Dutch cities aim to reduce drug tourism
A soft drugs summit which aims to seek ways to discourage tourists who visit the Netherlands for soft drugs will be held in November.29 October 2008
AMSTERDAM - Popping into the Netherlands to take advantage of its soft drugs policy could become more difficult if a group of Dutch municipal officials have their way.
The Dutch association for municipalities, VNG, announced Tuesday that it will host a soft drugs summit in the third week of November in Maastricht. Participants will seek ways to discourage tourists who visit the Netherlands to take advantage of its liberal drug laws. By extension, the summit also seeks to reduce drug-related crime.
The summit comes in the wake of last week's decision by the south- western Dutch towns of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom to gradually close their local "coffee-shops" in an attempt to reduce drug-related crimes.
All Dutch cities and towns close to the German or Belgian borders are invited to the summit. After the summit, the VNG will present the cities' common position to the government.
The goal, according to VNG, is to get the government to negotiate an international soft drugs policy with Belgium and Germany.
The sale and use of so-called soft drugs, such as marijuana, is legal in the Netherlands in designated stores, usually referred to as "coffee-shops."
The production and distribution of soft drugs, however, remains illegal.
Maastricht mayor Gerd Leers calls the current Dutch drugs policy "hypocritical". He says it enables drug-related crime and also increases the sale and distribution of hard drugs, such as heroin.
Maastricht is one of the Dutch cities suffering most from drug- related crime. The city is visited by more than 1.5 million drugs tourists per year and has 16 "coffee-shops," 10 more than in Dutch cities of comparable size not located close to the border.
Police estimate Maastricht also has more than 100 "soft drugs supermarkets," illegal stores where one can purchase soft drugs in larger quantities than the 5 grams per person allowed under Dutch law.
Leers says police officers in his city deal with triple the amount of crime as their colleagues in the metropolitan area of The Hague.
Most of the crime in Maastricht is drug-related, and the number of drug-related murders each year is increasing, according to police officials.
[dpa / Expatica]