VOC launches Justice for Johan campaign – Dutch coffeeshop pioneer imprisoned in Bangkok for over 18 months

Dutch non profit organisation VOC (Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition) has launched a campaign called ‘Justice for Johan‘. The aim of the campaign and website of the same name is to draw attention to the plight of Dutch coffeeshop pioneer Johan van Laarhoven, who has been imprisoned under appalling conditions in Thailand since July 2014. On November 10 a verdict is expected in Bangkok. 


The campaign is an initiative of the VOC and is supported by various organizations in the field of cannabis and drug policy (see list below). The website justiceforjohan.nl contains information on the case, including the dubious role of the Dutch Prosecutor (Openbaar Ministerie).

Besides a reconstruction, videos and media articles, the website includes calls to send letters to Johan van Laarhoven, the Dutch ambassador in Thailand and Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders.

Van Laarhoven has made a great contribution to Dutch cannabis culture and the coffeeshop phenomenon. In 1982 he started the first real cannabis coffeeshop in the South of the Netherlands, ‘Ochtendgloren’ (dawn), in Tilburg. This unassuming little shop grew into a chain, The Grass Company, with two coffeeshops in Tilburg and two in Den Bosch.

Tilburg's mayor Noordanus and council members visit The Grass Company coffeeshop at Tilburg, Spoorlaan, summer 2011 (© Gonzo media)
Tilburg’s mayor Noordanus and council members visit The Grass Company coffeeshop at Tilburg, Spoorlaan, summer 2011 (© Gonzo media)

The coffeeshops of The Grass Company have seen numerous visits by delegations of politicians, police and other officials as an example of modern entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry. These coffeeshops offer legal jobs to over a hundred people.

Those who have studied the Johan van Laarhoven case have to conclude that the Dutch prosecutor’s office (Openbaar Ministerie) has acted negligently and unlawfully. With disastrous consequences for Van Laarhoven, his wife Tukta and his family. In the words of his lawyer Gerard Spong. “The Dutch prosecutor has squandered the rights of Johan, after a very sloppy legal operation that deserves the desciption haggling, in exchange for some information to a public prosecutor in a dictatorial regime. The result is that Van Laarhoven is wasting away for over eightteen months now in Bankgok’s Remand Prison, in a 40 square meter cell with 50 inmates.

“His bed: a rubber mat on the floor. Inmates with aids and open tuberculosis. A cellmate dies, his corpse lying there for days. The heat, the stench, the pig food. Van Laarhoven himself coping with serious health problems: gall bladder surgery, diabetes.”
(quote from Mannen Magazine, August 2015).

Johan van Laarhoven in zijn cel (eigen foto, eerder verschenen in NRC)
Johan van Laarhoven in zijn cel (eigen foto, eerder verschenen in NRC)

A few months before the arrest of Van Laarhoven and his wife, a military junta seized power in Thailand. This makes a just and fair judicial process impossible. Like every Dutch citizen Johan van Laarhoven has the right to a fair trial in his own country. The Dutch prosecutor’s office is to blame for his arrest.

With the Justice for Johan campaign the VOC seeks attention for the Van Laarhoven case and requests the Dutch government to actively work towards immediate repatriation and due process in the Netherlands.

Organizations that support the Justice for Johan campaign:

Adviesburo Drugs Amsterdam
Encod (European coalition for just and effective drug policies)
MDHG (Association of Drug users)
PCN (Platform of Dutch cannabis companies)
Stichting Drugsbeleid (Drug Policy Foundation)
Stichting Legalize! (Legalize! foundation)
Stichting PGMC (Patient group Medicinal Cannabis users)
Stichting Sativa (Sativa Foundation)
THC (Team Coffeeshop entrepreneurs Haarlem)
The Stoned Society

Two videos on the Johan van Laarhoven case by Cannabis News Network:

Comment (1)

  • Colin de Jong 23/10/2016 at 9:14 am Reply

    This is pure Foul play from the Dutch Prosecutor. This is a Dutch case and only the Dutch legal system is the one who can sentenced Johan van Laarhoven. But this situation is escalated between Johan and prosecutor Lucas van Delft. His wife Tukta is completely innocent in this matter. She has the house in her name, what most Expats do as Expats can not buy land in their name.Why she is guilty and sentenced to 67 years in prison for having the husband house in her name ????

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