Skip to main content

Europe: Amsterdam's Coffee Shops Brace for Tobacco Smoking Ban

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #540)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

A ban on tobacco smoking in public places in Holland has the country's famous marijuana coffee shops worried. Due to go into effect July 1, the ban does not apply to pot smoke, but because many European cannabis consumers mix tobacco into their joints, coffee house owners fear they are going to lose customers.

downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
After July 1, anyone smoking a Euro-style joint laced with tobacco in a coffee house will be violating the law. The Dutch coffee shop association lobbied hard to win an exemption, but to no avail.

"Coffee shops will be treated in the same manner as other catering businesses," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, a foe of the coffee shops, said last week. "It would have been wrong to move towards a smoke-free catering industry and then make an exception for coffee shops. People would not have understood that."

That's not going over well with tobacco and coffee shop industry representatives interviewed this week by London's The Independent. They decried the paradoxical situation the new law will create and warned that it could hurt business. That may already be happening. A Dutch industry publication cited by The Independent says the number of coffee shops for sale has jumped almost 25% because of the impending tobacco ban.

"The new rule is nonsense," said Willem Panders, of the Dutch tobacco traders' union. "It will be almost impossible to enforce because how are you going to check if someone is smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco, or pure cannabis?"

"In a cafe you come to drink something. In a restaurant you come to eat. But when you come to a coffee shop you come to smoke, so smoking has to be allowed in a coffee shop," argued Marc Jacobsen, a representative of the coffee shop owners association.

The new rules are "absurd," said Sandy Lambrecht, manager of the Bulldog coffee shop on Amsterdam's Leidesplein. "You come to a coffee shop to smoke, after all -- it's ridiculous that we have to comply. The new rules are meant to protect employees like me, but the point is that we chose to work here."

While in some countries, bar and club owners have responded to bans by creating glassed-off smoking sections or outdoor patio smoking areas, many Dutch coffee shops are crammed into tiny premises with little space indoors and no access to outdoor space.

The Bulldog is among the coffee houses with room to accommodate tobacco smokers. "We're now having to build a new section in our coffee-shop with a glass partition and special air filters for those who choose to smoke non-pure cannabis," said Lambrecht. "It's a shame as it will change the very congenial ambience in here -- half of our customers will be shut off behind a glass wall. Our customers will grumble, that's for sure."

For the Dutch Health Minister, Ab Klink, putting a crimp in coffee house business is just frosting on the anti-tobacco cake. "A positive side effect of the smoking ban," he said, "may be that consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will find other things to do."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


smcmullin2001 (not verified)

"consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will find other things to do."

Yep, they'll buy their drugs in the coffeeshops and then take them home, where they will smoke alone instead of out and about, with people. Alone, further fracturing an already scarily individualist society. What a great move! Thanks Ab.

JPB loves to stamp out fun for his own twisted Calvinist ends — nothing else. They're talking about restricting home growing, presumably to drive Marijuana back underground here, so that it will once again become the domain of criminals and bastards. There's also the issue of regulation to think about. The government has been able to exert far too much control over the drug industry in Holland, regulating quality, etc, so it's nice to see they're finally relinquishing that and returning it to the heroin dealers. We know they care.

It is nice to see all this happen because half a century of sensible policies have obviously only led in one direction — stability, increased personal responsibility, lower levels of hard drug usage and, er, a fucking multi-billion tourist industry. Obviously it's all gone wrong!

Talk about hacking off the nose to spite the face…

Fri, 06/20/2008 - 12:24pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

There should be at least one place in the world people can go and smoke marijuana without consequences. A place for people to take time out from making someone else rich and enjoy life. Personally, I am done listening to humans. They make life suck. They are all hypocrites anyways. It's called "personal liberty" I will do what I want, when I want to.

Thu, 01/22/2009 - 2:15pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Agree ! They are just taking our liberties one by one... Fed up !! Soon you will not be able to fart without the fear of being fined. Could we please spend our money the way we like, we are major you know...

Tue, 03/10/2009 - 7:29pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.