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Maastricht mayor does u-turn over cannabis club membership

Wednesday 05 September 2012

Locals in Maastricht should no longer have to formally register as marijuana users to buy soft drugs from the city’s cannabis cafes, mayor Onno Hoes said in a letter to councillors on Wednesday.

Since May 1, cannabis cafes in the south of the country have been turned into member-only clubs in an effort to keep out foreigners. Only locals, who can prove they live in the area, are allowed to sign up for membership.

According to Nos television, Hoes says the number of foreigners trying to buy soft drugs has fallen so sharply that the membership cards are no longer necessary.

Official register

At the same time, so few locals have registered as cannabis users that changes need to be made in the way the membership system works. Because locals are reluctant to register, ID and an official council certificate stating where they live should be sufficient to buy marijuana, the mayor is quoted as saying.

Nos says Hoes also hopes this will reduce the number of street dealers who have appeared since the ban was introduced.

The marijuana pass system is due to be introduced in the rest of the country, including Amsterdam, in January next year. Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan and a majority of the city council are strongly opposed.


Junior justice minister Fred Teeven told the capital’s local television station AT5 on Tuesday the introduction of the pass in the capital would take place in consultation with the city council.

‘The weed card will be introduced in Amsterdam but we will take local government into account,’ Teeven said.

Coffee shop holders welcomed the minister's statement, saying it showed the government is beginning to change its position.


Meanwhile, opponents of the weed card have been campaigning for the legislation to be reversed in the September 12 general election.

According to Joep Oomen of the legalise cannabis movement voting for any political party on the left is good and any party on the right is bad.

Several parties, including Labour, are also calling for better regulation for marijuana production. Although cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands, users can have up to five grammes for personal use or four plants without prosecution.

What do you think about the mayor of Maastricht's change of heart? Have your say using the comment form below

© DutchNews.nl

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Readers' comments (41)

This proves what many have said: it's bad for the economy. So now they will find all sorts of reasons to have it purchased by foreigners again. This is just the beginning. That announcement should come any day now.

By CGiboi | September 5, 2012 7:45 PM

It shows that the whole weed pass issue was not logical to start with and any rational person would have predicted its negative outcome.

By Jay | September 5, 2012 7:57 PM

How sad to see your country decline in its progressive ways. As a long-time visitor and weed-smoker, I come not for the pot but for the Netherlands experience. Next year, I won't be back.

By Ned from Canada | September 5, 2012 8:44 PM

Makes you wonder how much of our tax money is wasted in this whole process again.

By Alex | September 5, 2012 9:07 PM

I was in Maastricht in June and noticed large amounts of shady looking street dealers. When the crime rates begin to go up changes will be made.

By bobke | September 5, 2012 9:20 PM

I am glad that all my acquaintances have decided not to bother with weed passes, they won't fall for the official guv reason & have already established a far better and cheaper outlet:)

That our guv has the audacity to try & implement a data base on people buying cannabis (Soft drug)and not alcohol (HARD DRUG) is mind boggling..

The prohibition of cannabis to foreigners reeks of Wilders & his anti foreigner campaign:P

The biggest real threat to any guv is not terrorism, it's the fact that we all have access to the internet:D

The day the guv wakes up and realizes it's supposed to be in service for the people, is the day we have real liberty.

By The visitor | September 5, 2012 10:02 PM

If there was ever a tsunami of Uturns and broken promises, it's happening right now in pre-election week Netherlands.

Regardless of feelings over the rights and wrongs of a weedpass (I think it was always wrong), the prediction that was held by every citizen prior to it's introduction has materialised, it seems:
''reduce the number of street dealers who have appeared since the ban was introduced''.

Tourists' cash (income) vs Extra policing (expenditure)

By osita | September 5, 2012 10:49 PM

"Only locals, who can prove they live in the area, are allowed to sign up for membership."
"ID and an official council certificate stating where they live should be sufficient to buy marijuana."
This is not a U-turn.

