DC removes reference to Amsterdam in marijuana law fact sheet

The Dutch government is thanking D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for removing an offensive reference to Amsterdam on a fact sheet about marijuana laws in D.C.

The Dutch Embassy noticed the reference to the Netherlands' capital city implying the drug was more permissive there than in the District.

As soon as the diplomats at the embassy saw the reference to Amsterdam, they sprang into action and came up with a fact sheet of its own showing marijuana is in fact illegal in the Netherlands and citizens there are permitted to possess far less pot there then they are here.

The diplomats in Washington first took notice when they heard Mayor Bowser make reference to Amsterdam in a discussion on pot.

The question in the marijuana fact sheet asked: "Is DC going to become like Amsterdam?"

"The question was will DC become like Amsterdam and the answer is no and that made it clear to us they didn't mean it in a positive way," said Ilse van Overveld.

She and her colleagues went into action with an attempt to set the record straight.

"I think the laws in the Netherlands, because the rules in Amsterdam apply for the whole country, are a bit stricter than here in Washington D.C.," she said. "For example, here in Washington D.C., people are allowed to possess 55 grams or two ounces of marijuana, where in the Netherlands, it is only five grams. And one of the other differences is about how many plants you can grow in your own home. It is up to five in the Netherlands, and in D.C., that is up to six, and if your family consists of two adults or even more, you can have up to 12 plants."

The difference in the laws comes in the places where you can smoke it. Amsterdam has cafes where you can purchase small amounts. In D.C, you can only smoke it at home.

"It is a little bit complicated, but drugs in the Netherlands are illegal regardless," said Van Overveld. "But we have a law that says we will not enforce anything if people only have five grams, so they are allowed to go to a coffee shop -- that is what we call it. And there are strict rules where you can buy and smoke marijuana in these coffee shops."

So after the complaint, the mayor's office removed the reference to Amsterdam.

"There is a bond between the Netherlands and the city of D.C. and we hope it will be possible to collaborate on a whole variety of issues and topics we can work on together," said Van Overveld.

Are there any hard feelings over the reference?

"No, not at all," she said. "We thought it was necessary to include the right facts and figures in the debate, so we did, and no hard feelings at all. We really wanted to keep it light-hearted with a twist."

The law here in D.C. has some ambiguities to it and it is going to take some time to get it all ironed out on what is legal and what is not.