Soft drugs issue sparks division in Dutch Cabinet
26 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Division has opened up in the Cabinet after Democratic Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold is said to have made a "beginner's error" by calling for the legalisation of cannabis cultivation.
26 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — Division has opened up in the Cabinet after Democratic Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold is said to have made a "beginner's error" by calling for the legalisation of cannabis cultivation.
Pechtold said on Monday he is in favour of the complete legalisation of soft drugs in Europe. Until such time, he said coffeshops that sell marijuana should be relocated to municipal limits to minimise inner city drug problems.
The Democrat D66 minister was visiting the eastern city of Venlo, where he discussed drug problems in the border region. As an interim solution, he backed calls by Maastricht City Council to set up a "cannabis boulevard" where the public can buy soft drugs.
His comments were in stark contrast to Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, who visited the southern border cities of Heerlen and Kerkrade on Monday and bluntly rejected proposals for a cannabis boulevard.
The Christian Democrat CDA minister said proposals from southern Limburg mayors to legalise cannabis production will not eliminate criminality as hoped.
"Southern Limburg would become the narcotics state of Europe," Donner said.
He also said legislation is being prepared that will help municipal mayors shut down drug businesses within a month. This would also apply in the case of residential disturbances directly linked to the coffeeshop.
The CDA later said Pechtold's comments were a "beginner's error". MP Sybrand van Haersma Buma said the minister is not responsible for government policy regarding soft drugs and that his opinion is at odds with the coalition government accord.
Pechtold was appointed democratic reform and kingdom relations minister after incumbent Thom de Graaf resigned recently in reaction to a lost Senate vote on the introduction of direct mayoral elections.
The Lower House of Parliament will hold on Wednesday an emergency debate with Minister Donner about experiments in the nation's soft drugs policies.
Currently, the sale of cannabis at coffeeshops is subject to a policy of toleration, but commercial cannabis cultivation is illegal and subject to prosecution.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news