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Thread: The Netherlands and it's soft drugs policy

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    Default The Netherlands and it's soft drugs policy




    Amsterdam's cannabis-selling coffee shops face crackdown



    By Stanley Pignal
    Friday, October 8, 2010; 7:08 PM


    Coffee shops legally selling cannabis have been a feature of Amsterdam's streets for more than 30 years, a magnet for younger tourists and a symbol of the Dutch brand of liberal exceptionalism.
    But the fragrant haze found in the city's 200 or so establishments could be dispersed under plans by the incoming government, which is looking to roll back the "tolerance policy" that has allowed such shops to operate since 1976.
    Coinciding with a tightening of laws regarding prostitution - another tolerated industry - the authorities' new stance on cannabis is raising questions about whether Dutch society is moving away from laissez-faire traditions, which have included some of the earliest gay-friendly policies in Europe and the provision of free contraception to teenage girls.
    Certainly the outlook for coffee shops is bleak. Among the few policies that the three parties in the new coalition government agree on is the need to reduce their numbers. The governing agreement released last week laid out plans that will force them to become members-only clubs and shut down those shops located near schools.
    The coalition is also advancing the idea of prohibiting the sale of cannabis to non-Dutch residents, which amounts to a death knell for many coffee shops.
    "It's a head-on attack," said Gerrit Jan ten Bloemendal, a coffee-shop owner and vice chairman of the Netherlands Cannabis Platform, an advocacy group.
    The crackdown is part of a broader law-and-order drive promoted in particular by Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam protester whose far-right Freedom Party, the PVV, made the biggest gains in the June elections. Though the PVV is not formally part of the incoming coalition, it helped draft legislation as part of a deal to support the government.
    The stricter stance comes after years of gradual tightening of rules governing cannabis sales and a 2007 ban on the selling of alcohol in coffee shops. Although the shops proliferated in the 1980s and early 1990s, their numbers have dropped by half in the past 15 years, from around 1,400 in 1995 to about 700 today.
    "For sure, if the reforms go through it will impact business," said Maciej Truszkowski, owner of the Seville, a small, dimly lit coffee shop just off a canal. There are no displays of hemp leaves or any other sign that cannabis is for sale, in line with strict advertising rules, though multiple portraits of Bob Marley hint at the core business. Truszkowski said that if he cannot sell cannabis to foreigners, someone else will.
    On a quiet weekday at lunchtime recently, a couple of locals walked in and asked for a cannabis menu. But British and American students made up most of the clientele. Truszkowski said foreigners provide half his business, a figure he thinks is much higher for coffee shops nearer Amsterdam's red-light district, a 10-minute walk away.
    Rules governing the sex industry have been tightened and measures put forth to halve the size of the red-light district.

    For Paul Schnabel, director of the Social and Cultural Planning Office, a government advisory board, the move reflects a growing view that the tolerance policies have not controlled the ills associated with drugs and prostitution, rather than a recasting of Dutch liberalism.
    "There's a strong tendency in Dutch society to control things by allowing them. . . . We look for better alternatives to problems that we know exist anyway," he explained.
    But, he added, "Dutch society is less willing to tolerate than before. Perhaps 30 years ago we were a more easy-going society."
    The circumstances that led to the tolerance policies have changed in the past decade, as large-scale crime around coffee shops and the legal sex trade became more visible. In particular, the absence of legal means for coffee shops to obtain cannabis has highlighted their association with organized crime.
    But the open-minded instincts that helped foster the policies are also being questioned. And it is not just the far-right opposing coffee shops. The traditional parties of power on the center-right, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal VVD, have also moved against the policies they once promoted.
    "The liberal consensus that helped create those policies - that's gone now. The pragmatism has been replaced by increasingly moral politics, in a way which is reminiscent of what happened in the United States with the 'moral majority' in the 1980s," said Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at the Free University in Amsterdam.



