By Jen Bernstein
In something of a “what the hell are they thinking?” move, the Dutch government is proceeding with shutting coffeeshop doors to tourists after allowing them to smoke in their country for more than 30 years. With so much of the economy revolving around tourists who specifically visit the Netherlands to smoke openly in the shops – a well honored pastime – the new policies are poised to be an economic death sentence.
Consider these two stats: Each year almost half a million Americans go to a coffeeshop while in Amsterdam – and 10 percent of all tourists who visit Holland cite coffeeshops as their number one reason for a visit. Regardless of statistics or demand, the Dutch coffeeshops will close to all tourists.
The Netherlands originally established their renowned coffeeshops in the 1970s as part of an effort to combat hard drug use by tolerating marijuana (which remains technically illegal). Despite the collapse of the conservative coalition government on April 23, 2012, policies were put into effect banning tourists from coffeeshops in the country’s southern provinces beginning May 1. Amsterdam will say goodbye to the tolerated operations beginning January 2013.
The new laws force coffeeshops to operate as private clubs where Dutch residents, 18 or older, unwillingly are required to hand over private information (name, address and a photo) to appear on a club ID card.
Named the wietpass or “weed pass,” each coffeeshop caps membership around 2,000. The new law has already taken effect in Maastricht, a town which borders both Germany and Belgium, in an effort to crack down on drug trafficking across borders. Shops have already complained that membership limits have been reached and supply can’t keep up with the outpouring of demand.
During the next few months, elections will be held and the Dutch will have the opportunity to vote a more cannabis-friendly government into power. Until then, HIGH TIMES continues to plan the 25th HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam – a tradition that brings everyone together to smoke and celebrate the best cannabis in the world.
While the future of Dutch coffeeshop tourism remains in doubt, rest assured, the 25th HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam – November 18-22, 2012 – will go on as scheduled. In the worst-case scenario, the coffeeshop ban would not take effect in the city of Amsterdam until January 2013. Tickets for this year’s Cup are currently on sale. For more information, visit cannabiscup.com.