Source: NRC Handelsblad
25 March 2010
The owner of the Netherlands’ largest cannabis-selling coffee shop was convicted for running a criminal organisation that purchased large quantities of drugs and processed and stored them. On Thursday, Meddy Willemsen, of the Checkpoint coffee shop in the southern border town Terneuzen, was given a 10 milion euro fine.
The Middelburg district court ruled the cafe regularly had more than the legal limit of 500 grammes of cannabis on its premises. It also found it had been proven employees knew their customers took the wares across the border to countries were possession of the drugs is illegal. The coffee shop consistently broke the rules of the so-called Dutch ‘tolerance policy’, which regulates the sale and use of cannabis. This made the judge decide Checkpoint couldn’t call on that policy to defend its practices.
Meanwhile, the court also established that the municipality, police and public prosecutors facilitated its operations. While coffee shops are forbidden from advertising in any way, the municipality placed signs directing customers to Checkpoint. Tax authorities were aware that large quantities of drugs were stored there and job centres referred unemployed people to the coffee shop to apply for jobs.
Therefore, managers and employees of the now closed cafe received mild sentences of a few weeks at most. Because several had already spent time in pre-trial detention, no one will have to go to prison.
Willemse’s fine was determined based on the estimated profits he made: 28 million euros. He paid taxes over only half of that. In establishing the amount to be paid, the court also took into account the facilitating role of the local authorities. “Without it,” a court statement read. “Willemsen would not have been able to make these profits.”
The use, possession or sale of cannabis have never been legalised in the Netherlands.
# Possession and production for personal use are considered misdemeanours. However, possession of cannabis for personal use is not prosecuted up to five grammes or five cannabis plants.
# Coffee shops are allowed to stock a maximum of 500 grammes of cannabis.
# Large-scale production, export or import of cannabis are illegal, and should always be prosecuted.
# In other words: coffee shop owners can legally sell cannabis but they cannot legally buy it..Republish