EU judges have ruled that the Dutch authorities are not in breach of European single market laws by barring foreigners from buying the marijuana that is on sale to natives in the country’s famous cannabis “coffee shops”.
The Dutch restrictions, aimed at curbing “drug tourism” from Belgium and Germany, are currently limited to border cities such as Rozendaal and Maastricht but will soon be extended across the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, a popular British destination.
Inundated by cannabis-smoking foreigners, arriving at the rate of 10,000 a day, Maastricht passed a law in 2005 to prohibit marijuana-selling “coffee shops” from admitting people who do not reside in the Netherlands.
The EU ruling was requested by the Dutch supreme court, the Council of State, after Marc Josemans, the owner of the “Easy Going” cannabis café, sued after being forced to close for breaking the “no foreigners” rule.
But the European Court of Justice found that the ban, which explicitly discriminates against foreign consumers in a breach of EU single market rules, was “justified by the objective of combating drug tourism and the accompanying public nuisance”.
The ruling is regarded as an important precedent because a new government is planning to use the model to restrict the sale of marijuana and hashish by creating a “grass pass” that will be only be given to Dutch adults, preventing drug tourists from being served in cannabis cafés.
“If the Council of State now rules that access to coffee shops can be limited to inhabitants of the Netherlands, then the grass pass can be limited to inhabitants of the Netherlands and that helps combat drug tourism,” said Wim van der Weegen, a Dutch justice ministry spokesman.
By Bruno Waterfield