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article imageDutch government clamps down on marijuana 'coffee houses'

By Michael Krebs     May 30, 2011 in Travel
The Dutch government is moving to restrict cannabis sales at 'coffee houses' nationally and is fully banning tourists from visiting these locations, a move that has been dubbed 'tourism suicide.'
The loose drug laws for which the Netherlands has long been known are being tightened considerably, and as the Daily Mail reported on Monday, the decision is considered by some to be "tourism suicide."
Drug policy under the Dutch government is among the most liberal in the world, with "coffee houses" offering a full array of cannabis products, from marijuana to hashish. The variety of edible and smokable offerings made openly available at these retail outlets have been a key attraction for tourists, particularly in Amsterdam and in locations near Holland's borders.
The new legislation will disallow foreign nationals from entering the "coffee houses" altogether and will also restrict the number of resident members to which each cannabis establishment can cater their products. Each coffee house will be required to restrict membership to a maximum of 1,500 individuals, and members will also need to register for an annual membership.
Those opposed to the new legislation note that the move will cost Holland in lost tourism revenue and that soft drug sales will go underground, attracting criminal syndicates.
"We attract other types of tourists apart from drugs tourists," the Dutch health and justice ministers said in a letter written to parliament on Friday, according to the Daily Mail report. "This law will put an end to the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drugs trafficking."
The legislation still has to be approved by the country's Supreme Court, and Amsterdam's city council is opposed to the move entirely. Amsterdam is home to more than 220 of the country's 500 coffee shops, according to a report by StopTheDrugWar.org.
"We are concerned about the problems that will arise from large-scale street dealing," said a spokesman for Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan. "There are also health concerns, because with street dealing we cannot monitor the quality of the soft drugs or the age of the buyers."
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