Dutch Authorities Raid High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam
Dutch Authorities Raid High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam
By Dana Larsen, Cannabis Culture - Wednesday, November 23 2011
CANNABIS CULTURE - Dozens of dutch cops filled the expo hall hosting the High Times Cannabis Cup, confiscating marijuana and shutting down the event.
A Dutch revenue agent questions an exhibitor during the raid on the High Times Cannabis Cup. (Photo by Dana Larsen).Shortly before 4:20pm today, Dutch police and revenue agents raided the High Times Cannabis Cup Expo in Amsterdam.
Dozens of uniformed officers quickly occupied the building and separated the hundreds of attendees from exhibitors, who were instructed to remain at their tables.
Read an earlier report from Cannabis Culture and
see video of the raid in progress.
Officers were polite and efficient – all armed, but no guns were drawn. I asked one why this was happening and he told me undercover police had investigated the Expo yesterday and seen violations of the Opium Act. He cited things such as some people giving away free samples of bud and hash, offering bong hits to promote their business, and so on.
Dutch rules allow only the sale of marijuana and hash from licensed coffeeshops. They are prohibited from selling customers more than 5g each per day, and cannot have more than 100g on the premises at any time. Individual possession is supposed to be kept under the 5g limit as well. Dutch coffeeshops are also prohibited from promoting or advertising themselves.
It took about two hours for police to clear the hall. Everyone was searched before being allowed to leave, and all marijuana and hash was confiscated.
There were about 50 police officers on site, and about two dozen tax agents wearing reflective green jackets. The tax agents questioned exhibitors about their products, sales and receipts. I saw some exhibitors being questioned as their cannabis was put into plastic evidence bags by uniformed officers.
At this point it looks like the Expo portion of the Cannabis Cup is over. I expect that evening entertainment scheduled at the Melkweg club will still take place as planned.
The status of cannabis law in Holland is often debated, but change happens slowly. The licensing and control of coffeeshops is done largely at the municipal level. Some cities do not have any, others have only a few, while Amsterdam has over 300. That may seem like a lot, but the number is down from over 800 a few years ago.
Holland's current federal government is less friendly to the coffeeshop scene and has been pressuring cities to restrict marijuana sales to Dutch citizens. They want coffeeshops to become private clubs, with a record kept of all sales made to every member. Some border towns have already gone this route, largely in response to concerns about German tourists returning home with pockets full of Dutch weed and hash.
Watch Cannabis Culture for more updates as information becomes available.
Dana Larsen is the former editor of Cannabis Culture and founder and operator of the The Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary.
Opinion: One ganjaphile's report from the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam
A former candidate for the BC NDP leadership takes the reader through "the world's most famous and longstanding marijuana judging event"
By Dana Larsen, Special to The Vancouver SunNovember 22, 2011
Amsterdam is in many ways the city that Vancouver aspires to be. Multi-cultural and diverse, bicycle and marijuana friendly, walkable and clean. From a Vancouverite's perspective the city lacks in trees and green space, but the architecture is wonderful and everything is foot and bicycle accessible. Many streets are blocked off to cars and most downtown streets have only one lane.
The famous Red Light district is clean and safe for both the working girls and their clients. Unlike Vancouver, prostitutes in Amsterdam suffer far less violence, sexual assault and there have been no serial murders or need for inquiries into missing women.
VIEW A GALLERY FROM THE CANNIBIS CUP
I am one of a few thousand ganjaphiles from around the globe who have gathered in Amsterdam once again to be judges for the 24th High Times Cannabis Cup, the world's most famous and longstanding marijuana judging event.
Thirty one of Amsterdam's roughly 300 coffeeshops participate, and winning a cup can certainly increase the volume of tourists they'll receive. But the real value of the Cup is for seed breeders for whom victory means a lucrative boost in sales and name recognition.
I used to attend the Cannabis Cup more regularly around the turn of the millennium, and the event has definitely matured. My early reviews included complaints about things being a bit disorganized and events not starting on time. But this year everything is running smoothly, there is live entertainment every night and during the day there are lectures about different aspects of cannabis science and history as well as a huge Expo which features many booths with all sorts of cannabis products.
The who have not been initiated into the cannabis culture may not be familiar with the amazing array of products used by pot lovers to grow, refine and consume their favourite plant. From grow equipment and fertilizers to cutting-edge hash extraction technology, from hand-crafted artisan bongs and pipes to space-age vaporizers, from seeds of hundreds of strains of potent marijuana varieties tailored to your specific conditions and needs to fashionable and stylish hemp clothes and fabrics, the Expo is a testament to how cannabis is truly the world's most useful and versatile plant.
