugs trafficker, previously he had denied all knowledge of the matter. The coffee shops have been celebrating Opsteltens fall from grace, and there is widespread political optimism that this will allow more progressive Dutch cannabis laws to be implemented. There will also be calls to reverse his ‘weed-pass’ coffeeshop rules and end the Dutch Grow Shop Laws now that he is out of the way.
The Dutch people hope that once again they will be able set a good example to the rest of Europe when it comes to common sense cannabis laws. The USA is already showing that sensible cannabis rules benefit everyone by eliminating black markets, creating quality jobs, raising revenues and improving public health. The question for Holland and the rest of Europe is when, not if, they should follow.
March 20th 2015