Pubdate: Sat, 28 Apr 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Washington Post


Amsterdam -- A Dutch court Friday upheld a new law that will prevent 
foreigners from buying marijuana in coffee shops across the 
Netherlands, potentially ending decades of "pot tourism" for which 
this city and others became universally known.

A group of coffee shops had challenged the government plan, launched 
after southern cities in the Netherlands complained of increased 
levels of drug-related crime. The decision means that coffee shops in 
the south must stop selling marijuana to foreigners by May 1. They 
would be allowed to introduce a so-called "weed pass" for Dutch 
citizens, who would be legally permitted to keep buying cannabis. The 
plan would roll out to other Dutch cities, including the popular 
tourist center of Amsterdam, by next year.

The Netherlands is moving toward tighter controls on its renowned 
liberal policy on the sale of marijuana even as other countries, 
including the United States, are engaging in increasingly heated 
debates over the legalization of "soft drugs."

Lawyers for the Netherlands' cannabis cafes - which number more than 
600 nationwide - argued that forbidding foreigners from buying 
marijuana while allowing Dutch citizens to do so was illegal under 
national antidiscrimination laws. They vowed Friday to appeal.

"This is a bad decision not only for the foreigners who can be 
discriminated against now, but also for the image of the Netherlands 
in other countries," said Maurice Veldman, attorney for a group of 
cafes that challenged the new law. "We are not a free country anymore 
because our government asks us to discriminate."

A Dutch judge in The Hague on Friday, however, ruled that the new law 
was legal because of increased criminality linked to the Dutch drug 
trade. The move to ban foreigners from buying marijuana, however, is 
being fiercely fought by the city of Amsterdam, where the cannabis 
cafes are a major tourism draw and where myriad coffee shop owners 
have vowed to ignore the law.

"We have tourists that just want to have a smoke," said Michael 
Veling, owner of the 420 Cafe. "If they're not going to get it, they 
will ask Dutch people who actually have a pass for the coffee shop to 
buy it. Or they fall in hands of the illegal street sellers."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom