The new Dutch government and the possible consequences for the coffeeshop system
(by Nol van Schaik)
What will happen to the Dutch coffeeshops under the new government, will these right-winged people shut all cannabis coffeeshops in Holland ?
That is about the general content of a question I get asked over and over again, the last few days, through my website and by phone, by press and worried cannabis tourists.
I think I have the answers and the arguments to prove this press created hype is just a hype, as a Dutchman with an interest in our national politics, and as a so-called 'coffeeshopkeeper', offering and selling marihuana and hash through my three registered cannabisshops in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
To start with the facts:
The CDA, Hollands biggest political party after the elections, are the only party against the coffeeshopsystem in the Netherlands, they now have 43 out of the available 150 seats in the Dutch parliament.In order to form a government, they need at least two other parties to create a coalition that can govern the country. The best possible partners for the CDA, a conservative catholic party, absolutely non-racist, are the newly risen LPF, List Pim Fortuyn, or LIST (26 seats), and the VVD (24 seats). Together, this coalition would have 93 seats, enough for the required majority in parliament.
The LPF and its recently assasinated leader, Pim Fortuyn, have been
portrayed as extremely right-winged, by national and international press.
This is far from the truth, Pim Fortuyn was an openly gay person, who made
very blunt statements about his solutions for Holland, and especially about
the immigrant problem.
The VVD, who are not really keen on being in the new government, have been part of the Purple coalition for the last 8 years, when they were in charge of the parliament. During this period they created and maintained the coffeeshoppolicy as it is still in use today. I do not see how they can change their stance overnight, IF they decide to take part in the CDA's most wanted possibility.
Hollands drugspolicy is well known throughout the world, and had a load of
criticism over the last decades, especially from the USA and France, but
managed to withstand the international pressure. Results and figures have
proven the Dutch policy right, the Netherlands still have drugproblems, but
they have been succesfully contained and regulated.
Even the CDA will not be serious about closing the cannabisshops, as I prefer to call them, the international press make us believe they will. The reasons for not closing the cannabisshops are numerous, I will mention the most important arguments for maintaining or improving the current policy on cannabis.
Closing all cannabisshops would eventually lead to ending all other experiments with drugs, like the needle exchange and the succesfull distribution of free heroin to registered problematic harddrugsusers. This alone would lead to a rapid comeback of pity crime in the streets of the Netherlands, wich has been succesfully reduced by the Methadon/free heroin program, over the last few years.
Closing all cannabisshops would mean that cannabis would get back in the hands of those dealing in all drugs, resurrecting the dismantled stepping stone theory, being realised by shoving soft- and harddrugs back together in one corner.
Closing all cannabisshops would also bring back organised crime in the cannabis culture, as they will be the alternative to feed the demand for any drug on the market. Cannabisshops are supplied by homegrowers, on a basis of mutual confidence and trust, their input is about 75 % of all cannabis in Dutch cannabisshops. Homegrown cannabis has excluded organised crime from the supply line to cannabisshops, foreign hash lost its 95 % marketshare over the last decade !
Closing all cannabisshops is practically impossible, all Dutch
cannabisoutlets are registered leisure companies, with a permit to sell
drinks and snacks. No government can close the businesses as such, they can
only try to forbid to sell cannabis from them.
Aiming to close all cannabisshops is going back to the jungle, as the trade
in drugs on the street is called, and would ruin all previous efforts made
to shape and execute the Drugpolicy as it is today. The Netherlands have the
best results in regulating drugs by far, mainly because the use of drugs do
not resort under the Justice Department, only the trade in drugs is their
Balkenende, the leader of the CDA, and probably our new Prime Minister, has stated he wants to end the 'tolerance culture' in Holland, and mentioned the coffeeshops and illegal immigrants in 'black' labour as examples. He never stated he wants to close the Dutch cannabisshops, that is what the press distilled from his words.
Ending the 'tolerance status' for cannabisshops could mean two possible solutions :
The first one is the doom scenario the press is creating, the new Dutch government close all cannabisshops, period.
They would have to have good reasons for that, a 'tolerance staus' is meant to experiment with something that is actually illegal, but so commonly done, that upholding the Law on such a situation would be practically impossible. Prostitution was tolerated for 65 years !, before it was fully legalised a few years ago, no political party ever tried to forbid prostitution, they always tried to find the best possible way to regulate the flow of commercial sex and the connecting industry.
If the last 28 years of allowing the small sales of cannabis from registered
outlets have been an experimental phase, it is about time to end the
'tolerance status', and to act after the outcome of the results of the
Ending the tolerance system for cannabisshops can only lead to legalisation, not to the enforced closure of the businesses, there is no legal nor social reason for that, unless Balkenende wants to ruin the best administrated Drugpolicy in the world.
Cannabis entrepreneurs are used to working in a grey area, any adjustment will be made to keep cannabis available through cannabisshops, no matter what it takes.
Nol van Schaik,