We, the coffeeshopowners that already pledged to close their doors during polling hours on June 9, 2010, the day of the Dutch elections.
We are afraid a coalition of CDA, PVV and VVD might come to power, in that case, they will try to erase the coffeeshops.
I started the initiative for the strike, together with Peter Lunk, and we made the plan come to live, we are sending out a mailing, by snail mail, to all coffeeshops, appealling for their solidarity.
Here are the strike objectives:
Objectives of the General Coffeeshops Strike:
We want our visitors to go and vote, and we want to gather attention for the problems the last 700 Dutch coffeeshop entrepreneurs are facing, as they are may and diverse. We want to show you and the authorities what is wrong with the Dutch Coffeeshop Policy, our objective is to get these problems solved.
Obj. 1 We want to show the public and the authorities of the Netherlands what our country looks like when all the coffeeshops are closed, even if only for a day, the streets will be taken over by street dealers and the smoke of those who cannot smoke in the coffeeshops. This is like a look in the future with a right-wing, anti-cannabis government, after they have closed them all. Let the Right-wingers have their way, for one day, it might just be the eye-opener they need.
Obj. 2 By keeping our coffeeshops closed during polling hours we want to stimulate our regulars to cast their vote, preferably for a pro-cannabis party, a party that considers coffeeshops a normal part of Dutch society. Although we will never know how many people use cannabis in the Netherlands, by using the 7.7 % average cannabis consumption for Western Europe (source: UNODC) amongst people over 16, we would have 966.519 cannabis smokers in the Netherlands, above age 20. (7.7% of 12.552.202-source:CBS) The figures were only given from the range of 16-20 year olds, so with the 18-20 year olds added it indicates we would have over a million cannabis smokers with the right to vote. That means we could vote 18 politicians into the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch Parliament. This also means we are a political force to reckon with…
Obj. 3 By organizing this strike we want to gather attention from the media, national and international. We want to get ourselves a lot of positive press exposure, over the last years we have been exposed to negative press, mainly because our Prime Minister holds a political and religious grudge against cannabis and coffeeshops. His Party, the CDA, and himself have caused an avalanche in bad press over the years, we never had the chance to get good media coverage to speak up for ourselves. We are looking for a media platform, the strike might be the way to get the exposure we want.
Obj. 4 We, the coffeeshop entrepreneurs, have never been really organized, but with the pressure on coffeeshops mounting, we should get together and join forces to fight back. If we do not unite and stand up now, the coffeeshop entrepreneur, one of the world’s threatened species, could extinct in a few years. I can only hope this strike can bring us the unity we need. We are colleagues, not competitors! We have to stand and demand a realistic coffeeshop policy.
Obj. 5 We want to show the whole world that the Dutch Coffeeshop Experiment is a success, in contradiction to ignorant statements of some of our political ‘representatives’ against the Dutch Tolerance Policy. In spite of the mounting political pressure on the coffeeshops it has served and serves as a model to other countries in the world, especially the US. While Dutch conservatives vow to get the coffeeshops closed, the number of cannabis clubs in California is growing, in fact, California harbors more of these clubs than coffeeshops in the Netherlands. The Dutch newspaper Vrij Nederland (Free Netherlands) published an extensive article about the Californian phenomenon, under the title: “Yes, we cannabis” http://www.vn.nl/Wad-mediabank-pagina/Y ... nnabis.htm Argentina legalized cannabis completely, they even changed the constitution for it, In Spain one cannabis club after another pops up, with a permit to grow their own, in Moscow you can walk the street with 15 grams of cannabis, without problems. The time has come to hold up our model, the Dutch Approach, and receive some merits for it, instead of having to fight for our sheer existence!
Obj. 6 After the financial crisis I can no longer trust I will be getting money from the pension funds, by the time I should be getting some the funds will have totally disappeared in the next financial downfalls. Let’s just make sure we can keep our coffeeshops open, otherwise I have to work until my 67th, maybe in a carwash or a supermarket. I feel too old for that, I just want to keep my income. Don’t you?
Obj. 7 Like the CDA and CU politicians, we want the Tolerance Policy to come to an end, but not the way they want it. Coffeeshops pay taxes over their sales, so the Tax Office keeps track of the amount of cannabis every coffeeshop sells, for obvious reasons. Coffeeshops should be issued licenses to grow cannabis, based on the amount of kilo’s they sell per year, the officially registered kilo’s, the undeniable kilo’s. The coffeeshop entrepreneurs pick the best growers they know, send them to the authorities to register as a licensed grower for a certain amount per year, not exceeding the coffeeshops permit, and the hassle is over. After that, the part of the Netherlands without coffeeshops (60%!) should be ‘equipped’ with coffeeshops too, so everybody in and visiting the Netherlands can buy their cannabis in a safe environment, without being confronted with other drugs. The growers pay tax, coffeeshop entrepreneurs buy their cannabis with an official receipt, and the money poors into the national Treasure Chest.
