Netherlands judge backs cafe cannabis ban

Protestor lights marijuana joint, Amsterdam 20 April 2012 Protesters in Amsterdam smoked marijuana joints as they campaigned against the proposed ban

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A judge in the Netherlands has upheld a new law to ban foreign tourists from entering cannabis cafes.

While soft drugs are tolerated, there is growing concern at tourists visiting just for drugs, and foreign dealers selling illegally at home.

The ban is due to start in three southern provinces next month, and go nationwide by the end of the year.

A group of cafe owners argued at The Hague district court that the ban was discriminatory against foreigners.

Under the new law, Dutch residents will still be allowed into the cafes, as long as they have valid identification, or possibly hold a new "weed pass", which is also being debated.

There are about 700 coffee shops, as they are called, in the Netherlands. The cultivation and sale of soft drugs through them is decriminalised, although not legal; police generally tolerate possession of up to five grams of cannabis.

A lawyer for the coffee shop owners said he would immediately lodge an appeal.

Michael Veling, a spokesman for the Dutch Cannabis Retailers Association, is among those challenging the government plan.

"It is going to cost me 90% of my turnover," he told the BBC World Service. "That is a very good reason for anyone to oppose any plan. Second it puts our customers in a very difficult spot, because why do you have to register to buy a substance that is still illegal?"

Tougher approach

The BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague says the nationwide ban is being strongly opposed by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, because around a third of the city's tourists visit to smoke cannabis in the cafes.

Lawyer Maurice Veldman, Cannabis Retailers' Association: "We will appeal straight away"

If the coffee shop owners lose their case they say they will take it to the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds that the Dutch should not be allowed to discriminate against people on the basis of where they live.

The moves are part of a tougher approach to drugs introduced by the coalition conservative-led government, elected 18 months ago.

In October strong cannabis was reclassified as a hard drug, amid concerns that it has a psychotic effect on some users.

The move forced cannabis coffee shops to remove the more popular stronger varieties from their shelves.

In November the city of Maastricht brought in a coffee shop ban for foreign tourists from all countries, except Belgium and Germany, from where the majority of foreign customers come.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Whilst I am opposed to drug use, I think this ban is really weird and I do not pretend to understand the logic of it. If the Dutch consider it acceptable for their own citizens to have their brains softened by canabis use, then why are they opposed to granting the same facility to tourists from other nations? The drug dealers can be dealt with by a severe crack down on possession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    Very narrow minded approach and it is discriminatory against tourists.
    Having lived in Amsterdam and Rotterdam can't imagine how can you spend time without visiting peaceful quiet cafes. It will greatly impact tourism and revenues generated that Netherland's troubledd economy
    Can't afford to overlook at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    This legislation may stop SOME of the drug tourists, but what will happen now is that some of the less well-off Dutch people will exploit the use of their "weed pass" in offering to acquire drugs on the tourists behalf, which in turn will bring more thefts and muggings etc...
    Maybe not, but that's what I think MIGHT happen...

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    I lived in Holland for several years and I have a passion for the country. When I lived there a few years ago, the teenagers smoked dope and were basically chiiled out and relaxed. There wasn't the alcohol fuelled violence that we have in our own country. Skunk has caused a lot of the damage as the THC strength is so much more that old Leb Gold etc. Let the coffee shops stay as they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Really sad to see the Dutch make this dramatic change in their drug policy... until now, they've always been the paragon of a Western society that approached drug legislation in a sensible, balanced and non-hysterical manner, resisting the narrow-minded and short-sighted uncompromising conservatism displayed by the US and the UK in their own drug policies... oh well, it was good while it lasted.


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