Go to Holland Before It's Too Late
In earlier articles published in the last few weeks, I advised friends to visit Holland this summer to enjoy its cannabis shops, culture, ganja tourism cruises, beaches and European charm.
Now, my travel encouragements have taken on an urgency that I would never have anticipated. If you want to enjoy the famous Dutch policy that allows marijuana coffee shops, you better go to Holland soon, because Dutch voters just elected a right-wing government that has vowed to shut down all marijuana coffee shops as quickly as possible.
I first heard the bad news from legendary cannabis campaigner Nol Van Schaik. Nol has had a very exciting year, openly defying the British government by opening a pot shop in England, making savyy pro-pot appearances on international television, and staving off the wiles of a greedy developer to open his esteemed "Willie Wortels" coffee shop in a new location in the town of Haarlem, Holland just outside Amsterdam where Van Schaik also owns two other coffee shops and the "Global Hemp Museum."
Van Schaik today predicted that he might have to "go to the barricades" to defend the Dutch marijuana industry from 46-year-old Jan Peter Balkenende, the leader of the Christian Democrats party that will hold the most power in a new coalition government to be formed based on the results of voter choices. Balkenende is almost certain to become the Netherlands' new prime minister.
Balkenende is a geeky-looking guy whose policies include homophobia, anti-environmentalism, interfering in medical choices made by patients and doctors, and ending the long-standing Dutch policy that "tolerates" the sale of marijuana and hashish in licensed pot coffee shops.
The likely prime minister will gain power by building a coalition with an ultra-right political party, LIST, that received the second highest number of votes in recent elections.
LIST was led by Pim Fortuyn, a demagogue whose hardline stance against immigrants resembled the stance of Belgium fascist party Vlaams Blok.
Last year, Van Schaik and hundreds of his suppporters stood down Vlaams Blok when its members tried to intimidate pro-marijuana efforts that Van Schaik was carrying out in Belgium.
Pim Fortuyn did not live to see the election -- he was recently assassinated. His assassination, and the terrorist bombings that took place in the US on September 11, apparently made some Dutch voters cast their vote for LIST, out of sympathy for Fortuyn, and because of rising Dutch hatred and fear of Holland's Muslim immigrant population.
Van Schaik hopes that the fact that Haarlem's mayor is an advocate of coffee shops, and that Haarlem's system of coffee shop regulation is a model for the rest of Holland, will protect his businesses and customers from persecution, at least for a while.
But a coffee shop owner in Amsterdam, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that Amsterdam's 400 coffee shops, as well as coffee shops in other locales, might be closed within a year.
"This is totally fucked situation," the owner said. "The mayor here is against us, and the police don't help us either. Like, they come in our shops too often to make sure we are following their rules, and they won't let us advertise on the internet, but when we get robbed or need some other kind of help, they ignore us. Now, with this new dictator type person who is likely to run the government, with him already stating that he wants to end the soft drugs experiment, it is a lot of people that I know shaking their heads and saying, 'Is this the end of the dream?'"
The coffee shop owner said that many marijuana industry leaders and others believe that the election outcome was engineered by the media and by the US.
"Over in America, they are just now having the courage in their journalism to say what we in Europe have already been saying, that Bush and the CIA employees bin Laden and their Taliban and the others knew and planned together on what was going to happen on 9-11, and that the Americans and their CIA helped it happen because it was the way for the Bush types and their bedmates to scare everybody into disliking Muslims and to be accepting all these new police powers into everybody's lives, and to elect right wing people," he said. "In this election season we saw the media do everything possible to assist the right wing, and this assasination of Fortuyn is very suspicious. It was probably CIA. It only helped his party. This is, how do you say it in English, a 'set-up.'"
A jubilant Balkenende bragged to journalists that one of his goals was to shut down the coffee shops, but he admitted that it might not happen overnight. Observers say that tne putative prime minister might not have it so easy- LIST reportedly supports a legalization-taxation scheme for marijuana, and other members of a likely right wing coalition also appear to be reluctant to kill the multi-billion dollar cash cow that is the Dutch marijuana industry. Even Balkenende agreed that it could take a few years before his goal of eliminating coffee shops is realized.
None of this is of any comfort to the Amsterdam coffee shop owner, who said, "It will be interesting to see if the Dutch cannabists and the marijuana tourists will rise up to stop these fascists."
"All the studies show that the Dutch drugs policy is the best in the world," he said. "We let people use the drugs, they find out if they like them, they handle it. It's the same with prostitution. These people who say they are Christians are no more than little Hitlers, they would crucify Christ as a Middle-Eastern foreigner if he was to come here today. They want to ruin what is best about Holland. The people who voted for them are stupid, scared or dangerous, but it's also the fault of the marijuana people in my country who have not worked together, who have not voted, who have not built coalitions with Greens, gays and lesbians, and others who want to move ahead. We have been lazy and passive. Now we will see what we are made of. Tell your readers to make it over here now, because our coffee shops may soon become as extinct as icebergs and everything else we are losing."