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Court rules against cannabis cafes: green light for 'wietpas'

Friday 27 April 2012

No%20drugs Maastricht has already begun warning tourists about the new policy. Photo: WFA

The government’s decision to restrict the use of cannabis cafes to local residents by excluding tourists is not discriminatory, a court in The Hague said on Friday.

A group of 19 café owners and other interest groups had gone to court in a last-ditch attempt to have the membership system overruled. All cannabis cafes in the south of the country are due to become members’ only clubs on May 1.

The café owners say not only is the measure discriminatory but infringes peoples’ privacy.

Drugs tourism

However, the court said the policy does not discriminate and is not unnecessarily severe or unbalanced. The policy aims to reduce drugs tourism and criminality and this is so important that the state can take far-reaching steps to achieve it, the court said.

The measure is due to come into affect in the rest of the country on January 1, 2013. It is not yet clear if the ‘wietpas’ - the nickname given to the membership card which coffee shop users will have to carry – will become an election issue.

The coffee shop owners have already said they will appeal against Friday’s court decision.


The European Court of Justice ruled last year restricting sales to Netherlands' residents only is 'justified by the objective of combating drug tourism' and reducing public nuisance. The aim of the restriction is to maintain public order and protect public health, the court said.

At the moment, the Dutch 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.

Earlier stories
EU court clears way for cannabis cafe ban for tourists
Cannabis cafes can ban tourists, says Supreme Court
Cannabis cafes set to become members' only clubs, no access for tourists

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Readers' comments (61)

As someone intending to visit Amsterdam later in the year I would prefer to see and smell no drugs at all.

By Mandy | April 27, 2012 2:03 PM

Who in their right mind thinks that this is going to actually work. Maastricht city leaders dont want it,the Maastricht police have already said they will not enforce it and the coffeeshop owners have said they will ignore it.

By Bobke | April 27, 2012 2:10 PM

There are many things I would prefer not to see and smell in Amsterdam - weed is not so high on the list. Hope you enjoy your visit.

By Dr Ponzi | April 27, 2012 2:56 PM

It's just government playing the game of the drug dealers. The city will become just more and more unsafe and drug dealers will be at every corner, trying to sell drugs to tourists...Stupid idea and I wonder what they gain of it...

By Daniela | April 27, 2012 3:07 PM

If combating drug tourism is the real reason behind this, presenting any Dutch ID or another document proving your residency should be sufficient. Requiring a specific "weedpass" is going a giant step further and infringes privacy. It also proves that the motive behind this decision is NOT combating drug tourism, but creating a weed user database.

By AnotherExpat | April 27, 2012 3:11 PM

Well Mandy, I have a long list of wishes with every city in the world I go to but I tend not to be so snob.

By Dante | April 27, 2012 3:18 PM

greetings from london. Will this ban actually happen in amsterdam anytime soon?

By russ81 uk | April 27, 2012 3:22 PM

As someone who actually lives in Amasterdam I would prefer nOt to see or smell small minded people like you.Please stay at home.

By Pot Head Pixie | April 27, 2012 3:23 PM

I am a non-smoker but I think this weed pass is a horrible idea. Right when the country is cutting everything, raising taxes and making life harder here, they go and scare away what I believe is a measurable percentage of tourism in the Netherlands. Growth (or the lack of it) will become even more of an issue once people stop coming to visit. How is it possible that the government is doing everything in a backwards way to solve this economic crisis?

By Rick Kane | April 27, 2012 3:29 PM

Mandy, its quite easy to avoid the smell and sight of marijuana. This is a terrible decision and I will miss my annual visit to the no longer "free country".

By Lee | April 27, 2012 3:33 PM

Reduce criminality! What a joke! If the wietpas is enforced then it will simply open up the black market for drugs. People wont stop smoking because of this. Coffee shops only sell cannabis, street dealers will be offering more than that i bet!! tourism will also suffer bacause of this

By JJ | April 27, 2012 3:42 PM

Mandy: There's a good chance you won't. One of the things coffeeshops do is give people a chance to go some place out of the way.

