Shortly before 4:20pm today, Dutch police and revenue agents raided the High Times Cannabis Cup Expo in Amsterdam.
Dozens of uniformed officers quickly occupied the building and separated the hundreds of attendees from exhibitors, who were instructed to remain at their tables.
Read an earlier report from Cannabis Culture and see video of the raid in progress.
Officers were polite and efficient – all armed, but no guns were drawn. I asked one why this was happening and he told me undercover police had investigated the Expo yesterday and seen violations of the Opium Act. He cited things such as some people giving away free samples of bud and hash, offering bong hits to promote their business, and so on.
Dutch rules allow only the sale of marijuana and hash from licensed coffeeshops. They are prohibited from selling customers more than 5g each per day, and cannot have more than 500g on the premises at any time. Individual possession is supposed to be kept under the 5g limit as well. Dutch coffeeshops are also prohibited from promoting or advertising themselves.
It took about two hours for police to clear the hall. Everyone was searched before being allowed to leave, and all marijuana and hash was confiscated.
There were about 50 police officers on site, and about two dozen tax agents wearing reflective green jackets. The tax agents questioned exhibitors about their products, sales and receipts. I saw some exhibitors being questioned as their cannabis was put into plastic evidence bags by uniformed officers.
At this point it looks like the Expo portion of the Cannabis Cup is over. I expect that evening entertainment scheduled at the Melkweg club will still take place as planned.
The status of cannabis law in Holland is often debated, but change happens slowly. The licensing and control of coffeeshops is done largely at the municipal level. Some cities do not have any, others have only a few, while Amsterdam has over 300. That may seem like a lot, but the number is down from over 800 a few years ago.
Holland’s current federal government is less friendly to the coffeeshop scene and has been pressuring cities to restrict marijuana sales to Dutch citizens. They want coffeeshops to become private clubs, with a record kept of all sales made to every member. Some border towns have already gone this route, largely in response to concerns about German tourists returning home with pockets full of Dutch weed and hash.
Watch Cannabis Culture for more updates as information becomes available.
Dana Larsen is the former editor of Cannabis Culture and founder and operator of the The Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary.