Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category

 

(Ermindo Armino/ Associated Press ) – In this photo taken Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, a visitor lights a marijuana joint in coffee shop Mississippi in Maastricht, southern Netherlands. While several U.S. states have moved to legalize the sale of marijuana, the Netherlands is going in the opposite direction, clamping down on its famed tolerance policy toward weed. In Maastricht, attempts to ban foreigners from buying weed have led to a resurgence of street-dealers, while Amsterdam is shutting marijuana cafes located too close to schools.

By Associated Press, Published: March 7

MAASTRICHT, Netherlands — A young man at a bus stop hisses at a passer-by: “What you looking for … marijuana?” It’s a scene of street peddling that the Netherlands hoped to stamp out in the 1970s when it launched a policy of tolerating “coffee shops” where people could buy and smoke pot freely.

But Maastricht’s street dealers are back, local residents complain. And the reason is a crackdown on coffee-shops triggered by another problem: Pot tourists who crossed the border to visit the cafes and made a nuisance of themselves by snarling traffic, dumping litter and even urinating in the streets.

This exchange of one drug problem for another has become a headache for Maastricht — and may give reason for pause in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado that recently allowed the sale of marijuana for the first time. The Netherlands, the world pioneer in pot liberalization, has recently taken a harder line toward marijuana, with mixed results seen particularly in border towns such as Maastricht.

The central government clampdown has involved banning people who live outside the Netherlands from coffee shops, and shuttering shops that are deemed to be too close to schools. There was even a short-lived policy that said smokers had to apply for a “Weed Pass” to get into a coffee shop. The new rules were rolled out across the country between the middle of 2012 and the beginning of last year.

But while the central government made the rules, it’s up to local municipalities to enforce them — and most are embracing only part of the policy.

Amsterdam — with some 200 licensed coffee shops, one-third of the nationwide total — still lets foreigners visit them, although it is closing coffee shops that are near schools.

One city that has embraced the crackdown whole-heartedly is Maastricht, in the southern province of Limburg close to the Dutch borders with Belgium and Germany.

Its mayor, Onno Hoes, says he enforced the legislation to halt a daily influx of thousands of foreigners who crossed the borders to stock up on pot at its 14 coffee shops. That effort to end so-called “drug tourism” has been successful, local residents say, but the flip side has been a rise in street dealers like the man who recently tried to sell pot to an AP reporter in Maastricht.

Carol Berghmans lives close to the River Maas, whose muddy waters bisect the city, and whose banks are frequented by dealers he sees as he walks his dog each day.

He says there were certainly problems before the crackdown as cars filled with pot tourists poured into the cobbled streets of central Maastricht — but he described the atmosphere as “gezellig,” a Dutch word that loosely translates as cozy or convivial.

Since coffee shops were banned from selling to non-residents, the numbers of foreigners has dried up. But the atmosphere in town has turned darker as street dealers now aggressively badger any potential clients and fight among themselves, Berghmans says.

“Now the drug runners are trying to sell on the street to anyone,” he says. “They are bothering everybody.”

Maastricht city spokesman Gertjan Bos said the problem of street dealing is not new, but concedes it has become more visible since the city’s crackdown reduced the number of drug tourists.

“We have a feeling our approach is working,” Bos said, “but we do still have to work on the street dealers.”

Easy Going coffee shop, in a street linking Maastricht’s historic market square with the Maas, has been shut for months as its owner, Marc Josemans, refuses to adhere to the rule about selling only to Dutch residents.

“I won’t discriminate,” he explains. He is fighting a legal battle against the new rules and expects the Dutch Supreme Court to issue a ruling soon on whether turning away non-Dutch residents is constitutional.

Experts also question the Dutch policy change.

August de Loor has for years run a bureau in Amsterdam that gives drug advice aimed at minimizing health risks for users as well as testing party drugs such as ecstasy for purity.

