Foreign visitors will be banned from the “coffee shops” which sell cannabis in southern Netherlands starting January 1, supposedly to combat “anti-social behavior” among tourists. (So when do the tourists get banned from bars?) The ban won’t hit Amsterdam, however, until a year later, in 2013.
The Dutch Justice Ministry announced the ban was going forward after a consultation period, despite opposition from some MPs who called the move “tourism suicide, reports Travelmail Reporter at the Daily Mail
Licensed coffee shops will be considered private clubs under the new rules. Their maximum of 2,000 members will be limited to Dutch residents 18 and older who carry a so-called “dope card.”
|The menu in a Dutch coffee shop
The idea of a cannabis card was suggested in September 2010 by the center-right government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The cards will be required by Dutch visitors who visit the country’s 670 licensed coffee shops.
“The measure will come into force for the (southern) provinces of Limburg, North-Brabant and Zeeland, the provinces most affected by drug tourism, on January 1,” said Charlotte Menten, spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry.
The cities in the southwest, close to the Belgian border, say their coffee shops attract 25,000 Belgian “drug tourists” a week, reports Radio Netherlands Worldwide
— a source of nuisance and irritation to many of the locals, who evidently don’t want all the money the tourists bring to town.
The rules will come into force for the rest of the country — including Amsterdam, famed for its wide-open marijuana scene — in January 2013.
The policy’s stated aim is to reduce the number of public disturbances and also the number of drug pushers said to cater to the millions of foreign tourists 2who visit the Netherlands to enjoy its relaxed marijuana laws.
But of course, as anyone who’s spent more than five minutes studying the history of drug prohibition already knows, driving the demand underground results in more illicit drug pushers, not fewer, and also removes any semblance of government control of the situation.
There are an estimated 220 coffee shops in Amsterdam alone. They have become popular tourist magnets.
Several of them are located in the red light district, where prostitution is also legal.
There are well-founded fears that by banning foreigners from the cafes, Dutch residents, who are allowed to possess up to five kilograms of marijuana, could sell to hapless tourists at wildly inflated prices.
Some MPs have also sensibly argued that Amsterdam stands to lose millions in tourism as visitors choose other destinations.
There were complaints that banning foreigners from the coffee shops was discriminatory, but the European Court of Justice upheld the decision, claiming it was justified “by the objective of combating drug tourism and the accompanying public nuisance.”
Let’s see how much they miss that “public nuisance” when those millions of dollars of tourist money aren’t “bothering” them any more.
Though technically still illegal in the Netherlands, the country decriminalized the possession of less than .18 ounce of marijuana in 1976 under a “tolerance” policy.
Coffee shops, starting with the iconic “Mellow Yellow,” were seen as a useful way to control the use and sale of drugs starting in the 1970s. They allowed people to walk in off the street to buy cannabis rather than funneling money into the black market.