|Radio Netherlands Worldwide|
|The “Wietpas” (Weed Pass) will exclude foreigners from the Dutch coffee shops where cannabis is sold|
A Dutch court on Friday upheld a new law banning foreigners from buying marijuana in coffee shops in the Netherlands, possibly ending decades of “weed tourism” for which Amsterdam and other cities have become world-famous.
A Dutch judge in the Hague ruled that the new law is legal. The move to ban foreigners from buying cannabis is being fought in the city of Amsterdam, where the coffee shops are a major tourist draw and where many shops owners have vowed to ignore the law once it comes into effect.
The conservative government of the Netherlands seems hellbent on turning back the clock to a darker time in Dutch history — a time when the cannabis trade was underground and people had to depend on the black market for marijuana. According to expert observers, the ripples could reverberate internationally.
|Miss High Times|
|Peter Lunk: “If tolerance ends or gets limited in the Netherlands, then politicians all over the world will say things like ‘Tolerance failed in Holland’|
“If tolerance ends or gets limited in the Netherlands, then politicians all over the world will say things like ‘Tolerance failed in Holland,’ and use that as an excuse to enforce their anti-cannabis propaganda, opinions and laws,” well-known Dutch cannabis blogger Peter Lunk told Toke of the Town.
A group of the coffee shops had mounted a challenge to the government ban, launched after city officials in the southern Netherlands had claimed “increased levels of drug-related crime,” reports Antony Faiola at the Washington Post. The decision, taken by the conservative government in power, means that coffee shops in the south must stop selling cannabis to foreigners to May 1.
The coffee shops will be allowed to introduce a “weed pass” for Dutch citizens, who will be legally permitted to keep buying marijuana. The plan will expand to other Dutch cities — including popular cannabis destination Amsterdam — by January 1, 2013, according to authorities.
The Netherlands is continuing to move toward tighter controls on the sale of marijuana — for which it has had a “tolerance” policy for years — even as other countries, including the United States, seem increasingly friendly to the legalization of cannabis.
Lawyers for the Netherlands’ roughly 600 cannabis cafes argued that excluding foreigners from the shops while allowing Dutch citizens to buy marijuana was illegal under national anti-discrimination laws. They vowed on Friday to appeal the case.
“This is a bad decision not only for the foreigners who can be discriminated against now, but also for the image of the Netherlands in other countries,” said Maurice Veldman, attorney for a group of coffee shops that challenged the ban. “We are not a free country anymore because our government asks us to discriminate.”
Michael Veling, 56, owner of the 420 Cafe in Amsterdam’s red light district, said he was outraged by the court’s decision. Veling, also chairman of the Dutch Union of Cannabis Retailers, said coffee shop owners in the city Maastricht, where the law comes into effect next week, were preparing to ignore “this ridiculous law” and were “ready to be arrested.”
“We have tourists that just want to have a smoke,” Veling said. “If they’re not going to get it, they will ask Dutch people who actually have a pass for the coffee shop to buy it. Or they fall in the hands of the illegal street sellers.