The Netherlands were pioneers in their time in the public selling of marijuana.

Netherlands: What if we legalised the back door?

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The Netherlands were pioneers in their time in the public selling of marijuana.

Four decades after regulating coffee shop activities, the country of tulips, canals and clogs has become obsolete with the new Opium Law, since this law does not provide for cannabis farming. More than 55 towns have endorsed a manifesto calling for the legalisation of the famous “back door”.

Wiettelt” is a Dutch term that refers to cannabis farming. More than 55 towns in the Netherlands, including the most important ones like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Haarlem, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Eindhoven, Maastricht and Heerlen have signed a manifesto under the name of “Joint Regulation”. It is a petition to the Government started by parties like D66 or the Worker’s Party demanding the creation of a regulated and certified national cannabis production system.

Marijuana sale in coffee shops implies a situation not provided for by law that has not been reformed in forty years. In these coffee shops marijuana, up to five gram per person a day, may be purchased. However, against all logic, farming is not allowed anywhere in the country. Therefore, everything coming through the “back door” is doing so illegally.

Consequences of the black market

Where does all the stock sold in coffee shops come from, then? Since farming is not regulated, there are an estimated 25,000 illegal plantations in the Netherlands. The crime resulting has caused problems for some town halls, worried about public order. One out of 50 house fires is due to illegal marijuana plantations, according to the Dutch Assurance Association. 70% of fires caused by plantations of marijuana take place in inhabited houses.

Not to mention the matters related to illegal trafficking or public health. There is no quality test currently. Buyers don’t have access to information concerning the pesticides used in these plantations or whether some substances were used to speed up the cultivation process, in order to speed up sales.

Manifest for regulation

Joint RegulationApproximately two years ago a new debate was initiated in the Dutch parliament (the Tweede Kamer), the previous Minister for Security and Justice and Ivo Opstelten, of the VVD Party, aware of the complaints from many towns in the country, encouraged them to send in their plans and possible solutions to this problem, to try to find something the Government could do. However, although there were many proposals, Opstelten said no to all of them, pleading the impossibility of carrying them out because of international treaties.

This refusal caused huge indignation amongst the town halls that had taken part in the initiative. Their reaction was a manifesto, “Joint Regulation”, signed by more than 55 districts. The document was a call for a national solution. Starting from this manifesto, the D66 Party has presented a bill to regulate farming and also the sale of cannabis, tolerated nowadays, but still officially illegal.

Town halls signing the manifesto have a proposal. They want to start with a local experiment, consisting in supervised farming for local distribution through coffee shops or cannabis social clubs. However, the Government, currently VVD, similar to the Spanish PP, maintains its agenda and refuses to implement these new ideas.

Parties in favor and against

D66 leads this proposal, but in the Dutch camera there are more groups that support the manifesto. The social-communists (SP), the greens (GroenLinks)  and other smaller groups like the Animal Party (Partij voor de Dieren) and the party of the 50 years old and older (50plus).

The Worker’s Party (Partij van de Arbeid) is also in favor of regulating cannabis. They include the total legalization of cannabis in their programme, but they are currently governing in coalition with the VDD, who reject such a reform, and thus haven’t done anything for advancing in this matter.

Although there are lots of parties in favor, there’s not a majority nor a consensus, since the liberal conservatives (VVD), the democrat Christians (CDA), the left wing Christians (ChristenUnie), the Reformed or Calvinist (SGP) and the populists (PVV) position themselves against legalization.

Proposals for a new Opium Law

The adjustments in the Opium Law proposed by the D66 would have a direct and positive influence on both public health and public order. According to the party, 200 million Euros are lost every year in police expenses which could be used to tackle other kinds of crime. Legalization would also mean 300 millions more income from taxes.

The new Security and Justice Minister, Ard van der Steur, whom we’ve already written about in Cannabis.es  (have a look at our article “The Justice Minister that claimed that marijuana causes death”) follows the same negative path as his predecessor. They plead that international treaties justify their inaction, even if there are other interpretations of those treaties and also national laws. The D66 proposal is to keep illegality but create some exceptions. Those would be the selling of cannabis through coffee shops, as is done today, and the farming of cannabis for distribution nationally in coffee shops.

USA and Uruguay as benchmarks

Although theD66 bill focuses specifically on the Dutch model and its coffee shops as sales outlets, the parties that support the manifesto look directly at other countries. USA and Uruguay are two of their benchmarks, because they both have stepped forward in regulating cannabis . Even in Europe there are countries that are looking forward like Portugal, Spain or the Czech Republic. Currently in the Netherlands home growing is allowed of up to 5 plants per house and for own consumption.

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