Dutch coffeeshops still potent

Nol with herbs that the CDA calls `hard drugs.`Nol with herbs that the CDA calls `hard drugs.`The Dutch Justice Minister and Health Minister, representatives of the pro-war ruling CDA political party that currently runs Holland, are upset because Dutch weed growers and hashish makers are creating quality products.
CDA representatives in the government and in Parliamanent are pushing to have a commission study Dutch Nederweed and Nederhash. They allege that the products are so high in THC that they create health problems, especially for youth.

CDA representatives say that the high-THC cannabis products are “hard drugs” that cannot be responsibly used. They want the commission to tell Dutch lawmakers to regulate Dutch cannabis coffeeshop products by setting limits on THC percentages, and by placing high-THC products into the same illegal category as cocaine and heroin.

This is the latest in a series of anti-coffeeshop efforts carried out by CDA since it took power two years ago. The CDA has tried to close coffeeshops by using zoning regulations, cigarette smoke bans, taxes, age regulations, police raids on shops and growers, and an attempt to prevent shops from selling weed to foreigners.

The coffeeshop industry has long been at an unfair advantage when compared to the alcohol bar industry. Dutch laws prohibit coffeeshops from advertising themselves, and also subject them to police inspections that rob the shops of product and money, while also harassing and scaring away customers. The number of cofeeshops has been steadlily declining, but is now stabilized at about 800 shops.

Coffeeshop policy is determined by local officials, even though the federal government can pass laws and try to influence policy through various tactics.

The city with the most cannabis-friendly coffeeshop regulations is not Amsterdam, it is Haarlem, Holland.

Haarlem is a Dutch heritage city located 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train. Haarlem is actually closer to the country’s main internation airport than Amsterdam is.

The Haarlem local coffeeshop policy was greatly influenced by Dutch coffeeshop guru Nol Van Schaik, whose three “Willie Wortels” shops are considered pioneers in modern coffeeshop style and service.

As told in Van Schaik’s history book about Dutch coffeeshops, called The Dutch Experience, Van Schaik basically forced Haarlem officials to adopt a progressive coffeeshop policy that protected coffeeshop owners from government harassment while also protecting patrons from hard drugs.

The seperation of cannabis dealing from hard drugs and organized crime is a prime achievement of the Haarlem and Dutch coffeeshop model, Van Schaik says. Despire periodic inspections carried out by police and tax officials, police and government represenatives affirm that Haarlem’s potshops are clean, safe, absent of minors, peaceful, and selling only cannabis, with no use or sales of hard drugs.

Indeed, Haarlem police have personally told me that in the years since the new local coffeeshop ordinances came into effect, they have found virtually no violations by the city’s 16 shops, nor have they found any instances of violence, rape or public disorder. On the other hand, the officers told me, Haarlem’s alcohol bars are a constant source of injury, sexual crimes, health problems, and even death.

Van Schaik is known for his defiant opposition to cannabis laws and to anti-cannabis propaganda. When the government tried to force cofshops to sell only to Dutch citizens, Van Schaik publicly stated that he would always sell cannabis to anyone, that he would not discriminate.

He is now stating the high-THC Dutch cannabis is a harm reduction method that helps people get higher by smoking less, and that he and other coffeeshop owners will never accept a system that features testing of cannabis and bans on potent products.

He also looks at the end game that the US, UN and conservative Dutch officials are trying to achieve.

“They want to end the coffeeshop system which has become the model for cannabis use and distribution worldwide,” he says from his villa in Spain, where he is planning a Mediterranean cannaresort. “But demand for cannabis is more and more, and if they eliminate shops, they will only create a black market dominated by organized crime that will mix the sales of cannabis with sales of hard drugs. Our coffeeshop system is the best system for managing the supply and demand of cannabis. Our Willie Wortels shops and other quality shops are always improving their facilities and product purity. We will not allow the government to ruin this successful social experiment, and we urge all fans of cannabis to visit Holland, spend money at the shops, and to tell the Dutch government that the shops are as important to Dutch culture and tourism as are windmills and art museums.”

Van Schaik says that his shops are flooded with customers, that he has added lodging to one shop, and that the upcoming summer season will again be a time when visitors can enjoy marijuana next to a canal looking out on a windmill in the classy city of Haarlem, which is located near beaches, national parks, and Amsterdam.Nol with herbs that the CDA calls `hard drugs.`

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