Dutch Coffee Shops In Danger; ‘On Strike’ On Election Day


Photo: Bachrach44
Pick Up The Pieces, one of the many “coffee shops” in Amsterdam

‚ÄčDutch “coffee shops,” a euphemism for outlets selling cannabis, are in danger, and have announced they are going “on strike” on June 9, the day the Netherlands will hold parliamentary elections.

“The idea behind closing for the day is to encourage all those who like to smoke a joint to get out and vote for the parties which will ensure that coffee shops will not be banned in the Netherlands,” reports Johan van Slooten at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Nol van Schaik, proprietor of a coffee shop in Haarlem, started the campaign because he feels the current Dutch government is biased against shops like his.
“We have been under a lot of pressure in recent years because of a very conservative government,” van Schaik said. “The pressure on us is mounting and with the possibility of a new right-wing cabinet, I think we should mobilize people to vote for parties that are cannabis friendly.”
The last Dutch coalition cabinet, including Labour and Christian Democrats, introduced tighter controls on coffee shops. It sought to ban them within 250 meters of schools and restrict the sale of cannabis and other soft drugs to local residents only.
If approved, the latter measure would deal a severe blow for coffee shops in tourist areas such as Amsterdam, where customers include many foreign visitors who are specifically there to buy and consume marijuana.
Van Schaik said he feared pressure on the cannabis trade would increase if center-right party CDA (Christian Democrats) or the populist Freedom Party of Geert Wilders — not known for their cannabis-friendly policies — will control the new coalition cabinet after the June 9 elections.
“We can only wait and see whether more coffee shops will be forced to close,” van Schaik wrote on his website. “Maybe you and me are next; maybe all of us,” he warned other coffee shop owners.
The strike isn’t just about closing for a day, van Slooten reports. It’s also a signal for coffee shop clientele to go out and vote on that day.
“We’re putting up posters in our coffee shops to warn our customers of the consequences of a new right-wing cabinet,” van Schaik said. “They’re people who normally don’t vote, saying for them politics is just one big mess.”
“But it’s better to have a big mess and be allowed to smoke a joint than to have a mess with the coffee shops closed,” he said. “I hope that’s enough encouragement to at least go out and vote.”
Van Schaik thinks that a pro-cannabis vote by Dutch coffee shop customers can make a difference on election day. “There are a million people who regularly smoke cannabis and who are eligible to vote,” he said.
“That’s 18 seats in Parliament. If Labour wins four or five seats more, just because of our votes, they’ll be bigger than other parties and they’re very much pro-coffee shop,” van Schaik said.