The government in the Netherlands has a legislative programme that includes making all of the country’s coffeeshops private clubs accessible only to customers issued with a club card. The membership cards – known as the 'wietpas' or 'weed card' – would be obtainable only by residents of the Netherlands aged 18 or older. Foreign tourists would no longer be allowed into Dutch coffee shops if the scheme becomes law. The aim of the government is to put an end to 'drugs tourism' in the Netherlands, especially in the southern provinces (Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland).
Dutch Minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten has announced an official ban on non-residents from coffee shops not just in Maastricht, but in the nearby cities of Tilburg and Eindhoven as well, beginning January 1, 2012. Dutch residents will need carry a “weed pass” to enter. Dutch authorities say the rest of the country will follow a year later. It’s possible that a broader ban will never come to pass, because Amsterdam is too politically powerful for any elected official to take a stance against it.
A Dutch city has lost income worth £26 million a year to its economy after banning French drug tourists from buying marijuana in legal cannabis cafés. The reduction in turnover in the popular "coffee shops", where cannabis can legally be purchased and smoked, is equivalent to the loss of 345 full-time jobs. As from October 1 this year the city's cannabis cafés have only been allowed to serve Dutch, Belgian and German customers in a bid to drive away millions of French drug tourists. The Association of Licensed Maastricht Coffee Shops has warned that cannabis users are being driven onto the streets, where marijuana smoking is a criminal offence, after getting Dutch people to buy drugs for them.
The Netherlands is embarking on a crusade against its multi-billion-euro marijuana industry, with significant implications both for its economy and its famously liberal approach to life. A measure expected to be passed in parliament by the end of this year will have coffee shops operate as members-only clubs, meaning that only local residents will be eligible to register for "weed passes," effectively barring foreigners from buying soft drugs.
The Dutch government has said it will move to classify high-potency cannabis alongside hard drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, the latest step in the country's ongoing reversal of its liberal policies. The decision means most of the cannabis now sold in Dutch coffee shops would have to be replaced by milder variants. But sceptics said the move would be difficult to enforce, and that it could simply lead many users to smoke more of the less potent weed.
Foreign visitors will no longer be welcome to purchase cannabis in the coffee shops of Dutch border city Maastricht, unless they can prove that they are from the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany. All other clients have to return to the illegal circuit in their own country, which will create problems in those countries, according Marc Josemans, chairman of the association of Maastricht coffee shops. "It's also partly the governments' fault in these countries. Never did the Belgian, French, German or Italian, for example, governments take their responsibilities by creating a system like we did in Holland - a safe system where people can buy their cannabis products without being approached for hard drugs and without being contacted by criminals."
Coffee shops in the Dutch city of Maastricht have banned foreign tourists, except those from Germany and Belgium, from entering their premises. "A number of people will leave disappointed, and we are not very proud of refusing entry to visitors who have come to our shops for the last 28 years and never caused a problem," said Marc Josemans, president of the Society of United Coffeeshops and owner of the Easy Going coffee shop. "The question now will be if they instead buy from the illegal drug runners here or if they buy illegally in their own countries."
A new study, What Can We Learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop System?, published in the journal Addiction earlier this month challenged the United States' "provincial" drug policy, especially as it relates to youth. The study compared cannabis use among US teens to newly available data on usage rates in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. The results: The Dutch have about 700 adults-only clubs that sell 50 to 150 metric tons of cannabis per year, yet Dutch teens report lower levels of weed usage than youth in the United States.
After an only-in-the-Netherlands legal reverse, the city of Amsterdam will likely have to stub out the "no toking" signs it introduced in a crackdown on marijuana-smoking youth. The Dutch government's top legal adviser ruled that the city had no right to establish official zones where smoking weed is banned, since it's already theoretically illegal in the Netherlands. In practice, possession of small amounts of the drug is allowed, and it is sold openly in designated shops.
The Netherlands plans to ban foreign visitors from pot shops in a move that opponents have labeled "tourism suicide." The Dutch government is trying to stop drug tourism in the country, according to a recent announcement. Under the plan, the "coffee shops" that sell marijuana will become private clubs limited to adult Dutch citizens who have to show proof of ID and become a member to buy marijuana.
The Dutch city of Utrecht wants cannabis smokers to grow their own marijuana in a cooperative, a move which would go against the Netherlands' drive to discourage soft drug use. It also would be illegal, the government said.
Learning to grow their own weed or finding a dealer: French and Belgian potheads are seeking alternatives to the famous Dutch coffee shop as The Hague plans to cut off drug tourists. Incensed by the "nuisance" caused by millions of people crossing its borders each year to visit one of 670 licensed coffee shops, the Netherlands plans to turn these cannabis-vending cafes into private clubs for card-carrying members - Dutch residents only.