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Saturday 20 December  
Netherlands to end sale of soft drugs to tourists
John Tyler's picture
The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Netherlands to end sale of soft drugs to tourists

Published on : 28 December 2011 - 11:16am | By John Tyler (Photo: ANP)
More about:

Dutch drugs policy is changing. The image of this country as a paradise for those wanting to enjoy soft drugs without looking over their shoulders is slowly but surely going up in smoke. The most far-reaching change is a new policy making it illegal for tourists to purchase cannabis which will gradually come into effect in 2012.
This is not the absolute end of the famed Dutch tolerance for soft drugs. Residents will still be allowed to purchase marijuana at the so-called coffee shops. But in 2012 those coffee shops will have to become members-only clubs, with membership open only to Dutch residents. And each coffee shop-club can have no more than 2000 members. 

Other changes

Other new regulations are also limiting the sale of soft drugs in the Netherlands.

A regulation that went into effect last year says all coffee shops must be at least 350 metres from a school.

A new law is likely to come into force next year designating marijuana with a high percentage of the active ingredient THC, as a hard drug.

Hallucinatory mushrooms were banned a few years ago.

Weed pass
The new regulation has come to be known as the Weed Pass policy, referring to the cards coffee shop club members would be issued. But in fact no cards will be issued as the Justice Ministry is concerned about forgery and illegal trade in the passes themselves. Instead, members of the new coffee shop clubs will have to show their passport or driver’s licence, and the owners will have to maintain a membership list.
Needless to say, the new regulations are meeting with resistance. Coffee shop owners fear they will no longer have enough business, and will incur higher administrative costs. Opposition MPs say the new regulations are misguided. Lea Bouwmeester is a Labour Party MP. She writes on her website that the wholesale supply of marijuana needs regulating, not the demand.

"The growing of cannabis and retail supply trade takes place in the illegal circuit. That’s what we need to control.”

More repression will lead to more crime, she claims, and the already over-stretched police forces will have to spend time enforcing the new system.
Selling point
The tourist industry is also concerned about the effect of the new regulations. Steven van der Heijden runs the largest tourist operations in the Netherlands, Arke and Holland International. He is particularly concerned about Amsterdam, where one quarter of all tourists visit a coffee shop.

“Coffee shops are part of the picture, just like the red light district. It’s an enormous selling point for the city which is now being taken away.”
The southern provinces will also be hit hard by the new system. Hundreds of coffee shops do a booming business selling soft drugs to customers from across the borders with Belgium and Germany. The chairman of an organisation representing coffee shop owners in Maastricht, Marc Joseman, says

"You can see this policy was made in a big hurry. We expect it will lead to a lot of problems. It’s going to be a hot summer in Maastricht.”
In fact, the club idea originated in Maastricht, where the foreign drug tourists were increasingly seen as an annoyance. Officials in the southern provinces of Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland are keen for better control of the sale of soft drugs to foreigners.
Legal challenges unsuccessful
A case challenging the law was rejected by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which ruled that maintaining order was a sufficient reason to allow foreigners to be discriminated against when it comes to buying drugs. A ruling on the case in June 2011 by the highest Dutch judicial authority, the Council of State, was interpreted by the government as allowing the regulation to go forward.
Extra time
Implementation of the new members-only policy will take place in phases. Officially, the policy takes effect on 1 January 2012, but it won’t be enforced straight away. Coffee shop owners are being given extra time to make the necessary changes.
The policy will be enforced in the southern provinces first, starting in May. Other parts of the country will follow, culminating with Amsterdam at the end of the year. By 1 January 2013, tourists will no longer be allowed to purchase a legal high anywhere in the Netherlands.



anonymous 9 December 2014 - 11:55am / Morocco

It is so sad to see all the world changing; the politicians always look at thing in a different way; so why now popele need to go to amsterdam?
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Anonymous 16 June 2012 - 4:46pm / independent

Isn´t it funny?
it´s now more than 40 jears, - i still know melkweg and paradiso. U not the bad guy, u did not mean harm to anyone, but wake up in the morning, and u are in the middle of a drug war.
The guys in the so called government the biggest criminals, raising their hands and thinking they own the world!, what idiots, because today every fool knows, their behavior it´s all about money, and it´s the biggest thing to make something common like weed, illegal. We can see how it is with cocain, u can´t buy it anywhere, but there must be tonns of it around the country. Please, don´t forget who did that to u !!! They rather help them idiots of german police hunting kids, than keeping the buisiness clean.

