Speak Easy of The Forbidden Cannabis

Half-baked ideas and the policy of tolerance

When a government enacts laws sharply restricting or prohibiting a substance, it gives rise to black market enterprise and organized crime. A restrictive government also loses their ability to regulate and tax the substance. Holland enacted laws to regulate and tax cannabis. The rest is history, as they say.

Holland learned that criminalization doesn't always do the trick. Regulate it. Tax it.

High Times in the Low Lands

Meantime, across the ocean in the US, things were markedly different. “I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand”, quoting Al Capone. He added, “prohibition has made nothing but trouble.” While he was referring to a time in the history of the US when the sale of alcohol was prohibited, his words ring true about cannabis today in many parts of the US.

In a little town in the suburbs of NYC, the neighbors’ son once went through god knows what trouble to buy ‘something to smoke’ and ended up with a bag of oregano and an empty piggybank. This was probably a good outcome as he was only 13 years old. Kids buying pot or trying to buy it is a universal story in the US.

When you grow up in an environment where kids over 16 can have a beer at their high school party and can buy marijuana down the street legally, you see things differently. We asked Dutch expats in New York about their opinion of legalizing marijuana in the US.

Jaap (58) works for a Dutch oil company and moved his family from a small town in Holland to upstate New York in 2011. “My wife had cancer, about 12 years ago. Breast cancer. We were still in The Netherlands and she got treatment, surgery and chemo. It was about 15 years ago that people officially started to experiment with cannabis during chemo, my wife tried it and it really helped her nausea. What I don’t understand is this: We already know the benefits of the use of cannabis in all sorts of situations. Why is it that the US is still treating it like it is something scary and dangerous? I always heard that the danger of ‘smoking pot’ was in the tobacco that you smoke with it. Nowadays you don’t have to smoke tobacco anymore to appreciate the good it can do. Drinking five beers is fine, but you go to jail for the possession of a small amount of cannabis? That is just weird to me.”

Jesse is 28 and is doing his PhD-research at a big software company. “I am writing about algorithmic connections, so to say. A lot of 1’s and 0’s. I don’t want to bore you with it, but see it like quantum mechanics meet actual robots. I guess I am what people call a whizz kid: I love numbers, sequences and the outcome of ‘things’. I also love art, and I love stories, so this city works for me. I am sharing an apartment with 3 other guys. All professionals. When I first told them I was from Amsterdam, they gaped at me like I was some sort of celeb. “Is it true you can buy weed whenever? It must be so chill there!” Yes, because we are all stoned. All the time. (…) The fact is that we, or I, couldn’t care less about cannabis. We all did some when 16, and then some too much. We got a little sick with those beers we had with it. Whatever. We got over it. A grown man drooling over the fact that I am from Amsterdam and ‘can buy weed’; it is really getting old.”

“Was it not 2015 that the US legalized gay marriage? As I remember it, The Netherlands did this in 2001. Oh, and then the prohibition, as if that would stop people from drinking. It feels to me, and pardon my French, that the US, as the world leader of the modern society, is lacking some freakin’ perspective. Stop trying to be the first in line, just look around you. Better to steal a good idea than to come up with something half-baked. Oh, no pun intended!” Lisa (30) – works for a designer and was born in Holland.