Dutch cannabis cafes to start tourist ban in May
New legislation to ban non-Dutch residents from cannabis-selling coffee shops in southern Netherlands should be enforced no later than May 1 next year, the Dutch justice ministry said Thursday.
"The law will be amended on January 1, but there will be a kind of grace period until May 1," ministry spokeswoman Charlotte Menten told AFP.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has since September 2010 been weighing a "cannabis card", reserved for residents only and obligatory when visiting one of the country's 670 licensed coffee shops.
The move, which coffee shop owners say would harm an industry that has been a drawcard for travellers for years, was taken to protect locals against the nuisance of drug tourism and criminality, authorities said.
Menten said the extended grace period was to give coffee shops in the southern Zeeland, Limburg and Brabant North provinces, which borders Belgium and Germany, time to set up a "new administrative system."
"But if in some places they want to apply it before, they can," she said, adding that the rest of the country will follow suit in 2013.
Dutch coffee shops will now become closed clubs allowed up to 2,000 members of residents -- including foreigners -- living in the Netherlands and aged over 18.
Dutch residents have long complained about the impact of drug tourism including pollution, traffic jams, noise at night and a proliferation of drug dealers on the streets.
The Dutch government also plans to introduce a policy requiring coffee shops to be at least 350 meters (1,200 feet) away from schools, to keep drug consumption away from children.
Though technically illegal, the Netherlands decriminalised the possession of less than five grammes (0.18 ounce) of cannabis in 1976 under a so-called "tolerance" policy.
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© 2011 AFP