Marking the end of a long era of tolerance for certain drugs in the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s legendary “coffee shops” will soon stop admitting foreigners as the Dutch government prepares to ban tourists from cafes that sell marijuana. The plan, which will turn the shops into private clubs, is the product of a more conservative national coalition government and a growing desire among Dutch leaders to change the country’s reputation and decrease drug use. Opponents of the new policy, including the mayor of Amsterdam, claim that visitors will still seek out marijuana and that the black market will grow to accommodate them. There is also a concern about the impact of new regulations on the Dutch economy, as taxes on marijuana account for more than $600 million in annual revenue. —KDG
The Netherlands is well known for having one of Europe’s most liberal soft drug policies that has made its cannabis shops a popular tourist attraction, particularly in Amsterdam.
Backed by the far-right party of anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders, the coalition government that came into power last year announced plans to curb drug tourism as part of a nationwide program to promote health and fight crime.
“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 on Friday.
Under the new rules, only Dutch residents will be able to sign up as members of cannabis shops.
Dutch customers will have to sign up for at least a year’s membership and each shop would be expected to have only up to 1,500 members, a justice ministry spokesman said.
The policy will roll out in the southern provinces of Limburg, Noord Brabant and Zeeland by the end of the year and the rest of the country next year, the spokesman said.