Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dutch wrestle with cannabis policy

They're resurrecting this silly scheme in Holland again, trying to ban foreigners from patronizing the Dutch cannabis cafes. The residents complain about too many outsiders causing problems in the town but tracing the root of the problem leads to a simple solution.

The crime element is being drawn into the equation since they cracked down on the growers. Like so many "decrim" measures, it's legal to use small amounts of "soft drugs" but it's illegal to produce the plants. Thus, as is currently happening in Canada, organized crime has taken over the production end and they care about profits, not the plant as the old-time growers did. Actually it's not unlike what happened here in the US. In the 60s when marijuana was more or less ignored, you never heard of violence connected with the trade. The only people in it were people who loved the herb. Once the honest people were forced out by draconian penalities, the only ones willing to take the risk are the criminal profiteer class.

In Maastricht, a border town, their consumer base is undeniably tourists, mostly from other European countries. They're floundering a bit about the solution. On the one hand they want to ban so called drug tourism, but on the other they're trying to accomodate it by moving the cafes out of the center of town and near the highway exits. They also toy with idea of legalizing the producers on a limited scale. Of course if they succeed on the first count, the cafes across the country will ban foreign patrons and the second two will be moot.

You have to wonder if they've thought this through. Do they really think that without the cafes, that people will still come to Holland just for the museums and the red light districts? I tend to doubt it - at least not more than once. It seems to me, they're burning down the barn to kill a fly. I wonder if they've considered the impact to their economy if the ban succeeds?


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