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by Martijn on 24/12/2013 | Cannabis News

How long can Ivo Opstelten ignore the demand for cannabis regulation?

A poll conducted by the well known opinion-pollster Maurice de Hond revealed that no less than 65% of the Dutch believe that the government should follow the example set by Uruguay. How much longer can the Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, continue to ignore the demand for cannabis regulation?


On Sunday 12 December 2013, the well-known Dutch public opinion-pollster, Maurice de Hond, published the results of a poll of the Dutch population concerning the legalisation of cannabis. The poll revealed that no less than 65% of the Dutch believe that the government should follow the example set by Uruguay. How much longer can Ivo Opstelten keep on ignoring the demand for cannabis regulation?

maurice_de_hond
The well-known Dutch public opinion-pollster, Maurice de Hond.

Sensi Seeds, established in the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam, keeps a close watch on the developments surrounding cannabis regulation in the Netherlands. This country was once revolutionary for a policy dividing the markets, which to this very day, continues to make a distinction between hard and soft drugs. Cannabis is considered a soft drug and the sale and possession of it is permitted under certain circumstances. This policy dates back to 1970, when leaders concluded that cannabis was relatively harmless, surely when compared to heroin, which was enormously popular at that time and was cause for much social disturbance. By allowing the use and sale of cannabis within the safe confines of a coffeeshop, the police were (and still are) able to focus on the real problems at hand.

Liberal cannabis policy

During the course of the last few years, the Dutch liberal cannabis and coffeeshop policy has been slowly but surely reversed and this is, to put it mildly, rather remarkable, especially considering that at this moment, several other countries are on the brink of implementing this very same policy. Nearly half of the American states have already legalised medicinal cannabis and increasingly more states are contemplating legalising the recreational use of cannabis. In addition, many more European countries, such as Spain and the Czech Republic, have decriminalized it and indeed, across the globe, the subject appears to be open for discussion. But, of course, the biggest news came on 10 December 2013, when Uruguay announced, as the first country in the world, to completely legalise cannabis in order to fully remove it from the criminal element and in this way protect the population. The cannabis world is on the upswing.

During the course of the last few years, the Dutch liberal cannabis and coffeeshop policy has been slowly but surely reversed.
During the course of the last few years, the Dutch liberal cannabis and coffeeshop policy has been slowly but surely reversed.

Cannabis and democracy

Why isn’t the Netherlands following suit? Sensi Seeds reported earlier on this unusual run of affairs regarding the Dutch cannabis policy, as you can see here and here. Minister Opstelten has turned a deaf ear to critics and the alternatives being recommended by both his colleagues from parliament and local government even when, under his administration, problems are not being solved and new problems, such as an increase in street dealers in the south of the country, are sprouting up. The call for a regulated system amongst lawmakers and the general population is growing by the day. The will of the people, the foundation of Dutch democracy, should not be ignored. To this day, Opstelten maintains that legalisation is out of the question for as long he is in power.

By not offering any further substantive explanation, the number of perplexed responses to his obstinate policy are only growing. At this time, 70% of the mayors of the major city centres in the Netherlands wants to experiment with the regulated sale of cannabis to and by coffeeshops, and no less that 65% of the population supports this. What’s more, the polls revealed that even people who have never smoked anything were in favour (54%) of regulation. How can Ivo Opstelten turn a blind eye to this?

Failing leaders

We’re still waiting for the answer. Meanwhile, increasingly more political parties in the Netherlands are growing tired of his work methods and those of his crony, Fred Teeven, the junior Security and Justice Minister. It was in September of this year that member of parliament and representative of the Socialist Party (SP) Jan de Wit called Opstelten and Teeven “a danger to the constitutional state.” He said this in response to a Ministry of Security and Justice proposal to introduce cutbacks to legal aid assistance, which would make the road to the courts a very difficult one for a great many people.

Also, a recent Vrij Nederland magazine article stated that a majority of Dutch judges is irritated by, among other things, bad legislation and politicians interfering in the legal process. The article goes on to specifically mention the names of Ivo Opstelten and Fred Teeven, also in connection to the failed coffeeshop policy. The following is a passage from the article:

Ivo Opstelten (right) and his companon Fred Teeven.
Ivo Opstelten (right) and his companon Fred Teeven.

“Opstelten’s coffeeshop policy also leaves much to be desired. 63% fears the rise of street dealers due to heightened soft drug policies implemented under the guise of the fight against organised crime. In this category – the fight against crime – the Minister now also wants to start using criminals as under-cover agents in a civilian context. 66.7% of judges do not approve of this plan.”

Together with many other concerned parties, Sensi Seeds wonders how long this can go on and will continue, of course, to track these developments.

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