Note: Many people arrive at this page looking for information about the Dutch government’s plans to deny tourists access to coffeeshops. On that subject, see this story:
June 20 (Bloomberg) — Starting July 1, marijuana will be the only leaf that can be smoked in public places in the Netherlands. Cannabis devotees aren’t celebrating.
Local pot smokers, who usually cut joints with tobacco, and owners of the “coffee shops” where they are allowed to light up will have to change their habits when the nation implements the indoor tobacco ban. Puffing a pure marijuana cigarette in public will still be permitted; smoking one with tobacco will merit coffee shop owners a 300-euro ($466) fine for the first offense and 2,400 euros for a fourth.
“Every customer will have to learn how to smoke pure,” said Robert Kempen, co-owner of The NooN and Mellow Yellow in Amsterdam, which sell marijuana and hashish. The rule makes him “sick to death,” he said, rolling himself a joint.
Coffee-shop proprietors say the ban will put some of them out of business as smokers stay away. The nation’s 720 outlets that serve marijuana smokers generate a large portion of their revenue from selling drinks, food and rolling papers to their patrons. Dutch sales of cannabis alone totaled 1.2 billion euros ($1.86 billion) in 2001, according to the most recent figures available from the nation’s statistics bureau.
To permit tobacco smoking, shops will have to build separate, unstaffed rooms, and many say they don’t have the space or money to do so. Others are investing in water pipes and $400 vaporizers, initially intended to aid people with lung problems inhale medicine, to help smokers light up without tobacco.
The Dutch ban, which prohibits tobacco smoking in all public places of employment to protect workers’ health, is only for tobacco and makes no change to marijuana policy, said Saskia Hommes, a spokeswoman for Dutch Health MinisterAb Klink. The government will have to see if the law is enforceable, she said.
To enforce the new policy, the government has more than doubled its number of food and consumer product inspectors to 200, said Bob Kiel, a spokesman for the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. The agents will make unannounced visits to bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as coffee shops. There are no guidelines to help inspectors distinguish between a mixed joint and a pure one, he said.
Coffee shops sell everything from pre-rolled joints for 3.50 euros each to hashish for as much as 18 euros a gram, said Mark Jacobsen, chairman of the Amsterdam Association of Cannabis Retailers. The ban will make it even harder for the shops to stay in business as visitors and revenue will drop, said Jacobsen, who is building a wall to divide The Rookies, a shop he co-owns.
- Source: Excerpted from a Bloomberg report by Martin van der Starre
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