Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dutch Coffee Cannabis Shop Owner Goes on Trial for Drug Trafficking


Dutch cannabis shop owner to go on trial

The owner of the Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen will stand trial
with 16 others in what is widely seen as a test case.

Published: November 01, 2009 15:35h

The owner of the Netherlands' biggest cannabis-vending coffee shop goes
on trial for drug trafficking Tuesday as the country hardens its stance
on soft drug use.

The owner of the Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen near the border
with Belgium will stand trial in the district court in Middelburg with
16 others, including a manager and suppliers, in what is widely seen as
a test case.

The 58-year-old owner, whose name prosecutors refused to divulge, was
charged after being caught storing more than the allowed quantity of
cannabis on site.

Investigators said they found 120 kilogrammes (265 pounds) of marijuana
on the premises in 2007 and another 110 kilos (242 pounds) last year.

Before it was closed in May 2008, Checkpoint counted between 2,000 and
3,000 clients a day, mainly Belgian and French.

"This is the biggest-ever case of its sort," Middelburg prosecution
spokeswoman Elke Kool told AFP.

"We are dealing with a real criminal organisation here."

The Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under
five grammes of cannabis in 1976.

Cannabis cultivation and mass retail remains in the hands of criminal
organisations in a black-market business worth some two billion euros
(three billion dollars) per year.

The Netherlands has recently been taking an increasingly tough stance on
recreational drug use, citing what critics see as a nuisance created by
millions of drug tourists who cross the border every year.

"We have had a lot less trouble since the closure of Checkpoint, about
80 percent of whose clients were foreigners," Terneuzen city council
spokesman Daniel Rouw told AFP.

The Netherlands' 700-odd licensed coffee shops are allowed to keep no
more than 500 grammes (1.1 pounds) of cannabis on their premises, while
clients are limited to five grammes (.18 ounces) per purchase. The
limits are often flouted.

The town of 55,000 inhabitants now has only one coffee shop, which
attracts some 600 clients daily -- "a more reasonable number", he said.

The national Dutch government announced plans in September to limit drug
tourism by reserving hundreds of cannabis-vending coffee shops for

A cabinet statement at the time said, "the sale of hashish and cannabis
in coffee shops must be limited and aimed solely at the local user".

A draft new drugs policy is to be presented to parliament by year-end.

As it is being drafted, many cities and towns have started taking their
own curtailment measures.

Amsterdam has said it will halve its number of coffee shops, citing
criminality, while other cities are to close those within a certain
distance around schools.

In the southern Limburg province, 30 coffee shops announced recently
they would become private members' clubs from next year and reduce the
daily limit from five to three grammes per person.

Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, two other southern border councils, last
month withdrew the cannabis-selling licences of their eight coffee shops
in a bid to rid the cities of some 25,000 drug tourists per week.

http://www.javno. com/en-world/ dutch-cannabis- shop-owner- to-go-on- trial_2\

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