THE HAGUE (AP) — With slogans such as “Don’t let your vote go up in smoke!” owners of the free-wheeling cafes where bags of hashish are sold alongside cups of coffee are mounting a get-out-the-stoner-vote campaign ahead of next week’s Dutch election.
The campaigners are calling on their sometimes apathetic dope-smoking clientele to get out and support political parties that oppose the recently introduced “weed pass” that is intended to rein in the cafes, known as coffee shops, and close them altogether to foreign tourists.
At a coffee shop in The Hague, a member of the staff selling weed wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a modified Uncle Sam-style poster calling on smokers to “Vote against the weed pass on Sept. 12.” Under the new system, coffee shops become member-only clubs and only Dutch residents can apply for a pass to get in. The cafes are limited to a maximum of 2,000 members.
The online vote2smoke.nl campaign offers cannabis and marijuana users voting advice by showing which political parties support dumping the “weed pass,” which came into force in the southern Netherlands earlier this year and is intended to roll out over the whole country in coming years.
Joep Oomen of the legalize-cannabis movement says it is hard to know exactly how big the pot-smoking constituency is, but he estimates it at around a half-million people in this nation of 16 million.
Basically, the advice to them boils down to this: Voting for any political party on the left is good, and any party on the right is bad.
Speaking at a campaign event this weekend, Mr. Roemer called the weed pass “incredibly stupid” and vowed to scrap it if he wins power.
He said the pass system simply pushes drug dealers onto the streets and out of the controlled environment of the coffee shops — “so stop the wietpas,” he said, using its Dutch name.
“I will vote to keep coffee shops open so I can keep smoking,” he said Tuesday.
The center-left Labor Party, which is surging in pre-election polls thanks to strong performances by its leader, Diederik Samsom, in televised debates, also advocates scrapping the pass and replacing it with legislation that would further enshrine tolerance of marijuana in Dutch law and regulate not only coffee shops but also growers.
However, the coffee shops still have a fight on their hands — the conservative VVD party of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte is topping polls and looks set to become the biggest single party. It was a VVD-led coalition that introduced the weed pass, and it is standing by the policy.
If Mr. Rutte winds up negotiating a centrist coalition, all parties likely would be willing to bend or drop their position on the pass in favor of other policy goals.
Coffee shops long have been tolerated in the Netherlands because authorities believe they keep dope smokers away from street dealers of more dangerous and outlawed drugs such as cocaine and heroin.View Entire Story
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