Smoking without Borders

Tuesday, January 14, 2009
Cannabis license

The Hungarian Civil Liberty Union (HCLU) produced a video on the debate on cannabis policy and the tolerated sale of small quantities of cannabis by coffee shops in the Netherlands. The debate fired up when the mayors of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, two towns near the Belgian border, decided to close their coffee shops.  

Smoking without Borders
An HCLU film about drug tourism in the Netherlands: is it really only the problem of the Dutch?

The HCLU team visited Bergen op Zoom, a Dutch town near the Belgian border. The city became known in the international media in October last year, when its mayor decided to close down all coffee shops selling cannabis. This decision was made because of the crime and nuisance caused by drug tourists coming from Belgium and France. "Some reports even concluded that the Dutch coffee shop system proved to be a failure and Dutch drug policy needs to be revised. HCLU’s video advocacy team decided to visit the Netherlands to find out the truth. We interviewed the mayor and learnt that he has no problem with cannabis users or coffee shops in principle – but he is fed up with the 25.000 drug tourists invading his town every week, accompanied with traffic jams and drug runners. We travelled to a nearby city, Tilburg, where the mayor has plans to legalize the large-scale cultivation of cannabis. We spoke with the manager of a coffee shop who explained that coffee shops are integral part of Dutch society and cannot be simply wiped out any more."

Some predicted that the decision to close coffee shops was the beginning of the end of the coffeeshop system in the Netherland. However, during a ‘cannabis summit’ in November 2008 in Almere, some 30 mayors of the mayor Dutch cities called upon the government to licence the growing and supply of marijuana to the country’s 700 or so coffee shops.

The video ends with a call to send an email to the Belgian Ministry of Justice and ask them to consider the regulation and control of cannabis instead of pushing the Dutch government to close down the coffee shops. You can find the contact details here.