By AC | September 6, 2012 12:16 AM

It seems some Dutch politicians waste just as much time and money as they do in America on minor issues (coffeeshops, etc) without thinking clearly. What a joke. This whole scenario has been nothing short of a distraction from major issues, such as real drugs (see latest report of chemical drugs in Drente & Rotterdam).

Weitpas, closing coffeeshops...it's nonsense. Politicians should get in touch with reality and work on the real problems facing the world.

By Kevin L. | September 6, 2012 12:44 AM

this was a backward step in its entirety.
a solution in need of a problem.
a lot of respect squandered.

By thomas vesely | September 6, 2012 1:48 AM

Good for the Mayor of Maastricht! Now, nstead of making a blanket law banning all foreign tourists from coffeeshops, the Dutch authoriies should seek out the abusers of the liberal cannabis policy. Don't ban all of us because most of us do not abuse the system and we bring a lot of cash to the Netherlands. Like "osita" inferred, the extra tourist cash can be used for extra policing to find the abusers of the liberal Dutch "soft drug" policy. Please don't punish all of us---just the bad apples. Thank you.

By Chris Mei | September 6, 2012 3:20 AM

I have the same opinion as Alex, namely a huge waste of time, energy and money when we really need these resources focused effectively on really important issues - not weed passes for goodness sake! this is pathetic and also ridiculous

By Bill | September 6, 2012 5:46 AM

Coffeeshops are emblems of personal freedom. They also close the gateway to street dealers and their preferred, addictve products. No weed today but there's coke, meth, ecstasy, heroin...

By Puck | September 6, 2012 7:45 AM

I trhink the real reason is money.No one comes to this town any more.Lost revenue from hotles snack bars beer bars restaurants even parking meters are the real cause of this descision.I find it laugable that they still thought tourists would come.

By jason buttle | September 6, 2012 7:51 AM

VVD's opinion in this is not that important. It is very likely that the parties which are against the wietpas will have a majority in parliament.
Other things that will probably change are the opining hours for shops, blasphemy laws, civil servants who refuse to marry gays. It will be payback time.

By pepe | September 6, 2012 9:36 AM

I think a lot of the commenters here are missing the point. The introduction of the weed pass in the Netherlands is a concession to her neighbours where pot is still illegal. Within the Schengen open borders system this is obviously going to cause problems... Like the smoking ban I doubt very much it will be enforced in Amsterdam...

By the other guy | September 6, 2012 9:45 AM

"..foreigners trying to buy soft drugs has fallen...sharply.." Perhaps they are not in the coffeeshops anymore but there has to be some reason the number of street dealers has increased. Wietpass equals increasing organised crime and their street dealers - and their hard drugs. Real flattering videos on youtube of street dealers selling cocaine, XTC and heroinein Maastricht - nothing to be proud of.

By Max Harmreduction | September 6, 2012 10:18 AM

@the other guy: Cannabis possession was decriminalized in Belgium over 11 years ago.
The German federal constitutional court decided on 28 April 1994 that people need no longer be prosecuted for possession of soft drugs for personal use. Since then, most German regional governments have tolerated the sale and use of soft drugs.

By Puck | September 6, 2012 10:29 AM

The fact that the weed pass was ever conceived is an indication of how either corrupted or incompetent the previous administration was. Instead of basing policy on sound evidence and scientific advice, the Christian right chose lies, deceit, and spurious, sensationalist stories and propaganda to create a problem where one never existed. NORML UK, the organisation i represent, attended and supported the anti weed pass demonstrations in April at which I was interviewed by POW TV News and I was shocked by the ignorance of the media who seemed to think that the best way to protect children is to allow criminals to control the supply of drugs instead of a regulated legal market!

By Sanj Chowdhary | September 6, 2012 10:57 AM

The only people that will be upset if the weed pass plan is dropped will be the street drug dealers.

