Drug War

Holland's Top Court Approves Excluding Foreigners From Cannabis Cafés


Today the Dutch Council of State, the highest court in the Netherlands, ruled that the mayor of Maastricht acted illegally when he shut down a cannabis café in 2006 for violating a local ban on selling marijuana to foreigners. But in a statement (PDF) explaining the decision, the court suggested that the city could have achieved the same result by relying on the country's Opium Act, which bans marijuana despite a longstanding policy of tolerating retail sales:

The municipality may not regulate the sale of soft drugs by means of a municipal byelaw and decisions based on it without reference to the Opium Act…. 

The judgment does not mean the mayor has no further statutory scope for taking measures against coffee shops that he believes cause nuisance problems. Under the Opium Act itself, the mayor may impose an enforcement order against coffee shops selling narcotics.

Citing a December 2010 decision by the European Court of Justice, the Council of State said a policy of restricting "coffee shops" to Dutch residents does "infringe European law on the freedom to provide services" but "is permissible in the interests of combating drug tourism and the nuisance associated with it." The court added that such a rule, favored by the current national government, "is also compatible with the Dutch Constitution's ban on discrimination." Although that policy involves "indirect discrimination based on nationality," the court said, it was justified in this case because "the mayor had demonstrated that public order in the city was being disrupted by the rising influx of drug tourists and that the residence criterion could offer a solution to this problem." The decision seems to remove the last major legal barrier to excluding foreigners from coffee shops, but political barriers remain, since local officials in Amsterdam oppose the proposed policy, apparently viewing "drug tourists" as a boon rather than a menace.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

NEXT: New York City Food Trucks Under Attack

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The use of the word caf? is strange. Here is Los Estados Unidos there are many “caf?s” that do not specialize in coffee. If you want a place that specialize in coffee you go to a coffee shop or coffee house. Apparently, to the Dutch, “coffee shop” means something entirely different. If you want a place that specializes in coffee you go to a caf

    1. No, the Dutch use the English term when they refer to places where you can buy cannabis. And cafes are just as likely to serve beer.

  2. Whatever.

  3. Americans et all behave like Arabs when they are exposed to no alcohol. Prohibition makes for unsophisticated consumers.

    1. How does one become exposed to a lack of something?

      1. u mean like oxygen?

        1. yes, because suffocating is clearly the same thing as VOLUNTARILY going to another country that has prohibited alcohol.

          1. ahh, more specific. if only ur question wasnt soo general as to allow for general answers. good day

  4. MJ isn’t actually “banned” in the Netherlands, AFAIK. It’s decriminalized with a specific policy of not prosecuting under a certain amount (and prosecution over that only leads to a misdemeanor and fine)

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_Law
    for the aforementioned Opium Act and specific laws with regards to coffee shops

    1. might as well quote the relevant parts here:
      In 1996 the laws were changed again to include new regulations for coffeeshops. The terms coffeeshops had to follow were:

      No advertisement
      No hard drugs
      No entrance to coffeeshops by persons under the age of 18
      No sale of more than 5 grams of cannabis products per person, per day
      Coffeeshops are not allowed to have more than 500 grams of cannabis in stock at any time

      Since 1996, no new changes have been made to the Opium Law. New guidelines for coffeeshops have been made, but they are not covered by the Opium Law.[1]

      and in addition, up to 5 plants may be grown by anyone

  5. Speaking of drugs, John Lennon has been revealed to be a closet Reagan Republican. I always felt he was too smart to be a douchbag leftist


    1. imagine there’s no wingnuts…its ez if u try…well, unless the wingnut is fm waterloo iowa

      1. Resonites, meet my sole veiwer!

    2. Well, he was a close friend of William F Buckley. Buckley went to bat for him to help him overcome his visa problems.

      1. The kind of conservative Buckley was has nothing to do with Republicans of the current era. He was a true conservative and a strong supporter of re-legalizing marijuana.

    3. That’s just one unreliable person’s story. I’ll go with the decades of history we have on Lennon. The Beatles were, after all, the godfathers of the hippie movement.

      He would certainly never align himself with a sewer-mouth like you.

  6. Thank God the Dutch don’t make good beer, or maybe they’d stop selling that to foreigners too!

    1. I beg to differ. Though not as good as Belgian beer I’ll prefer a Gulpener Gladiator to German brew any day. Some great stuff can happen when there are no purity guidelines in place.

  7. Today’s state-sponsored, constitutionally-approved discrimination and xenophobia were brought to you by… The Dutch!
    *turns on the APPLAUSE sign*

    1. The Dutch tookur jerbs!!!

  8. So lemme see if I have this right. They are gonna do an endaround on the anti discrimination law to stop something that is already illegal? oooookay

    1. They hate tourist dollars. Hate them.

      1. We don’t want your deutch-ey-mark-ees.

      2. SugarFree|6.29.11 @ 2:24PM|#
        They hate tourist dollars. Hate them.

        Right. Because so many tourists are willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to go to the Netherlands to smoke pot when they could spend literally ones of dollars doing the same thing at home.

        1. Marijuana tourism is HUGE in the Netherlands.

          People don’t pay to go there and smoke pot. They pay to smoke pot in a publicly accessible location without fear of being arrested, harassed, or otherwise accosted by the po po.

          I’ve never been there, but I’ve been to in Vancouver (shoutout to The New Amsterdam Cafe) where dozens of pot smokers all smoked pot in the open without fear.

          It was very liberating.

