Coffee shop owners will go on strike in Holland

Cannabis coffee shop owners in Holland will call a strike on the 9th June to bring attention to the important role they play in Dutch society. The strike has been organized by coffee shop owner Nol van Shaik, the founder of Willie Wortel cannabis shops in Haarlem. Mr van Shaik says that he is calling the strike to raise awareness amongst cannabis coffee shop owners and their clientele that there is a possibility of a right-wing government being voted in that won’t be so friendly towards the trade.

If the centre-right Christian Democrat party (CDA) or Geert Wilders freedom party dominate the Dutch coalition government after the June 9 elections Holland’s famously liberal cannabis laws could change.

On his website Mr van Shaik has written a manifesto of arguments in favour of licensed cannabis coffee shops, in which he points out that they contribute 400 million Euros in taxes a year and that shutting them down will only force clients on to the unregulated illegal market. Mr van Shaik also points out that the regulations inside coffee shops are strict and enforced. No alcohol or hard drugs may be consumed on the premises and strict age restrictions apply.

Despite the fact that Holland has some of the most lenient cannabis laws in the world, statistically the Dutch smoke less marijuana than other European countries. Figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show that about 5.4% of the Dutch adult population smoke cannabis compared to 14.6% in Italy. Spain, the Czech Republic and France also have higher cannabis amongst the adult population. Nol van Shaik stresses that Holland’s cannabis coffee shop experiment has been a positive model for other countries in Europe and the Americas.

According to van Shaik’s website 750 cannabis coffee shops have closed since 1996, due to increasing pressure due to a conservative government. But things could also change in favour of the legal cannabis industry. Job Cohen who was the former mayor of Amsterdam, has been named as the new candidate for the Dutch Labour Party (PvDA) after the leader Wouter Bos resigned last month. Mr Cohen has long been a supporter of relaxed laws on soft drugs and as pioneered other policies aimed at cleaning up the prostitution industry. Cohen has spoken in favour of cannabis café’s stating that 25% of tourists who visit Amsterdam do so to visit the cafes, but they cause much less problems than those tourists who consume alcohol. He is also in favour of the legalisation of cannabis production as a measure to reduce the involvement of organised crime.

Both the coffee shop owners and the coffee shop critics agree that the existence of organised crime within the industry is a real negative side. However the coffee shop owners propose better legislation on all aspects of the cannabis industry instead of outright prohibition. At the moment the laws surrounding the cannabis coffee shop industry are very ambiguous. Under the gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy) the possession of more than five cannabis plants is illegal as well as the possession of more than five grams.

Nol van Shaik's website