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Netherlands - International Narcotics Control Board praises Dutch marijuana crackdown


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The International Narcotics Control Board yesterday praised efforts by the Dutch government to harden its famously relaxed marijuana policy, and urged it to go farther.

The number of coffee shops where marijuana is openly sold in the Netherlands has fallen by around five per cent in the past two years since the conservative government made it more difficult to obtain business licences and threatened to increase sentences for marijuana growers.

The policy change brings the Dutch "closer toward full compliance with the international drug-control treaties with regard to cannabis", the Vienna-based board said in a statement.

"The fact that the Dutch government has recognised the health and social problems associated with cannabis abuse and its cultivation and trafficking will have a far-reaching impact on the whole region and beyond," it said.

The board, which promotes United Nations drug policy, "urges the Dutch government to take further action to reduce the number of coffee shops, which are contrary to the provisions of the international drug-control treaties".

Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police don't bother people for possession of less than several grams (a quarter of an ounce). Some coffee shops have sold it since the 1970s, and the easygoing atmosphere is a major draw for tourism, especially in cities near the Belgian and German borders and in the capital, Amsterdam.

The chairman of Legalize!, a Dutch-based organisation that promotes liberalising drugs policy, said the crackdown has been felt by coffee shops and users, resulting in more street dealing and underground sales.

"There's definitely been a turning point a few years ago," Has Cornelissen said. "Other countries are catching up to us in terms of policy."

Last year, Britain reclassified marijuana as an illegal drug not worthy of prosecution in low-level cases. Canada's Senate recommends legalisation.

Studies by the Netherlands' Trimbos Institute, which does not take sides in the legalisation dispute, says that usage rates in the Netherlands have risen slightly in recent years, but remained in the middle of international averages. Meanwhile the percentage of THC, the main active chemical in marijuana, has dramatically increased in Dutch weed.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in January said that marijuana use may increase the chance of mental illness.

Source: The Jamaica Observer
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