Notable BC booths at the expo include Vancouver-based Fresh Headies which makes high-end ice-water hash extraction kits known as "bubble bags," and the BC Bud Depot seed company based on Vancouver Island.
If marijuana is over-fertilized you might increase the yield slightly but the buds will not burn properly and will have a "chemmy" taste. This is often the result of rushing a crop to harvest or seeking quantity over quality. In previous years I've complained of chemmy bud in Amsterdam, but this time I am happy to report that Dutch bud is wonderful and clean, with many coffeeshops featuring organically grown varieties.
There's a variety of Cups and awards presented at the end of the week-long event, including Best Coffeeshop, Best Indica, Best Seed Company and more. A crew of celebrity judges also render verdict on a broad selection of bud and hash entries, many submitted from international competitors who smuggle their samples into Amsterdam for the chance at fame, glory and a shiny trophy.
Some Canadians have put on marijuana-judging events in the past, such as Marc Emery's Tokers Bowl which had 200 guests judging two dozen strains and ran annually from 2002-2005, the year Emery was arrested by the DEA and the extradition process began. Also notable was the Quebec Cannabis Cup organized by Alain Berthiaume which ran from 1998-2001 in Montreal. I attended a few times, including the final one which had 500 guests judging 8 strains of bud at the Worldbeat Club. Alain was arrested for trafficking during the first evening of that one and was eventually sentenced to a year in prison.
As someone who operates medical cannabis dispensaries in Vancouver that often feature over thirty high-quality varieties on our extensive menu, having access to a broad range of world-class cannabis is nothing new. The real fun for me in that regard is to enjoy the openness of there being dozens of coffeeshop within close walking distance anywhere in the city, each full of happy locals and tourists enjoying themselves and peacefully contributing to the Dutch economy. I have never seen a fight or unpleasant altercation in any dutch coffeeshop ever.
I doubt I'll be voting for a winning strain, I usually take 3 kinds of marijuana and two kinds of hash and blend them into a single fat joint. However, all the ganja I've tried here so far has been excellent. From heavy, dense Indica buds to long, fluffy Sativa varieties, everything has burned clean and been potent and tasty. Some recent favourites have been the G-13 Haze, Godzilla, Blue Cheese and the Vanilla Kush. Many coffeeshops have free samples of their bud and hash entries for judges.
Dutch weed typically costs around 10 euros a gram, with some of highest-end varieties going for up to 14 euros. In a Vancouver dispensary the typical cost for comparable buds is $10 a gram.
Many Europeans prefer to mix their buds or hash with tobacco, which can make for an unpleasant surprise when someone passes you a joint and you get that harsh tobacco hit. As a non-tobacco user I consider mixed tobacco/marijuana joints to be a waste of good ganja, and most coffeeshops don't allow tobacco smoking on the premises, insisting that patrons smoke "pure" joints only.
There are rumors and worries that this might be the last Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. The Dutch government is seeking to reduce marijuana tourism by encouraging cities to make their coffeeshops "members only" and restrict membership to Dutch citizens. This is more of an effort to reduce Germans and other european tourists from driving home with their pockets full of hash than it is related to American visitors.
Coffeeshops are licensed and regulated municipally, so while some border towns have implemented the members-only policy, it is up to the city of Amsterdam to make any such changes here, and the city government is happy with the way things are right now. Amsterdam's mayor recognizes that banning tourists from coffeeshops would mean an increase in street dealing and disorders, and a decrease in tax revenues and licensing fees. I fully expect the High Times Cannabis Cup to continue long into the future.
I hope to see Dutch-style coffeeshops operating openly in Vancouver within the next few years. This is the direction we should be moving in: a taxed, regulated and licensed above-ground market for cannabis users to enjoy world-famous BC Bud. We'd see a nice bump in tourism, we'd get most of the weed-dealers off the street, and the city and province would both have lucrative new revenue streams from licensing fees and sales taxes.
Despite Harper's cruel omnibus crime bill, which I beleive is a direct attack on Canada's cannabis culture, marijuana is increasing in popularity across the nation. There are more headshops, medicinal dispensaries and hemp products to be found in our country now than ever before, as well as more cannabis prisoners than ever before in our history. Amsterdam's tolerant attitude towards cannabis came about as the result of hard work by risk-taking activists, and the same forces are still hard at work in Vancouver, struggling to build a similarly tolerant, open and cannabis-friendly city.
Dana Larsen is the Director of the Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary Society, founder of "End Prohibition, New Democrats Against the Drug War" and a former candidate for the leadership of the BC NDP.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
NDP Leader distances himself from B.C. Marijuana party
By Mike De Souza, Canwest News ServiceSeptember 24, 2008
EDMONTON — New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton distanced himself from the B.C. Marijuana party on Saturday in the wake of the emergence of embarrassing videos of drug use by two NDP candidates in B.C. who have resigned over the past few days.
