Smoking without Borders

An HCLU film about drug tourism in the Netherlands: is it really only the problem of the Dutch?

Bergen op Zoom is a Dutch town near the Belgian border. The city’s name became known from the media in the end of last year, when its mayor decided to close down all coffee shops selling cannabis. Some articles reported that this decision was made because of the crime and nuisance caused by drug tourists coming from Belgium. Some reports even concluded that the Dutch coffee shop system proved to be a failure and Dutch drug policy needs to be revised. HCLU’s video advocacy team decided to visit the Netherlands to find out the truth. We interviewed the mayor and learnt that he has no problem with cannabis users or coffee shops in principle – but he is fed up with the 25.000 drug tourists invading his town every week, accompanied with traffick jams and drug runners. We traveled to a nearby city, Tilburg, where the mayor has plans to legalize the large scale cultivation of cannabis. We spoke with the manager of a coffee shop who explained that coffee shops are integral part of Dutch society and cannot be simply wiped out any more.

Smoking without Borders from Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on Vimeo.
To find the film on YouTube click here! (HD version coming soon!)

Our major conlusions are:

1) The problem of drug tourism is not caused by cannabis use or coffee shops. The real problem is the illegality of cannabis in neighboring countries.

2) The problem cannot be solved by closing down coffee shops: the supply won’t be reduced but it will go undeground to cause more problems.

3) The real solution to the problem is in the hands of the neighboring countries: to regulate and control the cannabis market.

In Belgium cannabis activists have already made a legal case to establish a collective cannabis plantation (Trekt uw Plant), you can find more info here!

If you agree with us, please send an email to the Belgian Ministry of Justice and ask them to consider the regulation and control of cannabis instead of pushing the Dutch government to close down the coffee shops!

You can find our sample letter below:

Dear Sir/Madame,

we learnt from the media that two Dutch cities at the Belgian border plan to close down all coffee shops in order to prevent the nuisance caused by the thousands of Belgian drug tourists coming to buy cannabis every week. The mayors made it clear that they don’t have any problem with cannabis or coffee shops in principle, but only with the organized crime and unsafety associated with the influx of drug tourists from Belgium. So if there were no drug tourists they would allow the coffee shops to operate.

Please watch the video made by a human rights NGO, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) about this issue:

We think by closing down the coffee shops the Dutch cities will not solve the drug tourism problem, because young people will still go to the Netherlands to buy the good quality marijuana (so called Netherweed) there – but not in a controlled environment anymore, but from dealers and drug runners in shadowy alleys. Here nobody asks for IDs to prove that the customers are not underage and they can also obtain more dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The ban will not reduce supply but only pushes it undeground.

It is the common interest of the Belgian and the Dutch governments to protect their young people from harms caused by the black market of drugs – but it is not possible through repression, but only with more regulation and control. Therefore we ask the Belgian government to reconsider its drug policy and instead of pushing the Netherlands to ban coffee shops start a negotiation about the possibilities of a regulated and controlled cannabis market in both sides of the border.

We ask the Ministry of Justice of Belgium to take the lead in designing a new legislation that allows the opening of coffee shops in order to reduce the harmful consequences of drug tourism and the crime associated with it.

Kind regards,

(Your name)

You can simply copy-paste this sample letter to your email and send it to the Belgian Ministry of Justice:

Thank you for your help!

Posted by Peter Sarosi



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