Cannabis culture awards 2013 in Amsterdam

The ceremony was once again a very informative and inspiring event, elevating the debate about cannabis policies to new heights. Former Defense Minister of Norway and father of current Norwegian prime minister Thorvald Stoltenberg returned to Amsterdam to renew his pledge for a change in drug policy as a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

This year’s other winner, the television program Spuiten en Slikken from BNN, received a Cannabis Culture Award for their unceasing efforts to inform the public in an unbiased way about drugs in general and cannabis in particular. As Tim Hofman, one of the TV show hosts and recipient of the award on its behalf, explained, the program is needed to give information about drugs as long as drugs exist – meaning Spuiten en Slikken will be around for a long time.

The famous Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Polak, highly respected in the field of psychology and president of ENCOD, presented the award to Mr. Hofman after giving a speech calling for legalization and regulation of the entire cannabis market. According to him “coffeeshops must be able to operate as normal businesses” and so far not enough is known about the interaction of THC with other cannabinoids to assume banning products over 15% THC will be productive – a reference to the recent changes planned by the Dutch government in regard to cannabis policy.

After a refreshing musical break by local trio Amsterdam Jazz Collective, the event continued with the second award conferred upon former EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Frits Bolkestein.

Previous winner of a Cannabis Culture Award and former prime minister of the Netherlands Mr. Dries van Agt gave an inspiring speech in favor of full legalization and regulation of the cannabis market. Drawing on the roots of his vision which led to the globally hailed Dutch Tolerance Policy and earned him the unofficial title of ‘father of coffeeshops’, Mr. van Agt spoke of the anomaly created by the limited legality of cannabis sales to consumers coupled with the illegal ‘backdoor’ supply, a situation created by the tolerance policy being a stepping-stone to full regulation.

Frits Bolkestein was awarded a prize in recognition for the position he has taken against the prohibition of cannabis. Citing the way that American drug prohibition has funneled millions into the hands of the mafia, the European Commissioner stated that the measures put in place to oppose the production, distribution and sales of cannabis cause more harm than the plant itself. His highly anticipated speech affirmed that firstly, he had never smoked a joint; secondly, no one has ever died from smoking cannabis. Speaking confidently and passionately, Mr. Bolkestein proposed that growers should be issued licenses, taking the market out of the hands of criminal organizations, which was met with enthusiastic applause.

Ben Dronkers, founder of the Hash Marihuana & Hash Museum and of the Cannabis Culture Awards, then took the stage to thank everyone for attending and reiterate one of his core philosophies – a person must be corrupt or stupid to not see that the war on drugs is senseless. Following this, Hanneke Groenteman invited all the participants back to the stage for a press conference during which enthusiastic journalists were able to put questions to some of Europe’s most influential former politicians, as well as one of the world’s most successful cannabis entrepreneurs.

Concluding the proceedings, Ms. Groenteman thanked the audience and participants, and the event moved to the Hemp Gallery for a lively and informal afterparty. The 9th edition of the Cannabis Culture Awards will be remembered as one of the most important and significant cannabis events of this year, and hopefully by the 10th edition, some of the changes called for by these venerable statesmen of cannabis will have come to pass.