Wednesday 01 February 2023

Owner of massive cannabis café cleared of most charges on appeal

The owner of a massive cannabis café near the Belgian border has been found not guilty of most of the charges against him by Amsterdam’s appeal court in the second case of its kind this month.

The man does not have to go to jail, is not a member of a criminal organisation, and does not have to pay a fine, the court ruled.

The café in Terneuzen was closed by the town’s mayor in 2007 because it broke government rules on soft drug sales. At its height, the Checkpoint cafe was said to be serving up to 3,000 clients and processing 10 kg of marijuana a day.

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.

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

Court

In 2010 the owner was found guilty of membership of a criminal organisation, fined €9.7m and sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. In 2011, the Council of State ruled the closure was correct.

However, in Wednesday’s ruling the court said the prosecution department had not proved Checkpoint had knowingly broken the rules on marijuana sales. The café is guilty of having too much marijuana on the premises but this does not merit a prison sentence, the court said in a statement.

In addition, the court pointed out that the authorities had encouraged the café’s growth and must have understood that it needed large volumes of drugs to meet demand.

‘Therefore the court sees no reason to pass sentence on the owner or workers,’ the court statement said.

Tax office

This is the second ruling this month in which judges have refused to jail coffee shop owners for breaking guidelines on marijuana sales.

Earlier this month the owner of three cannabis cafés which had 67 kilos of cannabis on their premises avoided prosecution after judges said the police knew about his activities and that the owner had worked together with the police, council and tax office.

The judges said they were surprised the public prosecution department had even begun legal proceedings in the case.

MPs and local mayors are currently pressuring justice minister Ivo Opstelten to tackle the grey area between coffee shop sales and the supply side, which is often in the hands of organised crime.

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