Mega cannabis cafe owner misses court date

The owner of the Netherlands’ biggest cannabis-selling cafe failed to turn up in court on Tuesday, as judges began hearing charges that he and four other members of staff are members of a criminal organisation involved in large scale marijuana trading.

Under Dutch law defendants are not required to attend hearings and often don’t in high profile cases.The cafe’s former sales manager was in court. He ran a network of eight small-scale growers who produced a combined 2 kg of marijuana a week, the Volkskrant said.
‘The case has generated an enormous amount of publicity… they do not think they have broken drugs laws but they do feel they are being treated as criminals,’ the lawyer for the main defendant was quoted as saying in the Volkskrant.
The 58-year-old owner and four others are also charged with exporting soft drugs. Many of the cafe’s customers came from over the border in Belgium and France.
The Checkpoint cafe, known as a coffee shop, was closed by Terneuzen council last May. Officials claim it served up to 3,000 customers a day, or some 10 kg of cannabis. 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.
The public prosecution department estimates the cafe was making profits of at least €10m a year.
Ten other people, mainly suppliers, are due to appear in court tomorrow.

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