The future of the Dutch ‘weed pass’ system hangs in the balance following recent national elections
Opponents of the controversial ‘weed pass’ system, due to be extended from the South of the Netherlands nationwide on January 1st, demonstrating on Amsterdam’s Dam Square before the Dutch elections.
The future of the controversial ‘Weed Pass’, due to be introduced nationwide in the Netherlands on January 1st, remains uncertain following the Dutch elections in September.
The election was supposed to be decisive for the future of the coffeeshops, but with no single party gaining a majority in Parliament, the right-wing coalition that introduced the scheme falling, and discussions to form a coalition still ongoing, the issue remains up in the air.
Parties in favour of restricting coffeeshops or outright abolishing them got 77 of the 150 seats, while those against the recently introduced ‘cannabis pass’ and/or in favour of regulating the supply of cannabis to the coffeeshops got 73.
The dramatically reduced block of three Christian parties (with just 21 seats shared between) are in favour of abolishing the coffeeshops altogether, while the ironically named Freedom Party (PVV), led by notorious xenophobe Geert Wilders, and the conservative-liberal party (VVD) are in favour of the pass system that excludes non-resident foreigners and obliges residents to register as a member of what would become private-clubs.
The previous rightwing government has lost its parliamentary majority and the most likely successor is a coalition between the VVD and the Labour Party (PvdA). The consequences for coffeeshops remains unclear, with the parties diametrically opposed on the issue – increasing restrictions on the shops (VVD) versus regulation of supply, advocated by the PvdA.
Following the controversial introduction of the ‘cannabis pass’ in the south of the country on May 1, cannabis policy in the Netherlands was one of the issues debated during the election campaign.
Coffeeshop owners and stoners publically backed the Socialist Party (SP), which promised to scrap the pass (customers do not actually have to have a cannabis card, but coffeeshop owners are obliged to keep a list of members).
Four months after the scheme’s introduction in the south of the Netherlands it is clear that foreign tourists and locals who refuse to register are buying in the street, from teens on scooters, or heading elsewhere in the country for their weed.
Street crime and violence has increased as a result, sales to underage tokers has increased, and police forces are impotent to do anything about it
Meanwhile on September 22nd, the City of Haarlem proposed the introduction of a special ‘Hallmark for coffeeshops’. An initiative of Mayor Bernt Schneiders, the cannabis consumers’ organization ‘We Smoke’ and Team Haarlemse Coffeeshops (THC), the Hallmark is meant as an alternative to the national pass.
“The Weed Pass, meant to be introduced in Haarlem next year, does not seem to have the intended effect. That is why a good alternative had to be found,” said Schneiders, who has traditionally been tough on Haarlem’s weed entrpreneurs. “I’m pleased that the Haarlem coffeeshop owners want to take the responsibility for the new Hallmark together with us.”
Details of what the Dutch election might mean for the future of the country’s famously humane cannabis policy – and just how badly the Weed Pass has backfired in Southern towns – can be read here.