He says coffee shops once played an important role not only in keeping cannabis users away from hard drugs like heroin, but also educating them about safely using pot and providing a meeting place for people who would rather smoke a joint than drink a beer.

“That special element of the Dutch model makes coffee shops unique in the world,” he said, “and that is gradually fading away.”

One part of the Dutch drug experience that has remained illegal is commercial cultivation of weed. Meaning that while coffee shops are tolerated — and taxed — the people who supply them are not.

In January, a group of 35 municipalities, including both Amsterdam and Maastricht, called on the central government to allow regulated growing, saying it would take the harvest out of the hands of organized crime.

The Dutch Justice Minister, Ivo Opstelten, was blunt in his rejection: “I’m not doing it,” he said. “The mayors have to live with it.”

Prof. Dirk Korf, a criminologist at the University of Amsterdam, says the Dutch tolerance policy has worked well.

“The clear success is that there is regulated supply to users without having a strong effect on the prevalence on use itself,” he said. “One could be afraid that more people would use cannabis; that has not been the case.”

Jo Smeets, a former coffee shop worker in Maastricht, complains his neighborhood has been overrun by dealers since the city’s crackdown. The dealers, he says, sell drugs on the streets to people who previously would have bought in tightly controlled coffee shops: “Now they can buy more and they can buy hard drugs from the same dealers.”

Amsterdam’s coffee shops, by contrast, continue to welcome foreigners with open arms.

The main difference between the two cities is the type of tourist they attract. In Maastricht, foreigners drive over the border, visit a coffee shop and drive back on the same day. In Amsterdam, tourists mostly arrive by plane or train, stay in a hotel and visit museums and restaurants — as well as dropping in on a coffee shop — plowing far more cash into the city.

On a recent Friday afternoon in the Dutch Flowers coffee shop on Amsterdam’s historic Singel canal, German and American voices mingled with English and Dutch in a hazy cloud of pot smoke.

Shawn Stabley, a 49-year-old, musician and IT director from York, Pennsylvania, is typical of the type of tourist Amsterdam coffee shops attract.

He and his partner strolled into Dutch Flowers for a smoke after visiting another Amsterdam icon, the Anne Frank House museum, a short walk away on another of the city’s canals. The cafe has a few tables, a bar with a set of electronic scales for weighing out drugs and a menu filled with names of marijuana and hashish like Neville’s Haze and Parvati Creme.

The couple has been visiting the city for 20 years to celebrate Thanksgiving, Stabley says. He says they don’t plan to stop the tradition now, even if he can buy pot closer to home in Denver or Seattle.

“Every window is picturesque,” Stabley said, “and coming here to places that serve hash and marijuana just enhances that and prolongs it.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 01/08/2014 7:42 am EST  |  Updated: 01/09/2014 10:18 am EST

Ever since it became legal to purchase recreational weed in Colorado last week, we’ve imagined caravans of pot-hungry tourists hitting the road for a visit to Denver and a smoke in the mountain air.

Could Denver, Colorado’s capital and a total marijuana mecca as of seven days ago, ever replace Amsterdam as the ultimate weed weekender?

Allow us to consider the cities in a variety of non-pot-related categories.

ARTS AND CULTURE
Luckily for Amsterdam, the Netherlands were home to some of the most notable painters of basically all time. The city’s Rijksmuseum shows artworks from a number of them, including Rembrandt and Vermeer. There’s also an entire museum of Van Gogh works nearby… “Sunflowers” looks a lot more swirly and interesting after a few joints.

The Denver Art Museum, on the other hand, pays tribute to the first residents of Colorado with a huge treasure trove of Native American art— the museum has over 16,000 artifacts from local tribes, like some Navajo weaving and some painted leather garments. This is actually very cool.

Winner: Sorry, has to be Amsterdam.

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FOOD
Amsterdam’s famous French fries — smothered in creative sauces or dunked in straight-up aioli — are served fresh in hot, hand-held cones, and they’re kind of every pot smoker’s dream. If there were a fried food to fly across the ocean for, this would be it.

