DUTCH COFFEESHOPS UNDER THREAT: MARCH 2003-03-06
FACTS VS FOREIGN PRESSURE: CAN THE NEW DUTCH GOVERNMENT CLOSE COFFEESHOPS?
By Nol van Schaik.
Founder of Willie Wortel's coffeeshops, Haarlem, the Netherlands.
At this moment, The Netherlands do not have an actual government, but the parties involved in the future government, CDA and PvdA, are discussing their coalition plans for weeks now. One the informers of the new government is 'current' and future CDA Justice Minister Donner, now involved in forming a new coalition with the PvdA, the two parties have a small minority in the Dutch Tweede Kamer. Minister Donner has big plans to rid Holland of Drugs and Crime, as they have been announced over the past few months. Donner wants to get the Dutch policy on Drugs and Penalties more in line with the rest of Europe, Holland's Liberal Drug Policy seems to undermine Justice and Law in Europe.
Minister Donner wants to go back to minimum penalties for drug possession, like in other EU countries, under political pressure from France and Sweden, meaning, 1 year maximum for possession of cannabis, and 3 years maximum for the supplying of cannabis. His future policy includes going after coffeeshops with a website, as he considers that advertising, which is forbidden under the Dutch coffeeshop regulations. Donner also wants to close a lot of coffeeshops, based on the coffeeshop policy, out of a total of 806, and he wants to solve the problems in the border area's with Germany and Belgium, where thousands of foreign visitors flood the local coffeeshops to buy cannabis on a daily basis. Donner stated the following, when he was asked if he was going to tackle the Dutch Drug Policy, 'the cause of a lot of nuisance and crime', as interviewers Jan Hoedeman and Frank Poorthuis put it:
"We have come so close together that we can not keep saying: The Netherlands should just keep doing it its own way, because we cause our neighbours trouble with our policy, and we deny them the possibility to do it their way. The Tolerance Policy for coffeeshops is a part of the drug problem. I can not make a separation in that. But, in order to see what I can do for the Tolerance Policy, you have to wait until Prinsjesdag." ( Prinsjesdag is the day the Queen reads the Bill of the Dutch State, and announces new Tax increases, www.volkskrant.nl/denhaag/1032238673402.html This quote means that Minister Donner does not see any difference between regulated coffeeshops and cannabis, and hard drugs and their suppliers. His statements on Prinsjesdag included threat to close the coffeeshops, as usual, and a crack down on drugs and crime, nothing surprising, he just announced he wanted to ruin a system that gave the best results in the world. Donner expects citizens to make an effort, by getting more involved in the community as such, and more wisdom that would make ordinary people part of projects to secure safety in our society, a task that we consider unpaid police work in Holland. He stated that the authorities would provide more police officers on the streets and more prison cells. He considered to solve the current shortage of cells by putting two inmates in one cell, and to re-instate the old Veenhuizen prison.
The reality of that moment was that coke-smugglers, arriving at Amsterdam Airport from the Antilles Island , with pellets of coke in their belly, were released after 'delivering' their contents, there were no cells available to lock them up. It only got out in the press when a person caught with several kilo's of coke in a suitcase was released for the lack of cells, hundreds with 'only' a few hundred grams of pellets had been released previously. Estimates showed that 8000 convicted suspects could not or not fully be locked up because of the increasing shortage of prison cells. Even today, coke-smugglers with a 'content' or load of less than 1500 grams will not be locked up in the Netherlands, they are send back to their country of origin, with a note from the Custom's and the Prosecutor, telling them they will be locked up in case he/she comes back to Holland. Minister Donner is responsible for this system. On November 7, 2002, it became clear that the plans to build new prisons were rejected, because of a lack of funds.
Minister Donner organised a priority debate about the growing lack of prison cells and the release of the pellet-smugglers, stating all new prison projects were cancelled as a result of financing.
http://www.nrc.nl/dossiers/Rijksbegroting_2003/artikel/1037859949237.html He also stated he would act against coffeeshops advertising online, his department found out that 103 coffeeshops have a website, some of them violated the regulations, he would act against that in due time. He would announce new suggestions to solve the cell shortage the same month, it never happened, the government stepped down before he came up with it. The results of a quick scan, executed by the National Police Corps (KLPD) showed that 12% of the 805 coffeeshops, 103 outlets, had a website online, none of them offered cannabis for sale, no dope was being transferred through the discovered sites. The KLPD also found 1500 sites about synthetic drugs online, 3% of them were Dutch. Donner, of course, was very worried about all this.
