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Weed pass leading to increased reports of drug-related incidents

Meld Misdaad, the Dutch tip line for reporting crime anonymously, has seen a 34 percent increase in reports of drugs-related incidents over the past half year. Meld Misdaad cited the new weed pass law as a major cause of the increase.

The controversial weed pass law, which bans the sale of marijuana to foreigners, came into effect in provinces of Limburg, Noord Brabant, and Zeeland on May 1st, and will go into effect throughout the rest of the country on January 1st, 2013. The law is purportedly aimed at reducing drug tourism-linked disturbances such as late night troublemaking, traffic jams, and illegal drug pushing.

Under the new policy, coffee shops effectively become "members only" clubs requiring possession of a membership card (or "wietpas" in Dutch) for entry. Only Dutch citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18 are eligible to receive a wietpas, and each coffee shop may have a maximum of 2000 members. There were approximately 670 coffee shops altogether in the Netherlands prior to the introduction of the pass.

Additionally, a ban will be placed on coffee shops located within 350 meters of secondary schools and secondary vocational institutions, although this rule will not be introduced before 2014. Also, as proposed last year, from now on cannabis with a THC content of 15 percent or more will be classified as a hard drug. Note that according to the Netherlands' Trimbos Institute, the average THC content of Dutch marijuana is currently around 17,8 percent.

The use, possession, or sale of cannabis has never technically been legal in the Netherlands. However, since a 1976 revision of the Opium Law differentiated hard drugs (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy) from soft drugs, possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis (or five plants) for personal use is no longer prosecuted, and coffee shops that sell it are tolerated.

The new rules have been met with widespread resistance. In the southern tourist hub of Maastricht, many coffee shops simply shut down in protest of the new law. In The Hague 19 coffee shop owners challenged the legality of the ban but were ruled against by the judge; they are now appealing the decision.

Many coffee shop owners have said that if they fail to topple the law in court, they will simply refuse to enforce the new rules and hope that local government officials will look the other way. This may very well succeed in Amsterdam, where Mayor Eberhard van der Laan and the city council strongly oppose the new rules, and do not view coffee shops as a threat to public order.

You can read the official explanation of the Dutch government's soft drug policy here.

Carly

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Carly Blair

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