Dutch drug policy shaken by regional closure of all coffeeshops

By Alfa · Oct 25, 2008 · ·
  1. Alfa
    Two southern Dutch town mayors have taken the dramatic step of shutting down all local businesses currently legally selling cannabis. It's the first time a blanket stop has been introduced in a Dutch town. The two towns, Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, claim they are suffering from the nuisance caused by foreign tourists in search of soft drugs banned in their own countries. In total eight coffeeshops, the name used for the outlets allowed to sell cannabis, will close their doors for good in the municipalities.

    Neither of the two mayors are opposed to the sale or use of cannabis in principle. As far as they are concerned, it is the public nuisance that goes hand in hand with coffeeshops that they are trying to tackle. "There are 25,000 drug tourists per week who visit these coffeeshops," says Mayor Han Polman of Bergen op Zoom. "That leads to a lot of nuisance, and there are links to illegality, there's criminal activity going on. People in our cities are asking us to make the streets safe so we have no choice but to close the coffeeshops."

    Peeing in public
    For this reason, the closing of coffeeshops deserves the support of the Dutch national government, according to Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, who says the measure "fits into our policy that municipalities themselves are best able to determine what is needed to combat public nuisance." Cities in the south of the Netherlands have been grappling with mass drug tourism for years now. Annually, about 1.3 million soft drug users and couriers cross over the Dutch border from Germany, France and Belgium to buy marijuana or hashish in the coffeeshops. The drug tourists cause problems, say the mayors of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, by driving dangerously, parking illegally and peeing in the streets.

    New customers
    To combat the same situation, Mayor Gerd Leers of Maastricht wants to move all coffeeshops in his city to the border crossings with Germany, Belgium and France. He disagrees with mayors who unilaterally close down coffeeshops without consulting neighbouring municipalities:
    "We're simply moving the problem. We're pushing it from Roosendaal to Breda, and then from Breda to Rotterdam. And what's much worse, is that we're pushing the problem into the illegal sphere. The drug runners are celebrating today because they realize they've just won lots of new customers. The demand for cannabis won't go away, it'll just find a new channel of supply."

    Coffeeshop summit
    Leers has asked Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin to call a meeting with the mayors of all border municipalities. He believes the towns on the Dutch border are the victim of the difference in drug policies between European countries. "It's key that we now make a clear decision here in the Netherlands. We have to ask ourselves, are we going to hold on to our own Dutch system and maintain a different drug policy from our neighbours, or should we say no, because of the problems this causes we can't do that anymore." It's a fundamental question, with real consequences for the tolerant Dutch drug policy which has been in place since the 1970s.

    Listen to Newsline's interview with Marc Jacobsen, president of the Union of Coffeeshop retailers

    Listen to Han Polman explaining his decision


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  1. dutch-marshal
    SWIM lives close to roosendaal and gets his weed there...
  2. guldenat
    All of the problems they state are issues with tourism in general. Perhaps Holland should adopt a 100% xenophobic policy and mirror itself after Japan of the 17th century.
  3. Alfa
    2009 will be a dangerous year for the existence of the Dutch coffeeshops.

    The regions mentioned above will lower the maximum amount of cannabis stock to 300 grams per coffeeshop, while a coffeeshop sells many kilo's per day. This means that any coffeeshop will be breaking the law and can be closed down on these grounds alone.

    Further the maximum amount of cannabis that can be sold per day will be lowered to 2 grams. This means that customers will have to visit the coffeeshop more times a day and therefore it will be easier to make a case that the customers are causing nuisance.

    These closures, are not isolated events, as the government has announced that they want to close all coffeeshops in border-regions. As The Netherlands is a small country, that mostly consists out of border regions, this means a massive closure of coffeeshops.

    But the Christian Democrats that are in rule in the Netherlands have also announced that they will close down all coffeeshops within a certain range of schools. Even if the coffeeshop is older than the school. Coffeeshops are not allowed to move. In most cities this means that 25 - 50% of existing coffeeshops will be closed down.

    Closing down the red light district.
    The Amsterdam city board is buying up coffeeshops in order to close them down. Amsterdam uses a system to evaluate coffeeshops, and other businesses. Especially in the red light district. This system called BIBOB asks the businesses to prove that all their actions in the last decennia are legit. The proof of burden is on the businesses, which often leads to their closure.
  4. Panthers007
    Of all the stupid ideas! What do these morons want? An upsurge of illegal, hard drugs and racketeers moving in everywhere? The fools.

    Fight 'em! Good luck!
  5. dutch-marshal
    SWIM thought the netherlands had learned from all the years they with the shops open...
    that damn christians uniun....
  6. fiveleggedrat
    Won't this kill tourism and create a void for black market work?
  7. Alfa
    Yes, it will.
  8. doggy_hat
    Damn Christians.

    Wouldn't it be more logical to fight drug tourism by only selling to people that can present a a Dutch ID?
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