  9. SO this is the European equivalent of DOMA. We only recognize your right to be free in your own state.

    1. We believe that liberty and freedom don’t apply to the states.

  10. The best civic leaders know tourism revenue is something to be avoided.

  11. It’s Europe. Constitutions in democracies, even when they don’t suck balls on their own, tend to have fairly little restrictive power on government.

  12. On June 17, 1971, President Nixon told Congress that “if we cannot destroy the drug menace in America, then it will surely destroy us.” After forty years of trying to destroy “the drug menace in America” we still *haven’t* been able to destroy it and it still *hasn’t* destroyed us. Four decades is long enough to realize that on this important issue President Nixon was wrong! All actions taken as a result of his invalid and paranoid assumptions (e.g. the federal marijuana prohibition) should be ended immediately!

    It makes no sense for taxpayers to fund the federal marijuana prohibition when it *doesn’t* prevent people from using marijuana and it *does* make criminals incredibly wealthy and incite the Mexican drug cartels to murder thousands of people every year.

    We need legal adult marijuana sales in supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies for exactly the same reason that we need legal alcohol and tobacco sales – to keep unscrupulous black-market criminals out of our neighborhoods and away from our children. Marijuana must be made legal to sell to adults everywhere that alcohol and tobacco are sold.

    1. Marijuana must be made legal to sell to adults everywhere that alcohol and tobacco are sold.

      We’re actually very interested in banning the alcohol and tobacco as well.

    2. it still *hasn’t* destroyed us

      Well, the weed itself hasn’t destroyed us, but the War on it sure has.

  13. The reasoning behind this change is laughable. The weird thing about the Amsterdam red light district is how clean and civil it is. You just expect it to be seedy like Patpong in Bangkok.

  14. The Dutch conservatives have finally asserted their bigotry over the nation. Such are the cycles of life.

    At any rate, a big THANKS to the Netherlands for being such a beacon of freedom for all these decades!

    We’ll take over now.

    California, and perhaps a few other states, will likely re-legalize marijuana next year at the polls.

    1. but ONLY for Californians, right?

      1. Technically, but many states around the country are moving toward re-legalization. All it will take is one state to start a quick chain reaction. Especially one with a population as large as California’s.

    2. They will legalize medical marijuana only. The rest of us without a prescription will be screwed. And oh, you can have your pot, but don’t you dare try to buy any crisco or a 100 watt lightbulb or the man will be coming after you. Beacon of freedom my ass.

      1. No. Medical marijuana is already legal in California. Last year, Prop 19, that sought to re-legalize marijuana for ALL adults got a whopping 46 percent of the vote. There was 52 percent public approval of re-legalizing marijuana going into Prop 19. Then, with the triple-whammy October surprises, it was beat down to a die-hard core of 46 percent.

        One of those surprises was Schwarzenegger’s downgrading of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. In all his years as governor, he vetoed every marijuana reform legislation that came to his desk. The only reason he did this was to take the steam out of the support for Prop 19.

        It worked, but it also gave reform a great victory. Reducing marijuana possession to an infraction removes the worst aspect of the fraudulent prohibition – the “criminal” record. This victory has moved us well down the road toward a rational marijuana policy.

        Prop 19 also raised awareness around the country, and the world, of the insane destruction of marijuana prohibition. Before Prop 19, national support was just shy of 50 percent, although polls show the western states at 52 to 56 percent.

        With the great surge in attention, support is now near 60 percent in the western states, and close to crossing over 50 percent in the rest of the country. The various medical marijuana victories are adding momentum as well. California isn’t the only state moving toward re-legalization for ALL adults.

        The campaign also learned important lessons last year, especially in getting support from other groups, like they did with the labor unions and the NAACP.

        There is no stopping an idea whose time has come. – California, and a few other states, will likely re-legalize marijuana next year. Most of the other states, and the feds, will follow soon after.

        People are saying it. The Emperor wears no clothes.

  15. Apparently the Dutch have decided they only want money from sex tourists who don’t use drugs now. Great. Let me know how that works out.

  16. Drug tourism is really the only reason to go to the Netherlands.

    1. I’m gonna have to go with the tall, beautiful, blond women.

    2. And to buy the super tasty dog treats Schmackos.

  17. To be fair, I wouldn’t lay the blame on “the Dutch”. Just leave it to a few politicians to either cave to international pressure or some socon do-goodism for the sake of the people (even though the entire city of Amsterdam is clearly against it)

    I’ve been to Amsterdam a while back, although admittedly before the increased popularity of these cafes, but didn’t see any problems whatsoever. You can’t even tell “zomg they’re dealing drugs!” (likewise for sex shops) I mean, seriously, where’s the nuiscance?

    even when Snoop Dogg visited, I doubt the locals saw that as nuisance:

    If the foreigners really were a nuisance, then the locals themselves should decide

  18. How long until this town dumps the ban because their annual revenue stream is nowhere to be found.

  19. GOOD NEWS!

    “AMSTERDAM ? The Dutch government’s plan to stop tourists from buying marijuana in the Netherlands has apparently been set back after a ruling from the country’s top legal advisory body.

    The Council of State was ruling on a 2006 ordinance by the city of Maastricht barring foreigners from “coffee shops,” where cannabis is openly sold.

    Marijuana possession is illegal in the Netherlands but tolerated in small amounts.

    The council said Wednesday Maastricht overstepped its authority: national law already theoretically bans selling marijuana, so cities can’t regulate sales.

    The ruling implies the government must change the law in order to bar foreigners, rather than simply amending policy. Prime Minister Mark Rutte repeated the plan will go ahead, without specifying how.”


    Laws be dammed, eh? That shows the caliber of “leadership” that has momentarily ascended in the Netherlands.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.