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 281.

    I think "statistician" is just high, or not high enough, I cant work out which :) If your so into stats then you will know that canabis is the least of our worries and we should focus elsehwere, for instance on drink and crack, you should support its legalisation! Others have posted how much the UK would save. But that would be far to sensible to listen to the "statistics" that prove this right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I have visited the Netherlands, but not to smoke cannabis. The place has much of interest to tourists and the people all speak excellent English, which is a great help. They are friendly and welcoming and must make a bit from tourism. I think their biggest problem is not drugs, or drunks, but the fact that, nice as they are, they allow their kids to run wild - even wilder than ours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    I personally have no problem with people smoking it, for health reasons I wouldn't touch it, but what do people getting stoned do, sit there and laugh - ooh crime of the century. This just highlights other EU's governments backward agenda, I think the time is now to grow up and legalise and tax the stuff!

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Quite frankly the sight of German & British louts high on "organic" cigarettes, leering at overweight prostitutes, grinning like imbeciles and staggering around like a pack of drunken baboons is hardly the image Amsterdam would wish to project to the world.

    Well done the Dutch!

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    If this ban comes into effect, I guess I and others will be the targets of street drug dealers again, dealers that often may offer hard drugs too.

    So Dutch streets will see more drug dealers - Dutch economy will see less income - drugs will be associated with crime again.

    It seems to me that this proposed ban is just a jobs-creation scheme for street dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    @264 Think you need to re-word that, Cannabis has naturally occuring chemicals, not man made like the prescription drugs you mention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.


    I hope law enforcement are collecting URL's from this blog."

    A URL is a link to a website, love.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.


    "Statistics have caused more harm than cannabis you seriously claim? "

    Oh yes and I mean it.

    99.9% of all statistics are made up on the spot and of the remaining 0.1%, 99% of those suffer from major issue and are therefore meaningless.

    "But drugs have done far less harm? "

    Name one person that Cannabis has killed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    The only debatable point is the legality of the decision. The argument about cannabis v alcohol is moot, since the majority of those behaving anti-socially through drunkenness at night have undoubtedly spent the afternoon "spliffing up" in a cafe. As the decision discriminates against non-Dutch EU citizens, it is undoubtedly illegal. How long it takes to go to the ECHR, though, is another matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    There is a profund ignorance on display here, with respect to the economic interests served by the criminal industry. Put simply, if cannabis were legal, truly vast numbers of police, lawyers, doctors, social workers and jail wardens have no purpose, no income, and no reason to vote along their unions party line. the criminal industrial complex is crucial to the welfare of the party & total state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    They are welcome to mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I hope law enforcement are collecting URL's from this blog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    252. "Why else would anyone visit Terneuzen, Maastricht or Eindhoven?"

    Because Maastricht's a beautiful city?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    There are those who would argue that the occasional recreational use of cannabis is not a problem, but regular, habitual use is.
    If that is true then they should be banning the locals from using the cafés but allowing tourists who boost their economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Any Dutch citizen who is tired of young Brits going to get high needs a re-think. I went twice last year with four friends, mainly for one thing. We had a great time, saw the sights and caused no trouble. We didn't feel the need to drink but imagine if we did? Citizens of Holland, take a look at Kavos, Malia, Magaluf. Fancy that behaviour on your doorstep? Always choose the lesser of two evils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    This will harm tourism, there are lots of nice things in the Netherlands BUT the most significant income is from tourists coming for the cannabis cafes. It will cost the country to police these rules & harm international relations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    @195.Fred Bloggs
    Statistics have caused more harm than cannabis you seriously claim? So clinical trials and research into disease and other health problems is a terrible thing (a very predominant area of statistics)? But drugs have done far less harm? I think you just don't understand what real statistics is (not just made up numbers by politicians - it is a well established science).

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    @Elly 178 - Everything is made 100% of chemicals, cannabis as much as prescription drugs,

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    I do not like drugs in any shape or form, but I do believe on this occasion the Dutch authorities are killing the golden goose here. One of the reasons people come to Amsterdam is to smoke weed, but while those tourists are there they spend their money on other things as well. If you ban these tourists from these cafes they are not going to come at all, so the tourism industry will suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    People should have the right to decide what the do or do not smoke!

    As an expat resident of Limburg I often visit the coffeeshops of Maastricht and surroundings. The residents feel that this decision will only add to the problems as there will be a larger blackmarket demand for weed. They should instead consider restricting opening hours to evenings when Maastricht can be like a ghost town.


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