Dutch Fair Clears Air On Cannabis Industry


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The annual Amsterdam hemp fair opened on Friday with advice on the best fertiliser for cannabis, the best seeds and the best way to avoid arrest.

While growing cannabis remains illegal in most of Europe the Highlife fair - in a city well known for coffee shops where pot smoking is allowed - has become an international draw for many people who are prepared to take a risk.

Lorna Clay, a member of the so-called "Cannabis College" of Amsterdam, handed out leaflets in Dutch, English and Spanish on how to conceal cannabis growing at home.

"Grow your plants at the same time as tomato plants, or surround them with corn stalks so their height can hide them from being seen," she told people.

"Hemp can save our planet, you can do anything with it: make clothes, construction materials, paper," she added with the knowing smile that is common at Highlife.

Canna, a Dutch company which employs 60 people, has an enormous stand at the exhibition which runs through Sunday in the Netherlands capital. It sells specialised soil, fertiliser and products to strengthen roots of cannabis plants.

"Everything depends on how you want to grow: in the ground, in water, in a mix of bark or in rocky soil," the company's sales director said, requesting anonymity.

"We sell only in bulk to distributors or to merchants, and we export throughout Europe, from Germany to Britain and France, Spain and Italy."
The sale of hemp seeds is legal in the Netherlands, but not in neighbouring France and Germany.

Nicolas, a 34-year-old Frenchman, is a typical Canna customer. He said he runs a "grow shop" active in markets in the northern French cities of Arras and Lievin.

"Officially, I sell gardening products: lamps, fertiliser, pesticides - everything that's legal in France," he said. He also sells textiles, food and cosmetics targeted at those close to the drug culture.

With a wink and a smile, he added: "We would be outraged if people used our products to grow drugs!"

Jan Sennema, one of the Highlife organisers, acknowledged that hemp and its derivatives is a growth industry.

"Here, the image of old hippies or young idealists growing for their own consumption is largely outdated," said Sennema.

"I cannot deny that one can make a lot of money by growing 'grass' and that criminal elements are involved," he said.

"The coffee shops have to get their supplies somewhere. Here it is a professional business often with people who do not smoke themselves."

Source: Yahoo News
Author: Alix Rijckaert
Copyright: 2007 Agence France Presse
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