Nol Van Schaik, owner of three top-ranked cannabis cafes in Haarlem, Holland, continues to push Europe towards full decriminalization.
As reported in Cannabis Culture (issues #29 and 31, and our next issue), Van Schaik decided to open a marijuana and hemp information center in Belgium after that country announced it would liberalize marijuana cultivation and possession policies by the end of summer, 2001.
The Dutch dynamo, described as “the European Marc Emery” because he channels most of his pot profits into political activism and assisting the cannabis culture, purchased a building in Antwerp, Belgium, intending to open his cannabis center there in May.
But Van Schaik didn’t anticipate that a gang of right-wing conservatives, known as Vlaams Blok, would violently oppose Belgium’s liberalized policies and the Dutchman’s infocenter.
The Blok staged tumultuous protests outside Van Schaik’s Antwerp site, using hysterical rhetoric, racism, and physical intimidation to attack the center and marijuana advocates.
Van Schaik and allies from Belgium, Holland and Germany staged counterprotests, but Belgian police appeared to be colluding with Vlaams Blok to harm the Haarlem hempster, possibly planning to lure him into an arrest scenario and extradite him to France to face a decade-old hashish charge.
“We decided to delay our opening until the Belgian government officially changes the marijuana laws,” Van Schaik said. “The people against us are fanatics. We already won the public relations battle in the media, with massive favorable coverage here and in the UK. We showed Europeans that marijuana users are respectable people and that those who oppose us are dangerous. When we finally open in Belgium, we’ll have a classy operation that benefits everyone.”
While waiting for the green light in Belgium, Van Schaik debuted a book he sponsored that contains compelling stories from Dutch medical marijuana users.
“We brought 50 medical cannabis users to our release party for the book,” Van Schaik said. “They emphatically told the Dutch government that its plan to wait five years to authorize and reimburse patients for medical marijuana [see CC 31]is not compassionate and not based on good medical practices. Several of our patients openly told the government that they will continue to use and grow medical marijuana. Some will be using grow boxes we have designed to make growing easy without detection or much cost.”
Van Schaik has completed ambiance enhancements for his three Haarlem coffee shops and his Global Hemp Museum, in anticipation of the busy summer cannatourism season.
“We continue to be very fortunate to have suppliers providing specialty marijuana and hashish in quantities that allow us to charge very reasonable retail prices,” Van Schaik said. “We’re encouraging art lovers, nature lovers and beach lovers to visit us during the warm season. Haarlem is a friendlier and safer place than Amsterdam. We are just a few minutes away from the main international airport, a national park, and the coast. There are several world-class museums and restaurants here. If you want to smoke the best marijuana and do some fun activities, come visit us.”
Van Schaik’s latest news and information can be found at www.wwwshop.nl.