But if you’re looking to “wake and bake,” Denver’s breakfast scene will be your jam. The city’s namesake omelet usually comes with ham, cheese and mushrooms, and it’s served in a number of hipster-y little eateries.

Winner: Amsterdam. We can’t resist a fry.

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DAY TRIPS
If your smoker self is into scenic country vistas, Kinderdijk will blow your mind.After about an hour’s drive from Amsterdam, you’ll step into a storybook of stout little windmills, bright green grass and perfect blue canals. Take a boat tour or pop inside a windmill to see how it works.

As far as wide open spaces go, Rocky Mountain National Park is gorgeous as they come. Lakes, waterfalls, horseback rides and campgrounds all lie within eyeshot of America’s famous mountain range and within a two-hour drive of Denver’s marijuana dispensaries.

Winner: Denver. Mountains trump windmills, always.

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HISTORY
It’s kinda hard to beat a city that’s over 800 years old. Only in Amsterdam will you stumble upon a 14th-century Catholic center that now houses senior citizens, or into the square that used to host welcome ceremonies for Napoleon.

Denver — at just over 150 years of age — holds its own in the nostalgia department with Union Station, a train hub that has a distinctive vintage feel and artsy 1920s style. Beat poet Jack Kerouac (who seems like he’d approve of Colorado’s new drug law) used to hang out at the historic My Brother’s Bar.

Winner: Amsterdam. We’re suckers for architecture.

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SCENERY
Those canals! Amsterdam’s got 65 miles of them, each more quaint than the next. Pop a squat on a houseboat and watch the world float by (preferably while you’re high).

The lush mountains of Denver are America’s pride and joy– climb 7,000 glorious feet in 28 miles on the Mount Evans Byway, and say hi to herds of friendly white mountain goats.

Winner: Neither– both are beauties in their own right.

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SPORTS
People use bikes waaay more often than cars in Amsterdam– if you rent a cheap one and cruise down the canal roads, you’ll feel like a true local.

Colorado officials are worried that legal weed will turn family ski resorts into mountains full of smoking snowboarders. Breckenridge and Loveland are each a speedy drive from Denver, so lots of people go for a day visit and some of the nation’s best powder.

Winner: Denver. Bike rides don’t make thrills this big.

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LODGINGS
Amsterdam’s hostels are famous with free-spirited backpacker types, and many places let you smoke inside. Designated smokers’ hangout rooms and vending machines stocked with munchies only add to the pot-friendly atmosphere. You can even sleep in a canal on a floating houseboat hostel.

Your overnight options in Denver, by contrast, are not quite as eclectic, but they’re definitely more luxurious. After a smoking session, the spacious and high-tech rooms at the famous Hotel Teatro might feel like the perfect plush place to crash.

Winner: Amsterdam. …mostly because of the vending machines.

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SHOPPING
Amsterdam is the queen of adorable, boutique-y stores, and you’ll find everything from girly dress shops to those funky storerooms of modern-looking Euro knickknacks. Bountiful outdoor flower markets are the prettiest on Earth.

In Denver, the Cherry Creek neighborhood is where you’ll go for big buys– if you can handle the sensory onslaught of 320 specialty shops while under the influence.

Winner: Amsterdam, for being small and manageable.

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MOOD-ALTERING SUBSTANCES BESIDES MARIJUANA
You’ll never drink beer in a cozier city than Amsterdam– one German-themed barlooks like a living room and has manuscripts of plays laying around, while another pub is nestled in an old distillery from the 1700s. Don’t forget the coffee-shop-meets-bar mash-up locations, where you can grab a joint in one building then hop right next door for a drink sold by the same owners.

One word: Coors. Just outside Denver, you can tour the brewery where those blue Coors mountains are made, with free samples at the end to boot. Nearby Wynkoop Brewing Company is the oldest brewpub in the state, with pool tables, happy locals and beer flavored like chili for when your taste buds crave something other than cannabis.

