Friday, August 8, 2008

Grass 'yes', tobacco 'no'

Amsterdam's marijuana laws are among the most liberal in the world. Although soft drugs are officially banned in the Netherlands, the policy is that users are allowed to have up to 5 grams of cannabis in their possession. And, coffee shops, where marijuana can be smoked openly in a relaxed, hassle-free environment, have turned into a major tourist attraction.

Dutch grown marijuana is, apparently, very potent sh . . . er, grass. So potent, in fact, that it is often mixed with tobacco to reduce the intoxicating effect. And, there lies the dilemma.

You see, in July, the Dutch banned smoking in restaurants and cafes, including coffee shops. Correct that. They banned smoking tobacco in restaurants and cafes, including coffee shops. The clientele of the coffee shops will still be free to kick back, relax and light up . . . providing they light up only pure cannabis.

Establishments will not, in fact, be completely smoke-free. Proprietors will be allowed to set up a separate room or glass partition behind which patrons will be permitted to smoke tobacco, but service will not be provided in these areas to protect staff from exposure to SHS.

Clientele of the coffee shops, I suppose, will be able to take a toke or two of the tobacco/marijuana mixture in the smoking areas, then return to their table for a toke or two of the heavy duty stuff. Patrons will be free to get stoned on the full-flavoured sh . . . er, grass, but smoking tobacco will be banned . . . more or less.

"Employees should not have to work in an environment were they are constantly exposed to the harmful effects of smoking," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said after the cabinet's original decision to impose the ban last year. Presumably, Mr. Balkenende was referring to the smoking of tobacco.

There was no indication in the news report as to whether smoking marijuana is permitted in the Dutch parliament, but given the complexity of their smoking ban, they were likely stoned on something.

So, moms in Amsterdam will be busy telling little Johnny that rolling a joint and getting high is perfectly acceptable social behaviour; just don’t let me catch you lighting up the demon weed.

Meanwhile, in the industrial heartland of the true north strong and reasonably free, although not yet smoke free, Ontario MPP, Joyce Savoline (PC), has taken issue with the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. The Liberals refused to amend the Smoke Free Ontario Act to include smoking marijuana and not just tobacco.

According to the press release issued by her office, “Savoline once again attempted to close a loophole in the McGuinty government’s Amendment to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act by including controlled substances along with tobacco in a Bill that legislates against smoking in cars with children”.

The “once again” statement refers to a proposed amendment made by Savoline in the Ontario Legislature earlier this year. Savoline introduced an amendment to ban marijuana as well as tobacco after a complaint from one of her constituents that some people were smoking the sh . . . er, oh screw it, the shit openly in defiance of the smoking ban under the protection of a medical marijuana certificate.

Canadians with specific health problems and a supportive doctor have been able to obtain a certificate and legally smoke marijuana since July, 2001.

“The reality is that anything that you burn, that is combustible has a high potential to produce carcinogens and that includes marijuana”, said Ms. Savoline. “The Minister should have put the politics of the issue aside and accepted my amendment in the name of protecting our children".

“Anything that you burn, that is combustible has a high potential to produce carcinogens”. Uh-huh. Like gasoline, diesel fuel, pine logs for wood stoves and fireplaces, etc., etc. I suspect coffee shop owners in the Netherlands are grateful their Prime Minister didn’t consult with Ms. Savoline before introducing the Dutch ban.

Maybe the Dutch have it right. Maybe the best way to deal with this anti-smoker nonsense is to get stoned and stay stoned.

Like, hey man, anybody know where can I find some really good shit?

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