Opinion: Weed pass kicks in: more trouble

POSTED: 06/1/12 12:08 PM

When the Dutch soft drugs policy threatened to become a victim of its own success, the government stepped in. Suddenly there was an urge to close down coffee shops (legal distributors of soft drugs), and when the smoke cleared the brilliant decision makers came up with another doomed idea: the so-called weed pass.

In the deep south of the country, in Maastricht, this pass was introduced about a month ago. Only Dutch adult citizens are able to obtain such a pass. Foreigners, like the drugs tourists from nearby countries Germany and Belgium and – a bit further down – France, are excluded from this privilege.

The measure was designed to discourage foreigners from coming to the Dutch coffee shops. There were simply too much customers. Instead of embracing this most welcome shot it the arm of its faltering economy, the Dutch government decided to slaughter the chicken with the golden egg. At least, it thought this would happen.

Now that the predictable effects of the weed pass are becoming visible (in the streets of course – where else?) said decision makers may have second thoughts about their brilliant idea.

In Maastricht drug-related trouble quadrupled in the past month. There were more than 600 reports to a special anti-drugs hotline, while the average remained last year below 170 per month.

But the city’s mayor, Onno Hoes, puts a brave face on this development, saying that he is satisfied with the introduction of the weed pass. The mayor notes that the number of visitors to the coffee shops has gone down significantly and dealing (no pun intended) with soft drugs related trouble in the streets remains manageable.

Hoes is happy with the large number of reports, NRC Handelsblad reported, because it shows that citizens are prepared to contribute to bringing the troubles under control. The reports enable the police to focus its efforts, the mayor added for good measure.

The mayor also said that there are less foreign drugs buyers in his town. We wonder how one recognizes a drugs buyer. Foreign license plate? Long hair? Torn jeans? Hummer? Business attire and briefcase? We have no idea, but apparently Hoes knows his underlings – and those of his neighbors.

The police in Maastricht made one hundred arrests for drugs possession in May, compared to five in previous months. This is due to a bigger effort by police to tackle the situation. With the weed pass it has little to nothing to do.

The number of parking fines went down by 20 percent which is in Maastricht happily explained from the notion that there are fewer cars with foreign plates in the city. It could of course also be that the police are too busy arresting druggies and that there is therefore less time to write parking tickets.

Hmmm. First the government allows coffee shops to sell soft drugs legally. Then these coffee shops attract peaceful tourists from surrounding countries, but because there are so many of them, the government decided to put a stop to it by introducing the weed pass. Now troubles in the street are starting to increase.

Fortunately, the mayor of Maastricht is happy with the development.

We’d say that the whole mess shows that the weed pass was a bad idea from the get go. Of course the weed pass will push the trade back onto the streets. The mayor says nothing about the number of foreigners that come into his city, where they politely stay away from the coffee shops; instead they hassle in the streets with people who legally buy their stuff in the shops before peddling it for a higher price on the streets.

Sure, the police will deal with it. But are the police waiting for this type of extra burden? We’d think the force would prefer to spend its time on more useful matters. But maybe that darn weed pass is designed to keep the police from doing its real job. Who knows?

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