Anonymous 28 April 2012 - 4:39pm / USA

Good bye Amsterdam, we had a great run. You will be sorely missed. Hello California and VanCouver...hey how you doin? :) I will miss you my sweet city. Im sorry there will be no counter to the boozing hooligans. I just think its funny that woman can sell themselves and you can swill alcohol till you are in the the hospital getting your stomach pumped but you can smoke some Cannibus and get all peaceful and happy. The whole thing just stinks of conspiracy to me. Im really gonna miss you my sweet Amsterdam.

Woods 1 June 2012 - 5:27pm

Me too, and I live here :(

Kevin L. 25 April 2012 - 10:30am / NL/USA

More interesting (if not disturbing) media press release regarding alcohol:

<< The number of young binge drinkers increased again last year. According to figures released by the observation centre of the Netherlands Pediatric Association 762 young people were admitted to hospital with acute alcohol poisoning in 2011, compared to 684 in 2010 and 297 the year before that. The victims were also unconscious for longer periods – around 3½ hours on average. Pediatricians report that the age of the teenagers they see is decreasing. In 2010 their average age was 15 years 6 months, last year it was down to 15 years and 3 months. >>

So tell me -- how many coffeeshop patrons were admitted for unconciousness in 2010...or at any time? I'm guessing that number would be ZERO /NULL.

Anonymous 24 January 2012 - 4:13pm / south africa

Its a sad thing to see,I can understand
How it must look to the regular person
Who hasn't enjoyed the freedom without
Looking over your shoulder,but all this
Can bring is dealing on the streets
And a decrease in tourism,pot is not the
Problem its the boozeing that has been
The biggest problem here

Max Harmreduction 19 January 2012 - 11:31am

Way too much at work pushing coffeeshop customers to street dealers. Price up, quality down, police visits, municipal officer visits, banning tourist, weed passes for locals, having to show photo identification, restricting growshops, going hard on weed growers. WOW! Here in Australia none of our street dealers want to sell weed. So why are all these changes being made to Dutch cannabis laws if not to promote street dealing and hard drugs? There is no harm reduction in these changes. Good luck Max Harmreduction

MadMart 19 January 2012 - 9:00am / UK

@ max harmreduction hows that going to work then ? its around 10 euros a gram for averge bog standard stuff now so your saying we should have to pay 100 euros a gram ? u twat i used to be able to get 10-12 grams for a 100 guilders rougly £28 10 years ago only idiots like yourself would pay prices like that £85-90 a single gram u realy are thick how is that harm reduction thats just asking to send customers in the direction of the nearest street dealers !!!!!

Kevin L. 25 April 2012 - 10:33am / NL / USA

Two problems with your post: 1 - Name calling is not going to help. 2 - If you were old enough to know better, you might realize that the cost of living (and everything else) goes up.

MadMart 19 January 2012 - 8:52am / UK

I know its pathetic what they are doing to the scene over there things was just fine as they are but scince the smoking ban in july 2008 its just not been the same there. The weeds got very expensive and Its gone down in strength to the point you cannot get propper weed in amsterdam no more none of it anymore than 12% thc unless you go to the best coffeeshops like grey area katsu amnesia etc i always will go to haarlem now everytime i go for the best stuff.the euro has ruined the place too as well as the government. i give up hopeing it wont happen but i say let them ban the tourists they will soon see what it does to their economy and will probably end up being reversed anyway when they have endless people claiming benefits being out of a job due to empty coffeeshops. I used to go to amsterdam and holland to obtain good weed cheaply !!! not average weed at high prices. can get better weed here in the uk and its cheaper. even coffeshops like the greenhouse seed co. chain they used to sell some of the best weed you could buy in amsterdam upto around 2007-2008 but now it seems very commercial average grade weed at high prices im sure even a novice can grow their genetics to a better standard to what they sell at the moment with the exception of november before the cup it tends to be better quality with them all fighting each other for prizes. oh well looks like it will be the netherlands loss and denmark, sweedens or chzech republics gain

