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 481.

    Part 2

    MP1 - Yes, but loads of our citizens use it aswel
    MP2 - ............*sigh*
    MP1 - I see by your silence that you agree with me
    MP2 - Won't making it illegal just force it underground, causing us to spend more money policing it?
    MP1 - No that's silly, you're being silly
    MP2 - ............*sigh*
    MP1 - I see you agree with me again

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Just a long as there will be drug-testing for your surgeons, paramedics, GPs, police, civil service, MPs, MEPs etc., etc.

    OMG, he's bleeding to death from a stab wound - no way man - really? Should we call an ambulance or police? No way - they'll just turn up to smoke what we're smoking.

    No worries, call an ambulance, the police can afford bumping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    It would be interesting to know what the basis for introducing this law is, what problem was it trying to solve. If our Government has been instrumental in bringing this law about then shame on them - it isn't for us to ask other countries to pass laws to suit our purposes.

    This is going to be horrendously counter-productive and will damage Holland's tourist economy rather badly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    This must be the most stupid move any European government has made in a long time..... and I thought ours took the biscuit for stupid ideas!
    This will kill Holland's tourist trade dead. I (and probably everyone I know) won't be back there until this is reversed for a start.
    Cannabis is the most harmless of all recreational drugs. This is just neo-con reactionary rubbish and probably illegal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    Not the City of Maastricht brought in the ban, but the coffeeshops themselves, to show the authorities and the public that there would be an increase in streetdealers. They have proven their point, but it was not taken into consideration. Bad politics.
    Strong cannabis has not been reclassified as a hard drug, it's a proposal, and has not been removed from the menu. To classify you need tp legalise

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Surely the European Court will throw this law out if anyone challenges it? How can a Dutch person be allowed in and yet another European be discriminated against? I say - just sell coffee and make the world a better place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    The EU

    Spreading discrimination and inequality across Europe

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    I like to drink, I like to smoke, I like Bacon, I like chocolate, I like fatty food, I like salt on my food, I like doing what I like, and it's no business at all of governments or yours to tell me what I can and cannot do to my own body.

    If all these vices cause me to die 'prematurely' then so be it. I'd rather enjoy 60 years on this planet than be bored witless for 100.

    My Body. Not yours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    The Dutch ignore a lot of EU rules and their courts back then. This will not fail in courts and if it does it will be ignored. Any eu national can live in the Netherlands but you need a stamp on your passport and an identity card before you can open a bank account, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    Part 1

    MP1 - What about this image we have, we need to do something about it.
    MP2 - How about we legalise it, tax it and put the money into something worthwhile?
    MP1 - No we can't have that, lets make it illegal to our tourists
    MP2 - Won't that just hurt the economy?
    MP1 - No, why would it?
    MP2 - Well it's mainly tourists that use it while they're here

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Wouldn`t the sensible thing to do now in the U.K. be to have a trial of our own version of the coffee shops?Just think Mr Osbourne YOU CAN TAX IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Interesting to see Brits invoking the rights they have under the EU that they otherwise so despise.

    Good riddance to the tourists who pay for a plane ticket and accommodation for a measly joint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Who cares about the economic issue here? It is irrelevant. The issue here is about narcotic use and equality. The coffee shop owners' businesses are only viable through selling product that is illegal. Tough. Go and run proper businesses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Isn't this against EU law? Can they discriminate like this? Throw them out the EU!

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Will overseas visitors also be banned from consuming alcohol too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    I cannot see drugs being legalised for a long time.

    The governments around the world have spent untold billions of taxpayers' money, fighting the drugs trade. To give up now would be an admission that they were wrong and that they wasted all that money, instead of improving the taxpayers' lives.

    Add the revenue obtained, from legalised drugs and the figure runs into several trillions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    You may not use our coffee shops to smoke hashish or marijuana , the management is very sorry , however you are all welcome to try our special chocolate brownies )))
    Whenever I was in Amsterdam , the pot smokers were all mellow and fine , it was the drunken yobs and hard drug users that presented a problem . I think the dutch government havent had the courage of their previous convictions .

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    I have been to Amsterdam but felt no inclination to smoke weed there
    You know the word Tourist is linked to rip off and I eas sure these would just be that so did not bother
    I did however get my bag stolen and that was enough to stop me ever wanting to go back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

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

    Only some drugs, like heroin, alcohol & nictonie are/can be addictive, not cannabis....

    Look at what happened in the US when they made alcohol illegal....

    ....think of the BILLIONS in tax a legalised drug industry could raise....

  • 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...


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