Saturday, December 9, 2017

The gray market for marijuana in Holland

The combination of a legal market and an illegal one makes for a gray market, which seems to be the situation of marijuana sellers in the Netherlands. (Not so different from legal marijuana sellers in some American states, who still run afoul of federal laws...)

The Guardian has the story:
Netherlands coffee shop case highlights 'paradox' of cannabis laws

"With 3,000 customers a day, a restaurant, ample parking and turnover of €26m (£23m) a year, Checkpoint cafe, the largest cannabis-selling coffee shop in the Netherlands, was a fabulous commercial success.

"That was until it was closed down in 2009 for testing to the limits what the Dutch describe as their gedogenbeleid (tolerance policy) under which prosecutors turn a blind eye to the breaking of certain laws, including in the business of selling cannabis.

"The latest and most likely final appeal hearing of criminal charges against the cafe’s owner, Meddie Willemsen, has highlighted what the president of a court in Den Bosch described as “paradoxes” in the Dutch approach to so-called soft drugs.

"Licensed coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis from their premises, but can keep only 500g on site at any time. Production of the drug is illegal.

"When Checkpoint was at its peak, Willemsen, 66, was regularly keeping about 200kg of cannabis on his large premises in Terneuzen, near the Belgian border. The size of the enterprise could have led to fairly reasonable assumptions that those providing the drugs would be large criminal gangs.

"Prosecutors were informed by the court that while Checkpoint cafe was certainly criminal, local authorities had effectively aided it at times and turned a blind eye for long enough that punishment of the owner would be inappropriate.

"The court heard the illegal activity was necessary for a cafe of Checkpoint’s size. The president ruled: “That is punishable. But at the same time not to be avoided when you run a well-functioning coffee shop.”
"The president of the court in Den Bosch said the story of Checkpoint cafe highlighted the absurdity of the law in the Netherlands, where selling cannabis at the front of the shop is legal, under strict criteria, but production and sourcing of it at the back is illegal. “Here lies a task for the legislator,” the president said.

"In 2012, the Dutch government changed the law to criminalise sales by coffee shops to customers who cannot prove they live in the Netherlands. There is a dispensation for people in Amsterdam, on the grounds that the practice is part of the attraction for tourists visiting the city.

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