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Dutch politicians clash over coffeeshops near schools

“Creating distance between schools and coffeeshops is not an effective solution”, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen commented in Tuesday’s edition of the Dutch newspaper nrc.next. Dutch ‘coffeeshops’ are allowed to sell small amounts of cannabis – for actual coffee you want a koffiehuis or a café. Mayor Cohen continued, “Youngsters intent on going to a coffeeshop are not deterred by a few extra metres.”

In the nrc.next article, Mayor Cohen responds to a remark Christian Democrat MP Pieter van Geel made in a radio interview a few days earlier. Mr Van Geel called Mayor Cohen’s unwillingness to enforce a minimum 250-metre distance between schools and coffeeshops “incomprehensible”.

250-metre rule
In 2008 the government made an agreement with Dutch city councils in which they agreed to ban coffeeshops within 250 metres of schools and take other measures that restrict coffeeshop access for school children.

The enforcement of this agreement has led to the closure of 27 coffeeshops in the city of Rotterdam. In Amsterdam, 43 coffeeshops are currently situated within a 250-metre walking distance from a school and enforcing the agreement would mean all of these would have to be wound up.

There’s no majority support for enforcing the 250-metre rule in the Amsterdam city council and last week Mayor Cohen told the council he would like to explore other options.

This has resulted in a barrage of criticism from Christian party members. Last Sunday, Christian Democrat MP Pieter van Geel commented on Mayor Cohen’s position in an interview with Dutch public broadcaster Radio 1. “The inhabitants of the city of Amsterdam can be obstinate if they like, but on this matter their obstinacy is totally unacceptable.”

Members of the Christian Union, the junior partner in the three-party government coalition, are also not happy with the fact that Mayor Cohen is looking at alternatives and, in Het Parool newspaper last Saturday, accused him of sabotaging the agreement.

Third parties
Mayor Cohen, however, refuses to budge, “research among Amsterdam teachers and teenagers proves that creating distance between schools and coffeeshops is not an effective solution to the problem,” he argues. “Amsterdam’s coffeeshops have an age restriction and this restriction is strictly enforced… most teenagers obtain soft drugs through third parties, and do not go to coffee shops directly themselves.”


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