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 581.

    So what about the EU's open market?

    Can we now start placing certain restrictions on non-UK citizens?

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    An excellent decision well done Netherlands !

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    The problem is one man, Geert Wilders.

    His policies are forcing this change, even though he is a minority partner in the Dutch Coalition, he has successfully managed to force this issue by threatening to withdraw his party's support for the minority government.

    The Dutch are their own worst enemy, their low election turnouts have let this right wing loony creep in the back door.

    Blame Geert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    @569 coram-populo-

    Skunk really isn't a different story, it's just a government scare story.

    Let me ask you this - you like a pint of beer every so often, right? So whisky is clearly evil incarnate because it's ten times as strong, right?

    No, that would be ridiculous. Strong modern strains are the same comparison, you just smoke less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    495 Mo Strummer, Dream on, it could be said what is proposed is an echo of the infamous apartheid created by the Dutch in South Africa;
    According to my history books Apartheid was a Dutch/British collaboration but to crowbar that into this topic to enforce your point is laughable almost to Godwin’s- law degree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.


    "@ 544.Tsunami of Logic says "chuck all drug users in jail"... does that include alcohol and nicotine users then?"

    No Tsunami doesn't mean that. Like all bigoted Antis, they think there is some inherent difference between one drug that a man has decided should be illegal vs another drug the man has decided should be legal.

    Obviously ALL Antis Are Idiots (impersonal enough BBC?)

  • Comment number 575.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    Well, if non-Dutch can not buy "ITEMS" in the Cafe's, there is no point is going to a flat dull boring uninteresting country. YAWN.
    Go to Portugal, at least the rightwing who try to tell people what they can and cant do are not legislated against there...

  • 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 572.

    These laws are made by politicians for their own beifit, e.g. might win another vote or have to be seen to be correct. Zero regard for facts or trying to find solutions. Anyone who can think for themselves has to know that prohibition fuels just as alcohol does to the underage drinkers. ALL will be legal one day because that is the logical solution, Legal and taxed whatever is on sale,,,

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    @Adrian M Lee

    You are truly a brain child of Thatcher and there is no excuse for that ignorance, if you dont like how people spend there time thats fine but dont be a hypocrite. Alcohol is a DRUG Toabacco is a DRUG and they are both highly damaging to soceity and the body, more so than cannabis and both should be illegal!. Just do some research rather than repeating the daily mail!

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    @552. jhazz It is very likely that pot smokers suffer much less lung and other cancers than non-users. What effect has a ban on cannabis have if that proves to be true? It is NOT inconceivable. I have smoked for 3/4s of my life, 45 years, and I am in much better health than most of my peers (knock on wood). We shouldn't pre-judge other lifestyles, unless WE'RE willing to accept THEIR consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Have read many comments on this HYS debate on cannabis (not skunk; a different story) I am delighted NOT to see droves of sanctimonious posters against cigarette smokers.

    If I smoke a cigarette, even on quiet areas of hosptital grounds on my rare breaks, it's tiresome to see people throwing themselves, with their children, to the ground, and crawling to entrances like marines when they see me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    In my formative years I was under extensive peer pressure to smoke cannabis. I remained strong and resisted the temptation, much of my strength came from not wanting to end up like Bill and Ben. Poor lads weeeeeeed was the only word they said, you could understand by the end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.


    "Come back with proper, peer reviewed, validated, published research and I might take more interest."

    So you didn't notice the second link was to an article about a study by "PLoS Medicine", "a Peer Reviewed open access journal published by the public library of science".

    I suggest you read the linked articles before slagging them off and lying about them. Typical anti...

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    @ 544.Tsunami of Logic says "chuck all drug users in jail"... does that include alcohol and nicotine users then? Because these are drugs that are addictive and cause great harm to the body, not to mention society, yet they are legal... folk with your ill informed views have no place commenting! Think before you type/open mouth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    Uncool, man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    Sure, smokers have no problem no problem keeping it at home, will you vote to stop home users from going to jail when they aren't affecting you or anyone else?

    No, thought not.

    You don't have to do it, you don't even have to think it's worthwhile (chances are I think your hobbies are tedious beyond belief), but criminalising people because they have a vice different to yours is just sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    I too would find all the drug tourists pretty irritating, but the best solution to "drug tourism" would be for other countries to take the same reasonable approach to cannabis use as the Dutch have in the past.

    Otherwise Dutch petty criminals will just end up purchasing cannabis and selling it outside the cafés.

    The "war on drugs" is a pointless and unwinnable farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    Cannabis smokers are generally young and naive.

    If they carry on into adulthood and become drug tourists...

    They need to have a serious look at themselves and grow up.


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