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UK: Letter: Cannabis Cafes Have a Role

Alun Buffry

Evening News, Norwich

Thursday 19 Sep 2013

On Sept 10th, Richard Elliott wrote that he disagreed with a letter previously published from "Mick Harding" (actually it was Mick Hardy) on Sept 6th.

Mr Hardy had proposed setting up Dutch-style Coffeeshops (where cannabis can be sold in small amounts and smoked on premises without tobacco) on Prince of Wales Road which is often the scene of alcohol-fuelled violence at the weekend

Mr Elliott says that he has visited Amsterdam and found the area a "seedy den of iniquity where the cafes operated".

Actually there are hundreds of "coffeeshops" that sell cannabis in limited amounts, all over Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands - many on main roads and shopping streets. Coffeeshops are all clean, safe and respectable, do not sell alcohol, have age restrictions and hard drugs are banned.

It sounds to me that Mr Elliott may have visited the Red Light district which I guess some may describe as "seedy" at night, but it is hardly a den of iniquity considering everything is legally tolerated and there is little trouble or danger.

Mr Elliott is quite correct, however, to say that most people out for a drink on a weekend evening on Prince of Wales Road are "still well mannered" and the trouble causers are in the minority, but would he agree that it would make no sense to arrest them all just because of the few that are over the top. That is how the law works in the Netherlands with regard to both alcohol and cannabis - if consumers cause no problem they are left alone and the only part that the police play is to protect them.

Why Mr Elliott brings cocaine into the conversation - which he says people in Prince of Wales take in addition to alcohol, is beyond me. Cocaine and marijuana are indeed two different things; cocaine is not available in Dutch Coffeeshops, and if true about the Norwich drinkers that "ruin it for everyone else" then it is more of an indictment on UK laws than Dutch tolerance policies.

Mr Elliott then suggests that people that want to consumer cannabis should go to Amsterdam. That would make absolutely no difference to what happens in Norwich at the weekend.

Alun Buffry




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