Dutch Border Town Lures Germans With Marijuana

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, May 29, 2001.

  1. By Suzanne Daley
    Source: New York Times

    Under a proposal expected to be approved by the end of May, this modest town along the slow-moving Maas River, where barges regularly chug by, wants to open two drive- through shops where "drug tourists" can buy small amounts of marijuana and hashish without even getting out of their cars.
    Although coffee shops selling small amounts of such soft drugs exist all over the Netherlands, no one has yet done a drive-through.

    The idea has caused a sensation and flooded this town of about 65,000 people on the southern part of the country's eastern border with curious journalists. Already Venlo has five licensed coffee shops where customers can pick their favorite brands of marijuana and hashish from among heaping plastic Tupperware-type containers set out for display.

    Recently at one of the shops, called Roots, the young man behind the counter declined to discuss his views on what he called the "McDrives."

    "I have talked to six journalists already today," he said, inhaling deeply from an oversize marijuana cigarette. "I can't do it anymore."

    Actually Venlo is not trying to increase its drug business. It is trying to get rid of it.

    The problem, town officials say, is that about five million people live within an hour's drive of Venlo, most of them across the border in Germany, where sale of marijuana and hashish remain illegal. As people have grown more and more comfortable with the European Union's open borders, and virtually every physical sign of the border posts have disappeared, more and more Germans are coming to Venlo to buy drugs.

    As early as 8 a.m., the cars with German license plates begin rolling down Urbanus Street disgorging customers who dash out to make quick purchases.

    Venlo could live with it, officials said, if all stopped there. But drug customers, its seems, beget drug dealers, and not everyone is satisfied with just five grams of marijuana, the maximum sold in the licensed coffee shops.

    Venlo officials say there are now more than 65 illegal places to buy drugs in town. And bunches of young men lounge around parts of town, haranguing passers-by with offers of all kinds of drugs.

    "They approach the people quite aggressively," said Elke Haanraadts, the town planner in charge of the anti-drug project. "This is the problem. There is not a feeling of security."

    The idea, said Ms. Haanraadts, is to put the drive-throughs outside town - even closer to the German border, which is just half a mile away. "They would just be selling near the big road," she said, "and they might not even have a place to sit down." The hope, of course, is that the dealers will also get out of town.

    Will it work? Even Ms. Haanraadts is not sure.

    "It is a kind of experiment," she said. "We will see."

    A good deal of Dutch drug activity operates in a gray legal area.

    Drug selling, even of soft drugs, is not technically legal. It is "tolerated" to the point that the city licenses the coffee shops. But at the same time, everyone turns a blind eye to how the shops get their stock, an activity that since it involves transactions of large amounts, is not legal or tolerated. All that can make it hard for a city to know what to do, Ms. Haanraadts said.

    The drive-throughs are only a third of Venlo's anti-drug plan. The city has also been buying up sites used by drug dealers and finding new tenants.

    And police efforts are being stepped up as well.

    It is hard to find a Venlo citizen opposed to the proposal. Most of them grumble that the Germans are hypocrites: unloading a problem on the Dutch because they refuse to legalize what is common practice among their own citizens.

    Putting the problem closer to the border is fine with them.

    "Because it is not allowed over there, we have the problem," said Harry Heesakker, the owner of a sporting goods store surrounded by the drug trade.

    Mr. Heesakker says the value of his property has been cut in half in the last three years. On either side of his store are empty shops, where the police have shut down drug operations.

    The rest of the stores nearby almost all sell drug paraphernalia - their display windows filled with huge hand-blown glass water pipes, lighters and rolling papers. Some have chalkboards in front advertising varieties of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

    Town officials and even merchants like Mr. Heesakker say the drug trade has not brought violence to the area. In fact, Mr. Heesakker says the dealers behave like fellow merchants - they are friendly toward him, gossipy and protective of the street. Still, they tend to keep regular customers away.

    It is true that the whole area has a furtive feel to it. Even the customers going to the licensed coffee shops tend to hurry away with their heads down. No one wants to be identified.

    In the late afternoon the pace of activity quickens for the drug dealers.

    Most of the customers are young. But there are middle-aged couples too, a few with children. Some settled down inside the licensed shops to play pinball; others wandered to the river to light up. But most climb quickly back into their cars for their long rides home.

    Many say that they could buy drugs in Germany, too, but that making the trip to Venlo is easier. "It's cheaper here, and the stuff is better quality," said one young man. "Yeah, you worry about getting stopped on the other side. But not that much, and this is no hassle here."

    Note: Venlo, the Netherlands - Town officials here are adamant that their plan should not be referred to as "McDope."

    But that may be a losing battle.

    Complete Title: Venlo Journal: Dutch Border Town Lures Germans With Marijuana

    Source: New York Times (NY)
    Author: Suzanne Daley
    Published: May 28, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
    Contact: letters@nytimes.com
    Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
    Forum: http://forums.nytimes.com/comment/
  2. :) I have to admit that iam one of these" Drug-tourist too .. xD only that i dont even have to go by car :) :D:smoke:
  3. Cannabis; the next currency? :cool: :D
  4. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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