|Nol van Schaik/Facebook|
NORML UK and other cannabis activists across Europe are welcoming the announcement that Dutch cities are set to ditch their proposed Wietpas ("WeedPass") scheme, which would have allowed only Dutch nationals to buy cannabis in the country's famous coffeeshops. At least 1.5 million of the city's seven million visitors a year go to a coffeeshop.
The measure proposed by the previous Christian Democrat government would have forced the coffeeshops to become private members' clubs, limited to only 2,000 members each and open only to Dutch residents, thereby banning sales to foreigners. The scheme had already been introduced in some parts of southern Holland, where critics say it has already lead to increased street dealing.
Dutch authorities in cities such as Haarlem and Amsterdam were vehemently opposed to the scheme. They claimed it would push the dealers onto the streets, and damage the local tourist industry. Millions of visitors flock every year to visit the famously liberal coffeeshops where the sale and consumption of small amounts of cannabis is permitted.
|Sheffield CannabisClub South Yorkshire/Facebook|
|Dutch coffeeshop entrepreneur Nol van Schaik: "We do not need a Weedpass, we need to pass weed"|
Although the new cabinet is formally pressing ahead with the scheme, it now says enforcing the ban will be carried out together with local councils, and taking local policy into account. In reality, this means local authorities will seek to protect their tourist industry and refuse to implement the scheme.
"Tourists can continue to use Amsterdam's 220 cannabis cafes, even if they are not resident in the Netherlands," said Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan.
Coffeeshop entrepreneur and longtime cannabis campaigner, Nol van Schaik welcomed the death of the Weedpass. Van Schaik has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Weedpass in The Netherlands.
"We do not need a Weedpass, we need to pass weed," he said.
NORML UK Executive Director, Des Humphrey, himself a medicinal cannabis consumer, also welcomed the news.
"As a regular visitor to The Netherlands, I'm glad this ridiculous scheme is not going to see the light of day," Humphrey said. "Anybody who knows how successful the coffeeshop system is always knew the Dutch would probably never introduce the Weedpass scheme and I'm delighted to learn that this is the case.
"The only reason the previous Dutch government sought to restrict the coffeeshops was because of pressure from neighbouring governments who did not like successful Dutch policies showing up their failed policies of prohibition," Humphrey said.
"Rather than lobby the Dutch to change their liberal policies towards cannabis, it would be better if other European countries took a leaf out of their book and copied their successful coffeeshop model, which allows the commercial sale of cannabis to adults in a taxed and regulated market," Humphrey suggested.
|Des Humphrey, NORML UK: "As a regular visitor to the Netherlands, I'm glad this ridiculous scheme is not going to see the light of day"|