Fortuyn: Ihr werdet mir die Cannabiszigaretten nicht wegnehmen (Niederlande)
E-Mail von Harry Bego, Media Awareness Project Niederlande (MAP-NL):
Hi Richard, Joe,
You asked for opinions of a perceived threat to Dutch drug policy in the light of last week's election results (see your e-mails at the end). Well let me start by stating that, considering the slightly worried tone of your messages, you may be in for a little surprise.
Currently, Christen Democrats (CDA) and List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), the winners of the election, are discussing the options for formation of a new government. I'm appending a newspaper article at the end which came in today. A quote here will make clear that things may not be all that bad: "I have been smoking reefers for thirty years. You won't take them away from me", Fortuyn said in October in a debate in the Rode Hoed, countering a remark by Wim van de Camp, member of parliament for CDA."
The formal point of view of CDA is rather clear: it is the 'zero option', meaning the ultimate goal of zero coffee shops. It has been their official point of view for some years, but noone took it very seriously, not even they themselves. It was a sort of a politically correct standpoint for Christians, but not very workable. Keep in mind that the current policy of tolerance was implemented under their former pragmatic leader and our 12-year prime minister Lubbers (1982-1994). Balkenende, the current leader, has already said that it will not be possible to arrive at the lofty goal any time soon. (Note, however, that the past years, the liberal-labour government has cut back the proliferation of coffee shops.)
I've been trying to find concrete statements about drug policy by the new LPF party. Alas, there is nothing in their brief party program (other than that smugglers should be put in jail). Fortunately, Fortuyn himself has repeatedly stated his views: cannabis should be legalized. His stance on this issue was in line with his other liberal viewpoints in matters of ethics. On the day he was killed, there was an interview with him on Belgian television in which he again made his viewpoint unequivocally clear: people can decide for themselves what is good for them, whether it concerns drinking beer or smoking marijuana. LPF spokespersons have stated that they will promote Fortuyn's viewpoints as best they can. Their new leader, Herben, says he knows Fortuyn's thoughts inside and out (he was his spokesperson), so if they are serious about that there's some reason to be hopeful.
Also, let me remind you that in the old parliament (which had its last session today) there was about a 75-75 balance on cannabis legalisation. Mind you: not about the policy of tolerance, but about legalisation. After the murder, many Fortuyn votes went to CDA, but had Fortuyn still lived, we'd probably have had a solid majority for legalization at this moment (I'm not sure about the score now).
Anyway, I have no doubt that parliamentary opposition, would it after all come to the point that cannabis tolerance policy would be seriously threatened, would be stiff indeed. Plus, a government by CDA, LPF, with the VVD (Liberals, who have until now backed the tolerance policy), which is the most likely outcome of the current discussions, is not expected to be a strong government and may not last very long (note also that VVD are seriously weakened but are needed by CDA/LPF to achieve a majority). Hence it is imo. certainly not going to risk fighting over cannabis.
The current wave of criticism of 'tolerance policy' in general is aimed most of all at the lack of law enforcement in fields affecting public safety, which has resulted in two disasters in the past two years (the explosion of a fire works industry, and a fire on New Year's eve last year with many casualties; both were attributed to neglect by the authorities.). 'Tolerance policy' has become suspect since these disasters, and is perceived as undermining public safety. Calls for ending it in the field of drug policy. however, are more likely to heat up the debate about legalization, than to lead to the 'zero option' of the Christen Democrats (current developments in Britain are of course very welcome here).
Finally, about the CannabisCulture.com article: it is so full of nonsense that it isn't worth further consideration. To illustrate that, and to back my other remarks, I'm appending a translation of the newspaper article that fell in my MAP-NL folder just this evenening.
It was Fortuyn's achievement that these past elections were the most interesting we have had in decades - until the day he was killed and things turned grim. Now, after his death, he succeeds in getting the drugs issue on the table in a cabinet formation period. This could get interesting indeed, and anyway, it hasn't been seen before !
So much for now, all the best,
COFFEESHOP DIVIDES CDA AND LIST PIM
AMSTERDAM - Will coffee shops close or will soft drugs be legalized? CDA confirmed to foreign newspapers, curious as always about the famous Dutch policy of tolerance, that it wants to close down the entire cannabis catering business. But List Pim Fortuyn, the possible coalition partner, sees things very differently. 'Pim Fortuyn was in favour of liberalisation of soft drugs.'
The police should be occupied with other matters, LPF thinks. That might seem strange for a party that has taken a stance against tolerance, but they go one step further. "I have been smoking reefers for thirty years. You won't take them away from me", Fortuyn said in October in a debate in the Rode Hoed, countering a remark by Wim van de Camp, member of parliament for CDA. "I want the zero-option for coffeeshops", the latter had said. "Then it will go underground", Fortuyn responded.
No prohibition and no tolerance, but liberalisation so that police do not have to invest energy in enforcing tolerance rules, is the standpoint of the party that remained after his death, as well.
Amsterdam's 280 coffeeshop owners especially would like such a change, although competition in a free market is unpredictable. But precisely in Amsterdam, coffeeshop owners complain that the special police HIT-team is following them too closely. "For example, when an officer sees someone who isn't eightteen, the shop closes for a week", says Reijer Elzinga, vice-chairman of the Union of Cannabis Merchants (BCD).
Amsterdam has promised to seriously consider the complaints before end of June, but how much political room does the city have if CDA presses on? BCD expects things to not turn out quite so bad. After all, board member and coffeeshop owner Michael Veling was a candidate for CDA for the inner city councel.
Is CDA really serious about this 'zero option'? "Yes," says a spokesperson. "Not in one go of course, but we strive for zero. That's what Balkenende has said."
Practice has been going that way in the past years. Seven years ago there were almost fifteen hundred coffeeshops in the Netherlands, four hundred of which in Amsterdam.
In the battle against proliferation cannabis commerce has been pruned to such an extent - four hundred towns do not have a coffeeshop at all - that there are more and more illegal outlets. Further down that direction or right the opposite way, may be one of the hot potatoes of the formation.