In a bid to stop the flow of tens of thousands of Belgian, French, and German marijuana consumers into Dutch border town cannabis coffee shops, the Dutch government announced this week that is investing 150,000 Euros ($213,000) in a pilot membership card program for coffee shop clients in Maastricht. The program was first proposed earlier this year by Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers.
Under the membership card scheme, only card-carrying coffee shop members could purchase cannabis, and purchased would be limited to three or five grams a day. Such a move would presumably deflate the number of "impulse" drug tourists.
There are about 700 cannabis coffee shops in Holland. While the Dutch federal government is hostile toward them, it has committed not to act against them before the 2010 elections. That leaves efforts to reduce their numbers or otherwise restrict them in the hands of local officials.
The federal government is also spending about $7 million for various local councils to address various problems associated with coffee shops, where users can purchase up to five grams of cannabis without fear of arrest. Ministers want to reduce the number of large coffee shops and reduce the involvement of organized crime.
But that latter problem is largely an artifact of Holland's half-baked approach to marijuana. While the Dutch allow the possession and sale of small amounts of cannabis through the coffee shop system, they have made no provision for a regulated supply of cannabis for the coffee shops, leaving it to the black market.