De Volkskrant writes that Commissioner Max Daniel, who heads the national task force combating marijuana production, says organised crime is behind the large scale cultivation and distribution of marijuana and has "lost its innocence. The days when marijuana was only grown by hippies are long behind us".
He adds, "it's very difficult to destroy that innocent image, but the organised criminals running the marijuana trade are just as vicious and violent as the criminals running cocaine".
Commissioner Daniel says the problem is partially due to the Dutch tolerance policy; while it is legal to sell small amounts of marijuana, coffee shops (as marijuana cafes are known) cannot buy large quantities legally and are forced to purchase their supplies from criminals.
According to the commissioner, organised marijuana cultivation is the most serious form of organised crime in the Netherlands, but because coffee shops are viewed as innocent, the municipal authorities have lost sight of the fact that organised criminals are running the trade.
The Netherlands is Western Europe's largest producer of marijuana and the latest estimates say the trade is worth between 2 billion and 5 billion euros annually.
Failing grade for 64 vocational training courses
"64 training courses are failing to make the grade," is the front-page headline in this morning's Trouw. Over the last few months, the Schools Inspectorate evaluated the country's vocational training colleges (MBOs) and today released a list of failing courses and institutions. The paper says this is the first time that the Inspectorate has published such a list.
Trouw says MBOs offer almost 11,000 courses and just over one half of one percent have been judged as failing. A spokesperson for the MBO council tells the paper, "if you look at the picture in its entirety, we're doing quite well actually".
Rotterdam to ban hooligans from discos
AD writes that a fine evening partying in a bar or a disco will no longer be an option for hooligans in Rotterdam if the city's mayor gets his way; Ahmed Aboutaleb tells the paper "we will put an end to the violence caused by troublemakers," adding, "we'll change the law if we have to, but the violence will stop".
Rotterdam police have intensified surveillance of notorious or suspected hooligans since a night of rioting on a beach in the Hook of Holland at the end of August left one person dead. Police officers have visited the young troublemakers at home, at school and at work and have written to their parents. The hooligans have complained, but Rotterdam Mayor Aboutaleb says, "they've brought it on themselves and we will not bow to troublemakers".
The paper says Rotterdam is operating "at the very limits of the law," and Mr Aboutaleb acknowledges that, but warns, "I’m not done yet. And yes, that is a warning. We will stop troublemakers causing excessive violence in our city".
Snow and ice caused chaos on the roads, again
Stories about winter storms and the ensuing chaos on the roads are sprinkled liberally through the papers again this morning, but the tally of traffic disasters have become so ordinary that it is no longer front-page news.
AD writes that January 2010 has been the coldest month for the past 13 years. The National Weather Service (KNMI) says the average temperature was -0.6 degrees Celsius and we have to go back to January 1997 to find a colder month.
The paper says the winter storms of this past weekend were responsible for numerous breakdowns and accidents on the roads and two people died in weather-related accidents.
The KNMI has warned that the snowstorms will continue to plague the Netherlands over the coming few days and the roads will be extremely slippery. AD writes that several provinces, including North Holland and Groningen, are reporting serious shortages of road salt and will only grit motorways and main roads.
It’s been snowing for almost two months now and shortages of road grit were reported back in December; one would think that the municipal authorities would have had time to re-order by now.
PM's underpants under the hammer
De Volkskrant brings the remarkable news that a pair of signed underpants belonging to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will be sold at auction later this week. Oddly enough, the money generated by the PM’s knickers will be used to fund the opposition VVD’s local election campaign.
The chairperson of the Amersfoort VVD, Margot Cooijmans, says the Y-fronts are "a collectors item," adding that the party was given the underpants by "an acquaintance in the PM’s residence".
The paper writes that the government information service has "denied the authenticity of the underpants in question".
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