US Cannabis Entrepreneurs Risk Jail Time in Thailand

Nov 25, 2015, 10:00 ET from Spong Advocaten

AMSTERDAM, November 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --

- Convicted Dutchman files appeal against 103 years imprisonment  

American cannabis entrepreneurs risk ending up in a Thai prison cell, Dutch lawyer Sidney Smeets of convicted Dutchman Johan van Laarhoven warns. A Thai court sentenced the former coffee shop owner to 103 years imprisonment last week. He will appeal the verdict. 

Van Laarhoven was convicted of money laundering by the Criminal Court in Bangkok. Disturbingly, the money the Dutchman 'laundered' was earned by selling cannabis through a legitimate business in the Netherlands. "The court ruled the money has a criminal origin, because selling cannabis is illegal in Thailand," says Sidney Smeets, one of his Dutch attorneys, currently visiting his client in Bangkok's Klong Prem prison. "The Thai judge completely ignored the fact that selling cannabis is allowed in the Netherlands."

The Dutch tolerance policy on soft drugs allows the retail of cannabis from so-called 'coffee shops' under strict conditions. All the coffee shops Van Laarhoven owned had their required license and satisfied all government obligations. Therefore Van Laarhoven was never convicted in The Netherlands. "In other words there simply is no predicate offence that could possibly constitute money laundering," says Smeets. "Nor was Van Laarhoven ever prosecuted or even accused of any drug related offence in Thailand. His only 'crime' is running a legitimate Dutch business."

Other Dutch coffee shop owners are worried about these developments and are afraid they are in danger too.

According to Smeets, the Thai verdict has immediate consequences for all cannabis entrepreneurs all over the world. "This effectively means any legitimate cannabis entrepreneur is at great risk. This includes legitimate cannabis entrepreneurs in the US, Uruguay and Spain, who risk ending up in a Thai prison cell if they spend or invest their revenue abroad."

"The government might authorize cannabis entrepreneurship and collect taxes accordingly, but this proves any foreign court not sympathetic to cannabis can still impose excessive sentences," prominent Dutch criminal defence lawyer Gerard Spong states. According to the lawyers, this verdict jeopardizes everything that is legal in other countries and illegal in Thailand.

Johan van Laarhoven started his first coffee shop 35 years ago in the Dutch town of Tilburg. After his retirement he moved to Thailand, were he was apprehended after a request from the Dutch prosecution. He has been imprisoned for over a year under appalling conditions. The coffee shops he started are still in business and comply with all the rules of the Dutch government.


SOURCE Spong Advocaten