A publication from the Dutch Staats-courant from December 2, 2003, unveiled that the EU ministers of Justice failed in finding agreement over harmonized penalties for drugs trade. The Dutch soft drugs policy was heavily criticized by France and Sweden. The criteria for coffeeshops in the border area's were to be tightened, to diminish the frontier crossing effects of the Dutch soft drugs policy. Donner stated that the Dutch policy should not cause consequences for the neighbouring countries a legitimate demand by the EU partner states. Besides that there is research going to determine the health risks of soft drugs. Minister Donner suggested that the results of this research might lead to a stricter Dutch soft drugs policy.
All this shows Donner hangs his head to the wishes and pressure of two European partners, and is willing to sacrifice the best executed Drug Policy in the world to please foreign leaders and demands. The latest announcement on the Dutch Drug Policy came on January 25, when Donner announced he wants to close 400 coffeeshops, out of the remaining 806 still active.
Translation of Haarlems Dagblad, Feb. 26, 2003:
Donner wants hard line on soft drugs 'Neighbourhoods in hands weed gangs'
By: Ap van den Berg and Ferdi Schooten
The Hague/GPD- Justice Minister Donner (CDA) wants to tighten the tolerance policy for softdrugs and bring it in line with European legislation. A confidential report shows he wants 'a sharp decrease in the number of coffeeshops'. Donner also wants to discourage drug use and home growing. It has been confirmed by reliable sources around the minister.
If it was up to Donner, he will start a major offensive against illegal hemp plantations. It happens more often that criminal gangs use houses and basements in the poorer neighbourhoods, as it states in not yet published research of criminologist Prof. Dr. Frank Bovenkerk. According to Bovenkerk, the results from his report will be used 'to reconsider the softdrugs policy critically'.
The criminologist states there are 20 neighbourhoods, spread over the whole off the Netherlands, controlled by weed gangsters. Around 60 % of the crop is exported to foreign countries. The police usually only manages to catch the growers, mainly mothers on benefits, junks and people in great debts.
The gangs, who supply for the necessary equipment, the plants, the utilities and the clipping, always escape from prosecution. The Minister will offer his suggestions to the Parliament on short notice. Because Donner is also the informer for the new government's formation, his prerogatives will come to order during the formation of the Cabinet. The PvdA (The CDA's only coalition partner) does not feel anything for a hard line on softdrugs. This party thinks the police can use its energy way better for catching crooks.
The CDA, however, fears that smoking a joint will sooner lead to a transfer to hard drugs. The number of coffeeshops has already decreased noticeably over the last 5 years. At present, our country counts a little under 800 cannabis outlets (806,nvs) for marihuana and weed?, compared to around 1500 in 1998. The main loss of coffeeshops occurred in the big cities. But, according to Donner, another 400 coffeeshops will have to be closed within a year, minimum. In fact, Municipalities can decide over the softdrugs policy independently. By tightening the current policy, Donner wants to force municipalities in to complying.
By bringing the Dutch softdrugs policy more in line with the stance of the EU member states, Donner hopes to make good agreements about the smuggling of humans, terrorism protection and asylum policy. "Some countries, amongst whom France, do not keep themselves to these agreements because of the Dutch softdrugs policy", said a spokesman. It starting to become clear that some of the Dutch cannabis coffeeshops are going to have a hard time in the near future, as soon as the new government is installed. The coalition that will be in power in the Dutch parliament, the Tweede Kamer, will consist of the CDA, a Christian Conservative party, and the PvdA, the major Dutch Socialist Party. The CDA has always been against coffeeshops, they want a zero-tolerance policy, but could not get any support for that in their latest attempt to rule Holland, with List Fortuyn (LPF) and the VVD. The LPF was in favour of full legalisation of cannabis, so a status quo was the only alternative, meaning the coffeeshops were left alone.
