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