Winston-Salem Journal, NC
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saturday, December 3, 2005
A broad coalition of political parties unveiled a pilot program yesterday to regulate marijuana farming on the model of tobacco, which opponents say would be tantamount to legalizing growing the drug.
Under the test program, to be conducted in the southern city of Maastricht, existing health and safety standards will apply to growers, but they would no longer be the target of police raids or prosecution.
Coffee shops permitted to sell marijuana would be required to provide consumers with information about the health hazards of smoking - similar to those for tobacco companies - and the chemical content of the marijuana. The shops would also have to say where they bought the marijuana they sell, which proponents say will deter growers from operating dangerous underground greenhouses.
Under current Dutch policy, marijuana and hashish are illegal but police do not prosecute for possession of less than 1 ounce. Authorities also look the other way regarding the open sale of cannabis in designated coffee shops.
But commercial growing is outlawed, giving rise to a contradictory system in which shop owners have no legal way to purchase their best-selling product.
Dutch mayors along the country's borders have lobbied hardest for the change, which they say would make it more difficult for German and Belgian drug tourists to smuggle large quantities of marijuana out of the country.
However, opponents have argued that regulation could open the door to outright legalization of marijuana in a country that already has some of Europe's most lenient drug laws.
The Justice Ministry has ordered an investigation into whether the plan would violate international law. The findings are expected within several days.