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23/04/2007 16:00:00

Maastricht Mayor: Belgium, Germany need to allow regulated sale of

MAASTRICHT, the Netherlands (EUX.TV) -- Belgium and Germany need to open
their own 'coffee-shops' and regulate the sale of cannabis drugs so
that fewer 'drugs-tourists' will be forced to cross the border to the
Netherlands, the Mayor of the Dutch city of Maastricht says.

In a one-on-one interview with EUX.TV, Gerd Leers also says he believes
the regulating the sale of cannabis is a problem that should also be
addressed at a European level.

"The best way out of this problem is for Europe's political leaders to
sit together, listen to these problems and then open their eyes for a
real solution," he said.

Leers, a prominent member of the christian-democrat CDA party, made his
comments in response to an angry letter fired off last week by Belgian
Prime Minister Guy Verhoftstadt to Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter
Balkenende, also of CDA.

Verhofstadt, leader of the Flemish liberal VLD, strongly objected
against the Maastricht plans to relocate some of its coffeeshops to
within walking distance from the Belgian border. These plans, drawn up
by Leers, were approved last week by the city council.

The Netherlands opened its first 'coffeeshop', or cannabis cafe, in
1972. It now has about 800 of them. International pressure forced the
Dutch to tighten its cannabis laws back in 2004, allowing people to hold
only 5 grams of cannabis instead of 30 grams. Coffeeshops now are only
allowed to hold 30 grams on stock.

Verhofstadt "has no idea"

Verhofstadt "should first carefully read my proposals and my ideas,
instead of presenting them in a simplistic way to the people at a time
during an election campaign," says Leers, referring to the parliamentary
elections in Belgium coming up in June.

"The point is that he does not have a clear idea about what I am doing.
I invite him to discuss this. We are not bringing our coffeeshops to the
border... we are just trying to overcome the problems around the
coffeeshops, to make them manageable."

Not only accusses Leers Verhofstadt of electioneering, he also holds the
Belgian government partly responsible for the drugs-related problems in
cities like Maastricht.

According to official estimates, some 1.5 million 'drugs tourists'
visit the 16 coffeeshops in Maastricht every year. Most of them come
from Belgium, Germany and France, which is only 2 1/2 hours away by car.

Problems "caused by the Belgians themselves"

"What he is doing, he is bring his clients to Maastricht , and then you
should be fair. Either he bans the use of drugs completely, and fight
against it. Or he should give it free and organize a way of selling
these drugs to the people. But he should not complain because Maastricht
is trying to get rid of all these problems that are caused by the
Belgians themselves."

"They say that we are exporting our drugs problems because we have our
so-called coffeeshops where you can use small amounts of drugs. But it's
exactly the other way round. They are causing our problems because they
are sending their clients, their inhabitants because in Belgium and
Germany you can't buy it."

Critics outside the Netherlands have said the Dutch government should
solve the problems by simply closing its 'coffeeshops'. Leers says that
this is not an option because then the cannabis market would go underground.

"If (closing) would be the solution, I would be the first one to do it.
But the point is that - and that's proven - if you say 'no' to drugs, it
goes underground. It becomes illegal and then the problem would be even
worse. I think it's better to regulate and to keep your hands on it
than to close your eyes. That's exactly the fight I'm fighting."

Who violates the Schengen Treaty?

Leers said he favors a European approach to this crossborder problem.
Belgium also has suggested that it should be addressed at a ministerial
level, saying the Dutch approach to 'soft drugs' constitutes a violation
of the Schengen Treaty on the free movement of people.

Leers argues that it's not the Netherlands, but countries like Belgium
who are in violation of the Schengen Treaty.

"Belgium is offending the Treat of Schengen because they don't have a
proper and balanced (drugs) policy. So let's sit together. Let's work
this out. Be open for new solutions, because the way we are doing it
now, we are losing, and the criminals will be the winners, the big
winners. They earn a lot of money. Let's stop that. Let's organize it.
Let's regulate it, so that we can clear it up for our people."

posted by The Legalise Cannabis Alliance

Author: EUX TV via UKCIA

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