The Last Gasp for Dutch Marijuana Tolerance
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The political tide has turned against tolerance for marijuana use in the Netherlands—for so long the standard-bearer for the cause—with stronger varieties of cannabis and drug tourism both under attack. While technically illegal, "soft" drugs have traditionally been tolerated, with the famous "coffee" shops acting as tourist magnets in Amsterdam and many other cities. But the Dutch coalition government announced on Friday its plans to reclassify the most potent forms of marijuana—known generally as "skunk," and sold under names such as "White Widow" and "Tropicanna"—as "hard" drugs, which are strictly prohibited. Any cannabis strain with a concentration of more than 15% of THC—marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient—will be banned. The average THC concentration of cannabis currently sold in Dutch coffee shops is 16-18%. Critics blame the increasing influence of the far-right in Dutch politics for the shift. Marc Josemans, who runs a coffee shop in Maastricht, told the BBC, "they want to ban all 'left hobbies,' like using cannabis." He added, "All this will do is lead to people smoking more joints [of weaker versions of the drug] and me selling more grams. But as it's used with tobacco it will damage their health more." The government counters that THC levels are far higher now than they used to be, making marijuana more harmful to mental health. Under the plans, cops will start making random checks on the country's 200-plus coffee shops next year—which is also when the government plans to ban tourists from the cafes nationwide. Earlier this month, coffee shops in Maastricht, in the far south-east of the country, barred all foreign tourists—except those from neighboring countries Belgium and Germany—in a council-driven bid to reduce traffic and "nuisance" in the city.