In a decision that cuts against the grain of the European Union's laws governing free markets and the free movement of people within its borders, the EU Court of Justice has upheld the Dutch border town of Maastricht's bid to ban foreigners from its cannabis coffee shops. The ruling came last Friday.
The move prompted a legal challenge from Marc Josemanns, a coffee shop owner and chairman of the Association of Official Maastricht Coffee Shops. He argued before the Dutch council of state that the ban contravenes EU legislation on the free movement of citizens, goods, and services within the EU. The council asked the EU Court of Justice to interpret EU law, which it will then incorporate in its ruling later this year.
EU Court of Justice Advocate General Yve Bot found that drugs do not count as regular, legal goods because they are against the law. "Narcotics, including cannabis, are not goods like others and their sale does not benefit from the freedoms of movement guaranteed by European Union law, inasmuch as their sale is unlawful," he said. But marijuana does "come under internal market rules" in cases of medical or scientific use, he specified.
Since Maastricht was correct to view drug tourism as "a genuine and sufficiently serious threat to public order," Bot said, restricting foreigners from coffee shops "constitutes a measure necessary to protect the residents of the municipality from trouble."
Bot even went a step further, saying that pot heads descending on the Netherlands to get stoned and enjoy themselves was itself a threat to EU security. "Drug tourism, insofar as it conceals, in actual fact, international trade in narcotics and fuels organized criminal activities, threatens even the European Union's internal security," he said.
Of course, if the EU just legalized the drug trade, that would eliminate drug tourism at the Dutch border and deprive organized crime of revenues, but this appears to be too much to ask.