Ban on skunk 'will cause black market in Amsterdam'

17/10/11

Cannabis

Coffee shop owners in Amsterdam's red light district say a proposal by the Dutch government to ban the selling of stronger skunk cannabis will just create a black market.

The country has a famously liberal drugs policy but ministers now want to reclassify skunk as a hard drug like heroin or cocaine.

They say the amount of THC, a psychoactive substance, has gone up making cannabis much stronger.

A 24-year-old smoker from Manchester, who wanted to remain anonymous, wasn't worried about it.

He told Newsbeat he'd always buy stronger types of the drug.

"I've been smoking amnesia haze," he admitted. "It has a high content of THC, so it seems to be a good one.

"The stronger it is, you probably don't have to smoke so much. So have half and then half later."

'Psychological disorders'

Some scientific studies suggest smoking strong cannabis increases the risk of mental illness.

The Dutch government refused to be interviewed about the planned ban but said ministers would talk about the proposals after a debate in the Dutch parliament in a few weeks time.

At the moment the mayor is in conference with the minister to convince him that the measures regarding coffee shops will be counterproductive for Amsterdam
Mayor of Amsterdam

People can choose what type of cannabis they want from menus in the cafes.

Amnesia Haze, AK47 and White Widow are among the favourites.

Michael Valer is from the Cannabis Retailers Association, who also runs a coffee shop.

"Any intoxicant can trigger psychological disorders and worse, that's why we call it drugs," he said.

"So there's nothing new in that perception. Cannabis can trigger and enhance psychological disorders, but a society without intoxicants is yet to appear."

Tourists

This proposed ban isn't the only clampdown.

Most foreigners have already been banned from going in to coffee shops in Maastricht.

Some locals in Amsterdam complain about British drug tourists.

"They throw up on the streets, ride their bikes into other people, they're the ones causing trouble," one resident said.

Cannabis menu
Image caption Some cafes sell cannabis on menus with prices showing how much it is

"The tourists just get knocked out. They take one, two, three puffs and then they pass out because it's so strong."

The ban on selling skunk in coffee shops could begin next year.

The Dutch economy is struggling at the moment and the clampdown could have economic implications.

The Mayor of Amsterdam refused to be interviewed.

"At the moment the mayor is in conference with the minister to convince him that the measures regarding coffee shops will be counterproductive for Amsterdam," the mayor's office said in a statement.

Twenty-two-year-old Liam from Liverpool is on holiday in Amsterdam and said he wouldn't come back if the ban goes ahead.

"I definitely think tourism will just go right down," he said.

"It is one of the main reasons people come here, to smoke some weed, have a walk down the red light and that's it.

"You don't come here for architecture do you?"