When news that Dutch police had raided the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam this year filtered back to the United States, the reaction was a mixture of shock, outrage, and outright disbelief. Surely, even with a center-right government, the laissez-faire Dutch weren't locking up peaceful pot-smokers in what's been the international capital of cannabis use (sorry, Oakland) for decades?
As it turns out: No, they weren't. It was a permitting snafu that led police to visit the High Times Cup, which was allowed to continue in peace -- peace that included attendees happily passing joints back and forth in front of smiling police officers, according to reports.
This kind of lax enforcement won't last for long, however. Dutch officials announced this week a plan to finally, once-and-for-all close its famed "cannabis coffee shops" to tourists.
But no need to hurry to Holland -- the country-wide closure won't go into effect until 2013, and there's no serious effort to recriminalize possession of five grams or less.
Dutch coffee shops will in 2013 become "closed cannabis clubs," according to Agence-France Presse, limited to 2,000 members or less. They can still accept foreigners -- however, those foreigners must be residents of Holland. Other Europeans -- French, Germans, Brits, even the Swiss! -- are all out.
The law barring tourists from clubs in select Dutch provinces goes into effect on Jan. 1, but even those clubs have a "grace period" of five months to figure out a "new administrative system" that somehow keeps foreigners out (training the bouncer to recognize a U.K. or U.S. passport?). In the meantime, the rest of the country -- including the province of North Holland, where Amsterdam is located -- has until January 2013 to phase out cannabis tourism.
Which means that attendees of at least the 2012 Cannabis Cup can visit coffee shops around town if the offerings at the event aren't up to snuff -- and they can still blaze away in peace in 2013 and beyond, barring a complete change of fortune in the Low Country. Even in front of a cop.
By Chris Roberts