The Netherlands: Dutch Cannabis Commission Recommends Making Coffee Shops "Members Only," Legalizing Cultivation for Supply. Holland's famous cannabis coffee shops should become "members only" to serve local communities and prevent "drug tourism," a commission set up to advise the Dutch government recommended last week. It also suggested the country experiment with legalizing the supply of cannabis to those coffee shops.
July 14th 2009
"Coffee shops should again become what they were originally meant to be: vending points for local users and not large-scale suppliers to consumers from neighboring countries," said the body. "In some aspects, the situation has gotten out of hand," it added. The retail sale of cannabis through licensed coffee shops has been tolerated -- though technically still illegal -- since 1976.
There are currently some 700 coffee shops, each of which can keep 500 grams of cannabis on hand. While popular, the coffee shop system has come under increasing pressure, with critics citing the aforementioned drug tourism, as well as the development of organized crime links in the cannabis trade. The "members only" policy is already set to go into effect in the border province of Limburg, and two other border councils, Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, responded to drug tourism by simply closing all their coffee shops last fall.
Under the Dutch system, while the sale of cannabis is permitted, its production to supply the tolerated coffee shop market is not, leading to the "backdoor problem," where coffee shops are forced to deal with illegal growers and traffickers. The commission recommended experimenting with legalizing the supply chain for the coffee shops in a bid to solve the backdoor problem. The commission's report will form the basis for a government reevaluation of drug policy, which is due to be presented to parliament in September, Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen told Agence France-Presse.
But at least one influential Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, said the commission's proposals are untenable. In an editorial last Friday, the newspaper argued that as a member of the European Union, Holland can neither exclude foreigners from the coffee shops nor legalize cannabis production for commercial purposes. The solutions to Holland's "drug problem" lie not in the Hague, but in Brussels, the editorial said.
Denmark: Copenhagen Ponders Cannabis Decriminalization, Coffee Shops.
In its glory days, the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Christiania was known as the place to go to purchase cannabis. It even had a "Pusher Street" where vendors sold their wares. But a conservative Danish government cracked down on Christiania's hash sellers in 2003, and six years later, the Copenhagen city government is starting to wonder whether that was a mistake. The City Council's Social Affairs Committee has issued a report on cannabis policy and is calling on the council to seriously consider decriminalization as a means of reducing gang violence.
Since the crackdown on Christiania, the hashish trade has been pushed out into the rest of the city, with police admitting that much recent gang violence is linked to the geographical expansion of the trade. The report called on the council to consider decriminalization as "a possible alternative" to prohibition. It found that cannabis prohibition has neither lessened use rates nor reduced crime related to its sale. It also noted that "easy access to cannabis has not been shown to lead to more users or addicts."
The report was largely based on the Global Cannabis Commission Report published by the British Beckley Foundation. That report sought "more rational and effective" approaches to cannabis control. The go-ahead for the report came in February, when the Social Democrats, the largest party on the council, joined with the Social Liberals, the Red-Green Alliance, and the Socialist People's Party to approve it. The three smaller parties already backed the legal sale of cannabis in small quantities for personal use, or "the Amsterdam model," but the Social Democrats are not willing to go that far.
According to the Copenhagen Post, a recent poll found 59% support for Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes. Still, Social Democrats social affairs spokesman Thor Gronlykke told the newspaper his party would only support a model that aims to limit the number of abusers and addicts. The Red-Green Alliance is ready to go much further. It has long supported the Amsterdam model and has campaigned for cannabis to be legalized and sold as freely as alcohol and tobacco are now. "It's completely ridiculous that police use more time and energy looking for clumps of cannabis at Christiania than they do finding the people behind human trafficking," wrote Mikkel Warming, deputy mayor for social affairs, on the party's website.
"The legalization of cannabis would get rid of a huge part of gangs' income base." Decriminalization is also supported by Liberal Party council candidate Lars Dueholm. If he wins a seat on the council, decriminalization would become even more likely. "For me there are two important reasons to decriminalise cannabis," he said. "One is the fact that we're pouring millions, if not billions, of kroner into gang pockets because they're the only ones selling hash when it's illegal." Still, even if the Copenhagen City Council approved decriminalization and/or cannabis cafes, the measure would have to win approval by the Danish parliament.
Great Britain: Londoners Fined For Marijuana Possession Are Tearing Up Their Tickets.
Since the British Labor government's rescheduling of cannabis as a more serious drug went into effect in January, police have undertaken a three-pronged strategy to deal with pot smokers. A first offense garners a written warning, a second offense garners a $128 fine, and a third offense earns prosecution. But second-time cannabis offenders, those who face the fine, are not lining up to pay those fines.
According to the London Standard, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the data, only 42% of those ticketed had paid their fines within the regulation 21 days they are allowed. The courts will have to pursue each individual to collect the fine, a process the courts already have problems with in regard to collecting fines in general. Of the 565 ticketed pot possessors who have failed to pay, only 13 are described by the Metropolitan Police as subject to prosecution with a court hearing pending.
Another 470 are marked merely as "fine registered," with the pursuit of payment being delegated to magistrates. And 82 cases are simply marked "unpaid," although officials told the Standard those, too, would be pursued. As interesting as the non-payment rate, however, is the window the data open on the level of cannabis enforcement in London. In the fourth period from January through April, police issued warnings to 12,482 people, issued fines to 977 second-offenders, and sent 530 third-offenders off to court. At that rate, London police will warn, fine, or arrest about 42,000 people a year for minor cannabis infractions. Those kinds of numbers put London in the same league as New York City at the height of the Giuliani crackdown when New York City accounted for roughly 10% of all pot arrests in the United States.
Canada: "Prince of Pot” not worried about jail.
The prince of pot took shots at the government and praised parenthood yesterday in his last words to Edmonton supporters before heading to jail this fall. Alberta's capital was Marc Emery's latest stop in his farewell summer tour of Canada. "I'm not repentant.
I'm not trite. I'm proud of what I've done," said Emery before dozens at Beaver Hill House Park, 105 Street and Jasper Avenue. He's perhaps Canada's most prominent marijuana advocate, a veteran of more than 30 years of pushing pot. "Am I worried about going to jail in a U.S. federal penitentiary? No," he said. Jail has offered "some of the best days of my life." Emery is heading for the clink in the U.S. this fall after accepting a plea bargain in June. He'll be sentenced on one count of distributing marijuana seeds by mail to U.S. customers.
The Greenish Warbler