Before the city of Maastricht chose to pursue marijuana prohibition policies they first asked a team of researchers to examine what impact it would have. The researchers found that the proposed “membership” system for coffeeshops, which included banning all non-residents from going into establishments, would have disastrous effects on the cities public safety, health, and economic situation. In response, the government demanded new research with results that would support their new mission to shut down marijuana cafe’s that have existed since the 1990’s. Today there are a several municipalities that have adopted this prohibition policy that is scheduled to go national by January 2013, and the results are already being felt. Nicole Maalsté is a researcher from Tilburg University who has been examining the issue of drug policy and coffeeshops in the Netherlands over the course of several decades. She joins me on today’s podcast to explain what her work has revealed and just how the relationship between politics and research has led to a startling reality on the street level.
When it comes to drug policy and coffeeshops in the Netherlands, we rarely hear the voices of those who work behind the counter and see how things work (or don’t work). Nel has lived and worked in the coffeeshop world for over 5 years and in that time he has seen the daily routine of the cannabis industry and the politics that revolve around it. What he knows is not the political theater that so often gets reported on in the media, his story is the reality that somehow does not always trump the growing list of myths that surround cannabis in the Netherlands.
Over the past years alot of half-assed information has been spread by a combination of poor journalism and rumors via social media, which states that foreigners can no longer buy cannabis in coffeeshops in Amsterdam. Though this is untrue, word about an experimental policy in the south of the Netherlands has travelled. Many, both outside and inside the country, believe its only a matter of time before prohibition becomes a national reality. But the truth is, that is still only one of many possible futures for the Netherlands. Beyond that, research and reality shows the experiment is a failure, yet politicians remain locked into their white-washing campaign to clean the image of the nation. My returning guest is Frederik Pollak, a researcher and policy expert who has been following the discussion for over a decade, and has alot to say about what is really going on in the Netherlands and around the world.
The EMCDDA is the agency that monitors drugs and drug treatment on the European scale which happens to be based right here in Lisbon, Portugal. Each year they gather information and statistics from all members states and advise the European Union about drug policy in…