Monday, 22 November 2010

Dutch government - marijuana cafes to become "members only" clubs

The new conservative Dutch government wants to force the country's marijuana cafes to become "members only" clubs, a move that would effectively block foreigners from buying the drug. If the idea ever becomes reality — it would be legally complicated and politically divisive — it would be the latest of the country's liberal policies to be scrapped or curtailed as the Dutch rethink the limits of their famed tolerance.
While marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, it has been sold openly in designated cafes for decades, and police make no arrests for possession of small amounts.
Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said that in the future, only residents of Dutch cities will be allowed to purchase cannabis. "Not tourists. We don't like that," he said on state television in remarks broadcast Wednesday.

 His spokesman Wim van der Weegen said Thursday Opstelten intended to "give a political signal." He said details of the plan are still being worked out and it will be presented to parliament sometime next year.
"This Cabinet wants to bring marijuana cafes back to what they were once intended to be: for people who live in the immediate area, not large-scale criminal trade and not tourism," he said.
The city of Amsterdam, which has an image as a haven for weed smokers and potentially stands to lose a major tourist attraction if the policy is enforced, is not enthusiastic about the proposal.
"We're looking at it now, considering it, and a formal response is coming," said spokesman Bas Bruijn.
Last year, then-Mayor Job Cohen said he feared a system requiring users to obtain passes "risks increasing street trade and 'illegal' sales points."
Marijuana cafe owners scoffed at the idea of member passes as political posturing and unworkable in practice. "It's not going to happen," said Michael Veling, spokesman for the Union of Cannabis Retailers and owner of the 4:20 cafe in Amsterdam.

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