Is it the beginning of the end for Dutch tolerance of weed? The recently elected conservative coalition has promised a number of controversial measures, including curbs on immigration, banning Islamic face covering, and of more interest to travelers, cracking down on legal marijuana smoking.
The Netherlands has been a destination for pot smokers ever since marijuana was made legal in the 1970s. The experiment intended to allow the use of soft drugs like pot while clamping down on hard drugs like heroin. It has had mixed success and as the political pendulum has swung to the right in recent years, more and more curbs have been put on the coffee shops where customers can buy and smoke pot. Magic mushrooms were banned recently, and some towns are restricting coffee shops or even closing them all down. There are currently about 700 coffee shops in The Netherlands, compared with 1,200 at their peak.
Now the coalition government wants to make all coffee shops into private clubs, effectively getting rid of the drug tourists. The question is, will this work? Common sense dictates that where there’s a demand, there will be a supply. Coffee shops might get around the law by offering temporary memberships or international memberships, or allowing members to bring guests. The measure would also not stop illegal sales of drugs. What it will do, however, is reduce the number of people coming to The Netherlands specifically to smoke their vacation away. While some of the bigger and more established coffee shops will no doubt survive, it looks like the industry is in for a bad trip.
[Image courtesy Tyson Williams via Gadling’s flickr pool]