By Alun Buffry | September 6, 2012 10:58 AM

Have you ever been to Maastricht, jason? Maastricht is very popular among Germans and Belgians for shopping trips. If you would visit Maastricht you would see that the city is jammed with people.

By pepe | September 6, 2012 11:01 AM

This shows that the legislation worked. This shows that the regulations have worked. All the authorities were trying to do was restrict foreigners from coming in and buying the cannabis and making a nuisance of themselves, not the locals. Congrats to them!

By Mandy | September 6, 2012 11:02 AM

So good to see such comments. I join a Canada poster who mourns the loss of the Dutch progressive atmosphere,
The shops were a wonderful mixture of young and old. The gov always picks on the 16 -20 year olds. Their fathers have the bars with the beer; they used to have pool tables and mtv and cups of java to go with the weed.
These morons in govt who try to control what people CHOOSE to do learn very, very, slowly.

By Robert | September 6, 2012 11:09 AM

'...Since May 1, cannabis cafes in the south of the country have been turned into member-only clubs in an effort to keep out foreigners...' And if you believe that, you'll believe anything. They want to keep tabs on who smokes and who doesn't, just as, with the OV, they want to see where you've been,where you're going and how long you stayed. After all, you might have slipped through the Facebook net!

I look forward to an influx and increase of aggressive street dealers in Jan...

By woods | September 6, 2012 3:51 PM

Hooray!!! As an ex-pat, who has lived here for 15 years, I am overjoyed to see this. Every Mayor in the country should follow suit. And the idiots who passed this bill and all who support it, should just take a look at the US, where much of the violence and criminal activity are connected to drugs.
So all the guv has to do, to have the same type of problems that most US cities have, is to go ahead and pass the wiet pass.

By bob | September 6, 2012 5:07 PM

Wow, a sudden surge in street dealers and mega loss of tourist dollars. Who ever would have guessed? How are they going to spin the "about-turn"?

By jaycee | September 6, 2012 5:46 PM

My husband and I are in our early 60's. We have been smoking pot since the 1960's and lead responsible, crime-free lives. For the past 20 yrs our destination of choice has been Amsterdam. We can arrive in your beautiful city, settle in, and then visit our favorite coffeeshops to purchase what we want. We love Amsterdam for the architecture, the canals, the people, the churches, the museums, the trams and bikes, the flower boxes, the buskers, and of course the wonderful people watching it offers. But getting stoned is important to us. If we cannot buy weed there in the future, we won't be returning. Sadly.

By SashaNYC | September 6, 2012 8:12 PM

I promise you this

If the pass comes in, the Netherlands will be like the UK in a couple of years - dealers on all the streets etc. Not good at all. It will be a huge regret. I live in the UK and often work across Holland and find it superb to relax after a working day - much better than a drink - ad that will be where the problem is - an increase in drinking oh, and hard drugs - its a sad sad thing...

By Dave | September 6, 2012 11:01 PM

In computing we have a saying, if it ain't broke don't fix it. The drug policy in Holland worked better than any other country in the world, so why change it?!

By Steve | September 6, 2012 11:14 PM

i have been coming to holland since 1998 been to your amazing country more then 35 times in that time period and while initially it was kinda like a kid in the candy store ive come to learn 99% of the repeat tourists are like myself lovers of holland first and the weed just becomes an awesome bonus. and if you think some pass is gong to stop us from getting what we want from the "members only clubs" your government is crazy if you have dutch friends you got dutch weed. and the man with the best point so far is The Other Guy cause its all about your neighbors dont let them ruin your amazing country!

By GC-NYC | September 7, 2012 1:50 AM

Hey, i'm booked up to fly out to amsterdam on the 16th of september from london. these weed-pass laws are so confusing and im struggling to work it all out. i understand the election is taking place on the 12th.. but will this mean if a right-wing party wins the election, i cannot buy weed on the 16th? please reply.

