- Title: NETHERLANDS: From July 1, the only illegal substance in a joint will be - tobacco
- Date: 28th June 2008
- Summary: (EU) AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS (FILE - JULY 2007) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF EDDIE SMOKING A GIANT VAPORISER AT CANNABIS CUP
- Embargoed: 13th July 2008 13:00
- Location: Netherlands
- Country: Netherlands
- Topics: Legal System,Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVA1WX5ILG1FD3DGRV4KD6MRN0BG
- Story Text: Cannabis lovers will be exempt from a public smoking ban that comes into force in The Netherlands next week, but there is a catch: smokers can still light up a joint in the country's famed "coffee shops" but only if it is not mixed with tobacco. Cutting the cannabis with tobacco, which some smokers do, could land the shop owners a fine of up to 2,400 euros (3,778 U.S. dollars).
Not a problem, says coffee shop owner Arjan Roskam whose marijuana strains have won 31 Cannabis Cup prizes over the years and who count Hollywood celebrities, members of Europe's royal families, lawyers, judges and police officers among his clients.
"The English, Americans and Japanese are our biggest customers.
Already for a very, very long time they don't smoke tobacco because tobacco is the number one killer on this planet," he said.
Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands but has been decriminalised, with small quantities sold in coffee shops, making them big attractions for tourists.
While pot smokers usually cut their joints with tobacco, marijuana can also be smoked on its own in pipes, vaporisers and other devices or eaten as an ingredient in cake or cookies. The Dutch health ministry brushed off fears that cannabis-only joints may increase drug-related problems. The Dutch drug-related death rate is low compared with other EU countries, it said in its 2007 annual report.
While coffee shops, like cafes and restaurants, can set aside a separate room for tobacco smokers, many are unlikely to do so because of space constraints.
The smoking ban could hurt Amsterdam's golden goose, its lucrative tourist trade, though. The city's plans to clean up its renowned 'red light' district to fight forced prostitution, money laundering and drug abuse has already drawn criticism.
Coffee shops, bars and restaurants could get a reprieve though as organisations representing the leisure industry are seeking injunctions against the smoking ban.
In the meantime, watchdog Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority says it has a squad of about 200 inspectors to enforce the ban.
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