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.
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.
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 Dutch government is planning to classify strong strains of marijuana and cannabis as a Class A drug alongside heroin and cocaine. Coffee shops will only be able to offer cannabis with a THC level of below 15%. More details of the government's plans to drop the controversial membership scheme for coffee shops were also explained. While coffee shops will only be open to people with official documents which show they live in the Netherlands, it will be up to local authorities to decide how to introduce the new rules. (See also: Cannabis pass abolished? Not really)
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?)
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.
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.
The new conservative Dutch government wants to force the country's marijuana cafes to become "members only" clubs, a move that would effectively block foreigners from buying the drug. If the idea ever becomes reality — it would be legally complicated and politically divisive — it would be the latest of the country's liberal policies to be scrapped or curtailed as the Dutch rethink the limits of their famed tolerance. While marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, it has been sold openly in designated cafes for decades, and police make no arrests for possession of small amounts.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
The conservative Dutch government said it is delaying plans to ban tourists from buying marijuana until at least May 2012, though it still intends to curtail the country’s famed tolerance policy. The Cabinet wants to introduce a “weed pass” system that will allow only legal residents of the Netherlands to buy marijuana. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said a test rollout in southern cities planned for January will now be delayed until May because of practical difficulties.
Is the Netherlands finally growing up, or is it committing tourism suicide? A ban on foreigners using its famous "coffee shops" – where soft drugs can be bought and consumed legally – came into effect in its three southern provinces yesterday, and will apply in the rest of the country, including Amsterdam, from January 1st, 2013. Unusually, opposition to the ban on foreigners has led to an alliance between the coffee shop owners and tourism interests – both of whom claim it will be counterproductive. (See also: Introduction of 'Weed Pass' in the Netherlands)
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 coffee shop owners went to court in a last ditch bid to block a government plan to stop foreigners from buying marijuana in the Netherlands. The coffee shops oppose what would be the most significant change in decades to the country's famed soft drug tolerance: turning marijuana cafes into "members only" clubs open solely to Dutch residents. Members would only be able to get into the coffee shops by registering for a "weed pass" and the shops would only be allowed a maximum of 2,000 members. The move comes into force in the south of the country May 1 and is scheduled to roll out nationwide on Jan. 1, 2013.
A Dutch judge on Friday upheld the government's plan to introduce a "weed pass" to prevent foreigners from buying marijuana in coffee shops in the Netherlands. Amsterdam, whose scores of coffee shops are a major tourism drawcard, opposes the plan, and mayor Eberhard van der Laan says he wants to hammer out a compromise. A lawyer for coffee shop owners said he would file an urgent appeal against the ruling by a judge at The Hague District court that clears the way for the introduction of the pass in southern provinces on May 1.