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Councils can ban tourists from coffee shops, Council of State rules

Wednesday 18 June 2014 – Local councils do have the power to ban people who do not live in their area from visiting cannabis cafes, the Council of State ruled on Wednesday.

Preventing drugs tourism and combating organised crime are legitimate aims to allow selection on the basis of nationality, the country’s highest legal body said.

‘The residence criterion is a proportionate measure for combating drugs tourism and this legitimate objective cannot be achieved by other, less radical means,’ the council said in a statement.

The ruling marks the latest in a long legal battle between the Dutch government and cannabis cafe owners in Maastricht and Limburg. There the local councils have closed cafes, known as coffee shops, for selling marijuana to tourists.

Marc Josemans, chairman of the Maastricht coffee shop owners’ association, told news agency ANP the ruling was ‘disappointing’. A majority of the city council oppose the residency requirement and the mayor has been criticised for enforcing it, Josemans said.

Maastricht mayor Onno Hoes last year closed 14 of the city’s coffee shops for breaking the rules. Mayors in the Netherlands are state appointees.

A spokesman for Tilburg coffee shop De Achterdeur said he hoped the city council would soon realise the new rules had solved nothing and that organised crime has increased via street dealing.

In most other parts of the country, including Amsterdam, the mayors have said they will not enforce the residency rule.

Read the ruling (English)