**Amsterdam: 'Fly Now - Fly Later'

Laws could end Irish ‘drug tourists’ going Dutch

27 November 2004
By Cormac O’Keeffe

THOUSANDS of Irish people who flock to Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops each year will be hit under Dutch plans to combat ‘drug tourism’.

The Netherlands Government is considering bringing in rules which would ban foreigners from coffee shops, where marijuana is sold and smoked.

“Our cities don’t want this drug-related tourism. They are having a lot of trouble. That is why we have to do something about it,” said Martin Bruinsma of the Dutch Department of Justice.

The plans will come as a blow to travellers who flock to Amsterdam and other Dutch cities each year to avail of the liberal cannabis policy.

Nationals and tourists are legally allowed to purchase and smoke small quantities of cannabis in licensed coffee shops.

The ban is being driven by Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, who said drug tourism “should be fought”.

Mr Bruinsma said they were examining the possibility of introducing a pass system for coffee shops.

“You will have to have a pass to get in. We are trying to eliminate the unwanted visitors from coffee shops.”

The passes would be for Dutch people and residents.

“Tourists would not be allowed.”

The Netherlands has for many years been criticised, by France and Germany in particular, for its lax policy towards cannabis.

But Mr Bruinsma said the initiative was due to pressure from their own cities. He added a decision would probably be made next year.

There are around 780 coffee shops in the Netherlands, half of which are in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

It’s estimated around 40% of the coffee shop summer trade in Amsterdam is tourist-related.

A Cannabis Ireland spokesman said: “About 90% of tourists who go there go to sample the coffee shops, so there will be a lot of disappointment worldwide.

“It’s difficult to know the long-term effects. It may make the Dutch model more effective and make it more transferrable to other countries. Alternatively, it could be the first step to closing down coffee shops.”

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