Update: Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Cannabis cafes in the Netherlands reopened for takeout service only on Tuesday after being forced to close amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus over the weekend. After announcing on Sunday that the country’s famed ‘coffee shops’ would have to close until April 6, government officials reversed course on Monday so that illicit cannabis dealers would not be enabled by the closures.
After the cannabis cafes were ordered closed Sunday night, street dealers and other sources of illicit market pot immediately made it known that they were still open for business, prompting city mayors and other local politicians to petition the national government for the change.
“As soon as the ban was announced, we started getting emails from people offering to supply us,” an unidentified student fraternity member told Dutch media.
The revised order allows cannabis cafes to sell to customers to take off of the premises. Onsite consumption will not be permitted for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.
As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States and Europe, government officials in the Netherlands ordered the closure of schools, restaurants, bars, and other businesses including cannabis cafes. The announcement from the Dutch ministers of health and education on Sunday led to long lines outside the country’s famed ‘coffeeshops’ in Amsterdam and other cities as customers rushed to buy pot before they closed. The closures were ordered to begin at 6 p.m. Sunday and are expected to remain in effect until April 6.
One woman, who declined to be identified because of her job as a health care worker, told a photographer with the Associated Press that she saw a live stream of the government announcement. Health minister Bruno Bruins specifically mentioned the coffee shops, prompting the woman to rush to the cannabis cafe Bullwackie in southern Amsterdam.
“I don’t smoke much, but I thought if I have to sit inside for three weeks,” she said while waiting in line.
The government order also applied to coffee shops in other Dutch cities, including Utrecht and the country’s capital The Hague.
“For maybe for the next two months we’re not able to get some weed so it should be nice to at least have some in the house,” said Jonathan, a buyer waiting outside The Point coffee shop in the Hague. “My friend called me like five minutes ago, he saw the press conference — good friend.”
Buyers Rush To Beat Closures
An Irish woman named Hannah said as she waited in line in The Hague that the announcement caused a nearly instantaneous rush on the city’s coffee shops.
“I wouldn’t mind having a little bit of weed — keep it easy while we’re at home for so long. It might be a long time in quarantine,” said Hannah. “I was literally just watching the press conference with my flatmate and then I just went downstairs and suddenly there’s this queue of like 30 people, and all these cars arriving as well now.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to make a televised address about the coronavirus outbreak on Monday. So far, 1,135 people have been infected with the virus in the Netherlands, leading to 20 deaths. The health minister warned on Sunday that more action from the government will be forthcoming.
“I am certain these will not be our last measures, the situation keeps developing very rapidly and we will keep deciding on further measures based on the knowledge of experts,” Bruins said. “I cannot speculate on what measures these will be, but it is clear that more will follow.”