THREE EXAMPLESTexts in Englishby Job Joris ArnoldTable of contentWeb based advertisingMedia kit for Hanglos (www.hanglos.net),leading international forum for kite surfers,819 words, February 2010 page 2NewsPress dispatch for Hash marihuana and hemp museum (www.hashmuseum.com),‘EX-PRIME MINISTER TO RECEIVE CANNABIS CULTURE PRIZE 2009’,393 words, November 2009 page 4Background articleBackground to cover story for Italian weekly magazine Left (www.libero.it),‘THE DUTCH MODEL - An unfinished experiment’,2121 words, September 2010(also available in Italian) page 5
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THE DUTCH MODELAn unfinished experimentJob Joris Arnold en Nicole MaalstéAsk Dutch people to explain the national policy on cannabis and chances are you will get a differentanswer every time. It isn’t easy to grasp the finer technical details of a system that has developedover four decades, but was never meant to last for more than a few years. Contrary to popular belief,possession of drugs is not legal in the Netherlands - not even for personal consumption. Still,selective use of law enforcement has allowed for a unique model to grow and prosper since the earlyseventies; the world famous ‘coffeeshops’ where cannabis products are openly sold and used. Recentdevelopments seem to indicate tiredness with the coffeeshop system at least at the official level.Cities are closing down coffeeshops, at times by the dozen. Reason for some to believe, the Dutchapproach has failed and the Dutch coffeeshops will soon be a thing of the past. But do theyremember the past of the thing?AN ITALIAN INVENTION?A number of factors contributed to the rise of its culture. After World War II, cannabis wasintroduced in the Netherlands by jazz-musicians from the United States who played in Amsterdamand Rotterdam clubs. The substance became popular amongst inner circles of artists, writers andmusicians. Simultaneously, Italian (!) espresso bars mushroomed in the city, catering to the coffeepreferences of the American soldiers that would flock the country’s capital in those days. As theDutch were in the habit of rolling their own cigarettes, rather than buying prefab ones, soon skinningup ‘joints’ with a mixture of tobacco and hashish, the most common way of consuming cannabis inHolland up until today, became fashionable among the avant-garde.In 1953, possession, production and sale of cannabis was criminalized. At that time the consumptionof cannabis was still very rare and the substance was unknown to the general public. In the 1960smore and more young people became interested in cannabis as the younger generation started torevolt against the bourgeois establishment culture and its rules. Soon, smoking cannabis became away of showing authorities one didn’t agree with their rules. This protest grew stronger once theyoungsters found out smoking cannabis didn’t make them go insane, as government representativeswould routinely have it. By 1968, Amsterdam became known amongst American and Europeanhippies as a ‘magical centre’, where pot was openly smoked at summer long camp outs on DamSquare in the city’s center. Scientists and journalists started to get involved in the discussion. Thepolice weren’t capable of arresting all these youngsters smoking cannabis. Public opinion began toshift. Was it really that bad to smoke marihuana that people had to be arrested for it? And were thehealth risks related to cannabis use truly all that serious to justify its prohibition?ACCEPTABLE RISKSSeveral governmental commissions studied the situation and concluded that the health risks ofconsuming cannabis were ‘acceptable’. They considered large-scale prosecution of cannabis offencescontrary to public interest, stigmatizing many young people and socially isolating them. Cannabis
consumers should no longer be treated as a criminal, they advised. Moreover, they were concernedabout the rising popularity of hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. The use of thosedrugs, about which incidentally little was known at the time, they considered to carry an‘unacceptable’ health risk. At illegal market these drugs were sold by the same dealers that offercannabis.The Dutch Administration decided to statutory decriminalize cannabis by a revision of the Opium Act,expecting the move to help separate the markets of soft (cannabis) and hard drugs. With soft drugconsumers no longer getting in touch with other drugs when buying cannabis, the governmenthoped it would