The Dutch government has announced (to the consternation of Purple Rhino fans) that it will soon classify high-potency cannabis (anything with a THC level greater than fifteen percent) as a hard drug on par with cocaine and ecstasy, the latest move in the country's campaign to move away from the liberal drug policies it's known for. This follows the crackdown on marijuana cafes which seeks to give the country a better image, while jeopardizing tourism.
Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch economic-affairs minister, said at a press conference in The Hague that high-potency cannabis has "played a role in increasing public health damage." But since people aren't just going to go cold turkey, many see the reclassification as a dubious policy which will just lead to users smoking more of the low-grade stuff, or "schwag." Said Jeffrey Parsons, a psychologist at New York's Hunter College, "If it encourages smoking an increased amount of low-concentration THC weed, it is likely to actually cause more harm than good," mentioning the potential lung damage and cancer-causing effects of increased inhalation.
The spokesman for the Platform of Cannabis Businesses in the Netherlands, the unmistakably Dutch Gerrit-Jan ten Bloomendal, thinks enforcing the initiative would be almost impossible and that a black market for the stronger pot would inevitably develop. He asked, "How are we going to know whether a given batch exceeds fifteen-percent THC? For that matter, how would health inspectors know?"
According to the Netherlands' Trimbos Institute, which studies mental health and addiction, the average amount of THC in Dutch marijuana is currently in the ballpark of 17.8 percent, and has actually been declining since 2004. To put that in perspective, American stoners have to get by with an average THC level of around ten percent, though that number is rising. Still, it blows away that groovy but wimpy four-percent-THC grass that hippies were smoking at Jefferson Airplane shows in the 70's, maaahhhnnn.