Cabinet to get tough on cannabis tourism

The cabinet is considering introducing passes for cannabis cafe users in an effort to keep foreign tourists out, sources in the Hague have told news agency ANP.

ANP says ministers plan to continue the 30-year-old soft drugs policy which allows users to have up to five grammes marijuana without facing prosecution. But, the sources say, ministers are concerned at the size of some cannabis-selling cafes – known as coffee shops – and about the involvement of organised crime in production and supply.
Ministers want instead to see a return to small coffee shops which serve a local market, ANP says. The introduction of passes would make it difficult for foreign tourists to use them.
A government-backed experiment with a coffee shop membership system is soon to start in Maastricht, which is visited by tens of thousands of French, Belgium and German tourists hoping to buy marijuana a year.
New legislation
New legislation will be introduced in the spring, the sources say.
In July, a government commission concluded that the current practice of ‘turning a blind eye’ to soft drugs had led to increased involvement by organised crime. It recommended a return to smaller coffee shops.
Last year, divisions between the current coalition government emerged over the approach to soft drugs. The Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie said they wanted an end to the blind-eye policy. Labour says closing coffee shops would lead to an increase in crime and drugs-related nuisance.
Coffee shop owners said they were not sure if introducing passes for Dutch nationals would be legal and warn of an increase in street dealing if foreign tourists were kept out.
The Netherlands has some 700 cannabis cafes, but dozens are under threat of closure by 2011 because they are too close to schools.
Local councils already have the right to decide whether or not to allow coffee shops within their area at all.

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