By Patrick | April 27, 2012 3:45 PM

this is great news for all pot heads in the Netherlands,, now they can buy their weed much cheaply from dealers and with no 5 gram limit :D

By deebee | April 27, 2012 3:57 PM

The cannabis has been drawing money into the country for years and has made the country very wealthy. I guess now the tax payer is going to me super taxed on every breath they take.

By Dumbo | April 27, 2012 4:00 PM

It's going to be one crazy day on Tuesday. Typically my regular coffeeshop sees 150 customers per day and they have had a total of TEN applications for a wiedpas. The businesses are going to die and the black market is going to flourish. I've already got my supplier lined up, have you?

By Stupid | April 27, 2012 4:34 PM

Great news! I'm not even Dutch but am a resident in Amsterdam.So I will be able to make alot more money than my normal job.I'll just buy from the coffeshops and sell to the tourists.I may even quit my normal job!

By Dodger | April 27, 2012 4:34 PM

@Bobke, the vast majority of Nederlanders do not visit coffeeshops and want this to work.

By Puck | April 27, 2012 4:35 PM

I think this will increase criminal activity and make the city less safe; it will decrease tourism. This can't be a moral decision considering the Red Light District. Ah well, those were some great vacations; the only time I ever smoked and the only time we ever ate space cakes. Good bye Amsterdam forever.

By Bruce | April 27, 2012 4:48 PM

Hi dutchies, what brings people back to Amsterdam? If you don't have the liberal culture, it's just a wet dark country with bad museums. You shot yourselves in both feet and now the barrel is in the mouth of 70% of your tourist offer.

By Dust | April 27, 2012 5:07 PM

sad day for holland :(

By alan | April 27, 2012 5:12 PM

Once the ban is in place expect Damrak and Damstratt to be a ghost town.

By richard | April 27, 2012 5:32 PM

Hi dutchies, what brings people back to Amsterdam? If you don't have the liberal culture, it's just a wet dark country with bad museums. You shot yourselves in both feet and now the barrel is in the mouth of 70% of your tourist offer.

By Dust | April 27, 2012 5:39 PM

There are two many infringements on people's freedom everywhere these days. It soon won't be allowed to breathe in public. As for stopping crime, I wish that right-wing politician wouldn't stop twisting things back to front.

By Peter G Mackie | April 27, 2012 5:46 PM

Very stupid idea, typical of a populist right wing governement. This will increase the illegal sales of cannabis, a real gift to criminality. The card is also potentially very dangerous, with the possible risk in the future of listing and criminalizing people just because they smoke a joint. Personally I don't smoke but I think this is a VERY STUPID idea, that will also damage the Nederland from the economical point of view.

By Bob | April 27, 2012 5:54 PM

@ Mandy: I presume that you include the aroma of alcohol in your list to avoid, as it is the hardest drug in the orld. And really do stop being so condescending to your fellow human beings. It makes you out not to be a nice person. Cannabis is the safest medicine in the world.

By Andy Tours | April 27, 2012 6:22 PM

Court rules against cannabis cafes: green light for 'wietpas'. I’m impressed with the wise decision of the Dutch jurisdiction such avoid a drug tourism. In addition avoiding confrontation the other EU lands. Many objections due to the varying delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentrations speak against such consumption. Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, Depersonalization disorder and depression are associated with such consumption although a widely consumed drug people with a particular genotype-environment correlation may go ‘Nuts’. This has sociological consequence as with uncontrolled consumption we must build more mental hospitals and homes.

By Terence Hale | April 27, 2012 6:24 PM

I have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the Netherlands over since 1999, visiting almost every year. I went to the Netherlands for the freedom. Over the last 12 years, the Dutch gov't has turned from a tolerant one into a bunch of right wing xenophobes. The Netherlands has decided that my tourism cash is no longer need and I will oblige. Tell the owners of the Pax hotel in Amsterdam why they won't get any more of my tourism dollars; or the restaurant down the street, or the FEBO, or the McDonalds on the Dam, or the museums, or the tourism shops, or Schiphol, or the transit lines, etc... Cash cow no more.

