On March 22, Dutch businessman Hans Kamperman jumped off the balcony of the public gallery inside the Dutch parliament with a rope around his neck. This attempted suicide marked the pinnacle of his efforts to get attention for his campaign to legalize cannabis in the Netherlands. “It was not an act of desperation, but an act of love for the planet,” Kamperman explained. He miraculously survived the roughly 16-feet fall and will continue his campaign.
Until a few years ago, Kamperman hardly knew anything about cannabis and had never smoked a joint in his life. A natural healer taught him about the medicinal qualities of the plant and the power of cannabis oil.
It was then that he made the decision to start his first small grow operation, consisting of just five plants. There was no profit motive; it was all about compassion and helping sick people. Dutch insurance companies had stopped funding the cost of medical cannabis, leaving patients out in the cold. As a result, an increasing number of people were producing and distributing cannabis oil themselves. People like Hans Kamperman.
Kamperman was certain that by growing no more than five outdoor plants, he was doing nothing illegal and could not be prosecuted. Some friends also grew up to five plants in their garden, with the sole purpose of producing medicinal cannabis oil.
Following the launch of his altruistic grow hobby, tragedy struck when police stormed Kamperman’s house in October 2016 and found the five large plants growing in a small greenhouse in his garden.
The raid made headlines in local newspapers. One report at the time claimed that police found “nine kilos of cannabis buds,” while in fact the police weighed entire branches of all five fresh-cut plants.
Kamperman was arrested and detained for four days. He couldn’t believe what was happening to him — and things only got worse. The sensational media coverage of the arrest seriously damaged his reputation in his small hometown of Groenlo, located in the east of the country near to the German border.
The first judge sentenced Kamperman to 80 hours of conditional community service, which might seem lenient, but it meant he now had a criminal record. This in turn resulted in Canada barring him from entering the country. Kamperman had invested around 3 million Euros in a nature resort in Canada, so this was nothing short of a financial disaster. His other project, a shopping center for small sustainable local companies in his hometown, has also ground to a halt as a result of this conviction.
On December 30, 2017, the appeal judge found Kamperman guilty as charged, but did not impose further punishment. A true Pyrrhic victory, because it keeps his criminal record — and the Canadian travel ban — intact. Kamperman’s reputation is down the drain as are his business prospects, both in Canada and the Netherlands. All because of five outdoor plants.
His life was turned upside down, but rather than lie down and take it, he decided to fight back. As a consequence, since January 2018, Kamperman has been camping in front of the Dutch House of Representatives in The Hague, along with a small, purpose-built information kiosk.
The story of Hans Kamperman proves that although Holland is famous the world over for its liberal cannabis policy, the reality can be a lot uglier.
From Businessman To Cannabis Activist
Kamperman is not the kind of man to give up easily or accept the role of victim. To him, the story of how and why cannabis was banned and how this plant can save the planet is much more important than his own story. Shortly after his most recent court case, he decided to start his one-man campaign in the heart of Dutch political power, The Hague. He built a small information booth, and covered it with posters about his case, the benefits of cannabis and hemp, and the insanity of prohibition.
Since January 23, Kamperman has spent five days a week directly in front of the main entrance to the Dutch parliament. Big Buds Magazine paid him a visit on one of the coldest days of the year, in early March. A sharp wind was blowing through the center of The Hague and the temperature was well below freezing. As you approach the square, Kamperman’s kiosk can be easily seen from afar. He has built a stronger and somewhat bigger construction after the wind almost blew away the first kiosk. (The moment was captured by the camera of a national TV network and aired twice that same night. It was the first time Kamperman’s campaign made it to national TV.)
To my surprise, I see two empty foldable chairs next to the kiosk. Kamperman is nowhere to be seen, and neither is “Green Ambassador” Darpan van Kuik, a longtime cannabis activist based in The Hague who has been helping Kamperman since day one. When I get closer, I hear sounds emanating from the wooden structure. A door slides open at the back of the kiosk: Kamperman and van Kuik are inside. Atop a tiny table sits two thermos cans, a portable heater, and a stack of flyers educating about the benefits of medical marijuana.
The 150 members of the House of Representatives, or Tweede Kamer, might be enjoying their spring break, but Kamperman still erects his kiosk every morning and takes it down again every night — even when it’s several degrees below freezing, as it is today. When the cold gets too much to bear, the men take short breaks inside the kiosk to warm up. Van Kuik, dressed in his trademark cannabis leaf suit, reggae hat and a thick red, gold and green scarf, produces a small speaker, telling me, “We regularly dance ourselves warm, too.” We snap some photos and decide to move to a nearby cannabis coffee shop for our chat.
Kamperman orders hot chocolate and starts explaining how he went from successful businessman to full-time cannabis activist in under two years.
“Above all, I do not want to stay in the role of the victim,” Kamperman tells me. “Even though I was financially ruined by the state, I want to approach things positively. I took the same approach with the online petition I started: Give the plant back to the people, because the planet needs this plant.
“We shouldn’t criminalize cannabis, we should industrialize it. It’s not only a medicine, but also a sustainable raw material. One acre of hemp produces the same amount of paper pulp as four acres of forest. But that forest needs 20 years to grow. And don’t forget hemp plastic, biofuel from hemp, and its ability to clean radioactively contaminated soil. This plant can save the planet.”
Occasionally, van Kuik weighs in. “In the beginning, Hans was much more angry at the judge. That’s understandable, but it means you’re stuck in the role of the victim.”
