The Collapse of Cannabis Prohibition for Tourists
For some time now the Dutch authorities have been pushing for a more stringent approach to controlling their pot culture. Cannabis connoisseurs around the world were united in horror as the mecca of cannabis announced plans to prohibit sales of cannabis to tourists in a bit to more strictly moderate (and to a degree curb) the buying of cannabis within their borders.
A collective sigh of relief was clearly blown then when it was announced that after trials this proposal was being dropped.
After trials in 3 southern Dutch provinces the program was set to expand across the country as of the start of 2013. However, in a quite sudden turn around, all plans have effectively been dropped.
So was it cannabis campaigning that fuelled this turnaround, a change of governance or perhaps good old fashioned economics? Well… perhaps it was a little of each.
The Buck Stops at the Coffeeshops
With the array of Coffeeshops at the forefront of this new proposal the government was always going to have some issue with enforcement. With any business, no matter the controversy involved, merchants are going to take serious exception to a government proposal that cuts off a good chunk of their potential patrons. Irrespective of what the government thinks is a good idea for the country’s image, these are people’s livelihoods that they are playing with.
Between the 670 Coffeeshops in the Netherlands, of which 220 are in Amsterdam, there were serious rumblings suggesting that in many corners this enforcement simply wouldn’t be enforced.
How much the Dutch economy stands to lose from this prohibition boils down to a lot more than simply a drop in Coffeeshop sales. While the government seem hell bent on trying to eradicate this aspect from their culture, it is this more flavourful feature of their nation that encourages a reasonable facet of their tourism.
The uninhibited visage of Amsterdam with its effervescent red-light district and coffeeshops can be seen as either a land of sin or a progressive, liberated nation. Either way, its economy reaps the benefit during difficult economic times as tourists seek out the best White Widow.
Consider the volumes of tax-payer money that many nations spend on the war on drugs and drug related crime. One difficult statistic for many policing countries is that the war on cannabis is vastly more expensive than it is valuable. Sticking stoically to their guns (literally) for the ‘good’ of the nation will only fly for so long and in a country that already has a more relaxed view towards cannabis this is a cost that would have to be justified pretty definitively before being put into action.
In addition, there are genuine fears within the country that this legal backtracking would lead to increased rates of back-alley dealing, increasing crime rates and funding organised crime.
The final and possibly the most principal fear is strictly among the Dutch nationals themselves. In order to moderate and control the sale of cannabis from the Coffeeshops the government proposed a database and identity card scheme.
In other nations identification card schemes similar to this have been quashed in quick succession as people see through transparent agendas to the fact that they would be allowing the government to monitor and potentially control them on a far more personal level. Masking a big brother state behind cannabis regulations seems to many to be as transparent as glass.
With all of these points in hand it is clear that despite proposals there are still a great deal of unresolved issues and disputes over any potential change. While the Dutch view of cannabis is ever changing and never without controversy, it seems that in the mean-time freely available pot to all is there to stay of the finest varieties from Purple Haze to Super Skunk.