An Open Letter To The Mayor of Amsterdam

My letter is being printed within the Village Voice in a metropolis initially referred to as Nieuw Amsterdam as a result of of the very odd coincidence that New York has simply legalized the cultivation, possession, sale, and even public use of hashish/marijuana—shortly after you introduced that you simply intend to ban foreigners from Amsterdam’s remaining 166 hashish “coffee shops.”

Sure, there are behavioral issues with public intoxication, however I believe that police statistics will confirm that these issues are nonetheless overwhelmingly associated to alcohol and Amsterdam’s 1,100 bars. Would you take into account closing them to foreigners? I might not significantly suggest that, however it will actually enhance the road scene, particularly at evening.

You’ve been quoted as saying that the police are urging you to do that. If there’s something that an American would possibly say, it will be — with all due respect — that now we have realized the exhausting means about letting the police set hashish insurance policies. Policing is about fixing crimes, not economics or particular engineering.

After all, there are additionally public well being causes for not banning international vacationers from the espresso retailers. Initially, it will undermine one of the good successes of Dutch drug insurance policies: the “separation of the markets” for marijuana and exhausting medication. If vacationers can not purchase hashish in espresso retailers, it is going to be bought to them on the streets by avenue sellers, who may also provide them cocaine, meth, ecstasy, and artificial (pretend) hash.

The Dutch police raid 1000’s of marijuana grow-ops yearly. To no avail. Wouldn’t these police assets be higher utilized in going after exhausting medication? However they need you to shut the espresso retailers to maneuver an enormous half of the hashish commerce into the identical channels with the problematic “party drugs”? Will depriving vacationers of authorized entry to hashish actually cut back the demand for social gathering medication? That positively didn’t work in America!

Nevertheless, that isn’t the rationale I’m writing to you. As soon as, I might have begged you not to do that as a result of of Amsterdam’s significance within the battle in opposition to marijuana prohibition. Now, with 16 states and Washington, D.C., having legalized leisure marijuana, there might be loads of locations to purchase and smoke, so the world can not faux that freedom doesn’t work.
Please allow me to offer you some private historical past that will clarify my perspective. In 1972, the 12 months Amsterdam obtained its first hashish espresso store, I used to be in Austin, Texas (the capital of my dwelling state), to foyer to alter the previous Texas marijuana legal guidelines. There have been over 800 individuals in Texas prisons for the straightforward possession of lower than one ounce of marijuana. Thirty had been serving life sentences. It was shut, however we obtained the legal guidelines modified, and the 800 had been re-leased that September.

A giant enchancment, sure! However over 20 million People have been arrested since then. Final 12 months, over 60,000 of my fellow Texans had been among the many half-million People arrested for easy possession of marijuana. In reality, extra People had been arrested final 12 months for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes mixed. Since 1973, there have been extra People arrested for marijuana possession than there are residents within the Netherlands.

In line with a examine by the Metropolis College of New York, “From 1997 through 2012 (and into 2013) the New York City Police Department made more than 600,000 arrests and jailings of people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, mostly teenagers and young people in their 20s. In 2011, the NYPD made more than 50,000 arrests of people who possessed only a small amount of marijuana. In just that one year, the NYPD made more marijuana arrests than it did in the 19 years from 1978 through 1996.”

How was this doable in a metropolis based by your metropolis, in a rustic that proclaims itself “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? Nicely, one half of it was merely to lie in regards to the Dutch. In 1993, shortly after I turned govt director of the Nationwide Group for the Reform of Marijuana Legal guidelines, I flew to Amsterdam. By coincidence, the day earlier than I left Washington, I used to be on a radio speak present debating two representatives from the U.S. Drug Czar’s workplace, who described Amsterdam as one thing like Baghdad on a foul day: highest homicide and incarceration charges in Europe! Heroin addicts in all places! So I took a transcript with me to my conferences in Amsterdam.

Dutch associates had organized for me to fulfill with lecturers and the pinnacle of the Amsterdam police “vice squad.” I keep in mind him telling me that the police had been not often referred to as to the then 700 espresso retailers, however ceaselessly to the bars. The Dutch I met had been shocked that an previous ally would lie so blatantly, however it continued for years. 5 years after my assembly, then U.S. Drug Czar Basic Barry McCaffrey went to Amsterdam and labeled Dutch drug coverage an “unmitigated disaster.” McCaffrey claimed that the U.S. had lower than half the homicide fee of the Netherlands. As New Yorker Stanton Peele, a psychologist, legal professional, psychotherapist, and creator, described it on his web site: “The erroneous Dutch and American murder rates were contained in McCaffrey’s European trip briefing book. The drug czar’s book contained similar misinformation about drug use: for example, ‘30.2 percent of Dutch youths say they have tried marijuana, vs. 9.1 percent in the United States.’ This figure represents lifetime use for the 16-19 year age group of the Amsterdam population in 1994, but only current (past month) use by the American group—obviously a ridiculous and unfair comparison! The comparable lifetime prevalence (‘ever used’) figure to the 30.2 percent for the Amsterdam population for American youths is 38.2 percent in 1994. In the U.S., this figure for 1997 was 49.6 percent!” Peele additionally states: “The Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics emphasized in a special press release that the actual Dutch murder rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people, or less than one-quarter the U.S. murder rate. For Mc-Caffrey, a man trained on body counts during the Vietnam War, such figures are made to be manipulated—who can tell who is telling the truth anyhow?”

Within the meantime, all of this has been scrubbed from the Drug Czar’s web site. Down the reminiscence gap. Nevertheless, Amster-dam shouldn’t let this be forgotten. For a quantity of causes, Amsterdam and the Netherlands shouldn’t merely “tolerate” the espresso retailers. They need to be celebrated. When the U.S. was poisoning its residents and Mexican farmers with Paraquat, the Dutch weren’t. When British and American kids had been affected by fixed epileptic seizures, British dad and mom might go to Amster-dam to get them cannabinoid drugs and attempt to smuggle it dwelling. Sadly, in most of the remaining of the world, even medical hashish possession continues to be a severe crime.

In America, we might be welcoming the world to see and be a part of our newly gained freedom, and we might be rightly proud that now we have lastly thrown off the prohibitionist yoke, however I’ll always remember that the primary day I felt really free was once I walked into slightly place in Amsterdam. I fell in love together with your metropolis and Haarlem, and have been again many instances, dwelling there for just a few years. So, Madam Mayor, I might be again for a go to as quickly as doable, and I hope I’ll nonetheless be welcome in such a spot.

Richard Cowan

Cowan has been concerned within the marijuana reform motion virtually since its inception, and served as the manager director of the Nationwide Group for the Reform of Marijuana Legal guidelines from 1992 to 1995.

This letter has been edited for size and readability.

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