Tourists no longer welcome in cannabis-selling coffee shops

By chillinwill · Sep 10, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    The Dutch government wants to maintain its tolerant policy towards cannabis and keep so-called coffee shops open, but they should no longer be tourist attractions, Dutch ministers wrote in a letter that was leaked to the press on Tuesday.

    The ministers of justice, home affairs and health wrote that reducing the number of coffee shops and keeping foreigners out should make it easier to reduce crime and other nuisances the coffee shops are now causing.

    A government memorandum on altering the coffee shop policy and other drug-related issues is expected this fall, but the letter already shows where the ministers now stand. They want to implement a members-only system to keep tourists out.

    Herds of tourist who buy their drugs in border towns near Belgium and Germany have become a pest in several places and neighbouring countries have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Dutch system.

    The Netherlands has been tolerant about the use and sale of weed and hash for three decades. Cultivation and wholesale of the drug are prohibited however. This discrepancy has become known as the 'gedoogbeleid' (tolerance policy).

    An advisory committee said in July that the policy has gotten out of control in the past 15 years and needs to go back to small, private shops for local users. It advised against legalising soft drugs altogether.

    The ministers want municipalities to implement a members-only system, where members can by up to three grammes of hash or weed each with their (Dutch) bank card. This should make it less appealing for tourists to travel to the Netherlands to buy cannabis. The ministers will also allow experiments where coffeeshops can have larger quantities of drugs stocked. Currently, a coffeeshop can have 500 grammes in store and an alternative supply system via drugs runners is a source of nuisance.

    The three coalition parties in the government have long disagreed about the overhaul of the drug policy. Christian democrat CDA had called for an end to the tolerance policy and the orthodox Christian ChristenUnie agreed, but the Labour party PvdA believes banning coffeeshops will not solve the problems of crime, nuisance and health and wants to legalise the whole chain of supply.

    September 9, 2009
    NRC Handelsblad

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  1. honourableone
    I remember reading about a Dutch border town that implemented something similar on an individual level, but had to stop because it was considered discrimination based on nationality and violated Dutch constitution. Though that might not be relevant here if anyone is allowed to become a member of a dutch bank.
  2. Expat98
    So how likely is it that this change will actually occur?
  3. honourableone
    That is another change - currently you can buy 5 grams per visit to a coffeeshop. Thinking about the weights on sale, a 3 gram limit is significantly more restrictive.
  4. Expat98
    Members-only cannabis club won't pass the test

    3 July 2009

    The committee on drugs policy recommends making the coffee shops members-only clubs, and experimenting with legal cannabis production. Neither will pass the European test.

    We can't go on like this, but where do we go from here? That has been the miserable state of the Dutch policy on drugs for years. Supporters of prohibition and tolerance have each other pinned down.

    They know that the production of cannabis invites crime, that the Netherlands has become a large-scale exporter of cannabis, that cannabis consumption leads to children dropping out of school, and aggravates social problems, and home-growing runs down neighbourhoods.

    The once carefree subculture of soft drugs has become a tough business. "It's a mess", Labour member of parliament Lea Bouwmeester said this week as she introduced a last-minute proposal to legalise the production of cannabis in an attempt to save the coffee shops.

    True to custom, the government set up a commission in the hope of clearing the trenches of the drugs debate. That commission has now given its recommendations. The message is clear: the current tolerance policy has become untenable. But the commission doesn't have a miracle solution either. How could it when we live in a borderless corner of the European Union? The commission too is balancing between the need to protect small-scale private users, and the need to fight corruption of the system.

    The committee rightly puts soft drugs in a larger context by including alcohol in the debate and recommending a minimum age of 18 for both substances. This is in line with new insights about the effect of both THC and alcohol on the undeveloped brain. In short, the longer consumption of THC or alcohol are put off, the better.

    Alcohol and drugs will come to play a role in the lives of many, but that consumption should be allowed to begin at a young age is an indefensible position. A change in mentality is needed among parents, schools, civil society and small businesses.

