Making a hash of it

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The Independent Online

Talk about a bad trip! The Netherlands, internationally renowned as the home of the cannabis café, is cracking down on the recreational use of soft drugs. The number of special coffee shops in the country has halved since the mid-1990s. Now some people fear such institutions might disappear completely within five years.

Talk about a bad trip! The Netherlands, internationally renowned as the home of the cannabis café, is cracking down on the recreational use of soft drugs. The number of special coffee shops in the country has halved since the mid-1990s. Now some people fear such institutions might disappear completely within five years.

It seems that the Dutch government has had a change of heart. Breaking from the traditional policy of regarding cannabis as a generally harmless drug - something better regulated than driven underground - it has decided that those culture-war reactionaries were right all along: cannabis is a social evil. The softly-softly policy is quickly becoming a hazy memory.

But what, we ask, would Amsterdam, for example, be without its convivial hash cafés? It would be like Venice without canals, Paris without rude waiters, London without a controversial mayor. And what about those thousands of tourists who come every year especially to sample the local space cake? Are they to be turned away unsatisfied? We fear that the Dutch authorities might have made a bit of a hash of it.

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