Winner: Denver, king of the beers.

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Click here to view the original Huffington Post article.

cannabis and scratch-and-sniff

A woman smells a card with a marijuna odour in Rotterdam.

AFP October 09, 2013 4:07AM

A DUTCH initiative to combat illegal cannabis cultivation through marijuana-scented “scratch-and-sniff” cards has gone nationwide in the country.

The expansion comes after a pilot project launched three years ago to combat illegal weed plantations by helping people to recognise the smell proved a success.

Backed by police, city councils and energy service providers who have their electricity stolen, thousands of cannabis-odoured cards will be distributed in four Dutch cities including Amstelveen near Amsterdam, a spokesman for the initiative said.

“The cards are being made available across the country, starting with the four cities this week,” Martijn Boelhouwer told AFP. “We hope other cities will follow.”

Mr Boelhouwer said since the cards were introduced in The Hague and Rotterdam, the number of reported plantations has “gone up enormously”, with one call to police a day in each city.

The proportion of people able to sniff out an illegal plantation increased from 40 to 60 per cent, Dutch daily Trouw reported.

The Netherlands is known for its expertise in hydroponic cultivation and the growing of illegal cannabis is no exception.

There are an estimated 30,000 illegal cannabis nurseries in the Netherlands, with plantations often set up in attics, cellars, garages and even entire houses.

Police estimate the bulk cultivation and sale of cannabis was worth some 2.2 billion euros ($3.17 billion) in 2012, most of it in the hands of criminal organisations.

“With this cannabis-scented card you will recognise the smell of marijuana cultivation. Scratch, sniff and help,” reads the text on the green scratch-card, which lists a police telephone number.

Illicit cannabis cultivation is dangerous because of the fire-risk created by illegal electricity connections and faulty wiring, Mr Boelhouwer said.

“At least 20 per cent of all industrial fires are caused by illegal marijuana cultivation,” added Danielle Nicolaas, spokeswoman for energy company Stedin, which forms part of the project.

Illegal power connections also tapped some 200 million euros in stolen electricity from service providers every year.

Though it remains technically illegal, the Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under five grammes (0.18 ounces) of cannabis in 1976 under a “tolerance” policy.

Authorities turn a blind eye to citizens growing no more than five plants for personal use, though that too is illegal.

Last year police rolled up 5800 nurseries, according to the latest police statistics.

Click here to read the original article.

The Dutch capital is cleaning up its act. Brothels and cannabis cafés are being closed. But the most significant transformation is the renovation of the Rijksmuseum, says Robert Bevan.

At the medieval heart of Amsterdam is the Oude Kerk. The church, founded in 1213, is the city’s oldest building, a stripped back Calvinist beauty with pearly light pouring through its tall windows, over its gilded carvings and across its stone flagged floors. It is the kind of serene interior captured in the luminous oils of the Dutch Masters.

Outside, the activities are rather less sacred. The Oude Kerk is at the centre of Europe‘s largest red-light district – the Wallen – and is ringed by hot-pink shopfronts where sex workers tap the windows to attract any likely passing trade. Opposite the church door is one of dozens of cannabis cafés where you can spark up a joint of Lemon Haze and waste the day away.

For decades, such scenes have been regarded as examples of civilised Dutch tolerance – a “whatever blows your hair back” attitude – butAmsterdam has had enough. The municipality says its tolerance is being abused as the centre is being overwhelmed by tawdry sex shows, drug dealing and British stag-party weekenders. Organised crime has moved in and many businesses are fronts for money-laundering and human trafficking. So the city is rebranding itself, and has invested upwards of €700m on remaking its cultural institutions over the past decade.

The Van Gogh museum has been renovated and reopens in May, theNational Maritime Museum has been made ship-shape and the new EYE Film Institute Netherlands has opened in a futuristic building in the Overhoeks neighbourhood. The Stedelijk Museum of contemporary art, meanwhile, has been treated to a bath-like extension the size of a city block.

