Double Standards in the Amsterdam War Against Weed: the case of Space Mountain

On the 1st of january 2017 a new wave of Coffeeshop closures has shocked the Amsterdam cannabis community. Until the last moment a lot was unclear about what shops would have to close. The federal ruling that Medicinal Marijuana Dispensaries (‘Coffeeshops’ in Dutch) within 250 meters of an educational facility are illicit seems to backfire on the small cannabis communities, while leaving the big business untouched.

Meet Helen Gorgels. She and her husband have been the proud owners of Space Mountain since 1999, serving the local community with the plant that authorities struggle to understand. When her family-owned establishment was threatened by the federal government with closure on grounds of the distance criterium, she started looking around. The ruling seemed to apply on some shops more than on others. The law seems to have a blind eye on big pot chains that serve thousands of tourists, while putting small family businesses off the market.

Number of coffeeshops in Amsterdam 1995–2016

Besides Space Mountain seven more shops have been closed in the January 2017 wave of government extravaganza, pushing the total of open shops further down. As a result, the coffeeshops that are still open see a rise in new customers. These transform into cold takeaway shops to handle the inflow of new clients and money. Small family-run coffeeshops that have atmosphere and are -to use a Dutch word- gezellig, are being annihilated. How the Amsterdam government can apply the law on small business-owners, while turning a blind eye on the bigger fish (leaving them with a bigger net income), is a question we all know the answer to.