Tourists to be banned from Dutch cannabis cafes

8th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Non-Dutch residents will be banned from cannabis-selling coffee shops in southern Netherlands from January 1 to spare locals from the nuisance of drug tourism, the justice ministry said Tuesday.

The centre-right government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has since September 2010 been weighing a "cannabis card", reserved for nationals and obligatory when visiting one of the country's 670 licenced coffee shops.

"The measure will come into force for the (southern) provinces of Limburg, North-Brabant and Zeeland, the provinces most affected by drug tourism, on January 1," justice ministry spokeswoman Charlotte Menten told AFP.

Under the new policy, which some have warned could drastically curb tourism revenues, licenced coffee shops will be considered private clubs with a maximum of 2,000 members limited to Dutch residents who are older than 18.

Menten said the measures would come into force in the rest of the country in January 2013.

The policy aims to cut down traffic jams, nocturnal disturbances, and the abundance of drug pushers catering to the millions of foreign tourists drawn to the Netherlands by its relaxed marijuana laws.

Coffee shop owners have come out against the measures, citing expected losses in revenue.

The European Court of Justice ruled in December that banning foreigners was justified "by the objective of combating drug tourism and the accompanying public nuisance".

The Dutch government also plans to introduce a policy, coming into force in January 2014, requiring coffee shops to be at least 350 meters (1,200 feet) away from schools, to keep drug consumption away from children, Menten said.

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.

© 2011 AFP

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