Joint Regulation On Friday 31 January, a high level cannabis conference dubbed ‘Joint Regulation’ took place in the Dutch city of Utrecht. This event was an initiative of Paul Depla (mayor Heerlen), Victor Everhardt (Utrecht city council) and Rob van Gijzel (mayor of Eindhoven). In addition, there were a number of speakers and at the end, over 35 municipalities signed the manifesto.
On Friday 31 January, a high level cannabis conference dubbed ‘Joint Regulation’ took place in the Dutch city of Utrecht. This event was an initiative of Paul Depla (mayor Heerlen), Victor Everhardt (Utrecht city council member) and Rob van Gijzel (mayor of Eindhoven). In addition, there were a number of speakers and at the end, over 35 municipalities signed the manifesto. A number of MPs, including Magda Berndsen of D66, added their signatures and Frits Bolkestein, star of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), was the first to sign. Sensi Seeds attended this very interesting event, the objective of which was to bring about a change in thinking at national political level (particularly in relation to the views of Minister Ivo Opstelten of Security and Justice) regarding prevailing cannabis policy.
Host Victor Everhardt was the first speaker. He is a Utrecht city councillor and was responsible for initiating a plan to trial a Cannabis Social Club in his city. “When I announced this initiative via a press release, I received a negative response from Minister Opstelten within 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes!” according to Everhardt. Thus, he immediately highlighted a significant issue: there is only one individual who can bring about change and he is not prepared to consider alternatives. “Our aim is to work together. To work in partnership with national government and thus with Ivo Opstelten, hence the title Joint Regulation.” Anyhow, the need for cooperation was very obvious. There were mayors present from all parts of the country, from municipalities both large and small, who all voiced the opinion that current cannabis policy was unworkable and could not continue.
Summary of facts
According to the initiators, there are 3 issues for which solutions need to be identified: the health of cannabis users is not being protected at present; security is under pressure; and (organised) crime involvement with soft drugs cannot be tackled by means of current legislation and is even on the increase. The motives for addressing these issues were reinforced throughout the morning by various speakers. Dike van de Mheen, Professor of Drug Rehabilitation and Director of the IVO Addiction Research Institute, kicked off with a presentation on the background to current policy. Although there was little new information for experts, it was a useful summary of the facts. “There are more people using alcohol and tobacco more frequently. Most cannabis users do so only during a particular phase of their lives.” Panel chair Ruben Maes summed up her presentation well: “It is troubling because it is illegal is, and because it is troubling it remains illegal.” A classic vicious circle.
Of particular interest was a presentation by Professor Tom DeCorte, a Criminologist from the Criminal Law and Criminology Department of the Faculty of Law at Ghent University in Belgium. “You may think: ‘What on earth is this Belgian doing here?’” he said in his witty opening. However, his presentation was a high point for many. “Repression has been fervent, thus further criminalising the cannabis industry and creating resistance,” he said. “The number of users is not decreasing, and the number of convictions is increasing.” Further on in his in presentation: “This policy is damaging the reputation of law enforcement and the justice system. Besides, the police get no satisfaction (from shutting down cannabis farms, ed.) and the tackling of other criminality is neglected.” DeCorte emphasised that there are several regulation methods available and that is unhelpful to be fixated on just one of them, especially when it proves ineffective. “At present, we are fighting a losing battle while the situation deteriorates even further,” according to his compelling take on the current state of affairs.
After a presentation by Professor of General Law Studies Jan Brouwer followed by a break, a short video was shown. There followed a panel discussion with the three initiators, chaired by Mr Maes. During this discussion, the desire and the importance of effective cooperation was highlighted once again. At the conclusion of the discussion, Frits Bolkestein, the star of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, was invited to take the floor. This well-known advocate for change to cannabis policy and winner of a Cannabis Culture Award provided the voice-over in the video shown. A short conversation with Rob van Gijzel followed, after which, Bolkestein was the first to sign the manifesto. A significant gesture, since Minister Opstelten also belongs to the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
Afterwards, Mr Depla told Sensi Seeds that he was pleased with this event. “The issues were clearly mapped out; we cannot continue along this path, it is not working. I was also delighted with the attendance and support of Mr Bolkestein!” When asked about his expectations following the manifesto, he answered: “Administrators need to keep communicating with one another. Surely a Minister cannot ignore an appeal from so many administrators? When someone keeps saying, ‘I will not, it is impossible and even if 6 manifestos are arranged, I am sticking to my views’, then I would question whether our current cabinet’s motto of ‘building bridges’, also applies to this Minister.”
During the event, the NOS published an article in which Minister Opstelten conveyed that his stance remained ‘no’. Nevertheless, Sensi Seeds remains upbeat and is delighted that so many administrators made their voices heard today. The chorus will have an effect one way or another.