Wietpas restrictions on cannabis cafes mean 'boom time' for street dealers
Monday, 02 July 2012
Written by Amsterdam Herald .
The new law excluding foreigners from coffeeshops appears to have led to a surge in street dealing in the southern provinces of the Netherlands.
Two months after the ‘wietpas’ rules, which turn the cannabis cafes into private clubs that only Dutch residents can join, were introduced in Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Zeeland, there is anecdotal evidence that street criminals are already exploiting the situation.
Supporters of the wietpas say it is already reducing the number of foreigners who travel to the Netherlands to buy and use soft drugs – one of the main aims of the policy.
But opponents say the rules, which will come into force in the rest of the country from January 1, has made the streets less safe and damaged local economies because tourists are choosing to stay away.
In Maastricht, the Association of Official Coffeeshops (VOCM) has commissioned research which estimates that the loss of trade from foreign visitors will cost the city’s economy €30 million.
City councillor John Aarts said snack bar owners had told him their takings are down by between 10 and 15 per cent. However, he insists that they support the reasons for introducing the wietpas.
In Eindhoven, coffeeshop owners have recorded a 60 per cent drop in takings since May 1. In Breda the fall is reckoned to be even steeper, between 80 and 90 per cent.
The question is where the customers are going instead. Coffeeshop owners say many former customers are reluctant to have their names and addresses on a list that is available for local authorities to view.
Dimitri Breeuwer, of the League of Cannabis Consumers (Cannabis Consumentenbond), told TV news show EenVandaag: “The wietpas is a kind of stamp that says, ‘you’re a smoker, you don’t lead the kind of lifestyle that we as a government want, so you need to be registered because we want to know what’s happening in the Netherlands.’
Local residents in Eindhoven, Venlo and Terneuzen, three towns where the wietpas is now in force, told the programme that street dealing and disorder had noticeably increased since May 1.
Reporters posing as tourists were taken to a house in the Terneuzen where they were able to buy weed. Community councillor Ronald Meijer said there were at least 20 such “drop-in” houses in the town centre alone and admitted this was a conservative estimate.
“I’ve been to the community council meetings [in Terneuzen] because I live in the town centre,” said Breeuwer. “People are asking why it’s not being dealt with.
“The police say they’re dealing with it or it’s not a problem, but the residents – the people who are confronted with it every day – tell a different story.”
Youth workers say they are already seeing young dealers pop up on streets to supply weed to former coffeeshop customers, boosting the criminal trade.
Marc Min, a youth worker in Limburg, told the Eindhovense Dagblad newspaper: “Footsoldiers are cashing in. They are talented, they have planty of skills, but we think they’re using them in the wrong way.
“In the past they would sign on with an employment agency to get work, but now they can make so much money from dealing in weed that it’s no longer attractive for them. Petty criminals are happy with the wietpas.”
“We don’t get the impression that many users have stopped. Certainly not on a large scale,” Leon de Leijer of Novadic Kentron, an organisation that works with drug users, told the newspaper.
Justice minister Ivo Opstelten, who has championed the new rules, has admitted that street dealing is on the increase, but insists that the police have the situation under control.
On June 1 he wrote in a letter to Parliament: “The introduction of the wietpas has already led to a sharp drop in the number of drugs tourists.” No figures were produced in support of this claim.
With a Parliamentary election now taking place on September 12, a campaign has now been launched aimed at putting pressure on the next government to repeal the law.
The Vote to Smoke campaign urges voters to choose a party that opposes the wietpas – among them the Socialists (SP), Labour Party (PvdA), the left-liberal D66 group and the Green-Left alliance.
Source: EenVandaag: De kwalijke gevolgen van de wietpas ED.nl: Straathandel in wiet floreert