In the beginning coffee-shops were dark, smoky halls where hippies with rasta hair and torn jeans smoked joints one after the other. Hashish was sold that was purchased through small traders around the Mediterranean Sea and Central-Asia and world-travelers. 30 years later, we’re confronted with a situation that was never foreseen. Coffee-shops are modern establishments, like a trendy pub. A lot of them have an almost sterile look where you can buy your dose at the counter.

Coffee-shops meet the needs of cannabis users. Mayor Opstelten (Rotterdam) thinks things have gone too far. He decided half of the Coffee-shops should close. His main reason is problematic use of underaged youth. “To blow is not normal. It affects your brains”. He hopes to lower consumption in his city this way. Experts say illegal trade will fill the gap within days. Mayor Leers (Maastricht, very close to both the German and the Belgium border) says the fact is there is a market for cannabis. “By regulating the shops, user do not have to fall back to the illegal trade and thus probable exposure to other, substances like hard drugs. He sees the nuisance it creates though. The system attracts illegal traders who try to trap the influx of foreigners and selling them more than the 5 grams or tougher stuff. Leers is pragmatic. He proposes “coffee-corners”, shop clusters at the edge of the city. Two mayors, two very different opinions.

It’s not clear if tolerance policy is coming to an end. The opinions of politicians are very diverse. One thing is certain, cannabis usage is here to stay, as it is in the rest of the world, with or without coffee-shops. The question is not if, but where the Dutch user willbuy it in 10 years from now. – end of series -

ps: Now interestingly, by July 2008 all public areas, so that includes all restaurants, bars and hotels need to be smoke free. A smoking room or cell is allowed, but one cannot be served there. The new law treats coffee-shops like any other establishment. So erm….. smoke the joint outside?

disclaimer: as a mild asthma patient, I do support the new law.

pps: Well I’ll be d*****. I open up Boing Boing this morning to find this. How to stay out of trouble.

“The war on drugs is an utterly losing proposition,” he tells Radar. “We caused more harm breaking up families to put non-violent drug offenders in jail than the drugs ever did. And for what? To eradicate 1/10th of a percent of drugs on the street.”