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Dutch turn their backs on tolerance

Leftists are on the wrong side of history.

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Those who visit Amsterdam this summer, watching tourists patrolling the infamous Red Light district in search of sex and drugs, might not notice how the vaunted Dutch tolerance is wearing thin.

The Dutch, complaining that their culture of "looking the other way" has created a free-for-all, want to turn the clock back.

The toughest stance has been taken by Rotterdam, traditionally regarded as the working man's city as opposed to Amsterdam, home of the cultural elite.

And behind the calls for more law and order is a growing tendency to blame crime on ethnic minorities.

Just a few years ago, the police refused to register the ethnic origins of criminal suspects. But after a series of attacks in which black youths killed white people the mayors of several Dutch cities have started to single out specific groups from North Africa and the Caribbean.

This has fuelled tensions with immigrant groups. Moroccans rioted in Amsterdam this month when police shot dead a youth who had a knife.


The Dutch have been noted for their tolerance in Europe for centuries, adopting a policy which allowed illegal if non-obtrusive behaviour.

In recent decades they added the sale of cannabis, drug usage and prostitution to the long list misdemeanours to which they turned a blind eye. Some were even legalised.

Now, the municipal authorities, many of which came to power during the 1960s and 1970s when they replaced their older and stricter predecessors, realise they may have overdone it.

In a bid to reverse the trend Rotterdam mayor Ivo Opstelten, nicknamed "Giuliani on the (River) Maas" in a reference to New York's former hard-line mayor, has vowed to lock up or cure the city's 700 hard-core drug addicts.

The new city council has slashed the number of "coffee shops" which sell soft drugs from 300 to 60 and aims to reduce the number further.

Amsterdam, one of the first European cities to adopt a relaxed attitude to homosexuals, is working to shut erotic bars and clubs.

"This place is getting worse than Tehran," joked Siep de Haan who organises the annual Gay Pride parade. "City Hall is terrified about Amsterdam's image of sex and drugs and rock and roll."

Until last year, police officers were allowed to frisk only the people they arrested. Now, following a pilot scheme in Rotterdam, anyone walking the Dutch streets can be searched at any time.

Begging, which ceased to be an offence many years ago, has been reinstated as a punishable felony by authorities in bigger cities.

"Beggars were becoming aggressive, and we were powerless. Something needed to be done," explained an Amsterdam police spokesman.

Urinating in the canals or against Amsterdam's elegant 17th-century facades, once ignored by passing policemen, will be punished by a hefty fine.


Stricter law enforcement is welcomed by voters who have expressed their exasperation at what they see as a decline in Dutch society by electing new rightist parties to run town halls.

The promise to restore law and order has been keenly embraced by established parties in an attempt to stem their own decline.

"Things have improved a bit. A drug pusher across the street has at last been arrested and his house has been boarded up. In the old days he would have been back in a week," said Libben Reeskamp, living in Amsterdam's central Nieuwmarkt area.

Now he wants to see action against other drug dealers and addicts who keep him awake at night.

Having already restricted the sale of postcards showing explicit nudity, Amsterdam's mayor Job Cohen is aiming to limit all-night opening hours for brothels.

He hopes it will reduce harassment from brawling Britons who drink through the night before heading home on cheap flights, said Marjan Jonker of the prostitute interest group De Rode Draad (The Red Thread/String).

"It's all aimed to limit nuisance. The measures are aimed to make the streets safer for Amsterdammers, but not for prostitutes whom police are checking for illegal immigrants much more aggressively these days," she added.

In another sign of the turning tide, commercial television broadcaster SBS -- which operates three Dutch channels -- said in June that it would stop showing explicit sex, the feature which defined its launch a decade ago.

"It was getting out of hand," said SBS manager Fons van Westerloo. "Erotic shows crept towards porn and overshadowed our image. Viewer ratings were also going down. Is the mood in the country shifting to become more puritanical? Yes, I think so. We've decided to take our responsibility."

Some schools have overturned the practice of calling teachers by their first names and reverted to "sir" and "madam".

Soon to be introduced is a compulsory identity card, frowned upon after World War Two when careful registration helped the Nazis hunt down Dutch Jews. The card is now seen as an inevitable aid to keep on top of crime.
Dutch to get prescription cannabis 31.Aug.2003 14:18

maybe this will help

By Paul Gallagher

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands will this week become the world's first country to make cannabis available as a prescription drug in pharmacies to treat chronically ill patients, a top Dutch health official says.

The Dutch government has given the country's 1,650 pharmacies the green light to sell cannabis to sufferers of cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Tourette's Syndrome in a ground-breaking acceptance of the drug's medicinal use.

"It's a historic step. What is unique is that we are making it available on a prescription only basis through pharmacies," said Willem Scholten, head of the Office of Medicinal Cannabis at the Dutch Health Ministry.

The Netherlands, where prostitution and the sale of cannabis in coffee shops are regulated by the government, has a history of pioneering social reforms. It was also the first country to legalise euthanasia.

The government, which recognised many chronically ill people were already buying cannabis from coffee shops, said it should only be prescribed by doctors when conventional treatments had been exhausted or if other drugs had side effects.

Two companies in the Netherlands have been given licences to grow special strains of cannabis in laboratory-style conditions to sell to the Health Ministry, which in turn packages and labels the drug in small tubs to supply to pharmacies.

The Health Ministry recommends patients dilute the cannabis -- which will be in the form of dried marijuana flowers from the hemp plant rather its hashish resin -- in tea or turn it into a spray in a nebulizer.

As well as pharmacies, 80 hospitals and 400 doctors will be allowed to dispense five gram doses of SIMM18 medical marijuana for 44 euros (30 pounds) a tub and more potent Bedrocan at 50 euros.


The government will start distributing to pharmacies on Monday with a monopoly over wholesale of the drug.

Dutch doctors will be allowed to prescribe it to treat chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite in cancer and HIV patients, to alleviate MS sufferers spasm pains and reduce physical or verbal tics in people suffering Tourette's syndrome.

The ministry estimates up to 7,000 people in the Netherlands have used cannabis for medical reasons, buying it in coffee shops. It said this could more than double once it is available from pharmacies in pure medical form.

Cannabis has a long history of medical use. It was used as a Chinese herbal remedy around 5,000 years ago, while Queen Victoria is said to have taken cannabis tincture for menstrual pains.

But it fell out of favour because of lack of standardised preparations and the development of more potent synthetic drugs.

Critics argue it has not passed sufficient scientific scrutiny at a time when researchers are trying to determine if it confers the medical benefits many users claim. Some doctors say it increases the risk of depression and schizophrenia.

The use of cannabis for medical reasons has proved contentious in many other countries.

In July, Canada granted hundreds of seriously ill patients a dispensation from criminal law to buy the drug after a plan for the government to grow medical marijuana was put on hold. The United States upheld a federal ban on medical marijuana in 2001.

"It's the first time it has ever been done in the world. The Dutch are pretty compassionate and tolerant," said James Burton, director of the Institute of Medical Marijuana, one of the two companies licensed to grow the drug for medical use in the Netherlands.

"No one would say that a dying patient or someone in a wheelchair should not take cannabis to alleviate pain," he said.

The Netherlands will make cannabis available as a prescription drug.
The Netherlands will make cannabis available as a prescription drug.

Prescriptions might not be a good thing 02.Sep.2003 12:26


Or the prescriptions are the first step in regulating and controlling who can access cannabis.

At some point The Netherlands and the rest of the EU have to come to common ground on soft drugs (as well as prostitution) , one might legimately fear that the powerful US anti-drug influence will end the coffeeshop era there.