Dutch Plan to Ban Potent Marijuana From Cannabis Cafesby Phillip Smith
Nov. 27, 2012
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Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten told parliament last week that the government intends to classify marijuana with a THC content of 15% or more as a Class A drug like heroin and cocaine and bar it from being sold in the country's famous cannabis coffee shops. Opstelten did not say when the new policy would go into effect, although he did say it would happen "quickly."
And there is some question over whether it actually will go into effect. Opstelten has been justice minister under the conservative coalition that governed until losing elections in September, but that conservative government has now had to enter into a new coalition with the more marijuana-friendly Labor Party.
One result of the new coalition has been the national-level abandonment of the "weed pass" program aimed at excluding foreigners from the coffee shops. It remains to be seen whether the new coalition government and the parliament will go along with treating potent marijuana like heroin or cocaine.
"Hard drugs have no place in the coffee shops and in the future they will only be able to offer cannabis with a THC level of below 15%," Opstelten told MPs.
Coffee shop owners aren't waiting to express their concerns with the proposed move. Barring potent marijuana from the coffee shops will just push it onto the streets, they said.
"Weak weed in the coffee shops, strong weed on the streets—then the choice is pretty clear," said Marc Josemans, a spokesman for the Maastricht coffee shop owners. "It makes it harder for society. A user smokes less, just as people don’t drink rum out of a beer glass."
About 80% of the marijuana sold in Dutch coffee shops is weed whose potency is 15% or higher.
Although marijuana formally remains illegal in the Netherlands, the country has tolerated the coffee house system since the 1970s and currently allows purchasers to buy up to five grams. There are an estimated 500 or so coffee houses in the country.