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Kooiman: ‘Leave coffeeshop policy to local authorities to determine’

November 1st, 2012 • SP Member of Parliament Nine Kooiman describes herself as ‘pleasantly surprised’ by remarks made by Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, of the centre-left Labour Party, who has stated that tourists will not be banned from using the Netherlands’ ‘coffeeshops’, where sale of limited quantities of cannabis is tolerated. He says also that he has discussed the matter with the minister responsible, Ivo Opstelten of the centre-right VVD. ‘That’s good news for all local authorities,’ says Kooiman. ‘Because what Amsterdam can do, so can the rest of the Netherlands. We have nothing to gain by excluding tourists from coffeeshops throughout the country, which would simply boost the illegal street trade, benefiting no-one.’

Nine KooimanAlthough the coalition agreement between the VVD and Labour appeared to include a clear commitment to excluding foreigners from coffeeshops, the Mayor of Amsterdam says that he will be following a policy which differs from that laid down in the governmental accord. His criticisms are shared by Nijmegen’s Mayor, moreover. ‘The ink isn’t yet dry on the agreement yet already people are distancing themselves from it,’ says Kooiman. ‘That’s good, because allowing a sort of “weed pass” to survive was a really stupid proposal which immediately provoked resistance from local authorities. I would much rather see local councils being given the freedom to tackle the soft drug issue themselves in an effective manner than have mandatory provisions laid down from The Hague.’

This is precisely what Kooiman proposed two years ago, a proposal which at the time won the backing of the Labour Party in Parliament. Both the SP and Labour have also for many years argued in favour of the regulation of cannabis cultivation and of supply to the coffeeshops. This is the only way to ascertain the composition of the cannabis, give information on risks to health and the possibility of developing dependence. ‘Unfortunately none of this is in the governmental accord,’ says Kooiman, ‘so it’s down to the SP to remind the Labour Party about it. Because I’m in favour of a safe society and an intelligent drug policy, in the interest of public health.’

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