Obj. 8 Instead of criticism, we want recognition for our work and efforts over the last decades, we, the coffeeshop entrepreneurs have successfully achieved and maintained the objective of the Coffeeshop Tolerance Policy, namely the “separation of the markets”. This policy was meant to allow coffeeshops to sell consumers quantities of cannabis, and cannabis only, to try and keep people, especially young people, away from the hard-drugs market, as a progressive way of harm reduction. We did and do execute this policy, hard-drugs, including alcohol, are not allowed in coffeeshops, both coffeeshop staff and owners make sure coffeeshops stay free of hard-drugs and people carrying and containing them physically. All the politicians did since was endangering this separation of markets, as they have closed 750 coffeeshops out of the 1450 we had in 1996, leaving the Netherlands with 700 coffeeshops, and more people in the hands of street dealers every time they close one. We even have a CDA MP shouting that all coffeeshops should be closed, when she was asked if it should be thrown out on the street without any supervision whatsoever, she replied: “Sure, cocaine is illegal as well, but it can be bought on the street, people can then go and buy their cannabis on the street, as well, if they so badly want it.” Thus spoke one of our elected people’s representatives….
Obj. 9 By regulating the supply to the ‘backdoor’ of the coffeeshops the way I described before, with registered growers we can check and control we would improve the quality of the cannabis offered in coffeeshops, we know what and how they grow. By allowing coffeeshops to work with legal growers, the price of cannabis grown would go down, half of the price the growers charge us is to make up for the huge risks involved, once the risk is gone, the price must go down. Even with tax added we should be able to buy the cannabis cheaper than before. So, the customers can expect a better product for a lower price, two for the price of one!
Obj. 10 Coffeeshops can only have 500 grams of cannabis available on the premises, any more cannabis present can lead to closure on discovery by the police. Even if a coffeeshop sells far more than 500 grams a day, and the taxman accepting the revenues of those sales, it is not allowed to have more cannabis available. This restriction is no longer realistic, and it causes coffeeshop owners and workers a lot of stress and unnecessary risks. Every time the ‘refillman’ is on the road with some cannabis he can be stopped by police, or even worse, robbed by thugs. Coffeeshops should be allowed to stock a little bit more than what they sell on a daily basis.
Obj. 11 The present and foreseen criteria concerning the distance between coffeeshops and schools for under 18s is outdated, the effect of this measure has not been proven effective. In fact, it does not show any confidence in the coffeeshop entrepreneurs and their staff, as they are held to refuse any person entry to their shops by the AHOJG-rules for coffeeshops, the J stands for Youngsters, implying the under 18 restriction. Allowing under 18s in a coffeeshop leads to immediate closure, the period of closure varies. Second time the police finds a youngster in a coffeeshop it means permanent closure, loss of permit and finding a new job.
Obj. 12 The coffeeshop elimination strategy has to stop. This strategy means the city eliminates the permit of every coffeeshops that ends up being closed permanently, in order to reduce the number of coffeeshops. This means more business for the street dealers and more business for the other coffeeshops in the city. It also means more people parking around less coffeeshop, causing more complaints about the coffeeshops involved, leading the closure of the coffeeshops causing nuisance, etc. This is wrong, the “closure’ permits should become available to new entrepreneurs, by holding an auction, for example. In case a coffeeshop loses its building, by fire, renovation, demolition or city reshuffling the owner should be allowed to start over on a new location.
Obj. 13 The Netherlands are trying to shake of the financial crisis, but closing coffeeshops is not helping much. The last 700 coffeeshops in the Netherlands contribute 400 million Euros in taxes every year, or a little over half a million Euros each, each year! Which other business branch employing around 6 people per company contributes that kind of money to the National Treasure? We want the Dutch Politicians and our fellow citizens to consider the coffeeshops as profitable economic part of our society.
Obj. 14 Coffeeshop workers have slowly but surely been turned into city- and state officials, as they have to check if our customers do not park double in front of the shop, check if the sidewalk is free of bikes and loitering youngsters and check every visitors ID. I am amazed about how this came to be and I think we should no longer comply. I can no longer live with the fact that we have to pay the state over half a million Euros on average a year, then do their work for them, and then have ourselves slandered by our conservative leaders constantly. For the kind of money I pay the state I want them to put a cop in front of my shop to check our visitors ID, we are not authorized to do so. In the meanwhile he can scare the kids away and oversee the parking. The streets are theirs..
Obj. 15 Every coffeeshop has about 6 employees, we have 12 people working in our two shops. Most of our workers are with us for over 10 years now, they have settled like everyone with a steady job and income. If we do not succeed in keeping our coffeeshops open they will al become unemployed, and have to join the ranks of the other unemployables, stigmatized with a marihuana leaf on their CV. I would hate to see that happen, I consider our staff members part of the family we are. We have to stand tall for our workers, they always stand tall for our coffeeshops, they deserve that.
Obj. 16 Politicians are after our votes again, so they use their fancy words again, a very popular fancy word used by vote hunters is Integration. They want people from foreign origin to integrate into Dutch society, but just wanting it is not going to make it happen, so it is just a fancy word in The Hague and on the streets. In coffeeshops, integration is a fact, people from all walks of life, background, culture and age join there to discuss about reality and life, while having a joint and a coffee, without raising their voices in anger. Allow us to integrate along, in piece and in the safe environment of a coffeeshop.
Stand up to be counted!
Nol van Schaik.
In Cannabis Fidelis