The coalition only lasted 86 days, the new elections were last January, the CDA and the PvdA ended up as the two biggest parties in the Netherlands, and together they have enough Chairs to makeup a majority in government. The PvdA was involved in the two previous cabinets, which came up with the current cannabis policy in 1996, that policy, following the AHOJG criteria, caused the closure of about 650 coffeeshops since then. Today, the PvdA stated they agree with the CDA on their stance towards coffeeshops, a major disappointment for a lot of cannabis smokers that voted PvdA, like myself.
The PvdA feels that coffeeshops in the surrounding of schools should be closed at short notice, like the CDA suggests. Van Heemst, the PvdA spokesman: "Years ago, we agreed that coffeeshops would be prohibited to be located near places where a lot of kids come together.
In practice, I still see them there, in Rotterdam there is even a coffeeshop opposite a school for children with correctional education." Donner, the present and new Minister of Justice, expects to be able to close 400 coffeeshops, out of the current 800, a decrease of 50%! Donner's plans to act tough against coffeeshops will have a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the VVD is in favour too, who now state they already agreed upon that in the previous coalition, another group of backstabbers, they too participated in the Purple coalition, with the PvdA. Donner's motivation for his crusade against cannabis is the Gateway theory, supposing that the use of cannabis will lead to the use of hard drugs, an old story, which has been found unfounded based on research in many countries, even the USA. Minister Donner does not seem to know how the Dutch figures on drug use and -abuse compare to the other countries in the EU, Holland is only 13th of the EU in cannabis consumption, with coffeeshops, according to a UN report!
I'll display the top 15, so I can at least include Holland in there.
Cannabis: Annual prevalence of abuse as percentage of the EU population aged
15 and above:
San Marino: 4%
Some other interesting figures from around the world:
Papua New Guinea: 29.5%
South Africa: 18.4%
New Zealand: 18%
USA: 8.3% (Note: 2 times as much as in Holland! Prohibition or coffeeshops?)
Holland would not make the top 50 in the world, according to this UN report, the UN knows that Holland is only a minor cannabis consuming country. Why in the world are they picking on Dutch coffeeshops so persistently? I know why,
Dutch coffeeshops have an address, unlike all other drugs suppliers in the world!
Source: United Nations: Office on Drugs and crimes.
Donner just bows for international pressure, but closing 50% of the coffeeshops will not make much of an impression to the critics, they want them all shut, and all cannabis growers locked up, like in the USA, they even lock people up for selling bongs and water pipes! I suspect Donner is in bed with the DEA, they have about 80 agents in The Hague, so they must have been at least in touch with our Minister of Justice. Belgium is going to decriminalise the possession of 5 grams of cannabis for personal use, and the cultivation of 1 cannabis plant per person in March 2003, how long will the UN and the US allow that country to 'step out of bounds'? I am sure the DEA in Brussels are already at it. Portugal has decriminalised the use and possession of ALL drugs years ago. Switserland is going to allow 'pot-shops', after Dutch model, that country already allows the cultivation of cannabis. The UK is going to declassify cannabis on July 3, using cannabis will become more or less accepted, mainly to prevent the UK Justice system from clogging up more than it already is. Sweden had another argument to get the Dutch coffeeshops closed: Schizophrenia!
The use of cannabis was supposed to lead to an explosion of Schizophrenia, as Sweden stated, so the source of that evil, the Dutch coffeeshops, had to be closed to prevent that. I found some interesting figures about schizophrenia online, making the Swedes look like a bunch of schizophrenic liars!
Section two: The sufferers (people with a severe mental illness) The average age of people being cared for in the European surveys appears to be around the mid-thirties to very early forties. The majority are male (ranging from 56% to 80%) and have a diagnosis of schizophrenia (ranging from 29% to 92%).
The table below contains a great deal of information, some of which is in different forms. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is very high amongst the sufferers in England and Ireland (as the word "Schizophrenia" remains in the title of both organisations, this is to be expected). In Holland particularly, but also Belgium and France, the diagnosis of schizophrenia is significantly lower. This will have an effect on the value of comparing some of the other results from the survey and is important to bear in mind.
