Cannabis activist and entrepreneur, Not Van Schaik, with cannabis plants in background.

Cannabis activist and entrepreneur, Not Van Schaik, with cannabis plants in background.

By Chris Bovey

Coffeeshop entrepreneur and cannabis activist, Nol van Schaik, unexpectedly passed away in Spain last weekend at the age of 65.

Nol was a larger than life character who ran a number of certified coffeeshops in Haarlem under the name of Willie Wortel. The news of his death will come as a great shock to many in the cannabis community throughout the world who knew him.

For decades Nol was a driving force behind all sorts of initiatives to legalise weed and hashish.

Nol was a regular media point of contact for his views on Dutch cannabis policy.

He was a founder of Team Haarlem Coffeeshops (THC) an organisation that united all the coffeeshops in Haarlem. Thanks to THC, all the coffeeshops in Haarlem received a quality mark from the local municipality, of which he was incredibly proud. The idea behind the quality mark was so coffeeshop owners can demonstrate they operate a safe and responsible business model.

Medical Weed

Not only did Nol fight for the legalisation of soft drugs like marijuana in The Netherlands, but he also worked for sensible medical cannabis policies. When there were hardly any coffeeshops, he gave discounts to people who needed to consume cannabis for medicinal purposes, as well as anyone who produced a doctor’s statement.

His work for the cannabis community throughout the world did not go unnoticed. He received High Times ‘Dutch Masters Award’ during the 25th High Times Cannabis Cup. This recognition is granted to people who have made a significant, lifelong contribution to the cannabis community.

Nol was also a key figure at the turn of the millennium when a number of cannabis entrepreneurs defied the law to open up Dutch-style coffeeshops in the UK that were ultimately all shut down by the British government.

His inspiration led Jeff Ditchfield to open the Beggar’s Belief, the UK’s first cannabis members club.

Jeff Ditchfield said: “It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to know Nol van Schaik, a very sad loss.”

Nol led a colourful life, often recognisable with a joint in his mouth. He had a career as a bodybuilder, fought back from bankruptcy and time spent in prison.

Destitute and looking for money, in 1989 he attempted to bring in 200 kilos of hashish from Morocco to The Netherlands. When French police caught up with him he barely managed to escape. The French government tried to get him extradited from The Netherlands to serve five years behind bars for this failed smuggling attempt, with the extradition request being rejected by a Dutch judge.

Legalisation could reduce crime

Photo of Nol van Schaik, 1954 - 2019

Cannabis Entrepreneur, Nol van Schaik, 1954 – 2019.

Nol was always opposed to hard drugs. He saw the drug world was littered with criminality and became convinced the legalisation of soft drugs could reduce crime.

In 1998, van Schaik came into prominence nationally in The Netherlands when a Dutch government minister forbade pharmacists from providing cannabis to the seriously ill any longer. He rallied all coffeeshops in The Netherlands to give sick people a discount.

Nol van Schaik always maintained the price of the ‘state weed’ should be lower than that of the illegal weed. And, importantly, the weed test should not exclude edible products.

“How can a government ban the weed cake if so many users want to stop smoking? That goal is stated in the Prevention Agreement.”

He also fought attempts by the Dutch government to close coffeeshops and the introduction of the WeedPasss scheme that attempted to ban the sale of cannabis products to non-Dutch residents. Ultimately, this scheme was only enacted in a small part of Holland and never in Amsterdam or Haarlem, where Nol’s coffeeshops were based.

Life in Spain

Nol moved to Malaga, Spain, in 2003 where he liked the tranquillity and the flexible handling of rules. As well as a successful cannabis entrepreneur, Nol was very much a family orientated man who loved his children and grandchildren.

Nol’s unexpected death led to tributes and photos being posted on his Facebook page from all over the world.

Wilco Sijm, who helped form Team Haarlem Coffeeshop entrepreneurs told Feed The Birds: “What we will always remember was his overwhelming energy and the passion he put into motivating cannabis activists, which was always his first and foremost interest. He was a true friend who will be sadly missed.”

Nol van Schaik sings a protest song against government drug policy.

Chris Bovey, writer and musician.

Chris Bovey is a businessman, writer, artist, musician and practical joker. He lives in Devon with his partner, two children and cat. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter @ADHD_BadBoy.

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