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 Cannabis cafe convicted of breaking Dutch drug law

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PostSubject: Cannabis cafe convicted of breaking Dutch drug law   Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:41 am

Cannabis cafe convicted of breaking Dutch drug law






By MIKE CORDER
(AP)

2 days ago
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Even in this freewheeling land of tolerated
soft drugs, the Checkpoint marijuana bar went too far. A Dutch judge
fined it euro10 million ($13.34 million) on Thursday for overstepping
the rarely enforced limit on how much weed can be held in stock, in what
as seen as a test case in a growing effort to rein in drug tourism.At
the height of its popularity, the euphemistically called "coffee shop"
in the southern town of Terneuzen close to the Belgian border sold drugs
to 3,000 people a day — many of them crossing specifically to buy
marijuana and hashish.In a sign of its acceptance by local
authorities, the town even put up road signs pointing the way to the
Checkpoint and built a parking lot nearby to reduce the traffic
congestion in town.The building on the banks of the Westerschelde
River also housed a regular cafe and restaurant.The Checkpoint,
which has now closed, became a symbol for how the long-standing Dutch
tolerance of small-scale sales of marijuana at neighborhood cafes
spawned a multimillion euro (dollar) industry.Dutch regulations
allow coffee shops to hold just 500 grams (18 ounces) of cannabis on the
premises. But when police raided the Checkpoint on two occasions they
found 200 kilograms (440 pounds).Those amounts of drugs turned
the coffee shop into a criminal organization, judges ruled.Soft
drugs are technically illegal but tolerated, in a long-standing policy
that allows authorities to carefully regulate the supply. It also allows
law enforcers to keep them separate from hard drugs — whose sale on any
scale remains a punishable offense.Terneuzen's mayor, Jan
Lonink, said the verdict "underscores the importance of tightening the
tolerance policy and administering it better."Terneuzen is not
the only municipality grappling with such drug superstores, raising the
ire of local residents who complain of problems caused by drug buyers.Neighboring
countries also object that the coffee shops undermine their own efforts
to halt the drug trade.Prosecutors in cities along the Dutch
borders with Belgium, France and Germany are experiencing similar
problems and were expected to carefully study Thursday's verdict to see
if it provides a blueprint for cracking down on their own coffee shops.The
Checkpoint's owner, identified only as Meddy W. in line with Dutch
privacy rules, and 15 of his staff were convicted by Middelburg District
Court. The owner was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment but was
released as he already spent the time in pretrial custody.The
fine was lower than the more than euro28 million ($37 million)
prosecutors had sought. The staff were sentenced to community service.The
court said in its written verdict that the sentences were low because
prosecutors, police and local authorities in Terneuzen had allowed
Checkpoint to grow unchecked. It was such an accepted part of the local
community that one staff member was given a mortgage after he produced a
Checkpoint pay slip as proof of his income. It also was on the books of
an employment agency that advised jobless people to apply for work
there."Checkpoint didn't just present itself as a legal business,
it also had that status in society," the judges wrote. Staff "were
proud of their work and thought Checkpoint could be a model for how a
good coffee shop should work."Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van
der Weegen declined comment on the specific case, but said the
government had pledged last year to scale down the size of coffee shops.
However, the Netherlands faces new elections in June, and the next
government will have to deal with the issue.Lonink said
politicians should study the Checkpoint case as they consider revamping
the tolerance policy. "There need to be more opportunities to rein in
the size of a shop," he said.






Copyright © 2010 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved.






Source ="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gju8PupSZf1GcthVnveCY02MUMjQD9ELQ1V80"
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PostSubject: Re: Cannabis cafe convicted of breaking Dutch drug law   Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:42 am

This just shows us that even in places where we think cannabis is safe, it is not.
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