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Cannabis cafe owner fined, council criticised

Thursday 25 March 2010

The owner of the Netherlands' biggest hashish-selling cafe has been ordered to pay €9.7m in fines and sentenced to 16 weeks in jail for soft drugs trading.

Judges in Middelburg found the owner and members of staff guilty of breaking drugs laws, exporting drugs and membership of a criminal organisation.

The owner, Meddie W, was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail, a term he has already spent in prison before the trial. The prosecution had called for an 18-month sentence.


He was also ordered to pay €9.7m under laws allowing the justice ministry to claim the proceeds of crime. The prosecution claimed over €28m.

At its height, the Checkpoint cafe in Teurneuzen near the Belgian border was serving up to 3,000 clients and processing 10 kg of marijuana a day. It was closed last year.

Coffee shops with more than 500 grammes of cannabis on the premises are not covered by the official policy of turning a blind eye to soft drugs.

Local council

Judges said the sentences were less than the prosecution had called for because the local council had not intervened.

'Checkpoint could never have become as big as it is without the cooperation of the town council,' the judges were quoted as saying. 'Nor did the justice ministry ever warn the operation to become smaller.'

At one point the cafe moved from the town centre to a large out of town location with generous parking space, with council help, Nos tv reported.

Nevertheless, Checkpoint was a well-oiled machine in terms of production, processing and storage, which meant it could be considered a criminal organisation, the judges said.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

whilst I don't condone criminal behaviour in any way, I am flabbergasted at how the public prosecution service think they are going to get away with this charge.

Obviously the owner of the Checkpoint is being used as a scapegoat, but I can see this case being thrown out of court (on appeal) with some serious criticisms of the current government to follow.

This case only highlights the need to get the whole soft-drug issue clarified. The policy of turning a blind eye, employed by sucessive governments in the past, has created this legal grey area. If every coffee shop owner is only allowed 500g on their premises, then I say why not raid every single coffee shop up and down the country and treat them all in the same way? I'm damn sure they've all got more than half a kilo stock at any time!

The fact that there would seem to be local council co-operation in this case and that the minister of justice failed to give the mandatory warnings about breaking the law - well this case will be laughed out of court.

Solution is quite simple - either fully prohibition or full legalisation coupled with government-controlled supply.

By John | 25 March 2010 12:37 PM

500 grams on the premises? Plants? Criminality? No, this is just about big money & control. If alcohol was so easy to produce, there would be restrictions on the number of liters allowed on the premises. Grow-up, legalize it and tax it, and stop wasting public money and time...

By stevie | 25 March 2010 1:34 PM

Prohibition is a throwback to a previous age. It's fitting in a society where an elite uses the labour of the masses to produce things for their consumption. They can't afford to have the productivity of their investments (slaves) reduced for any reason, and certainly not to allow the slave to do something which is not of benefit to its production. You're right, Stevie, it's all about money and control.

Something that's amazed me about the Netherlands recently, is how you can be so caught up in your own world there. How can you not see what's happening in America? It's obvious the US will soon stop supporting this immoral prohibition. Indeed, cannabis is being decriminalised and legalised bit by bit. In California, for example, it's not really illegal anymore. It's all over except for the shouting. The other states are moving in the same direction. The NL was right in 1976. Why would you start to shy away from that position now that your position's primary opponent is coming around to your way of thinking? This is not the time to back down; this is the time to stand up and say, 'You see: we told you so, and we can help you make this work.' You should be concentrating on how cannabis has been of benefit to NL society these past few decades.

By McD | 25 March 2010 7:01 PM

The pharmaceutical industry does not want to see marijuana legalized anywhere. In California and Arizona in the USA these states are voting for complete legalization so the states can collect taxes. If California passes the law watch and see how the rest of the world follows. Seeing that California has a GDP greater than most countries this one state could turn the tide.

By Paul Martin | 25 March 2010 8:23 PM

As a former resident of Terneuzen I watched the growth of Checkpoint with astonishment and wondered as to the thinking behind the planning department of the Townhall.
The original cafe was a tiny, grubby hole with an insignificant customer base.
After a compulsary purchase order of its premises was issued by the Townhall, in order to make way for the building of a state of the art Theatre for local residents, Checkpoint's customer base began to grow at such a fast paced rate mere legal business's could only of dreamt about!
Part of the compulsory purchase agreement included the provision, by the Townhall, of a temporary facility and the rebuild, in what can only be described as a prime location, of Checkpoint.
The tempory building was double in size and in a more prominent position. This fact alone generated more walk through business for the cafe. The completed final Cafe was again in a prominent position, situated just behind the sea dike at the entrance to the main thouroughfare of bars, terraces, hotels and shopping center of Terneuzen.
Business boomed with customers coming from not only the Netherlands but UK, France, Belgium and Germany. On a typical summers day you might have to wait up to 3 hours to be sold your tolerated substance of choice.
In order to numb the waiting time Checkpoint was licensed, again by the Townhall, to serve alcohol, provided an excellent terrace and a great restaurant.
Checkpoints downfall was its success in the non-related drug aspects of its business. Only at the point when other local bars and restaurants discovered their declining business was in part due to Checkpoints sucess in this arena did the local authorities take note and finally acted accordingly with regard to enforcment of tolerated sales of illegal substances and closure of the Cafe.
With the above information in mind it comes as no suprise that the local Townhall was cited in the Judges ruling as being partially responsible for the situation that occured.
Whilst I would never condone the sale and use of any drugs I have to admit that during my time as a resident in Terneuzen I made use of Checkpoint's bar, terrace and resturant facilities. They provided excellent friendly service and the food in the restaurant, whilst not pretentious, was cooked well and realistically priced.
The owner of Checkpoint was never given a real opportunity to keep the legal (bar and resturant) facilities of the establishment open.

By Anne | 25 March 2010 9:14 PM

This is clearly disciminatory, and in the wrong direction. Studies have shown, over and over again, that alcohol is more dangerous than pot--both to society and to the consumer.

Does the Dutch government restrict how much alchol that pubs are allowed to have? Why not?

If pot growing were fully legalized,
prices would plummet. So much, that taxes might also plummet. And here we get to the core of the issue: the Dutch government wants to have it's space-cake and eat it too. They want the higher taxes that bootleg (but tolerated) pot brings, but they also want a scapegoat for the associated violence that occasionally occurs with such high prices.

But, I wasn't aware of significant problems in Holland with such violence;
I think politicians are more concerned about getting along with their fellow politicians in neighboring countries that are trying to infringe Dutch sovereignty.

By kevin | 25 March 2010 9:27 PM

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