Holland's Drug Laws

Holland is a sophisticated place - nowhere more so than in its laws on
cannabis. The common misconception is that cannabis and the cafes that are
a famous feature of the Amsterdam scene are completely legal normal bars -
but with reefers for sale.

Not quite.

First, these cafes are coffee shops where no alcohol is permitted. There is
a conscious effort to separate the two. Secondly there is a legal limit on
the amount of dope anyone is allowed to own - an amount much less than the
cafes have to carry as stock for their customers - so they are all
technically illegal. It goes futher. Smoking (tobacco) in a bar or cafe is
also illegal but there are many bars (normal bars) where you can light up a
cigarette and no one bothers you. A small amount of tobacco is allowed in
the coffee shops in order to roll a joint.

It all goes on perfectly happily because the Dutch seem to have a
sophisticated and pragmatic view of the law, where everything depends on
how people behave. If there is antisocial behaviour or criminality rears
its head, the police have all the powers they need to shut an establishment
down with no fuss. If the (normal) bar owner is a smoker and employs staff
who don't care, the police turn a blind eye.

This all seems to be a sensible way deal with the grey areas where there
is a disagreement on morality and where there is no victim - the argument
around cannabis inhabits this space. It accepts that the law has a capacity
to blunder and be ignored when personal morality is involved - as it was
when it tried to legislate on adultery in Augustus's Rome for example.

The blind eye has a lot to recommend it.

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