The potency (i.e. concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC) of marijuana and hashish sold in coffee shops [in the Netherlands] has significantly increased over time. As a result of increases in international drug tourism and drug trade, commercialization of the marijuana industry, and stronger links to organized crime, the drug policy of the Netherlands is now changing. The Dutch government states that in order "to combat the nuisance and crime associated with coffee shops and the trade in drugs," "coffee shops must become smaller and easier to control." De facto decriminalization has and will remain intact for all "soft" drugs, including marijuana and hashish in the Netherlands; however, marijuana with THC content of 15% or more is now considered a "hard" drug and is banned from sale. Coffee shops are no longer public; they are private clubs with limited membership for persons 18 and older who can prove they are residents of the Netherlands and they must be located at a distance from schools. These and related changes are currently underway and will all be in place by January 1, 2013.
Comparing the Dutch experience with tolerant marijuana laws with what is contained in Initiative 502, on which Washingtonians will vote in November, the following things stick out. I-502:
- does not contain any provisions that would ensure our state does not become the next destination for international drug tourism.
- does not contain any regulations regarding the THC content of marijuana.
- does not contain money for the increased need for law enforcement that may be needed to deal with a possible increase in organized crime.
- does not ban mass media marketing and advertising of marijuana, part of what it means to have a commercialized marijuana industry.