Cannabis to go: Dutch U-turn on coronavirus cafe shutdown

Dutch cannabis cafes slowly reopened for takeaway purchases only on March 17, 2020. — AFP pic
Dutch cannabis cafes slowly reopened for takeaway purchases only on March 17, 2020. — AFP pic

AMSTERDAM, March 18 — Dutch cannabis cafes slowly reopened for takeaway purchases only for yesterday after the government made a U-turn on a shutdown over the coronavirus crisis.

Long queues formed on Sunday outside the country's famed “coffee shops” after the Netherlands ordered them closed until April 6, along with schools, bars and restaurants.

Instead of panic buying toilet paper and pasta like other shoppers, smokers had descended on the cafes to stock up on weed while the outbreak continues.

But on Monday night the government revised the measures fearing that closing coffee shops would promote the drug trade on the streets.

Consuming cannabis at the cafes themselves — which often have special ventilated rooms for customers to roll and smoke their joints while sipping a non-alcoholic drink — remains prohibited.

Another Dutch institution, the sex clubs and brothels known worldwide through Amsterdam's Red Light district, remain completely closed until April 6.

Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but it decriminalised the possession of less than five grammes of the substance in 1976 under a so-called “tolerance” policy.

Dutch health officials said yesterday the death toll from the Covid-19 disease had nearly doubled overnight to 43 so far, while 1,705 people have now been infected. — AFP-Relaxnews

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