Source: Associated Press
December 15, 2011
AMSTERDAM — The conservative Dutch government said Thursday it is
delaying plans to ban tourists from buying marijuana until at least
May 2012, though it still intends to curtail the country’s famed
Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police turn a
blind eye to possession of small amounts and it is sold openly in
designated cafes known euphemistically as “coffee shops.” Large-scale
growers are prosecuted.
Among other measures, the Cabinet wants to introduce a “weed pass”
system that will allow only legal residents of the Netherlands to buy
Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said a test rollout in southern cities
planned for January will now be delayed until May because of practical
difficulties. Supporters of the idea hope it will solve problems
caused by an estimated 3.9 million French, German and Belgian buyers
who drive across the Dutch border annually just to purchase the drug.
Opstelten said the pass system will be applied nationwide in 2013,
despite some opposition. “Coffee shop” owners say it will violate
privacy laws, since it will require them to store passport and other
information about their customers.
Some southern cities have begun lobbying against the plan after
academics predicted it will result in street dealers taking over the
marijuana trade again — the very problem the tolerance policy was
introduced three decades ago to address.
“If it appears that additional (police) support is necessary, I will
ensure that it’s available in a timely manner,” Opstelten said in a
letter to parliament.
The city of Amsterdam also opposes the pass plan, arguing that nearly
a quarter of the tourists who come to the city smoke weed, usually
staying several nights and contributing to the economy rather than
Opstelten said a separate plan to close any “coffee shop” located
within 350 yards of a school will now go into effect in 2014, near the
end of the current Cabinet’s term.
Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said he hopes to negotiate
with Opstelten on that rule, since it would mean the closure of around
half of the city’s “coffee shops.”