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Cannabis Cup Raided

November 25, 2011

The 2011 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam was chugging along business as usual like it had been for the last 24 years. That is until the police raided it Wednesday afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Cannabis Cup Expo, which is a giant hall filled with merchant booths and Cannabis Cup attendees, was interrupted by dozens of uniformed police officers.

This year's Expo was held at the new location Borchland, which is in the south of Amsterdam.

Police entered Borchland and closed off all exits. Everyone inside was subjected to search and seizure before exiting, with all cannabis and related items seized without arrest or prosecution.

However one of the merchants apparently was arrested for possessing more than 500 grams of cannabis. Amsterdam has a rule of tolerance where licensed coffeeshops can be in possession of a maximum of 500 grams of cannabis on premises.

Some attendees reported a mass smoke out taking place as the police were conducting their operation, with people smoking as much of their cannabis as possible before law enforcement made their confiscations.

It was the first time the Cannabis Cup was raided by police in its 24 years in Amsterdam. After the police operation, the remainder of the Cannabis Cup evidently continued normally, with its normally scheduled conclusion the following day.

The Dutch government, currently more conservative than usual, has waged a war on cannabis and to some extent the Red Light District.

In the last three years, many changes to decades old soft drugs laws have taken place in Holland.

Hundreds of cannabis coffeeshops have been forced to close. Some border town coffeeshops have gone from being public establishments to private clubs, where only Dutch citizens can enter. Hallucinogenic magic mushrooms were outlawed (although the enterprising Dutch have found a work around by selling the legal Magic Truffles - same high, different fungi). And reminiscent of New York's Time Square cleanup, Amsterdam's Red Light District was shrunk by almost one third.

Cannabis was decriminalized for small amounts decades ago. However there are many contradictions in the cannabis policy of The Netherlands.

For instance, licensed coffeeshops are allowed to sell up to 5 grams of cannabis per customer per day. They are allowed to stock up to 500 grams on location. But it is illegal to mass produce cannabis. So basically coffeeshops can legally sell a product that is illegal to obtain.

It is not unusual for police to periodically raid coffeeshops. They conduct searches to ensure the shops are abiding by the rules, such as no hard drugs, no minors, no large stockpiles. One coffeeshop dealer stated that their coffeeshop is raided twice a year. It's just part of the game.

The national government of The Netherlands has stated its objective of turning all cannabis coffeeshops in the country into private clubs, with Amsterdam supposedly forced to oblige by 2015 by some reports.

However some see Amsterdam as a special case and doubt that it will ever be subjected to the coffeeshop privatization scheme.

Some believe that the changes taking place are more bark than bite, that it is simply a show that something is being done in response to the ceaseless complaints of Holland's soft drugs policies by its neighbors, the EU, and the US.

Then there's the issue of enforcement. Some municipalities are against the changes being made by the national government, and enforcement is a local responsibility.

When magic mushrooms were made illegal for instance, the mayor of Amsterdam stated that he will not waste city resources policing vegetables.

Whatever happens, the following months will be quite interesting as the drama plays out.

On a positive note, regarding the Cannabis Cup raid, police were reportedly nice and polite during the operation.

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