Martin M. 18 January 2012 - 3:41pm / Canada

Same situation here, I have visited Amsterdam several times since 2006 and always for the coffeeshops and the Riekmuseum....Sadly , I will not be visiting is the booze , not the weed that causes the problems, everyone that hits the streets at night can see that for themselves. There will be more resources focused on marijuana now, bad call....doesn't work in Canada or the states, learn from our mistakes over here. You just made every drug dealer in the Netherlands that much happier.

I get my weed here a lot cheaper than in Amsterdam, it was more about the culture and the lack of discrimination that appealed to me...maybe I'll check out Portugal next instead.Hope they change there ideals before 2013, if they do, I'll be there Jan 1st.

Max Harmreduction 17 January 2012 - 4:17am

Foreigners should pay a premium to get Dutch cannabis, say 10 times what Dutch people pay. The reason coffeeshops exist is to protect experimenting youngsters, who may experiment with cannabis, from also experimenting with junk like heroin and the low life that sells it. That is worth the extra cost. Real prevention is priceless but I do not think that is what the politicians are aiming for. Is the aim still the same??? Max Harmreduction

Eddogg 14 January 2012 - 12:35am / USA

I sent an e-mail to Geert telling him he's going to cost his country around $25 Nillion a year if he did this...
Let's see what happens when A-Dam becomes a ghost town.

Mechele 12 January 2012 - 8:56pm / USA

Glad I went when I did, to bad all I have dreamed of since is making this an annual trip. Looks like that went out the window! Maybe one day I will find a reason to visit again, looks like my new vacation spot is California.

Xeno 30 December 2011 - 6:14am

Is there any chance that this Weed PASS nonsense will have the same fate as the ritual slaughter ban that was (supposedly) passed into law recently?

Alfonso M 30 December 2011 - 1:13am

What a shame. I used to visit for the freedom I enjoyed, using cannabis or not. The thing is I was free to consume or not and if I did, I wasn't frowned upon nor afraid, but if that changes... well... what a shame.

As usual, during terrible global economies, ultraconservatives win, because they provide a faux refuge but what really matters in the end is FREEDOM.

alanposting 29 December 2011 - 11:59pm

I have lived in Amsterdam for mostly 8 years and have spent at least 500,000.00 Dollars during that time. This will be my last year....

Edward Davis 29 December 2011 - 8:46pm / United Kingdom

The hash-bars and the friendly tolerant atmosphere are the main reason I've spent nearly every summer holiday in Amsterdam or The Hague since 1986. I'm a rather highly paid engineer and when I'm not relaxing in a coffee shop I'm sitting in restaurants or buying gifts for family and friends. Your country has little else to offer me as there are no mountains or wild countryside. The 2000 - 2500 euros I used to spend per annum in Holland will now most likely be supporting businesses in Copenhagen, Denmark. Most of my friends feel the same.

Marco Marboni 29 December 2011 - 2:39pm / UK

Street dealers can't wait!!

emmitt mak 29 December 2011 - 12:40pm / US

I love Amsterdam and The Netherlands. I always will. I have spent six months there over the last 20 years, and loved every minute. I am sure that I will spend more time there, but I will miss the coffeeshop culture and the young people that it attracts.
I like to think that I can somewhat understand the issue from both sides having seen some pretty nasty behaviour from visitors while staying there. They come for the weed, but get in trouble because of the booze. That might drive me crazy too.
On the other hand, some value liberty over all other needs and desires, and that is something that I can totally relate to.
It should be interesting to see how it plays out.

John Meltorment 28 December 2011 - 5:43pm / USA

Thank you Netherlands for saving me so much money that I would have spent in your country. I have spent $60,000 in the last 10 years visiting your country & am no longer welcome at your coffeeshops??

Eddogg 5 January 2012 - 12:45pm / USA

Ditto, they're cheating the,selves put of euros.

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