The futuristic EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam

‘The EYE Film Institute Netherlands has opened in a futuristic building’: Amsterdam’s answer to London’s National Film Theatre. Photograph: Henk Meijer /AlamyCrowning these efforts, the Rijksmuseum – the Dutch answer to the Louvre – reopened to the public this weekend after a decade-long closure. Under a €375m rebuilding project led by the Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz, the museum’s two halves have been united by an undercroft that joins its two courtyards. The remodelling has been so extensive that only Rembrandt’s Night Watch remains in its original location among 8,000 objects in its 80 rooms. The central Gallery of Honour, containing works by Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, has had a century of whitewash removed and its original late 19th-century frescos restored and reinstated.

Elsewhere, canvases are displayed alongside furniture of the same period, white-marble busts illuminated dramatically against dark charcoal walls. In the special collections section, small items have been gathered to form art installations – a wall of intricate metal keys, for example, is displayed opposite a vitrine full of locked boxes; an entire fleet of miniature wooden ships sails alongside a row of model lighthouses.

Meanwhile Project 1012, named after the red-light district’s postcode, aims to clean up the neighbourhood. The initiative began in 2007 and plans the closure of 200 out of 480 window brothels, and 26 out of 76 cannabis coffee houses; there are also plans to turn the sleazy Damrak – the main street into town from Centraal railway station – into a “red carpet” of welcome to the city, with “upmarket shopping, fashion and cuisine”. Right-wing politicians called for tourists to be banned entirely from the coffee shops, a step too far for the municipality of Amsterdam, which has just won an exemption to the weed law. But it has negotiated a €25m deal to buy 18 brothels and gambling dens from their owners and put them to new uses, following the 2008 experiments Red Light Fashion and Red Light Design in which young Dutch designers were allowed to live and work rent free for a year in former brothels and use their windows for showcases. Since then, a former gambling house has been transformed into the Mata Hari bar, and a micro-brewery, deli, florist and homewares stores have also opened nearby.

The poster project for Project 1012 is Anna, a fine-dining restaurant carved out of an old gallery and printworks by former club owner Michiel Kleiss. “You don’t need much critical mass around here,” Kleiss tells me. “If you are doing something classy, it immediately works.”

The Oude Kerk has been known as Amsterdam’s living room throughout its history, and these days it is also used as a concert hall and exhibition space as part of its restoration. Across the square, Orpheu de Jong runs Red Light Radio and has a recording studio in the window. A few doors down his sister Afaina, a former architect, has opened the Ultra de la Rue gallery. Both were brought up only a few minutes from the red-light district but say they didn’t set foot in it until they were adults. “It’s a good thing for the area,” says Afaina, but both she and Orpheu are wary of the area losing its edge entirely.

Stand in front of the Rijksmuseum’s charcoal-painted walls and look again at those Golden Age pictures of church interiors and you will find depictions of dogs cavorting, gallants chatting up maids and market stalls trading within the house of God. There will always be many shades of grey in Amsterdam.

Read original article here.

Original DutchNews article found here.

Tuesday 06 November 2012

Maastricht council has lost out on over €500,000 in fines and parking tickets, mainly as a result of the marijuana or ‘wiet’ card, a council spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

Since cannabis cafes were closed to tourists on May 1, 4,000 fewer fines have been imposed at a loss of €200,000. Parking tickets are down 140,000, which accounts for €340,000.

The spokesman was reacting to reports in Limburg newspapers on the effect of the pass system, which has turned cannabis cafes into members-only clubs, says the Telegraaf.

In September, Maastricht mayor Onno Hoes said locals should no longer have to formally register as users to buy soft drugs from the city’s cannabis cafes.

Since then, the new coalition government, sworn in on Monday, has decided to scrap the registration system for locals and find an alternative way of dealing with drugs tourists.