The resignation of the two candidates, Dana Larsen and Kirk Tousaw, has angered several advocates of decriminalizing marijuana who have accused Layton of abandoning them to gain middle-class votes.
“I’m furious,” said Marge Groenendyk, an Edmonton resident who was among a crowd of more than 200 people at an NDP rally at which Layton promised to get tough on street gangs and violent crime. “You have two honest candidates that have been studying this matter for many, many years, and it’s time for education.”
Groenendyk, who described herself as a marijuana advocate who uses the drug for medicinal purposes, noted that Layton once made an appeal to marijuana users on the POT TV website in 2003, promising to fight for decriminalization in an interview. At the time, Layton encouraged people to “join the party” and support the NDP because he believed they should be allowed to smoke marijuana in the comfort of their own homes or in cafes without being considered criminals.
“He has sat with these people more than once,” said Groenendyk. “Inhaling, exhaling, it doesn’t matter, he was still there.”
On Saturday, Layton denied the existence of such an arrangement.
“There never was any kind of a deal,” he told reporters. “There was no commitment, no relationship,” Layton said.
He also refused to discuss the two candidates’ resignations, saying only: “They’ve resigned. They’re no longer our candidates anymore. So we’re moving on to the issues that Canadians want us to take action on."
While Groenendyk said she would be shifting her vote towards the Green party, Layton also said his party’s position has not changed.
“We favour decriminalization of marijuana,” Layton said. “We have for a long time. That’s no surprise to anybody. I was asked these same questions in 2004 and 2006.”
Reacting to a Liberal call that Layton must “come clean” on any partnership with the Marijuana party, the NDP fired back in a news release, saying Dion has his own deal to explain: former Marijuana party leader, Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who ran against then prime minister Paul Martin in the 2004 general election, quit and joined the Liberals in 2005.
“I believe that if any party will ever legalize marijuana in Canada, it is the Liberals,” St-Maurice said in a statement in March 2005.
St-Maurice began campaigning to legalize the possession and use of pot about 15 years ago, when he was arrested for possession and spent 24 hours in jail.
He formed a provincial party called Bloc Pot that earned 10,000 votes in the 1998 Quebec election.
But in an interview with BCTV, Marijuana party activist Marc Emery said he expected at least a dozen more candidates would resign because of marijuana use before the Oct. 14 vote.
“Every party has members of Parliament, cabinet ministers and former prime ministers who’ve smoked marijuana,” Emery said. “Why someone who has used marijuana in the past, or is not repentant about it, is bumped as a candidate from the NDP, I still can’t understand.”
The controversy followed a fiery speech to supporters in which Layton announced a new multimillion-dollar plan to prevent crime and fight street gangs, while attacking the policies of the Harper government and broken promises from the Liberal party.
Layton told the crowd of NDP supporters that, if elected, his government would spend $100 million a year to put 2,500 new police officers on the streets. His plan also includes $50 million a year for prevention programs to help at-risk youth, and $25 million over four years to strengthen witness protection.
“New Democrats are committed to stopping the spread of gangs and to stopping the epidemic of gun violence threatening your families in our cities,” Layton said. “As prime minister, I’m going to make sure that we invest in the long-term preventative measures that keep our kids out of gangs — tackle the problems of violent crimes at the root.”
He also attacked Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, accusing him of flip-flopping on his Green Shift plan to tax pollution and cut income taxes.
“I don’t know quite what to make of it. You’re on your horse, you jump off your horse and I think I heard this morning he might jump back on the horse,” Layton said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I’ll tell you one thing, that’s not strong leadership.”
Layton made a direct appeal to Albertans, noting the province’s booming economy was making it difficult for many working families to cope with rising prices, and forcing them to go to food banks. He said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies were promoting the interests of large corporations with billions of dollars in tax breaks while taking the people of Alberta for granted.
“Well, I say it’s time to take Stephen Harper to the woodshed,” Layton said to loud cheers.
He urged supporters to work hard, knock on doors and promote the NDP in shopping centres and at the water cooler in the office.
“We’re up against the most powerful people in the country,” Layton warned. “The people who want those corporate welfare cheques from Stephen Harper. They don’t like the growing strength of our party and they’ll stop us if they can, but they can’t stop the people of Alberta or the people of Canada when they set their minds to the idea that’s it’s time for change in Ottawa.”
on the web: Layton’s interview with POT-TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?vrpPfYe1a6Qg
with files from Vancouver Sun, Carolynne Burkholder, Canwest News Service
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun