|Photo: THC Finder
|The Dutch make lots of money on cannabis tourism — so obviously, they have to stop that. Wait a minute…
The Dutch Cabinet said it will go ahead with plans to force anyone wishing to buy marijuana at the country’s “coffee shops” to first get an official pass — a move designed to stop tourists from buying cannabis.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he plans to begin rolling out the system in southern Netherlands later this year, reports the Associated Press
. The southern part of the country is popular with French and German cannabis tourists. The system would then be instituted in Amsterdam’s famed weed cafes, which are major tourist attractions for the city, later in Rutte’s term of office.
The Dutch Supreme Court must still rule on whether foreigners can be blocked entirely, Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen said on Friday.
Regardless, the plan will prevent cafes from issuing more than 1,500 permits in all, forcing shop owners to choose between tourists and their regular customers.
That is seen by some observers as a clever way to get around the European Union requirement of treating all EU residents equally — by not telling shops they have to ban foreigners, just tell them they can only sell cannabis to 1,500 total customers. Of course, most or all shops will pick the local regulars, rather than tourists who will only be in town a couple days.
Maastricht city council is not breaking European law by attempting to stop non-residents buying soft drugs in the city’s cannabis cafes, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.
The case was brought by the owner of the Easy Going coffee shop and the ruling clears the way for the nationwide introduction of the wietpas, or weed pass, system.
Four years ago, Maastricht council closed the coffee shop because it had been selling marijuana to tourists.
The court ruled on Thursday restricting sales is ‘justified by the objective of combatting drug tourism’ and reducing public nuisance. The aim of the restriction is to maintain public order and protect public health, the court said.
‘As the release of narcotic drugs into the economic and commercial channels of the European Union is prohibited, a coffee-shop proprietor cannot rely on the freedoms of movement or the principle of non-discrimination in so far as concerns the marketing of cannabis,’ the court said.
At the moment, the authorities turn a blind eye to the sale of small quantities of hashish and marijuana in licenced cafes. Coffee shops have become a popular tourist attraction, particularly in Amsterdam and border towns such as Maastricht. Some 70% of Maastricht coffee shop customers are from abroad.
The European court had been asked to test Maastricht council’s plans to see if they conflict with free trade rulings and anti-discrimination legislation.
Many experts say the government’s plans to introduce passes for coffee shops to keep out tourists will encourage illegal street dealing again.
The government plans to fast track the system in the south of the country following a recent string of drug-related violence.