Dutch cannabis policy challenged
The Dutch have long been famous for their tolerant attitude to cannabis.
But now they are re-examining their approach, because millions of European "drugs tourists" are heading to the Netherlands to do what they cannot do at home, the BBC's Mike Donkin reports.
Mayor Leers: Drive to decriminalise cannabis tradeThe quaint streets of Maastricht are a top attraction for tourists - especially, these days, "drugs tourists".
They flood in across the border from Germany and Belgium, along with the international criminal gangs who operate the drug supply lines.
Maastricht's citizens want an end to this, the city's Mayor Gerd Leers says. So he has called for the Dutch and the rest of Europe to adopt a common "pragmatic approach" to soft drugs.
Mayor Leers has told the Dutch parliament that the licensing system that allows coffee shops to sell 5g of cannabis to each customer should be extended, to allow them to grow their own plants.
"They should have a permit to grow their own cannabis so that they can cut their ties with the criminals," the mayor says. "That way we can control things. At the moment our system is so hypocritical."
Jaap Louwerier, owner of The Fantaisie in Amsterdam, agrees with that. His coffee shop is popular with customers who come to the city for the weekend from France, Britain, Ireland and elsewhere to buy cannabis. "This is all quite legal," he says.
The Dutch have seen a boom in illegal cannabis plantations"But it is illegal for me to buy the bigger and bigger stocks of cannabis I need to supply these smokers. And the law says I can only keep up to 500 grammes on my premises, which is not enough. In the coffee shops we call this the 'back-door problem'."
In a dim corridor behind the shop, he covertly buys a stash of cannabis from a supplier, while keeping an eye on the door.
"If the police came in now they would confiscate all this," he says. "That's happened once already, and if it happened three times, I'd lose my licence."
Illegal plantations have sprung up across the Netherlands to supply the coffee shops - in outhouses, basements and attics.
What are these secret gardens like? In one old apartment, a bedroom floor is covered with plastic sheeting and earth, and orange lights provide artificial sunlight above a mini-forest of lush green plants.
For the rest of the story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4595018.stm
The Netherlands get many European and American tourists. Unfortunately, they're not all flocking to Rotterdam to see the home and stomping grounds of that scion of Renaissance Humanism, Erasmus. They're not even interested in going to Amsterdam to experiance the sights and smells that inpired Rembrandt's keen portraits of everyday life. No, they are interested in smells of a different kind-cannibis. Amsterdam is also known as the launch-off point of the notorious "sex tours" to Thailand, where under-age girls (usually kidnapped or lured from nearby Cambodia or Vietnam with promises of lucrative employment) are forced to perform sexually for these "tourists." When a nation becomes better known for its hedonistic ways than its glorious cultural contribution to the the world, you know there's a problem. Many Dutch citizens are waking up to that fact, but it may be too late to do anything about it. But then again, maybe not.
Christian Democratic MP Cisca Joldersma is leading a brave fight to put limits on the drug trade in the Netherlands, and perhaps to work towards a tougher European policy on drug trafficking. I wish her well. Her fight e Netherlands, and much of European culture, for that matter, with a sober sense of classical Christian virtues is an uphill battle, to be sure, but the long history of Christianity in these lands assures us that the darkness might reign for a season, but it cannot reign for long.
I'm reminded of a passage in The Two Towers where Frodo and Sam, approach Mordor, andits darkness gets thicker, a brief vision of a star in the heavens reassures Sam, reminding him that the darkness of Mordor might triumph for a time, but not for long. Here was something the darkness could not touch. In another revelaing scene, we see our two brave Hobbits receive an even greater insight:
“Standing there for a moment filled with dread Frodo became aware that a light was shining; he saw it glowing on Sam’s face beside him. Turning towards it, he saw, beyond an arch of boughs, the road to Osgiliath running almost as straight as a stretched ribbon down, down, into the West. There, far away, beyond sad Gondor now overwhelmed in shade, the Sun was sinking, finding at last the hem of the great slow-rolling pall of cloud, and falling in an ominous fire towards the yet unsullied Sea. The brief glow fell upon a huge sitting figure, still and solemn as the great stone kings of Argonath. The years had gnawed it, and violent hands had maimed it. Its head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round rough-hewn stone, rudely painted by savage hands in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead. Upon its knees and mighty chair, and all about the pedestal, were idle scrawls mixed with the foul symbols that the maggot-folk of Mordor used.“Suddenly, caught by the level beams, Frodo saw the old king’s head: it was lying rolled away by the roadside. ‘Look, Sam!’ he cried, startled into speech. ‘Look! The king has got a crown again!’“The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was coronal of silver and gold. A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, and in the crevices of this stony hair, yellow stonecrop gleamed.“‘They cannot conquer for ever!’ said Frodo."
No, the darkness cannot reign forever, and with the likes of Parliamentarians like Ciska Joldersma, Popes like Benedict XVI, Bishops like Hilarion Alfeyev, and the European Christian Everyman who yearns and prays for the redemption of his land, Europe may very well regain its cultural crown.