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Monday, September 8, 2014

Free The Weed 42 - by John Sinclair


   
          Highest greetings from Amsterdam for the last time this summer. I’ll be spending a month in London to serve as a judge for the Dopefiend Cup at an undisclosed location at the end of August and play a concert in the Speigeltent at Canary Wharf in mid-September with a great British jazz ensemble called The Founder Effect.


     Then I’ll head back to Detroit to begin an action-packed fall schedule, and if you’re at all interested in following my progress around the United States from the Hempstock Festival in Portland, Oregon to the Maine Harvest Festival near Portland, Maine to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in Massachusetts to New York City and back to Detroit for the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Artists Workshop—which we founded on November 1, 1964—and then to New Orleans to perform the wedding of Frenchy & Tina before heading back to Amsterdam for the Cannabis Cup, you can check my Facebook page or my website at www.johnsinclair.us.

     The Hempstock Festival in Portland will be held just before the citizens of Oregon cast their votes for legalized marijuana in the November election. I’m sure intelligent Oregonians will be inspired by the statistics just posted for their neighboring state of Washington, where NORML has reported that retail marijuana sales totaled nearly $4 million in the state’s first month of legalized sales, generating about $1 million in state tax revenue.

     But Washington is just getting underway, with only 16 licensed locations reporting first-month sales. Under state regulations, NORML reports, a total of 334 licenses statewide have been authorized by the new law for retail facilities that will eventually open for business.

     Colorado did even better in its first month, producing $3 million in tax revenues for the state. Now, six months later, Colorado retailers sold a record $24.7 million worth of cannabis goods in the month of June. In a social order where money seems to be the ultimate good, perhaps these numbers will begin to have an impact on the idiots who shape our social policy.

     As I wrote last month, while things in the United States are starting to look up at last, here in Amsterdam the arrow is pointing in the other direction: Down. What’s inflaming the current state of confusion and reduction in the efficacy of the marijuana culture is the determination of the country’s Justice Minister to disrupt and roll back the gains of 40 years of the Dutch cannabis industry.

     Using the usual blend of inaccurate and deceptive reasoning and religious fervor, the Dutch government has for several years been feverishly engaged in a campaign to reduce the number of cannabis outlets (called coffee shops), determine the identities of marijuana smokers, and bar non-Dutch visitors from the coffee shops altogether.

     This campaign originated in several small towns on the Dutch border with Germany and Belgium where the traffic had grown so large from smokers crossing the border to cop that the towns felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of cars whose drivers were seeking marijuana in their little communities. They thought the invaders should be barred and completely discouraged from trying to fulfill their needs in the Netherlands in order to eliminate their traffic snarls.

     The mayors of these burgs convinced the Justice Minister to mandate that Dutch coffee shops would no longer be allowed to serve non-Netherlands residents, with the awful B-side that all Dutch smokers would hereafter have to identify themselves and register with one particular coffee shop in order to be granted identity cards by the federal government that would qualify them to purchase weed at their designated outlet.
I think it was this proposed measure that ultimately killed the government’s plan, because the Dutch smokers were not eager to be pinpointed by the forces of law and order who have so far been kept completely out of the smokers’ little universe since around 1972.

     The potentially massive blow to the economies of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities that credit about 25% of their tourist income solely to the marijuana trade was another factor in the failure of the national plan. Thus the mayor of Amsterdam and his counterparts in other large Dutch cities managed to persuade the Justice Minister that their communities must not be forced to enact the anti-drug tourist law—or, as we used to say in Detroit, “Negro, is you crazy?”

     The upshot was that the government agreed to permit the border towns and other little cities so inclined to ban non-Dutch smokers from their coffee shops, and to allow Amsterdam and other centers to continue to serve the tourist weed trade so long as they would unflinchingly enforce anti-weed laws already on the books which had been long overlooked, like the ban on locating coffee shops anywhere within 250 meters of school buildings.

     There have been coffee shops within 250 meters of schools probably for as long as they’ve had coffee shops, with no marked effect on the schoolchildren nor on society as a whole. In fact, there’s nothing less likely than a school kid gaining entrance into a coffee shop, since no security measure is more widely nor carefully enforced than the proscription against people under 18 entering a place where marijuana is dispensed. 

     But the Justice Minister was determined to enforce the agreement with the city of Amsterdam and make things as miserable as possible for the city’s smoking population and their guests, so the city moved swiftly to revoke the licenses and order the closing of the large number of long-established coffee shops existing in illegal proximity to a schoolhouse.

     A private school located on the Nieuwezijds Kolk in the very center of downtown Amsterdam was used as the excuse to order the closing on July 1 of venerable coffee shops like Homegrown Fantaseeds (25 years in business), Betty Boop, Ben, the Greenhouse, the coffee shop in the Hotel Utopia and other nearby outlets, including some  as far west as the Spuistraat.
Other outlets, like my home base, the 420 Café, are fighting back against the decree but have been forced to remain closed until 6:00 pm on schooldays while the school is in session. The local government’s intention seems to be to allow a certain grace period of this nature and then to shut them down as well in another year or two, eliminating the entire coffee shop culture from the center of town.

     Such may be their desire, but I can’t see it happening in this particular social construct where the right of the weed smoker to smoke weed is so deeply rooted in everyday life. One problem I’ve seen is that the coffee shops make so much money for their proprietors—owning a coffee shop permit is like having a license to print money—that they have acquiesced over and over again as the national and local governments gradually stripped them of so many of their prerogatives.

     Now the government is setting up to close in for the kill, and they’ve got the coffee shop brigade backed against the wall and forced to fight for their commercial lives. Who knows the outcome, but it should be an incredible battle.

     For us, of course, there’s only one acceptable outcome: Get the government and the police out of our heads! FREE THE WEED!

—Amsterdam
August 17-18, 2014


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