avoid their being tempted to try them. These were the concerns when the renowned‘tolerance’ policy on cannabis took effect in 1976.FROM HOUSEDEALER TO COFFEESHOPOWNERIts use was no longer an offence and possession up to 30 grams became a petty offence ormisdemeanor. Possession of more than 30 grams in the meanwhile, remained a criminal offence.Until that time just like in other countries cannabis was sold by illegal dealers. With the change in law‘house dealers’ in youth centers could formally be tolerated. Coffeeshops didn’t exist yet. In theyears some housedealers started to sell from their homes. In the 80s many of the formerhousedealers got fed up with people ringing at their houses for drugs at any time of the day and thenight. That’s why they started little shops with opening and closing hours, which they calledcoffeeshops. Economist Adriaan Jansen, who wrote the book ‘ Coffeeshops in Amsterdam’ explainsthat in contrast with cafés where alcohol was served, running a coffeeshop (in Dutch: koffiehuis)didn’t require a license. Normally ‘koffieshops’ would serve coffee, tea, soft drinks and food. By usingthe English word ‘ coffeeshop’ the public would know this wasn’t a normal ‘koffiehuis’. In thebeginning the sale of soft drugs didn’t take place over the counter, but was usually done by a ‘dealer’who mingled with the public.BACKDOOR PROBLEMDuring the 80s the number of coffeeshops increased to around 1500 by the end of the decade. Whenthe government decided to tolerate the retail sale, they did not foresee the coffeeshopphenomenon, which the authorities never intended to exist. By introducing national guidelines theyhoped to bring back the number of coffeeshops. In 1991 the so-called AHOJ-G criteria [See:FRAME2]- which were adopted from local examples – were introduced nationally. Local governmentsstarted to develop their own local coffeeshop policies and added new rules. Today it’s only possibleto run a coffeeshop with a license of the local government. Anno 2010 around 700 licensedcoffeeshops exist in the Netherlands. 75% of the local governments (municipalità) do not toleratecoffeeshops in their community. In the shops cannabis is sold with the permission of localgovernment, but it’s still illegal for the owner to buy his products from a cultivator.Thus at the front door, the coffeeshop owner has to behave like any other tax-paying entrepreneur,while he is involved in illegal activities at his backdoor when buying the products he is selling in thecoffeeshop. This so-called ‘backdoor problem’ is not without consequence for the once so free windthat blew through Hollands institutions and politics. Special police forces have made history of thedays when turning a blind eye (without pay off!) was like second nature to any self-respecting Dutchcopper. Teaming up with city officials, electricity companies, social housing corporations and
specialized plantation removal services, they search and destroy the many indoor grow ops. They’llact on information from helicopter squads that have mapped out substantial parts if not all of theurban landscape with infra red cameras. Or on an anonymous tip they’ll get through a special policephone line, that that runs news papers ads calling upon the public to tell on their neighbors. InRotterdam, every ´mission accomplished´ is sealed with a big sign reading ´We rolled up anotherone´, pun intended.FUNCTIONS OF COFFEESHOPSMeanwhile, today´s polls consistently show the Dutch consider coffeeshops beneficial to theirsociety. First of all, they separate the markets for cannabis and other drugs. By enabling normalaccess to cannabis, it is held that young people are less likely to get involved with substances likeheroin or cocaine, which are deemed to carry a higher risk to public health. Prove of this supposedadvantage is meager however, as no monitoring or proper scientific evaluation of the Dutchexperience was ever carried out. All that can be said, is that low-threshold access to cannabis has notcaused higher consumption rates than are found in surrounding Western European countries.Meanwhile, today´s polls consistently show the Dutch consider coffeeshops beneficial to theirsociety. They have reason to believe the model has proven successful and take pride in their nationalapproach. Separation of the markets for cannabis and other drugs is a reality unlike anywhere else inthe world. By enabling normal access to cannabis, it is held that young people are less likely to getinvolved with substances