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What is going on in the Netherlands, and what to expect for Netherlands’ drug policy and the coffeeshops.

Last week, the Raad van State, literally Council of the State, the highest court for administrative law, gave its verdict on the legitimacy of the “wietpas” , in the trial of a Maastricht coffeeshop against the decision of the city of Maastricht, already two or three years ago to start a test case (that was agreed upon between the city and the coffeeshop organization). The coffeeshopowner, Marc Josemans, refused to refuse tourists, and the coffeeshop was closed (for a day only, for the sake of the test case.)

The verdict is very complex and the consequences are “layered”. The conclusion is that forced application of the wietpas, that is refusal of foreigners, is not against our laws in itself, but it cannot be imposed on the basis of city ordinances. That will only be possible on the basis of the Opiumwet.

In its verdict, the RvS admitted that refusing foreigners is discrimination and runs counter to the European rules on free traffic, but they added that this form of discrimination is allowed when it prevents serious nuisance by foreigners. And that clause is now being used by Amsterdam and probably more cities, stating that there is no nuisance, or that the nuisance is not being caused by the group of foreigners visiting the coffeeshops, so there is no need of and no justification for a wietpas in their cities.

What is unclear now is whether a change of the Opiumlaw is needed or not. If so, it would be very hard for the government to get this change through parliament, that is through the first chamber in which the government will need not only the PVV (Wilders’ party) but also the GPV (Gereformeerd Politiek Verbond, with one member in the Eerste Kamer).

Now it is true that this issue crosses party lines, but it would be the first time that the support of the government in the EK would be tested and nobody can predict the outcome.

A different problem for the government is the strong resistance from most cities with coffeeshops. I may not be totally up to date, but I believe that only Rotterdam and the Hague support the wietpas, but all or most of the larger cities are against. The city council of Maastricht, for which city the wietpas idea originated, was solidly against, but their new mayor, the successor of Leers, is a VVD-man, friend of prime minister Rutte, and we hear that much pressure is being brought on him to comply.

I’ll include the press release that the VOC (Vereniging voor Opheffing van het Cannabisverbod, Association for the Repeal of Cannabis Prohibition) published, because the city council of Tilburg will discuss this issue on Monday 4 July 2011. Before that, the city council has organized a conference, at which Nicole Maalsté (University of Tilburg) will speak. She researched the consequences of the closure of the coffeeshops in a few cities and concluded that street dealing and nuisance increased, whereas prof. Fijnaut, of the same university, says his research shows that there is no increase in nuisance…

And finally, the debate on drug policy that was announced already for December 2009 but was postponed for different reasons, has now been scheduled in September. What this means is unclear, it may very well be the start of a new round of postponements, but also, it might suddenly become reality. So we are taking care of being prepared.

Anyway, this way you’re better informed than most Nederlanders!

Best wishes,

Frederik Polak

Press release by the VOC (Vereniging voor Opheffing van het Cannabisverbod, Association for the Repeal of Cannabis Prohibition) on 3 July 2011: