Marijuana use is gradually becoming decriminalized in the United States with Colorado and Washington having recently legalized marijuana for personal use. However, marijuana laws may soon reclassify it as a hard drug in the Netherlands, according to Newsweek. This move would devastate the Netherlands’ economy, especially in Amsterdam, and would be a poor choice by the government.
Instead of funneling extensive funding into jailing, fining and evicting those who break these proposed laws, the Netherlands should develop a policy where the country can benefit from taxes on marijuana sale and the inevitable drug tourism. In its current state, the Netherlands’ policy is quasi-legalization, according to Newsweek. This basically means the government is looking the other way while criminals illegally grow and distribute the drug, mainly via coffee shops. It’s a strange situation that leaves law enforcement in a lurch and residents unsure of how to avoid legal trouble. It’s a mess. Therefore, it’s admirable that the government wants to set clear boundaries, but they are taking the wrong approach by doing so.
The Netherlands is already losing out on significant marijuana income as a result of the proposed changes. In recent decades, people have flocked to the Netherlands to indulge in marijuana, but the proposed changes would practically eliminate this attraction. A system similar to the Netherlands’ current quasi-legal system has taken off in Barcelona, Spain where the government is more lax and many tourists seeking marijuana have gathered instead of Amsterdam, according to The Washington Post. This will likely prove disastrous for the Dutch since as much as $170 million annually would no longer enter the economies of cities such as Amsterdam and Maastricht, according to Newsweek. It’s absolutely ridiculous to throw away that much money as it would likely cripple the economy in the Netherlands.
Additionally, Netherlands lawmakers are not considering the many other negative effects this change will cause. U.S students all learn about the prohibition of alcohol and the illegal production industry that flourished because the demand still existed even when a law prevented its use. The Netherlands will experience something similar if it follows through on this excessively restrictive policy. By deeming marijuana a hard drug it will likely force surviving distributors to seek illegal suppliers to fill their coffee shops, ultimately enabling criminal activity. It probably would make the nation less safe and this is the exact opposite of what lawmakers are hoping to accomplish. The country would be better off by acknowledging the culturally embedded marijuana use and using this to ensure the drug’s safe use and simultaneously benefit the economy.
If this law passes in the Netherlands, drug tourists might still come, but they probably won’t stick around to stay in hotels or to spend money in shops if they could face serious charges if caught with marijuana. Instead of going in this direction with their laws, the Netherlands would benefit more by turning their quasi-legal system into a legal one. It makes more sense for the government to utilize taxation to profit from the industry rather than lose money by eliminating the semi-legal structure and losing the tourist base. The Netherlands can institute safe, restrictive laws on legal sale and distribution and this would ultimately benefit the country more than the current proposal that would deem marijuana a hard drug.
Rebecca Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org