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Fight Against Dutch Cannabis Café Restrictions Heats Up

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #731)
Politics & Advocacy

The Dutch conservative coalition government's plan to close the country's famous cannabis coffee shops to foreigners and turn them into "members only" clubs is under increasing fire from coffee shop owners and pot enthusiasts. Last week, border coffee shop owners went to court to block the restrictions, and in Amsterdam on 4/20, hundreds of coffee shop supporters staged a flash-mob smoke-in to protest the proposed changes.

Amsterdam cannabis coffee shop (
This as the conservative coalition itself collapsed Monday, with Prime Minister Mark Rudde resigning before being named caretaker leader until new elections can be held in the fall. The coalition collapsed after a rightist anti-immigrant party pulled out in protest of economic austerity measures.

Rudde's government plans to impose the restrictions on coffee shops in three southern border provinces May 1 and extend them nationwide on January 1, 2013. They would make all coffee shops "members only," limit them to Dutch citizens and residents, and cap the number of members at each club at 2,000.

The city of Amsterdam, where the cafes are a major tourist draw, is opposed to the plan. Mayor Eberhard Van der Laan said the city doesn't have big problems with pot smokers and that a policy that might make sense on the border doesn't make sense in the he Dutch capital. He said he wants to negotiate some sort of compromise with the national government.

The border cities of Tilburg, Breda and Maastricht also oppose the "weed pass" plan, but Eindhoven plans to implement it. The eastern city of Dordrecht, which is not subject to the May 1 deadline, has said it wants to adopt it anyway because it anticipates an influx of foreign buyers no longer able to go to the southern border towns.

Border coffee shop owners aren't waiting for the government to come around. Last Wednesday, they went to court in The Hague to overturn the restrictions, with their attorneys arguing that the ban on foreigners is discriminatory.

Dutch drug policy gives citizens "the fundamental right to the stimulant of their choosing" and should not deprive visiting foreigners of the same right, argued attorney Ilonka Kamans.

But government attorney Eric Daalder said the ban was necessary. "Fighting criminality and drug tourism is a reasonable justification," he told the court.

Marc Josemans, a Maastricht coffee shop owner, told the Associated Press he expected the government to lose when the court issued a decision Friday, but that if it won, he would disregard the ruling and force a test case.

"We understand that this topic is something that's of interest to tourists, but it's equally important to our Dutch customers, which is most of them," he said before the hearing. "The limits on membership are going to lead to immediate problems in cities that don't have enough coffee shops."

Two days after the coffee shops went to court, an estimated 500 people gathered in Amsterdam for a smoke-in to protest the government plan. Waving banners and t-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Weed Pass -- No Thanks!" and "Weed Pass -- Kiss My Ass!" protestors fired up joints and listened to reggae music.

"We are here to protest against the cannabis card," said organizer Peter Lunk. "We are legal consumers."

It's only a week until May 1, so, barring a favorable ruling in The Hague, the southern restrictions are likely to be imposed. But given that the conservative coalition pushing the restrictions has now crumbled and a new government must be elected, plans for the nationwide restrictions are looking more uncertain.

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.


Benji (not verified)

I was thrilled to see that the conservative government coalition collapsed. Let's hope that the courts side with the coffeeshops...

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 2:50pm Permalink
Yuven Tayclue (not verified)

It's the same group of corrupt politicians that don't want anyone to have a safe, free (if you grow) solution to so many maladies including mood modification.

If you don't pick their expensive poison, they want you criminalized. If not criminalized then marginalized.

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 4:16pm Permalink
Anonymoususer (not verified)

People who use drugs are retarded.

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 5:55pm Permalink
mxweeed (not verified)

Many readers in USA may not be aware that there is a "tradition" now several generations in force that European cannabis users mix ToBackGo in with hashish in a joint.  A couple of years ago at least one article on the NL (Nederlands) Wikipedia stated (possibly in error) that the word "joint" referred to this uniting of cannabis and tobacco.  Perhaps it was done in the (OUTMODED-- read up on vaporizers)) belief that to get the benefit of cannabis vapors you must IGNITE the hashish; and the tobacco helped do that.  Or more recently, some (especially unwary youngsters) have been scared by tabloid newspaper "reports" of dreaded skunk, too much THC etc. into "cutting" the cannabis with allegedly "neutral" substance, tobacco.  A gold mine for $igarette companies and also makes anti-prohibition demos look stupid.

The highly touted "blunt" (nicotine industry has pumped money into the (W)rap music industry to reward guys with significant names like "TUPAC" and "COOL" for mentioning "blunt" in song lyrics) gets some American kids hooked on $igarettes due to the sneaky nicotine in the cigar skin wrapper, but not as many as in Europe with their "hashish/tobacco joint" thing, i.e. the USA currently has a lower incidence of $igarette addiction than Europe!  (The highest figure is for Greece-- economic lesson, anyone?)

Could we send some handworkerly missionaries to Amsterdam to teach urban coffeehouse employees how to (a) make millions of saleable cheap single-toke vape utensils in the Refarded (formerly "back") Room and (b) instruct tourists how to Truly Vaporize pure cannabis, including hashish, by holding the flame far enough below the crater opening?  Also please sign in and help edit/improve article, "Make Smoke (should read Vaporize) Pipes from Everyday Objects".

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 9:54pm Permalink

Cannabis is safer than coffee, so if we were really interested in keeping people safe we'd prevent the coffeeshops from selling coffee and allow them to continue selling cannabis. But of course this isn't about doing what's logical is it legislators??

Fri, 04/27/2012 - 4:58pm Permalink
coffee shops (not verified)

Cannabis coffee shop. April 1, 2007. Amsterdam.

Amsterdam. The Grasshopper. By day. 31 December 2006.

Amsterdam. The Grasshopper. By night. 1 January 2007.

Fri, 04/27/2012 - 9:48pm Permalink

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