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    The argument that someone else will sell it to the tourists if they can not buy it legally is a bit weak. I guess that most of these tourists coming to those coffee shop mainly come for those things. So if it becomes illegal their numbers will drop. Now if combined with a stronger promotion of our art museums and historical monuments and less/no promotion of things like drugs, hedonistic parades and prostitution, it would improve the reputation of Amsterdam and by proxy the Netherlands.

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    How irrational. Why don't they ban alcohol and cigarettes instead? Far more harmful.
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    It's about time. Far more harmful than alcohol and cigarettes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Groenewolf View Post
    The argument that someone else will sell it to the tourists if they can not buy it legally is a bit weak. I guess that most of these tourists coming to those coffee shop mainly come for those things. So if it becomes illegal their numbers will drop. Now if combined with a stronger promotion of our art museums and historical monuments and less/no promotion of things like drugs, hedonistic parades and prostitution, it would improve the reputation of Amsterdam and by proxy the Netherlands.
    It seems to me as an outsider, that Amsterdam draws many different tourists for many different reasons. Cultural and recreational.

    I realize that money is not everything but how much money is brought to Amsterdam by the visiting Cannabis tourists and would the great art and cultural offerings of Amsterdam be able to compete if they where the only option a tourist had while visiting?

    I was once told that these coffee shops where located in the red light district with the prostitutes and other less savory aspects of Dutch culture.

    I do not know what sort of crime and social subversion is associated with these coffee shops and their trade.

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    Coffeeshops are not necessarily located in red light districts, they are everywhere, this means that there are coffeeshops in 'normal' districts as well.
    Crime related to coffeeshops can be dealing hard drugs (although not in the coffeeshops) and selling stolen goods among others. To be frank, this does not apply to all coffeeshops.

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    An answer could be that coffeeshops should clean up their act, and stop being filthy holes. The problem is not the marijuana, the problem is the image they have and that can be addressed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
    Coffeeshops are not necessarily located in red light districts, they are everywhere, this means that there are coffeeshops in 'normal' districts as well.
    Crime related to coffeeshops can be dealing hard drugs (although not in the coffeeshops) and selling stolen goods among others. To be frank, this does not apply to all coffeeshops.
    I suppose the only way that hard drugs could be eliminated in the Netherlands, would be through the unrestricted use of execution and brutality.
    The flip side to this coin is the availability of soft drugs which in theory keeps the real poisons from the casual recreational drug user.

    The cannabis industry appears to be an industry started and ran by entrepreneurial Dutch citizens.

    One thing is for sure is that this phenomenon did occur in a nation with lax soft drug laws and technically superior agricultural practice!

    Amsterdam style coffee shops and cannabis culture have spread through many other nations in mimic fashion.

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    It all started in the 19(50-)60's, when cannabis (and LSD) was/were first used by students and hipsters. Initially they were a small, identificable group, but from that period onwards, subculture has been established and recognized gradually, and became more widespread. In those early years, people still could be incarcerated for up to two years or so for the possession of very small amounts of soft drugs.
    Maybe the use of hallucinogenic drugs was relatively innocent, and considered something mind expanding and creativity stimulating.
    However, in the beginning of the 1970's heroin was introduced in the Netherlands, and it caused organized crime. The times of fun and playful views on drug experimenting and consciousness has been dissappearing eversince.
    A lot of today's consumers do not use cannabis or other drugs out of curiosity or because they want to have a 'spiritual' experience; it's just another habit like drinking beer, and having some fun, or getting a kick.

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    This has been happening for quite awhile now, hasn't it? I remember reading about this and the closure of many windows in the Red Light District long ago.

    From what I understand, the Netherlands has become one of the major epicenters of the drug trafficking trade in Europe thanks to their policies. They also have a huge problem with human trafficking and other organized crime rings, and I believe that's the reason behind the crackdown on coffee shops and prostititution. Dutch members, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
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