By Robert Rutan | April 27, 2012 6:30 PM

The government has taken a taxed, safe and regulated recreational drug, and handed supply and distribution into the hands of criminals. Anyone who thinks that prohibition works - anywhere, with anything - is wilfully ignorant. Busy-body prudes like "Mandy" above will surely be much happier with criminals taking the profits and ensuring distribution is thoughtfully managed (for instance, criminals would never sell to underage customers!). Oh, and if she's never scented cannabis in other countries, she's led a tragically sheltered existence.

By glenn_uk | April 27, 2012 7:17 PM

Mandy - this law will make your trip to Holland far more unsafe as people will now buy drugs on the street instead of a controlled environment such as a coffee shop. As visitors will no longer be able to smoke inside, there'll be more smoking on the street. So your trip will likely be worse as far as smelling drugs is concerned.
Sad that you have such a short sighted view of the bigger picture.

By Joy | April 27, 2012 7:24 PM

It is going to make life very difficult for patients who do not get Berdrocan or Sativex (depending on what country they live in) on prescription. All good Doctors in Holland, even those who prescribed Bedrocan, tell patients to use the Coffeeshops as they are better and cheaper. Many patients are on low incomes, not big spenders, all do not live in towns with 'shops', and will not be favorites when it comes to handing out the limited 2000 passes. If this ban was in place when I came to Holland I would have died in horrific pain within a few days. My 1st Dr, in Leiden, sent me to the Coffeeshops in preference to prescribing Ministry cannabis Bedrocan.

By Gerard | April 27, 2012 7:51 PM

Well this stinks even more than Mandy thinks weed does. I think the likely result is increased crime, not less. Hopefully, with new elections in the immediate future saner heads will prevail.

By Walter | April 27, 2012 8:40 PM

Shame to see the way some comments turned on Mandy for simply giving her opinion.Regardless of whether the decision will be good or bad, Amsterdam in particular has become a city that seems to revolve around sex and drugs and the associated hordes of usually young tourists stomping around the city might be considered a good look for some of you, but I suggest you travel to some other cities and experience the difference. Whenever I am in Nederland I try to avoid Amsterdam entirely for that reason.

By mario | April 27, 2012 9:05 PM

I think if you understand how the guv thinks, the answer for the introduction of special ID for coffee shops makes sense.

Somebody already mentioned this a while ago..

the introduction of weed passes will put many people off bothering at all to buy weed. The tactics are to encourage the sale of alcohol because of high revenue & control, along with keeping the alcohol corporations (cartel)busy with high production. and yes in the future a large data base for analysis that will be used against the holder of the pass.

The sale of alcohol far outweighs the number of retail outlets for weed & always will.
I stopped buying weed, my silent protest, also alcohol!

By The visitor | April 27, 2012 9:11 PM

part 2...(120 word limit)

The roughly saved €120- pm I save by avoiding the purchase of alcohol & weed will go towards my next trip to South East Asia, but thanks to the guv for the motivation I needed that, cheers!!

I will not be filed, numbered, stamped, indexed or cataloged, I am a free man!

By The visitor | April 27, 2012 9:17 PM

I have been visiting Amsterdam for 25 years and I have never seen any of the drug related crime this law is supposed to address. If the Dutch govt feels that me and my tourist spending are no longer welcome, fine, I'll go to Jamiaca, it's a heck of a lot closer and cheaper, and warmer, and the pot is just as good. But I will miss the variety. This is not against the Dutch people, whom I have come to love over the years. But your govt is as bass ackwards as ours is here in the U.S. Peace!

By AAJJ | April 27, 2012 9:20 PM

I can't wait to stroll the streets of A'dam, as I do for one week out of each year, constantly peppered with a single question by young people with a new revenue stream. "Weed?" they will ask. I will hear it over and over. And any foreigner who wants to smoke it will do so, albeit at a higher price and of indeterminate quality. I further predict that the conventions which are held there, such as the IBC at the RAI Centre, will find there attendance numbers sharply down and my favorite hotelier will begin to complain bitterly that his occupancy rate is not what it used to be. Unintended consequences, anyone?

By David Kennerly | April 27, 2012 11:31 PM

Mandy, you don't have to see it. Just don't go to the coffeeshops. But have fun walking around watching woman sell their bodies, and try not to letthe street dealers give you too much hassle, because they will be out there in droves if the wietpas goes through.

