In a departure from introducing Dutch words with positive connotations, this post centers on one that means terrible, abysmal, horrible and even gruesome. In short, niet goed.
Pronounced with an emphasis on the second guttural syllable, vreselijk is a word I’d apply to Holland’s new weed laws. In effect since May 2012 in three southern provinces—Limburg, Brabant and Zeeland—the laws prohibit tourists from buying marijuana. They also require Dutchies and legal residents (including expats) to register at their favorite coffeeshop if they want to buy weed there.
For Amsterdam tourists, there’s no need to panic YET. September’s VVD victory means the right-wing party that conjured up the weed pass can lead negotiations to form a new government. But it’s anyone’s guess how the showdown will go down when enforcement of the new laws extends beyond Southern Holland on January 1, 1013. Until then, it’s business as usual at all A’dam coffeeshops.
There’s wide opposition in the Dutch capital, as well as cities like Haarlem and Rotterdam, to the weed pass, which could lead to closure of most coffeeshops in Amsterdam Centrum. “This will be disastrous for the Dutch capital’s tourism industry,” says Jan Goos of the Organization of Cannabis Sellers (BCD). Although drug tourism is a problem in South Holland, where cannabis customers regularly cross Belgium, Germany and France borders, coffeeshop sales in Amsterdam not only generate major tax geld for the city, but also counteract illegal activity by taking soft drugs off the streets.
While some tourists come for world-class museums, tulips and kaas (cheese), 35% of the Dutch capital’s seven million annual visitors enjoy a little 420 action during their stay according to a 2011 survey conducted by the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board. The BCD fears many will go elsewhere if they’re unable to buy a joint legally. Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool also found only 10% of Dutchies would be willing to register as members of an exclusive coffeeshop “weed club.”
Amsterdam’s City Council and Justice Minister are now talking about exempting the capital from new regulations, wisely surmising the weed pass will not only increase illegal cannabis street sales but also turn some residents into illicit drug dealers. Since it was introduced in Limburg, nearly 400 arrests have been made for street sales of cannabis. Other cities in South Holland also have seen an explosive rise in illegal drug trafficking and the problems that come with it since new laws went into effect last spring. Throughout Holland, mayors fear a loss of jobs and a decrease in income from cannabis tourists. Who knows what they’ll do if/when 2013 ushers in the new weed pass.
While dealers at popular A’dam coffeeshop Grey Area have no crystal ball, they (and others) will tell you the chance Amsterdam will implement/enforce the Weed Pass is slim to none. The newly proposed 15% THC law is still just a concept law that awaits endless discussion and approval by the Dutch Parliament.
The good news? Despite the uproar about new laws, A’dam was named second hottest city to visit in 2013 by Lonely Planet, beat out only by San Francisco. So there’s no reason to cancel any vacations just yet. Through the holiday season and possibly beyond, tourists and locals alike will be puffing away, getting lost in Amsterdam coffeeshops. For more info and updates, visit Coffeeshop News.