Dutch law bans tobacco, purifies pot
A new law passed today by the Netherlands is threatening coffee shop owners, devestating cigarette smokers, and increasing the potency of marijuana joints, all in one fell legislative swoop.
Dutch coffee shops, long considered as synonymous with the Netherlands as tulips or attacking football, face a new challenge from today when a ban on smoking tobacco in restaurants and cafes comes into effect.
The owners claim the law, which will allow customers to light up potent tobacco-free pure cannabis joints but ban milder spliffs in which tobacco is mixed with cannabis, threatens to put hundreds of them out of business.
Wilhelm, who has run his cafe since 1985, said the law was in danger of "tearing the heart out" of Amsterdam's social life. "The focus of the De Tweede Kamer has always been social contact," he added. "They'll destroy that with what I see as a ridiculous law."
“It’s a bit like saying to someone you can go into a cafe and you can buy a beer, but you can’t drink it there - you’ll have to stick to whisky, rum and vodka,” said Paul Wilhelm, owner of De Tweede Kamer, a popular Amsterdam coffee shop.
As most patrons prefer milder joints in which cannabis is mixed with tobacco, and only 18% favour much stronger, pure cannabis spliffs, the fear is that the days of the coffee shops could be numbered. The catering industry said 1,600 coffee shops across the country were up for sale because their owners were convinced their businesses were doomed.
Mark Jacobsen, chairman of the BCD, a nationwide association of coffee shop owners, said proper implementation of the law would require inspectors to check each cannabis joint for tobacco content.
"It's absurd. In other countries they look to see whether you have marijuana in your cigarette, here they'll look to see if you've got cigarette in your marijuana."
The Dutch health minister, Ab Klink, said he hoped the law would help to rid the country of cannabis-induced idleness.
"Consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will have to find other things to do," he said.