Cannabis consumption in the Netherlands increases... in the time of Covid

 Customers are constantly flocking to the checkout box at the No Limit cafe in The Hague to pay for the marijuana they have purchased, as it has been noted that many have increased their consumption of it since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, convinced that it helps them calm their anxiety Or reduce boredom.
"The pandemic has been a good thing for us," cafe owner Carmelita, in her forties, told AFP with an expressive smile.
She indicated that the number of “No Limit” customers before Covid-19 ranged between 300 and 350 per day, but today it exceeds 500.
With the emergence of the Corona virus at the beginning of 2020, partial quarantine periods continued in the Netherlands, which greatly limited the possibility of going to bars, restaurants and halls Performing arts and other nightclubs.
However, escape remained possible at home, as smoking hashish has been permitted in the Netherlands since 1976, and it can be bought and its derivatives in cafes, the number of which is about thirty in The Hague.
Carmelita notes that “before the pandemic, people used to go to nightclubs, but they closed, so they are staying in their homes, where they smoke more.”
She points out that her café's customers now include "a lot of housewives who buy marijuana so that they can sleep well."
Sophia Docter, 18, whose consumption has risen from “two or three times” a week to “six or seven times,” explains that “the lack of something to do (in the city) pushes him to be satisfied with smoking weed.” As for Peter, who was with her, he points out that in this way he was able to overcome “boredom.”
A survey conducted by the Trimbos Institute for Mental Health and Addiction Research shows that 90 percent of Dutch cannabis consumers say they use it as much or more as they did before the pandemic, and three-quarters of those say they smoke it daily.
"People are not seeking highs, but their way of dealing with everyday anxiety," explains drug historian Stephen Snelders.
He points to similar differences recorded in tobacco and opium consumption during periods of plague outbreaks in the Netherlands.
"It's good for the brain to take some time off" during the phases of pandemic stress, says Gerard Smit, owner of "Creamers' Cafe". Since the outbreak of the pandemic, a trend has emerged in which these cafes, in which people used to meet and socialize, turn into mere selling points after they have emptied their visitors. "Even if we were our besties, we no longer share marijuana cigarettes," Smit says.
The enactment in 2020 to implement a law banning the consumption of tobacco in closed places, including smoking areas, deprived these cafes of some of their loyal customers. As for the rest, its patrons are obliged to leave at five in the afternoon, under the measures of closing non-essential stores as part of the measures to combat Covid.
From this point of view, the greatest demand is recorded for external requests, that is, to buy cannabis for consumption elsewhere. And the rush of customers does not stop at the “Waterworld” cafe, which displays different types of marijuana in large plastic cans with names such as “Fruit Punch” and “Gelaty” or even “Amnesia Fog”.
And seller Massoud Erdogan is trying to regulate the flow of consumers, saying, "Please pay attention, only three people are allowed inside!"
On the door to the smoking room, the following phrase was written: “The smoking room is closed until further notice to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
No one is allowed to enter Waterworld, which was once bustling with customers, according to its owner, Abdoul Sanhaji, who is also the president of the Federation of The Hague Cafes, which is calling for changes to the laws governing this sector after the pandemic.
Although the criminalization of consumption and selling has been decriminalized, the rest of the supply chain remains illegal. The hashish, which traders sell daily in kilograms, and declare its selling prices and income from it to the Dutch tax administration, is prohibited in the Netherlands.
The cafes offer, in full view of everyone, narcotic substances produced in the United States or Canada, which are smuggled into the Netherlands by various gangs. The Netherlands bans all cannabis cultivation on its soil.
"We launder money all day," Carmelita says with a sigh. "We're illegal in almost everything we do except pay taxes," she says.
The Netherlands is beginning to implement a test in ten pilot cities where cafes sell cannabis legally produced in the country. Results will be visible within four years.
And John Peter Coles, a researcher at the Trimbos Institute, expects that Covid will not have "any impact on the Netherlands' drug policy."
He adds sarcastically, "Even Covid, in its 18 months of existence, is nothing in the face of thirty years of heated debates about cannabis."

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