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Wednesday 23 April  
Weed Pass
Philip Smet's picture
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Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

“Psst, wanna buy a weed pass…?”

Published on : 30 June 2011 - 3:33pm | By Philip Smet (Photo: RNW)
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The introduction of weed passes to buy marijuana from coffeeshops in the Netherlands can go ahead. That is the conclusion of the Ministry of Security and Justice following the latest ruling by the country’s highest administrative court and advisory body, the Council of State.

Many local councils oppose introducing this measure to discourage drug tourism in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, the Christian Democrats have devised a way to get around the new law: tourists can buy weed passes from the hotel doorman.

Drug tourists
It is a complex issue. Dutch border towns are inundated with drug tourists, who come to coffeeshops to buy cannabis. To keep foreigners out, the government wants to introduce a club card which is only available to Dutch nationals over the age of 18. It has been dubbed the weed pass. But critics say the measure will stimulate the sale of drugs on the street, which creates even bigger problems. 

The city of Maastricht wanted to introduce a weed pass back in 2006, but the Council of State ruled that the municipality was not authorised to do so. It stated that a pass system could only be introduced if the national drug legislation, the Opium Act, was changed.  That is what Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten wants but local councils - including Maastricht - oppose the change.

Labour MP Lea Bouwmeester welcomes the Council of State's ruling.
“It means the minister has to look for an alternative and will have to consult local councils. Changing the Opium Act is very complicated, because it actually states that selling soft drugs is illegal. So it would be strange to say that introducing a weed pass is somehow allowed.”

Street Peddling
Amsterdam city council – which has far more coffee shops than any other municipality - also opposes its introduction because it will encourage drug peddling on the street. Get tough on street peddling and introduce the weed pass, is what the Christian Democrats are saying in the council chambers. At present, there is only a ban on selling cannabis to the under-18s. Christian Democrat councillor Lex van Drooge comments:

“We are in favour of the weed pass, because it means that using drugs is not regarded as the norm. In schools in Amsterdam, some pupils smoke a lot of cannabis, they drop out of school, and there is an increase in schizophrenia. We do not want that. If people want to use cannabis for enjoyment, that's up to them. We are not fervently against that, but it should not be the norm.” He hopes that the system is introduced within a year.

Tourists
The city council is pragmatic too. Around four million tourists come to the capital every year. Around one million of them buy and use soft drugs. That makes the coffeeshops important to the city’s economy. The Christian Democrats have a solution for tourists:

“If you want to, you can resolve this problem, but you have to be careful. You could for instance buy a temporary weed pass for a coffeeshop. I am not really concerned about the roughly seven percent of tourists who come here to use cannabis.”

Regional differences
Ms Bouwmeester does not think weed passes should be introduced everywhere in the country. She thinks the government should take regional differences into account:

“Leeuwarden, Amsterdam and Maastricht cannot be compared. In Venlo – near Maastricht - coffeeshops have been moved to the edge of town. This has been shown to work. The minister has to start listening to the local councils and let go of his own ideas.”

The Council of State ruling has been a long time coming. The question now is whether the government is actually ready to change the Opium Act. 

(js/imm)

 

 

Discussion

Michael Scott Archer 6 October 2012 - 7:28am / 1 (573)-837-7178

Went to buy some weed

Anonymous 17 February 2012 - 11:04am / hollanda

Just register at wietpas(.)eu everybody on the world can register

Anonymous 6 December 2011 - 4:42pm / Australia

Hiram doesn't sound like a dutch name to me.

JayT2 6 October 2011 - 8:34pm

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Eddie 25 September 2011 - 7:00am / USA

Now let me get this straight.....They want to ban foreigners in the coffeeshops but at the same time, I could buy a "Weed Pass" from the hotel doorman?? What gives?? I think Mr. Wilders is looking for ways to shake down tourists for more Euros. Says this Lover of Amsterdam and Marijuana. I've been going there more or less annualy since 2003 and have seen the Red Light District be cut in half. Do the politicians not see that they are damaging their product here?????? I miss you AMsterdam!

