Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dutch pot smokers hope elections bring reversal on marijuana restrictions

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 15:32 EDT
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Amsterdam's central station.
Amsterdam’s pot smokers cast a keen, if somewhat hazy eye on Wednesday’s election, hoping for a government that will reverse plans to register them in a database and ban sales to foreigners.
“You have to go out and vote, vote for any left-wing party, it doesn’t matter who, because they are against the weed-pass,” a weedtress who asked not to be named said as she measured out a bag of crumbly brown hash to a client at the “Tweede Kamer” coffee shop.
Situated in the heart of Amsterdam’s central business district, the Tweede Kamer ironically has the same name as the parliament’s lower house, for which more than 12 million voters are eligible to cast their votes on Wednesday.
Apart from its usual decor of heavy wooden panelling, dope paraphernalia, a biscuit tin with the faces of Dutch crown prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima, the shop has taken on a decidedly political tone for the day.
A large poster that says “I vote cannabis-friendly” with a list of the Dutch parties that oppose the weed-pass law shares the wall with an orange poster of an enlarged stamp showing the late Dutch queen Wilhelmina blowing smoke rings.
As mainstream politicians canvassed vigorously for votes in the tight vote, an equally intense alternative campaign has been waged the last few weeks to get Dutch smokers to go out and make their mark for pot-friendly parties.
Since mid-August, Dutch pro-pot supporters have been driving around the country in an old American school bus, calling for votes in an aptly-named “cannabus campaign.”
Leftist parties including the front-running Labour Party (PvdA) have said they would replace the current legislation with more marijuana-friendly policies should they be voted into power.
The so-called “cannabis card” law came into effect on May 1 which effectively transforms coffee shops in the country’s south into private clubs, requiring them to sell cannabis only to registered members who are Netherlands’ residents and to stop selling to foreigners.
The law’s coverage widens nationwide to include some 670 coffee shops across the Netherlands by January 2013.
The law is aimed at curbing drug-tourism related phenomena like late-night revelry, traffic jams and hard drug dealing, but detractors say it has simply pushed drug peddling onto the streets and led to a rise in criminality.

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