By James | September 7, 2012 1:51 PM

Legalise it already! And not just in the Netherlands but the rest of Europe as well.

By groverpm | September 7, 2012 5:12 PM

Two things stun me whenever I see foreigners commenting on the issue:

1) that they think the Dutch has some sort of moral international obligation to cater to drug tourists

2) the ignorance of a simple fact: locals can still buy their smoke legally, so it is unlikely that would increase street dealing much.

By Andre L. | September 8, 2012 1:02 AM

Dear forreign tourists and fellow earthlings, don't worry! 'The war on drugs has been everywhere for decades and we still smoke. Remember in the 80's you could get your pot on Damsquare? Too bad some of the tourists back than didn't know the difference between good hasj and a string of fridge-magnets. Now you all know better. I have smoked anywhere in the world, no political slaveholder can ever throw our Amsterdam 40+ years back in time. They can try though..... Besides, this 'wietpas' is great for economy! Loads and loads of people with crisis in their wallets can make money again! Hear hear for politics! Check #wietpas on twitter and you will find info and opionions

By Dutch girl | September 8, 2012 9:01 AM

Happy to hear the news that the opponents
of cannabis are coming to their senses.
The true & great feeling of being in the
Netherlands is one of freedom, a feeling
like no other country in Europe,Asia and the USA.This feeling emerges knowing that
the Dutch and the tourist who visit their
country have a freedom of choice.
Many people come for the Tulips,tourism
may stay in place, but the economy will
no doubt suffer if the anti-cannabis law
is voted in.My vote says cannabis is a
great release from the stresses of life.
Let the people have what they want.

By Tony DeVito | September 9, 2012 3:20 AM

Ive been to Holland 8times and lets be honest here having travelled to many other countries. You have a coffee shop system for weed that many many many countries would love to have instead of wasting money arresting people for weed but because of pressure from 1 country in particular they have not. Canada you need to be next STAND STRONG!

By Robert D | September 9, 2012 7:30 AM

Currently the pass is only implemented in the 3 southern provinces. Amsterdam is almost certainly going to resist it, and it's still quite available in the other cities. Utrecht is nice, about 60% the cost per gram of the 'dam.

By Honkeytonk | September 12, 2012 1:44 PM

@Andre L, please pay attention: your beloved weedpass isn't working!

At least 600 people have lost their jobs since all cannabis cafes in three Dutch border provinces have been turned into members' only clubs, and hundreds of people have been arrested (in one provence alone) for drug offenses. In addition, Maastricht University researchers have said that youngsters are now being exposed to other drugs because the strict separation between hard and soft drugs no longer applies. There has also been an increase in demand for seeds and other equipment required to grow marijuana at home.

By Malcolm Kyle | September 12, 2012 1:57 PM

it's not just a practical issue. You dutch people are pretty curious but have you ever wonder what amsterdam represent in the world? it is the capital of millions of smart people. Morally a capital. but these new rules, do not look smart at all.

By jim | September 13, 2012 6:01 AM

So after all the store owners and local business services the mayor is getting the heat from no sales or lack of business. Makes me think what's going to happen to Amsterdam and all the bigger problems when they block the coffee shops with the millions op people that visit each month. No coffee shops No tourists No sales= No problems!!!!! The judge who stepped on everyone's lively hood should be fired by messing with people's business and the police qnd gov should crack down on the violated rules breakers don't punish the country for a headache at the borders..

By DK | September 18, 2012 4:16 PM

I haven't been to the Netherlands for some time, having been a frequent visitor previously for many years. I have been surprised at some proposals and actions in that they seem to leave behind centuries of objectively superior and successful Dutch thinking and practice on these things. The u-turn restores my faith in this as it shows that this mayor is not going to prefer a dogmatic position over evidence that his position is benefitting illegal, uncontrolled forces dealing in drugs. This is the way of stupid countries, not of the netherlands!! (PS-I am not Dutch)

By MK | September 18, 2012 11:34 PM

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