By Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry
The incoming Dutch government has rejected a proposal for a “wietpas” or “weed pass,” a compulsory registration for anyone using the country’s famous marijuana cafes. The proposal would have limited access to the cafes to Dutch residents. The mayors of the Dutch cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht expressed opposition to the proposal, citing a probable increase in black-market street dealing if the measure were implemented. Instead, the coalition government produced an agreement, which, although lacking a registration system, would still ostensibly allow only Dutch residents access to the cafes.
The weed pass proposal was apparently connected with complaints of “drug tourism” in the Netherlands. Tourists from neighboring countries such as Germany, Belgium, and France are a daily sight and apparently a major source of revenue for the Dutch “coffee shops.” Use of the drug by Dutch citizens is actually relatively rare, even in comparison with residents of other European countries, with less than 6% of adults having used it in the past year. Ard van der Steur, a member of parliament for the right-wing People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, described the current situation as “an incredible criminal industry that we need to get rid of,” and complained that “we now function as a supplier of drugs for the rest of Europe.” Tahira Limon, a spokeswoman for the city of Amsterdam,stated however that marijuana is not a serious problem for the country. “The problems we have with substance abuse are almost always related to alcohol,” she said.
How much, or even if, this new revised restriction will be enforced is still in question. The coalition’s new policy agreement states that it will be “if necessary phased in,” and that details of enforcement will be determined “in discussion with the local councils concerned.” Some cafe owners say that they do not expect an actual change in policy, while others complain that the policy is still unclear.
Marijuana is still technically illegal in the Netherlands, as the country is a signatory to treaties such as the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, requiring the prohibition of cannabis along with several other drugs. In practice, however, small-scale marijuana distribution and possession is tolerated in licensed cafes in several cities, including Amsterdam. This policy has been in place since 1972, when it was recommended by a government commission.
Republished with special permission from the Marijuana Policy Project