Dutch coffee shops challenge pot stop order

12th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Six cannabis-vending coffee shops from two southern Dutch towns argued before a judge on Friday against plans by mayors to stop them selling soft drugs from next week.

The Hague - Six cannabis-vending coffee shops from two southern Dutch towns argued before a judge on Friday against plans by mayors to stop them selling soft drugs from next week.

The mayors of Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, both near the border with Belgium, announced the step in March in a bid to ward off some 25,000 marijuana-smoking tourists who flood their communities every week.

The towns' eight coffee shops, of which two are not part of the court challenge, were ordered to stop selling marijuana from next Wednesday, but were given permission to remain in operation as ordinary bars.

The coffee shops had no avenue of appealing the mayors' decision, whose violation would mean a five-year forced closure.

They asked a civil judge on Friday to give an order preventing their closure in case they are held in violation of the mayors' order.

"If the coffee shops continue to sell soft drugs after Wednesday (and are closed down as punishment), this way they will at least have a chance to challenge their closure before an administrative judge," their lawyer Harry Nieland told AFP.

"The coffee shops must not be closed."

Bart Roozendaal, a lawyer for the mayors, said their move had been "very well motivated, the research was done thoroughly, and there is no question of an unjustified decision."

Judgement will be handed down on Tuesday.

The consumption and possession of small amounts of cannabis has been decriminalised in The Netherlands since 1976, as is its sale in licensed coffee shops. But its mass cultivation and large-scale sale is forbidden.

AFP / Expatica

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