Former government policy tolerating marijuana use
Since the mid-seventies, the Dutch government has tolerated the growth and use of marijuana, even though it is officially illegal. Coffeeshops are establishments where one can buy and partake of up to 5 grams of marijuana per person. These coffeeshops may not have more than 500 grams on the premises. This policy is called “gedogen”. Henk van de Bunt, in VNG Magazine explains, “The term is difficult, if not impossible to translate. It refers to an official policy of tolerating activities which technically are illegal.”
This system of gedogen seems to have worked fairly well over the years. There appears to be less marijuana use in The Netherlands than in countries like the U.S. and France, where the drug is illegal. And there has been less criminal activity centering on the production and sale of marijuana. But this is changing.
Problems concerning the current marijuana policies are creating more controversy
1. Health Concerns: Marijuana grown in the Netherlands has become stronger. Some researchers are concerned it may be more addictive. The problem of teen access to marijuana is a matter of concern also.
2. Closure of coffeeshops: Some towns, especially border towns, want to close the coffeeshops to eliminate the problems of tourists frequenting the shops and criminals from neighboring countries coming to the border to buy marijuana. On the other hand, Amsterdam feels they will lose a lot of tourist business if they have to close their coffeeshops. The residents of Amsterdam think it makes good sense to keep the shops open because they are highly monitored and are shut down if they don’t follow the rules.
3. Increase in illegal marijuana “plantations”: Under the government tolerance policy private parties are allowed to cultivate 5 marijuana plants for personal use. But with the rapid increase of larger “farms” in warehouses, apartments and offices, officials are concerned about the criminal element becoming stronger. The police are working hard to locate and shut down these illegal operations. Besides all the dangers that come with criminal behavior, these ‘farms” are a fire danger. There are electrical cables and hot lamps that are set at high temperatures needed to grow the marijuana.
To help locate these illegal marijuana “plantations”, a pilot study is being implemented. Sniff Cards are being sent out to 30,000 households. These will teach people to recognize the smell of marijuana and report any suspicions. Yahoo.com
This controversy may take some time to resolve. The increase in criminal involvement in the growth and sale of marijuana and the ability to keep the soft drug usage under control are a big concern for the government officials. On the other hand, the private users, the shop owners and business owners with a vested interest in the tourist business, want a policy that will protect their rights.