A Dutch city has lost income worth UKP 26 million a year to its economy after banning French drug tourists from buying marijuana in legal cannabis cafes.

The reduction in turnover in the popular “coffee shops”, where cannabis can legally be purchased and smoked, is equivalent to the loss of 345 full-time jobs.

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As from October 1 this year the city’s cannabis cafes have only been allowed to serve Dutch, Belgian and German customers in a bid to drive away millions of French drug tourists.

As result of the ban the number of people visiting coffee shops in Maastricht has gone down 16 per cent.

More than two thirds of cannabis smoking customers in the border city’s 13 coffee shops are foreigners and banning the French, the largest group, was a pilot scheme aimed at cutting drug tourism.

The Association of Licensed Maastricht Coffee Shops has warned that cannabis users are being driven onto the streets, where marijuana smoking is a criminal offence, after getting Dutch people to buy drugs for them.

The Dutch government has plans to stop everyone who is not an official resident of the Netherlands from buying marijuana in cannabis cafes by turning them into member-only clubs.

Coffee shops, where small amounts of cannabis have been legally bought and smoked since 1976, have become a major industry and a popular tourist attraction in Dutch cities.

One of the biggest problems caused by drug tourism is the influx of foreign tourists, including many young Britons, who come to Netherlands to smoke and consume cannabis that is illegal in their home countries.

The problem is especially acute in Dutch border cities like Maastricht that lie close to Belgium, France and Germany.

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But the turnover of the legal cannabis trade is estimated to be at least UKP 1.6 billion every year netting annual taxes worth UKP 315 million.

Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
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