|Cannabis coffeeshops are an integral part of Dutch culture, and have been for decades. A Dutch cannabis consumers group, WeSmoke, says the shops are worthy of preservation as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.|
The Netherlands, for reasons known only to the conservative government, seems intent on barring foreigners from its world-famous "coffeeshops" where cannabis is sold. That's wholly nonsensical, since the shops are a major source of tourist dollars for Amsterdam and most of the other cities where they operate.
But curtailment of the shops -- or even complete closure, which could be one of the repercussions of the new rules -- would be more than an economic loss to the Netherlands, according to one Dutch pro-cannabis group. It would be a tragic loss of cultural heritage, as well.
Because of that, the Dutch cannabis consumer association WeSmoke has asked that the coffeeshops of the Netherlands be included on UNESCO World Heritage Site list, giving them protection as the unique cultural icons they are.
"World Heritage Sites are commonly understood to be culturally and/or natural important heritage that can be considered irreplaceable, unique and property of the entire world," said Dimitri Breeuwer of WeSmoke. "This is why we can only conclude the unique Dutch coffeeshop, the very center of the cannabis legalization policies belongs on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list."
"For decades, but especially in recent years, countries outside of the Netherlands are closely and openly looking at the legalization of cannabis as practiced in the Netherlands," Breeuwer pointed out. "Step by step the rest of Europe and the USA are following the footsteps of 'the Dutch model'. Meanwhile, in a surprising contrast, the country that leads the way is tearing down its own legalization policies.
Dutch Cannabis consumer association WeSmoke views these changes in shock and horror, according to Breeuwer.
"All over the world a consensus has been achieved, that the Dutch legalization policies work better than criminalizing the soft drugs culture," he said. "Considering the very high social, political and public significance in practically all corners of the Western world of the phenomenon that is the Dutch coffeeshop, we feel this requires urgent protection.
"We can't allow a temporarily changed political climate to destroy a unique type of business, which progressively and decently explores the path to the best possible cannabis policies," Breeuwer said. "The coffeeshop can't be allowed to be pushed off the world stage at the same time when internationally everyone demands the adoption of the Dutch model."
"The Dutch model with its well-known coffeeshops has been proven to lead to less drug addiction, has resulted in medicinal application, has significantly reduced drugs crimes, and has helped to make cannabis socially acceptable," Breeuwer said. "If the current political leaders of the Netherlands are blind to all these effects, we hope UNESCO can aid us in preserving the coffeeshops. List the Dutch coffeeshop as World Heritage, she deserves it!"
Meanwhile, the political support for this initiative is less bleak than one might expect.
"We are getting support for this idea from many unexpected directions," Breeuwer said. "We're currently bracing ourselves for the storm of responses this concept will unleash."
We can't think of a bigger and more positive signal for a policy that's currently under so much political strain."