Amsterdam coffee shops to stay open for tourists

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Amsterdam’s mayor says tourists will be able to keep buying cannabis in the capital’s coffee shops even if they’re not Dutch residents. Speaking to Dutch daily de Volkskrant, Eberhard van der Laan said this would be possible under the policies set out in the new coalition agreement.

The previous government had introduced legislation limiting the sale of cannabis to Dutch residents who had registered with their local coffee shop for a “weed pass”. The system was introduced in a number of southern provinces earlier this year and was due to take effect in the rest of the Netherlands at the beginning of 2013. Van der Laan and the mayors of other large cities have always been opposed to the system, saying it would lead to a surge in street dealing.

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"More street crime"
An estimated 7 million tourists visit Amsterdam every year and 1.5 million of them visit a coffee shop during their stay. According to the capital’s mayor, “Those one and a half million people aren’t just going to just say, Ok, no weed. They’ll be swarming all over the city looking for drugs. More street crime, fights over fake drugs, no control over the quality of what’s being sold.”

Tourist attraction

The new cabinet still wants to ban non-residents from coffee shops, but says this will only be enforced in co-operation with local councils, taking municipal policy into account. This means Amsterdam can take its own line according to Van der Laan. The residents-only policy is intended to combat “drugs tourism” which is a problem in the southern border provinces where large numbers of Germans, French and Belgians come to the Netherlands simply to purchase cannabis. But the situation is different in Amsterdam, says the mayor, where a visit to a coffee shop to smoke a joint is just one of the options for tourists.

At the same time, Van der Laan has promised Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten that the city will crack down on coffee shops which don’t follow the rules. “Selling to minors, selling cannabis that’s too powerful, advertising, causing a public nuisance - we’ll be keeping a very close watch. And we’ll take a very tough line.”