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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    I wonder when the government will work on banning the substance that facilitates users to behave erratically, some would even say, psychotically. The users often damage property, attack other users and even innocent bystanders. The substance damages the users body and often users become dependent on the substance, breaking families. Shouldn't we treat Alcohol the same as Hard drugs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    @452. Landscape27

    that's another good point - the food trade is also going to suffer as a result of this - nothing better than a tasty snack after socialising in a coffee shop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.


    Just goes to show you that the EUs "equality" is built on foundations of sand

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Brand90. Just out of interest, how will this affect the hash taxi's?

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Rebecca Riot

    Is Amsterdam where they have prostitutes sitting in shop windows or is that Copenhagen? They are both swampy and flat. I get the two muddled up.
    Does being a self-rightous bigot make you happy Rebecca? If so, good for you, but please keep your ill-informed nonsense to yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    I am from Maastricht and I have seen what harm the foreign cannabis smokers can do, I have even known a 20 year old boy who died because of these foreign smokers. I do think something needs to be done against foreigners only coming to Maastricht to buy weed. However, I oppose the weed pass and I think it's rediculous that you have to register at a coffee shop to be able to buy weed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    34. As an ex pyschiatric nurse I have seen evidence that excessive cannabis use can bring on mental illness but usually this has to be excessive. There is no evidence that harm comes from moderate use. We really do have to live in the real world and educate that all things in moderation is the norm. What I would ban today if I could though is Guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Check out this BBC article about drug laws in Portugal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    Sorry to hear of the impact on your business, may I offer a possible ray of hope. As the drug tourism subsides perhaps more older visitors, such as myself, will be encouraged to visit. My local club used to run two coaches to the flower markets every year but now I go on my own because of the adverse publicity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    That's a really good point, there's a real extra pleasure to be able to sit in the sun have a coffee and a smoke, relax, chat with friends and strangers, make new friends. Have a wander round a beautiful city, take in the sights, then have something to eat. All that, with out the fear of being arrested!

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    I'm guessing this law is posturing by a conservative government. They pass the law to look good and prove their Right-wing credentials knowing that it is unenforceable under EU law and very hard to police.

    It's like New Labour and Foxhunting. I don't think you pot-heads should get too worried.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Lol 270 Yankie_Poodle

    even if you got the term right last time I looked it's not actually illegal to discuss this topic. What would people on here be charged with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    440 No it will have no bearing at all. A case can be brought to the European court not the ECHR , as it would be about treating other EU citizens differently. If the case was won, then all the Dutch government would have to do was decide to keep the rules as now or shut all the shops to comply. It will have no bearing on drug laws anywhere. It remains illegal in the Netherlands now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    #420..Why do you assume that evil dealers and drug gangs are at the heart of the problem,I've been smoking cannabis for 43 years and the people I buy from are just normal family blokes.
    You shouldn't believe anything you read in the Tory press,they don't deal with the truth,and my truth is that I'm still alive and all my drinking friends are dead,alcohols the killer,not cannabis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    438. polcirkel
    Making a narcotic legal is the worst option available, all it would do is encourage addiction.

    I counter your argument by telling you to look through the preceding comments which say that "Most locals don't bother".

    Make something illegal and it becomes mysterious and exciting. Legalise it and most people end up not bothering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    I studied there when the laws in Maastricht were first proposed, and was struck by the attitude of some of the Dutch I studied with. They were upset that Belgians and Germans would flock from across the border to get weed. I'm sorry, you're upset that a bunch of people you don't like hop the border to spend money in your country and promptly leave? I'm not sure you've thought this through.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Amsterdam offers no drugs that can't easily be acquired in in the UK or any other European country. People don't go there to get the drugs, they go to sit back and relax whilst they enjoy them!

    To echo most other comments here - there are far fewer problems with a bunch of stoned people than a bunch of drunk people.

    Lets change the laws here - Glasgow as the new Amsterdam?

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    @ Dave. That is because you are a waster. I built my house stoned, then I built my retaining walls and garage, stoned, from morning to night.
    The council passed all the work and commented on how tidy it all was...
    A grafter is a grafter, a waster is a waster, no matter what substance they choose to take or not take.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Let's be honest, if we banned everything that was 'bad' for us humans, this would be an incredibly boring world to live in!
    If you bring no direct harm to other people, you should be allowed to do what you want with your own mind and body. You do not need politicians, religions, etc, to constantly tell you what's right and wrong in life. It's all a matter of subjectivity anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.


    I support the legalisation, see my previous comments, and I am currently at my Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job?


Page 31 of 54


More Europe stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.