The mayor of a town in North Brabant has been accused of acting too harshly after allegedly setting an autistic man out of his home when he was discovered with a cannabis plant.
In October 2019, 34-year-old Robin said he had grown a single plant in a forest nearby his home in Bergeijk, according to RTL Nieuws. He was drying the branches and leaves at home when neighbours smelled it and called the police, who confiscated the plant and judged the amount to be high enough to sell.
Apparently against the advice of the man’s guidance counsellor and some city council staff, the mayor of Bergeijk Arinda Callewaert decided to close his home under strict opium laws, reports RTL Nieuws.
‘I didn’t cause any nuisance,’ Robin told the organisation, saying that smoking cannabis helped him deal with stress and tension. ‘I don’t have dangerous wiring or growing conditions. It wasn’t a dealer’s house where people came to buy weed every other day.’
The consequences for him were homelessness, the loss of his new job, and a huge psychological impact now that he is living in other, temporary accommodation, he said.
His case adds to criticism of strict drugs law, dubbed the ‘sword of Damocles’, which allows majors to shut buildings and houses suspected of links with drugs and criminality. Last month, the ombudsman for Rotterdam told DutchNews.nl that there are scores of innocent victims of these closures and that they may effectively bypass people’s housing rights.
In the case of Robin, reports RTL Nieuws, his support team told the mayor of Bergeijk eviction would be catastrophic for the man, who had just finished training and found work. ‘Things were going well for him, but then he got that message [about his building being closed] and it all disappeared,’ his coach reportedly said. ‘It was disastrous for him.’
There were also apparently voices raised at the town council that Robin was not a criminal but a vulnerable citizen whom it had a duty to protect.
Mayor Callewaert told RTL Nieuws that they did not respond on individual cases. ‘On the basis of information from various parties, the decision was taken to close the building,’ she reportedly said. ‘It is possible to take legal action against this decision, but this was not done.’
A spokeswoman for the National Ombudsman told DutchNews.nl that they had not been alerted to this case. ‘As ombudsman, we always say in general that if a citizen is pitted against the government – especially in a case that could involve the closure of a home – all specific personal circumstances need to be properly weighed up,’ said Sharon Bartels. ‘People can make a protest against the decision and it’s not one that is taken lightly. These are complex cases.’
In the Netherlands, smoking cannabis is tolerated and according to the law, police take no action if someone is growing up to five plants for personal use. Commercial growing is, however, illegal.
DutchNews.nl has contacted the man’s counsellor and Bergeijk council for a comment. A spokeswoman for the housing association De Zaligheden, where the man lived, told DutchNews.nl that the RTL Nieuws report was not the full story, and that the house closure was ‘not about one plant’, but did not elaborate futher.
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