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Dutch Hardline soft-drugs tolerance policy dies at the gates of the town hall

Dutch Municipalities may decide themselves what sort of action they take against coffeeshops which choose to boycott the “weedpass”? One plus one makes two. Many municipalities are opposed to the weedpass and will therefore not be quick in closing the shops.

dutch coffeeshop sign logo weedpassThe mayors and municipalities have permanently been opposed to the weedpass. Finally they have been given the option to act on their opposition, by the ministry of Security and Justice. “Municipalities may decide themselves what sort of action they take against coffeeshops which choose not to comply with the weedpass,” the Ministry announced.

Interesting, because with this Minister Opstelten’s  hardline soft-drugs tolerance dies a death at the gates of the town hall; many mayors won’t even consider closing their coffeeshops. If they did, they know for sure that the soft-drugs trade would go underground, that illegal dealers would take over their marketplaces, and nuisance and criminality would be the consequence. Now, because the local councils have the last say on the sanctions they decide to implement, arbitrariness looms.

In 2 months, the time will have arrived. As of 1st May 2012, the “clubcard” is to be introduced in coffeeshops in the provinces of Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland. The coffeeshops will then only be allowed to sell soft-drugs to a maximum of 2000 “registered members” per year, who must have Dutch passport. This has been done to reduce drugs tourism.

Panden

The open criticisms against Opstelten’s hated weedpass have not subsided, since it was first introduced. The criticisms have not only come from coffeeshops in numerous cities on the border and in Amsterdam, which envision a drastic reduction in revenue, but also from the municipalities too. Venlo, for example, is opposed, as well as den Bosch, Breda, Eindhoven and Tilburg. They fear that the illegal trade on soft-drugs will increase as a result of the member registration policy, which will have consequences for the quality of life in their cities. There are currently rumors circulating in Venlo that criminal organizations are buying up houses from which they can run their illegal soft-drugs businesses.

The coffeeshop owners of Haarlem have been the first to announce that they refuse to implement the weedpass. A recent survey by the Haarlem coffeeshops revealed that only 12% of customers would agree to register at a coffeeshop. The shops cannot survive on this income.

Nonetheless, the law is the law, and it must be obeyed; so says the spokesperson for the Ministry of Security and Justice. “The Mayor is responsible and he should take action. They can close the coffeeshops as a last resort.”

Just a small matter of sweeping it under the rug. Something is decided at the national level, and the local government gets saddled with it. And now it gets really interesting. As it has been left to the municipalities, it could well be that mayor Hoes of Masstricht takes a different course of action against unruly coffeeshops than Mayor Rombouts  of Rotterdam.

The municipality of Haarlem is planning to observe how the introduction of the new law in the south of the Netherlands goes over the coming months. “We here in Haarlem must decide what course of action we will take,” explains Peter van Renske, spokesperson for the city of Haarlem. “The local council has the last word in this, as they define the sanctions.” The most drastic measure of closing the coffeeshops seems unlikely, as the trade in soft-drugs would then simply go underground.

There is still a lack of clarity within the chambers of the municipalities in the south of the Netherlands, as to how they will respond to disobedient coffeeshop owners. This is being discussed by the Mayors, the minister and the public prosecutor. Spokesman Arnoud Stribis from the municipality of Eindhoven explains that Mayor Van Gijzel has constantly referred the minister to the enforcement problems which will arise.

So the mayor will have to deal with it, and he or she can use administrative law or call for help from the public prosecution service. It is then passed through via criminal law. Administrative law can be used when public order and security are threatened. It is doubtful whether a refusal to introduce the weedpass will harm public order and security and therefore be cause for a coffeeshop to close. Lengthy legal procedures and court cases are expected, in which judges can provide legal clarity in the matter.

According to Strijbis, the enforcement could go in any direction, as the criteria for this have yet to be determined by the Mayors and the Minister. In a letter which Minister Opstelten sent to the municipalities dated 15th December, it is stated, amongst other things, that “the Mayor is responsible for the new drugs tolerance in consultation with the public prosecution service and the police – in accordance with local priorities.” Not a very clear indication.

But he is clear on the sources on the illegal drugs market. They should be addressed directly.

Translated source: Coffeeshop News

Original source: www.depers.nl

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