The September 12th elections in the Netherlands are heating up, and the issue of the weed pass is taking a front seat. Leftist parties are calling on cannabis users to get out the vote and oppose the recently introduced pass, which could be overturned by the incoming government. While the law has already been implemented in the southern provinces of the country, if it is not opposed, it will be rolled-out throughout the country by the end of the year. The weed pass mandates that foreigners can no longer use the well-known coffee shops in the country, requires Dutch cannabis consumers to register with the government, and limits coffee shops to 2,000 customers. The pot-smoking constituency is estimated be around half a million people in a nation of 16 million.
The newly launched online campaign vote2smoke.nl provides advice and information to voters by showing which political parties support the weed pass and which are in favor of dumping it. Critics of the weed pass claim that it allows street dealing to flourish and forces users to go underground, increasing their vulnerability. A study commissioned by Epicurus, a private foundation, found that the southern provinces, where the weed pass has already been implemented, has resulted in illegal dealers selling more than marijuana, thus “raising the risk that young people buying cannabis will come into contact with hard drugs.” In addition, consumers argue that there is no need to provide their personal details in a coffee shop if they don’t have to do so in a bar.
Coffee shops serve as a tourist magnet in Amsterdam, however critics claim they increase crime, traffic and parking problems—particularly in Dutch cities that border Germany and Belgium. The coffee shop system was originally put into place to keep consumers away from street dealers who might have access to more dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. To learn more about the current system, check out this recent blog post.
The Socialist Party leader, Emile Roemer has been speaking out publicly on the issue, denouncing the weed pass and appealing to cannabis consumers in the country to get to the voting booths. (Sound familiar, anyone?) Unfortunately, the conservative VVD party (which introduced the weed pass) continues to lead in polls. There is hope that a more moderate coalition government will be formed, however it is likely that all parties (including those on the left) will be willing to drop their position on the weed pass to support other policy goals.
The question that will soon be answered is, will the pot-smokers get out the vote and at the end of the day, will it make a difference? Stay tuned to find out!