|The Dutch make lots of money on cannabis tourism — so obviously, that’s a problem they have to fix. Wait a minute…|
The conservative government of the Netherlands said on Thursday it is delaying plans to ban tourists from buying marijuana in Dutch “coffee shops” until at least May 2012 — but said it still intends to implement the ban.
Cannabis, contrary to popular belief, is still technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police “tolerate” the possession of small amounts, and pot is sold openly in the coffee shops, reports the Associated Press. Large-scale growers still face possible arrest.
The Dutch Cabinet wants to introduce a “weed pass” system allowing only legal residents of the Netherlands to buy marijuana in the shops.
A test rollout in the southern Dutch cities of Noord-Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland — planned for January — will now be delayed until May because of “practical difficulties,” said Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten.
|The Dutch government has decided to impose its weed pass ban on foreigners nationwide, but Amsterdam opposes it|
Supporters of the ban hope it will solve supposed “problems” (yeah, like maybe all that tourist cash coming in) caused by an estimated 3.9 million French, German and Belgian weed lovers who drive across the Dutch border to score.
The pass system will be applied nationwide in 2013, Opstelten said, despite some opposition, especially in Amsterdam. Coffee shop owners say the ban will violate privacy laws, since it will require them to store passport information and other data about their customers.
Some southern Dutch cities have made an about-face and started lobbying against the plan to ban foreigners after experts predicted it will result in street dealers taking over the cannabis trade again — the exact problem the Dutch “tolerance” policy was introduced three decades ago to solve.
“If it appears that additional (police) support is necessary, I will ensure that it’s available in a timely manner,” Opstelten claimed in a letter to Parliament.
Amsterdam opposes the ban on foreigners, arguing that nearly one out of four tourists who visit the city smoke marijuana, usually staying several nights and contributing to the local economy, rather than causing any problems.
“The Dutch government has decided upon this for the whole of the Netherlands,” said Machteld Ligtvoet, a spokeswoman from the Amsterdam tourism board, reports Laura Bly at USA Today. “Amsterdam doesn’t want it.
Opstelten said a separate plan to close any coffee shop within 350 yards of a school (what are they, America Jr.?) will go into effect in 2014, near the end of the current Cabinet’s term.
That rule would result in the closure of about half of Amsterdam’s coffee shops, and Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said he hopes to negotiate with Opstelten on that requirement.