I’m continually amazed at Justice Minister Opstelten’s inventiveness. He keeps harassing the coffeeshop branch with mostly pointless regulations in order to get the coffeeshops closed, as could be said, without really meaning to.
If Opstelten’s plans would all go through, as an adult and experienced marijuana smoker, you’ll soon need a weed pass to be allowed to buy light weed in a coffeeshop, while the strong weed that coffeeshops could no longer sell will be offered to the youth on the street. That won’t do any good for the public health of young people, but Minister Schippers apparently doesn’t get the message.
Opstelten & Co.’s latest hairbrained scheme is the implementation of a ban on the sale of cannabis products with a THC content above 15% from the tolerated coffeeshops. The plan is badly substantiated however, because the Minister lays the responsibility for the possible strength of the cannabis products on the coffeeshop owner, the retailer of the cannabis. That’s not like it normally works in commercial trade, because on almost every product sold in shops, restaurants and cafés, you find a label or sticker with the ingredients and compounds in the concerned product indicated. These products are delivered standard, because it’s the producer/manufacturer’s obligation to state the ingredients and compounds in a product on the product. Fresh fruit and flowers are an exception to this regulation, for example.
If we look at luxuries like alcohol and tobacco, people clearly find on the package how much of a certain active or toxic material has been incorporated into these products, such as the percentage of alcohol in beer, wine, or strong drink, or the permillage of nicotine and formaldehyde on tobacco packaging. This information is printed on the packaging of these goods by the producer or manufacturer because they’re required. Various departments of government see to it that this indeed happens, and that the figures printed on the package agree with the values in the products in the same package.
Coffeeshops sell cannabis products in small quantities, such as a cafe keeper taps a glass of beer from a barrel, or a tobacco dealer sells a pack of cigarettes from a carton. In the same way, we weigh 1 gram of weed out from a larger amount of 500 grams.
The cafe keeper and the tobacconist buy their products from a legal wholesaler who functions as a middle-man, and all the products come with a label applied by the manufacturer with the ingredients and their respective quantities in the products indicated.
The coffeeshop owner, on the other hand, has to do business with people who grow and trade in an illegal product, and they don’t have a laboratory at their disposal to determine the THC percentage of their Dutch-grown weed. That’s why, among other reasons, this isn’t listed on the packaging. Now, these illegal cannabis growers are a practically intangible group, and as such, are not approachable for and by the Dutch government. Thus, Minister Opstelten knows he can’t reach the producers of the Dutch weed being delivered to the coffeeshops. He also can’t obligate them to state the ingredients, in this case, the THC percentage etc. on the packaging of the cannabis they produce, like every other producer or manufacturer who wants to sell his products in the Netherlands is required to do.
Opstelten now thinks he can require the coffeeshops to indicate the THC percentage on the cannabis products they’ve acquired while they are not the producers of these products. As so, they are wrongly being saddled with a problem the government itself apparently can’t solve.
As a coffeeshop owner, I reject the imposed obligation by Minister Opsteltent to determine, or have determined, the THC content of the weed I’ve acquired in order to then be able to indicate this on the packaging or on an insert on the cannabis I’m going to sell.
I’m of the opinion that the Minister should take on his responsibility to bring it about that the producers of Dutch weed report the THC content of the cannabis they’ve produced before they deliver it to the coffeeshops. If he’s not capable of doing this, but still demands that the THC percentage of the cannabis products sold by the coffeeshops be indicated, then he should regulate the growing of Dutch weed and the delivery to the coffeeshops by means of legalization. This would be possible by placing the presently permitted coffeeshops in the position to have their cannabis produced by growers registered with the government, based on the number of kilograms of cannabis they sell yearly.
The cannabis sold by the coffeeshops would be accounted for and taxed by the tax service. In this manner, the tax service could pass on the figures for yearly sales per coffeeshop to the government.
Further, I just wonder why this paternalism is being applied to cannabis users. We can control our Dutch weed dosage well. We normally put more or less weed in a joint depending on the potency of the cannabis; actually, just like my grandfather – he drank beer (7% alcohol) from a beer glass, and jenever (40% alcohol) from a shot glass, not the other way around. That’s also called dosing.
Ministers Opstelten and Schippers seem blind and deaf to the statements of drug experts and addiction institutes who find it counterproductive to place cannabis products with more than 15% THC on List 1 of the Opium Law between cocaine, heroin and amphetamine.
Only the street dealers will benefit from the regulations planned by Opstelten & Co. In addition to “white” (cocaine) and “brown” (heroin), now they can also offer their clients of all ages “green” (strong weed) where the police aren’t available. Psssst, white, brown, green?
Tomorrow we’ll just sell fine weed and hash again, 100% quality, with a little less THC.
Nol van Schaik, coffeeshop owner in Haarlem, Holland
English translation by J.P. Morgan