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Dutch to Ban Foreigners from Cannabis Cafes

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #686)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The Dutch cabinet announced last Friday that it is moving ahead with plans to effectively bar foreigners from the country's famous cannabis coffee shops. It plans to turn the coffee shops into private clubs limited to 1,500 members, who can only join if they are over 18 and can prove they are Dutch citizens or legal residents, according to Dutch News.

An Amsterdam cannabis coffee shop. If you want to check it out yourself, you better hurry. (Image via
While the government must win approval from the Dutch Supreme Court for its ban on foreigners, it hopes to accomplish as much by limiting membership in the clubs. Proprietors will be forced to choose between local customers and foreign visitors.

The Netherlands has for more than 30 years tolerated the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana, turning the country into a mecca for marijuana aficionados from around the world. But the conservative coalition government, tilted even further to the right after the last election by the addition of the far-right anti-immigrant party of politician Geert Wilders, is now tightening the screws in a bid to reduce drug tourism and what it says is crime and nuisance associated with the coffee shops.

"In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end," the Dutch health and justice ministers wrote in a letter to the country's parliament last Friday.

But officials in Amsterdam, home to 220 of the country's 500 or so cannabis cafes, said the proposals to turn the cafes into provide clubs would actually increase criminality and reduce public safety. The city council there opposes the move.

"We are concerned about the problems that will arise from large-scale street dealing," said a spokesman for Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan. "There are also health concerns, because with street dealing we cannot monitor the quality of the soft drugs or the age of the buyers," he said.

But the government said it would increase policing and deepen its efforts to drive organized crime out of marijuana sales and production. While coffee houses can sell marijuana, the law makes no provision for their suppliers. The industry is estimated to be worth about $3 billion a year.

The plan will be rolled out in the border provinces of Limburg, Noord Brabant and Zeeland by the end of the year and the rest of the country next year, government officials said. Border towns such as Maastricht and Terneuzen have already restricted the sale of marijuana to foreigners, while other towns, including Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom have gotten rid of the coffee shops altogether.

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Anon9 (not verified)

It's time to stop treating these businesses as second-class while people just across the street at the booze bar are vomiting, fighting and killing each other.  Reformers and businesses need to organize together or die together.  "Marijuana is SAFER than nasty Heineken."

Sun, 05/29/2011 - 8:31pm Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

The more alternatives and outcomes that can be studied, the better for moving us towards a world of legal cannabis. If it is true that legalization is the best policy (which i think it is), then the more they experiment with different ideas, the more they will find that out. If it turns out they have to deal with a massive problem of underground markets, then there will have been a lesson there for them, and maybe they'll give some consideration to legalizing wholesale production and distribution. If it turns out well for them, then that's good too because it will make it less scary for other countries to legalize because they would know that it is possible to do it without the fear of problems related to drug tourism (which is one of the main reasons a lot of countries haven't legalized). Anyway, whatever happens we'll know more after the experiment than we do now, and that knowledge will be useful in determining what should be the next experiment (whether it be in Holland or anywhere else). Ultimately, if it is true that we are right, then we will arrive at full legalization worldwide. 

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 1:45am Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

In reply to by Anon9 (not verified)

Plus, there are a lot of different possibilities for any single country to try, and in the process of global legalization unfolding, there will be a lot of different experiments. The first countries to legalize will not have the same situation to deal with as the countries that legalize after many others already have. Drug tourism is a different thing to deal with than the general question of legal vs prohibition that we deal with on a regular basis. And we cant have global legalization without first having some countries that have to deal with drug tourism (or the uncomfortable, unusual situation of, for example, allowing legal production and distribution within a country but not allowing exportation (which makes for a greater criminal market based on exportation production posing as production for local distribution)). Maybe if a country allowed exportation it wouldn't have a black market at all, but that would be a gutsy move and would put a government in an adversarial position with neighboring governments. I wish someone tried it, though. I don't know for sure, but maybe it would be best for the legalization movement if the Netherlands tried legalizing the production and distribution within the Netherlands and only sold to the dutch (assuming that they were able to control the production enough so as to not create a black market for exportation like i said above (perhaps through a "only a certain amount of growers" type of thing, like they are doing with medical dispensaries in the newly legal mmj states in the US, or through government owned production and distribution, like the proposal on the Swiss referendum a few of years ago; if they cracked down on everyone else, then there would be no advantage to growing pot in the netherlands illegally as opposed to any of the surrounding countries), than if it sold to everyone who went there but didn't legalize the production and distribution. The point is to make the Dutch situation work as well for the dutch as possible while maintaining some form of legalization. If they can achieve that, it will make it less scary for other countries to try legalization (not that hard headed conservatives wouldn't always play it like any type of legalization would be a catastrophe, but the reasonable people in the middle wouldn't necessarily listen to them). Obviously the best way would be to just legalize completely and allow exports and let the other countries bother with stopping the imports, but that's less likely to happen. 

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 12:43pm Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

In reply to by TrebleBass (not verified)

Oh, and another possibility would be to allow legal production and distribution within the netherlands and sell to everyone who went there. That would probably cause less problems than they have right now and than they will have with this thing they're about to try. But what i'm saying is, I don't have that much of a problem with them trying to stop foreigners from buying because it's not that different from what they're doing already. The most significant thing here is that production is still illegal. I'd rather they legalize production and not sell to foreigners than sell to foreigners and not legalize production. Just let them try what they will. It is progress that they're shaking things up because shaking things up makes people analyze the issue, and when people analyze the issue, we are more likely to win than to lose. 

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 1:00pm Permalink
Anon9 (not verified)

In reply to by TrebleBass (not verified)

Marijuana is much SAFER Than Alcohol.  If you emphasize that ten times a day, there's no point to bending over backwards trying to find the perfect legalization system that will not scare people.  It already exists!  We also do not need to compromise on public safety and health by allowing criminals to control any part of the market, which is what they are doing by not legalizing cultivation.  Allowing criminal control just feeds the image that the marijuana industry is crime-ridden, creating an opportunity for authoritarian conservatives to make themselves look good. 

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 3:10pm Permalink
Gene F (not verified)

In reply to by Anon9 (not verified)

Marijuana is not legal in any country, in this modern era there has been nowhere to test the hypothesis that legal and regulated trade would reduce the criminal element. Because the US has bullied all countries into believing non-empiric evidence that cannabis is in all ways bad ,without any evidence to back it up, we face our current state. We are the collective sheep, and you and I who have to work for a living will comply or face the consequences.  I guess I can become an alcoholic since that is socially acceptable. 

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 4:10pm Permalink
Silver Fox (not verified)

In reply to by Gene F (not verified)

I heartily agree that most of the world's insane policies towards cannabis have been due to the insistence (bullying) of the United States.  I seem to recall that within recent years, Canada and Jamaica began making noises about developing a sane and reasonable drug policy.  Our government's immediate reaction was to threaten to impose severe economic sanctions against both countries if they even thought about embarking on such a course of action.  And we wonder why people fly airplanes into our buildings!

Thu, 06/02/2011 - 1:59pm Permalink
Anon999 (not verified)

In reply to by TrebleBass (not verified)

If people's lives weren't put at risk this would all appear funny.  Prohibitionists pass laws making a substance illegal and those activities that relate to obtaining the substance and then point to the increase in crime as a reason to continue to prohibit the substance.  These are the same people who suggest the report of small, poorly designed studies rather than large, well designed studies when they don't like the results.  Most reasonable people are able to see the deception when they are presented with all of the evidence.  

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 6:50pm Permalink
Anon Amous (not verified)

In reply to by TrebleBass (not verified)

I agree with you fully on this issue, but the problem is that this isn't an experiment its just a power grab. What do you expect for them to do next? Realize that they did wrong all along? Of course not! They're going to do more to restrict the drug market until there is no drug market left because that's what a democratically elected official does. A majority(democracy) can be just as tyrannical as a minority few(oligarchy).

Thu, 06/02/2011 - 9:43pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)



In case you have been living under the same rock as the American and Canadian governments,Portugal has legalized the possession of all drugs.If they catch you they send you to counseling which you can refuse.Why the Dutch want to jump off now is strange in that it will add to the tourism headed to Portugal.Perhaps that's the plan?This constant attack on drinkers is counter productive and elitist.Hypes,injection drug users of which I am one,do not drink alcohol.If you want to say something here please try to know of what you speak.Attacking people who differ in their values and habits just perpetuates the hatred and misunderstanding that has sent so many brothers and sisters to prison.The price is too high and the taunting perpetuates it.

