Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jun 2013
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2013 Associated Press


(AP) - A Dutch court has ordered the government to compensate owners 
of cannabis-selling cafes who say they are losing money because of 
measures to stamp out drug tourism.

But in a setback for owners of so-called coffee shops, The Hague 
district court ruling also said other moves to prevent foreigners 
from buying soft drugs in the Netherlands were legitimate.

It said turning coffee shops in the southern Netherlands into private 
member-only clubs last year deterred not only foreigners but also 
domestic customers, and ordered compensation for the cafe owners. The 
amount will be settled later.

The decision was the latest skirmish in a long-running legal battle 
between the government, which wants officially tolerated coffee shops 
to sell cannabis only to locals, and owners of the cafes, who insist 
they should be allowed to sell to anybody.

Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police turn a 
blind eye to possession of small amounts, and it is sold openly in 
coffee shops. Large-scale growers are prosecuted.

Michael Veling, a spokesman for the Dutch Union of Cannabis 
Retailers, said the group was disappointed by the parts of the ruling 
that upheld anti-drug-tourism measures and would appeal.

The Dutch ministry of security and justice called the judgment a 
powerful underpinning of the present policy, adding that it saw 
grounds to appeal against the ruling that said turning coffee shops 
into private clubs was too harsh and unnecessary.

Under a government policy change that came into force on 1 May last 
year in southern provinces close to the Dutch borders with Germany 
and Belgium, only holders of a "weed pass" are allowed to buy 
cannabis. The measure took aim at problems caused by the thousands of 
foreigners who pour across the borders each year to buy drugs.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom