Dutch Government Plans to Make Cannabis Cafés Member-Only Clubs; Foreigners Need Not Apply


Last Friday the Dutch government said it is proceeding with plans to stop foreigners from visiting "coffee shops" that sell marijuana. Under the government's plan, all marijuana cafés, which have been tolerated for three decades although they are still technically illegal, would be transformed into member-only clubs. Legal residence in the Netherlands would be one requirement for joining. Having received approval from the European Court of Justice, which in December ruled that such a policy would not violate the E.U.'s single-market rules, the government was supposed to be waiting for a decision from the Council of State, the Dutch constitutional court, which is considering a café owner's challenge to a local ban on foreigners. But in a letter to the Dutch parliament on Friday, the health and justice ministers said they intend to implement the new policy in border areas by the end of this year and in the rest of the country by the end of 2012. "In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking," they wrote, "the open-door policy of coffee shops will end."

Richard Cowan, a former national director of NORML and longtime marijuana reform activist who lived in Amsterdam in the 1990s, doubts that. "By the end of next year," he says, "it is more likely that tourists will be sitting in the coffee shops than the current cabinet will be sitting in The Hague." He argues that the current conservative government is weak and won't last, that (judging from polls) "most Dutch want cannabis to be legalized completely," and that marijuana, including tourist income from coffee shop visitors, "is a huge business in Holland," especially in Amsterdam, where the city council opposes the new national policy.

[via the Drug War Chronicle]