The lack of a comprehensible ‘back door policy’ in Holland’s controversial stand on the purchase of soft drugs no longer divides the majority of Dutch mayors.

Rob van Gijzel, the Mayor of Eindhoven, launched his plan to legalize cannabis supply to so called coffee shops in the Netherlands. He did so at a recent mayor’s summit in the city of Almere in the Netherlands. The ‘Weed Summit’ in Almere was organized by the local authorities association and the city of Maastricht to discuss the Netherlands’ current policy of turning a blind eye to the sale of small quantities of marijuana in licenced cafes known as coffee shops.

The ‘Weed Summit’ was called after borderline cities such as Roosendaal, Maastricht and Bergen op Zoom announced plans to shut all their coffee shops in the next two years to combat drugs tourism and criminal activity. They complain that the legions of French and Belgians who come every year for a puff of weed or dash of hash are often badly behaved. Worse still, they are targeted by ‘drugs runners’ who lure them away from legal outlets to back-door suppliers that offer harder, illegal drugs.

Health minister Ab Klink has stated that an experiment with licenced cannabis growers in Eindhoven would conflict with the Dutch coalition agreement but that he is prepared to look more closely at the plan and discuss it with the rest of the cabinet.
Closing down Dutch coffee shops is not a solution to drugs tourism and will not change the fact that most marijuana is supplied by criminal gangs, the mayors in their summit concluded. ‘It will only lead to more crime,’ says Maastricht mayor Gerd Leers. ‘And I do not believe that it will mean that people smoke less (pot).’

Amsterdam’s mayor, Job Cohen, remains in favour of permitting the sale of soft drugs. ‘There should be a controlled system in which it is clear where soft drugs come from’, he said. Many Dutch also want the tolerant approach to remain in place, with a newspaper poll this week showing 80 per cent of Dutch opposing coffee shop closures. Experts agree that a ban is not the answer. ‘A ban is even more dangerous than the grass itself because consumers will turn to illegal circuits and criminality will explode’, said Tim Boekhout, a criminologist.

[source: NRC Handelsblad/]