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Monday, December 5, 2016

Free the Weed 69 - by John Sinclair


      Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where it’s still sort of shocking to realize that there will again be no Cannabis Cup since High Times moved its international event to Jamaica last year instead of celebrating Thanksgiving week in Amsterdam as they’d done for more than 30 years previously.

     The problem with the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam is that the city government had decided the Cup was a big pain in the ass for the local tourism industry and in terms of coloring the world’s perception of the capital city of the Netherlands as a haven for dope-heads and what they call “drug tourists”—you know, people like ourselves.

     The American drug tourists aren’t really the problem—thousands upon thousands of people from England, all over Europe and everywhere in the world come to Amsterdam all year long to get high and buy some weed over the counter at will—but the Cannabis Cup highlighted this phenomenon like nothing else.

     Worse than that. the High Times Cannabis Cup threw it right up in their face and heralded Amsterdam as the world capital of cannabis enjoyment, starting way back in the 1980s when this was by no means a popular stance anywhere in the world. 

     Year after year, every Thanksgiving week the High Times Cannabis Cup put the international spotlight on the recreational smoking of marijuana in an environment where getting high was quietly allowed by the government in virtual defiance of the universally-accepted draconian standards of the War On Drugs.

     After taking it for 30 years or so, the City of Amsterdam finally fell in behind the federal government and joined the rollback movement that’s raged for the past several years. The highlight of this demonic development was the government’s effort to ban non-citizens of the Netherlands from the coffeeshops and, concurrently, to transform the coffeeshops—open to the public for more than 40 years now—into private smoking clubs where each Dutch smoker would be forced to register with the authorities as a member of one particular club.

     While this solution was adapted by a series of small towns and cities on the eastern border of the country and in some other distant areas, the major cities, led by Amsterdam, rejected the federal government’s attempt to strangle their cash cow and compromised by agreeing to enforce all marijuana regulations presently on the books, like the restriction against the operation of coffeeshops within 250 meters of a school building.

     The school building clause has led to the closing of dozens of coffeeshops in the city center. Other city government plans involving the social restructuring of the Red Light District have led to the shuttering of dozens more, including every weed outlet on the popular Warmoestraat corridor.

     The number of coffeeshops in Amsterdam itself has shrunk from about 750 some 20 years ago to something like 200 now. The shops closed by government edict are simply shut down without recompense or granting of  a license to operate somewhere else—they’re simply out of business. When their current license comes up for renewal, it is not renewed.

     The good part is that the coffeeshops that continue to exist are entirely unchanged—except for the additional crowds of people denied access to their former haunts and the waves of tourists who find less and less choices of places to smoke and cop in the Centrum. Ironically, the shutting of so many outlets has turned the ones that remain into virtual goldmines of cannabis profits.

     I’ve reported on several of these issues in past columns, but it’s important to reiterate that in Holland—unlike, say, Colorado or Oregon today—marijuana has been accepted only at the end-retail level, that is, it’s okay to sell five grams of weed or hash over the counter to a consumer in a coffeeshop.

     But it has remained illegal to grow, cultivate, harvest, transport, wholesale or otherwise provide the marijuana to the coffeeshops. This quaint demonstration of official hypocrisy is what they call maintaining a “gray area” with regard to legalization reported recently that the Dutch police “dismantled 5,856 marijuana plantations last year, or nearly 16 a day {but] estimate this is only one fifth of the total.” Additionally, “the government is making a major effort to stamp out production and last year made it a criminal offence for companies to supply people with lamps, fertilizer and other equipment if they suspect it is being used to grow marijuana.” Sound familiar?

     Now comes the membership of the “ruling right-wing party,” VVD, which recently voted to end the “strange situation” where the sale of small quantities of marijuana in licensed coffee shops is accepted but production is not. The party is now committed to “clever regulation” of cultivation and sales and will add this call to the party’s manifesto for the 2017 general election, which concludes will “clear the way for a shift in the policy of the next government.” 

     Further, “Dozens of local councils in the Netherlands have endorsed a manifesto calling for the cultivation of cannabis to be legalized and regulated, and 25 [cities] have applied to the minister of justice for permission to experiment with legal growth and supply.”

     Okay. This is the first positive development in the Netherlands for quite some time, and while it may be too late for the Cannabis Cup as we knew it, these developments bode well for the future in this place that has been the future since the early 1970s. Maybe it’s taken the progress made by voters in half the states in the U.S. in terms of gradually removing marijuana from the wrong-headed and heavy-handed approach of the federal authorities, but it’s reassuring to see the Dutch people moving in an intelligent direction once again.

     I wish I could say the same for the American voting public as a whole, but their wholesale swallowing of the tissue of horseshit that was the Trump campaign is an extremely bitter pill to have to ingest. Not only is this billionaire reality television star and unscrupulous real estate developer and casino entrepreneur a major liar, blowhard, bigot and bully, but his campaign was built on a call for the imprisonment of his opponent—“Crooked Hillary”—that he has already admitted he has no intention of pursing as president. 

     Let’s hope that the rest of his bullshit platform will be equally ignored, but it’s hard to see the promise in that point of view when his appointments to administrative posts are so vicious and wrong. Get ready for an attorney general who has said that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was okay until he found out they were smoking marijuana.

     In more sad news closer to home, the City of Detroit has managed to close down 102 of the 273 medical dispensaries operating in the city as of last March. “Eighty-seven (of the 273) are out of business,” Detroit Corporate Counsel Melvin “Butch” Hollowell crowed. “Seven of those closed voluntarily, 80 we’ve closed,” and 14 more dispensaries in the city have received closure notices, with 64 additional dispensaries “in the pipeline.”

     Outside of the heavily-moneyed initiative to move a new generation of white people into the downtown area and the former Cass Corridor, the opening of 273 compassion centers within the city of Detroit has been the most positive sign of change in the entire ruins of Detroit, and one of the only signs of change and positive growth outside of Grand Boulevard on the north, the Lodge freeway on the west and I-75 on the east.

     What kind of morons are running the city of Detroit? Where do they get these people? If I may paraphrase the president-elect, Melvin “Butch” Hollowell should be in prison for conducting this idiotic campaign. Lock him up! 

Free The Weed! 

November 24, 2016

© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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