As soon as someone in the UK says they’re off for a weekend to Amsterdam, eyebrows go up because we all know what they’re up to – no, not necessarily to see the Ladies of the Night but off to get stoned in a coffee shop (let’s face it, they don’t usually move from the first one they go into). It’s a popular destination for stag weekends and any other poor excuse for visiting Europe and “seeing the sights”.
However, it seems the Dutch authorities have had enough of “drug tourists” flooding the country and causing untold problems. After originally decriminalising consumption and possession of less than 5 grams of cannabis in 1976, the Dutch government now plans to limit drug tourism by reserving for the use of locals only dozens and dozens of the 700 licensed coffee shops (cultivation of cannabis is still illegal). Some coffee shops are going to become Members Only clubs, restricting sales to those with a Dutch debit card (basically removing foreigners from the purchasing pool).
To give you an idea of how many people we’re talking about here, two Councils in Holland that have eight coffee shops have announced they will stop the sale of cannabis in those shops in an attempt to stem the flow of the 25,000 customers they have PER WEEK! That’s 25,000 drug tourists PER WEEK in just those two areas!!!! It shows how much of a problem it must be for The Netherlands because that kind of restriction on sale is surely going to have a marked impact on the economy.
Presumably the change in the Dutch government’s stance is due in part to the increased strength of cannabis. This has come about as the result of cross-breeding variants of cannabis plants to increase the THC content (THC – (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – is the active ingredient of cannabis that causes the ‘high’). Analysis of cannabis samples over time have shown that Dutch cannabis contained an average of 8.6% THC in 2000 compared with 15.2 % in 2002. In my experience, this is not dissimilar to the story in England and Wales and to my knowledge, it’s a similar story here in New Zealand.
Cannabis used to be grown in large quantities in NZ because, basically, the cannabis plant is a weed and likes the climate here. Perhaps at one stage the decriminalisation of cannabis could have been a big political issue here but a lot of the cannabis cultivation has largely been replaced with methamphetamine production. The number of cannabis cultivation cases here have dropped significantly over the past few years as gangs move to manufacture of P (pure methamphetamine), which takes up less space and is therefore easier to hide. It is also worth more financially for a lot less effort and with a quicker production time.
NZ’s P problem is a localised phenomenon – it”s not a drug commonly encountered in any European country although there are clandestine P laboratories in the US. New Zealand has world class expertise in identification of P labs, clan lab clean up, yield calculations and property remediation/air quality testing. It’s a sad thing in which to be a world leader.