The Netherlands is world renowned for its coffee shops where anyone over the age of 18 can peruse a menu of marijuana and hashish both for smoking and eating. Customers can purchase up to 5g of cannabis which can then be smoked in a regular joint fashion, in a bong, or a pipe. However, things are about to change. Owners of these specialty shops are heralding the death of tourism as the shops are set to become private clubs for Dutch citizens only.
Officials in Amsterdam's tourism industry are hoping that an upcoming ban on foreigners from the country's famed pot shops will fade into a green haze.
Last month, the Dutch Cabinet said that a measure was needed to reduce nuisance and drugs tourism. They argued that substance use of minors has to be countered more strongly and the coffee shops have grown into large points of sale of cannabis that are hard to manage.
The Cabinet expects that closure of coffee shops to foreign drugs tourists will ensure that they no longer travel to the Netherlands to purchase and consume cannabis. After all, many of them can use the illegal markets available in their immediate surroundings, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice added in a statement.
Known as the weed pass, the new measure is set to go into effect this year in the southern part of the country, and then for the rest of the country in 2012. Essentially, it will turn coffee shops into private clubs for Dutch citizens who are over the age of 18. Each shop will have a set amount of allowed members and memberships will last for a minimum of one year.
Anyone who cannot prove Dutch citizenship will not be able to become a member at any of these establishments.
Despite the recent measure, the government acknowledged that Dutch drug use has remained more or less stable in the past decade.
While the government is quite satisfied with the measure, the city of Amsterdam, including Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, has vowed to fight it.
Those within Amsterdam's tourism sector are notably concerned.
The Dutch government has decided upon this for the whole of the Netherlands. Amsterdam doesn't want it, said Machteld Ligtvoet, a spokeswoman for the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board.
Ligtvoet added, Coffee shops are not actively promoted by our organization and are not used in order to attract tourists. However, the mere idea that one can buy and use soft drugs here is an attractive aspect of Amsterdam and its famous spirit of freedom.
Furthermore, they note that the measure is discriminatory against foreigners and will lead to a black market where drugs are sold on the street.
According to the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, 23% of the city's tourists visit coffee shops during their stay.
Is this a smart move by the Dutch government or a blow to Amsterdam's tourism industry? Share your thoughts below.