Much to the dismay of stoners around the world, the tolerant Netherlands became less tolerant of marijuana and hashish use among tourists this year, and officials of some local municipalities are saying the new regulations are having disastrous results.
In May, the Dutch government introduced a controversial law that bans foreigners from buying soft drugs in the country’s famous cannabis coffee shops, where they have been sold legally since the 1970s. The law took effect in the southern part of the Netherlands this year and will expand to the entire country, including Amsterdam, in the beginning of 2013. The law, known as the Weed Pass, requires pot patrons to present ID cards and register with the shops in order to purchase the drugs.
“Persons who do not hold Dutch citizenship will not have access to the coffee shops,” according to a statement by the Dutch Ministry of Security.
But according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the cities and towns where the ban has gone into effect are already experiencing an increase in street dealers and black market marijuana sales in private homes. The increase is fueled by both foreign visitors who can no longer legally purchase drugs and Dutch residents who don’t want to register their IDs. Mayors of some Dutch municipalities are urging the government to reconsider the law before it goes national.
According to the Dutch News website, Mayor Onno Hoe, of the southern city of Maastricht, said this month that few locals have registered with coffee shops, and members of the liberal VVD party in the southern provinces are urging the party’s leader to scrap the national introduction of the pass. The site also reported opposition from Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, who said on a local TV show that a membership card “does not work and will never work.”
In the Dutch capital, meanwhile, officials are still railing against the measure before it takes effect, saying it will have a deviating effect on Amsterdam tourism. According to estimates from the Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board, about 23 percent of Amsterdam tourists say they visit the coffee shops. Jan Goos, president of the Cannabis Retailers Association, said the measure will be “disastrous” for tourism, according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, which reported in July that almost all coffee shops in central Amsterdam will be forced to close if the law takes effect. The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, also opposes the law.
Supporters of the Weed Pass say the law will cut down on rampant drug tourism in the country’s southern provinces, which share a border with Germany and Belgium. Drug buyers from those countries buy marijuana in large quantities and return home to resell it on the streets. In Limburg, the southernmost province, police announced this week that 386 people have been arrested for buying or selling cannabis since the law took effect.
The Amsterdam City Council has asked the Dutch justice minister to exempt the capital city from the new regulations.