Dutch cannabis cafes win compensation

The sale of cannabis inside the coffee shops is tolerated as long as certain criteria are observed

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The Dutch government has been ordered to pay damages to owners of cannabis cafes in the south of the Netherlands.

A court in The Hague said new measures imposed by the government that have turned cafes into members-only clubs - barring foreigners - were too harsh.

The amount the state must pay in damages is still to be determined.

But the court also said other measures preventing "drug tourists" from crossing into the Netherlands to purchase drugs were legitimate.

'Weed pass'

On Wednesday, the district court in The Hague ruled that the legislation introduced in May 2012 in the provinces of Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg was too draconian.

It said legitimate customers had been deterred by the need to register, and that cannabis cafes had been unfairly affected as a result.

Map of the Netherlands showing Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg

The so-called "weed pass" system turned the businesses into casino-style members-only clubs, reports the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague.

The system was aimed at stopping "drug tourists" from criss-crossing the Dutch borders and using cities like Maastricht as cannabis pit-stops, our correspondent says.

The ruling is a symbolic blow to those who have fought to tighten the Netherlands' traditionally liberal approach to soft drugs, she adds.

However, Michael Veling, a spokesman for the Dutch Cannabis Retailers Association, said his organisation was disappointed by parts of the ruling and would appeal, according to the Associated Press.

The Dutch ministry of security and justice said the ruling was "a powerful underpinning of the present policy".

But it added that it also saw grounds to appeal parts of the verdict.

There are about 700 coffee shops, as they are called, in the Netherlands.

The sale of cannabis inside them is tolerated, on the condition that the coffee shops observe certain criteria. For instance, no more than 5g (0.17oz) of cannabis can be bought by any one person in one day.

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