Dutch mayors call for growing marijuana
The Dutch government should licence the growing and supply of marijuana to the country’s 700 or so coffee shops that sell cannabis, according to a group of around 30 Dutch mayors. This is the conclusion of the ‘cannabis summit’ on Friday at which the mayors discussed the country’s policy on soft drugs.
The mayor of Eindhoven, Rob van Gijzel, said his city is prepared to run a ‘monitored pilot scheme’ to assess if a system of licenced growers reduces drugs-related crime.
On Sunday health minister Ab Klink said in a television interview that an experiment with licenced cannabis growers in Eindhoven would conflict with the coalition agreement but that he is prepared to look more closely at the plan and discuss it with the rest of the cabinet.
The summit in Almere was organised by the local authorities association and the city of Maastricht to discuss the Netherlands’ current policy of turning a blind eye to the sale of small quantities of marijuana in licenced cafes known as coffee shops.
It follows a decision by the border towns of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom to close all the coffee shops within their boundaries because of the nuisance caused by thousands of foreign tourists who flock to the towns to buy drugs.
Closing down coffee shops is not a solution to drugs tourism and will not change the fact that most marijuana is supplied by criminal gangs, the mayors said. ‘It will only lead to more crime,’ says Maastricht mayor Gerd Leers. ‘And do not believe that it will mean that people smoke less [cannabis].’
Venlo mayor Hubert Bruls called for the introduction of passes so that only Dutch nationals would be allowed to buy drugs in coffee shops: ‘That would get rid of 80 percent or 90 percent of the 6,000 customers a day which Venlo coffee shops attract’.
The mayors’ plea for legal production has divided the coalition government. The Christian Democrats (CDA) and orthodox Christian ChristenUnie parties are opposed, saying such a move goes against the coalition agreement. But Labour has called for a parliamentary debate on the issue.
Even though the coalition agreement states that there would be no changes to the current policy on soft drugs, the call by the mayors, including those who are members of the CDA, cannot be ignored, Labour member of parliament Lea Bouwmeester said.