On Thursday parliament discusses the controversial cannabis pass. Public broadcaster NOS conducted a survey among 31 local councils, including the border trouble spots and the four main cities.
On May 1 local councils in the border provinces of Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland will be the first to introduce the cannabis pass. Under the new scheme Dutch citizens will have to become a member of their local coffee shop to buy soft drugs, NOS writes.
Ban drugs tourism
The aim of the membership system is to ban drugs tourism. Coffee shops are allowed no more than 2000 members. Other local councils are set to follow.
The NOS survey shows that many local councils are having doubts about the cannabis pass. Some say they haven’t enough coffee shops for the number of local or regional users.
Illegal street trade
With the exception of Terneuzen and Rotterdam most local councils fear that illegal street trade in cannabis will increase and create public disturbance. The Terneuzen local authorities think drug tourists will turn to the illegal drugs circuit in their own countries while Rotterdam has not seen an increase in illegal street trade since it closed 16 coffee shops that were too near to schools in 2007, NOS reports.
In order to counteract the problem of cannabis returning to the streets some local councils are expecting to need more police capacity. Others think this will be a temporary measure but only if the right measures are taken and the police act decisively.
Many local councils are reluctant to introduce the pass and would rather not do it at all. Heerlen told the NOS they ‘don’t like the scheme but couldn’t be the only one not to introduce the pass. We need all our police capacity to cope with real drug related problems, such a illegal cannabis growing.’
‘It is a typical example of the present cabinet policy of implementing a measure to promote safety which then turns out to do exactly the opposite because it is too reliant on police resources. It’s like the Animal Cops and the burqa ban’, NOS quotes the disgruntled local council.
Not a clue
Most local councils haven’t a clue as to how many cannabis users or coffee shop visitors they are dealing with, NOS writes. They base themselves on national figures or simply guess at the numbers.
Eindhoven is one of the few cities to have the figures in place: it has 15,000 soft drugs users in the city itself and 20,000 regional users. 23,000 users go to of the 15 coffee shops in Eindhoven. 30% of users buy cannabis on the street.
Eindhoven also has four coffee shops that are within 350 metres of schools and they will have to be closed. Rotterdam has eight.
Groningen, one of the four local councils that did not participate in the survey, wants to be allowed to opt out of the scheme. Groningen doesn’t have drugs tourism, its mayor claims, and therefore has no need for a cannabis pass.
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