By freeman | April 28, 2012 12:09 AM

With sadness I wave goodbye to my many Dutch friends.

Now Amsterdam will be just another expensive city.

Cheers to tobacco and alcohol may you kill millions more.

By Lee from Florida | April 28, 2012 3:45 AM

I am saddened by this law. I'm a senior citizen who has traveled to Amsterdam for decades. I don't drink. I don't care for bars and loud music. The coffee shops have been a peaceful, social, happy place to socialize and meet local people as well as other tourists. Can't say I enjoy the influx of drunken teenage tourists, but I would rather they be stoned than drunk. The implementation of this law will result in the loss of my tourism, for sure. So sad to see Amsterdam change this way and bow to right-wing pressure.

By anya | April 28, 2012 6:33 AM

The European Court of Justice has departed from the evidence to say the weedpass is going to protect public health and maintain public order. I know just enough about anti-drug laws to say with confidence that Dutch guv has absolutely no intention of doing monitoring, research and evaluation of this law on these noble social goals. Not on this law and not on any drug laws. Not the Dutch guv or any other nations governments. Drug policy decisions would be better made at "the coalface" i e: Police, Drug Services, Hospitals and local guvs. Cheers, Max Harmreduction

By Max Harmreduction | April 28, 2012 9:18 AM

I think this is being implemented to get residents to actually register. I know many people that have been unregistered residents for "a while" let's say and the city gets lots of nice taxes and fees for registration and related expenses

By klsnkv2 | April 28, 2012 11:07 AM

You're all worrying over nothing. If the Dutch don't like a law, or if a law means it hurts thier pocket, they simply ignore it: just look at the EU smoking ban! Most shops will continue as is, citing that they are waiting for the verdict from the EU court that they can't discriminate against citizens of other EU countries (that was already promised by a lobby group).

If I know the Dutch, they'll see a way to make a euro or ten out of this, and invent something like a 'tourist wietpas' for which they'll charge ;)

By osita | April 28, 2012 11:19 AM

@ AnotherExpat:
I totally agree. Everyone in NL already has to cary photo ID, and already shows it to buy alchohol or get into a clubs or casinos if there is doubt about age. Why not just say you need to show Dutch ID to buy weed. That would be a very simple and logical soulution if the goal was indeed to combat drugs tourism.

By Craig | April 28, 2012 12:25 PM

I think the measure is reasonable. Residents who want to get their fix can still do so legally, but it deters people from coming to Netherlands just to smoke.

By Andre L. | April 28, 2012 1:01 PM

As someone hoping to visit Amsterdamn sometime in my life, (your working decriminiliztion model rocks) i certainly hope i run into people like pot head pixie. O and mandy...stay home, then you don't have to smell anything but your own judgement. peace!

By jami | April 28, 2012 3:05 PM

As a Canadian currently living in Utrecht I have been to Amsterdam often. Contrary to the belief like Mandy's you don't see and smell it everywhere. You actually have to go into a coffee shop to see, smell, smoke or buy it! I see and smell it on the streets of Toronto then I do in Amsterdam. This law is completely backwards in a time when every country is trying to find ways to get people to visit and spend money! Dutch will end up with black market drug dealers like the rest of the world. AKA more dangerous, expensive, unregulated and untaxed. Stupid.

By Canadian In The Netherlands | April 28, 2012 3:12 PM

A very sad day indeed, with the wietpas in place people will start buying their cannabis from black market street dealers who also sell hard drugs. Funding their criminal activity, the Netherlands will become a haven for dealers and many will flock their to reap the benefits.

By Respectable tourist. | April 28, 2012 3:48 PM

With the rise in street dealers that the wietpas will create I'd expect to be approached by many unsavoury characters trying to push drugs on you. Maybe, as someone so uptight, you should think about cancelling your visit.

By To Mandy | April 28, 2012 3:52 PM

Ok, after all these years I never thought I'd read this one.... waytago....

