By Herbert M. Green
Initially, I intended to write a report of Cannabis Liberation Day that took place on Sunday the 11th of June 2017 in Amsterdam. But the more I talked with and interviewed members of the various discussion panels and seminars, the more it dawned on me that this would be a frivolous undertaking. Don’t get me wrong, the festival was a success but a summary of the day’s events would bypass the more important aspects of the underlying message and the insights I took away. So here is my take on the 9th edition of the Dutch Cannabis Liberation Day and what it taught me.
A fun day at the park
Let me be clear, the 9th edition of the festival was a success in more ways than one. The sun was shining, the attendance rate was higher than ever before, and there was fun to be had for all ages.
Even for those who have never consumed cannabis or never will, there was plenty to see and do. The market was versatile, and the plentiful array of food trucks provided ample opportunity for foodies to get their rocks off, even without the munchies. The music was great, and the crowd was diverse and multicultural enough to entertain everyone in between the music and speeches. It was a testament to the unifying power of cannabis, a bridge builder between cultural differences.
But all that was just a pleasant and welcome bonus, in my opinion. Because the real reason for the festival to be held, first and foremost, was to give voice to the underlying dilemma the Netherlands is facing in light of the cannabis debate and the ongoing war on drugs.
I missed most of it!
I have to admit; this year was the first time I attended the festival as a reporter. At previous editions of the Cannabis Liberation Day (CLD) I was merely a consumer. Back then it was just an excuse for me to chill in the park, bask in the sun and get baked while enjoying good tunes and the company of like-minded individuals. This year, however, the festivities passed me by almost unnoticed. I spent most of the day cooped up in or around the dark and very warm interior of the Cannabis University’s (CU) tent at the edge of the festival grounds. This is where lectures, panel discussions and Q&A’s were given almost back to back.
“Some, like James Burton, fear it might already be too late for the Dutch to catch up with other countries.”
The problems the Netherlands is facing, and most of the world for that matter, surrounding the legal status of cannabis, aren’t new to me, and I thought I had a fairly good grasp on most aspects of the legalization debate. Nevertheless, listening to what many of the influencers within the cannabis culture present at the CU had to say was nothing short of eye-opening. It even provided me with some startling revelations.
Time for some pepper up our collective asses!
One of the things that struck me most was the omnipresent notion that the Netherlands is desperately lagging behind in the race for legalization. Especially if we, as a country, ever want to regain our once exemplary role within the cannabis debate. Or at least have a fighting chance in the upcoming “commercial green rush” we are seeing in Colorado and other American states or even European countries like Austria.
Some, like James Burton, fear it might already be too late for the Dutch to catch up with other countries that are further along in the legalization of (medical) cannabis.
Another statement that shocked me, but after some contemplation made perfect but painful sense, was made by Sean Carney. He went as far as to say that our tolerance towards cannabis in the past might have made the Dutch public complacent, and put us at a disadvantage in our current struggles with the off-kilter Dutch cannabis laws.
What he means by this is that because the Dutch are so used to hopping into a shop and walking out with a fist full of weed, some of them don’t even realize that what they have just bought isn’t even officially legal. They aren’t aware of the major problems the shop is dealing with to supply their daily wares.
It pains me to say this, but looking around the festival area, I can’t stop and wonder about how many people attending CLD actually give a damn. At CLD it might just be a minority, but I had the sense a lot of people only came to drink beer, enjoy the sun and get stoned. Not that there is anything wrong with that, there was a time I was doing that exact same thing. However, for these folks, the underlying purpose of CLD falls on deaf ears. What does that say about the majority of cannabis smokers on any other given day?
In conclusion; We all need to pitch in!
This (unconscious) complacency might well be a big problem in the long run. Because as Rick Simpson points out, in no uncertain terms, it is up to us to change the course of cannabis laws in the Netherlands. Just sitting around, waiting for other people to make a difference isn’t going to do any good! Only if the 420-minded masses of the Lowlands stand as one, as one voice, can we put enough pressure on the powers that be to grant us the freedom to smoke what we want, how we want, whenever we want.
“Yes, I mean you! The battle is far from over!”