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Netherlands On Trial For Selling Marijuana To Foreigners


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Dutch Coffee Shop Owners Fight to Sell Marijuana to Foreigners
Jun 13, 2013

On Wednesday, staff and owners of three coffee shops in the southern Netherlands were put on trial for selling marijuana to foreigners, an act which is now illegal thanks to new legislation meant to target marijuana-tourism.


The cafe owners and staff being prosecuted were arrested last month after serving foreign customers as a way of testing the legitimacy of the new regulations.


Prosecutors asked judges to fine the suspects up to 5,000 euros (over $6,500 US) and give them community service in addition to suspended prison sentences.


Maastricht’s Mayor Onno Hoes has defended the crack down on coffee shops because he believes that it is necessary to deter marijuana-tourists, who apparently bring chaos into the region.  He said, “Those people cause a lot of problems in the city.  They park badly, they drive too fast and that sort of thing.  They leave garbage on the streets and they attract illegal dealers.”


Maastricht differs from Amsterdam – where authorities continue to allow tourists into coffee shops because of the economic boost they give the city – in that its drug tourists mostly arrive by car from neighboring countries and then leave immediately. Foreign tourists in Amsterdam more often arrive by train or plane and stick around to visit the city’s museums and other attractions as well as its coffee shops.


About 2 million marijuana-tourists head to Maastricht each year to visit their 14 coffee shops.  Most of the shops have now been closed either voluntarily or by City Hall.  Shop owner Marc Josemans put a sign in his shop’s window, explaining that they are closed because they “refuse to discriminate” against potential customers.


The ban on foreigners at coffee shops went into place in the southern Netherlands late last year and spread to the rest of the country– with the exception of Amsterdam– on January 1st of this year.  Regions have seen their tourism rates plummet as a result.


Many have argued that closing coffee shops to tourists has just boosted the black market.  Police have put more officers on the street to crack down on illegal dealing, but city police chief John Bloebaum said the crime is now dropping off.




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