The Netherlands, the world pioneer in pot liberalization, has recently taken a harder line toward marijuana, with mixed results seen particularly in border towns such as Maastricht. Maastricht's street dealers are back, local residents complain. And the reason is a crackdown on coffee-shops triggered by another problem: Pot tourists who crossed the border to visit the cafes and made a nuisance of themselves.
An opinion poll in the Netherlands in August 2013 showed that 54% of the Dutch are in favour of legalising cannabis, while 38% opposes it. There is now a clear pro-legalisation majority among the voters for the parties that form the current government, the liberal conservative VVD (58% in favour) and the social-democrat labour party PvdA (55% in favour) and in the Dutch Parliament. A range of recent polls indicate that the majority of the Dutch strongly disagree with the government on current cannabis policies.
The decision to ban foreigners not resident in the Netherlands from the country’s cannabis cafes has led to an ‘explosion’ in drugs-related crime in the south of the country, the Algemeen Dagblad reports. The government’s decision to turn the cafes into members’ only clubs in the southern provinces in May 2012 led to a sharp rise in street dealing. The paper bases its claim on police and city council figures.
Police have raided several coffeeshops in Maastricht after their owners indicated they would revert to selling soft drugs to foreign visitors. Coffeeshops said on Sunday that German and Belgian customers would no longer be turned away, despite warnings from the city’s mayor Onno Hoes of repercussions if they let foreigners in. The police raided the Mississippi, a floating coffee shop, on Monday night. Around 15 non-Dutch residents were inside the boat at the time. Police led away the owner and confiscated the ship’s supplies. (See also: Maastricht coffee shop faces three-month closure)
Maastricht mayor Onno Hoes has warned the city's 13 cannabis cafes that he will take legal action if they go ahead with plans to sell marijuana to non-residents on Sunday. The local cannabis cafe association issued a statement earlier saying that all outlets will sell to people who do not live in the Netherlands when the Netherlands celebrates the end of World War II. (See also: Maastricht to get less strict on cannabis sales to foreigners?)
Maastricht - formerly a mecca for drug tourists from across western Europe - has called for police reinforcements to handle "aggressive" street pushers, who have taken over almost all trade in marijuana and cannabis since authorities introduced tighter controls on legal outlets. The Dutch town's Mayor Onno Hoes wants to double the number of dedicated police officers in order to control the black market, which has benefited from the region's draconian "weed pass" law.
The new rules affecting the sale of cannabis in coffeeshops in three southern Dutch provinces are having an adverse effect according to a new study. The "weed pass" was introduced in the regions on May 1 this year. The introduction of an obligatory membership card for coffeeshop customers has resulted in a sharp increase in the illegal street sale of cannabis and the emergence of a large and elusive network of telephone numbers that can be called for the supply of the drug.
For visitors to the Netherlands who enjoy the relaxing effects of marijuana, life has just become a little less easy going, particularly for those Germans living just west of the border who used to just pop over for a fresh supply. New legislation is restricting the sale of cannabis to residents of the country and banning tourists from purchasing the drug at the coffee shops, famous for selling it.
New Dutch laws to stub out the sale of cannabis to foreign dope tourists kicked in Tuesday -- and were met with defiance from southern coffee shops including in Maastricht. At least one coffee shop in the southern city continued sales to Belgian and German buyers in contravention of the new "cannabis card" rules -- and was promptly slapped with a police warning to stop sales to non-residents within 24 hours. (See also: Protestors just say no to Dutch cannabis ban)
While there are many attractions that draw visitors to Amsterdam nearly a quarter of this city’s more than four million foreign tourists a year will visit its coffee shops, where the sale of small quantities of cannabis is tolerated. But Amsterdam’s days as a destination for hazy holidays may be numbered. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing coalition government is pushing to sharply restrict the operations of the coffee shops and to prohibit the sale of the drugs to nonresidents. If the measures survive a court challenge and the opposition of local officials, the first phase would begin May 1.
The Netherlands moved to ban the sale of potent hashish cannabis eroding 40 years of liberal drug policy, over fears that the proceeds were flowing to organised crime gangs. A parliamentary proposal to prohibit the sale of hashish resin in the Netherlands' famous coffee shops had the backing of both parties in the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition. The sale of marijuana, the dried bud and leaves of the cannabis plant, will not be affected.
New legislation to ban non-Dutch residents from cannabis-selling coffee shops in southern Netherlands should be enforced no later than May 1 next year. "The law will be amended on January 1, but there will be a kind of grace period until May 1," Justice ministry spokeswoman Charlotte Menten told AFP. The centre-right government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has since September 2010 been weighing a "cannabis card", reserved for residents only and obligatory when visiting one of the country's 670 licensed coffee shops.
Accessibility has made most Dutch indifferent to smoking weed, and ironically, the Netherlands has one of Europe's lowest rates of cannabis usage. A coalition government, with minority parties wielding disproportional power have targeted coffee shops for reform. While they won't eradicate the tolerance policy, they have proposed a restrictive reform called the Weed Pass, which aims to make coffee shops work on a membership system.
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.