Kevin 5 August 2011 - 2:58am

Is this guy for real???? Has he been watching the 1930s propaganda fear-flick 'Reefer Madness'? Christian Democrat councillor Lex van Drooge comments: “In schools in Amsterdam, some pupils smoke a lot of cannabis, they drop out of school, and there is an increase in schizophrenia." Give me a break.

Anonymous 1 July 2011 - 10:56am

So the health minister who is so concerned about cannabis has no issues with reversing the smoking ban or any issue with every 14 year old in amsterdam smoking cigarettes... All about health my ass.

Anonymous 1 July 2011 - 10:56am

So the health minister who is so concerned about cannabis has no issues with reversing the smoking ban or any issue with every 14 year old in amsterdam smoking cigarettes... All about health my ass.

Hiram1 1 July 2011 - 7:23am

Anonymous, I am aware that other factors cause schizophrenia. But!!!! If marijuana is one of the causes don't you think the Dutch public should protect their children from it. We know cancers are caused by numerous things (one being cigarettes) but do we sell cigarettes to children? I hope not. I am sure THC helps alot of people with their medical issues but does that mean everybody should get it? I don't think so. Everytime someone gets high from marijuana and drives an automobile, fly a plane, operate on someone's heart, he puts the recipient or someone in danger of losing his life.

Dr. Stone 8 September 2011 - 2:05am / USA

So you would punish the majority of users who will not be in that very small percintile of users who will develop schizophrenia (assuming that it is the plant and not the personality drawn to the plant that is causing the noticeable difference in incident rates) so to possibly prevent the disease state manifestation? Will the criminalizing and driving underground the trade in it actually prevent use? I would imagine not and would predict with historical accuracy that you would see an increase in usage rates due to the "forbidden fruit" syndrome.

Kevin 5 August 2011 - 3:02am / Netherlands

Hey Hiram...stop and take a deep breath. There is no link to pot and being schizo. Do your own research, and stop repeating what others quote as fact when you have no clue about it.

The religious fanatics and uninformed minorities are playing games with our personal freedoms.

Anonymous 3 July 2011 - 11:29pm / US now NL

I don't enjoy weed, and don't partake. However, I think that this decision should be in the hands of the individual. Plus, if you actually look at the statistics, marijuana usage in the Netherlands is much much lower than countries that try to have a zero tolerance policy.

Hiram1 1 July 2011 - 1:04am

"We are in favour of the weed pass, because it means that using drugs is not regarded as the norm. In schools in Amsterdam, some pupils smoke a lot of cannabis, they drop out of school, and there is an increase in schizophrenia."....Wow, is the increase schizophrenia caused by marijuana? If, that is the case, why don't the other Dutch cities ban marijuana? Don't they care about their children's health and education? I don't think they give a "rat's arse" about their children or anyone. It is called tolerance and they are so proud of their tolerance, they will overlook one of the causes (marijuana) of schizophrenia in children. At least some Dutch citizens are able to see the truth but what can they do in a "schizophrenia" society. Nothing at all!

Anonymous 18 December 2011 - 3:58am

Why not ban hamburgers because they lead to obesity? Free countries are not for people like you Hiram1, seems like you would love China, North Korea, Iran or Syria lol

Anonymous 1 July 2011 - 4:29am

If schizophrenia is caused by cannabis, then please explain the millions of people who suffer from this and never have smoked it once?
Factors such as hypoxia and infection, or stress and malnutrition in the mother during fetal development, may result in the risk of schizophrenia later in life, for instance.

People diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to have been born in winter or spring (at least in the northern hemisphere), which may be a result of increased rates of viral exposures in utero too.

I know you want to blame this all on cannabis, I am afraid you paint with a broad brush when there are many, many contributing elements to the complexity of schizophrenia Hiram just not weed in itself.

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