Why the weed pass shouldn’t survive the Drugs Debate on March 1st
Minister Opstelten’s weed pass has lost its rationale in the last week, and it will be *the* hot topic during the hastily announced drugs debate in the Second House of Parliament next Thursday, March 1st. This drugs debate has already been postponed for years, but now, after noticeable opposition to the weed pass phenomenon, there’s a sudden necessity for a good discussion about Dutch drug policy, particularly concerning the permissive policy with regards to the coffeeshops that are allowed to sell marijuana.
Minister Opstelten’s weed pass project is so full of errors that even a simple coffeeshop owner could see that many laws would have to be broken in order to add the new IB* criteria to the AHOJG * criteria that are presently in effect for the licensed coffeeshops.
According to Ivo Opstelten, the weed pass is meant for local users, and to keep foreigners out, because their presence causes a nuisance. In practice, that turns out otherwise. After taking a poll in all 16 coffeeshops in Haarlem, it appears that only 12.4% of the local customers would have no objection to registering with a coffeeshop. The rest made it clear they wanted nothing to do with an obligatory registration.
This data, obtained from their own local visitors, made the coffeeshop entrepreneurs decide not to participate in Opstelten’s ill-considered plan, and they announced to the press they will unconditionally refuse the weed pass. Further, there isn’t any ruckus in and around the coffeeshops in Haarlem, and the number of tourists can’t be compared to the many thousands who visit Maastricht or Amsterdam, for example.
This news bulletin went out on Saturday, February 18th, and was reported the following Sunday on dozens of news sites, among them [the newspapers] “NRC Handelsblad” and “Het Parool”. Apparently, The Hague took notice immediately. Our webmaster informed me that dozens of hits came out of The Hague, - from government offices!
However, nothing official from the government appeared in the press about the weed pass. That surprised me because Haarlem’s rejection of the weed pass did appear in various daily papers.
On Tuesday, February 21st at 10:41 PM, an on-line article appeared on the site of the daily “De Pers” (“The Press”) by Merel van Leeuwen. From her article it appears that responsibility for coffeeshop policy lies with the mayors, and thus, is actually allowed to be determined and carried out locally, just as always. That signifies, in effect, that each municipality may decide for itself whether or not they want to introduce the weed pass. No surprise, because unless a majority of a city council votes to include the ban on foreigners (the IB) into local ordinances (the APV), tourists cannot be legally excluded. Only Maastricht has the ban on foreigners in its local city law, but a slim majority of the Maastricht city council wants to remove it because it contravenes the Opium Law.
Further, the issue of coffeshoppers’ privacy is also an unavoidable obstacle for Ivo’s pet law. Tofik Dibi from the Green Left party has already requested an investigation into the consequences of the weed pass with regards to privacy. He has support from a large majority in the Second House of Parliament. This research has not yet been done, however, so this issue will not be discussed during the drug debate on March 1st. In my opinion, the weed pass cannot be introduced without this research, because the privacy of coffeeshop members cannot be guaranteed.
There are still other legal objections to the introduction of the weed pass, because if coffeeshops have to change their form of business into clubs, their licenses will be withdrawn. No coffeeshop entrepreneur will allow himself to be forced into doing that.
All in all, I predict that Opstelten’s weed pass will not survive next Thursday because the absurd thing is just too erroneous and poorly thought-through. If the weed pass is still an existing concept after Thursday, I will seriously consider putting my businesses up for sale. You understand why.
Nol van Schaik,
Secretary, Haarlem Coffeeshop Entrepeneurs Team
* “IB” stands for the new laws which would ban foreigners from the coffeeshops.
* “AHOJG” is an abbreviation for the present laws regulating the coffeeshops.
English translation by J.P. Morgan