The Dutch are fighting to get a coffeeshop owner out of a 103 year prison sentence

Posted on June 13 2016

Long before recreational marijuana in the United States took place and even long before medical marijuana was a realistic prospect, the coffeeshops of Amsterdam sold cannabis openly to locals and tourists alike.

The Dutch have long tolerated soft drug use and differentiated cannabis away from hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. You would think therefore that the people who ran coffeeshops would be immune from the types of law enforcement and skullduggery that comes along with harsh and ridiculous drug laws.

Unfortunately for Dutch National Johan Van Laarhoven, that’s not the case. In a move many people think was aimed at punishing Mr Van Laarhoven for owning a coffeeshop for years, orchestrated by people on the right wing of Dutch politics and police authorities, he was jailed in Thailand for 103 years for crimes supposedly associated with his coffeeshops.

The Dutchman, who owned four cannabis cafes in The Netherlands, sold them in 2011. The sale and use of cannabis and cannabis cafes are legal in the Netherlands. Van Laarhoven has lived in Thailand since 2008 with his Thai wife, Tukta, and their two children.

His company was investigated for money laundering in The Netherlands but, after years of investigation, no evidence was ever found. He made a deal with the prosecutor’s office in the Netherlands that if they wanted to investigate him further, he would return to the country within 5 days of the request.

The Thai authorities allegedly began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after getting a letter from a worker at the Dutch embassy. The letter tipped them off that he made his money from selling marijuana and urged them to investigate.

Although the apparent activities took place in Van Laarhoven’s home country, the Thai officials still went ahead with the investigation. Van Laarhoven and his wife were arrested just several days later at their Pattaya home. They were sentenced late last year and are currently in jail.

Van Laarhoven was convicted for spending money in Thailand earned by selling cannabis in The Netherlands. He was shocked. He told VICE, “Even the prosecution witnesses said they didn't know what law we had broken in Thailand and what it is that we supposedly did wrong in the Netherlands.”

That didn’t stop the Thai authorities apparently putting him in jail for 103 years for no reason however, and now Parliament members from six different parties have joined forces and are campaigning for his release.



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