like heroin or cocaine, which are deemed to carry a higher risk to publichealth.In spite of this enthousiasm, prove of this supposed advantage is meager, as no monitoring or properscientific evaluation of the Dutch experience was ever carried out. Whether the minimum agerequirement for coffeeshop clientele (18 years) is keeping the under aged away from cannabis use ishard to tell when reliable data are not available. But hey, having no access to coffeeshops neverstopped kids from getting drugs anywhere else in the world, so why would it stop them in Holland?What can be held with regards to this matter, is that low-threshold access to cannabis has not causedhigher consumption rates than are found in surrounding Western European countries. (Nor higherscores for other drugs, with the possible exception of xtc, which maintains a relation of its own withHolland and its tolerant past.)The more there are coffeeshops, the less there is nuisance of illegal suppliers. Better still, theregulation of the trade allows for controls to be installed [See: FRAME2]. Since the supplier is noanonymous street dealer, but a shop keeper instead, he has an interest to make sure his product is ofgood quality and see his costumers return. Consumers are easy to reach with flyers on the counter,containing educational information on risks and preventive measures.Lastly, coffeeshops have a social function. They are in effect a meeting point for neighbors, a safetynet for the less socially privileged persons and a place where the large variety of cultures in Dutchsociety meet and interact with each other.
NEVER MEANT TO LAST<picture Dries van Agt>One of the reasons why the Dutch model seems to be reaching the end of its life span, may well bethat it was never meant to last this long. The Dutch tolerance policy was intended as a temporarysolution, to bridge the gap between the then current prohibitive legislation and full legalization.Something that in the minds of the policy makers of the seventies, would surely be a matter of years.Remarkably, the Christian Democrats played a crucial role in this push for decriminalization ofcannabis.In 1976, proponent of this political party par excellence Justice Secretary Mr. Van Agt stood at itscradle. He personally dragged through parliament a change in the Dutch penal code, whichdistinguished soft from hard drugs. This act paved the way for cannabis decriminalization and theDutch coffeeshop system. It also enabled more emphasis on, and resources for, the fight against thelarge scale hard drug trade.As Prime Minister, Van Agt stood at the head of the cabinet that issued new guidelines to furtherregulate the small scale trade of cannabis in 1980. These guidelines enabled the tolerance policy forcommercialized sales through the Dutch coffee shop system.Speaking at the Cannabis Tribunal, an annual conference in The Hague, Van Agt who had won theCannabis Culture Prize for his contribution to Dutch drugs policy, recalls in May 2010: ´At that timeeveryone understood, as it had been clearly stated in Parliament and far beyond, that this was ofcourse a beginning that should see a follow up. And just about everyone understood what thatfollow-up should’ve looked like. Today we are still waiting for that follow-up, and I’m very sorry tosee that the direction things are taking is completely in the opposite direction.’Sociologist Nicole Maalsté (1966) is senior researcher at the Tilburg University. She is studying theDutch cannabis culture for more than 20 years and author of the book Polderwiet, based oninterviews with illegal marijuana growers.Dutch drugs policy expert Job Joris Arnold (1967) works as consultant and journalist, specialized indrugs related issues.[FRAME1] TAX REVENUESThe Dutch State has a history of making money on drugs sales. From the end of the 1800s(l’ottocento) up until the 1930s, the State made millions of guilders from the production and exportof opium and cocaine in the Dutch Indies as well as in Amsterdam. Today, totalling around 2 billioneuros in turnover per year, the nation’s 700 coffeeshops pay between 400 and 450 million eurosannually in taxes. The Dutch Treasury could see at least another half a billion extra coming in, shouldproduction of cannabis be regulated, controlled and -of course- taxed.[FRAME2] AHOJ-G criteriaA no overt AdvertisingH no Hard drugsO no nuisance or disturbance (O, for overlast)J no underage visitors (J, for jongeren)G no large quantities sold (G, for grote hoeveelheden)