On June 1st, Dutch police acted against coffeeshop Checkpoint in Terneuzen, close to the border with Belgium. In the shop itself and in a private house related to the shop, an amount of almost 100 kilos of cannabis was found that was meant to be sold through the coffeeshop.
Checkpoint, an ENCOD member, is one of the largest coffeeshops in the Netherlands with an average of 2.500 visitors, most of them from Belgium and France. Checkpoint has always co-operated constructively with local authorities to find practical solutions to public order problems in the city related to the coffeeshop tourism, making Terneuzen one of the places where a tolerant approach to cannabis is proving a success. Therefore this police action may fit in a strategy of police and justice to block this process.
COPING WITH A HYPOCRIT POLICY: NETHERLANDS
Source: DE STEM, BREDA
By Raymond de Frel
Wednesday 6 june 2007 – Checkpoint and Terneuzen cope with hypocrisy. The coffeeshop is considering its future. How to continue? And most of all: how not?
Lord Mayor Jan Lonink of Terneuzen is dealing with the same questions after the recent action of legal authorities, precisely in a month in which the city council has to decide on the future of the shops in or outside the city.
As a matter of fact, Checkpoint and the municipality of Terneuzen do exactly the same thing: find a way in which the word “hypocrisy” does not form an obstacle. That is a difficult task within the current policy on soft drugs in the Netherlands, perhaps it is even impossible. The word ‘hypocrisy’ closes every path. Everyone who thinks logically knew that it would be impossible for a shop like Checkpoint to limit the amount of cannabis stored inside the building to 500 grammes, the amount that is officially tolerated by Dutch authorities.
With an average of 2000 to 2500 clients a day (who buy max. 5 grammes per person) this would mean that almost every hour, a new stock would need to be delivered at the backdoor of the shop. In a shop where an continuous flow of Dutch, French and Belgian visitors has to be dealt with through a system of numbered tickets, this would be absolutely crazy.
So Lonink was not surprised when he was informed that the police had found 5,1 kilo cannabis in the shop and 92,2 kilo in a storehouse close by. He called for a serious reflection on Dutch policy on soft drugs. And he used the word ‘hypocrit’. Just like mayor Co van Schaik had done earlier that day. As well as spokesman Frank Deij of Checkpoint, right after the police action.
What is the problem here? To deal with the public nuisance created by drug dealers, operating from drug houses, the city of Terneuzen decided in the start of the 1990s to tolerate the existence of two coffeeshops, Checkpoint and Miami. At the same time, the delivery of drugs remains illegal according to the Dutch laws. The front door (the licence to the coffeeshop) is a matter of the local public administration, the back door (the maintenance of the stock) is a matter for justice authorities.
The Lord Mayor commented this week from Bologna, where he is attending a congress on drug policy, that the police operation against Checkpoint has made life even more difficult for Terneuzen. Lonink denies that the action has been orchestrated in co-operation with the local authorities. On the contrary, the city government had decided exactly this month, following the recommendations of an independent research report, to solve the traffic problems caused by the visitors of the coffeeshop by relocating the two shops to a place outside the city. The city council will decide in the end of this month if it supports this proposal. In the mean time, Checkpoint has received a warning. If it is caught again, it will be closed for the time being. If that happens, it is clear that the remaining shop, Miami, is unable to deal with the daily flow of visitors from Belgium and France alone.
At the same time, it seems rather sure that the police will not leave it with this action.