AUTHOR: Sativa Diva
(Amsterdam) On Wednesday afternoon, the 23rd of November and second-to-last day of the Cannabis Cup 2011, between 150 and 200 Dutch police officers converged upon the Borchland Sports Hall in Duivendrecht, a suburb of Amsterdam. Dutch news sites are reporting that possession of soft drugs was not permitted during the event, which is false, according to attorneys.
Cup judges, visitors, vendors and competitors were all preparing for 4:20 when dozens of uniformed police entered the hall. One local vendor happened to be riding the free Cup shuttle back to the center of Amsterdam and witnessed a column of police vans filing past on their way to Borchland.
Contrary to rumors, these were not the famous Dutch riot police, not the gray vans prepared for quelling street conflagrations. In actuality these were normal local police -- albeit quite a few of them -- who did not raid the expo; they simply entered it en masse. Because there were so many of them, and since most of the Cup visitors are from countries where cops plus weed equals prison, the event was startling and likely upsetting for a lot of the international attendees. This was not expected in the renowned weed-paradise that is (or at least used to be) Amsterdam.
The cops entered and announced over the PA what was about to happen, citing the Dutch 'Opium Act' ('De Opiumwet'), a national drug law. Visitors and judges were separated from the stand-holders; everyone was searched and those working the event had to present ID. The queues for the judges moved relatively swiftly; however, with several hundred people in attendance each day it did take a few hours to complete the search-and-seizures. Many people were patted down, while others were merely asked if they had any Cannabis (weed or hash) in their possession. If you answered 'yes', your drugs were confiscated -- even if you had below the tolerated five grams. A few people simply lied and were among a small amount of folks to successfully hang on to their ganja.
This confiscation (and rumored disposal, but we don't necessarily believe that locally) of over a half kilo of weed from Cup attendees seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever -- the explanation quoted by Americans trying to mimic a Dutch accent would have been humorous if the subject were not so serious. Apparently many were told by cops that the five-gram possession tolerance only applies INSIDE a coffeeshop.
We all know this is ridiculous, as you're definitely allowed to smoke weed in your own home. So, the Netherlands has around six- or seven-hundred coffeeshops where you can buy weed, but you can't transfer it to your house? Absurd. Even the people at the Cup who were not smoking their stash at the time still had it confiscated and thrown in the garbage, quashing any rumors that the drugs were taken because they were being consumed at the time.
The cops' entry alone was enough to enrage local activists. The police were treated harshly by many of the competitors and vendors, who had been herded into a separate section of the expo. (They also were subjected to frisking before being allowed to leave the venue.) While their stands were being inspected by the authorities -- including the tax police -- the Cup competitors rallied by smoking everything they had left. Huge joints were rolled, vaporizers were emptied and whatever could be sucked out of bongs and pipes was then exhaled, forcibly, in the direction of the police teams.
One Cup judge reported watching a few cops dispensing candy bars and sodas to all of the other police -- perhaps they've heard that smoking pot lowers your blood sugar? Even before the raid this expo was noted to have been smokier than is usual at this annual event. The hilarity of nearly two hundred cops searching people while munching on chocolate was noted by several attendees.
Local news sources are quoting one arrest, although the person has not yet been identified. It could be that the one person arrested was the actual target of the police action; some in the Dutch pot industry are quite visual, appearing on television and in news stories. This means that many more people than ever before are aware of what these folks actually do for a living.
Remember, Cannabis is officially illegal in the Netherlands. Cultivation and sale to the coffee shops is done behind closed doors, without any regulation. Coffee shops are highly taxed, but there are a few that seem to make more money than all the smaller businesses combined. Certain shops are capable of pulling in between five- and ten thousand euros ($6,700 - 13,400 USD) in a normal day.
Rumors abound about the impetus behind the raid: one famous coffee shop owner keeps getting mentioned as a Trump-like figure who is obviously making the Dutch tax police nervous. Another is a legendary woman who, rumor has it, has sparked police attention by promoting a new hash-making technique. The constantly re-surfacing detail surrounding this 'arrest' is that the person was a stand-holder who had 'more than 500 grams' at the expo. Dutch news sources quote the amount at 700 grams.
This 500+ grams was likely a bag of trim destined for a hash-making demonstration; vendors, even coffee shop owners, do not take 500 grams of product to the expo to hand out for free. Firstly, that's illegal (sales of small amounts of weed and hash are tolerated in coffee shops only and giving away free weed is prohibited) and secondly, weed is quite expensive over here, so that would cost them even more.
People pay huge amounts of money to compete or participate in the Cannabis Cup, and one of the main goals of the stands at the expo is to enable people to sample their entries through a vaporizer, bong, pipe or joint. Sampling on-site is, apparently, different from putting a free bud in someone's hand.
Any samples from coffee shops that had been legitimately purchased and paid for were abandoned or hurriedly-consumed by their buyers -- the floor of the expo was littered with bags of weed and hash. The cleaning crew at Borchland must have been very happy last night.
In a bizarre twist of events that should be filed under 'Only in Amsterdam', participants were allowed to keep their Cannabis seeds, while their weed and hash was put in the trash. A local who was volunteering at the Cup (and a first-time attendee) was asked if he had 'anything' on him. Wishing to be honest, he replied that there was a multi-tool with a small knife in it on his belt. The policeman responded, "That's not what I'm interested in today," and proceeded to look for his drug stash.
Surely there are more pressing issues threatening Dutch society than a bunch of activists, patients, growers, stoners, hippies -- and people with legitimate jobs who were just working their scheduled shift -- when the police decided to pay them a visit? And what of those poor judges and VIP attendees who, upon finally being released from the expo, escaped on the shuttle back to Amsterdam -- only to be dropped off at Amstel Station and told they were on their own? This once was such a welcoming city.
We've been trying to warn the international Cannabis community about the state of the Dutch system. Due to the current, distracting DEA action in California, many of this year's Cup visitors had no idea how much liberalization has been lost in the Netherlands.
A spokesman for the Association for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition (Vereniging voor Opheffing van het Cannabisverbod) reveals the growing frustration within the Cannabis industry at the current, conservative government:
"The show of muscle [yesterday] is sadly symptomatic of a climate in which Cannabis and coffee shops are being structurally demonized. The War on Cannabis is a reality in the Netherlands, and thus [is also] the criminalization of Cannabis consumers."
Despite yesterday's police intervention and to the relief of all attendees, the Cup is to continue as scheduled. This includes the evening music events and tonight's awards ceremony at the Melkweg.