    As far as the coffee shops are concerned, the committee is recommending to lock the door except for registered members. These "cannabis clubs" would cater only to local users. But it is hard to see how people from other EU countries could be legally banned from becoming members. Such a measure would have a discouraging effect for as long as it takes the EU court in Luxembourg to declare it illegal.

    The committee is also recommending experimenting with legalised production of cannabis in order to decriminalise the supply chain of the coffee shops. It is not a new idea. But UN and EU rules only allow cannabis production for scientific or medicinal use, or in small quantities for personal use.

    The Dutch government ordered a study in 2005 to look into the legal possibility of allowing small-scale cannabis production for the coffee shops. The answer was crystal clear: EU law doesn't allow for it. Solutions like these require a political consensus at the European level. It requires an answer to the question whether cannabis use for adults is socially acceptable. The questions is too large for the Netherlands to be able to answer it on its own.

  5. honourableone
    Things like this really annoy me, the EU creates bureaucracy on such a wide scale that the process of change becomes nearly impossible.
  6. Nature Boy
    So let me get this straight. The Dutch government actually wants less tourism. I've never heard of such a case anywhere in the world. This proposed system is unworkable. Dutch citizens would just become middle men for the hoards of tourists, possibly leading to disputes and more incidences of petty crime. I also suspect that the proposal may violate EU free trade laws. No offense to any Dutch members but one would be foolish to think that Dutch tourism isn't massively boosted by the availability of cannabis. It's a huge tourist draw and it generates millions of Euros for the Netherlands every year. If this new system was implented, and properly enforced, their profits would dwindle significantly. The Netherlands as a country has an interesting history but it isn't thought of as a scenic location with natural landscapes or tourist-friendly weather. Without liberal drugs and sex laws, Holland effectively becomes a lot like Belgium, a nation often ridiculed for how mundane it is. Why are cannabis tourists thought of so negatively? It's not the equivalent of alcohol tourism where people thrash small towns and go on booze-feulled violent rampages. It's a real shame that at least one other European country can't take on the coffeeshop model. If the Netherlands had some competition in this regard, it would no longer have the "drug Meccah" status which so many conservatives dislike. I think the Czech Republic or Switzerland might have the potential to try such a move. Amongst the population, cannabis use is uncontroversial and their drug laws are more liberal than France and Germany for example.
  7. Alfa
    We have a government that consists of Christian democrat Party, Conservative Christian Party and and the Social Democrats.

    Parliament mainly has Christian and right wing parties. So The Christian parties in the government mainly play ball with the Christian and right wing parties in parliament. The social democrats have been able to protect the existence of the coffeeshops, but are not able to protect them from a wide range of laws and measures that attacks them in many ways.

    The Christians and right wing parties want the coffeeshops gone and have been using the salami method, as they apply measures and laws and take away rights slice by slice. This has been going on for 8 years now. There are already areas of The Netherlands that have closed all coffeeshops down. The red light district will be gone soon.

    So no, they do not want drug tourism. Even though it brings in money. This is not logic, but ideology, religion.
  8. chillinwill
    Dutch drug policy to favour locals: insiders

    The government's new stance towards soft drugs remains tolerant towards local users, but coffee shops would no longer be tourist attractions.

    Coffee shops may soon be off limits to tourists, reports the ANP news agency Tuesday.

    In the government's revised drug policy, tolerance for soft-drug use would continue to apply to coffee shops serving a limited local market, but the rules will change for foreigners, inside sources told the ANP.

    Ministers will officially discuss changes to the drug policy Friday.

    Since 1976, the purchase of small amounts of cannabis through coffee shops has been permitted in the Netherlands, while cultivation and mass retail remained forbidden.

    The nearly 700 coffee shops country-wide are allowed to keep no more than 500 grammes (about 17 ounces) on site, according to the French news agency AFP.

    A commission was formed in early 2009 to examine the current policy and develop recommendations that will form the basis of Friday's discussion.

    Soft-drug use in the Netherlands has been hotly debated since the government decided to re-evaluate its policies.

