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Towns want to legalise cannabis April 20, 2005 news.com.au
TWO southern Dutch towns have called for the legalisation, under strict conditions, of cannabis production to thwart criminal gangs operating on the border with Belgium and Germany.
Christian Democrat mayor Gerd Leers of Maastricht, one of the towns calling for legalisation, will defend his plan in the European parliament in a special session dedicated to drugs policies in the European Union.
"I think that a regulated production (of cannabis) would drive out a lot of the criminal activity," Mr Leers said.
As the mayor of Maastricht, close to both Germany and Belgium, Mr Leers is confronted each year with 1.5 million so-called drugs tourists attracted by the famed Dutch cannabis cafes known as coffee-shops.
A typically Dutch invention, these special cafes are authorized to sell up to five grams of cannabis to people over 18.
Since 1976 the Netherlands have made a distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs.
For soft drugs, like cannabis, the consumption and sale in the special coffee-shops is decriminalized.
Hard drugs like cocaine and heroin remain strictly illegal.
"The drugs policy is very schizophrenic because although it is legal for coffee-shops to sell cannabis, the production is illegal. It is like telling a baker that he can sell bread but is not allowed to buy flour," Mr Leers said.
The influx of foreign drugs tourists to Maastricht, mostly from France and Belgium, causes a lot of local residents to set up lucrative illegal cannabis plantations in their basement or attic.
"Tens of thousands of families at the bottom of the social scale come into contact with criminal behaviour this way," according to the mayor.
Despite a police crackdown on illegal plantations in the last months in Maastricht, the problems continue.
That is why Leers calls for the legalisation of the production of cannabis to better control and regulate the supply chain of coffee-shops to fight against illegal plantations and illegal trade in soft drugs. He says he hopes that regulating the production will also make it financially less attractive to start a cannabis plantation.
Toine Greser, the mayor of nearby Heerlen, has proposed that the Dutch state regulates cannabis production much like it regulates the casinos in the Netherlands.