New data on coffeeshops

The number of coffee shops in the Netherlands slightly decreased last year to 729 from 737 in 2004. However, the number of municipalities with at least one coffee shop has risen from 103 in 2004 to 105 in 2005 (22 percent of all municipalities). So altogether, one can say that the coffeeshop situation has remained quite stable in the past two years. According to two reports on the Government's drug policy concerning coffee shops, the criteria required for tolerating coffee shops are managed quite well and are also taken very seriously by the owners of the coffee shops. Along with the existing criteria and the maximum amount of cannabis allowed to be traded, about half of the municipalities also impose supplementary criteria for coffee shops, the most important being that no combined sale of alcohol and drugs is allowed, shops must be located at least 250 meters from schools and must have specific closing times. Three quarters of the municipalities with coffee shops have fixed rules for sanctions in the case of violations. Formal warnings and temporary closures are the most frequently used sanctions; permanent closure is used as the ultimate sanction. Breaches of the criteria most severely punished are those relating to hard drugs and youth. Experiences gained with the enforcement of the criteria are generally good. The coffee shops keep to the rules for the most part, according to the report. The criteria are deemed sufficient to regulate the sale of soft drugs in the municipalities.
Municipalities can exercise the powers referred to in the Dutch Public Administration Probity Screening Act (BIBOB). Under the Act, municipalities have the power to revoke a licence when the applicant has committed criminal offences. The percentage of municipalities with coffee shops that have exercised this power at least once is 15%.

"The coffeeshop situation has remained quite stable in the past two years"

For more than a decade, Schleswig-Holstein has been the most liberal German federal state with concern to cannabis. In the mid 90ies, under the sociald democratic government the cannabis guidelines had been modelled on the Netherlands, with 30 grams being the maximum amount of personal possession exempt from punishment.
But in 2005, the social democratic era came to an end and the conservative CDU took over. Now its minister of justice Uwe Döhring announced on 9 July to lower the limit from 30 to 6 grams only, five times less! Why? According to the Döring, the THC content of cannabis products rose sharply in recent years, so nowadays the police would have to assume that people carrying more than six grams regularly intend to traffic it. Apart from that, cannabis use by children and juveniles shall have increased alarmingly. What an absurd reasoning for performing such a repressive U-turn in the Schleswig-Holsteinian cannabis policy.

Better news come from Alaska. A judge struck down part of a new Alaska law
criminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying it conflicts with past constitutional decisions made by the Alaska Supreme Court. That means the police won't be able charge people with a misdemeanor under the new law for possessing less than one ounce (28.35 grams) of marijuana in their homes. The new law makes possession of 4 ounces or more a felony. Possession of 1 to 4 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The part the court ruled against was that less than 1 ounce would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

In Marokko, a campaign to legalise hash has been launched by Tel Quel, a liberal weekly, published in French in Casablanca. Its editor, Ahmed Ben Chemsi, calculates
from official figures on the sale of loose tobacco and rolling paper that Moroccans, who number 33 millions, smoke a good 1.1 billion joints a year, i.e. about 60 joints a year for every adult. Legalising it, he says, would fill state coffers, bring tourists to the neglected region and reduce corruption. "How can it be illegal when so many people do it?" he says. "You can't criminalise such a large part of society." Well, right he is!

The Greenish Warbler

July 17th 2006

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