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 341.

    I have never understood the policies on Cannabis.
    can be grown almost anywhere, by anyone..........whoa.......there's the problem, if it's legal how on Earth can large companies make money on it? how can Gov tax it?
    If someone can answer these questions i think you would see cannabis legalised the world over

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    I can go to a cafe in the UK and have tea or coffee, I can sit outside my pub and drink alcohol and smoke tobacco based products - but I can't smoke/eat weed?

    Sorry but there is no logic there. What is more harmful? Gin or Weed?

    Oops - I forgot the tax issue - silly me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    328.Shaunie Babes
    Makes a great point - bizarrely most of the pro-drug people on here won't appreciate it though.

  • Comment number 338.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    316 Pundit - Alcohol causes more of a problem because it is legal. Legalise cannabis and watch the problems skyrocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Dutch normally known for sensible and level headed decisions. Whats happened to them?
    Were leading the way, this ban, a step backwards.
    Millions of people from all walks of life enjoy a smoke, sit in their own homes play a little music and relax, they do no harm other than because their drug of choice is illegal the money go's to crooks and terrorists, legalise it and the tax man gets that money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    291.Philip C

    Your statement is both tasteless and innacurate, please don't make such foolish assertions.
    His cancer was as a result of an untreated footballing injury.

    Chodwollop - most weed is grown under lights in NL, not imported from Morroco.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    To Mark from Manchester:
    The only thing that is selfish and anti social is your holier than thou attitude assuming that everyone is as naive as you in swallowing the American political propaganda that drugs like cannabis cause crime.
    Prohibition's inflated prices and stigma causes crime. No one has the right to dictate to anyone else about what they should or shouldn't consume.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    We used to have loads of laughs in Amsterdam; this leaves only beer which of course we can get at home without flying anywhere.
    I’m sure Amsterdam will see its foot fall and revenue shrink.
    As for the dealers working from home, most tourists are not going to go looking for them when they have a perfectly sociable environment to relax in.
    Will have to visit before the ban.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I am a Brit living in Amsterdam for 5.5Yrs. Amsterdam is, in terms of criminality one of the safest cities in Europe. The reason why 'it' works here, & it DOES work, is because of it's liberal stance on the matter. Tourists will still come, only now they'll ask the locals to buy it for them. Worse still it brings a whole new market for dealers and criminals that they've avoided for so long

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    300 Some people prefer to engage in a relatively benign activitity where it is tolerated, so they do not have to deal with obvious criminals nor risk arrest whilst participating. Most people prefer not to break the law nor be branded criminals for doing something they see little harm or risk in doing. Our A&Es are not full on a Friday with pot smokers are they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    People will still continue to buy Cannabis, only if they cant buy it the legal way, they will buy it the illegal and unregulated way using back street dealers etc.. Also, NL will lose a lot of tourist revenue. YES places like Amsterdam are pretty...but lets get real, a large segment of tourists go there for the unique thrill of being able to buy cannabis legally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    @Tsunami of Logic

    If you don't want to see "German & British louts high on "organic" cigarettes, leering at overweight prostitutes, grinning like imbeciles and staggering around like a pack of drunken baboons" then stay out of the Red Light District...simple!

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    "And it's this level a breath taking ignorance that I always find hard to swallow. I shall say it slowly for you, as you clearly are not too bright.
    Cannabis is not addictive.
    And yet people risk prison and are happy to finance gangsters to obtain it. That makes them pretty stupid and anti-social

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    They should leave the weed alone and put more restrictions on the harder drugs being offered. I can't speak for Amsterdam as a whole but in the RLD when I was there (twice), I saw no trouble. So I don't really understand why they are bringing in this ban and upholding it.

    It's a shame as I love the place, but it seems the govt are attacking the diversty of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    @309 There has been no scientific studies that have conclusively said that Cannabis is a dangerous as you have made out. From its very chemical make up its impossible for it to be chemically addictive, mentally yes but so can using a computer too.

    Alcohol has the same qualities as a class A drug yet your more than happy for that to remain legal and taxable, you my friend are a hypocrite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    321. Swatch
    Would you support a ban on alcohol and tobacco too, seeing as they cause some of the same problems as drugs cause?

  • 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 323.

    Even if I smoked all the cannabis in the world most of the pro drugs comments on this thread would still make no sense at all.

    Amsterdam is a beautiful city with centuries of history to enjoy. If your only reason for going is there to smoke drugs you have very little imagination!

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    I can understand this for most of the Netherlands, but Amsterdam will crumble without the weed tourists - the major clearly realises this. You can see all that the city has to offer after a day or two and there is little reason to go back.
    Really, the great thing about the city is its relaxed vibe which is essentially driven by the coffee shop culture.


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