A Dutch judge has upheld a controversial law that bans tourists from buying cannabis at the Netherlands’ famous coffee shops. The ban on tourists visiting so-called cannabis cafes will be implemented nationwide by the end of this year. The new law targets the many foreigners who have come to see the country as a soft drugs paradise and to tackle a rise in crime related to the drug trade.
Coffee shops can only sell cannabis to registered members. Only locals will be allowed to join a coffee shop, and each coffee shop will be limited to 2,000 members. Some users regard the requirement to register as an invasion of privacy.
The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, opposes the plan. Fourteen cafe owners and several pressure groups also challenged the law in The Hague, saying it is discriminatory. One owner says it will cost him 90 per cent of his turnover. The cafe owners say they will be lodging an appeal ::::
The ban is part of a tougher approach to drugs by the Netherlands government. The law, which reverses 40 years of liberal drugs policy in the country, starts next month in three southern provinces and goes nationwide by the end of the year.
The Dutch government, which collapsed at the weekend, also plans to ban any coffee shop within 350 metres of a school, with effect from 2014. The government in October launched a plan to ban what it considered to be highly potent forms of cannabis, known as ‘skunk’, placing them in the same category as heroin and cocaine.
So where to now? one pot promoting site suggests Spain. Dope smoker.co.uk says Cannabis culture in Spain may not be quite as in your face as it is, or was in the Netherlands, but it is just as popular, if not more so.
The liberal drug policy of the authorities in The Netherlands especially led to problems in “border hot spots” that attracted “drug tourism” as well as trafficking and related law enforcement problems in towns like Enschede in the East and Terneuzen, Venlo, Maastricht andHeerlen in the South. In 2006, Gerd Leers, then mayor of the border city of Maastricht, on the Dutch-Belgian border, criticised the current policy as inconsistent, by recording a song with the Dutch punk rock band De Heideroosjes. By allowing possession and retail sales of cannabis, but not cultivation or wholesale, the government creates numerous problems of crime and public safety, he alleges, and therefore he would like to switch to either legalising and regulating production, or to the full repression that his party (CDA) officially advocates. The latter suggestion has widely been interpreted as rhetorical. Leers’s comments have garnered support from other local authorities and put the cultivation issue back on the agenda.
In November 2008, Pieter van Geel, the leader of the CDA (Christian Democrats) in the Dutch parliament, called for a ban on the cafes where marijuana is sold. He said the practice of allowing so-called coffee shops to operate had failed. The CDA had the support of its smaller coalition partner, the CU (ChristenUnie), but the third party in government, PvdA (Labour), opposed. The coalition agreement worked out by the three coalition parties in 2007 stated that there would be no change in the policy of tolerance. Prominent CDA member Gerd Leers spoke out against him: cannabis users who now cause no trouble would be viewed as criminals if an outright ban was to be implemented. Van Geel later said that he respected the coalition agreement and would not press for a ban during the current government’s tenure .
By 2009, 27 coffee shops selling cannabis in Rotterdam, all within 200 metres from schools, must close down. This is nearly half of thecoffee shops that currently operate within its municipality. This is due to the new policy of city mayor Ivo Opstelten and the town council. The higher levels of the active ingredient in cannabis in Netherlands create a growing opposition to the traditional Dutch view of cannabis as a relatively innocent soft drug. Supporters of coffee shops state that such claims are often exaggerated and ignore the fact that higher content means a user needs to use less of the plant to get the desired effects, making it in effect safer. Dutch research has however shown that an increase of THC content also increase the occurrence of impaired psychomotor skills, particularly among younger or inexperienced cannabis smokers, who do not adapt their smoking-style to the higher THC content. Closing ofcoffeeshops is not unique for Rotterdam. Many other towns have done the same in the last 10 years.
In 2008, the municipality of Utrecht imposed a Zero Tolerance Policy to all events like the big dance party Trance Energy held in Jaarbeurs. However, such zero-tolerance policy at dance parties are now becoming common in the Netherlands and are even stricter in cities like Arnhem.
The two towns Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom announced in October 2008 that they would start closing all coffee shops, each week visited by up to 25000 French and Belgian drug tourists, with closures beginning in February 2009.
In May 2011 the Dutch government announced that tourist are to be banned from Dutch coffee shops, starting in the southern provinces and at the end of 2011 in the rest of the country.
- “In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end,” (the Dutch health and justice ministers in a letter to the Dutch parliament)
A government committee delivered in June 2011 a report about Cannabis to the Dutch government. It includes a proposal that cannabis with more than 15 percent THC should be labeled as hard drugs. Higher concentrations of THC and drug tourism have challenged the current policy and led to a re-examination of the current approach; for e.g. ban of all sales of cannabis to tourists in coffee shops from end of 2011 was proposed but currently only the border city of Maastricht has adopted the measure in order to test out its feasibility. According to the initial measure, starting in 2012, each coffee shop was to operate like a private club with some 1,000 to 1,500 members. In order to qualify for a membership card, applicants would have to be adult Dutch citizens, membership was only to be allowed in one club.
In Amsterdam 26 coffeeshops in the De Wallen area will have to close their doors between 1 September 2012 and 31 August 2015.
A Dutch judge has ruled that tourists can legally be banned from entering cannabis cafes, as part of new restrictions which come into force in 2012 :: READ MORE AT WIKIPEDIA