Dutch move to weed out drug tourists
14 February, 2011↑News↑
SO much for Holland's tolerant reputation. Fed up with foreigners flocking into their country to buy drugs, the Dutch are considering a law to turn their famous cannabis-vending "coffee shops" into private clubs open only to locals.SO much for Holland's tolerant reputation. undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined
Fed up with foreigners flocking into their country to buy drugs, the Dutch are considering a law to turn their famous cannabis-vending "coffee shops" into private clubs open only to locals.
Under the proposed legislation, only those with a wietpassen, or weed pass, will be allowed to buy drugs. Those with foreign passports will not be let in.
Coffee shop owners are fighting the bill, claiming their foreign customers boost the Dutch economy. Last year more than 1.4 million "drug tourists" visited the city of Maastricht alone.
Opponents of the legislation have appealed to the European Court of Justice on the grounds that it is illegal, under European Union law, to discriminate against purchasers according to nationality. However, the EU has endorsed the ban on foreigners, ruling that drugs are not subject to the same rules as legal goods.
The government complains that "narco-tourists" are a nuisance and a magnet for criminals. It advocates turning the coffee shops into "private clubs for adult residents of The Netherlands on presentation of a pass".
Officials in Amsterdam, which plays host to most of the foreign visitors, have objected to the ban but the weed pass, says the Security and Justice Ministry, will be introduced nationwide.
In Maastricht, where 70 per cent of cannabis sales -- about $13.5 million worth -- are made to foreigners, 14 coffee shops are fiercely resisting the proposed ban. "If this law comes into effect, we will lose money and jobs," said Marc Josemans, owner of the Easy Going cafe and a vociferous opponent of the legislation.
"Foreigners will be obliged to look for their grass on the street. It is because of the prohibitionist policies of other countries that we have all of these problems here in Holland."
There is little tolerance for that argument in the town hall. "There are too many foreign customers," said Joep Delsing, spokesman for the Mayor of Maastricht, who has been trying to stop drug sales to foreigners since 2005.
"They block streets in the city centre, they don't respect parking rules, they are noisy and, when they go from one coffee shop to another, they urinate and vomit in the street."
Possession of small quantities of soft drugs has been tolerated since the 1970s and coffee shop customers can buy up to 5g.
However, cannabis cultivation and the sale of it in bulk are illegal and the black market business controlled by organised crime is said to be worth an estimated $2.7 billion a year.
The country's tolerance of drugs seems to be waning. Stricter licensing rules during the past decade have reduced the number of licensed premises from 1200 to fewer than 700.
In Maastricht, besides banning foreigners, there is also talk of moving half of the coffee shops to the edge of the city to improve public safety in the town centre.
The Sunday Times