June 23, 2008

“Tweed for Weed” finds disappointment in the Netherlands

Those who look to the Netherlands as the world’s drug policy bellwether got some disappointing news this month: tobacco may be the wedge that divides pro-legalization liberals and pro-legalization conservatives.  From Reuters:

“Coffee shops will be treated in the same manner as other catering businesses. They will be smoke-free,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told NOS television.

“It would have been wrong to move towards a smoke-free catering industry and then make an exception for coffee shops. People would not have understood that.”

Establishments will not in fact have to be completely smoke-free. Proprietors will be allowed to set up a separate room or glass partition behind which people can smoke, but customers will not be served there to protect staff.

“Employees should not have to work in an environment were they are constantly exposed to the harmful effects of smoking,” Balkenende said after the cabinet’s decision on Friday.

It is legitimate to believe that tobacco’s long-term physical harm outweighs its social benefit, and to believe the same about marijuana’s short-term cognitive harm, but to believe in one and not the other is a perversity of the liberal mind that I had not predicted.

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