The government should pay damages to cannabis cafe owners in the south of the country who lost income when the government forced them to become member-only clubs, a court in The Hague has ruled.
The court said clients of coffee shops in Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Zeeland were unwilling to register as official cannabis users, leading to declining turnovers.
The case was brought by the Dutch cannabis retailers’ association. Marijuana is not legal in the Netherlands but police turn a blind eye to the possession of up to five grammes for personal use. Cannabis cafes are licenced by their local authority to sell small amounts of the drug.
The government hoped by turning the cafes into clubs, drugs tourism would be reduced because only people who officially live in the Netherlands would be able to join.
The club rule operated in the southern provinces between May 1 and November 19 last year, when it was abandoned. Cafe owners said they had lost up to 90% of their clientele because of the new rules.
A second court procedure will determine how much compensation should be paid, The Hague court said in its ruling.
However, the court did rule the government is within its rights to ban tourists from the coffee shops and that this does not conflict with European legislation.
The cannabis retailers’ association plans to appeal against this ruling, as does justice minister Ivo Opstelten.
Peter Hendriks, owner of coffee shop Skunk in Sittard, welcomed the court’s decision on compensation. He claims to have lost 75% of his clients and says many have not returned since the registration requirement was dropped, news agency ANP reported.