Sufferer's Age, Gender and Diagnosis
(a) = average (mean)
After 30 years of cannabis and coffeeshops, most of the Dutch population should be suffering from schizophrenia, but Sweden, Spain, England and Ireland have more sufferers, way more! Donner's motivation as he states it in the Dutch press is the pits, however, he and the CDA still think that the use of cannabis will lead to the use of hard drugs, advocating the so-called gateway theory. He feels closing the coffeeshops will protect the youth. Youth under 18 is not allowed into coffeeshops, so they have nothing to do with that! This argument is so sad, I fear for Holland's future if Donner stays in charge of the Justice Department, he should know that this anti-legalisation propaganda was crushed years ago: http://www.rand.org/hot/press.02/gateway.html
http://www.drugwarfacts.org/gatewayt.htm There are loads of articles online indicating that cannabis available on schools already, after the age for admittance to cannabis coffeeshops was increased from 16 to 18 in 1997, in Dutch, but I will paste a few here anyway:
Dutch figures show that less than 50% of the cannabis consumers buys their cannabis in coffeeshops, they are not allowed in every town or municipality, cannabis is available everywhere, through house dealers and home growers mainly.
Donner will use a report by criminologist Prof. Dr. Bovenkerk to go after the home growers of cannabis, to prevent the supply to coffeeshop and to fight organised crime. Bovenkerk's reported indicates that 60% of the cannabis produced in the Netherlands is destined for foreign countries.
These figures, which might be close to the truth, should not be used against Holland and it's growers, who only live up to their natural instincts, and supply a huge demand in Europe. Donner should address our neighbouring countries, to advise them to allow the cultivation and sales of cannabis in their respective countries, holding up the results of Holland's successful 30-year experiment! That would stop the flood of foreigners coming to Holland for cannabis, nothing else. Donner nor Bovenkerk seem to realise that home grown cannabis is now 75% of the turnover in coffeeshops, before Nederweed came on the market, around 1990, it was 100% hash and marihuana from foreign countries, the merchandise was brought in by big, criminal organisations, which caused the Dutch Justice a lot of problems. Home growers took care of that problem, Holland no longer needs big piles of hash, so organised crime turned away from it. Hash is still available in Dutch coffeeshops, mainly from Morocco, but the transports coming in do not exceed the size of a car trunk, and is of good quality.
I can only draw this conclusion: Minister Donner does not know what he is about to do!
This is the doom scenario in case Minister Donner succeeds in his prerogatives:
Eliminating home growers would not stop the Dutch cannabis consumer from smoking cannabis, they would just go back to smoking hash again. It will not take long before big criminal organisations will pick up on that, they will start importing truck-, train, and boat loads of hash into the Netherlands again, across Europe's unguarded borders. Closing coffeeshops, no matter how many, will not lead to less cannabis use under youth, as they do not buy cannabis there, they rely on the sources that might get them in touch with hard drugs already. The coffeeshop policy was initiated to keep the youth away from hard drugs users and dealers, but that did not work anymore, after the increase of age, in 1997.
Closing coffeeshops will lead to more illegal sales, integrated in the sales of XTC, speed, cocaine and heroin, undoing the separation of the two markets, softdrugs and hard drugs, the reason to have a Tolerance policy and coffeeshops. Minister Donner should realise he can proudly stand up for the Dutch Drug Policy, instead of bowing his head to unfounded criticism from France, Sweden and the UN, the USA should not have any say in our policy at all, they have the worse, self inflicted drug problem in the world. It is also na´ve to think that France and Sweden will be satisfied with 400 coffeeshops closed, they want them all closed, no less. By stating he can probably close 400 coffeeshops, Donner admits he can not close the other 400, that is the positive side.
My businesses are safe, the regulations, as Donner now wants to strictly apply in the Netherlands, are based on the Haarlem experiment and model, we moved away from schools in that process. Other coffeeshops in Holland should have that chance too, Donner will not be able to deny them that, if that was allowed in Haarlem, it should be allowed in the whole country, there is clear system for that, it is called democracy. I did my home work, I doubt if Minister Donner did his.
Nol van Schaik.
Founder of Willie Wortel's coffeeshops, Haarlem, the Netherlands.
Author of "The Dutch Experience" 30 years of hash and grass in coffeeshops. Available from www.lca-uk.org