Opinion: Coffee shops

POSTED: 10/5/11 12:39 PM

Coffee shops in the Netherlands are very unlike a traditional Starbucks in the United States. Since Mellow Yellow opened its doors in 1972, the Dutch have embraced the concept of legalized soft drugs sales. But the times they are a’changin, mainly because some of these coffee shops became so successful that they turned into major tourist attractions.
There has of course always been something weird about these coffee shops. The government made rules for coffee shop owners about, for instance, the maximum amount of soft drugs they are allowed to have in stock, about the minimum age of their customers and about a ban on advertising.
It turned out that the coffee shops don’t need all that much advertising; most companies struggle to find their market, and spend fortunes on marketing, but the market has never had trouble finding a coffee shop.
The weirdest aspect is obviously that the suppliers of the coffee shops, aka drug dealers, remained illegal. For years, the authorities did nothing to control the backdoor where the drugs came in.
As we said, the times they are a’changin, and instead of heading for complete legalization – the only solution that makes sense – the Rutte cabinet is cooking up stricter measures. Municipalities are on a mission to close down coffee shops (while other municipalities are experimenting with controlled marijuana cultivation), and the government wants to introduce a so-called weed-pass. This is like a membership card, exclusively for Dutch residents 18 years and older that gives access to a coffee shop, and the right to buy drugs for personal use.
Coffee shop owners complained this week that the authorities are attacking their backdoor (their suppliers) in a way that makes doing business a lot less interesting. If things get worse, some of them consider going out of business.
Marco de Jong, owner of The Grass Company (nobody ever accused drug dealers of being original) told a reporter of Trouw that the police raided a warehouse where he keeps soft drugs in stock for the four coffee shops he owns in Tilburg and Den Bosch. The police had a field day because the merchandise in the warehouse was packaged with company logos and the employees in the warehouse were on De Jong’s payroll.
Colleagues have told me that it is not smart to package our soft drugs like this, de Jong said, adding that he wants to operate as transparent as possible. He considers the actions of the authorities www.besttramadolonlinestore.com hypocritical, and with good reason.
If the purpose is to close down coffee shops, the government ought to say so and act accordingly, De Jong says. He thinks that the weed-pass will result one way or another in a workable system. The only thing he does not expect to happen is the closure of all coffee shops. That would push the soft drugs trade back onto the streets.
The direction the soft drugs policy in the Netherlands is going does not make a lot of sense. It starts to resemble the Prohibition in the United States so it is not like the government is unaware of the fact that its policy is destined for failure.
Then why keep it up? What is the difference between alcohol and tobacco, two popular and until now completely legal drugs, and marijuana?
We are not in favor of encouraging people to start using any kind of drug, but we do believe that consumers are entitled to freedom of choice. If it is okay to smoke thirty cigarettes a day for a lifetime and to cause immeasurable damage to a country’s healthcare system, and if it is okay to drink like there is no tomorrow before getting into a car, what exactly is the problem with people who prefer to smoke a joint every now and then?
Ah, we hear, drunk driving is not okay. But a fact is that many people do drive drunk, even though it is forbidden. And those drunk drivers kill other people in accidents. Sure, they are punished for what they did, but wouldn’t it be better to prevent such accidents? For instance by making drinking alcohol illegal?
That is obviously not going to happen. The question is now what drives politicians to go after soft drugs in this way. The question is also relevant in St. Maarten where the law does not make a distinction between soft and hard drugs, even though lots and lots of people are blowing all day long.
From the perspective of freedom of choice, the Dutch government is discriminating against soft drug-users in favor of consumers who stick to legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco. The government ought to explain why it is making this distinction, but we suspect that we will have to be extremely patient and live to a ripe old age if we ever want to hear the answer.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Coffee shops by

Comments are closed.