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Dutch Wants to Keep Soft Drugs for Locals

by VR Sreeraman on September 14, 2009 at 11:58 AM
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 Dutch Wants to Keep Soft Drugs for Locals

The Dutch cabinet proposed on Friday to turn the country's cannabis-vending coffee shops into private clubs in a move partly aimed at making it harder for tourists to buy soft drugs.

"The consensus arrived at today is that it should be much more difficult for tourists to buy from Dutch coffee shops," justice ministry spokesman Karen Temmink told AFP after a regular cabinet meeting.

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In a statement, the cabinet said it had agreed with a policy proposal by four government ministries that coffee shops be turned into private clubs with patrons carrying a membership card.

Clients may, for example, be limited to paying with a Dutch debit card.

"The sale of hashish and cannabis in coffee shops must be smaller in scale and aimed solely at the local user," the statement said.
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A draft policy would be compiled by year-end for submission to parliament, added Temmink.

To arrive at this stance, the cabinet was advise by a special commission it had set up as part of a re-evaluation of soft-drug policy sparked in large part by what is generally described as the "nuisance" created by an influx of German, French and Belgian drug tourists.

"Smaller coffee shops will allow us to limit the resultant nuisance and crime risks," said the cabinet statement.

"It will also reduce problems associated with coffee shops in the border areas."

Several Dutch border towns have already announced plans to close coffee shops or limit entry to members to stop tens of thousands of drugs tourists entering on a daily basis.

The cabinet statement said several pilot projects would begin next year to test the proposed limitations. In one of these, buyers would be limited to three grammes of cannabis per day, instead of five.

The Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under five grammes of cannabis in 1976, though its cultivation remains illegal.

There are some 700 licensed coffee shops in the country, which are allowed to stock no more than 500 grams of cannabis at a time.

Many observers have pointed to a recent conservative shift in the government's widely hailed tolerant approach to soft drug use.

Source: AFP
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