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 4:57am Permalink
Anon9 (not verified)

People have the right to use alcohol or inject heroin, but our government doesn't have the right to steer people in those directions.  It's a disservice to reform efforts not to emphasize that marijuana is much safer than alcohol.  We need to relentlessly attack the pro-alcohol policies that foster alcohol-related violence and discriminate against the marijuana industry and its consumers while fostering prohibition-related violence.

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 6:56am Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

unless their alcohol use leads to their abusing others, which it usually doesn't. I'm attacking the alcohol users who think they can use alcohol and order other folks not to use cannabis. It's not their drinking, it's their vile hypocrisy, the do as I say not as I do crap.

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 10:07am Permalink
MatterofLiberty (not verified)

Lets watch & see how long this really lasts after any tax revenue generated from the shops falls through the floor.

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 4:08pm Permalink
Gabriel Reed (not verified)

It seems The Netherlands 30 year, soft stance on marijuana has worked too well. Time to change the laws and create some chaos. Maybe they are planning to build some private prisons, introduce some sort of replacement pharmaceutical, provide the alcohol industry with a windfall, or maybe they just want more people addicted to NATO heroin...

Thu, 06/02/2011 - 5:05am Permalink
Forlen Ainjull (not verified)

Are the Dutch leaders mentally stable? They want to slam the lid on a $3 billion business supported mainly by tourists? Why do they think that many if not most Brits and other young people from around the world visit Amsterdam and Holland? Not only will this tourist cull massively reduce cannabis sales and income, they will also lose billions on the spending such tourists do on other things (hotels, eating, etc.) while in the Netherlands. If this idea becomes legally finalized, the Dutch are in for a big shock - you had better start selling more clogs and tulips you Dutch people!

Thu, 06/02/2011 - 12:14pm Permalink
Anon Amous (not verified)

Who owns your body? You or the state. Do you know what's good for your body or does Geert Wilders know what's good for your body. All this crap about, " oooh cannbis kills" or, "alcohol is worse than this or that." How about instead of debating this issue on a collective basis, how about we bring in the individual's prespective here. Unless anyone here has tried heroin of coccaine or what ever, don't judge. Investigate. Its your own body experiment a little and if you like it great, if not then avoid it at all costs. Don't let anybody tell you how to live your life, if conservatives and liberals can't agree then fuck 'em they don't really care about what you have to say anyway. As Doug Stanhope once said, "... There are only two types of people who are against drugs. People who never did drugs and people who were never good at doing drugs and every body else has to suffer." Lets at least get a little bit better at drinking a beer and smoking a doobie before oldman Jimmy has to suffer because of a few dickweeds with a title.

Thu, 06/02/2011 - 10:19pm Permalink
starchild27 (not verified)

notfreeThe simple reality is that this will not happen in Amsterdam. I just returned from there and almost nobody who works in the coffeeshops including the managers thinks that it will actually happen. The city council is opposed and the mayor is opposed and the dynamic in Amsterdam is different than in the border cities where many just come across the border to buy herb and not spend anymore money in the towns. Much of the tourism of Amsterdam is at least for 3 days or more. Also, almost all coffeshops still allow tobacco to be mixed/smoked with herb so long as the cigarette pack is off of the table.

Amsterdam also recently ignored a new law that required any coffeshop within a certain distance from an education center or school to close down which would have closed down many of the shops. There seems to be more coffeeshops than ever and there were definitely new shops since 2007, the last time I was there. Oh, and one other thing, you can still buy 5 different types of hallucinagenic truffle mushrooms and buy other dried mushrooms at smart shops under the table if you let on that you know what you are talking about. I know because I just did.  Being from Florida and the plethora of cow pastures all over the place, the guy I bought from knew right away I had much experience.. Salvia divinium is also available in multiple strengths and believe me it is 10 more hallucinagenic than acid for a quick 10 minute trip. Amsterdam is still Amsterdam and there is a saying that "In Holland, the soup is served hotter than it is eaten....besides, hotels and other businesses will have a big say in the matter.

Sun, 06/12/2011 - 7:26pm Permalink

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