by Martijn on 20/11/2013 | Uncategorized

Dutch Minister of Justice has been cornered

The Dutch Justice Minister, Ivo Opstelten, is slowly but surely being forced to make concessions in his obstinate methods concerning Dutch cannabis policy. Nearly 70% of major Dutch cities are in favour of regulated cannabis cultivation. This is a signal that Opstelten simply cannot ignore.


The Dutch Minister of Justice, Ivo Opstelten.
The Dutch Minister of Justice, Ivo Opstelten.

The Dutch Justice Minister, Ivo Opstelten, is slowly but surely being forced to make concessions in his obstinate methods concerning Dutch cannabis policy. Nearly 70% of major Dutch cities are in favour of regulated cannabis cultivation. This is a signal that Opstelten simply cannot ignore.

The headstrong way Opstelten is working is gaining more and more resistance in the Netherlands. Scientists and experts, for example, disapprove of Opstelten’s plan to label cannabis containing more than 15% THC as hard drugs because this does not solve any problems, and it is hardly controllable. Another bizarre measure is the fact that from the 1st of January 2014, 31 Amsterdam coffeeshops must be closed during school hours because they are less than 250 meters away from a school. Previously this limit was 350 meters. This presents a non-argument for a non-existing problem, since coffeeshops are strictly forbidden to allow persons under 18 in their shops. Owners strictly observe this – some have even voluntarily raised the age of admission to 21 – because a transgression can lead to their license being revoked and the coffeeshop being permanently closed.

On top of this, the number of municipalities that recognize the benefits of regulation is on the rise. More municipalities see it as a thorn in their sides that Opstelten’s national cannabis policy is failing. Various initiatives – including the failed weed pass – are not solving problems, and more often create new problems instead. Read more in this and this article on the Sensi Seeds blog. An increasing number of municipalities recognize that the decriminalization of the so called ‘back door’ of coffeeshops is an achievable measure that can solve problems. They believe that it is absurd that the sale of cannabis through the ‘front door’ is tolerated, while purchasing the same cannabis necessary to meet this demand is still illegal.

Legal cannabis suppliers
The city of Utrecht was one of the first municipalities calling for regulation, and as of today the number has gone up. The Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS, which stands for Dutch Broadcasting Foundation) carried out a survey with results showing that, of the 38 major cities in the Netherlands, 26 are pro regulation – nearly 70%.

Of these cities, 18 – including Utrecht – have handed concrete plans to Opstelten. In many cases these include an experiment with a legal breeder who is exclusively allowed to provide coffeeshops with cannabis. This eliminates the current unavoidable necessity for coffeeshops to purchase cannabis from illegal growers, and puts criminal organizations with mass growing facilities out of business. Finally, the cannabis purchased legally by coffeeshops can be taxed, creating more tax revenue for the government. It is estimated that the industry annually purchases 600 million Euros worth of cannabis and hashish, and currently this money completely disappears into the criminal underworld.

Paul-depla
Paul Depla, mayor of the city of Heerlen.

Opstelten forced into dialogue
Last week it became clear that the patience of the municipalities is coming to an end. Peter Cammaert, mayor of the city of Roermond, made a statement on Wednesday, November 13th on local TV station L1, saying that if Opstelten continues to ignore the initiatives of the local councils, firm action will follow to force a breakthrough. “We are willing to mobilize all mayors and politicians in the Netherlands”, said a combative Cammaert.

Paul Depla is mayor of the city of Heerlen. To the NOS, he added: “Either we put an end to everything that has to do with [cannabis] tolerance, closing down the coffeeshops and prohibition of the use of marijuana, or we have complete tolerance; so not only the consumption and sale is tolerated, but also the production. That means we have to take control over the back door in order to disable criminal organizations [who currently] control the back door.”

After the insistence of the Chamber, Opstelten has finally said he will invite the local governments to present their plans. Sensi Seeds will observe this case and post an update as soon as there is more news.

List of the 38 municipalities and their views:

Alkmaar – Unknown
Almelo – Pro
Almere – Pro
Amsterdam – Pro
Amersfoort – No position
Apeldoorn – Against
Arnhem – Pro
Breda – Pro
Delft – Against
Den Haag – Pro
Dordrecht – Pro
Ede – No response
Eindhoven – Pro
Emmen – Against
Enschede – Pro
Gouda – Against
Groningen – Pro
Haarlem – Pro
Haarlemmermeer – Pro
Heerlen – Pro
Helmond – Pro
Hengelo – No position
‘s Hertogenbosch – Pro
Leeuwarden – Pro
Leiden – Pro
Lelystad – No position
Maastricht – Pro
Nijmegen – Pro
Rotterdam – Pro
Sittard-Geleen – Pro
Schiedam – No position
Tilburg – Pro
Utrecht – Pro
Venlo – Pro
Zaanstad – No position
Zoetermeer – Against
Zwolle – Pro

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