There has been a lot of murmuring lately on the status of Amsterdam as a good place to get your grill on. (Read the mumurs if you haven’t already).
Amsterdam has been notorious for many decades now due to its liberal drug policies, specifically those regarding cannabis. The coffee shops are the obvious attraction for many tourists, and who can blame them? An environment that allows for adults to indulge in the recreational use of a much loved plant has however left a big frown on many a conservative politician’s face.
So what is actually going on and will your dream holiday to a cannabis friendly Amsterdam be jeopardised as a result of the current political moves to limit the access of cannabis to Dutch citizens only?
Let’s talk facts:
- The Dutch governments sudden conservative stance is due to the new Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, the 43-year-old leader of the pro-business liberal VVD party, who has been in power since 2010. With his coalition allies from the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA), Rutte leads the country’s first minority administration since the Second World War and their ultra-conservative stance comes as no surprise. They even raided the annual High Times Cannabis Cup last month, the first time in 24 years.
- As of 01 January 2012, tourists will be banned from cannabis selling coffee shops in three of the country’s southern provinces. Namely Limburg, North-Brabant and Zeeland.
- The plan is to role this out to the Netherlands’ remaining provinces in 2013. This will of course include Amsterdam.
For the moment Amsterdam is still the Amsterdam we know and love. Sadly, if things continue on this path it will still be the Amsterdam we know and love, but only to Dutch citizens over the age of 18. However, all major Dutch cities oppose these new restrictions, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Telegraph has reported that an estimated R325 million a year in tourism will be lost.
So why would the Netherlands’ government go all kamikaze on their tourism industry? The answer appears to be that they are tired of the riff-raff that are visiting the Netherlands’ just to get high and inadvertently put a strain on their traffic congestion and other resources, while generally being nuisances to the locals.
It’s a tough spot to be in. There would be no point in discontinuing a successful drug policy. The point appears to be that they would like to continue with this policy while simultaneously barring refugees of cannabis starved countries from entering the Netherlands’ borders just for a toke on a spliff or fifty.
I get where the Netherlands’ governemeny is coming from and it will be sad to see the legendary Amsterdam coffee shops become a thing of the past.
Let’s hope that soon we will see similar and better drug polices the world over. This should take the strain of Cannabis Tourism off of the Netherlands’, thereby possibly allowing them to keep the existing cannabis tourist friendly model in place, and allow those of us who have dreamt of lazy hazy days in Amsterdam’s coffee shops to fulfil that dream.
Some interesting facts from Professor Robert J. MacCoun, via UC Berkley News Centre:
- Dutch citizens use cannabis at more modest rates than many of their European neighbors.
- Dutch youth report high rates of availability of cannabis, but not as elevated as reported rates in the United States and several other countries.
- The Dutch “continuation” rate for using marijuana from a causal experimentation in youth to regular usage in adulthood (ages 15-34) is fairly modest by international standards.
- Past-year cannabis use among Dutch 15-to-24-year-olds dropped from 14.3 to 11.4 percent between 1997 and 2005.
- Dutch cannabis users are more likely to be admitted for substance abuse treatment than their counterparts in most European countries, while the United States reports four marijuana treatment admissions for every one admission in the Netherlands. It is not clear whether this reflects a greater investment in treatment by Dutch officials, or the higher potency of Dutch marijuana.
- In the United States, about half of those admitted for treatment for marijuana addiction happen through criminal justice referrals. In the Netherlands, such referrals account for closer to 10 percent.