By Alfa · Apr 25, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    AMSTERDAM -- The government announced yesterday it will ban the sale of
    marijuana and hashish to foreigners in a border town in a pilot program
    aimed at curbing "drug tourism."

    The southern town of Maastricht is just across the border from both Germany
    and Belgium.

    "We want to end all aspects of drugs tourism, the fact that people come to
    the Netherlands to use soft drugs or to take them home," said Justice
    Ministry spokesman Wim Kok.

    The liberal Dutch laws on soft drugs, whose use is officially illegal but
    is condoned in a tacit acknowledgment that there are insufficient police to
    arrest all offenders, have been an irritant to other European countries.

    France, for instance, has complained about trains filled with stoned young
    people returning from the Netherlands.

    The center-right government wants to call an end to the hordes of
    foreigners, mainly youngsters, on the streets of cities looking for one of
    the hundreds of government-regulated "coffee shops" where cannabis smokers
    can openly buy and smoke marijuana and hashish.

    Coffee shops are prohibited from selling hard drugs such as heroin and are
    carefully monitored.

    The Interior Ministry will work with towns and cities on ways to better
    enforce existing laws against the use of cannabis, including minimum
    distances between the so-called cannabis cafes and schools.

    The Justice Ministry will attack drug tourism with international police
    cooperation and target large-scale hemp growing operations as well as the
    "criminal involvement" of so-called "grow-shops" where people can buy seeds
    to grow their own pot.

    The Health Ministry, for its part, will study the possible health
    consequences of soft drugs with a high content of Tetrahydrocannabinol
    (THC), an active compound in cannabis.

    This study could lead to a reclassification of the high-THC content
    cannabis as a "hard drug," spokesman Bart Kuik said.

    The Netherlands, where customers can order a vast array of cannabis from
    "coffee shop" menus, has reportedly seen a steep rise in THC levels in
    Dutch-grown cannabis called "Nederwiet" due to refined growing methods.

    Some doctors say cannabis use increases the risk of depression and
    schizophrenia but its use has been widely tolerated by the Dutch for decades.

    The government also decided to step up public-awareness campaigns to warn
    against the dangers of soft drug use.

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