DUTCH ’CANNABIS CARD’ ROLLOUT IN DISARRAY
Published on Tuesday 8 May 2012 21:31, by. Modified on Tuesday 8 May 2012 21:30 All the versions of this article: [English] [Español]
Source: Agence France-Presse
May 8, 2012
By Nicolas Delaunay
THE HAGUE—A week after a contentious rollout of a new Dutch law to stub out cannabis sales to foreigners, enforcement is in disarray as some police are untrained and several coffee shops have closed in protest.
Drug tourists are simply dodging the "cannabis card" law by heading elsewhere in the country for their fix, since the rule has entered into force in just three southern Dutch provinces so far.
"It takes time for everything to be put into place," Justice and Safety Ministry spokeswoman Charlotte Menten admitted.
The new law came into effect on May 1 and effectively transforms coffee shops into private clubs as it requires around 80 cannabis cafes in the south to sell only to signed-up members who live in the country.
Its coverage widens nationwide to 590 other coffee shops in 2013, and is aimed at curbing drug tourism linked disturbances such as late-night rabble rousing, traffic jams and illegal drug pushing.
Each shop is allowed to have just 2,000 members, who must be over 18 years old and permanent residents of the country.
But in the tourist-friendly city of Maastricht, now the focal point of a Dutch resistance against the new cannabis law, 14 coffee shops have shut their doors in protest, calling it "discriminatory" and bad for business.
Leading the Maastricht protest, Easy Going coffee shop was open on May 1 and 2 but promptly slapped with a note of summary closure by the municipality for selling dope to Belgians and Germans.
Now "we’re going to court," said Marc Josemans, Easy Going’s owner who also chairs Maastricht’s association of coffee shops. "We were waiting for only one thing: the municipality to close us down."
Willem Vugs, who chairs the southern university city of Tilburg’s association of coffee shops complained that "the government wants to implement a nationwide solution to address a local problem in Maastricht."