In the mid 90’s, at the height of the U.S. War on Drugs — when cops and district attorneys were seizing old people’s farmhouses because their grandson kept his stash in their basement, while other people were being imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole for selling pot — I went to Holland for a breath of sanity.
The Dutch have been a refuge for the persecuted since before the Pilgrims. In fact, the Pilgrims fled England and hung out in Holland for a few years to catch their breath before heading to Plymouth Rock. Some people think the best parts of American freedoms can find their origins in the Netherlands.
These hearty folk were no different toward marijuana – the Dutch have long tolerated the operation of regulated “coffeeshops” that sell coffee, snacks and pot and allow customers to imbibe all three on-site. I remember sitting in the sweet smell of one coffeeshop and thinking, “It’s not the pot that’s intoxicating, it’s the freedom.”
In the 15 years since, the Dutch have been praised and as often criticized for their tolerance of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The Dutch, like most of the rich world, have become more conservative in general in recent years, but in relative terms, they are still a bastion of tolerance and I think, the courage to stand up for their beliefs.
But even my favorite Lowlanders couldn’t resist the world-wide onslaught on tobacco, and the above mentioned coffeeshops were left with the existential task of explaining to their customers why they could smoke a joint, but not a cigarette.
Then, in a miracle unmatched in recent times, the Dutch have actually rolled back a corner of their three-year-old anti-smoking law to permit smoking in small, owner-operated pubs that have no employees.
I know this seems like “Duh,” but they actually did it! Pub owners said their businesses – especially Mom-and-Pop places outside the big cities — had been devastated because their smoker-customers decided to abandon the now non-smoking albeit home-like atmosphere of the pubs for their actual homes that didn’t need an albeit.
And the authorities listened! Wow! I’m impressed!
Here’s two people commenting on the BBC. One pro, one con. One practical and speaking to the issue, the other mostly expressing emotional platitudes. Guess which one is which!