Various reports on the decision of the Dutch government to ban the sale of cannabis to tourists have been published in the European and American press. The headlines, that distort the facts, seem to be made to serve prohibitionist propaganda. Words as “banned” accompanied by reactionary statements are now being associated to words as “coffeeshop” and “the Netherlands”.
What is really happening is quite different from the image that is created by the media. “There is no decision yet. It is the intention of the current government to do this. But there will be parliamentary debates this autumn, and then even if the parliament approves this, I guess there will be lots of possibilities to start a courtcase because it is essentially a case of discrimination.”, explains Joep Oomen, coordinator of ENCOD.
In fact, courtcases are taking place before Dutch and European courts. In Maastricht the lord mayor and the coffeeshops already are trying to find out through a courtcase if it is legal to refuse foreigners to buy cannabis in a coffeeshop. In this case a decision is expected from the European Court of Justice, as this will possibly violate the free trade agreements of the European Union.
As long as this decision is unknown, Dutch (and international) efforts to discourage foreigners to come to Holland and buy cannabis will be limited to symbolic measures, such as the short film that will be exposed in Belgian cinemas, showing tourists knocking on the closed doors of coffeeshops of some cities at the border, and afterwards get busted because they have bought cannabis from a local seller. (AFP).
ENCOD, in its September bulletin, reported on the refrom process that is currently taking place in the Netherlands. In july, a report from the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) was presented to the government. The report sends many positive signs on the phenomena of cannabis and coffeeshops. According to the committee, tolerance concerning cannabis has not failed, and a total prohibition of cannabis is indesirable.
The report presents 3 different options to further develop the coffeeshop model. The first option is complete legalisation, which would mean that the Netherlands will have to denounce the UN treaties on drugs. The second option is to extend the tolerance of the sale in coffeeshops to the cultivation for these shops. The committee also refuses this option, as it would not end the involvement of criminal groups in this cultivation.
The third option, the one that is recommended by the committee (and referred to by the media), is to convert the coffeeshop into a kind of “cannabis social club” restricted to members and with a regulated supply. Clients should become a member of this club, that would organise the cultivation of the plants and offer the harvest in the shop that would only be accessible to the members, i.e Dutch residents. While ENCOD would welcome this system in any other country, it is clear that in Holland this would be a step backwards, as there is a serious risk that the shady situation at the backdoor would pass on to the frontdoor as well. “A lively trade in club passes could be expected”, says Oomen.
The media create the illusion that tolerant policies are to blame for problems that are actuallly created by the fact that they are not tolerant enough. Therefore, it is difficult to predict how that situation will turn out in the end.
See also the video report of HCLU on drug tourism.
Marisa Felicissimo for Psicoblog