    On one hand, some government officials believe the current lax policy has let the crime situation in the Netherlands “get out of hand” over the past 15 years, according to a report on

    Several border cities, including Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, announced in March the closure from September of all eight of their coffee shops in a bid to curb the "nuisance" of 25,000 drug tourists per week, the AFP reported in July.

    However, there is much disagreement on the subject.

    "Prohibiting cannabis has undesirable effects: it promotes trafficking, criminality, a black market economy and a poor quality product," Jacqueline Woerlee, a spokeswoman for the Association for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, told AFP during the 10th annual Global Marijuana March in May 2009.

    The commission has said it supported neither the banning nor the full legalisation of cannabis.

    An official government policy paper is expected autumn 2009.

    Jennifer Evans
    September 9, 2009
  9. DrugCritics
    I highly doubt tourists in Amsterdam will ever be unable to find pot. Although, if I was a local in the Netherlands, I would probably not want tourists coming into the coffee shops and acting like idiots.
  10. Expat98
    Me too, but it may be forced to go more underground, thereby increasing the level of criminality associated with its sale, and increasing all the problems that go with that increased level of criminality, which is ironic since the stated reason for banning the sale to tourists is because "some government officials believe the current lax policy has let the crime situation in the Netherlands 'get out of hand' over the past 15 years."
  11. Strange Brew
    Despite laws and regulations, demand for cannabis will not decrease. In that sense, laws and regulations will only create a more vast and ominous underground market, similar to the situation in nations with heavy prohibition.
  12. Amnesia
    SWIM wonders why any country would risk losing such a large tourist trade at a time of global economic crisis. Unless the price of policing these areas and the cost of the crimes far outweighs the income made from tourists it seems a strange thing to do.
  13. Nature Boy
    SWIM's never once seen a tourist, or even a local for that matter, acting like an idiot in a coffeeshop. They're generally pretty relaxed places. Amsterdam city centre, as far as cities he's visited, seems remarkably quiet in terms of street violence. The only time he ever witnessed a furor there was when some drunken lout had to be escorted from a...wait for where alcohol was being sold (of course!). Try visiting a town or city in the UK or Ireland on a busy drinking night. It can look like the proverbial seventh circle of hell in comparison. Coffeeshops and cannabis use don't cause any problems besides increasing the occurence of dreadlocks per square kilometre (the Christian Democrats probably think all pot smokers are evil deviants). Alcohol-dominated nightlife spots are what cause big trouble, people getting beaten up and smashing things. Although using other drugs isn't entirely safe, they're rarely responsible for public disorder. The Dutch government appear to be manufacturing myths.
  14. Expat98
  15. Motorhead
    This is sad news indeed, Amsterdam is almost legendary in tourist lore. I know so many people that have travelled to Europe and almost all of them have a story from the fabelled coffee shops or red light district. Never heard of any trouble or violence.

    How strictly will this members only policy be enforced in the shops? Such a law means that business owners will be required to turn away potential customers at the door. Can anyone else see a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy amongst coffee shop owners arising to circumvent this members-only law. I would think the government would have to post an independant officer at every establishment to make sure the rules are followed to a tee.
  16. honourableone
    I agree Nature Boy, I would love to see some relevant statistics on the matter. The worst SWIM has seen in a coffeeshop is uncontrolled laughter, which was on a much more controlled level then pretty much any pub SWIM has ever been to at night. It can get very busy, which would be annoying for anyone living nearby, but that would be the same for any major city (though perhaps other cities would be more weekend focused whereas Amsterdam seemed busy all week long).

    Here the focus seems to be on coffeeshops in border towns more than Amsterdam itself, so fewer people will be able to comment on poor behaviour by tourists. Are these compaints well founded? SWIM only visited one coffeeshop outside of Amsterdam, which was very subdued and not aimed at tourists at all, though this is said to differ greatly by region and the coffeeshop in question was in Utrecht (not really near to any borders).
  17. honourableone
    From other such laws, it seems likely that any coffeeshop found to be breaking them could face closure.
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