Amsterdam mayor rejects plea to implement cannabis ban for foreign tourists

The mayor of Amsterdam has rejected a plea to ban foreign tourists from using cannabis cafes, following the implementation of new drug rules.

The mayor said that foreign tourists would be allowed to use the city’s famous cannabis cafes. The decision came after months of arguments over new drug laws. The government of the Netherlands had said that it was up to the local authorities to decide whether foreign tourists were to be banned or not.

Taking his stance on the issue, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said that banning the sale of the drug to foreigners would encourage more crime in the city. It is believed that each year, about 1.5 million tourists visit Amsterdam to partake of cannabis at its cafes and parlours.

Van der Laan said, ‘The 1.5 million tourists will not say ‘then no more marijuana’, they will swarm all over the city looking for drugs. This would lead to more robberies, quarrels about fake drugs, and no control of the quality of drugs on the market – everything we have worked towards would be lost to misery.’

Tourism operators have warmly welcomed the decision, as the nation relies heavily on tourism, and cannabis users make up about a third of the total visitors to the city. Even though such users help local tourism, the government was worried that it would increase drug use and encourage drug dealers to procure drugs that could be sold abroad.

Under new laws that were introduced by the previous conservative-led government, a ban on foreigners using cannabis was due to be enforced in Amsterdam by the end of this year.

It is believed that there are about 700 coffee shops selling cannabis in the Netherlands.

 

Tourists to be banned from Dutch cannabis coffee shops

From January 1 tourists will be banned from cannabis-selling coffee shops in southern Netherlands to spare locals from drug related anti-social behaviour amongst tourists.

 

Following a consultation period the Dutch justice ministry announced the plan last week, despite some politicians believing the move would be ‘tourism suicide’.

 

Under the new policy licenced pot shops will be become private clubs where they will be limited to 2,000 Dutch residents, who must be older than 18 and carry a co-called ‘dope card’.

 

In September 2010 the centre-right government of Prime Minister first announced the idea of a cannabis card, and frequent Dutch visitors will be required to hold these to access the country’s 670 licenced coffee shops.

 

Charlotte Menten, the justice ministry spokeswoman said, “the measure will come into force for the (southern) provinces of Limburg, North-Brabant and Zeeland, the provinces most affected by drug tourism, on January 1”.

 

January 2013 will see these measures come into force in the rest of the country, including Amsterdam.

 

The aim of the policy is to cut down on late night disturbances and the number of drug pushers catering to the millions of tourists who travel to the Netherlands for its relaxed marijuana laws.

 

In Amsterdam there are around 220 coffee shops, which have become popular spots for tourists in the city.

 

However by banning foreign tourists from cafes there are fears that Dutch residents could sell pot to visitors at inflated prices.

 

The European Court of Justice despite receiving complaints that banning foreigners was prejudiced supported the decision, saying that it was justified “by the objective of combating drug tourism and the accompanying public nuisance”.

 

Coffee shops were introduced as useful weapons in the 1970’s to combat and control the use of drugs.

 

This allowed people from the street to come in and order their favourite brand of marijuana rather than spending their money on the black market.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh