The Pot Issue
Published: November 3, 2010
An improvised "harm reduction" regime was soon established that allowed the cannabis outlets and public smoking spots to exist without punishment while continuing to forbid the cultivation and delivery of cannabis in the Netherlands. Recreational use of reasonable amounts of hitherto forbidden substances of whatever sort would be permitted without resort to either persecution or prosecution, and things bubbled along pretty much without incident for more than 20 years before the regulation era began in 1995.
At that point, the government decided it had to have some of the action from the ever-growing cannabis industry and insisted that all existing coffee shops and dispensaries of any sort must be registered and licensed by the city in which they existed. The proceeds from their product sales would be taxed and their activities regulated according to the whim of local government.
So the present system has been in effect now for 15 years, and while the local authorities continue to chip away at the coffee shop culture in petty little ways too trivial to enumerate here, Amsterdam and Holland still manage to maintain the most rational and least punitive environment for recreational marijuana use in the known world.
In this time of turmoil and massive change in America's approach to marijuana use and distribution, we have an awful lot to learn from the Dutch system and how it accommodates the vipers among its populace. For now, Amsterdam remains Viper Central, and long may its freak flag wave!
—Detroit, October 28-29, 2010
Now based in Amsterdam, longtime multi-cause activist and writer John Sinclair contributes to the bi-weekly Higher Ground column in Metro Times. His musings and musical selections can be heard at RadioFreeAmsterdam.com.
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