More border police to stop drug tourism

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The police presence at the Dutch-Belgian border is to be stepped up to help combat drug tourism, Belgian Interior Minister Joëlle Milquet said on Sunday.

The preventive measure is being introduced because of a new law which takes effect on 1 May barring non-residents from buying soft drugs at so-called coffeeshops in the Netherlands.

From next month, only residents in the Dutch border provinces of Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland will be allowed to purchase soft drugs with a special weed pass.

Mr Milquet said police have been instructed to be extra vigilant for illegal drug activity in Belgium where authorities fear an increase in drug smuggling as a result of the new Dutch law.

Internal wrangling The new law on soft drugs has led to in the south of the Netherlands. Some councils have said they will ignore the new law, while Mayor Onno Hoes of Maastricht says he is determined to enforce it from 1 May.

The city of Maastricht experiences considerable disturbance from the estimated 1.5 million foreigners who visit the city each year solely to buy soft drugs at the city’s 19 coffee shops.

Anti-discrimination law The weed pass has been disputed in the Dutch courts on the grounds that it violates European anti-discrimination law on the basis of residence, but the courts ruled that discrimination is permissible if it is deemed necessary to maintain public order.

The new legislation officially took effect on 1 January of this year, but it was agreed that enforcement in the southern provinces of Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg would begin on 1 May. The law will be implemented in the rest of the Netherlands on 1 January 2013.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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