Netherlands to ban cannabis cafés for tourists
A court in the Netherlands has upheld the government’s plan to introduce a “weed pass” for its citizens only, stopping tourists from using the cafés for which the country has become famous.
Under current law, it is legal to have less than five grams of cannabis on your person, but the law would make it illegal for anyone other than citizens of the Netherlands to carry the drug.
The pass will be introduced from 1st May this year in southern provinces, and will be rolled out throughout the country — Amsterdam included — next year.
Dutch coffee shop owners, worried about the future of their businesses, went to court to fight the ruling last week, but were told that the law would remove the petty crime and vandalism for which the drug is held responsible by the Netherlands’ current, centre-right government.
André Beckers, one of the lawyers representing the coffee shops who took the government to court, explained: “This is a discriminatory measure”. He went on to say that Dutch café owners do not want to have to discriminate between tourists and citizens, with many café owners saying they plan to flout the ban.
Government lawyer Eric Daalder said that the government wanted to see a return to tradition, with “small local stores selling to local people”. The government has also argued that the measures will help to cut down on drugs couriering, where people drive over from Belgium and Germany to buy huge quantities of cannabis which are then sold on.
Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam, which boasts over a third of the country’s cannabis cafés, said he hoped to reach a compromise with the national government. Most people use bicycles or walk to get around in Amsterdam, meaning that the risk of couriers using cafés in Amsterdam is limited.
For lots of tourists, the cafés provide a chance to smoke cannabis legally without coming into contact with dealers of “harder” drugs such as cocaine, and the cafés are enjoyed by tourists with 23% of Amsterdam’s five million annual tourists visiting a café during their stay.
While some people truly can become dependent on marijuana, there are many tourists who enter these cafes just to give marijuana a try without the legal consequences.