Maastricht’s mayor was wrong in 2006 when he closed down a cannabis cafe which had sold soft drugs to tourists because he used inappropriate legal grounds, the Council of State said on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, there are sufficient legal grounds to allow the cabinet to press ahead with its plans to ban tourists from the country’s 500 cannabis cafes, known as coffee shops, the supreme court said.
The mayor had based his decision on a local bylaw imposing a residence requirement on coffee shop visitors, rather than the Opium Act, the court said.
However, ‘the judgment does not mean the mayor has no further statutory scope for taking measures against coffee shops that he believes cause nuisance problems,’ the court said in a statement. ‘Under the Opium Act itself, the mayor may impose an enforcement order against coffee shops selling narcotics.’
In an initial reaction, the justice ministry said the ruling clears the way for the government to turn coffee shops into member-only clubs open only to people who officially live in the Netherlands.
It is clear that European law allows foreigners to be excluded from coffee shops, but this will have to be implemented via a different legal mechanism which ‘will be solved quickly’, the spokesman told news agency ANP.
In December, the European Court of Justice said Maastricht is not breaking European law by attempting to stop non-residents buying soft drugs. Restricting sales is ‘justified by the objective of combatting drug tourism’ and reducing public nuisance and the aim of the restriction is to maintain public order and protect public health, 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.
Cannabis cafes set to become member only clubs, no access for tourists
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