Toking tourists not welcome

The Netherlands wants to restrict access to its ‘coffee shops’

Toking tourists not welcomeThe era of tourists jaunting to the Netherlands for a “weed weekend” is coming to a close. The Dutch government is about to start a trial project that will introduce membership cards for cannabis cafés in Maastricht. The cards, required to buy marijuana and hashish, will be restricted to Dutch nationals in an attempt to stop the flood of tourists visiting the border city to smoke dope in licensed establishments.

Eventually, the government wants to roll out the foreign restrictions for all 700-odd “coffee shops,” according to the ANP news agency. As well, the amount of weed sold at one time without fear of criminal charges will reportedly be reduced from five to three grams. The changes come after a recent report into the country’s “soft drug policy,” which effectively decriminalized marijuana use in 1976. It wants more smaller cafés serving local residents, rather than today’s big shops catering to tourists.

These new proposals come on the heels of last year’s announcement that one-fifth of Amsterdam’s coffee shops have to close because they are within 250 m of a school. And this week, two border towns, tired of drug tourism and the resultant crime, are forcing their cafés to stop selling drugs.

While the tighter rules will make it extremely difficult for toking tourists, there are doubts the new locals-only membership concept is legal. “We have a problem with European law here, as all European citizens should be treated equally,” said Raymond Dufour of the Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation. But the crackdown isn’t limited to the cafés. Earlier this month police destroyed what they thought was a huge marijuana operation. They were subsequently informed that the crop was hemp, not marijuana, used for university research.

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