By haha | April 28, 2012 6:20 PM

Veey stupid idea. Now that Amsterdam is super clean, there are cameras everywhere and u can hardly find pushers even in the red light zone they come up with this retro uptight idea...
The criminality will increase like this!!

By Deo | April 28, 2012 10:40 PM

Holland is so lovely and I lived there for ten years. At no time was there a sign of mj use or smells that were intolerable. You find what you are looking for, and I found delightful sights everywhere and wish that the environment was as lovely in other parts of the world as I encountered in Amsterdam and other areas.As my brother said when he visited me: "It is so clean and orderly. I'm coming back again." He is one whom is not easily pleased and he was as thrilled with Holland as I am.

By barbara | April 29, 2012 8:26 AM

I've been visiting amsterdam for over 20 years, the dutch will not abide by stupid laws. The smoking ban did'nt last, not sure if it even started. The elections in september will change things, I'm sure I will be back next year to enjoy all the dam has to offer.

By mandy | April 29, 2012 6:37 PM

> Stupid idea and I wonder what they gain of it...
Well, this should be quite obvious. By introducing a new articifial type of "crime" they gain themselves an excuse to increase the police budgets to "fight" it.

By stan | April 29, 2012 11:46 PM

The disturbed thought processes and delusions, the amotivational syndrome and the addictive qualities of cannabis are just some of the reasons to stop the sale of cannabis.
For me it is unbelievable and irresponsible that the Dutch government allow the sale of cannabis for the Dutch and protect foreigners for the danger of using cannabis. Illegal drugs are only acceptable for scientific and medical use not for recreational use for a very good reason. The wietpas and the coffeeshops are illegal, unacceptable and unfortunate drug policy making.

By Renee Besseling | April 30, 2012 10:54 AM

This is sort of similar to asking Paris cafés not to sell wine to tourists or British pubs not to sell bitter to foreigners. Would you go to Dublin without having a Guiness?

I understand that some Dutch may be happy to be rid of the coffeeshops, but it will invariably hurt the economy as tourism will go down. Plus drug crimes happen when using & selling drugs is a crime - legalized drug use = no drug crime.

As for other EU countries, maybe they should consider going the Dutch way on soft drugs instead of the other way around...

By july | April 30, 2012 1:43 PM

Over 50 comments on this article????

Interesting priorities...

By CW | April 30, 2012 2:06 PM

I have a UK passport, that does not identify me as a Dutch resident although I live here for 25 years, as EU passport holder I do not qualify for or need a resident permit.
Thus although resident I cannot show it from my legitimate ID and and therefore a tourist.
This is discrimination in any shape or form

By nd | May 1, 2012 9:29 AM

i go to amsterdam twice a year just to go to coffee shops ,i think that the smoking ban for tourist is a stupid idea ,it not the smokers cause the problem it the people who drink way to much beer and then make idiots of themselfs and wreck the city giving visitors like me and other people who go just to enjoy their smoke a bad name it not right .

By monique | May 6, 2012 4:58 PM

I have been to Amsterdam and found the relaxed way in which one can enjoy a smoke without constantly worrying about being given hassle for it delightful.
I trust that this law will soon go the way of other laws that the Dutch people have chosen to ignore over the years.
If not then it will be time to go to Portugal - warmer, sunnier and personal use is legal.

By HairyDave | May 9, 2012 1:13 PM

Isn't it funny how those with little experience of smoking the stuff have the most to say against it...

Anyhow, speaking of delusional thinking, when are these masonic banking fraternities going to stop interfering with every inch of our lives for the sake of turning us all into unquestioning, shocked slaves to their own addictions? I wonder...

By Not Innocent | May 13, 2012 4:25 AM

My wife and I spent many week-ends in Amsterdam over the last 20 years (I’m 48) during which we enjoyed different things among which smoking now and then. When we did not, we were happy to know we had this possibility, in a free and tolerant city.
We thought the Dutch understood alcohol is much more serious problem than weed.
If the tide does turn this way, we’ll certainly feel frustrated and unwanted.
Given such circumstances, we will most likely cease to spend vacations there.
IMO it will get much easier to find a hotel room in Amsterdam.

By Philippe | May 22, 2012 2:17 PM

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