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.
More to follow