Dutch cities seek ways to reduce drug tourism

30th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Although its slack regulation on soft drug use has consistently attracted huge numbers of tourists, it has also brought in negative elements that Dutch officials no longer wish to ignore.

The Netherlands -- 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.

This meeting comes in the wake of last week's decision by the southwestern 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. Afterward, the VNG will present the city’s 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 locations, which are referred to as "coffee shops."

The production and distribution of soft drugs, however, remains illegal.

Despite this regulation, 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 many Dutch cities suffering 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 other Dutch cities of comparable size that are 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 that exceed the 5 grams per person limit under Dutch law.

Leers said police officers in his city deal with triple the amount of crime as their colleagues in the metropolitan area of The Hague.

According to police officials most of the crime in Maastricht is drug related and the number of drug related murders increase each year.


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