Belgians main customers of border coffee shops
4 November 2005, BRUSSELS — The two 'coffee shops' that sell marijuana on the Belgian-Dutch border in Terneuzen are almost exclusively visited by Belgian and French nationals.
4 November 2005
BRUSSELS — The two 'coffee shops' that sell marijuana on the Belgian-Dutch border in Terneuzen are almost exclusively visited by Belgian and French nationals.
Ghent University research has revealed that two-thirds of customers are Belgian and a small minority of customers is Dutch.
Based on police figures, just 6 percent of customers at the Terneuzen coffee shops are Dutch, while customer surveys indicate 12 percent are Dutch.
"Dutch people are under represented in the police figures because they also walk and ride to the shops, meaning they have less chance of being intercepted," academic Tim Surmont said.
The criminal law and criminology professor surveyed 415 customers and examined 1,175 Terneuzen police reports to reach his findings, Flemish daily newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Friday.
"The customers are on average 27 years old. The majority work and about half of the visitors come weekly. From 6pm, the number of visitors starts to increase. During the weekend, the number of visitors is more even."
Local police generally target 24 year olds and have recently intensified patrols. Consequently, one in five people have altered the route they take to the coffee shops.
Terneuzen is the only municipality in the Dutch region south of the Schelde river with a soft drugs toleration policy. After a crackdown on the illegal trade of marijuana, only two premises are allowed to sell soft drugs.
Customers said the quality of Dutch cannabis is the main reason why they travel to Terneuzen.
Coffee shops were set up partly to avoid the need for people to walk around with drugs and street disturbances are minimal because the coffee shops are located on the city's edge.
However, there is an economic downside for Belgium. Drug tourists spend on average EUR 20 outside the coffee shops while still in the Netherlands. They buy clothes, fuel and food.
Ghent University's Professor Brice De Ruyver said drugs tourism demanded international agreements, urging for cross-border policies to be set up.
De Ruyver said the Dutch are not expected to close their coffee shops, but if just 6 percent of customers come from the Netherlands, it is time to look beyond simply a national-based toleration of policy.
The provinces of East and West Flanders in Belgium will now meet with Zeeland authorities in the Netherlands and provinces in the north of France to co-ordinate their drugs policies.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian + Dutch news