Dutch coffee shop trial 'inadmissible', defence lawyer says
The drug trafficking case against the owner of the Netherlands' biggest cannabis-vending coffee shop was "inadmissible", its lawyer told a Dutch court on Tuesday.
Middelburg--Claiming several inconsistencies in the investigation of his client, defence lawyer Andre Beckers told the Middelburg district court in the southwest of the country that the case should be thrown out.
Meddy Willemsen, 58, is being prosecuted with 16 others, including a manager of his Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen near the Belgian border and local suppliers, for allegedly having kept more than the permitted amount of cannabis on site.
Though technically illegal, the Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under five grammes (0.18 ounces) of cannabis in 1976 under a so-called "tolerance policy".
Cannabis cultivation and mass retail remain illegal and are in the hands of criminal organisations in a black-market business worth some EUR two billion (USD 2.8 billion) per year.
There are around 700 licensed coffee shops in the Netherlands which are allowed to keep no more than 500 grammes of cannabis on their premises, though this limit is often flouted.
Investigators claim to have found 120 kilogrammes of cannabis on the premises of Willemsen's Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen near the border with Belgium in 2007, and another 110 kilos in 2008.
Before it was closed in May 2008, Checkpoint counted up to 3,000 clients a day, mainly Belgian and French, allegedly earning Willemsen more than EUR 27 million between 2006 and May 2008.
The trial, which started in November last year, is widely seen as a test case in a country that has been toughening its stance on soft drug use.
The closing arguments of the prosecutor, initially scheduled for Tuesday, were postponed to a date yet to be fixed.