Coffeeshops in Limburg sell to foreigners, awaiting court verdict

It’s been a while since we reported on the Dutch wietpas (weed pass) and the turmoil surrounding it. Even though the wietpas itself is no more, the sale of softdrugs to foreigners is still prohibited in certain the Dutch southern municipalities. Recently several coffeeshops in Limburg have ignored this law and opened their doors to foreigners, on the basis that not doing so is discrimination.

A quick recap of the wietpas: The wietpas was instituted on May 1, 2012 in the southern part of the Netherlands. This new systems restricts all coffeeshops from selling cannabis to foreigners. But even the Dutch themselves cannot just go to a coffeeshop to buy soft drugs; you have to be a registered member with a wietpas, creating private clubs. The reasoning behind this, according to the politicians who masterminded it, is to reduce the problems resulting from drug tourism in cities such as Maastricht, Limburg.

After much protest the wietpas was dropped at the end of 2012, in favour of a system where ‘each municipality can determine their own policies on drug tourism’. The plans for a national restriction were dropped with it, and so the sale of soft drugs to foreigners in cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam remains legal. For the tourists coming to Limburg, however, little was changed. Dutch people can freely buy from a coffeeshop without registration or a pass, but the sale to foreigners is still strictly prohibited there.

The wietpas system was a failure as it highly encouraged dealing on the street, as opposed of buying in a more controlled and safe environment. With the restrictions for foreigners still in place in certain places, the situation is still bad. A recent article in a national Dutch newspaper states that drug related crimes have risen by 33% in the strict enforcement areas, as opposed to 4% in areas where cannabis is sold legally to everyone. Maastricht is one of the stricter municipalities.

Last month, 3 coffeeshops in Maastricht opened their doors to tourists. A day later the police responded by raiding the coffeeshops and arresting the owners. The court is pressing for a € 5000 fine (in addition to the profits from the sales), 150 hours of community service and one month in jail.

The owner of coffeeshop Smokey: “We’ve tried to go to court over this before. We think article 1 of the constitution against discrimination is more important than a system which isn’t even enforced in other parts of the country.”

The chairman of the VOCM (official association for coffeeshops in Maastricht), Marc Josemans, said he was happy this matter has finally appeared in court. He states that banning the sale of products to foreigners is a form of discrimination and hopes the judge agrees on this matter.

Tomorrow (June 26) the court will announce their verdict.

Update: The verdict is in and all coffeeshop owners were found guilty. The sentence includes a hefty fine as well as community service.

Sources (Dutch)

Nieuws.thepostonline.nl - Bewijs: het falen van de wietpas, nu ook in Limburg Zuid

Ad.nl - Drugscriminaliteit explosief gestegen

Nu.nl - Straffen geëist tegen vier houders coffeeshops Maastricht