Anyone passing through Amsterdam today may come across some unusual traders - the world's first ecstasy shop. Political youth organisation Liberal Democrats (D66) want the drug decriminalised and afforded the same legal treatment as cannabis, which is available freely in the Netherlands and on sale in shops across the country. However, anyone looking to pick up some high quality gurners will be disappointed – the store will only be selling placebos.
In the ecstasy shop, the party want to demonstrate why decriminalisation is better than leaving distribution to dealers. Dirkjan Tijs, president of the Young Democrats claims: ‘We can prevent minors from buying, make sure there’s no overdose in pills and educate people on ways to minimize the risks involved with ecstasy-usage." The shop will only be open today and is called MDMJA, combining MDMA, the active substance in ecstasy and "Ja", the Dutch word for "yes".
D66 wants to trial the transaction process today in order to showcase how selling ecstasy legally would work. Party representatives will be handing out information to customers and asking them to sign a petition. If 40,000 people sign it then the matter must be debated in parliament.
The issue of decriminalisation is being debated in countries across the world. Nick Clegg, former leader of the (British) Liberal Democrats, called for the decriminalisation of drug use, describing the "war on drugs" as an abject failure. In 2001, Portugal removed criminal penalties for drug possession and America is caught in a wave of weed legalisation. If there's a country that we'd put money on legalising ecstasy, it'd certainly be the Netherlands.
In Amsterdam today? Swing through the city centre to get a feel for what an ecstasy shop might look like, just without the jaw swinging, kick drums and the constant rounds of "I love yous".