Kamperman nods, adding, “Well, Darpan is the mirror. He has also become a bit of a media advisor.”
After finishing his hot chocolate and pre-rolled Amnesia Haze joint, Darpan goes back to the kiosk, braving the freezing winds outside. Kamperman revisits the police raid that eventually led to his campaign.
In October 2016, six police officers dressed in bulletproof vests stormed his property, guns drawn. “I really thought five plants are allowed,” Kamperan explains of the raid. Following his arrest, as he sat in his cell, he recalls a feeling of betrayal by the Dutch state.
Reading the sensational media reports after his release meant another blow for Kamperman. “I was portrayed like some sort of local Pablo Escobar, running a criminal weed network from a rich residential area,” he says. “Groenlo is a small village, 10,000 people live there. You can imagine what something like this means for your reputation. I was crucified.”
The appeal against the most recent verdict is still pending, but the damage to Kamperman’s reputation and livelihood is already enormous. In an open letter to Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the conservative liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Kamperman wrote:
This letter describes how a lying, deceitful, manipulating and evidence destroying justice apparatus ultimately condemned me to “Guilty without Punishment”. As a result, the courts have deliberately destroyed my life, my dreams and my ideals for a better world. … You will find me every day at the entrance of the House of Representatives. I would greatly appreciate it if you visit my kiosk and give me the opportunity to inform you. I am also open to criticism.
The response to his letter was disappointing, as was the lack of attention from members of parliament for his campaign.
“The MPs of the parties in favor of legalization are always passing me by,” Kamperman says. “They keep their cellphones to their ear as if they are in a conversation. Sometimes that’s hard to deal with. If I approach them directly, they’re always in a hurry, they have to catch a train or a meeting. I’ve been standing here for five weeks now, every day they walk right past my kiosk. Never does a member of parliament ask me if I’m cold, or how I’m doing, the exception being Vera Bergkamp [of the Democrats 66 political party].”
Fortunately, there are plenty of other visitors who express their support of Kamperman. Canadian cannabis oil pioneer Rick Simpson paid a visit to the kiosk, as did activist and coffee shop pioneer Wernard Bruining, who has posted a video to YouTube of his visit with Kamperman. Check it out below:
“I hope I can be a connection between all kinds of organizations, people and initiatives,” Kamperman says of his activism. “I think my approach, stressing the importance of the subject for our planet, is helpful. Who can be against the interest of our planet? I really want people to know how much potential this plant has.”
The petition Kamperman started, which translates to “Get Cannabis Out of Criminal Law for a Sustainable Future”, was signed by some 7,000 people in its first two weeks (and 15,200 at the time of publishing). “If we get 40,000 signatories, parliament must discuss the petition,” he explains, “which means there will be more publicity.”
Kamperman is determined to continue his campaign until cannabis is legalized in the Netherlands. At the moment, he’s staying with his adult daughter, who lives in The Hague. But when the weather warms up, he plans to spend his nights at the kiosk. “Planet Earth is in great danger. If hemp is given back to the people and we start industrializing it, then it can save the earth.”
Kamperman’s Suicide Attempt At The Hague
Three weeks after this interview, Kamperman told Darpan van Kuik he was going to do some shopping. When he didn’t return, Darpan texted him, but received no reply. A few minutes later, a number of ambulances screamed onto the main square. “I knew it was Hans,” Darpan recalls. Like everybody who knew Kamperman, van Kuik was shocked by his unexpected suicide attempt. But unlike most people, Darpan doesn’t want to judge or condemn him, respecting the personal choice his friend had made.
Four days after his attempted hanging, Kamperman attended the monthly meeting of the VOC, the largest Dutch non-governmental organization fighting for legalization.
“I just love the planet and the people,” Kamperman addressed the meeting, before explaining of his suicide attempt, “It was not an act of desperation, but an act of love for the planet. I had made a careful consideration, with clarity of mind: How do I reach these [politicians]? I had done everything I could to reach them, I wrote letters, started the petition, stood at their door for 40 days, but I failed to reach them. I wanted to wake them up. I weighed up the interests and chose the importance of the earth over the pain my suicide would cause my loved ones and the trauma to the bystanders.”
To all attendants of the VOC meeting, Kamperman made a calm and composed impression. Talking about his mental state, he said, “If I had a psychosis or a depression, the hospital wouldn’t have let me walk out within 24 hours.”
He explained he was convinced that he would not survive the jump. “If you weigh 95 kilos [210 pounds] and jump down five meters with a rope around your neck, you break your neck. There’s no other way. Apparently, someone up there thinks I still have a role to play.”
Kamperman’s Farewell Note
Seconds before Kamperman jumped from the balcony at the Dutch parliament, he posted this farewell message on his Facebook page:
Dear family and friends
Forgive me for this act, I have to do this to awaken the politicians. I can not reach them with my message. I have a solution for a sustainable earth and I have been here for 2 months to ask attention for medical cannabis users who are being criminalized by this government, they do not listen!! They turn against humanity. They trample on the rule of law. Tobacco industry causes 5 million deaths per year by adding carcinogens, all of which is allowed within our criminal law according to our public prosecutor’s office. Cannabis is criminalized while it can save the earth and is a medicine for many people.
I do this for the earth, the people. They have to wake up!! Such a shame it has to be like this, I would have loved to stay with you.
I ask you to continue the fight for legalization.
I have had a rich life that I am grateful for. I forgive everyone in love and ask forgiveness to the people I have hurt unconsciously.
To sign Kamperman’s petition, head to www.cannabisuitstrafrecht.petities.nl