Amsterdam struggles to evade ban on dope-smoking tourists

AMSTERDAM Fri Nov 2, 2012 2:10pm EDT

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The mayor of Amsterdam may be unable to deliver on his promise to scrap the ban on tourists visiting the city's marijuana-selling coffee shops, the Dutch justice ministry said on Friday.

Dope smokers were relieved this week when mayor Eberhard van der Laan said the coffee shops would remain open to foreigners.

The conservative national government that lost power in September had pledged that only locals would be allowed to buy "weed" in coffee shops from the beginning of next year.

Amsterdam's marijuana cafes and bars attract millions of tourists and the outgoing government's impending ban on foreigners met strong resistance from businesses.

"We understand that the policy of the central government is to have one policy for the entire country," said a spokeswoman for the city.

"But Amsterdam's situation is very different from the rest of the country's, because we have so many tourists."

The mayor's promise has, however, ruffled feathers in The Hague, the seat of Dutch government, and the spat will determine whether decades of Dutch drug tolerance continue.

The two parties forming the Netherlands' next government want to allow cities to circumvent the national ban implemented by the former government, which included the Christian Democrats.

But the justice ministry said there was no guarantee the law would change to accommodate Amsterdam's concerns.

"The coalition agreement says that tourists will be banned from coffee shops in the whole country," a spokeswoman said. "What accommodation there will be for local requirements has not yet been finalized."

Last year's ban followed government claims that cannabis had become stronger and more dangerous and that coffee shops had criminal links.

"The mayor knows that closing the coffee shops will lead to all kinds of problems," said Laurens Buijs, a sociologist at the University of Amsterdam. "Mayors know that the government's ideological approach is not really helping."

For decades, the Netherlands has been known as a haven of tolerance for soft drugs, attracting tourists from around the world to its 700 coffee shops.

But that tolerance has drawn complaints from residents who say the influx of cannabis lovers brings congestion and crime.

Local authorities argue the ban will not only hit the economy, but will encourage illegal street dealers and push up crime rates.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Robert Woodward)

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Comments (8)
Paulpot wrote:
Instead of making stricter laws the Dutch government should have been demanding that the EU change its discriminatory and dangerous prohibition laws.
If marijuana were legal in the rest of Europe, there would be no drug tourism problem in Holland.
The drug war is a farce designed to keep us all slaves of the ‘Military Industrial Complex’.

Nov 03, 2012 10:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Overcast451 wrote:
Good idea; find a major revenue stream and cut it off, what genius.

But then – I’m guessing those that want this law, have some equity/interest in Pharmaceutical companies, no doubt.

Legal pot is a MAJOR threat to the opium based pain-killer industry!

Nov 05, 2012 9:31am EST  --  Report as abuse
Toouncommon wrote:
Breaking News: A university study has discovered that in addition to the other well-known medicinal benefits, cannabis actually can reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Earlier studies in Spain found evidence that cannabis contains ingredients that shrink brain tumors.

God gave us Cannabis, and we are fools to use chemical drugs that do not work as effectively. Legalize cannabis for all purposes!

Nov 05, 2012 6:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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