Netherlands to close cannabis coffee shops to tourists

May 28th, 2011 - 12:46 am ICT by BNO News  

AMSTERDAM (BNO NEWS) — In an effort to stop drug tourism, the Dutch government on Friday decided to restrict access to cannabis coffee shops so that tourists will no longer be able to buy the drugs.

Coffee shops are establishments in the Netherlands where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption by the public is tolerated by the local authorities. As this is illegal in most countries, many tourists from around the world travel to Amsterdam to use cannabis.

But in an effort to reduce criminal behavior and tourism as a result of the drug policy, the Dutch government on Friday decided to introduce a membership system for coffee shops. The city of Amsterdam, where most tourists go, is against the decision

The new system will require members of coffee shops to be a citizen of the Netherlands and over the age of 18. “The coalition agreement says that the current open door policy of coffee shops should be stopped and that the fight against organized drug crime should be intensified,” the Dutch cabinet said in a statement.

The new laws will require coffee shops to become closed clubs for the local market, meaning that only Dutch citizens will be allowed access if they are able to show a valid ID and have a membership of the coffee shop in question.

The membership will be in the form of a club card which can be provided by coffee shop owners if those who want to be a customer can produce a valid ID and proof that he or she lives in the Netherlands. The membership will be for a period of at least a year, but coffee shops will be restricted in the number of club cards they can issue.

“The desired small scale will be achieved by the cabinet by capping the number of members of coffee shops. What the exact maximum number of members per coffee shop is will be determined at a later moment,” the cabinet said. “The mayor can under local circumstances impose a lower number of maximum members.”

The European Court of Justice previously said the new laws to deny access to foreigners is not in violation of European law. A court case against the new measures is still pending at the Netherlands’ Council of State, but the government does not expect this to be a problem.

“The cabinet expects that the closure of coffee shops to foreign drug tourists will result in that they no longer travel to the Netherlands for the sale and consumption of cannabis,” the cabinet said in the statement. “After all, for many of them applies that they can use the existing illegal market in their own country. Nevertheless will the possible side effects of these measures be monitored closely and adequately addressed by the police, judiciary, and administration.”

Additionally, the Dutch government also decided on Friday that coffee shops will not be allowed within 350 meters (1,100 feet) of schools. This measure is aimed to stop students from visiting the coffee shops.

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