© DutchNews.nl

As seen in DutchNews

Thursday 01 November 2012

Tourists can continue to use Amsterdam’s 220 cannabis cafes, even if they are not resident in the Netherlands, the Volkskrant quotes the capital’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan as saying on Thursday.

The new cabinet is pressing ahead with banning non-residents from the country’s cannabis cafes, but says enforcing the ban will be carried out together with local councils, taking local policy into account.

This means the city can take its own line, the Volkskrant says. At least 1.5 million of the city’s seven million visitors a year go to a coffee shop – the name for licenced cafes where small quantities of marijuana can be sold for personal use.

South

The outgoing cabinet introduced its new wietpas system in the south of the country in May and had planned to extend it nationwide in January 2013. The new coalition is dropping the registration system but still wants to keep out tourists.

But excluding tourists from Amsterdam’s coffee shops will ‘undo all the good work that has been done’ and lead to a return to street dealing, Van der Laan told the paper.

At the same time, Van der Laan has promised justice minister Ivo Opstelten to take a tough line on coffee shops which cause a public nuisance and to reduce marijuana use by youngsters.

‘Sales to minors, too strong marijuana, no advertising or public nuisance – we are going to keep a close eye on it all,’ Van der Laan says.

The mayor also backs the new government’s plans to set a maximum limit to the amount of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana. ‘Health is paramount. I have seen the damage it can do,’ Van der Laan told the paper.

No green light

However, a spokesman for the justice ministry told news agency ANP later on Thursday Van der Laan had not had permission from Opstelten to ignore the new rules and that the mayor has jumped to conclusions.

While the approach to each city would be tailor-made, it had not yet been decided how the new rules would be implemented, the spokesman said.

© DutchNews.nl

find original DutchNews article here

Friday 17 June 2011

A majority of council members in Maastricht wants to keep coffee shops open, reports news service ANP.

Of the 39 council members, 21 are in favour of keeping coffee shops open and building more of them on the city outskirts. They say that spreading out the establishments is the most effective way of dealing with any nuisance caused, says ANP.

Labour MP Lea Bouwmeester is asking justice minister for permission for Maastricht to carry out its plans. Venlo moved its coffee shops to the edge of town five years ago and it has been a success, she told ANP.

Click here for the original DutchNews.nl article.

Friday 11 March 2011

Utrecht city council wants to set up its own marijuana growing service to supply the city’s cannabis cafes, the NRC reports.

While selling small amounts of marijuana is tolerated, large-scale cultivation is illegal, creating a grey area between demand and supply.

In addition, there is no quality control with the current system and a risk of contamination, council officials say.

Grow your own

So the city wants to experiment with a new sort of coffee shop – the name for cannabis cafes – which would be members only and grow its own plants.

By law, the police turn a blind eye if people have up to five plants for personal use. So if each member of the coffee shop grows those five plants in the same greenhouse, the problem would be solved, the council argues.

The fine details still have to be worked out, but the city has said it will not operate the coffee shop or be in charge of weed production.

Minister opposed

However, the likelihood of winning government approval for the plan would appear to be small.

The cabinet is currently cracking down hard on coffee shops and says it wants to make them all members only clubs in order to stop drugs tourism. The big cities say this will only encourage street dealing.

Justice minister Ivo Opstelten told the NRC the Utrecht plan ‘is not going to happen’.

‘I take it Utrecht council will get in touch with me about this,’ he said. ‘Under no circumstances will there be legalise cultivation and there will be no deviation from that position. There will be no experiments.’

© DutchNews.nl

Original DutchNews article here

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Justice minister Ivo Opstelten plans to make it a criminal offence to supply equipment and services to marijuana growers, in line with the wishes of parliament.

The minister plans not only to target ‘grow shops’, which sell seeds, lamps, fertiliser and other supplies but transport firms, landlords and electricians who help with illegal marijuana production.

The offence will carry a maximum jail term of three years, the minister told MPs on Wednesday.

In 2009, police raided 4,727 plantations with a total 850,000 plants.