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 621.

    @603. Iain We understand your position, and I think most of us agree, NOT that smoking pot is particularly (or at all) evil, but that one should be able to shield one's children from it if one so chooses.

    The simple solution is NOT to ban or even restrict pot clubs, but rather to ticket tourists who smoke in the street. Cops could seize their passports until they pay appropriate fines.


  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Christiania (DK) here we come!

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    The Dutch introduced this to neutralise the drug trade. For them, initialy, it worked. Why shoud they solve Europe's drug problem problem for free though? If the this means less drug tourism, then hopefully cultural tourism will increase again.

  • Comment number 618.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    608.Jonathan Halling
    drugs hurt people AND the people around the addicts. People who use drugs are not very intelligent and need protecting against their own un-educated urges..ban them completely, and the world will be a happier place.
    Just what thee world needs, another patronising, self-rightous, ill-informed person telling others how to live their lives. Thanks for your input Jonathan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Just to say to those right-wingers who say they "know intuitively" pot is bad and ignore the mounting evidence that it is no more harmful than smoking, YOU'RE USING THE SAME ARGUMENT ISLAMIC TERRORISTS USE!
    They claim to know intuitively that God tells them to do their horrid crimes.
    Reductio ad absurdem maybe, but the basic point is true!
    Ignore science and rely on gut-feeling at your peril!

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    @583.Tsunami of Logic

    "If there is one thing you can be sure of it's this: those who smoke cannabis are lefties to a man!! Think about could only come up with the nonsense they spout if your mind was addled with hallucinogenic drugs!!"

    Where to start? Trading standards about your screen name?

    Me, on the left? Hahahahahaha thats the funniest thing I've heard all day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    From 1842 through the 1880s, extremely strong marijuana (then known as cannabis extractums), hashish extracts, tinctures, and elixirs were routinely the second and third most-used medicines in America for humans (from birth through old age). These extracts were also used in veterinary medicine until the 1920s and longer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    @590 Gazza
    About all we can say for sure is that cannabis is safer than either tobacco or alcohol. vis Prof Nutt.

    It *may* have an exacerbating effect on those already predisposed to schizophrenia. It seems from some studies to actually have a mitigating effect on some cancers.

    I'm not seeing a good reason for it to be illegal. In a free country there should be a good reason to ban something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Some really narrow-minded people on here. Completely conditioned by politicians and the propaganda fed to them by the MSM.
    I think these people believe that one day we'll all wake up in a utopian world; it's not going to happen. I'm with the live and let live people, it's a far happier place to be in.

  • Comment number 611.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Whilst I am opposed to drug use, I think this ban is really weird and I do not pretend to understand the logic of it. If the Dutch consider it acceptable for their own citizens to have their brains softened by canabis use, then why are they opposed to granting the same facility to tourists from other nations? The drug dealers can be dealt with by a severe crack down on possession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    This sounds like a simple call for decriminalization and/or legalization of drugs in all the other EU states. It seems to be the obvious next step.
    Problem solved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    drugs hurt people AND the people around the addicts. People who use drugs are not very intelligent and need protecting against their own un-educated urges..ban them completely, and the world will be a happier place.

  • Comment number 607.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Prohibitionist arguments that stronger pot is more dangerous pot are nothing but sophistry, a false assumption masquerading as intuitive wisdom.

    Powerful marijuana permits users to achieve the same mellow psychological state without smoking as much organic material. Stronger pot makes smoking pot SAFER. We smoke LESS powerful pot, than we do of the weaker kinds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.


  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    The end game to this is locals will purchase drugs to sell onto tourists. The Dutch government is about to create a mini industry for drug pushers, and identification fraudsters.

    Makes me think they have been smoking too much of their own drugs!


  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    I moved my family to Amsterdam last year. The lifestyle is family and health focussed.
    There are several 'coffee shops' in our street. I have no problem with my children 8 and 2 walking past coffee shops every day BUT I do hate when tourists think you can smoke ANYWHERE. I once saw a group skinning up in a supermarket. If you go to the parks the tourists don't know you will never smell cannabis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    Cannabis smokers have always been persecuted by bigots because they are completely peaceful and harmless - easy meat! And of course have no corporate vested interests like alcohol and tobacco companies. Another example of increasing prejudice and ignorance.


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